10 things you need to know today: June 30, 2015

Greece’s prime minister prepares for a TV interview. AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

THE WEEK

1. Obama expands overtime pay to millions
President Obama announced Monday night that his administration is proposing to expand overtime eligibility for up to five million Americans by 2016. Currently, those with salaries over $23,660 are considered managers or professionals exempted from mandatory overtime pay for working more than 40 hours in a week. The rule change would raise the threshold to $50,440. “In this country, a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay,” Obama wrote in a Huffington Post op-ed.

Source: Politico, The Huffington Post

2. Finance minister confirms Greece won’t pay back IMF loans
Greece’s finance minister confirmed Tuesday that the country will not pay back the 1.6 billion euros it owes to the International Monetary Fund by this evening’s deadline. A default could force Greece out of the eurozone. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by 350 points, or 2 percent, Monday on fears the crisis would spread. Thousands of Greeks rallied for a “no” vote in a July 5 referendum on whether to accept tough financial reforms demanded by Greece’s lenders.

Source: Reuters, TIME

3. Supreme Court allows controversial drug that was used in botched execution
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Monday that a controversial drug used in a botched lethal injection was allowable under the Constitution. Three death-row inmates in Oklahoma had sought to have the drug, a sedative called midazolam, banned, saying it risked causing excruciating pain. The majority said the inmates had failed to show the drug raised the risk of pain. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in a scathing dissent that the lethal cocktail was a “barbarous method of punishment — the chemical equivalent of being burned alive.”

Source: The New York Times, The Washington Post

4. David Sweat says he and fellow escapee planned to flee to Mexico
Recaptured murderer David Sweat told authorities Monday that he and fellow escapee Richard Matt had planned to flee to Mexico after breaking out of a maximum-security prison in upstate New York three weeks ago. The plan unraveled when prison tailor-shop manager Joyce Mitchell decided not to drive off with them as planned, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said. Sweat and Matt tried to make it to Canada instead, but Matt was shot and killed shortly after the pair split up. Sweat was shot and captured by a state trooper on Sunday.

Source: USA Today

5. Egyptian prosecutor dies in bombing
Egypt’s state prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, died Monday in a bombing that hit his convoy in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. Barakat had presided over the government’s crackdown on Islamist groups. He was the highest ranking official successfully targeted by apparent militants in the clash with Islamists, which began nearly two years ago. The assassination occurred on the eve of the anniversary of 2013 protests that led to the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader.

Source: Los Angeles Times

6. Obama signs fast-track trade bill
President Obama on Monday signed a bipartisan bill giving him fast-track authority to put trade deals to an up-or-down vote in Congress, with no chance for amendments. The legislation was nearly blocked by Obama’s fellow Democrats who sought greater protections for U.S. workers, before supporters managed to revive it. The fast-track authority was seen as necessary to help Obama seal a 12-nation Pacific trade pact.

Source: The New York Times

7. Supreme Court blocks Texas law from closing abortion clinics
The Supreme Court on Monday temporarily blocked Texas from implementing an abortion law threatening to close more than half the state’s 19 abortion clinics this week. The law, scheduled to take effectWednesday, would impose tough new standards and require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The stay is expected to remain in force through the summer as the court considers whether to take up the case in its next term.

Source: The Washington Post

8. Indonesian military plane crashes into neighborhood, killing at least 30
An Indonesian military transport plane crashed into a residential neighborhood in northern Indonesia on Tuesday, killing at least 30 people in the plane and on the ground. The Hercules C-130 transport plane hit houses and a hotel in the Sumatra city of Medan about two minutes after taking off. The plane, with 12 people on board, was flying low and hit the roof of the hotel and exploded, a witness said. The pilot reportedly had asked to return to the air base due to technical problems.

Source: Reuters

9. Christie joining Republican presidential field 
Blunt-spoken New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is expected to announce Tuesday that he is running for president. He will be the 14th candidate in a crowded GOP field. Christie turned down calls from supporters to run four years ago, saying, “now is not my time.” As he enters the race, he faces record-low home-state approval as New Jersey’s economic recovery sputters. After his announcement, he plans to start making his pitch to centrist voters in New Hampshire.

Source: Bloomberg

10. NBC dumps Donald Trump over comments on Mexican immigrants
NBC on Monday announced that it was dropping the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants over derogatory comments Donald Trump, part owner of the pageants, made about Mexican immigrants when he declared himself a candidate for president last week. The network also reiterated that Trump would not appear in The Celebrity Apprenticeany longer. “Respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values,” NBCUniversal said in a statement. Trump last week threatened to sue Spanish-language network Univision when it, too, dropped Miss Universe.

