The West's love of cheap shirts contributes to the death by inferno of more than 100 workers trapped inside a blazing Bangladesh sweatshop. Since 2006, more than 500 garment factory workers have died in fires there—thanks to "audits" by foreign buyers that fall short of actual inspections, and factories riddled with dangerously shoddy electrical wiring. Strikes are common. But little, besides the death toll, ever seems to change.

Egypt's post-Mubarak government is testing out the notion of checks and balances. After its new Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, claimed sweeping new powers, sending thousands of furious protesters into the streets, the country's judges have since added their voices to the chorus of condemnation. They're now threatening a judges' strike.

Winter is bearing down, and Syria's civil war, begun in warm weather, has still not ended. With little foreign aid for their plight—and after leaving their North Face jackets and knit caps inside their "winter clothes" storage bins in their haste to flee mayhem and violence—thousands of refugees face some long, cold, and uncertain months.

China's "new" aircraft carrier is just a refurbished Soviet-era boat. Yawn?

Keeping decades-old separatist wounds
raw and open, the Spanish region of Catalonia is voting on a secession referendum that the central government has vowed to put down.

Barack Obama gets heaps of shit
for his reliance on drones to hunt down and kill Islamist militants (and also, shhh, scads of civilians). The president, uncertain if he'd stay on after this year, was so worried Willard Romney might be even worse when it came to killing civilians that he started to draft some actual rules for the weapons. Now that he's won? Those rules have yet to emerge.

SHOCK! SURPRISE! The legal-drugs industry uses its boffo money to buy off researchers, pay for experiments, and secure favorable reviews and studies for otherwise-dubious products in prestigious science journals. The government used to fund experiments and promote nonpartisan results—until industry-puppet lawmakers took up the mantle of austerity.

In days, the US Supreme Court will decide if it wants to take up challenges to the federal ban on same-sex marriage—and maybe even consider an ongoing legal challenge to California's Proposition 8.

Hillbilly Panic, Part 1: Barack Obama lost the South, but he did better there than any incumbent Democrat since Jimmy Carter. Why? The South's Atlantic coast—home to half the region's electoral votes—has grown less lily white, more urban, and more attractive to carpet-baggers from more progressive states.

Hillbilly Panic, Part 2: The demolition derby scene is running of out of cars to smash. It's also running out of slackjaws who want to pay money to watch.

Hillbilly Panic, Part 3:
McDonald's suffered its first monthly sales loss in nine years, shaking the fast-food purveyor so profoundly it's going to dink with its famous quarter-pounder in hopes of regaining its mojo.

International party expert Andrew WK on being named our latest ambassador to the strife-torn, autocratic, paternalistic nation-states ruling over the Middle East: "I'm very thankful to the Department of State for giving me the opportunity to visit a place I've never been before. And I feel very privileged and humbled by the chance to represent the United States of America and show the good people of Bahrain the power of positive partying. I can hardly wait for this adventure!"

The planned longshore strike
this morning at the Port of Portland was called off after port leaders late last night finally sent over a contract offer that the port's security guards could get behind.