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Archive for November 9th, 2014

Obama’s Weekly Address: Honor Our Veterans

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 9th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Obama’s Weekly Address: Honor Our Veterans
President Barack Obama: Hi, everybody. This weekend, I depart for Asia to advance American leadership and promote American jobs in a dynamic region that will be critical to our security and prosperity in the century ahead. The democracies, progress and growth we see across the Asia Pacific would have been impossible without America’s enduring commitment to that region — especially the service of generations of Americans in uniform. As we approach Veterans’ Day, we honor them — and all those who’ve served to keep us free and strong.

NASCAR Driver Investigated for Domestic Assault
NASCAR driver Kurt Busch is being investigated for alleged domestic assault, the Dover (Del.) Police Department said Friday. Police did not identify the alleged victim, whom they said brought the allegations to authorities Wednesday, the police said. “At this time, the department is still investigating the victim’s claims,” police said, adding the department would not have additional comment at this time. AP reported that the alleged victim was Busch’s ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll, and that the allegations involved an incident in Busch’s motor home at a race. NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series raced in Dover Sept. 28.


MH17 victims’ remains flown to Netherlands

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 9th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

MH17 victims’ remains flown to Netherlands
EINDHOVEN, Netherlands (AP) — Nearly four months after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 plunged out of the sky over eastern Ukraine, recently discovered remains of some of those on board have been flown back to the Netherlands.

Spain’s PM calls for dialogue with Catalan leaders
MADRID (AP) — Spain’s prime minister on Saturday called on Catalan leaders to return to dialogue, a day before the region was due to hold an informal independence poll.

McDowell clings to 1-shot lead in HSBC Champions
SHANGHAI (AP) — Graeme McDowell lost command of the HSBC Champions. At least he kept the lead.


Up to 1,500 more Americans headed to Iraq

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 9th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Up to 1,500 more Americans headed to Iraq
President Obama announced Friday that as many as 1,500 more soldiers will be deployed to Iraq in the coming months to train and advise the Iraqi military in the fight against ISIS. It will almost double the number of troops there. Julianna Goldman reports from Washington.


What Bruce Rauner Can Teach His Fellow Republicans

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 9th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

What Bruce Rauner Can Teach His Fellow Republicans
Tom Bevan, RealClearPolitics
See if this script sounds familiar: An incumbent Democrat with sagging approval ratings and a sluggish economy runs for re-election against a wealthy Republican businessman. The Republican is slimed as a greedy “vulture capitalist” who wants to give tax breaks to his billionaire buddies while shafting the middle class. The Republican describes the Democrat as a career politician whose lack of private-sector experience gives him no clue how to create jobs except by feeding the maw of Big Government. That was the 2012 presidential campaign. It’s also the 2014 Illinois…


‘Buy time’ community policy shelved

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 9th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

‘Buy time’ community policy shelved
A ‘buy time’ policy to help community groups take over local facilities like pools and playing fields is shelved in Wales, prompting criticism.

Miliband warning over EU exit threats
Threats to leave the EU are a danger to the UK, Ed Miliband is to warn amid further reports suggesting some within Labour are questioning his position.

Findlay launches Labour leader bid
MSP Neil Findlay launches his campaign to be the new Scottish Labour leader insisting he is no “machine politician”.


Brazil Military Drills to Defend Amazon

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 9th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Brazil Military Drills to Defend Amazon
Half of Brazilians believe the resource-rich rain forest will become the target of a foreign power. Military exercises this month simulate warding off such plunderers.



On Berlin Wall Anniversary, Somber Notes Amid Revelry
Most Germans are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the wall’s opening, but for relatives of those killed trying to cross the barrier it is a time of sadness.



North Korea Releases 2 American Detainees, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller
The Americans, freed after a negotiation carried out in secret by the U.S. director of national intelligence, were described as “on their way home.”



Pope Demotes U.S. Cardinal Critical of His Reform Agenda
Pope Francis removed Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, who has questioned the pontiff’s leadership, from his post as head of the Vatican’s highest judicial authority.



Powerful Afghan Police Chief Puts Fear in Taliban and Their Enemies
Lt. Gen. Abdul Raziq has effectively checked the insurgents while being accused of human rights abuses, presenting Afghanistan’s new president with a dilemma.




Everything You Need To Know About Detroit’s Bankruptcy Settlement

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 9th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Everything You Need To Know About Detroit’s Bankruptcy Settlement

As Detroit’s bankruptcy comes to a formal end, here are five key numbers you need to know to understand what’s happened and what comes next.

The post Everything You Need To Know About Detroit’s Bankruptcy Settlement appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and the man he appointed to manage Detroit's financial emergency, Kevyn Orr

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and the man he appointed to manage Detroit’s financial emergency, Kevyn Orr

CREDIT: AP

A judge gave final approval to Detroit’s plan for emerging from bankruptcy on Friday, closing the courtroom chapter of the insolvent city’s recovery after 16 months of formal bankruptcy proceedings.

