Howdy!

International Developments

❖ “US Secretary of State John Kerry has said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would have no role in a political settlement to Syria’s conflict.”   10% of Jordan’s population is now comprised of Syrian refugees.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai “reveals US will retain nine bases after withdrawal”.  He’s “conciliatory” about it. “Wads of cash”?

“Pakistani court declares US drone strikes in the country’s tribal belt illegal”, inhumane and a violation of the UN charter on human rights.

International Finance

❖ Not another!  “A fire has raced through an 11-story building housing a garment factory and residential complex in Bangladesh’s capital, killing at least eight people.”

❖ Latest from that horrific building collapse in Bangladesh in April:  1000 bodies have now been found.

❖ “Dissident shareholders” want Rupert Murdoch  out as chair of News Corporation.

Money Matters USA

❖ “IRS Opens Tax Cases Based on Trove of Offshore Account Data”

❖ Oh, noooos.  “JPMorgan Chase has been warned of a probable enforcement action by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [after] Jamie Dimon, chief executive, met about 100 officials from the Office of Comptroller of the Currency and Federal Reserve”.  Quite a range of troubles.

❖ Three weeks ago Rust Consulting sent almost 100,000 checks to homeowners “as compensation for foreclosure abuses”, but the checks bounced.  Now, they’ve mailed out more checks, “written for the wrong amounts”, although they didn’t bounce.

❖ Oopsie! Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “tipped off US banks and other big mortgage investors to more loan data than . . . intended”.  The info was used “to identify and analyse Harp loans.” Will there be an investigation?

❖ Meanwhile, Fannie Mae is sending “$59.4bn back to taxpayers”, part of the repayment of $170bn given to rescue Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during the 2008 financial crisis.  Fannie Mae has now repaid $95bn of the $116bn we loaned to it.

Krugman: “the days of a ONE TRILLION DOLLAR deficit are over.  In fact, the deficit is falling fast.”  And as it fades, “debt as a medium-term (meaning up to 10 years) issue has largely gone away.”

❖ “Jeffrey Skilling, the former Enron Corp chief executive, could be freed from prison nearly a decade sooner than originally expected”.  In return, Skilling is supposed “to stop appealing his conviction” and “more than $40 million seized from him [is] to be freed up for distribution to Enron fraud victims.”

❖ “Hundreds of billions of dollars in federal contracts, grants, loans, concession agreements and property leases go to private companies that pay low wages, provide few benefits, and offer employees little opportunity”.  Austerity USA.

❖ The US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals says it’s A-OK for MI to “bar public schools from collecting union dues”.

❖ Under a Republican House bill, workers would have “the option to take time off instead of overtime.”  Democrats recognized “employers will push workers” to take comp time rather than pay them for time worked, but they were out-voted.

❖ There’s a $2.5bn cost overrun on one single aircraft carrier, a nuclear one.  Total cost is now at $13bn.

Politics USA

❖ 83-year-old Sister Megan Rice sentenced to 20 years for symbolic nuclear protest.

President Obama has a dinner date with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and a few other Dems.

❖ Remember John Pistole, head of the Transportation Security Administration?  His agency’s worker identification card system is the subject of a “scathing report from the Government Accountability Office“.

Nine New York City Democrats are in hot water in a corruption scandal.  Names included.

AZ Attorney General Tom Horne has settled his hit-and-run case.  He was being observed by the FBI when he backed into another car in a parking garage.

Gun Corner

Gun group Connecticut Carry has “personally attacked the father of a Sandy Hook school massacre victim, accusing him of ‘profitting off of the tragedy’”.

Droning On

❖ Is this why there’ve been few accounts of drone strikes lately?  The “White House [is working] on changes that . . . will bring both greater transparency and a clearer legal framework” to the drone proram, Defense may take the program over, and “signature strikes . . . will be eliminated.”

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R_KY) wrote a mean letter to President Obama underscoring their determination to undercut Obamacare.  Ah, but there’s a catch, indicating B&M are simply turning control over to the Executive Branch.

❖ There’s now a House bill mandating the US Dept. of Agriculture report on what food stamps are actually purchasing.

The War on Women

Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) has written to the Pentagon about a shocking Facebook page “denigrating women in the Marine Corps.”  Speier writes: “It is my understanding that not only is the Marine Corps Inspector General aware of this page and monitoring it, but they have been doing so for over three years.” [emphasis added] Update: Facebook pulled the page.

Education Directions

❖ “Philadelphia Public School Students Walk Out”.

Bill Gates’s money supports rightwing groups like Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence and Ben Austin’s Parent Revolution”, etc.  It’s also made its way to the National Urban League and New York and Rhode Island districts.

Planet Earth News

Almost a third of honeybee colonies kept by beekeepers in the US didn’t survive the winter.  While the US government dithers, the EU has enacted a two-year ban on a class of pesticides known to “scramble the honeybees’ sense of navigation.”

❖ As they came to Washington, DC  to protest mountaintop removal coal mining, citizens brought with them “toxic water from their home communities”– containers of “brown, black, and red water” collected in VA, WV, and KY.

Al Gore to President Obama: “cancel the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.”

❖ “Tepco now dumping contaminated water from Fukushima plant into ocean–200 tons . . ..”  Meanwhile, “Hospital Official in Fukushima . . . stroke rate spiking in people ages 35 to 64–3.4 times higher than before.”

We are one.

Mixed Bag

Kitty flick

Break Time

❖ Bourgeois Blues