Storms are building up right over Banjoville as I type up this post, so I will be very brief with the commentary.
(I am also very sleepy, so yeah…brief it will be.)
The Immigration reform panel was somewhat productive yesterday: Senate panel passes immigration bill; Obama praises move | Reuters
A Senate panel on Tuesday approved legislation to give millions of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, setting up a spirited debate next month in the full Senate over the biggest changes in immigration policy in a generation.
President Barack Obama, who has made enactment of an immigration bill one of his top priorities for this year, praised the Senate Judiciary Committee’s action, saying the bill was consistent with the goals he has expressed.
By a vote of 13-5, the Senate panel approved the bill that would put 11 million illegal residents on a 13-year path to citizenship while further strengthening security along the southwestern border with Mexico, long a sieve for illegal crossings into the United States.
The vote followed the committee’s decision to embrace a Republican move to ease restrictions on high-tech U.S. companies that want to hire more skilled workers from countries like India and China.
In a dramatic move before the vote, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, withdrew an amendment to give people the right to sponsor same-sex partners who are foreigners for permanent legal status.
Leahy’s colleagues on the committee – Republicans and Democrats – warned that the amendment would kill the legislation in Congress. Democrats generally favor providing equal treatment for heterosexual and homosexual couples, while many Republicans oppose doing so.
Well, like I said at the beginning of the post, I wasn’t going to comment much….but yeah, I will say Obama is getting what he wants. Definitely.
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had to make what the New York senator called an “excruciating” decision on Tuesday to come out against including LGBT couple provisions in their immigration reform bill, citing the need to keep the fragile balance in the “gang of eight.”
Sounding disappointed, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) withdrew the amendment after debate during a markup on the bill.
“I take the Republican sponsors of this important legislation at their word that they will abandon their own efforts if discrimination is removed from our immigration system,” Leahy said. “So, with a heavy heart, and as a result of my conclusion that Republicans will kill this vital legislation if this anti-discrimination amendment is added, I will withhold calling for a vote on it. But I will continue to fight for equality.”
Leahy brought up his amendments on same-sex couples during a markup of the immigration bill after some uncertainty that he would force discussion on it at all. Under current law and the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples cannot petition for legal status for the foreign-born partner, even if they’re legally married in their state. That means that thousands are forced to live separately for months or years, or even leave the United States to be with their partners.
Even with all the steps forward lately, in the form of so many states passing marriage equality laws…this immigration bill puts LGBT rights several steps backwards…again.
Oh, and just note by the way, 2 More Antigay Attacks Are Reported in Manhattan
Just hours after hundreds of people held a rally in Greenwich Village to protest the killing of a gay man last week, two men were violently assaulted in separate attacks in downtown Manhattan because of their sexual orientation, New York City officials said on Tuesday.
The attacks added to a troubling increase in reported antigay crimes in the city.
“It is a shame that we have to get together to talk about some things that should never occur, that we always thought, you know, we’d gotten beyond that,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.
If you missed news about that hate crime in the Village, read about it here: Killing in Greenwich Village Looks Like Hate Crime, Police Say and here Charges Filed in Greenwich Village Killing.
In other news from yesterday, Apple was in the Senate’s spotlight, here are a series of links on that story:
In 2012, Apple added more to its offshore profit holdings than any other company, according to a March report by Citizens for Tax Justice.
The company’s method of holding profits overseas isn’t new — and it’s not necessarily illegal — but it was the focus of a Senate hearing on Tuesday in which Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the company’s tax strategies, which allowed Apple to pay a 2 percent tax on $74 billion in profits.
Apple of course isn’t the only company doing this. The tech giant, along with some of America’s largest companies, held at least $1.9 trillion in assets abroad, according to Bloomberg. General Electric, which held $108 billion overseas in 2012, topped Bloomberg’s list of U.S. companies with the most cash held offshore.
Apple has called for US corporate tax rates to be slashed after it admitted sheltering at least $30bn (£20bn) of international profits in Irish subsidiaries that pay no tax at all.
In a dramatic display of how threats from multinational corporations are driving down taxes across the world, chief executive Tim Cook warned Congress that he would refuse to repatriate a total of $100bn stashed offshore unless it acted to slash the 35% US rate.
Cook said the tax rate for repatriated money should be set “in single digits” to persuade companies to bring it back. Standard tax for US profits should be, he said, in the “mid 20s”.
