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The Roundup for December 27, 2012

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Here’s your Thursday evening news:

International Developments

? “Hamas bans Palestinian journalists from Israeli media co-operation . . . also orders its officials not to give interviews to Israeli press or television due to media ‘hostility’.”

? “Syrian rebels sidetracked by scramble for spoils of war: Looting, feuds and divided loyalties threaten to destroy unity of fighters as war enters new phase.”  And while the armed and  able-bodied are carrying-on with looting and such, people desperate for health care face a lack of drugs, doctors, clinics and hospitals.

International Finance

? Shares in Spain’s Bankia  “have slid almost 20% after Spain’s bank rescue fund said the troubled lender had a negative value of -4.2bn euros”, while its parent company, BFA, is said to be worth -10.4bn euros.  Spain’s bailout fund will have to provide 13.5bn euros to BFA, putting taxpayers at risk and further diluting the value of Bankia’s shares.

Money Matters USA

? Simply shocking to learn that the House Ethics Committee has closed down its investigation “into preferential mortgages doled out under a controversial VIP program without taking any action.”  While these are “serious matters” they “fell outside [the Committee’s] jurisdiction.  Congress and money:  What a mix!

? Corporations are “busy paying out 2013 dividends in 2012, so CEOs and other major shareholders can avoid paying higher taxes when the Bush tax cuts expire.”  WalMart, Washington Post Company, Oracle, The Sands Hotel, Carnival, HCA, and even Costco were named.

? November new home sales increased by the “fastest rate since 2010”, or by 4.4%.  Sales remain puny, but are improving.

? In 2008 most Chicago parking meters were 25-cents/hour, but Mayor Richard Daley (D) leased the city’s parking meters to Chicago Parking Meters LLC.  In 2013, rates will be $6.50/hour inside the Loop, $4.00/hour near the Loop, and $2/hour elsewhere.  In 2014, rates will be “tied to the rate of inflation”.  Plus, the city has to pony up when meters are out of service.  Privatization.  What’s there not to love?

? Fellow by name of William S. Rose III, of Knoxville, TN, contributed $12+million to Freedom Works last fall.  Turns out, a fellow by name of Richard Stephenson, of IL, who owns the for-profit Cancer Treatment Centers of America, actually contributed the money.  Stay tuned.

Politics USA

?  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has made it official: We’re going over their “fiscal cliff”. He also said OH Republican and House Leader John Boehner is running the House “with a dictatorship of the speaker”.

? And as their “fiscal cliff” looms, President Obama has called a meeting with “congressional leaders” for tomorrow; House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has said the House will meet Sunday evening.

? MA Democratic Member of the House, Edward Markey, plans to run for Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)’s seat now that Kerry appears headed for the State Department.

? Vice-President Joe Biden has sworn in HI Lt.Gov. Brian Schatz (D) to fill the seat of Sen Daniel Inouye (D-HI), who died last week.

? Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson has resigned from her job, effective late January, 2013.

? Judson Phillips, President of the Tea Party Nation, says Obama’s re-election was because he was running against “the worst candidate in history in Mitt Romney.”

Gun Corner

? “Privacy advocates may hate the idea, but an open national database of ammunition and gun purchases may be what America needs if we’re ever going to get our mass shooting problem under control.”  Corporations and government collect huge amounts of data on Americans’ purchases every minute, so why not construct a national database dedicated to guns and ammo purchases?

Women & Children

? US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor declined to place “a temporary hold on a controversial provision in the new health care law requiring employers to provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives.” The challenge was brought by Hobby Lobby Stores and a Christian bookstore chain, Mardel.

? The 23-year old student, victim of a horrific gang rape on a bus in Delhi, has now been flown to Singapore for further medical attention, including possible organ transplant.

? A 6 year-old girl from Afghanistan who was shot in the face by the Taliban after they murdered her father and brother, has had reconstructive surgery in the US thanks to the Global Medical Relief Fund.  Video.

Working for A Living

? “6 Ways to Juice Up the Labor Movement“, including “Quick Strikes”, organizing low-wage service jobs, form alliances (“community groups, faith leaders, and pro-labor elected officials”), and so on.

? Three of nine San Francisco Bay Area hospitals used replacement nurses for five days–as required under contract, they claim, with temporary staffing firms–while their unionized nurse employees were on a one-day strike.  The California Nurses Association is saying this was a “retaliatory lockout”.

Heads Up!

? VT Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy offered bill amendments requiring “a warrant for law-enforcement agents to access the contents or metadata of emails that have been stored remotely for more than 180 days.”  Those provisions were stripped from the bill to which Leahy had attached them, but they did get through the Judiciary Committee with only one “Nay” (AL Republican Jeff Sessions), so there is a chance in 2013 for greater email privacy.

Planet Earth News

? It’s been 25 years since the US Environmental Protection Agency and Wyoming officials “agreed that polluting the water beneath Christensen Ranch [in WY] was an acceptable price for producing energy there”, even though the pollutants included uranium.  Now they are having second thoughts, but they aren’t talking about them.

? While everyone was ho-ho-ho-ing, the US Food and Drug Administration “was hard at work ramming through genetically modified salmon” which the US Congress blocked last year.  AquaAdvantage is the name of the “biotech giant” creator of the new frankenfish.

Latin America

? Under President Evo Morales, Bolivia is operating licensed, satellite- and peer-monitored, small-plot production of coca leaves for traditional personal use.  At the same time, Bolivia is trying to end illegal cocaine operations, so far without the violence experienced before they kicked out the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the US ambassador.

? Between 1997-2004, Chiquita “allegedly funded the right-wing paramilitary group [AUC] for ‘protection’ purposes.  The AUC recruited child soldiers.  Hence, says Colombia’s Supreme Court, “assets owned by Chiquita Brand International should be allocated to families” of those children. More and more about Chiquita, paramilitaries, illegal drug smuggling and the US Dept of Justice.

? Crimes against humanity cases stemming from the reign of terror in Argentina in 1976-1983 are moving along more quickly through the court systems as cases that are similar are being combined. 20 trials are underway around the country, but the lead prosecutor says they need to move more quickly–including the appeals process. More here and here.

Mixed Bag

? “Forgive Everyone Everything” will be engraved on stone benches which will be part of the memorial in Mankato, MN for the 38 Dakota men hanged there December 26, 1862 as the US-Dakota War ended. The US-Dakota War’s causes included  US government failures, broken treaties and lies, leading to one of the darkest of days in American Indian history.

? The message that WWII carrier pigeon was trying to deliver when it died in a chimney in the UK–and was found only a month or so ago–remains undecoded, according to a UK expert on these matters.  A Canadian’s claim that he’d deciphered it has been called “just silly”.

? Visitors in-coming March-April 2013 (2014 L4) and November 2013 (Comet Ison). They are said to be “spectacular”, perhaps heralding “the year of the great comets.”  (And you scoffed about the end of the Mayan 13th Bakhtun.)

Break Time

? Wild Horses

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