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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 72,733

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Uruguay Does Unthinkable, Rejects Global Corporatocracy

Uruguay Does Unthinkable, Rejects Global Corporatocracy
by Don Quijones • September 22, 2015

[font size="3"][font color="blue"]The historic decision is met by a wall of media silence.[/font][/font]

Often referred to as the Switzerland of South America, Uruguay is long accustomed to doing things its own way. It was the first nation in Latin America to establish a welfare state. It also has an unusually large middle class for the region and unlike its giant neighbors to the north and west, Brazil and Argentina, is largely free of serious income inequality.

Two years ago, during José Mujica’s presidency, Uruguay became the first nation to legalize marijuana in Latin America, a continent that is being ripped apart by drug trafficking and its associated violence and corruption of state institutions.

Now Uruguay has done something that no other semi-aligned nation on this planet has dared to do: it has rejected the advances of the global corporatocracy.

[font size="3"][font color="blue"]The Treaty That Must Not Be Named[/font][/font]

Earlier this month Uruguay’s government decided to end its participation in the secret negotiations of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). After months of intense pressure led by unions and other grassroots movements that culminated in a national general strike on the issue – the first of its kind around the globe – the Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez bowed to public opinion and left the US-led trade agreement.

Despite – or more likely because of – its symbolic importance, Uruguay’s historic decision has been met by a wall of silence. Beyond the country’s borders, mainstream media has refused to cover the story. ...............(more)


The US Bond Market is far Larger than the Stock Market: If Even Part of it Blows, it’ll Dig ........

The US Bond Market is far Larger than the Stock Market: If Even Part of it Blows, it’ll Dig a Magnificent Crater
by Wolf Richter • September 22, 2015

“So, if rates rise, we get nervous. If rates fall, we get nervous. If rates stay the same, we get nervous. When don’t we get nervous? Raise the rates already! We are talking an idling .25% not 3.5% where we should be to make saving pay, and borrowing a cautionary endeavor as it should be!”

That’s the lament posted by a WOLF STREET commenter on Monday afternoon.

“Perhaps investors are getting nervous because the price action is so bad,” explained DoubleLine Capital CEO Jeffrey Gundlach on Monday about the selling pressures junk bonds have come under after Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference, which had been, in his words, “a little bit of a debacle.”

He complained that Yellen had thrown uncertainty and confusion over financial markets, as Fed heads “kind of no longer have a framework” to go by.

He’s always talking up his $80-billion book, which is full of bonds. He has a lot to lose when rates rise and bonds decline in value. So he said that raising rates this year would be a “policy mistake.”

It certainly would be for him, having ridden the greatest bond bull market all the way to its peak while extracting a ton of fees along the way. .................(more)


Groupon Plans to Cut 1,100 Jobs in Global Restructuring

(Groupon) Groupon Inc. plans to cut about 1,100 jobs globally as part of a reorganization of its international operations.

The cuts represent about 10 percent of the workforce at Chicago-based Groupon, which has been expanding overseas and struggling to diversify away from its origins as a daily deals site.

The company expects pretax charges of as much as $35 million as a result of the reductions, including about $22 million to $24 million in the third quarter. Most charges will relate to employee severance and compensation benefits and will be paid in cash, Groupon said Tuesday.

Groupon makes more than 35 percent of its sales outside of North America, and the dollar’s strength has crimped its efforts to expand internationally. In April, Groupon sold a controlling stake in South Korean e-commerce site Ticket Monster to investment firm KKR & Co. and Hong Kong-based Anchor Equity Partners, for $360 million. And last month, venture capital fund Sequoia India agreed to invest in Groupon India. ................(more)


Oil Bust Claims Unusual American Victim

(Bloomberg) In New Auburn, Wisconsin, a desolate, little outpost carved from the rolling pine-tree forests that run into Lake Superior, the collapse in oil is wreaking havoc on every aspect of the economy.

It’s not that there’s any oil here. None in fact for hundreds of miles around. What they’ve got is sand. Real good sand, piled high in giant mounds. And in what is a little-known offshoot of the shale oil revolution that swept across America over the past decade, the market for sand -- the grit that props open the rocks and makes fracking possible -- exploded too, transforming almost overnight what had been a sleepy industry that sold primarily to the likes of glass makers and golf courses. So when the shale boom went bust, it took down the sand industry with it. Prices have sunk almost a third to under $40 per ton.

