Hello.

International Developments

❖ “Five Americans from NATO-led foreign forces in Afghanistan have died in a helicopter crash” in Kandahar Province.”

❖ With the World Bank’s infusion of cash, an “international team of archaeologists and more than 550 local laborers are now frantically excavating” Mes Aynak,  ancient Buddhist city in Afghanistan.

❖ “Obama’s national security adviser [Tom Donilon] says China must end recent cyberespionage traced . . . back to that country or risk impacting relations with the U.S.”

❖ “Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered a review of a new medal for troops who operate drones and use other technological skills to fight America’s wars from afar.”

❖ “A court in Italy has ordered medical checks to be carried out on Silvio Berlusconi to verify that he cannot attend a trial due to health problems.”

International Finance

❖ “A woman has been jailed for 10 years for laundering about $860m in Hong Kong.”

❖ “60 of the largest U.S. corporations . . . ‘parked a total of $166 billion offshore last year”.  Nonetheless, “they all still expect Uncle Sam to come to their aid with military firepower in case the natives abroad get restless and nationalize their company’s assets.”

Money Matters USA

Richard Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau through a recess appointment, has been nominated as permanent director.  Republicans are gearing up for a fight over his nomination with the ultimate goal of gutting the agency.

Only “$787 million of the $92.5 billion lost to bank collapses between 2007-2012″ have been recovered by the FDIC.  Bankster misbehavior in those cases include a “catalog of fraud and negligence; reckless loans to homeowners and builders; falsified documents; inflated appraisals; lender refusals to buy back bad loans.”   This on top of FDIC’s failure to announce settlements made with the banks.

Those F-35s the Air Force is so fond of  will be costing taxpayers more than thought because the GAO’s draft report failed to include the cost of the engines–you know, those things which make the planes go.  Include everything and the total is $316bn each year through 2037.

❖ Some NC crooks have  ripped off  ”at least $100 million” from the USDA “program that insures crops.”  41 of those charged have “either pleaded guilty or reached plea agreements”.

❖ Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew’s swell $1.4million mortgage, given by New York University as part of his employment deal, is “the tip of the iceberg”.  One NYU Dean received a $1.3 million loan, which increased to $5.1 million.  Another had a $6.15 million apartment purchased by NYU.

81,000 jobs waiting to be filled in January, but no breakdown by full- and part-time status.

❖ “Nationally, renters needed to earn $18.79 per hour to spend less than 30% of their income on a two-bedroom home. That is significantly more than the $7.25 federal minimum wage.”

Politics USA

❖ According to a new poll, 48% of voters disapprove of Obama’s job performance; 62% think the country’s “headed the wrong way”;  68% disapprove of congressional Republicans’ job performance (62% of Democrats’).

House Budget Committee Chairperson, Paul Ryan (R-WI)’s  has presented his latest budget, a 91-page whopper.  Reviews coming in: here, here, here, here and here.

❖ “6 Things Americans Did Not Vote for in 2012″: Paul Ryan, Republican-controlled House, no more Medicare and no more Obamacare, Austerity and having the “Middle Class Footing the Bill”.

❖ “Colorado’s governor and legislature quietly agreed last year to pay millions to a private prison company[Corrections Corp. of America] for cells the state would not need.” At least $2 million is estimated to have been wasted; though it could be “far more.”

❖ Is Kevyn Orr, “lawyer who earned $1 million in fees for helping manage the Chrysler bankruptcy in 2009″, going to be the Emergency Manager for Detroit?

33% of voters polled approve the job PA Gov. Tom Corbett (R) is doing.  Better yet, he “lagged behind all five Democrats tested by PPP.”

James O’Keefe’s side-kick, Hannah Giles, “agreed to pay $50,000 to former San Diego ACORN worker Juan Carlos Vera” in settling Vera’s invasion of privacy lawsuit.  O’Keefe will be paying $100,000.  The irony: Giles pretended to be a prostitute when the two were setting up Vera.

Gun Corner

Traffic accidents take more lives than guns in the US, but a shift is occurring with 9 states already  having more deaths due to guns than traffic accidents.

❖ Yes!  Vice-President Joe Biden:  “‘Arm Teachers With Information, Not Guns’.”

The Senate  Judiciary Committee approved “enhance[d] background checks on prospective gun owners” and “improve[d] safety at schools” measures today.  A bill banning “157 types of military-style assault weapons” will be voted on  later this week.

Droning On

House Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Mike Honda (D-CA), Rush Holt (D-NJ) and James McGovern (D-MA) signed a letter to President Obama asking that he “release information regarding the Administration’s use of drone strikes.”

70,000 new US jobs in the “unmanned aircraft industry”?

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

❖ “They swap out bed pans, tend to wounds, and assist with every facet of day-to-day life . . .. They’re home health care aides, and they are a crucial resource in caring for America’s sick, elderly, and disabled — and they do it all for an average wage of $9.70 per hour”.

Paul Ryan’s various contradictions on Medicare cuts.

Women & Children

❖ “‘She didn’t affirmatively say no’: Silence means consent according to defense in [Steubenville] Ohio high school rape trial where passed out, drunken teenage girl was ‘sexually assaulted’ by multiple football players.”

Planet Earth News

❖ ”The cement pumped into the BP Macondo well. . . , was not given enough time to ‘set’ . . . before a negative pressure test was run that allowed oil and natural gas to travel up the drill pipe to the surface, where it exploded”.  BP employees “were the final decision makers” in the process.

Japan has extracted methane hydrate . . . from its seabed, possibly unlocking many years’ worth of gas for the resource-starved country.”

Mixed Bag

❖ Slurp on, New Yorkers!  “Judge Blocks New York City’s Limits on Big Sugary Drinks”.

 Break Time

❖ Pastorcita