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International Developments

❖ Syrian government troops were accused of killing 350 people in Artouz, near Damascus, according to anti-Assad groups.  Many victims were said to be women, children and the elderly.  Since March 2011, an estimated 70,000 Syrians have lost their lives in the conflict.

Seized by the Taliban in Logar Province, Afghanistan: “Seven Turks, two Russians and one Afghan” in a civilian helicopter  forced by bad weather to make an emergency landing.  Negotiations underway.

❖ “Intense fighting between the military and Islamist militants in north Nigeria is reported to have killed at least 185 civilians and destroyed 2,000 homes.”  When the  Boko Haram attacked, townspeople tried to run into the bush to hide, but one man reported, “We are still picking corpses of women and children in the bush and creeks.”

❖ “The European Union has lifted the last of its trade, economic and individual sanctions against Burma in response to its political reform programme.”

❖ Overview of Chechnya and of Putin’s tactics and goals regarding it.

Italy’s 87 year-old president “has chided the politicians who re-elected him” for not enacting reforms.

Canadian officials “have arrested and charged two people with conspiring to carry out an ‘al-Qaeda inspired’ attack on  a passenger train.”

Half of Guantanamo inmates are on hunger strike.  That’s 84 out of 166.

International Finance

❖ Hark!  Signs of intelligent life in the EU:  “The EU’s focus on austerity has hit the limits of public acceptance, according to the [president of the European Commission]“.

❖ “Nowhere else in Europe are neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists profiting as greatly from the financial crisis as in Athens.  As they terrorize the country with violence, the police stand back and prosecutors are powerless.”

❖ “Spain’s population fell last year for the first time in decades” as people fled Austerity.

Turkey has signed “a landmark agreement” for oil with Iraq’s Kurdish region, which will not go down well with the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

❖ BSG Resources Ltd is a “mining company controlled by Israel’s richest person Beny Steinmetz”.  Guinea has arrested two of BSG’s executives as the US investigates how the company “won rights to a ‘lucrative’ iron-ore deposit”.

Rubert Murdoch’s News Corp. has reached a $139m settlement with its shareholders who sued over governance policies and a $214m purchase.

Money Matters USA

❖ “A small but growing number of American corporations . . . are declaring that they are not ordinary corporations at all.”  They’re “special trusts that are typically exempt from paying taxes.”  Congress will no doubt spring into action and fix this.

In 2007, 1.2m  had been unemployed for more than six months.  That number is 4.6m today, or almost quadrupled.  And the longer people stay unemployed, the less likely they are to get jobs that do become available.  Austerity USA has created a substantial underclass.

80% of those directly affected by an increase in the minimum wage are adults; about 7 million children are dependent on parents affected by the minimum wage.  Nonetheless, ‘wingers keep saying most people on minimum wage are teenagers.

❖ “James Doty, chairman of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, said investors were in favour of ending the secrecy that currently shrouds the identity of the auditor in charge of vetting the accounts of public companies in the US.”

Politics USA

❖ That fertilizer plant in West, TX that exploded last week, killing at least 14 and injuring 100s more, had not been inspected by the Occupation Health and Safety Administration since 1985, though other federal and state officials were aware of the plant and its hazardous materials.  Federal agencies are assessing “their inspection practices” now.  That’s it?

Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is to be tried in a federal civilian court, per the White House.  The FBI’s criminal complaint is here.  Tsarnaev is being charged with “using a weapon of mass destruction, the US Department of Justice says.”  Emptywheel is following developments closely.

Contrary to pledges made earlier,  the Obama administration wants to spend billions on upgrading nuclear bombs stored in Europe to make the weapons more reliable and accurate.”

Rep. Michele Bachman (R-MN)’s woes over use of campaign funds continue, now extending into the Iowa state Senate.

Former SC governor and candidate for a US House seat, Mark “Appalachian Trail” Sanford, took out a full-page ad in the Charleston newspaper, somehow or other comparing himself to the “line in the sand” drawn by William Travis at the Alamo.

Names of two Republican legislative aides who deleted those “hundreds of thousands” of redistricting data files have now been revealed.

PA Gov. Tom Corbett (R)’s plan to privatize management of the state’s $3.5bn lottery has run into heaps of trouble–from the state Treasurer, state Attorney General, and now the chief counsel of the PA Gaming Control Board.

Planet Earth News

❖ Refreshing story of how Temple Grandin, who has autism, achieved renown as an animal welfare expert and has influenced the meat industry.  A cattle ranch in Northern CA where even the eventual death of each animal is done as humanely as possible is a testament to Grandin’s life-long efforts.

❖ “There is not single smoking gun behind pollinator declines, instead there is a cocktail of multiple pressures that can combine to threaten these insects.”

Illegal loggers in the Brazilian rainforest continue to threaten the very existence of the Awa people, as well as their environment.

Heads Up!

Red Cry.

Latin America

❖ “Businessman Horacio Cartes of the [center-right] Colorado Party has been declared Paraguay’s new president. UNASUR claims there was vote buying and deliberate exclusion of ads by the leftist Guasu Front. Cartes was named in a 2010 cable entitled “Operation Heart of Stone”, in which his organization was said “to launder large quantities of United States currency generated through illegal means, including through the sale of narcotics”.  Much more.

❖ “A court in Brazil has sentenced 23 police officers each to 156 years in jail for involvement in a notorious 1992 prison massacre in Sao Paulo.”

Break Time

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