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The Roundup for May 19, 2013

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Good evening.

International Developments

? Syrian President Bashar al-Assad:  “‘We can’t negotiate with fragmented rebels’.   The Syrian government says that the opposition could not uphold any peace deal, and blames the west for supporting them.”

? According to “opposition activists”, Syrian troops have been joined by “Hezbollah militants” in “an offensive to retake a major town near Lebanon from rebels”.  Update:  Rebels report 50 people killed “while state media says 70 ‘terrorists’ are dead” in Qusair.

? Drone strike on “suspected al-Qaida members in southern Yemen” Saturday, presumably by the US, killing 4.  There were two other drone strikes in Yemen last month, killing “at least six suspected militants”.

? “EU decision to lift Syrian oil sanctions boosts jihadist groups:  Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaida affiliate, consolidates position as scramble for control of wells accelerates”.  Very complex situation with the Syrian government paying al-Nusra to keep the oil flowing,  the Kurds fighting to protect their oil interests, and Iraqi tanks protecting other oil wells.  Chaos ensured.

? “Tunisia police clash with Salafists over meeting ban”.

? A female Pakistani politician, Zahra Shahid Hussain, member of Imran Khan’s Movement for Justice party, was been shot dead in Karachi.

? Nigerian army troops are in Maiduguri, Borno where they have “imposed a 24-hour curfew in parts” of the city.

International Finance

? The “US State Department has been essentially acting as a de facto global-marketing arm of the ag-biotech industry” through “a concerted strategy to promote agricultural biotechnology overseas, compel countries to import biotech crops and foods that they do not want” and to plan biotech crops.  “900 diplomatic cables [Wikileaks] . . . showed a carefully crafted campaign to break down resistance to GM products”.  But wait: could UK Prime Minister David Cameron come to the rescue?

? “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked his EU counterpart Catherine Ashton to [delay the decision to label products from Israeli settlements] as he tries to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”

? This has been on-again, off-again for awhile, but it now seems JP Morgan shareholders are determined “to strip Jamie Dimon of chairmanship:  US banking giant facing revolt by dissidents in wake of $6bn London Whale trading loss last year”.

? Led by FIOM, the metalworkers’ union, yesterday “Thousands of protesters . . . rallied in the Italian capital Rome against the policies of the new coalition government.”

Money Matters USA

? 14 North American retailers refused to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

? “In a study that surprises almost no one, the Bloomberg administration has found that half of New York City residents are ‘poor’ or ‘near-poor’ meaning that they were ‘making less than 150 percent of the poverty threshold.'”

Politics USA

? President Obama will be speaking before the National Defense University on Thursday, delivering “a major speech on counter-terrorism . . . the failure to shut down Guantanamo Bay and push the legal case for targeted drone strikes.”

? The Los Angeles Times: “How the IRS spun out of control: Little guidance from Washington and a flood of new nonprofits left the Cincinnati office overwhelmed”.  More from the New York Times:  “Confusion and Staff Troubles Rife at I.R.S. Office in Cincinnati, Ohio.”   Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)’s sage advice:  Fire everybody.

? On the seizure of AP documents by the Department of Justice:  “A broad grab of documents to identify confidential sources threatens not just the First Amendment rights of a free press, but the very ability to report and publish investigative journalism.”  From the “AP CEO:  Sources Are Reluctant To Talk After Phone Records Probe”.  He  also said seizure of AP documents was “unconstitutional” and  “sends message that ‘if you talk to the press, we are going to go after you’.”

? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was on the teevee today, avoiding directly answering questions about the Benghazi uproar.

? Oh, noooos.  “Texas House Decides to Audit Rick Perry’s Slush Texas Enterprise Fund.”

The War on Women

? “For more than 100 years, the Anna Louise Inn in downtown Cincinnati has been a safe, serene place [for] thousands of struggling women”.  Then Western & Southern, a Fortune 500 company, wanted it and after two years snared it.  Money talks; poverty walks.

? US tax-payer supported US ally, Afghanistan, refuses to pass a law to protect women’s rights, since it “violated Islamic principles.”

? Vice and Virtue police are springing up across war-torn Syria, courtesy of the Islamist rebels which have “brutally imposed a conservative dress code for women”, among other things.

Education Directions

? Chicago Teachers Union, together with students and parents, began a “3-day citywide march” as a “show of force” in support of “a pair of lawsuits filed in recent days.”  Opponents “of the closures got a boost last week when the city’s hearing officers–retired state and federal judges–came out against 13 of the closures, arguing they would force parents and children to cross gang lines and endanger their lives.”

Heads Up!

? “The New Yorker launches tool by Aaron Swartz to protect leaks:  Strongbox, co-created by the persecuted late technologist, is an open-source drop box for leaked documents”.

? David Swanson:  “Occupy No Longer in Headlines But Activism Continues”.

Planet Earth News

? Good news!  Giant leatherback turtles are making a “comeback in a corner of the Caribbean,”  Trinidad.  Don’t miss the photos.

Latin America

? “The Organization of American States said Friday that countries should consider decriminalizing drug use, a shift backed by several Latin American leaders but opposed by the United States.”  This “game-changing” report is a major challenge to the “war on drugs” mentality of the past several decades.

? “Guatemala’s Rios Montt Genocide Conviction Omen for US Presidents and Their Assassins”.

? Venezuela has arrested four of Enne superstores executives, following the seizure of “50 tons of food” which had been hoarded.   “[S]even thousand 700 liters of oil, 441 packages of precooked corn flour, six thousand kilos of sugar, 50 boxes of margarine, 12,000 cases and 450 dental creams soap units toilet.”  (Google translation)

Mixed Bag

? Who cracked Linear B?

? Explosion on the Moon

Break Time

? Voice Recognition Lift

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