And here’s your Thursday afternoon news:
❖ “The US Pentagon is the de-facto lead US agency pushing the development of Afghanistan’s oil and gas sector”! They have a Houston oil man in charge of the contract process for Afghanistan’s oil and gas riches. The Taliban “appear increasingly bent on denying the fruits of the sector to their rivals”.
❖ German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told UK Prime Minister David Cameron, through an ally, that holding a referendum on EU membership “may cause economic disaster for UK and paralyse Europe”. Financial Times editorial “Lost illusions on Europe . . . hold a referendum”.
❖ Blame game: European Central Bank President Mario Draghi gave an optimistic report on the state of the eurozone today–noting, however, that “all of this [market 'normalisation'] hasn’t found its way through to the real economy yet”. Full employment is not part of his mandate, he said, and many of the problems and hardships “stem essentially from lack of action from the governments”.
Money Matters USA
❖ “Massive Cuts to Postal Service a Step Towards Privatization?” You bet.
❖ Prediction: US oil production will “jump 23 percent over the next two years to a quarter-century high by 2014.”
❖ Gulp. US consumers borrowed more than ever in November–up $16bn over October resulting in “a seasonally adjusted record of $2.77 trillion.” Mainly autos and student loans; credit cards, not so much.
❖ 46.37 million, or one in seven, people are on food stamps in the USA, and the number of those with graduate degrees applying “for food stamps, unemployment or other assistance more than tripled between 2007 and 2010.”
❖ Robert S. Khuzami, who’s headed the Securities & Exchange Commission for the past four years, is leaving. He’s “praised for taking action against some of Wall Street’s largest banks after the 2008 financial crisis, but has also drawn criticism for not doing enough to punish top executives at those same firms.”
❖ “Congress is awful because members spend all day long talking to rich people”
❖ “Both Congress and the White House long ago let Americans know that they have no particularly pressing concerns about the millions of Americans whose forlorn abandonment constitutes the human reality behind the massive 7.8% unemployment rate”. But all sides in DC “are as one on the plan to begin sucking large quantities of scarce dollars out of the wobbling economy beginning sometime in March.”
❖ “Jack Lew’s union-busting past: In a little reported episode, our possible next treasury secretary played a critical role trouncing an NYU union.” Bill Black on Lew: “Another Brick in the Wall Street on the Potomac.”
❖ NY Democratic Representative Charlie Rangel: “the lack of diversity in President Obama’s Cabinet is ‘embarrassing as hell.’” More on this issue on the teevee show “Morning Joe” where the host not only persistently talked over his co-host, but eventually even snapped his fingers at her. Video.
❖ Latest poll shows Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker as preferred candidate vs. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), both Democrats.
❖ Darlene Wink, former aide to WI Republican Gov. Scott Walker, on the occasion of being sentenced for conducting political work for Walker while supposedly working for the county, apologized–to “the taxpayer, my former boss [Walker] and my friends and family.”
❖ A “Christian” pastor whose past sermons included anti-LGBT remarks, will not be delivering the benediction at the presidential inauguration since he has withdrawn from participation. Why was he included in the first place?Update: The Inaugural Committee says they weren’t aware of the guy’s anti-LGBT remarks.
❖ NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have been working on a gun law package including “a restrictive ban on assault weapons”, which they expect to vote on next week. Cuomo summed up: “‘No one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer. End the madness now.’”
❖ CO Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, is also calling for better gun regulations, including universal background checks for all gun sales.
❖ 100+ scientists signed a letter to Vice-President Biden stating “Research restrictions pushed by the National Rifle Association have stopped the United States from finding solutions to firearms violence”.
❖The California State Teachers’ Retirement System intends to sell its investment in gun manufacturers who refuse to halt production of guns that are illegal under CA law.
❖ Tactical Response of TN offers “weapons and tactical training”. Its CEO has vowed on YouTube and Facebook to “start killing people” if President Obama undertakes gun control. Presumably he’s getting an official “tactical” response for those comments.
Health, Homelessness & Hunger
❖ A new report reveals the US is last in heath rankings compared to 17 other rich countries. Highest in deaths by violence, car accidents, child deaths by age 5, teen pregnancy rates, and deaths due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
❖ Boston Mayor Tom Menino has declared a public health emergency as flu cases reach 700 there. All residents are urged to get vaccinated.
❖ The US Food & Drug Administration is considering reclassifying Vicodin, the US’s most popular prescription drug, from Schedule III to the more restrictive Schedule II.
Women & Children
❖ WI Republican and House member Paul Ryan is co-sponsoring a “draconian new bill” that will severely restrict women’s reproductive freedoms and “classifies all embryonic tissue as a human life from the moment of fertilization.”
❖ Idle No More events are scheduled around the world for tomorrow, January 11th, when Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled to meet with First Nation chiefs, including Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence who is on a hunger strike. Interactive map of events.
❖ NY Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed the issue of marijuana possession in his speech yesterday, stating that among “his top priorities in 2013 will [be] decriminalization of marijuana possession.”
Planet Earth News
❖ Not at an epiphany, mind you, but Interior Secretary Ken Salazar apparently has an increased awareness, or “troubling sense”, that “so many things went wrong” with Shell’s Arctic oil rig, Kulluk. He’s awaiting results of an official inquiry. Meanwhile, environmentalists keep emphasizing that Arctic drilling impacts are ill-understood.
❖ The US Court of Appeals’ Second Circuit has ruled the Nuclear Regulatory Commission “must permit public participation in decisions about exempting nuclear power plants from federal regulations or explain to the public why it will not do so”.
❖ Those whales trapped under ice near Inukjuak, Quebec appear to have moved, apparently swimming six miles to open water as air and winds shifted. Fingers crossed. Video.
❖ Under President Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s Legislature approved new financial sector taxes to finance a “Human Development Bond”. Watch the banksters react.
❖ In February, the US Federal Communications Commission will make available ”195 megahertz of new spectrum in the 5GhZ block . . . the largest to be freed for WiFi since 2003″.
❖ WTF? IBM’s Watson was fed the entire Urban Dictionary and began using the words. Many were bad words so the clever 35 humans in charge eventually developed a filter to prohibit Watson from swearing–then deleted the entire Dictionary from Watson’s memory.