Hello all, hope you are well this day.

International Developments

Overall

- Editorial in state-controlled Chinese news organization, Xinhua News Agency: “As U.S. politicians of both political parties are still shuffling back and forth between the White House and the Capitol Hill without striking a viable deal to bring normality to the body politic they brag about, it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world.

- “Having outfoxed him on Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has pipped Barack Obama to the title of the world’s most powerful leader as ranked by Forbes on Wednesday.”

- “Pakistan’s defence ministry said Wednesday US drone strikes in the country’s tribal areas have killed 67 civilians since 2008, a surprisingly low figure given previous casualty estimates.

- Ex-General David Petraeus pens an op-ed in Foreign Policy on victories in Iraq, while Iraq is in turmoil. Genius!

Middle East

- “Nearly two years after pushing out the U.S. military, Iraq is asking for more American weapons, training and manpower to help fight a bloody resurgence of al-Qaida that has unleashed a level of violence comparable to the darkest days of the nation’s civil war.

- More analysis here: “U.S. lawmakers had tough criticism for Iraq’s government after meeting with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday, saying they were open to meeting his request for military assistance only if Baghdad made significant changes.

- A UN resolution, brought by Saudi Arabia, would condemn “violations of human rights” by Syria government and anti-government groups

- Visible evidence for Arab Spring disappearing

- “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered officials on Wednesday to press ahead with plans to build 3,500 more homes for Jewish settlers, hours after Israel freed 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of U.S.-brokered peace efforts.

Asia

- Poll: 62% of South Koreans feel threatened by Japan’s military

Africa

- “During his presidency, Islamist allies of Mohammed Morsi pushed through a constitution that alarmed many Egyptians with its provisions strengthening the role of Islamic law and carving out extensive powers for the military. Now, after Morsi’s ouster, it is the turn of liberal, secular and leftist politicians to amend the charter.

Europe

- Gallup: The trust in governments in Southern Europe is at a new low

- Gallup: 68% of Portuguese civilians disapprove of government’s job, feel disillusioned

- “Patients are being piled up like ‘human sacks’ in one of Athens biggest hospitals while they are left waiting for tests or to see specialists, trainee doctors have said, publishing a photograph to illustrate the extent of the problem.”

- Doctors in Greece are emigrating in increasing numbers with 7,000 leaving in the past five years

- “The backlash in Europe over U.S. spying is threatening an agreement that generates tens of billions of dollars in trans-Atlantic business every year — and negotiations on another pact worth many times more.

- Part 3 with Blumenthal about Netanyahu’s role in Israel

- Four admit to phone-hacking under News of the World editors. So can we go after Piers Morgan?

- Germany to allow third undetermined gender at birth

Latin America

- Mark Weisbrot: “[H]uman rights abuses under the existing government continue to threaten basic civil liberties, opposition candidates do not enjoy a level playing field, and state security forces are taking on an increasingly central, and ominous role in context of the election.” 

Financial Matters

- Good news to hear. “Social Security benefits will rise 1.5 percent in January, giving millions of retired and disabled workers an average raise of $19 a month to keep up with the cost of living.

- Bad news to hear. US unemployment will rise if job creation isn’t quickly done, warns top economist

- US budget deficit down to $680 billion, lowest in five years

- “The Federal Reserve says its low interest-rate policies are still needed to invigorate a subpar U.S. economy.”

- “One year on, it’s painfully clear that society’s choices mean the hurricane hit our poorest communities harder than the well-to-do.

- Budget talks resume to reach a bargain or taking money away from the poor

- “Barclays is among companies under investigation for possible manipulation of foreign exchange trading, the British bank said on Wednesday.

- Colbert on “getting back on your feet

- A map of the wealthiest person from each state

Surveillance Planet

- New Snowden revelation: “The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.” Emptywheel has more here and here

- Google and Yahoo “furious” over such spying

- “The National Security Agency, responsible for U.S. electronic eavesdropping, said on Wednesday that it does not target the Vatican and called an Italian media report that it had done so “not true.“”

- DHS and NSA threaten to sue individual for selling shirts and other goods that say “Department of Homeland Stupidity”

- EPA whistleblower Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: President Obama’s program encourages federal employees to report suspicious actions by their coworkers, creating a culture similar to the East German Statsi

- Shenna Bellows, Democratic candidate contender running for Senate, states Snowden is a whistleblower, not a criminal

- NSA top “sound bite”? Push 9/11

- “The U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday it had joined a lawsuit filed by a whistleblower against United States Investigations Services, the private firm that vetted Edward Snowden before he leaked documents about U.S. spying efforts.

- Activists of color lead charge against surveillance, NSA

Labor’s a-Brewing

- “The AFL-CIO isn’t lifting a finger to help the White House — it remains in negotiations at the White House and on Capitol Hill to change elements of the law it finds objectionable to workers. Those talks were put on hold earlier this month during the government shutdown — a far larger concern for the federal government employee unions — and have begun to restart only in recent days, according to officials from multiple union.

- Majority of Wal-Mart workers make less than $25K a year

- “Tens of thousands of workers at industrial estates across Indonesia walked off their jobs on Oct 28 at the start of week-long protests to demand average wage increases of 50 per cent next year, citing rising living costs.

- “A government panel was striving Wednesday to reach agreement on a wage rise for Bangladesh’s crisis-hit garment industry, amid warnings of fresh crippling strikes if the increase is too low.

