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  April 7, 2016

The Real News of the Day: April 7, 2016

Sanders and Clinton Tied, ACLU Sues US Gov't, Increasing Global Military Spending, Panama Papers Fallout, Puerto Rico Suspends Debt Payment, Greeks Strike, Haiti Election Postponed

Sanders Ahead of Clinton in New National Poll

 A new national poll is placing Sanders ahead of Clinton for the first time since the presidential campaign began last year. The McClatchy poll says 49 percent of voters support Sanders while 47 percent support Clinton. It also says twenty-five percent of Sanders supporters said they are not willing to vote for Clinton should she win the nomination. In the opposite scenario, only 14 percent of Clinton supporters would not support Sanders.

In a sign of increased tensions between the two campaigns, Clinton and Sanders are accusing each other of being unqualified for the presidency. The Clinton campaign then started using the twitter hashtag #HILLARYSOQUALIFIED in order to promote its candidate’s credentials. The effort backfired when Sanders supporters turned it on its head to highlight Clinton’s policy positions that are largely REJECTED by progressives. This included her support for the war in Iraq, the coup in Honduras, and so-called free trade agreements. All campaigns are now focusing on New York State, which will hold its primaries on April 19.

Donald Trump, who was born and raised in New York and hopes to win the state, held a major rally on Long Island yesterday. Anti-Trump protests took place outside of the venue. The rally attracted fifteen thousand supporters. Meanwhile, Ted Cruz was in the Bronx, where he tried to appeal to the mostly Latino community and was heckled by many.

ACLU Sues US Government over Immigrant Detentions

 The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the US government over alleged violations of immigrant rights. The class action law suit says the US regularly imposes unwarranted and unconstitutional bail requirements on detained immigrants. The ACLU is also arguing that it makes no economic sense to hold detainees for years at a time when the money spent on detention could be saved simply by reducing bail. Detained immigrants often face bail of up to several thousand dollars, which is unaffordable for many detainees. As a result, thousands spend years in detention until their case is resolved, often by deportation. Over forty thousand people are locked up in immigration detention centers throughout the US. Many centers are run by private companies that have an economic interest in maintaining the current detention regime.

World Arms Expenditures on the Rise Again

 States around the world increased spending on their militaries for the first time since 2011. That’s according to The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, which tracks military expenditures worldwide. It says global military spending rose by one percent in 2015 to one point seven trillion dollars. The United States remains the world’s largest military spender at 596 billion dollars. China is a distant second at 215 billion. The countries with the largest increases were China, Saudi Arabia and Russia, with each increasing its spending between six and seven percent relative to 2014. The largest decrease in military spending took place in Venezuela, which saw a 64 percent decline.

Panama Papers Fallout Continues

 The U.S. Treasury is under pressure to deal with the nation’s untaxed wealth following the release of the Panama Papers. It’s planning to issue a law that would compel banks to determine the names of individuals who use shell companies as a means to shield their wealth from taxation. The news comes as China is now censoring media reports on the Panama Papers. This follows revelations that relatives of president Xi Jinping used offshore accounts as clients of the Mossack Fonseca law firm. Among the western media censored by China include the websites of the Guardian, BBC, and CNN. Wikileaks is now criticizing the handling of the leaks. It says the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists should make the documents accessible online for the public. It is also criticizing the release of the documents to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a USAID-funded organization. USAID is known to have interfered in many elections throughout the world, including those of Venezuela and Haiti. The criticism comes despite OCCRP’s reporting on the use of tax havens by US intelligence officers whose names appear in the Panama Papers.

Puerto Rico to Suspend Debt Repayment

 The Puerto Rican government is imposing a moratorium on the country's debt payments until January 2017. The move came as the Government Development Bank faces a May 1 deadline to pay over $400 million in debt. The U.S. territory is currently 70 billion in the red, after several decades of economic decline. Professor Victor Rodgrieuz of California State University says Puerto Rico’s hands are tied by bondholders, hedge funds, and costly trade laws.

EU is Considering Visa Requirement for US Citizens Traveling to Europe

 Rising tensions in current trade negotiations between the United States and European Union could lead to tighter visa requirements for US citizens traveling to the EU. The change in the EU's position comes as the US and EU wrap up the final phase of negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, also known as the TTIP. The EU is threatening to impose stricter requirements in response to the US and Canada’s refusal to lift visa requirements for some EU citizens. It could soon require all US citizens to apply for individual visas when traveling throughout the 28-member states. The TTIP is a free trade and investment treaty that was previously set for completion by the end of 2015. The ongoing secrecy of the negotiations and their potential for decreasing environmental, food safety, and banking regulations has increased opposition to the pact throughout Europe.

Greek Public Sector Strike over Pension Reform

 Greek public sector workers staged a 24-hour strike today. The actions led to the grounding of many flights, limited hospital operations, and saw the closure of many schools, universities, and public media outlets. The unions say the strike is intended as warning to the government and that they will organize a 48-hour strike if proposed pension reform is presented to parliament.

The government is imposing austerity measures in order to comply with the bailout deal the EU and IMF. An ongoing disagreement between IMF and the EU over details of the bailout has delayed a review of the Greek government’s performance. Germany, which largely sets the tone in the EU, insists that Greece should have no debt relief, while the IMF says it cannot provide more funds unless some debt relief is provided.

Haiti's Political Crisis Continues as Presidential Election is Postponed

 On Tuesday, Haiti's electoral authority announced an indefinite postponement of the presidential runoff election for a THIRD time. The electoral council president said, “We cannot talk about the electoral calendar in the state that we are in.” The postponement comes as clashes between opposition supporters and police become increasingly violent. The runoff elections are set to take place between the government-supported candidate Jovenel Moise and the opposition-supported candidate Jude Celestin. Elections were originally scheduled for December 27th, but opposition protests over fraud in the first round delayed the run-off vote.

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