Sen. Inhofe (R-OK): “In the months and years ahead, the Defense Department will be confronted with significant challenges from budget issues to Afghanistan policy. … I am aware of the serious concerns about some of [Hagel’s] policy positions, his record, and some of his comments that have been publicly reported. I will be seeking clarification from him about these concerns as his nomination proceeds.” source
Sen. McCain (R-AZ): ”I have serious concerns about positions Senator Hagel has taken on a range of critical national security issues in recent years, which we will fully consider in the course of his confirmation process before the Senate Armed Services Committee.” source
Rep. Cantor (R-VA): “Recent reporting has made clear that Senator Hagel’s views and inflammatory statements about Israel are well outside the mainstream and raise well-founded doubts that he can be trusted to manage the special relationship the United States shares with our greatest Middle East all.” source
Barney Frank: “With the attack coming out of the right, I hope he gets confirmed.” source
what When kids watch “Sesame Street,” their brains “show better revealed the unconstrained and spontaneous thought processes that are essential to learning.” Because each kid learns in a different way, discovering which way works best for them early in life can prevent blocks in the learning process.
how Since it’s hard to measure “real-world thought process that a child has while observing an actual school session,” scientists put kids, and some adults, through an fMRI machine while they watched an episode of “Sesame Street.” They then took a standardized math and verbal assessments; depending on how they scored told scientists if they benefit from the specific learning style that the show helps stimulate. source
Congressional Budget Office The Congressional Budget Office released a new report on New Year’s Day, outlining what it believed would be the new “fiscal cliff” compromise’s impact on the national debt. Their verdict? $4 trillion added over the next decade.
White House The Obama Administration denied claims that the “fiscal cliff” deal would add $4 trillion to our national debt, and said those in the White House expect to see $737 billion trimmed from the national debt thanks to the recent negotiations. So, anybody who did a little better in Econ than we did want to let us know who’s right and who’s wrong? source
fiscal cliff “[Republicans] say that their biggest priority is making sure we deal with the deficit in a serious way, but the way they’re behaving is that their only priority is making sure that tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are protected. That seems to be their only overriding, unifying theme.”
sandy hook“That was the worst day of my presidency and it’s not something that I want to see repeated. … All of us have to do some soul-searching, including me as president, that we allow a situation in which 20 precious small children are getting gunned down in their classroom. This is not something that I will be putting off.”
second term “One of the nice things about never having another election and never having to campaign again is, I think you can rest assured, that all I care about is making sure that I leave behind an America that is stronger, more prosperous, more stable, more secure, than it was when I came into office. That will continue to drive me.” source
1995-1996 Is currently the least productive two-year Congressional session on record, dating back to 1947 when the U.S. House Clerk’s Office first began keeping such records. The 104th Congress passed 333 bills in total.
2011-2012 Will become the new least productive two-year Congressional session on record, barring a number of miracles during the final days of the 112th Congress. Our sitting senators and representatives would need to send at least 115 more bills to the desk of President Obama to avoid becoming the least productive Congress in decades. Currently, they’re at 219 for the session. source
situation On Sunday, “Meet the Press” host David Gregory discussed gun control with the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre. During the interview, Gregory pulled out an empty gun magazine for purposes of showing the audience at home.
claim He was in D.C., however, which has very strict gun control laws. The city claimed that they told NBC they could now do this, leading to an investigation of Gregory. People rolled their eyes or criticized Gregory for being stupid.
counterclaim However — and here’s the fun part — NBC asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives before the show if they could show ammunition or an empty magazine on air. The ATF asked the city, and based on info provided to them, told NBC it was OK to show an empty magazine. So basically, this all happened because someone screwed up somewhere. source
cause In the wake of the Newtown, CT shooting earlier this month, a Gannett-owned New York state newspaper published a series of interactive maps showing all of the gun permits in the region, according to public records.
reaction Rage. Lots and lots of rage. Gun owners and many others are extremely angry about the exposure and have retaliated against the newspaper, with one blogger publishing the editor’s address and phone number. source
Friday A little more than a week after he announced he would do so, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti left office on Friday, an office he was appointed to in an effort to stabilize the disarray facing the Italian financial system.
