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The Roundup for December 30, 2012

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Good evening, all.   See you here again on January 1, 2013.

International Developments

? “At least three suspected al-Qaeda militants have been killed by a US drone strike in Yemen‘s south-western al-Bayda province”.

? Lakhdar Brahimi, UN-Arab envoy has reported on the Syrian crisis, warning “that as many as 100,000 people could die in the next year if a way cannot be found quickly to end the country’s civil war.”

? There’s a Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act under which the US State Department is “to develop a strategy . . . to ‘address Iran’s growing hostile presence and activity’ in the region.” Heightened surveillance is called for to prevent entry into the US of Iran and Hezbollah operatives in Central and South America.

International Finance

? Deutsche Bank scrutiny is heating up with experts claiming improper accounting of “billions of dollars of credit derivatives trades”.  US regulators say there were $4 to $12 billion in unaccounted paper losses.

? Easy for him to say.  UK Prime Minister David Cameron “insists the country is on the right track . . . [and] Britons should look to the future with optimism”.  Video.

? French President Francois Hollande’s administration said they would rework, then resubmit, a proposal for a 75% tax on incomes over $1.32 million.  A court overruled the tax because of inherent inequities.

? Saudi Arabia has announced a $102.9 billion surplus for 2012.

? Egypt is seeking a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.  The loan is needed to “shore up” the economy since Egypt’s “foreign reserves have dropped to ‘critical’ levels.”

Money Matters USA

? Eliot Spitzer is predicting the Dept of Justice has finally “awakened” and recognizes charging Wall Street fees for breaking the law isn’t enough.  “[T]here are going to [be] a lot more criminal cases brought against institutions.”  Been an awfully long and deep slumber.  (Video)

Politics USA

? Resolving the “fiscal cliff” crisis they’ve created has now centers on Social Security cuts.   Democrats are saying “cutting Social Security benefits at this late stage is a non-starter.”  Will they continue to say that?  Update: Latest word is that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “is willing to drop his demand to curb the growth of Social Security cost-of-living increases.”

? “Ten Things Everyone Should Know About the Social Security COLA Cut”

? Is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sincere about unleashing economic calamity via his vote on raising the debt ceiling unless he gets his way to impose means testing, chained-CPI, etc., to Social Security–even though Social Security adds not one cent to the US debt?

? Speaking of chained-CPI, here’s what President Obama had to say about that on the tee vee earlier today:  “one of the proposals we made was something called Chain CPI . . ..  Highly unpopular among Democrats.  Not something supported by AARP.  But in pursuit of strengthening Social Security for the long-term I’m willing to make those decisions.”  Video.

? Starbucks’ “come together” campaign is now going nation-wide.  CEO Howard Schultz first told workers in his Washington, DC outlets to write “come together” on cups in hopes legislators would come together on a budget deal.  Sounds harmless enough unless you know that Schultz recommended site which wants “to cut Social Security benefits and lower corporate tax rates”.

? They’re now talking about the “milk cliff”, which they created by failing to act on the Farm Bill.  “House leaders have prepared three bills to deal with the looming ‘milk cliff’ for floor action this week.”  Claim is, milk prices will double for consumers if something isn’t done.

? Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have a new plan “to unmask secretive political groups and their dark-money donors.”  Given Republican determination to protect their secret donors, passage of the Murkowski-Wyden bill is a “long-shot”.

? “Dark money” isn’t just for Republicans, either.  Without the mysterious appearance, and equally mysterious disappearance, of one dark money organization in MT, Sen. Jon Tester (D) just might not have been re-elected.  This particular dark money organization was called “Montana Hunters and Anglers”, btw.

? Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who’s all over the news today, said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is “worried to death that if we don’t fix the sequestration, we’re going to destroy the finest military in the world”.  Wonder what Lindsey feels about destroying the finest middle class, too.

Gun Corner

? “Silencers could give the next Adam Lanza even more time to kill–but to the NRA, they protect kids’ hearing”

? “More than 68 percent of the weapons recovered at Mexican crime scenes over a five-year period were traced to U.S. manufacturers or U.S. dealers who import firearms, according to statistics of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”  Data back to 2007.

? 43% of Americans wanted stricter gun laws in Oct 2011.  Today, 58% do.

? Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) will oppose legislation to “reinstate the federal assault weapons ban.”

Women & Children

? Hobby Lobby doesn’t like provisions in the Affordable Care Act mandating contraceptive coverage for employees, but their objections  were rejected by the US Supreme Court recently.  So, Hobby Lobby will undertake payment of $1.3 million in fines/day rather than provide contraceptive coverage.

? According to their global survey, the Thomson Reuters Foundation concluded in June “that India was among the worst places to be a women because of high rates of infanticide, child marriage and economic and sexual slavery.”

Heads Up!

? “This Week’s Senate Scandal:  Scorn for the 4th Amendment:  Crucial attempts to rein in government spying failed Thursday, guaranteeing that the privacy of more innocent Americans will be violated.”

? Naomi Wolf:  “Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy: New documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent.”

Planet Earth News

? According to the director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Administration, didn’t resign just to spend more time with her family.  He’s claiming she “left as a matter of conscience”, that she was deeply concerned about the controversial Keystone pipeline.

? After 10 years, a products liability lawsuit against 26 oil companies for “widespread groundwater contamination in New Hampshire” is finally coming to trial.  NH is asking for more than $700 million in damages for testing and cleanup.  MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) was involved.

? A 5-mile-long gill net “with hundreds of dead sharks” was seized by the US Coast Guard 4 miles near South Padre Island, TX.  Gill nets are illegal in TX; the sharks may have been destined for shark fin soup.

? Two more creatures listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act:  the bearded seal and the ringed seal.

Latin America

? Accusing Spanish-owned energy suppliers of “overcharging consumers in rural areas,”  Bolivian President Evo Morales has nationalized two subsidiaries of Iberdroia.  They’re in addition to “oil, telecommunications and energy-generating companies” he’s previously nationalized.  President Morales’ motivation was inequity both in “quality of electricity” and charges.

Mixed Bag

? “Al Qaeda Disbands; Says Job of Destroying U.S. Economy now in Congress’s Hands”

? Sure-fire prediction for 2013:  This will not turn out well.

? Belgium to file charges against the church of Scientology and to “recognize it as a criminal organization.”

Break Time

? Life Is A Job

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