Wednesday, February 29, 2012

AFRICA - Ethiopia's Battle

"Ethiopia: A Battle for Land and Water" PBS Newshour 2/28/2012

Excerpt

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Now, a struggle over land in Western Ethiopia that pits village farmers against the government and land investors.

Tonight's story is part of a multimedia project that looks at the challenge of feeding the world in a time of social and environmental change. It's a NewsHour partnership with the Center for Investigative Reporting, Homelands Productions and American Public Media's Marketplace.

The project is called Food for 9 Billion.

Tonight's correspondent is Cassandra Herrman.

SUPREME COURT - Corporations vs Human Rights, Overseas

"Supreme Court Weighs Corporate Liability in Human Rights Cases" PBS Newshour 2/28/2012

Excerpt

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): At the U.S. Supreme Court today, justices heard arguments on a pair of international human rights cases. At issue is whether corporations and groups can be sued in American courts for alleged involvement in abuses overseas. The justices' decision could have big implications for corporate liability around the globe.

Marcia Coyle of The National Law Journal was in the courtroom for the arguments, and she joins us to explain.

Now, we're talking two court -- two cases today with percolated up to the court, one of a two-century-old statute and one of a two-decade-old statute.

AMERICA - ' Recruiting Plan for Muslim Fanatics' by New York City

"'Mosque Crawlers,' 'Rakers' Monitoring U.S. Muslims for NYPD" PBS Newshour 2/28/2012

Excerpt

RAY SUAREZ (Newshour): The story has been emerging since last summer. New York City police began extensively monitoring Muslims in the city after 9/11.

The operation, revealed by the Associated Press, triggered immediate criticism from civil rights groups.

CHRISTOPHER DUNN, attorney, New York Civil Liberties Union: At the end of the day, it is, pure and simple, a rogue domestic surveillance operation. And that's a matter of serious concern to us.

RAY SUAREZ: But New York City's police commissioner, Ray Kelly, insisted last year the surveillance is necessary and legal.

RAYMOND KELLY, New York City Police commissioner: We're doing what we believe we have to do to protect the city. We have many, many lawyers in our employ. We see ourselves as very conscious and aware of civil liberties.

And we know that there's always going to be scrutiny. There's always going to be some tension between the police department and the so-called civil liberties groups.



More excerpts

RAY SUAREZ: Matt, you've called the NYPD one of America's most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies. What was the New York City Police Department doing?

MATT APUZZO, The Associated Press: Well, they have domestic intelligence programs that go far beyond what we would have expected pre-9/11 to see from any police department and in many ways operate in ways that the federal government, the FBI just simply can't.

They have a program called the Demographics Unit, which the NYPD originally denied even existed, plainclothes officers search that -- often Arab officers -- who will go out into Muslim neighborhoods, and they are called rakers. They're going to rake the coals looking for hot spots, meaning they're going to go out and they're going to take pictures of mosques. They're going to take pictures of all the Muslim businesses in the area.

They're going to go into the Muslim cafes or hookah bars and they're just going to eavesdrop and listen to people's conversations, try to gauge the sentiment of the owner, maybe write down his ethnicity, definitely write down his ethnicity. And those goes all into police reports.

So we have seen them for many neighborhoods. We have seen them for Egyptians, Moroccans, Albanians. They are building these profiles of where Muslims live, eat, shop, pray, where they watch sports, where they go to Internet cafes. It's just -- it's an incredible process by which they're bringing in information about the Northeast Muslims.
====
MATT APUZZO: And what's interesting about the NYPD is, they have no -- almost no oversight. And the city council is not aware of the programs that are going on. Congress is not aware of what's going on. The attorney general has said that it basically doesn't have the ability to investigate.

The White House said yesterday, yes, we -- our money is being used here, but we're just a policy office. We don't actually have operational control. So, you know, these decisions are largely kept in-house at the NYPD and with Mayor Bloomberg.

This would make Reichsf├╝hrer Heinrich Himmler proud.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

AFGHANISTAN - New NATO Base Attacks

"Suicide Attack at NATO Base in Jalalabad Kills 9 Afghans" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 2/27/2012

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Coalition forces came under attack in Afghanistan again today. No foreign troops were killed, but nine Afghans died. It was part of a new spasm of anti-American violence.

Mangled automobiles were all that remained after a suicide car bomber rammed the gates of a NATO base and airport in Jalalabad. That followed the killing two American soldiers by an Afghan soldier last week. And then on Saturday in the heart of Kabul, two U.S. military advisers were murdered inside the Afghan Interior Ministry. According to police, an Afghan driver shot them from behind as they were working.

Today, a U.S. military spokesman said a nationwide manhunt for the suspect was ongoing.

CAPT. JOHN KIRBY, Pentagon spokesman: The investigation is just now under way. The Afghans are also investigating it as well. We're working together with them on that. The killer fled. And there is an active search to find him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Taliban claimed responsibility as revenge for the burning of Muslim holy books at a U.S. military base last week.

In all, at least 40 people have been killed in six days of deadly protests and attacks since then. Afghan President Hamid Karzai had appealed for calm, but on Sunday he mentioned the ministry attack only after being asked.

HAMID KARZAI, president of Afghanistan (through translator): Unfortunately, yesterday, we found out that two American officers were killed in the Interior Ministry. Who has done this? Where was he from? We don't know if he was Afghan or foreigner or whether there was another motivation behind it. It is not clear yet.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. and NATO pulled their advisers from Afghan ministries after the Saturday killings.

And, today, the United Nations also scaled back operations. It all raised new questions about the partnership with Afghans as the U.S. and NATO move to wind down the war.

U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker acknowledged as much Sunday on CNN.

RYAN CROCKER, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan: And these are terrible tragedies, and very worthy of the condemnation they've received. But this is not the time to decide that we're done here. We have got to redouble our efforts. We have got to create a situation in which al-Qaida is not coming back.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In an effort to assuage Afghan anger, President Obama issued an apology last week for the Quran burnings, but that act drew new criticism from his Republican opponents on the Sunday talk shows.

MITT ROMNEY (R): I think, for a lot of people, this sticks in their -- in their throat.

RICK SANTORUM (R): To apologize for something that was not an intentional act is something that the president of the United States, in my opinion, shouldn't have done.

JUDY WOODRUFF: White House officials largely ignored the criticism.

And spokesman Jay Carney insisted the violence aimed at American troops will not force the U.S. to pull out early.

JAY CARNEY, White House press secretary: It is important to remember that 95 to 97 percent of the missions the U.S. forces embark on in Afghanistan, they do so with their Afghan partners. We're talking about thousands and thousands of operations that proceed successfully with Afghan partners without anything like this happening.

JUDY WOODRUFF: U.S. officials also said there are signs that the protests in Afghanistan are easing.

"How Widespread, Deep Are Anti-American Feelings in Afghanistan?" (Part-2)
PBS Newshour 2/27/2012


COMMENT: Republicans, how typical. Criticizing President Obama for issuing an apology for the burning of the Muslim holy book?

What ever happened to human courtesy not to mention diplomatic courtesy? Especially in the international enviroment of the belief of Muslims that we are making war on Islam.

It is the job of ANY President to make apologies for misbehavior by representatives of our government, which includes our troops.

This is a demonstration of the Republican anti-Obama mindset that ignores the duties of ANY President.

RUSSIA - More on Their 'Recycling' Program

"In Russia, 'No Romantic Notion of Revolution' Before Election" PBS Newshour 2/27/2012

Excerpt

RAY SUAREZ (Newshour): Russians go to the polls Sunday to choose their next president. And Current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin hopes they will return him to his old job.

