Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas! What’s not to be jolly about?

Scotch and Soda

Sober up this Christmas with a shot of harsh reality.

Here’s a swig of actual news to wash down all those twee “human interest” pieces sticking in your throat.

Peter Moskowitz, writing for Al Jazeera America, says 2013 was a year of talking about inequality:

OWS members may no longer be on street corners, but the movement’s vocabulary of economic injustice, previously common only on college campuses, has become more accessible to a wide variety of Americans.

This year, as the disparity between rich and poor continued to grow to levels not seen since 1928, the nation’s new consciousness about the economy allowed income inequality to take hold of the country’s conscience. Indeed, 2013 was the year of thinking and talking about income inequality. As judged by how frequently we search Google, Americans’ curiosity about income inequality has been high since Occupy started in 2011, but recently spiked beyond 2011’s levels — and the conversation extended well beyond the Internet.

This year, there were revelations that median wages have remained flat for 10 years, that corporations continued to receive record-breaking tax breaks, that CEO pay has risen astronomically in the past few decades, and that the bottom and top income brackets continue to grow further apart.

While there were some minor policy changes passed that could help lessen that gap — such as many local minimum-wage campaigns; there were many, such as repeated cuts to food stamps and unemployment benefits, that seem to promise to widen the chasm further. But the conversation has begun and if 2013 was a year of public awareness about income inequality, maybe 2014 will be the year something is done about it.

At least 37 people are dead after bombings in Baghdad’s Christian neighborhoods:

The biggest blast happened near a church after a Christmas service. …

The assaults included a car bomb that went off next to a Christian church in the Doura district of the Iraqi capital after a Christmas service, a police officer confirmed, according to AP. The attack killed at least 26 people and wounded 38 others. Most of the victims were Christians.

Earlier on Wednesday, two bombs exploded simultaneously at an outdoor market in the same area of Doura, killing 11 people and wounding 21 others. The figures were confirmed by a medical official.

The Wiyot people are renewing their Native American culture 150 years after a brutal massacre by white settlers:

When a few canoes carrying a group of Wiyot tribal members to Indian Island cross the choppy waters of Humboldt Bay in March, it will not look as if anything particularly special is happening. The nondescript, flat, marshy 275-acre island sits beneath a bridge upon which traffic whizzes by on busy Route 255. But what will take place will be remarkable: 153 years after Indian Island was the site of a brutal massacre of the Wiyot, it will bear witness to a ceremony of rebirth and testament of survival for a people brought to the brink of extinction.

For three days, beginning March 28, the Wiyot plan to perform a world renewal ceremony on the island. It will be the first time since the massacre that the ceremony — which once stood at the center of the tribe’s cultural life — has been performed, healing a gap of more than a century and a half. For the tribe’s current members, it’s especially meaningful that the ceremony will take place on the very land where so many of their ancestors were killed. ’We need to complete the ceremony of 1860 for the ones who were lost,’ said Ted Hernandez, chairman of the 645-member tribe.

The ceremony will act as a marker on a long and unlikely journey of survival. It is not easy to recover from a massacre, and that year the endured one of the worst ethnic slaughters in U.S. history as they danced and sang at a world renewal ceremony on Indian Island.

A posse of white settlers sneaked through the darkness one night in 1860 and murdered more than 50 Native American women and children, mostly with axes and hatchets. ’Amidst the wailing of mutilated infants,’ The San Francisco Bulletin wrote at the time, ‘the savage blows are given, cutting through bone and brain.’

The Guardian takes a long, hard look at those hurt by Food Stamp cuts:

Deep cuts to the US food stamps programme, designed to keep low-income Americans out of hunger in the aftermath of the economic recession, have forced increasing numbers of families such as theirs to rely on food banks and community organisations to stave off hunger.An expansion of the programme, put in place when the recession was biting deepest, was allowed to expire in November, cutting benefits for an estimated 48 million people, including 22 million children, by an average of 7%. Republicans in the House of Representatives have proposed $38bn cuts over 10 years, in their latest version of a long-delayed farm bill that would also require new work requirements and drug tests for food stamp recipients.

Even since the November cuts took effect, those involved in emergency food distribution reported higher demand and longer lines, with new clients they had not seen before. The San Antonio Food Bank says donations are up 16% But because of the cuts to Snap the supplies disappear faster. Eric Cooper, the CEO, said: ‘For me, October, November and December is harvest season. Our community is at [its] best. There’s a great spirit of the holidays and giving is at its peak. But when I go into the warehouse, there are a lot of empty shelves. It used to last longer. Demand is outpacing supply.’

The food bank’s 535 partner agencies, food pantries and kitchens across 16 counties in southwest Texas, are ordering more food, Cooper said. ‘They are reporting longer lines and they are seeing people sooner in the month.’

Like me, you are probably reading this in a warm, secure home.  I hope you have enough to eat tonight and, if you’re lucky enough to have the day off (or work from home, like me) some family or friends around you. Take this time to recharge if you can — but remember, we have work to do.

Feel free to share your ‘actual news’ links in the comments!

Photo by Beau Considine released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license.