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The Roundup for May 20, 2012

Good evening! Big event coming up in a few hours for many of us as the sun and moon put on quite the show.

?Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese dissident whose attempts to leave China since April “threatened to cause a diplomatic breach”, finally arrived in the US on Saturday. He was allowed to leave, but not as a matter of asylum; rather, he will be attending law school in the US on a fellowship.

?Remember all those subpoenas for James Risen? One in 2008 after his State Of War book was published. The second in 2010 after the 2008 one had expired, and a third one in 2011. The government wants to force Risen to testify in its trial of Jeffrey Sterling, ex-CIA agent who allegedly leaked classified information to Risen about US plans against Iran. At issue is reporter’s privilege, which the DOJ insists doesn’t exist. The three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday morning engaged the DOJ lawyer in some rather spirited discussion of the case and the meaning of he term ‘reporter’s privilege’

?Turns out the Center to Protect Patients’ Rights (CPPR) is a shadowy group which gave $44 million to other tax-exempt organizations. CPPR has major connections, including with: the Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights, which is opposed to health care reform; DCI group which represents the tobacco industry; Americans for Limited Government; Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform; and on and on. Reading is believing and this is quite a read. And there’s now more and yet more–“All Roads Lead to Koch”.

?The Jamie Dimon saga is picking up steam. Seems the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is now going to scrutinize JPMorgan Chase due to that small matter of the missing $2 billion, in addition to investigations by the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Both CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler and Jamie himself will be testifying before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday.

?And rolling right along: Now we learn that JPMorgan Chase may take a loss up to $5billion from derivatives trading; Jamie himself approved what was done but failed to monitor it.

?Well, well. The FBI “is currently investigating claims that [Ohio] Governor John Kasich made promises of political influence and threatened the jobs of those who would not help him replace those in power with his cronies.” Apparently, the investigation was triggered by Portage County Republican Party Chairman Andrew Manning who claims he was told if he stepped down from his position he would be rewarded with influence over gubernatorial appointments.

?Banks are switching from foreclosures to short sales, since foreclosure scrutiny was–*cough**cough*–“a nightmare for the banks.” Sen. Mark Lee (R-Utah) has now felt the sting of short sales. The home he purchased for $1.1 million in 2008 was sold recently for $720,000 due to a short sale in his neighborhood which depressed home prices, contributing to the short sale of Lee’s home a bit later. Lee lost a “‘significant’ down payment” in the process.

?At least our military service and disabled veterans and families will be protected from foreclosure, thanks to an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which the House passed on Friday.

?Rev your engines! This year the National Guard is spending $26 million sponsoring Dale Earnhardt Jr’s NASCAR team. They’re to reduce the amount by 55% next year, though.

?Great news: The NAACP has endorsed marriage equality.

?Those Blockupy protestors in Frankfurt are still at it, with “at least” 20,000 in the city’s center rallying against “the dominance of banks” and “untamed capitalism”.

?68% of the Spanish people support the “Indignants” and 78% said they are right.

? Protestors in Quebec now have newly-enacted restraints placed upon them: any group of 10+ people must let police know in advance when and where and for how long they’ll be having a demonstration and they cannot wear masks during the event, at least not in Montreal. Fines range from $500 – $250,000. Students responded immediately with more marches and protests. Police responded to molotov cocktails with pepper spray and arrests.

?Apple has promised that, in early 2013, “the energy used to power its worldwide data centers will all come from renewable sources . . ..” Greenpeace has been on Apple for a while now to clean up and “commit to renewable energy”, including at its large Maiden, NC, facility.

?Grrrrrr. Since 1987, Japan has been prohibited from carrying out commercial whaling, but has gotten around that by saying they going to catch and kill whales as part of “lethal research.” Two of their whaling ships are now on the way to the northwestern Pacific with the goal of performing “lethal research” on 260 whales.

?Where’d our H2O go? Farmers in Colorado’s Northern Water Conservancy District bid for water in auctions. This year they have fierce competition–from fracking companies who are outbidding them. “Farm water grows crops, but it also often supports wildlife, wetlands and stream flows back to our rivers. Most drilling and fracking water is lost from the hydrological cycle forever” . . ..

?From the Journal Reproductive Toxicology: “Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada”. This article translates the findings for us non-scientists.

?Cool! A 26-year old London man has invented tiles which are to be installed in England’s largest mall. The tiles will “collect the kinetic energy created by the estimated 40 million pedestrians who will use that walkway in a year, generating several hundred kilowatt-hours of electricity from their footsteps . . . enough to power half the mall’s outdoor lighting.”

?They warned us about it and now it’s upon us: “Arctic ice releasing ancient methane“.

?AL legislators were adamant about passing the severe immigration bill they’d originally passed. Although they were ordered back into session by the governor to rework the bill, they refused any significant changes, passed it again, and the governor has now signed it.

?The headline says it all: “88% of Baptist University’s Staff Quit Over Mandatory Anti-Gay Pledge”. That would be Shorter University of Rome GA

?Late last week we learned that Grover Norquist’s pledge was losing its charm. Yesterday, we were told that 11 legislators–all Democrats–have “cut ties” with ALEC. Wonder why they had those ties in the first place.

?According to an internal poll by the Labor Party, Julian Assange “stands a real chance” of winning an upper house seat in Australia.

?First attempt to find oil off Cuba’s coast has failed.

?The US State Department has granted a visa to Cuban President Raul Castro’s daughter, but denied those of almost a dozen other Cubans who wished to attend an academic conference in CA, including ones who have held temporary positions at Harvard and Columbia in the past. Cuban-American politicians are vigorously protesting visas being given to some of the Cubans, though, including to State and the President.

?The Drug War rages on. Four Mexican army generals have been arrested, “accused of involvement with the Beltran Leyva cartel . . . that has smuggled cocaine, heroin and other illegal drugs into the United States.” All four generals are under house arrest.

?There may be one break-through, though. “Mexican soldiers have arrested an alleged perpetrator [Daniel Elizondo, aka “The Madman”, of the Zetas] of the massacre of 49 people whose corpses were decapitated, dismembered and dumped on a highway last week.”

?The G8 have pledged “to lift millions of Africans out of poverty by promoting investments in sustainable agriculture.” They’ll do this by accelerating “the flow of private capital to African agriculture . . ..” No, you aren’t alone–others, too, are wondering why “input from those directly concerned had not been taken into consideration . . . [such as] women smallholder farmers who are so vital to food security in Africa.”

?Don’t you hate it when that happens? The Heartland Institute, which put up that huge billboard inking climate change “believers” to Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, is faced with a bleak future as its staff and corporate donors are departing. Having lost $825,000 so far, Heartland felt “forced to make up those funds by taking its first publicly acknowledged donations from the coal industry.”

?Outrageous! The US FIsh & Wildlife Service has authorized the killing of “10 endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep–five ewes and five lambs” in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park., a critical area for the sheep. Why? A wind project is being built adjacent to the park. Some of the sheep have radio tracking collars, for crying out loud, so why don’t they just capture and relocate them?

?At 5:24 pm today, West Coast time, the eclipse of the sun will begin, reaching maximum coverage at 6:38 and ending at 7:42 pm. Please: Do not look directly at the eclipse.

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