Good evening, Firepups. Here’s your news for this last weekend in July.

International Developments

❖ “Syria army mounts air and land attack on Aleppo [Syria's second-largest city]“. There are fears of a major massacre, as a “steady stream of vehicles has been heading out of the city carrying hundreds of families . . ..”

❖ Another drone attack in Pakistan, this one killing “at least seven militants . . ..” No info on age. gender nor affiliation of the ‘militants’. On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Lieutenant General Zaheer ul-Islam will be in Washington to talk to his CIA counterpart.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is jetting over to the Mid-East “where tensions are rising over the democratic transition in Egypt, turmoil in Syria and Iran’s suspected advances toward nuclear weapons.” He’s going to Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel., too.

❖ “Is Israel the CIA’s top counterintelligence threat in the Near East? Signs of sophisticated surveillance prompt US intelligence officials to speak out on ‘complicated relationship with Mideast ally . . ..” Pretty dramatic accusations from CIA officers, which Netanyahu “flatly denies . . ..”

International Finance

Royal Bank of Scotland’s Chief, Stephen Hester, “is warning the bank faces a further hit to its reputation–and a huge fine–from the Libor scandal . . ..” Hester has already waived his bonus for 2012, after having to forego his 1million pound bonus in 2011 due to public outcry. “He declined to express any sympathy for Bob Diamond . . ..”

Money Matters USA

Ann Elise Sauer spent 23 years as Senate staffer, more than half with the Armed Services Committee, after which she left to become vice-president of Lockheed. She was hired by AZ Republican Senator John McCain to join his staff back in February. She’s also been paid by BAE Systems. Her counterpart on the House Armed Services Committee, Thomas MacKenzie, is a former Northrop Grumman lobbyist.

Animated ALEC, by Fiore

Politics, USA

Senate Republicans are saying “they will block all circuit court judges for the rest of the presidential election year.” Nonetheless, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled a vote on Monday for OK’s Robert Bacharach, “highly qualified and noncontroversial”, to the 10th Circuit US Court of Appeals. If Reid succeeds, then he could try to get more judiciary appointments through this Republican-blocked Senate. The American Bar Association is very concerned.

Expected results of the US Federal Election Commission’s announcement that “it will retroactively implement” a ruling requiring disclosure of persons “contributing over $1,000″ to secret-money groups running “electioneering campaigns” were surely short-lived. Turns out, those dark money groups (KKKKarl’s CrossroadsGPS, the US Chamber of Commerce, etc.) have “circumvented the ruling by running “independent expenditures” which do not require donor disclosure.

Outright fraud has been detected in some Pennsylvania schools‘ statewide exams results. In 2012, “unprecedented security measures” were imposed on the exams, and “scores tumbled” across the state–25% and more–while “the number of schools with ‘Adequate Yearly Progress’ under the federal No Child Left Behind Law plummeted. . ..”

❖ A study of financial disclosure forms in FL showed that “Florida state senators have grown their wealth by an average of $800,000 since taking office . . . [while FL House members] have dropped about $100,00 on average.” Only 12 lawmakers filed disclosure forms in 2012, and of the 10 known to work for law firms, only 1 disclosed a conflict of interest.

MI Republican Representative Dave Camp, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, has been diagnosed with. non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but will continue working while undergoing a chemotherapy regimen.

❖ The Affordable Care Act’s provision that states not expanding Medicaid coverage to include low-income people could lose their federal Medicaid funds was struck down by the recent US Supreme Court Ruling as “too coercive”. Now, scholars and analysts are wondering if it’s “too coercive” for the Environmental Protection Agency to “block a portion of . . . federal highway funding” for states that don’t meet certain air-quality standards.

The War on Women

Cruelty has now moved to Spain where the “conservative government has provoked a storm among women’s groups with plans to tighten the country’s abortion laws to make the procedure illegal in cases where the foetus is deformed.” Protests underway, you bet.

❖ Who let him in? Antonin Scalia, US Supreme Court Judge, doesn’t believe there is a right to abortion under the Constitution, and that the right to privacy covering abortion since the Griswold case was settled by the US Supreme Court in 1965 is not covered by the Constitution, either.

Working for A Living

❖ The New York City Council passed 2 measures “that would increase pay for janitors, security guards and other service workers at some companies that receive government subsidies or lease space to a city agency.” Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the bills but the City Council overrode his veto. So concerned is Mayor Bloomberg about the owners–and unconcerned about the workers?–that he is now suing the City Council.

❖ Over the past three years, prices “have risen steadily and the richest 1% have enjoyed huge tax breaks [while] the federal minimum wage has remained frozen at $7.25 an hour . . . or $15,080 a year . . . more than $7,000 below the federal poverty line for a family of four. As a result, the purchasing power [of the minimum wage] has slowly eroded . . . to $6.77 per hour” today.

❖ An estimated 2,000 miners have been laid off in KY in the past year. While many blame “the war on coal”, other factors are at work: slow economic recovery, more efficient drilling technology, increased use of natural gas, diminishment of easy-access coal seams after a century of mining, and others.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

University of Tennessee’s Center for Laser Applications has achieved a major technological breakthrough that enables lasers “to find, map and non-invasively [destroy] cancerous tumors.”

Planet Earth News

❖ “Bombshell: Koch-Funded Study Finds ‘Global Warming is Real‘, ‘On The High End’ and “Essentially All’ Due to Carbon Pollution”. Koch brothers were the main funders of the research project, conducted by a climate change skeptic.

70% of Americans now accept climate change, up from 52% in 2010. Politicians’ “complete lack of action towards addressing the issue [could have major long-term effect] since Americans presumed that any sane government wold be actively trying to address an issue that had the potential to destroy civilization.” How long before most Americans zero in on the close ties between their government and the corporations?

❖ Great photos of huge Japanese No-Nukes protest in Tokyo

Latin America

❖ After the “impeachment coup” of President Lugo, the new president of Paraguay has thrown open the doors of his country to foreign investments that have raised questions about environmental safety.” Among those invited in: genetically modified cotton (Monsanto), a $3.5 billion aluminum plant (Rio Tinto Alcan).

❖ Coinciding with the end of the 13th Baktun calendar, Bolivia will ban Coca-Cola starting December 21, 2012. This is being done in support of “the beginning of a new era free of capitalism and embracing the ‘culture of life’ and ‘community of spirit’.”

Mixed Bag

RIP Inkblot, long-time member of the Kevin Drum household.

❖ “69 Nations Have More US Troops Than Olympic Athletes”

Break Time

❖ On the 500,000-mile road trip with Gunther and Otto