Source: USA Today

Harold Maass

Here are the 6 biggest hysterical right-wing freakouts after last week’s Supreme Court rulings

Louie Gohmert (World Net Daily)

Louie Gohmert (World Net Daily)

THE RAW STORY

1. Mike Huckabee had a very difficult week.

Sensing the tide of history and the Supreme Court going against him, Mike Huckabee called on conservative Christians to engage in a massive “Biblical disobedience” campaign against the “false god of judicial supremacy,” in advance of the Supreme Court decision in favor of gay marriage this week. Not clear what exactly constitutes “biblical disobedience,” but whatevs.

The GOP presidential aspirant went on to compare the gay marriage act to the Dred Scott case that upheld the Fugitive Slave Act, which is odd to say the least, since legalizing gay marriage is a step forward for civil rights, saying in a way that gay people are fully human, and Dred Scott was, of course, a terrible distortion of justice that said black people were not.

So, huh? But then again, the ideological conservative Christian brain does not trouble itself with such logical inconsistencies.

After the ruling, Huckabee reacted in a Fox News segment with Megyn Kelly with another completely insane comparison, “I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”

This was too much even for Kelly, who tried to give the Huckster a brief lesson in Constitutional Law. “How do you not accept it?” she asked incredulously. “Like it or not, the (Supreme Court) gets the final say.”

But lest you think there’s been some breakout of sanity and humanity on Megyn Kelly’s show, she also invited her pal Tony Perkins, head of the anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council, to discuss the decision. Shockingly, he too was glum about it.

2. Everything has gone dark for Ted Cruz.

So many Texas politicians are despairing about the Supreme Court decisions this week, a massive pity party might be in order. Ted Cruz was definitely crying in his beer. At least the poor fella found a sympathetic ear on Sean Hannity’s radio show.

“Today is some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history,” Cruz said without any regard to subject verb agreement. “Yesterday and today were both naked and shameless judicial activism.”

Hannity concurred. “I couldn’t say it more eloquently.” (Unless, of course, he injected grammar into the statement.)

As we all learned in school, judicial activism is when you don’t agree with the high court’s decision. This is a universal truth. “It is lawless, and in doing so, they have undermined the fundamental legitimacy of the United States Supreme Court,” Cruz continued portentously and nonsensically.

3. Louie Gohmert completely freaks out, recommends fleeing country since that’s what God did.

God is going to be very very mad at us, according to Texas tea partier Louie Gohmert. He predicts a noticeable drop-off of God’s protection of the good ol’ U.S. of A. now that we’ve gone and legalized gay marriage.

“Founders and leaders including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and most all of the Presidents have noted that it is God who has been the source of this nation’s unfathomable blessings,” Gohmert stated. “But if Moses, Jesus, and contributors to the Bible were correct, God’s hand of protection will be withdrawn as future actions from external and internal forces will soon make clear. I will do all I can to prevent such harm, but I am gravely fearful that the stage has now been set.”

And if that does not convince people, how about this? Gohmert argued, “It is a tragic and ominous day for the United States when a decision by five unelected justices of the U.S. Supreme Court blatantly violates the law in order to destroy the foundational building block for society provided by Nature and Nature’s God — that was stated as divine law by Moses and Jesus.”

Get a grip, Gohmert.

4. Bobby Jindal continues to demonstrate how the Republican Party really is the party of stupid.

Bobby Jindal, the brainiac former Louisiana governor who showed how he’s going to smarten up the Republican Party by allowing creationism to be taught as science in his state’s public schools, had a characteristically brilliant reaction to the Supreme Court decisions affirming the right to same-sex marriage. “If we want to save some money let’s just get rid of the court.”

Jindal, who just launched his 2016 presidential campaign on Wednesday, calmlyblasted the decision the first step in an “all-out assault” on Christians’ religious liberty.

So, not hysterical or anything.

5. Bill Kristol: “Polygamy, here we come.”

That’s all. That’s what the right-wing pundit tweeted. This connection seems perfectly obvious and reasonable to him.

6. Pat Boone is really sick of everyone talking about racism when obviously Satan is to blame for the Charleston murders.

Ultra-conservative former child star Pat Boone thinks Obama injected race into the Charleston shootings of nine black churchgoers by avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof. Where on earth would the President or anyone else get that impression? It makes Boone foot-stomping mad, and it makes him want to lecture Obama, like this:

“As the president who came to office, a black man promising to bring people together, a man ideally suited for that job since you were born both black and white, you had a God-given chance to actually proclaim and demonstrate that racial divides and prejudice had greatly diminished and that our society was truly becoming colorblind.”