He also revealed that Apple had struck a secret deal with the Irish government in 1980 to limit its domestic taxes there to 2%.
Three subsidiaries based in Ireland are also used to shelter profits made in the rest of Europe and Asia but are not classed as resident in any country for tax purposes – a tactic dubbed the “iCompany” by critics.
Cook’s testimony to a Senate sub-committee investigating multinational tax practices largely confirmed its findings that Apple had taken tax avoidance to a new extreme by structuring these companies so they did not incur tax liabilities anywhere.
Then you have Rand and his demand for an apology to Apple, Rand Paul: Senate should apologize to Apple for ‘spectacle’ hearing on taxes
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted his colleagues on Tuesday for holding a hearing to examine Apple’s methods for avoiding taxes.
“I frankly think the committee should apologize to Apple,” Paul said during a hearing of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
Paul said he was offended by the “tone and tenor of the hearing.”
“I’m offended by the spectacle of dragging in executives from an American company that is not doing anything illegal,” Paul said.
The subcommittee released a report on Monday that found that Apple has avoided billions of dollars in taxes in recent years through a network of offshore shell companies.
What a Randian asshole that Rand Paul is…And, I still don’t get all this 3-D printer stuff…but here is another new way to use one of those special printers.
NASA can send robots to Mars, no problem. But if it’s ever going to put humans on the red planet it has to figure out how to feed them over the course of a years-long mission.So the space agency has funded research for what could be the ultimate nerd solution: a 3-D printer that creates entrees or desserts at the touch of a button.
Anjan Contractor’s 3D food printer might evoke visions of the “replicator” popularized in Star Trek, from which Captain Picard was constantly interrupting himself to order tea. And indeed Contractor’s company, Systems & Materials Research Corporation, just got a six month, $125,000 grant from NASA to create a prototype of his universal food synthesizer.
But Contractor, a mechanical engineer with a background in 3D printing, envisions a much more mundane—and ultimately more important—use for the technology. He sees a day when every kitchen has a 3D printer, and the earth’s 12 billion people feed themselves customized, nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time, from cartridges of powder and oils they buy at the corner grocery store. Contractor’s vision would mean the end of food waste, because the powder his system will use is shelf-stable for up to 30 years, so that each cartridge, whether it contains sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein or some other basic building block, would be fully exhausted before being returned to the store.
Ubiquitous food synthesizers would also create new ways of producing the basic calories on which we all rely. Since a powder is a powder, the inputs could be anything that contain the right organic molecules. We already know that eating meat is environmentally unsustainable, so why not get all our protein from insects?
If eating something spat out by the same kind of 3D printers that are currently being used to make everything from jet engine parts to fine art doesn’t sound too appetizing, that’s only because you can currently afford the good stuff, says Contractor. That might not be the case once the world’s population reaches its peak size, probably sometime near the end of this century.
“I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can’t supply 12 billion people sufficiently,” says Contractor. “So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.”
Okay, is this like a step towards Solent Green?
I guess my mind, a comical combination of medicine induced haze, epilepsy impaired brain cells, crazy depressed emotional waves, medievalist mind at heart, twisted dark thought-provoking, sleepy, overweight, short, forty-plus woman can’t seem to grasp the concept behind these printers. Can someone explain to me, in the simplest of terms…what exactly are 3-D printers and how the fuck do these 3-D printer things work?
That is my question to you this morning. Y’all have a good day…hopefully things will be quiet and peaceful.
I got about a foot of snow dumped on me by the latest storm, when the prediction the day before had been for about 3-5 inches. Boy were the predictions wrong for this one! Last night the Boston Globe weather blogger tried to explain “Why was there so much more snow than predicted?”
Now that the big storm is over, I am looking at why this was such a poor forecast. The basic reason was a bit more cold air than expected, more moisture and it lasted longer. No one expected so much snow to fall from 4 AM this morning until mid-afternoon. Storms usually need to be at roughly 40 degrees latitude and 70 degrees west longitude to give us a major snow event. Meteorologists around here call this the benchmark. If a storm passes near the benchmark, and it’s cold enough, we are often in for a good snowstorm. This storm passed hundreds of miles further east than that typical spot for a major snowstorm. One of the reasons I was confident in not seeing this size snowstorm, was the predicted distance of the storm from our area. That prediction by the models turned out to be pretty good. Temperatures were also forecast to be about 4 degrees milder. As it turn out, it’s sort of a good thing it ended up being colder because heavy wet snow of these amounts would have been catastrophic to the power situation.
