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The Roundup for February 20, 2013

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International Developments

? At least 2 dozen killed in attack on Aleppo, Syria.  Russian warships are returning to “waters near Syria in a new demonstration of the Kremlin’s interest in the outcome of the crisis there.”

? “U.N. numbers on Syrians in need of help far too low,” according to results of the “first detailed survey of the humanitarian crisis in northern Syria.”

? Secretary of State John Kerry’s first official trip abroad will not include Israel or Palestine.  (Maybe he heard what happened to Gustavo Dudamel at the Israeli airport the other day.)

International Finance

? Go people!  “The government of Bulgaria has quit after nationwide protests against austerity measures.”

? “Another austerity strike paralyses Greece“.  Video.

? Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy:  “no green shoots or passing clouds of early spring”.  Just austerity, austerity, austerity.

Money Matters USA

? US Justice Dept strikes again:  “deal reduces BP’s Deepwater Horizon fine by $3.4bn”.

? If “stricter accounting standards for derivatives and off-balance-sheet assets” were applied, we’d see the big banks are “twice as big as they say they are–or about the size of the U.S. economy”.  US banks are allowed to hide much more data than European ones.  Video.

? US banks “are lending the smallest portion of their deposits in five years” partly due to slower “demand from borrowers”.  However, 22% of small firms asking were denied loans during the 4th quarter of 2012, compared to 10% in 2011, and the proportion of mid-sized firms denied loans tripled between 2011-2012.

? “The US Federal Reserve is backing away from open-ended asset purchases as officials grow nervous about the dangers of a bigger balance sheet” and we grow nervous about the Fed.

? David Dayen’s response to  Katrina vanden Heuvel’s criticism  of DDay’s take on the Mortgage Backed Securities task force.

? How they do it:  set up reinsurance companies in Bermuda and cycle top executives’ salaries through those companies to avoid taxes.  And only a decade ago “the U.S. Internal Revenue Service threatened to crack down” on such arrangements.

? “U.S. Single-Family Home Starts Rise to Four-Year High”.

Politics USA

? Section 5 of the Civil Rights Act comes before the US Supreme Court next week.  Section 5 mandates that certain states  (Deep South) “seek preclearance from the Justice Dept or a federal court before making changes to their voting laws.”

? Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics [CREW] and Dr. David Gill, an IL Democrat who ran for Congress, have sued the IRS, “accusing the agency of creating a loophole that has allowed groups like the American Action Network [“dark money” groups] to flourish.”

? Obama’s campaign manager, David Axelrod:  “scrap limits to make campaign finance more transparent . . . current system is a ‘mess’ and the only solution is to make sure everything happens in plain view”.

? Heh:  “It’s Been 951 Days Since the Senate Passed a Major New Law”.

? Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) came in for some heavy reaction to his immigration plan at a town hall yesterday.  Video.

? MI’s Gov. Rick Snyder (R) now has what he needs to appoint an emergency manager for Detroit.  Will he?

? They didn’t mean it, they didn’t do it:  the Tea-Party and  the doctored photo of Rove.  Update:  Piling on now is Newt Gingrich who says KKKKarl’s new SuperPAC is “‘Dangerous And A ‘Terrible Idea'”.

? Jesse Jackson Jr has pled guilty “to one count of conspiracy” for personal use of some $750,000 in campaign funds (gold-plated Rolex, furs, etc.).  Sentencing in June.

? Sen Marco “Thirsty” Rubio (R-FL) visited Israel where he said Jerusalem is “of course the capital of your country.”

? How adorable! MO state House member Eric Burlison (R) uses a bill outlawing military-style assault weapons for his target practice.  Video.

Women & Children

? ND’s Senate has passed their “personhood” bill which “grants legal rights to fertilized eggs”.  According to physicians, it will “prevent doctors from treating complicated and potentially dangerous pregnancies”–but what do they know?

? Their comprehension of human biology is stunning: AL state Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin (R) says her new bill attacking abortion clinics is “necessary because the fetus  is ‘the largest organ in a body.'”

? Long-overdue inquiry into “Throwaway: Recruited by Police & Thrown into Danger, Young Informants are Drug War’s Latest Victims”.

Heads Up!

? The News Desk’s Daniel Wright got some well-deserved props for his Aaron Swartz FBI file scoop.

? The battlefield of the future: “Micro-drones will ‘hide in plain sight‘; ‘Lethal’ and ‘unobtrusive” micro-drones are being developed by the Air Force to mimic the behavior of bugs”.

? KGB: “Drones for America!”

? Federal courts’ “Prison Sentences for Black Men Are 20% Longer Than Those for White Men for Same Crimes”.

Planet Earth News

? President Obama golfed with oilmen during Sunday’s climate protest.

? Secretary of State John Kerry (D) at the University of Virginia “called for action to combat climate change and spur the American economy by investing in clean energy technologies.”

? “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food“–and the corporate role in it.

? In 2006, AK voters approved an initiative requiring large cruise ships to meet state water quality standards “at the point treated wastewater is discharged from the ship.”  AK lawmakers have now approved a measure to overturn the 2006 initiative.

? Both environmentalists and the coal industry are p.o.’d at WV Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) for suggesting eliminating “a state tax incentive for plug-in electric cars and other alternative fuel vehicles.”

? Come May, New England fisheries will be hit with a 77% cut in the number of cod from the Gulf of Maine and 61% in cod from Georges Bank of MA.

? Measured by bushels of corn/acre, states hardest hit by the 2012 drought include KY (50% below average), MO (42%), Illinois and Indiana (35% each), TN (32%) and so on.

? Indonesia has set aside an 18,000-square-mile “shark and manta ray sanctuary” off New Guinea island.

Mixed Bag

? Who knew?  Picasso used house paint.  (Psssst.  Siqueiros used automotive paint.)

Break Time

? Tales of Yankee Power

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