Thanks, Pat. Thanks also for your other pearls of wisdom on other racially charged crimes, like your comment about Michael Brown being a “very large black man.” That certainly cleared things up about why the unarmed teenager deserved to be shot and killed by a police officer.

Anyway, Dylann Roof’s hate-filled massacre had nothing to do with race, obviously, says Pat. It had everything to do with Satan.

“This boy wasn’t just a sadist, or even criminally insane,” Boone said.  “He was carefully prepared and led by the Devil himself to kill as many Christians as he could. The fact that they were black was an excuse more than a reason.”

There’s only one solution to all this, and it’s the same solution to the whole gay marriage catastrophe, and that is to get right with God, and cast the devil out!

Chris Christie, a faded Republican star, expected to launch presidential campaign Tuesday

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Philadelphia, Friday, June 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

THE WASHINGTON POST

TRENTON, N.J. – Chris Christie, a onetime rising Republican star whose political stock fell sharply after a traffic scandal involving former aides and appointees, is expected to formally launch his presidential campaign on Tuesday.

He enters a crowded field as an underdog, wagering his retail political skills and brash style will propel him into serious competition for his party’s nod.

The New Jersey governor is expected to make his campaign official Tuesday morning in a gymnasium at the high school that he attended in Livingston, N.J. Later, he plans to hold a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, pivoting to his signature political venue in a state many strategists see as a must-win if Christie is going be a real contender.

Christie steps into a fray where top competition for the GOP establishment support he has long sought is already underway. Some of the biggest donors in the GOP have signed on with former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R). Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has also made strides with top fundraisers. And Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is expected to soon announce his own bid after stocking up resources for months.

Tuesday’s expected announcement will come as his appeal to Republicans has hit a low point — a sharp departure from the highs of late 2013 when he was fresh off a decisive reelection victory in his heavily Democratic state and was seen widely as the GOP establishment favorite for president. Dogged by the“Bridgegate” scandal in which then-aides and appointees snarled traffic in an apparent act of political retribution, Christie’s popularity has since plummeted. He’s also faced heavy skepticism from conservative activists throughout his tenure.

Still, the unique persona that made him a Republican rock star early in his first term remains: part former federal prosecutor and part suburban dad yelling at a soccer game. As he becomes the 14th official GOP presidential contender, Christie is banking on his liveliness to revive his wilted prospects.

“I get accused a lot of times of being too blunt and too direct and saying what’s on my mind just a little bit too loudly,” Christie said in a two-minute Web video released over the weekend, adding that his Sicilian mother taught him to “never hold anything back.”

His slogan, “Telling It Like It Is,” reiterates the message that his aggressiveness is an asset.

After holding his Tuesday evening town hall, Christie will stay in New Hampshire for the remainder of the week for a series of town-hall meetings and diner stops. It is at those gatherings, in a state that has shown a soft spot for more centrist Northeast Republicans, where his advisers believe he can gradually win support from voters so far unexcited by others.

But he faces stiff headwinds. While Christie insists he was not involved in the late-2013 “Bridgegate” scandal and no legal authorities have found that he was, the questions surrounding the governor have been damaging.  Other troubles at home have included a cascade of credit downgrades and shuttered casinos in Atlantic City that have rattled the state’s economy, and a pension system touted by Christie that now has billions in unfunded liabilities.

Christie’s antidote: return to his roots. His blunt, outspoken style has often produced viral moments at town halls that helped define his reputation as a tough-talking, tell-it-how-it-is executive.

While those exchanges have won him many fans, others have criticized his brusqueness, leading to polarized opinions of Christie.

A recent Fairleigh Dickinson University poll showed his approval rating in New Jersey was a paltry 30 percent. Just 17 percent of Democrats approved of the job Christie was doing.

Christie also faces problems in his own party. Just half of Republicans in the FDU survey approved of Christie. And he’s mostly been in the low single-digits in national primary polls.

In New Hampshire and other battlegrounds, Christie will likely encounter difficulties and deep pockets of conservative doubt about his politics that began to build when he worked agreeably with President Obama on hurricane relief during the closing days of the 2012 election and his relationship with then nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign grew icy.

Cultural conservatives, too, have their concerns. A previous supporter of abortion rights, Christie has since become an anti-abortion voice. Meanwhile, Christie once backed the Common Core school standards that have become anathema to GOP activists, and has sought to distance from them more recently.

