Wednesday, November 30, 2011

THE FED - Questions About Loans to Banks

"Fed Faces New Scrutiny for Trillions in Assistance to Banks After Crisis" PBS Newshour 11/29/2011


JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Next, new questions about the money the Federal Reserve (aka The Fed) provided to banks in the wake of the financial crisis.

Bloomberg magazine published a report this week detailing loans made by the Fed in 2008 and 2009, loans that totaled more than a trillion dollars on a single day in December 2008, and more than $7 trillion in loans and other commitments to saving the financial system between 2007 and 2010.

The extent of the loans to specific banks wasn't revealed to Congress at the time. The article also says that banks earned billions of dollars of profits on these loans, and that a number of Wall Street firms borrowed money even as they publicly told investors that their financial position was strong.

The Fed, meanwhile, has defended the actions, saying that its assistance was critical to saving the financial system.

We look at this more closely now with one of the reporters who has been investigating this for Bloomberg News, Bob Ivry.

INTERNET - Open Letter on "IP Act" and "Online Piracy Act"

"An open letter to Senator Leahy regarding Internet censorship" on Newsgroups: alt.politics.usa.constitution

Dear Senator Leahy;

I am very concerned about the over-reaching authority which appears to be in the Protect IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act.




I am a software developer on the Internet. My main site is which I have owned since 1998. I am working on a "quality discernment system" to advance the concept of an "intelligent web."

An integral part of the vision I hold is for individuals to "endorse" specific URL's on the web. These URL's could be something I call "metalinks" which are basically re-programmable re-directs to other web sites. These MetaLinks allow people to make a short, easy-to-
remember link for a web search or a web page.

For example, will redirect you to Energy Prices at Bloomburg. will produce a search of news for "occupy" at Google news. There are many other search engines which are being included in this syntax at

For example, will take people to Wikipedia's entry for Vermont. I didn't program this metalink specifically. It is automatic. You can search for any word or phrase by substituting your word(s) for "vermont" in this URL.

In similar fashion will take people to the weather for Burlington, VT and will take people to the current time in Paris. There are several dozen of these interfaces to other web sites and there will be hundreds, even thousands more in the near future.

I am concerned that the legislation currently being considered will limit the development of new technology to create an "intelligent web."

While the Metalinks currently in use have all been defined by someone I plan to allow intelligent software to create metalinks in the future.

It would be unwise to restrict the use of intelligent software to define links in my opinion. It's wrong to assume that all links are created by individuals operating independent of each other. Links could be a result of composite or collaborative intelligence.

In the future, metalinks will represent our "collective intelligence" or "community wisdom." That's what I'm working on now. I'm working to
create an "intelligent web." The concept I am working with is "augmented human intelligence" rather than "artificial intelligence."

I am asking you to put this legislation on the shelf for a minimum of 30 days, until 2012, so that there can be more input by the public and
a more careful analysis of what it means for all of us.

Consideration is a virtue. Please consider the effects this legislation would have on me and others who are working to advance the evolution of human intelligence on the Internet.


Steve Moyer
Internet Developer
Founder, NODES Network ( see what can be done with my technology )

P.S. You can see a link of all the Metalinks currently in existence, not including automatic search interfaces, at

LAW - Effectiveness of DoJ Cyber Monday Crackdown

"How Effective Is Justice Department Crackdown on Counterfeit Goods Dealers?" PBS Newshour 11/29/2011


GWEN IFILL (Newshour): We look now at the government crackdown on the online sale of counterfeit goods. The Justice Department used Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year, to shut down 150 websites that were allegedly peddling fake shoes, sporting goods and handbags. But was this the right approach?

Joining us to discuss that are Steve Tepp, chief intellectual property counsel at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Larry Downes, author of "The Laws of Disruption," a book about law and innovation in the digital age.

More significant excerpts

STEVE TEPP, U.S. Chamber of Commerce: It's a massive problem that's growing every day, because many of these sites are located outside the United States, where there is no remedy.

For the sites located in the U.S., or at least where their domain name is registered in the U.S., dot-com, dot-net, then our enforcement agencies, like the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Justice, who are both doing fantastic work on this, protecting the American people, can go to court and seize those domains with a court order.

That's what happened yesterday, and that's 150 domain names that will not be used to steal American jobs, to harm American consumers today.
LARRY DOWNES, "The Laws of Disruption": Well, first, it should be noted that, you know, what we're seizing here is not the website itself, just the domain name. It's a largely symbolic act.

What happens is, the site is still there. It can be accessed directly from the I.P. address. Or what often happens is the site comes back a little bit later under another domain name. So whether that is effective or not, it doesn't matter.

AFRICA - Egypt, Congo, and the Vote

"Millions Turn Out to Vote in Egypt, Congo Elections" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 11/29/2011

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): At different ends of the African continent today, millions of people are voting in two separate elections, one in Egypt, the other in Congo.

Margaret Warner has our story.

For a second day, voters across Egypt lined up in overwhelming numbers for a chance to make history.

MAN: I think it's a good experience for all Egyptians to have true elections and to give his voice to the one who deserve it and to begin a new time of democracy.

MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): For some, that meant a wait of seven hours or more on Monday in the country's first parliamentary election since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted last February. Voting hours were extended to midnight in some precincts to cope with the crowds.

ABDEL MOAZ IBRAHIM, Egyptian Elections Committee (through translator): We were surprised at the high turnout of voters. It was higher than expected.

MARGARET WARNER: The voting proceeded peacefully both days, with no reports of violence at polling places, as had been feared.

Generals of the ruling military council said the voting validated the way they have managed the political process since Mubarak left office. But just last week, they faced huge protests in Cairo by impatient Egyptians accusing the military of trying to cling to power. More than 40 people were killed.

The election of nearly 500 members of the parliament's lower chamber is taking place in three stages across the country. The first, including Cairo and Alexandria, with voting this week and run-offs next week, ends Dec. 6. The second, predominantly in the north, ends Dec. 22. And the final one in remaining regions ends Jan. 11.

Partial results from this first round could come tomorrow, but the full makeup of the lower house won't be known until all rounds are complete. Then elections for the upper house of parliament will run from January into March.

Farther south, national elections produced a very different picture in Congo, Sub-Saharan Africa's largest country, with 68 million people. Yesterday's presidential and parliamentary vote had to be extended into a second day, after being marred by violence, including an attack on a truck carrying ballots that left at least five people dead.

Incumbent President Joseph Kabila is seeking re-election against 10 opposition candidates. Kabila assumed the presidency of the former Belgian colony once known as Zaire after the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila, 10 years ago. The elder Kabila led the revolution that brought down the country's dictator of 32 years, Mobutu Sese Seko.

That plunged the country into two civil wars lasting nearly a decade, until a peace agreement produced the country's first democratic election in 2006. At least one candidate in this new vote has already claimed fraud and called for the results to be voided. And that in turn has ignited fears of new political violence in a country whose eastern region is still controlled by militias and rebel groups.

"In Egypt and Congo, Questions of Election Legitimacy Remain" (Part-2)
PBS Newshour 11/29/2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

CHILDREN - Chicago Beating Death of Child

"Two charged in beating death of child" by Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune 11/29/2011

Mom, boyfriend used makeup to conceal boy's bruises, prosecutors say

A Southwest Side boy found fatally beaten on his fourth birthday had been abused repeatedly by his mother and her boyfriend, who used makeup to conceal the child's bruises, prosecutors said Monday.

Cesar Ruiz, 34, and Crystal Valdez, 28, were each charged with first-degree murder and concealment of a homicide in the death of Valdez's son, Christopher.

Bail was set at $2.5 million for Ruiz and $750,000 for Valdez by Cook County Judge Donald Panarese Jr.

Valdez bowed her head and sniffled during the hearing, sobbed loudly and then said, "I didn't do anything!" as she was led out of the courtroom to the lockup.

