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Late Night Roundup, December 19, 2011

Just a few things on an eventful Sunday. The top 5 or 6 links could all be major articles on their own:

• So Kim Jong-il died. I’ll probably have more in the morning. The concern in Asia is definitely justified, but the military has been preparing for this eventuality since his stroke in 2009, so while the cult of personality may not loom as large with an untested, “unready” Kim Jong-un, the leadership apparatus probably has things relatively under control.

• Turns out that Lamar Smith quietly scheduled a return to the markup on SOPA this coming Wednesday, even though most members (and more important, reporters) have left town. More on this tomorrow as well.

• A drone caught pictures of the last US convoy leaving Iraq. The military has removed itself from the scene.

• PPP’s latest poll out of Iowa with two weeks to go until the caucuses shows Ron Paul in the lead and Newt Gingrich into third place and in total free fall, as the negative ads pummeling him have worked, especially as he has almost no money to fight back. Six candidates are within 13 points of one another. The Des Moines Register endorsed Mitt Romney over the weekend.

• The rating agency Fitch said that a comprehensive solution to the European crisis “is beyond reach.” This has led to a downgrade watch for several countries in the Eurozone. Meanwhile, Mario Draghi tells the Financial Times that there’s basically no escape from austerity for the peripheral countries and anyway they have nowhere else to go. Holy crap!

• Talk of a turning point in secret US talks with the Taliban aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan. I would caution that we have heard this before. Part of the deal includes transferring some Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo to Afghan custody.

• Even in the Senate payroll tax deal, which now looks on life support, some states would lose eligibility for extended benefits, depriving their residents of 20 weeks of checks. This comes as we learn that unemployment benefits recipients search more intensely for a job than those who do not collect.

• Tunisia erects a statue to Mohammed Bouazizi, the fruit vendor whose self-immolation set off the Arab uprising and overthrew a dictator in that country.

• Sen. Ron Wyden still thinks Democrats can run a campaign against the Ryan budget, despite his teaming with Ryan on a Medicare plan. I don’t disagree, though I think it will be mildly less successful as a result.

• A financial crisis need not be a decade-long economic death sentence, writes Christina Romer.

• Great protest in front of a Lowe’s in Dearborn, home of the stars of All-American Muslim, as Christian and Muslim leaders join to condemn Lowe’s for their stance on dropping ads from the show.

• Donna Schaper thinks Occupy Wall Street did require physical space to keep up momentum, after all. I’m not so sure, though I would like to see more Occupy Our Homes events, I think they have the potential to break through.

• The last prisoner in US custody in Iraq transferred to Iraqi authorities, despite concern from counter-terrorism officials that he would be released.

• I guess by all the characteristics for a cabinet post, Rick Perry means “Herman Cain has a following that might net me an undetermined number of votes.”

• Mitt Romney tries the conservative martyrdom bit, saying “I know there will be every effort to put free enterprise on trial” in next year’s elections.

• Sprint will disable the Carrier IQ software that could apparently store every keystroke made on a smart phone.

• So much for Democratic “savior” Gen. Ricardo Sanchez in the Texas Senate race. He’s out.

• And RIP Vaclav Havel. Just a crazy couple of days.

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David Dayen

David Dayen