Christie’s statements on gun control have also stirred suspicions about his conservative inclinations, like when he called in April for the “right balance” between public safety and gun owners. The National Rifle Association declined to invite him this year to its annual convention.

To counteract such reservations on the right, Christie is expected to to highlight elements of his record that are popular with Republican primary voters, like his hawkish foreign policy, which could play well in New Hampshire. His work to curb prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders and put them into treatment could also help him there.

Christie’s group of unwavering supporters, led by Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone and strategists Bill Palatucci and Mike DuHaime, keep asking naysayers to be patient. In time, and especially after the primary debates begin in August, they argue, Christie will stitch together a coalition.

Until then, Christie plans to plod ahead, town-hall meeting by town-hall meeting. He is seeking to recapture the political magic that drew millions of clicks on YouTube in 2010 when his office first began uploading his clashes with public-school teachers, landing him on the cover of conservative magazines and earning cheers from right-wing television personalities.

Robert Costa and Sean Sullivan

NBC Universal Dumps Donald Trump Over Mexico ‘Rapist’ Remarks

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AP Photo/Mike Groll

TPM LIVEWIRE

The network announced it was “ending its business relationship” with Trump after the magnate railed against Mexican immigrants in his presidential announcement speech, calling them “rapists” and drug dealers.

NBC emailed TPM the statement on Monday:

At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values.Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBC is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump.

To that end, the annual Miss USA and Miss Universe Pageants, which are part of a joint venture between NBC and Trump, will no longer air on NBC.

In addition, as Mr. Trump has already indicated, he will not be participating in “The Celebrity Apprentice” on NBC.

“Celebrity Apprentice” is licensed from Mark Burnett’s United Artists Media Group and that relationship will continue.

In a statement to reporters captured by CNN on Monday, Trump said that while he had “a great relationship with them,” NBC “didn’t want me to run, because they wanted to do the Apprentice.”

“As long as I’m running for president, they were not happy with it,” he continued, “and now with my statements on immigration, which happen to be correct, they are gonna take a different stance, and that’s okay. Whatever they wanna do is okay with me.”

“As far as ending the relationship, I have to do that. Because my view on immigration is much different than the people at NBC,” he concluded.

Trump’s office also released a statement calling NBC “weak” and mentioning former “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, who was demoted after being caught telling bogus stories on air.

“They will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won’t stand behind people that tell it like it is,” Trump said in the statement.

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Two Major Voting Rights Victories From The Supreme Court’s Last Day

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DANA VERKOUTEREN

THINK PROGRESS

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to uphold the right of states to set up independent, non-partisan committees to draw the district maps that determine seats in Congress. Writing the opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said allowing voters to choose how the maps are created follows “the animat­ing principle of our Constitution that the people them­selves are the originating source of all the powers of government.”

She added that “nonpartisan and bipartisan commissions generally draw their maps in a timely fashion and create districts both more competitive and more likely to survive legal challenge,” and noted that “conflict of interest is inherent when legislators dra[w] district lines that they ultimately have to run in.”

Because of that conflict of interest, a growing number of states, including Arizona and California, have set up independent map-drawing bodies to combat the scourge of self-interested gerrymandering, in which the party in control of the state legislature draws the maps to keep as many seats as possible “safe” for their lawmakers.

Pamela Goodman, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida, told ThinkProgress that the ruling gives her hope as they fight an ongoing battle against gerrymandering in the Sunshine State.

“Voters should have a voice in their elections,” she said. “What gerrymandering does is allow lawmakers to draw districts that protect their position. It’s the fox guarding the hen house. Voters are not choosing their representatives. Representatives are choosing their voters.”

Advocates are currently waiting for a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court on whether the maps drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature, which include odd-shaped, snake-like districtsthat wrap around disparate minority-heavy neighborhoods — making the surrounding districts majority white. Florida voters passed measures in 2010 requiring redistricting to not favor any political party or water down the influence of racial or language minority groups — a process upheld by today’s Supreme Court ruling. But Goodman says enforcement is still a problem. “Unfortunately, our lawmakers did not adhere to the mandate and we have been in litigation ever since then,” she said.

Had the high court ruled the other way, it could have allowed a third of all the congressional districts in the country to be impacted, potentially causing an entrenchment of Republican power in Congress after future elections. Now, voting rights advocates are hoping more states, especiallyhighly gerrymandered North Carolina, adopt the non-partisan process backed by the Supreme Court.

“We’re hopeful that citizens and legislators alike in other states will push politics aside and create independent bodies to draw truly representative districts after the 2020 census,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport.

