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The Roundup for May 13, 2012

First things first:  Happy Mother’s Day to all you Nurturers out there!  Where would we be without you?

And now to the news, pretty much a wrap-up of items from over the weekend as we prepare for a whole new week of the world’s goings-on.

?Who is the London Whale, he of Fail Whale fame?  Despite repeated tries, no photo of Bruno Iksil could be found on the internets.  Turns out, “Even now, a month later, no one seems to know anything about him . . .. There appears to be almost no public trace of him before April. A Lexis-search turned up nothing. There are no pictures of him online.”  He is French (perhaps of Russian ancestry) and is “in his late 30s.”  Surely a pic will surface soon, though right now it’s as hard to haul in as Melville’s whale.

?”Austerity” got a huge thump today when voters in the largest German state, North Rhine-Westphalia,  gave Merkel’s Christian Democrats only 25.8% of the vote–and the center-left Social Democrats 38.8%.  The Greens, expected to align with the Social Democrats,  received an additional 12.2%.

?”Somos el 99%!” Spain’s ‘Indignados’ mark protest anniversary.  Many thousands marched to celebrate the first anniversary of the Indignados movement.” The turnout in Madrid was huge and would certainly have met organisers’ expectations, says Guy Hedgecoe, reporting for the BBC from Madrid.”  Early Sunday morning, though, police had cleared Puerta del Sol, the main square in Madrid.  18 arrests were reported and two police injured. “The violence used was disproportionate,” according to an Indignado spokesperson.  Calls to reoccupy Puerta del Sol have been issued.

?”Israelis take to the streets in renewed social justice protests.  Thousands gather in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square; rallies throughout country [Jerusalem, Haifa, Kiryat Shmona, Nahriya, Pardes Hanna and Eilat] held under banner ‘Returning the country to the citizens’.”

?”Occupy’ protesters rally against ‘predatory capitalism’ in London.” “Several hundred” rallied at St. Paul’s Cathedral and then marched to various financial institutions in the city.

?Although the London protests were spirited but peaceful today, the Ministry of Defence intends to be deploy a U.S. crowd control device for the Olympics. “The American-made Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) can be used to send verbal warnings over a long distance or emit a beam of pain-inducing tones.”

?Matt Yglesias walks us through the vagaries of the great “Debt Crisis”, ranging from Republicans’ failure to keep their word about lifting the debt ceiling so that nobody can trust them any more, to Obama’s failed attempt at a “Grand Bargain”, to the “Supercommittee” which generated a lot of press and nothing else.  If Obama is reelected, Yglesias concludes, there will be “no choice but to insist on a ‘clean’ increase in the debt ceiling and watch a terrifying game of chicken unfold.”

?According to reports from parishioners around the country today, Obama’s support of gay marriage “was greeted with a mixture of acceptance and relief.”  Clergy members, however, were not so enthusiastic.  And Rand Paul added his two bits, contending that Obama’s views on the subject couldn’t “get any gayer”.

?Milwaukee and Madison have sued Wisconsin “Gov. Scott Walker’s administration for diverting grants earmarked for local recycling funding.”  Walker’s administration has kept in place a $7/ton “tipping fee” but diverted some of those funds toward “economic development and other places.”  In 2011, the cuts totaled $13.1million statewide, and $1.5million for Milwaukee alone.

?PA’s Department of Health claims “it investigates every claim by residents that gas drilling has caused health problems, but several people say the agency’s actions don’t match its words.”  And there’s more:  the DOH’s toll-free number recording for such complaints doesn’t mention “gas drilling”, the agency has been keeping track of such complaints only since 2011, and has no investigations currently underway even though complaints have been made.   Originally, PA  health officials were to receive some of the $180 million in revenue from the new Marcellus Shale law, but Gov. Tom Corbett and state senators slashed the appropriation to zero.

?Whooping Cough has reached epidemic proportions in WA state.  Several factors have contributed to the epidemic, but the “response . . . has been hampered by the recession, which has left state and local health departments on the front lines of defense weakened by years of sustained budget cuts.”

?While I’m certainly no surfer (heck, I can’t even swim), this is thrilling even to watch (brief video–just scroll down).

?AZ legislators finally found a bill  that’s so bad they couldn’t pass it.  The bill sought “to outlaw states and their cities from endorsing or implementing the United Nations Agenda 21 principles of sustainable development” which resulted from the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro.  So far, TN and GA, NH and MN have also failed to pass such legislation, though similar bills are still pending in AL, KS and LA.  The old John Birch Society developed the model legislation since, you know, the UN is part of a commie conspiracy (as was Eisenhower, btw).  Fred Koch, the elder, was a founding member of JBS.

?Are you ready for some Agent Orange Corn?  Jim Hightower explains.

?Hoo-boy!  Remember the recent story about Accretive Health, the hospital debt collector that the MN AG alleged “harassed patients for money–even going so far as stationing aggressive debt collectors in hospitals to pursue patients”?  Well, Rahmbo has now stepped in, since Accretive Health is based in Chicago, and has told the MN AG to “cease efforts to publicly prosecute” the company.  The MN AG, Lori Swanson, responded that she will continue her efforts. Accretive is now threatening to sue Swanson.  Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Rep. C. G. Butterfield (Dem-NC) are also interested in this case.

?Relying on various national statistics, a Guttmacher Institute study concluded that almost 70% of pregnancies among unmarried women 20-29 years old in 2001 and in 2008 were unintended.  Half of those pregnancies ended in abortion in 2008, down from 60% in 2001.  The unintended pregnancy rate “for poor and low-income women increased substantially” over that time interval.

?And there’s more.  In 2009, Guttmacher conducted a follow-up survey.  Results:  More than half of young men and a quarter of young women . . . displayed serious gaps in knowledge about common contraceptive methods . . ..  Sixty-nine percent of young women and 45% of young men were highly committed to avoiding pregnancy [but] 25% thought that using condoms every time one has sex is a hassle, 60% underestimated the effectiveness of oral contraceptives and 40% held the fatalistic view that using birth control does not matter.”

? This is astounding:  “In 2011, NYPD Made More Stops Of Young Black Men Than The Total Number Of Young Black Men in New York”

?This is atrocious: “Trayvon Martin gun range targets sold online:  Seller admits he wants to profit off controversy”.

? “Why do Americans consume 80% of world’s painkiller drugs?Why indeed.

?Let’s see, it was decided January 21, 2010, so it’ll only be about a year and a half.   “Senate panel to examine overturning Citizens United ruling in July.”

?Oh, the headaches of empire!  Huge costs and resistance from Iraq officials may result in the State Department completely dismantling “a multibillion-dollar police training program that was to have been the centerpiece of a hugely expanded civilian mission here.”

?’There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  Case in point:  Just look at what they found on Dive 135.

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