June 2012

Jun 2  An Egyptian court sentences former President Hosni Mubarak, 84, and his Interior Minister Habib al-Adly to life in prison for the deaths of demonstrators. Mubarak and his two sons are acquitted on charges of corruption.

Jun 2  Russia's President Vladimir Putin denies giving support to Syria's Assad regime. Yesterday at a news conference in France he praised Kofi Annan and said, "We must do everything for his [peace] mission to succeed. I think it is counterproductive to announce his mission as a failure in advance." Meanwhile, Russia has applied no visible pressure on Bashar al-Assad of Syria concerning Assad's failures to abide by his agreements with Annan.

Jun 2  Gallup reports that 46 percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form – a percentage "essentially unchanged from 30 years ago" when Gallup first asked the question. Gallup didn't address the question of biological evolution in general flies, bacteria and the like – which a few of the 46 percent might accept.

Jun 3  In a popular and grand display of affection, the British celebrate Queen Elizabeth's 60th anniversary as their nation's chief-of-state. She is being praised for her loyalty to duty and service. Like other monarchs in Western Europe she has been in tune with democracy and a supporter of civil liberties and human rights.

Jun 3  In a televised address to Parliament, Syria's dictator, President Assad, referring to the Houla massacres of May 25, says that even monsters could not commit such acts. Assad calls on the people of Syria to unite.

Jun 4  Time will tell. Various pundits have been claiming that the Assad regime is too strong militarily for the Free Syrian Army and that there is a danger of a civil war in Syria lasting more then ten years like the civil war in Lebanon in the 1980s. CNN's pundit, Fareed Zakaria, has joined this group. A rival view is that Assad's military is a paper tiger, that something should be done to make it easier for people in Assad's military to defect. The Assad regime is dependent on its military strength and that strength could unravel faster than many think. Again, we shall see. Will the civil war now taking place in Syria drag on for more than ten years, or will Assad fall within a year or two?

Jun 5  Three Obama drone strikes in three days on suspected militants have killed 27 people, Pakistani intelligence officials say. Complaints have arisen that drone strikes violate international law, stir up hostility to the US and encourage growth in extremism. Gregory Johnsen of Princeton University, an expert on Yemen, claims that drone attacks have strengthened the hand of terrorists there. The Obama administration claims the strikes are legal, and apparently Obama believes that in the long-run he is decapitating leadership that can't be replenished.

Jun 6  Four days of celebrating Queen Elizabeth's sixty years of reign ended yesterday with some complaints tweeted by Brits who want to be rid of the monarchy. Someone tweeted: "The reality is that while a large swathe of public opinion is largely indifferent to the royals but happy to have an extra public holiday to mark the jubilee many millions want the whole institution of monarchy consigned to the history books." This appears to be exaggeration. Those opposed to the monarchy have been described as 20% against 80% in favor. Some complain of the cost of maintaining the monarchy, a cost that has been described as something like one dollar per person per year. On the other hand, there are those delighted to have a chief of state somebody in politics functioning "above the fray." The queen has benefited from accident of birth (dynastic rule), but British history has put her under laws regarding democratic processes and civil liberties. Time marches on. Elizabeth has democratic sensibilities that her great-great grandmama, Queen Victoria, did not have.

Jun 8  Government action is to be employed regarding hand water pumps that automatically phone repairmen when a breakdown is imminent. This is planned for seventy villages in Kenya to cut down on the cost and delay in repairs that have been sending people to polluted water.

Jun 10  Spanish banks crashed after making bad loans to developers and home buyers in the pre-2008 overheated go-go period, using money they had borrowed from international financial institutions. And now the European Union has engineered a bank bailout a loan of 100 billion euros that some believe might not work. Spain's right-of-center Prime Minister Rajoy was opposed to a bailout but now is going along. Rajoy believes in his austerity reforms, while many in Spain don't want to be the ones to sacrifice and view the big moneylenders and Prime Minister Rajoy with hostility. A sign held by one of Spain's protesters reads: "Hands up! This is a rescue."

Jun 11  A Spaniard says, "It's a nightmare. People are so angry with the banks." Another says, "They are cheeky. They caused the problems and now want even more money." According to BBC News still another "points to the fact banks aren't regulated there [Madrid?] and that Spain's regions, which control their own finances, have been overspending both things have helped push up borrowing costs leading to Spain's economic problems." A banker says: "They say bankers are greedy, but everybody's greedy. It's the system that's corrupt in Spain." (BBC News)

Jun 12  Bond yields rise again for Spain and Italy good for creditors but making it more expensive to pay off debt and to finance economic growth. The optimism among some who greeted the Spanish bank bailout continues to evaporate.

Jun 12  Jesse Ventura, former governor of Minnesota, suggests leaving party affiliation off ballots, forcing people who vote to know better who they are voting for. The most successful of independent political candidates in the US, he says he is not interested at the moment in being President. He is hawking his new book, DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans: No More Gangs in Government.

Jun 13  Iceland's Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir tells Europeans to look to her country as a model for managing banking crises. Economist Paul Krugman agrees. He has written, "Where everyone else bailed out the bankers and made the public pay the price, Iceland let the banks go bust and actually expanded its social safety net." Another Nobel laureate economist, Joseph Stiglitz, also agrees. He says, "Iceland did the right thing by making sure its payment systems continued to function while creditors, not the taxpayers, shouldered the losses of banks."

