Good evenin’, all.
❖ In Syria, fighting has reached Damascus now. Soldiers are sweeping though neighborhoods, making arrests, fighter jets are striking in Jobar, a suburb. Update: Rebels have seized the al-Furat dam, now have control of water and electricity “for much of the country”. Update: Syria has offered to send a minister to meet with the opposition Syrian National Coalition.
❖ French and Malian forces have retaken Gao following a “surprise attack by rebels”.
❖ “US Killed Hundreds of Children in Afghanistan, Says New [UN] Report–US Rejects Report”.
❖ “Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., a four-star Marine officer, took over the role of U.S. commander in Afghanistan Sunday”.
❖ Nine women administering polio vaccines to children in two separate locations in northern Nigeria have been shot dead. Some local Islamic clerics have been claiming the vaccines cause polio or cause infertility.
❖ Birgitta Jonsdottir, “member of the Wikileaks team that released secret footage of a US Apache helicopter attack on civilians in Iraq”, and a member of the Icelandic Parliament, intends to visit the US in April.
❖ Reporters Without Borders ranked Japan “53rd in the rankings of press freedom last year”, down from 22nd place, due to poor reporting during the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis.
❖ The EU is considering a “data protection and privacy law” that US companies–Google, Facebook, etc.–don’t like. EU Commissioner for Justice, Viviane Reding, says data protection “is clearly enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights”, although “this may not be the case in other parts of the world”.
❖ The death that won’t go away: “Doctors call for Dr. David Kelly inquest to resume . . . and the suicide verdict re-examined.” Dr. Kelly got caught up in the Iraq WMD mess.
❖ Barclays is going to cut some 2,000+ jobs as part of its £2bn “strategic overhaul”. This is part of the new CEO, Antony Jenkins’ plan to “reinvent Barclay’s ethical values”. Trading in food-based commodities and “aggressive tax avoidance” seem targeted.
Money Matters USA
❖ Larry Summers‘ wish list: Spread-out the scheduled sequester cuts; figure out a revenue-neutral way of bringing corporate cash home since they’re terrified of paying taxes; Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should step in and “support would-be lenders” so people will buy houses again; natural gas and the Keystone Pipeline are the way to go. Update on 1st point: “House Republicans Unlikely To Pass New Sequester Replacement Plan”.
❖ The US Secretary of Defense has announced “Extending Benefits to Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Military Members”.
❖ House Rep Rick Nolan (D-MN) “is introducing a constitutional amendment designed to overturn the Supreme Court’s  decision in the Citizens United case”.
❖ Planning for the Tea Party began over a decade ago, thanks to Big Tobacco and the billionaire Koch brothers.
❖ Roger Ailes intends to to attract more Hispanics,”a tremendous business opportunity”, to Fox News. Fox can show them “how opportunities exist”, and push anti-abortion and religious themes. Whether Fox can get them to forget Republicans’ record on immigration is another matter, however.
❖ KKKKarl continues to alienate the ‘wingers.
❖ Former FL Republican Party Chair Jim Greer pled guilty to five criminal charges, reducing his possible maximum sentence from 75 to 35 years.
❖ Out-of-control. Nevada state Assemblyman Steven Brooks (D) has again been arrested after allegedly attacking “a family member”.
❖ Yo Chicagoans! Experience “criminal damage to [your] property, vehicle thefts, garage burglaries, [etc., but] the suspect is no longer on the scene and [you're not] in immediate danger”? From now on the police won’t officially come to your rescue promptly; rather they’ll be on “patrol duties”.
❖ The National Rifle Association is simply waiting until the Newtown tragedy fades, then it’s back to business as usual.
❖ Not able to impeach President Obama, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX)’s invited Ted Nugent to the State of the Union instead.
❖ PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane is closing the “Florida loophole”, so gun permits state residents obtain from FL by mail will no longer be honored by PA police.
❖ Bunch of people showed up at the OR state capitol in Salem Friday, displaying their gun-wearing skills.
❖ If proposed legislation passes, CA “would ban the sale of all semiautomatic rifles that accept removable magazines, slap a hefty tax on ammo, and require every gun owner to take a yearly safety course”.
Health, Homelessness & Hunger
❖ One Wichita, KS homeless shelter reports three times as many elderly seeking refuge this year than last.
❖ “White House Rules Out Raising Medicare Eligibility Age”.
❖ We’re told that “sometime this week” Rep John Conyers (D-MI) will be introducing “The Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act”. He’s got over three dozen co-sponsors, needs more.
❖ A banner year: the US “recovered a record-high $4.2 billion related to healthcare fraud and abuse in fiscal year 2012.”
Planet Earth News
❖ “Two billionaire brothers who made a fortune in the fracking industry and have begun buying up eastern Montana, were the top donors to successful 2012 legislative candidates”. Not Kochs, but Wilks–Dan and Farris, of TX.
❖ Global “wind power capacity grew 20%” in 2012.
❖ “Colombian judge convicts ex-contractor in Drummond union leader killing”, sentences him to 38 years in prison. The judge “ordered prosecutors to investigate Drummond’s [AL] U.S.-based president and three . . . employees to determine whether they might also be responsible.”
❖ Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa is presiding over the invasion by Chinese and Canadian mega-mining firms of the Cordillera del Condor rain-forest, or ‘paradise’. The Shuar, who defied the Incas and the Spanish, say of the mining operations, “they will have to kill every one of us first.”
❖ The Archdiocese of Los Angeles used 88% of its cemetery maintenance fund (supported by families of the deceased) to help pay the $660m settlement to victims of priest sexual molestation.
❖ Video cams among penguins; great pics.