Guess Who Leads the Bribery World?
The USA is the most corrupt country in the world and I have 10,000 posts that point heavily to that fact…

IMF warns that world risks sliding into a 1930s-style slump December 16, 2011

The world risks sliding into a 1930s-style slump unless countries settle their differences and work together to tackle Europe‘s deepening debt crisis, the head of the International Monetary Fund has warned.

On a day that saw an escalation in the tit-for-tat trade battle between China and the United States and a deepening of the diplomatic rift between Britain and France, Christine Lagarde issued her strongest warning yet about the health of the global economy and said if the international community failed to co-operate the risk was of “retraction, rising protectionism, isolation”.

She added: “This is exactly the description of what happened in the 1930s, and what followed is not something we are looking forward to.”

The IMF managing director’s call came amid growing concern that 2012 will see Europe slide into a double-dip recession, with knock-on effects for the rest of the global economy. “The world economic outlook at the moment is not particularly rosy. It is quite gloomy,” she said.

Since arriving in Washington in the summer, Lagarde has been forced to cut her organisation’s forecasts for global growth next year and is now putting pressure on countries outside the eurozone – including Britain – to play their part in containing Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.

An IMF plan, agreed at the Brussels summit last week, involves obtaining €200bn (£168bn) from European countries and then asking the rest of the world to contribute. Beijing has so far proved reluctant to join in a rescue of the eurozone and has said it is up to Europe to sort out its own problems.

Speaking at the State Department in Washington, Lagarde said: “There is no economy in the world, whether low-income countries, emerging markets, middle-income countries or super-advanced economies, that will be immune to the crisis that we see not only unfolding but escalating.

“It is not a crisis that will be resolved by one group of countries taking action. It is going to be hopefully resolved by all countries, all regions, all categories of countries actually taking some action.”

Lagarde said that the scale of the eurozone crisis, and its implications for other countries, meant that Europe’s governments could not tackle it alone. “It is going to require efforts, it is going to require adjustment; and clearly it is going to have to start from the core of the crisis at the moment, which is obviously the European countries, and in particular the countries of the eurozone,” Lagarde said.

As Lagarde called for unity, there were strong attacks on Britain from both the French finance minister, Francois Baroin, and the governor of the French central bank, Christian Noyer, in what appeared to be a concerted attempt by Paris to escalate a war of words with London in the wake of Britain’s decision to veto a new EU treaty.

Noyer, speaking amid financial market speculation that the Standard Poor’s ratings agency was about to strip France of its coveted AAA rating, said Britain’s credit rating should be downgraded first.

He said a downgrade for France (which would drive up the interest Paris pays to borrow, and make loans in the wider economy more expensive) “doesn’t strike me as justified based on economic fundamentals.

“If it is, they should start by downgrading the UK, which has a bigger deficit, as much debt, more inflation, weaker growth, and where bank lending is collapsing.”

In strikingly similar language, Baroin poked fun at David Cameron in a speech to the French parliament. “Great Britain is in a very difficult economic situation: a deficit close to the level of Greece, debt equivalent to our own, much higher inflation prospects, and growth forecasts well under the eurozone average. It is an audacious choice the UK government has made.”

Downing Street responded with restraint. Cameron’s official spokesman said: “We have put in place a credible plan for dealing with our deficit, and the credibility of that plan can be seen in what has happened to bond yields in this country.” Privately, officials said it was a “strange thing” for Noyer to speak as he did, but there was no desire in London to inflame the situation.

In another sign the financial crisis was deepening last night, Fitch cut its ratings on eight of the world’s biggest banks, including Barclays, Bank of America, and Deutsche Bank. It warned that they all faced “increased challenges”, with potential losses hard to calculate.

John Bryson, the US commerce secretary, signalled that Washington would retaliate against Beijing’s decision to put tariffs on high-performance US cars imported into China. “The United States has reached a point where we cannot quietly accept China ignoring many of the trade rules. China still substantially subsidises its own companies, discriminates against foreign companies, and has poor intellectual property protections,” he said.

Britain has been given observer status on a working group set up by the Economic and Financial Committee of the EU to carry out technical work ahead of the full-blown negotiations on the treaty, boosting Cameron’s claim that Britain has not been marginalised by his move last week.

On Thursday Hungary and the Czech Republic raised doubts about the proposed agreement, saying they would not sign the new treaty if they had to give up their right to decide tax policy. Downing Street denied that Cameron was attempting to foment opposition to the treaty, and said that the prime minister was talking to all sides. But by Thursday the only eurozone leader he had spoken to was Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister.

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Political Standoff Heats Up Between Rival Papua New Guinea Prime Ministers

Papua New Guinea is in the midst of a political standoff, with two rival politicians claiming to be prime minister. With one backed by the country’s cabinet, the other by the supreme court, analysts say the country is heading into unchartered waters, with a resolution hinged on a dangerous ego battle. 

Michael Somare, Papua’s New Guinea’s longtime on-and-off leader, was sworn in as prime minister on Wednesday morning after the Supreme Court ruled the current government is unconstitutional.

But, his rival Peter O’Neill, who won a parliamentary election in August, maintains he is the country’s legitimate leader.

The crisis started brewing in April when Michael Somare, 76, left PNG to undergo heart surgery in Singapore. The medical treatment took months and, during his absence, Papua New Guinea’s parliament elected popular opposition leader Peter O’Neill to take his place.

Somare returned home in September fighting to be reinstated, thrusting the troubled Pacific nation into a political deadlock.

Jenny Hayward-Jones, an analyst on Papua New Guinea politics from the Lowy Institute in Australia, says the crisis has become a battle of egos with neither leader willing to step down.

