Today’s headlines from the realms of politics, economics, and the ecology, are weighted heavily toward the U.S. and Asia, with relatively little form Europe, save Greece.

There’s also plenty on the environment, including lots in the latest episode of Fukushimapocalypse Now!

We begin with a global issue, a reminder of what always lurks within the world around us. From Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

WHO to hold emergency talks on deadly MERS virus Tuesday

The World Health Organization said Friday it would hold an emergency meeting next week on the deadly MERS virus, amid concern over the rising number of cases in several countries.

The UN health agency will host the emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the worrying spread of the virus, which in less than two years has killed 126 people in Saudi Arabia alone, spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva.

The WHO’s emergency committee has already met four times to discuss the mysterious corona virus, which surfaced in mid-2012.

More on an issue we’ve covered before via the Oakland Tribune:

UC nonresident students increase as Californians’ admissions slow

As more California high school seniors fight for spaces at popular UC campuses, the universities have flung open their doors to students from other states and countries, more than tripling the ranks of out-of-state freshmen in the past five years.

Freshmen from outside the Golden State now make up almost 30 percent of their class at UC Berkeley and UCLA, up from just over 10 percent four years earlier, a new analysis by this newspaper shows.

The shift feels like a betrayal to some families coping with — or fearing — rejection by the distinguished university system, which was built by and for Californians but now is turning them away in record numbers.

CNBC covers a surprising statistic:

CNBC survey shows millionaires want higher taxes to fix inequality

CNBC’s first-ever Millionaire Survey reveals that 51 percent of American millionaires believe inequality is a “major problem” for the U.S., and of those, nearly two-thirds support higher taxes on the wealthy and a higher minimum wage as ways to narrow the wealth gap.

The findings show that—far from being a purely self-interested voting bloc—American millionaires have complicated views when it comes to the wealth gap and opportunity in America. They are unashamed of their own wealth and attribute their success to hard work, smart investing and savings. They also believe that anyone in America can get wealthy if they work hard.

Yet millionaires also believe that cultural and family issues prevent many Americans from climbing the wealth ladder. They advocate improved education, higher taxes on the wealthy and better savings incentives for the poor and middle class as important changes that would reduce inequality.

From the Washington Post suicidal behavior reconsidered:

Split appears in GOP as more call for raising federal minimum wage

Several leading Republicans have called for raising the federal minimum wage and others are speaking more forcefully about the party’s failure to connect with low-income Americans — stances that are causing a growing rift within the party over how best to address the gulf between the rich and poor.

Another Republican reminded of consequences, via  United Press International:

FBI arrests man accused of threatening Boehner over unemployment insurance

Brandon James Thompson, of New Castle, Ind., angered over the House’s failure to pass an emergency unemployment extension, admitted to sending threatening messages to House Speaker John Boehner and his wife.

The FBI arrested an Indiana man Thursday night for allegedly threatening to kill House Speaker John Boehner for delaying a vote on extending emergency unemployment insurance.

Brandon James Thompson, 32, of New Castle, Ind., was taken into custody at his home Thursday night and faces federal charges for making phone and email threats to an elected official.

According to an FBI affidavit, Thompson admitted to sending threatening messages to the Ohio Republican’s congressional website using his neighbor’s wifi, and leaving threatening voicemails on Boehner’s wife Debbie’s personal cellphone.

USA TODAY covers woes to come:

3 generations face USA’s retirement crisis

The retirement crisis in America is not contained to any one generation. Across the country, people of all ages are struggling with stagnant wages, rising living expenses, and an overall sluggish economy. Some are closer to their golden years than others, but one thing is clear: There are three unique generations with very different retirements ahead of them.

Many workers are simply trying to recover from the financial meltdown that took place more than five years ago. According to the 15th Annual Transamerica Retirement survey, one of the largest and longest-running national surveys of its kind, 35% of workers believe the Great Recession has not yet ended. That figure rises to 40% among Baby Boomers. Meanwhile, 65% of workers believe the recession has ended, but they have mixed views about the strength of the recovery. Only 14% say they have fully recovered financially from the historic downturn.

“Experts have long written about the changing retirement landscape over the past century,” said Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. “Times are changing so rapidly that the retirements of Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials will not only be a radical departure from their parents’ generations but from each other as well.”

The same basic story form another angle via Salon:

401(k)s are retirement robbery: How the Koch brothers, Wall Street and politicians conspire to drain Social Security

The decades-long tale of how the Kochs, Reagan, Wall Street and even Democrats have tried to gut Social Security

Excerpted from “Social Insecurity: 401(k)s and the Retirement Crisis”

On the eve of the Reagan presidency in 1980, Milton and Rose Friedman published “Free to Choose,” a proposal for gradually phasing out Social Security. The entitlements of retirees would be honored as would the accumulated credits of contributors who had not yet retired. But no new payroll taxes would be collected. The final elimination of Social Security would allow “individuals to provide for their own retirement as they wish.” Among the advantages would be that “it would add to personal saving and so lead to a higher rate of capital formation [and] stimulate the development and expansion of private pension plans.” While the Friedmans argued for such a plan, they acknowledged that immediate privatization of retirement was unrealistic in the current political climate, but they would accept incremental reforms with the hope that one day total privatization would become politically feasible.