Last month, Valdez had been found guilty of domestic battery for a beating in July that left Christopher with a black eye, swelling and bruises, records show. In that case, she was sentenced to one year of conditional discharge and ordered to take parenting classes.

But Christopher was allowed to remain in his mother's care after an investigation by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services found in August that allegations of abuse were "unfounded," agency spokesman Jimmie Whitelow said.

The agency found "credible evidence" to support a finding of child neglect against Valdez, Whitelow said. He could not provide more specific information or say whether the agency took any action against Valdez as a result of the neglect finding.

On Thanksgiving, relatives noticed Christopher had a swollen eye and bruises on his body and was throwing up, Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Maureen Hughes said.

When Valdez's brother and sister-in-law went to Valdez's home in the 5100 block of South Trumbull Avenue on Friday, they found Christopher dead, under a blanket, with "bruises all over his body" that had been covered up with makeup, Hughes said.

"(Valdez) started yelling that (Ruiz) did it," Hughes said. "(Ruiz) then said he was sorry."

Ruiz admitted in a videotaped statement to police that he grabbed the boy, spanked him and hit him in the side several times, then covered the boy's injuries with makeup, Hughes said. Valdez also admitted that she hit her son and said she had seen her boyfriend hitting Christopher and "kneeing him in the stomach repeatedly" on Thanksgiving and again Friday.

DCFS placed Christopher's 5-year-old sister with relatives after the boy's death, according to Whitelow. Court records show Valdez has two other children, 11 and 10, who were already in the care of relatives at the time.

Ruiz's sister, Maria Castillo, said outside court that her brother was not a violent person. She said Christopher never should have been allowed to stay with his mother after her conviction.

"I can't sleep at night thinking about what happened to that child," Castillo said. "I'm so sorry for that."

My gut-feeling punishment of ALL child abusers, put them necked on a spit over hot coals and slow-roast for hours.

IRAN - British Embassy Stormed

"Iran students storm U.K. Embassy in Tehran" AP, CBS News 11/29/2011


Hard-line Iranian students stormed the British diplomatic compounds in Tehran on Tuesday, bringing down the Union Jack flag and throwing documents from windows in scenes reminiscent of the anger against Western powers after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The mob surged past riot police into British Embassy compound two days after Iran's parliament approved a bill that reduces diplomatic relations with Britain following London's support of recently upgraded Western sanctions on Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.

Less than two hours later, police appeared to regain control of the site. But the official IRNA news agency said about 300 protesters entered the British ambassador's residence in another part of the city and replaced British flags with Iranian ones.The British Foreign Office harshly denounced the melee and said Iran has a "clear duty" under international law to protect diplomats and offices.

"We are outraged by this," said the statement. "It is utterly unacceptable and we condemn it."

It said a "significant number" of protesters entered the compound and caused vandalism, but gave no other details on damage or whether diplomatic staff was inside the embassy, although the storming occurred after business hours.

The semiofficial Mehr news agency said embassy staff had left the compound before the mobs entered.

Western governments should realize that according to Iranian doctrine we are Satan, therefore they have an obligation to ignore International Law.

POLITICS - Fair Well to a Fine Liberal

"Barney Frank: A passionate liberal who mattered" by John Nichols , CBS News 11/29/2011

(The Nation) Barney Frank came to Congress as a liberal and will leave as such--not a perfect progressive on every issue but a steady liberal who served a term as president of the Americans for Democratic Action and whose latest rating from the defenders of New Deal/Fair Deal/Great Society programs was a pure 100 percent.

That does not mean that there were not instances where Frank, a former Massachusetts legislator who arrived (to fill former the Rev. Robert Drinan's seat) in 1980 and who will leave the House at the close of his current term, was always on the right (make that the left) side of the fight. But even where he was forced to accept compromises, he did so as a man of government who argued with passion and certainty that legislators should stand up to bankers, bigots and bloated Pentagon budgets.

Barney Frank to retire from Congress

The Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation of 2010, which the Massachusetts congressman played such a pivotal role in crafting and passing, pulled some punches that should have been thrown at the big banks and the Wall Street speculators. But Frank would argue--with some credibility--that as the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Financial Services Committee, he had to bend at times in order to enact realistic reforms. Just as he may have to bend in order to maintain the complex coalitions that will be required to implement the legislation.

It is the challenge of defending the financial reform legislation that Frank said Monday he hopes to focus on in his last year on Capitol Hill.

"In 2010, after the bill was signed into law, I had tentatively decided to make this my last term. The end of next year will mark 40 years during which time I have held elected office and a period of 45 years since I first went to work in government full time as an aide to Mayor Kevin White in late 1967," explained Frank, who is 71 and admitted that he was not looking forward to seeking re-election in a reconfigured through still Democratic district. "But with the election of a conservative majority in the House, I decided that my commitment to the public policies for which I have fought for 45 years required me to run for one more term. I was--and am--concerned about right-wing assaults on the financial reform bill, especially since we are now in a very critical period when the bill is in the process of implementation. In addition, recognizing that there is a need for us to do long-term deficit reduction, I was--and am--determined to do everything possible to make sure that substantial reduction in our excessive overseas military commitments forms a significant part of the savings over the next 10 years. But, my concern for these two issues today cuts very much in the opposite direction--namely, in favor of forgoing a year-long full-time election campaign and instead focusing the next year on those two issues in Congress."

So Frank will wrestle with House Republicans and disappointing Democrats over the next year. And Americans will be lucky to have him in the fight, even if they may get frustrated with some of the compromises that are required.

Where Frank will not refuse to compromise, however--indeed, where he has consistently refused to compromise--is in his advocacy for civil rights, especially, though never exclusively, the advancement of gay and lesbian rights. Long before 1987, when he came out and instantly became the most prominent openly gay member of the Congress, Frank was outspoken in his advocacy for equal protection under the law. And he was perhaps most effective because, though his reputation was that of a fighter, Frank went out of his way to put the case for LGBT rights in context--and to make that case to middle America.

Several years ago, when conservative Congressman John Hostettler, R-Indiana, accused Frank of promoting "a radical homosexual agenda," the congressman from Massachusetts countered: "I do have things I would like to see adopted on behalf of LGBT people: they include the right to marry the individual of our choice; the right to serve in the military to defend our country; and the right to a job based solely on our own qualifications."

It was Frank's long record of forthright advocacy that led National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey to respond to the congressman's decision to retire after sixteen terms in the House with a reflection that: "Barney Frank is one of kind. He has brought his own brand of brashness, boldness, unmatched wit, discipline and skill to Capitol Hill, at times ingratiating and infuriating friend and foe alike. We thank him for his years of service. As an openly gay member of Congress for nearly a quarter century, Barney Frank has made his mark on history. Yet his legacy is much more than that--for thirty years, he has dedicated himself to bettering the lives of the people he serves, and the country he serves. His voice--often loud and uncompromising--will be missed by many, including me."

Frank was such a steady and notable national presence for so many years that it is fair to say different liberals and progressives will miss different elements of the man.

But for those of us who believe that the United States cannot afford to continue to steer its largesse into wars of whim, failed weapons systems and the employment of mercenaries and free-spending "contractors" to police the world, there will be much regret at the loss of Frank's steady advocacy for deep cuts in Pentagon budgets.

Frank has long argued that an important place to begin balancing budgets is with a serious re-examination of defense spending.

And last year, he teamed with libertarian Republican Ron Paul to make the case for cuts.

This unlikely pairing (which also aligned to support legalization of marijuana) led the fight to get the federal deficit reduction commission to, in Frank's words, focus on the fact that "unless there is a substantial reduction in American military expenditures over a ten-year period close to if not slightly over a trillion dollars over what's proposed--that is at $100 billion a year--you simply cannot deal with deficit reduction in a way that is economically and socially responsible."

