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The Roundup for November 21, 2012

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Here’s your news, with best wishes for a safe and warm holiday.

International Developments

? “Israel and the Hamas movement which governs Gaza have agreed to a ceasefire to end a week of violence in which nearly 160 people have died, Egyptian and Hamas officials say.” More from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr.

? “The United States, Japan, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe were among 39 countries to oppose the non-binding [UN] resolution” calling for the abolition of the death penalty.

? “The Israel-Gaza Conflict: A Guide to the Major Players: The 11 key forces influencing the latest escalation.”

? “Syrian warplanes bombed Damascus suburbs and rebel-held areas in the country’s north Wednesday as the government blasted the European Union for endorsing a newly formed opposition coalition.”

? Libya’s security chief has been assassinated in Benghazi. Colonel Faraq al-Dersi “played key role in curbing militia power in wake of murder of US ambassador Chris Stevens in September”. His murder is “the latest in a string of killing and car bombings [in Benghazi]”.

? “The UN Security Council has backed a resolution calling for sanctions against leaders of rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” Meanwhile, having captured Goma, M23 has announced intentions to march on Kinshasa, the capital.

International Finance

? They met until late, in “intense talks”, but finance ministers from the eurozone just couldn’t figure out “how fast to cut Greece’s debt pile.” They’re going to meet again next week. Germany balked, it seems.

Money Matters USA

? “Let’s Drive Over the Fiscal Cliff” with Dr. Dean.

? This year’s budget deficit is “$200 billion smaller than it was last year, and nearly $300 billion smaller than when President Obama took office”, and apparently “has fallen faster over the past three years than it has in any such stretch since demobilization from World War II.” Matt Iglesias explains why.

? Projected increases in food prices next year: poultry – 4%; beef – 5%; dairy – 4.5%. The drought is the main culprit, though energy prices have been lower, thus tamping down food prices somewhat in the short term. “We are in a period of multiple years of food inflation being greater than inflation.”

? Optimism in the US is rising: 37% of households say the economy will get better–the highest in over ten years, or since March 2002. Democrats seem to be driving this surge of optimism, “with 63 percent indicating the economy will improve, up 12 percentage points from October.” Republicans, not so much.

Politics USA

? Here are the new Democratic members of the House of Representatives.

? Representative Jesse Jackson Jr (D-IL) has resigned from the US House.

? Finally, all AZ ballots have been counted. 2.2 million ballots were cast on election day, but 600,000 were not counted until now. There was a record increase in registrations of Latinos, with many reportedly “reeling with frustration and suspicion” about the vote counting.

? Contrary to House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) druthers, the White House is saying Obamacare will not be part of any debt reduction deals.

? Sen Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) aide has denied “in strong terms” that Leahy has reworked a bill “originally intended to protect email privacy” to the extent that it actually greatly expands the number of government agencies that can access email, online and Twitter messages “without a search warrant”. Tweets from Leahy and other communications from his office repeatedly emphasized his commitment to privacy and use of warrants to obtain communications. Seems it might be James Baker, Associate Deputy Attorney General, who is the one opposing warrants.

? The US Department of Homeland Security has decided it wants to double the number of drones it has for surveillance inside the US. This “despite renewed criticism from both parties in Congress that domestic drones pose a privacy danger to US citizens–and a report from its own Inspector General”.

? The Rendon Group, long a Pentagon contractor, is back in the news. In 2009, a contract was pulled “after it was learned that the company was weeding out reporters who might write negative stories” and it has provided “services for ‘military deception.'” It’s now deeply involved in “‘communications support’ . . . for counter-narcotics programs”–to the tune of $11 million in 2011 and 2012.

? Two teevee anchors in Bangor, ME resigned on-air yesterday. Speculation is they were not happy with their station’s “moving to emulate conservative bias at Fox News.”

Women & Children

? PBS’ Frontline has a documentary up about “Poor Kids”.

? Last year, there were 5% fewer abortions, “the largest single-year decrease in a decade”, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.

Working for A Living

? Hostess Brands’ liquidation has been ok’d by a US bankruptcy judge, so layoffs of 15,000 workers are expected to get underway. Apparently there have been a “‘flood of enquiries’ about buying some of the brands.”

? WalMart may think Black Friday actions are “stunts and the workers involved an unrepresentative fringe”, but workers maintain WalMart has escalated intimidation tactics against them. Latest charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board includes alleged store plans to “threaten workers with termination, discipline and/or a lawsuit” for engaging in the strike.

? Paying retail workers “a living wage. . .of just $25,000 for full-time, year-round work. . . would significantly boost the economy.” More than 5 million retail workers would be affected, with an estimated 700,000 moving out of poverty and an equal number moving to “near poverty”. 100,000 new jobs would be created, “boosting the economy by somewhere between $11.8 and $15.2 billion”.

Planet Earth News

? “Energy we don’t consume is energy we do not have to produce . . . And this is the best energy of all.” That attitude has transformed Hamburg, Germany’s major industrial center, into a leader in the green revolution, setting the standard for other cities in Germany, Europe–and maybe in the US, which “now ranks 14th in infrastructure quality”.

? The engineering firm Bechtel “may have committed a wide range of safety and health violations at a plant it is building to treat high-level radioactive waste at Hanford, Washington”. That’s according to a report from the US Energy Department, which has also halted construction. An “enforcement conference” is expected.

Latin America

? Major anti-government strike in Argentina. Annual inflation is now 24%, according to some economists, though the government claims 10%. Growth has dropped “from 9% in 2011 to 2.2% this year, according to the World Bank” and the International Monetary Fund has demanded “reliable inflation and growth data” by Dec 17th.

Mixed Bag

? Who and why?

? In celebration of all birds, including gobblers.

? Penguins 6-1/2 feet tall? Used to be, they say.

Break Time

? Thanksgiving without Arlo? No way.

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