That same year, the conservative Koch brothers-financed Cato Institute published “Social Security: The Inherent Contradiction,” by Peter Ferrara, which argued that instead of being required to participate in Social Security, people should “be allowed to choose from a variety of insurance and investment options offered in the private market. The previous year, two years after its founding in 1977, the institute had published an article by Carolyn Weaver in which she made the case for privatization, and in 1980 it also sponsored a conference on Social Security privatization that drew, among others, two hundred congressional staffers.

And yet another erosion from Pacific Standard:

Are Sundays Dying?

A battle against leisure is unfolding. In America, it’s a war that has been raging since the Puritan age.

Though recently American leisure time has appeared to rise, the averages are skewed by undereducated and lower-income men, who are likely “unemployed or underemployed,” as the Washington Post has noted. Work-life balances are abominable when compared to other developed countries. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the “average American” is actually working “one month” more a year than he or she was in 1976.

But Sunday, the weekend day that even Puritans blocked off for worship and rest (a Puritan poet once pondered “over whether closing a stable door that was blowing in the wind constituted an act of work which would profane the Sabbath”), is also beginning to look more and more like just another day of the work week.

On the other hand, given the narcissism of some of our leisure time habits. . .From  United Press International:

Hundreds of ATV riders in Utah threaten sacred Navajo burial ground to protest federal government

Illegal route runs through protected Native American land, forced military veterans retreat to relocate.

Protesters who say the Bureau of Land Management has no right to criminalize use of ATVs in Utah’s Recapture Canyon plan to demonstrate today by illegally riding their vehicles through the protected land – a move that has drawn the ire of Native Americans and displaced a veterans retreat.

“It is sad that irreplaceable treasures of importance to all Americans would be sacrificed on the altar of anti-government fervor,” Jerry Spangler, executive director of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance said in a statement. “It is worse that protesters would be so blinded to their own insensitivity as to what others consider to be sacred treasures of their past.”

Willie Grayeyes, chair of a nonprofit that lobbies to protect Navajo land, was offended at both the protesters’ dismissive attitude toward Native American culture and their disrespect for the American veterans who had to move their long-scheduled retreat to ensure it could be held in peace.

From the Washington Post, better read than dead?:

The solutions to all our problems may be buried in PDFs that nobody reads

What if someone had already figured out the answers to the world’s most pressing policy problems, but those solutions were buried deep in a PDF, somewhere nobody will ever read them?

According to a recent report by the World Bank, that scenario is not so far-fetched. The bank is one of those high-minded organizations — Washington is full of them — that release hundreds, maybe thousands, of reports a year on policy issues big and small. Many of these reports are long and highly technical, and just about all of them get released to the world as a PDF report posted to the organization’s Web site.

The World Bank recently decided to ask an important question: Is anyone actually reading these things? They dug into their Web site traffic data and came to the following conclusions: Nearly one-third of their PDF reports had never been downloaded, not even once. Another 40 percent of their reports had been downloaded fewer than 100 times. Only 13 percent had seen more than 250 downloads in their lifetimes. Since most World Bank reports have a stated objective of informing public debate or government policy, this seems like a pretty lousy track record.

Bloomberg covers business as usual:

Swisspartners Ends U.S. Probe With Non-Prosecution Deal

Swisspartners Group, a Zurich-based money-manager, resolved a U.S. criminal tax probe by paying $4.4 million for helping American clients use secret accounts to evade taxes. In return, the government agreed not to prosecute the firm, citing its “extraordinary cooperation.”

The agreement resulted from Swisspartners’ voluntary production of the files for about 110 U.S. taxpayer clients, according to the Justice Department and Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

“The extraordinary cooperation of Swisspartners has enabled us to identify U.S. tax cheats who have hidden behind phony offshore trusts and foundations,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole said today in a statement. “In this and other cases around the world we will continue to provide substantial credit for prompt and full cooperation.”

The Washington Post covers an austerian conundrum:

America’s transportation needs are huge. Too bad the way we fund them is broken.

You’ve read the headlines about nearly one in four of America’s bridges being either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, right? The $59 billion backlog for commuter railway maintenance? The $324 per year in mechanic visits that each U.S. motorist incurs by driving on deteriorated roads?

America has a transportation funding problem. And if Congress doesn’t fix it this summer, it could start doing some real damage.

First, a few basics. Most big transportation projects — bridge repairs, new highways, intercity rail — are paid for with a stack of local, state, and federal funds. The federal contribution ranges between 35 percent and 95 percent of a state’s total transportation budget, and is mostly supplied by the Highway Trust Fund. The Highway Trust Fund is mostly supplied by the federal gas tax, which is a robust stream of money that can’t be used for anything other than transportation.

