William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 9:50 P.M. ET:

GAS PRICES RISING AGAIN – Thought things were getting better at the pump?  They were, but no longer.  Gas prices have risen eight cents a gallon since hitting a 2012 low of $3.22 in the middle of December.  It will get worse in the coming weeks as crude oil prices are rising.  Note the deep interest on the part of the president, who takes care of the little people. 

CHANGE IN VENEZUELA – Hugo Chavez is reported near death.  Of course, that's been reported before, but this time it appears his situation is truly serious.  The post-Chavez Latin America may become the first challenge for incoming Secretary of State John Kerry, and may give us an early indication of his actual skills.  Under Chavez, Venezuela has been militantly anti-American, and has reportedly become a base for Iran in Latin America. 

IS THE COLLEGE BUBBLE BURSTING? – Obama boasts that he's increasing access to college.  Well, not really.  From Inside Higher Education:   "It’s official: Higher education is shrinking, for the first time in at least 15 years.  Total enrollment at American colleges and universities eligible for federal financial aid fell slightly in the fall of 2011 from the year before, according to preliminary data released Tuesday by the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics.  The data from the department’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System show that 21,554,004 students were enrolled in fall 2011, down from 21,588,124 in fall 2010. While that drop is smaller than two-tenths of one percent, it is the first such dip since at least 1996, according to officials at NCES."  Actually, this may not be a bad thing.  Maybe many families are starting to consider alternatives that are more appropriate for them.

January 5, 2012