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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Non-Stop Budget Crises

The US Treasury has announced that it will have exhausted its borrowing authority by October 17th, leaving it with only $30 billion of cash available (a single day’s expenditures for the government can be as high as $60 billion). Unless Congress lifts its statutory debt ceiling, the Treasury will go into an unprecedented default and could miss or be forced to delay paying some of its bills. This is now the second catastrophic budget deadline looming in the future, with the first being October 1st, when the government could shut down if Congress doesn’t pass a new budget. Catastrophic, because Republicans might actually allow a catastrophe.

Even though the repercussions could slow the recovery and destabilize markets around the world, Republicans are now debating what legislation to tie to the bill to list the debt ceiling – such as defunding the Affordable Care Act, which they have voted to do 42 times including as part of the House’s recently-passed budget. The Senate is set to take up the budget bill (and strip the stripping of ‘Obamacare’) after an absolutely meaningless display by Senator Ted Cruz, who spoke for over 21 hours against voting on the House budget bill, right up until the predetermined noon deadline, when he and the other 99 Senators voted unanimously to vote on it. In the words of  Senator Harry Reid, it was a “big waste of time.”

Increased Scrutiny of Golden Dawn-Police Links

In a raid on the offices of the far-right Golden Dawn party, authorities found a suspended police officer working as a bodyguard as well as bats and shotgun cartridges. The officer had been suspended for a year on suspicion that he had joined Golden Dawn members and other neo-Nazis in smashing migrants’ street stalls. Security forces in Greece have had far-right links at various points since World War II. Reports from certain areas suggest that one in two policemen voted for Golden Dawn in the most recent election and human rights groups say they have looked the other way as Golden Dawn systematically terrorized immigrants.

An anti-fascist rally outside of Golden Dawn’s Athens headquarters turned violent today as dozens of demonstrators split off from the initially peaceful march, setting garbage cans on fire, smashing windows and hurling bombs and stones. Since the murder of anti-racist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, which caused the backlash against Golden Dawn, the party’s popularity has fallen by a third. After that statistic was released, the party released a statement on their website warning that the negative coverage of it would “open the gates of hell.”

US Signs Major Arms Treaty

The US, the world’s largest arms dealer, has joined 90 other countries in signing a treaty to regulate the global arms trade. The treaty will not take effect, however, until 50 nations have ratified it. Only 4 have. As of now, most of the world’s top arms exporters have yet to sign and NRA-backed opposition to the treaty is growing in the Senate. This is despite the fact that the treaty is intended to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and human rights abusers. It would not regulate domestic weapons sales in any way; it would only require countries to establish national regulations to control the international transfer of conventional arms and to regulate arms brokers.

Syria’s Islamist Rebels Leave Western-Backed Coalition

Over a dozen Islamist groups ranging from more radical militants to members of the relatively secular Free Syria Army, released a statement today rejecting the Western-backed coalition, the Syrian National Coalition, saying it no longer represented their interests. The groups called for the opposition to Assad to be reorganized under an Islamic framework and to include only groups from inside Syria. The Syrian National Coalition is based in Turkey.

The move comes on the same day the UN chemical weapons team returned to Syria and amid increased fighting between an al-Qaeda offshoot, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (which was not among the signatories), and more moderate rebels. Rebel groups today battled for the Jordanian border and had gained control of some of the suburbs of Deraa.

French Expulsion of Roma Scrutinized

More than 10,000 Roma (also known as gypsies) have been evicted from France since January despite EU rules that require free movement between countries for all citizens. Because the Roma often live in makeshift camps, many lack regular documentation of their residence, making it difficult to apply for subsidized housing, enroll children in school, get healthcare or find work. These problems are exacerbated with each forced evacuation.

France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls was criticized yesterday for saying “the majority” of Roma should be sent “back to the borders.” He refused to back down, insisting that the Roma had not integrated and therefore France had no responsibility to them. Interviews with Roma families showed they wanted to join French society. The EU warned that France could face sanctions for its treatment of Roma.

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