The problem for funding is that Americans are actually using less gas than they used to — both because they aren’t driving as much, and cars are getting more efficient. Meanwhile, Congress hasn’t raised the gas tax from 18.4 cents per gallon since 1994, which is now far behind what it was then when you take inflation into account.

From the  Los Angeles Times, the voice of reason from an unexpected quarter:

Jackie Lacey says L.A. County should stop locking up so many people

You wouldn’t expect the county’s top prosecutor to step up to a microphone and say it’s time to stop locking up so many people. But that’s exactly what L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey did last week. She told the county Board of Supervisors that, in her opinion, 1,000 or more people with mental illness who are currently incarcerated should probably be somewhere other than in jail.

“It is clear, even to those of us in law enforcement, that we can do better in Los Angeles County,” she said, which is why she’s leading a task force that is studying less expensive and more effective alternatives than incarceration. “The current system is, simply put, unjust.”

Despite hearing this, the supervisors voted to proceed with a nearly $2-billion jail construction project designed to accommodate about 3,200 inmates with a mental illness — the same number currently locked up.

From Business Insider, the Washington Post’s new owner’s other business demonstrates utter greed:

Amazon Is Claiming Exclusive Rights To A Basic Version Of An Extremely Common Practice

A photography site called DIY Photography wrote this week that the Amazon corporation applied for—and received—a patent for the process of taking a picture of an object against a white background.

Despite the technical detail in the patent documentation, the DIY site says, Amazon is ultimately claiming exclusive rights to a basic version of an extremely common practice:

The patent number is 8,676,045B1 and you can read the entire boring text on USPTO, or just about any basic studio photography book.

Crooked Timber raises the right question:

Step away from that white background

As you probably know, several of us at CT are big photography enthusiasts. While we seem to be more interested in taking photos of nature and architecture, next time we want to shoot a family portrait or an item, we’ll have to be careful with our approach. The US Patent Office recently granted Amazon a patent for taking photos against a white background. For real. So is their plan to start trolling portrait studios and Ebay/Etsy sellers to see whom they can sue?

I am no lawyer, but the language seems rather vague. For example, “a top surface of the elevated platform reflects light emanating from the background such that the elevated platform appears white”. So what level of off-white should a photographer strive for to avoid litigation?

Having shot many a picture for publication we cam attest to the fact that Amazon has basically tried to patent the wheel.

On to Europe, first from Lisbon with Europe Online:

Ratings firms raise Portugal’s debt outlook

Portugal received a vote of confidence from credit ratings agencies Friday for the first time since the country’s sovereign-debt crisis began.

Moody’s Investors Service raised the debt rating to Ba2, from Ba3, citing an improved financial position and Lisbon’s decision not to seek additional aid after its bailout programme expires at the end of this month.

“Portugal’s economic recovery is gaining momentum, with signs of broadening beyond exports, which continue to perform strongly,” Moody’s said. The move followed a revised outlook from negative to stable by Standard and Poor’s Ratings Services earlier in the day.

Italy next, with Corruptio berlusconii from Deutsche Welle:

Berlusconi associate’s conviction upheld

An Italian court has upheld the conviction of retired parliamentarian Marcello Dell’Utri for ties to the Sicilian Mafia. Dell’Utri is a close associate of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Dell’Utri was not present when Italy’s highest appeals court upheld his seven-year prison sentence on Friday. He had fled to Lebanon last month in order to avoid arrest.

The close Berlusconi associate (pictured center) is currently in police custody at a hospital in Beirut while Italian authorities seek his extradition.

In 2010, a Palermo court convicted Dell’Utri of acting as a mediator between the Sicilian Mafia and the Milan business elite from 1974-1992. The decision by the Court of Cassation on Friday means his conviction is now final and can no longer be appealed.

After the jump, the latest from grief from Greece, Ukrainian turmoil, a Turkish tantrum, economic alarms form Latin America, Indian anxieties in Washington, Indonesian bankster woes, Australian bankster extravagance, Thai turmoil, Chinese housing, food & economic uncertainties, environmental ills, and the latest chapter of Fumkshimapocalypse Now!. . .

For our first Greek headline, a prime minister resorts to an American tradition, otherwise known as McCarthyism. From To Vima:

Panagoulis responds to Samaras’ accusations: “I am a terrorist”

Opposition MP announces special courts for “those who brought misery, poverty, unemployment and suicides”

SYRIZA MP Stathis Panagoulis has responded to the accusations made by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at New Democracy’s parliamentary group meeting on Thursday, where he urged his MPs to “remind the people that SYRIZA supports terrorists”.

Mr. Panagoulis “admitted” to being a terrorist and noted that during the final two years of the military dictatorship in Greece, Mr. Samaras was studying in the USA and regularly traveled to Greece during the holidays. The SYRIZA MP was imprisoned at the time for his political activism.