I see . . . well, not really. Anyway, the stuff is melting already which is a good thing, because I wasn’t able to shovel my driveway out completely yesterday. We’re supposed to get temperatures in the 40s and 50s for the next few days, so I guess that will rescue me. Now what’s in the news today?
I see that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is really full of himself after his “talking filibuster” the other day.
He’s got an op-ed in the Washington Post bragging, “My filibuster was just the beginning.”
If I had planned to speak for 13 hours when I took the Senate floor Wednesday, I would’ve worn more comfortable shoes. I started my filibuster with the words, “I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak” — and I meant it.
I wanted to sound an alarm bell from coast to coast. I wanted everybody to know that our Constitution is precious and that no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime. As Americans, we have fought long and hard for the Bill of Rights. The idea that no person shall be held without due process, and that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted, is a founding American principle and a basic right.
I certainly agree that the president shouldn’t have the power to kill Americans without due process, but I’d be more impressed with Paul if he supported other constitutional rights like equal treatment under the law for minorities, women and LGBT people. I can’t take anyone seriously as a defender of the Constitution if he opposes civil rights and the right of a woman to control her own body.
According to Grace Wyler at Business Insider, Libertarians Believe Their Moment Has Finally Arrived. On the other hand, Chris Cillizza explains why Why the Rand Paul filibuster might not be such good news for the GOP.
Sequestration cuts, anyone?
While the Village media types focus on either fawning over or condemning Rand Paul’s performance, local journalists around the country are reporting on the damage being done by sequestration cuts.
The debate over sequestration this past week has come down to two questions: Was the administration exaggerating the impact of the spending cuts, and did they really need to shut down White House tours because of them?
It’s been the predominant theme at the White House briefings, a constant subject of discussion on cable news and a topic of fascination on Capitol Hill. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) even took up the cause at a press briefing this week, saying: “I think it’s silly that they have insisted on locking down the White House, which the American people actually own.”
Beneath that debate, however, is a different type of conversation about the impact of the $85 billion in cuts. While the national media has focused on those two questions, local coverage has been more directed at the tangible impact the budget restraints will have. The Huffington Post reviewed dozens of local television news broadcasts, using the service TVeyes.com, to survey coverage of sequestration outside of the Beltway.
Check out the many examples of real pain for localities at the link. And besides, according to Buzzfeed, Nobody Liked The White House Tours That Much Anyway. They’re only rated 3.5 on Yelp. Read the negative reviews at the link.
Interesting book review at The Daily Beast
They were the employees of the gigantic uranium-enrichment plant at Oak Ridge, Tenn.—those who lived and toiled in this purpose-built secret city in the Appalachian Mountains, many of them young women, had only been told that their efforts would help bring home American soldiers. Then, when atomic power was deployed against an enemy nation for the first (and so far, last) time, Oak Ridge residents realized what they had been working toward, and why their every move had been monitored, their every utterance policed, and their every question stonewalled.
In The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, Denise Kiernan recreates, with cinematic vividness and clarity, the surreal Orwell-meets-Margaret Atwood environment of Oak Ridge as experienced by the women who were there. They were secretaries, technicians, a nurse, a statistician, a leak pipe inspector, a chemist, and a janitor. “Site X” began construction in late 1942, and was also known as the Clinton Engineering Works (CEW) and the Reservation. Staff members were recruited from all over the U.S., but particularly from nearby Southern states, and were offered higher than average wages, on-site housing and cafeterias, and free buses.
More importantly, they were offered the chance to join the 400,000 or so American women performing non-combatant roles in the armed services, as well as those keeping vital industries afloat and helping the men on the front lines. But whereas a female Air Force pilot or munitions factory worker understood precisely her contributions to the war effort, the women at Oak Ridge were kept in the dark about the actual purpose of their workplace, a mystery heightened by the apparent lack of anything ever leaving the site. Provided with “just enough detail to do their job well, and not an infinitesimal scrap more,” workers at all levels were forbidden from taking the slightest interest in anyone else’s duties. “Stick to your knitting,” in the words of Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, head of the Project.
That sounds like a fascinating book!
ABC News reports on a scary new virus–the coronaviris.
Health officials are warning of a new virus that has sickened at least 14 people worldwide, killing eight of them.
There are no known American cases of the coronavirus, known as hCoV-EMC, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is urging doctors with patients who have an unexplained respiratory illness after traveling to the Arabian peninsula or neighboring countries to report the cases to the CDC.
