Happy New Year!

International Developments

❖ “The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions against leaders of the M23 rebel movement in DR Congo.”  Assets have been frozen, including those of allies in Rwanda.

❖ “Syria unrest: Fierce clashes erupt near Aleppo airport“.

International Finance

❖ “Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that the German economic climate in 2013 will be ‘even more difficult’.”  Man, how much deeper do they intend to dig in that hole?

❖  Even the Pope’s had it with “rampant capitalism”.

❖ In the aftermath of its Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, BP undertook “one of the most radical asset disposal programmes in UK corporate history . . ..  It is a strategy some have called “shrink to grow”.  But while the shrinkage is clear, BP’s promised growth is still some way off.”  Heh heh.

Money Matters USA

❖ Budget-cutters’ delight, you’d think.  ”Last year, the Pentagon spent more on [drugs] than it did on Black Hawk helicopters, Abrams tanks, Hercules C-130 cargo planes and Patriot missiles”.  Top five drug purchases over the past decade were for Lipitor (cholesterol), Plavix (heart & circulatory), Advair (asthma), Nexium (heartburn) and Singulair (asthma).  Why?  Aging military retirees.  Aside from drugs for erectile dysfunction and testosterone therapy, the Pentagon also spent $2.7+ billion on antidepressants and $1.6+billion on opioids.  Much more.

❖ The US Dept of Justice is “close” to a multi-billion dollar settlement with five banks “to resolve allegations that they unlawfully cut corners when foreclosing on delinquent borrowers”.  Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Ally Financial–possibly a total of 14 banks and $10 billion.

Timmeh  announced yesterday the US “has reached its $16.4 trillion debt ceiling.”

Politics USA

Krugman’s perspective on the Senate’s solution to their “fiscal cliff” crisis.  Robert Reich on “The deal emerging from the Senate is a lousy one.”   Kevin Drum on how not over the “fiscal cliff” we are–plus news that the “milk cliff was . . . averted”. A more up-beat William Greider on “The Big Lie Loses”, but the people didn’t.  The Senate’s “fiscal cliff” Bill itself.

❖ Over in the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is “flatly” against the Senate deal, and what passes for  GOP leadership in the House is busily preparing amendments.  However, a “senior Democratic aide” said the Senate will not budge and House Republicans can either pass the thing now or pass it later after humiliating themselves.

❖ “Remembering The Fiscal Cliff. . . Of 1932 (spoiler: they soaked the rich back then).

Eight senators voted “Nay” on the fiscal cliff deal:  Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Richard Shelby (R-AL).  Jim DeMint (R-SC), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) abstained.

Fitting tribute to the 112h Congress.

Fox Snooze “mouthpiece Sean Hannity lost about half of his TV audience” post-election, while Rachel Maddow’s ratings are surging.

❖ The House intends to split the $60.4 billion Superstorm Sandy aid into two bills and vote on them separately:  $27 billion for immediate help and $33 billion for long-term projects.  Who could possibly predict where this is heading?

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

❖ A major new anti-tuberculosis drug has been approved by the US Food & Drug Administration.  The new drug specifically targets drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis–but is so powerful that it “carries risk of potentially deadly heart problems”.

Women & Children

❖ The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a “business waiver” for  the owners of a for-profit business so they will not have to offer contraceptives to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.  Not only that, but they cited the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.  We noted just a few days ago that the US Supreme Court refused Hobby Lobby’s request for an injunction against the Affordable Care Act’s mandatory coverage of contraceptives for employees.  Interesting to see what will happen given the 7th Circuit’s action.

❖  A TX state judge has ruled the state can cut off funding for Planned Parenthood programs.

❖ In 2012, 306 children in Pakistan died of measles, up from 64 in 2011.  (In December, “militants” killed 9 healthcare workers immunizing Pakistanis against polio. And today we learn “Seven charity workers, six of them women” have been killed.)

Education Directions

❖ With friends like these . . .   In Bridgeport, CN “Michelle Rhee, Michael Bloomberg and the local Democratic Party” backed a proposed city charter change that would have let the mayor appoint the local school board rather than the community decide through the electoral process as has been the practice in the past.

❖  “The War Against Teachers:  If the U.S. is to cease its slide into a violent, anti-democratic state, we must rethink the relationship between education and democracy, and the very nature of learning.”  Very timely, well-researched article on public education and its enemies and the concerted attack on teachers themselves.

Working for A Living

❖  2013 automatic minimum wage adjustments are expected in AZ, CO, FL, MO, MT, OH, OR, WA and VT.  The National Restaurant Association is against federal and state minimum wage increases, “arguing that it’s an ineffective way to reduce poverty [wtf?] and forces business owners to cut hours, raise prices or lay off workers.”

❖ A MT Supreme Court has ruled it’s not a “constitutional intrusion into religion” to make Hutterites pay worker’s comp insurance.

Heads Up!

❖ Convictions “tainted by naked racism” in 1972 against the “Wilmington 10″ for allegedly firebombing a white-owned grocery store, recanting of testimony by three witnesses, convictions overturned by a federal appeals court for prosecutorial misconducts–and still the Wilmington 10 “remained determined to get the state to declare them innocent of the crime.”  Happy day yesterday when NC Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue issued the pardon.

❖ In MO, a Republican state legislator, Casey Guernsey, has proposed legislation requiring a warrant “before using drones to gather evidence or other information about criminal activities” and banning “people, organizations and state agencies” using drones from spying on “people, farms, or agricultural operations without the owner’s permission.”

Planet Earth News

❖ That Shell offshore oil drilling rig up in Alaska has now run aground on a small island south of Kodiak after efforts to tow the rig were unsuccessful.  There is potential leakage of “150,000 gallons of ultra-low sulfur diesel . . . and about 12,000 gallons of combined lube oil and hydraulic fluid”.

❖  A Lancaster County, NE district judge has let “most of a lawsuit” concerning the Keystone XL pipeline proceed. At issue is whether the governor or the state’s Public Service Commission has authorization  over projects such as the Keystone pipeline.

❖  “The 2012 U.S. fire season was the 3rd worst in U.S. history”.

❖ The drought-stricken Mississippi River is open for commerce for another few days following the Army Corps of Engineers’ release of water from Carlyle Lake into the Mississippi for the second time.  No word on what they’ll do next.

Mixed Bag

❖  RIP Arthur Quinlan, “Shannon airport correspondent” who interviewed Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, among others.

Break Time

❖ 2013: What a wonderful world this could be.