Politics USA

Washington USA

- Kathleen Sebelius at today’s hearing: “You deserve better. I apologize.

- Barack Obama is “not happy” with website woes

- Obama blames “bad apple” insurers for canceled coverage. You mean the same ones that wanted the law? Another pathetic member of the bourgeoisie.

- Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) to disgruntled Republicans over Obamacare: Get over it!

- “The federal government says it hired the highest percentage of military veterans in more than two decades in fiscal year 2012, with veterans making up about 29 percent of the 195,000 new employees.

- “Confronted with missteps in his own administration, President Barack Obama has frequently pleaded ignorance, suggesting he couldn’t be at fault about things he did not know.”

- “TRNN speaks with EPA whistleblower Marsha Coleman-Adebeyo about her journey from bringing the world’s attention to vanadium poisoning to becoming the voice behind the No FEAR Act

- The 37 House Republicans at risk for losing their jobs for shutting down the government

- Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA): Ted Cruz doesn’t live in “political reality

- Libertarians in 2013: The Even Whiter, Wealthier, WASP-er bastion of the Republican Party

Everything Else USA

- Study: 19% of Americans don’t consider themselves as “heterosexual”

- Gallup: “Americans no more familiar with the law now than they were in August”

- States will determine Obamacare’s success

- Good news, support for death penalty lowest for past 40 years. Bad news, it’s still at 60 percent.

- “The state of Alabama agreed to permanently block a number of provisions in its controversial immigration law in a settlement reached on Tuesday with civil rights groups.

- “Representatives of the Oneida Indian Nation have requested a meeting with all 32 NFL owners during Super Bowl week, hoping to persuade them to get the Washington franchise to drop the nickname Redskins.

- Will Dick Cheney be arrested when entering Canada for his war crimes? Please can you do that? I’ll provide the funding, just do it!

- More instances where Rand Paul has plagiarized from Wikipedia

- How Human Rights Watch covers for companies in Columbia

- Ray Kelly booed and heckled at Brown University forum to a point where it is canceled. Great work.

- Meanwhile, New York City’s reforms of “stop and frisk” in legal limbo

- “The Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jet dropped a 500-pound bomb this week, hitting a tank at Edwards Air Force Base in California and marking the first time the new warplane has fired a laser-guided weapon, the Pentagon said Wednesday.”

- “British artist Banksy has donated a ‘vandalized’ oil painting to a New York thrift shop to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for HIV patients and the homeless.

- Al Madrigal reports on whether Alabama or Mississippi is more intolerant of gays, hilarity ensues

Top Gun! (Stories)

- “The Florida city where neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin is changing the rules on how civilian patrols can operate to help prevent a recurrence and revive the program’s reputation.

Health, Hunger and Homelessness

- “Drug companies and other organisations that carry out clinical trials are violating their ethical obligation to the people who take part by failing to publish the results, scientists will argue on Wednesday.

New York will raise its age to purchase tobacco to 21

- Football concussions aren’t just NFL’s problem. They’re high school student’s problem too. Reminds me of my high school where gym class had football without helmets, glad I never did it.

The War on Women

- “After political and legal battle in Texas, a state-by-state fight over abortion still ahead

- “Why some young women are going off the pill and off to contraception voodoo.

- “Men write about domestic violence experienced by women they know, in a weekly compilation of letters from the #31forMarissa project.

- Even Nixon knew birth control reduces spending 

- “It should be a given that sexism and misogyny have no place in progressive political movements. They have no place anywhere in our society, of course, but progressive movements should take extra care to root out sexism as they attempt to model the type of society with which they wish to replace the current one. This is not controversial; it’s the bare minimum of what it means to be progressive.”

Planet Earth

- “Powerful dust storms that carry whirling dirt and debris are common occurrences across parts of Arizona and the arid Southwest during the spring and summer months. A day after a massive dust storm swept across an Arizona highway, killing three people in a 19-vehicle pileup, experts say the state isn’t alone, across the country or the world, in its susceptibility to such a weather phenomenon.

- Naomi Klein: “Why Science Is Telling All of Us to Revolt and Change Our Lives Before We Destroy the Planet

- Map of countries at risk for climate change effects

- Report: Over-fishing still the norm

- There’s no way to make bottled water responsible for the environment, even if capitalists say otherwise

- Yale economist William Nordhaus: Smoking can teach us about climate change

- Report: Climate change can make wine shortage worse

- “The United States said Tuesday it would end most financing of coal projects overseas, taking a potentially significant step to curbing carbon emissions blamed for climate change.

Mixed Bag

- Nearly two in 10 Americans state they have seen a ghost.

- “Nearly a mile underground in an abandoned gold mine, one of the most important quests in physics has come up empty-handed in the search for the elusive substance known as dark matter, scientists announced Wednesday.

- Five indicators of nonprofit news sustainability

- “Dulcet-voiced naturalist Sir David Attenborough has always had a special fondness for mating rituals. So it shouldn’t come as too big a surprise that his narration of Miley Cyrus’s infamous twerking performance at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards is rich with insight, wonder, and a hint of bemusement.

- Photos of newly discovered species olinguito

- Newly discovered planet is like Earth, only covered with lava. Bring a fan with you then.

Break Time

- Jane Says