Doctors should also report patients with known diseases who don’t respond to appropriate treatment, the agency said its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Close contacts of a symptomatic patient should also be evaluated.
The novel virus, which is associated with severe respiratory illness with renal failure, was first recognized last September and caused alarm because it is genetically and clinically similar to the SARS virus, which caused hundreds of deaths worldwide.
Read more at the CDC website.
A new archaeological theory about Stonehenge
Centuries before the first massive sarsen stone was hauled into place at Stonehenge, the world’s most famous prehistoric monument may have begun life as a giant burial ground, according to a theory disclosed on Saturday.
More than 50,000 cremated bone fragments, of 63 individuals buried at Stonehenge, have been excavated and studied for the first time by a team led by archaeologist Professor Mike Parker Pearson, who has been working at the site and on nearby monuments for decades. He now believes the earliest burials long predate the monument in its current form.
The first bluestones, the smaller standing stones, were brought from Wales and placed as grave markers around 3,000BC, and it remained a giant circular graveyard for at least 200 years, with sporadic burials after that, he claims.
It had been thought that almost all the Stonehenge burials, many originally excavated almost a century ago, but discarded as unimportant, were of adult men. However, new techniques have revealed for the first time that they include almost equal numbers of men and women, and children including a newborn baby.
I’ll end with this “chart of the day” from Business Insider:
I hope that’s enough to get you started on the day. Please share your recommended reads in the comments. I look forward to clicking on your links!
Have a great weekend!!
This is a quick post…and from the title you can probably guess what two items I will be highlighting this evening.
The top prize for Wednesday’s Powerball drawing has reached an estimated $500 million, a $75 million increase in the pot, lottery officials said.
That increase is a result of an uptick in ticket sales that lottery officials said tend to pick up before record drawings as people seek to win big.
Now, with a record $500 million Powerball jackpot up for grabs on Wednesday, we figured it was a great time to, once again, dash your dreams. We know, we know — someone will win at least a share of the prize, if not Wednesday, then in some subsequent drawing. But it won’t be you.
The chance of a ticket winning a Powerball jackpot is 1 in 175,223,510 (slightly better than the chance of winning a Mega Millions jackpot, which is 1 in 175,711,536). Here are a few unlikely scenarios that, we’re sorry to say, are much more likely than you taking home this jackpot.
From the Harvard School of Public Health:
– Dying from a bee sting: 1 in 6.1 million.
– Dying from being struck by lightning: 1 in 3 million.
From U.S. Hole in One, which insures golf prizes for holes in one:
– An amateur golfer making a hole in one on a par-3 hole: 1 in 12,500.
– A golfer hitting a hole in one on consecutive par-3 holes: 1 in about 156 million.
From a 2011 State Farm study on collisions between vehicles and deer:
– Hitting a deer with a vehicle in Hawaii, the state where State Farm says deer-vehicle collisions are least likely: 1 in 6,267.
From the National Weather Service:
– Being struck by lightning over an 80-year lifetime: 1 in 10,000.
From the Florida Museum of Natural History, based on U.S. beach injury statistics:
– Drowning and other beach-related fatalities: 1 in 2 million.
– Being attacked by a shark: 1 in 11.5 million.
And now for the crackpot…Rand Paul warns of GOP becoming dinosaur, cites robotic squirrels
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who’s known for his libertarian leanings, cautioned Tuesday that the Republican Party could meet the same fate as animals that went extinct millions of years ago. “I think my party, the Republican Party, is shrinking. We’re in danger of becoming a dinosaur,” he said on CNN’s “Newsroom.” “We’re not competitive on the West Coast, we’re not competitive in New England.”
“What I’ve said is that I won’t deny I’m interested–a little bit different than ‘I am interested,’” Paul said, pointing to a need for reform in the party.
Paul also weighed in on the fiscal cliff–a series of tax hikes and spending cuts to kick in next year if Congress fails to reach a deficit-reduction deal. Focusing on the negotiations to find an agreement and avert the crisis, Paul said entitlement reform–one of the options on the table in debt talks–should happen on its own and not be part of a deal that also includes raising taxes.
“The way I look at it is entitlements are broken, and it’s not my fault, it’s not Democrats’ fault, it’s because your grandparents had too many babies. It’s because we’re living longer. These are just facts,” he said. “Taxing anyone in a weak economy is not good.”