“I think the ambitious nature of both politicians is of concern at the moment,” said Hayward-Jones. “Both the competing prime ministers, I don’t think they will see their way through to a fair solution quickly. I think this may take some time to convince both of them that they need to talk or that one of them needs to stand down or stand back and allow the other to stand forward and take power.”

Elections are scheduled for June and Hayward-Jones says the leaders are fighting to stay in power so they have access to the cash and resources that will allow them to fund their campaign and secure votes.

With his heavy-handed leadership style and accusations of corruption, many Papua New Guineans have lost faith in both the parliament and leadership of Michael Somare, who has ruled the country on and off for more than forty years.

And, although Somare has the supreme court on his side, O’Neill boasts the support of the parliament and a disillusioned public.

But, with analysts warning that the deadlock is unlikely to be solved swiftly, Hayward-Jones says there are concerns the police may become embroiled in the current political tensions.

“I don’t see much likelihood of a military intervention,” said Hayward-Jones. “The police, however, are another matter. There are two police commissioners at the moment, one appointed by each prime minister. And, the police themselves are said to be divided into two factions one supporting Somare, the other supporting O’Neill. So if the situation did become violent and there was some public unrest then the police response would become critical.”

The mineral-rich country and former Australian colony has a population of seven million and a rocky political history. But the current power struggle is unprecedented.

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Mitt Romney challenges Rick Perry to $10,000 bet in GOP debate December 13, 2011


December 13, 2011

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Mitt Romney challenges Rick Perry to $10,000 bet in GOP debate 11 Dec 2011 In a moment during Saturday’s GOP debate in Iowa that The Fix’s Chris Cillizza called a “rare but likely costly unforced error,” former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney challenged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to a $10,000 bet on Romney’s position on the individual mandate in the nation’s new health insurance law… After a bit of back-and-forth, a visibly annoyed Romney extended his hand to Perry: “Rick, I’ll tell you what, 10,000 bucks?” Romney said. “$10,000 bet?” Perry, who appeared surprised by the move, declined, saying he is “not in the betting business” but offered to show him the book.

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Millions of drivers won’t hang up, study shows December 9, 2011

Washington (CNN) — Your eyes aren’t deceiving you.

A federal study says one in 20 drivers observed at any given moment is holding a mobile phone to his or her ear, and that almost one in 100 can be observed sending a text message or otherwise manipulating a digital device.

At the typical daylight moment, some 13.5 million drivers are on a hand-held phone nationwide, the study says.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the study Thursday, saying the use of phones while driving is holding steady, and text messaging is growing, despite laws limiting hand-held devices and a tidal wave of publicity about tragedies cause by distracted drivers.

NHTSA said there’s evidence that 3,092 deaths — one-tenth of all roadway fatalities last year — involved distracted drivers, although they believe the actual number may be far higher. Determining the cause of distracted driving fatalities is difficult, authorities said, because there frequently are not witnesses, and the distracted driver may be dead.

Accordingly, officials Thursday also unveiled a new measurement of fatalities which — to be called “distraction-affected crashes” — that they say will help them follow trends and focus research in the future.

The old method, used to estimate 2009 distracted driving deaths, included a broader range of indicators, including cases of “careless driving,” and cases in which a mobile phone was found in a car, even if there was no evidence it was being used.

But the new methodology focuses more narrowly “on crashes in which a driver was most likely to have been distracted,” NHTSA said.

The number of fatalities dropped from 5,474 people in 2009, to 3,092 people in 2010, but NHTSA said the two numbers should not be compared, because of the changing methodology.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a statement the new methodology is intended to improve the agency’s understanding of the problem, to lay the groundwork for additional research.

Indeed, there is some evidence the problem is holding steady, if not worsening, officials said.

Under the so-called NOPUS study — National Occupant Protection Use Survey — trained observers at randomly selected sites track the extent to which they see people use cell phones and other electronic devices while driving. Data is collected only during daylight hours, and the observers look only at stopped vehicles.

The study said the percentage of drivers who use hand-held cell phones stood at 5 percent in 2010, while the percentage of drivers who were text-messaging or visibly manipulating hand-held devices increased significantly from 0.6 percent in 2009 to 0.9 percent in 2010.

According to NHTSA, as of May 2011, eight states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington) as well as the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands ban driving while talking on a hand-held cell phone. Thirty-two states, the District of Columbia and Guam ban text messaging for all drivers.

Some states, such as Maine, New Hampshire and Utah, treat cell phone use and texting as part of a larger distracted driving issue. In Utah, for instance, cell phone use is an offense only if a driver is also committing some other moving violation, other than speeding, NHTSA said.


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US marks Pearl Harbor 70 years on December 8, 2011


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Survivors attended the Pearl Harbor ceremony in Hawaii

The Pearl Harbor attacks’ few remaining survivors have led US commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the event that changed World War II’s course.

About 120 veterans joined military leaders at the Hawaii naval base as a moment of silence was observed at the time Japan sprung its offensive.

President Barack Obama called for US flags to be flown at half mast on federal buildings across the country.

Some 2,400 Americans died in the Japanese attacks of 7 December 1941.

President Obama, who was born in Hawaii, hailed veterans of the bombing in a statement marking National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

‘Greatest Generation’

“Their tenacity helped define the Greatest Generation and their valour fortified all who served during World War II,” he said.

Barely 120 survivors of the Pearl Harbor attacks remain

“As a nation, we look to December 7 1941 to draw strength from the example set by these patriots and to honour all who have sacrificed for our freedoms.”

At 7:55 am (17:55 GMT), the moment Japanese bombers swooped on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, a ceremony was held by the wreck of the USS Arizona, one of 12 vessels sunk that day seven decades ago.

Nearly half of those killed in the attack died almost instantly on the Arizona, when a bomb detonated the giant battleship’s munitions.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and military leaders were also among the several thousand people at Wednesday’s event.

