What a news day we’ve had!

International Developments

❖ Following the deaths of the US ambassador in Libya [Chris Stevens] and three other embassy staff” from rocket attack in Benghazi, 50 US Marines are on their way to Libya “to reinforce security at U.S. diplomatic facilities . . ..” Update: Police on red alert in Nigeria; US embassy warned Americans in Algeria to travel only when necessary, Tunisian police broke up a protest, demonstrations in Khartoum, Sudan, Gaza and Morocco.

❖ “Syrian troops and rebels clashed near Aleppo’s international airport on wednesday . . ..”

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the US would have up to a year to react if Iran did begin to build a nuclear weapon.

South African politician Julius Malema is calling for a national strike, for mines to become “ungovernable” and for soldiers suspended from the South African National Defence Force “to mobilise in a disciplined way . . ..”

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev “calls for Pussy Riot rockers to be freed.”

International Finance

Huge turnout–estimated at 1.5 million–in Barcelona, protesting Spain’s tax laws and demanding Catalonia’s independence.

Portugal, “The Poster Child of Austerity“, is not projecting a positive image. Portugal now has “higher unemployment, lower disposal incomes”, and lowered tax revenues, “economic activity is projected to decline by 3 percent”, and a projected government deficit of 5% in 2012 (2.5% was expected).

Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, is rejecting “a Greek-style bailout that would force Madrid to make specific budget cuts.” While the European Central Bank has a “new bond-buying scheme,” there are economic and social costs of participation (further austerity). Some are predicting Rajoy “will seek help”, though.

Anti-austerity protests erupted in Athens, with “2,000 teachers, hospital doctors and municipal staff” protesting “a new round of state salary cuts and job losses . . . [and] with security staff prepared to demonstrate later in the day.”

Money Matters USA

❖ Lately, politicians have been talking about the “middle class”, which is interesting since it seems to be contracting while the ranks of the lower class are expanding. 25% of us were ranked lower class in 2008; now it’s 32%. Meanwhile, the “middle class has shrunk from 53% to 49% . . . , and the upper-middle class from 19% to 15%.

❖ “Middle-class Americans are using banks less. In 2009, 7.7% of US households did not use banks; today 8.2% (about 12 million) don’t, and another 24 million are “underbanked”.

❖ Neat chart showing how many millions of Americans are kept out of poverty through certain government programs, ranging from 2.3 million through unemployment insurance to 21.4 million through Social Security.

❖ “At a time when states are struggling to reduce bloated prison populations and tight budgets”, Corrections Corporation of America in Nashville “is offering to buy prisons in exchange for various considerations, including a controversial guarantee that the governments maintain a 90% occupancy rate for at least 20 years.”

Politics USA

❖ “Relatives of jailed young American called Tuesday for reform of a juvenile justice system they say fails to help young people and is biased against youth of color.”

Jim Cramer of CNBC reported yesterday that his father was being denied the right to vote in PA because he hadn’t sufficient ID. Cramer got a phone call from PA “authorities” who guaranteed Cramer’s dad will be able to vote. It takes those without famous relatives “Twenty Hours of Work & Two Trips to the DMV” to get a voter ID. Moreover, in 13 PA counties, the DMV is open for ID one day per week, and in 10 counties two days. This travesty goes before the PA Supreme Court tomorrow.

Mitt Romney does have a jobs program, according to his new teevee ads. While criticizing “Obama’s reductions in military spending [as threatening] 20,000 jobs [in CO and OH] and ‘thousands more’ in [FL and NC]“, Romney promises to strengthen military budgets, thus saving those jobs.

Rob Zerban, WI Democrat seeking Paul Ryan’s House seat, released poll results showing a narrowing between the two (to 47%-Ryan, 39%-Zerban, a change from the previous 58% -33%). And–voila!–Ryan will now be running campaign ads for his House seat.

❖ Feel the excitement! Both Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan and Republican House member Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin will be appearing at the Values Voter Summit at the end of the week.

❖ It’s only been a month, but already “more than 72,000″ young illegal immigrants “have applied for the temporary reprieve” and “the first approvals have been granted.”

The War on Women

❖ The 9th! Unable to afford a surgical abortion, a woman in Idaho ordered RU-486 on-line and aborted . She was charged with “not having an abortion at a licensed abortion facility.” She fought back and criminal charges were dismissed, but she continued her fight, widening the case by bringing in Roe v. Wade. The 9th Circuit of Appeals has “largely agreed with [her] and her counsel.”

Working for A Living

Parents are joining the Chicago teachers on the picket lines. Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union, is touted as “biting, pushing, witty, unwavering”–just like Rahmbo.

❖ Last year, some Chicago teachers went to Wisconsin in a show of support of teacher negotiations there. Today, Wisconsin educators are returning the favor, contributing to a “‘solidarity fund’, praising Chicago teachers by sending messages and wearing red.”

Health, Homelessness, Hunger & Children

AR Democratic Gov Mike Beebe is for expanding Medicaid eligibility in his state after federal officials told him “the state would have flexibility to opt out later if it faces a financial crunch.” Will the state’s legislature agree?

❖ The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that the US is in 28th place of 38 countries in terms of preschool enrollment. France, the Netherlands, Spain and Mexico have 95% of 4-year-olds enrolled, compared to 69% in the US.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has published results of its large study on acupuncture involving 18,000 patients: acupuncture was more effective “in relieving back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, and shoulder pain”.

❖ “Researchers have demonstrated for the first time that a refined gene therapy approach safely restores the immune systems of some children with severe combined immunodeficiency . . . which blocks the normal development of a newborn’s immune system.” Children with the condition usually live about 2 years.

❖ “McDonald’s to list calories on menus” in all its 14,000 US outlets.

Planet Earth News

❖ Britain’s Carbon Disclosures Project surveyed S&P 500 companies, and 343 responded. 92% of the companies said they “conducted ‘board or executive-level oversight’ on climate change strategies”, with 83% incorporating “climate strategies into risk management portfolios , , ,,” 52% had reduced emissions, almost double the 23% from last year. Interesting list of companies that didn’t participate.

❖ “Over the past 50 years, the salty parts of the oceans have become saltier and the fresh regions have become fresher, and the degree of change is greater than scientists can explain.” NASA is the lead in a new project, Salinity Processes in the Upper Ocean Regional Study (SPURS) to investigate the phenomenon.

Latin America

❖ The UN’s commission in Guatemala, which has been “investigating and prosecuting corruption” since January 2008, intends to stay there for 3 more years. 25 nations are involved in the commission; “nearly 2,000 police and government officials have been fired or sent to jail since its creation”.

President Hugo Chavez says Venezuela “will evaluate a proposal to join in a team of non-aligned nations to solve the crisis in Syria. . ..”

❖ It’s now official: “Chile court confirms Salvador Allende committed suicide”

Mixed Bag

Richard III under a parking lot?

Break Time

Space Shots