Hello everyone, hope you are well.

International Developments

Overall

- ” Syrian activists and other citizens have vanished into secret detention as part of a “widespread campaign of terror against the civilian population” and a tactic of war by the Damascus government, U.N. investigators said on Thursday.

- “The Worst Emergency in UN History” — On Syria

- “A federal appeals court reinstated Saudi Arabia as a defendant Thursday in lawsuits claiming it had provided support to al-Qaida prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

- “An Interview With Middle East Expert Lawrence Davidson” on Iran deal

- “New delay hits 9/11 case at Guantanamo

- “Russia blocks UN action against Syria air attacks

Middle East

- Great! “Iraq’s Oil Workers Walk Off Drilling Rigs and Take to the Streets

- More on American Studies Association’s boycott of Israel

- “Meet the American Hedge Fund Billionaire Who Could Start a ‘Holy War’ in the Middle East

- “Israeli troops have shot and killed a member of the Palestinian security forces they wanted to arrest in the central West Bank town of Qalqilya.

- Report: Almost a quarter of Israelis lived in poverty last year

Asia and Oceania

- John Pilger: “Down Where Apartheid Lives

- “U.S. diplomats, but not prosecutors, seek to quell India dispute

- India to U.S.: Drop charges over diplomat

- “A handwritten poster by a South Korean student highlighting issues such as redundancy and suicide has sparked a nationwide protest movement, reports suggest.”

- “Look Into a North Korean Penal Camp

- On “Kim the Third

- “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s execution of his uncle last week is an example of the worrisome unpredictability of that regime and could be a prelude to some kind of provocation by Pyongyang, top Pentagon officials said on Thursday.

- “The Chinese military machine’s secret to success: European engineering

- “A group of doctors has revealed the shocking standard of medical care they are made to provide asylum seekers at the Christmas Island [Australia] detention centre in a 92-page “letter of concern” given to their employer in November.

Africa

- “Foundations and the South African Transition

- The U.S. have deployed 45 troops to South Sudan as U.N. base has been stormed 

- Mohammed Morsi could face the death penalty if convicted under treason

- “A government investigation into the use of state resources to upgrade South African President Jacob Zuma’s rural private home found some irregularities but excused the construction of features like a chicken run as being motivated by security concerns.

- U.S. ambassador visits Central African Republic

- “Troops clash in South Sudan, African states mediate

- “Police and military forces were securing Tripoli’s petrol stations this evening at the request of the Prime Minister’s Office, after vandalism forced the closure of ten stations.

Europe

- Gallup: Former Soviet countries cite the breakup of the Soviet Union as harmful, rather than helpful

- ” A $15 billion Russian aid package for Ukraine began to take shape on Thursday as Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich went public in defense of the deal, but offered no concessions to persuade thousands of protesters to leave the streets.

- Putin: What happened to the Arctic 30 should serve as a “lesson” to activists

- “President Vladimir Putin is to pardon one of his best known opponents, oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, after a decade in jail in what may be a gesture to critics of his human rights record before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics.

- Putin: Pussy Riot will be freed despite their “disgraceful” protest

- Dave Zirin: “What Will the ‘Billie Jean Delegation’ Mean for LGBT Rights in Sochi?

- A Jesuit priest lit himself on fire in St. Peter’s Square

- “Emergency services said nearly 90 people were injured on Thursday when part of the ceiling collapsed during a performance at a packed London theatre, bringing the city’s West End entertainment district to a standstill.” More can be found here.

- MI5 and MI6 both face questions over torture

- Report: MI6 “turned blind eye” to torture in foreign jails

Latin America, Caribbean and Canada

- “Honduras fires top cop dogged by death squad claim

- “Authorities in Peru say an overcrowded passenger bus has fallen into a ravine in the Andes Mountains, killing at least 15 people and injuring 58, some seriously.

Surveillance Planet

- “ Verizon Communications Inc. says it will publish information on the number of requests for customer records it received from law enforcement agencies this year.