The Kentucky senator also said he’d be one of the few conservatives willing to compromise on military cuts but remained firm against raising taxes. To make his case, Paul cited examples of what he considers wasteful spending and argued an increase in tax rates would be futile while the government spends “$300,000 a year on robotic squirrels” and $2 million “on how we can convince Chinese prostitutes not to drink so much on the job.”
And that is one funny thing, one nut talking about robotic squirrels…This is an open thread.
In this key swing state, Obama stopped at Big Apple Pizza & Pasta Italian Restaurant, where he was greeted by owner Scott Van Duzer, a muscular man dressed in a gray T-shirt and matching athletic shorts.
Van Duzer was so smitten by the president that he embraced him in a bear hug, leaned backward and lifted the 6-foot-2 president a foot off the ground. Photos of the moment show Obama with his arms spread wide and palms turned upward, as if to say he’s at the mercy of the pizzaman….
Afterward, a reporter at the scene reported that Van Duzer, 46, from Port St. Lucie, stands 6-foot-3 and weights 260 pounds, and he can bench-press 350.
“Everybody look at these guns,” Obama said, pointing to Van Duzer’s chest. “If I eat your pizza, will I look like that?”
“Look at that!” Obama exclaimed after Van Duzer put him down. “Man, are you a powerlifter or what?”
Joe Biden had a big day too.
SEAMAN, Ohio — Vice President Joe Biden was looking to cozy up with voters as he toured Ohio this weekend, but he did not imagine that an Ohio woman would nearly end up in his lap.
Biden was chatting up customers in the Cruisers Diner in southern Ohio Sunday when he met a group of motorcycle riders in black leather vests and bandanas.
A female group member was watching, and Biden waved her over, telling her, “I know who runs the show.”
The woman had no place to sit, so Biden pulled a chair in front of himself and pulled her nearly into his lap. He put his hands on her shoulders and leaned in for a conversation as photographers snapped away.
Economics lessons aren’t usually all that funny, but the one Paul Krugman gave Rand Paul on ABC’s This Week was hilarious. Cokie Roberts interrupted with some Villager nonsense–she seems as unteachable as Rand Paul.
Krugman was so amazed by the ignorance that he wrote two blog posts about it. The first one is mostly a chart showing the steep drop in government employment under President Obama.
Krugman’s second post: The Zombie That Ate Rand Paul’s Brain
After watching the video, Krugman noticed the shocked expression on Rand Paul’s face. How could he be so stunned by a fact that is out there for anyone to read about?
Almost surely it’s a case of a zombie lie that has gone unchallenged in the hermetic world of movement conservatism, so that people like Paul know, just know, something that ain’t so. I wrote about this way back: the usual suspects seized on the Census bulge in employment as evidence of a big-government surge; and because nobody in that business ever admits having been wrong, this became a “fact” that people like Rand Paul believe. He wouldn’t have made this mistake if he ever read or listened to an analysis from nonpartisan sources, but he evidently doesn’t.
I’ve got a few editorial cartoons for you too. The first two are about Bill Clinton’s speech to the DNC.
Two on the “We built it” theme.
And one more on Romney’s ridiculous “Are you better off” question.
What next? I’m looking forward to more craziness next week.
Good Morning!! Let’s get right to the news. Yesterday wasn’t a big political news day here in the U.S. The President appeared on The View and talked about gay marriage and the Kardashians. He also pandered to young women at Barnard.
The Obama campaign released a new ad highlighting Mitt Romney’s career as a corporate “vampire” at Bain Capital.
The Obama campaign ad focuses on Bain Capital’s misadventures with GST steel of Kansas City and features former steelworkers describing what they saw between the time Bain bought the firm in 1993 and filed to put it in bankruptcy in 2001. (Romney left Bain in 1999).
“It was like a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us,” says one of the men. “What Bain Capital did was not capitalism, it was bad management,” says David Foster, lead negotiator for workers at GST Steel. Former steelworker Joe Soptic accuses Bain of cutting corners on safety, saying “it was like working in the sweatshops of the ’30s,” and that watching the plant close was “like watching an old friend bleed to death.”
The campaign also set up a new website to provide information about “Romney economics.”
Ron Paul announced that he won’t compete in any of the remaining primaries, but he still plans to compete with Mitt Romney for delegates to the Republican convention.
Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas and a favorite of tea partyers, effectively ended his presidential campaign Monday but urged his fervent supporters to continue working at the state party level to cause havoc for presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
In an email to supporters, Paul urged his libertarian-leaning backers to remain involved in politics and champion his causes despite the apparent end of his presidential aspirations. Paul has found success in wrecking the selection process for delegates to the party’s late-summer nominating convention in Tampa, Fla., and trumpeted that he has delayed Romney’s expected nomination….
Paul’s supporters have proved successful in winning state GOP conventions in places such as Maine and Nevada. His supporters in Iowa and Nevada were chosen to lead the state central parties.
Over the weekend, Paul’s supporters managed to boo Mitt Romney’s son Josh off the stage at the Arizona state Republican convention.
Hundreds of state GOP members were gathered at Grand Canyon University to elect delegates for the national convention in July in Tampa, Fla., which is expected to select Mitt Romney as the official Republican nominee to challenge President Obama.
“We cannot afford four more years of President Obama,” said Josh Romney, the third of Mitt Romney’s five sons. “We need someone to step in there and turn things around.”
But Josh Romney had to stop repeatedly as people booed and yelled for Paul, who has continued campaigning in the Republican primary.
What is Ron Paul up to? At HuffPo, Stewart J. Lawrence suggests that Paul may be trying to set up his son Rand Paul to become Romney’s vice presidential choice. Or perhaps he just wants a speaking role at the Convention and input into the party platform. In any case, Romney may have to deal with Ron Paul at some point.
So it was a pretty quiet day in the U.S., but not in Europe, where Greece is teetering on the brink of destruction and threatening to pull all of the Eurozone down with it. From the Washington Post: Greek deadlock heightens fears of full European economic crisis.
Political deadlock in Greece rattled world markets Monday, reviving fears that the fractious Mediterranean country could spurn an international bailout, abandon the common European currency and risk a fresh round of world economic turmoil.
European stock indexes fell, with Greece’s market now at a 20-year low, while the euro currency continued a recent decline against the dollar. U.S. stocks also fell.
Coming only days before the leaders of the world’s Group of Eight industrialized nations meet at Camp David, the standoff in Greece over its political direction has thrust Europe’s troubles to the top of the agenda. A downturn in Europe could stagger a fragile recovery in the United States and undermine growth around the world.
Some headlines from The Independent UK:
Financial markets were plunged into fresh turmoil after Greece’s political parties failed once again to agree to form a unity government, and European policymakers warned that Greece’s aid payments would be cut off unless Athens quickly produced an administration prepared to deliver far-reaching economic reforms and budget cuts.
Without those funds from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, Greece could run out of cash to meet its national debt interest payments as early as next month. The country would then have no option but to default. Most analysts expect that a default would be a prelude to Greek exit from the single currency altogether.
Southern Europe is preparing for a summer of discontent as protesters of all ages, and from across the political spectrum, plan demonstrations against greater austerity measures and against those policymakers who say there is no alternative to cuts.
Up to 50,000 “Indignant Ones” gathered in Madrid’s Puerta de Sol area on Saturday, many more than expected, to demonstrate against the Spanish government’s austerity measures. But, as indignant as they might have been, there were fewer on the streets for what was billed as an even bigger rally on Sunday, despite a message of support from the US rocker Bruce Springsteen.
A public holiday in Madrid today is likely to draw another protest, and one group almost certain to be there is the yayoflautas, a collection of people in their sixties and seventies, and who were involved in anti-Franco protests. The group has staged sit-ins in banks, radio stations, hospitals and even the reception area of a ratings agency.
Angela Merkel’s ruling conservatives suffered a humiliating defeat in key elections in Germany’s most populous state yesterday when voters rejected her party’s austerity policies and handed a resounding victory to her pro-growth Social Democratic Party opponents.
Ms Merkel’s Christian Democrats were shell-shocked by the devastating result they returned in the poll in North Rhine Westphalia, which has a total population of 18 million. Exit polls showed that they secured a mere 25.5 per cent of the vote – their worst performance ever in the state….
By contrast, the pro-growth Social Democrats and their candidate Hannelore Kraft, 50, romped home with 38 per cent of the vote. They were expected to form a so-called Red-Green coalition with the environmentalist Greens who won around 12 per cent of the vote. The two parties secured enough seats to obtain an absolute majority in the state parliament.
U.S. politicians should be paying attention. Austerity is not a long-term winning policy.
In miscellaneous news, Gizmodo reports that the Kodak company had a nuclear reactor in its basement for many years.
