Good evening!

International Developments

❖ “According to the latest polls, all center and left-wing parties [in Israel] will win fewer seats than in the current Knesset.”  It appears the right wing has about 50% of the potential vote.  Elections are due next month.

❖ “Syrian Vice-President Farouq al-Sharaa has said neither the government’s forces nor rebels can win the 21-month-old conflict.”  He noted the “worsening situation” and said the stalemate could be ended by an “historic settlement”.

Libya will be closing its southern borders temporarily and declaring “seven southern regions restricted military areas.”  There is official concern about “stemming the flow of illegal immigrants and goods” but an “upsurge in violence and drug trafficking, and the presence of armed groups that act with complete impunity” are also worrying.

❖ The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea has ruled that Ghana “shall forthwith and unconditionally release” Argentina’s ship the Libertad which was seized on October 2nd “at the behest of a US fund [Elliott Associates] seeking to collect on defaulted bonds.”  Argentina is to fly the 98-member crew back to Ghana tomorrow.  Argentina’s Economy Minister tweeted “Vultures, you shall not pass.” Caution: the fat lady hasn’t sung–yet.

International Finance

❖ Iceland shines!  Iceland’s Parliament will soon be considering a motion to form a committee “to report on the benefits/costs of full reserves banking”–that is, separating money creation from money lending in banks.  (Iceland’s Parliament is called the Althing.  Would that our Congress were an Althing rather than the Special Interest things too many members seem to be.)

❖ While the US and the eurozone are bogged down in their economic situations, much geopolitical shifting is occurring elsewhere.  Latin America, where many economies are rising, is establishing links with Gulf countries, and both groups are engaging with China and other Asian countries. Stay tuned.

What will FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) do?  Barclay’s is complaining that the proposed fine of $470 million for manipulating US power prices in 2006-08 is “‘unjustified’ and the allegations will not stand up in court.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is urging Europe to “‘work very hard’ . . ., spend more on research and education and overhaul its tax and labour markets to restore competitiveness.”  She’s concerned there is too much social spending and with the population in the eurozone, including Germany, aging, something must be done, though she didn’t specify what.  Yep.

Politics USA

❖ Speculation:  Former MA Gov Michael Dukakis (D) to be interim replacement for Sen. John Kerry (D) who appears headed for the State Department?

❖ On 14 Dec 12, the NRA tweeted this about the Newtown mass shooting:  “Until the facts are thoroughly known, NRA will not have any comment.” As of the 16th, the NRA had taken down its Facebook page.

❖ According to the Club for Growth, senators must vote “No” on a proposed $60 billion post-Superstorm Sandy recovery package.

❖ “The left-leaning Center for American Progress on Monday named Treasury Secretary Larry Summers a ‘distinguished senior fellow.’“  Larry has “insights, keen intellect, and policy creativity.”  Really.

The Farm Bill looms larger, since “most U.S. farm support programs expired on Oct 1 and livestock programs lapsed a year earlier.”  The House wants to trim the bill by cutting out $16 billion in food stamps, while the Senate wants to cut food stamps by $4 biilion.  More.

❖ Poll results from Pulse Opinion research show that 59% of Americans think we’re “on the wrong track”, they are “deeply pessimistic about their chances for future prosperity”, and 54% “believe their children will be worse off as adults than their parents.” Republicans polled were far more pessimistic than Democrats.

Women & Children

❖ Domino’s Pizza owner, Tom Monaghan, devoutly Catholic billionaire, has “sued the Obama administration over the mandate that health plans cover birth control.”   There are now 40+ such suits around the country.

❖ “If you don’t educate you must build prisons,“  says Waldemir dos Santos Corea, who founded Caixa de Surpresas which provides “cultural and sports activities for [children of Rio de Janeiro's favelas] to built up their self-esteem and confidence.  Their inspiring program is supported by a modest ($8,000) grant from the Global Fund for Children.

❖ An “old mine” exploded while several girls (9 – 13 years old) were gathering firewood near a village in eastern Afghanistan.  Ten of the children were killed, two seriously injured.

Working for A Living

Michigan State Police will be investigating the collapse of the Americans for Prosperity Tent and an altercation involving a Fox “news personality” during last week’s uproar in the capital as the legislature prepared to and passed “right-to-work” and other anti-labor measures.

Heads Up!

❖ Announcement:  Tar Sands Blockade’s Mass Action and Training Camp to held January 3 – Jan 8, 2013 in southeast TX.

Planet Earth News

107 medical and scientific experts signed a petition to President Obama warning that plunging ahead with fracking without proper research in terms of its impact on health and the environment “could potentially cause undue harm to many Americans”.

❖ The Center for Sustainable Economy (CSE) has filed suit in the US Court of Appeals District of Columbia, “challenging the Interior Department’s plan to conduct new offshore oil-and-gas lease sales over the next five years.”  CSE claims “the economic analysis underlying the plan is ‘critically flawed, biased and incomplete’.”

❖ The Norwegian government, Thor Energy (Oslo) and Westinghouse are conducting a four-year test using thorium, which many consider superior to uranium, in nuclear reactors.  Thorium, supposedly, is meltdown-proof.

Mixed Bag

Silvio Berlusconi’s sex trial (“Ruby the Heart Stealer”) should be over with the February 4th hearing just set by a Milan judge; Italian elections will likely be at least two weeks later.  Although he’s not yet divorced from his second wife, Berlusconi has announced his engagement to his 27-year-old girlfriend (who is not Ruby the Heart Stealer).

❖ Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has joined Facebook.  No one else in Iran can, at least theoretically, since it’s officially blocked.  Funny how that works.

Latin America

14 landless Paraguyan peasants are being prosecuted for land invasion, criminal association and murder, resulting from land struggles in Canindeyu Province that resulted in 17 people being killed.

❖ 53% of eligible voters turned out for elections in Venezuela on Sunday.  Hugo Chavez’s Socialist Party won 20 of the country’s 24 governorships.

Break Time

Who wouldn’t?