The US, Food Banks And Real People

Gary Younge’s description of real Americans discussing their once well-off circumstances and the need for food banks is a reminder of how precarious existence can be:

“Mark’s fortunes began to change in the summer of 2009 when was a human resources manager in a company with 1,500 employees. He was let go and replaced by a colleague 20 years his junior on half his salary. He could have found other work elsewhere in the country, but that would have involved uprooting his three children, and he didn’t think that was fair. He got another job in a start-up that involved a long commute and eventually collapsed owing him money. With his mortgage paid off and no debts, the biggest expense for a family of five was healthcare. Since everyone in the family was healthy they contemplated doing without it.

Then his youngest daughter got bitten by a rattlesnake. “That would have been a six-figure healthcare bill,” he says. “If we’d gotten rid of healthcare at that point we would have been sunk.” It was around that time he started going to the food bank. He stopped after he got a job at a major bookstore as a night-time accountant and head cashier paying just $9 an hour but with good health benefits, and is now getting a human resources consultancy practice off the ground.

When Pezzani heard the tape of Romney referring disparagingly to the 47% of the country who don’t pay taxes she was unimpressed. “It’s very difficult to see the folks that we’re serving maligned in that way,” she says. Beck-Ferkiss at the HPI has similar reservations. “It’s hard for me to believe that Romney is focused on the population that I serve,” she says.

Mark, however, says it just confirmed everything he already thought. “It doesn’t surprise me about Romney because he’s always struck me as a stuffed shirt. He’s arrogant, and it’s hard for me to get past that. It didn’t change my mind about him because I always thought that about him. It was exactly the same as Obama saying “You didn’t build that”. Those were exactly the words I would expect to come out of his mouth.” “

Conservatives, IQ and Bookshops

Some snippets I found, Intelligence Study Links Low I.Q. To Prejudice, Racism, Conservatism.

Look at the 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World, I thought the one in Buenos Aires worth a visit.

An informative piece on Russia and Syria:

“Russian support for the Syrian regime – founded when Bashar al-Assad’s father Hafez seized power in 1970 – is still shaped in part by Cold War-era considerations. Hafez al-Assad’s Ba’ath Party (like its cousin in Iraq) portrayed itself as a force for socialist-style modernization. More importantly, it was staunchly anti-American and anti-Israeli, and quickly turned to the USSR as its principal source for weapons and military advisors.

Those relations continued even after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks arms transfers, estimates the value of Russian arms sales to Syria at $162 million per year in both 2009 and 2010. The total value of Syrian contracts with the Russian defense industry is likely more than $4 billion. Russia also leases a naval facility at the Syrian port of Tartus, giving the Russian navy its only direct access to the Mediterranean, and Moscow its only remaining military base outside the former Soviet Union. Moscow fears that Assad’s fall would jeopardize both its lucrative arms contracts and its access to Tartus.”

Excerpts from Nato report on Taliban at BBC News.

Romney supporters raise millions.

A legal backgrounder on Julian Assange’s appeal at the Supreme Court. The Guardian’s coverage.

Is Alabama’s crackdown on immigration coming back to haunt it?