CommunityThe Bullpen

The Roundup for January 14, 2013

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Good evening!

International Developments

? “Rape has been a ‘significant’ weapon of war in the conflict raging in Syria since March 2011 and is the ‘primary’ factor in the exodus of women and children refugees in neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon”, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

? “Islamist fighters in Mali have seized a town in government-controlled territory amid a military intervention by France.”  Turns out, one of the leaders of the coup received military training in the US “on ‘several’ occasions, a U.S. defense official said Friday.”

 ? Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General has “again called on Israel . . . to withraw new settlement plans for East Jerusalem”.  Earlier, Ki-moon “warned that the proposed settlement . . . would represent an ‘almost fatal blow’ to remaining chances of securing a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

International Finance

?  A meeting in Berlin between Germany Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble and Alexis Tsipras, of Greece’s left-wing Syriza coalition, ended in disagreement.  Meantime, there was a “gun attack on the offices of the New Democracy party in Athens early this morning”, apparently the culmination of attacks at “other political offices and the homes of several journalists”.

?  There were “sharp declines in factory production” across southern Europe in November which offset “encouraging signs of growth in Germany, raising fears that the effects of the debt crisis have yet to bottom out.”

? Last year, “the world’s 100 richest people became $241 billion richer”.  Highly readable, succinct run-down of how the Hayek-Friedman theories, indeed “the entire structure of neoliberal thought is a fraud” sustained by a charade “and applied regardless of outcome.”

?  A UK court has ok’d the extradition of Kareem Serageldin, former Credit Suisse banker, to the US to face accusations “of inflating the value of mortgage securities during the financial crisis.”

?  A twofer: “Goldman Sachs bankers to reward themselves a staggering £8.3billion in bonuses”–AND–“Goldman eyes tax delay on UK bonuses” since, after April 6, the UK top income tax rate goes from 50 to 45%.

Money Matters USA

? While the issue of gun control rages in the US, the US is “Flooding the World With the Most Advance Weaponry Money Can Buy”.  The global arms trade, where the US “now has something remarkably close to a monopoly [78% for $66.3bn] on what’s politely called the ‘transfer” of weaponry on a global scale.”

? 529 bankers have been fired from the Independent Foreclosure Review section of JPMorgan Chase’s Mortgage Bank in Brooklyn.

? Mission Accomplished:  “Why the Housing Recovery is Nearly Homeowner-Less”.  Jobless Recovery, Homeowner-less Recovery.  Whatever will they think of next?

? When compared across countries in 2008, “Taxes as a Share of Gross Domestic Product” was 36.2%.  In the US the share was 27.3% of GDP, fourth up from the bottom (Turkey, Chile and Mexico).

Politics USA

? President Obama has “demanded that Congress raise the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling, saying the country is ‘not a deadbeat nation.'”

? John Dean (of Watergate fame) on “Why President Obama Could Easily Be Impeached Over the Debt Ceiling If Congress Fails to Raise It”.

? The poverty–and meanness–of Republican “new conservative ideas” to deal with poverty.   It’s “an ossified movement with no new answers for poverty or anything else.”

? This has got to hurt.  There is a limit to “ballot monitoring“: it’s the law.  The US Supreme Court has ruled “that the Republican Party must continue to adhere to an agreement designed to limit voter suppression.”

?”Napolitano to stay on for second term” as Secretary of Homeland Security. “Tom Vilsack to Stay Agriculture Secretary”

Gun Corner

? Gun addiction.  Really; chemically based.  No direct studies yet of its release while firing a gun, but “from copious amounts of video game research” we do know that dopamine is released while the shooter is engaged in the game.  Dopamine release over time depends on ever-increasing stimulation.

? New Pew Research Center poll results:  85% support background checks, 67% a federal database on sales, 58% a ban on semi-automatic weapons, 55% a ban on assault weapons ban, 54% a ban on “high-capacity ammunition clips”.

? By Friday, the nation will know what the Obama Administration plans to do to reduce gun violence.

? Under Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s leadership, the state legislature’s  vote on “tougher gun-control laws in New York” is said to be imminent.

? Provocative bunch.  It only costs 99-cents and is aimed at people 4 years of age and up–the NRA’s new shooting app with indoor, outdoor and skeet shoot ranges, featuring M9 handguns and MK11 sniper rifle.”  It also includes coffin-shaped targets.

Working for A Living

? Mi Republican Gov Rick Snyder “is hiring an attorney to enforce the new right-to-work law who will be required to pay state bar association dues while enforcing a law making union dues optional.”

? New York City school bus drivers are scheduled to strike on Wednesday, according to the Amalgamated Transit Union.  That’s 8,000 bus drivers and 152,000 students.

? Remember when ME Republican Gov. Paul LePage ordered that labor mural removed from the Labor Dept, “claiming it presented a one-sided view that bowed to organized labor and overlooked the contributions of job-creating entrepreneurs”?  It’s back, and apparently in a “more visually appealing” setting

Heads Up!

? Anonymous hacked into MIT’s website,posting  “In Memoriam, Aaron Swartz” tribute on the university’s main page and demanding “reform of copyright and intellectual property law” for purposes of common good and not private gain.  Some authors are posting on-line articles that are behind MIT’s JSTOR paywall.  MIT is investigating its own role.  The US Justice Dept has dropped all charges against Swartz, “citing his death.”

 ? San Diego’s Democratic Mayor Bob Filner is urging the city council “to take up the issue of formal zoning rules that incorporate medical marijuana” and has told zoning and code compliance officers to cease enforcing anti-medical marijuana regulations in the city.

Planet Earth News

? “Now no one can deny that the world is getting warmer: Last week’s report by America’s National Climate Assessment reveals the full horror of what’s happening to our planet”, nor can anyone deny the causes.  But, concludes The Guardian we shouldn’t expect immediate action “Given the vehemence of opposition in the US to the suggestion that climate change is manmade”.

? According to new research, “estuary barrages and tidal streams” in the UK “could provide more than 20% of the nation’s demand for electricity–and “tidal power is more reliable than wind.”

? The lesser prairie chicken or the energy industry?  If the US Fish and Wildlife Service places this specific grouse on the “threatened species” list, there will be “serious repercussions for wind farms, as well as oil and gas drilling” mainly in west TX.

Mixed Bag

? Ruby the Heartstealer’s testimony will not be needed in the trial of ex- and maybe future-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of having sex with Ruby while she was under 18.  The court also refused to suspend proceedings until after the Italian elections.

? Man vs Snake in the Everglades, courtesy of the FL Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Break Time

?  Five historical misconceptions.

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