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The Roundup for January 21, 2013

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Good evening, all.

International Developments

? The number keeps rising:  “At least 48 hostages are now thought to have died in a four-day siege at an Algerian gas plant”.  Update:  “The death toll from the four-day siege at an Algerian gas plant deep in the Sahara has risen to at least 81, with nine Japanese nationals also reported killed in an attack”.  Update:  Three US citizens were among those killed.

? “French and Malian troops have seized the key Malian towns of Diably and Douentza from militant Islamists” according to the French Defense Minister.  Egyptian Prime Minister Mohammed Morsi: “We never accept military intervention in Mali, because this will exacerbate conflict in the region”.

? “A suicide bomber targeting Syrian pro-government forces has killed many people in the central province of Hama, state new agency Sana reports.”  “Dozens” were killed, including civilians.  Russia is air-lifting about 100 of its citizens out of Beirut.

? Who is targeting bakeries and bread lines in Syria, and were cluster bombs used in the attack on the main bakery in Halfaya?

? There is great distrust between the Burmese government and various ethnic groups “which have continued intermittently ever since the country became independent in 1948.”  While the US and EU may be urging efforts for peace, the Burmese government continues relentless mortar shelling and troop advances against a desperate, but poorly armed Kachin resistance.

International Finance

? “Goldman Sachs made more than a quarter of a billion pounds last year by speculating on food staples, reigniting the controversy over banks profiting from the global food crisis.  The World Development Movement said “While nearly a billion people go hungry, Goldman Sachs bankers are feeding their own bonuses by betting on the price of food.”

? China’s Bank of Communications is predicting an 8.5% growth in China’s economy for 2013.  Exports up 8.5%, imports up 10%.  The World Bank anticipates an 8.4% growth.

? Iraq Premier Nuri al-Maliki has “called on ExxonMobil to respect the country’s constitution in rare talks with the US firm’s chief, an apparent reference to a [production-sharing] deal with the Kurdish region Baghdad says is illegal.”

? In Spain, where people are suffering under the cruel yoke of Austerity, it seems Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party may have been fattening the wallets of “senior members”, by giving them “undeclared salaries, mainly from private companies, over a 20-year period.”  An investigation has been ordered.

Money Matters USA

? Edelman’s annual survey results: “46% of U.S. respondents said they trusted the financial services industry, and only 41% said they trusted banks.”  Remember, though, that in 2011, only 25% trusted banks–and there was no shortage of banking scandals in 2012.  (Edelman’s is a public relations firm.)

? Counties in the central part of AZ declared natural disaster areas due to the drought include Apache, Maricopa, Navajo, Pinal, Yuma, Coconino, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Pima and Yavapai.  Farmers there are may be eligible for emergency government loans.

Politics USA

? According to Zeke Miller and Ben Smith, “Obama Prepares To Govern From The Left:  Gay Rights, climate, and gun control!  ‘A much more muscular form of liberalism,’ says Begala.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called President Obama’s inaugural address “eloquent in its simplicity and inspiring in its basic theme that we’re all in this together.”

? Richard Blanco’s reading of his poem “One Today” at the inauguration provoked this reaction from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA).

? “Yup, Ashley Judd Sounds Like She’s Running for Something”, perhaps the US Senate seat currently occupied by Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

? While everyone else was focused on the inauguration, VA Republican lawmakers were very busy, “hurriedly pass[ing] a bill that would redistrict the state’s senate seats.”  The gerrymandering  bill is expected to easily pass the VA House of Delegates.

? Of the 91 judges FL Republican Gov. Rick Scott appointed over the past two years, six are black–and 3 of those were reappointments.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? In fiscal year 2006, the Dept of Veterans Affairs’ monthly prescriptions for erectile dysfunction drugs were 2.7 million; by 2012, they were 4.5 million. Expenditures went from $27.1 million in 2006 to $71.7 million in 2012. Increased usage appears to be related to mental health issues resulting from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Women & Children

? Los Angeles Archbishop Roger M. Mahony “and a top advisor discussed ways to conceal the molestation of children from law enforcement” between 1986-87, “according to internal Catholic church records” just released.  Fifteen years later, the abuse finally came to light.

? Vandana Shiva asks why rape cases in India increased 240% since the 1990s–“Could there be a connection between the growth of violent, undemocratically imposed, unfair economic policies and the intensification and brutality of crimes against women?”

Working for A  Living

? “More than 1,000 furious migrant workers besieged a factory in Shanghai and held 18 Japanese and Chinese managers against their will for more than a day, after the workers were required to abide by unequal regulations.”  It’s an electronic appliance factory trying to impose a “new disciplinary policy” implemented once a Chinese company acquired it last year from a Japanese firm.

Planet Earth News

? President Obama “devoted a significant portion of his second inaugural speech Monday to climate change”.  Vice-President Biden dropped in on the Green Inaugural Ball unexpectedly.    However, “despite the charm offensive, administration officials have not yet signaled whether they will put the full political force of the White House behind climate change”.

? Fish caught near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant recently “are just as contaminated today with caesium 134 and caesium 137 as they were more than one year ago”.  This “implies that caesium is still being released to the food chain”.

Mixed Bag

? Moon and Jupiter very close tonight in the eastern sky–and it’ll be 13 years before such a conjunction occurs again.  Try not to miss.

? What the Mayans actually predicted

Break Time

? What can happen when you keep your eyes on the prize.

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