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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 75,462

Journal Archives

Consumer Spending in U.S. Unexpectedly Declined in April

(Bloomberg) Consumer spending in the U.S. unexpectedly declined in April as incomes stagnated, putting the biggest part of the U.S. economy on shaky ground at the start of the second quarter.

Household purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the economy, dropped 0.2 percent, after a 0.1 percent rise the prior month that was smaller than previously estimated, a Commerce Department report showed today in Washington. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 79 economists called for no change. Incomes (PITLCHNG) were unchanged and prices dropped by the most in more than four years.

The data underscore the risk to the economy from the federal budget cuts that began in March and a higher payroll tax since the start of 2013. At the same time, the housing rebound, stock market gains and cheaper fuel costs are helping underpin household finances and confidence, which will help prevent an extended pullback. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-31/consumer-spending-in-u-s-unexpectedly-falls-as-incomes-stagnate.html

St. Louis Protestors Rally Over Death of Honors Student Shot 25 Times by Police

AlterNet / By Steven Hsieh

St. Louis Protestors Rally Over Death of Honors Student Shot 25 Times by Police
Witnesses say Cary Ball, Jr. was unarmed when police opened fire, killing him.

May 30, 2013 |

Protestors rallied for the second time in a week on Wednesday over the fatal shooting by police officers of a 25-year-old, St. Louis man who witnesses say was “unarmed” at the time of his death last month, KMOX reports.

Police reports say Cary Ball, Jr. crashed his car after being chased, jumped out, ran away, and pointed his gun at police. At that point, two veteran officers fired 25 shots at Ball, killing him. The officers involved were placed on administrative leave on April 25, 2013, the morning after the incident.

As KMOX reports, witnesses describe a different scene. Protest organizers say several witnesses saw Ball throw his handgun on the ground and walk towards the police with his hands up before he was shot to death. Only one of those witnesses, Cary’s brother Carlos Ball, spoke to media.

“They looked at the gun on the ground and fired,” said Carlos Ball, “He never fired. They never fired, until the gun was nowhere near him.” ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/st-louis-protestors-rally-over-death-honors-student-shot-25-times-police

Is the Monsanto Protest the Next Salt March?

Is the Monsanto Protest the Next Salt March?

Wednesday, 29 May 2013 08:23
By Stephanie Van Hook and Michael Nagler, Metta Center for Nonviolence | Op-Ed

When a people is faced with a destructive system that has been insidiously putting its tendrils down in many sectors of society, steadily taking over its institutions, it can seem all but impossible to dislodge that evil; but it always seems that a system like that will have some vulnerability, some leverage point that an aroused people can ferret out and be rid of the evil.

The question is, has the Monsanto Corporation become that leverage point by attacking which we could be on our way to the crumbling of the entire system of militarism, racism, greed, and violence that we loathe. Could 2 million-person worldwide March Against Monsanto that took place on May 25 be our Salt March? And our answer is, yes; if we choose to use it as such.

We are aiming high here. Monsanto is a giant corporation; it has a firm grip on many elements of our government. It has created an internal system, including the personnel it attracts and holds, of an insensitivity to life and nature that is unparalleled even in our insensitive age. That is their strength. It is also their vulnerability.

Gandhi, with his insight and his passion, saw that with the simple mechanism of the salt tax the British Raj had a chokehold on the life of India, particularly its impoverished millions. Vandana Shiva has rightly named her movement in India against the corporate giant a “seed Satyagraha” to emphasize the parallel with Gandhi’s pivotal campaign. (“Let the seed be exhaustless, let it never get exhausted, let it bring forth seed next year” are the words of a Indian peasant prayer). In the case of Monsanto, of course, we have a subtler situation than that tackled by the Salt Satyagraha; Monsanto’s employees do not come from another country and wear a different-colored skin. Still, it is as dangerous and as offensive as the British attempt to commoditize salt to the extent that Indians were not allowed to harvest it from their own seashores. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/16633-is-the-monsanto-protest-the-next-salt-march

One Quarter of Americans Don't Get Paid Days Off

(AlterNet) Nearly a quarter of all Americans work without paid vacation days or holidays, a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research says. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the U.S. is the only "rich" country that does not require paid time-off, even though studies have repeatedly found that less time at work -- and more time relaxing or vacationing -- actually increases productivity.

“It is striking that six years after we first looked at this topic absolutely nothing has changed. U.S. law and U.S. employer behavior still lags far behind the rest of the rich countries in the world,” John Schmitt, senior economist and co-author of the report, said in a statement.

