And here’s your news:
❖ The second round of voting on the new constitution in Egypt reportedly resulted in 64% approving the new constitution. Meanwhile, Vice-President Mahmoud Mekki has resigned, saying “the nature of politics does not suit my professional background as a judge.” An Egyptian group called the “National Salvation Front claims referendum result was secured by fraud” and demands an inquiry.
❖ “Dozens of people have been killed in a government air strike on a bakery in the central Syrian province of Hama, opposition activists say.” Whoever was responsible, it appears that “lots” of the dead were women and children who were seeking bread.
❖ Syria has moved all its chemical weapons into two central places in the country, according to Russia’s foreign minister.
❖ Four UN crew members were killed when their helicopter was shot down in South Sudan–either by the South Sudanese Army or rebels.
❖ Mario Monti, has resigned as Prime Minister of Italy, but will stay on in a care-taker capacity. Elections for a new government are expected to be held around February 24th.
❖ A ”deteriorating economy and an exodus of national icons sap [France's] joie de vivre.” The French statistics office, Insee, is predicting a “difficult” 2013–including 11% unemployment.
❖ Over in the UK, “thousands” of customers are “deserting major high-street banks in unprecedented numbers after a slew of revelations about unethical behavior”.
Money Matters USA
❖ Very interesting read: “How the Fiscal Cliff Talks Collapsed” and what’s likely next.
❖ 3,800+ federal contractors were suspended in 2012, “the most on record.” Although promising, there is concern that government agencies are not going after all the big contractors they could.
❖ Is failure to prosecute bank fraud what is “REALLY Destroying the Economy”. Top-notch economists weigh in.
❖ MF Global trustees “have reached a settlement”; however, that $1.6 billion that’s been missing is still missing and nobody, including Jon Corzine, knows where it went.
❖ An “important and not well recognized bit of American history: how a hugely popular, progressive vice president who would otherwise have become president was sidelined by the Democratic party machinery.”
❖ President Obama is urging “congressional leaders to craft a smaller package to avert the fiscal cliff, including an extension of tax rates for households with income below $250,00″ and continuing jobless benefits for two million of the unemployed.
❖ The head of David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity outfit in NJ speaking about the Superstorm Sandy aid package: “This is not a federal government responsibility. We need to suck it up and be responsible for taking care of ourselves.”
❖ “A new Voter/Consumer Research poll in Kentucky conducted by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) shows the Senate minority leader ahead of potential challenger Ashley Judd (D) by just four points.”
❖ There are 763 public schools in the Sacramento, CA region. If “armed police officers” were put in every school, as National Rifle Association Vice President Wayne LaPierre has recommended, the cost would be over $80 million a year. More from Emptywheel.
❖ As DDay noted in a Dec 14th tweet, the NRA is a trade group. It has 4.3 million members, not quite 1.4% of the entire US population, and yet it is dictating national gun policies with deadly results. Guns are “Our Molloch”, says Garry Wills as he counts the ways.
❖ Why is there so little research on guns’ impact on society? In 1996, “pro-gun members of Congress mounted an all-out effort to eliminate the National Center for Injury Prevention”, thus ensuring no future federal research into firearm injury and death.
❖ Piers Morgan, a UK citizen and CNN teevee host, has become an outspoken critic of “Second Amendment rights” (as interpreted by the NRA). He’s got ‘em so riled up that they now have a petition demanding he be deported.
❖ And here’s a petition we can sign: Mayors Against Illegal Guns petition.
Health, Homelessness & Hunger
❖ 620 people are ill, most with meningitis infections, from contaminated drugs produced by the New England Compounding Center. Now physicians are discovering large, dangerous abscesses deep inside some patients’ backs, requiring use of very powerful anti-fungal medications with serious side-effects. Update: The NECC has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
❖ Charities are suffering as big philanthropic donations have “contracted for five straight years, from . . . $43bn in 2007 to $11bn this year”.
Women & Children
❖ “Sexual assaults reported by students at the three U.S. military academies jumped 23 percent in 2012. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this was a ‘persistent’ problem that required a ‘strong and immediate response’ from the services.” 80 cases (95% reported by women) this year.
❖ Outrage over the gang-rape of a 23-year old female student in a public bus continues in New Delhi, fueled further by an attempted assault on another woman in Manipur state. A journalist was killed by police while covering the protests. Claim is that 89% of all 256,329 violent crimes reported in India last year were against women.
❖ The vote was 7-0 that firing a female employee who was a “marriage threat” because of her “irresistibility” is perfectly legal. Courtesy of the Iowa Supreme Court.
Working for A Living
❖ Some US Postal Service workers have been participating in a hunger strike to protest cuts. Congress is considering reducing postal delivery to five days a week, resulting in the loss of possibly 80,000 postal jobs.
❖ FL Republican Gov Rick Scott has asked President Obama to intervene, using the Taft-Hartley Act, in an impending strike by around 15,000 longshoremen, primarily at ports in Miami and Ft Lauderdale.
❖ Approximately 1,000 WalMart workers in Argentina went on strike in solidarity with US workers.
❖ Major FBI documents release, through Freedom of Information Act, concerning “Secret Nationwide Occupy Monitoring”. Pp. 68-69 of the document itself (scroll down to the document) is surely interesting.
❖ Naomi Wolf writes: “the police state is now officially here.” Drones are the big tip-off, 30,000 to be in US skies by 2020, ranging from hummingbird size upwards, all with surveillance capability and all subject to quick weaponization.
❖ Acting CIA Director Michael Morell has written a memo to CIA employees asserting that the film Zero Dark Thirty is “not a documentary”, “takes significant artistic license”, “false”, etc.
❖ An IL judge has issued “A permanent injunction against enforcing Illinois’ eavesdropping law” which prohibited audio recording of police officers “publicly performing official duties.”
❖ Thousands of criminal cases may be flawed based on “exaggerated testimony or false forensic evidence” used at state and local levels. In all instances, forensic experts were taught “by the same elite FBI team whose members gave misleading court testimony about hair matches and later taught the local examiners to follow the same suspect practices.”
Planet Earth News
❖ The Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is warming almost twice as fast as earlier estimates.
❖ An “Archive of Terror“. Meticulous records were kept in Paraguay of abductions, arrests and torture in the 1970s–not just of Paraguayans, but many others from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and Brazil . Summary of Operation Condor and US involvement (including Henry Kissinger) is here.
❖ Anger in Argentina erupted into a march on the capital in Buenos Aires mid-week. Union activists and leftists want lower income taxes on workers as inflation continues to roil the economy and family budgets.
❖ Bolivian President Evo Morales on the end of the 13th Bakhtun (Mayan Calendar): “the 21 December is the end of the non-time and the beginning of time . . . It is the end of hatred and the beginning of love, the end of lies and beginning of truth.”