Good Evening!

International Developments

❖ The US government has spent $51billion on the Afghan security force–and nobody knows much at all about the force, including even its size.  Worse, the Inspector General in charge of auditing taxpayers’ dollars used in Afghanistan thinks data available “could be a sham”.

French forces in Mali have “not yet secured” Kidal, but around 1800 Chad soldiers have.  The Tuaregs did not want Malian troops, who are with the French, in Kidal since they have killed Tuareg civilians.  ”UN, European and African officials are meeting in Brussels to discuss how to finance and organise rebuilding Mali.”

❖ Those Islamist militant fighters who disappeared from northern Mali as the French and Malian troops advanced, may be hiding in the remote Tegharghar Mountains.

Canada is “taking very seriously’” the allegation that a Canadian was part of the Hezbollah cell responsible for the bus bombing in Bulgaria last July.

Polish authorities are dismayed that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will declassify documents related to an alleged CIA secret prison on Polish territory where some detainees may have been tortured.”  Such detainees include Saudi national Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri who has filed a complaint.

International Finance

❖  “The elements of the EU’s long-term budget that have been touted for their ability to deliver economic growth to a recession-plagued continent . . .”  Hmmm–”touted”, perhaps, though definitely not proven– but moving right along, here’s the rest of the sentence: those touted elements “look the most vulnerable as member states try to close a deal this week.” They’re going to hack away at their Growth & Competitiveness budget.

❖ “The head of Royal Bank of Scotland’s . . . investment banking arm is to step down over the Libor scandal”.

Swiss bank UBS “has cut into its investment bankers’ bonuses to recoup a large part of its $1.5bn Libor fine.

Money Matters USA

❖ Unemployment in the US has been above 7.5% for six consecutive years now–the first time that’s happened in “over 70 years.”

Jim O’Neill, chair of “Goldman Sachs’ struggling asset management arm”, is also retiring.

❖ The recent rush by investors to grab real estate, and builders’ inability to keep up with demand, are resulting in an extreme housing market with homes being sold within two weeks.

❖ In 2011, state governments lost $39.8billion in taxes due to offshore tax havens.  Here’s the report, including actions states can take since Washington won’t.

❖ The deficit for 2013 should come in at $845b, “the first time … a deficit below $1 trillion [has been forecast] under President Obama.”  Projection for 2014 is $430b.  Unfortunately, focusing on the deficit has led to Austerity-USA with predictable results–”fewer people working and slower growth.”  At this pace, recovery is now forecast for “the end of 2017″.

❖ Yesterday the US sued Standard & Poor’s over its ratings of mortgage-backed securities; today, CA’s Attorney General sued S&P for “‘intentionally corrupted’ ratings” which cost the state’s major pension funds $1.36bn.

Politics USA

❖ “What the White House Hasn’t Said About Drones” and will those questions be raised and addressed when John Brennan, who should know more about the drone program than most anyone, appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee?

House Republicans are seeking some middle ground between mass deportations and a “path to citizenship”.  Seems a bit like limbo at this point.

Will former WA governor Chris Gregoire (D) be nominated to head up the Environmental Protection Agency or, perhaps, the Dept of the Interior?

Despite a constitutional amendment approved by voters to prohibit “lawmakers from drawing districts that favor any political party”, a new lawsuit alleges that some FL Republicans did just that.

❖ Never mind that “voting-eligible minorities, the elderly, students and poor people” would be adversely affected, VA’s Republican-dominated senate has restricted further the types of IDs people can use in order to vote.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) has distinguished himself as “one of the most corrupt members of Congress”, according to CREW.

❖ Oh, noooos.  Tagg Romney will not run for the US Senate–”The timing is not right for  me.”

Gun Corner

George Zimmerman wanted a delay in his trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin, but a Seminole County, FL judge denied the motion.

CO Democrats were planning on legislation holding gun manufacturers “liable for damage inflicted with the guns they produce”.   A “federal law passed in 2005 . . . prevents” that.

39% of those polled by Public Policy Polling wouldn’t take too kindly to an NRA-approved candidate, and 26% would.  32% said an NRA endorsement would make no difference.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

How the Affordable Care Act will affect health care spending, according to the CBO:  1) some three million people will no longer have employer-based health insurance and instead will use a publicly-subsidized option; 2) Medicare and Medicaid spending by 2020 will be $200b less; and 3) employers, not individuals, will pay more in fines for not providing health insurance.

FL’s going to privatize Medicaid-covered long-term care–with the federal government’s blessing.

Gov. Tom Corbett (R) says PA will not participate in the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Women & Children

Which Senators voted against advancing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act?  Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Tim Scott (R-SC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Rand Paul (R-KY0, Pat Roberts (R-KS) and James Risch (R-ID).

❖ Chart showing abortion restrictions by state.

Working for A Living

Bloom Energy, a CA tech company with Gen. Colin Powell on its board, has been ordered by the US Dept of Labor to pay 14 Mexican nationals $60,000 in back wages–what they would have been paid under federal minimum wage instead of the $2.66/hour Bloom was giving them.

Planet Earth News

Why the inertia in Washington, DC on the urgent matter of global warming?  Republicans–including those who don’t “believe” scientific findings–in the House,  and Democrats–nervous about being re-elected–in the Senate.  Perhaps the latter might be willing to shift from ego-centric to eco-centric if they perused this report.

❖ Well, well.  BP  is now being sued for $34bn “from local and southern state governments, including Louisiana and Mississippi, hit hard by pollution following 2010 blowout” at Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf.

❖ How long can fracking go on?  In TX and southern NM, fracking is consuming huge quantities of water–in areas where there isn’t any–and requires horizontal drilling which can cost too much.

Stanford researchers have developed a new tool that helps scientists more accurately measure and map thawing permafrost,  major source of climate-warming methane.

Latin America

Seven US Congress members wrote a letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos “expressing concern over threats faced by Colombian land rights leaders.” They are: Henry “Hank” Johnson (D-GA)j, James McGovern (D-MA), George Miller (D-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) and Barbara Lee (D-CA).

Mixed Bag

❖ In honor of her 100th birthday, the US Postal Service unveiled its Rosa Parks Courage commemorative stamp.

❖  Scientists report successful printing of “3D objects using human embryonic stem cells”.  Print out a new liver!  Let test lab animals run free!

Break Time

❖  Busy beavers.