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The Roundup for January 6, 2013

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Good evening, all!

International Developments

? US drone strike again today which killed “at least 10 people suspected to be Taliban fighters in Pakistan’s northern tribal areas”.

? “Syria’s Assad denounces ‘puppet’ opponents in TV address”.  The Syrian National Coalition “quickly dismissed Mr. Assad’s proposal” as did various foreign ministers.

? “Egypt’s Morsi remakes cabinet, increasing Islamist presence”

? Mohamed al-Nagariaf, head of Libya’s Pariament, escaped an assassination attempt last Thursday.  He lives in the “Saharan south [which] has been plagued by tribal violence since the start of the armed uprising in 2011”.  Helpful  background here.

? Surprising this took so long to appear:  “The Moral Case for Drones

International Finance

?  Anticipation?  [I]nternational financial regulators “have eased rules on minimum quantities of cash and liquid assets all banks must hold . . ..  Banks will have to hold enough cash and easily sellable assets, to tide them over during an acute 30-day crisis.”

?  “Pamplona’s locksmiths join revolt as banks throw families from their homes:  In the years of the housing boom, Spain’s banks offered 100% mortgages.  Now, while receiving millions in public aid, they are throwing people out of their homes.  But there’s a rebellion under way”–by Locksmiths!

Money Matters USA

? Friday’s report on the deeply flawed foreclosure review process, is followed by a new report:  “Surprise, Surprise: The Banks Win“.  And if  the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve conclude their effort as seems likely  “the banks [will] end up getting off the hook easily and cheaply.”  Update:  US House of Representatives members Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) are seeking postponement of the settlement “until the lawmakers can review the details.”

? Taibbi’s latest–“The federal rescue of Wall Street didn’t fix the economy–it created a permanent bailout state based on a Ponzi-like confidence scheme.  And the worst may be yet to come”–is generating heat (here and here).  Yves Smith’s reaction.

? CA’s brand new Homeowner Bill of Rights  “codifies some of the changes agreed to in last year’s $25 billion national mortgage settlement”, extending the changes to all lenders in the state and extending “the protections beyond the settlement’s 2015 end date.”

Politics USA

? On the teevee today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) argued for closing tax loopholes (eg, oil subsidies, limiting certain tax deductions).  Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) agreed with limiting deductions.

?  LATimes: “The budget battles rocking the capital have exposed a deepening fault within an already fractured Republican Party: the divide between the GOP’s solid Southern base and the rest of the country.”   NYTimes:  “Republicans now face a country that is increasingly younger, multiethnic”, doesn’t like tax reductions for the wealthy nor cutting Social Security and Medicare.

? ????  “Sen. Harry Reid told the Senate floor on Friday that Hurricane Katrina was ‘nothing in comparison’ to Hurricane Sandy.”  Brief video.    Rep Cedric Richmond (D-LA) on the same topic.

? KS’s “entire House delegation” voted no on the $9.7 billion Superstorm Sandy relief aid last Friday.  Some in KS are expressing dismay that “you’ve got this unbelievably far right set of House members”.

? Meanwhile, poverty in KS is up, with 13.8%, or 384,000, Kansans officially in poverty–80,000 more than in 2008.  Advocates cite “selective chipping away” of programs and policies under the administration of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.  Examples: tax breaks for the poor rescinded, 38% reduction in TANF enrollees, etc.

Gun Corner

? New York Times’ headline bound to strike some nerves:  “More Guns = More Killing”.  Latin America is cited since it is the NRA’s “promised land” with guns everywhere and “some of the highest homicide rates in the world.”

? “Freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)” says stricter gun controls after the Newton, CT massacre is “exploiting the tragedy”.   “Freshman Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)” says some  administration gun control proposals are “way in extreme of what I think is necessary or even should be talked about.”

? The Obama administration’s proposed gun policy?  “Biden taskforce will aim to strengthen federal monitoring of gun sales, close loopholes and ban semi-automatic weapons”.  Likely impact to be?

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? “Health Insurers Raise Some Rates by Double Digits“, particularly on small businesses and people who purchase  their own insurance.  In CA, Aetna’s rate is up 22%, Anthem BX – 26%, Blue Shield – 20%.  Fl and OH, up 20% for some.  There is no federal provision preventing these increases: “This is business as usual.  It’s a huge loophole in the Affordable Care Act.”  Yep.

Education Directions

Michelle Rhee, controversial ex-chancellor of Washington, DC schools, is featured in a “Frontline” teevee show on Tuesday.  Were students’ mid-year sample tests tampered with? Why did test scores jump dramatically following Rhee’s arrival–and fall once she was gone?  Rhee now heads up a lobbying group called Students First.

? DC charter schools expel 72/10,000 students per year while public schools expel less than 1/10,000 students–though public schools suspend almost twice as many students as charter schools.  Interestingly, schools expelling students after Oct 5th get to keep the dollars allocated for those students.

? Two people who “ran a chain of taxpayer-funded charter schools across small-town Oregon . . . [and] scammed the state out of $17 million . . .  must repay that plus $2.7 million more” according to a court filing by the Oregon Dept of Justice.  Racketeering, money laundering, “and other fraud from 2007 to 2010.”

Heads Up!

From the Wall Street Journal:  “After more than four decades of a failed experiment, the human cost has become too high.  It is time to consider the decriminalization of drug use and the drug market.”  Estimated monetary costs of illegal drugs: $40 billion/year.   Latest Mexican drug-related violent death count (since 2006): 70,000.

? The NY Times:  “Former C.I.A. Officer Is the First to Face Prison for a Classified Leak”  John Kiriakou who shared the name of one CIA covert agent to a reporter “who did not publish it.”  Interesting comparison of Kiriakou’s case to prosecutorial actions for deaths of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq, torture, etc.

Planet Earth News

? Did Shell try to have that offshore oil rig, now run aground near Kodiak, AK, towed in an effort to avoid $7 million in Alaska state taxes?  Update: Shell will again try to tow the oil rig, actually “a circular barge”, using the same outfit that lost control of it last month.  Much controversy and uncertainty. Also, don’t miss Phil Munger/Edward Teller’s reporting at myFDL.

?  Its major owner is the US Interior Department, and it’s the largest coal-fired plant in the west.  The Navajo Generating Station in AZ is scheduled for clean-up, leading to speculation it will become a renewable energy plant.

?  In 2009, the US Bureau of Land Management sold 1,777 wild horses to one Tom Davis.  Were they slaughtered in Mexico for profit?  The Interior Dept’s Office of the Inspector General is trying to find out.  Meanwhile, new rules by the BLM  include a limit of four wild mustangs and burros per buyer during any six-month period, etc.

Latin America

Jose Mujica,  ex-urban guerrilla who spent over 10 years in solitary confinement, is now President of Uruguay.  He refuses to live in the presidential palace, preferring his “run-down house on Montevideo’s outskirts with no servants at all.”  He “donates about 90 percent of his salary, largely to a program for expanding housing for the poor.”  More.

Break Time

?  Since tomorrow’s a Monday.

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