A US Navy destroyer rendered honours to the Arizona to begin the moment of silence, before F-22 jets flew overhead in “missing man” formation.

Over in Washington DC, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta laid a wreath at the US Navy Memorial at midday.

Crippled by a bomb that detonated its munitions, the USS Arizona sinks to its watery grave

The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association said it would disband after this year’s landmark commemoration because so few veterans remained.

Thousands of survivors were on hand for the 50th anniversary of the attacks in 1991.

As well as the dozen ships wrecked in the attack on Pearl Harbor, nine other vessels were damaged and the US lost 164 aeroplanes. Sixty-two Japanese died.

Denouncing “a date which will live in infamy”, President Franklin Roosevelt went to Congress for a declaration of war, which was approved within hours.

Three days later, Germany declared war on the US. America’s entry was to change the course of the conflict.

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Obama speech declares ‘make-or-break moment for the middle class’ December 7, 2011


Barack Obama’s Kansas speech targets ‘fend for yourself’ stance of Republicans and corporations. Link to this video

Barack Obama blasted his Republican foes and Wall Street as he portrayed himself as a champion of the middle class and laid out in the starkest terms yet the populist themes of his 2012 re-election bid.

In a speech meant to echo a historic address given by the former US president Theodore Roosevelt in the same Kansas town more than 100 years ago, Obama railed against “gaping” economic inequality and pressed the case for policies he insisted would help ordinary Americans get through hard times.

He seized the opportunity to step up pressure on congressional Republicans to extend payroll tax cuts that independent economists say are vital to economic recovery, and vowed new legislation to punish Wall Street fraud.

But Obama’s broader message was a sweeping call for the working class to get a “fair shot” and a “fair share” as he pushed for wealthier Americans to pay higher taxes and demanded that big corporate interests play by the rules.

“This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class,” Obama told a cheering crowd in a high school gymnasium in Osawatomie, Kansas.

“At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home and secure their retirement.”

With the election due in 11 months, Obama’s speech was part of a strategy to cast the Republicans as the party beholden to the rich and blame them for obstructing his efforts to boost the fragile economy and slash high unemployment – issues considered crucial to his re-election chances.

“Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules. Well, I’m here to say they are wrong,” he said.

Republicans said it was another attempt to distract from what they see as Obama’s failed economic record. The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, accused the president and his fellow Democrats of resorting to “cheap political theatre”.

The Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, in an interview on CNBC, said Obama’s policies made him the “finest food stamp president in American history” because more people would end up getting government aid than new jobs.

Obama’s attempt to lay out the ideological foundations of his re-election campaign marked a shift from recent speeches that have concentrated on small-scale executive actions or campaign-style harangues against Republicans to stop stalling his $447bn jobs plan.

This time Obama sought to channel Roosevelt, a Republican who provoked deep anger within his party with his landmark “new nationalism” speech in 1910 that hailed the government’s role in promoting social justice and warned against abuses by rich business interests. Roosevelt lost the 1912 presidential election running as a third-party candidate.

Obama sharpened his tone against Wall Street, reflecting what aides see as a message that increasingly resonates with working-class voters whose taxes have gone to business bailouts while their own incomes have flatlined. He was also seeking to revitalise his liberal base amid fears that an “enthusiasm gap” could cut into Democratic turnout and cost him a second term.

Obama sounded themes of economic inequality and corporate greed that have driven the Occupy Wall Street protest movement, which was spawned in New York and has spread to other major cities and countries.

“President Obama is attempting to energise Democrats for the campaign, define himself as something more than a passive president and take populism back from the Tea Party,” said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University political historian.

The risk for Obama is that tougher rhetoric against big business could turn off some of the centrist voters he needs to win re-election. After his Democrats suffered major losses in the November 2010 congressional elections, he launched an outreach to the business community to try to mend fences.

Obama used his speech to accuse Republicans of suffering from “collective amnesia” about the recent financial crisis, and he strongly defended his Wall Street regulatory overhaul that many Republicans opposed and want to roll back.

He said he would call for legislation to toughen penalties against Wall Street companies that break anti-fraud rules.

“Too often we’ve seen Wall Street firms violating major anti-fraud laws because the penalties are too weak and there’s no price for being a repeat offender. No more,” Obama said.

He again prodded Republican lawmakers to extend the expiring payroll tax cut beyond this year.

Many Republican lawmakers are sceptical that it will spur job creation, but party leaders, fearing a possible backlash from voters in 2012, have expressed a willingness to find a way to prevent the tax cut from lapsing. They remain at odds with Democrats on how to fund it.

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Barack Obama’s Kansas speech targets ‘fend for yourself’ stance of Republicans and corporations – video

The US president declared a ‘make-or-break moment for the middle class’ as he echoed Theodore Roosevelt, who spoke in Osawatomie, Kansas, on similar themes 100 years ago. Obama said the Republicans believe ‘we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules. Well, I’m here to say they are wrong’

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The rise and fall of Herman Cain | Ana Marie Cox December 4, 2011

There was a distinct lack of tension in the build-up to Herman Cain‘s announcement that he would be suspending his campaign for the GOP nomination. The conclusion was inevitable and yet mysteriously drawn-out, like when “Titanic” won Best Picture.

It’s tempting to elaborate further on that metaphor – what was the launch of “Women for Cain” a few days ago but some rapidly re-arranged deck chairs? – but the Cain campaign lacked the expectations and the budget of either the ship or the blockbuster movie.

When Cain surged ahead in the polls despite his negligible political experience and even tinier political operation, pundits scoffed: he had no ground game in Iowa, for heaven’s sake! But such derision, in the moment, did little to deter Cain’s fans. His bravado about his ignorance made political establishment figures shake their heads, but voters liked the guy who “sounds like me”. In the face of that unquestioning admiration, there were only two things that could bring down Herman Cain: a scandal or a short attention span.

