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The Coffee Party USA, which has 336,389 supporters on Facebook, not only produces original content and calls for action, it also highlights news stories about issues important to the movement on its Facebook page.

A lot has happened since the last digest, only three days ago, so join me, the maintainer of the Coffee Party USA community on LiveJournal, over the fold for a special midweek update featuring articles on issues including Congress and especially filibuster reform, economic policy, and various stories relating society and democracy, among other topics Coffee Party USA thought noteworthy this past week.

Congress

L.A. Times: Alaska certifies Murkowski as Senate winner
The move ends two months of legal wrangling and comes in time for Murkowski to be sworn in next week. She is the first senator to be elected in a write-in campaign since Strom Thurmond of South Carolina in 1954.
By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times
December 31, 2010

Lisa Murkowski has been certified as the winner of the Senate race in Alaska, ending two months of legal wrangling over the seat she has held since 2002.

Gov. Sean Parnell and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who oversees elections, signed the paperwork Thursday morning, according to the governor's office. The paperwork will be delivered to Washington in time for Murkowski to be sworn in next week. That will ensure that there is no interruption in Murkowski's service and seniority.

The re-election of Lisa Murkowski was not a victory for "more and better Democrats," but it was a repudiation of the politics of incivility and irrationality and, at least during the lame duck session, a victory for people, like leaders and members of Coffee Party USA, value politicians who can be bipartisan, reasonable, and take into account popular will and the common good.

Washington Post: Senate Democrats support filibuster reform
By Ezra Klein
Posted at 6:05 PM ET, 12/22/2010

They say elections have consequences. So too, it turns out, does obstruction. In a move that's as overdue as it is unexpected, every returning Senate Democrat has signed a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid calling for filibuster reform.

The letter is not specific on what sort of reform they'd like to see, but the basic outline looks to take its cues from Sen. Jeff Merkley's proposal: Filibusters would require continuous debate on the floor of the Senate, and they would only be allowed once the bill is on the floor (no more filibustering the motion to debate a bill, for instance). Democrats would also like to see the dead time between calling for a vote to break a filibuster and actually taking the vote reduced. "There need to be changes to the rules to allow filibusters to be conducted by people who actually want to block legislation instead of people being able to quietly say ‘I object’ and go home," Sen. Claire McCaskill told the National Journal.

None of these changes would reverse the Senate's transformation into a 60-vote institution, of course. Instead, they would speed up and streamline what happens around those votes.

Coffee Party USA featured the following sentence. "Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has mounted more filibusters in the past two years than occurred in the ’50s and ’60s combined."

Gallup: Congress' Job Approval Rating Worst in Gallup History
December 15, 2010
Thirteen percent approve of the way Congress is handling its job
by Jeffrey M. Jones

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' assessment of Congress has hit a new low, with 13% saying they approve of the way Congress is handling its job. The 83% disapproval rating is also the worst Gallup has measured in more than 30 years of tracking congressional job performance.

The prior low approval rating for Congress was 14% in July 2008 when the United States was dealing with record-high gas prices and the economy was in recession.

Economy

Harvard Business Review: The Big Idea: Creating Shared Value
by Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer

Companies must take the lead in bringing business and society back together. The recognition is there among sophisticated business and thought leaders, and promising elements of a new model are emerging. Yet we still lack an overall framework for guiding these efforts, and most companies remain stuck in a "social responsibility" mind-set in which societal issues are at the periphery, not the core.

The solution lies in the principle of shared value, which involves creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges. Businesses must reconnect company success with social progress. Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or even sustainability, but a new way to achieve economic success. It is not on the margin of what companies do but at the center. We believe that it can give rise to the next major transformation of business thinking.

Reuters: Analysis: OPEC caution on output may help bring back $100 oil
By Barbara Lewis
LONDON | Wed Dec 29, 2010 8:31am EST

Oil has burst above top exporter Saudi Arabia's preferred $70-$80 range and yet OPEC is unlikely to stop the rally, helping to prepare the way for the market to bound above $100 a barrel.

At meetings this month -- a full conference of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Quito and talks among Arab oil ministers in Cairo -- oil producers stood by OPEC's two-year-old set of output curbs.

Even prices of $100 -- not far above a 26-month high of $91.88 hit this week -- need not damage the economy and would not mean OPEC should pump more if they resulted from speculation rather than any shortage, ministers and officials have said.

AP via CBS: Where are the Jobs? For Many Companies, Overseas

Economic Policy Institute Says 1.4M Jobs Created Overseas by U.S. Companies, Compared to 1M Domestically

It's an AP article, so I'm just quoting the summary written by CBS.