- Dave Eggers: “US Writers Must Take a Stand Against NSA Surveillance

- “The End of Childhood in the Era of the Emerging American Police State

- NSA critics in Congress: Latest report gives “momentum” for reform

- David Sirota: The debate is over, Snowden is a whistleblower

- “Judge Richard Leon’s Anti-NSA Ruling May Not Be All You Think It Is

- Natasha Lennard: “White House advisers vindicate Snowden

- Jon Stewart on IKEA spying on its own employees

- Google reports that they’ve gotten an increase of removal of political content and more in transparency report

- “Seven Republican members of Congress called on attorney general Eric Holder on Thursday to open an investigation into the leader of the US intelligence community.

- Putin: We didn’t work with Snowden

- Jesselyn Radack: “High-Level Confirmation He’s a Whistle-Blower

- “ An Ohio judge rebuffed an argument Thursday that traffic cameras make law enforcement more efficient, stating sharply that violating motorists’ rights isn’t the American way.

- Emptywheel: “The NSA Review Group’s Non-Denial Denial on Encryption

Financial Matters

- Pew: Income inequality in the world

- Study: Opportunity for economic advancement the worst in the “Bible Belt” region

- Unemployed Americans speak out against the lack of insurance for them

- “In Home Gardens, Income and Food for Urban Poor

- Wal-Mart is trying to profit off Occupy Wall Street with posters

- “EU leaders are meeting in Brussels to approve a common set of rules for managing the closure of failing eurozone banks in an orderly way.

- To end poverty, higher wages are needed

- Stephen Colbert jokes on how customer satisfaction isn’t essential for business

- “US retail chain Target says that about 40m credit and debit card accounts may have been affected by a data breach that occurred just as the holiday shopping season shifted into high gear.

- How can cutback on stimulus by the Fed affect you? AP has the story

Labor’s a-Brewing

- D.C. workers have won $11.50 per hour minimum wage

- “Stealing Pennies from Chileros

- AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka: Populism works as the country moves to the left

- Victory! “Union to Represent Low-Wage Food Workers at Two Smithsonian Museums

Politics USA

Washington USA

- Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) promised a vote on extending unemployment insurance in January

- Obama administration: We could hit debt ceiling in February

- “Less than a half million people whose health insurance was canceled under President Barack Obama’s new law have not yet found other coverage, the administration said Thursday.

- Pew: When presented with reducing the deficit or keeping programs, spending for the poor, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are chosen. However, people prefer military cuts to reduce the deficit

- “Private Federal Contractors Cost Taxpayers Twice as Much as Civil Servants

- Pew: On Obama’s “second term curse

- Part 2 of interview with Ralph Nader

- “Ted Mitchell, Education Dept. Nominee, Has Strong Ties to Pearson, Privatization Movement

- Obama has commuted sentences for eight crack cocaine prisoners. List of those commuted can be found here.

- “The Real Deal on Obama’s Deportation Record

- Pew: Relief from deportation seen as more important than citizenship

- “A month after pleading guilty to cocaine-possession charges, Republican Rep. Trey Radel of Florida refused to resign Thursday, saying he wants to “rebuild the trust” of voters.

- “The Obama administration removed 368,644 immigrants from the country last year.”

- Hillary Clinton: I will announce next year whether to run

- Jeff Bezos, the CIA and the Washington Post

- Greg Mitchell: “Amazon, ‘The Washington Post’ and That $600 Million CIA Contract

- Jon Stewart jokes about the disgraced EPA official here and here

- Thom Hartmann: “The GOP Is a Cult Worthy of Jim Jones

- “Despite opposition from the Obama administration, 26 U.S. senators introduced legislation on Thursday to impose new sanctions on Iran if the country breaks an interim deal under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program.” White House is vowing to veto

- Jack Kingston (R-GA): For school lunches, poor kids should “sweep the floor.” Maybe I should sweep the floor with Jack Kingston, just a thought.

- “A federal judge in South Texas said in a recent order that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is assisting in criminal conspiracies to smuggle children into the country when it helps reunite them with parents who are known to be in the U.S. illegally.