Kodak may be going under, but apparently they could have started their own nuclear war if they wanted, just six years ago. Down in a basement in Rochester, NY, they had a nuclear reactor loaded with 3.5 pounds of enriched uranium—the same kind they use in atomic warheads….
Kodak officials now admit that they never made any public announcement about it. In fact, nobody in the city—officials, police or firemen—or in the state of New York or anywhere else knew about it until it was recently leaked by an ex-employee. Its existence and whereabouts were purposely kept vague and only a few engineers and Federal employees really knew about the project.
The company had a legitimate purpose for having the reactor and radioactive material:
Kodak’s purpose for the reactor wasn’t sinister: they used it to check materials for impurities as well as neutron radiography testing. The reactor, a Californium Neutron Flux multiplier (CFX) was acquired in 1974 and loaded with three and a half pounds of enriched uranium plates placed around a californium-252 core.
But still it’s amazing they were able to get away with the reactor and especially the secrecy. The reactor was dismantled in 2006.
Why would a mafia boss be buried in a Roman basilica? Especially when he was suspected of abducting a 15-year-old girl, the daughter of a Vatican employee.
Forensic teams and marble workers have pried open a mobster’s tomb in the basilica Sant’Apollinare in Rome, searching for clues that might help to solve one of Italy’s greatest mysteries.
Fifteen-year-old Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican bank functionary, disappeared in 1983 on her way to a music lesson. Her body has never been found, and the truth about what happened to her has puzzled investigators for nearly 30 years. One of the most prominent conspiracy theories was that Orlandi’s remains would be found in the crypt where the notorious Roman mafioso Enrico “Renatino” De Pedis was eventually laid to rest after he was shot dead in a Rome square in 1990.
On Monday, his tomb was finally opened. His body was there, inside a three-layer sarcophagus, well preserved and wearing a dark blue suit and black tie. Police took fingerprints and confirmed his identity. But also, tucked inside a niche of the ancient crypt – a burial place since before Napoleonic times – were dozens of boxes containing unidentified human bones.
Dozens of boxes of bones?! This should be an interesting story to follow.
Finally, I’d like to call your attention to a profile of Mitt Romney’s top adviser Eric Fernstrom, published in GQ Magazine. It’s long, but well worth reading. Here’s a brief preview:
Fehrnstrom calls himself a “utility player,” and in the press he’s typically identified as a “Romney spokesman” or a “Romney strategist.” But that doesn’t begin to do justice to his place in the high command. Fehrnstrom has been with Romney for a decade, longer than any other political adviser on his 2012 campaign. “Anytime I’ve got questions or I’ve got a doubt, I know I can go to Eric and I’m getting feedback from someone who’s inside Mitt’s brain,” Romney’s senior adviser Kevin Madden told me. Or as Peter Flaherty, another senior Romney adviser, puts it: “Eric has a deeper shelf of institutional knowledge of Mitt Romney than anyone I know whose last name is not Romney.”
Fehrnstrom’s first job for Romney was running the press shop during his successful 2002 run for Massachusetts governor. But his role quickly expanded, and as Romney’s national profile grew, so did his trusted aide’s. (So much so that when Scott Brown was looking for someone to help him win Ted Kennedy’s old Massachusetts Senate seat in 2010, he hired Fehrnstrom, who remains Brown’s top strategist.) Over the course of his decade with Romney, Madden says, Fehrnstrom has become “a Tom Hagen figure. He’s consigliere to the governor.”
But with two slight differences. Whereas Hagen was always trying to cool off the hotheaded Sonny Corleone and keep the peace, Fehrnstrom, 50, is both the wise man and the hothead. He wears the uniform of the modern political consultant—iPad tucked in the crook of his arm, open-collared shirt, rectangular-framed glasses—but his fleshy face and thick New England accent betray a rougher core. And far from reining in Romney, he performs the opposite service for his client: Fehrnstrom toughens him up. “Eric gives Mitt a capability that Mitt doesn’t have,” says Ben Coes, Romney’s campaign manager in 2002. “It’s a streetwise savvy; it’s an on-the-ground Boston-smarts mentality; it’s a back-alley-politics, survival-of-the-fittest point of view. Mitt is not a knife fighter. Eric is a knife fighter.” The best political operatives are the ones who provide their clients with a tangible quality the candidate himself lacks. If Karl Rove was Bush’s brain, then Fehrnstrom is Romney’s balls.
That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?