Good evening! Seventy-five years ago today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Marihuana Tax Act which has had major impact ever since. Excellent history of that act is here, for your weekend reading.

International Developments

❖Seems the Pentagon has a $900 million no-bid contract with Rosoboronexport, “the Russian government-owned arms supplier”, for arms for the Afghan Army. Seems the Russians purchase arms from Rosoboronexport for arms for President Assad’s military. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has noticed this and wants an investigation of the Pentagon contract. Yesterday we noted the tit-for-tat going on between the US and Russia over arms in Syria, so there’s that, too. Meanwhile, the killing goes on, and the Syrian rebels have acquired the supplies and skills necessary to make very powerful roadside bombs.

❖There are about a dozen secret US air bases in Africa, used for launching “smalll, unarmed planes ‘equipped with hidden sensors that can record full-time video, track infrared heat patterns, and vacuum up radio and cellphone signals’–part of a ‘shadow war’ against Al-Qaida and other militants.” An excellent article covering US military interests in Africa is here.

Drones over Yemen update: Nine people were killed by drone in Azzanl, 22 or 23 total this year, depending on the source, leading to 155 reported deaths. Drones are operated by the CIA, the Joint Special Operations Command, and some of the targets are “authorized by President Obama himself.”

Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, “packed with sympathizers of the ousted president [Mubarak], has ruled that Parliament must be immediately dissolved and Mubarak’s last prime minister can run for the presidency. This is viewed as “a frontal legal assault on the Muslim Brotherhood . . .” and has been called “the smoothest military coup” since whoever wins in the run-off will take power without the check of a parliament.

World Economics

Moody’s has cut Spain’s ratings to one notch above junk status. Standard & Poor’s has it two notches higher, and Fitch’s cut it to one notch above Moody’s.

❖”Sky News reports that ‘some of Europe’s largest banks are intensifying discussions about a move to reduce their co-operation with the big three credit ratings agencies amid widespread dissatisfaction with their decision-making.’”

Money Matters USA

❖In 2005, Medicaid fraud investigations were taken from the states and put under the feds. Ten contracts were let to companies charged with conducting the audits. So far, it has cost more to conduct the audits ($102 million) than the amount of overpayments uncovered by the audits ($20 million). Wonder who’s auditing the companies conducting the audits.

❖Oh, great. The US Supreme Court “will decide whether secondhand items copyrighted abroad can be legally sold within the United States.” It’s amazing what might be contained within this ruling–from your old iPad to support beams in your house.

❖”Accounting firm BDO USA LLP agreed Wednesday to pay $50 million to settle federal allegations that it helped wealthy clients use fraudulent tax shelters to evade $13 billion in income taxes.” They did it by “Short Sale” and “SOS”, illegal tax shelters. “Five BDO partners and principals have pleaded guilty to related charges and are awaiting sentencing.”

Politics USA

❖Great graph showing amounts of cuts being made to PA’s social services vs corporate tax breaks.

❖Population shifts and redistricting have pushed “Detroit’s two congressional districts deeper into the suburbs. There is speculation that the city’s two black representatives, John Conyers Jr and Hansen Clarke, “may be ousted by white Democratic challengers . . ..”

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has questioned the “morality” of the Food Stamp Program and told Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) “her type of thinking would bleed the treasury dry” after she offered an amendment to restore $4.5 billion for Food Stamps cut from the Farm Bill.

❖The $10 million Sheldon Adelson is giving to Mitt Romney’s campaign, as reported yesterday, is apparently just the old iceberg tip. “Well-placed source” says it’s “limitless”.

❖FL Gov. Rick Scott claims even he was removed from the voter rolls once for being mistakenly thought dead. Imagine that.

❖Speaking of which, the noncitizen voter purge in FL sprang from “a five-minute chat” Gov Rick Scott had with the Secretary of State way back in February 2011. Update: Elections officials in Lee and Collier Counties have resumed their voter purge.

Heads Up!

❖Finally:  ”White House Official Says Drug Addiction Is A Public Health Issue, Not A Crime”.  That’s from a speech made by Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy which released a report in April “which calls for more than 100 changes in US laws and counter-drug programs.” 

❖Yes! “Rhode Island’s governor is expected to sign into law the first ‘Homeless Bill of Rights‘ in the United States as early as next week, formally banning discrimination against homeless people and affirming their equal access to jobs, housing and services.”

❖”No cybersecurity compromise is jelling in the Senate–and the finger-pointing has begun.” Who cares who’s to blame–just be glad the cybersecurity bill is stalling.

❖Ominous: “British authorities on Thursday unveiled an ambitious plan to log details about every web visit, email, phone call or text message in the U.K.–and in a sharply-worded editorial the nation’s top law enforcement official accused those worried about the surveillance program of being either criminals or conspiracy theorists.” And heres the kicker–the government promises it’s not going to read and listen to annnnnnything without a proper warrant.

The War on Women

❖Continuing with its priorities, the “House GOP Blocking Abortion Access for Soldiers Who Are Raped

Michigan’s House of Representatives voted for anti-abortion measures that “could shut down most abortion clinics in the state.” Get this: one of their arguments for the bills is that they “will stop women from being potentially exploited by doctors . . ..”

Mother Earth News

❖Well, well. Fracking in the USSR. “Russian President Vladimir Putin is counting on Exxon Mobile . . to help drill oil fields in Siberia . . ..” The area to be drilled, Bazhenov, potentially has “billions of barrels” to be extracted, but has similar geology to North Dakota’s Bakken shale, making drilling difficult.

Arsenic pollution of the soil is rampant in China, which accounts for about 70% of it worldwide, a result of mining.  Add in “lead and heavy metal from factories and overuse of pesticides and fertilizers” and you have huge problems.  China is beginning to clean up its water pollution, but soil pollution promises to be “an immense and growing challenge”.

Mixed Bag

David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap which many of us have loved since the ’60s, took a stand Monday, locking himself in a jail cell facsimile in DC with 12 hemp plants, pressed hemp oil from the plants and was about to spread the oil on pieces of bread to share with bystanders, when the DC Police finally busted him. Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap imports some 20 tons of hemp oil each year.

Survivors of the 9/11 attacks who develop certain types of cancer could now be covered under the existing $4.3 billion fund set up for medical care for the survivors.

❖George Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie, has been arrested on charges she lied during George’s bail hearing.  Seems she said they were hard pressed to make bail for George when she had been transferring money from his account to hers and to his sister’s.  About $74,000 worth.

Break Time

Find yourself getting in legal hassles for shooting people? You might want to check this out.