Good evening! Here are some of the more interesting items gleaned today from the Internets, beginning with the Middle East.
❖Saudi Arabia has shuttered its embassy and consulates in Egypt, due to angry protests by Egyptians. What’s to be angry about? An Egyptian human rights lawyer, Ahmed al-Gizawi, was in Saudi Arabia earlier this month and detained for insulting King Abdullah. Egyptian activists claim he was detained for “lodging a complaint against Saudi Arabia for its treatment of Egyptians in its prisons.”
Egyptian police Saudi Arabia counter that he was detained because he had 20,000 anti-anxiety pills in his luggage.
❖ElBaradei has finally set up a political party, but too late for the upcoming elections in Egypt. ElBaradei said, “The time has come to start a comprehensive political process to achieve the goals of the revolution [adding the aim is] to rescue the great revolution that has been derailed and is almost stillborn.” ElBaradei was former head of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and in that capacity challenged the Bush-Cheney claim that Iraq had WMD and has also challenged similar claims about Iran’s nuclear program.
❖The IAEA announced today that talks with Iran about their nuclear development will begin mid-May in Vienna. The last time discussions were held between Iran and the IAEA was in February when Iran would not give permission for the IAEA team to inspect the Parchin military site. There’s speculation that the U.S. might “agree to allow Tehran to enrich uranium up to five percent purity” (below weapons-grade levels) if Iran “accepts strict oversight and safeguards . . ..”
❖What a set-back for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Koch brothers (Americans for Prosperity)! Yesterday, a district court upheld an earlier ruling that “a loophole in FEC rules that allowed certain independent group campaign efforts to keep private the names of donors was invalid and needed to be rewritten or reset to the original language.”
❖U.S.-based corporations are creating jobs, all right; they just aren’t creating them in the U.S. According to the WSJ, 35 U.S.-based corps created 446,000 jobs between 2009-11–75% of which were overseas. A slightly smaller percentage of their revenue growth (60%) was from overseas, too.
❖We can all breathe sighs of relief. New Secret Service rules will forbid SS agents “from taking foreign nationals into their hotel rooms or visiting ‘non-reputable’ establishments overseas [. . . ] An official briefed on the code of conduct changes says officers will also be instructed to drink only moderately.” One can only wonder if there were no such rules prior to the Colombian caper, how the new rules will be enforced, etc. Update: On the teevee this morning, a former agent explained that the “guidelines” have been around a long time, but were just not in print. Oh.
❖What have they wrought? The Tampa City Council has asked FL Gov. Rick Scott to ban guns outside the RNC in Tampa this year. The Secret Service has already proclaimed that only law enforcement personnel will be allowed to carry guns inside the convention building. The City Council is powerless in this situation, since “state law prevents local governments from regulating guns.”
❖Remember the great 401(k) hype? Joe Nocera, now 60, was so enthusiastic about 401(k)s that he wrote a book praising them in the mid-’90s. Since then he’s seen his retirement dreams evaporate, as have millions of others. Nocera quotes an expert he interviewed for the current article he’s written about his rude awakening: “[M]ost human beings lack the skill and emotional wherewithal to be good investors. Linking investing and retirement has turned out to be a recipe for disaster.” “Bug or feature?” comes to mind.
❖The Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Eastern Bolivia are undertaking another march from their homeland in the Amazon to La Paz to, once again, protest plans for a road through the Tipnis National Park. President Evo Morales reversed his decision for the road after last year’s march, but has since “signed new legislation giving all communities inside the park a vote on whether they want the road.”
❖Follow-up on yesterday’s news about student protests in Quebec over tuition hikes: the premier has offered something of a compromise. Under his proposal, the tuition hike would occur over seven years rather than five. The 180,000 students affected will be discussing the proposal in the next few days. Doesn’t sound very promising.
❖Wonderful photographs of life in New York City from around the turn of the last century to WW II.