Greetings.

International Developments

❖ Syria’s air defense capability is among the “most formidable” in the region,  a major challenge to imposing a no-fly zone or other aggressive aerial action.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Violations Documentation Centre, over “40 people have been killed by government forces in a village in north-western Syria”.  Update:  50 killed, according to the Syrian National Coalition.

❖ Is Daniel Pipes, “neo-con and ultra Zionist”, accurately capturing the Obama administration’s Syrian strategy?  Very cynical approach articulated by Pipes, an “endless civil war with civilians paying the price”.

❖ “Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, [Colin Powell's chief of staff in the GWB era] warns that the chemical weapons . . . reportedly used in Syria could be an ‘Israeli false flag operation’”.  Another blast from the past, Ari Fleischer, GWB’s press secretary, defends flaunting the rule of law because terrorists “are fundamentally, totally  by design different”–they don’t wear uniforms and such.

❖ “Iraqi leaders fear that the country is sliding rapidly into a new civil war which ‘will be worse than Syria.’

❖ “An American military tanker refueling plane carrying three crew members crashed Friday in the rugged mountains of Kyrgyzstan”.

Death toll from the clothing factory collapse in Bangladesh is now 500.

Unlicensed gold mine collapsed in Sudan’s Darfur, killing 60+ workers.

Action on the News International front: Rebekah Brooks‘ security guy  charged for conspiring with her and five other “to conceal computers and other items from” investigating officers.

❖ The Pew Research Center just released results from its huge survey, incorporating  face-to-face interviews, of 38,000 Muslims in 39 countries.   Dig in.

International Finance

❖ “Jamie Dimon may finally be getting his comeuppance [since] the Morgan bank is in the crosshairs of multiple regulators for poor controls and dishonest dealings with the authorities.”  Wait’ll you see the list.

Money Matters USA

❖ “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau expanded its probe into the car loan industry by issuing subpoenas to auto lenders over the sale of financial products such as extended warranties”.

FL’s Supreme Court “unanimously upheld a state law that allows utilities to charge customers for future nuclear reactors–even if they never get built.”  Meanwhile, the FL legislature “passed a bill intended to decrease how much utilities could charge for nuclear power.”

❖ Now that same-sex marriage is the law of the state, Gov Martin O’Mally (D-MD) has notified MD state employees they “won’t be able to include domestic partners in their health insurance”.

Charlie Munger: “I do not think you can trust bankers to control themselves.  They are like heroin addicts.”  And the US has no intervention strategy.

The unemployment rate is 7.5%, “the lowest since late 2008″.

❖ “[CA] coffers contain about $4.5 billion more than expected in personal income tax payments.  Business taxes have also rebounded, signaling an economic recovery.”

Politics USA

Some “80 investigators from various state and federal agencies” “are pursuing about 100 leads in the horrific fertilizer plant explosion in West, TX.

James F. Dobbins, “veteran diplomatic with a history of difficult assignments from Kosovo to Somalia”, is reportedly going to be President Obama’s “special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan”.  Dobbins is currently with RAND.

❖ Republican humor:  Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) posed in a bar with a beer and a glass of wine in front of an empty chair (i.e., President Obama).  He’s now having people send in their similar photos, with the winner invited to share a drink with Mitch.

❖ Hahahahaha.  “Critical National Review Rubio Cover Edits Out Grover Norquist”.

Ed Markey (D) has a 44% favorability rating compared to 40% for Gabriel Gomez (R) in the MA Senate race.

Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) has vetoed a bill making gold and silver coins the legal tender in her state.

Gun Corner

❖ “Here’s How the Rifle That Just Killed a 2-Year-Old Girl is Marketed for Kids”.

❖ Their support of expanded background checks for gun buyers boosted both Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) in the opinion polls in their respective Red States.

❖ While the gun lobby pumped $3.8m into its efforts this year,  gun-control groups had only $276,000 to spend.

Incoming president of the National Rifle Association is sumpthin’ else again.  Meanwhile, Mark Kelly says the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre has got to go.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

❖ Between 1999-2010, the suicide rate among middle-aged (35-64) Americans jumped by 28%.  Among white middle-aged people the rate increased by 40%.

The War on Women

❖ A MN District Court Judge dismissed a lawsuit “that sought to eliminate all state insurance coverage of abortion services.”

Those two teen-aged females who threatened the Steubenville, OH rape victim with death and bodily harm “have been sentenced to six months’ probation”.

Education Directions

❖ “The Color of School Closures“.  Outrageous.

❖ “State law may require much of [this year's CA] surplus to go to schools and community colleges.”

Planet Earth News

❖ In the Amazon:  A Fight to the Death.

❖ It’ll be finished this year, the Arlington Valley Solar Energy II project west of Phoenix, among the 10 largest solar-power plants in the world.

Two towns in NY–Dryden and Middlefield–banned fracking, but the industry challenged them.  Yesterday, a judge ruled in favor of the towns.

While the UK and US squabble over “THE” culprit or culprits, honeybees are dying in huge numbers.

Latin America

Emptywheel on Mexico’s new position vis-a-vis the drug war,  President Obama’s position, the key role of banks and the Trans Pacific Partnership in transnational crime.  In-depth look at “Mexico’s descent into a narco-state” and the likelihood that there will be a shift under new President Pena Nieto.

❖ Time magazine:  “Legalize Marijuana and Other Ways U.S.-Mexico can Win Drug War”.

Canadian mining company Tahoe Resources owns Escobal silver mine in Guatemala.  It’s the flash point for “deadly protests . . . in recent weeks.”  President Otto Perez has declared an emergency and suspended “citizens’ constitutional rights”.  The mine’s rights are intact.

Mixed Bag

Creepy twist on flight of the bumblebee.

Break Time

Little Sister