For city retirees and workers, the final deal is far better than what observers anticipated last fall and a significant improvement over what the city’s lawyers initially offered. Large financial companies with significant claims on the destitute city are walking away with less to show for their investments than they had hoped. In that sense, then, working people got a better deal from the city than faceless financial firms. But detaching the outcomes from those initial expectations produces a starker picture: big companies that made some shifty deals with corrupt former civic leaders are walking away with cash and property holdings in the city, and thousands of people who worked their whole lives on behalf of Detroit are having their retirement income trimmed to address financial problems they did not cause.

Friday’s ruling brings that dealmaking to a close and marks the beginning of the next stage of Detroit’s redevelopment. The deal allows the city to begin restoring public services that have lapsed almost entirely in recent years, tearing down blighted properties, and retrofitting itself for an economic future that may not look at all like the Motor City’s past.

As Detroit sets about refurbishing itself and attempting to lure back people and jobs, here are some key numbers to know about the bankruptcy and what happens next.

When Detroit declared bankruptcy in July 2013, it said it had $18 billion in debts it could not pay. Those numbers included some strange, seemingly inflated projections of the cost of retiree pensions and health care. The outsized estimates of pension liabilities in those initial bankruptcy documents were a significant source of concern from worker advocates who feared that emergency manager Kevyn Orr would use the figures to push for sharp reductions in retiree benefits. The other largest portions of the debt were bond obligations tied to various city properties — mostly the water and sewer system, but also casino revenue.

Detroit’s bankruptcy case was expensive, but now it looks like it was worth the money. Detroit’s spending on attorneys and consultants to steer it through bankruptcy is expected to top $100 million, a large enough number to draw significant criticism in a city that wasn’t even able to keep its street lights on over the past 16 months. Under the deal approved Friday, Detroit exits bankruptcy with $7 billion less in debt than what it owed in the spring of 2013. That means that a $100 million investment in counsel returned $70 in debt reduction for every dollar the city spent. The plan approved Friday features nearly $2 billion in spending to restore services, including hiring 200 new police officers and 100 new firefighters in a city where response times have spiked to about an hour on average.

The whole thing hinges on an $816 million deal involving multiple stakeholders. Detroit officials have taken to calling it the “Grand Bargain.” The city is raising $816 million from a combination of state funds and charitable donations tied to the Detroit Institute of Art. The money is being used to significantly reduce the size of cuts to retiree benefits that were imposed in the bankruptcy deal. The “Grand Bargain” also moves the art museum’s collection — one of the biggest and grandest publicly-owned collections in the country — into a private trust that will keep the works in the city and on display. Alternative approaches to monetizing the museum’s assets would have moved the works to private collectors, depriving the city of a major attraction and cultural resource. In return for sparing the museum from privatization and retirees from steeper cuts, Michigan’s state government gets a say in overseeing the city’s financial future. A 9-member oversight board will be created, with 7 of the votes on the board being appointed by the governor. Along with a deal to address water department debts through a new regional water authority that involves neighboring counties, the Grand Bargain is the lynchpin of the broader plan Rhodes approved Friday. Without it, most of the other deals that went into resolving Detroit’s bankruptcy would have been impossible.

One of the most important of those other deals came when retirees agreed to pension and health care cuts. Three-quarters of retirees and workers who voted on the bankruptcy voted in favor of the pension and health care cuts. Over 12,000 “yes” votes were cast out of about 15,600 total ballots submitted. While that means half of the roughly 32,000 current and retired city workers who were eligible didn’t bother voting, it also means that the cuts have political legitimacy after being approved by those affected. Emergency personnel will not have their pension amounts cut, but their annual cost-of-living adjustments are reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent, meaning their pensions are likely to erode in value due to inflation in the coming years. Civil service retirees will receive no annual COLA whatsoever, and face a 4.5 percent cut to their base pensions to boot. The city’s opening offer would have cut emergency worker pensions by up to 10 percent and every else’s by up to 34 percent. The Grand Bargain funds were a key ingredient in shrinking the cuts retirees face. Both groups face significant increases in out-of-pocket expenses for health care as the city’s insurance system for retirees is being replaced with a voucher system for younger retirees and Medicare for those 65 and older. Workers like former firefighter Brendan Milewski and retired librarian Gwendolyn Beasley have told ThinkProgress that they may face choices between health care and other necessities like food and rent.

Convincing a new generation of people to invest their lives in Detroit in the way Milewski and Beasley did is the key challenge of the coming years. Detroit’s population has dwindled rapidly from over 1 million in the early 1990s to under 700,000 in the past two years. In 2013, it fell to 688,701 — barely a third of its peak population in 1950. After appearing in the list of the top 10 largest U.S. cities by population every decade since 1910, Detroit slipped to 18th in the 2010 Census. Stopping the exodus is key to the city’s future, as urban policy experts have told ThinkProgress in the past.

The post Everything You Need To Know About Detroit’s Bankruptcy Settlement appeared first on ThinkProgress.