Everything Else USA 

- Robert Reich: Why will it take for us to get back to being a decent society?

- New Mexico has legalized gay marriage, making it the 17th state to do so

- Pew: 33 percent of Americans dislike the commercialism with Christmas

- “Disney Finds Dozens Of Unauthorized Characters Appearing Illegally Inside Theme Park

- Anthony Papa: “The Democrats and Clemency

- “In Contest for Speaker, de Blasio Backs Progressive Caucus Member Melissa Mark-Viverito

- “Age of Crushing Anxiety: How the Bottom Fell Out in America

- “Tell the FCC: We Can’t Let Prison Phone Companies Exploit Inmates

- “America needs better comedians“; What I would give for another Bill Hicks

- Ralph Nader: Invest in People, not War

- “The State Policy Network’s Cozy Relationship With Big Tobacco

- Theodore Wafer will be on trial for killing Renisha McBride

- “An Anonymous Judge and Jury

- “Workers who maintain the nation’s transit rail tracks urgently need more protections to help prevent accidents such as the one that killed two workers on the San Francisco Bay Area system last fall, federal officials said Thursday.

- Colbert joins the Santa Claus ethnicity debate here and here

- “The European-led boycott of medical drugs used by US corrections departments to execute prisoners is having such an impact that it has driven the number of executions to an almost all-time low, a leading authority on the death penalty has concluded.

- “Pierre Omidyar plunges first $50m into media venture with Glenn Greenwald

- Terrible to hear. “Three bus crashes on rain-slick Southern California freeways killed one person and injured dozens more Thursday, authorities said.”

- “Aviation schools prepare for boom in drone jobs

We Don’t Need No Education

- Study: Paying kids to eat veggies at school actually works

- “Public Education and the Arts: Lessons From the New Deal

- “The Adjunct’s Lament

Top Gun! (Stories)

- “Next Week’s School Shooting Victims Thank Senate For Failing To Pass Gun Bill

- An inquiry over worry on government taking guns than on metadata

Health, Hunger and Homelessness

- “ U.S. scientists have discovered the basic mechanisms that allow HIV to wipe out the body’s immune system and cause AIDS, which could lead to new approaches to treatment and research for a cure for the disease that affects 35 million people around the world.

- Gallup: 40 percent of Americans get less sleep than they should

- Consumer Reports: 97 percent of all chicken breasts contain harmful bacteria

- Gallup: Half of Americans take vitamins in regular intervals

- Seven homeless individuals freeze to death…in the wealthiest part of the country

- There is “significant weakness” with USDA oversight on chicken safety

- “The Food and Drug Administration says it will revise sweeping new food safety rules proposed earlier this year after farmers complained the rules could hurt business.

- Considering 85 percent of shrimp is imported to the U.S., most of it is never inspected

- A tiny house village in Texas offers shelter for the homeless

- New York City Council has voted to add e-cigarettes to under-21 smoking ban

The Second Sex

- On the 10 most sexist characters on TV

- The nine things this year deemed “War on Men” related

- Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) sells out women’s rights

- “Why trolls spammed a college’s rape-reporting system

- On reform’s “gender blind spot

- “A comprehensive defense bill that would crack down on sexual assault in the military and add protections for victims headed toward Senate passage on Thursday.

Planet Earth

- The winners of the National Geographic Photo Contest here

- “Technology is winning the war on coal

- A quicker death for the Great Barrier Reef

- “Top Pipeline Regulator: Lack of Oversight ‘Keeps Me Up At Night’

- Close to Hydrogen fuel?

Mixed Bag

- On the real “Duck Dynasty”

- “Beyoncé: Smart, savvy — but not innovative

- J.K. Rowling will produce a Harry Potter stage show

- A 10-year-old cancer patient was crowned by Vallejo, California as “Wonder Girl” by the entire town

- Study: Drinking is good for you

- Author of the “Anarchist Cookbook” wants the book to be removed from print

Break Time

- White Christmas