But tens of thousands of protesters have something different in mind. They formed a human chain on a main road circling the Kremlin in central Moscow yesterday to register their opposition. They're part of a movement ignited last December after alleged fraud in parliamentary elections.

The 59-year-old prime minister fired back today, publishing a lengthy manifesto in a Moscow paper, warning the West and other powers not to take military action against Syria and Iran, and accusing the U.S. of meddling in the politics of Russia and its neighbors.

And a state-run television station reported today that a joint Russian-Ukrainian operation had captured men reportedly plotting to assassinate Putin after next Sunday's election. The men are allegedly Chechen separatists.

Margaret Warner (Newshour) is in Moscow covering the election.

HEALTH - Music Heals

"The Healing Power of Music"
PBS Newshour 2/27/2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

TUNISIA - Friends of Syria?

"In Tunisia, 'Friends of Syria' Call for Ceasefire, Assad to Step Down" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 2/24/2012

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): The U.S. and dozens of other nations joined together today in insisting that the Syrian government stop killing its own people and surrender power.

The Friends of Syria met in Tunisia, and moved closer to recognizing the opposition Syrian National Council, but they didn't commit to military intervention. Meanwhile, heavy fighting continued in Homs and other cities in Syria. Activists said at least 100 people were killed.

We begin with a report from Carl Dinnen of Independent Television News.

(GUNFIRE)

CARL DINNEN: A heavy machine gun mounted on a pickup. The Free Syrian Army looks like it's on the offensive, looks like it's better equipped.

In Rastan, an officer boasts that they have blown up one of Assad's tanks. He directs his comments at Syria's most powerful ally, Vladimir Putin's Russia.

MAN (through translator): Putin and his weapons are now under my feet. Look at how we managed to destroy this vehicle.

CARL DINNEN: The diplomatic big guns were also trained on Syria today, taking aim from a summit in Tunisia. The U.K. said it was strengthening ties with the rebels.

WILLIAM HAGUE, British foreign secretary: We in common with other nations will now treat them and recognize them as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

CARL DINNEN: The E.U. agreed to freeze Syrian assets. But the Saudi delegation eventually walked out, saying not enough was being done and calling for the rebels to be supplied with weapons.

But none of that will quickly help the people who are stuck here. The U.N. says the Syrians have been targeting children. This girl says she was hurt in an attack near Homs.

GIRL (through translator): I was with a boy, and he was hit as well in the thigh. He was bleeding badly. We had just been going to see my grandfather to get some bread.

CARL DINNEN: Despite heavy fighting in Homs today, the Red Crescent have just announced that they have evacuated women and children from the Baba Amr district.

Militarily, it is still President Assad's regime which has the upper hand. But they are hemorrhaging support. The opposition claimed there were 370 demonstrations across the country today, and more and more soldiers like these are defecting to the rebel cause.

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had strong words for Syria's President Assad and his regime and his supporters after today's summit in Tunisia.

Here is some of what she said.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: All of us gathered here today reached consensus. Now, that doesn't mean that every one of us don't have other ideas and other recommendations, because we are all quite diverse from all over the world.

But I want to stay focused on what we agreed on. We agreed on increasing the pressure on Assad, getting humanitarian aid in as quickly as possible, and preparing for a democratic transition.

I don't think anyone wants to see a bloody, protracted civil war. We would like to see the kind of transition to democracy and peace that happened here in Tunisia. Our goal is to bring as much pressure to bear as we can, not only on Assad, but on those around him.

The entire world, other than Russia and China, were willing to recognize that we must take international action against the Syrian regime. I would be willing to go back to the Security Council again and again and again. But we need to change the attitude of the Russian and Chinese governments.

It's quite distressing to see two permanent members of the Security Council using their veto when people are being murdered, women, children, brave young men. Houses are being destroyed. It is just despicable. And I ask, whose side are they on? They are clearly not on the side of the Syrian people.

"What Can 'Friends of Syria' Do to Help Halt Killings?" (Part-2)
PBS Newshour 2/24/2012

EDUCATION - OnLine Charter Schools?

"Online Public Schools Gain Popularity, but Quality Questions Persist"
PBS Newshour 2/23/2012

IRAQ - Continues to Spin Out of Control

"Bombings Across Iraq Kill at Least 55, Wound More Than 225" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 2/23/2012

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): And we turn to a very bloody day in Iraq, as attacks in Baghdad and more than a dozen other cities from the north to the south left at least 55 people dead and 225 wounded.

The wail of ambulance sirens pierced the air as plumes of smoke rose above Baghdad. The spree of bombings and shootings began during the morning rush hour and lasted for several hours. But the violence wasn't isolated to the Iraqi capital. A wave of coordinated explosions and other attacks unfolded in other cities around the country.

In Musayyib, to the south of Baghdad, dozens of children at an elementary school were the main victims of a car bomb attack. The blast spewed shards of glass into their classrooms.

MAN (through translator): This explosion is unjustifiable. Here is a primary school. Children were coming to school and nearby there were people shopping in that shopping district.

JEFFREY BROWN: To the north, in Kirkuk, security forces inspected the wreckage from bombings targeting police patrols. The Interior Ministry blamed al-Qaida, and a member of Baghdad's City Council agreed. He cited plans for his city to play host to an Arab League summit next month.

MOHAMMED AL-RUBAIEE, Baghdad City Council (through translator): I think the attackers don't want Iraq to move forward. They don't want Iraq to reunite with the Arab countries and interact with Arab people. So they impede Iraq's progress with such acts of violence.

JEFFREY BROWN: In Washington, the U.S. State Department condemned the violence.

MARK TONER, State Department spokesman: Obviously, these were horrible, even heinous acts that took place today. Frankly, we view these as desperate attempts by terror groups to sow fear and undermine Iraq democracy at what everyone recognizes is really a critical juncture in the Iraqi political process.

JEFFREY BROWN: The last U.S. troops left Iraq in December, and there's been a series of large-scale attacks in the weeks since.

"Who Was Behind Latest Coordinated Attacks Across Iraq?" (Part-2)
PBS Newshour 2/23/2012


COMMENT: Although I am glad we (U.S.) pulled out, there are two things to remember.....
  1. This is what you get when a country has a fractured and corrupt government AND a fractured society.

  2. This is what happens when the U.S. enters a war for the WRONG reasons. A war we should never have entered.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

SYRIA - Not Enough Coffins

"In Syrian City, 'There Aren't Enough Coffins'" PBS Newshour Transcript 2/22/2012

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): And now to Syria, where the government intensified its assault against the city of Homs, raining down rockets and bombs on the opposition stronghold.

In all, across the country, activists said more than 70 people had been killed today. Among them were two Western journalists, an American reporter working for the British Sunday Times and a French photojournalist.

Tim Ewart of Independent Television News narrates this report.

TIM EWART: The bombardment of Homs has again been relentless.

Syrian rebels said a short while ago that 35 people are known to have died today in the beleaguered suburb of Baba Amr. Many more bodies lie under the rubble. Activist Haled Abu Saba says that, in this building, "Your blood has mixed with Syrian blood."

It is the makeshift media where the two Western journalists were killed, targets, the rebels claim, of a deliberate rocket attack. Marie Colvin of The Sunday Times sacrificed her life to a career at which she excelled. A veteran of numerous war zones, she'd lost an eye to a grenade blast in Sri Lanka. Remi Ochlik, who died with her, was a French photojournalist.

