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The December 21 'MHP' Syllabus

The pope is dope, Clarence Aaron will be free, and Janet Yellen might help an economy showing signs of life. Be sure to tip well (we'll cover that, too).
Pope Francis Holds Weekly Audience
Pope Francis greets a group of children as he leaves his weekly Audience in St. Peter's Square on December 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. 

It certainly has been a big year for Pope Francis.

Aside from his obvious major life accomplishment, the new head of the Catholic Church has graced the covers of a few major magazines. He was named TIME’s Person of the Year, and has been outspoken in the fight against poverty. He hasn’t shied away from controversy either, announcing earlier this year that the Church shouldn’t focus so much on social issues like same sex marriage and abortion. He has even been dubbed “the people’s pope” for taking selfies with his flock, kissing babies, praying with immigrants, and washing the feet of children in juvenile detention. 

There has been a whole lot of Federal Reserve talk happening lately, from Janet Yellen, to the Volcker Rule to the tapering of the stimulus program. This week, it was all about tapering and stimulating. Outgoing Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke held a press conference on Wednesday where he announced a gradual reduction in the bond-buying program that the Fed enacted to counter the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. While some thought the market would respond negatively, the Dow Jones closed 293 points higher that day. The Fed’s decision was based on how it sees the state of the economy now and the outlook to come. So what does come next?

And then, the week’s big surprise. President Obama announced that he was commuting the sentence of Clarence Aaron along with seven other crack cocaine offenders. Aaron, a first-time offender, was sentenced in 1993 to three life sentences without parole for his minor role in a non-violent drug deal. Including the eight commutations President Obama made on Thursday, he has only commuted nine sentences during his time in office. On Sunday, our panel will discuss the significance of President Obama’s decision and other progressive moves he is making in his presidency as of late.

It’s the holiday season which means you might be thinking more about how much you’re tipping--whether it’s the mailman, the trash collector or simply at a restaurant. It seems like such a simple act, but in reality, it is a far more complicated tradition. In fact, tipping alone accounts for its own $40 billion/year business. On Sunday, we’re giving you all the info on where tipping came from and where it’s going.

Be sure to read what we’ve linked above, and watch Melissa Harris-Perry Saturday at 10 a.m. EST on MSNBC! Also, don’t forget to join us on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #nerdland.