Good evening, all.

International Developments

Syrian officials and anti-Assad forces give differing numbers of those killed near Damascus during recent fighting.  The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts the number at 101, including “at least” 24 rebel fighters.

Israel’s claiming the Assad government “has and is using chemical weapons”–an assertion that “puts pressure on US over its pledge to intervene.”

Car bomb attack on the French embassy in Libya, injuring two guards.

❖ In response to inquiries about possible Iranian involvement in yesterday’s thwarted terrorist attempt in Canada, a Q & A about Iran (mostly Shiite) and al-Qaida (Sunni).

❖ “Spanish police have arrested two suspects thought to be linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb”.  One’s Algerian, the other  Moroccan.

A man on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list arrested for child pornography in NIcaragua.

International Finance

❖ Having wreaked suffering most everywhere (except among their own class, of course), the Austerians are having to face fact:  “Austerity is . . . a policy without justification.”

Remember the Libertad, held up in Ghana because Elliott Capital and Argentina were  having a big financial disagreement?  Well, Argentina made a new debt offer, but creditors, including Elliott, rejected it.

Money Matters USA

❖ President Obama’s proposed chained-CPI for Social Security would hurt  beneficiaries, as we now know.  Turns out  a chained CPI approach is also in his budget plan, functioning as a “back door” tax increase for the middle-class.

Scathing AFL-CIO report on corporate-funded auditing programs with  inevitable results:  “The failure of governments to protect workers’ rights in the global economy”.  And that, of course, leads to “disregard for health and safety [costing] hundreds of lives.”

Gossip:  Is this Ben Bernanke’s last year at the Fed?  No gloating until a) we know if this is true and b) we know who the successor is to be.

❖ This is delicious.  The MF Global Holdings bankruptcy trustee has “sued ex-CEO John Corzine and two other former executives”.  The trustee?  Former FBI Director, Louis Freeh.

Chart showing contributions by donor groups to Democrats and Republicans, 2011-2012.  Labor contributed $141,187,722, almost all to Democrats, while Finance/Insurance/Real Estate contributed $656,923,622, mostly to Republicans.

Politics USA

The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is investigating the role of at least seven federal and state agencies with oversight responsibility for the fertilizer plant in West, TX.  Handy guide to OSHA, PHMSA, DHS, EPA, TECQ, DSHS and one with no acronym, Office of Texas State Chemist.  One key tidbit: No federal agency is responsible for defining how “close a facility . . . which handles potentially dangerous substances, can be to population centers.”  From the CSB web page:  They’ve postponed their April 24th meeting “due to CSB deployment to West Fertilizer Plant Accident.”  Good!

❖ “They don’t explode very often,” per the Chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in explaining to the public “the causes and implications” of last week’s tragic fertilizer plant explosion in West, TX. In stark contrast, a strong, informative statement by James Marston of the Environmental Defense Fund.  Don’t miss.

The Boston Marathon bombings generated intense interest among the public, with 63% following the story “very closely”.

75% of those polled say they expect “occasional acts of terrorism in the U.S.” in the future, up from 64% a year ago.

❖ Straight from the horse’s mouth:  Senate Majority Leader Harry “Leader” Reid (D-NV) said he may have “found a path forward on reviving gun legislation”, but it’s not certain.  Reid is also introducing legislation to use war savings to keep airports running briskly since Republicans complained.

❖ Wahhhh!  House Financial Services Committee Chair, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) can’t have Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head, Richard Cordray, over to testify since Cordray has not been duly appointed and confirmed by the Senate because Senate Republicans have refused to do just that.

Elizabeth Colbert Busch (D) leads Mark “Appalachian Trail” Sanford (R) by 9 points in the race for that SC US House seat.

While NC Gov Pat McCrory (R) has a 49% approval rating, Republican legislative leadership is approved by only 38%, and very few approve of recent key legislation–although 42% did support making Christianity the state religion.

❖ Just as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) voted against Superstorm Sandy aid, then begged for “all available” federal resources in the wake of the West, TX fertilizer plant explosion, so TX Gov. Rick Perry (R), who vowed to shut down the Federal Emergency Management Agency if elected president, has now asked FEMA to come to TX because of the explosion.

Sen Max Baucus (D-MT) will be retiring at the end of this term.  Could former MT Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) be considering a run for that seat?

130,000 more signatures needed in the effort to recall Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

❖  NJ Governor Chris Christie (R), bucking his party’s position, has come up with a plan “to significantly strengthen gun laws in the Garden State.”

❖ Shades of Faulkner:  Paul Kevin Curtis, Elvis impersonator accused of sending ricin-laden envelopes to President Obama, et al., has tested negative for ricin, he’s no longer in jail, and all charges against him have been dropped.  Instead, the FBI is questioning  a small-town MS Republican politician, J. Everett Dutschke, who accused Curtis in the ricin matter in the first place.

A TX state House Democrat, Chris Turner, has introduced legislation to end “double dipping” by politicians, including Gov. Rick Perry (R), who draws a salary while simultaneously receiving a pension from the state.

Planet Earth News

“Forty percent of the crops grown in the United States contains their genes.  They produce the world’s top selling herbicide.  Several of their factories are now toxic Superfund sites.  They spend millions lobbying the government each year.  It’s time we take a closer look . . .” at Monsanto.

❖ With natural gas prices plunging, some states are reconsidering “ways to pare back [renewable energy] mandates”.

Mixed Bag

Major discovery near the Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico.

Break Time

Pacific Crest Trail