Paul Conroy, a Sunday Times photographer, was among six people injured. And Rami al-Sayed, the Syrian cameraman who recorded so much of the violence, was killed by shrapnel earlier.

On "News at 10" last night, Marie Colvin talked of the horrors unfolding in Baba Amr.

MARIE COLVIN, The Sunday Times: I think the sickening thing is the complete merciless nature. They're hitting civilian buildings absolutely mercilessly and without caring. And the scale of it is just shocking.

CHRISTINA LAMB, The Sunday Times: I don't remember Marie ever saying that somewhere was too dangerous for her to go to. I think the line for her was a lot further than it was for others of us.

TIM EWART: In Baba Amr, where they have mourned too many dead, there was this evening a desperate plea for help.

YOSIF HOURIAH, Syrian activist: People known that we are suffering, but no one helps us. We need real help.

TIM EWART: Tragically, Marie Colvin, a reporter brave enough to help convey that message to the world, was killed as she worked amid the ruins.

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): And now to a graphic account of the battle for Homs, now in its 19th day.

A French photojournalist known as Manny has lived and filmed inside the besieged city for the past month. His footage offers a rare glimpse of the conflict consuming Syria.

Using Manny's images, Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News tells the story of what's happening there.

A warning: Some of the pictures and the stories are distressing.

JONATHAN MILLER: They call Homs the capital of the revolution. The revolt against President Bashar al-Assad has been going on for nearly a year, but on Friday, Feb. 3, his forces unleashed a ferocious bombardment of residential neighborhoods in Homs, a little girl and her brother both badly wounded.

GIRL (through translator): After we crossed the road, the shell hit us. I fell down on the ground, but my cousin was still awake. After that, I don't know what happened.

JONATHAN MILLER: No one could bear to tell her that her father and youngest brother are dead.

We're in Bayada district. It's 10:00 in the morning. And fighters from the Free Syrian Army are engaged in a gun battle that started at 3:30 a.m. As they wait, the muezzin is broadcasting a eulogy for a dead fighter, a martyr, a tense, but momentary lull. Then it starts all over again.

(GUNFIRE)

JONATHAN MILLER: They're attacking the government security building across the road, headquarters of the hated Mukhabarat secret police.

(GUNFIRE)

JONATHAN MILLER: Manny, the filmmaker, finds himself at the heart of the firefight.

(GUNFIRE)

JONATHAN MILLER: Urban guerrilla warfare like this is relentless and terrifying. The fighters appear fearless and take crazy risks.

(GUNFIRE)

JONATHAN MILLER: Khalidiya district, right next to Bayada, two days earlier. Residents pour onto the streets to mourn 138 people killed overnight by government shelling.

There aren't enough coffins for all those who've been killed, so men are simply wrapped in white shrouds. The atmosphere is highly charged.

An imam leads prayers for the dead.

MAN (through translator): We pray for our martyred dead. Shelling people is what cowards and scoundrels do.

JONATHAN MILLER: Back at Mukhabarat headquarters, the battle is raging. Free Syrian forces have detonated a bomb below the rooftop position where government snipers are trapped.

After more than 12 hours, the snipers are still putting up a fight. Casualties are mounting, a minibus ambulance and then a breakneck race to a makeshift field hospital.

There's little dignity in all this.

Friday is protest day. It's almost a carnival atmosphere, but it's a carnival of defiance, as the people of Homs tell their president what they think of him. Mothers, children, fathers and fighters, this mass of humanity dances for its hurriya, its freedom, an unstoppable energy battling a seemingly immovable force.

Free Syrian fighters have entered the government security building, room-to-room fighting now, stairwell to stairwell. It's a humiliation for President Assad.

(GUNFIRE)

JONATHAN MILLER: With bullets still flying, fighters make off with boxes of much-needed ammo.

The morning after, the Mukhabarat secret police building has been gutted, as has the local post office. Down the street is a long queue for bread. With parts of the city besieged, you can no longer get to shops in neighboring districts.

MAN (through translator): The citizens are hungry for bread. This is the only bakery in the area, because the snipers are taking out more people than they need. This is why it's crowded.

JONATHAN MILLER: A couple of blocks away, and you're in Sabil district, where many belong to the president's Alawite sect. They have not been attacked -- Homs now a patchwork, dividing along sectarian lines.

JEFFREY BROWN: A United Nations spokesman said today its top humanitarian official will go to Syria to assess the situation and call for urgent access to emergency aid for those in need.

According to the U.N., more than 5,400 people have now been killed in the uprising that began 11 months ago.

Two Foreign Journalists Killed in Syria
CBC The National 2/22/2012

SUPREME COURT - Free Speech and Riverbed Ownership

"Supreme Court Hears Free Speech Case Over Stolen Valor Act" PBS Newshour 2/22/2012

Excerpt

MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): Today's case stems from a claim made in 2007 by Xavier Alvarez, an elected member of a California water district board. He introduced himself at a public meeting by saying he was a retired Marine, and adding:

XAVIER ALVAREZ, Three Valleys Municipal Water District Board Member: Back in 1987, I was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. I got wounded many times by the same guy."

MARGARET WARNER: None of it was true. Alvarez was charged with violating the 2006 Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to lie about having received a military decoration.

Alvarez was fined and sentenced to probation and community service. He appealed, arguing the law violated the First Amendment. And the Ninth Circuit ruled in his favor.

Also today, in a case widely watched in the American West, the court ruled unanimously in favor of a Montana power company in a dispute over who owns the riverbeds of three Montana rivers. The justices threw out a state court order that the PPL Montana company pay the state some $50 million for using the riverbeds for hydroelectric plants and dams.

For more on both cases, we are joined by Marcia Coyle of The National Law Journal.



Being retired military, needless to say, I do think that falsely claiming to have a military decoration (especially the Congressional Medal of Honor) is a crime in general and under the Stolen Valor Act. It IS sealing from those of us who have actually earned our decorations.

AFGHANISTAN - Quran Burning

This incident begs the question "how dumb can they be?"

Moreover it makes one wonder on our military training. Our U.S. troops not realizing burning the Quran = burning the Christian Bible? Not being cognizant that Muslims in the region believe that the West is making war on Islam?

ALSO not realizing that they just made their job harder and more dangerous?

IMHO, the people who should be held responsible are the commanders who should have seen that their troops were trained to be aware of sensitivities in the region AND the dangers to the troops themselves because of misbehavior.

"Clashes Over Quran Burnings at U.S. Base in Afghanistan Turn Deadly" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 2/22/2012

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): Afghanistan was tense with protests and religious fury today, the continuing fallout over the burning of Korans by U.S. troops. At least seven people died in clashes with Afghan security forces.

Hundreds of angry Afghans streamed to protest sites across the country. They set fires, threw stones and voiced their rage at NATO and American forces.

ABDUL QAYOOM, Afghanistan (through translator): These occupiers who disrespected the Koran many times, in Bagram, in Guantanamo and in other places, should leave Afghanistan. They are doing this to insult Islam and Muslims. We cannot tolerate this insult.

JEFFREY BROWN: In some places, the protests turned violent. Police said they were fired upon and returned fire.

It all started Monday night north of Kabul. Afghan workers at Bagram Air Base saw U.S. soldiers putting Korans and other religious materials from a nearby prison into a burn pit for trash. By tradition, the Koran, a holy text, is disposed of with respect, including by burial in sacred caves.

As the protests began Tuesday, the overall NATO commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Gen. John Allen, quickly issued a public apology.

