Happy Spring!

International Developments

❖ ”Syrian rebels captured one village and parts of others on the edge of the Golan Heights [today] as fighting closed in on the strategic plateau”.  If this continues there’ll be “Islamic militants [on] a front-line with Israeli troops”.

❖ “Syria crisis: Mosque bomb ‘kills pro-government cleric”, “at least” 41 others,  in Damascus.

❖ “UN to probe alleged chemical weapons use in Syria.”  US:  Chemical weapons use unlikely.

❖ “US and Israel ‘share Iran goals‘”.  President Obama is “opening talks on extending US military aid [to Israel] beyond 2017″, and he’s “urged Palestinians to drop their demands for a freeze in Israeli settlement building as a precondition for peace talks.”

❖ “The jailed leader of Kurdish rebels fighting Turkey, Abdullah Ocalan, has called for a truce after years of war.”

❖ The US wants a “swift transfer” of Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda from the Embassy in Kigali to the International Criminal Court in the Hague “where he faces war crimes charges.”

❖ US Gen. John Kelly “plays down Guantanamo hunger strike”.

❖ The fruits of war:  U.S. Has Left Iraq with Mass Displacement & Epidemic of Birth Defects, Cancers”.   Depleted uranium, white phosphorus.

International Finance

❖ “Cyprus crisis: Government to create ‘solidarity fund’ after ECB issues Monday ultimatum: . . .  Longer queues at Laiki [major bank] cash machines”, much more, including pictures of protests. Blazing Saddles defense?  “Cyprus threatens suicide strategy.”Live streams here.

Austerity has been such a failure in the UK that Prime Minister George Osborne is promising “even deeper spending cuts after election”, targeting “Areas so far protected from austerity”.

❖ Iceland shines! “Icelandic bank Kaupthing’s top executives indicted  over market rigging: Court documents are expected to allege a conspiracy by Kaupthing chairman Sigurdur Einarsson”, et al.

Money Matters USA

❖ Sequester victim:  Dept. of Defense’s “Tuition Assistance program for all military members.”

❖ “Audit faults Freddie Mac’s oversight of mortgage servicers: At least eight big providers of mortgage customer service have failed to properly track and resolve serious complaints about servicing fraud”.

❖ “Private sector parasites: . . . the unproductive, rent-extracting rich”.  ‘Rentiers’ exist for self-perpetuation, resulting in “low taxes [for them], privatization of natural monopolies, and a macroeconomic policy driven by fear of inflation.”

Politics USA

❖ The US House passed a continuing resolution, funding the government through September.

❖ Jamie Dimon, Farmer in the Dell?  DDay on “How the nation’s biggest banks use the little-covered House Agriculture Committee to gut regulations”.

Continuing their efforts to squeeze the US Postal Service, “Congress advanced a spending bill requiring six-day [mail] delivery”.  The USPS wanted to suspend Saturday delivery,  saving $2 billion annually.

House Republicans passed Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)’s sucky budget.  Table showing Ryan budget tax  savings by income level.   House Republicans voting nay:  Amash (MI), Broun (GA), Crawford (AR),  Forbes (VA), Gibson (NY), Gingrey (GA), Heck (NV), Jones (NC), Massie (KY), McKinley (WV)

❖ What’s up with this?  Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL):  Let’s have a Social Security Commission “to come up with a set of fixes to [Social Security's] fiscal programs that Congress could approve”.

MI’s Gov. RIck Snyder (R) slashed “his state’sbusiness taxes”, but now that state roads are crumbling, he’s proposing increasing gasoline taxes by 19 – 33 cents/gallon and license plate fees by 60%, so consumers will pay.

KS Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) used the phrase ‘illegal immigrant’ in a presentation to the KS legislature, to which State Rep. Ponka-We Victors (D), Tohono O’odham Nation member, responded: “. . . when you mention illegal immigrant, I think of all of you.”

Is SD becoming a lost cause for Democrats?

Latest tactic to stop ballot recounts.

Women & Children

❖ “John Stuart Mill had it right.  Our abuse of women at home mirrors, and sometimes dictates, our behavior abroad.”  Violence in the home by returning “warriors” captured in these photographs.

New law in India “. . . makes crimes of stalking and sexual harassment and provides for the death penalty for fatal rape attacks.”

Education Directions

Rahmbo is set to close some 50 elementary schools in Chicago–to the outrage of “aldermen and community leaders in the mostly African-American neighborhoods that will be hardest hit.”

Working for A Living

❖ “The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint [similar to an indictment] against four companies involved in staffing and managing Walmart’s largest distribution center in the United States” for repeatedly threatening and punishing warehouse workers for labor organizing”.

CVS stores  ordering all employees using “the company’s health care to report their weight, glucose levels, and body fat to their insurer, or pay a penalty of $600 dollars”.

Heads Up!

Amazon “has reportedly won a contract for CIA efforts to ‘collect everything and hang on to it forever’.”  $600 million over 10 years.

❖ “Privacy laws urgently need to be updated to protect the public from information-gathering by the thousands of civilian drones expected”.

Reddit and Craigslist have joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Internet Defense League “to fight CISPA [the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act] which allows the National Security Agency and the military to collect your private Internet records”.

Planet Earth News

Sally Jewell’s nomination as Secretary of the Interior was passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  Only three Republicans opposed.  Promised deals greased the wheels.

❖ “Climate science-denying GOPer to head climate subcommittee“.  That’s Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT).  He wants to dissolve the EPA, btw.

❖ “Some of the nation’s biggest oil and gas companies have made peace with environmentalists, agreeing to a voluntary set of tough new standards for fracking” in PA’s northeast section.

Canadian and US indigenous peoples are forming alliances, including “physical action”, ”to block oil pipelines”.

Latin America

❖ The genocide and crimes against humanity trial of US-backed dictator “strongman, Ephraim Rios Montt” is underway in Guatemala, with standing room only in the courtroom.

Mixed Bag

❖ RIP, Rise Stevens. Carmen.

❖ Who knew?  Elephant seals use pedestrian cross-walks.

❖ The sky’s oldest light.

Break Time

Brush with the Blues