Greetings! Here’s your news for this first Wednesday in June. Please add links to additional items you’d like to share.
❖New massacre in Syria: “At least 86 people, including many women and children, have been killed by Syrian pro-government forces in Hama province, opposition activists say.” The government says the killings were done by “‘armed groups’ seeking to trigger foreign military intervention.”
❖Kofi Annan has developed a new peace plan for Syria–create a contact group (Britain, China, France, Russia, the US, Saudia Arabia and possibly Qatar, Turkey and Iran) to draft a transition plan and deliver it to Syria’s Assad and the opposition. Presidential elections and a new constitution would follow, with Assad presumably going into exile in Russia. What are the chances?
❖Pakistan and the US continue their dispute about the use of drones. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today said, while attending a conference in India, that the US has been “very clear that we are going to continue to defend ourselves.”
❖Egypt’s ex-president, Amr Moussa, “slammed” Israel’s settlement expansion policies as “detrimental to the security and stability of the region”. He also said that Israel would be able to get gas again from Egypt–”but only after the needs of all other would-be purchasers were met.”
❖Uh-oh. “Two newly elected MPs from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party were among six people arrested over an attack on a Pakistani man in Athens, in the latest series of incidents that have raised fears that Greece’s immigrants are being targeted in the runup to this month’s crucial elections.”
❖The US Supreme Court has refused to review a lower court ruling that four Blackwater guards could be charged with manslaughter and weapons offenses in the deaths of 17 Iraqi citizens and the shooting of 20 others during the Nisour Square massacre of September 16, 2007.
❖”Spain says markets closing on it, seeks help for banks” As the Spanish Treasury Minister issued this SOS, the Group of Seven took no action. Apparently an audit report is due soon which should reveal the capital needs of Spanish banks. Fears and rumors, and little action so far, though Germany has “proposed a banking union to stabilise the Continent’s economy and ease eurozone turmoil.”
❖President Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron talked on the phone last night and “have agreed on the need for ‘an immediate plan’ to resolve the eurozone crisis” as concern grows about the situation in Spain.
Money Matters USA
❖”Obama: Bush Tax Cuts for wealthy [annual household income above $250,000] Will Not Be Extended, Period.”
❖Larry Summers: Extend the tax cuts. “The real risk to this economy is on the side of slow down . . ..” Seems like we’ve been in a “slow down” ever since the Bush tax cuts were enacted, but that’s just me.
❖Thomas Curry is in charge of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency which is taking some heat for its oversight (or not) of the recent JPMorgan Fail Whale. Curry appeared before a “packed hearing” of the Senate’s Banking Committee where matters such as the proposed Volcker Rule are being fiercely debated. The OCC is conducting a detailed analysis of the JPMorgan situation, Curry said, and will have results ready in a few weeks.
❖Admiral William McRaven of the Special Operations Command sought approval from the State Department and Congress to “train and equip security forces in places like Yemen and Kenya” and Latin America.” They were told no, that existing security assistance programs should suffice. Interesting reading, ambitious man (McRaven).
❖It may have just passed, but already some Senate Democrats want to revisit the so-called JOBS Act. Their interest has everything to do with those “emerging companies” regulations which watered-down disclosure requirements. Case in point: the Facebook IPO debut which pretty much fell flat on its face and which has raised questions about possible selective information sharing, including by Morgan Stanley the IPO underwriter.
❖Turns out, Mitt Romney seems to have been deeply involved in getting “Romneycare” through the MA legislature, according to emails obtained by the Wall Street Journal. Romneycare became “the template for President Obama’s national health care law, which Romney promises to repeal if elected president.
❖With the US Supreme Court due to decide about the health care law this month, two House Republicans seem to be having second thoughts. To wit: “We believe that the whole bill needs to be repealed . . . [said Rep Tom Price (R-GA), but there are some things] a lot of folks have begun to rely upon and plan . . . upon.” And “It would be hard to write a 2,700-page bill and not have something in there that you like,” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), and a physician.
❖Despite being “hopeful” and “mindful” about the highway bill, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has pretty much allowed as to how it just won’t be ready by the end of this month when it expires.
❖Last we heard, those folks at the Riverdale Mobile Home Park in PA who refuse to be run out of their community by the fracking company, Aqua America, are still maintaining their barricade.
❖Statistics show that shooting victims in NYC increased from 1,727 (2009) to 1,821 (2011) even though the NYPD was stopping and frisking more people than ever over the same time period.
❖Joining the trend of making it increasingly difficult for citizens to express dissatisfaction with how things are, Russia’s Federation Council just passed a bill “that would greatly increase fines for opposition protestors, hours after the lower house approved the measure in a stormy midnight vote.” Fines for participants go up to $9,000; for organizers, $32,100.
❖Remember the protestor who complained about Iraq to Dick “Dick” Cheney in CO in 2006? He was arrested by the Secret Service, and was turned over to local authorities who did not pursue the case. The protestor sued, nonetheless, claiming violation of his right to free speech. The case finally made it to the US Supreme Court which has ruled against him.
Planet Earth News
❖The Union of Concerned Scientists has issued a large report, “A Climate of Corporate Control: How Corporations Have Influenced the U.S. Dialogue on Climate Science and Policy”, which lists and examines the impact of specific corporations on this overarching issue of our time. An article summarizeng the report is here.
❖Oil production and use have made major contributions to global warming, including the loss of ice caps in the Arctic which has opened up an vast new frontier for further oil exploration and exploitation. And they’re there, waiting to go in, arguing with each other over territorial rights–the US, UK, Norway, Sweden, Russia, China, etc. Meanwhile, scientists observe, measure and worry.
❖Greenpeace, meanwhile, has set up an “energy roadmap”, calling for investing $1.2 trillion a year in renewable energy power plants in order to reduce oil demand by around 80%.
❖”China said Tuesday foreign embassies were acting illegally in issuing their own air quality readings . . ..” They seem to be mad at the US embassy in Beijing whose data shows “off-the-chart pollution.” And an update: China will no longer count “blue sky days” in Beijing.
❖”Mexican President Felipe Calderon has signed a law introducing binding targets on climate change.” Commitments: greenhouse gas emissions down by 30% in 2020 and by 50% in 2050.
❖”Following research linking neonicotinoid pesticides to the decline in bee populations, France has announced it plans to ban Cruiser OSR, an insecticide produced by Sygenta.
❖Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua told the Organization of American States at the annual meeting on Tuesday that they are leaving the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, which “was originally created as a U.S. initiative and it’s no longer worth being a part of.” Those four countries are also arguing “for the elimination of the OAS’s Inter-American Commission on Human rights” which they claim is used by the US to target “leftist governments”.
❖Walt Disney Co. “will stop accepting some junk-food ads on TV programs, radio shows and websites aimed at children . . ..”
❖NASA video of yesterday’s Venus transit.
❖Antikythera, world’s first known computer circa 240 BC