LT. GEN. JOHN ALLEN, International Security Assistance Forces: We are thoroughly investigating the incident. We are taking steps to ensure this doesn't ever happen again. I assure you, I promise you, this was not intentional in any way. And I offer my sincere apologies for any offense this may have caused.

JEFFREY BROWN: At a briefing today, German Gen. Carsten Jacobson, speaking for NATO, said the investigation would be thorough.

BRIG. GEN. CARSTEN JACOBSON, NATO-ISAF: We have seen Korans that were partly charred. It is a very vital part of the investigation that we find out what was the material, what was the reason for the decision to dispose of it, who gave the orders, what was the chain, how did the material then go to the burn pit, and what actually happened at the burn pit.

JEFFREY BROWN: For his part, Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged calm today, saying, "Protests are the right of the people, but I ask my countrymen to avoid violence."

Nonetheless, the protesters' fury showed no sign of abating. A gathering outside Camp Phoenix, a NATO base, essentially shut down the only road linking Kabul and Jalalabad.

"Will Quran-Burning Investigation Quell Anger in Afghanistan?" (Part-2)
PBS Newshour 2/22/2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ECONOMY - Gas Prices and Spoiled Americans

"As Gas Prices Rise, White House Goes on Offensive, Defensive" PBS Newshour 2/21/2012

Excerpt

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): The price of oil on world markets climbed again today, closing above $106 a barrel. That and the rising price of gas at the pump provided political fuel for Republican presidential hopefuls.

Just as the U.S. economy shows signs of strengthening, the price of gas is starting to hit American drivers where it hurts -- again.

MAN: It's crazy. It's expensive. It's going up and up.

WOMAN: It's ridiculous.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The average price for regular reached $3.58 a gallon this week, according to the Energy Department. That's up about 40 cents from a year ago, with most of the increase coming since New Year's.

Geesh.... are we Americans spoiled.

See:

GREECE - The Lingering Question

"With Greece Bailout Comes Relief, Lingering Doubts" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 2/21/2012

Excerpt

RICHARD EDGAR, Independent Television News: Today, the Greek finance minister returned home with the news. Today's decision in Brussels, he says, in regards to the political, economic and social consequences, is perhaps the most important of the post-war era.

EVANGELOS VENIZELOS, Greek finance minister (through translator): We avoided the nightmare scenario yesterday -- or today in the morning, rather. We had a positive outcome, which, as I said in Brussels, was neither easy nor obvious.

RICHARD EDGAR: The aim is for Greek debt to fall to just over 120 percent of the country's GDP, a measure the size of its economy, in eight years' time.

But the European Commission's own research which emerged last night says the plan is accident prone and debt could swell dramatically, only falling back to today's levels in 2020, despite the bailout. It's concentrating minds elsewhere in Europe that this might not yet be over.

Here in the U.K., meeting the Spanish prime minister, David Cameron calls for financial protection.

DAVID CAMERON, British prime minister: What I would say is that Greece has made its choice. And we now have to focus on the next step, which is constructing a firewall that is large enough to prevent contagion within the Eurozone.

RICHARD EDGAR: And Spain may need that firewall. Markets are turning their attention to other countries in the Eurozone.

BILL BLAIN, market analyst: What we think could be the next stage is that the market refocuses on how Italy and Spain in particular restore their economic growth. So it may be over the next couple of weeks that we see a renewed crisis in the rest of Europe.

RICHARD EDGAR: On the streets of Athens, the reality of their situation is sinking in.

WOMAN: I believe that Greece won't bear this burden.

WOMAN: I have two children, and I'm just scared for them. They most probably want to go abroad and live abroad.

RICHARD EDGAR: The full consequences of this rescue are still to be felt. This is the first act of the Greek tragedy, not the last.

"After Second Bailout, Is Greece Still Likely to Default?" (Part-2)
PBS Newshour 2/21/2012

THAILAND - Deadly Tensions

"Thailand Grapples With Deadly Tensions Between Muslims, Buddhists" PBS Newshour 2/21/2012

Excerpt

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): .... we turn to Thailand.

Three suspected insurgents were shot dead today in a firefight with security forces in the southern part of the country. It was the latest example of the simmering religious violence there that's killed more than 5,000 people since 2004.

NewsHour special correspondent Kira Kay recently traveled to Thailand's troubled south, and filed this report.

MEDIA - Marvin Gaye, "What's Going On"

"40 Years After Gaye's Hit, John Legend Explores 'What's Going On...Now'" by Anne Davenport and Jeffrey Brown, PBS Newshour 2/17/2012

Excerpt

Jeffrey Brown recently had a chance to sit down with John Legend as the singer-songwriter helped the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts launch "What's Going On...Now," a national arts, education and digital media campaign. The effort is intended to engage youth while marking the 40th anniversary of Marvin Gaye's album of the same name and his 1972 performance at the Kennedy Center during its inaugural year.

The Newshour plans to report on the progress of the campaign as students across the country create videos, photos, poems and music that address issues of the day, from the economy to war to the environment. Some will come to Washington, D.C., to participate in a national youth summit in May when Legend performs Gaye's work at the Kennedy Center.

In the meantime, here are two interviews: one with Legend on why he's doing this and what he hopes to achieve, and one with Harry Weinger, vice president of Universal Music Enterprises, who is the producer of several deluxe editions of Gaye's classic LPs, including "What's Going On." He tells the back story about why the song was first recorded.

But first, here's Gaye's classic song:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

SYRIA - The Siege of Homs and Red Cross Call

"Food and Water Scarce in Embattled Syrian City of Homs" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 2/20/2012

MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): And it was another bloody weekend in Syria as government forces continued their assault on the city of Homs. Fresh troops and tanks massed on the outskirts. Elsewhere, people lined up for food, with supplies running desperately low.

And in the north Syrian town of Idlib, a senior state prosecutor and a judge were shot dead yesterday. The Syrian news agency blamed the attack on a terrorist group.

But Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News got an entirely different view from the area, as he reports.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: In a small town in northern Syria, the men folk are paying their condolences to the relatives of this uprising's latest victim.

The man, a prosecutor, was shot dead in his car yesterday on his way to work. State media claimed armed terrorists had killed him, but in his hometown, the prosecutor's friends say the real culprits are the security forces. And they're so frightened of being killed themselves, that nobody would talk to us openly.

MAN (through translator): Everybody, if he talked, they will take -- the government will take all of his family to jail, to prison.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: Locals say the prosecutor's house was first targeted by army snipers two months ago. It was from these positions on a building site that the town was apparently terrorized before the snipers withdrew. We watched Syrian military helicopters hovering over an air base nearby.

And the fear is that it's only a matter of time before the army returns. But if the townspeople are terrified, they are also defiant. Yesterday afternoon, they filmed the prosecutor's funeral and posted it on the Internet.

"We're not afraid of snipers and tanks," they chanted. "We will answer this death with revenge."

And this is just one of so many Syrian towns radicalized by state terror. This man told us he'd been shot twice in the leg for demonstrating against the regime, while his friend says he was tortured for the same offense.

His name is Hassan. And he says he only got home yesterday after almost three months in jail, his eyes reddened, he says, by being granted just one hour's sleep a night, his neck and arms scorched with burning cigarettes.

"We were packed 120 prisoners to a room," he told me. "I was only released because the jail was overflowing."

What's been most striking about our time here is that this uprising has clearly spread to the remotest parts of this country. State brutality has failed to crush it.

MARGARET WARNER: And, today, the International Committee of the Red Cross called for a two-hour cease-fire on both sides to create a window for delivering medical supplies and aid to civilians.

