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International Developments

US Vice-President Joe Biden rattled swords today, saying “President Barack Obama isn’t bluffing when he says he’ll use military action if ultimately necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”  He  assured AIPAC, “‘You’re going to be happy’ with new Secretary of State John Kerry.”

❖ “Nuclear watchdog agency says Iran not cooperating . . . making it difficult . . . to provide ‘credible assurance’ that the country doesn’t possess undeclared nuclear material”.

❖ “At least 40 Syrian soldiers and several Iraqis have been killed in western Iraq”.

❖ Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien: ”I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.”

International Finance

❖ “Anger builds in Italy as old guard plots fresh technocrat take-over . . . to break the political log-jam and calm markets after key parties failed to reach an accord.”  However,  ”Europe’s young have grown increasingly furious as the euro crisis has robbed them of a future. . . . They are talking about empowering Italians . . . and they want to know how their tax money is being spent.” Wow.

❖ Uh-oh:  “Greece, creditors to discuss public sector layoffs.”  More ominously, according to anonymous sources, “the creditors insist civil servant layoffs are needed . . . [and] would like to see progress in privatizations and tax collection.”

❖ “200 HSBC staff paid . . . £1m+ in 2012″ while profits fell to £13bn.

❖ “China becomes world’s top oil importer”.

Money Matters USA

❖ “The nation’s biggest banks wrongfully foreclosed on more than 700 military members during the housing crisis and seized homes from roughly two dozen other borrowers who were current on their mortgage payments.”  Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, etc.  Surely the feds will be right on top of this.

❖ Krugman:  how public programs such as Medicaid are really  ok so “long as the spending ends up lining the right pockets, and the undeserving beneficiaries of public largess are politically connected corporations” and insurance companies.

❖ When there’s a crash, we all crash together.  “But when the economy recovers, we don’t recover together. Corporations rack up historic profits”.  Here’s how “Corporate Profits Are Eating the Economy.”

❖ “In all, more than $65 billion [tax-exempt bonds] have been issued by state and local governments on behalf of corporations since 2003″ with Chevon being the “single biggest beneficiary of such securities.  Chevron 2012 profit = $26 billion.

❖ “A crackdown on businesses that treat some workers as independent contractors is causing a stir in industries from trucking to exotic dancing.”  Are they so classified “to avoid paying overtime and payroll taxes”?

Politics USA

❖ Is he going to do The Cave?   “Obama renews budget offer to cut social safety nets”.

Republicans, too, do The Cave:  “Not All Crises Are Manufactured Equally”.

❖ President Obama has nominated “MIT scientist Ernest Moniz to head the Energy Department and EPA veteran Gina McCarthy to run the environmental agency.”  Both seem able to straddle a broad divide (see next two items).

❖ Obama nominee for Secretary of the US Energy Dept, Ernest Moniz from MIT is  “in favor of nuclear power, research into carbon capture and storage for coal, renewable energy and shale gas produced by hydraulic fracturing.”  He is “alarmed about climate change and devoted to funding scientific research into low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuel.”  MIT’s Energy Initiative was heavily funded by “major oil and gas companies”.

❖ Obama nominee to head up the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, is  “square on the side of fighting climate change through sometimes aggressive policy-making”, she’s “liked by environmental groups . . . [and is] less polarizing . . . [and] an experienced regulator.”  Nonetheless, she “has a history of climate action, but also a history of supporting natural gas and oil drilling”.  Video.

❖ “President Barack Obama will nominate Walmart Foundation head Sylvia Mathews Burwell to direct the Office of Management and Budget”.  Burwell was deputy director of the OMB under President Bill Clinton.  She’s on MetLife’s Board of Directors  and  Pete Peterson’s Advisory Board (click on her MetLife entry for details).  More interesting connections.

❖ Fascinating study shows “all legislators consistently believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are . . . [with] conservative legislators generally overestimat[ing] the conservatism of their constituents by 20 points.”  The fun begins on p. 16.

IA Gov.  Terry Brandstad (R) compares Medicaid use to an open bar.

Jeb Bush is backing off the “Path to Citizenship” trial balloon he launched a few weeks ago.

Air traffic controller errors are increasing, sharply.

Mark “Appalachian Trail” Sanford (R-SC) expected his ex-wife to serve as campaign manager for his run for the US House.  She had a few choice words in response.

❖ Someone wearing “KKK-style hood and robe” appeared on OH’s Oberlin College campus “near the school’s  African Heritage House”,  the latest in “hate-related incidents on campus.”

Justice USA

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg won’t be retiring next year.  Article includes the “two-Mississippi rule” her clerks use.

❖ Good article on Myriad Genetics Corporation and patenting BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which “significantly increase a woman’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer.”

❖ Fight’s on!  “BP prolonged the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by two months by concealing the rate of oil flowing from the broken Macondo well, Transocean claims in a document filed in the damages trial.”

Women & Children

❖ Oh, noooos.  Cutting $73 million in TX family planning funds has resulted in a projected 20,000+ unplanned births “for women in poverty on Medicaid, at a $237 million cost to taxpayers.”  Noting that, some Republicans are proposing “an additional $100 million” be put into Community Primary Health.

Planet Earth News

Breathtaking graphic of North Dakota fracking sites.  More.

TX is considering building more reservoirs, even though they’re very expensive, and “more water evaporates out of some major West Texas reservoirs than people use.”

❖ “Some Leaders Souring on Nuclear Power Costs“.   They’re being hit on two sides–constructions costs are zooming while the natural gas price has plummeted.

Break Time

Good Bad & Ugly