With a fond adieu to February:

International Developments

US Secretary of State John Kerry has “pledged an additional $60 million in aid to Syrian opposition forces”.

International  Finance

❖ “Spain falls further into recession as GDP plunges by 0.8%”.

❖ “European Union officials have struck a provisional deal on new financial rules, including capping bank bonuses.”  Sorta–the cap “can rise to two years pay if there is explicit approval from shareholders.”

❖ David Boies and Ted Olson of Bush v Gore Supreme Court fame are again crossing legal swords, this time over Argentina’s bond payment dispute.  Olson is representing Elliott Capital Management which had Argentina’s ship Libertad seized in Ghana.

Money Matters USA

J.C. Penney’s reported “a startling fourth-quarter loss of $2.51 a share”–quite a bit more than the 24-cents forecast.

Wal-Mart’s having problems restocking its shelves at the same time that its sales are slowing.

Kohl’s Corp.’s 4th-quarter net income dropped 17%.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA):  “More than 100 oil and gas producers . . . [have been drilling] “in federal waters without paying . . . any [or just some] royalties”.  They include Chevon (approximately $1.49b), BP, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips.

Occupy Homes MN, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change and others gathered for a 200-person march on Minneapolis’ Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, demanding that a house the community cleaned up for a single mother and her children be donated to the community.

❖ From a Brandeis University study:  “The wealth gap between white and African-American households almost tripled within the past 25 years”, resulting in a $85,000 – $236,500 disparity during that time (based on 2009 dollars).

Politics USA

❖ Registered voters were asked “their preferences among three Congressional plans floated to avoid” the sequester cuts–but none of the plans was identified as coming from any party.  Result:  “policies most favorable to the majority were those offered by the progressive wing of the Democratic caucus.

❖ Who to blame?  ”These six senators [Patty Murray (D-WA), John Kyl (R-AZ), Max Baucus (D-MT), Rob Portman (R-OH), John Kerry (D-MA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA)] from both parties, along wth six member of the House of Representatives, are the people to blame for the sequestration cuts”.   Or President Obama:  Obama has always planned to slash spending.  Regardless of who’s to blame, DDay on what it’ll look like.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had a Congressional Research Service report pulled, which “found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth”, that “reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth.”

43% of Republicans think the Olive Garden is a “quality source of authentic ethnic food”;  41% of Democrats did not.

❖ “Drug testing of lawmakers added to Kansas bill . . . [requiring] drug tests of any welfare or unemployment recipient who state officials reasonably suspect is using illegal substances.” A proposal that didn’t make it would have added “state-assisted company owners”.

❖ GOPers in the House, after their hissy-fit theatrics over the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization, did approve it–including protections for LGTB, undocumented workers and Native Americans.  Although he led the attack on VAWA because he has issues with Native Americans and justice, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) has announced he’s going to attend the Selma march led by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) this weekend.

Gun Corner

❖ “35 Mass Killers Carried Assault Weapons and High-Capacity Magazines”.  They used 143 weapons.  The Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 would have outlawed 62 of those weapons.

Justice USA

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), revered Civil Rights Movement leader, has responded to Justice Antonin Scalia’s outrageous statement about the Voting Rights Act renewal being “a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement”.  Video.

❖ “Chief Justice Roberts’ Long War Against the Voting Rights Act”.  He’s been at it for 30 years.

❖ In 2010, the Justice Dept. “charged five ex-Blackwater executives with violating U.S. firearms laws, filing false statements and obstructing justice.”  Last week, the justice Dept. dropped all charges against 3 defendants and agreed to “three years probation, four months of house arrest and a $5,000 fine” against the other two.

John Kiriakou, former CIA officer, began serving his 30-month sentence for “identifying a covert agent” who took part in waterboarding Abu Zubaydah 83 times.  Emptywheel has more, and more.

Massey Energy former executive has “implicated the company’s chief executive officer in safety violations as he pleaded guilty . . . to [federal conspiracy] charges” in the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine that killed 29 men.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

80 tuberculosis cases identified in Los Angeles, 11 deaths, 4,500+ suspected exposed.  The strain in Los Angeles seems to be unique.  Scientists from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention are on the scene.

❖ Autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia “have common risk factors in flaws on Chromosomes 2 and 10 and in two genes that help regulate the flow of calcium in brain cells”.

Planet Earth News

By 2015, American Electric Power will stop using coal at its IN, OH and KY plants, replacing them with wind and solar installations in IN and MI.  They’ll also “spend $5 billion to install pollution controls on other plants”.

WI Gov. Scott Walker (R) may soon sign a prized piece of Republican legislation that will “help Gogebic Taconite dig an open-pit mine in the Penokee Hills just south of Lake Superior”.

❖ Yay! “Barge traffic bounces back as Mississippi River rises, ending worries about shipping shutdown”.

❖ Good grief!  The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to Sea Shepherd:  “you are, without  doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be.”

The Japanese government may be urging residents to stay indoors due to toxic smog from China.

Mixed Bag

Tom Tomorrow has won the 2013 Herblock Prize.  His latest: “The Time is always NOW: The Bowles Simpson Approach”

❖ “Meet the scientific accident that could change the world”–charge your smart phone “in a couple of seconds, or an electric car in a minute”.

❖ What’s going on up yonder?  NASA has “spied a third . . . band of radiation”.

Break Time

Stuck.