"Red Cross Seeks Ceasefire to Deliver Medical Supplies in Syria" (Part-2)
PBS Newshour 2/20/2012

HISTORY - Astronaut John Glenn (90yrs old), Mission Anniversary

"50 Years Later, Astronaut John Glenn Recounts His Historic Mission in Space"
PBS Newshour 2/20/2012

HEALTH - India Closer to Eradicating Polio

"India Close to Eradicating Polio, But Challenges Still Remain" PBS Newshour 2/20/2012

Excerpt

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): ....India, a poor and populous country long plagued by polio, but now health officials have come close to wiping out the disease.

Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro explains how that was accomplished.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In India, the battle against polio is being fought one mouthful at a time. Vaccinators have fanned out with coolers containing vials of the oral vaccine on a scale befitting a nation of 1.2 billion, says Lieven Desomer, a campaign strategist for the U.N.



"A Look at the World's 'Forgotten' Diseases" by Paula Rogo, PBS Newshour 2/20/2012

HISTORY - Abraham Lincoln, Shaping of America

"How Abraham Lincoln Shaped American Politics, Popular Culture Post Assassination" PBS Newshour 2/20/2012

Excerpt

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): And finally tonight, on this Presidents Day holiday, a fresh take on the legacy of Abraham Lincoln.

Hari toured the new Ford's Theatre Center for Education and Leadership here in Washington, D.C., with historian Richard Norton Smith.

HARI SREENIVASAN (Newshour): Walking into the new theater center is like taking a step back in time to the cobblestone streets of Washington on April 16, 1855, the day after President Abraham Lincoln's death.

Newspaper headlines announcing the president's death cover the walls of the new exhibit, which opened today in a building across the street from Ford's Theatre, where the president was assassinated.



"The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do for themselves in their separate and individual capacities.In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere."

- President Abraham Lincoln

EUROZONE - Greece Bailout Approved

More Euros down a blackhole?

"Europe Agrees on New Bailout to Help Greece Avoid Default" by STEPHEN CASTLE, New York Times 2/20/2012

Excerpt

Greece finally secured its second giant bailout early Tuesday after euro zone finance ministers agreed to save it from bankruptcy in exchange for severe austerity measures and strict conditions.

After more than 13 hours of talks, the ministers approved a new bailout of 130 billion euros, or $172 billion, under which private investors in Greek debt will take even steeper losses than expected to help stave off the country’s imminent default.

“We have reached a far-reaching agreement on Greece’s new program and private-sector involvement,” Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, announced Tuesday morning.

The agreement could be a new turning point in the European debt crisis, which has raised questions about the viability of the euro itself.

Though the outcome had been predicted, the meeting in Brussels proved more grueling than expected as euro zone countries, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund wrestled through the night over a discrepancy in the amount of Greece’s debt to be reduced.

Under the bailout terms, which were not finalized until after 5 a.m. Tuesday, Greece will reduce its debt to about 120.5 percent of its gross domestic product by 2020, from about 160 percent now. Achieving a deal with that goal proved difficult because the steady deterioration of public finances in Athens have left the country’s creditors with problems in making the figures for the new bailout add up.

After several rounds of tough talks, representatives of banks that hold Greek bonds, who had agreed in October to take a 50 percent loss on the face value of their bonds, agreed to take a 53.5 percent loss on the face value, the equivalent to an overall loss of around 75 percent.

Meanwhile Greece will pay lower interest rates on its bailout loans, and the European Central Bank agreed to give up profits from Greek bonds bought at a discount, and to pass those gains back to the government in Athens. This will be done via euro zone member countries because of the Central Bank’s regulations.

Stricter rules on euro zone debt and budget deficits are already in place, and next week European leaders are expected to agree on a new, higher firewall for euro bloc countries that get into financial trouble, a step that policy makers hope will signal the beginning of the end of the crisis.

PAKISTAN - Taliban Kidnappings Not Good News the Region

"Taliban Gaining More Resources From Kidnapping" by DECLAN WALSH, New York Times 2/19/2012

Excerpt

A campaign of high-profile kidnappings has provided the Pakistani Taliban and its allies with new resources, arming insurgents with millions of dollars, threatening foreign aid programs and galvanizing a sophisticated network of jihadi and criminal gangs whose reach spans the country.

Wealthy industrialists, academics, Western aid workers and relatives of military officers have been targets in a spree that, since it started three years ago, has spread to every major city, reaching the wealthiest neighborhoods, Pakistani security officials say.

For many hostages, the experience means a harrowing journey into the heart of Waziristan, the fearsome Taliban redoubt along the Afghan border that has borne the brunt of a C.I.A. drone-strike campaign.

One young Punjabi businessman who spent six months there in Taliban hands last year described it as a terrifying time of grimy cells, clandestine journeys, brutal beatings and grinding negotiations with his distraught, distant family.

For all that, his captors betrayed glimpses of humanity, even humor: small acts of kindness; quirky after-dinner games; shared confidences and reminiscences. But their ruthless intent was never in doubt, the former hostage said, speaking anonymously because he feared reprisals against his family.

During his captivity, four teenage suicide bombers were undergoing instruction, taking indoctrination classes in the morning and carrying mock explosive vests equipped with push-button detonators in the afternoon.

“Their mantra was: ‘One button and you go to heaven,’ ” he recalled.

Kidnapping is a centuries-old scourge in parts of Pakistan, from the tribesmen who snatched British colonists in the 19th century to the slum gangs that have preyed on Karachi business families since the 1980s. The national total has varied only slightly in recent years: from 474 kidnappings for ransom in 2010 to 467 last year, according to Interior Ministry figures.

What has changed, however, is the level of Taliban involvement.

"One button and you go to heaven," the sick belief of religious fanatics everywhere that God (aka Allah) would actually send them to heaven for killing other human beings.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

AFGHANISTAN - Congressional Report Says DoD is Misleading America

"Lt. Col. Daniel Davis: Commanders Sending False Impressions of Afghan War"
PBS Newshour 2/17/2012

IRAN - Nuclear Technology, Trying the Same Delay Tactic

"Could U.S. Accept Iran Having Some Nuclear Technology?" PBS Newshour 2/17/2012

Excerpt

RAY SUAREZ (Newshour): Negotiations over Iran's nuclear program have been stalled for more than a year, and Tehran appears to be moving toward gaining the technology and materials it needs to build nuclear weapons.

Recently, Iran's government sent a letter to Catherine Ashton, the coordinator for talks between Iran and six other nations, indicating it's ready to start again. Ashton met with Secretary of State Clinton afterwards. Hillary Clinton said the letter appeared to acknowledge that the talks must begin with a discussion of Iran's nuclear program.



COMMENT: A "new willingness to resume negotiations with the West?" I cannot believe that we (U.S.) could fall for this very old tactic again.

They will negotiate for a long period while they continue with their nuclear enrichment program. This is a stalling tactic to get the sanctions weakened or lifted, nothing more.

DIPLOMACY - Chinese VP Ends Visit in Los Angeles

"Chinese VP Xi Wraps Up U.S. Visit in Los Angeles With Focus on Trade" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 2/17/2012

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): China's rise offers the U.S. economic opportunities, not threats -- that was the message today as the man expected to be his country's future leader ended his American visit in Los Angeles, and a prominent U.S. film company announced it would open a studio in China.

