❖ Two communities near Damascus were bombed, with “16 people, including seven children” killed in Qatana and “eight people, most of them women and children” killed in Jdaidet Artuz. Meanwhile, “at least two million Syrians . . . have fled abroad, where they live in dire conditions”. But most are displaced inside Syria”, “sliding into starvation and medieval hunger.”
❖ Russia has acknowledged that Syrian President al-Assad’s government is “losing control”. Syria denies use of Scud missiles.
❖ The pattern of tweets since 2002 by a New York University student each time a drone strike occurred “highlights a disturbing tactic” suggesting the US has been bombing targets “multiple times in relatively quick succession, meaning that the second strike often hits first responders”
❖ “Israel will withhold tax revenues from President Mahmoud Abbas’s administration” for months, apparently due to Palestine’s statehood bid at the UN.
❖ Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli Foreign Minister, has been charged with breach of trust for “allegedly” compromising “a criminal investigation into his business dealings”.
❖ The US Congress wants to increase the $99.9 million the White House has asked ”for anti-missile cooperation with Israel” (e.g., Arrow and David’s Sling) by $100 million (Senate) or $168 million (the House). Funds for the Iron Dome range from $210 million requested (WH), to $420 million (Senate) and $680 million (House).
❖ His widow’s lawyer claims Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB spy, was “working with M16 and Spanish intelligence on alleged Russian state ties to organized crime”. Litvinenko died of polonium-210 poisoning in 2006.
❖ Ever-nimble, Silvio Berlusconi now wants Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti to agree to enter next year’s elections with a “broad ‘moderate’ alliance”. If Monti agrees, Berlusconi won’t run.
❖ The long-time copacetic community comprised of the villages of Derby Line, VT and Stanstead, Quebec is being separated by rules, fences, flower pots, arrests and $5,000 fines. Video.
❖ 200 European banks are to be put “under the direct oversight of the European Central Bank, which will act as chief supervisor of eurozone banks.”
❖ It’s “just capitalism”, says Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, praising his company’s tax avoidance. Last year, Google had £2.5 billion in sales in the UK but paid £6million in taxes; £10 billion socked away in Bermuda, saving some £2 billion in taxes. Both G8 and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) intend to explore this.
Money Matters USA
❖ OR Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley just “blasted the U.S. Department of Justice for its policy of offering ‘deferred prosecution’ for large financial institutions that break federal criminal laws”. He called it “Too Big to Jail” and wants explanations.
❖ Since the federal deficit has decreased steadily from 10.1% of GDP in 2009, to 7.0 % in 2012, but unemployment seems with us for a while yet, the Wall Street Journal advises against “an overdose of instant austerity”.
❖ Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit, by law. Moreover, people paying into Social Security now are supporting the people collecting Social Security now, a repetitive pattern over generations, by design. If payments exceed income, other measures can be called into play, such as raising the income cap on contributions.
❖ 60% of “battleground state” voters say reduce the deficit by increasing taxes on incomes higher than $250,000; 64% say increase corporate taxes; 64% are opposed to raising the Social Security retirement age–including 66% of those 18-29 agreed.
❖ Don’t miss “A Giant Statistical Round-up of the Income Inequality Crisis in 16 Charts”. Examples: sharp drop in “median income of working-age families” from 2007 to 2010; 254.3% increase in worker productivity compared to 113.1% in real hourly compensation, 1948-2011; 240.5% increase in real annual household for the top 1% compared to everybody else (range of 11% to 71%); much, much more.
❖ Resurgent Republic, a GOP polling outfit, reveals that “Republicans have run out of persuadable white voters”.
❖ OR Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley has a filibuster reform proposal to end the paralysis in the Senate.
❖ Shine the light on Dark Money! NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has proposed regulations requiring “all non-profit groups that are registered in [NY] to include in annual financial reports the percentage of their spending that goes to federal, state and local electioneering.”
❖ Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced his Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing in 2013 “to ask the administration how it plans to handle the differences in federal and state laws on marijuana policy.”
Health, Homelessness & Hunger
❖ OR Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkeley argues “we should be ‘lowering’ the Medicare age, ‘not raising it’”. Cost to seniors of raising the Medicare age to 67: $11 billion at least.
❖ Tomorrow’s the deadline for them to officially declare their intent, but so far only 15 states have advised they will operate their own health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.
❖ Another contentious, lengthy episode of deliberation has resulted in the publication of the American Psychiatric Association’s 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. And with that, another contentious, lengthy episode of reaction to publication of the DSM5 has commenced.
Women & Children
❖ Across the state and nation, “Women’s health advocates and pro-choice supporters are livid” and calling for MI Republican Gov Rick Snyder to veto the “anti-choice Super Bill”.
❖ MI state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D) takes on Republicans in the state senate for two of their wars–the War on Women and the War on Workers. Video.
❖ US Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) “lashes out at House GOP leaders on Violence Against Women Act. “ House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and House member Eric Cantor (R-TN) are holding up the bill. Cantor objects to having tribal courts try non-Native Americans accused of raping Native Americans on tribal lands.
❖ Eeeeeeeek! Planned Parenthood stole the color pink.
Working for A Living
❖ In MS, where there is much anti-labor sentiment and where so much of the Civil Rights struggle occurred in the ’60s, the United Auto Workers is saying “worker rights is the civil rights battle of the 21st century”.
❖ What happened in MI? The Charles G. Koch and the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundations provide funds to the Mackinac Public Policy Center which is connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which developed the “right-to-work” and the “emergency financial managers” bills. Also, ”real estate mogul Ron Weiser”, former chair of MI’s Republican Party and self-described “full-time” pusher of “right-to-work” laws.
❖ “Oops: Michigan Republicans Have Passed a Right to Work Law that may be Impossible to Implement”.
❖ Detroit’s Democratic Mayor Dave Bing’s administration “issued bonus checks to nonunion employees last week despite the city’s unprecedented fiscal crisis.” Checks ranged from $150 to $750.
❖ Unemployment claims for the week ending December 8th were 343,000, down 29,000 from the previous week.
❖ “A Eulogy for #Occupy”, moving and vivid first-hand account of a writer’s one-year involvement with Occupy.
❖ The Oakland, CA Police Department will be placed under a temporary court-appointed compliance director.
❖ Discussed in the WH in March, approved by AG Eric Holder a week later: the new ability of “the National Counterterrorism Center to examine the government files of U.S. citizens for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them” and to share civilian databases with foreign governments.
Planet Earth News
❖ “Climate change: the Inuit now have words for ‘bumblebee’ and ‘robin’“. Article summarizing the rapid impact of global warming on the Arctic.
❖ The US Bureau of Land Management got bids from eight entities, “including oil companies”, as it auctioned off oil leases on “prime public lands” in rural portions of three CA counties.
❖ Meanwhile, Los Angeles and Burbank have agreed to purchase solar power from Sempra Energy in NV for 20 years.
❖ Geminid meteor shower time! This evening into tomorrow morning.
❖ Back to the drawing board: “Organisms long thought to have been the ancestors of early marine creatures may in fact have lived on land”.
❖ Where Matt was in 2008.