Frank--working with Paul, North Carolina Republican Congressman Walter Jones and Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden--put together a remarkable left-right coalition of budget and defense-policy analysts in a "Sustainable Defense Task Force" that included everyone from the Center for American Progress's Larry Korb, Peace Action's Paul Martin and the Institute for Policy Studies's Miriam Pemberton to Laura Peterson of Taxpayers for Common Sense and Christopher Preble, the director of foreign policy studies for the libertarian Cato Institute.

Based on the task force's recommendations, Frank and Paul made the rounds of the blogosphere, cable television and talk radio to propose Pentagon cutbacks. As such, they have become the most recognizable, and politically potent, proponents of a serious approach to deficit reduction.

Here is the argument that Frank and Paul made on behalf of fiscal common sense:

As members of opposing political parties, we disagree on a number of important issues. But we must not allow honest disagreement over some issues to interfere with our ability to work together when we do agree.

By far the single most important of these is our current initiative to include substantial reductions in the projected level of American military spending as part of future deficit reduction efforts. For decades, the subject of military expenditures has been glaringly absent from public debate. Yet the Pentagon budget for 2010 is $693 billion--more than all other discretionary spending programs combined. Even subtracting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military spending still amounts to over 42% of total spending.

It is irrefutably clear to us that if we do not make substantial cuts in the projected levels of Pentagon spending, we will do substantial damage to our economy and dramatically reduce our quality of life. We are not talking about cutting the money needed to supply American troops in the field. Once we send our men and women into battle, even in cases where we may have opposed going to war, we have an obligation to make sure that our service-members have everything they need. And we are not talking about cutting essential funds for combating terrorism; we must do everything possible to prevent any recurrence of the mass murder of Americans that took place on September 11, 2001.

Immediately after World War II, with much of the world devastated and the Soviet Union becoming increasingly aggressive, America took on the responsibility of protecting virtually every country that asked for it. Sixty-five years later, we continue to play that role long after there is any justification for it, and currently American military spending makes up approximately 44% of all such expenditures worldwide. The nations of Western Europe now collectively have greater resources at their command than we do, yet they continue to depend overwhelmingly on American taxpayers to provide for their defense. According to a recent article in the New York Times, "Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism. Europeans have benefited from low military spending, protected by NATO and the American nuclear umbrella."

When our democratic allies are menaced by larger, hostile powers, there is a strong argument to be made for supporting them. But the notion that American taxpayers get some benefit from extending our military might worldwide is deeply flawed. And the idea that as a superpower it is our duty to maintain stability by intervening in civil disorders virtually anywhere in the world often generates anger directed at us and may in the end do more harm than good.

We believe that the time has come for a much quicker withdrawal from Iraq than the President has proposed. We both voted against that war, but even for those who voted for it, there can be no justification for spending over $700 billion dollars of American taxpayers' money on direct military spending in Iraq since the war began, not including the massive, estimated long-term costs of the war. We have essentially taken on a referee role in a civil war, even mediating electoral disputes. In order to create a systematic approach to reducing military spending, we have convened a Sustainable Defense Task Force consisting of experts on military expenditures that span the ideological spectrum. The task force has produced a detailed report with specific recommendations for cutting Pentagon spending by approximately $1 trillion over a ten year period. It calls for eliminating certain Cold War weapons and scaling back our commitments overseas. Even with these changes, the United States would still be immeasurably stronger than any nation with which we might be engaged, and the plan will in fact enhance our security rather than diminish it.

We are currently working to enlist the support of other members of Congress for our initiative. Along with our colleagues Senator Ron Wyden and Congressman Walter Jones, we have addressed a letter to the President's National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which he has convened to develop concrete recommendations for reducing the budget deficit. We will make it clear to leaders of both parties that substantial reductions in military spending must be included in any future deficit reduction package. We pledge to oppose any proposal that fails to do so.

In the short term, rebuilding our economy and creating jobs will remain our nation's top priority. But it is essential that we begin to address the issue of excessive military spending in order to ensure prosperity in the future. We may not agree on what to do with the estimated $1 trillion in savings, but we do agree that nothing either of us cares deeply about will be possible if we do not begin to face this issue now.

That was hardly a radical statement.

Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates has referred to Pentagon spending as "the gusher" and dismissed the notion that it is difficult to find waste, fraud and abuse in a budget that "adds up to about what the entire rest of the world combined spends on defense."

"Only in the parallel universe that is Washington, DC, would that be considered 'gutting' defense," says Gates, who has done a great service by opening the space for honest debate about defense spending.

Barney Frank--with a crucial assist from Republicans such as Ron Paul--filled that space. As Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald Seib noted, "Reps. Paul and Frank are doing more than writing a blog post.... These two odd-fellow members of Congress are harbingers of things to come. Annual defense spending has more than doubled over the last decade, largely because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But now the deficit is high, the debt is growing, and those wars are winding down, one way or another. So the parallel move to wind down Pentagon spending is coming. The only questions are how big the urge to curb will be, and what form it will take."

It is unfortunate that not just Frank but also Paul plans to retire when the current Congress completes its work. They brought a realistic approach to deficit reduction that began with an understanding that the place to begin is with necessary cuts to a bloated-beyond-belief Pentagon budget.

And so, two from opposite sides who knew how to govern by compromise fade away.

The Tea Party Virus (causes No-Compromise Psychosis) spreads.

CALIFORNIA - Occupy LA Going to Court

"Occupy LA asking court to stop eviction" by CNN Wire Staff, CNN News 11/29/2011


Refusing to leave their camp at Los Angeles' City Hall, Occupy protesters were seeking a federal court injunction to block their removal.

According to the complaint filed Monday, posted on the website of the Los Angeles Times, protesters are asking the court to address what they claim is "an unconstitutional deprivation of access to a traditional public forum, the south lawn of City Hall, for First Amendment activity."

Protesters say enforcement of the city's "anti-camping" provision is left up to the whim of the police. Recently, they note in the complaint, protesters were allowed to camp at a park to get a wrist band for free medical services; approximately 500 movie fans camped out on sidewalks for several days ahead of the first midnight showing of the new "Twilight" movie; and more than 1,000 people camped out ahead of the "Twilight" premiere, forcing a street closure.

"Even on Skid Row, just blocks from City Hall and around the corner from the Central LAPD station, each year families camp on the sidewalk for days to get free school supplies distributed by the Fred Jordan Mission," according to the documents. "Each of these 'camping' events is highly publicized in the media, takes place in highly-trafficked areas and could not possibly be an unnoticed and unintentional exception to enforcement of the municipal code."

The City Council has "expressly affirmed" that the Occupy LA demonstrators are within their First Amendment rights, the documents said, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, in ordering them to leave, overstepped his authority.

The protesters have held their ground and rallied on Monday, defying a 12:01 a.m deadline to disperse. Four people were arrested, but police then pulled back.

NORWAY - Mass Killer Insane

"Psychiatric evaluation finds Norway killer insane" AP, USA Today 11/29/2011

Confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik was insane when he killed 77 people in a bomb and shooting rampage in Norway, and should be sent to a psychiatric ward instead of prison, prosecutors said Tuesday.

A psychiatric evaluation ordered by an Oslo court found that Breivik was "psychotic" during the July 22 attacks — the country's worst peacetime massacre — which means he's not mentally fit to be sentenced to prison, prosecutors told reporters.

The conclusions, which will be reviewed by a panel of forensic psychiatrists, contrasted with comments made by the head of that board after the attacks. Dr. Tarjei Rygnestad at the time told who told The Associated Press that it was unlikely that Breivik would be declared legally insane because the attacks were so carefully planned and executed.

"The conclusions of the forensic experts is that Anders Behring Breivik was insane," prosecutor Svein Holden said, adding Breivik was in a state of psychosis during the attacks.

In their report, the experts describe a man "who finds himself in his own delusional universe, where all his thoughts and acts are governed by these delusions," Holden said. "They conclude that Anders Behring Breivik during a long period of time has developed the mental disorder of paranoid schizophrenia, which has changed him and made him into the person he is today."