I’m not sure which one actually did him in. Cain’s Fauxmney moment lasted about as long as any of the other candidates’. As news of allegations of sexual impropriety continued to dominate coverage, Cain grew more brittle and defensive – but who’s to say that the spotlight wouldn’t have revealed that side of his character even without the growing chorus of women with stories of ugly (or, at least, inappropriate) behavior?

Candidates can survive scandal; political figures can even profit from it – because American voters aren’t so much prudes as repressed adolescents, given to rapturous infatuations and instant dismissals. (In this respect, they may not be too different from Cain.)

And everyone knows Mitt Romney‘s the only one they can bring home to mom.

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Ron Paul labels Newt and Mitt muppets | Paul Harris November 29, 2011


Ron Paul’s attack ad ‘Who Can You Trust?’ Video: 247FreedomOps/YouTube


Who

It’s Ron Paul, the long-time Texan congressman and favourite of libertarians who subscribe to his anti-government, pro-individual policies. Paul’s team must be wondering what they have to do to get a break. Paul is a conservative, family man, veteran and has a fervent base of super-keen supporters. Yet Paul has watched as candidates and non-candidates of the dubious calibre of Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and now Newt Gingrich have led the race to be the Non-Romney of the GOP race.

What

What they have to do, apparently, is produce web videos like this. At a mammoth two minutes and ten seconds long, it tries to make up for the time that Paul’s fans say (with some merit) that he is consistently denied in the TV debates. This ad is Paul’s attempt to take down the current top of the field: Gingrich and Mitt Romney. It’s called “Who Can You Trust?” and makes no bones about it’s conclusion: not those two dodgy chancers.

When

It went up today and – if Team Paul’s dreams come true – it will zoom around the internet and become a talking point on CNN, Fox News etc, and generate huge free publicity. Or, more likely, it will die a neglected YouTube death like most of these efforts.

Why

Paul needs to make a move. Polls shows this might be his moment. He is edging up in key states, though not in the same way as the Perry/Cain/Gingrich surges which catapulted their candidates, albeit briefly, to the top tier. But Paul has to believe his moment will come, so it’s time to start trying to take a chunk out of your opponents. As Paul’s team look at the field, they want to hit two targets. First, go for Romney to establish Paul as the alternative candidate to His Mittness. Second, slam the guy currently sitting in that spot: His Newtness. Other candidates – Bachmann, Perry and Cain – are clearly seen as having wasted their moment in the sun.

How

Let’s get the obvious thing over with first. Just when you are ready to accept Paul’s campaign is going to shed its candidate’s reputation for being a little wacky, they set an entire two-minute campaign ad to a famous song from the Muppets. Yes, the background to the entire thing is the “Mahna Mahnam” song. Thanks, Ron.

It is actually quite funny. After all, he is effectively calling Romney and Gingrich a pair of muppets. But given the content of the rest of the ad, it feels far too frivolous. It distracts from the way that the video actually goes on to hit Romney and Gingrich in ways that are serious and profound.

It is a devastating example of how to use a candidate’s own words to hurt them – and the execution is simple. It begins with Paul saying: “All this talk is just talk.” Then the dissection begins. The methodology is simple. First, you show Romney saying he supports something. Then, you show him saying he is against it. Then, you show Gingrich praising an issue. Next, you show him condemning it. On and on and on it goes. On healthcare, Libya, abortion rights, the stimulus, global warming and income inequality, the same technique is repeated.

They even hit Gingrich for going after Bill Clinton and his marital problems when he himself was having an affair. Whatever your political views, it’s grim viewing and plays skilfully to Paul’s strength: his consistency. Whatever one thinks of some of the more “out there” of Paul’s opinions (such as scrapping huge chunks of the government, mainly), even his harshest critics admire him for not bending to focus groups or opinion polls. That has been shown most strongly in TV debates, where Paul is happy to shock GOP audiences with a strong critique of American foreign policy (one that few liberal politicians would ever dare utter).

It’s strong stuff, but then the ad goes off the rails. Besides the continuing irritant of the Muppets song, Romney’s and Gingrich’s heads are superimposed comically on the bottom of a pair of flip-flops (geddit?). Finally, to a sudden deafening eagle screech (apparently stolen, without irony, from the Colbert Report), a raptor-shaped American flag is shown looking slightly battered and blood-stained, and the words “Ron Paul 2012″ appear. What? Is this Comedy Central?

Again, just when you think Paul is hitting his stride, he does something weird. Which sums up this ad. It is brutally effective in its attacks on the other GOP candidates, but then it reminds you why Paul himself is hardly likely to put the fear of God into the Obama campaign. And that is a further sign that the final stages of the GOP race resemble nothing so much as a circular firing squad.

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Kate Bolick: ‘The heterosexual world is a very conservative place’ November 27, 2011

As she approaches 40, Kate Bolick has come to a profound insight: that she – and many American women like her – might never marry. But revealing that fact in the Atlantic magazine caused an outbreak of soul-searching and frenzied comment. Here, she talks to Lisa O’Kelly

Your piece went viral as soon as it was published in the Atlantic magazine in the US in October , sparking a slew of reaction pieces in online magazines such as Slate and the Huffington Post, not to mention 30,000 likes on Facebook. Were you surprised at the scale of the response?