For the people of northwestern Wisconsin, the epicenter of the sand rush, the economic toll has been harsh. It all happened so fast that many -- like the Bischel brothers: Tom, age 42, and Jeff, 51 -- were blindsided. Back in the winter, the two had pooled their money together to open a fast-food joint. They named their ice-cream dessert the Sandstorm, a play on Dairy Queen’s Blizzard, and designed an extra-tall drive-through window to accommodate all the sand-hauling truckers rumbling through town.

By the time they opened T&J’s Sandwich Station this May, the sand market was in freefall and the area’s mines were scaling back. It’s only gotten worse since. T&J’s business is down 45 percent. "It’s kind of like almost getting your dreams crushed," Tom said. ................(more)


Los Angeles Metro: Foothill Gold Line Opens Two More Stations

The Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority (Construction Authority) on Sept. 19, held a dedication ceremony for both Foothill Gold Line Azusa Stations – Azusa Downtown Station and APU/Citrus College Station – as they concluded a series of ceremonies with the corridor cities to celebrate the new light rail stations and the upcoming substantial completion for the entire $1 billion, six-station Foothill Gold Line light rail project.

With two stations being dedicated at the event, attendance was diverse and large, with elected officials at all levels of government, transportation officials, higher education officials, foreign dignitaries and close to one thousand community stakeholders attending.

"When this phase of the Foothill Gold Line opens next year, thousands of riders will be able to travel between the San Gabriel Valley and Downtown Los Angeles without a car," said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Director Eric Garcetti. "This new transportation option will relieve traffic, improve mobility and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is a smart investment in our region's sustainable future." ..................(more)


Perhaps Florida Man doesn't have access to good public transportation......

Florida Man Drives Stolen Car To Meet Probation Officer (And Did We Mention He Had A Gun, Too?)
Florida: You continue to amaze us.

David Moye
Pop culture journalist, HuffPost Weird News

Bringing a loaded gun to a visit with a probation officer is strange, but going to the meeting in a stolen car takes things to a level that's even bizarre for Florida.

Deputies in Flagler County arrested Christopher John Smith, 38, last Monday on a probation violation charge.

Smith was sentenced to three years probation last July on charges of resisting an officer and felony battery.

Authorities said he showed up for the meeting with his parole officer with a silver Raven Arms .25 caliber pistol stuffed in a bag, according to the Daytona Beach News Journal. Police said there was no round in the chamber but there were five rounds in the magazine. ...................(more)


Private Equity Asset-Stripping Strategy Meets Charter Schools to Produce Even Better Looting

from Naked Capitalism:

Private Equity Asset-Stripping Strategy Meets Charter Schools to Produce Even Better Looting
Posted on September 22, 2015 by Yves Smith

Eileen Appelbaum, co-author of the important book Private Equity at Work, flagged an important article in Philly.com on how a secretive consulting firm that was previously investigated for corruption and a local law firm are engaged in complex, high cost bond deals to implement an asset stripping strategy that Appelbaum and her co-author Rosemary Batt have called out as a private equity enrichment scheme that impairs operating businesses. It’s bad enough to see this sort of thing take place in the dog-eat-dog world of Corporate America. It’s even worse to see it take place in charter schools, where the losers are students, by virtue of unjustifiably large portions of charter fees go to unproductive rental payments and financing fees, as opposed to education, and to taxpayers, who over time face inflated costs to fund profiteering masquerading as education.

If you live in the Philadelphia area, I hope you’ll read articles Charter schools building boom: Charters borrow nearly $500 million on taxpayers’ dime and raise holy hell about the String Theory charter schools, whose expansion plans need to be stopped in their tracks, as well as the roles of its highly paid fixers, the consulting firm Santilli & Thomson and the law firm Sand & Saidel.

The nub of the looting strategy is the acquisition and leaseback of lavish buildings to house charter schools. Because charters are correctly perceived to be risky tenants, bond financings for these purchases are at junk bond rates, meaning high financing costs are heaped on top of what would already be unjustifiably high rental charges, by virtue of putting schools in educationally unproductive glamorous digs. And of course, in an environment where it’s business as usual to lard up bond deals that could be done on a plain-vanilla basis with far more complicated deals that lower interest rates a smidge in return for allowing consultants to charge hefty fees and the financiers to dump risks worth more than the cost savings on the hapless borrower through derivatives, the financial rent extraction can occur at an even greater scale on a high-cost financing. .................(more)


Shutdown-loving Republicans just can't get enough


Pro-Shutdown Republicans Embrace Strategy That Failed in 2013
They insist voters will blame Democrats, but that isn't the way it worked out two years ago.