In Norway, an insanity defense requires that a defendant be in a state of psychosis while committing the crime with which he or she is charged. That means the defendant has lost contact with reality to the point that he's no longer in control of his own actions.

The 243-page report will be reviewed by a panel from the Norwegian Board of Forensic Medicine, which could ask for additional information and add its own opinions.

On Tuesday, Rygnestad, who heads that board told AP that his comments in July were based on "secondary information" and that a person's mental state can only be determined through in-depth analysis. He said he had not read the full report yet.

ECONOMY - American Airlines Bankrupt! (updated)

"American Airlines Parent AMR Corp. Files for Bankruptcy" by Phil Milford, Bloomberg 11/29/2011

American Airlines parent AMR Corp. (AMR) filed for bankruptcy after failing to secure cost-cutting labor agreements and sitting out a round of mergers that dropped it from the world’s largest airline to No. 3 in the U.S.

With the filing, American became the final large U.S. full-fare airline to seek court protection from creditors. The Fort Worth, Texas-based company, which traces its roots to 1920s airmail operations in the Midwest, listed $24.7 billion in assets and $29.6 billion in debt in Chapter 11 papers filed today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.

“They will have to go through the whole process that their peers have gone through,” John Strickland, an aviation analyst at JLS Consulting in London, said today in a telephone interview. “It’s painful but probably necessary. They have fallen behind what others have done.”

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gerard Arpey, 53, will retire and be replaced by Thomas Horton, AMR said. Normal flight schedules will continue on American and its American Eagle regional unit, along with the airline’s frequent-flier program, the company said.

AMR was determined to avoid Chapter 11 in the years after the 2001 terrorist attacks, as peers used bankruptcy to shed costly pension and retiree benefit plans and restructure debt. American later watched as rival carriers combined, giving them larger route networks that were more attractive to lucrative corporate travel customers.

Stalled Talks

American was embroiled in negotiations with unions for all of its major work groups as far back as 2006, seeking to boost employee productivity and erase part of what it said was an $800 million labor-cost disadvantage to other carriers.

The airline and leaders of its pilots’ union were scheduled to meet with federal mediators on Dec. 6 to provide an update on contract talks that stalled two weeks ago. The two sides hadn’t set a date to resume negotiations since Allied Pilots Association leaders declined to send a Nov. 14 contract offer to union members for a vote, saying it “clearly” would be rejected.

American’s pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and baggage handlers wanted to use the contract talks to regain some of the $1.6 billion in annual concessions they gave in 2003 to help the company avoid bankruptcy.

AMR shares have plunged 79 percent this year and analysts including Philip Baggaley of Standard & Poor’s have warned the company could face a cash crisis during the next 12 months without new labor agreements.

Unsecured Creditors

Among the company’s largest unsecured creditors listed in court papers was Wilmington Trust Corp., trustee for holders of $460 million in 6.25 percent convertible senior notes due in 2014. The bankruptcy filing included AMR American Eagle Holding Corp., AMR’s regional airline that ferries passengers from smaller cities to hub airports.

AMR on Sept. 27 sold $725.7 million of 10-year bonds backed by aircraft to refinance maturing debt. The company paid the highest interest rates since 2009 to raise the cash.

American had blamed higher labor costs, as well as benefits that have increased more slowly than expected from business ventures with partners across the Atlantic and Pacific, in part for its failure to return to profit. The airline also has a fleet of older, less fuel-efficient planes that put it at a disadvantage when fuel prices rise.

“Airlines still face that fundamental issues of cost levels versus achievable revenues in the market place,” Strickland, the JLS analyst, said. “Higher fuel prices and the weaker U.S. economy would have given them the final push.”

Lindbergh’s Employer

American Airlines was formed from companies including Robertson Aircraft Corp. of Missouri, which employed Charles A. Lindbergh as a mail pilot, according to the carrier’s website. The companies began consolidating in 1929 and became American Airlines in 1934.

Company stock began trading in 1939, and during World War II, half of American’s planes flew for the Air Transport Command. American pioneered nonstop transcontinental service in 1953 and 20 years later was the first major airline to hire a woman pilot, according to its website.

The case is In re AMR Corp., 11-15463 U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

"Employees Expected to 'Bear the Burden' of American Airlines Bankruptcy"
PBS Newshour 11/29/2011

EGYPT - Two Stories on Election Day

"In a Surprise, Calm Prevails in Egypt’s Elections" by DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, New York Times 11/28/2011


Unexpectedly large crowds of Egyptians on Monday defied predictions of bedlam and violence to cast their votes in the first parliamentary elections since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

The apparent success of the initial voting surprised the voters themselves. After a week of violent demonstrations against the interim military rulers, many said they had cast their ballots out of a sense of duty and defiance, determined to reclaim the promise of their revolution, even as the ruling generals said they intended to share little power with the new Parliament.

“The revolution started so that our voice has a value, so we have to do what we are supposed to do,” said Lilian Rafat, 23, who stood in line for more than four hours, even though she put the chances of a legitimate result at only about “50 percent.”

But the large turnout on Monday, despite long delays and sporadic violence, raised the possibility that when the last phase of voting is completed in March, the process may result in the first broadly representative Parliament in more than six decades. The opening appeared to bring the Muslim Brotherhood, a once-outlawed Islamist group, one step closer to a formal role in governing Egypt. And, for the first time in 10 months, it offered the promise of moving the debate over Egypt’s future off the streets and into the new legislature.

For now, though, the act of voting itself appeared to vent to the public’s anger after a week of clashes that brought hundreds of thousands out in Cairo to demand that the military hand over power to a civilian government. Abandoning talk of a boycott, protest leaders urged supporters to go to the polls. And the diversion, along with a swell of pride in the historic vote, drained the continuing occupation of Tahrir Square to just a few thousand demonstrators.

"Egypt's elections go smoothly amid protests" by Sarah Lynch, USA Today 11/29/2011

Widal Abdel Ghany emerged from her polling place Monday holding up an ink-stained thumb.

"Egypt, Egypt!" yelled the 49-year-old nurse after voting for the first time .

People waited in lines that ran hundreds of yards outside polling stations surrounded by police and soldiers in what many Egyptians regarded as the first free elections in decades. Men and women were in separate lines so long authorities extended voting by two hours. But overall the voting was smooth, election monitors said.

Previous elections were usually rigged by the Egyptian dictatorships until the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

Political opponents were banned or jailed in the past and election results were widely considered to be fraudulent.

Monday's elections are for the lower house of parliament and will be held in three rounds over the next two months. But not all were pleased.

Protesters continued to occupy Tahrir Square, where clashes between security forces and protesters broke out Nov. 19. The violence sparked clashes across the country that lasted six days, leaving more than 40 dead.

Demonstrators were demanding that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, ruling since Mubarak's departure, be replaced by a civilian body until a president is elected in mid-2012.

"We are having elections during a sit-in, during demonstrations and violence by security forces against civilians," said Kamel Saleh of the Social Democratic Party. "This is not a good atmosphere to hold an election because it will scare voters, resulting in misrepresentation and skew the balance of power."

Many feared violence would break out at polling stations, but the mood was generally subdued.

"We expected some clashes," said Ramadan Mahmoud, 60, as he watched people line up to vote. "But when we got here, we saw that everything was calm."

Polls indicated that the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, is expected to win the most sizable portion of seats in parliament of any party. Some analysts predict Islamists — Brotherhood candidates and Salafi Muslims who practice a hard-line strain of Islam — likely will win a majority of seats.

The electoral law was modified significantly leading up to elections in a supposed attempt to ensure that all parties and minorities are represented in the parliament.

Voters cast ballots that had individuals and party lists. Independent candidates were running for one-third of parliament's 498 seats, and two-thirds of seats were reserved for winning party lists. Also, half of the seats were allotted to "farmers" and "workers."

