Banks’ worst behavior yet?

Why the Libor scandal matters; a woman thanks Obama for his health law; and other top Friday stories

Topics: Wall Street, Obamacare, Syria,

The most important financial scandal you haven’t heard of: While JPMorgan’s trading losses last month got plenty of attention, this week’s alleged manipulation of the London InterBank Offered Rate (Libor) could have much more direct impact on everyday consumers. The Libor is a widely used borrowing index that sets the price of lots of consumer debt, like mortgages and auto loans, and financial giant Barclay’s has admitted to rigging it. The bankers’ deception artificially impacted the price average people paid for new loans, though it’s impossible to say by how much. And the firm’s disgraced former CEO Bob Diamond alleges that many other banks did the same thing during the financial crisis, in order to mislead the public and world governments about banks’ health.

Obamacare gets some love: An emotional woman in Ohio personally thanked President Obama yesterday for passing the Affordable Care Act, saying it would have helped her sister fight cancer. After Obama gave a speech in Sandusky, he encountered a sobbing Stephanie Miller. “We needed that desperately,” Miller told the Huffington Post. “I know what it’s like to watch somebody that you love die from a disease that had they been able to have health care [coverage], they could still be here. Nobody should ever have to go through that. Her sons should not have to suffer without their mother.”

Top Syrian defection: A top Syrian general from a powerful family has defected from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and is heading to Paris. A Syrian state-run media outlet confirmed the defection, but called it “insignificant.” Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlas, a commander in the elite Republican Guard who attended military school with Assad, is the highest-ranking official to defect in the ongoing civil war. Amer al-Sadeq, a member of a Damascus-based opposition group, described the latest development as “a good sign.” “Defecting soldiers, we see many of them, defecting officers, the more they come the better it is to make the regime weaker,” he told the BBC.

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Leaving No Child behind: The New York Times reports the Obama administration has been quietly rolling back the Bush-era education law: “In just five months, the Obama administration has freed schools in more than half the nation from central provisions of the No Child Left Behind education law, raising the question of whether the decade-old federal program has been essentially nullified. On Friday, the Department of Education plans to announce that it has granted waivers releasing two more states, Washington and Wisconsin, from some of the most onerous conditions of the signature Bush-era legislation. With this latest round, 26 states are now relieved from meeting the lofty — and controversial — goal of making all students proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014. Additional waivers are pending in 10 states and the District of Columbia.”

Romney global tour: “Mitt Romney’s campaign is considering a major foreign policy offensive at the end of the month that would take him to five countries over three continents and mark his first move away from a campaign message devoted almost singularly to criticizing President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy,” according to Politico. “The tentative plan being discussed internally would have Romney begin his roll-out with a news-making address at the VFW convention later this month in Reno, Nev. The presumptive GOP nominee then is slated to travel to London for the start of the Olympics and to give a speech in Great Britain on U.S. foreign policy.”

In 2008, Republicans slammed President Obama for taking a big international tour, calling him presumptuous for doing something a president might do before he was elected. Will they say the same of Romney?

Alex Seitz-Wald
Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

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