The new company will be called Oriental DreamWorks, a joint venture between DreamWorks Animation and several Chinese media groups. DreamWorks has enjoyed box office success in China, led by the "Kung Fu Panda" franchise. But China has placed severe restrictions on the distribution of American films generally in the country.

The deal came together as Vice President Xi Jinping wrapped up his tour of the U.S. Trade has been a major focus of the trip. Yesterday, China's soon-to-be leader toured the Port of Los Angeles, where nearly 60 percent of its imports come from China.

Earlier this week in Iowa, China agreed to buy a record amount of American soybeans. China is already the top market for U.S. agricultural goods. Still, the U.S. trade deficit with China has been a persistent economic and political problem for the two nations.

President Obama met with Xi on Tuesday. The next day, speaking in Milwaukee, he talked tough on trade with China.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And I'm not going to stand by when our competitors don't play by the same rules. It's not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours just because they're getting heavy subsidies from their government.

So I directed my administration to create a trade enforcement unit, and it's only got one job: investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China, making sure we've got an even playing field -- because when we've got an even playing field, I promise you, nobody is going to out-compete America.

JEFFREY BROWN: On the Republican campaign trail, China has been a common target.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

MITT ROMNEY (R): China has stolen our intellectual property, our designs, our patents, know-how. It's hacked into our computers. It's manipulated its currency. I think you have got to say we're going to label them a currency manipulator and apply tariffs, if necessary, hopefully not, but apply tariffs where they're applying -- or exercising unfair trade practices.

JEFFREY BROWN: But at a luncheon with business leaders in Washington, Vice President Xi said steps have been taken to revalue China's currency, and that the moves helped boost American exports to China. He added, the U.S. needs to make some changes of its own.

XI JINPING, Chinese Vice President (through translator): To be frank, it is very important for addressing China-U.S. trade imbalance that the United States adjusts its economic policies and structure, including removing various restrictions on exports to China, in particular, easing control on civilian high-tech exports to China as soon as possible.

JEFFREY BROWN: Xi Jinping is expected to become China's leader next year.

"Are Chinese Business Partnerships a Good Deal for U.S. Companies?" (Part-2)
PBS Newshour 2/17/2012

AMERICA - Unwed Mothers Tops 50%

"For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage" by JASON DePARLE and SABRINA TAVERNISE, New York Times 2/17/2012

Excerpt

It used to be called illegitimacy. Now it is the new normal. After steadily rising for five decades, the share of children born to unmarried women has crossed a threshold: more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage.

Once largely limited to poor women and minorities, motherhood without marriage has settled deeply into middle America. The fastest growth in the last two decades has occurred among white women in their 20s who have some college education but no four-year degree, according to Child Trends, a Washington research group that analyzed government data.

Among mothers of all ages, a majority — 59 percent in 2009 — are married when they have children. But the surge of births outside marriage among younger women — nearly two-thirds of children in the United States are born to mothers under 30 — is both a symbol of the transforming family and a hint of coming generational change.

One group still largely resists the trend: college graduates, who overwhelmingly marry before having children. That is turning family structure into a new class divide, with the economic and social rewards of marriage increasingly reserved for people with the most education.

“Marriage has become a luxury good,” said Frank Furstenberg, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Friday, February 17, 2012

AMERICA - Black History Month?

"Why Not Everyone Supports Black History Month"
PBS Newshour 2/16/2012

AMERICA - OnLine Voting?

"Internet Voting: Will Democracy or Hackers Win?" PBS Newshour 2/16/2012

Excerpt

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien explores why most people still can't vote online.



COMMENT: First, I'm an IT Technician and have experience with security issues, so....

All the comments from computer security specialists in the video are absolutely correct. There is no why to totally protect the Internet from hackers. None.

Having said that the key word is "Internet" = Interconnected Network (aka World Wide Web).

But the Internet is NOT the only type of network. There are Closed Networks. A Close Network is one that DIRECTLY connects computer systems, they do NOT use the Internet nor WiFi. I have experience with Closed Networks because my part-time employer deals with DoD systems that are mandated to use Closed Networks.

The security of Closed Networks is NOT being on the Internet therefore not accessible to hackers. The downside is these systems having to be directly wired (connected) to each other, which is expensive. The only security issue remaining is the employees/operators of these Closed Networks and preventing outsiders from physically taping the exterior connections between systems.

A Closed Network for voting is feasible since the office of the local Registrar Of Voters could be Closed Networked to voting places. And if the computer systems at the Registrar Of Voters is NOT on the Internet, you would have high security. But this will be expensive AND does not address absentee voting.

I bring this up only as a possibility, NOT as a recommendation.

SYRIA - UN to Assad, But Non-Binding

"U.N. Calls for End to Syrian Crackdown, Assad to Step Down" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 2/16/2012

Excerpt

RAY SUAREZ (Newshour): The vote in the U.N. General Assembly endorsed an Arab League proposal 137-12, with 17 nations abstaining. The nonbinding resolution called for Syria to end its violent crackdown and for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Russia and China vetoed a similar measure in the U.N. Security Council, but the Egyptian ambassador said the Arab League still wants action.

MAGED ABDELAZIZ, Egyptian ambassador to the United Nations (through translator): The League today stresses the need for an immediate, complete, and faithful implementation of all the provisions of the Arab action plan, it being the only ideal means to realize the aspirations of the Syrian people that are legitimate.

RAY SUAREZ: Meanwhile, the violence inside Syria raged on, as the army kept up an assault on Homs and other cities.

Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News made his way to one town under siege, Saraqib. Fighters from the Free Syrian Army are trying to hold government forces at bay.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: Saraqib is home to a deadly game of cat and mouse. The militiamen opened fire on tanks which we saw stationed along the outer highway, President Assad's snipers, hidden in empty buildings, trying to pick the militiamen off. And, sometimes, government tanks shell the outskirts of the town, including this school, which, like every other school in Saraqib, has been shut for the last three months.

One in Saraqib, many Syrians seemed happy to see us. But their town is a no-man's land. The place and governor have fled. The town's hated Baath Party headquarters have been burnt down. The place is said to be riddled with government informers, and the mobile phone network has been cut.

In the town's hospital this morning, we found a woman who said she was shot by a government sniper yesterday. Although these militiamen defend Saraqib, control it, they do not. And if government forces ever return, many fear brutal reprisals.

"We heard what happened in Homs," said this fighter. "Maybe it could happen here."

Even if their military hardware fails to impress, their spirits are remarkably high also, says the primary school teacher, who sits on the coordination committee of Saraqib's uprising.

You say you have got 400 men defending this town, but you're still heavily outnumbered and heavily outgunned, aren't you?

BADR SHLASH, coordinating committee (through translator): We depend on more troops leaving Assad, and upon the strong will of local people. Though we have light weapons, we depend on Allah and the courage of local people.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: In Saraqib, even the children, armed with wooden Kalashnikovs, chant, "Death to President Assad."

And some of their parents are no less defiant. "We won't be satisfied until we have Bashar's head," they sing. "We are martyrs going to heaven."

RAY SUAREZ: In Washington today, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, told Congress al-Qaida may have infiltrated the Syrian opposition and bombed Syrian government targets.

"Would U.S. or Other Nation Lead Effort to Topple Syrian Regime?" (Part-2)
PBS Newshour 2/16/2012

POLITICS - The Selling of Public Airwaves

"Congress Will Auction Public Airwaves to Pay for Benefits" by EDWARD WYATT and JENNIFER STEINHAUER, New York Times 2/16/2012

Excerpt

The need for revenue to partly cover the extension of the payroll tax cut and long-term unemployment benefits has pushed Congress to embrace a generational shift in the country’s media landscape: the auction of public airwaves now used for television broadcasts to create more wireless Internet systems.