ProPublica: Bailout Recipients

We're tracking where taxpayer money has gone in the ongoing bailout of the financial system. Our database accounts for both the broader $700 billion bill and the separate bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Below is the list of companies to which Treasury has committed money. "Revenue to Government" shows the amount that has been paid to the Treasury Department through interest, dividends, fees or the repurchase of stock warrants. Click on each recipient for more detail on the transactions.

Tracking taxpayer money tied up in bailing out the financial system: 937 Recipients. Total Committed: $607,822,367,182. Total Disbursed: $553,918,968,267. Total Returned: $231,544,019,772.

NPR: Scandal Threatens India's Economic Growth
by Corey Flintoff

A couple of months ago, India was riding high. Its economy came through the worldwide recession with growth at 8 1/2 percent.

World leaders, including President Obama, visited New Delhi to proclaim that India had "arrived."

Yet today, India's government is mired in a series of costly scandals, its parliament is gridlocked, and business leaders fret that foreign investment will fall.

What happened?

Coffee Party USA singled out the following. "What the tapes seemed to reveal was a web of influence with Radia at the center, making deals among business tycoons, top politicians and journalists."

Foreign Policy

Politico: Gibbs: Indefinite terrorist detentions regrettable
December 26, 2010

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says it's unfortunate that some terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay need to be held indefinitely without trial.

"Some would be tried in federal courts, as we've seen done in the past. Some would be tried in military commissions, likely spending the rest of their lives in a maximum-security prison that nobody, including terrorists, have ever escaped from. Some, regrettably, will have to be indefinitely detained," Gibbs said in an interview, describing Obama's beleaguered plan for closing Guantanamo, on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.
...
With Obama almost one year overdue on his promise to close Guantanamo, Gibbs offered no prediction that the president's plan would come to fruition anytime soon. "It's certainly not going to close in the next month," Gibbs said. "It's going to be a while."

Coffee Party USA highlighted the quote by Gibbs in the third paragraph.

Environment

MSNBC: Is dispersant still being sprayed in the gulf?
December 26, 2010

Kari Huus writes:The use of chemical dispersants in the wake of the massive BP oil spill ended on July 15, when the broken Deepwater Horizon well was capped, with only one exception four days later, according to federal agencies. But photos and chemical lab results obtained by msnbc.com suggest that the controversial chemicals have been sprayed much more recently than that.

The photos and tests lend credence to persistent but unsubstantiated reports by Gulf Coast residents that the spraying of dispersants has continued well beyond the cutoff date acknowledged by the Deepwater Horizon response team.
...
The dispersants — though nowhere near as toxic to humans as crude oil — are still toxic.

Coffee Party USA has been following the BP oil spill very closely.

Society and Democracy

Huffington Post: Outgoing Democratic Congressman John Hall Warns Citizens United Could Lead To 'Fascism'
The Huffington Post   |  Nick Wing
First Posted: 12-29-10 06:02 PM   |   Updated: 12-29-10 06:16 PM

Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.), who is leaving Capitol Hill after being defeated by Republican challenger Nan Hayworth, recently warned that with the massive changes to campaign finance law prompted by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, the nation could soon descend into fascism.

"The country was bought," Hall told The New York Observer in an exit interview. "I learned when I was in social studies class in school that corporate ownership or corporate control of government is called Fascism. So that's really the question -- is that the destination if this court decision goes unchecked?"

Hall then placed the blame on the political leanings of specific justices.

On their Facebook page, Coffee Party USA singled out Hall's quote in the second paragraph.  Things are getting serious if people are using the F-word.

Blog Talk Radio: Jim Turner & Lawrence Chickering

Date / Length: 12/29/2010 5:00 PM - 1 hr 1 min

Have coffee w/ the authors of Voice of the People: The Transpartisan Imperative in American Life, a powerful critique of the current political system. They emphasize the importance of strong citizen engagement in solving problems.

Not an external news story, but worth reading as the one major piece of content produced by Coffee Party USA this week.

Washington Post: Don't spin the Civil War
By E. J. Dionne, Jr.
Sunday, December 26, 2010; 8:00 PM

The Civil War is about to loom very large in the popular memory. We would do well to be candid about its causes and not allow the distortions of contemporary politics or long-standing myths to cloud our understanding of why the nation fell apart.

Coffee Party USA quoted this passage from the editorial's conclusion.  "We can take pride in our struggles to overcome the legacies of slavery and segregation. But we should not sanitize how contested and bloody the road to justice has been."

Originally posted to Neon Vincent's Massage Parlour on Thu Dec 30, 2010 at 08:48 PM PST.

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