The Roundup for June 26, 2013

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International Developments

? “Russia withdraws its remaining personnel from Syria: Evacuation signals growing concern in Moscow about conflict between ally Bashar al-Assad’s regime and rebels.”

? “The Men Who Get Rich Off Syrian Refugees”.

? “US and Afghan officials say they are committed to talks with the Taliban, despite an assault on a CIA station and government buildings on Monday.”

? “Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi: I have made mistakes” and “pledges radical reforms to state institutions”.

? When President Obama arrives in South Africa this Friday, “South Africans plan protests over [his] administration’s funding of African dictators, revelations of NSA spying and economic agenda.”

International Finance

? Emperor European Central Bank Chief Mario Draghi “Fudged Italy’s Books to Secure Eurozone Entry, Italy Stuck With Derivative Losses”.  Wonder what else he’s done.

? A package of EU reforms will reduce subsidies to big farms “up to 30% “.  “Some” of the savings will be redistributed to smaller farms which “use eco-friendly methods.”

Money Matters USA

? The average payment to mortgage rip-off victims is $809, with two-thirds actually receiving $300.   Banks hired consulting firms to process 500,000 foreclosure reviews but the “reviews were stopped with fewer than 104,000 completed”, at a cost of  “about $2 billion”.  Yves Smith has more.

? He wrote “anti-big bank messages . . . in water-soluble chalk outside Bank of America branches” in San Diego, CA and could get 13 years and $13,000 in fines for it.  The judge has ruled his attorney cannot mention “the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech during the trial.”

? John Hammergren, McKesson Corporation, has the largest pension “in corporate America”–$159 million.  Meanwhile, “The average working household has virtually no retirement savings.”

? Originally estimated to be 2.4%, the US growth rate has been revised to 1.8%.

Surveillance Planet

? Good wrap-up of what the public now knows about various government spying matters.

? Sir Tim Berners-Lee, “the inventor of the World Wide Web said the internet is facing a ‘major’ threat from ‘people who want to control it on the sly’.”  He also “accused Western governments of hypocrisy in spying on the internet while lecturing repressive leaders across the world for doing exactly the same thing.”

? How many times have Snowden’s four computers been drained?  This article says the Chinese government got to them.

? “Edward Snowden: history will be kind to him.”

? “Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon says his legal team won’t represent NSA leaker Edward Snowden”.

? Ecuador told the US to “make its case in writing” for taking Edward Snowden into custody.  Ecuador also said it “could take months” to process Snowden’s asylum application.

? US documents submitted to Hong Kong to get Snowden arrested didn’t show his correct middle name.

? NSA removed from its website a “fact sheet” following release of a letter from Senators Wyden (D-OR) and Udall (D-CO) pointing out an “inaccuracy” on the “fact sheet”.  Screenshot at the link.

? Emptywheel takes apart some of NSA Chief Keith Alexander’s recent pep talk to employees: He’s “chosen to address the military, civilian and contractor employees of the NSA as unthinking warriors . . ., to frame NSA as a war machine”.

? Handy resource for all those terms and acronyms: “Edward Snowden: An A-Z of surveillance”.

Politics USA

? Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) raised the question “whether force-feeding detainees at Guantanamo Bay was a form of torture.”

? “NBC Poll: Weiner Tops New York City Mayoral Race”.

Gun Corner

? New law in LA:  “up to $10,000 or six months in jail for those who publish ‘any information regarding the identity of any person who applied for or received a concealed handgun permit.'”

? The University of Arkansas, Arkansas State University, Southern Arkansas University and Arkansas Northwestern College have opted to deny concealed carry on their campuses.


? The “Defense of Marriage Act” was struck down today by the Supreme Court.

The War on Women

? Historic moment in TX when state Sen. Wendy Davis undertook a 13-hour filibuster of state Republicans’ abortion bill.  Pro-choice supporters packed the gallery, “cheering and chanting for more than ten minutes.”  People power.  It’s a beautiful thing.

?  Mad as old wet hens, TX Republicans fraudulently changed their “Website to Hide Abortion Bill ‘Passage” After Senate Close” last night. They finally conceded.  Update:  Gov. Rick Perry (R) is calling a special legislative session for July 1st.

? Angelina Jolie, a UN goodwill ambassador, appealed to the UN Security Council “to act to prevent rape and sexual violence in war zones.”  They responded by unanimously approving “a legally-binding resolution on the topic”.

? Magdalene laundries survivors have been awarded sums ranging from £9,000 (inmates for 1-3 months) to £85,000 (inmates for 10+ years).

Education Directions

? “The ‘Fast for Safe Schools’ . . . , one of several efforts designed to draw attention to [Philadelphia, PA’s] schools’ dire situation.”

? They number 15,000+, an internet group called “Badass Teachers” which is demanding that President Obama replace Arne Duncan, current US Secretary of Education.

? Stanford University Center for Research on Education says “Charter schools benefit students from poor families, black students and Hispanic English-language learners more than their peers in other groups”, and other glowing findings.

Planet Earth News

? Trans-Pacific Partnership: “Something is looming. . . that could . . . erode our basic rights and contaminate our food . . . .. The chief agricultural negotiator for the US is the former Monsanto lobbyist, Islam Siddiqi”

? Small wetlands alongside fields “trap nitrogen and phosphorous runoff [and also] excel at pulling carbon dioxide out of the air and holding it long-term”.

Latin America

? Victory in Brazil, as the Congress “rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that was a key grievance of protesters”.  It would have “limited the power of federal prosecutors to investigate crimes”–a dream come true for high rollers in high places.

Mixed Bag

? “Saving one of California’s 90 languages”.

? The National Institutes of Health have ended “most research on chimpanzees”.

? Welcome the flame-headed bird.

? So long, Marc Rich.

? RIP Bobby “Blue” Bland.

Break Time

? Ain’t No Sunshine

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