Sunday Looks like we may not have seen the last of Monti. The appointed leader said he would consider running for a second term in office, as political officials have asked him to stick around in the wake of the resignation. “If a credible political force asked me to be candidate as prime minister for them, I would consider it,” he said. The election would be in February. source
thenOutgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was scheduled to testify before House and Senate committees next week, regarding the September 11th attack on an American consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi.
now Clinton will not testify next Thursday as scheduled, according to the State Department, due to a concussion. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Philippe Reines, stated that Clinton fainted while suffering from a stomach virus, subsequently hitting her head. Next week’s committee hearing will reportedly continue without her, for the time being. source
then Freshly-elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, in a move that inflamed massive protest and civil unrest throughout his state, issued a decree affording himself complete extralegal authority, pending a new constitution. The drafting of the constitutional proposal in subsequent days was carried out by a largely Islamist committee, which drew criticism for the removal of secular and Christian opposition from the body before it approved the draft.
now After the weeks of intense opposition, which has even spilled into violence, Morsi is planning to amend his initial decree — as clear a sign as any that he views the opposition’s backlash as a major, and perhaps unsustainable political risk. The Prime Minister, Hisham Qandil, told Egyptian television that the amended decree could be released by tomorrow, and that Morsi is open to talks with the opposition on postponing a December 15th vote scheduled on that controversial constitution draft. source
entertainmentWant to know how things went during Kim Kardashian’s trip to launch her milkshake chain in Bahrain? GlobalGrind has you covered: “The 32-year-old reality starlet… made her way to the middle of the desert to visit some camels. It doesn’t look like she took a ride on any of them but at least she attempted to engulf herself in the culture. And, we don’t blame her, she was a little homesick, missing her man Kanye West. …Kim has gotten a lot done overseas as she even visited a cancer patient in the Middle Eastern country. …It looks like the Kardashian hype has gone completely international!”
mainstreamOkay, okay, maybe not completely covered. Per Reuters: “Television celebrity Kim Kardashian brought out screaming fans, angry Muslim hardliners and police throwing stun grenades on Saturday when she visited Bahrain to launch a milkshake franchise, witnesses said. About 100 Sunni Salafists demonstrated with banners outside The Walk Bahrain, an upmarket mall in the capital Manama, after some MPs tried to block the visit over what they called her “bad reputation”… Witnesses said police dispersed the demonstrators with stun grenades as the inauguration proceeded inside. There were no reports of casualties.”source 
then Weeks ago, Ugandan Speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga said that an anti-gay bill being considered by the body (which you may have heard of before) would be passed as “a Christmas gift” to the people of Uganda. Homosexuality is already criminalized in Uganda, but the new bill would impose harsh new penalties, including life imprisonment for “serial offenders” (it used to suggest execution for such acts, though this appears to have been removed).
now Uganda’s LGBT population, and those concerned about this human rights battle worldwide, have found a ray of hope. Despite what had been anticipated as an easy pass into law, unrelated strife in the parliament (an explosively contentious bill regarding oil agreements) has forced a two-day shutdown by the aforementioned Speaker Kadaga. When parliament reconvenes, should the oil bill still be the issue before them, and they aren’t able to make progress on it swiftly, the clock could run out without a vote on the anti-gay law — December 14th is their last day in session this year. Which would mean it’s author, MP David Bahati, would have to reintroduce it next year, and start the process over again. source
what On Tuesday, the remains of former Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat were exhumed, roughly eight years after his death.
why Though at the time of his death no foul play was suspected, There was evidence later found on his clothing suggesting that he may have been poisoned — evidence strong enough that the leader’s wife called for the exhumation. Israel denies the claims. source
wednesday The escalating and bloody eight-day battle in Gaza was mercifully diffused by the announcement of a ceasefire agreement, brokered in large part by Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi.
friday Just two days later, and further bloodshed: a group of Palestinians intending to pray near Gaza’s eastern border reportedly threw rocks at Israeli soldiers, prompting gunfire in response. One man, identified as Ahmad Qudih, was shot and killed — the first major test of the ceasefire’s strength, in the face of much the same tense and perilous environment that preceded it. source