Good evening!

International Developments

❖ “France backs plan for UN peacekeeping force in Mali: Defence minister says France would play role in UN force as troops capture airport in last rebel-held town [Kidal]“. No surprise: “Mali rebels hide as French troops drive past–then return”. Issue:  “It might be best if Africa’s former rule[r]s refrained from intervening, but who would respond to Mali’s cries for help otherwise?”

Informative report highlights: “Egypt is in revolt”,  ”is ungovernable”; police have lost control in Port Said, Suez, Ismailia; “State of Emergency” was a despised tool used by former President Hosni Mubarak, and now by President Mohammed Morsi.

❖ Scenes from the hell that is Damascus today.

❖ “Israel faces repercussions of air strike on Syria: Jewish state maintains its traditional silence in the face of accusations that it violated Syria’s sovereign territory”. Syria has formally complained to the UN.

❖ “The Myths of America’s Shadow War: Taking covert action is far less clean–and much more complex–than many assume.” After exposing 12 myths, the article concludes with four questions former CIA Director William Webster used when deliberating covert action.  They seem almost quaint today.

International Finance

Has the US been buying Iranian oil for the Afghan army?

❖ “Pakistan to build $1.5bn Iran pipeline”.  This “essential pipeline” cannot be delayed, according to a Pakistani official, regardless of “stiff US opposition”.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is now entangled in that country’s growing corruption scandal.

❖  The “IMF loves telling client states to shrink spending and government overall, and they are particularly keen on cutting social safety nets”–and more from  a new paper by Mark Weisbrot and Helene Jorgensen of CEPR.

Lord Nigel Lawson, former UK Chancellor: fully nationalize the Royal Bank of Scotland; don’t be concerned about “‘losing star performers’ if bonuses were cut” since they are “not particularly impressive individuals [and] all of them easily replaced”; etc.

Money Matters USA

More on Lanny Breuer‘s parsimonious approach to  prosecuting major, complex financial fraud while he was at the US Dept of Justice.  Too big too fail defense was used, a dark day in the rule of law.  Interview with  Dimitri Lascaris, expert in US-Canadian securities class action suits.

❖ “Unemployment claims rise as fragile US jobs market takes hit: Jobless claims increaed by 38,000 to 368,000 last week–more than forecasters expected and the largest rise since November”.

44% of US households are unable to “keep themselves out of poverty for more than three months in the event of a financial shock such as a lost job or medical emergency”.

❖ The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation which insures pension plans is expected to “run out of cash in 20 years”.  The PBGC lacks clout to make employers “pay their fair share of premiums.”  Will Washington correct this situation or leave it to the same fate many seem to want for Social Security, the Post Office, etc.?

❖ Standard & Poor’s has upgraded CA’s rating from A- to A.

Politics USA 

❖ Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel’s appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee hasn’t brought out the best in everyone.  Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX)Lindsey Graham (R-SC),  Roger Wicker (R-MS), and John McCain (R-AZ) all got in their licks. (Videos)

❖ Is former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) considering a come-back?

Where does Koch money go?  $4.5m to George Mason University Foundation (its Institute for Humane Studies got $3.7m), $150,000 to ALEC, $350,000 to the Bill of Rights Institute, $260,000 to the Federalist Society and so on.

Sean Hannity of Fox News said waterboarding is not torture and boasted he’d submit to it “at a charity event” to benefit families of soldiers.  ThinkProgress asked about that promise recently during an appearance on Hannity’s radio show.  Hannity’s “displeasure was palpable”.

Gun Corner

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) shies away from Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA)’s assault weapons ban.

❖ “I think video games is [sic] a bigger problem than guns”, sez Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

Anti-federal gun control legislation by state and stage of development. 20 states so far.

❖ The woman who testified at the Senate gun violence hearing that young mothers need assault weapons to protect their babies, opposed the Violence Against Women Act.  She’s with The Independent Women’s Forum, founded in 1992 by women organized to protect Clarence Thomas from Anita Hill.  Interesting lists in their “Profiles” section, btw.

Can’t buy more than three boxes of ammo at Walmart now. Demand’s outstripping supply.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

❖ The US Treasury Dept and Dept of Health & Human Services have released proposed Affordable Care Act regulations, including exemptions from the individual mandate.   Here is their “Fact Sheet on Proposed Affordable Care Act Regulations“.

Education Directions

Jeb Bush “is working with public officials in states to write education laws that could benefit some . . . corporate funders.” Thousands of emails between the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and Jeb’s very own Chiefs for Change (“former state education commissioners”) have been leaked.  Much to do with siphoning off tax dollars for private enterprises. They are active in FL, LA, ME, NM, OK and RI. More.

600+ TX school districts sued the state, “claiming financial support by the state Legislature is inadequate and unfairly distributed”.  Charter schools are joining in, seeing this as an opportunity to get more funding.  A decision is expected very soon.

NC Republican Gov. Paul McCrory, who received a teaching certificate 30 years ago but has never taught in a classroom, wants to cut even more out of the state’s public education system budget, which has been reduced by $1billion over the past several years.

Working for A Living

❖ “The Judicial Assault on Unions:  Behind the recent appeals court ruling that has Republicans and big business elated”.

❖ Daimler Trucks may lay off 1,300 NC workers.

❖ ”45,800 Ford workers to get record $8,300 profit-sharing checks”.

Cablevision management may have an “open door” policy, but when 70 workers “tried to speak to a vice president” about their first-contract bargaining, some were fired.

Planet Earth News

Levels of PM 2.5 (very dangerous particulates) in Beijing were over 500 recently. The level of PM 2.5 particulates in New Delhi was over 400 today.  While Beijing is taking some steps to address the problem, “Delhi’s government has made no announcements . . . nor introduced any emergency measures.”

❖   The deforestation rate in Brazil’s Amazon region has fallen almost 80% since 2004 while the economy has grown at 40%. Nonetheless, cattle ranching, infrastructure development, commercial farming and logging, continue to threaten the rainforest.

Latin America

China is planning to build a huge $180m “Dragon Mart” in Cancun, Mexico.  With one month left before  scheduled groundbreaking, there are “loud objections from an odd alliance of Mexican environmentalists . . .  and business interests.”

❖ An “independent expert . . . expressed grave concern” to the UN “over the decision by the Honduran Congress to dismiss four Supreme Court judges”.

Mixed Bag

❖ Those ancient Paiute-Shoshone petroglyphs crudely chiseled from the eastern Sierra last October have been found, thanks to a tip made to the US Bureau of Land Management.

❖ This storm went all the way around the planet, caught up with itself, and fizzled.

Uranus got a one-two punch (eons ago).

Break Time

Moonbows