On Monday, the Court also handed a victory to voting rights advocates by rejecting an attempt by Kansas and Arizona to add a proof of citizenship requirement to federal voter registration forms. The forms already require voters to swear under penalty of perjury that they are citizens.

Leading the charge has been Kansas’ Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who told ThinkProgress in February that he has found “plenty of cases” of non-citizens registering to vote in his state, “sometimes unwittingly.”

Yet recent reports of non-citizen voting have been soundly debunked, while past investigations inFlorida, Arizona, Colorado and Ohio turned up only a tiny handful of cases — less than one-thousandth of a percent.

Civil rights groups like the Election Protection Network say adding a proof of citizenship requirement for voter registration would actually hurt all voters, especially “traditionally disenfranchised groups like poor, minority and elderly voters,” who may lack the proper documents. In Kobach’s own state, the policy prevented thousands of eligible citizens fromcasting a ballot in this past election.

Voting rights advocates are lamenting, however, that the Supreme Court’s rejection of Kobach’s crusade only impacts federal election registration, and he is still free to impose additional requirements for state and local elections.

ALICE OLLSTEIN

Don’t make us pick a side: Ted Cruz and Karl Rove engage in heated war of words

Don't make us pick a side: Ted Cruz and Karl Rove engage in heated war of words

Karl Rove (Credit: AP/Rich Pedroncelli)

SALON

Ted Cruz slams Karl Rove in his new memoir — and the political strategist is firing back

Ted Cruz didn’t just lament “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history” after the Supreme Court’s rulings on Obamacare and marriage equality late last week — he somehow also mustered up the energy to engage in a war of words with political strategist and Fox News contributor Karl Rove.

The Tea Party Senator and Republican presidential candidate is out with a new book, titled “A Time for Truth,” in which he reveals a whole host of autobiographical tidbits including claims that his Cuban-born father once tried to join Fidel Castro’s army, that he had a porn-watching session with Supreme Court justices and that Karl Rove once threatened and bullied him, a claim that Rove has already called a lie.

The all but obligatory political memoir by presidential aspirants (or sometimes not) tends to be a bore, full of forced humility and devoid of introspective honesty but conservative firebrand Sen. Cruz’s forthcoming book promises to at least be entertaining.

Cruz describes a time when as a law clerk to then Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, he had the opportunity to watch porn with Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as research for a case about online porn regulation.

“We were in front of a large computer screen gazing at explicit, hard-core pornography,” Cruz explains. “A slew of hard-core, explicit images showed up onscreen … as we watched these graphic pictures fill our screens, wide-eyed, no one said a word. Except for Justice O’Connor, who lowered her head, squinted slightly, and muttered, ‘Oh, my.’”

Cruz also discusses his father’s failed attempt to join Fidal Castro’s army and tells of the time he showed up to an Ivy League admissions interview hungover, but it is his account of political strong-arming by Texas political operative Karl Rove that is most juicy.

The conservative blog Brietbart.com, published an excerpt of Cruz’s book, highlighting the tale of intimidation by Rove after Cruz sought George H.W. Bush’s endorsement for Texas Attorney General back in 2009:

“Karl had found out about my meeting with George H.W. Bush and called me on the phone. He was irate, demanding, ‘What in the hell do you think you are doing?!”

[…]

Rove was “in the process of helping raise money for the George W. Bush presidential library in Dallas,” and that “Texas donors were giving the Bushes tens of millions, including major donors who were supporting the Dallas state rep who wanted to run for attorney general,” so those donors “were now berating Karl.”

[…]

“Yeah, well I didn’t think you were going to get support from 41.”

[…]

“He suggested that the elder Bush was too old to have good judgment anymore.”

[…]

“Return the check,” Rove replied.

“Well, I can’t do that,” Cruz responded. “We already deposited it.”

“I pointed out that under Texas’s election law, we had to list the contribution on our ethics disclosure report,” Cruz wrote, noting that Rove “paused for a few seconds.”

“All right, fine,” Rove told him. “Then I want you to do nothing whatsoever to draw attention to it.”

And then he pulled out the hammer. He implied that if I made any news about Bush 41’s support, then Bush 43 would endorse my opponent and come out publicly for him—a threat that was fairly striking given that I had devoted four years of my life to working as hard as I could helping to elect Bush and serving in his administration. I always wondered whether Karl had the authority to make these threats on behalf of the former president—he certainly acted like he did.

