Welcome to August.

International Developments

❖ “US President Barack Obama on Tuesday imposed new economic sanctions on Iran‘s oil export sector and on a pair of Chinese and Iraqi banks accused of doing business with Tehran.”

❖ While visiting Israel today, “Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta took a tough tone against Iran . . . as he implicitly threatened the possibility of an American military attack if Iran decides to develop a nuclear weapon.”

❖ “As electric power was restored across India on Wednesday, the nation’s new power minister sought to tamp down a growing argument between state and federal ministers over who was to blame for Tuesday’s unprecedented blackout.”

❖ “Somali comedian who mocked Islamists is shot dead” while leaving a radio station in Mogadishu.

Money Matters USA

❖ Things got a bit crazy on the US stock markets this morning, “after more than 100 stocks were hit with a surge of volatile and unexpected trading . . ..” There is a culprit, a “rogue algorithm” which seemed to be from Knight Capital Group, which acknowledged a “technology issue”.

❖ He has been urged by people at top levels to provide debt relief for underwater homeowners, but Ed DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency is– adamantly–not going to do that. His justifications are countered by FHFA’s own analysis, among others.

❖ Looks like people might be getting some relief: The rate at which mortgages are being refinanced is growing, having reached its highest level in three years.

Politics USA

❖ “Barack Obama Has Been Mysteriously Apathetic About Nominating Judges”. Of course, the Republicans are obstructing what appointments are sought, “but Obama is solely to blame for not mustering the energy to vet and nominate candidates for every open seat–or being willing to fight for them in the court of public opinion.”

PA Secretary of the Commonwealth Carole Aichele testified yesterday during a trial about the state’s ID law. She said 1) she didn’t know details about the law, 2) 99% of PA voters have valid ID, and 3) she has no evidence in support of “2)”.

❖ “As. Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) continues his Ahab-like quest to purge voters from his state’s voter roles, the U.S. Department of Justice is again accusing Scott’s administration of illegal voter suppression.”

❖ “While signing a sentencing reform bill into law on Tuesday, Massachusetts Gov. Devel Patrick (D) “condemned the mass imprisonment of non-violent drug offenders.”

❖ In addition to organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, there seems to be growing interest among legislators in seeing the legal justifications Obama is using to target Americans for killing.

❖ Speaking of killing, IL Democratic Gov Pat Quinn has “proposed a state ban on assault weapons in the aftermath” of the Aurora, CO horror. He also wants to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines. Similar bans are currently in place in CA, CT, MA, NJ and NY.

KY Republican Representative Geoff Davis has abruptly resigned his position, signaling an election for the seat during the November general election.

TX Tea Party Republican Ted Cruz has won the Senate run-off election for Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat.

Working for A Living

People are unemployed because businesses won’t hire because there’s not sufficient demand for products because people don’t have money to buy the products because they’re unemployed. What’s needed to break this cycle are more “aggressively expansionary monetary and fiscal policies”. They are not forthcoming. What’s more likely is “that two years from now . . . structural market failures [will occur] that are not amenable to any straightforward and easily implemented cure.”

The War on Women

Fl Democrat Representative Ted Deutch “blasted Republicans over legislation that would ban abortions in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks of pregnancy.” Rep. Deutch said: “It is time that my colleagues come clean with the American people and admit these arbitrary limitations on a woman’s constitutional right to choose are part of a broader effort.”

❖ Rivaling drama queens we’ve known, PA Republican Representative Mike Kelly compared August 1, 2012, when contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act became mandatory, to the attack of Pearl Harbor day, and 9/11

❖ It was aborted. AZ Republican Representative Trent Franks‘ bill that would have outlawed abortion in the District of Columbia did not get enough votes to pass.

Heads Up!

❖ The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled unanimously in a case stemming from a 2004 incident in which police fired pepper gas canisters against a group of students at a University of California-Davis event, permanently damaging one student’s eye. The court concluded that the police can be held liable for damages since they violated “the Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable seizure” and denied immunity for the police.”

Lt. John Pike, who administered pepper spray directly into the faces of Occupiers on the UC Davis campus last November, is no longer employed by the university. Here’s Lt. Pike in action.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

❖ In MA, new legislation “aims to save $200 billion over the next 15 years by linking health care cost increases to the growth of the state’s economy.” MA’s health care depends on insurance coverage. Insurance costs, however, are tied to health care costs. This bill establishes limits on allowable growth rates for medical services costs.

Planet Earth News

❖ What many feared seems likely: “Dispersants may have hurt Gulf food chain”. Experimental results show that phytoplankton and ciliates decreased significantly, and bacteria increased, in Gulf water containing dispersants (either solely or with oil). Implications for the future are that “the Gulf of Mexico’s food web is in danger”.

1200 barrels of oil spilled from a pipeline near Grand Marsh, WI last Friday. The feds have issued a corrective action order “against Enbridge Energy that prohibits the Houston-based company from operating the 470-mile pipeline until it submits a restart plan and it is approved.”

Latin America

❖ Six years after they applied for admission, Venezuela has joined the Mercosur trading bloc.

Colombia has indicted 19 palm oil companies for using paramilitarries to violently dislodge people from their homes and farms in the Curvavado region so the palm oil businesses could seize their land. Legislation has also been passed returning “8.6 million acres out of an estimated 14.8 million . . . to displaced residents from the region.”

Mixed Bag

❖ RIP, Gore Vidal. Great interview series of Vidal by Robert Scheer: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Great quotes are here.

❖ Their widdle fweelings might get hurted. “Italy’s highest court ruled that telling a man he has ‘no balls’ as an insult is a crime punishable with a fine because it hurts male pride. . ..”

❖ “While Everyone’s Gaze Is Diverted”

Break Time

Another Octopus’ Garden w/lots of goo goo eyes.