Good evening!

International Developments

❖ “The [Rumsfeld-era]  Pentagon sent a US veteran [James Steele] of the ‘dirty wars’ in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq”.  Results: secret detention and torture sites, “some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation, [accelerating] the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.”  Petraeus.  Wikileaks.

❖ “James Steele: America’s mystery man in Iraq”.

Final report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction:  “the U.S. has spent too much money in Iraq for too few results.”  $60 billion in reconstruction grants, $767 billion since the beginning (another estimate is $811 billion).  Typical list of outrageous Pentagon expenditures.

❖ “The ill-treatment of Palestinian minors held within the Israeli military detension system is ‘widespread, systematic and institutionalised,’” according to  UNICEF.

❖ “One million Syrian refugees. Intensifying violence and a huge gap in aid funding [impede helping] Syrian children.”

❖ “[Possibly 20] UN peacekeepers captured by Syrian rebels in Golan Heights.”

❖ “UK to send armoured vehicles to Syrian opposition . . . ‘to help save lives’”.

❖ “Tensions boil over in Egyptian port city: On Wednesday, Military police were deployed to Port Said, where demonstrators have been camped out for weeks”.

❖ “An Egyptian administrative court on Wednesday ordered the suspension of parliamentary elections scheduled to begin next month” due to “complaints  questioning the legality of the law organizing the elections.”

❖ “U.N. partially lifts arms embargo on Somalia for a year”, so they can purchase “light weapons to . . . fight al Qaeda-linked Islamists.”

❖ The story that won’t go away:  “[Israeli-Australia national] Prisoner X was working for Israeli government, Australia confirms; Evidence suggests Ben Zygier, who died in Israeli prison [in mysterious circumstances], worked for the Mossad”.

International Finance

❖ Retiring from the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King has called for the Royal Bank of Scotland “to be broken up.”

Microsoft has been fined $733 million by the European Union “for breaking a pledge to offer personal computer users a choice of Internet browsers”.

Money Matters USA

❖ It was just too difficult to build up any enthusiasm for yesterday’s news item about the Dow going over 14,000.  Robert Reich couldn’t either, and explains why.

Eric Holder, in under-oath testimony: “I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions [banks] becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them”.  If you can’t stand the heat . . .

Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. admitted it “likely” violated the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  While the Securities and Exchange Commission is  investigating, there are protests in Spain against his building a huge casino near Madrid.

❖ Nice kick to the teeth of the working person:  “Politicians backed by conservative group [ALEC] have introduced 67 laws in 25 states aimed at reducing minimum wage levels.”

❖ “FAA says 173 air traffic control towers will close on April 7.”

❖ No objection by the Dept of Justice, so the T-Mobile and MetroPCS merger is on.  Unions did object over fear of loss of jobs.

Politics USA

❖ Finally, an excuse:  “winter storm brings Washington to a halt.”

❖ This should be interesting:  “Holder says Obama plans to explain drone policy”.

❖ The Cave, developing:  “House Dems back down from strongly opposing GOP spending bill.”  Republican leaders are praising Obama for “reaching out directly to rank-and-file GOP lawmakers in an early effort to build momentum for a grand bargain”.  Obama’s even going to break bread with them at the White House.

❖ Piling on to block the nomination of James Brennan to head the CIA:  Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY),  Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Marco Rubio (D-FL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Pat Toomey (R-PA).

❖ Want to unlock your cellphone?  You may soon be able to since that seems to be one bandwagon most DC denizens like.  The bill.

8 former heads of the Drug Enforcement Agency to President Obama “crack down on . . . marijuana [legalization] in Oregon and  Washington.”  Rep Steve Cohen (D-TN) : “The federal government should concentrate on shutting down meth labs–not the laboratories of Democracy.”  More.

MD’s state senate has voted to repeal the death penalty. There are sufficient votes in the state house to pass it, apparently.

❖ Republicans are continuing to block the appointment of Caitlin Halligan for the US Court of Appeals, District of Columbia.

Women & Children

❖ To no one’s surprise, and to their shame, the AR state senate has overridden Gov. Mike Beebe (D)’s veto of a bill banning abortion “at 12 weeks of pregnancy”.  Now they’re fighting over whether the law goes into effect immediately.

Heads Up!

❖ According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of “anti-government ‘patriot’ groups, including paramilitary hate organizations, reached an all-time high in 2012.”  Report is here.

❖ The ACLU is undertaking “a nationwide campaign to assess police militarization in the United States.”  They’re sending “open records requests to hundreds of state and local police agencies”, concentrating on SWAT teams and drones, GPS devices, military equipment, etc.

❖ Was the “SCOTUS-Backed Surveillance Law Built on a Bush-Era Lie”?

Planet Earth News

❖ Wonderful video:  “Ron Finley: A guerilla gardener in South Central LA”.  Bravo!

❖ “Deutsche Bank just released new analyses concluding that global solar market will become sustainable on its own terms by the end of 2014, no longer needing subsidies to continue performing.”

❖ “Conoco Phillips CEO Ryan Lance gave a positive review to Ernest Moniz [the MIT physicist] that President Obama is nominating to run the Energy Department.”

Latin America

Rep Jose Serrano (D-NY):  “Hugo Chavez was a leader that understood the needs of the poor.  He was committed to empowering the powerless.  R.I.P. Mr. President.”

❖ “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle: The Venezuelan leader was often marginalized as a radical.  But his brand of socialism achieved real economic gains.”

Profile of  Nicolas Madura, the “preferred successor” of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Mixed Bag

Giant camels in the Arctic.

Yawns.

Pan-STARRS, revealed.

Break Time

The City of New Orleans