"We've moved from probably the simplest form, which was a majoritarian system, to probably the most complex of electoral systems, which is a mixed system," said Mazen Hassan, a lecturer in political science at Cairo University.

Among concerns are the complicated ways votes will be counted, such as the difference between how votes are calculated for independent candidates vs. those for parties.

"There are mathematical calculations that everyday Egyptians won't be able to follow," Hassan said. "If justice needs to be watched and understood, that will be difficult. Not all people will understand how votes translate into seats."

Problems were already seen Monday. Some polls opened an hour or two late. Additionally, the Egyptian Coalition for Electoral Observation documented violations in the form of non-stamped ballot papers, and thuggish acts that in one case prevented voters from reaching the polls.

"The observers also noticed electoral bribing in few voting centers, which was familiar before the Egyptian revolution," the group said in a statement published on its website.

Some political parties boycotted the election, claiming that under military rule, elections will be illegitimate.

"We cannot get a clean election while Mubarak's army generals are still in charge," said Hossam al Hamalawy, a member of both the Democratic Workers Party and the Revolutionary Socialists group, which are boycotting the elections. "Police who are supposed to be securing the ballot boxes are the same ones who have been murdering us for the last days, months and years."

In Tahrir Square, demonstrators staged a sit-in to continue to pressure the military generals ruling the country to resign.

"Being in Tahrir is the first step in the revolution," said Mahmoud El Sharkowy, 25, with the Egyptian flag painted on his face. "The second step is getting the military council to leave, and the third step is elections."

Most, however, have say that political battles will be won at the polls.

"There are two different forms of fighting for the cause of the Egyptian people," said Saleh. "We have been in Tahrir Square since day one but also need to fight in elections."

While the first election since Mubarak's ousting has its many challenges, most remain optimistic.

"My country has changed, God willing," Fadilla Ahmad Fouli says. "And the future will be beautiful." Moments later, she cast her ballot.

I sincerely hope the remainder of the process goes well. Good luck to the Egyptian people.

WALL STREET - Truth-out in Citigroup Case

"Judge Blocks Citigroup Settlement With S.E.C." by EDWARD WYATT, New York Times 11/28/2011


Taking a broad swipe at the Securities and Exchange Commission’s practice of allowing companies to settle cases without admitting that they had done anything wrong, a federal judge on Monday rejected a $285 million settlement between Citigroup and the agency.

The judge, Jed S. Rakoff of United States District Court in Manhattan, said that he could not determine whether the agency’s settlement with Citigroup was “fair, reasonable, adequate and in the public interest,” as required by law, because the agency had claimed, but had not proved, that Citigroup committed fraud.

As it has in recent cases involving Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, UBS and others, the agency proposed to settle the case by levying a fine on Citigroup and allowing it to neither admit nor deny the agency’s findings. Such settlements require approval by a federal judge.

While other judges are not obligated to follow Judge Rakoff’s opinion, the 15-page ruling could severely undermine the agency’s enforcement efforts if it eventually blocks the agency from settling cases in which the defendant does not admit the charges.

The agency contends that it must settle most of the cases it brings because it does not have the money or the staff to battle deep-pocketed Wall Street firms in court. Wall Street firms will rarely admit wrongdoing, the agency says, because that can be used against them in investor lawsuits.

The agency in particular, Judge Rakoff argued, “has a duty, inherent in its statutory mission, to see that the truth emerges.” But it is difficult to tell what the agency is getting from this settlement “other than a quick headline.” Even a $285 million settlement, he said, “is pocket change to any entity as large as Citigroup,” and often viewed by Wall Street firms “as a cost of doing business.”

Way to go judge! Truth out!

Monday, November 28, 2011

CALIFORNIA - Our Dream is Dieing

"California has one option left to stop the bleeding" by Rick Jacobs, Huffington Post 11/28/2001

This piece was co-authored with Joshua Pechthalt and Anthony Thigpenn

When we think of California, we imagine the state that allowed the three of us to be who we are, a state that gave us the California Dream. For years now, that dream has been quickly slipping away and now it's in danger of being lost forever.

California is not in crisis; crises are sudden and acute. California is in a chronic, grinding decline and it's providing a window into America's tomorrow. Here we have the richest and poorest, the most diverse population, high technology centers which lead the globe. And yet, here with 38 million people - 20% of the United States - we cannot find a path to leave the bounty that invigorated us for the next generation.

The answer will not come from Sacramento, just as on the national level it cannot come from Washington. It needs to come from all of us. It's simple: government has a central role in providing the basics of civilization and that costs money.

The first step is admitting that we need more money to pay for our present, much less our future. That's why it's time for the 1%, those who benefited the most from our state's past investments, to invest in our state's future. Our state needs perhaps $20 billion a year in new revenue to assure that kids grow up to lead. That will take time, but for now, we see a clear path to $6 billion or so a year that would at the very least restore a large portion of the most recent cuts to education, healthcare, safety and transportation. All it takes is the 1% chipping in and paying more income tax.

Warren Buffett said it best: "If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further. But I think that people at the high end - people like myself - should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we've ever had it."

It's been a brutal decade for most Californians. Our schools, universities, hospitals, roads, and bridges - which used to be the envy of the nation - are in tatters. The unemployment rate hovers around 12%, and Sacramento continues to talk only about what to cut next, perpetuating the downward spiral.

Students are rightfully disgusted as they take to the streets and create their own Occupy encampments to protest the relentless inflation of tuition at California's legendary colleges and universities. Working families who dream of providing their children with a higher education watch in horror as costs continue to skyrocket.

A couple of weeks from now, we face a massive $2 billion in additional cuts that will be "triggered" based on a summer budget deal passed on a wishful premise that the economy will get better before it gets worse. On the front lines once again will be children, the elderly, and disabled. The axe will fall on everything from public schools (where California already ranks 47th in per pupil spending) to in-home health care.

A Washington Post-Bloomberg News Poll from last month shows that 68% of all Americans support raising taxes on households with incomes of $250,000 per year and higher. Gov. Brown could also take his cue from the patron saint of fiscally conservative Republicans, former California governor Ronald Reagan, who raised taxes as governor and president numerous times, knowing it was for the good of our state and country.

Should every child in California have access to an excellent, rigorous, free education through college and beyond? Should they have healthcare to assure that their minds are sharp and their bodies fit? Should they know that at any point after high school, whether they choose college or another path, they can find a good job? Should they be the sail that lifts our economy to new heights in energy and technology solutions of tomorrow?


We believe in our state. We believe in our country. We are patriots of the first order who know that true love of state or country manifests not in slogans, but in deeds that offer a brighter future to the next generation than to ours.

The time has come to say yes to our dreams. The time has come for the 1% to join the fray and help rebuild our state and our country. Let them come forth and pledge with us to invest in tomorrow, starting today.

Joshua Pechthalt is the president of the California Federation of Teachers, representing over 100,000 teachers and education workers. Anthony Thigpenn is president and founder of California Calls, a statewide alliance of 26 community-based organizations who have built a base of 328,000 supporters of a progressive, economic agenda.

POLITICS - Opinion on Super Committee Failure

"Shields and Brooks on GOP Foreign Policy Debate, Supercommittee Failure" PBS Newshour 11/25/2011

Excerpt on Super Committee failure

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): All right, now coming to, as expected and as predicted by you two last week, David, the supercommittee failed to come up with a deal before the deadline this week. Does anyone come out of this looking good?

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times columnist: No.

I mean, we talked last week about the low reaction of the American people toward Congress, Americans' incredibly low faith in government. There's one thing we know that builds faith in government. It's when people come -- when the two parties come together and hammer out a deal. It's not that people want some mushy centrism.

