Hello.

International Developments

❖ “Taliban militants beheaded” two boys, one 10-years-old, the other 16 years-old, in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Taliban attack on “the military side of Kabul’s international airport”, leaving some injured.

❖ “Syrian government forces are reported to be preparing for a major offensive on rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo and its surroundings.”

❖ “Officials from North and South Korea have agreed to hold the first high-level meeting since 2007″.

Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to meet with protesters in Istanbul, but “the government will no longer tolerate ‘illegal acts’.”

Inspiration from Turkey.

Former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers says US nuclear bombs “stored underground in strong-rooms at the Volkel air base in Brabant” are still there.

Iceland Parliament member “Birgitta Jonsdottir and Smari McCarthy, executive director of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative,” . . .  are working on the legal aspects for application for asylum for Edward Snowden.

International Finance

❖ A funny thing happened on the road to privatization:  Greece’s Deputy Energy Minister “has warned . . . that Athens may have to reconsider the timing of its planned sale of Hellenic Petroleum, the country’s biggest oil refiner, following the failed sale of gas supplier DEPA”.

Money Matters USA

New York Times editorial on Social Security argues that, while full benefits can be paid only until 2035, this “is not a crisis.  It is a manageable problem.”  “Reforms should balance cuts with tax increases, including raising the level of wages subject to payroll tax.”  More.

❖ Money-sex-power at the US Securities and Exchange Commission.  One episode has ended with the SEC paying David Weber, who sued for $40m in damages, $580,000.

❖ A new suit against the SEC with Eric Ben-Artzi, formerly of Deutsch bank, alleging “he was fired after telling the SEC that [Deutsch bank] had hidden billions of dollars of losses”.

“S&P upgrades outlook for US economy to ‘stable’.”

Surveillance, USA

❖ Edward Snowden’s employer Booz Allen Hamilton’s interesting connections.  Carlyle specifically here, here and here.  Check out the Board of Directors hereJames Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, is a former employee of Booz Allen. Mike McConnell, Booz Allen’s vice-chair, was Director of National Intelligence under George W. Bush.  James Woolsey, former CIA Director was a Booz Allen Vice-President.  And on and on it goes.

❖ “Meet [some more of] the contractors analyzing your private data”, and paid with your tax dollars.

KKKKarl has joined the chorus supporting NSA surveillance with impeccable arguments such as this: “Rove said if used effectively, such efforts could possibly have prevented the Sept. 11 and Boston attacks.”

NSA’s 2001 memo arguing for “the government to ‘rethink’ the Fourth Amendment”.  Classic, starting out with how valuable and vibrant the Fourth Amendment is today, and then there’s the “however”.

❖ “White House ‘welcomes media interest’ in PRISM online spying program” while ”James Clapper [says] NSA has filed a crimes report over leaks”.

NSA “says it has the technical know-how to ensure it’s not illegally spying on Americans.”  Somehow mistakes happen anyway, but no worries since the agencies “destroy material they should not have seen” in those instances.

❖ Another way of looking at it:  “If the NSA Trusted Edward Snowden With Our Data, Why Should We Trust the NSA?”

❖ “The Constitutional Amnesia of the NSA Snooping Scandal: I’ve seen this all before–and have an FBI file to show for it.”

The Department of Justice has launched its “criminal probe of NSA leaker”.

The NSA has “asked a federal judge to defer ruling on a 7-year-old case challenging an NSA wiretapping program” in light of the recent media uproar about NSA.

❖ Tom Tomorrow: The Five Stages of Living in a National Security State”.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) doubts how aware “most members of Congress” were about the NSA’s goings-on, despite some assurances to the contrary.  Update: The administration says it briefed “lawmakers 22 times on section 702″ of the FISA Act.

❖ “Top officials from the Justice Department, the FBI and the National Security Administration will speak to House members Tuesday”.

❖ “The American Civil Liberties Union and Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Clinic [have] filed a motion with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, seeking ‘the release of secret court opinions that permit the government to acquire Americans’ phone records en masse’”.

❖ “5 Basic Things We Still Don’t Know About the [NSA's] Snooping.”

Politics USA

Three competitors  for the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)’s seat:  Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D), Representative Rush Holt (D) and Representative Frank Pallone (D).  Elections are scheduled for October. Booker has the lead.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) is 7 points ahead of Gabriel Gomez (R) in the race for the Senate seat vacated by now Secretary of State John Kerry (D).

VA Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) seems to be the subject of a grand jury investigation.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

Maps showing, by state, the number of mentally ill who would have been covered had the state opted for Medicaid expansion, and their per capita expenditures for mental health.

❖ “Sugar low: Big Soda is losing the battle for American hearts and bellies”.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that kids are turning to “sports drinks” which “have just as much sugar as soda.”

The War on Women

Imagined?  “Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno on sexual assault in the armed forces:  “Maybe we have a bigger problem than I imagined.”

❖ “Susan Komen CEO’s salary draws fire as donations drop, races are canceled.”

Planet Earth News

❖ Good news: “North sea cod stocks are on the road to sustainability, according to Marine Stewardship Council” in the UK.

An oil spill in Ecuador is moving down the Amazon River toward Brazil.  Brazil has informed “the navy and other agencies . . . and help was offered to Ecuador and Peru.”

Latin America

Venezuela has arrested 9 Colombian “paramilitary fighters”, accusing them of “plotting to assassinate President Nicolas Maduro.”

Break Time

❖ Raitt & Jones