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Fatster’s Roundup from August 26, 2012

News from around the globe (photo: R. Stockli, A. Nelson, F. Hasler, NASA/ GSFC/ NOAA/ USGS)

Here’s your Sunday evening news.

International Developments

? Impact of war on Syrian children–and these are the ones whose parents were able to flee, getting them out of the maelstrom of violence in the country.

? “Syrian army hitting anti-Assad rebels hard in furious offensive”–a “massive assault” around Damascus and in towns rebels had secured. “Loyalist forces are then conducting waves of raids, arrests and executions, according to anti-government activists.” Meanwhile, “Syrian opposition activists say scores of bodies have been found in a town near” Damascus, “accusing government troops of a ‘massacre’.” Mass burials were being conducted in the Damascus suburb of Daraya today, Over the past week, approximately 320, including 3 women and 2 children, have been killed there, though another group claimed 633 were killed.

? More violence in Lebanon resulting from the spill-over of Syrian violence.

? The US “insisted” that diplomacy with Iran is on-going which was interpreted as a pre-emptive measure since Israel is expected to use the forthcoming International Atomic Energy Agency report as confirming that Iran is moving ahead with nuclear weapons plans and sanctions haven’t worked.

? 202 small NATO bases have been closed in Afghanistan and another 282 small bases are now in Afghan government possession. That leaves about half still operational under NATO.

? “A key commander in the Pakistan-based militant Haqqani network has been killed in a US drone strike, according to a family member and local sources.”

International Finance

? “Germany’s economy minister has rejected calls for Greece to get more time to implement economic reforms, saying . . . that Athens needs to respect the bailout deal reached with its international creditors.” And French President Francois Hollande has now “urged Greece to prove it can pass reforms demanded by international creditors.” He added that there would be “no further decision” about Greece until a major report is delivered in September. Meanwhile, as the economy continues to contract relentlessly, immigrants in Greece facing “increased hostility” are now protesting by the thousands.

? Italian bank Unicredit “has confirmed it is co-operating with a US investigation into a possible breach of sanctions” involving Iran. Let’s refresh. UK banks and money laundering for Iran: HSBC (also Burma, North Korea and Mexican drug cartels); Standard Chartered Bank; Royal Bank of Scotland, up next for investigation. German banks laundering for Iran: Commerzbank, anticipating a “hefty” fine; Deutsche Bank, rumored to be under investigation by US Treasury’s Office, the Federal Reserve and Manhattan’s district attorney. In the case of HSBC, there’s also concern that it transferred funds through its American subsidiary for Sudan and North Korea as well as Iran.

Money Matters USA

? Shades of Chiquita! “The Obama administration is backing Shell Oil after abruptly changing sides in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that could make it even more difficult for survivors of human rights abuses overseas to sue multinational corporations in federal courts.” Traditionally, cases were brought in US federal courts for people tortured in foreign countries–only now the cases are being brought against multinationals.

? Congressional staffers to the rescue! Hearing from constituents trapped by the mortgage scandal, congressional staffers are intervening, contacting city agencies and “calling banks relentlessly to bargain for help for homeowners”.

? Chicago is deducting amounts owed by IL residents “from their state income tax returns.” Chicago has collected $11 million, $8.5 million of which will be used to fund a “job program for youths . . . [that will] create 20,000 employment opportunities.” $1.5 million will be “distributed to local churches, hospitals and community organizations” for violence prevention programs.

Politics USA

? Republican National Committee leader Pat Rogers emailed NM’s Republican Gov. Susana Martinez office complaining that her meeting “with a group of American Indians ‘dishonored’ Gen. George Armstrong Custer . . ..”

? Hurricane Isaac has caused FL Gov Rick Scott and AL Gov. Robert Bentley to cancel attendance at the Republican National Convention.

? A new poll by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch/News4 confirms Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin is no longer very popular among MO voters. His “favorable-unfavorable numbers [are] at a dismal 17 to 56 percent.” Republicans are so desperate that they are thinking of running a write-in candidate against Akin.

? The Republicans’ list of candidates now includes a neo-Nazi, Art Jones, who wants to be the US Representative from the 3rd district of IL. He’s a Holocaust denier.

? “He believes life begins at conception”, he’s against the federal departments of Energy and Education, etc., and says his election “was about stopping ‘socialism, not social issues.” He’s Ted Yoho, a veterinarian with horse castration skill, complete political unknown, winner in the primary against a 12-term old political hand in FL.

? Former FL Gov Charlie Crist has endorsed Obama for president.

The War On Women [cont’]

? Currently, TX sends prostitutes with 3 misdemeanors to prison. Around 350 prostitutes are in prison, at a cost of $15,500 – $18,538/year each, so there’s increasing interest in cheaper ($4300/year), perhaps more effective, community-based rehab. Nothing about the Johns.

? Sierra Leone, after all those years of a particularly vicious civil war, has passed a law making sexual abuse illegal and applying stiff minimum sentences for offenders. The Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs “said the new bill was ‘a victory for Sierra Leoneans as it protects women, children and the disabled against sexual abuse.”

Working for A Living

? New Labor Department study of 6.1 million workers laid off over the past 3 years: About 1 in 4 found another job that pays as well; the others continued “unemployed [about 27%], stopped looking for work [17%] or accepted jobs at lower wages [30%].” Overall, the report “is telling a story of unemployment inflicting long-term damage for a lot of people.”

Heads Up!

? Food Not Bombs Tampa, primarily a homeless outreach effort, and Occupy Tampa are preparing for protestors at the Republican National Convention; specifically, “we’re going to be looking out for a lot of people that don’t get to be professional activists.” They are currently at a private park in West Tampa. Romneyville, “created by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign”, is in downtown Tampa and attracts considerable police presence.

? The “Occupy the Midwest: Another World is Possible”, conference held in Detroit this weekend, with participants from MI, OH, IL, MN and even London, England. Occupy Detroit is the host. Though wrapping up now, their website with events highlights is at: http://www.occupythemidwest.org

? Bummer. Canada’s Public Safety Minister issued an ok to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency for using and sharing information extracted by torture. This follows a directive sent earlier to Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Planet Earth News

? Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency scientists announce that Arctic ice is now at a new record low.

? Although the protected forests in West Africa have been under siege by a 40-year drought, their carbon storage ability has increased. This surprising result appears to be “a shift in species composition”, indicating that African tropical forests are “more resilient to climate change than the Amazon and other major forest regions.”

Latin America

? El Salvador’s complete ban on abortion yields horrifying stories of women suffering and dying due to complications of pregnancy and miscarriages. A petition has been filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, arguing that El Savador’s position on abortion “violates a number of human rights”.

Mixed Bag

? RIP, Neil Armstrong, who took that first small step on the moon. Message from his family.

Break Time

? Go cosmic–you’ll be astounded.

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David Dayen

David Dayen