They want constructive competition, where they fight and then they figure out where the lay of the land is and then they get the best deal they can. And people understand that this country will go into decline if we don't have a better growth-producing tax code, if we don't take care of our debt, and they want some kind of deal.

So, to me, it will create what I think is already burgeoning in this election, which was an anti-both-party mood. Both parties have become minority parties, and they're shrinking minorities, both of them.

JEFFREY BROWN: Mark, everybody looks bad?

MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist: Well, going in, there wasn't great confidence.

Understand this. There were four members of Congress who had served on the Bowles-Simpson commission who had voted for that Bowles-Simpson commission. They were Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a Republican, Mike Crapo of Idaho, a Republican, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, a Democrat, and Dick Durbin of Illinois, a Democrat.

None of the four was put on the supercommittee. There were four -- among four members on the Simpson-Bowles who voted against the Simpson-Bowles, Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Max Baucus of Montana, Xavier Becerra of California, and Dave Camp of Michigan. All four of them were put on the supercommittee.

So there was a certain orthodoxy. Any deviation from what had been the party orthodoxy on either side wasn't encouraged and was discouraged. I think the Democrats came out with a slight tactical rhetorical advantage. There's a sense that they moved more, that the president tried harder, that the Republicans were more obstinate, the sense that the Republicans were more wed to protecting the wealthy.

I think, in the long run, however, it helps the Republicans. And the reason I say that is this, that it discredits government. The Democrats are, whether they choose to be or not, by historical mandate, the party of government. They believe that government can be an instrument of social justice and economic justice. And whether it's eliminating polio, putting a man on the moon, ending racial segregation, rebuilding Europe, that's what Democrats were about.

Republicans have said, no, government is not the answer. It's the problem. And I think this further erodes public confidence in government and public trust in government. In that sense, it helps the Republicans.

The old Republican Party has ALWAYS been about government-is-the-problem. But the Tea Party (the now dead Republican Party) has become the party of no-governance, total gridlock government.

As for me, even though I do NOT think of my self as a Democrat, I too believe that government CAN be an instrument of social justice and economic justice. All I have to do is look at history.

SYRIA - Arab League Sanctions

Is this going to be another ineffective try like the previous one?

"Isolating Syria, Arab League Imposes Broad Sanctions" by NEIL MacFARQUHAR and NADA BAKRI, New York Times 11/27/2011


The Arab League deepened Syria’s international isolation on Sunday by imposing a battery of economic sanctions meant to sever most trade and investment from the Arab world, an unprecedented step against a member state.

The tough measures, aimed at stopping Syria’s bloody crackdown on dissidents, constitute another blow to the Syrian economy, already reeling from sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States.

They were a psychological jab as much as an economic one, further eroding Syria’s longstanding claim to be the heart of Arabism, a claim already battered by the country’s suspension from the league two weeks ago.

For the Arab League, an organization long ridiculed as toothless, it was the second time since the Arab Spring protests began that it had acted against a member country to protect a threatened populace. But while the group invited international military intervention in Libya in March, this time its leaders made clear that sanctions were intended to avoid it.

The action capped a momentous week in a region that has been pummeled by a year of historic change. President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in Yemen, Libya formed a new government, Morocco elected one and Egyptians prepared to vote in their first post-revolutionary elections on Monday.

The sanctions against Syria, backed by 19 member states meeting in Cairo, reflected widespread frustration among Arab governments that Damascus has refused to put in place a peace treaty it accepted three weeks ago as the toll from its crackdown on anti-government demonstrators continues to mount.

“The position of the people, and the Arab position, is that we must end this situation urgently,” said Sheik Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, the foreign minister of Qatar and the league’s current chairman. “It has been almost a year that the Syrian people have been killed.”

The immediate catalyst was Syria’s refusal to admit Arab civilian and military observers to oversee the peace agreement, ending a military crackdown that the United Nations says has claimed more than 3,500 lives since March.

The stated aim of the sanctions was not regime change, but to press Syria to comply with the peace plan it had ostensibly accepted.

The league “is trying its best to get the Syrians to accept the political solution that it is offering them,” said one diplomat involved, speaking anonymously in line with his government’s guidelines. “But the Syrians keep maneuvering and haggling, and it is just not going to work. They don’t get it. They still want to play as if they are in the driver’s seat.”

EGYPT - Protests and the Transition

"Protesters Gather in Cairo, Pressure Military to Hasten Transition" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 11/25/2011

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): Tens of thousands of Egyptians flooded Cairo's Tahrir Square again today, keeping up the pressure on the military government. It was the seventh day of protests in the worst violence since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February. More than 40 people have been killed to date.

John Irvine of Independent Television News begins our coverage from Cairo.

JOHN IRVINE: The second revolution approaching the magnitude of the first. They needed a big turnout, and they got one.

An end to the violence around Tahrir Square may have taken some of the edge and urgency out of this demonstration, but it also allowed more supporters to flock here. If the generals thought they were up against only angry young men, then the makeup of this crowd showed them to be very much mistaken.

There was a cross-section of Egyptian society calling for real change. But there's a problem. They may be standing shoulder to shoulder, but they're not quite the cohesive unit they were back in January. Then, their clarion call was a simpler one, for the resignation of Hosni Mubarak. Today, things are a little more complicated.

The demonstrators are split over Monday's historic elections, the first in modern Egypt without a predetermined outcome. Some see the ballot as a step in the right direction, but others regard it as a sham, because the elected M.P.s will still be subordinate to the army.

Will you be voting on Monday?

WOMAN: I don't think so.

WOMAN: This is the first time I will vote. I am 43 -- 46 years old, and this will be my first time.

MAN: I don't actually agree with anybody who's running for the parliament right now.

MAN: I will still vote because this is the only game in front of me.

JOHN IRVINE: They have been selling photographs here of infamous toppled dictators. Ten months after Egyptians got rid of their one, it's confusion and turmoil that reigns. They're impatient for a better future.

MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): The crowds in Tahrir reacted derisively to the military's appointment of a new prime minister, who held the post in the '90s under President Hosni Mubarak; 78-year-old Kamal el-Ganzouri today insisted he would have greater authority than his immediate predecessor, who has resigned.

The ruling generals also announced that the first phase of parliamentary voting set to begin on Monday would be extended from one to two days.

Late today, three American students were reportedly released by Egyptian police and planned to catch flights out of Cairo to begin their way home. They were arrested last Sunday and accused of throwing firebombs at Egyptian security forces fighting with protesters.

"How Will Latest Protests Affect Egypt's Elections?" (Part-2)
PBS Newshour 11/25/2011

EDUCATION - Addressing School Dropout Problem, Detroit

"Detroit Tackles Dropout Crisis By Engaging Students, Parents" PBS Newshour 11/25/2011


JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): And we turn to the high school dropout problem.

Over the next 18 months, the NewsHour and other public media partners are examining the consequences of, and solutions for, one of this country's most pressing education issues. The project is called American Graduate.

Tonight, a look at Detroit, where four out of 10 children don't graduate. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called it "arguably the worst school district in the country." But he's also said he's encouraged by new efforts to improve the schools.

NewsHour correspondent Hari Sreenivasan reports on some of those efforts in this co-production with Detroit Public Television.

JAPAN - Coastal Town Recovery Story

"After Tsunami, Japanese Coastal Town Struggles to Recover"
PBS Newshour 11/25/2011

AMERICA - More "Tricky Dicky" Revelations on Tape

This is a very interesting insight....

"New Nixon Tapes Reveal Details of Meeting With Anti-War Activists" PBS Newshour 11/25/2011


RAY SUAREZ (Newshour): It's hard to imagine an American president in this intensely security-conscious age leaving the White House in the middle of the night to meet protesters on their turf.

It happened in May 1970. President Richard Nixon was under intense criticism for widening the Vietnam War to Cambodia. Four Kent State University students had been killed by National Guardsmen just days before. Thousands of young protesters quickly mobilized and headed to Washington, D.C.