Later in his speech in Parliament, the SYRIZA MP announced that when his party comes to power “those who lead the Greek people to misery, poverty, unemployment and thousands of suicides” will be put on trial and exclaimed that “the Greek people have had enough”.

Greek Reporter pours on the scorn:

Trichet: “If you don’t like austerity, don’t ask for help”

The former president of the European Central Bank, Jean–Claude Trichet, was extremely judgemental towards Greece. “If you didn’t like austerity, you shouldn’t have asked for help,” he said speaking to Greek journalists in Brussels.

“Austerity policies are required to pave the road that leads to balance. If the Greeks had respected the Stability and Growth Pact, there would be no need for austerity measures. In order to receive help, you have to implement these policies,” he stated.

“In any case, if you did not like it, you shouldn’t have asked for help,” he said referring to all the countries that had been under the supervision of the Troika. The French economist also noted that “the countries that had the fewest problems were those who respected the Stability Pact. If Greece or Portugal had respected it, they wouldn’t have to deal with so many problems.”

From ANA-MPA, a contrarian view:

Tsipras: ‘Those implementing memorandums must go’

The result of the European elections will be a clear-cut message to the architects of memorandum austerity and those implementing their policies to go, main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras said in an interview due to appear in the Sunday edition of Greece’s “Ethnos” newspaper.

“[Prime Minister Antonis] Samaras is the political product of the crisis. The system’s spare that was dragged out of 15 years of disrepute in order to serve his far-right cronies, the memorandums,” Tsipras said, in an attack on the prime minister in person. “The only thing that’s certain is that the crisis will eliminate Samaras. We pick up the glove. Let’s see who is the new Greece and who is the old.”

To Vima covers a search for allies:

Tsipras arranges meetings with high-ranking officials in Moscow

The SYRIZA president is scheduled to meet with Lavrov, Ivanov, Ushakov and Matviyenko on his trip to Russia

Alexis Tsipras is scheduled to visit the Russian capital of Moscow next week, were he has arranged a series of meetings with high-ranking Russian government officials.

The SYRIZA is to meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, the Chief of Staff and former Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov as well as the Chairman of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko.

A hint of things to come from EUbusiness:

Greek electoral race too close to call, polls show

Greece’s pro-reform conservatives and anti-austerity leftists were neck and neck in opinion polls published Saturday, with a week to go before local elections and two to a European vote.

A survey in Efimerida ton Syntakton daily showed radical leftists Syriza leading the ruling New Democracy party by 18.5 percent to 18 percent.

However, 16.0 of respondents were undecided.

The Lords of Money prepare to ponder, via Capital.gr:

IMF board to discuss Greek programme in next few weeks

The managing board of the International Monetary Fund will meet in the next few weeks in the framework of the 5th assessment of the Greek programme, Gerry Rice, an IMF spokesman, said on Thursday, underlining the need for political stability in the country.

According to AMNA, speaking to reporters during the daily news briefing, the spokesman reiterated that the IMF’s view on the Greek debt remained unchanged and noted that the Greek public debt was expected to remain at “high levels”. He stressed that Greece’s European partners agreed to offer a restructuring of the debt, if necessary, on the precondition that Greece remained “fully aligned with its commitments in the programme”. Rice noted that the Europeans announced that a discussion on the Greek debt will begin in the second half of the year.

The IMF spokesman said that a technical group of the Fund will return to Athens in June or July and that a full IMF mission will be in Greece after the summer, although no specific date has been set.

More strife ahead from Kathimerini English:

Universities face upheaval as staff to strike

Greek universities are in for a new spell of upheaval as administrative staff are to walk off the job from Tuesday as part of a two-day strike called by their national union to protest the imminent dismissal of colleagues as part of the government’s civil service overhaul.

The walkout, which could disrupt students’ chances of completing the winter semester, is being held “as a warning” to the government, unionists said over the weekend, referring to the fact that dozens of staff face dismissal at the end of this month when an eight-month evaluation period is set to expire. At the end of the assessment period, in accordance with troika-imposed reforms, the employees will either be transferred to another post in the civil service or fired.

On to the Ukraine, first with an admonition from Reuters:

Vote for self-rule would spell disaster, Ukraine tells rebels

Acting Ukrainian President Oleksander Turchinov told eastern regions gripped by a pro-Russian uprising that they would be courting catastrophe if they voted “yes” in a separatist referendum on Sunday.

The vote, organized on an ad hoc basis with no clear control of authenticity of ballot papers or voter lists, could determine if the Western-backed Kiev government and pro-Russian eastern regions find a compromise, or whether Ukraine slides into civil war.

Violence has grown along with the bitter rhetoric in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where the vote will take place.

And from BBC News, forging ahead regardless:

Ukraine crisis: Eastern rebels hold self-rule referendums

Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s two eastern regions are holding “self-rule” referendums – a move condemned by the Ukrainian government and the West.

Self-proclaimed leaders in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are going ahead with the vote despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call to postpone it.

