Good evening!

International Developments

❖ “The Obama administration fears that Syria’s embattled government may be about to use its arsenal of deadly chemical weapons against opposition forces because conventional arms have failed to halt their advance”.

❖ “The United Nations says it is pulling ‘all non-essential international staff’ out of Syria as the situation around the capital Damascus deteriorates.”

❖ In the front lines of Syrian rebels is Jabhat al Nusra, an organization supposedly with Al Qaida ties, and consisting of members who fought against US troops in Iraq.

India is set to send ships to the South China Sea. India and China are arguing over gas and oil exploration in the area.

International Finance

British Prime Minister David Cameron sees no need for “‘naming and shaming’ large multinational companies who fail to pay their ‘fair share’ of tax in Britain.” Margaret Hodge, Chair of “the powerful cross-party Public Accounts Committee”, disagrees. May the better man win.

❖ Seems UBS bank is “fully co-operating” with US and British authorities in the Libor matter and will probably end up paying $450 million as a result, a little less than Barclays’ fine last June.

❖ “The US financial regulator [the SEC] has charged the Chinese units of five accounting firms . . . over refusing to hand over auditing data on Chinese-based companies.” Deloitte Touche, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers and BDO.

❖ Since it was losing $30 million/year, Rupert Murdoch’s iPad newspaper is closing.

Money Matters USA

Between 1980 – 2010, tax rates went down 5% for the poorest among us, 8% for those making $25,000 – $50,000, 9% for those making $75,000 – $100,000, on up to 11.6% for the $200,000 – $350,000 families, but 14.3% for those making $350,000+. It does pay to be wealthy in the USA.

❖ Only Russia, Ukraine and Lebanon have their wealth distributed more unequally than the US; the US’ system is rigged (low tax on capital gains and dividends); as the rich get richer, the rest get deeper in debt; and more.

The New York Times, citing a “volatile” advertising situation, will be offering buyouts to some nonunion newsroom managers but may have to resort to layoffs if the buyouts aren’t accepted.

Politics USA

Gallup asked people to rate the “honesty and ethical standards” of 22 professions. Results: “Congressional members only outpace car salespeople” in the poll. “Nurses were rated as the most honest and ethical.”

❖ In-depth look at the dark money group which donated $11 million for use in defeating CA Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-hike initiative and in promoting another initiative that would have banned unions from collecting money for political purposes through payroll deductions. Once that came to light, investigations began and the results, thus far, are fascinating and far-reaching–including way beyond CA.

Use of the filibuster from 1961 forward had been rising rather steadily over all, but took off as the Obama administration began its first term. Graph.

❖ “Billionaire Sheldon Adelson may have blown $50 million more than previously thought on conservative candidates during the 2012 election.” That runs to $150 million, all total. Oh, well, easy-come/easy-go.

World Net Daily just increased its assortment by one with the addition of former US Sen. Rick Santorum. Santorum launched with an article claiming “that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has an objective of ‘ceding our sovereignty to the United Nations.’” Santorum even wove his 4-year old daughter’s tragic ill-health condition into the conspiracy.

❖ The General Services Administration recommends abandoning the central FBI building in Washington, DC since it “is deteriorating, inefficient and lacks proper security”. The building is in the “Brutalist” style, delightfully apt for the public persona of the man for whom the building was named.

Planet Earth News

❖ Apologies for being so far behind in linking to this reality-based weather report.

❖ Could it be that fracking is sickening and killing US livestock? 17 cows in LA died “of respiratory failure after an hour’s exposure to spilled fracking fluid” while 50% of 70 PA cows who were pregnant had stillborn births “after grazing in a pasture contaminated by fracking chemicals”.

❖ TX’s year-old law doesn’t compel disclosure of what’s in fracking chemicals dumped into oil wells–if they’re a “trade secret”, exempt from disclosure. From January through August, 2012, 19,000 such exemptions were claimed. In WY a “tougher” disclosure law has resulted in 78 additives approved as “trade secrets” and six rejected. ALEC is involved.

If growth in carbon emissions were to “come to a halt and then fall quickly” the earth might be able to avoid the 4C to 6C warming increase currently projected. China and India keep pumping out carbon, although emissions in the US and Eurozone fell a bit in 2011. Nations are meeting in Doha, Qatar at the moment where the US envoy is arguing that the “rich-poor divide in past climate agreements has no place in a future pact to fight global warming.”

69% of voters in New York state agree that “Hurricane Sandy demonstrated the effects of climate change”. 80% of Democrats agreed, but only 46% of Republicans (no, really).

❖ The US Navy has decided to quit using 24 of its 80 dolphins trained for use in both combat and patrol. Instead, they’re going to use drones.

Latin America

Vidal Vega, “leader of a landless peasant movement in Paraguay involved in a land dispute with a powerful politician has been shot dead.”

❖ Although a cease-fire has been called, the Colombian government has bombed a FARC camp, killing 20.

Break Time

❖ Two-fer: Joshua Tree star time-lapse and stormy night. Scroll down.