Apparently not, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the
name of reducing prison overcrowding and preserving a “standard of decency,” the
high court this week handed down a decision that could set the stage for
something indecent: the release of tens of thousands of prisoners back into
Just when Californians thought they had seen it all and
endured it all. The Golden State has withstood drought, mudslides, fires and
earthquakes. It has a massive budget deficit, about $9.6 billion, that only
looks manageable by comparison with what it was just a few months ago, $25.4
billion, before the state tallied up tax revenue from high-income Californians.
The state has an unemployment rate that is higher than the national average at
11.7 percent, and it has one of the highest rates of mortgage foreclosures per
capita in the country.
What’s next? How about “Get Out of Jail Free” cards for
33,000 inmates in the state prison system? It could happen.
Palestinian and Libyan delegations left Moscow yesterday
after causing quite a stir. The two delegations have nothing to do with each
other: a representative of the Libyan opposition just happened to be in Moscow
at the same time as a group of Palestinian leaders traveling as a single
delegation for the first time in many years. Political scientists are wondering
what Russia hopes to achieve with this flurry of Mideast diplomacy. To
singlehandedly end the war in Libya? And surely Russia can’t expect to wave a
magic wand and create an independent Palestinian state.
Nevertheless, the importance of these contacts - cloaked in
semi-secrecy though they were - should not be underestimated. The official
announcement of the arrival of the delegates was made at the last minute,
although foreign diplomats and journalists had found out about it in advance.
They have been busy discussing the news and eagerly awaiting the results ever
- Reuters - Patrick Worsnip (May 25, 2011)
The United Nations warned on Wednesday of a possible crisis
of confidence in, and even a “collapse” of, the U.S. dollar if its value against
other currencies continued to decline.
In a mid-year review of the world economy, the UN economic
division said such a development, stemming from the falling value of foreign
dollar holdings, would imperil the global financial system.
The report, an update of the UN “World Economic Situation and
Prospects 2011” report first issued in December, noted that the dollar exchange
rate against a basket of other key currencies had reached its lowest level since
This trend, it said, had recently been driven in part by
interest rate differentials between the United States and other major economies
and growing concern about the sustainability of the U.S. public debt, half of
which is held by foreigners.
“As a result, further (expected) losses of the book value of
the vast foreign reserve holdings could trigger a crisis of confidence in the
reserve currency, which would put the entire global financial system at risk,”
You think you understand how the Patriot Act allows the
government to spy on its citizens. Sen. Ron Wyden says it’s worse than you know.
Congress is set to reauthorize three controversial provisions
of the surveillance law as early as Thursday. Wyden (D-Oregon) says that powers
they grant the government on their face, the government applies a far broader
legal interpretation — an interpretation that the government has conveniently
classified, so it cannot be publicly assessed or challenged. But one prominent
Patriot-watcher asserts that the secret interpretation empowers the government
to deploy “dragnets” for massive amounts of information on private citizens; the
government portrays its data-collection efforts much differently.
“We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the
law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says,” Wyden
told Danger Room in an interview in his Senate office. “When you’ve got that
kind of a gap, you’re going to have a problem on your hands.”
What exactly does Wyden mean by that? As a member of the
intelligence committee, he laments that he can’t precisely explain without
disclosing classified information. But one component of the Patriot Act in
particular gives him immense pause: the so-called “business-records
provision,” which empowers the FBI to get businesses, medical offices, banks
and other organizations to turn over any “tangible things” it deems relevant to
a security investigation.
A Scottish municipality has banned from its libraries books
by Israeli authors and that were printed or published in Israel.
The West Dunbartonshire Council, consisting of towns and
villages west of Glasgow, ordered new books by Israeli authors to be banned from
the council’s libraries, according to reports.
The ban reportedly was ordered after last year’s raid by
Israeli commandoes on a ship attempting to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza that
led to the death of nine Turkish nationals. The ban followed a decision made 2
1/2 years ago following the Gaza war to boycott goods produced in Israel.
According to that law, the council and all its public bodies are forbidden to
sell goods that originated from Israel.
A West Dunbartonshire Council spokesman told the UK Express
over the weekend that the boycott is not retrospective and that no books have
been removed from libraries.
The council told the Express that 10 other councils had
agreed to join the boycott.
The European Union is set to issue a very special bond this
week. It is special because it is practically unprecedented. Just twice before
has the EU borrowed money with the promise that all member nations would
be responsible for paying it back.
If the Eurobonds become a permanent part of the European
Union, the implications are global. A United European bond market could save the
eurozone’s struggling economies.
But that is not the biggest implication. For the first
time, the U.S. treasury market will have a real and potentially lethal
competitor, and the world will finally have a true alternative to the dollar for
According to the Financial Times, the first bond
auction in January led to “overwhelming
demand” for the paper from investors around the world. The second issuance
in March was equally successful, as investors in Asia and the Middle East
snapped up the bonds. The success of the Eurobond sales contrasts sharply with
the rising cost of raising money in most European countries.
Germany’s Klaus Regling, the head of the EU facility selling
the Eurobonds, said investors saw the bonds as a “new way to diversify” their
The Australian (Link)
- Mark Franchetti (May 23, 2011)
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has decided to run for
the presidency next year, raising the possibility of a power struggle with his
protégé Dmitry Medvedev, the incumbent Kremlin leader, say highly placed
The once-close relationship between Mr. Putin, the
tough-talking former KGB officer who has inspired a personality cult, and Mr.
Medvedev, a softly spoken Twitter enthusiast, has become increasingly fractious
amid speculation in Moscow that the younger man wishes to stand again.
Insiders familiar with both leaders said Mr. Putin, who
served eight years as president before becoming Prime Minister three years ago,
had begun to lose confidence in Mr. Medvedev’s loyalty.
Under the constitution, Mr. Putin’s move to reclaim the
presidency could see him rule for two consecutive six-year terms until 2024,
when he will be 72. If so, he would have served as prime minister or president
for 24 years in all.
Bridges For Peace (Link)
- Isranet - Edgar Asher (May 23, 2011)
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz signed an agreement today
approving the construction and operation of a massive new desalination facility
near Ashdod [to turn seawater into usable water]. The plant, which will be one
of the largest in the world, will, on completion, mean that almost 70% of
Israel’s water needs will be met by desalinated sources. The new facility will
cost $400 million and is expected to be completed in 2013. The go ahead follows
an international tender which was awarded to IDE Technologies, an Israeli world
leader in water technologies and the Singapore-based Hutchinson Water
International Holdings Pte. The two organizations will design, plan and run the
Investments have also been made by the European Investment
Bank, Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi [Hapoalim and Leumi are two Israeli banks].
This will be the fourth desalination plant in Israel which has been built with
the cooperation of the private sector.
Uzi Landau the National Infrastructure Minister said at the
signing at the finance ministry. “The efforts of the National Infrastructure
Ministry have come to fruition and the true beneficiary of these efforts is the
Israeli citizen. We fight for every drop of water,” Landau said.
“Like the ‘finance minister of nature,’ I am proud to say
that I am responsible for the fact that even after six years of drought, while
our neighbors in the Middle East gave water to their citizens by means of
tankers, residents of Israel are opening the tap and getting their water.” †