Turkey next and a tantrum from Reuters:

Turkish PM Erdogan heckles lawyer’s speech, storms out

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan heckled the head of the country’s bar association on Saturday, accusing him of rudeness for speaking critically of the government at a judicial ceremony before storming out of the hall.

Tensions between Erdogan and his political foes remain high after bitterly contested local elections in March that Erdogan’s ruling AK Party won and amid expectations he will seek the presidency in an election in August.

Erdogan has had a difficult year that included the biggest anti-government protests in decades against his perceived authoritarianism and a corruption scandal that implicated family members and cabinet ministers.

Latin America next, and industrial scale in an ecosphere via the Associated Press:

Resort opponents: Chinese invade Mexico coast

Environmentalists say the only living hard coral reef in the Gulf of California is once again under threat, just two years after activists persuaded the government to block construction of a huge 30,000-room resort nearby.

Once an overfished area, marine life around the Cabo Pulmo reef just outside Los Cabos exploded following a decision nearly two decades ago by local residents to stop commercial fishing and instead develop ecotourism activities on the Baja California peninsula.

But environmentalists are alarmed by renewed plans for a 22,000-room resort, this time led by Chinese investors. Jeering and arguments erupted at a public comment session this week on the proposal, which is at the earliest stage in the approval process.

The developers, in one of their few public statements about the Cabo Dorado resort, say they have eliminated about one-third of the hotel and condo rooms proposed in the earlier project, and abandoned plans for a marina and a desalinization plant that caused controversy. They offer to treat, and re-use water from existing aquifers.

MercoPress offers mixed signals:

Brazil’s auto production rose in March but is down 21,4% compared to 2013

Brazilian vehicle production rose 1.6% last month compared with March, but was down 21.4% from the level of April 2013, the Anfavea auto industry association said Friday. Last month saw 277,100 cars, trucks, SUVs and buses roll off assembly lines in Brazil, significantly short of the 352,400 vehicles produced by Latin America’s largest economy in April 2013.

The country’s automakers continue to furlough and even lay off workers in the face of reduced demand, Anfavea said. Besides weak domestic sales, the Brazilian auto sector is suffering from a drop in exports to neighboring Argentina, its main foreign market.

The number of vehicles sold last month in Brazil – 293,240 – represents a gain of 21% over March, but a decline of 12.1% compared with a year ago.

Righteous indignation from the Guardian:

Venezuela leader reacts angrily to threat of US sanctions

President Nicolás Maduro dismisses ‘stupid’ punitive proposals

Venezuela has cracked down on anti-government protests

The Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, has reacted furiously to calls in the US for punitive measures against his government for alleged rights abuses in response to three months of street protests.

Some US lawmakers are urging sanctions on Venezuelan officials, or even wider measures against the economy, but President Barack Obama’s government has said that may harm prospects for political reconciliation.

Anti-government demonstrations since February have led to violence in which 42 people have died. About 800 people have also been injured and some 3,000 arrested, including more than 400 remaining behind bars, in what Maduro has cast as the suppression of a coup attempt but opponents say is a wave of repression.

Off to Australasia, starting in the subcontinent with the Hindu:

U.S. divided on prospect of Modi-led India

A few weeks ago, American cable television viewers had a moment of epiphany when British comedian and host of HBO’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ John Oliver lambasted them for their ignorance of the “biggest election in human history,” going on in India, whose results will be known on May 16.

While Mr. Oliver’s observations may hold true for a large segment of the U.S. media and its viewership, three broad constituencies in America are likely to be tracking the ongoing polls closely — the Obama administration’s State Department, Trade Representative and Chambers of Commerce; private sector corporations engaged in bilateral trade and investment; and an eclectic constellation of human rights advocacy groups.

With an important component of the U.S.-India relationship at stake for each of these observers, they must all be pondering the same question: if, as numerous polls predict, Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP leader Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister, what will that mean for the bilateral relationship?

The Hindu again, this time with a rational caution:

The case against privatisation of education

We have all read reports of professionals with dubious qualifications performing surgery or flying passenger aircraft. The counterpart to this is the regulation of education. While the government has at times intervened intrusively, especially when it comes to admission, it has by and large left ungoverned the functioning of even aided public colleges. The most egregious instance of this is the practice of publicly aided colleges auctioning their faculty positions. State governments have chosen to look the other way for fear of hurting vested commercial interests and electoral vote banks. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s incisive observation about India’s economy, that it is over-regulated but under-governed, especially rings true in the educational sector. This must make us reflect upon how the higher education system is to be governed to serve public interest.

But the most important reason for the state to remain in higher education is that the private sector is yet to demonstrate its capacity to create knowledge on a sufficient scale. Where is the research that creates knowledge? Even in these ‘professional’ courses there is more research in public institutions than in the private ones. There are exceptions such as the Christian Medical College in Vellore whose alumni now reside in some of the major research universities of the world. But it is germane to the context that the college is not a profit maximiser. Similarly, one of the reasons for greater knowledge creation in public medical schools is that they often have large hospitals attached to them. This enables the apprentice to learn by doing, arguably the best way to learn. The practice of combining teaching with the provision of medical care, which requires huge investments, is directly related to the feature that the underlying objective is not the pursuit of profit. But leaving out research, and outside of medical education, even when it comes to the mere training of professionals, it would be difficult to hold that a significant number of private institutions have yet surpassed the IITs and the IIMs.

