Good evening!

International Developments

Islamist fundamentalist militants who were fighting in Mali have simply disappeared, despite thorough border checks.  ”French jets bomb northern Mali”, trying to secure Kidal.

Destruction of the famous library at Timbuktu might not have been as widespread as initially feared.

Rwanda and Uganda are destabilizing the east part of the Congo.  A proposed accord between eight African countries and the UN to provide intervention just fell apart. Also, French military activity in Africa has increased and the US is now involved in 35 African countries.

Moaz al-Khalib,  ”head of Syria’s main opposition coalition” met with Russia’s foreign minister in Munich recently and has now been invited to Russia.  Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “has accused Israel of trying to ‘destabilise’ his country.”

Vice-President Joe Biden said the “US can talk to Tehran over alleged nuclear programme if Iran gets serious.”  Iran replied “it welcomes a US offer of bilateral nuclear talks”–so long as they are “authentic.”

Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of Defense,  and David Petraeus, former CIA Director, proposed arming and training Syrian rebels last summer, but the White House rejected their plans.  Update: **crickets**.

Egypt’s hated police dragged a poor naked man in a street during a protest in  Cairo, and beat him severely.  The man was on national teevee a while later and “accused protesters, not security forces, of assaulting him.”

❖ That Italian trial of a “former CIA station chief and two other Americans” is reinvigorated, with a Milan appeals court convicting them for “the 2003 abduction of an Egyptian terror suspect . . . as part of the CIA’s extraordinary  rendition program.”

International Finance

❖ The UK’s Financial Services Authority and Serious Fraud Office are investigating whether Barclays “loaned Qatar money to invest in the bank as part of its rescue fundraising” during the  2008 financial crisis.  Barclay’s finance director has just resigned.

❖ In response to reports about shady money deals, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says he has “never received nor distributed undeclared money”–and  he will not resign.

❖ UK Chancellor George Osborne to the Royal Bank of Scotland: “give up [your] bonuses to pay international fines imposed for the Libor rate-rigging scandal”.   RBS “is set to pay more than £500m to US and UK authorities.

❖ A strike by Greek seamen has been extended, leaving “dozens of islands” out of reach of the mainland.  “Farmers also briefly disrupted traffic on major motorways”.  Both actions are in protest of austerity.

Land-grabbing by the government, heavy-handed taking of land from the poor, continues unabated in Burma.

Money Matters USA

ACA’s lawsuit against Goldman Sachs, claiming Goldman and Paulson & Co “tricked” ACA into insuring a $2bn bond deal, is back on.

❖ “[H]edge funds and private equity vehicles” have jumped into the housing market–planning to rent their houses for the near-term and unload  them  as soon as selling prices rise.

Paul Krugman:  “we’ve spent one year discussing the [economic] crisis, four times, with the discussion starting up each year as if nobody can remember or learn from what went before”.

Politics USA

❖ Unprecedented budgetary demands were placed on the US Postal Service in the mid-2000s, threatening its survivability.  It was made to pay, in advance, huge sums to the Postal Service Health Benefits Fund.  In FFY 2012, the USPS ended up with “almost $16billion worth of red ink”–$11billion of which was due to that one requirement.  Alert: Politicians now want to “fix” it.

❖ Who couldda predicted?  “After Harry Reid’s filibuster reform concession, Senate Republicans immediately threatened to use the filibuster . . .  to shut down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship:   “Obama channels George W. Bush in CIA pick:  John Brennan’s been a key player in the president’s possibly illegal drone attacks.  Now he’s up for promotion”.  Emptywheel on Brennan and  torture, and   more articles.

Al Gore on the “problem with politicians“.  While democracy has been “hacked”, Gore thinks “the internet provides a means to rekindle democracy and purge it of corporate influence”.

KKKKarl is setting his sights on the next election.  His latest, the  Conservative Victory Project, “is designed to prevent Tea Party-endorsed candidates from winning Senate primaries.”

33-year Republican and Chair of the Smith County, TX Republican party has quit, saying his party is “beyond repair.”

NE Lieutenant Gov. Rick Sheehy (R) “abruptly” left his post yesterday.  He’d “made thousands of improper calls to four women over the last four years on his state-issued cell phone.”

Gun Corner

❖ Since 1997, the UK has had “very tough gun control”.  Results:  Criminals “have a hard time getting guns”;   “Most gun crime” involves “less than 1,000 illegal weapons still in circulation; etc.

In 2010, 60% of all US gun deaths were suicides, outnumbering homicides by guns 19,392 to 11,078.  People in “high-gun states” are just as likely to experience depression and suicidal thoughts as those living in “low-gun states”, yet the high-gun states had “almost as twice as many suicides”.

Top sniper in the military, Iraq veteran, “decorated for bravery’, went to a shooting range in Erath County, TX yesterday, where he was shot to death.

Women & Children

Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani teenager who was almost killed by the Taliban as punishment for promoting education for girls, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  She is currently recovering from  restorative surgery.

Anti-abortion zealots in ND have ”undertaken an all-out assault on women’s constitutionally protected rights” by targeting the one abortion clinic still standing in the state.

❖ Islamist cleric in Saudi Arabia  rapes and tortures to death his 5-year-old daughter, is given a short jail sentence and ordered to pay the child’s mother “blood money”.  Another Saudi Arabian cleric has called for all female infants to wear burkas–to keep them from being sexually molested.  He’s being twitter-attacked!

Working for a Living

865 warehouse workers are due to receive “more than $1million in stolen wages”, per a ruling by the CA Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

Planet Earth News

❖ The Obama administration will not make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until “at least June”.

 Colorado’s oil and gas “top regulator”, behind a city council members’ closed doors,  argued against a proposed Ft. Collins ballot initiative for banning hydraulic fracturing.

The Ozone Hole is now healing,  has had an impact on westerly winds around Antarctica, which, in turn, have an impact on polar waters, which might be “reducing the amount of manmade carbon absorbed by sub-polar waters.”

There are “227 proposed solar projects” that should “generate enough electricity to meet 100 percent of California’s power needs on an average summer day”.  They’ll be taking quite a bite out of agricultural land.

Latin America

Bishop Erwin Krautler has a $540,000 bounty on his head “and even the largest newspaper in northern Brazil wrote that it was time to ‘eliminate’ him.”  Why?  The Belo Monte Dam (‘beautiful mountain”), or, as the people say, Belo Monte de Merde (“beautiful mountain of shit”).

Mixed Bag

Silvio Berlusconi has promised to abolish a “loathed property tax”–and refund the €4bn people paid in 2012, if his party wins the upcoming election.

Break Time

Eeeeek, a cat!