Hey, hey, hey! It’s the weekend. I do hope you enjoy yours.

International Developments

❖ “Syria shoots down Turkish warplane: sources”.  Next headline:  “Turkish warplane ‘missing’ near Syrian border”   New update: Bloomberg says Syria apologies.

❖ A grim-looking (or maybe he just always looks that way) Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said “Russia will not admit a replay of the Libyan scenario in Syria . . ..”

❖ Poland has come a step closer to admitting that the CIA did “operate a secret prison in a remote lake region . . .” between 2002-3.  Polish PM Donald Tusk said, “This issue must be explained.  Let there be no doubt about it either in Poland or on the other side of the ocean.” Update: Krakow prosecutors “have a construction order that proves the CIA wanted a cage for terror suspects built . . .. ”

Self-immolations continue, with two more Tibetans setting themselves on fire in Yushu prefecture in China.  Over the past year, about 3 dozen Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest against the Chinese persecution of Tibetans.

International Economics

Greece’s Finance Minister fainted today and will undergo emergency surgery tomorrow for a damaged retina. No word on whether seeing the latest budget figures for Greece contributed to his fainting.

❖ “Spanish bonds rallied for a fourth consecutive day on Friday after the [European Central Bank] relaxed its collateral rules . . ..”

❖ Chancellor Angela Merkel has received a symbolic “slap” in the face from Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court which asked that legislation to ratify the European Stability Mechanism not be signed by July 1 as planned.  Both the Left Party and center-left Social Democratic Party have announced their opposition as well.

Politics USA

❖ Between 2002 – 2009 in the US, the number of prisoners in private facilities increased by 37%. Half of all immigrant prisoners are now in privatized facilities. And the money involved is huge: the two largest private prison companies in the US reported $3.3 billion in combined revenues in 2011. Paul Krugman has been following the scandal in NJ about those half-way houses (which we’ve also been following). As Krugman summarizes in his thoughtful article, the NJ scandal “is . . . almost surely a glimpse of a pervasive and growing reality, of a corrupt nexus of privatization and patronage that is undermining the government across much of our nation.”

❖ For the first time in the US, “A Roman Catholic church official was convicted . . . of child endangerment . . ..”  Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia helped cover-up the child sexual abuse by a priest.  The conviction carries a 3-1/2 to 7 year prison sentence.

❖ House Representative Ron Barber (D-AZ), who succeeded Rep. Gabby Giffords, is holding a “Congress On Your Corner” event in his district this Saturday in Tucson.  Rep. Barber was wounded at the “Congress On Your Corner” event Rep. Giffords held in January 2011 where she was shot in the head in an assassination attempt.

❖ Although he claims he doesn’t want Defense bills “weighted down” by social issues, House Armed Services Committee Chairman, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) does allow all kinds of anti-gay amendments to be attached to Defense bills.  Funny how that happens.

NV Representative Joe Heck “has mostly voted for extending unemployment benefits”, contrary to the trend among his Republican colleagues.  Seems his wife, Lisa, actually collected unemployment back in 2011 after she lost her job with her husband’s corporation when it was dissolved.

Mary Cheney, daughter of two of our faves, Dick &  Lynn Cheney, “has married her longtime partner, Heather Poe.”

Money Matters USA

❖ “American Austerity: Why the States Cutting Spending Are Doing Worse”  Article in The Atlantic showing how states with deep budget cuts have experienced higher unemployment rates, lower private sector employment, and lower GDP growth rate.  “What this report does tell us, however, is that there isn’t any evidence that austerity does any good in a situation like ours.”  Nor in Europe, one might add.

❖ Consumers and businesses are due $1.1 billion in rebates from health insurance plans that didn’t “spend at least 80 percent of subscriber premiums on health-care claims and quality improvement initiatives.”

❖ Guess what consumers complain about most to the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?  Banks!  Complaints by bank:  13% – Bank of America, 11% – a tie between JPMorgan and Citigroup, 8% – Capital One, and 5% – Wells Fargo.

❖ They been fooling us or we been fooling ourselves?  Oil companies like to threaten that they’ll move their drilling operations elsewhere if states don’t provide them with all kinds of freebies and enticements.  Turns out, they are closely tethered by the geographics of oil and little else.  David Sirota tells us all about it.

Working for A Living

IL Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation “requiring thousands of retired state employees to chip in on the costs of health care insurance that many of them get for little or nothing.”

❖ The US Supreme Court has ruled that “all employees represented by a union be given the chance to opt-out of paying emergency fees to be used in union political campaigns.”

❖ Modesto-based chain Save Mart Supermarkets, which is in negotiations with the United Food and Commercial Workers, has announced an hourly pay cut for senior clerk positions from $21 to $16.  The UFCW is currently involved in negotiations with three major grocery chains in northern CA–Save Mart, Raley’s and Safeway.  Negotiations have been on-going for 9 months now.

❖ “Jay Rockefeller Calls Out the Coal Industry“.  Very interesting, since coal is such a huge industry in WV, but Rockefeller was quite clear:  job losses will result unless coal mining adapts and innovates, making changes to lower emissions and create new jobs with new technologies, and so on.

Health & Hunger

❖ “Starving Greeks queue for food in their thousands as debt-wracked country finally forms a coalition government . . . but how long will it last?”  Daily Mail article with lots of pictures.

❖ A lottery OR established in 2008 let some people living in poverty into the Medicaid program. Researchers have been tracking the effects since that time. They’ve found that “gaining insurance makes people healthier, happier and more financially stable.” They’ve also found that “the newly insured spent an average of $778 a year, or 25 percent, more on health care than those who did not win insurance.” Interesting case histories are presented.

CA’s governor and Democrats in the legislature have made a deal to shift 880,000 children from the Healthy Families program to MediCal (CA’s Medicaid program). Almost half of the children are to be moved over to MediCal on January 1, 2013, a huge demand placed providers. CA children advocates responded immediately with “outrage”. They are concerned at the number of children who might be lost during the shift, whether the number of providers willing to see the children under MediCal is sufficient for demand, and delays in care provided in all the confusion. It’s a mess.

Planet Earth News

They “were mistaken” in thinking this wouldn’t happen.  “Records from disparate corners of the United States show that wells drilled to bury [30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid] deep beneath the ground have repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface, or . . . seeping into shallow aquifers . . ..”  And there’re only 680,000 of these underground wells.

❖ As [PA Republican] Governor Corbett pushes to give Royal Dutch Shell a $1.65 billion tax credit, the Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a potential methane migration problem in Union Township, Tioga County, involving the company’s natural gas drilling arm.”  People living within a one-mile radius are being asked to temporarily evacuate.

❖ Rio+20:  “Youth climate leaders and their supporters have walked out of the UN climate summit . . . to protest the negotiating text that fails to protect the climate.  [They] staged a ‘people’s plenary’ saying the text decided at the conference by world leaders does not represent ‘the future we want’.” Their demonstration “violated all the U.N. rules . . ..”  Go youth!

Mixed Bag

❖ When Ann Romney sold her horse Super Hit, the horse had “Butorphanol, Delomidine, Romifidine, and Xylatine in its system . . . , according to court documents.”   Poor horse.

Karen Klein, the 68-yo bus monitor in Greece NY who was subjected to grossly demeaning taunts and threats by middle-schoolers on the bus, as aired on Youtube, now has over $500,000 awaiting her from small donations world-wide.

Break Time

❖ Vacation plans?  Here’re some pictures to inspire you.

See you back here at the Roundup Sunday evening.