Hello.

International Developments

❖ “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the West will pay a high price for what he described as its support for al-Qaeda in his country’s conflict.”

❖ “Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey both warned Congress on Wednesday about the unintended consequences of a U.S. military intervention in Syria.” Interesting remarks.

❖ “Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been ordered back to prison from military hospital.”

Suicide bomber inside a Baghdad cafe, killed 23.  Al-Qaeda suspected.

❖ Duracell or Energizer?  “Pentagon requesting $395.9 million to buy Israel more Iron Dome batteries.”

Israel’s Military Advocate General has decided he will “not open a criminal investigation into the airsrike that killed 10 members of a Palestinian family and two of their neighbors during the November 2012 war with Gaza.”

Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf recently returned  from exile.  He wants to make a political come-back, was disqualified from running by a court in Peshawar, and today  was charged with treason in an Islamabad court.  Musharraf raced from the courtroom and high-tailed it back to his heavily-guarded compound.

❖ “North Korea has said it was ready to talk if UN sanctions against it were withdrawn and if the US and South Korea put an end to joint military drills”.

Justice, UK style.  “Chagossians [ref: US airbase on Diego Garcia] suffer blow in fight to go home as court rejects WikiLeak cable: US embassy cables allegedly detailing UK plan to stop return to Indian Ocean islands used by US military is ruled inadmissible.”

International Finance

❖ “[L]eading figures in central banking [in Europe] conceded they were flying blind when steering their economies.” Incredible quotes (“there is the risk of appearing to promise too much”, “We don’t fully understand what is happening”, “we are in uncharted territory”, etc.) from those comfortably removed from the day-to-day suffering they cause.

❖ “France said on Thursday it would block proposed negotiations on a free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States unless cultural sectors, such as television and radio, were excluded from the talks.”

Corporations won and a 224-year-old US federal law was constrained by the US Supreme Court yesterday when it blocked a suit by 12 Nigerians accusing Shell Oil “of complicity in a violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria from 1992 to 1995.” The US Chamber of Commerce is ecstatic.

Flamenco Banco, Ole!

Money Matters USA

Lovely bunch:  Dan Loeb -”hedge fund king extraordinaire”, Michelle Rhee – Students First, Paul Tudor Jones – Tudor Funds.  All three are against defined benefit pension plans, including for teachers, and they have overlapping ties. Loeb manages several public pension funds and now has his eye on the California State Teachers’ Retirement System.  The American Federation of Teachers is onto him, however.  So is Matt Taibbi.

❖ Paging Rahmbo: Chicago-area Regional Transportation Authority “alleged that . . .  AT&T, Sears . . ., Verizon and Target are running ‘sham’ offices . . . with two small northern Illinois communities to avoid paying millions of dollars in taxes in Chicago and Cook County.

Politics USA

❖ You can’t make this stuff up dept:  Paul Kevin Curtis, who’s charged with sending ricin-laced letters to President Obama and others, is an Elvis impersonator.

❖ “Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)’s former chief of staff will tell an Iowa Senate ethics panel that the congresswoman made improper payments to the state chairman of her presidential campaign.”

Gun Corner

❖ 42 of the 45 senators “who torpedoed gun control measures in Congress on Wednesday . . .  received money from firearms lobbyists.”  They also came awfully close to  weakening existing gun controls.

Alex Pareene has analyzed the gun control legislation debacle and concludes (just a sample to whet your appetite):  “The correct response, as always, is to eliminate the U.S. Senate.”  And then there’s this report:  “Courageous Senators Stand Up To American People”.

❖ To the surprise of absolutely no one, Senate Majority Leader Harry “Leader” Reid (D-NV) will be “setting aside proposed gun legislation for now”.

Droning On

FL’s Gov Rick Scott (R) will be signing a bill requiring authorities to obtain a warrant from a judge before launching surveillance drones–except in an “imminent danger” or federally-declared terrorist threat situation.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

Nuns on the Bus are still at it, this time showing up in Austin, TX to rally for expanding Medicaid in the state so that 1 million more people will be able to receive badly needed health care.  The nuns had trouble getting inside the capital, though.

Working for a Living

❖ Fertilizer plant at West, TX exploded with such fury that it was felt almost 100 miles away in Dallas suburbs.  “A look at the satellite image . . . shows the folly of putting ‘free enterprise’ ahead of sensible zoning laws.”  Continual updates here.

American Crystal sugar workers in ND, MN and IA have been locked out of work for 20 months. Now that their contract has been ratified, they will be returning to work–or at least about half of them.

14 people were arrested this week at at “Peabody Energy’s headquarters in downtown St. Louis following a protest by the United Mine Workers of America”.  Protesters came from AL, Il, IN, KY, MO, OH, PA and WV.  They’re fighting for their pensions and post-retirement health benefits.

❖ “Walmart Pays Workers Poorly And Sinks While Costco Pays Workers Well and Sails”.

Heads Up!

❖ Remember the Occupiers arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge back in 2011?  Oral arguments in that case will be made before the US Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, in New York City,  Monday, April 22nd.

Planet Earth News

❖ The US State Department has provided one public hearing over its “draft environmental impact assessment” of the  Keystone XL Pipeline’s new route–today “in blowing snow and sub-freezing temperatures” in Grand Island, NE.  Much more.

❖ “Kiribati enters the end game against climate change–in pictures”

Latin America

❖ Emptywheel on Venezuela:  ”John Kerry Finally Meets a Close Election He Wants to Recount”

 Break Time

❖ Fleck & Debussy