BREAKING – Air Raid Sirens Sound in Jerusalem – (via Fox News) “Air raid sirens sounded in Jerusalem sending Israelis running for cover as it signals a possible rocket attack aimed at Israel's capital. If verified, it would be the first time the holy city has ever been targeted by rockets fired by Gaza militants. Israeli media say the rocket fell north of Jerusalem, but authorities have not confirmed the reports. In Gaza, Hamas militants said they had attacked Jerusalem.”
A Bolder Hamas, Strengthened By Arab Allies – (via NY Times) “Nearly four years after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead killed about 1,400 Gazans in three weeks of air and ground assaults in response to repeated rocket fire, this new conflict has a decidedly different feel, and not just because Israel has said that it has tried to limit its attacks to precision strikes. This time, Israeli forces are fighting a newly emboldened Hamas, supported by the regional powerhouses of Qatar, Turkey and Egypt, and demonstrating its strength compared with a weak and crisis-laden Palestinian Authority. After months of mostly holding its fire as it struggled to stop other militant factions from shooting rockets across the border, Hamas has responded forcefully to Israel’s killing on Wednesday of its top military commander, Ahmed al-Jabari. It sent more than 300 rockets into Israel over 24 hours, with several penetrating the heart of Israel’s population center around Tel Aviv; three civilians were killed in an apartment building about 15 miles north of Gaza, and three soldiers were wounded in a separate strike.For Hamas, the goal is not necessarily a military victory, but a diplomatic one, as it tests its growing alliance with the new Islamist leadership of Egypt and other relationships in the Arab world and beyond.”
War With Iran on the Brink? (via Haaretz) For Netanyahu, Gaza escalation could pave the way to Iran strike (Behind paywall) – “Until this week, Prime Minister Netanyahu took pride in never having lead Israel into a war. Now he may be on the verge of starting not one but two. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have not given up the dream of carrying out a major operation in Iran.”
Obama, GOP Leaders to Hold Fiscal Cliff Summit (via ABC) “President Obama and top congressional leaders on Friday will convene their first "fiscal cliff" summit, seeking to avert an economically-toxic package of sweeping tax hikes and deep spending cuts that will take effect in 46 days without a bipartisan deal. The meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House will be the first face-to-face encounter between Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell since the election last week. They will be joined by Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”
“Leaders on both sides must hammer out a plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion or more, identifying a mutually agreeable combination of spending cuts and potential revenue increases, through higher rates or eliminated loopholes and deductions. The plan must also address a series of expiring tax cuts or credits that touch nearly all Americans. A deal must be reached by Dec. 31. But the parties remain particularly at odds over whether to extend Bush-era income tax cuts for all Americans or just those earning less than $200,000 a year, or $250,000 a year for families. Republicans insist tax rates should not rise for anyone, while Obama has vowed to hike rates on the top 2 percent of earners. The stakes could not be higher: the Congressional Budget Office reported earlier this month that failure to reach a compromise -- triggering tax increases on all Americans and deep cuts to government spending on social programs and defense -- would send the U.S. economy back into recession and send unemployment skyrocketing.”
Petraeus to Testify on Benghazi – (via CBS News) “Gen. David Petraeus is testifying before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on the Libya embassy attack this morning, despite the ongoing FBI investigation into an extramarital affair that led to his resignation as director of the CIA. The hearings are taking place early this morning in secure rooms in the U.S. Capitol - the House meeting began at 7:30 a.m. and the Senate hearing begins at 9 a.m. - and are closed to the public and the media. Petraeus is expected to answer questions about the CIA's knowledge and handling of the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. Two of those Americans were with the CIA. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calf., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Wednesday that the focus of the hearing is specifically about the events in Libya, not the affair that led to his resignation. "It's just on Benghazi. Our hearings are on Benghazi and the intelligence that preceded Benghazi and the intelligence that determined security," she told reporters.”
