Good evening, all!

International Developments

❖ “Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, which Damascus has acknowledged for the first time, is decades old and among the biggest in the Middle East, but experts are divided over its exact nature.”

❖ “CIA absence from Syria a setback for U.S., officials say: The lack of a CIA presence in Syria leaves the U.S. with scant details about opposition groups. Critics see a missed opportunity to influence Syrian rebels.”

❖ “Famous Spanish human rights investigator Baltasar Garzon will lead the legal team representing WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, the whistleblower website announced.”

❖ Not only were computer systems in Iran hacked on Monday, but workstations were bombarded with AC/DC’s Thunderstruck “at full volume”.

❖ They met all day yesterday, and still negotiators for Iran and major world powers cannot reach agreement on “whether and when full-scale talks will resume” about Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

International Economics

French President Francois Hollande “has set his sights on taxing the rich with plans to introduce a 75 percent tax rate for France’s top earners.” Hollande called it a “patriotic move”.

Politics USA

Dan Lungren, long-time Republican Representative, is engaged in his second struggle with Ami Bera, Democrat candidate for the seat. Jonathan Soros (son of you-know-who) and Sheldon Adelson (right-wing money-bags) are targeting the Lungren-Bera contest. KKKKarl’s American Crossroads plunked down $682,000 to defeat Bera last election and more is expected this year.

❖ The Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee met to consider the Citizens United decision and what can be done about it. Answers ranged from a Constitutional amendment, to requiring full-disclosure of donors, to publicly financed elections, etc.

❖ Ooopsie! In their “Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act,” House Republicans so wrote the bill that new government regulations could not be imposed until unemployment reaches 94%. Democrats caught the typo and now they’re wrangling over it, with the Democrats refusing to consent to just fixing the typo.

❖ “More than $80 Million Spent on [WI Republican Gov Scott] Walker Recall”

TX Republican House Member Ted Poe wants Congress to establish guidelines for drones. “Who will operate [them] and what will be their mission? Could it be a suspicious government agent who thinks someone looks kind of funny? . . . Or a nosy neighbor who wants to make sure someone’s . . . flowers don’t violate the homeowners’ association rules?”

David Frum quickie: “Fast and Furious’ Dumb Conspiracy Theory”.

Gun sales have soared in the aftermath of the Aurora, CO shooting.

Money Matters USA

❖ “A top Federal Reserve official is calling on regulators to prevent banks from circumventing a provision in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill that aimed to prevent the kind of risk-taking that led to the financial crisis.” In short, according to the official, the Volcker Rule simply does not go far enough.

Peter Orsage of Citigroup and formerly director of the Office of Management and Budget under Obama, argues that the “Best Fix for Postal Service Is to Take It Private”. They’ve been aiming at privatizing the postal service for decades now, so no surprise, particularly from Orsage. Counter-proposals are here.

❖ “Natural gas prices have surged over 70% during the past three months, fueled by increased air conditioning use, a switch from coal in power plants, and declining production rates.”

❖ “Where’s the Revenue? The Untold Story of Big Deficits in Washington”. Nice chart focusing on the impact of the Bush tax cuts and corporate tax avoidance on the revenue side.

❖ “5 Reasons the Super-Rich Need Government More Than the Rest of Us”. Excellent summary.

❖ “JPMorgan Chase “has agreed to pay $100 million to settle litigation by credit card customers who accused the largest U.S. bank of improperly boosting their minimum payments as a means to generate higher fees.”

Wal-Mart has voiced its opposition to the “multi-billion-dollar settlement deal over credit-card fees” since it would “deprive merchants of their rights . . ..”

❖ These are the five companies not expected to make it past 2013: Pacific Sunwear of California, Research in Motion of Canada, CurrentTV (familiar looking fellow there?), Talbots, and American Airlines.

Tax liens sales are gaining in popularity as local governments scramble to find revenue. Case history of a family with an old $140 sewer bill that resulted in their home being foreclosed, painful and expensive experience.

Working for A Living

Wal-Mart’s NFI Crossdock warehouse sounds like a place where you wouldn’t want to work. A mysterious black dust covers everything and causes considerable discomfort, 100-degree heat, “vital equipment that is often faulty, old or broken, and that poses a serious risk to health”, limited access to water, and so on.

The War on Women

❖ NC’s legislature thought they had rid the state of Planned Parenthood for good. Wrong. “The women’s health organization has successfully applied for federal funds and will soon receive more than three times the amount Republican lawmakers had withheld.” The funds are from Title X and will allow the Durham clinic to not just continue but actually expand its programs.

Heads Up!

❖ The Protest and Assembly Rights Project has released its first in-depth report, “Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street”.

❖ Whether revelers or protestors, Tampa’s courts will be ready for Republican National Convention Week–including a “triple shift of judges, prosecutors and public defenders camping out . . . at the Falkenburg Road Jail.” They’re estimating 1,000 arrests.

❖ A routine apartment units inspection revealed one apartment in NJ across from Rutgers University that had two beds, NYPD radios, computers and software. Seems this was a “safe house” for undercover officers, trained and guided by the CIA, monitoring Muslim activity.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

❖ TX Republican Gov Rick Perry and SC Republican Gov Nikki Haley have fought hard to deny medical and health care benefits to many of their states’ poorest citizens. Pushback is underway, however, from hospitals (particularly those bearing the brunt of “charity care”) and private insurance plans (which see those potential Medicaid-eligibles as big profit-boosters).

Caleb and Katie Medley may end up owing $2 million in medical costs as a result of the Aurora, CO horror. He was shot in the eye in the theater and she is about to deliver their first child.

Planet Earth News

Go Gorillas! “Gorillas Seen Destroying Poachers’ Snares in Rwanda”

❖ The US Department of Interior has identified “17 sites on 285,000 acres of public land across six Southwestern states as prime spots for development of solar energy.”

Mixed Bag

❖ RIP, Sherman Hemsley (The Jeffersons)

❖ Who knew? “North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un Gets Married”

Break Time

Skate like it’s 1923