Good evening.

International Developments

Protests continue in Egypt, despite President Mohammed Morsi’s call for “dialogue” and declaring a state of emergency in Cairo, Port Said, and Ismailia.  Update:  Egypt’s Defense Minister has warned the government could collapse.

The US military plans “a drone base in northwest Africa . . . [to] increase surveillance”  on local al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.  Specifically, in Niger, near the Mali border.

❖ “The bodies of dozens of young men, all apparently summarily executed, have been found in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, rebels and activists say.”  65 bodies, maybe more.

❖ US President Obama announced $155 million in relief funds for Syrians.

❖ The UK is joining in, sending 330 military personnel to Mali and West Africa.  The French, now in Timbuktu, have set their sights on Kidal.  Meanwhile, Japan and several other countries have pledged a total of $450 million towards the French effort.

Canada’s Stephen Harper has:  right wing, fundamentalist, Neo-con influences; involvement with the international mining industry, particularly active in Africa and Latin America; promoted tarsands development and expansion domestically.  Where’s the criticism?

International Finance

❖ “Iceland’s Lessons on How to Fix a Bank Crisis”.  Video.

Greece’s Finance Minister is very grateful for the “huge slice of bailout money” Greece got late last year:  ”There is definitely a glimmer of hope; light at the end of the tunnel” (no mention of an on-coming train)  and very little probability that Greece will leave the eurozone.

❖  Strikes in Greece–the transport workers are ending their strike, but power workers are planning a 24-hour walkout in support, and Greek farmers are threatening a blockade (see the 5:24 pm entry).

Money Matters USA

❖  According to a federal judge, the Internal Revenue Service may “require [Swiss bank UBS] to produce records about U.S. taxpayers who may hold bank accounts in Switzerland to evade . . . federal income taxes.”

❖  “Sherrod Brown and Chuck Grassley Watch Frontline, Too”–Emptywheel covers questions Brown (D-OH) and Grassley (R-IA) sent to Eric Holder, head of the Department of Justice, regarding the banksters.  Good questions.  Chances of good answers?

❖  Data for November, 2012 confirm that the US housing market recovery is on the rebound.

❖ What a deal: A “multi-billion dollar settlement” was reached last July between Visa, MasterCard and nine major banks for “swipe fees” imposed on merchants.  But, the deal was on for only eight months and gave merchants the right to impose a surcharge (1.5 – 3%) afterward. Only 10 states–NY, CA and TX among them–won’t allow the new fee.

Interview:”Timothy Geithner on Populist, Paul Ryan, and His Legacy”.  Nathan Tankus: Geithner Finally Leaves Treasury, Blurts a Whole Series of Lies on His Way Out”.

❖  In December, the US consumer confidence was at 66.7.  It’s now at 58.6.

Politics USA

A man who thinks the Constitution is “dead, dead, dead” is serving on the US Supreme Court.

John Kerry’s nomination to Secretary of State has been confirmed by the Senate.

❖ Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says he’ll block Chuck Hagel (R-NE)’s nomination for Secretary of Defense unless current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “testifies before Congress on last year’s attacks in Benghazi, Libya.” Graham’s said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “got away with murder” on the Benghazi matter.

Ray LaHood, US Transportation Secretary, has resigned.

❖ “The Senate Immigration Plan Isn’t Terrible–It’s Just Unworkable”. Why? ”It places conditions it’s unlikely to meet, and then further compounds the problem by putting a veto in the hands of people who are likely to oppose” it.

Republican leadership is now pro-immigration reform, but many constituents are still vociferously anti-amnesty. Can Republican leaders “neutralize the word”? Representative Lou Barletta (R-PA) is having none of it.  Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is using the issue  to advocate  “weaponizing the border”.

❖ “Republicans Urge Party to Become More Open, Ignore Major Newspapers”.

❖ At last, the Senate has approved the remaining $50.5 billion aid for Superstorm Sandy victims–62-36.  Here are the “31 Senate Republicans [who] Opposed Sandy Relief After Supporting Disaster Aid for Home States”.

Latest fad among Republican governors–sponsored by ALEC–are “tax schemes that raise taxes on the poor to fund tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.” It’s happening in LA, VA, KS and NE.  It’s being talked about by NC Republicans as well.

MI Republicans are joining the on-going fad of tying electoral votes to individual districts rather than to the statewide vote as traditionally done.  OH Republican leadership says they’re not interested.

❖ That Republican female  in NV who tried to vote twice in the 2012 election to prove that it was easy to do–and who got busted for her effort–has been fined $2,500 and made to “promise to stay out of trouble.”

TX Republican Gov. Rick Perry on a downswing: 54% of TX voters disapprove of his job performance, 62% don’t think he should run for governor again and 66% said he shouldn’t run for president again, either.

AR ex-Lieutenant Gov. Bill Halter  (D) intends to run for governor in 2014.

Gun Corner

Dick “Dick”  Cheney, who shot a friend in the face, opines on gun control.

Conservative website has published the NRA’s enemies list–organizations, individuals, and  Big Biz.

Aaron Blake of the WaPo brings the bad news:  “Why the assault weapons ban is (probably) going nowhere”.  Ends on a rather cynical note.

❖ The Senate Judiciary Committee has a gun violence hearing scheduled for Wednesday.  Wayne (LaPierre, not John) will be there (copy of his testimony at the link).

Women & Children

Women’s War Daily Parts I and II (do not miss II).  (Scroll down.)

Education Directions

❖ One of Chicago Mayor Rahmbo’s prized charter schools, Noble Network of Charter Schools, has fined an unemployed mother of a student $3,000 because of her son’s misbehavior at school.  Over three years, Noble Network  has collected $390,000 in disciplinary fines “from low-income” students and families. Video.

❖ In a Cary Grove, IL,  school there’ll be a  “code red drill” tomorrow, during which blanks will be shot from a gun in a hallway”.   As a parent said, “They run fire drills all the time, but they don’t run up and down the hallway with a flamethrower.”

Planet Earth News

❖ “BP . . . Pleads Guilty [to Felony Manslaughter, Environmental Crimes and Obstruction of Congress], Is Sentenced to Pay Record $4 Billion for Crimes Surrounding Deepwater Horizon Incident.”

Australia’s military has “ramped up . . . its response to deadly floodwater” in the northeast.  Four are known dead and “tens of thousands . . . displaced or isolated”.

UK’s famous hedgehogs are in “sharp decline”.

Latin America

❖ A Guatemalan judge has ruled that Ex-President, Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, will be tried for genocide, specifically for killing 1,771 indigenous Mayans in 1982-83.  Read it and weep.

❖ Former Ecuadorean judge has sworn “that [for $500,000] . . . he illegally ghostwrote a judgment in which Chevron was ordered to pay $18.2 billion . . . for polluting the rain forest”.  A lawyer for the plaintiffs, impoverished indigenous residents of Lago Agrio, responded:  “disgraced former Ecuadorean judge . . . is being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by Chevron to make false allegations about the Ecuador trial court judgment.” This fight’s been going on for two decades now.

Break Time

How the sun sounds.