Greetings.

International Developments

Israel has released 104 Palestinian prisoners, which “enables peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians to begin as early as next week.”  Update:  Talks start Monday.

Between 65 – 72 people dead in Egypt as “security forces” attack Muslim Brotherhood supporters.  US Secretary of State John Kerry “has urged Egypt to pull ‘back from the brink’.”  Update:  “Morsi supporters pledge to stand firm after massacre.”  Update:  “New Clashes Kill 2“.

❖ “Syrian army ‘makes key gains in Homs’.”

❖ “US officials are claiming that an internal Pakistani assessment of civilian deaths from US drone strikes [at least 147 of 746 people listed as killed . . . were civilians] is ‘far from authoritative.’”

Suspected US drone kills 5 on Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

❖ “A former CIA officer has broken the U.S. silence around the 2003 abduction of a radical Islamist cleric in Italy, charging that the agency inflated the threat the preacher posed and . . . allowed Italy to prosecute her and other Americans to shield President George W. Bush”, et al.

Money Matters USA

❖ “Four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and a vanishing American Dream.  Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites”.

❖ Congressional Budget Office:  “canceling sequestration at the beginning of August would likely add 900,000 [and maybe even 1.6 million] jobs to the economy”.  Failure to cancel it will continue to harm children in Head Start and military base schools, people living on Indian reservations, dependent on Meals on Wheel, Section 8 housing, etc., but who’s concerned about all that?

❖ “The Bogus High-Tech Worker Shortage: How Guest Workers Lower US Wages.”

❖ “About 70 anti-foreclosures activists gathered [yesterday] afternoon outside the San Marino home of Wells Fargo Chief Financial Officer Tim Sloan”.  Occupy Fights Foreclosures and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment were there.

Surveillance Planet

❖ “Edward Snowden’s not the story.  The fate of the Internet is:  The press has lost the plot over the Snowden revelations.  The fact is that the net is finished as a global network and that US firms’ cloud services cannot be trusted.”

Citizens in New Zealand are turning out by the thousands to protest against their government’s plans “to widen the powers of the Government’s spy agency”.

❖ “The latest [Obama administration] blunder was announcing that the U.S. wouldn’t torture or execute Snowden, a reminder to the world how far Official Washington has strayed from civilized behavior”.

The claim that Edward Snowden “could wiretap anybody as a low-level defense contractor” is true, Glenn Greenwald will show how it is true and that official claims to the contrary are not true.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) “calls FISA court ‘anachronistic’ as pressure builds on Senate to act:  Dick Durbin [D-IL] joins growing outcry among senators to rein in power of secretive court meant to serve as a check on NSA.”  Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) said on the teevee that “the NSA did not spy on Americans” and we aren’t in its “databases of phone records.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) “Vowed to press ahead with bipartisan talks about reining in the National Security Agency’s . . . data collections.”

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO) have called for “an open debate about the federal government’s dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act.”  They also call for the White House to halt the information-gathering dragnet and for Congress to pass effective legislation to prohibit it.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) on the teevee today said “the NSA program that monitors Americans’ phone calls is close to being ‘unconstitutional’.”  He “suggested the NSA should access phone records the same way police or FBI do, with a [*gasp*] warrant.”

❖ “Lawmakers Who Upheld NSA Phone Spying Received Double the Defense Industry Cash.”

Politics USA

❖ “Associated forces” are the target, along with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, of the War on Terror.  We can’t know who they are, though, since the Pentagon says that’s secret information and calamity would ensue if we knew.

Matters aren’t improving for beleaguered Bob McDonnell (R), governor of VA with the disclosure that his wife, Maureen, “bought nearly $9,800 in clothing with money from her husband’s political action committee” and used another $7,600 for “unspecified items”.

Anthony Weiner’s campaign manager has quit.  Update:  “Weiner campaign paid private eye $45,000 to investigate own 2011 Twitter ‘hacking’ lie”.

❖ “Why Do Women Disapprove of Drone Strikes So Much More Than Men Do?”

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

Krugman:  “Better-informed people on the right seem, finally, to be facing up to a horrible truth: Health care reform . . . is probably going to work.”

Maryland has just reported its insurance rates under the Affordable Care Act, lower in many cases than existing ones.

Planet Earth News

❖ “Tsunami of Public Outrage Builds in Colorado as Fracking Invades Cities: What’s happening in Greeley should frighten the citizens of every city that sits atop a shale deposit.”

Local Environmental Protection Agency staff at Dimock, PA documented over 4-1/2 years that some wells were “contaminated with methane and substances such as manganese and arsenic.”  Their findings were disputed by EPA headquarters.

❖ “Top Interior officials, offshore drillers to meet in wake of latest accident.”

Bell’s Brewery of MI “has just filed a lawsuit against Enbridge Pipeline which wants to build a facility near Bell’s Brewery “to process dredged sediment” from a huge spill in 2010.

❖ “Alberta’s energy regulator has recently given the green light to the expansion of Shell’s Jackpine Mine . . . , just one of ten new tar sands projects awaiting approval”.  Environmentalists and indigenous communities are strongly objecting.

❖ “It is shocking that the [US owned] MM&A railway has refused to pay for cleanup costs of its train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.”

French researchers say “Farmers who used weedkillers were more than twice as likely to be treated for depression than farmers who didn’t use the chemicals”.

Break Time

Iguassu Falls 1920.