Good evening!

International Developments

❖ A “senior figure” and two other al-Qaeda members have been killed in Yemen, reportedly by drone strike.

❖ “Venezuelan leaders gather at bedside of Hugo Chavez“.

International Finance

❖ “Swiss Bank Wegelin & Co. to Plead Guilty in U.S. Tax Case”, specifically for “helping U.S. taxpayers hide more than $1.2 billion from the Internal Revenue Service”.

Money Matters USA

❖ Here they come, as if on cue:  Moody’s has now threatened to downgrade the US credit rating “if it doesn’t address its deficits.”

215,000 new jobs were added in the private sector in November.

❖ Based on  the Bloomberg Consumer Confidence Index, Americans were more positive last week than they’ve been in eight months–”even wealthy Americans”.

❖ During the week ending December 29th, jobless claims applications increased by 10,000 to 372,000, though the four-week average remained fairly constant.

Timmeh is leaving Treasury by the end of January, 2013.

Politics USA

❖ President Obama signed the $633 billion defense bill, which includes “restrictions on his ability to close the [Guantanamo] prison camps”, though he stated his belief “that operating the facility weakens our national security by wasting resources, damaging our relationships with key allies, and strengthening our enemies”.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said he’ll never ever again negotiate one-on-one with President Obama.  So there.  Speaker Boehner also reportedly yelled at NJ Republican House member Frank LoBiondo about the $60.4 billion Superstorm Sandy relief bill.  In addition, he told Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid to “go f*ck yourself”.   Turns out, last Saturday evening, Sen. Reid had thrown one list of “suggested concessions” sent to him by the White House into his fireplace.

Senate Republicans also have their panties in a bunch after President Obama called for a “balanced approach” to dealing with the so-called “fiscal cliff” and continued, “But with this Congress, that was obviously a little too much to hope for at this time.”  Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was particularly displeased, it seems.

IL Senate President John Cullerton  has introduced a bill to ban assault weapons in the state.   Update: The bill has moved from committee to the state Senate floor. Update: There’s not enough support in the Illinois Senate to pass the bill at this time.

Two US House Democrats are introducing legislation to ban “high-capacity ammunition magazines like those used last month” in Newton, CT.  Reps. Carolyn McCarth (D-NY) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) are authors of the bill.

❖ On average, 18 people/day have died of gunshot wounds in the US since December 14 when the Newtown massacre occurred.  Six of those deaths were children under age 13.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

IL Republican Senator Mark Kirk, recovering this past year from a stroke:  “I will look much more carefully at the Illinois Medicaid program to see how my fellow citizens are being cared for who have no income and if they suffer from a stroke”.  He’s already looked into it enough to recognize that the 11 rehab visits he might have been allowed under IL’s Medicaid program would have left him “no chance to recover like I did.”  Riveting first-hand account on stroke and recovery is here, and highly recommended.

Conditional approval to operate health care exchanges was just granted to CA, HI, ID, NV, NM, VT and UT.  A partnership-exchange was also granted to AR.  Totals now are: 18 states running their own exchanges and 2 partnering with the feds.  In giving tentative approval to UT, however, the Obama administration “made clear that the state will have to go beyond the services it already offers.”

Women & Children

Sandy Hook, CT elementary school children arrived at their new school today and were said to be “excited to start classes and to see their new school building”.

❖ “Anonymous just leaked a 12-minute video of drunk Steubenville [OH] high school athletes having a blast making fun of the passed-out 16-year old girl who was raped by beloved football players . . ..”  More.

❖ Republicans in the United States House of Representatives have killed the Violence Against Women Act.

Women and their families in India are demanding gun licenses following the horrific gang-rape, and eventual death, of the 23-year Delhi student last month.  The five men charged with the gang-rape have now been charged with murder.  An Indian politician, accused of rape in a village near the Bhutan border, was confronted by angry villagers, including women.

Lhokseumawe City, Indonesia, already under sharia law, has now banned women from “wearing tight trousers” and sitting astride motorbikes, and has ok’d stoning adulterers and flogging homosexuals.

A firm in Bogota, Colombia will be capitalizing on the Sandy Hook massacre by extending their bullet-proof clothing from adults to children as well–$200 – $400 for children ages 8 – 16.

Education Directions

❖ In a decision with major impact, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that teachers at the Chicago Math and Science Academy–a charter school–are “covered under the federal law governing the private sector” and that the Academy is a “private entity”.

Heads Up!

There was contact between the CIA, including then-Deputy Director and now Acting Chief Michael Morell, and the filmmakers of Zero Dark Thirty.  A Senate investigation, headed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), is to commence soon concerning the extent of the CIA contact and the film’s depiction of torture as effective (Morell has claimed we’ll never know if it was or not).

Planet Earth News

Big struggle ahead in WI’s Gitche Gumee lands–open-pit mining for the Cline Group of FL (for gold, perhaps?) vs the Anishinaabe (for environmental preservation and wild rice).  This one’s got the Tea-party, Republican Gov. Scott Walker,  ALEC, the mining industry all involved–as well as the Anishinaabe (Chippewa) and environmentalists.

Transocean, owner of the oil rig in BP’s catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, has agreed to pay $1.4 billion “to settle charges and suits”.

Lake Huron and Lake Michigan reached the lowest recorded water levels in December, at 576.15 ft (previous record in 1964 was 576.2 feet).

The Shell Oil rig that went adrift and ran aground near Kodiak, AK “has refueled the debate about oil exploration in the U.S. Arctic Ocean, where critics for years have said the conditions are too harsh and the stakes too high to allow dangerous industrial development.”

Poland has banned “certain genetically modified strains of maize and potatoes, a day after an EU required green light for GM crops took effect.”

❖ The “stage has been set” for Japan to return to nuclear power.

Mixed Bag

Our oldest ancestors

❖ How our perceptions of time change.

Break Time

❖ And now for a little Buster Keaton!