‘Evening, all!

International Developments

“United States scales back plans for Guantanamo prosecutions.  Far fewer prisoners will be tried [than] originally planned after a recent court ruling cast doubt on the validity of some charges”.

❖ “At least 70 people have died in a wave of bombings and attacks in central and northern Iraq”.

❖ “Afghan supreme court staff killed in suicide blast: Seventeen dead in Kabul bombing claimed by Taliban as revenge attack aimed at judges.”

❖ “Turkey violence intensifies as police try to clear Taksim Square [in Istanbul]–live updates.”  Water cannon, petrol bombs: video

❖ “Egyptian Satirist Bassem Yousself [similar to Jon Stewart] Will Not Let His Voice Be Silenced.”  He’s a real pain to the Muslim Brotherhood.

❖ “One of Libya’s highest military officers has resigned after clashes between protesters and a government-aligned militia he oversaw left 31 people dead in  . . . Benghazi.”

International Finance

President Obama is showering Peruvian President Ollanta Humala with praise and attention with the goal of getting Peru signed-on to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

❖ Stunning photos:  “Down and Out in Athens”.

Money Matters USA

❖ “NSA Leaker’s Six-Figure Pay Should Spark Debate:  Why Are Federal Workers Being Replaced With Pricier Contractors?”

A judge in TN has blocked “Gov. Bill Halsam (R)’s plan to lay off more than 200 state workers this month.”

Surveillance USA

You must “understand the scope and caliber of the police state apparatus that’s in place.  The fact that it’s ‘dirty’ meaning error-ridden and incomplete, is likely the big reason you have analysts like Edward Snowden with wide-ranging access.”

❖ What does this mean?  ”Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he had responded in the ‘least untruthful manner‘ possible when denying that the NSA collected data on millions of American during congressional hearings.” (emphasis added) Update:  Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)’s on it.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO) “have been arguing for two years that the Patriot Act Congress voted on is different in material ways than the one the Obama administration is implementing.”

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have a bill  to “declassify secret [FISA] court opinions” relative to NSA surveillance. Co-sponsors include  Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mark Begich (D-AR), Jon Tester (D-MT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN.   Update:  Sen. Franken (D-MN) has “expressed a ‘high level of confidence’ that the federal government’s collection of phone and Internet data has been effective in thwarting terrorism.”  Update: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said the declassification bill is DOA.

“Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple–vigorously deny giving the Obama administration backdoor access to users’ internet information, but the potential damage to their brand reputation has left the companies floundering for a way to respond.”  Update:  Google has asked the feds’ permission to publish “‘aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures’”.

White House website petition for a pardon for Edward Snowden.

❖ “Edward Snowden: Exhibit A for How Washington Blows Money on Contractors.” Tip of the iceberg, too, with estimates (since nobody knows for sure) that contractor employees “made up more than half the federal workforce” in 2005.

❖ Turns out, there’s a “Quirk In Hong Kong Law [that] May Ensure Lengthy Battle To Deport Snowden.”

❖ “Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei said he was “shocked [to learn] about the US surveillance operation, Prism” and accused the US of “behaving like China.”

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is trying to say they don’t use “foreign intelligence agencies” to spy on their citizens, but “declined to say exactly what help New Zealand does get from agencies” like the NSA.  What an octopus this thing is!

The EU is demanding assurances that Europeans are not having their rights infringed by a massive US surveillance programme.”

Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-F), Chair of the Democratic National Committee, thinks Edward Snowden ought to be prosecuted.

The ACLU has sued the “Obama administration over its ‘dragnet’ collection of logs of domestic phone calls”.  They want it stopped and records purged.

Politics USA

The huge “five-year, half-trillion-dollar farm bill” passed the Senate 66-27.  Big boost to certain Americans, as they got “subsidies for crop insurance, rice and peanuts”.  And for other Americans?  Well, they only made “small cuts to food stamps.”

TX volunteer firefighters are being prevented from accessing “more than $90m [in] earmarked funds for their departments.”  It’s so ridiculous, state Rep. David Simpson (R) said, “We’re lying to them.”

The War on Women

The Obama administration quit trying to block over-the-counter availability of Plan B One-Step, perhaps because they suspected they’d lose before the Supreme Court.

Education Directions

Petition to fire NY’s Education Commissioner, John King, under whose leadership “education in NY has continued to decline, particularly in poor and rural districts.”  He’s all for No Child Left Behind, Common Core, etc.

Heads Up!

Protests and arrests continue in Raleigh, NC against the “state GOP’s cuts to Medicaid and policies on voter ID and women’s rights, among other issues.”  Religious leaders are in the forefront and protesters seem to be committed for the long term.  Go people!

A major backer of the current “regressive, conservative politics” in NC is one Art Pope, who, through the Pope Family Foundation, has “invested in an array of think tanks and advocacy groups dedicated to aggressively aligning the state’s political terrain with his business interests.”

Planet Earth News

Climate change on the Tibetan plateau.

Latin America

❖ Outrage!  “Fear and mistrust reign in [the indigenous Mayan town of] Santa Maria Nebaj [because people] are worried about intimidation attempts to keep them from testifying again in a retrial of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt.”   Montt, btw, just left a military hospital; he’s under house arrest.

Mixed Bag

Pope Francis said he doesn’t live in the Vatican for his “‘psychiatric health’”.  Pope Francis also said there’s a “gay lobby” inside the Vatican.

Break Time

Ride the Skunk