I was really surprised. I had no idea the piece would attract that kind of attention. It’s the second most popular story of the year for the Atlantic and I’ve been asked to do a ton of radio and television; each phone-in programme I’ve done, the lines have been flooded. There have been countless articles about the article. I haven’t even read all of them. It’s a really surreal experience being written about in this way. The reaction has been across the board, from positive to negative. I’m still getting hundreds of emails from men and women of all ages all over the world and those run the gamut. Predominantly, though, I’m hearing from single people who are feeling happy and relieved to hear about this growing demographic and to read someone who is speaking to their experience. I’ve also had love letters and quite a few marriage proposals. That has been really funny.

Why do you think there has been such a tremendous response to the piece?

I’ve been trying to figure it out and I think the main reason is that we are in a very conservative moment socially. This is surprising since there has been so much progress on same-sex marriage, which makes it seem as though we are at a progressive moment for gender relations, but in the heterosexual world we’re in a very conservative place. The fact that a single heterosexual woman simply questioning the primacy of marriage should create such a storm is proof enough of that.

Apparently you have annoyed some male readers.

Yes – I think a lot of men are feeling vulnerable and scared at the moment because their economic power and influence is dwindling and I don’t think I was sensitive enough to that when I was writing the article. I was coming at it from a female standpoint, because that was what I was asked to do and that was how I felt most comfortable writing. But I’d like to see a male equivalent of my article now.

Have any of your exes commented on the article?

Yes, but only in a positive way. They are all very excited by the reaction.

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

I do, yes.

What does that mean in 2011?

In essence, the old-school feminist principles such as equal pay, equal rights, a woman’s right to be in control of her own body and her own life – these things still hold true today for everyone. But because of the way the arguments are sometimes framed, there is a lot of misperception of what feminism is now. People say they’re not feminists but then if you ask them if they agree with equal pay they’ll say yes. I wanted to discuss these ideas in a way that was open and accessible. A lot of feminist discourse can be alienating because it is more polemic.

There are now plans to turn the piece into a TV series.

I am beyond excited about it. I was approached by Josh Berman, creator of Drop Dead Diva [a hit US drama series about a pretty twentysomething actress who dies and is reincarnated as an older, frumpy lawyer] who loved the ideas in the article and convinced his executives at Sony that he could turn it into a scripted series, not a reality show. I don’t know Josh but I’ve seen an episode of Drop Dead Diva and I really liked the way it dealt with women’s body issues in a comic but intelligent way. I’m going to be a co-producer and creative consultant once it gets off the ground.

Who will play you?

I have no idea! But it’s quite fun to think about who would be my ideal choice to play the 30-year-old me, who would be the 40-year-old me and so on. I can’t decide.

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A pointer to the future as publisher’s online revenues beat print revenues November 22, 2011

Here’s a small but significant moment in publishing history, and a possible pointer to the future. A prominent US magazine publisher, Atlantic Media, has reporting that its digital advertising revenue has exceeded print advertising revenue.

Last month, October, its ad revenue split was 51% digital compared to 49% print. Publishing industry experts believe it to be something of a first by such a well-known publisher.



The December issue

Atlantic’s publisher, Jay Lauf, said: “When I started in 2008, digital was 9% of our total ad revenue… everybody in the business is always talking about trading print dimes for digital dollars. Well, for the first time we’re actually beating print.”

Its online growth did not occur because of a decline in print revenue. It sold more ads in the October issue of the magazine than it had in any other issue since 1999.

The company, which takes its name from its monthly flagship title, The Atlantic, has seen website traffic grow to 5.4m monthly visitors.

Atlantic does have lower advertising rates than other similar publications.

Source: New York Times

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Mass arrests at Occupy protests November 18, 2011


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Protesters in New York clashed with police on Thursday morning

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are marching on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York after a day of protest that has seen solidarity rallies across the US.

More than 200 people were arrested just in New York as trouble flared near the stock exchange.

Activists started the day by marching through New York’s financial district and later attempted to “occupy” subway stations during rush hour.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said five police officers had minor injuries.

Thursday’s nationwide protests were held to mark two months since the start of Occupy Wall Street.

‘Critical moment’

It was planned before demonstrators were swept from New York’s Zuccotti Park, where they had camped since mid-September, two days ago.

Continue reading the main story

At the scene




As the evening rush hour begins, a police watchtower overlooks Zuccotti Park, now emptied of tents. “A police state is a terrorist state,” reads a demonstrator’s placard.

The protesters are on the move; they’ve marched to subway stations across the city, and are starting to rally now in Foley Square. Unions are due to be marching with them.

A key question – what will happen when the protesters try to march over the Brooklyn Bridge tonight? That’s where 700 were arrested back at the beginning of October. The confrontation drew the world’s attention to this movement against income inequality and corporate excess.

The NYPD say the protesters can march on the pedestrian walkway but not the roadway – Occupy Wall Street protesters tell me that sometimes civil disobedience is necessary to demonstrate against inequality.

As darkness fell on Thursday evening, protesters – their numbers swelled by union activists – marched on to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Police officers arrested at least two dozen people who walked out onto the bridge roadway, but otherwise let the marchers pass without incident.

They had massed in Foley Square, near the bridge, where there was a large police presence.

Their chants echoed off the surrounding courthouses and other government buildings.

Police tried to pen the protesters in with barricades and ordered marchers to stay off the roads.

“This is a critical moment for the movement given what happened the other night,” demonstrator Paul Knick, a software engineer, told AP news agency.

“It seems like there’s a concerted effort to stop the movement, and I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Frustrations boiled over

In rallies across the US on Thursday:

  • In Los Angeles about about 500 demonstrators marched chanting anti-bank slogans and more than two dozen were arrested
  • City officials in Dallas evicted a protesters’ camp, detaining nearly 20 people
  • Arrests were made in Portland, Oregon, as activists tried to “occupy” a city centre Wells Fargo bank branch
  • Dozens more were held by police at demonstrations in Las Vegas, Nevada and St Louis, Missouri
  • Protests were held at bridges considered in disrepair in Miami, Florida; Detroit, Michigan; and Boston, Massachusetts, as activists called for infrastructure projects to create jobs

Mayor Bloomberg told a news conference that a policeman’s hand was cut and four others had a liquid – possibly vinegar – thrown at them.