Views of Obama, Dems Improve After the Election – According to a new Gallup poll, Obama's approval rating has reached 58%, his best in over three years, since a 66% reading in July 2009. For the first time since the late summer of 2009, a majority of Americans have a positive opinion of the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, Americans' opinions of the Republican Party remain more negative than positive, with 43% having a favorable and 50% an unfavorable view of the GOP. But, Mitt Romney's current 50% rating ties his personal high from May, shortly after he clinched the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Say Goodbye to Twinkies – (via WSJ) “Hostess Brands Inc., the maker of iconic treats such as Twinkies and traditional pantry staple Wonder Bread, said Friday it is shuttering its plants and will seek to liquidate the 82-year-old business. The company, which filed for Chapter 11 in January, said it has requested bankruptcy-court authorization to close the business and sell its assets. A victim of changing consumer tastes, high commodity costs and, most importantly, strained labor relations, Hostess ultimately was brought to its knees by a national strike orchestrated by its second-largest union. The work stoppage, launched Nov. 9 by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union to protest a fresh labor contract, affected about two-thirds of Hostess's 36 plants. The strike was making it impossible for the Irving, Tex., company to continue producing its baked goods, Chief Executive Gregory Rayburn said. … He said the company will "promptly" lay off most of its 18,500 employees and focus on "selling its assets to the highest bidders."
Google Wants to Be a Wireless Carrier – (via BGR) Google has already conquered the software side of smartphones and now the technology giant is reportedly in talks to take over the airwaves. The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported that Google has held talks with satellite television provider Dish Network (DISH) regarding the possibility of a venture that would see Google launch its own cellular network and compete directly with the likes of Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T). The Journal says the talks are not in advanced stages and could lead nowhere, though Dish did confirm that it is discussing the launch of a new cellular network using its spectrum with a number of potential partners ”who would like to be in the industry.”
TSA Puts Controversial Scanners in Storage – (via USA Today) “The Transportation Security Administration has put 91 of its full-body scanning machines worth $14 million in storage because of privacy concerns, officials told a House hearing Thursday. The machines, so-called backscatter machines that use X-rays to scan passengers, produce near-naked images of travelers. The TSA said that software that was supposed to replace the near-naked image on the machine with a stick figure was flawed and couldn't be used to ease privacy concerns.”
Top PolicyMic Stories – Hostess Bankruptcy: One Big Win for Labor Unions, One Big Loss for Laborers (James Street) – As Hostess sends almost 18,000 employees home, big labor will celebrate a win. But what about those individuals now facing an unemployed Christmas?
The Top 5 Biggest Media Myths about Israel-Palestine (Sabith Khan) – Media reports about the region are biased and don't reflect the truth. Opinions are not facts, even is they are taken as such when it comes to Israel-Palestine.
In Gaza, Israeli Violence Against Palestinians May Be a Massacre in the Making (Karl Lindemann) – Since imposing an internationally illegal siege on Gaza in 2007, Israel has been constantly violating Palestinians' human rights in Gaza. The recent violence will likely be another extreme case.
Facebook Couples Page: Suddenly Facebook is No Longer Cool (Belinda Moreira) – Facebook's new couples pages give people a chance to profess their love in a customized joint profile. What does this new feature say about Facebook?
Mitt Romney is the "Gift" that Keeps on Giving: More Reasons to Be Glad He Lost (George Shunick) – Mitt Romney's claim that "gifts" were the reason Obama won the presidency illustrates how disconnected Republicans are from the electorate and from reality.
What We’re Reading – Why Israel attacked Gaza (National Post); Google Maps app comes to the iPhone (Mashable); What military spouses know about infidelity (Slate); Failure to attract millennials is sinking the GOP (CNN); The knuckleball baffles physicists and hitters alike (Discover Magazine); Meet the world’s poorest president (BBC, tip-off Josh Nuni); The newsonomics of thin ice (Nieman Journalism Lab).