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The Roundup for March 14, 2013

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International Developments

? “Bashar al-Assad’s regime has lost control of much of Syria‘s long desert border with Iraq, as Sunni jihadist groups in both countries grow in strength, according to western counter-terrorism officials.”

? “France backs ending EU arms embargo on Syria” since they are “ready to support the rebels”

? From Israeli military intelligence:  “Iran and Hezbollah ‘have built 50,000-strong force to help Syrian regime'”.

? “International troops in Afghanistan have been put at risk after an ‘inflammatory speech’ by President Hamid Karzai” says Nato’s commander.   That ‘inflammatory speech’:  “the US and the Taliban [are] colluding to prolong the conflict”.

? “Baghdad bombings kill at least 22.  Fears are it’s al-Qaida “regaining strength.”

? “[T]housands of Iraqis are eligible for resettlement to the U.S. because they risked their lives to help the war effort as interpreters”.  Only 4,669 of 20,000 special visa slots have been filled–and the program expires in September.

? “Israel’s Land Injustice Perpetuated by a Racist Discourse:  Efforts to reform Israel’s discriminatory land allocation has met with failure, because mayors of impoverished Jewish communities are loath to cooperate with the mayors of Palestinian and Bedouin towns and villages.”

International Finance

? “Could gold be the next Libor scandal?  US regulator [Commodity Futures Trading Commission is] considering an inquiry into London’s gold and silver markets to check if prices are open to manipulation.”  Unbelievable:  Twice-daily telephone conferences with “Barclays, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Bank of Nova Scotia and Societe General” on gold, and HSBC, Bank of Nova Scotia and Societe Generale on silver.

? An “unsparing” report is coming from Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations tomorrow.  In preparation, David Dayen urges we “read a  astonishing new report . . . [which] reads like a rap sheet” even when mortgage fraud is removed!  This “astonishing new report” is about JP Morgan Chase.   Here’s the report.

? “The middle class in developing countries is rising ‘at an unprecedented speed and scale’ and will require ‘an epochal global rebalancing.”

Money Matters USA

? “Cities Weigh Taking Electricity Business From Private Utilities”–“reflecting intensifying concerns about climate change, responses to power disruptions and a desire to pump more renewable energy into the grid.”

? “Census: Record 1 in 3 US counties are now dying”.

? “What Wal-Mart Can’t Learn From McDonald’s“–how to make customers comfortable.

? Renter nation:  Blackstone Group, “manager of the largest real estate private-equity fund, has expanded a credit line to buy single-family homes to $2.1 billion from $600 million”.  Apparently, this is the “First Ever REO-To-Rent Securitization.”

Politics USA

? Senate Budget Chairperson Patty Murray (D-WA) has published their budget plan.  $975bn in spending reductions, $975bn in new tax revenue over 10 years.

? 1) What’s up with this?  2) Who are the “very elderly”?  “Pelosi:  ‘Let’s Take A Look’ At Chained CPI“.  It might just be hunky-dorey so long as it doesn’t hurt “the poor and the very elderly.”

? The Cave continues:  “President Obama is seeking to push Republicans to work with him on a grand deficit bargain by first assuring them he’s willing to cut entitlements”.

? “Massachusetts SEIU endorses Ed Marky in special [MA] Senate election.”  Ditto Planned Parenthood.

? “Last rites in foreclosure fight? Minnesota Senate Dems block hearing on Homeowners’ Bill of Rights”, a measure to protect people from wrongful foreclosure.

Kevin Orr is the new Detroit emergency financial manager.

? “Three former Republican legislators endorse [Terry] McAuliffe” (DLCDem-VA).  He’s all for “compromise and working together”, and we know where that leads.

Big trouble with deleted files, dented and scratched hard drives, etc., used on WI state redistricting computers.

? “US border agents shift focus to Texas in effort to combat Mexican cartels: Success in tightening border in Arizona means people- and drug-smuggling gangs increasingly look to Texas for route into US”.

Gun Corner

? Quite a bit of wrangling, but the Senate Judiciary Committe has “approved a bill banning almost 160 specific military-style assault weapons”.

? The NRA and gun manufacturers are not firmly joined-at-the-hip, it seems, with manufacturers having little opposition to background checks.

Droning on

? “John Podesta, who led Obama’s transition team, said the president is ‘wrong to withhold [drone] documents”.

? Glennzilla weighs in: “Even the most loyal establishment Democrats are now harshly denouncing the president for his war on transparency.”

Justice USA

? “Last month a three-year-long federal [15-felony] prosecution of Blackwater collapsed” because  “Blackwater built a case that . . . it was in many ways an extension of [the CIA].”

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? David Dayen clarifies some mysteries of Medicaid Expansion.  FL Gov. Rick Scott (R) wanted it but the FL legislature wants AR’s version which is full privatization.  “So off we go into the ultimate privatization of the entire health care system”.

Women & Children

? “Charts:  This Is What Happens When You Defund Planned Parenthood“,  TX-style.  Example:  53 clinics were shut down, 14 of which were Planned Parenthood clinics, and none of which provided abortions.

? Staggering:  “Over 25% of schoolgirls HIV positive” in South Africa, but only 4% of boys.  Older predator males to blame.  “94,000 schoolgirls . . . fell pregnant in 2011, . . . 77,000 had abortions at state facilities.

Planet Earth News

? “[F]our linked policy shifts to create a more stable and transparent international food system”: trade rules to ensure all countries have food; “publicly-managed grain reserves”; “funding for the poorest food importers”; strong laws governing “investment in land” including limits on investors.

? That didn’t take long:  “Japan’s ‘frozen gas’ is worthless if we take climate change seriously; Like all nations extending the fossil fuel frontier, Japan is adding to the mountain of fossil fuels we cannot responsibly burn”.

? Update on increasing recognition and concern in TX about water use for fracking.

? The UK has jumped on the “alternative nuclear technologies” bandwagon by committing $18.6 million to construction of a test reactor in France.

Latin America

? “A court has denied an amnesty for a former U.S.-backed dictator [Rios Montt] who presided over one of the bloodiest periods of Guatemala’s civil war, allowing his trial to continue.”

Break Time

? Parrot porn.

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