Happy Juneteeth! This celebration began after General Gordon Granger and his federal troops arrived in Galveston, TX, in 1865 and announced they were there to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln in 1862.

International Developments

❖ The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has produced a report about the US drone strike program. According to the report, the US should show how the drone program “complies with international humanitarian law and human rights” and what is being done to ensure “prompt, thorough, effective and independent public investigation of alleged violations.”

❖ “Ship ‘carrying Russian attack helicopters to Syria’ halted off Scotland”. This ship, the MV Alaed, has had its insurance coverage withdrawn by The Standard Club because the ship owners had “broken internal rules”, such as carrying weapons which might not be covered.

❖ Following a 2-hour meeting, President Obama and President Putin have agreed “that Syrians should determine their own future”, that “pushing the government from power using external pressure is unacceptable . . ..’

Julian Assange has taken refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy and is seeking political asylum.

International Economics

❖ “Austerity Doesn’t Pay As Debt Markets Ignore Rating Cuts”. Results of actions by the ratings agencies are no more predictable than chance. Finally, critics are speaking up: ratings agencies “have more potential to do harm than good” (John Hund, Finance Professor at Rice), “I don’t think we should be slaves to the ratings agencies” (Mervyn King, Bank of England), “S&P’s decision was flawed by a $2 trillion error” (according to the US Treasury), and so on.

Money Matters USA

❖ “My congratulations to workers in 16 states–from Maine to Georgia, New Jersey to Colorado! Many of you will be thrilled to know that the income taxes deducted from your paychecks each month are going to a very worthy cause: your corporate boss.” Jim Hightower explains.

❖ “Household heads ages 35 to 44 . . . have watched their median net worth slump 59% from before the recession.” The decrease in median income for all ages was 35% between 2005-2010.

❖ Sad story of what happens when ALEC takes over a town, in this case, Woonsocket RI.

❖ Among the 600 low-income people attending the Remote Area Medical clinic in Sewanee, TN are those who don’t even know there’s a national health care law being deliberated by the US Supreme Court. Many don’t even vote, and that lack is reflected in the TN legislature’s failure to establish an insurance exchange as required by federal law. Very poignant stories here, a microcosm of the plight of children and families with ill-health conditions in poor communities throughout the nation.

❖ An entire school district in Muskegon Heights, MI will be sold to either of two “for-profit charter school management companies” since the district is $12.4 million in debt. Only one of the schools owned by the two for-profit companies “is ranked above the 50th percentile” in MI’s charter schools rankings.

The War on Women

❖ What’s described as “a massive crowd” turned out for the reading of “The Vagina Monologues” at the MI Capitol. Some 5,000 people showed their support for Rep. Lisa Brown who was ordered off the floor of the MI House earlier for using the word ‘vagina’.

Politics USA

❖ Yesterday we noted NJ Rep. Gov. Chris Christie’s close ties to the owner of half-way houses (from which some 5100 prisoners have escaped). There is major reliance on the half-way houses as a result of budget crises. Seems there’s been a murder in one of the half-way houses, committed by three inmates with a violent history who should not have been placed there. An on-going investigation is turning up all manner of interesting things, such as the $35/day/prisoner difference between the federal allocation and what the half-way houses receive.

❖ Contrary to federal law, seekers of government assistance in AL are not being given voter registration applications. “[V]oter registration applications submitted at AL public assistance offices decreased by more than 75% ” from 1995-96 to 2009-10, while food stamp applications increased by 60%

❖ “Three prominent West Virginia Democrats said . . . they would skip the party’s national convention . . . this September over concerns that links to the party could hurt their re-election chances.” Not what in the world do you think they’re trying to say (or not say, actually)? They are Sen. Joe Manchin, Rep. Nick Rahall and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

❖ Interesting: “Mitt Romney plans to attend the NAACP‘s national convention in Houston this summer . . ..”

Lanny Davis and Michael Steele have merged their talents and expertise in a venture called Purple Nation Solutions. They don’t have any clients yet, but prospective ones include a “multinational company ‘in crisis’, a country wanting tourism and investors, and a company having a hard time with regulations. They have already responded aptly to some criticism: “We Confuse People”.

❖ Using DNA linked to “634 sexual assault and homicide cases that took place in Virginia between 1973 and 1987″, researchers found that 5% “of homicide and sexual assault cases . . . eliminated the convicted offender as the source of incriminating physical evidence”. More here.

Heads Up!

❖ The National Security Agency’s Inspector General has responded to Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO)’s request for an estimate of the number of Americans being spied on. The NSA just can’t come up with the number, you see, because that “would itself violate the privacy of U.S. persons”, it’s “beyond the [Inspector General's] capacity”, and “dedicating additional resources would likely impede the NSA’s mission.”

Parents and teachers are occupying Lakeview Elementary School in Oakland, CA, demanding that the school not close. Lakeview is one of five either slated to close or to become charter schools, or leased to an adjacent district. “All five schools now serve diverse, largely black and Latino populations.”

❖ A left-right consensus is building against domestic use of drones. From the ACLU to Rand Paul, from NY to LA, alarm is spreading. Guess what else is spreading? “The backlash has drone makers concerned.” About money, of course: “The drone market is expected to nearly double over the next 10 years, from” $6B to more than $11B annually, “with police departments accounting for a significant part of that growth.”

Eight Occupy Wall Street protestors who went over a tall fence into Duarte Square in NYC last December were found guilty of trespass on Monday. One, who used bolt-cutters on the fence, was sentenced to 45 days; the others were sentenced to 4 days of community service.

Planet Earth News

❖ While “worldwide fossil-fuel subsidies were $409B in 2010 (half of that for oil), the International Energy Agency reported renewable-energy subsidies were $66B in 2010 (up from $39B in 2007), or almost 14% of the total. To dramatize dissatisfaction with the huge subsidies for fossil-fuels, a 24-hour Twitter storm was launched as the Rio+20 sustainable development conference was on-going. “Tweets have already been projected on the Sydney Opera House and will later be projected in London, New York, New Delhi and Rio.”

❖ Leaders at Rio+20 were urged to devise “systems to monitor and counter the rising violence, which in many cases involves governments and foreign corporations, and to reduce the consumption pressures that are driving development into remote areas.” A very chilling statistic: “Environmental activists being ‘killed at rate of two a week’”

Break Time

How it feels to be free! (Classic Simone version is here.)