Around 4:00 a.m. on May 9, Mr. Nixon abruptly decided to surprise a group gathered at the Lincoln Memorial. The Nixon Presidential Library and Museum has released a series of recordings, including dictation from President Nixon to his chief staff, H.R. Haldeman, describing his version of that night's events.

EGYPT - Two Updates on Revolution

"Chaos Builds in the Streets of Cairo as a Truce Fails" by ANTHONY SHADID, New York Times 11/23/2011


The outskirts of Tahrir Square, the iconic landmark of Egypt’s revolution, plunged into chaos on Wednesday, after attempts by the Egyptian military, religious clerics and doctors failed to stanch a fifth day of fighting that has posed the greatest crisis to the country since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

The fighting in darkened streets, suffused with tear gas and eerily illuminated by the flashing lights of police cars and the floodlights of armored personnel carriers, seemed to stand as a metaphor for a political transition that has careened into deep uncertainty just days before elections that were supposed to anchor the shift from military to civilian rule.

The military that seized power with Mr. Mubarak’s fall rebuffed protesters’ demands to surrender authority this week, and the political elite has seemed paralyzed or defensive over the unrest. The discontent in Tahrir Square has broadened from demands for the generals to cede control and anger over bloodshed into dissatisfaction with a transition that has delivered precious little since the uprising’s heady days in February.

“This is a revolution of the hungry!” declared Amr Ali Mohammed, a 23-year-old protester taking a break from the battle with the police. “Egyptians have had enough.”

The sense of uncertainty that prevailed in Egypt echoed some of the most anxious days of the uprising that began in January against Mr. Mubarak’s nearly 30 years of rule. Though life went on in much of the capital, the protests demonstrated a resilience they had lacked for months, and episodes of dissent have erupted in other parts of the country, including Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city. Neither politicians nor the military seemed ready to embrace a drastic step that many insisted was needed to end the unrest.

By nightfall, crowds rivaled their size on past days, anchored by a demand that has become the anthem since the crisis began: the fall of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the de facto leader and longtime colleague of Mr. Mubarak. In the square’s side streets, youths fought the police to the backdrop of unending ambulance sirens.

“If he leaves it like this and stays silent, it will be a disaster,” said Suleiman Mahmoud, as he stood in a street that looked like a symbol for urban distress — pools of stagnant water strewn with rocks, shattered glass, trash and fallen tree branches. “He’ll pay the price, and the country will pay the price. Stubbornness is not a solution.”

With political leaders tentative, and signs that the military was unable to exert control over the police, other voices emerged in the country on Wednesday, demanding some kind of action. Most important was the grand imam of Al Azhar, an institution that is a prominent seat of religious scholarship long co-opted by the government but now seeking a more independent role.

The grand imam, Sheik Ahmed al-Tayyeb, called on the police not to fire on protesters, “no matter what the reason.” He urged protesters to restrain themselves and demanded that the military, whose relations with the Interior Ministry and its loathed police forces have long been strained, do everything it could to prevent more clashes.

“Al Azhar reminds everybody that dialogue stained with blood is doomed, and its fruit will be bitter in the throats of everyone,” the cleric’s statement said.

His warnings were echoed abroad, in a sign of growing international concern over the crisis in the Arab world’s most populous country.

"Egypt Military and Protesters Dig In for a Long Standoff" by DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, New York Times 11/24/2011


Egypt’s interim military rulers and the masses of protesters demanding their exit dug in Thursday for a prolonged standoff as the generals vowed to forge ahead with parliamentary elections despite a week of violence that is certain to tarnish the vote.

State news organizations reported that at least one political party — the Social Democrats, perhaps the best established of the liberal parties founded in the burst of hope after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak nine months ago — would boycott the elections as a sham intended to prop up military rule.

By day’s end on Thursday, the Muslim Brotherhood also appeared to distance itself from the military council. The powerful Islamist group stands to gain the most from early elections and for the moment had stepped to the sidelines of the protests.

As clashes with the security police stopped for the first time this week, the crowd in Tahrir Square grew larger on Thursday than the day before, reaching tens of thousands. A broad spectrum of civilian leaders — excluding the Brotherhood — joined calls for a “million man march” on Friday.

The generals were unmoved. “Egypt is not Tahrir Square,” Maj. Gen. Mukhtar el-Mallah, a member of the military council, declared early Thursday at a news conference. The generals claimed an open-ended mandate to hold power long after Monday’s parliamentary vote. “We will not relinquish power because of a slogan-chanting crowd.

The declaration, after six days of violent confrontation in the capital and around the country, shifted the political struggle to a new and murkier phase.

Fulfilling a promise made in negotiations with political parties earlier in the week, the military pulled back the security forces who had battled protesters and constructed a concrete wall bisecting the street where most of the clashes had taken place.

The generals, meanwhile, issued an unusual apology for the deaths of at least 38 people during the week of unrest and the injuries of more than 2,000. But even as they hailed the dead as “martyrs,” the generals also appeared to justify killing them as criminals who had attacked the Interior Ministry. And they denied — despite the statements of many witnesses, doctors and even the health ministry — that security forces had fired live ammunition or birdshot in their clashes with protesters, further inflaming anger.

“The police are very committed to self-control, but I can’t give orders to anyone not to defend themselves,” General Mallah said.

Then, late in the day, the generals announced over the state news media that they would name a 77-year-old former Mubarak lieutenant, Kamel el-Ganzoury, as their new prime minister, though many Egyptians mocked him as “a dinosaur.”

The appointment of Mr. Ganzoury follows the resignation this week of the previous prime minister, in capitulation to street protesters’ demands. The last prime minister was a functionary serving the military council, and the demonstrators, as well as most civilian parties, are now calling for the council to hand over real authority to a successor.

But the council made clear in its news conference on Thursday that it was not ready to surrender any power, and the choice of Mr. Ganzoury appeared to show the generals’ preference for a prime minister who would serve in a subordinate role, as Mr. Ganzoury did under Mr. Mubarak. Several others also reportedly turned the post down.

Things not looking good at this point.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

BAHRAIN - Independent Commission Report on Torture

"Independent Commission: Bahrain Tortured Activists in Deadly Crackdown" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 11/23/2011


MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): Young people and police clashed in Bahrain again today, as shown in this YouTube video. The skirmishes came as an independent commission revealed its findings on the upheavals that shook the tiny Gulf kingdom earlier this year and the crackdown that followed.

The demonstrations led by Bahrain's Shiite majority began Feb. 14 in the capital Manama's central Pearl Roundabout. Protesters called for greater political freedoms and more opportunity for the Shiite majority. The police and army reacted quickly and forcefully against the protesters, killing three. But despite the crackdown and arrests that followed, the protests didn't entirely stop.

This oil-producing kingdom of three-quarters-of-a-million people lies sandwiched between the two major Gulf powers, Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite-ruled Iran. On March 14, amid a continuing standoff, Bahrain's royal family welcomed 1,000 troops and dozens of military vehicles from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates onto the island.

Within days, Bahraini forces drove all the protesters out of the roundabout, using bulldozers to clear the area, and even tore down the landmark Pearl monument itself. A state of emergency was lifted in June, but political deadlock and sporadic protests continued.

In July, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa ordered an independent inquiry into the events in February and March and the months that followed. Leading the investigation, Egyptian-American law professor Cherif Bassiouni, a veteran of United Nations human rights investigations.

Today, his Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry released its 500-page report into the events that have resulted in the deaths of 35 people.

Among the key findings: Bahrain security forces used excessive force, including torture and forced confessions. Jailed detainees were abused. Shiites were purged from workplaces. Shiite mosques were destroyed. And the commission said it found no evidence to support a key government claim, that the uprising was the work of nearby Iran.

In response, the king said today: "You have identified serious shortcomings on the part of some organs of our government, particularly in failing to prevent instances of excessive force and the mistreatment of persons placed under arrest."