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10 things you need to know today: June 29, 2015

AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

THE WEEK

1. Greece closes banks after bailout talks collapse
Greek leaders closed the country’s banks for six days and imposed limits on ATM withdrawals to prevent bank failures after talks to extend an international bailout collapsed. European stocks fell as the bailout’s Tuesday expiration increased the odds Greece would exit the eurozone. Greece and its European creditors said they would keep talking, but Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said European lenders were “blackmailing the Greek people.” He also announced a referendum that will let Greeks vote on whether to accept the harsh financial reforms the creditors are demanding.

Source: The New York Times, The Washington Post

2. Police catch escapee David Sweat near Canadian border
Escaped murderer David Sweat was shot and captured Sunday in upstate New York less than two miles from the Canadian border. “I can only assume he was going for the border, that he was that close,” New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said. Sweat, who was shot twice in the torso, was rushed to a hospital in critical condition. He was caught about 16 miles north of the spot where fellow escapee Richard Matt was killed two days earlier.

Source: CNN

3. Puerto Rico’s governor says its debts are “not payable”
Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said Sunday that the U.S. commonwealth’s $72 billion in debt was “not payable.” Garcia Padilla and his top staff met last week and agreed that the island’s creditors would have to make significant concessions to pull the government out of a “death spiral.” Puerto Rico is hoping that its lenders will defer some debt payments for up to five years, or give it longer to repay.

Source: The New York Times

4. Texas attorney general says clerks can deny same-sex marriage licenses 
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told county clerks on Sunday theydo not have to comply with the Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage if they have religious objections. Paxton said clerks who refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples could face lawsuits, but that many lawyers would defend them. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir shrugged off Paxton’s opinion and said her office would follow the Supreme Court. “We are public servants in a secular role to uphold the law of the land,” she said.

Source: Houston Chronicle

5. Kasich reportedly plans to join crowded GOP presidential field
Ohio Gov. John Kasich plans to announce on July 21 that he is joining the crowded field of candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Politico reported Sunday. Advisers said Kasich, who was reelected in November, “combines establishment appeal with a conservative record.” After a kickoff rally at his alma mater, Ohio State, Kasich will visit Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Michigan. Kasich has been considered a possible vice presidential nominee due to his popularity in Ohio, a key swing state.

Source: Politico

6. String of fires damage African-American churches in the South
At least six predominantly black churches have been damaged or destroyed by fire in four Southern states and Ohio over the last week, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. At least three of the blazes — one each in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia — were intentionally set, according to investigators. All of the fires occurred roughly a week after Dylann Roof was accused of gunning down nine people at Charleston’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Source: Southern Poverty Law Center, The Huffington Post

7. SpaceX rocket explodes shortly after launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded about two minutes after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Sunday. The spacecraft was carrying 4,000 pounds of supplies, a docking adaptor, and 30 student projects to the International Space Station under a contract with NASA. It was not immediately clear what went wrong. All of the rocket’s engines fired as planned on launch. SpaceX has sent a team to investigate. The mission was supposed to be SpaceX’s third attempt to land a reusable rocket on a barge after the payload was sent into orbit.

Source: Popular Mechanics

8. Another swimmer attacked by shark along North Carolina coast
A 17-year-old boy over the weekend became the latest victim in a series of shark attacks in shallow North Carolina waters this month. The teen was bitten on his right calf, buttocks, and both hands while swimming with others off the Outer Banks around 4 p.m. on Saturday. Six people have been attacked by sharks along the North Carolina coast in the last two weeks. A day earlier a 47-year-old North Carolina man was bitten on his lower back and right leg while swimming with his children off a nearby beach.

Source: The Washington Post

9. LeBron James opts out of contract with Cavaliers
LeBron James opted out of his contract with the Cleveland Cavalierson Sunday, becoming a free agent for the third time in six seasons. James left Cleveland as a free agent in 2010, and joined the Miami heat. Then, after winning two championships in Florida, he returned home last summer. This time James reportedly has no plans to move. He is expected to re-sign with Cleveland, but as the salary cap rises he will get a little more than the $21.6 million he would have received next season under the old deal.

Source: The Associated Press

10. Yes bassist Chris Squire dies 
Yes bassist and co-founder Chris Squire has died at age 67, his band confirmed Sunday. Squire revealed a month ago that he had been diagnosed with leukemia. His bandmates said in a statement that Squire had been “the band’s linchpin” since he co-founded it with singer Jon Anderson in London in 1968. While the band’s lineup shifted over nearly a half century, Squire was the lone constant. He played on every Yes album. The band played its first shows without him this summer after he announced his diagnosis.

Source: Entertainment Weekly

Harold Maass

PARTHEMONIUM!

