Today’s edition of quick hits:
* South Sudan: “The United States on Friday ordered a further reduction of American Embassy staff members in strife-torn South Sudan and said it would cease to provide consular services for its citizens as of Saturday, apparently reflecting a somber assessment of the country’s prospects even as its warring factions were reported to have opened preliminary indirect talks in neighboring Ethiopia.”
* This really is a waste of the judicial system’s time: “A group of Colorado nuns has no reason to appeal the birth control mandate in the health care law because it doesn’t have to provide contraception anyway, the U.S. government argued on Friday. But the Little Sisters of the Poor say they cannot authorize someone else to ‘sin on their behalf.’”
* Iraq: “Days of fighting between black-clad Qaeda militants and Iraq’s security forces took a short-lived respite on Friday as a veneer of calm returned to Falluja, where traffic police and street cleaners resumed work and mosque loudspeakers exhorted stores to reopen so hungry residents could buy food.”
* I ran out of time before I could cover the Harvard study on Oregon, Medicaid, and use of emergency rooms, which is clearly making the rounds. I’ll try to circle back to it, but in the meantime, read Harold Pollack, Austin Frakt, Ron Chusid, and Tara Culp-Ressler and Igor Volsky.
* John Kerry really is swinging for the fences, isn’t he? “His goal is to become the lead broker of a global climate treaty in 2015 that will commit the United States and other nations to historic reductions in fossil fuel pollution.”
* Another gem from Adam Serwer: “A tale of two pot users: OK for elites, illegal for others.”
* For all the private-sector delivery troubles during the holidays, you know who ended up looking pretty great? The U.S. Postal Service (thanks to my colleague Will Femia for the heads-up).
* Parting shots: “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke on Friday reflected on his eight-year tenure at the helm of the nation’s economy, celebrating the central bank’s accomplishments but also highlighting what he called ‘uncompleted tasks.’”
* And the Republican National Committee is seeking feedback from consumers dealing with the Affordable Care Act. Visitors are offered a drop-down menu with a series of options to choose from – none of them positive.
Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.
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