Good evening to you! Hope you’ve enjoyed a fine June day. Here’s your news–and please add items of your own.
❖”Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has insisted his government had nothing to do with the Houla massacre, saying not even ‘monsters’ would commit such an ugly crime.
❖The DC Circuit of the US Court of Appeals has said they’ll order MEK (the People’s Muhajedin Organization of Iran) taken off the foreign terrorist organizations list unless Secretary of State Clinton decides it “still belongs on the list before October 1.”
❖While former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been sentenced to life in prison for the deaths of protestors during the uprising in Egypt last year, six officials who were originally charged with complicity in the protestors’ deaths were acquitted. Following the acquittals, angry rallies erupted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Alexandria, Suez and Mansoura and the campaign offices of Ahmed Shafiq, PM under Mubarak, were raided by angry protestors.
❖A Pakistani court has acquitted four men who “had been accused of arranging meetings between [failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad] and top Pakistani Taliban leaders, and sending him money to help prepare the attack.”
❖Krugman: “it’s all about using deficit panic as an excuse to dismantle social programs. . . . economic recovery was never the point; the drive for austerity was about using the crisis, not solving it.”
❖”In latest forecast, [US] commerce department says reductions in state and local government spending are holding back recovery”
❖On Friday, following that May jobs report (only 69,000 new jobs created during the month), the market closed down 274.88 points.
❖Speculation is that the Federal Reserve “will ride again to the rescue of the faltering economic recovery, making borrowing a little cheaper for a little longer, as it has done repeatedly over the last four years.” Others say not, including the president of the NY Federal Reserve: “. . . I think benefits of further action are unlikely to exceed the costs.” Bernanke appears before Congress’ Joint Economic Committee on Thursday, so maybe we’ll learn something then.
❖”Corporate Profits Have Skyrocketed Over Last Three Years” skyrocketed in terms of the growth in after-tax profits and as a portion of the GDP. Interesting charts.
❖At the annual stockholders’ meeting, Wal-Mart chair Robert Walton went on and on about how the corporation “would not tolerate corrupt acts”, responding to the recent scandal about $24 million in bribes made by Wal-Mart Stores Inc in Mexico.
❖It was pretty exciting back in 2008, when the workers at Republic Windows and Doors occupied their factory in an effort to obtain their wages and back pay. Those workers have now incorporated into a worker-run cooperative. New name will be New Era Windows, LLC.
❖Elizabeth Warren sailed through MA’s Democratic State Convention, winning 95.7% of the vote and thus avoiding a party primary in September. She also set a record, besting the previous highest of 86%.
❖WI’s recall election is the most expensive one in the state’s history–”the overwhelming majority underwritten by out-of-state sources” and made possible by Citizens United. More than $63.5 million has been spend thus far, a huge increase over the $37.4 million in the 2010 governor’s race. While it is a battleground for the survival of unions, this election also illustrates vividly the excesses of vast sums of money in the election process.
❖”I’m a straight shooter”, says WI Gov. Scott Walker in an ad just released by Tom Barrett’s election campaign which builds on new revelations about the on-going John Doe investigations.
❖JEB Bush “suggested that Republicans were outsourcing their ‘principles and convictions’ by signing Grover Norquist’s pledge . . ..” Imagine that: Principles!
❖Remember IL Sen. Mark Kirk whose wife is alleging he may have hid campaign payments made to a staffer with whom he was “involved” at the time? Turns out, Kirk has sponsored bills which “have resulted in millions of dollars going to clients of that staffer (and now ex-)girlfriend.
❖Politifact has been studying truth-telling among governors. Among those lacking are: Scott Walker of WI, with only 22% of his statements found to be true, followed by Rick Perry of TX and Lincoln Chafee of RI tied at 25%, Chris Christie of NJ at 38% and Bob McConnell of VA at 44%.
❖Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) has called it quits. MI’s Attorney General began investigating McCotter’s re-election campaign because of duplicate signatures gathered to put his name on the ballot and McCotter has decided to forego a write-in candidacy saying “one can’t clean up a mess multitasking.”
❖CT Dem Governor Dannel Malloy signed a bill Friday making CT the 17th state to legalize medical marijuana. Gov. Malloy said, “With careful regulation and safeguards, this law will allow a doctor and a patient to decide what is in that patient’s best interest.”
❖Great piece from Freddie DeBoer on the reality of US education rather than what we usually hear from those who twist the facts for their own purposes. A series of graphs documents that average scores in mathematics are up, scores in reading remain steady or trending upward, drop-out rates are down (across all ethnic groups), and high school and college graduations continue to rise. This article is part one of a planned three-part series, the second of which will explore differences in public and private school performance.
