❖ A religious leader in Saudi Arabia, a strong US ally, has issued a fatwa “that calls for the gang rape of Syrian women” and girls. Saudi Arabia is involved in the Syrian uprising, including funding for it.
❖ “At least 60,000 people have died in Syria’s conflict, the UN human rights commissioner has said, citing an ‘exhaustive’ study which has sharply increased the number of those believed killed.” Approximately 1/4 of those estimated killed were women and children.
❖ Jabhat al-Nusra, considered a “terrorist group” by the US, has now joined with the other Syrian rebels who are today “engaged in ‘intense’ clashes with President Bashar al-Assad’s forces at a military airfield in the northern region of Idlib.”
❖ Iran claims to have captured two US “miniature surveillance drones” over the past 17 months.
❖ “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu election list recorded another drop in a new poll by Haaretz daily, as the Jewish Home faction, which supports builidng West Bank settlements, continued to gain.”
❖ Burma finally opened its doors to the West, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US President Barack Obama visiting the country in November. Now, the Burmese government has attack helicopters and jets in the air over the northern Kachin state, firing on the humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers. Attacks have been underway for five days, with people fleeing into refugee camps in Kachin and in China.
❖ “Euros discarded as impoverished Greeks resort to bartering: Communities set up local currencies and exchange networks in attempt to beat the economic crisis”. With “up to 40%” of disposable income lost, trading networks are sprouting up across Greece.
Money Matters USA
❖ Jobs haven’t been killed so much by robots as by “permanent plant closings, layoffs of older employees, and the globalization of employment”. Key to the jobs crisis was the doctrine of maximizing shareholder value which became popular in the 1980s, resulting in company “buybacks” ($3 trillion in 10 years) which leaves little for “investment in innovation and high-value-added job creation.”
❖ After major outrage–including by NY Republican Congressman Peter King who recommended halting donations “to GOP House members“–about Republican plans to delay voting on at least part of the Superstorm Sandy $60billion aid package, there comes word that, indeed, the US House will vote “on the full package by mid-January.” NJ Republican Gov. Chris Christie got in his licks, blaming post-Sandy “continued suffering” on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and congressional Republicans.
❖ Neat chart showing the differences in “fiscal cliff” proposals since November.
❖ The CLASS ACT, or the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) for chronically ill seniors, which had been suspended, somehow became part of the “fiscal cliff” bill and has now been repealed. In its place is a 15-member commission “tasked with developing a plan to establish, implement and finance a comprehensive system for long-term care.” Good luck with that.
❖ While seniors got 15 lumps of coal in the “fiscal cliff” bill, corporations got goodies: NASCAR race-track building tax breaks, railroad track maintenance tax credits, subsidies for Hollywood studios, tax incentives for mining companies, subsidies for Goldman Sachs headquarters, $9 billion in off-shore bank financing loop-holes, tax-free provisions for certain companies abroad owned by US multinationals, and the R&D tax credit and depreciation “boondoggles”.
❖ Threats from the right: PA Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said on the tee vee this morning that “Republicans should be willing to shut down the government if Democrats don’t agree to a ‘restructuring [of] the entitlement programs”. Video.
❖ Tomorrow, it’ll have been two years since former Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) left the senate–and he’ll be signing on as a lobbyist with Arent Fox. First order of business? Remove all limits “on former lawmakers becoming lobbyists.”
❖ FL Republican Gov Rick Scott signed legislation resulting in long voting lines in the state–and cost the Obama campaign some 11,000 votes in Central FL alone.
Health, Homelessness & Hunger
❖ Progress with stem-cell research for neurodegenerative diseases and spinal cord injuries has been slow as scientists have had to make sure treatment is effective and safe. In 2013, however, stem-cell research is set to “accelerate” in certain areas. (President GW Bush prohibited any federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, setting US research back.)
Women & Children
❖ “[T]eachers and school staff are voluntarily flocking to arms training courses” offered by the Buckeye Firearms Foundation. 600 have signed up so far, 2/3 female.
❖ Operating under the cloak of night, VA Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell certified strict new building code rules for abortion clinics. The measure is called a TRAP law (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) forcing building standards for hospitals onto abortion clinics.
Working for A Living
❖ Warren, MI Mayor Jim Fouts is giving away free bumper stickers that blast MI’s new “right-to-work” law. Not the first time he’s stood with working Americans, either.
❖ “A federal judge on Wednesday rejected The New York Times’ bid to force the U.S. government to disclose more information about its targeted killing of people it believes have ties to terrorism, including American citizens.” Her comments indicate she shares concerns many have about targeted killings; nonetheless. she ruled “the government was not obligated to turn over materials”. Emptywheel’s take.
Planet Earth News
❖ Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence continues her hunger strike in an effort to get Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to meet about a budget bill that will trample “native land rights and environmental safeguards.” In support of Chief Spence’s 23-day action, protestors “have blocked a rail line in eastern Quebec.”
❖ The US Coast Guard has “vowed” to prevent leaks from the Shell oil rig that has run aground near Kodiak, AK.
❖ “A cargo train filled with biofuels crossed the border between the US and Canada 24 times between [June 15 - June 28, 2010]; not once did it unload its cargo, yet it still earned millions of dollars”. The Canada Border Services Agency and the US Environmental Protection Agency “have launched investigations into the possibility of fraud”. Ya think?
❖ A positive “fiscal cliff” outcome: “A one-year extension to a wind power credit“.
❖ The Center for Sustainable Economy, which is legally challenging US Interior Dept’s 2012-2017 oil drilling auctions for the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, is under attack by the American Petroleum Institute, Independent Petroleum Association of America, the U.S. Oil & Gas Association and the International Association of Drilling Contractors who are vigorously defending Interior’s position.
❖ The July 1, 2011 70-mile break in the oil pipeline beneath MT’s Yellowstone River was much worse than it should have been if Exxon Mobile had responded in a timely manner. That’s according to US Dept of Transportation investigators. The report is now in the hands of MT Democratic Sen Max Baucus.
❖ “The former head of [a US] Energy Department research and development program is heading to Google to lead its energy strategy.” He’d been director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) since June.