Jun 14  Moody's ratings agency slashes its rating on Spanish government debt to one notch above "junk." Spain's borrowing costs rise to a new high. Moody's (sic) says the eurozone bailout plan for Spain's banks would increase the country's debt burden.

Jun 14  An article for BBC News claims that we in the UK and US are not getting more greedy or less active. Sugar (fructose) in foods is the villain more than fat because of the quantity of sugar that we ingest. With fructose corn syrup, food has become cheaper to make and to buy, and "We're being bombarded every day by the food industry to consume more and more food." That includes fizzy soft drinks. In two decades (from the mid-1980s to 2005?) "the average American's consumption of fizzy drinks almost doubled - from 350 cans a year to 600."

Jun 19  The gathering in Brazil of leaders from twenty nations agrees to the text of a document that is supposed to address the world's environmental concerns. BBC News describes the text as lacking in details, having no timetable and environmental groups as saying the text lacks "any meaningful substance."

Jun 20  Being politically adult continues as a challenge in the US. President Obama's senior campaign strategist David Axelrod condemns heckling that has taken place at Republican events. Let people hear both sides, he says. Mitt Romney, running for president as a Republican, rejects calling on his supporters to stop making themselves obnoxious at Democratic Party campaign events.

Jun 22  Iceland repays $483.7 million in loans to the International Monetary Fund, an early repayment. This follows a $900 million repayment in March as Iceland works it way out of its financial meltdown in 2008.

Jun 22  The seventh meeting of the G-20 heads of government took place on the 18th and 19th. They issued a concluding statement: "We will act together to strengthen recovery and address financial market tensions." Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, said, "The seeds of a pan-European recovery plan were planted." She added that leaders had committed "to take all measures necessary to safeguard the integrity and stability of the euro area." Some express disappointment and claim that too much favor is being shown banks rather than common people.

Jun 22  The British newspaper The Guardian reports that Saudi officials are preparing to pay the salaries of the Free Syria Army as a means of encouraging mass defections from Assad's military.

Jun 23  Summer is here. The US remains the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation. Canada's government mandates at least 10 days of paid vacation for employees, Australia and the UK 20, Germany 24, Norway 25, France 30 days. Some in the US object to such guarantees for employees because they want to keep the US competitive, or they oppose additional regulations by government on businesses. Also, some in the US blur the above countries into one wickedly profligate group, a group inclined to debilitate economically compared to US economic potential that can be unleashed if a Republican were in the White House.

Jun 24  In Egypt, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has overseen the presidential election results that are announced today. The winner is the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi apparently not SCAF's favorite with 51.7% of the vote. Thousands crowded into Cairo's Tahrir Square, waving national flags, cheering, chanting "God is Great" and "Don't fear! The military must go!" Leila Nachawati Rego, a professor of communication in Madrid, tweets: "Congratulations to ALL Egyptians for free elections and the end of the Mubarak era."

Jun 26  Turkey announces that if Syrian troops approach its borders, those troops will be seen as a military threat. This follows Syria having shot down, without warning, one of Turkey's fighter aircraft near the Turkish-Syrian border on June 22nd and Syria shooting at a second plane involved in a rescue search. Turkey is a member of NATO, and NATO has announced its support for Turkey. Also, in the past five days a Syrian general, two colonels, a major and a lieutenant with 33 other soldiers have defected and have arrived in Turkey. Two brigadier generals and two colonels from Syria's Aleppo area have announced their defection, and a Syrian Air Force pilot has defected in his aircraft to Jordan. Defections have been made easier with Turkey as a safe haven and with the growing strength of Syria's opposition forces.

Jun 27  In the company of other dignitairies, Queen Elizabeth II and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness, now North Ireland's deputy first minister, cheefully shake hands. This follows the Queen's visit to Dublin last year. There she spoke of her "sincere thoughts and deep sympathy" to the victims of Ireland and the UK's troubled past and "a wish, finally to turn a page." As they shook hands today, Mr McGuinness told the Queen that their meeting was a "powerful signal that peace-building requires leadership."

Jun 28  Greece is still sinking. "Because everyone is angry with the government, Greece's already egregious problem of tax evasion is getting worse." So writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post. People with money are sending it abroad. Individual interest still trumps collective interest.

Jun 29  Egypt's president-elect, Mohammed Morsi, addresses a packed Tahrir Square in Cairo, telling the people there that they are "the source of all authority," promising them that he will be "president for all Egyptians" and that the revolution must continue "until all its objectives are met." In a veiled reference to the military, he said. "I promise you that I will not give up on any of the powers given to the president." He pledged to work for the release of civilians detained by the military and to seek justice for those killed and injured in last year's uprising. Morsi has given up his position within the Muslim Brotherhood for the sake of his role as Egypt's president.

Jun 30  Mohammed Morsi is sworn in as Egypt's first democratically elected president. Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, leader of the military council said to be passing power to the president, salutes Morsi and shakes his hand.

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Copyright © 2012 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.