“The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation days and paid holidays,” said Schmitt, “Relying on businesses to voluntarily provide paid leave just hasn’t worked.” ..............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.alternet.org/one-quarter-americans-dont-get-paid-days

Volcker Cautions Federal Reserve May ‘Fall Short’

(Bloomberg) Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker said today the central bank will probably “fall short” by being asked to do too much.

“It’s fashionable to talk about a dual mandate, that policy should somehow be directed toward two objectives, of price stability and full employment,” Volcker told the Economic Club of New York. “Fashionable or not, I find that mandate both operationally confusing and ultimately illusory.”

With unemployment lingering at 7.5 percent -- still higher than before the last recession -- the Federal Open Market Committee announced May 1 that it will increase or decrease the pace of its monthly bond purchases in response to changes in inflation and the labor market. The policy makers agreed to maintain monthly buying of $40 billion in mortgage securities and $45 billion of U.S. Treasuries in a bid to boost employment.

“Asked to do too much, for instance to accommodate misguided fiscal policies, to deal with structural imbalances, to square continuously the hypothetical circles of stability, growth and full employment, then it will inevitably fall short,” Volcker said. Those efforts cause it to lose “sight of its basic responsibility for price stability, a matter that is within the range of its influence.” ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-29/volcker-cautions-federal-reserve-may-fall-short-.html

Cyclists will be able to sign up this week for Chicago’s bike-sharing program

(Sun-Times) Cyclists will be able to sign up this week for the city’s new bike-sharing program, which will give members access to bicycles throughout the city.

Over the next year, some 4,000 Divvy bicycles — painted blue to match the stripes on the Chicago flag — will be available at 400 locations.

Members can purchase a 12-month membership for $75 or a daily pass for $7. The memberships will go on sale at www.divvybikes.com later this week at a time yet to be determined, said Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Bill McCaffrey.

The membership gives users a personal key that will unlock bikes at stations throughout the city beginning sometime in June. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/20374502-418/sign-up-for-chicagos-bike-sharing-program-scheduled-to-start-this-week.html

Gaze Upon the Danish Dream of Freedom

via truthdig:

Gaze Upon the Danish Dream of Freedom
Posted on May 28, 2013

Unlike the Danes, American society has abstracted freedom from its prerequisite of economic security. Vermonters learned of enviable Danish freedom in a series of town meetings this month with one of their senators, Bernie Sanders, and Peter Taksoe-Jensen, the Danish ambassador to the U.S.

“Large crowds came out to learn about a social system very different from our own which provides extraordinary security and opportunity for the people of Denmark,” Sanders wrote of the meetings in an editorial in The Huffington Post on Sunday.

Most Americans are gripped with “a massive amount of economic anxiety,” Sanders continued. “Unemployment is much too high, wages and income are too low, millions of Americans are struggling to find affordable health care and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider. “While young working families search desperately for affordable child care, older Americans worry about how they can retire with dignity. Many of our people are physically exhausted as they work the longest hours of any industrialized country and have far less paid vacation time than other major countries.”

Not so in Denmark. There, “social policy in areas like health care, child care, education and protecting the unemployed are part of a ‘solidarity system’ that makes sure that almost no one falls into economic despair. Danes pay very high taxes, but in return enjoy a quality of life that many Americans would find hard to believe,” Sanders wrote. Taksoe-Jensen told his American audiences that although Danes have a difficult time becoming obscenely wealthy, no one is allowed to be poor, Sanders noted. Minimum wage is twice what it is in the United States, and people who are unable to find jobs and care for themselves have a basic guaranteed income of $100 per day. .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/gaze_upon_the_danish_dream_of_freedom_20130528/

New York City Public Libraries Attack Alert – Privatizing Prized Locations and Cutting Budget by 35%

from Naked Capitalism:

Nathan Tankus: New York City Public Libraries Attack Alert – Privatizing Prized Locations and Cutting Budget by 35%

Libraries (along with post offices) have been a central part of urban planning for over a century. Orthodox urban economics is all about taking a central urban area as given, and then calculating “optimal” rental values in the areas surrounding this center. Of course, the center of an urban area isn’t “given” or naturally occurring; they are designed and planned. Public facilities such as libraries helped generate central areas. In this context it is no coincidence wealthy benefactors such as Andrew Carnegie took interest in planning and constructing public libraries (Van Slyck 1991). The areas around public libraries gained customers and “locational rent” (in the language of the seminal economic geographer Von Thünen). Even though these institutions have become less important for land values and foot traffic, their presence helped generate these neighborhoods.

