Good evening, all.
Breaking News: It’s now December 21, 2012 in New Zealand and they are reporting that they are still there and the world, apparently is not ending. Whew! Thanks for that, New Zealand!
❖ As “many as 100,000 Palestinians” have fled the Yarmuk refugee camp in Damascus as warplanes began air strikes on the camp and rebels “expelled” most pro-Assad fighters. According to an AFP photographer on the Syrian-Lebanon border, “hundreds of Palestians were seeking to cross, mostly women, children and the elderly.”
❖ “Parts of Aleppo, much of Homs and even sections of Damascus are now in worse shape than even Sarajevo or Grozny ever were. The UN is trying to raise $520m to cater for the needs of the 4 million people, almost a quarter of Syria’s total population”. Photos. 73% of Americans polled are against US military intervention in Syria–unless the Syrian government uses or loses control of chemical weapons.
❖ Things are coming into focus: The US “is poised to take ‘nascent steps’ to open up military ties with Myanmar as a way of bolstering political reforms undertaken by the former pariah state”. The China-jitters definitely play a part. Will US leaders forget the brutality and human rights violations of the current military regime in the recent past?
❖ Between 1968-73 Britain “forced removal of 1,500 Chagossians from the island of Diego Garcia” because the US wanted to put a military base there. Ever since, the Chagossians, now living in Britain and Mauritius, have been trying to get back to their homelands. Finally, the European Court of Rights in Strasbourg has ruled–against them.
❖ Hong Kong Monetary Authority is investigating “Swiss bank UBS over possible misconduct related to the Asian financial centre’s benchmark interest rate.” Meanwhile, the US has begun “extradition proceedings against two former UBS employees” on criminal charges for manipulating “key benchmark interest rates.” More on the fine the US has imposed on UBS for Libor fraud, and the fact that two staffers were targeted for prosecution out of 40 who were said to be involved.
Money Matter USA
❖ Seems the Libor scandal had a major impact on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--$3+billion loss. An unnamed “federal regulator” made the estimate and said “legal action against banks involved in fixing the Libor rate should be considered.” Ya think?
❖ Major criticism: “Why Nate Silver is Not Just Wrong, but Maliciously Wrong”
❖ NYSE Euronext, parent of the New York Stock Exchange, is being sold to the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) for $8 billion. ICE is headquartered in Atlanta, GA.
❖ Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Carl Levin (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ) have sent a letter to Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton expressing their “deep disappointment” with the movie Zero Dark Thirty, which they found “grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of Usama bin Laden.”
❖ In strong contrast to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other out-of-touch politicians, the 75 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus seem to exist on the same plane as we do and are pushing back against the proposed Chained CPI proposal. They could sure use our support.
❖ Speaking of roundups, here’s one showing where various Senators stand (sit, are teetering, or have collapsed) on benefit cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Updated regularly.
❖ Hi Democratic House member Colleen Hanabusa “will seek” appointment to the Senate seat of Daniel Inouye (D-HI). Her appointment was reported to be Sen. Inouye’s wish.
❖ Newark, NJ Democratic Mayor Cory Booker is eyeing the Senate for 2014.
❖ VT Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy will continue as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. DiFi “was reportedly seeking the spot”.
❖ Gee, I wonder why. “Rick Scott Not Favored By Florida Voters For A Second Term: Poll”
❖ 53% in the US believe GOP policies are “too extreme”.
❖ A suit by the US Justice Department has been filed against Alamance County, NC’s Sheriff Terry S. Johnson “alleging his office routinely discriminates against Latinos.”
❖ List of the 40 members of the Senate who have “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association.
❖ There’s been a 36% increase in Class A permits (“the largest and least restricted category that allows possession of all legal handguns, rifles, and shotguns”) in MA since 2007.
Health, Homelessness & Hunger
❖ Mental health providers and advocates are out in full-force in Washington, DC, pressing for “strengthening community-based mental health services” and for “early diagnosis and treatment of ill children”. Some senators and representatives on Capitol Hill are responding positively.
❖ In the US, 12.2 million adults with no children at home were below official poverty levels in 2011, 5.6 of them received no form of aid “from any of the major five federal programs”, and 1.4 million received food stamps. Still, only 14% of Americans polled “supported cash help for able-bodied poor adults without dependent kids”, regardless of other factors that impact their ability to find and keep jobs. Statistics and case histories.
❖ Just a while ago, Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden and Red Lobster) threatened to put its employees on part-time status so it wouldn’t have to cover them under Obamacare. The public heard and responded. Darden has reported a decrease of 37% in its net income. Bravo, Public!
Women & Children
❖ Trauma for children continues as “Dozens of Mich. schools close amid threats, rumors”. Schools closed were in Genesee and Lapeer Counties, “north of Detroit”.
❖ “For the first time . . . a bipartisan conference committee agreed to include an amendment providing abortion coverage for military rape survivors in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).” [emphasis added]
❖ Once upon a time, President Obama “condemned the [indefinite detention] powers . . . under the controversial section 1021” of the National Defense Authorization Act. Later, he learned to like and defend it. An amendment by Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY), which passed 67-29, prevented detention “without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the US apprehended in the US”. Somehow or other, though, that amendment was dropped during House-Senate conference–and US citizens have not been told why.
❖ “A judge in Nicaragua has found 18 Mexicans who posed as journalists from Mexico’s biggest TV network, Televisa, guilty of organised crime.”
❖ Sheesh. Only 16% of earth’s human inhabitants have no religious affiliation and only 7% are Buddhist. You’d think with the world awash in religions, there might be some peace. And you’d be wrong.
❖ On this day in 1989, the US, under President George H. W. Bush, invaded Panama. Fascinating history involving the War on Drugs, the Iran-Contra Affair, the CIA, Soviet Union, etc. The Pentagon titled the action “Operation Just Cause” while in Panama it’s called ”La Invasion”.
❖ A recent visitor. Scroll down for video.
❖ That was just an appetizer, a tease. Go here for full-on splendor.
❖ The Most Astounding Fact.