Hello.

International Developments

❖ “North Korea warns foreign embassies to prepare escape” since the government cannot “guarantee their safety in the event of conflict”.

❖ Now these two are at it:  “Syria says Jordan ‘playing with fire’ over assistance to rebels:  Jordan tightens security along Syrian border as tensions soar amid reports of arms shipments to anti-Assad forces.”

❖ The UN Human Rights Chief says “Guantanamo Bay prison ‘must close’” and expressed deep disappointment “that the US was not honouring its pledge to close the camp.”  Video w/background.

❖ On April 26th, King Abdullah II of Jordan will visit the White House.  On May 16th, it’s Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s turn.

International Finance

Empress Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund has ordered Cyprus to “cut state pension costs and reform its welfare system”, else no €1bn bail-out loan.  Austerity, what’s not to love?

HBOS bank, formed in 2001 by merging Halifax plc and the Bank of Scotland, has a history of bad management.  Nonetheless, all three members of  the latest horrid management team have comfy jobs today.

❖ Beginning 2014, the European Medicine Agency “will release all information about clinical studies submitted to it by organisations seeking authorisation for new treatments”.  Big Pharma very upset, this following so closely on the Novartis case in India.

Money Matters USA

❖ Wow!  Free nakedcapitalism.com ebook for downloading: “Whistleblowers Reveal How Bank of America Defrauded Homeowners and Paid for a Cover Up–All With the Help of ‘Regulator’.”

❖ “Judge Approves $2.4 Billion Bank of America Class Settlement”.  That $2.4bn is for investors–not homeowners (see item above).

88,000 new jobs in March, “well below analyst expectations and suggesting a highly fragile economic recovery”.

Momentum “building in Washington toward reforming the banks“?  Matt Taibbi detects some positive signs.

❖ Somebody’s done the math:  each US taxpayer pays $1,026/year so the wealthy can keep their $1.5 trillion stashed away in tax havens around the globe.

❖ Former NJ Gov. John Corzine (D)’s MF Global’s bankruptcy plan has been ok’d.  “No criminal charges have been filed” over the missing $1.6 bn from the firm’s commodities trader customers.  FBI, SEC, congressional investigations continue to drag along, and along. and a-l-o-n-g . . .

❖ Contrary to AR, OH, LA, NE, WI, KS, OK and NC–which recently increased taxes on the poor–legislators in the great state of ME have passed a bill that will give the poor a tax break.

❖ We hear a lot about tech firms and H-1B visas, when businesses hiring the most H-1B recipients are “offshore-outsourcing firms”.

Politics USA

❖ Softening us up for the TransPacific Partnership?  President Obama “is pursuing a free trade agreement with the European Union that would grant corporations new political power to challenge an array of regulations both at home and abroad”.

❖ “MoveOn Calls Obama’s Proposed Social Security Cuts ‘Unconscionable’”.  (Proposed cuts from the man who said his visit to the Holy Land was very “humbling”?)  Robert Reich explains.  Krugman zeroes in.

US House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) rejected Obama’s proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare–thus upping the ante.  Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is getting more positive media coverage for his position on all this.

❖ Groan.  President Obama said of CA Attorney General Kamala Harris, “She also happens to be, by far, the best looking attorney general”.  Update: He apologized. For “the distraction”.

❖ Oh, noooos.  NC’s House Speaker “killed a bill . . .  that would have allowed the state to establish an official religion”.

Gun Corner

James Lohr has been arrested as a “person of interest” in the murder case of CO’s Prisons Chief, Tom Clements, and another man, last month.  They’re still looking for Thomas Guolee.

❖ “The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has permanently revoked the federal firearms license” of the store that sold guns used in the Newton, CT massacre.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

❖ “Medical Emergencies at 40,000 Feet”.  Currently “woefully underprepared”, what needs to be done to ensure better response to in-flight medical emergencies?

Birds bear watching.

Women and Children

Pope Francis wants “‘decisive action’ in the fight against sex abuse of minors by priests’.” Can he walk the talk?

❖ A federal judge has “ordered the government to make the ‘morning after’ pill available over the counter to girls of all ages within 30 days.”  More.

Murder for hire in KS?  This case overlaps with the murder of Dr. George Tiller in 2009. The defendant is Angela Dillard.

Heads Up!

❖ New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly (D) may be gung-ho about 24/7 surveillance of all the rest of us, but don’t suggest oversight of their security apparatus.

Swedish Justice Stefan Lindskog in a speech at the University of Adelaide (Australia):  “It should never be a crime to make known [a] crime of a state.”

Planet Earth News

❖ Update from yesterday:  “BP fails to block ‘absurd’ spill payments”.  This is the third time this particular judge has rejected BP’s arguments. That appeals pipeline is humming.

❖ The cooling system at the Fukushima nuclear plant has failed for the second time this month.

❖ An InsideClimate News reporter “entered the command center for the cleanup operation in Mayflower, AR” and was threatened with “criminal trespass if she didn’t leave.”  A few more Mayflower photos.

Latin America

Two men were found guilty and sentenced to 40+ years for the murder of Jose Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espiritu Santo, activists ”against illegal logging in the Amazon [who] had faced numerous threats.” The guy who arranged the killings was acquitted, somehow.

Nicolas Madura, the late Hugo Chavez’s successor, has a strong chance of winning the presidency in Venezuela April 14th.

Mixed Bag

Masks:  the fantastical, the ceremonial, the practical, the comical, the criminal.

❖ Those 3D printers!  Over in the UK, they’ve printing out “living tissue-like material that could one day serve medical purposes” such as replacing damaged tissue.

Break Time

Good Times