House Progressives may actually get a bank handout slashed

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David Dayen for The New Republic, commenting on how U.S. House Progressive Caucus found spare billions in needless Federal spending at the Fed lying around that may now be used to help pay for a highway spending bill compromise the Congressional Republicans are seriously considering:

But $16.3 billion in pure corporate welfare is not nothing. And the lesson here is the importance of having policies available on a shelf. Many observers deride the Progressive Caucus’ budget as an exercise in futility. But without the inclusion of the Fed dividend policy, Barbara Boxer wouldn’t have known about it when negotiating the highway bill. Even in a time of minority governance, having a storehouse of ideas that can be pulled out in opportunistic moments matters a great deal.

Read the full story.

Now that’s real fiscal responsibility.

Tax avoidance is a corruption that impoverishes

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

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Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank, gave a speech in which he argued that corporate tax avoidance schemes are a type of corruption:

“Some companies use elaborate strategies to not pay taxes in countries in which they work, a form of corruption that hurts the poor,” Kim said in a speech ahead of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual meetings next week in Lima, Peru. According to a recent United Nations report, tax evasion is costing an estimated $100 billion in lost public revenues in poor countries.

 
I’m pretty concerned about the lost revenues in rich countries too, which could also be used to help the poor.

Egypt, Qatar, others add ground troops to Yemen mess

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The Economist – “A downward spiral”:

More troops have poured in since the [Sept. 4 2015] attack [on coalition troops]. Saudi Arabia dispatched more elite forces to join the 3,000-strong coalition force already on the ground, while Qatar, hitherto only participating in air operations, has sent 1,000 soldiers. Egypt, which has long warned of the folly of putting boots on the ground given its disastrous intervention in the 1960s, this week sent in 800 men. Sudanese troops are reportedly waiting to be shipped out of Khartoum. Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa said his two sons will join the battle.
[…]
Quashing the Shia Houthis is nigh on impossible. Gulf officials and media talk bombastically of preparations to take back Sana’a from them and reinstall Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi as president (the Houthis drove him out of the country in March). But Yemen has long been treacherous territory for foreign invaders, and Gulf armies are relatively inexperienced.

Since committing ground troops in August, the coalition has taken control of Aden, the southern port city, and is advancing on Taiz. But it is struggling in Maarib, the gateway to Sana’a, where the extra troops, backed by armoured vehicles and missile launchers, are said to be massing. The fighting will only get harder since the Houthis’ remaining strongholds are in mountainous redoubts.

[…] a rising generation of young, ambitious Gulf royals appears unwilling to pare back their newfound military adventurism.

 
Related Reading: “Saudi Arabia and the US: More military misfires” — my August 13, 2015 op-ed with Stephan Richter for Al Jazeera English.

The (former) waters of Saudi Arabia

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Some mind-blowing statistics from “What California can learn from Saudi Arabia’s water mystery”:

Beginning in the late 1970s, Saudi landowners were given free rein to pump the aquifers so that they could transform the desert into irrigated fields. Saudi Arabia soon became one of the world’s premier wheat exporters.

By the 1990s, farmers were pumping an average of 5 trillion gallons a year. At that rate, it would take just 25 years to completely drain Lake Erie.
[…]
Now the water is nearly gone. Most of that underground water came from ancient aquifers that are deeply buried and don’t naturally refill for tens of thousands of years.

 
Definitely read the rest, especially if you aren’t familiar with how broken U.S. water resource policies are.

Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leadership race easily

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BBC News – Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leadership contest

The victory message:

We don’t have to be unequal. It does not have to be unfair, poverty isn’t inevitable. Things can, and they will change”
[…]
He said the leadership campaign “showed our party and our movement, passionate, democratic, diverse, united and absolutely determined in our quest for a decent and better society that is possible for all”.

“They are fed up with the inequality, the injustice, the unnecessary poverty. All those issues have brought people in, in a spirit of hope and optimism.”

He said his campaign had given the lie to claims that young Britons were apathetic about politics, showing instead that they were “a very political generation that were turned off by the way in which politics was being conducted – we have to, and must, change that”.

 
The breakdown:

The veteran left-winger got almost 60% of more than 400,000 votes cast, trouncing his rivals Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.
[…]
The Islington North MP won on the first round of voting in the leadership contest, taking 251,417 of the 422,664 votes cast – against 19% for Mr Burnham, 17% for Ms Cooper and 4.5% for Ms Kendall.
[…]
An overwhelming 85% of people who signed up as affiliated supporters for £3 voted for Mr Corbyn – but he also topped the ballot among party members and trade unionists.

 

Ukraine Navy remainder drills with US Navy

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“US trains in Black Sea with Ukraine’s depleted navy” – France24.com:

The United States is co-hosting drills in the Black Sea with what is left of Ukraine’s devastated navy, which lost about two thirds of its sailors and ships after Russia seized Crimea last year.
[…]
Ukraine’s naval force was eviscerated when Russia seized the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in March 2014. Moscow snatched much of the fleet moored in strategic ports, and convinced thousands of sailors to jump ship.

 
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“The prospects for octopus takeover are still fairly remote at present”

News from down under — both in the Australia and water senses — “Octopuses Appear To Take Up Arms As Submarine Warfare Escalates” (NPR News):

Those ornery octopuses have also taken to hurling objects at each other, like shells and bits of seaweed, blasting them through the water with high pressure. And while Godfrey-Smith says there may be other explanations for this behavior, the number of direct hits has him suspecting that the octopuses are using projectile weapons.

“It would be quite significant if it’s happening,” says Godfrey-Smith, who’s been collaborating on this research with David Scheel of Alaska Pacific University. “In general, projectile use is pretty rare among animals.”

 
Title quote was from the article in response to the inevitable inquiry by reporters.

Pen and wash drawing by malacologist Pierre Dénys de Montfort, 1801, from the descriptions of French sailors reportedly attacked by a colossal octopus off the coast of Angola.

Pen and wash drawing by malacologist Pierre Dénys de Montfort, 1801, from the descriptions of French sailors reportedly attacked by a colossal octopus off the coast of Angola.