He promised further review and corrective action.

In Washington today, State Department spokesman Mark Toner commended the monarchy for authorizing such an exhaustive independent review. And he called for actions to follow.

MARK TONER, State Department spokesman: We believe it does offer Bahrain an historic opportunity to join together, the people of Bahrain and the king to join together to find a path to implement these recommendations and to undertake other necessary reforms.

MARGARET WARNER: The U.S. has a stake in developments in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. Some lawmakers have expressed uneasiness with the crackdown. A proposed $53 million arms sale to Bahrain was put on hold pending release of today's report.

"After Commission Documents Torture Incidents, What's Next for Bahrain?" (Part-2)
PBS Newshour 11/23/2011

AMERICA - Great Lakes Mussel Invasion

"Tiny Mussels Invade Great Lakes, Threaten Fishing Industry" PBS Newshour 11/23/2011


ASH-HAR QURAISHI, WTTW Chicago: It's just after dawn in northern Wisconsin. Commercial fisherman Dennis Hickey is getting ready to take his fishing boat out on Lake Michigan. Hickey's family has fished these waters for more than a century.

The Great Lakes currently support a $7 billion-a-year commercial and recreational fishing industry.

MAN: Our mainstay of our fishery here in Baileys Harbor is whitefish, Lake Michigan whitefish.

ASH-HAR QURAISHI: Today, Hickey's lucky. He won't be battling the elements to bring in a catch. It is unseasonably warm on this late autumn morning. But he does have to deal with a problem that increasingly plagues fishermen throughout the Great Lakes and threatens their livelihoods.

MAN: Looks like the hearts have quite a bit of moss and slime in them again.

ASH-HAR QURAISHI: The slime is a type of alga called Cladophora, and some scientists think its extraordinary increase in the Great Lakes is related to recent and irreparable changes in the Marine ecosystem.

The culprit, they say, is a tiny invasive mollusk called the quagga mussel.

YEMEN - "Arab Spring" C lames Another Tyrant

"Under Pressure, Yemen's Saleh Signs Deal to End 33-Year Rule" PBS Newshour Transcript 11/23/2011

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a statement today agreeing to resign, ending 33 years of authoritarian rule. Gulf state allies pressured Saleh and brokered the deal. Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, has seen nine months of protests. The signing took place in Saudi Arabia, where Saleh fled seeking medical treatment after an assassination attempt last June.

ALI ABDULLAH SALEH, President of Yemen (through translator): We welcome the sharing of power with our brothers in the opposition to rule the country and rebuild what the crisis has damaged. The signing is not important. What is important is the good intention and the steering of serious work toward a real sharing to rebuild what the crisis has damaged.

RAY SUAREZ: Saleh will transfer power to his vice president within 30 days, and, in exchange, will be granted immunity from prosecution. Yemen has long been a base for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, and the Saleh government has been a quiet U.S. ally in the war on terror.

In Washington, President Obama issued a statement welcoming the Yemen accord.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

ECONOMY - Schools that Nurture Promising Companies

"Accelerators Groom Technology Ventures for Success" PBS Newshour 11/22/2011


JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): Now, from a big battle and gridlock in the public sector to programs that cultivate success on a small scale in the private sector.

The Kauffman Foundation, which studies entrepreneurship, recently found that startups create about 3 million new jobs a year.

Hari Sreenivasan looks at schools that nurture promising companies and bring them to market faster.

His report is a co-production with KQED San Francisco.

EGYPT - Update on Civilian Rule

"Egypt's 'Unfinished Revolution': Military Pledges Faster Shift to Civilian Rule" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 11/22/2011

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): Throngs of Egyptians swarmed central Cairo again today, and the country's military rulers appeared to give ground on political reforms. At the same time, violent clashes with security forces continued. At least 29 people have been killed since Saturday.

We begin with a report from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News in Cairo.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: Through the day and into the night, the crowds here have been growing. Tahrir Square is once again a seething mass of people. Egyptians have already received one remarkable revolution this year. Now they're going for the double.

And, tonight, it seemed to be working. In a nationwide address, Egypt's commander in chief appeared on television and promised a presidential election by next June.

FIELD MARSHAL MOHAMED HUSSEIN TANTAWI, Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (through translator): The armed forces represented in the Supreme Council do not aspire to ruling and put the interest of the country above everything.

So the council is ready to surrender responsibility immediately and return to its original task of safeguarding the country. And we are fully prepared to hold a referendum on transferring power immediately to a civilian authority if the people demand it.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: In the square, protesters listened intently on their radios. But, afterwards, this group was still calling for the field marshal's resignation.

It's too early to say whether Egypt's latest crisis is now over. These battles have been raging, not for hours, but for days, protesters throwing stones outside Egypt's Interior Ministry and then fleeing in retreat. And the heart of the biggest city in the Arab world has been plunged into chaos.

Here on the streets of Cairo, it's as if the Mubarak revolution had never happened. And the anger at Egypt's unfinished revolution seems to be growing.

The tear gas is far more toxic than the stuff the police used during February's revolution. "Made in America," it says here. But if there's one lesson from the Arab spring, it's that violence breeds more violence.

Mohamed Felad (ph) is just 16 and about to throw a Molotov cocktail at police. "We want a civilian government," he says simply. "We want the military to leave."

In Cairo, students have been on the front line of the violence, some of them clearly spoiling for a fight. But demonstrations like these are now spreading across Egypt. First, they forced President Mubarak out, and now they have the 76-year-old field marshal who replaced him in their sights.

WOMAN: We will take him to the prison, to Tora prison, as Mubarak. OK? He killed Egyptians, as Mubarak did. There is no difference between Tantawi and Mubarak.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: All day, the injured have been ferried from the front lines on the backs of motorbikes. It's a human courier service, over a hundred an hour arriving at this makeshift field hospital alone.

And the more casualties, the more others seem determined to take their place. "None of this will stop until the military gives us a specific departure date," says the man in charge. "The military keep leaving things unclear."

In a nearby mosque, we found the injured flowing in so fast that the doctors and nurses could barely cope and asked us to leave, trauma, breathing problems, broken bones, children who'd been caught up in angry stampedes either towards or away from the police.

Tonight, Egypt's generals have set a departure date. Now these protesters must decide when to set theirs.

"In Egypt, Split Seen Between Protesters, Organized Political Groups" (Part-2)
PBS Newshour 11/22/2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SECURITY - Worm, the First Digital World War

"Book Chronicles Fight to Save Web From Sophisticated Computer Worm" PBS Newshour 11/21/2011


MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): In November 2008, computer security experts began detecting a new, highly sophisticated computer worm. They called it Conficker. Ultimately, it invaded at least 12 million computers worldwide.

The story of the campaign to defeat it is chronicled in a new book, "Worm: The First Digital World War." The author is journalist Mark Bowden.

COMMENT: I'm a computer specialist and IT Technician by trade, so I am aware of BOTnets and other malware.

There are protections for users, one mentioned in video is to keep your Windows OS updated.

The specific tool is Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool downloaded during updates (or via their PC Security site).

There is a simpler protection method. This malware cannot be use, or get on your system, IF you are NOT ONLINE. If you do not have a pressing reason to be online, don't; either disconnect your internet or log-off your system. Even better, turn off your PC when you are not actually using it.

Lastly, run a GOOD Antivirus Utility. All that I know of will protect you from KNOWN BOTnet malware.

EDUCATION - A Struggle to Regain Economic Footing Tied to Problems in Schools

"As Poorest U.S. City, Reading Also Struggling With High Dropout Rate" PBS Newshour 11/21/2011


RAY SUAREZ (Newshour): Next, we turn to our series on the high school dropout problem. Over the next 18 months, the NewsHour is joining with other public media to examine consequences and solutions.

In tonight's report, Jeffrey Brown looks at how one city's struggle to regain its economic footing is tied to problems in its schools.