CommunityThe Bullpen

The Roundup for February 19, 2013

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International Developments

? “Syria in ruins . . . [P]eople hope only for end to conflict as regime shells residential areas and democratic influence on rebels wanes”.  Government’s increasingly relying on militia.

? French President Francois Hollande:  “Islamist militants from neighboring Nigeria abducted a French family of seven . . . in northern Cameroon”.

? “Crisis deepens in Tunisia as PM set to quit”.

? Afghanistan war deaths declined from 3,021 in 2011 to 2,754 in 2012.  Why?  “the slowing pace of the war; more fighting by Afghan forces, who use less lethal weapons; and an assiduous effort by the Western-led forces to reduce the impact on civilians.”  Drone strikes increased, from 294 in 2011 to 506 in 2012.

? “Taliban targeting Afghan women and government workers”.

? Iraq today:  “4.5 million children . . .are now orphans.   [Some] 600,000 children . . . living on the streets, without either shelter or food to survive”.   The few state-run orphanages currently can’t meet “their most essential needs.”  Much more.

? “Poland will drop charges against a former intelligence chief prompted by allegations that the CIA was allowed to run a secret prison in Poland for al Qaeda suspects”

? A 12-story building in Shanghai supposedly houses the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s cyberwars headquarters.  They’ve “stolen vast amounts of data from . . . western companies and defence groups”.

“General John Allen  has decided to retire rather than proceed with his nomination as the NATO supreme allied commander”.  “Health reasons”.

International Finance

? A woman set herself afire in an Almassaora, Spain bank.  No motive given yet, but there’ve been “at least five mortgage default-related suicides in recent months.”

? Amazon’s cancelled their arrangement with the German security firm which provided neo-Nazi thugs who frightened workers.  Investigations continue.

? How much money is sitting in the Fed, by major banks?  Wells Fargo – $97.1bn;  JPMorgan – $88.6bn;  Goldman Sachs – $58.7bn; Canada’s TD Bank, Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Switzerland’s UBS – $12bn each.  When rates rise the Fed could be paying $50bn – $75bn in interest on those amounts.  Just imagine the public reaction.

Money Matters USA

Simpson & Bowles:  cut $600bn “over 10 years to . . .  Medicare and Medicaid insurance programs for the elderly, disabled and poor.”  They did recommend revenue increases,  which Republicans won’t accept anyway.

? Giant chain stores going down? Permanently contracting economy? Global trade relationships destroyed?  What’s next? Today’s younger generations will need to adapt and restore “the duties, responsibilities, obligations, and ceremonies that prompt citizens to care for each other.”

Politics USA

? “Meet 6 Politicians Getting Rich from America’s Endless Wars:  The defense industry is a powerful and influential lobby.”  Half are Dems.

US “Postal Service of The Future”.

? Republican logic, MI style:  “all those smug tree-huggers who dodge their fair share of road costs by driving cars that don’t use enough gasoline” deserve higher vehicle registration fees since they are “probably not paying their fare [sic] share” anyway.

? *Gasp!* A Republican state Senator in TX has proposed raising taxes to fund annual maintenance and “grow” the state’s road system.

? Tea-Party photo[shop] of KKKKarl.

Colorado’s state House passed an entire package of gun control bills.  Now on to the Democrat-controlled state Senate.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? “US retailers and restaurants [sic] chains that employ millions of low-wage workers are considering various ways to avoid . . . enrolling employees in health insurance plans under” the Affordable Care Act.  One option:  pay the  $2,000/year penalty for not covering each worker rather than the $4,664 enrollment cost.

? By passing up the opportunity to have their own health exchanges, Republican governors are strengthening the hand of the federal government and increasing the chances for a “nationally-run insurance marketplace”.

Women & Children

? “The Republicans are always telling us about their reverence for life.  Really?  They are going to have 600,000 poor women and children not have proper food” due to the sequester.  Video

? Catholic bishops in Germany are considering the “morning after pill” as pressure builds for reform, particularly following “last month’s refusals by two Catholic hospitals in Cologne to treat a rape victim.”

? “Arkansas state Senate  approved a [Republican[ measure on Monday to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in the case of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life.” Now it’s on Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s desk for signature.

Working for A Living

? President Obama has called for raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9/hour and 54% of Americans agree.  “Who Decided Workers Should Fall Behind” anyway?

? President Obama warns “thousands of teachers will be laid off if the looming automatic spending cuts go into effect.”

? New AFL-CIO website:  “Our Values @WORK”

? During difficult economic times, particularly for very young adults trying to find a job, the US Labor Dept. has halted enrollment in the Job Corps “due to concerns over mismanagement.”

? Great message for America’s workers:  “Investigation: Washington [DC] Airport Agency Leadership Targeted Pro-Labor Board Members in Rail Line Fight”.

Planet Earth News

? Interpol’s Environmental Crime Program has arrested “200 people in a wide-ranging international operation against illegal logging and trafficking of timber”–12 Central and South American countries; $100bn world-side.

? “BP to fight government’s ‘excessive’ demands over Deepwater oil spill”.   Transocean, however, has agreed to a $1bn payment in civil penalties.

? Continuous update:  “Ohio Residents Shut Down Fracking Waste Storage Facility”.

? Scientific American article on protecting the Arctic “from a rush for natural resources as melting ice makes mineral and energy exploration easier”.

? Yay! Berea (KY) Utilities’ solar panels leasing has grown so much that 132 new panels willl be in soon.

? Solar module costs/watt–from $1.29 in 2009 to an estimated $0.42 in 2015.

? What do birds on Midway Island eat?

Latin America

? Excepting Guantanamo, Latin America was the only region not participating in the US’ post-9/11 rendition and torture programs.  This despite, or because of, intense US efforts in the ’70s and ’80s to turn Latin American countries into brutally repressive right-wing regimes.  Will resistance to US military efforts in the region continue?

? New poll:  Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Madura would win a presidential vote.

Break Time

? Playmates2 

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