Monday’s Mini-Report

MONDAY’S MINI-REPORT…. Today’s edition of quick hits:

* Middle East peace: “The pledge by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to push for a new, one-time-only freeze of 90 days on settlement construction in the West Bank represents a bet by the Israelis and the Americans that enough can be accomplished so that the Palestinians will not abandon peace talks even after the freeze ends.”

* Aung San Suu Kyi is finally free in Burma.

* Afghan President Hamid Karzai is increasingly critical of U.S. military operations in his country. Gen. David Petraeus isn’t happy about it.

* On a related, here’s the new phased four-year plan: “The Obama administration has developed a plan to begin transferring security duties in select areas of Afghanistan to that country’s forces over the next 18 to 24 months, with an eye toward ending the American combat mission there by 2014, officials said Sunday.”

* Some encouraging economic news: “Retail sales, helped by strong demand for autos, increased in October by the largest amount in seven months. The Commerce Department reported Monday that retail sales rose 1.2 percent last month. That was nearly double the gain that had been expected and the largest increase since March.”

* Rep. Charlie Rangel’s (D-N.Y.) ethics trial gets underway: “In an ominous sign for Representative Charles B. Rangel, the House ethics committee on Monday said the facts presented by a prosecutor accusing Mr. Rangel of violating Congressional rules were not in dispute and that the congressman himself had not refuted the charges.” (Note: Rangel abruptly left his own proceedings this morning, complaining that he had no lawyer.)

* Thirteen protestors organized by the GetEqual campaign handcuffed themselves to the White House’s north gate today to protest “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I’m not an expert in political protests, but given that the White House already agrees with the demonstrators, wouldn’t it be smarter to take the case to the U.S. Senate, where, you know, the outcome will be decided? If Barack Obama is on your side, and John McCain isn’t, why protest at the White House?

* Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) were sworn in this afternoon. Sen.-elect Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is still waiting for the state to certify his results, and should join the Senate before the end of the month.

* I’m glad President Obama put Sarah Bloom Raskin on the Fed’s Board of Governors: “Sarah Bloom Raskin on Friday used her first public speech as a governor of the Federal Reserve Board to call for major changes to mortgage servicing, saying it’s time for ‘serious and sustained reform.'”

* Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) hates the Affordable Care Act, except when it can fund medical facilities in his state.

* Right-wing Virginia Thomas, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, has stepped down as head of her far-right organization, Liberty Central.

* Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is the latest conservative to announce his distaste for the 17th Amendment.

* Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich doesn’t just want to defeat the left, he wants to “replace the left.”

* Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), soon to be the House Republican Conference chairman, doesn’t appear to know what “cut” means.

* For-profit colleges are still making money, but they’re not enrolling as many students.

* I guess this should be funny, but I’m not altogether pleased to see such widespread recognition for “refudiate.”

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.