Ola!

International Developments

“An Afghan interpreter for U.S. special forces arrested on accusations of torturing and killing civilians has denied involvement in the murders to Afghan investigators, and said he was always acting on orders from his U.S. military handlers.”

❖ “President Obama’s catastrophically bad idea of arming Syria’s rebels is exploding in his face . . .. The rebels are battling each other . . . President Basha al-Assad is chortling . ..  Congress . . . is fighting back.  And now the CIA” is warning Hezbollah about Syrian rebel attacks in Lebanon.

Weird story of a North Korean ship “carrying undeclared military cargo from Cuba” being stopped in Panama.  Video here.

International Finance

❖ “Greeks take to streets again amid general strike over job cut plans: Demonstrators fill Syntagma Square in Athens ahead of parliamentary vote on measures demanded by Troika.”  Unemployment’s at 27% and they want to cut more jobs?

Money Matters USA

The US Department of Justice and Gallup Organization have “settled a false claims case” with Gallup paying $10.5million.  “Gallup allegedly inflated estimates of labor hours required for market contracts with the U.S. Mint and U.S. Passport Agency”.  But do they still have a contract?

In Hot Pursuit

Edward Snowden “has applied for temporary asylum in Russia, telling immigration officials that he fears for his life”.  Some interesting quotes from Putin and others.

Surveillance Planet

❖ Former World Bank economist Charles Kenny:  “The Case for Abolishing the DHS; The Department of Homeland Security is a monument to paranoia, waste, and inefficiency.  It’s time to get rid of it.”

❖ “Spain’s ambassador in La Paz has delivered a letter to the Bolivian foreign ministry apologising for the aerial incident that forced Evo Morales to make an unscheduled stop in Vienna.”  He “reiterated that his government never denied Morales’ plane permission to fly over Spanish airspace”, however.

❖ “Explanations provided so far by the United States concerning its alleged spying on Brazilian telephone and internet communications are not enough, says Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota.”  Update:  According to Brazilian newspaper O Globo, the NSA’s XKEYSCORE enables  “mass storage of international Internet metadata” for later querying, including about Google Maps use.

Ecuador has contracted with Van Scoyoc Associates, a lobbying firm, “to lobby Congress and the Obama administration”, apparently in response to threats from Capitol Hill after President Rafael Correa said he’d consider political asylum for Edward Snowden.  This is not that Van Scoyoc.  This is.

The Snowden leaks no doubt will result in challenges to FISA court rulings which might wind up in the Supreme Court.  Since he appoints the FISA judges, should Chief Justice John Roberts recuse himself in such cases?

❖ “Booz Allen Hamilton, the security contractor that employed Edward Snowden” [receives] 99 percent of the firm’s multibillion-dollar annual revenues . . . from the federal government.”  Just part of “‘a $56 billion-a-year industry.” And you do know who owns BAH, right?

An “Eclectic group” of Verizon subscribers in northern CA has sued the US government over phone data surveillance.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Senate Armed Services Committee Chair:  “Only Way To Hold Clapper Accountable Is For President To ‘Fire Him’.”

Politics USA

❖ It’s official:  Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA).

Richard Cordray is officially head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  71 “Yeas” in the Senate.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)’s reaction.

❖ “Agreement reached after Democratic Senate leaders threatened the so-called ‘nuclear option’”:  Obama appointments to move forward.

❖  “A high-profile lawsuit on the voting rights of Native Americans could help determine control of the Senate in the next Congress.”  Approximately 50,000 Native Americans, who tend to vote Democratic, are eligible to vote in MT but many live 100 miles or so from polling sites.

PA’s photo ID law which mainly affects the elderly,  disabled and poor people is being challenged by the ACLU.

Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon Martin’s friend, and a key trial witness who had to endure criticism about “her speech, appearance, mannerisms and ‘lack of education’”, has been offered a full scholarship, and any special tutoring needed.

Gun Corner

Since the Aurora, CO massacre in July, 2012, there have been “23 mass killings in 19 states”, resulting in 126 deaths.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

The Obama administration is high on Drug Courts which “provide nonviolent drug offenders with treatment instead of a jail sentence.”

The War on Women

A ND judge has ruled that the state’s law “that outlaws one of two drugs used in nonsurgical abortions violates the state and U.S. constitutions”.  ND’s Attorney General will appeal.  More here.

❖ Hahaha.  47% of NC voters oppose the abortion bill Gov. Pat McCrory (R) supports, and 49% disapprove of the job McCrory is doing.   Moreover, 48% think he should veto the hotly-contested bill if it makes it through the state senate.

Planet Earth News

❖ Laugh or cry:  “BP has set up a ‘snitch line’ to reward people who inform the oil giant about fraudulent claims related to 2010′s massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

❖ “3 Years of Gulf Oil Spill Photos Show Ongoing Impact“.  Additional slide show of 16 other significant oil “spills” since then.

The Powder River Basin is federal land that “straddles eastern Montana and Wyoming and holds the bulk of the country’s coal stocks.” Asia wants the coal,  miners ready to extract and trains ready to haul it.  Potentially more damaging than the Keystone XL pipeline.

❖ “Improving agricultural productivity could help cut greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture . . .. But sustainable farming methods are key.”

❖  New guards are at the Gogebic Taconite mine in WI, one wearing a Watchmen of America insignia.  Gov. Scott Walker (R) is involved.

Latin America

❖ Union president Gustavo Soler was murdered in 2001 during struggles at a Colombian coal mine owned by Drummond Co. of AL.  His widow is now talking, and Drummond is mired in lawsuits and labor strikes.

❖ “Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, head of the brutal Zetas drug cartel, has been captured in northern Mexico”.

Mixed Bag

Hope Dylan writes a song about this.

Break Time

Ecuador’s Roses.