Jupiter and Io, December 4th in the NASA Advent Calendar. What wonder will tomorrow open?

And here’s your news:

International Developments

Rwanda, a US ally, has been charged with “sponsoring, arming, and commanding the insurgent M23 forces” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rwanda is very interested in “a sliver” of Congo territory immediately to its west which is rich in valuable minerals. Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN, is against sanctioning Rwanda for its support of M23, reportedly suppressed release of a UN report (since leaked) denouncing Rwanda’s role and didn’t want to name Rwanda in a UN resolution preferring instead the euphemistic “external support”. More here.

❖ At least 28 children and a teacher are dead after a shell fell on their school outside Damascus. Rebels and the Syrian government are blaming each other. Meanwhile, NATO has approved use of Patriot anti-missiles along the Turkish-Syria border “as concern grows over chemical weapons”.

❖ It’s been eleven years now, but a new study “says that terror attacks worldwide have grown rapidly in the years since 9/11 and spiked during the US occupation of Iraq”.

❖ “The Obama administration has launched a post-election push to restart moribund peace talks with the Taliban, despite resistance from the U.S. military, mixed signals from Pakistan and outright refusal by the militants themselves”.

❖ Saying the new draft constitution does not guarantee freedom of the press, newspapers across Egypt are refusing to publish today. Meanwhile, “tens of thousands” were at the presidential palace in Cairo, where they were met by tear gas.

Iran claims to have captured a US drone.

International Finance

❖ Recognizing we don’t live in a perfect world where things don’t work as they should if we did, Jared Bernstein is recommending consideration of capital controls “whereby countries control the inflow of foreign capital and outflow of domestic capital.”

Money Matters USA

❖ Caught with suddenly decreased income, but increased medical and other expenses, widows often can’t get mortgage modifications because their names weren’t on the original loans and “many lenders won’t add them . . . until they pay any amounts that are past due.”

❖ NY’s Democratic Governor, Andrew Cuomo, is meeting with both House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other top Senate and House members in hopes of securing an additional $42 billion for post-Sandy repairs.

❖ The US Federal Housing Administration “sold off more than 9,400 delinquent home loans to investors and nonprofits for about $617 mllion this fall” and intends to sell 40,000 more in 2013. Their “thinking is that investors are more likely to be able to modify the mortgages more aggressively than FHA rules allow, making it more likely that borrowers will keep their homes.”

Politics USA

❖ Latest report: “Benghazi ‘Talking Points’ Watered Down by CIA, Not White House”.

❖ Seems New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) earlier this year asked US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run for mayor of New York. Seems she’s not interested. Bigger fish to fry?

❖ Seems Fox News’ Roger Ailes, and even owner Rupert Murdoch, wanted General David Petraeus to run for president, but he ended up at the CIA and eventually in hot water instead.

❖ President Obama wants Democratic House member Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) to continue as head of the Democratic National Party.

❖ What a deal! Texas Republican Dick Armey was given $8 million to exit the T-party’s FreedomWorks, which he chaired.

❖ Tomorrow, pickets are to be outside 100 Social Security offices around the US, with the message “to keep Social Security out of the ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations on Capitol Hill.” Organizations such as the American Federation of Government Employees, Common Cause, the American Federation of Teachers, the Alliance for Retired Americans and AFO-CIO unions are part of the effort.

61% of registered NJ voters think their Republican Gov. Chris Christie should be re-elected.

❖ There are now more vacancies on the powerful DC Circuit of the US Court of Appeals. Would be a good opportunity to provide some balance to what is a conservative-lending court, but Senate Republicans will no doubt continue to block Obama court nominees.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

❖ Interesting chart showing how many drugs each state intends to cover under their Affordable Care Act plans.

Education Directions

❖ A new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) “says the United States is now the only major economy in the world where the younger generation will not surpass the preceding generation in terms of schooling.” Only 20% of US youth will achieve higher educations than their parents, the lowest in the developed world. Why? Skyrocketing costs.

Cooper Union in Manhattan “is one of eight free [non-military] higher education institutions in the country.” Its excellence is legendary. It also has a debt of $16.5 million and the Board of Trustees is trying to figure out how to shift some costs of expansion onto students and their parents. Students are now occupying the building.

Working for A Living

❖ Quelle surprise. WI’s anti-collective bargaining law, passed in 2011, is working according to plan. Membership in two teachers’ unions “has fallen by a third” and a merger of two rival unions might occur.

❖ Grover is hot on MI’s so-called right-to-work bill which would prohibit unions collecting dues as part of a condition of employment. Norquist wants MI to join 23 other states that have such laws.

Changes to the Hatch Act have been approved by the Senate, opening the opportunity for public employees to campaign for public offices, among other modifications.

Planet Earth News

❖ The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released a report stating “We are on a collision course with nature” and must stop the “‘develop first, clean up later’ approach.” If we don’t adopt a model of sustainable development, of green growth, “The costs and consequences . . . would be colossal, both in economic and human terms.”

❖ The Missouri River feeds into the Mississippi River near St Louis, MO. Drought is so intense that the Mississippi River is 15 – 20 feet lower than normal. Nonetheless, fracking operators in ND “are demanding immense quantities of Missouri River water be diverted to them, further threatening levels on the Mississippi.” If barge traffic on the Mississippi has to be halted for a couple of months, impact on trade will be immense.

Heads Up!

James K. Galbraith: [T]alking in terms of the “one percent” . . . doesn’t clarify what is truly at issue. . . . People care about their public services, they care about schools, they care about the environment . . . , they care about safety, they care about the terms of student loans, they care about health care and retirement.” Much more.

“Verizon has filed a patent for a DVR that can watch and listen to the goings-on in your living room.” The purpose of such intrusion? So they can target ads “appropriate to whatever you’re doing in the, uh, privacy of your own home”. Comcast and Google are in on this, too.

Latin America

Argentina is now faced with defending its decision to seize Spanish oil company Repsol’s assets in Argentina. Repsol has appealed to the World Bank about the case.

Heliopolis in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has a population of over 100,000 living together in a huge slum. Thanks to innovative, forward-thinking city planners and creative architects, a whole new community is emerging.

Break Time

❖ Gorgeous advent calendar from Hubble.

Photo by J. Spencer, Lowell Observatory, and NASA in the public domain.