If a compromise bill completed Thursday by Congress is approved as expected by this weekend, the result will eventually be faster connections for smartphones, iPads and other data-hungry mobile devices. Their explosive popularity has overwhelmed the ability, particularly in big cities, for systems to quickly download maps, video games and movies.

The measure would be a rare instance of the government compensating private companies with the proceeds from an auction of public property — broadcast licenses — once given free.

The auctions, which are projected to raise more than $25 billion, would also further the Obama administration’s broadband expansion plans and create a nationwide communications network for emergency workers that would allow police, fire and other responders from different departments and jurisdictions to talk to each other directly.

Public safety officials have wanted such a seamless communications system ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The sweeping changes are even more remarkable because they resulted not from an effort to address communications policy, but from a hard-fought bipartisan compromise to extend a payroll tax holiday and jobless benefits. Republicans insisted that the extension of the unemployment insurance — a cost of roughly $30 billion — be paid for in full, and one area that both sides could agree on was spectrum sales.

The spectrum auctions are at least one to two years away, but most of the programs they pay for would be covered immediately. Consumers are unlikely to see additional charges since the auction would add new spectrum rather than adding to the costs of existing spectrum.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

TUNISIA - Economy, One Year Later

"Post-Revolution Tunisia Attempts Painful Transition to Democracy" PBS Newshour 2/15/2012

Excerpt

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): Next, the economic and political struggles in Tunisia one year after the revolution that sparked the Arab spring.

Our story is part of a collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

The reporter is Jessie Deeter, an independent producer and director who's worked in Africa and the Middle East for more than a decade.

HEALTH - Pediatric Cancer Drug Shortage

"What's Causing a Shortage of Pediatric Cancer Drugs?" PBS Newshour 2/15/2012

Excerpt

RAY SUAREZ (Newshour): There have been more than 250 drugs declared in short supply in the past year. The latest worries centered around a pivotal one called Methotrexate. Used to treat several kinds of cancers, Methotrexate is considered essential in battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia among adults and especially among children.

ALL is the most common form of cancer in children, affecting about 3,500 kids in the U.S. each year. Late last year, one of four U.S. manufacturers of the drug was forced to shut down a plant, triggering alarms that hospitals could run out of the drug within days.

This afternoon, FDA officials told the NewsHour and other news organizations they have a plan that will avert the shortage. But there are still questions being asked about the problem.



This subject highlights a fault in our economic system when it comes to health. The real solution to ALL generic drug shortages is to have an economic system that allows the generic industry to make enough money to modernize their production facilities and remain in business. I would support government subsidies if no other solution is found.

The base cause of generic drug shortage is that big-pharma abandoned production of these drugs because the drugs were not profitable enough. Typical money before human beings industry attitude.

NUCLEAR POWER - Debating the Issue

"Debating the Safety, Wisdom of New Nuclear Reactors in Georgia" PBS Newshour 2/15/2012

Excerpt

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): Now, a big move forward for nuclear power in the U.S.

This construction site in eastern Georgia will house the nation's first new commercial nuclear reactors in decades. They're to be built at the Plant Vogtle facility, where two existing reactors have operated since the late 1980s. The plant is situated near Waynesboro, Georgia, 34 miles southeast of Augusta, 170 miles east of Atlanta.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu visited the site today to see the work in progress. Basic construction had begun more than a year ago, anticipating that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would license the new reactors, which it did last week in a vote of 4-1.

The reactors are the first to be approved since 1978, the year before the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.

President Obama has several times called for expanding the role of nuclear energy as part of an overall national strategy.



COMMENT: Aside from the issue if SHOULD the license be held until after a guarantee of incorporation of "lessons learned" reminder, no one can predict the unknown.

Also, another excerpt

STEPHEN SMITH, executive director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy: Well, if this was a mature industry, as they claim it is, then they really shouldn't be going to the government for handouts and support.

And we think that, because of the inherent economic risk, these price tags on these reactors have absolutely skyrocketed from what they were originally proposed to do. Georgia Power in Georgia is actually having to take money from rate payers now before the reactor is even built because no one wants to invest in these things. They have to get the loan guarantees.

And it's just extremely costly and economically risky. Much of the much-touted nuclear renaissance has largely evaporated because demand is down, natural gas prices are low, energy efficiency is showing much stronger potential, renewable prices are dropping. And so we're seeing that we don't really need to go in the direction of these high-risk energy choices.

And the federal government really doesn't need to be subsidizing it if the market doesn't want to support these.

Because the demand is down at present does NOT mean it will stay down. When the demand goes up, and it will, it will be MORE costly to pay for in the future. Pay now while the financing cost is low.

HONDURAS - Prison Fire Kills 272 Inmates

"Honduran Prison Fire Kills at Least 272; Cause Unclear" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 2/15/2012

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): Fire engulfed a 1940s-era prison in Honduras overnight. By late today, 272 inmates were confirmed dead, but officials said the number was expected to go much higher. More than 450 others escaped with their lives.

Margaret Warner has our story.

MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): This shaky cell phone video captured the fearful scenes, flames raging into the night sky. Honduran television showed the fast-moving blaze burning out of control at the prison.

Workers at a nearby hotel said it took 20 to 30 minutes for the first fire crews to arrive. Even then, firefighters said at least 100 inmates died in their cells, screaming for help. Some inmates were set free. Rescuers carried injured prisoners outside. And many of those died later of burns and smoke inhalation.

In short order, grieving relatives gathered outside the prison in Comayagua, a city in central Honduras, about 45 miles north of the capital, Tegucigalpa. As dawn came, people tried to storm the gates of the prison to recover remains of their loved ones. Some threw rocks before being pushed back by security officers.

The president of the Central American nation, Porfirio Lobo, went on television with condolences and a promise of aid.

PORFIRIO LOBO, Honduran president (through translator): This is a very painful day for Honduras. We are very sorry about what happened. And I want to express my solidarity with the relatives of those who lost their life in the prison in Comayagua. We are going to give all the medical assistance to the injured.

MARGARET WARNER: The cause of the fire remained in question. Some survivors said an inmate had screamed, "We will all die here," and then set his mattress ablaze in his cell.

As rescue workers removed the bodies, President Lobo suspended the officials in charge of the prison and vowed to get answers.

PORFIRIO LOBO (through translator): We will carry out a full investigation to find out what caused this sad and unacceptable tragedy and to find those responsible. It will be an independent investigation monitored by international observers.

MARGARET WARNER: Honduran prisons have long been notorious for overcrowding and violence.

The one in Comayagua reportedly was built for 400 people, but housed more than 800. There have been other deadly prison fires. In 2004, a blaze at state prison near Tegucigalpa killed more than 100 inmates.

"From Overcrowding to Corruption, Examining Prison Life in Honduras" (Part-2)
PBS Newshour 2/15/2012


Note for the interviewee, NO prison, anywhere (including the U.S.), is for rehabilitation.

IRAN - All Bluster and Bluff Caused by Fear

"Aggressive Acts by Iran Signal Pressure on Its Leadership" by SCOTT SHANE and ROBERT F. WORTH, New York Times 2/15/2012

Excerpt

A string of aggressive gestures by Iran this week — assassination attempts on Israelis living abroad that were attributed to Tehran, renewed posturing over its nuclear program and fresh threats of economic retaliation — suggest that Iranian leaders are responding frantically, and with increasing unpredictability, to the tightening of sanctions by the West.