From the Jakarta Globe, notable anxieties:

Behind Bailout, a Very Real Fear of a Run on Indonesia’s Banks, Boediono Reveals

Indonesian Vice President Boediono revealed on Friday that he had deliberately played down the true extent of the rot in Bank Century to prevent a run on banks during the height of the 2008 global financial crisis.

Boediono, testifying at the trial of Budi Mulya, a former Bank Indonesia deputy governor charged with abuse of power for his role in approving the Rp 6.7 trillion bailout, said there was a good reason that a tape recording of a meeting on Nov. 10, 2008, played back by prosecutors at the Jakarta Anti-Corruption Court did not allude to just how bad a state Century was in.

“If I had announced Century’s [true condition] in a meeting that big, it would have been suicidal,” Boediono said. “[News] about a bank experiencing liquidity problems would spread like wildfire and I’m sure that a run on banks would have occurred in just an hour.”

From Down Under, a bankster doing what banksters do, via News Corp Australia:

Lukas Kamay, the banker in alleged trading scam, bought luxury Block apartment

THE banker in the alleged $7 million insider trading scam, Lukas Kamay, was the successful bidder last month for the apartment designed by the twins in The Block.

Several sources, including senior investigators, confirmed to the Sunday Herald Sun that Mr Kamay was the successful bidder for sassy sisters Alisa and Lysandra’s fully-furnished high end Albert Park loft apartment at the televised auction last month.

He paid a whopping $2.375 million for the three bedroom unit – $616,000 above the reserve of $1.76 million.

Bangkok next and the latest in Thai turmoil, first with Reuters:

Thai government supporters rally to ‘defend democracy’

Supporters of Thailand’s beleaguered government gathered on Saturday on the outskirts of Bangkok, saying they were determined to safeguard democracy as rival anti-government protesters pressed their campaign in the city.

Thailand’s politicians have been unable to forge a compromise over a nearly decade-long split between the royalist establishment and a populist former telecommunications tycoon, whose sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted as prime minister on Wednesday.

Her sacking by the Constitutional Court for nepotism followed six months of sometimes violent anti-government protests that have unnerved investors, frightened away tourists and dented growth in Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy.

More from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

Thai ‘Red Shirts’ warn of civil war if government falls

Thousands of pro-government “Red Shirts” massed in Thailand’s capital Saturday to challenge attempts by opposition protesters to hand power to an unelected regime, warning that the kingdom was lurching towards “civil war”.

The dismissal of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and nine ministers by the Constitutional Court this week for the improper transfer of a top security official has plunged the restive kingdom deeper into crisis.

Off to China with South China Morning Post and a name that replaced the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren on a major building right here in Berkeley:

Li Ka-shing’s rumoured plan to reduce investments ‘could damage Hong Kong’

Report by central government think tank warns tycoon’s reputed plan to reduce his investments in city could hit its economic competitiveness

Li Ka-shing’s apparent move to reduce his investments in Hong Kong could damage the city’s economic competitiveness, says a study by a central government think tank.

Hong Kong still ranked as the most competitive Chinese city last year, according to the annual “blue paper” by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). But it said soaring property prices and the lack of innovation could hamper the city’s growth and it could be overtaken by other Chinese cities.

More from Want China Times:

Li Ka-shing’s withdrawal from China related to new leadership

Recently, a lot of new property projects in China have offered discounts, with some in Beijing having cut prices dramatically in order to find buyers.

One may wonder how Li Ka-shing could have foreseen the current slump in the real-estate market and successfully hedged risks again as Li’s family sold a prime piece of real estate–a mixed used complex in Beijing–in April.

The 85-year-old tycoon has been named the richest Chinese person for 16 consecutive years, with his total assets said to be worth US$29.4 billion.

It is well known that China’s political milieu has decided on its unique economic development mode, and economic development to a large degree hinges on the political direction of the government.

From China Daily, legal questions:

US regulator will hear appeal on ‘Big 4′ Chinese affiliates

Chinese affiliates of the Big Four accounting firms have succeeded in getting the US Securities and Exchange Commission to hear an appeal of a judge’s six-month accounting ban over the firms’ refusal to cooperate with an accounting fraud investigation.

The SEC announced on May 9 that it would hear the affiliates’ appeal of an SEC Administrative Law Judge Cameron Elliot’s January decision to suspend the Chinese affiliates of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, KPMG and Ernst & Young from auditing US-traded companies because of their refusal.

The firms argued they were trapped between US law, which required them to hand over any documents regulators request, and Chinese law, which prohibited transferring data that might contain state secrets to foreign parties. The firms announced their intention to appeal, soon after the decision was handed down.