(Bloomberg) Republicans who want to shut the down the federal government rather than provide $500 million in funding to Planned Parenthood insist that their party won't be punished for having the courage of its anti-abortion convictions.

They say the millions of Americans inconvenienced by the closing of national parks and delays of services (not to mentioned missed paychecks for federal workers) won't blame Republicans for refusing to pass a federal funding bill that contains money for the women's health care services provider. Instead, the theory goes, voters will blame the Democratic president, who plans to veto the bill if it doesn't include money for Planned Parenthood. (Bloomberg Philanthropies provides financial support for the group.)

“On the Planned Parenthood issue, the people who are threatening a shutdown is Barack Obama and his allies in the Senate. ... The Republicans are going to shut down the government? No, we're not. We are in support of funding the government fully, just not giving any more money to this one organization,” Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, a Florida senator, said on Sean Hannity's radio show last week. “They're the ones shutting it down.” ..............(more)


Right to Work Is Coming to the Public Sector. The Only Way to Survive: Social Movement Unionism

from In These Times:

Right to Work Is Coming to the Public Sector. The Only Way to Survive: Social Movement Unionism

Around the country, public-sector unions are either wringing their hands or strategizing about a response to the likely demise of the agency shop and the ushering in of “right-to-work” for all government workers.

Later this year, the Supreme Court is expected to rule that workers who choose not to join the union that goes to the negotiating table for all employees in their bargaining unit cannot be compelled to pay a fee to cover that representation. Unions say that scrapping this requirement creates a free-rider problem — workers receive the benefits of union representation without paying a thing — and unlawfully takes union resources.

It would be perhaps the greatest victory for the anti-union right since the passage of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act.

The case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, could expand last year’s Harris v. Quinn decision, which enforced right-to-work only for health care workers employed by private, state-funded entities. In Friedrichs, ten teachers backed by the right-wing litigation group the Center for Individual Rights (which has also fought affirmative action in higher education) are claiming they are required to fund an organization whose political aims they oppose.

According to CIR, the union “takes the inherently political view that more of scarce taxpayer resources should be devoted to education rather than other needed government services, such as parks or public safety,” and the “CTA bargains for stronger tenure protection, a position which many teachers, especially younger teachers, disagree.” .................(more)


Privatizing the Apocalypse: How Nuclear Weapons Companies Commandeer Your Tax Dollars

from TomDispatch:

Privatizing the Apocalypse
How Nuclear Weapons Companies Commandeer Your Tax Dollars

By Richard Krushnic and Jonathan Alan King

Imagine for a moment a genuine absurdity: somewhere in the United States, the highly profitable operations of a set of corporations were based on the possibility that sooner or later your neighborhood would be destroyed and you and all your neighbors annihilated. And not just you and your neighbors, but others and their neighbors across the planet. What would we think of such companies, of such a project, of the mega-profits made off it?

In fact, such companies do exist. They service the American nuclear weapons industry and the Pentagon’s vast arsenal of potentially world-destroying weaponry. They make massive profits doing so, live comfortable lives in our neighborhoods, and play an active role in Washington politics. Most Americans know little or nothing about their activities and the media seldom bother to report on them or their profits, even though the work they do is in the service of an apocalyptic future almost beyond imagining.

Add to the strangeness of all that another improbability. Nuclear weapons have been in the headlines for years now and yet all attention in this period has been focused like a spotlight on a country that does not possess a single nuclear weapon and, as far as the American intelligence community can tell, has shown no signs of actually trying to build one. We’re speaking, of course, of Iran. Almost never in the news, on the other hand, are the perfectly real arsenals that could actually wreak havoc on the planet, especially our own vast arsenal and that of our former superpower enemy, Russia.

In the recent debate over whether President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran will prevent that country from ever developing such weaponry, you could search high and low for any real discussion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, even though the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists estimates that it contains about 4,700 active warheads. That includes a range of bombs and land-based and submarine-based missiles. If, for instance, a single Ohio Class nuclear submarine -- and the Navy has 14 of them equipped with nuclear missiles -- were to launch its 24 Trident missiles, each with 12 independently targetable megaton warheads, the major cities of any targeted country in the world could be obliterated and millions of people would die. ..............(more)


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