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The Roundup for February 10, 2013

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Good evening.

International Developments

? “Malian troops and suspected Islamist militants are exchanging heavy gunfire on the streets of Gao in northern Mali.”

? Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is now “ready for nuclear talks with US”.

? On his way out, NATO forces commander US Gen. John Allen assures us “the alliance is on the road to winning the war.”

? Who’s responsible, “Violent Salafists”  or Leagues of the Protection of the Revolution, for the recent assassination of Chokri Belaid of Tunisia?   No one’s sure, but “Violent Salafists” is becoming a major new term in the Middle East.

? Women, the bravest of all in Egypt.  Although 83% of Egyptian women report sexual harassment, Egyptian males say, using universal predator logic, that sexual assaults of women in Tahrir Square are the women’s fault since their presence “is giving the square a bad reputation”.

International Finance

? Bob Diamond, former CEO of Barclays, had a Tax Avoidance Unit. It’s being closed now, having  “been accused of orchestrating tax avoidance on an ‘industrial’ scale and has generated vast profits for the bank”.  Staff bonuses of  £2bn, however, will continue.

? Tom Hayes, “the former [UBS] senior trader charged by the US Department of Justice in connection with interest rate-rigging, says the scandal goes “much, much higher than me” . . . and warns “senior bank executives” could be implicated.

? Those two “big lawsuits brought by federal and state governments” against credit agency Standard & Poor’s “don’t point the finger at any particular person who was responsible for these dastardly doings.”  Why?  The “best and brightest were diverted to anti-terrorism cases [after 9/11] and not replaced.”  Bin Laden wins again.

Money Matters USA

? Don’t miss!  Neil Barofsky was Inspector General for the TARP program.  Jon Stewart gives us the opportunity to see what kind of a person Barofsky actually is, in stark contrast to the milieu in which he had to operate as IG.  Scroll to videos.

? A rising tide?  Boston-based States Street is embroiled in US lawsuits for “‘massive losses’ amounting to ‘hundreds of millions of dollars'”.  Retirees of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company Health Care Trust and the Glass Dimensions Inc Profit Sharing Plan and Trust are bringing the lawsuits.  Glass Dimensions Trust has a $77,000 portfolio compared to State Street’s $2.1tn assets, which shows you what’s up.

Coal companies “pay 25 cents a ton for coal from public lands and then can  turn around and sell it for $35 a ton”.  Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is supposed to be checking to see if, in addition, the coal companies are low-balling “the value of coal excavated from federal lands” in order to pay lower fees to the government.

? As union membership declined--from around 36% of workers in the late ’50s to 6.6% today–the share of US income taken by the top 1% rose–from around 10% to 23.5%.  The “assault on unions has been deliberate and merciless”.  What can be done to “claw back middle class wealth”.

Politics USA

? House Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) says shutting down mail delivery on Saturdays will “put anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 employees” out of work, hitting minorities and women particularly hard since they “comprise about 40 percent of the Postal Service employees.”

? Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Tom Cole (R-OK) mixed it up today, with Cole complaining that President Obama was responsible for defense cuts tied up in the sequester and Ellison reminding that Cole voted yes on the Budget Control Act which brought it into being in the first place.  Video.

Droning On

? Former Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo, Morris Davis, on drones: “What’s happening with the American people where we seem to be, you know, killing democracy to thunderous applause?”  And what about the shift from regarding being “felt up” at the airport 15 years ago as “sexual assault” and today regarding it as “pre-boarding”?  We’ve become “the constrained and the cowardly”.

? Former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on extra-judicial killing by drone: Set up something similar to the foreign intelligence surveillance court to “review targeted killings of Americans”, with a Congressional committee kept informed.

? Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said “use of drones should hinge on” whether “Congress has given the president the power to act by saying the country is at war.”  He deferred further comment, citing upcoming Senate hearings.

? Drone oversight?  No problem, says House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-MI), for he’s on the job providing “plenty of oversight.”  Monthly.  Retrospectively.  Really.  Oh, and there’s no “American list somewhere” for targeted killings.

? Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have expressed “their concern and interest”  in “FISA-like legal checks on the administration’s authority to execute armed drone strikes”.   Sen. Angus King (I-ME) also wants court-approval of drone strikes on “American terrorists in foreign countries.”

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? By 2030, 20% of the US population will be 65+, the age group that consumes the largest  share of health care resources and expenditures.  The Affordable Care Act increases the urgency of developing more effective and efficient medical care delivery–particularly for the elderly.  Here’s an example of steps being taken in the acute care setting.

Planet Earth News

? 75-year-old Vernon Hugh Bowman, an Indiana soybean farmer, and Monsanto are headed to the US Supreme Court.  Monsanto originally won $84,456 from farmer Bowman–copyright infringement so severe as to “undermine [Monsanto’s] business model”.

? “Dramatic increase in methane in the Arctic in January 2013″, complete with maps and graphs.  Highest concentrations of methane are over areas devoid of sea ice.

? List of US “Ethanol Plants Idled Since Drought Began”

CA’s solar companies generated “46 million pounds of waste . . . between 2007 and mid-2011”.

Latin America

Venezuela is devaluing the bolivar by 32% against the US dollar, “in an effort to boost its economy.”   Fifth time this has happened since 2003.

? A suspected Medillin, Colombia drug lord has been arrested in Panama.

Mixed Bag

? The Afghan Youth Orchestra.

Break Time

? “Sailing to Philadelphia … to draw … the Mason Dixon line.”  Lyrics here.

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