…And the World:
Tensions remain high and attacks escalating as the latest flare-up between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip continues. Israel has stepped up its attacks on Hamas targets, although civilians have been hit in the process. Missiles continue to be fired from Gaza into Israel, but the latter’s Iron Dome has protected much of the country from damage, although it may be distorting Israelis’ connection to the conflict, too. Talks for a ceasefire are reportedly underway in Cairo, where the Muslim Brotherhood, which has ties to Hamas, now runs Egypt. Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports Cairo thinks an agreement is very close.
Barack Obama became the first sitting US President to visit Burma, also known as Myanmar. The six hour visit included visits with leaders such as President Thein Sein and Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a stop by the country’s famed Shwedagon Pagoda. The visit was a reward of sorts for Burma’s remarkable movement toward Democracy over the last year. NPR also has details about the reason why Obama picked Asia for his first foreign tour after reelection.
France’s opposition party, the Union for a Popular Movement, is in a bit of scuffle to pick its successor with both sides claiming victory and charging impropriety. The UMP is in opposition now after its leader, Nicholas Sarkozy lost his bid for reelection against the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, whose only popularity has tanked as the nation fights to avert a recession. The candidates to lead the UMP are François Fillon, the former Prime Minister under Sarkozy, and Jean-François Copé.
Virtually all of the races for the United States House of Representatives have been settled, except it seems for one. Democrats claimed victories in California and Arizona, including in Gabby Giffords‘ district. The only one left is a race in Florida between Tea Party diva Allen West and newcomer Patrick Murphy, which has been the country‘s most expensive. Two recounts of disputed ballots show Murphy leading West outside of the automatic recount margin. West has refused to concede although his legal options are few. Ironically, the recount conducted over the weekend at West’s behest, showed Murphy gaining votes.
New York City will, one way or another, enter a new era in 2014 when somebody other than Michael Bloomberg will be sworn in as mayor. Democrats seem to be culling the massive herd that is expected to seek the nomination and reclaim the mayors office after 20 years. The latest evidence? Manhattan Bureau President Scott Stringer is seeking election as Comptroller instead of mayor. He, along with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and current Comptroller John Liu, had been among the speculated mayoral candidates.
Staying in the Empire State, control of the New York State Senate remains in limbo after a series of odd turns of events. Two races remain too close to call and if Democrats pick up both seats, they would gain control of the chamber. However, a small cabal of “Independent” Democrats who caucus as such remain the lynchpin of Senate control and could pledge allegiance to Republican Dean Skelos, the current Senate leader. Already Skelos has persuaded Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Fender, who was elected as a Dem, to caucus with Republicans.
This whole process takes on national implications, however. Progressives like (Brooklyn resident) Chris Hayes, an MSNBC host and Nation magazine writer, have gone after Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo for staying out of the state Senate imbroglio for political gain. Hayes and Salon.com writer Alex Pareene argue Cuomo would rather have a Republican senate in order to burnish his “bipartisan credentials” ahead of an anticipated 2016 run for President. Both say he has done this even it frustrates much needed legislation like campaign finance reform and other measures he supports like a minimum wage hike. However, complaints from the left are nothing new for Cuomo.
The State of Things:
Governor Deval Patrick has issued a directive for the state to offer in-state tuition to young undocumented immigrants that reside in Massachusetts. Only those who have received work permits under President Obama’s mini-DREAM Act measure announced earlier this year. Such immigrants would need to meet additional stringent requirements to qualify. This would not affect any legal resident or citizen’s access to in-state tuition. Patrick says that this policy, while a far cry from comprehensive immigration reform, is a nod in that direction.
Perhaps setting the stage for further election year spats, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and City Council President Kevin Jourdain are clashing over the schedule of the City Solicitor and more broadly the role of the City Council. While the Solicitor issue involves complications due to the council’s own schedule (and appears less political as it involves Morse’s allies), it seems to be setting the stage for a turbulent second year for Morse.
The Springfield City Council will confront a host of issues this evening. Among them are first actions on changes to its residency ordinance, which has brought support and opposition on the Council. Also on the council’s docket are changes to the Fire Commissioner’s qualifications. The Council is also opening hearings this week to set the city’s residential and business tax rates.
The Council is also expected to vote on money for Union Station, which Pete Goonan at the Republican reports should be kicking off tomorrow.
Springfield has reached a deal with several strip club owners to end a federal lawsuit filed over the city’s 1:00 am entertainment rule. The City will permit select facilities owned by the plaintiffs, mostly strip clubs, to remain open. Others shall observe the 1:00 am closing.
— MTA (@MTAInsider) November 19, 2012
Hurricane Sandy may have been Twitter’s finest moment and into today, that could remain true. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York has engaged in a Herculean effort to restore service after massive flodding in the system like the underground subway. Part of that effort includes the MTA’s effective use of Twitter. Through their handle, the Authority has showed pictures of storm damage (ostensibly to show the extent of the Sandy’s wrath), posted service updates and broadcast other important announced. It may have been imperfect, but on the Twitter side at least, they appear to have done pretty well under the circumstances. Today we award this week’s tweet prize, in part for their overall work, but in particular for this tweet showing the efforts of the Authority to restore some service to the batter Rockaways…in pictures, no less.