❖ According to the UN’s World Food Program, 1.5 million Syrians are receiving food aid, but fighting and “inability to use the port of Tartus” have restricted abiiity to provide more. As of January 6, Syrian refugees numbered 597,240, up from 509,559 the previous month.
❖ There’s now a high-energy laser device that shoots down drones. Defense budgets to soar!
❖ Maneuvers by the US to bring Guantanamo terrorism cases to trial are becoming more problematic. E.g., one defendant found guilty appealed and won on the basis that “material support for terrorism” is not recognized internationally as a war crime. Such cases have major implications for others, such as that of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
❖ Oh, nooos. Silvio Berlusconi “will not return as prime minister even if his party wins next month’s election”.
❖ Eurozone unemployment was 11.8% in November, “the 19th rise in a row”, translating to almost 19 million people. Spain’s unemployment rate is 26.6%, Greece’s even worse; unemployment for people under 25 in both countries is about 57%. The future? “Southern and peripheral countries . . . will continue to struggle”.
Money Matters USA
❖ More suggestions for whose face should be on that $1tr platinum coin.
❖ First-hand account of how a young man paid off $26,500 in debt (most of it a student loan) in under two years–making $13 and, a bit later, $25/hour.
❖ Chutzpah? The US “swooped in with $182 billion to rescue” AIG a few years back, but Wednesday AIG shareholders will discuss suing the government over the bailout.
❖ A “clearly planted story at the Law.com blog” attempts to show how effective the US Dept of Justice has been in bringing us riches by pursuing corporate wrongdoers. Yves Smith looks at the charts and rhetoric and gets down to the nitty-gritty.
❖ The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is set to issue “new home-lending rules, potentially reshaping the U.S. mortgage market by ushering in more standardization and preventing a return of the exotic loans that powered the housing bubble.”
❖ Forbes: “The Big Fiscal Cliff Deal Winners: Hedge Fund and Private Equity Moguls”.
❖ Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he “simply misspoke” when he said Hurricane Katrina was “nothing in comparison” to Superstorm Sandy. No reason given for misspeaking, though.
❖ In fiscal year 2012, $18bn was spent on immigration enforcement–compared to a combined total of $14.4bn for the “FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Secret Service.” That $18bn resulted in the removal of 409,894 people.
❖ Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is not going to budge on confirming John Brennan as CIA director until his questions about the September attack in Benghazi are answered.
❖ FreedomWorks pitches to the non-rich for donations; in return donors get Dick Armey “to stay away” at a cost of $400,000/year and get to hear Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, at a cost of $1m/year, “say nice things about FreedomWorks”–so the small donors will dig deeper in their pockets for donations. Such “contempt for their own true believers neatly explains how [conservatives] govern”.
❖ 22 people have filed to run for Jesse Jackson Jr’s House Seat.
Women & Children
❖ As Senator from NE, Chuck Hagel opposed abortion in cases of rape and incest “because those cases are ‘rare’” and opposed allowing servicewomen “to pay for abortion services at military hospitals out of their own pockets.” He’s also opposed gay rights.
❖ A Superior Court judge has “ordered the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles to release internal records about sex abuse without redacting the names of the accused priests”.
❖ A sign at a Milford, DE playground informed–in English–that parental or guardian supervision was necessary for “use of this playground equipment.” In Spanish? “You must have a permit to play in this field. Violators will be subject to police action.” A picture of the sign hit the internet, and the sign was gone.
❖ Michelle Rhee is issuing states report cards through her organization, StudentsFirst. MD received a grade of D+, while FL and LA scored highest, each with B-. In contrast, Education Week gave Maryland a B+ grade. The American Federation of Teachers has criticized StudentsFirst’s “report cards”.
❖ In Palm Springs, FL charter school Mavericks High, got $160,000 in state funds by over-stating its student enrollment. The school’s president and chief development officer is Frank Biden, brother of the Vice-President.
❖ If something isn’t done by summer, and $1bn found somewhere, TX schools will have no way to pay their bills.
❖ Children in Indonesia may soon learn less science and social studies and receive more religious instruction. Officials are considering such changes to counter the “increase in violence and vandalism among youths”.
Working for A Living
❖ If you work for a corporation headed by a man, hope his next baby will be a girl. According to recent research, “The gender of a male CEO’s children is significantly linked to the salary of his employees”. More.
❖ Amazon.com is scheduled to open a “mega-warehouse” in Robbinsville, NJ next year, employing 700 in full-time work and producing $22m in tax revenue.
❖ 1.84m jobs were added in 2011 and 2012 in the US, most in professional and business services, followed by health care and social assistance, food and drink services, etc. “[E]mployment services (including temps)” gained the most jobs. Big gains also for college grads and women.
Planet Earth News
❖ Opponents of the Keystone XL Pipeline were in TransCanada’s office in Houston yesterday, where they staged a “die-in”, drummed and blew horns as a “pipeline dragon” pranced around. Video.
❖ Contaminants from “the development of the [Alberta, Canada tar] sands are stacking up in the environment.” Levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are up to 23 times higher than before 1960 in lakes around Fort McMurray, site of mining operations.
❖ Georgia Power is shutting down “15 coal and oil-fired units . . . to comply with federal rules aimed at reducing air pollution.” They’re going to turn to nuclear power and natural gas.
❖ US teevee climate change coverage peaked in 2009, then quickly dropped on both Sunday shows and Nightly News. There has been some increase in Nightly News coverage; ABC World News provides the most coverage.
❖ “More than 70 environmental groups called on Barack Obama to take the lead . . . , urging him to shut down ageing power plants and block a controversial tar sands pipeline project.”
❖ Ever-vigilant in attending to the spiritual needs of its flock, the Venezuelan Catholic Church has proclaimed that it is “morally unacceptable” to delay President Hugo Chavez’s inauguration.
❖ Argentina President Cristina Kirchner needs to travel to Cuba, the United Arab Emirates and Southeast Asia, but she’s making the trip “in a rented British airplane for fear her official aircraft would be impounded in a debt dispute” with Elliott Capital Management. Remember the Libertad?
❖ Bill Black : “Why Neo-Liberals Need to Dismiss Latin Americans as ‘Idiots’”, exposing for all it’s worth the attack on the peoples of Latin America by co-author Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Director of the Center on Global Prosperity at the Independent Institute, “an American conservative libertarian think tank”.
❖ When it’s done on Mars, it’s not housework–it’s science.
❖ Drift along in crimson and clover.