* SPAIN UNVEILS $36 BILLION AUSTERITY PACKAGE
By Daniel Woolls, AP
[…] Finance Minister Cristobal Montoro said it was the biggest deficit cut since Spain regained democracy in 1977 after the death of Gen. Francisco Franco. Spain is taking drastic action to lower its debts, even at a time of recession which has seen unemployment balloon to nearly one in four, as investors remain skeptical it can avoid needing a bailout like Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
“We are taking extraordinary measures because the situation is extraordinary,” Montoro told a news conference after a Cabinet meeting at which the budget plan was passed.
The blueprint will go to Parliament on Tuesday and is expected to be formally passed in June. The plan is for Spain to reduce its budget deficit to 5.3 percent of its gross domestic product from 8.5 percent last year. […]
* SPAIN LAST NAIL IN EURO-COFFIN
Eurozone finance ministers have agreed to boost the EU’s rescue fund to 800 billion euros, to help countries like Spain recover from their crippling debt woes. Spain’s financial crisis has prompted the government to announce its biggest austerity measures in over three decades. The country’s vowed to cut 27 billion euros from its budget this year. It comes after tens of thousands of protesters hit the streets on Thursday, to fight against labor reforms.
Michael Mross, economic analyst says that while the country struggles to rise out of its debt crisis, it will never be able to implement the new cuts.
* GENERAL STRIKE IN SPAIN: REPORT FROM MADRID ON GROWING ANTI-AUSTERITY PROTESTS
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
Workers in Spain staged a general strike Thursday, shutting down factories and parts of the transportation sector and holding massive marches. The strike was called by two major trade unions to protest labor rules that make it less costly for employers to hire and fire people in a country where unemployment is near 23 percent. We speak to former Democracy Now! producer Maria Carrion, an independent freelance journalist based in Madrid, Spain. […]
* ISRAEL, GREECE CONDUCT JOINT NAVAL DRILL AMID ONGOING TENSION WITH TURKEY
U.S. Sixth Fleet also participating in the exercise, which includes simulation of attack on offshore natural gas platforms.
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz
Israel, the United States and Greece are in the midst of a naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, in what Greek media outlets are saying is a message to Turkey following frayed ties with both Israel and Greece.
The exercise, called “Noble Dina,” involves simulations of combat against submarines, air battles and protection of offshore natural gas platforms. The U.S. Sixth Fleet is also participating in the exercise, which the Greek media, which first reported on it, has described as being meant to send a message to Turkey. […]
* BRICS TO CHANGE WORLD ECONOMY
The BRICS countries’ leaders are preparing for their annual meeting. These countries make up 42 percent of the world’s population and a quarter of its landmass. They are also responsible for 20 percent of the Global GDP and own a whopping 75 percent of the foreign reserve worldwide. In these tough times for world economics these countries are trying to find a solution for the situation. RT’s Priya Sridhar gives us a sneak peak of the summit from India.
* NDAA – THE FIRST STEP TO THE DEATH OF INDIVIDUAL LIBERTIES
* CONFIDENTIAL NOM DOCUMENTS REVEAL UNDERBELLY OF ANTI-GAY MOVEMENT
Source: Human Rights Campaign
[…] The key themes that emerge from the documents are:
- NOM’s admitted key goal is to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks.”
- NOM aims to manipulate Hispanic communities by “making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity” and “to make opposition to gay marriage an identity marker, a badge of youth rebellion to conformist assimilation to the bad side of ‘Anglo’ culture.”
Facing a Losing Battle
- They were 0 for 3 in their 2010 priority: “Roll back gay marriage in New Hampshire, Iowa, and D.C.” Marriage equality remains on the books in all three with the New Hampshire Republican legislature just last week rejecting a move to repeal their law. [..,]
* INCARCERATION NATION
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
[…] The total number of Americans under correctional supervision (prison, parole, etc.) is 7.1 million, more than the entire state of Massachusetts. Adam Gopnik writes in the New Yorker, “Over all, there are now more people under ‘correctional supervision’ in America…than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height.”
No other country comes even close to our rates of incarceration. We have 760 prisoners per 100,000 people. Most European countries have one seventh that number (per capita, so it’s adjusted for population). Even those on the high end of the global spectrum – Brazil and Poland – have only a quarter the number we do. […]
* THE SUPREME COURT AND THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION ON HEALTH-CARE REFORM
By Uwe E. Reinhardt, NYTimes
[…] The two major substantive decisions the Supreme Court has to make are:
1. Whether Congress has the constitutional authority to mandate every legal resident in the United States to have insurance coverage for a specified package of health benefits (hereafter the “mandate”) or whether that is an issue for the states to decide.
2. Whether Congress has the constitutional authority to expand eligibility for Medicaid benefits from the highly varied income thresholds that currently define eligibility to anyone under 133 percent of the federal poverty level (hereafter the “Medicaid expansion”). […]
* WHAT’S LIBERTY GOT TO DO WITH IT?
By James Kwak, Baseline Scenerio
Constitutional law is not my field. I think we spent one day on the Commerce Clause in my constitutional law class. I’ve barely been following the Supreme Court oral arguments this week because I figured (a) they would be silly, (b) we won’t know anything useful until June, and (c) with the rest of the commentariat focusing on it I would have nothing to add. But even at that distance, I can’t help but be shocked by the ludicrous nature of the proceedings, best represented by the framing of the case in terms of individual freedom and government coercion. According to the Times, the case may turn on Anthony Kennedy’s notion of liberty.
What’s wrong with this? Liberty should have nothing to do with this case. I’ll repeat the analysis, made my dozens of law professors more expert than I (Charles Fried, for example). The question is whether Congress has the power to impose the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause, which gives it the power to regulate interstate commerce. If the individual mandate does in fact regulate interstate commerce, then it’s fine unless it violates some other part of the Constitution.
But there’s nothing in the Constitution that guarantees you “liberty” in the abstract. The Bill of Rights guarantees you various freedoms, from the freedom of speech to the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, but those are all specific, not general. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments don’t hold up against an enumerated power of Congress. The Fourteenth Amendment provides broad protection for liberty interests, but only protects them from being infringed without due process of law. The whole liberty thing, in the context of the individual mandate, is a pure ideological framing concocted by small-government fanatics who want the Constitution to be some kind of libertarian scripture that it isn’t. […]