Howdy!

International Developments

❖ “Nigeria’s army has begun operations against militant Islamists [Boko Haram] in the north-east.”

❖ “More than 60 people” killed and “dozens hurt in several bomb attacks apparently targeting Sunnis” in Iraq.  This source says 40 killed, following “two days of attacks in Shia districts”.

❖ “Who’s who in Syria’s battlefield: Key rebel groups, their leaders and ideology”.

Syrian rebels gave Human Rights Watch access “to facilities [in Raqqa] that had belonged to a government security agency and military intelligence.”  They found “torture devices and other evidence that detainees were abused there”.

The Financial Times’ website and Twitter feed were “hacked [today], apparently by the [pro-Assad] ‘Syrian Electronic Army’.  Today’s FT featured this: “Qatar bankrolls Syrian revolt with cash and arms”, although Saudi Arabia is edging in.

Russia has shipped “sophisticated weapons” to Syria.

CIA Director John Brennan has been in Israel talking to the Israeli Prime Minister, Defense Minister, Military Chief of Staff and Mossad Chief.

7 dead in Kandahar, Afghanistan.  Car bomb.

❖ “[S]enior defense official Michael Sheehan [admits] that the War on Terror is one without end or boundary” and drone warfare will continue.   Glenzilla discusses.

❖ “After a 25-year legal battle, Canada has finally deported a Palestinian [Mahmoud Mohammad Issa Mohammad] convicted of an attack on an Israeli airliner in 1968″.  He was deported to Lebanon.

A video being “shopped around” Toronto by some Somalis reportedly shows “Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine” and saying things he shouldn’t.

❖ “Ruby” has testified in former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s “bunga bunga” trial.

International Finance

❖ “Malaria and HIV Spike as Greece Cuts Healthcare Spending”.  No more mosquito control and clean needles–and it will get worse.  Update:  “Greek addicts turn to deadly shisha [crystal meth] drug as economic crisis deepens”, overwhelming public health resources.

Anonymous “plans to target the oil-and-gas sector in a June 20 operation.”

Burma’s president Thein Sein’s “US visit to focus on foreign investment.”  You betcha.

Money Matters USA

DDay goes all droll on “SEC Convenes Foot-Dragging Roundtable on Rating Agency Reform, While Securities Issuers Return to Familiar Rating-Shopping Tricks”  and understandably so.  Despite the Franken-Wicker Rule,  it’s still business as usual.

❖ “Walmart And Gap Refuse To Sign Broad Safety Agreement In Bangladesh”.

❖ “Payrolls climbed in 30 U.S. states in April, while the unemployment rate dropped in 40″.  Payrolls up most in TX, NY and FL, while unemployment down most in CA, NY and SC.

OK Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has signed a bill she’s long pined for that “allows businesses to opt out of the worker’s compensation system as long as they provide equivalent benefits to injured workers.”

❖ OH Republicans have a bill ”that could cost the state’s public universities millions of dollars if they provide students with documents to help them register to vote.”

Politics USA

Former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen (formerly of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)–co-chairs of the Accountability Review Board that investigated the Benghazi attack–wrote Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) expressing “irritation” at Issa’s “portrayal of their work and requested he call a public hearing at which they can testify.”  Issa has responded.

The Economist says the Benghazi scandal is looking “devoid of reason.”

Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) is upset that the Department of Justice seized phone records from the AP.  He voted against a bill that would have prevented just that.

❖ A few Republicans agree with the Department of Justice that seizing the AP phone records was appropriate.

❖ Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have sent a letter to their colleagues urging their support on “the newly introduced media shield bill”.

❖ “Verizon Wireless Secretly Passed AP Reporters’ Phone Records to Feds”.  Remember what Verizon did in 2005?

❖ The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration told the [House] Ways and Means Committee . . . that the IRS used ‘inappropriate criteria’ which targeted conservative groups due to ‘ineffective management.’”

Steven Miller, named interim IRS Commissioner on 10 Nov 2012, told Congress there was no “targeting [of] individuals or groups on the basis of their political view”, but, in the wake of Citizens United, there was uncertainty “about the use of (c)4s” so cases were grouped.

❖ “Joseph Grant, the acting commissioner for the [IRS's] Tax Exempt and Government Entities division, plans to retire”.

Sarah Hall Ingram, in charge of the IRS “office accused of targeting Tea Party groups” between 2009-2010, is now  Director of the IRS’s Affordable Care Act Office.”

Lois Lerner, head of the IRS’ Tax-Exempt Organizations Division, didn’t “slip” any information–she planted the question that resulted in this uproar.

Gun Corner

MD’s Gov. Martin O’Malley “signed a gun-control bill that is among the country’s most sweeping legislative responses” to the Newtown, CT massacre.

The NRA’s candidate is the new mayor of Omaha, NE, defeating NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pick.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

❖ The House voted 229-195 to repeal Obamacare.  For the 37th time.

NC Gov. Pat McCrory (R) seems determined to give parts of NC’s Medicaid program to for-profit entities such as Amerigroup.  (Linked article “explains how this shell game works”.)

The War on Women

Another one:  Lt. Col. “Darin Haas, Fort Campbell [KY] Sexual Assault Program Manager, Arrested in Domestic Dispute”.

❖  Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), apparent master of the non sequitur, at the University of Mary’s commencement: “Forty years ago, the United States Supreme Court sanctioned abortion on demand.  And we wonder why our culture sees school shootings so often.”

Planet Earth News

❖ Biggie:  “Japan buys into US shale gas boom“, joined by GDF Suez of France.

Latin America

❖ Oh, crap!  Venezuela is running out of toilet paper.

Jorge Videla, ex-dictator of Argentina whose regime conducted many atrocities during the “Dirty War”, died in prison today while serving life sentences.

Mixed Bag

❖ Puffin lays an egg.

Single pixel camera, 3D images.

Break Time

The Long Road