Now that these buildings have “done their jobs” (in FIRE sector terms) they can do one more thing for finance and real estate: be killed for private sector fun and profit. This is precisely what is taking place in New York City. The problem for FIRE is getting these privatizations to happen. Luckily for them, the financial crisis solved this problem. By generating budget shortfalls for state and local governments, the financial crisis has given people like mayor Bloomberg the opportunity to make cuts to popular social services like libraries. Why is FIRE interested in budget cuts? Because they reduce money needed for maintenance and thus make the library system appear too large for the city to handle (they also reduce public services, thus making them less popular). The Brooklyn Public Library, for example, has “a $230 million backlog of deferred maintenance, barely dented by the $15 million annual allotment of capital funding.”

Our billionaire Mayor is now trying to deliver a death blow to the public library system. In his budget for Fiscal year 2014 “the Administration is proposing a $193 million subsidy for the systems, which is a 35 percent reduction from the Fiscal 2013 Adopted Budget.” Unsurprisingly, the number one impact highlighted by the mayor is “branch closings”. According to Albor Ruiz writing in the New York Daily News, “More than 60 libraries will have to close their doors and there will be massive layoffs resulting in disastrous cuts to hours and services.” At this point in the negotiations, the final cuts may end up being somewhat less severe. However even a cut half or a third as large as this one would be devastating. .................(more)

Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/05/nathan-tankus-new-york-city-public-libraries-attack-alert-privatizing-prized-locations-and-cutting-budget-by-35.html#US82khP2woIrJg7D.99

Chicago to Shutter 50 Public Schools: Is Historic Mass Closure An Experiment in Privatization?

from Democracy Now!:

As the academic year winds down, a record number of Chicago schools are preparing to close their doors for good in the largest mass school closing ever in one U.S. city. Last week, the Chicago Board of Education voted to close 50 of the city’s public schools in a move that will impact some 30,000 students, around 90 percent of them African American. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pushed for the closures in order to save the city more than $500 billion, half of its deficit. "Rahm Emanuel actually does not have an educational plan, he has an economic development plan," says our guest Diane Ravitch, who served as the assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush. Proponents say the closures will hit schools that are both underperforming and underutilized. But a vocal coalition of parents, teachers and students has fought back, warning that the closures will lead to overcrowded classrooms and endanger those students forced to walk longer distances to their new schools. We go to Chicago to speak with Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, which helped lead the campaign against the school closures. "They are making a very massive, radical and, frankly, irreversible experiment here on other people’s children," Sharkey says.


AMY GOODMAN: To discuss the Chicago closures, we’re joined by two guests. In Chicago, Jesse Sharkey is with us, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, which helped lead the campaign against the school closures. And here in New York, Diane Ravitch is with us. She served as the assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, now a historian of education and the best-selling author of over 20 books, including The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s start in Chicago with Jesse Sharkey. Explain the latest and why these schools are being closed and what you’re doing about it.

JESSE SHARKEY: Well, Amy, thanks for having me on, first of all.

There’s been a real shifting rationale about why the district is closing the schools. What they keep—what they’ve said is that it will save money and they have a budget deficit to worry about, and then now they’re saying that this will allow them to better serve the students whose schools are being closed. Both rationales are outrageous. As far as saving money, the district is planning—or the city is going to spend $300 million to renovate a new stadium for the DePaul basketball team and renovate the tourist areas of the city, that we don’t believe the school closings will save that much money. And we definitely don’t think that this will actually help the students that are being affected. In all the previous rounds, we found that the University of Chicago research shows that over 90 percent of the students actually wind up with worse educational outcomes as a result of their schools being closed. So, this will be very harmful to the students. It’ll be harmful to the public school system as a whole, and to the people who work in the schools, as well. ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.democracynow.org/2013/5/28/chicago_to_shutter_50_public_schools

Prosecutors Use Patriot Act to Shut Down Virtual Currency Operator

via truthdig:

Prosecutors Use Patriot Act to Shut Down Virtual Currency Operator
Posted on May 28, 2013

Liberty Reserve, which, until Tuesday, operated a virtual currency that could be exchanged for cash, stands accused by the United States of laundering $6 billion in criminal funds.

The Treasury Department said the company was “specifically designed and frequently used to facilitate money laundering in cyber space.” According to Reuters, at least five people have been arrested in Spain, New York and Costa Rica, where the company was apparently based (Costa Rican prosecutors said the company was not operating legally).

The best known virtual currency is Bitcoin, but unlike Liberty Reserve, no central authority governs Bitcoins. Instead, users can exchange Bitcoins with each other or buy them from other entities. Currently, one Bitcoin is worth about $130. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/prosecutors_use_patriot_act_to_shut_down_virtual_currency_operator_20130528/

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