As investigators unearthed new evidence implicating Iran in the attacks this week in Thailand, India and Georgia, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran announced Wednesday what he said was his country’s latest nuclear advance, and Iran’s Oil Ministry threatened to pre-empt a European oil embargo by cutting off sales to six countries there.

“These are all facets of the same message,” said Muhammad Sahimi, an analyst and professor at the University of Southern California. “Iran is saying, ‘If you hit us, we will hit back, and we are not going to sacrifice our nuclear program.’ ”

The flurry of Iranian actions and statements comes as Western governments are watching closely for signs of Iran’s reaction to the tougher sanctions they have imposed. But the intentions of Iran’s divided leadership are notoriously difficult to divine, and even as Mr. Ahmadinejad declared defiantly that “the era of bullying nations has passed,” another Iranian official said Tehran was ready for new talks on the nuclear issue.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, confirmed on Wednesday that she had received a reply from a top Iranian official responding to her invitation to negotiations over the future of its nuclear program. Iran’s Al Alam television said the country had offered to “hold new talks over its nuclear program in a constructive way.”

American officials reacted with caution to the reported offer to talk and said they saw little substance in either the oil threat or Mr. Ahmadinejad’s announcement that Iran had new centrifuges able to enrich uranium more quickly. The Iranian president was shown on live television overseeing the loading of what was described as an Iranian-made fuel rod into a research reactor and declaring that “the arrogant powers cannot monopolize nuclear technology. They tried to prevent us by issuing sanctions and resolutions but failed.”

Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, said that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks appeared “calibrated mostly for a domestic audience.”

“The Iranians have for many months been putting out calendars of accomplishments, and based on their own calendars, they are many, many months behind,” Ms. Nuland said.

Nor did the threat to cut oil sales to six European countries — first incorrectly announced by Iran’s Press TV as already in effect — have much of an impact. The White House spokesman, Jay Carney, noted that the European Union banned new oil contracts with Iran last month and said it would halt all imports of Iranian oil July 1. Oil prices ticked up by $1.06 a barrel to $101.80 on the New York Mercantile Exchange in response to Iran’s warning.

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the belligerent moves by Iran actually underscored weakness.

“If there’s a meta-narrative here, it’s that Iran tends to speak loudly but carries a small stick,” Mr. Sadjadpour said. “Their alleged terror attacks projected incompetence more than fear, their announced nuclear progress is likely exaggerated, and their threat to pre-emptively cease oil exports to Europe turned out to be another bluff.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

AMERICA - Older Children Returning to the Nest

"'Accordion' Families Expand for Boomerang Kids, 'Parasite Singles' to Move Home" PBS Newshour 2/14/2012

Excerpt

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): Now, young adults who leave the nest, only to come right back home again.

NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman looks at what is behind that growing trend. It's part of his regular reporting Making Sense of financial news.

PAUL SOLMAN: The Schaffer residence in Newton, Massachusetts, outside Boston. Fraternal twins Becky and Naomi both went away to college in Canada, graduated last year. Both worked part-time. And both are so-called boomerang kids, back home with their parents.



SIDE COMMENT: Here's an interesting excerpt

PAUL SOLMAN: At the Schaffers, parents Kenny and Lianne were mostly positive about their no-longer empty nest.

LIANNE SCHAFFER, mother: It's a pleasure really to have them around, even though it's more work and more, you know, mess and all that.

PAUL SOLMAN: The girls' take?

BECKY SCHAFFER: Even though my parents are cool, it's nice to live by yourself in an apartment and not kind of have to answer to anyone.

PAUL SOLMAN: You can't sleep until 2:00 in the afternoon.

BECKY SCHAFFER: Oh, I do that. But I can't -- like, you know, I can't sit in my living room and drink with my friends until late into the night, like I did in college. And that's okay. But, I mean, this is like our family's home, so I can't just do whatever I want.

Welcome to "married life." Why do I say that? Married couples do not "do whatever I want," it's a life of "we" not "I" where each has to always consider the other. It's "our" home, income, life-style, etc.

Only if young people leave home and do NOT move into a another home-relationship do you get the opportunity to "do whatever I want." Like Becky's college experience.

My limited observation of problems with young couples is when they move away from their parent's home DIRECTLY into a significant-other home and find they cannot be as independent as they expected.

AMERICA - Making Apples

"Who Makes Apple's Gadgets and Under What Conditions?"
PBS Newshour 2/14/2012

DIPLOMACY - The Chinese VP Visit

"Chinese VP Xi Ready for 'Candid' Dialogue on Human Rights" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 2/14/2012

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): Next tonight, China's likely next leader meets the American president in Washington.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, I want to welcome Vice President Xi.

GWEN IFILL: President Obama shuck struck a hopeful note as he hosted Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping at the White House today.

BARACK OBAMA: We welcome China's peaceful rise, that we believe that a strong and prosperous China is one that can help to bring stability at prosperity to the region and to the world.

GWEN IFILL: Xi arrived in Washington as the likely next president of the world's most populous nation and its second largest economy.

Mr. Obama said such power needs to be used wisely.

BARACK OBAMA: We have tried to emphasize that because of China's extraordinarily -- extraordinary development over the last two decades, that with expanding power and prosperity also comes increased responsibilities.

GWEN IFILL: Xi, speaking through a translator, also accentuated the positive in talking about the relations between the two countries.

XI JINPING, Chinese vice president (through translator): And I hope to engage with a broad cross-section of American society during my current visit, so as to deepen mutual understanding, expand consensus, strengthen cooperation, and deepen the friendship between the Chinese and American people.

GWEN IFILL: But Xi's visit comes at a time of new tensions in the U.S.-China relationship, the latest conflict, China's veto 10 days ago of a U.N. security resolution condemning the violence in Syria.

The Chinese have also objected to President Obama's pledge to shift America's military focus to the Pacific. Xi addressed that point in a carefully worded statement in Sunday's Washington Post. "We welcome a constructive role by the United States in promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the region," he wrote. "We also hope that the United States will fully respect and accommodate the major interests and legitimate concerns of Asia-Pacific countries."

China's rising economic power has become part of the U.S. presidential campaign as well, as Republicans have criticized the U.S. debt imbalance and debated building projects like the Keystone oil pipeline to support allies like Canada.

MITT ROMNEY (R): I'll approach every spending decision, every budget item with these questions: Can we afford it? And, if not, is it really worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?

NEWT GINGRICH (R): The idea of an American president making it easier for Canada to partner with China than with the United States is amazingly destructive.

GWEN IFILL: U.S. administrations have long complained of China's undervaluing its currency and of the U.S. trade imbalance with Beijing, which in 2011 widened to nearly $300 billion.

Other areas of disagreement range from Chinese theft of American intellectual property to the continued loss of American manufacturing jobs to Chinese workers.

And protesters outside the White House today complained of China's human rights record, demanding China give Tibet its freedom.

Vice President Xi responded to U.S. human rights concerns at a State Department luncheon.

XI JINPING (through translator): We are ready to conduct candid and constructive dialogue and exchanges on human rights with the United States and other countries on the basis of equality and mutual respect, with the view to enhancing understanding, narrowing differences, learning from each other and achieving common progress.

GWEN IFILL: Xi was also meeting today with business leaders, and tomorrow returns to Muscatine, Iowa, where he visited on a 1985 agricultural tour.

"China's Xi Visits Obama Amid 'Quite a Bit of Trouble' in Relations" (Part-2)
PBS Newshour 2/14/2012