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The Roundup for June 25, 2012

Hello! On this day in 1978, the Rainbow Flag made its debut as part of the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade. That flag had eight colors in it, though six are used today. And now, to the news:

International Politics

? “In a move that has brought international concern and attention to the plight of the women of Syria under continued and intensified violence, a group of women from the cit of Homs has formed a women-only ‘battalion” to begin efforts to train women in the use of firearms for personal protection.” Human Rights Watch is documenting the incidents.

? McClatchy reports on “a month of traveling with the rebels in northern and central Syria” and finds “the armed opposition here is based as much on geography and ethnicity as religion.” Interesting observations, some counter to what we’re usually told.

? The Comeback Kid? “Silvio Berlusconi hints at comeback bid”

Money Matters USA

? “A few officials see the storm coming. The Swiss National Bank should be commended for putting renewed pressure on Cedit Suisse to increase its capital levels by suspending dividends. The Bank of England has set up emergency liquidity facilities, . . .. The Federal Reserve should apply the same approach to big U.S. banks, with an emergency and across-the-board suspension of dividend payments, but it won’t.”

? Ah, the Emanuel brothers. This from Ezekiel: 1) Older Americans enjoy too much of our money in the form of Social Security and that is hurting our children; 2) Some older Americans are eager to help, so why don’t we make it possible for them to forego Social Security and Medicare benefits and instead transfer them to a fund for children, thus reducing child poverty. He doesn’t say pea-turkey about banks or multinational corporations, skewed tax structures, DOD budgets, etc. Wonder why not.

? Three stunning charts: 1) “Corporate profit margins just hit an all-time high”; 2) “Fewer Americans are working than at any time in the past three decades”; 3) “Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low.”

Politics USA

? “Former US president Jimmy Carter has declared that drone strikes and targeted assassinations abroad have seen the country violating human rights in a way that ‘abets our enemies and alienates our friends’.”

? Turns out, House and Senate Intelligence Committees‘ staff members monthly visit the CIA where they have “the grim task of watching videos of the latest drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen”, and they also “review intelligence that was used to justify each drone strike” and occasionally other records as well. This has been going on for 28 months. The impact? Your call.

? First there was a leak, and now there is a letter demanding “greater congressional access to negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership” from Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). And not only do they want access for themselves to “draft negotiations among the United States and eight other Pacific nations,” but they also want access for “nonprofit groups advocating ‘Internet Freedom’ . . ..”

? The O-Team is gearing up it’s on-the-ground operation, but so far it lacks the luster of the last campaign. According to Third Way (“a centrist think tank”), independent registrations in 8 battleground states have been rising since 2008. “Meantime, Republican registration has dropped by 157,000 . . . [and] Democratic registration by 841,000.”

? What deflated Darrell? CA Republican Representative Darrell Issa now says there’s no evidence the White House was involved in a cover-up in the Fast-and-Furious thing, contradicting John Boehner.

? Seems Vice-President Joe Biden warned Obama “that the underlying rationale for the 2009 troop surge in Afghanistan was profoundly flawed”. That’s according to a leaked memo that’s part of a new book, “Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan” by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post correspondent.

? Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, is part of Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) textbooks. LA Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal is promulgating such throughout the state, using taxpayer dollars, by allowing ACE curriculum in LA’s schools. Scotland laughs.

? Don’t effectively address the problem; attack the victims instead. In Los Angeles a battle is raging over “sidewalks and the right of homeless people to exist on them.” The Health Department has now been brought into the fray to gather evidence supportive of official efforts. Backing such measures is the powerful Central City Association which “advocates for aggressive tactics in dealing with downtown’s homeless population.”

? PA Republican House Lader Mike Turzai has let the cat out of the bag: “Voter identification efforts are meant to suppress Democratic votes in this year’s election” so their guy, Mitt Romney, can win. No surprise at what he said, just that he actually said it.

? Trustees of the State University of New York are set to vote a whopping 50% increase “in the per-pupil management fee of one of the city’s wealthiest, biggest-spending and most controversial charter school operators“, the Success Academy Charter Schools, Inc. Problem is: $28 million was raised from foundations and wealthy investors, plus millions more “in state and federal grants”, and reported surpluses are $23.5 million. Who’s in charge of the Success Academy? Former NY City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz.

? He’s gone. Rush Limbaugh, after 20 years, will no longer be on the CBS-owned radio station in PA.

Working for a Living

? Apple store employees don’t have it so good. Many earn $25,000/year, or $12.02/hour. In comparison, other young college-graduate workers earn hourly wages of $21.68 for men and $18.80 for women. “The discrepancy between Apple’s profits/executive pay and its compensation to its workers is a particularly glaring example of what is occurring in the wider economy” where the CEO compensation to worker salary is currently 231:0 compared to 1989 when it was 58.5:1 (and when we used to call it the wage-salary differential).

? Oil workers in Norway’s North Sea have struck, idling Statoil, BP, and ESS Support Services. They are striking over cutting of pension add-ons which have been in place since 1998.

Health & Hunger

? Mortality rates and causes in the U.S. 1900 and 2010. Fascinating chart.

Heads Up!

? “Occupy Astoria LIC Invites Everyone to Join Us For A Day of Public Outrage and Education, Wed June 27 At the Citigroup Building in Long Island City”

? “Hundreds of people” gathered in Phoenix to protest Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s setting up tents for accommodating more than 2,000 prisoners.

Planet Earth News

? How do we find and maintain the balance? “Eight Tribal Nations Mourn Losses at Ocotillo Wind Site”

? HidroAysen— joint enterprise of Spain’s Endesa and Italy’s Enei–wants to construct five dams on “two of the planet’s purest” rivers, Chile’s Baker and Pascua rivers. Pinochet gave away 90% of Chile’s water rights. Efforts to dam the rivers have been stalled by protests.

? ExxonMobil now says benzene released from its plant in Baton Rouge, LA “was far bigger than the 10 pounds reported then, and could be as much as 28,700 pounds.” An investigation is underway.

? To date, solar cells have not been picking up energy from the infrared spectrum, which accounts for about 40% of sunlight energy.  Thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a new cell has been developed which will do just that.

Latin America

? Paraguay has been barred from attending the meeting of Mercosur (South American trading block) this Thursday and Friday. Ousted Paraguay President Lugo will be attending, however. Venezuela has stopped shipping oil to Paraguay; Argentina, Chile and Colombia have pulled their ambassadors; Brazil and Uruguay have recalled their envoys; El Salvador will not recognize the new Paraguay government; and Ecuador is urging a return to ‘democratic’ order in Paraguay. Update: Paraguay is likely to be suspended from Unasur (Mercosur countries plus Suriname and Guiana).

Mixed Bag

? RIP Lonesome George, about 100 years old at his home in Galapagos, a giant tortoise, the last of his subspecies.

Break Time

? Clitoris?

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