The next 168 hours - the Budget cometh, elections everywhere and commercial space flight arrives

The Budget Cometh

Tomorrow is May 8th, and you all know what that means: Budget bonanza! That's the day when every policy wonk in the country blows their loads all over their newspaper columns/blogs/Twitter stream and let us know in excruciating detail exactly where every cent this nation has to spend is going. The big story this year is, of course, the Federal Government's long promised and completely unnecessary return to surplus, a potentially damaging move that is requiring the evisceration of any number of program in order to find the perhaps $10 billion required in savings over the next two years. Admittedly, when Gillard first made the promise the global economy was looking a lot more fragile and Australia's place in it less certain, but these days even with the ongoing eurozone crisis, US stagnation and Chinese jitters the logics behind such a peremptory return to surplus are looking a lot more clouded. Still, the Gillard Government feel like they have to be seen to stand for something and seem to have picked the surplus as their go-to policy. Our little contribution to the cult of austerity, currently wrecking economies and governments throughout Europe. Which brings us to:

Adieu Sarkozy

The French have just kicked Nicolas Sarkozy out of the Presidency, casting an even darker shadow across the last few years of rearguard measures against the collapsing European economy. In his place they've elected Francoise Hollande, the leader of the Socialist Party and a man who looks about as exciting a vanilla and cottage cheese milkshake. Although, at this point in time, excitement could well be the last thing that any countries in Europe really need. Although France's woes had been markedly less pressing than many of its neighbours, there's still just something about austerity measures that really seem to piss off an electorate. To wit, Sarkozy is the 11th successive eurozone leader to be ousted since things started going belly up in 2009. By way of revolutionary comparison, the Arab Spring has succeeded in ousting four.

Adieu Greece

Although, Sarkozy can take some comfort in the fact that his electoral repudiation was not nearly as comprehensive as that suffered by the two major parties in Greece. While final poll numbers might take a day or two to trickle in, the conservative New Democracy party and the left-wing Pasok look to have gone from sharing 77% of the vote in 2009 to somewhere around 33%. In their place have swept neo-Nazis, Communists and various other political markers of a country that is about to eat itself whole. I'd say that this is probably the beginning of the end for Greece's membership of the EU, as the central body's request that it find another $15 billion in savings by June is going to be severely complicated by a Parliament in which the biggest party (New Democracy) has only 20% of the vote and all the other parties hate it with a passion. And if Greece fall out of the eurozone, they could well be the first of many. So, grab the popcorn and strap yourself in, because this could be a conflagration of titanic proportions.

Bonjour Vladimir Putin!... Again.

So, Vlad's getting inaugurated at some point today, commencing what is almost assuredly going to be another 12 years of wielding next best thing to absolute power in Russia. 20 000 people turned out to protest his renewed rule, but were violently dispersed by the police. Democracy: you're doing it wrong.

Palestinian Hunger Strikers Near Death

There are now some 2800 Palestinian prisoners in Israel refusing food. The hunger strike is in protest against Israel's policy of locking people up indefinitely without charge – known as administrative detention – which now includes 320 Palestinians, including two dozen members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Two of those currently in administrative detention (neither of who know exactly why they're being held) are rounding their 69th day without food and are thought to be near death. They have been held for 22 months and 9 months respectively. Israel's High Court is expected to make a ruling on their "case" overnight.

Syria to Hold Parliamentary "Elections" Today


Commercial Space Travel is Here!

Kind of. At some point today, the privately funded SpaceX program is hoping to launch the Falcon 9 rocket towards the International Space Station. While we're probably a while away from Tiger-style airfares into orbit, this is still a significant launch as the first mission to the ISS run entirely by a commercial entity. The company hopes to have humans on Mars in 10-20 years.
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