Good news from Mars, as seen from Hubble Space Telescope

Whew! What a day, including on the news front. Here goes:

International Developments

? Somebody’s keeping score. “The US has launched drone strikes in Pakistan over 330 times with up to 3,247 casualties–including up to 852 civilians. Based on a comprehensive database of drone strikes, this [interactive] map shows where those strikes happened.”

? Unbelievable. The Red Cross building in Misrata, Libya, was attacked using grenades and rockets. No staff were injured, and all have been withdrawn to Tripoli. The attackers were not identified. This is the fifth such attack in Misrata and Beghazi in three months.

? Here it comes: “Spanish government accused of purging critics from national radio and TV: Journalists who have questioned rightwing party’s austerity policy have lost jobs at RTVE.”

? “Hamid Karzai backs parliament over security shakeup: Afghan president has agreed to unseat his two top security officials but said they would remain until he found replacements”, so this could drag on.

? “IDF in heavy firefight with terrorists on Gaza border: Hours after IDF kills global jihad terrorist in air strike, Palestinians fire dozens of mortar shells into Eshkol Concil area; in nearby incident at least 13 Egyptian police killed by jihadists in Sinai.”

? That crackdown in Greece on illegal immigrants we learned about over the weekend is resulting in the deportation of 1,600 people detained in Athens, with 88 sent back to Pakistan. Greece has also beefed up its guards at the Turkish border, fearing an influx of refugees.

International Finances

? Iceland shines! There’s a motion in parliament “to stop banks using state-backed deposits to finance risky investments. The move puts Iceland on course to become the first western nation . . . to force banking conglomerates to split their business.” Shades of Glass-Steagall!

? Oh, nooooos. Not another laundromat! “Standard Chartered Bank (headquarters in London). . . illegally ‘schemed’ with Iran to launder as much as $250bn . . . for nearly a decade, a US regulator says.” It’s one of those “rogue institutions”–or, should we say, one actually identified as such.

? Italy’s cash-for-gold economy is booming, “making billions for the mafia as hard-up Italians rush to sell off their bling.”The gold primarily makes its way to Switzerland–“whether legally or smuggled across the border . . ..”

? Israel’s “Teva Pharmaceutical, the largest generic drug company in the world, said it is the target of a federal [US Securities and Exchange Commission] bribery investigation into its business in Latin America. Something about the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act, which makes bribing of government officials illegal. And wouldn’t you know it: Teva shares rose in afternoon trading.

? There’s trouble in euro-land all right. Italy Prime Minister Mario Monti warned of the European Union falling apart and “urged swift action to lower borrowing rates.” RIght now, said Monti, Italy is paying high bond rates to subsidize Germany’s low ones. Meanwhile, most heads of state are vacationing until September.

? Desperation. “Hiding in his office near the Indian capital as workers armed with iron bars and car parts rampaged through the [Suzuki] factory, [a plant supervisor] spent two terrified hours trying to comprehend the war zone his workplace had become.” Companies have difficulty firing workers, so resort to contractors, which results in anger among workers. An investigation is expected to blame union leaders.

Money Matters USA

? Oh, my. “Bain was part of a group that bought a telephone-directory company from the Italian government and then sold it about two weeks later, at the peak of the technology bubble, for about 25 times what it paid.” Profits were then “funneled . . . through subsidiaries in Luxembourg. . . . The buyer, Italy’s biggest telephone company, now has a total market value less than what it paid Bain and other investors for the directory business.”

? Libor lawsuits = employment boom for lawyers. “So far, at least 28 serious lawsuits have been filed.” E.g., WI’s Community Bank & Trust has filed suit for racketeering against Citigroup, bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase. Charles Schwab “has brought three cases on behalf of fixed-income mutual funds.”

Politics USA [cont’d]

? Pots and kettles. Top Obama advisor David Plouffe was paid $100,000 in speaker’s fees from MTN Group, “a telecommunications provider . . . [of] services in Iran through the state-owned partnership Irancell.” What Plouffe did was legal, but the O-team couldn’t leave it alone, pointing out that Mitt Romney had investments in the Turkish communications company, Turkcell, so there–but, seems Plouffe was paid $48,000 by Turkcell a couple of years ago for giving them a speech.

? “In Ohio and elsewhere, battles over state voting laws head to court.” Interesting exchange: OH government lawyer: “the number of potentially discarded ballots . . . is too small to warrant intervention by the federal courts”; US District Judge: “if your vote is the vote not being counted, it’s a bad election, agreed?”

? The nation’s Postal Service will be left hanging in the wind until past the November elections by House Republicans. Seems “postal reform could be a tough vote for some of their members, with the issue not breaking down as cleanly along ideological lines . . . ” as they’d hoped. Gee, that’s too bad.

? In 2008, Los Angeles County voters approved a 30-year 1/2-cent sales tax for constructing 10 commuter rail lines. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was able to convince national legislators to enable a “loan program through federally guaranteed bonds”, possibly reducing construction to 10 years, stimulating major employment opportunities and giving an overall boost to stagnant local and state economies.

? As the old saying goes, “E. coli happens.” And Nancy Pelosi, down in FL in giving a speech in support of former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel’s campaign for a House seat, called the Republicans the “E. coli club”.

The War on Women

? Obama for America launches an ad about The War on Women. As Digby says, “It’s about women being able to make decisions [and] it’s hard to believe we have to make that point in the 21st century, but we do”.

Heads Up!

? People for the American Way just came out with a major study of “Predatory Privatization: Exploiting Financial Hardship, Enriching the Undermining of Democracy.” Good information source.

? Yay! “The Berkeley City Council has thrown its support behind a growing group of activists, public officials and entrepreneurs calling upon governments to seize mortgages to provide relief to financially troubled homeowners.”

? Interesting overview of “Oakland, the Last Refuge of Radical America”, proceeding forward from the protests of the ’60s to today.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? If states don’t want to deal with “Obamacare”, they may end up out of the loop with Washington dealing with it for them. A “fallback ‘federal exchange’ now looks as if it will become the standard option in about half the states–at least initially.” Already, the Obama administration is “setting up federally facilitated exchanges in those 13 states” that don’t want to be involved, and they are “on track to go live in October 2013.”

Planet Earth News

? Interesting article on the recent sea-ice fragmentation phenomenon. By looking at a combined measure of extent-area difference in the sea-ice and plotting the results over time, an anomaly resulted in 2007–and has just recurred in 2012–during June. Interactive graph.

Latin America

? Canadian-owned mining company, South American Silver, will be nationalized by Bolivia. This decision follows weeks of conflict and deliberations between the various indigenous groups in the area and the government, headed by President Evo Morales who said, “The people need honest and clean leaders that defend life, the homeland and natural resources.”

Mixed Bag

? Article, going back to 1982, tracking mass murders, using guns, across the US. 30 states have been the sites of such murders. More than 3/4s of the guns used were gotten illegally and included assault weapons. Not quite half the massacres were conducted in schools and places of work. One killer was a female. Interactive map included.

Break Time

? Oh, noooooo. Not at the Renaissance Faire!

David Dayen

David Dayen