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Thousands of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators cross Brooklyn Bridge

The police officer needed 20 stitches to his hand after he was hit by a piece of thrown glass, said the NYPD.

A man was detained for allegedly throwing the liquid. Some demonstrators were carrying vinegar to treat against pepper spray.

At least 177 people were arrested in New York, where the day’s events began with hundreds of demonstrators gathering at the edge of the financial district.

They were unable to get past junctions blocked by police, and as scuffles broke out some of them were dragged away by officers.

Some onlookers applauded the demonstrators from open windows, while others called out: “Get a job!”

Among those held in New York was a retired Philadelphia police captain, Ray Lewis, who was taken into custody in his dress uniform, amid cheers.

Some people were arrested after they sat down at an intersection, while others were detained as they tried to get closer to the stock exchange. Trading was not disrupted.

Frustrations also boiled over in Zuccotti Park, the cradle of the nationwide movement, as hundreds of people tried to remove barricades surrounding the area and scuffled with baton-wielding officers.

A number of similar encampments have been removed in US cities in recent days.

Scores of arrests were made as police removed tents in Oakland, California and Burlington, Vermont.

But evictions went peacefully elsewhere, including Atlanta, Georgia; Portland, Oregon; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Will you be taking part in the protests to mark the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York? Please get in touch using the form below:

US

The most high profile protest has been Occupy Wall Street in New York, which began on 17 September. The protesters call themselves “the 99%” and are demanding major reforms of the global financial system by curbing the power of banks and corporations. Protests have also taken place in cities across the US, including Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Houston and Boston. On 15 November, police moved in to clear the Occupy Wall Street protest, earlier they had cleared camps in Portland, Oregon and Oakland, California.

Europe

A protest in Madrid’s Sol Square began in May and turned into a week-long sit in. Renewed protests in Europe started on 15 October with demonstrations in Rome, Berlin, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Hamburg, Dublin, Bucharest, Zurich and other cities. Demonstrations were largely peaceful, but around 70 people were injured when violence broke out in Rome.

UK

Protests at the London Stock Exchange in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street began on 15 October. After being denied access to Paternoster Square in front of the stock exchange, demonstrators organised a camp of around 150 tents outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Protesters were told their camp could remain until the new year, on condition some tents blocking the “public highway” were removed. But the City of London Corporation said it was proceeding with legal action on 16 November, after talks with the protesters broke down.

Canada

Demonstrations and protest camps began on 15 October in major cities, including Calgary, Halifax, Quebec, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria. Police have cleared protesters from sites in Halifax and Ontario but campaigners at the biggest camp, in Toronto, have been allowed to remain.

Australia

Protests began in Sydney and Melbourne on 15 October. Police forcibly removed around 100 demonstrators from the Melbourne camp on 21 October.

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Mitt Romney forges ahead weakened campaign field November 12, 2011

Mitt Romney may be in a position to land a knock out punch at the first Republican presidential nominating contest in the race to unseat President Barack Obama, as his two main rivals’ struggle with their campaigns in turmoil.

Romney is preparing for a higher profile at the 3 January Iowa caucuses, hoping Texas governor Rick Perry and businessman Herman Cain can’t quickly fix their campaign problems and back-of-the-pack contenders don’t move quickly to energize voters.

After a crushingly disappointing loss there in 2008, Romney sharply lowered expectations in Iowa, whose caucus is less than two months away. If Romney, who recently filmed a TV ad in Iowa, airs them heavily in the state, it could signal a new strategy built on calculations that his weakened opponents handed him too tempting an opportunity.

Perry is trying to recover from a disastrous moment in this week’s Republican debate in which he could not remember the third of three agencies he had pledged to abolish. Perry, once the front-runner, has been trying to rebound from a precipitous drop in the polls.

Meanwhile, businessman Cain spent his 11th day on Thursday trying to get beyond sexual harassment accusations leveled against him by four women, two of whom received cash settlements from a trade association Cain once headed.

Cain and Perry’s difficulties leave few options for conservatives seeking an alternative to Romney as the Republican challenger to President Barack Obama. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich could emerge as their newest hope, but he lacks a strong campaign organization and will have to prove that his long and sometimes troubled political history can withstand closer scrutiny.

With Romney is looking strong ahead of Iowa he’s hardly home free. Many conservatives still resent his past support of legalized abortion and gay rights. They criticize the health insurance program he pushed through while governor or Massachusetts that served as a model for Obama’s national health care overhaul. Some conservative Christians are reluctant to vote for a Mormon like Romney.

But conservatives have failed to coalesce around a single alternative. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann briefly topped the polls, followed by Perry and then Cain. It’s unclear whether Cain can hold his position.

Perry on Thursday rearranged his schedule to try to mitigate his disastrous debate moment. He canceled a Tennessee fundraiser to appear on several TV networks and David Letterman’s late night talk show, pledging to stay in the race.

He repeatedly said he “stepped in it” at the Wednesday night debate but declared in an interview, “This ain’t a day for quitting nothing.”

Cain, the former pizza company executive, faced voters for the first time since the sex harassment allegations emerged, meeting with conservative, anti-tax tea party groups in Michigan. He hoped the friendly settings would preserve the lofty perch he enjoyed in Republican polls two weeks ago.

“How you beat Obama? Beat him with a Cain!” he told one supporter at a crowded diner. The crowd cheered.

Cain is airing his first TV ad in Iowa, and he has hired a new lawyer who is warning women they will be scrutinized for any charges made against the candidate.

