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The Roundup for May 22, 2012

Welcome to Tuesday’s Roundup! On this day in 1906, Orville and Wilbur Wright were granted US patent # 821,393 for their “Flying Machine”. And now we have drones.

?Approximately 20 US Special Operations Forces are in Yemen. “The contingent of troops is expected to grow . . . .” Meanwhile, a suicide bomb attack yesterday during a military parade in Sanaa killed more than 90 people. Obama has expressed his concern “about Al-Qaeda and extremist activity in Yemen”, pledging to work with the Yemeni government to “crack down” on them. And there is increasing recognition of Saudi Arabia’s role and interests vis-a-vis Yemen, and its position as US ally.

?”White House counter terror chief John Brennan has seized the lead in choosing which terrorists will be targeted for drone attacks or raids . . ..” In other words, the WH and not the Pentagon is in charge. Emptywheel untangles the intricacies and implications of these developments.

?”US military deaths in Afghanistan at 1,851″ as of today. 15,950 have been wounded “in hostile action”.

?Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Afghanistan, is leaving due to health reasons. Crocker came out of retirement last July in order to “reset an often tense and acrimonious relationship as a gradual drawdown of US combat forces got under way”.

?A night of fighting in Beirut between two Sunni groups, one for and the other against the president of Syria, “were the worst the city has seen in four years.”

?Drones in US skies? The Federal Aviation Administration has made it easier for law enforcement and other public agencies to fly drones around in local skies. Thanks to Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Freedom of Information lawsuit, you can find out if there’re drones flying around in that blue above you.

?The good, the bad & ? The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International will be launching a “PR blitz” to send the message “about unmanned aviation, the good and bad”, with predictable emphasis. Incidentally, the Association spokesperson, Michael Toscano, was “formerly the manager of the Pentagon’s robotics program . . ..”

?Gallup reports 82% of US Catholics “say birth control is morally acceptable”, just as “[s]ome 43 Catholic groups . . . filed 12 different suits” against the health care reform requirement that employers’ health coverage include contraceptives. More on the Washington DC Archdiocese and University of Notre Dame lawsuits here.

?Initial GAO estimates were that businesses would claim around $2 billion in credits under the new health care law. Turns out, businesses have actually claimed only $468 million. Families USA said that “as many as 2.5 million businesses were eligible for the tax credit but failed to claim it”.

?They’re calling it the “New Economy Movement” which is developing prototypes–“from solar-powered businesses to worker-owned cooperatives and state-owned banks”. 130 million in the US belong to credit unions, there are 2,000 municipally owned utilities, 10 million of us “work at some 11,000 employee-owned firms”, 200 community land trusts exist to preserve land and housing, people are participating more in stakeholder groups on corporate boards, and so on.

?And here’s a WaPo story straight from the “New Economy Movement”: “One of the most polarizing fights over money in politics has been unfolding this spring at annual corporate meetings, where shareholders are mounting an intensifying effort to push companies to disclose the money they spend on lobbying and political campaigns.”

?According to a spokesperson for the Bank of England, “Britain’s banks are strong enough to withstand any Greek exit from the eurozone but need to keep bolstering their financial strength . . ..” Nonetheless, the Bank’s Financial Policy Committee is on “alert stations”, as events unfold.

?36 students protesting increased university tuition hikes in Quebec have now been arrested, in addition to the 300 arrested Monday.

?Julian Assange’s show with RT is more interesting and informative than most US news.

?We saw this one coming: “The 1 Percent Is Buying Up All Of The Low End Real Estate”. Create rock-bottom prices through the mortgage mess, swoop in for the takings and then increase the rent.

?Jon Corzine, former CEO of the now-bankrupt MF Global, received $8 million in pay after the firm filed for bankruptcy.

?Natural-gas prices “jumped as much as 44% since sinking to decade lows last month.” As a result of the price increase in natural gas, some utilities turned to more, as its price is down 22%.

?A bill in the CA Assembly would “allow law enforcement personnel . . . prison guards, judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys” to redact their names from property records. There’s considerable opposition, including from the California Newspaper Publishers Association, and one county assessor who stated the law would be “cost prohibitive to implement and a nightmare to administer.”

?Seems the FBI is quite interested in the $200,000 campaign contributions made by the owner and employees of Suarez Corporation to Ohio US Rep. Jim Renacci and US Sen. candidate Josh Mandel. “Many of the employees [who contributed $5,000] had never given to federal campaigns before, lived in modest homes, and held job titles such as “copywriter.”

?Former US Rep Arthur Davis (Dem, er, Blue Dog – AL), who lost in his bid for the AL governorship, is now thinking of switching parties and states and running against incumbent Rep. Gerry Connolly (Dem-VA).

?How many votes does Grover think he’ll attract for his team with this kind of talk? Norquist has condemned legislative efforts to collect capital gains taxes on US investments by former US citizens and to deny reentry into the US by those who renounce their citizenship in order to avoid taxes.

?”ALEC Says It Plans To Craft Legislation To Take Down State Renewable Energy Targets”

?France tried banning a strain of Monsanto’s gm corn in 2008, which was overturned. In March of this year, they reinstated the ban and that’s now been rejected by the EU’s European Food Safety Authority.

?More than 50 Chinese cities are sinking under the weight of skyscrapers and mass urban migration. A 22-ft-long crack has appeared near the Shanghai World Financial Center, a sinkhole opened up in Xian, and a woman fell into a pit of boiling water underneath a sidewalk in Beijing. Sounds like science fiction, only it’s not.

?The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendation that men of all ages no longer be screened for prostate cancer using the PSA blood test has generated major controversy, which will no doubt rage on for a while.

?The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation is outraged that PF Auctions of Britain claims it will offer for sale a vial of blood supposedly taken from the late president while he was being treated after that attempted assassination in 1981.

?On the birther comedy front, AZ’s own Sheriff Arpaio has dispatched a “Threats Unit” to Hawaii to investigate Obama’s birth certificate, apparently in competition with AZ’s Secretary of State Bennett who grabbed some headlines with his own attempts. Bennett, btw, is a co-chair of the AZ Romney campaign.

?WaPo humor blogger takes “post-punk David Broder” as a compliment.

?The Invisible Hand Strikes Again

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