Want China Times goes shopping

COFCO’s foreign acquisitions to boost China’s food supply

The state-owned China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO) is aiming to boost China’s food supply through overseas acquisitions as it has bought two foreign grain suppliers.

The largest Chinese food company announced on Feb. 28 this year that it has bought a 51% stake in Netherlands-based Nidera, which trades agricultural commodities such as grains, oilseeds, vegetable oils, and soybeans.

The market sources estimated the deal to be worth over U$1 billion.

On April 2, a consortium of COFCO and the Hopu Fund bought a 51% stake from Hong Kong-based Noble Group’s agriculture division. The deal was estimated to be worth US$3 billion.

From Xinhua, adding the necessary:

China to spend more on public housing

China will spend 119.3 billion yuan ($19 billion) on slum renovation and affordable housing this year, up 17.8 percent on 2013, said the Ministry of Finance on Friday.

The least developed central and western regions will be given priority.

Public housing programs have been high on the government agenda in recent years as home prices in major cities have pushed many out of the market.

The ministry also set aside 4.63 billion yuan to support 4.8 million students from poor families to go to senior high school this year.

Bubble deflation anxiety from Want China Times:

Correction in property market weighs on China’s growth

The meteoric rise of the Chinese property sector has shown signs of abating since the beginning of this year, and economists say such a downturn could weigh on growth.

The property sector accounts for at least 16% of China’s economic output, according to Tokyo-based brokerage firm Nomura Securities. Slowing investment growth and tightening credit conditions in the property sector during the first quarter of this year have already taken a toll on growth, which dipped to 7.4% in the first quarter, the lowest rate since the second quarter of 2012.

“We are convinced that the property sector has passed a turning point and that there is a rising risk of a sharp correction,” said Zhang Zhiwei, an economist with Nomura Securities in a research note earlier this week.

And on to Japan and straight into Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with more bad news from RT:

Fukushima’s Cesium-137 levels ‘50% higher’ than previously estimated

The amount of Cesium-137 leaked from the Fukushima nuclear power plant could be worse than expected, a Japanese research team has concluded. They believe 50 percent more of the radioactive material could have escaped into the atmosphere and seawater.

The original estimate of 13,600 terabecquerels was made by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the power station. However, a new report by Japanese researchers estimates that between 17,500 and 20,500 terabecquerels have been released, which is 50 percent higher than originally thought.

Michio Aoyama, a professor at Fukushima University’s Institute of Environmental Radioactivity who is part of the team, told Kyodo News that TEPCO is “underestimating” the amount of Cesium-137 that was released into the atmosphere and later fell into the sea.

More details from the Mainichi:

The study estimates that 14,000 to 17,000 terabecquerels of cesium-137 were released into the atmosphere, while about 3,500 terabecquerels directly flowed into the ocean. A terabequerel is equal to 1 trillion bequerels.

In the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, 85,000 terabecquerels of cesium-137 were released.

But in the case of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Aoyama said the release of radioactive cesium has a “big impact on the ocean” since the Fukushima nuclear complex is located near the coast.

The study also found that 12,000 to 15,000 terabecquerels of cesium-137 released into the atmosphere fell into the sea, while the remaining amount fell into the soil. Of the amount that fell on land, up to 400 terabecquerels fell on North America, while Europe was hardly affected.

The Mainichi again, this time with a do-it-yourself story:

Fukushima residents measuring seabed radiation themselves

Fukushima Prefecture residents are taking radiation measurements from the ocean floor near the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant to provide a second opinion to figures released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the plant’s owner.

Riken Komatsu, 34, who works at a seafood processing firm in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, is a founding member of the “Iwaki Kaiyo Shirabetai Umilabo” (Iwaki ocean investigation squad sea lab). The organization receives aid from fishermen in the disaster-hit Fukushima town of Tomioka. Komatsu launched the group’s radiation measurement project out of concern for his industry’s future, as the nuclear disaster has affected not only the local fishing industry but also the seafood processing industry.

The Mainichi again, this time when comics meet reality:

Ex-mayor lashes back at criticism over depiction of nosebleeds in manga about Fukushima plant

The former mayor of a Fukushima Prefecture town near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant says he has no intention of retracting comments from a manga series in which he appears as himself, claiming he has been experiencing nosebleeds.

Katsutaka Idogawa, 67, former mayor of the Fukushima Prefecture town of Futaba, is featured in the popular comic series “Oishinbo.” The main character is a newspaper reporter who goes to cover the crippled Fukushima plant and later experiences nosebleeds when he comes back to Tokyo. Idogawa says his nose bleeds regularly and that there are many others in Fukushima who have developed similar symptoms.

After receiving inquiries about the depiction in the story, publisher Shogakukan released a statement saying it decided to publish the issue respecting the author’s expression, which was based on thorough research.