Late Thursday word came that attempts to organise a joint news conference with the four women alleging Cain harassed them had fallen apart. Joel Bennett, the attorney for Karen Kraushaar, said his client had decided not to hold the news conference “unless and until the other women come forward and wish to participate.”

Some Iowa Republicans hope former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who emphasizes social conservative issues such as abortion and gay rights, can make a move. He has visited all 99 Iowa counties and aired radio commercials.

Other party insiders feel the person best poised to rise is Gingrich, the fiery Georgian who led the Republican Party’s 1994 takeover of the House of Representatives after 40 years in the minority. He eventually lost his leadership post and left the House after clashing with President Bill Clinton over taxes and an unpopular government shutdown.

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Rick Perry forgets which agency he wants to scrap in Republican debate disaster November 10, 2011



Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry‘s campaign is facing meltdown after one of the most humiliating debate performances in recent US political history.

His chances of securing the Republican nomination slipped after one painful minute in which he could not recall the name of a government department he is planning to kill off.

Perry reeled off two of the three departments he wants to axe, but could not remember the third. Some Perry supporters declared his campaign over and suggested he head back to Texas to focus on his job as governor.

Perry, conscious of the damage he has done to his chances, came out to face the media in the spin-room immediately afterwards rather than leaving it, as is normal, to his press staff.  “I’m sure glad I had my boots on because I sure stepped in it out there,” he said.

The Republican presidential debate in Rochester, Michigan, had been predicted to be dominated by the sexual allegations against one of his rivals, Herman Cain. Instead Cain escaped unscathed and all the focus was on Perry’s gaffe.

Perry’s moment of embarrassment came when he was asked about one of the main planks of his policy for cutting federal spending, the elimination of three departments.

“It’s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone: commerce, education, and the uh … what’s the third one, there? Let’s see.” He went on to say: “The third one. I can’t.” He made it worse by adding: “Oops.”

Fifteen minutes later he attempted to undo the damage, saying: “By the way that was the department of energy I was reaching for a while ago.”  But it was too late.

Although he has millions of dollars in campaign funds accumulated it will be hard for him to recover.  A Perry donor sent a tweet to the Washington Post: “Perry campaign is over. Time to go home.”

Larry Sabato, profesor of politics at the University of Virginia, tweeted too almost immediately on seeing Perry stumble. “To my memory Perry’s forgetfulness is the most devastating moment of any modern primary.”

Perry’s brain freeze, reminiscent of some of the awkwardness associated with George Bush, was shown live on television nationwide and will be shown repeatedly over the next few days.

He was already struggling in the polls, having dropped from frontrunner status to single-digit figures. He alienated many Republicans when he described as heartless anyone who did not agree with his relatively liberal approach to the children of illegal immigrants.

He had been talking before this debate about pulling out of future ones, an acknowledgment that he is a poor performer.

Cain, asked afterwards if Perry was finished, was charitable. “I would not say that. The American people can be very forgiving,” he told NBC, which hosted the debate.

Cain acknowledged the last 10 days had been rough as he faced allegations from four women of sexual harassment.  Although the debate bad been billed as primarily about economics, one of the journalists on the panel asked him about the allegations.

The mainly Republican audience booed the journalist for raising the issue and applauded Cain when he complained of being tried in the court of public opinion.

There were further boos from the audience when the journalist asked Mitt Romney, the former government of Massachusetts, about the allegations. He sidestepped the question, to applause from the audience.

Romney gave another confident, calm performance that will have cemented his frontrunner status. With Cain facing the sex allegations and Perry’s campaign in deep trouble Romney’s chances of securing the nomination increased on Wednesday night.

Although  there is resistance to him among rightwingers, he is doing much better and is more relaxed than he was in 2008 when he lost out in the race for the nomination to John McCain.

The former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is at present in third place in the polls and could face scrutiny over his role as a consultant to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the organisations that provided the mortgages to those with poor credit ratings, precipitating the economic slump.

The organisations hired consultants and lobbyists to avoid federal regulation.
During the debate Gingrich claimed he had warned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac against giving out such mortgages. He received $300,000 in 2006 for his consultancy role.

The other candidates on the stage failed to make any significant impression.

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Truck driver tells of moment 25 million bees escaped October 25, 2011

Truck driver Louis Holst has never been scared of bees, but he’s rethinking his next long-haul load a day after being swarmed by 25 million of the stinging insects.

Holst and his wife, Tammie, picked up 460 bee hives in South Dakota and were about 36 hours into their drive on Sunday night when he hit a sharp bend in a construction zone on Interstate 15 in southern Utah. The twist in the road toppled his trailer and sent the bees into a frenzy.

“First responders came and drug me and my wife through the front window,” Holst said. “Then we panicked.”

Swarmed by bees on the highway, Holst said he ripped off his shirt and began swatting the air. His wife ran.

“We just started swinging our clothes,” he said. “They stung her all up and down her neck.”

Authorities closed the southbound lanes of I-15 near St. George for several hours while area beekeepers headed to the scene to try to corral the insects. The road was reopened early on Monday morning, and Holst said most of the bees were either dead or gone.

“Nobody was prepared for anything like that,” he said.

At least two first responders also were stung at the scene, said Utah Highway Patrol Corporal Todd Johnson.

Holst, 48, of Gig Harbor, Washington state, said he got 10 stitches to close a gash on his forehead and was stung about a dozen times. His wife, too, suffered stings, bumps and bruises.

The 25 million bees were headed from Adee Honey Farms in Bruce, South Dakota, to near Bakersfield, California, where they stay for the winter before being used for pollination come spring, company co-owner Richard Adee said.

“It’s pretty much a complete loss,” Adee said of the $116,000 load.

