Here’s your news on this last day of November, and what an action-packed month it’s been!

International Developments

Today, Israel “approved the construction of 3,000 new housing units in West Bank settlements.” The US has “slammed” Israel’s move, calling it “counterproductive”, “provocative” and making “it harder to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.”

❖ “Egypt’s Islamist-run assembly has backed a draft constitution, including a measure keeping sharia, or islamic law, as the main source of legislation”. “Liberal, left-wing and Christian members” of the assembly boycotted the vote. Today, “Tens of thousands of protesters opposed to Egypt’s president and the sweeping new powers he assumed last week are in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, hours after a new constitution was hastily approved.” More from the New York Times.

❖ The US seems intent on recognizing the Syrian opposition “as soon as [it] fully develops its political structure”. Much hinges on whether the National Coalition of opposition forces “are able to present their group at the Morocco meeting [on Dec 12th] as a functioning organization”.

❖ “The US is heading for a ‘tipping point‘ beyond which it should no longer pursue al-Qaida terrorists by military means”, according to DOD General Counsel Jeh Johnson. According to Johnson, law enforcement would tackle al-Qaida while the “legal authority given to the White House by Congress” to pursue the group would no longer be needed.

International Finance

Iceland Shines! Its president explains how Iceland recovered so quickly from the recession.

Money Matters USA

❖ Yes! “Can Open Source Ratings Break the Ratings Agency Oligopoly?” Firmly entrenched, a few credit rating agencies wield considerable power–and not necessarily for the common good. Open source ratings agencies could: break up the exclusive, politicized relationship between the agencies, governments and business; provide accountability and transparency; ensure sound methodologies; and preclude reliance on exploitable practices.

❖ IL Democratic Senate Dick Durbin intends to “attach his online sales tax measure to the defense authorization bill the chamber is currently debating”. Durbin has two Republican allies in this endeavor–Senators Mike Enzi of WY and Lamar Alexander of TN.

Politics USA

Erskine Bowles says there’re equal chances that the lame-duck Congress will do something to avoid the “fiscal cliff”, go over the thing but then quickly act to avoid harm, or do nothing which “he called ‘insane’.” He also said, after meeting with Obama and Treasury Secretary Geithner that “the president showed ‘some flexibility’ on the idea of raising tax rates on the highest income levels.”

❖ “Fiscal cliff crisis: Made in the GOP” “Part of it was a political gimmick, working the rules of the Senate to push through sweeping tax cuts” and then crafting the “2011 showdown” that set up the “fiscal cliff”.

❖ On the knife’s edge: filibuster reform. The GOP began “simply unprecedented” obstructionism, including “grinding Senate business to a halt” in order to blame Obama and make him a one-term president. Nonetheless, some Democratic Senators are hesitant about using the “constitutional option” to end egregious abuse of the filibuster.

❖ In the House, the GOP has passed a bill adding “visas for highly-skilled workers while reducing legal immigration overall.” It’s called the STEM Act, aimed at foreign students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics in US universities. It also cuts the Diversity Visa program and the number of visas available, and disallows re-allocating unused STEM visas.

❖ “The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called for a ‘full review’ of the U.S. relationship with the Palestine Liberation Organization, including shutting its Washington office, in the wake of its obtaining non-member state status at the United Nations.”

Nate Silver on Politico: “They’re trying to cover [politics] like sports, but not in an intelligent way at all. They want to create noise, basically.”

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

MO’s Democratic Governor Jay Nixon has announced his state will take part in the Medicaid expansion that is part of the Affordable Care Act.

Women & Children

❖ Although most of the misogynist candidates lost in the recent elections, there are five states where they continue their efforts: OH, AZ, AR, WI and MS.

Education Directions

❖ A Pinal County, AZ high school was put on lock down while drug-sniffing dogs and members of local police departments, AZ Public Safety Dept., and the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America conducted searches. AZ has contracts with CCA to operate “six correctional/detention facilities” in Pinal County. As an American Friends Service Committee person said, such action “in a high school is perhaps the most direct expression of the ‘schools-to-prison pipeline’ I’ve ever seen.”

❖ And in Meridian, MS, according to the US Justice Department, children enter the school-to-prison pipeline once the school district refers them to the Meridian Police Department which “automatically” arrests them and sends them to the county’s juvenile justice system, where “due process protections are illusory and inadequate.” “Crimes” committed by these children? “[D]ress code violations, flatulence, profanity, and disrespect.”

Working for A Living

❖ On December 21st, 26,000 Chrysler factory workers will each receive a $1,750 bonus–”the second half of their bonus for signing the contract between the company and the United Auto Workers in 2011.” (General Motors and Ford gave their workers the full bonus up front.)

If manufacturing is indeed returning to the US, it doesn’t appear it’ll be creating many jobs and that the jobs created won’t pay enough to support a family anyway, creating high turnover.

❖ “The Democratic-led New Jersey Senate unleashed a double-barreled political shot at Gov. Chrisie on Thursday, approving both a bill and a proposed constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage and provide automatic cost-of-living increases in it.” If Christie vetoes the bill or tinkers with the automatic increases, the Democrats intend to let the voters decide next November–when Christie will be up for re-election, too.

A class-action suit initiated in October 2011 against a warehouse owner and two staffing agencies in southern CA, due to their “shorting mostly immigrant Latino contract workers on pay” now includes WalMart. WalMart “employs a network of contractors and subcontractors who have habitually broken the law to keep their labor costs low and profit margins high.”

Heads Up!

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)’s bill extending privacy protections to email, including requiring probable cause search warrants, has been sent from the Judiciary Committee to the full Senate. Praises from The Center for Democracy and Technology, the ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Software Alliance.

Planet Earth News

❖ As we witness in disbelief and alarm our “leaders” ignoring global warming, Emptywheel’s put the matter through her usual incisive analytical process.

Fracking’s impact on our food? “The early evidence from heavily fracked regions, especially from ranchers, is not reassuring.”

❖ What many feared: “Gulf of Mexico clean-up making 2010 spill 52-times more toxic.” The Environmental Protection Agency required Corexit be used, too.

Latin America

Texaco created “an environmental mess in the Amazon jungle” and was ordered to pay $18.3 billion to Ecuadoran villagers–19 years ago. Chevron bought Texaco in 2000 and refuses to pay, so the plaintiffs are “asking an Ontario Superior Court to force Chevron to hand over CAN$12billion in Canadian assets held by subsidiaries.” Ruling expected in January.

Break Time

❖ An entirely different kind of Cliff