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The Roundup for April 21, 2013

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Greetings all.

International Developments

? According to Yemen officials, a “suspected U.S. drone strike has killed two men, . . . Al-Qaeda militants.”

? Democrats urging “greater action” by the US in Syria include Sens. Robert Menendez (NJ) and Carl Levin (MI).  In the House it’s Rep Ed Royce (R-CA). Secretary of State John Kerry, who has personal experience in the horrors of war, is upping the ante in “non-lethal” military to $100m, and $20m in humanitarian aid–in addition to the $385m already provided.

? “Damascus: The changing face of Syria’s capital“.  A BBC editor, returning to Damascus after three years, reports on what he sees and hears.

? US Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, in Israel today where he “emphasized Washington’s willingness to let Israel decide whether and when it might strike Tehran in self-defense.”

? Kurdish women warriors are on the front lines in Syria.  They “undergo the same rigorous training as men and fight alongside each other”.  A Free Syrian Army soldier complained that women in the front lines can “seriously distract male fighters”.  In sharp contrast, a Kurdish woman soldier said, “We are not willing to collaborate with those who don’t accept women’s rights.”

? “China has deployed near Taiwan a powerful missile designed to take out US aircraft carriers”.

International Finance

? Sister Teresa Forcades, Catalan nun, has collected 17,000 signatures in two days in support of “the nationalization of banks and energy firms, housing rights and tough measures against corruption . . . ‘international solidarity, not war.””  Why?  “The current economic model, institutional and political order has failed.”

? His conscience forbade him to turn off the water at houses of poor people  struggling to survive, so he didn’t–since 2006.  Finally, the bosses at Veolia Eau in France fired their 20-year employee.  Bravo, Mark!

Money Matters USA

? “The US has the highest level of income gap of any [advanced country], with the top 1% capturing over 90% of the income growth.”  Much talk about it, but no action, while “emerging nations in Asia and Latin America are directing a significant portion of their resources to eliminate extreme poverty and reduce inequality.”

? How the Dept of Defense uses your tax money for its contractors.

? “The World’s Most Pot-Friendly CEOs“.

? Get ready to bail on some newspaper subscriptions.  The Koch Brothers are eager to get into the newspaper biz.  Right now they’re eyeing the Tribune Company which includes The Los Angeles Time, Chicago Tribute, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and Hartford Courant.

Politics USA

? Fertilizer plants and depots are required to report amounts of ammonium nitrate they have in excess of 400 pounds.  That West, TX fertilizer plant had 270 tons of the stuff, unreported.  Moreover, “DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up.”  Update:  “Texas Explosion Seen as Sign of Weak U.S. Oversight“.  Ya think?  Update: 14 bodies found, 200 injured. The dead include 5 volunteer firefighters and 4 emergency medical techs.

Two senior doctors in charge of medical care for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev “have abundant past experience treating victims of terror” because they are from Israel.

? Remember Attica? Amazing event from an amazing time.  “More than 40 years after an uprising at Attica left 43 people dead, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is planning to ask a judge to make public a trove of investigatory findings that have been hidden from public view for decades.”

? “This is our fucking city,” said Boston Red Sox Slugger David Ortiz “in a pre-game speech that was broadcast on live television.  Federal Communications Commissioner Chairman Julius Genachowski thinks that’s just fine.  The FCC is considering modifying “its indecency standards to grant leeway for fleeting, non-repetitive cases of such material.”

? WI Republicans were supposed to turn over state computerized redistricting files to Democrats for review, but thousands of files were deleted before the handover.  Democrats are suing.  Update: Now they’re saying “‘hundreds of thousands’ of files“.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? Long-term care is an issue policy-makers shun.  Example: A national commission has been formed to study this complex area–and given “six months to finish its work, has no budget and must borrow staff from a government sapped by automatic budget cuts and preoccupied with other matters.”

? In 2011, “about 46 percent of New Yorkers were making less than 150 percent of the poverty threshold”.  The poverty rate has increased from 19.8% of the population in 2007 to 23.6% in 2011.

? “Detroit police accused of ‘kidnapping’ homeless people and leaving them outside city limits.”

? That H7N9 bird flu outbreak in China has become very troubling, with experts in other countries collaborating closely with their Chinese counterparts.   Total cases now number 101, and deaths 20.

Working for A Living

? Excellent article with three data-rich charts showing the changed situation with unions and the work force, public and private and by geographic area.  More public sector workers are organized now than in the private sector.  As manufacturing disappears, organizing among “big-box retail and fast food” workers is showing some promise.

Planet Earth News

? Alfatoxin “that attacked the 2012 drought-hit U.S. corn crop” may worsen this year.  It’s carcinogenic and it’s rejected–“from pet food and livestock feed makers to vegoil and sweetener producers” and ethanol makers, too.

? Well, well.  FL is filing a “lawsuit against BP and Halliburton over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

? Bisphenol-A (BPA) was on CA’s list of reproductive toxicants.  A judge has ordered it removed from the list.

? Lake Baikal, in Russia, “renowned for its unique flora and fauna and contains about 20 percent of the planet’s freshwater reserves”, has become so polluted by a paper mill on its shore that the mill is being shut down.

Latin America

? “Unions in El Salvador are on high alert, fighting a privatization scheme that has the full weight of the U.S. government behind it . . ..  [A] militant coalition of public- and private-sector unions . . . are mobilizing agains a proposed Public-Private Partnership (P3) Law, drafted by Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes’ office with U.S. Treasury Department assistance.”

Mixed Bag

? Stonehenge–pushing the timeline back another 5,000 years.

Break Time

? A mountain hike

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