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The Roundup for May 4, 2012

With DDay’s return from vacation imminent, it’s time for me to pack up, tidy up and depart.  I enjoyed trying to round up the daily news on the many varying topics of interest to all of you.   Thanks for joining in and enriching the experience.

?Is the US unemployment rate really 8.1%, or is it nearer 11.6%?

?Who could have predicted . . . ?  “The eurozone’s private sector contracted sharply in April and by more than initially thought . . ..”  “Growth has practically ground to a halt in Germany and France has joined Italy and Spain in seeing a strong rate of economic decline.”

?And the War on Drugs rolls on:  “Brazil launches Amazon anti-crime operation”, with three major objectives–drug trafficking, logging and illegal mining, though the drug trafficking part seems to be most emphasized.  At least they are tagging on a boat which will “be taking doctors and dentists to treat people in remote Amazon villages.”

?And on.  “Mexican security forces Thursday found the dismembered bodies of two missing news photographers and two others in eastern Veracruz, days after a magazine reporter was killed in the same state.”  Those deaths highlighted “Mexico’s dire record for protecting journalists amid a brutal drug war.”  Thursday was World Press Freedom day.

?At the UN, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, Ban Ki-moon “led international outrage at the growing number of journalists killed in the line of duty amid widespread calls for greater protection for reporters.” More than 60 were killed in 2011, and Reporters Without Borders “said that 22 reporters and six bloggers and “citizen journalists” have already been killed since the start of the year.”

?V-P Biden and wife Jill will break with tradition this year and not host a barbecue to mark the opening of the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s Global Race for the Cure in Washington, D.C.

?Barf! Double barf!

?Oh, joy.  “The Department of Energy has successfully completed an unprecedented test of harvesting the vast storehouse of Alaska’s North Slope of methane hydrate, essentially natural gas locked in ice crystals under the permafrost.”

?And on the other end of the globe “Research suggests that up to 60 percent of ‘Antarctic Bottom Water’, the dense water around the edges of Antarctica that seeps into the deep sea and spreads out through ocean, has disappeared since 1970.”  Human activity is involved in these changes, including the ozone hole over the Antarctic which has “caused winds of the Southern Ocean to strengthen.”  Scientists’ current research focuses on the impact of Antarctic chances on sea levels.

?CalSTRS (California State Teachers’ Retirement System) has announced it is suing “current and former executives and board members at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., alleging bribery and a cover-up in the company’s expansion in Mexico”.  CalSTRS holds more than 5.3 million Wal-Mart shares.

?Things are heating up in New South Wales, as “a 4000-strong rally of farmers and environmentalists at NSW Parliament yesterday [were] calling for tougher restrictions on coal and coal seam gas mining.”  At issue is what the current Deputy Premier Stoner promised before the elections and what’s now being proposed (sound familiar?).  After telling the crowd, “‘This government is listening to each and every one of you,'” Stoner “snapped at one protestor heckling from the front of the crowd, telling him to ‘shut your mouth’.”

?Duke Energy, is accused of “fueling demand for expensive new power plants by offering rock-bottom rates and other subsidies to energy gobbling data centers while shifting costs onto North Carolina’s small businesses and families–in violation of well-established case law.”  A watchdog group claims “Duke Energy justifies its highest rates for small businesses–and lowest rates for the biggest users–by allocating all costs related to generation of power based only on the single hottest hour of the year.”  Much more here.

?Atlanta-based Perma-Fix Environmental Solutions has applied for a federal license “to import up to 500 tons of radioactive waste from Mexico to south-central Washington, where the waste will be incinerated and the resulting ash returned to Mexico.”

?Today, the Interior Department released “draft regulations on oversight of natural gas drilling on public lands”, which account for 20% of natural gas in the US.   Since the rules haven’t been updated since 1988, this is a step forward.  However, one key provision–that chemicals used in fracking be disclosed after the fact–will not set well with public health and environmental groups, while another–drillers must publish publicly what chemicals they use in the process–will not set well with the industry.  Stay tuned.

?Based on contents of a letter from Cal/West Seeds, Monsanto may have released its “Round-Up Ready alfalfa seeds” two years before they were de-regulated, thus “allowing widespread GMO contamination of GMO-free crops.  And it’s worse:  “Amazingly, the letter actually proves that the USDA was fully aware of the situation”, but took no action.  Wonder if they’ll take any now.

?FYI:  “Federal Contractor Misconduct“.

?AZ Republicans didn’t like a recent report which noted that “in some cases private prisons cost taxpayers more than state-run facilities”, questioned private prison safety standards and “whether new policies should be put in place to prevent future prison breaks . . ..”  In response, AZ Republicans tucked an item in the recently-passed budget proposal that eliminates any future “quality and cost review of private prison contracts”.  So there!

?Super-Moon rising tomorrow night at 11:35 pm EDT.  Enjoy!

?And to help ease you into the weekend, here’s a little Freedom by Ford.

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