1.) The first communication satellite for the December 6 launch of the Ariane 5 ECA (VA216) is on the way to Kourou for its final launch preparations. It is the Astrium built and SES owned ASTRA-5B satellite according to this tweet: https://twitter.com/EADSpress/status/398031655174033408 .
The satellite has arrived in Kourou already according to this press release of SES: http://www.ses.com/4233325/news/2013/16279058.
The second satellite for this launch, Amazonas 4A of HISPASAT should also arrive soon to begin its launch preparations to allow an on-time launch of the Ariane 5 flight necessary for a launch of Gaia on December 20.
2.) ESA has published a new blog post on its Gaia blog concerning the radiation damage that Gaia CCDs will suffer from during the mission. See the post of Berry Holl of DPAC (Data Processing and Analysis Consortium) here: http://blogs.esa.int/gaia/2013/11/06/on-the-edge-of-the-possible/ .