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Exchange rates, from sweatshop to closet, Wall Street rules…

Thursday, May 16, 2013




► In the Spokesman-review — Washington Health Insurance Exchange to cut health care costs — Washington’s consumers got their first, preliminary look at the cost of “Obamacare” on Tuesday. And the news, for many consumers, was good: Health insurance next year will cover more and cost less. Huge rate increases, predicted by critics and by some health insurance companies, did not materialize. Advocates of the federal reform law had hoped that rates would improve because insurers need to compete with each other on an apples-to-apples basis. Now, the rates are out.

CRC-front► In today’s Oregonian — Columbia River Crossing could collapse in Olympia — It’s do-or-die time for the $3.4 billion Columbia River Crossing, more than a decade in the making. It faces more political scenarios for failure than for success, even if the U.S. Coast Guard — which has veto authority — issues a bridge permit by Sept. 30. And if you thought the fight for Oregon’s $450 million contribution was grueling, the Washington battle to pay its share plays out in a rougher league with fiercer passions and nastier politics. But long odds don’t deter the project’s most powerful proponents, such as Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island). “It’s a possibility to get the votes” by appealing to Senate moderates, said Clibborn, who chairs the House Transportation Committee. “We’ll have a better idea in about a week.”




► From AP — April jobless rate in state drops to 7% — Washington state’s unemployment rate dropped to 7% in April, and the state added an estimated 3,800 jobs last month. The state has now regained about 78% of the more than 200,000 jobs lost during the recession, state officials say.

TESC-strike-vote► In today’s Olympian — Evergreen union may strike — “It’s a first-time contract with a group of exempt student services employees. First-time contracts take a long time. We still have some distance to go, but we are working hard to wrap this up as soon as we can,” college spokesman Todd Sprague said Wednesday.

ALSO at The Stand — Frustrated Evergreen employees authorize strike by 90% vote (today), and New video chronicles “A Year of Bargaining” at Evergreen (May 8)

► In today’s Seattle Times — Local officials vow to stay ready for next NBA opportunity — Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn noted that the agreement with investor Chris Hansen to build a $490 million SoDo arena is good for five years, and that the city would continue to work with him to bring a professional basketball team back to Seattle.

► In today’s Yakima H-R — Yakima Valley Memorial to lay off 12 this month — After a call for voluntary resignations last week, Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital will lay off a dozen people this month in a move the hospital CEO said arose from financial strain.

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Monroe prison killer deserves death, jury finds — Inside the courtroom Wednesday, Monroe corrections officer Jayme Biendl’s family sat as they have for the past two years, shoulder-to-shoulder, hand-in-hand, bearing the burden, the grief together. The strength of a family tested by a single act of a violence. The strength of a family holding up under the weight. Biendl’s family listened as a Snohomish County jury’s verdict was read. Byron Scherf should die for murdering Biendl, jurors concluded.




Bangladesh-factory-collapse► In today’s Seattle Times — No easy solutions after Bangladesh factory deaths (by Jon Talton) — Many Americans would be surprised to realize how many of the clothes in their closets and drawers come from sweat shops, workers toiling in abysmal conditions — indeed lethal conditions. But this is one of the consequences of the globalization and trade deals of the past quarter century. Not so long ago, much apparel sold in U.S. stores was made in the Carolinas. That industry has been nearly destroyed as hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost and the industry went to the developing world for cheap labor. In most cases, the agreements didn’t set requirements for worker safety and wages, or for environmental protection.

► In The Onion — Bangladesh factory owners vow to change nothing so this happens again — “This terrible loss of life has not opened our eyes to the conditions for workers throughout Bangladesh, and we promise to take the proper inaction so that we can guarantee all safety hazards are completely and fully ignored,” wrote Wal-Mart contractor Sujon Majumdar on behalf of over 2,000 plant owners, who vowed to stand idly by and do absolutely nothing within their power to prevent another catastrophe. “In our opinion, the workers of Bangladesh are our least important resource and deserve nothing more than unsafe and inhumane working conditions. Rest assured, this will happen again on our watch.”




obama-two-terms► In today’s NY Times — An onset of woes raise questions on Obama’s agenda — Thwarted on Capitol Hill, stymied in the Middle East and now beset by scandal, President Obama has reached a point just six months after a heady re-election where the second term he had hoped for has collided with the second term he actually has.

► In today’s NY Times — The real IRS scandal (op-ed) — Why does the I.R.S. give political groups tax-exempt status at all?

► In today’s NY Times — Take politics away from IRS (editorial) — If social welfare groups had to disclose their political donors, the confusion and abuse would end.

► In The Hill — Immigration group in House facing make-or-break moment — A bipartisan House immigration group faces a make-or-break meeting Thursday night in search of an agreement, with Republicans saying they will move ahead on legislation without Democrats if a deal is not struck.

► At AFL-CIO Now — Missouri House passes ‘Paycheck Deception,’ but veto expected — Thanks to a strong mobilization by Missouri working families and their unions and allies, the close vote — that included several Republicans who voted against the bill — means that Gov. Jay Nixon’s (D) expected veto cannot be overridden.

► At AFL-CIO Now — Effort to stop Koch brothers’ takeover of LA Times gains momentum — Hundreds of Los Angeles residents march and rally to urge Oaktree Capital Management not to sell the respected Los Angeles Times to right-wing extremists David and Charles Koch.




wall-st-rules► At Huffington Post — Cutting Social Security and not taxing Wall Street (by Dean Baker) — As we move toward the fifth anniversary of the great financial crisis of 2008, people should be outraged that cutting Social Security is now on the national agenda, while taxing Wall Street is not. After all, if we take at face value the claims made back in 2008 by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury Secretaries Henry Paulson and Timothy Geithner, Wall Street excesses brought the economy to the brink of collapse. But now the Wall Street behemoths are bigger than ever and President Obama is looking to cut the Social Security benefits of retirees. That will teach the Wall Street boys to be more responsible in the future.


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