❖Lookin’ better. Harvard Law and Computer Science professor Jonathan Zittrain, “famed for his advocacy on behalf of Web freedom, openness and transparency” is now the Chair of the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Advisory Committee.
❖USSC Justice John Paul Stevens, now retired, is “increasingly convinced the [Citizens United] decision won’t stand the test of time, . . . that the Court already has had second thoughts . . . and will likely return to its 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. FEC.
❖An IRS regional manager “told pastors attending the Faith Leaders Summit meeting in Washington that activities [conducted in their capacity as pastors] that could result in loss of tax-exempt status include endorsing or opposing candidates, campaigning for them or making contributions to their campaigns.”
❖While Secretary of State Clinton has worked “forcefully . . . on behalf of Chen Guanchen, the blind Chinese dissident”, her agency has worked forcefully to silence one of its 23-year employees who has published a book (“We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People”) and has a blog in which he has a link to one cable at Wikileaks. The author, Peter Van Buren, has had his “security clearance and building pass” revoked and is being fired for the Wikileaks link. The ACLU is now involved.
❖A suit is being brought against a New Jersey hospital, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, where a physician allegedly denied an in-patient his HIV medications once she’d learned he became infected from having sex with men which she declared was “against God’s will.”
❖Noting that there are only “three national laws that address pregnancy discrimination, family and medical leave, and the rights of nursing mothers at work”, the National Partnership for Women and Families reports that the states’ grades on additional family-oriented laws passed by them range from an A- (CA and CT), all the way to the 18 that received an F (AL, GA, MS, SC, NC, OK, ID, UT, and so on).
❖According to a recent telephone survey of Americans by Kellogg Corporation, we’re pretty savvy on the need for fresh fruits and vegetables, for “environmentally friendly ways” of growing them and for local and national policy makers to support availability of healthy fruits and vegetables in all communities. One item was particularly encouraging: 75% “said they support the idea of a national program that would double Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program . . . , or ‘food stamps’”.
❖Well, glory be! “Canada, in a dramatic turnaround, has signaled its willingness to recognise water and sanitation as a basic human right.” Just in time for the Rio+20 meetings next month. In July 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring clean water and sanitation basic human rights, but 41 countries abstained, among them the US, Canada, Britain, and Australia.
❖One of the poorest places in the US is the Oglala Sioux Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. In an effort to counter their deep poverty, tribal officials have turned to tourism, which they hope will “fuel the economy and create desperately needed jobs among residents.”
❖Residents of Riverdale Mobile Home Park in PA have decided to make a stand to protect their homes against “Aqua America’s plans to contract a fracking water withdrawal facility” there. They have barricaded the area, seem to have at least temporarily stopped construction work, and are calling for help in saving their homes and community. And just in the nick of time (as this Roundup was being put into final form), word that Occupy Cleveland will be driving 4-1/2 hours to Jersey Shore, PA “to stand with Riverdale residents” in their blockade. Yay!
❖MD’s lawsuit against MERS is “a test case for addressing concerns that homes were being seized from defaulted borrowers without following proper procedures”. MERS has asked the chief judge in MD’s Court of Chancery to dismiss the lawsuit. The judge, who appeared sympathetic to affected borrowers, nonetheless directed several pointed questions at the state during proceedings last week.
❖George Zimmerman is back in police custody in Sanford, FL
❖Scientists and photographers, racing against time, are trying to measure, map and photograph the world’s rapidly disappearing glaciers. Activity in Africa is particularly important since the cloud cover that masks many glaciers makes aerial or satellite photography difficult.
❖Scientists have recorded “a 40 percent increase of mercury in bird eggs” that coincides with the expansion of the oilsands industry in Alberta. The government is being urged to undertake more research.
❖Two government ministers explain why Argentina took over 51% of Spanish Repsol‘s stock in the Argentina-based firm YPF: “the purpose of Repsol was to milk dry YPF, and make money at any cost since they left a total mess of the company with record low production and record low reserves.” The ministers also claimed that YPF oil production is now up 4.2% and gas 10.2% and that there will be “no shortage of gas for cooking and heating this winter.”
❖Two people have died and scores injured during protests at the copper mine in Espinor, Peru. The mayor has been charged with inciting the protests and has been placed in “preventative” [sic] custody. The deaths and injuries are purportedly the result of police gunfire. Peru’s government has said “dialogue is not possible with what it calls radical extremists . . ..” Is that supposed to put the matter to rest?
❖”Honduras sets up anti-corruption body”.
❖Aretha reigns supreme.