JapanToday offers a hand:

Free delivery service for daily necessities begins in Fukushima town

A town in Fukushima Prefecture has begun free delivery of daily necessities to residents in the hope that it will encourage displaced residents to return.

Hirono town was in the evacuation zone after the March 11, 2011 nuclear disaster but residents were allowed to return home last year.

However, more than 70% of residents have not returned, officials said.

Radiation woes closer to home with Reuters:

New Mexico nuclear waste site halts shipments of toxic materials to Texas

New Mexico nuclear waste dump, which saw a radiation leak in February, has halted shipments of toxic waste barrels to a commercial Texas facility amid concerns that chemical reactions could trigger another release there, officials said on Friday.

A probe found the February 14 accident may have been linked to improperly prepared and packaged drums of toxic waste accepted from the Los Alamos National Laboratory by the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), its managers said in a statement.

Investigators are still evaluating whether a chemical reaction caused the leak of unsafe concentrations of radiation in the underground salt caverns where waste is stored, which exposed 21 workers above ground to low levels of contamination.

The Los Angeles Times covers what happens when reactor plants close, including the costs, in this case a hot potato headed for the hands of the California Public Utilities Commission:

Battles over San Onofre nuclear plant costs gaining steam

Heated battles over who pays for last year’s permanent closure of the San Onofre nuclear power plant — and how much — are just getting started. Even some consumer groups are already at odds with each other.

Experts peg the immediate cost at $4.7 billion to pay for utility investments, replacement power and ongoing maintenance relating to the early shutdown of two reactors at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

A proposed settlement would initially apportion the costs so that $3.3 billion would be covered by ratepayers and $1.4 billion by utility shareholders. In coming years, an additional $4 billion-plus will be needed to remove radioactive materials and demolish the plant safely.

From China Daily, a troubling story from a city of 660,000:

City suspends water supply over suspected pollution

Water supply in Jingjiang City of east China’s Jiangsu Province was suspended after abnormal water quality was detected in the Yangtze River water source, the city’s official microblog announced in a statement around noon Friday.

The government has started an emergency response plan, according to the brief statement on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

It did not say when water supply will be resumed.

From Los Angeles Times, something we’ve long advocated:

State may ban sale of some rat poisons to consumers, judge rules

California officials may ban the sale of some super-toxic rat poisons to consumers on July 1, a California Superior Court judge in San Diego ruled Friday.

Reckitt Benckiser, the manufacturer of d-CON rat poison, had sued to stop the consumer ban, but Judge William S. Dato decided in favor of the state Department of Pesticide Regulation.

The poisons, known as second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides, have been found in a variety of wildlife, including cougars, barn owls, coyotes, bobcats and the endangered San Joaquin kit fox. Children and family pets have also been accidentally poisoned.

A potential major problem for Big Oil from The Hill:

EPA weighs rule requiring disclosure of fracking chemicals

The Environmental Protection Agency is taking the first steps toward regulations that could require companies to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” operations.

The EPA issued an advance notice of proposed rule-making Friday in response to a petition filed in 2011 by the environmental group Earthjustice and more than 100 other green organizations pressing for mandatory testing and reporting rules.

The groups have raised concerns over various chemicals used during the fracking process, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals underground in order to fracture rock and unlock trapped oil and gas.

The EPA, still in the early stages of the process, said it had made no decision whether to issue regulations, call for voluntary disclosure or some combination of the two.

And support for enforcers from the Associated Press:

Yes, the EPA CAN Regulate You: Industry Gets Smacked Down By Appeals Court

A federal appeals court on Friday rejected an industry challenge to stronger health standards for soot.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit says the Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency substantial discretion in setting air quality standards.

The revisions followed a determination by the EPA that existing standards for fine particulate matter did not sufficiently protect public health. Fine particles can lodge deeply into lungs and cause serious health problems.

The appeals court ruled 3-0 that the industry simply had not identified any way in which the EPA acted unreasonably. The court said the EPA offered reasoned explanations for how it approached and weighed the evidence.

And for our final item, a story from the cultural front from the Verge:

Nintendo apologizes for leaving same-sex marriage out of ‘Tomodachi Life’

After a horribly botched explanation of why gay characters couldn’t marry in simulation game Tomodachi Life, Nintendo has issued an apology. “We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life,” says a statement on the company website. Unfortunately for players, it’s not going back on its previous decision, saying that “such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch.” But it’s promised to take fan criticism to heart. “We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone,” the company says. “We pledge that if we create a next installment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a gameplay experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.”

Tomodachi Life, which puts players in a whimsical world with the Mii versions of their friends, lets avatars get married, but only to the opposite sex. A campaign called Miiquality attempted to change this, pushing for same-sex marriage to be added when the game was released outside Japan this summer. Nintendo demurred, but it did so with a tone-deaf statement, saying that the game was a “playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation” and denying that it meant to make “any form of social commentary” by not including the feature. The defense, intentionally or not, implied that including gay marriage was a political issue instead of a new player option.

Show more