❖ “The Obama administration’s Syria policy was unraveling Monday . . . Syrian Opposition Coalition and its military command in turmoil . . . the status of its leader uncertain and its newly selected prime minister rejected by the group’s military wing.”
❖ “For months now,” anti-Assad fighters in Syria considered ‘moderates’ have been trained by the US. Training, primarily for Sunnis and tribal Bedouins, is done in an “unspecified location”.
❖ Niger is the latest site for launching US Predator drones, giving “the Pentagon a strategic foothold in West Africa”.
❖ Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is warning against “any foreign attempt to meddle in the affairs of his country”.
❖ North Korea’s “artillery and rocket forces are at their highest-level combat posture”, aimed at South Korea and the US.
❖ “European Union antitrust regulators” have extended their investigation from “giants like Barclays, JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank . . to include the International Swaps and Derivatives Association.” How big is the derivatives market? “$1.2 quadrillion in notional value; at least $12 trillion in cash at risk” in 2010, and much more here.
❖ Laiki bank is closed in Cyprus, but it’s “business as usual” in the UK. Customers are told that deposits less than £85,500 “are protected against losses under Cyprus’s compensation scheme.”
Money Matter USA
❖ Some good news: “Customers Flee Wal-Mart Empty Shelves for Target Costco”.
❖ Wal-Mart’s suing the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and groups such as the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) for “disruptive rallies” at FL stores.
❖ The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Fed responded to 14 specific requests for information from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD)–with “two partial responses and only one full response”. David Dayen with lots more.
❖ US consumer confidence fell to 59.7 in March from 69.6 in February, 2013.
❖ Former VT Gov. Howard Dean (D) says Democracy for America’s “Purple to Blue Project” will be working “to swing state legislatures from Republican to Democrat, starting in Virginia, then adding three states in 2014.” $750,000 has been set aside for VA.
❖ President Obama has requested the largest Federal Bureau of Prisons operating budget ever–$6.9bn. BTW, about half of undocumented immigrants detained are housed in for-profit prisons operated by either the Corrections Corporation of American or the GEO Group.
❖ FL’s Attorney General’s office has been shut down following the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll (R), under investigation “into an alleged widespread gambling ring.”
❖ Some TN state legislators espied a new floor-level sink in a House Chamber men’s restroom and concluded it was for Muslim foot-washing. (It’s a mop sink.)
❖ Albany, NY police conducted a SWAT-style hostage rescue training in a poor neighborhood, alarming the residents and leaving a mess behind. Apologies all around. A clean-up crew was supposedly dispatched by the mayor following a press conference.
❖ During oral arguments, US Supreme Court justices seemed “closely split” on gay marriage. “Justice Anthony M. Kennedy suggested the court should strike down California’s ban on same-sex marriage without ruling broadly on the issue.” bmaz has more.
❖ 5-4, the US Supreme Court ruled that “a house and its surroundings are a constitutionally protected area” so police using a drug-sniffing dog outside a house where marijuana was growing without a warrant or the homeowner’s permission was unconstitutional.
Health, Homelessness & Hunger
❖ My, my. PA Gov. Tom Corbett (R) may have turned down Medicaid expansion last month, but he’s planning to meet with Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss it some more.
Women & Children
❖ President Obama has appointed a woman, Julia Pierson, to head up the United States Secret Service.
❖ While in Afghanistan, Secretary of State John Kerry met with a small group “of female Afghan entrepreneurs”, to which he “repeatedly pledged continuing U.S. support for Afghanistan’s economic and political stability, and for women.”
❖ ND Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) anticipates a court battle after he signed laws banning abortion “if a fetal heartbeat can be detected”, or “based on genetic defects such as Down syndrome”.
❖ VA Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) intends to amend his state’s “health care reform implementation bill” so that abortion will be covered only in instances of rape, incest or endangerment of the mother’s life.
❖ The aunt and niece who were cavity searched beside a road in Dallas County, TX in what they’re claiming was an unconstitutional search, have now sued the TX troopers involved as well as the TX Dept. of Public Safety.
❖ 27-year-old male put his hands on the buttocks of a 23-year-old female in a nightclub. She turned, slapped him, breaking his nose. She was just convicted of assault and fined $380, in Sweden.
❖ A broader than ever school voucher program was approved by IN’s Supreme Court, despite the Indiana State Teachers Association’s suit claiming “it drained money from public schools” and funneled it to church-affiliated schools.
❖ The debate rolls on: “Let’s Go Back to Grouping Students By Ability: Since the late 1960s, well-meaning educators have shied away from placing kids in ‘faster’ and ‘slower’ classes. Now that trend is reversing–and for good reason.”
Planet Earth News
❖ $1.7million in penalties for Exxon Mobil’s “pipeline rupture that spewed crude oil into Montana’s Yellowstone River” in 2011.
❖ “Peru’s government has declared an environmental state of emergencyin an Amazon jungle region due to years of contamination from oil drilling it blames on Pluspetrol, the country’s biggest oil and natural gas producer.” They want Pluspetrol held responsible for the clean-up.
❖ Big news: “The Brazilian Association of Supermarkets, which has 2,800 members . . . says it will no longer sell meat from cattle raised in the rainforest.”
❖ Wind-blown hair-do ahead for The Donald?