Here’s some news to help ease you into next week.
❖ Presidents Joseph Kabila (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (Uganda), Mwai Kibaki (Kenya), and Yahmi Nassoro Dovutwa (Tanzania) “issued a statement calling on M23 to ‘stop all war activities and withdraw from Goma’, DR-Congo and ‘stop talk of overthrowing an elected government’.” Much fear that children are being forced to become soldiers.
❖ Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi is doing a bit of back-pedaling. Per his office, “the decree giving him sweeping new powers is temporary and not intended to concentrate power in his hands.” Update: “A Muslim Brotherhood member was killed and 60 people were injured on Sunday” in Damanhour.
❖ “Yassar Arafat’s body to be exhumed for cause of death tests”. Traces of polonium-210 were reportedly found on his clothing after his death, but those tests were inconclusive.
❖ “Syrian rebels captured a helicopter base just outside Damascus” today. Fighting in Aleppo has destroyed many schools, forcing children into the streets or local mosques which make space available for make-shift classes.
❖ Both the Spanish political parties CiU (center-right) and the ERC (left-wing) in Catalonia are nationalists “keen to hold a referendum on whether the region should break away from the rest of Spain.” Partial results suggest 50 seats in the latest elections for the CiU, not enough for an absolute majority, so a referendum on separatism seems unlikely at the moment.
❖ European bailout funds are headed for Spain on Dec 15th. In exchange, “Spain’s four nationalised banks” will be expected to lay off 8,000 employees. Chart showing that all Spanish banks employed around 24,000 in 2011, so a large dent. As the article continues: “Surely this will fix Spain.”
❖ Update on the reported “long war” brewing between HP and the British firm Autonomy which HP acquired but in retrospect wishes it hadn’t.
Money Matters USA
❖ We don’t need “balance” in the economy. We need “redress” and we need to demand it. Let us have: “the most generous” social safety net of all; no cuts for the poor and middle class; sacrifices from those who’ve benefited “so much from the rigged political system”. No “Grand Bargain”. Just go over the “Fiscal Cliff” if necessary, then fight to restore middle class tax cuts, etc.
❖ Blackstone, owner of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and the Weather Channel among many other investments, is now snapping up houses in the Sacramento, CA area, “a direct result of the thousands of houses left vacant by foreclosures”.
❖ Seems there are definite “boomlet” signs in Detroit, including increasing competition for commercial rental spaces and for apartments as well. Said one life-long resident, “I grew up on the east side of Detroit. I have not seen this much development and growth in my entire life.”
❖ Finally! Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin on the teevee today: “Social Security does not add one penny to the deficit. Not a penny.” Medicare, Durbin continued, will have to be adjusted but that can be accomplished “without harming beneficiaries.” Remains to be seen, but nice to hear the truth spoken about Social Security.
❖ Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), also on the teevee today, is opposed to raising tax rates on the wealthy since that would hurt our fragile economy (ignoring how the Bush tax cuts contributed to it), ok with closing “a lot of loopholes” (charitable giving, home mortgage deductions), and is eyeing what’s ours: “obviously, we’re gonna have to look at entitlement reform.”
❖ Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), on another teevee program, is opposed to raising tax rates, too, but wants to cap deductions. “But to do this, I just don’t want to promise the spending cuts. I want entitlement reforms.” And you know whose entitlements he means.
❖ Could it be Fl Gov. Rick Scott (R) knows Obamacare will save the state $100 million/year, or that FL has “the third-highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation”, or that FL hospitals desperately need Medicaid funds? Perhaps, but what’s perhaps most intriguing is that Scott “finally seems willing to stand up to the big-money puppet masters”, the Koch brothers.
❖ FL, GA, SC, NC and VA–the five contiguous Southern states along the Atlantic coastline–hold promise for Democrats. Black populations are growing, the small Hispanic population is growing, and “less-conservative outsiders [are] attracted to popular coastal areas.”
❖ “In the last four years, the number of militia groups in the United States has grown [from 512 in 2009] to more than 1,200″ in 2011. Interview with a Supreme Commander of one such group in NC.
❖ The US Education Department to PA: You may not use “more lenient criteria” in evaluating charter schools; “they must be assessed by the same standard as traditional schools.” What’s PA gonna do? Use both standards, so there! (59% of PA’s charter schools met the federal standard using “more lenient criteria”, while 37% would have met it using the same criteria as used for public schools.)
❖ Public school teachers must pass the Praxis exam to get their jobs. Seems that some teachers in AR, MS and TN having been paying one Clarence Mumford Sr. $1500 – $3000 “to send one of his test ringers with fake identification” to take the test for them. This has been going on for 15 years.
❖ Unsure if Obama would win a second term, “his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures”. Seems there’s not agreement on whether drone strikes “should be a measure of last resort” or “a more flexible tool”. Under Obama there have been 300+ drone strikes, with 2500 deaths. Update: The ACLU and Code Pink have strong reactions to this news, such as: “The terms . . . being used by these officials are undefined, malleable and without definition” (ACLU), “That they are trying to write the rules for something that is illegal is disgusting” (Code Pink).
❖ “Welcome to America’s 10 Worst Immigration Detention Centers”, with interactive map.
Planet Earth News
❖ US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack strikes again. Food pantries are hurting while farmers are “selling their crops overseas” at record high prices due to the drought and higher demand. Of the corn crop, 40% goes to ethanol, 40% to feed animals and 20% for consumers to eat. In August the UN asked the US to stop using so much corn for biofuels given world-wide hunger. Vilsack rejected the notion.
❖ Some of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s aides were tried and found guilty of corruption, followed by a second wave of investigations and arrests for bribery. Current President Dilma Rousseff is “moving quickly” and has “ordered the dismissal . . . of government officials alleged involved” in the bribery.
❖ Maine is first among the US states to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission “to help those affected by the forced relocation of Native American children into white homes during the 20th century.” The federally funded Indian Adoption Project was in operation from 1958-1967.
❖ Awesome stuff: “The structure of the universe and the laws that govern its growth may be more similar than previously thought to the structure and growth of the human brain and other complex networks, such as the Internet or a social network . . ..” Of course, it’s the human brain doing all this observation, modeling, etc.