EUROPE ON VERGE OF TRANSFORMATION…

THE HUFFINGTON POST

Bank Closures As Crisis Deepens… Euro Falls, Stocks Tumble… Greeks Rush To Take Out Cash… The Bank Holiday From Hell… European ‘Blackmail’…Referendum One Week Away… KRUGMAN: I’d Vote No… A Day In Line At The Country’s ATMs… The Consequences If Greece Returns To The Drachma…Latest At HuffPost Greece...

As Democrats Move Left, Republicans Have Moved Dangerously To The Extreme Right

ADDICTING INFO

In the 1800s, it was Republicans who were fighting against the Confederate flag. Today, it’s the Republicans who are fighting to keep it flying above our state capitals.

In the 1900s, Republicans wanted to break up the conglomerates that were strangling the working man. Today, the conglomerates own them.

In the 1950s, at the influence of Eisenhower, Republicans expanded Social Security. Today, they want to privatize it or even phase it out. Some call for raising the retirement age. It was Republicans, along with Democrats, who supported strong union protections and fair pay laws. Today, Republicans are passing right-to-work legislation and murmuring the idea of abolishing the minimum wage. It was President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, who said:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”
I guess the Texas oil millionaires (or the Wichita billionaires) got to them. And yet they’re still here, controlling both chambers of Congress. Eisenhower also warned us, in his 1961 farewell address, of corporate control of Congress, and the rise of the military-industrial complex. Well, we know who controls Republicans today.
Just 60 years ago, in 1956, if I were a Republican, I would have supported “the full value of [American] wages, savings, insurance, pensions and social security.” That was achieved by expanding Social Security, unemployment insurance, strong unions, and better pay. In 2012, if I were a Republican, I would support exempting people from paying into Social Security.

In the 1980s, Republicans granted amnesty to hardworking undocumented immigrants. Today, they call them rapists, thieves, and dangers to our society and way of life. They somehow manage to invoke subtle (sometimes blatant) racism into the dialogue: “The browning of America,” as Ann Coulter would call it. Today, President Reagan would be branded a traitor, a RINO, or both. As someone who signed gun control measures into law, negotiated with our enemies, signed nuclear limiting treaties, raised taxes (a lot) and voted for FDR four times, he would be considered a liberal in today’s GOP.

To put it in perspective, Richard Lugar, a Republican Senator from Indiana, was once considered further to the right than Senators Bob Dole and Ted Stevens. He served in the Senate from 1977 to 2013, losing in the Republican primary to a Tea Partier. A man who was once considered more conservative than Bob Dole was beaten because he wasn’t conservative enough. The same thing happened to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the first time a House Majority Leader lost (his) position in a primary since the position was established in 1899. Who did he lose to? A Tea Partier. The reason: he wasn’t conservative enough.

The Tea Party has almost single handedly shifted the GOP from center-to-right to far-right. Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana and now a 2016 contender, once embraced Common Core,  new set of education standards. Once the Tea Partiers got wind and raised hell, Jindal abandoned his support and called it an overreach of federal power. Marco Rubio, Senator from Florida, was the voice of reason for real comprehensive immigration reform. As a member of a bi-partisan “Gang of Eight,” Rubio succumbed to pressures from Tea Party radicals, and backed off his own immigration plan.

Now what about the Democrats?

Well, in the 1930s, 40s, 50s an 60s, Democrats championed social programs – Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment insurance, welfare, food stamps – to help low income Americans live a better life. Today, Democrats are still doing that, whether it be through Obamacare, expanded Medicaid, SNAP benefits or tuition free college.

In the 1960s, a tide had turned with the election of President Kennedy, and Democrats became the party of Civil Rights. Today, Democrats are fighting back on attacks to voting rights (perpetrated by Republicans). It’s of no surprise Republicans cheered on the gutting of the Civil Rights Act by the Supreme Court just a few short years ago. Something as simple as voting rights, once a bi-partisan issue (after Lyndon Johnson spearheaded it), has turned into a left v. right issue because the GOP has become more conservative in their approach to domestic policy.

The only thing Democrats have radically changed in is their support for is gay rights, considering no party really touched on the issue until the late 1990s. That’s one of the biggest reasons Democrats have become “more liberal.”

And actually, trends show that Democratic presidents are becoming more moderate, based on their support or opposition to Congressional legislation. Republican presidents? They move further to the right. If anything, Democrats have moved closer to the right than to the left. When it comes to Congressional Republicans and Democrats, Republicans have moved more to the right and at a quicker pace than Democrats have to the left.

In other words: extremism has engulfed the GOP.

As Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson wrote in their article for The American Prospect:

“The GOP’s great right migration is the biggest story in American politics of the last 40 years. And it’s not just limited to Congress: GOP presidents have gotten more steadily conservative too; conservative Republicans increasingly dominate state politics; and the current Republican appointees are among the most conservative in the Court’s modern history. The growing extremism of Republicans is the main cause of gridlock in Washington, the force behind scorched-earth tactics on Capitol Hill….”

Indeed, when conservatives blast Elizabeth Warren’s “break up the banks” rhetoric, they fail to see that that same rhetoric comesright out of the Teddy Roosevelt handbook. Roosevelt was Republican, albeit a progressive Republican.

We as a nation went from Richard Nixon establishing the EPA to Jim Inhofe (R-OK) throwing snowballs on the Senate floor. We went from Goldwater (a conservative-Libertarian icon) supporting environmental protections at the cost of profit to thecriminalization of even mentioning climate change (thanks, Rick Scott). In the 1970s, Republicans showed a surprisingly progressive side (along with Democrats) when it came to protecting our environment.

We went from Tip and the Gipper to…well…Obama and Boehner. But Republicans are not fools (when it comes to executing their tactics, that is). Because of their gridlock and scorched-earth approach to almost everything, they make Democratic-sponsored ideas and initiatives look too partisan, something that always leaves a nasty taste in the mouths of the electorate. It’s calculated, and it’s demanded from their fringe voters in the Tea Party. Because of those cold, calculated tactics, America lost its triple A credit rating in 2011 and the government shut down in 2013. In 2015, the Department of Homeland Security was just a couple hours away from shutting down, putting America’s safety at risk.

The party that was once led by the “great communicator” is now the party of temper tantrums led by a man who really needs to stop getting spray-tans.

There is one thing, however, Republicans have continued: their assault on non-Christians. With hysteria hitting all time highs in the 1950s at the hands of Republican Senator Joe McCarthy over the alleged infiltration of communism, America went on a Jesus binge, putting “In God We Trust” on our currency, federal buildings, etc. We even put “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Now fast-forward to 2015. Republicans, influenced by the hysteria surrounding radical Islam, intellectualism and an ever creeping “gay agenda,” have resorted to initiating three major goals: attacks on our schools with abstinence-only sex education and creationism; “religious freedom” laws in private-sector services; and assaults on women’s reproductive health.

Long story short, when someone tells you both parties have moved too far to the left or right, remind them that is simply not true. Only one party has moved too far to any side, and that would be the Republican Party to the right. What was once the party of environmental protection and civil rights has turned into a ghost of it’s formal self. The once respected institution of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Eisenhower has now become the fringe group of Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh and birthers.

So even as the Democrats become a little more liberal, they really aren’t moving that very far. The Republicans, however, have gone over the cliff into the fever swamps of paranoia, rage, and extremism.

Gay Pride Event In Istanbul Gets Shutdown By Police With Water Cannons

ADDICTING INFO

June is a month where LGBT people get together to celebrate who they are at Pride events around the world. Not all LGBT people are able to take to the streets and let their inner rainbows shine, however. For some LGBT people, being alive means living in fear. On Sunday, a gay pride parade was ended when police sprayed water cannons into a crowd of thousands in Istanbul, Turkey. The Associated Press reports:

“Turkish police used water cannons and tear gas against gay pride marchers trying to rally in Istanbul’s central square on Sunday, forcing the thousands of demonstrators to gather several blocks away.

Two people were injured, according to the Dogan news agency. The extent of their injuries wasn’t immediately known.

Between 100 and 200 protesters were chased away from Taksim Square as they began gathering in the late afternoon. Police hemmed the demonstrators into a small corner of the square and then fired several jets of water to force them down a side street.

Within minutes, the noisy but otherwise peaceful rally restarted a few blocks away and grew to several thousand people as the day wore on. An Associated Press reporter at the scene occasionally smelled tear gas, but there didn’t appear any further attempt by police to interfere with the protest.”

The Guardian is reporting that in addition to water cannons, rubber bullets were fired at the crowd. Turkey is a predominately Muslim population with a secular government. Therefore, while homosexuality is not criminalized, homophobia is the norm in the nation.

LGBT people have been gaining a lot of ground in western countries as of late. Gays and lesbians can now get married anywhere in the United States. However, in more than 75 countries homosexuality is criminalized. Now that LGBT people in privileged nations are beginning to gain rights, it is imperative that LGBT people and allies band together to create global solidarity with the most oppressed members of the community around the world.