Holst’s trip was among the last of 160 truckloads of bees roughly 4 billion of them the farm had been sending south for the winter, Adee said.

Asked whether he’d haul bees again anytime soon, Holst who normally ferries lumber and construction materials paused.

“Well,” he said, “my wife’s looking at me right now, so I’ll say no.”

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Occupy Wall Street: protesters claim victory as clear-up called off – Friday 14 October October 15, 2011

06.30am: Adam Gabbatt writes: Occupy Wall Street protesters are waking up to what may be the final day of their semi-permanent camp in Zuccotti Park, in the financial district of New York.

After four weeks of reluctant tolerance, the private park’s owners have ordered a clear-up. When the operation is complete, protesters will not be allowed to sleep on benches or on the ground, nor put down blankets and sleeping bags.

There was a call for supporters to rally at Zuccotti Park at 6am this morning – and by my reckoning there are more than 2,000 here now. Most flocked to the park in the last hour, avoiding what, at best, was an uncomfortable night.

Some protesters marched to a restaurant where the New York mayor, Mike Bloomberg, was the guest at a food festival event last night (his check-in on Foursquare was the giveaway to his location), but most stayed in the park and mounted their own clean-up operation.

I have been here all night, and up to midnight the crowd was split 50-50 between cleaners and curious onlookers. But a severe downpour at around 1am prompted the departure of the latter group, leaving around 400 hardcore sweepers and scourers.

Further heavy rain drove at least 100 people into the local McDonalds, prompting it to renege on its 24-hour opening boast and shut its doors.

With the enforced clear-out due to begin at 7am, there’s currently a fairly small police presence. I’ll be here throughout the morning on what could be one of the most interesting days of the protest yet. My posts will be marked AG and my colleague Matt Wells, who is monitoring events from a base nearby, is writing the other updates.

6.45am: It has just been announced that Brookfield properties, owners of Zuccotti Park, have called off their plans to clear the area. The standoff that seemed inevitable is now unlikely to take place.

6.54am: Protesters in the park reacted with jubilation to the news that the standoff had been averted. Adam took this video:


Protesters react to news that park will not be cleared

The protesters can be heard chanting: “We’ve won!”

7.12am: The official twitter feed of the New York mayor’s office announced the cancellation of the clear-up. “Late last night we received notice from Brookfield Properties that they’re postponing their scheduled cleaning of Zuccotti Park,” it said. The message was relayed around the park using the now-familiar “human mic” call-and-response system, and was met with cheers from the ecstatic crowd.

7.14am: A group of protesters have now set off on a march. They went round the park first, and have now moved off onto Broadway, chanting: “Whose streets? Our streets!”



Occupy Wall Street protesters march on Broadway after clean-up of Zuccotti Park is called off. Photograph: Adam Gabbatt/guardian.co.uk

They appear not to be keeping to the sidewalks – the NYPD won’t be happy about that.

7.35am: The impromptu march appears to have taken police by surprise. Police have prevented previous marches from reaching Wall Street proper, but Adam reports that 2-300 marchers made it up New Street, alongside the New York Stock Exchanged. Officers on foot and horseback rushed to the intersection with Wall Street to prevent marchers from turning south, and have ushered them up onto Broadway.

7.51am: It’s pretty chaotic at the moment at the bottom end of Lower Manhattan. Adam reports that instead of heading back to the park, the marchers headed south down Broadway and then doubled back on Beaver Street. Police approached from behind on scooters, and made two arrests. Back in Zuccotti park, news of the arrests is relayed to the crowd.

7.55am: Another group of marchers is now approaching City Hall, while Adam reports that around 4-500 protesters made it back onto Wall Street from William Street, after police earlier blocked them at New Street.

8.09am: This Storify of Adam Gabbatt’s tweets and videos tells the story of a chaotic 90 minutes after the announcement that the enforced clear-up of Zuccotti Park had been called off.


[View the story "Occupy Wall Street: Friday 14 October" on Storify]

Adam is still with the marchers on Wall Street and reports chaotic scenes there.

8.20am: Adam reports from Wall Street that his group of marchers is now heading back for Zuccotti Park.

8.23am: Meanwhile in Denver, Colorado, where protesters have set up a similar camp, police said they were preparing to move in to clear the area. They issued this statement last night:

Pursuant to laws preventing unlawful conduct on state property, individuals illegally gathered at Veteran’s Park have been ordered to vacate by 11 p.m. All tents and structures must be removed from the park, and all overnight activities must be discontinued.

“We have a deep respect for these individuals’ First Amendment rights to assemble and to voice their viewpoints,” said Chief James Wolfinbarger of the Colorado State Patrol. “We are happy to facilitate a peaceful assembly, provided it complies with all applicable laws and permit requirements.”

“We have developed a positive relationship with Occupy Denver’s leadership, and we have encouraged them to comply with the state’s orders,” Wolfinbarger said. “We appreciate their cooperation in seeking a peaceful resolution.”

8.30am: The Denver Post reports that the enforced clear-out of Occupy Denver began in the early hours of the morning, but appears to have reached a stand-off.

Authorities in riot gear moved into the Occupy Denver camp near the Capitol early this morning to dismantle tents and remove debris, but despite warnings that people who remained in the park would be arrested, no arrests have been made.

Instead a kind of calm standoff has formed, with Colorado State Patrol officers and Denver police inching through the park and surrounding streets, usually in groups of a dozen or more, as protesters yell at them, wave signs and at times stand or sit in the street surrounding police vehicles.



Members of Occupy Wall Street celebrate after learning that they can stay on Zuccotti Park in New York Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

8.42am: In New York, mayor Michael Bloomberg is speaking about this morning’s Occupy Wall Street developments on his weekly radio show on WOR710. According to Jonathan Lemire of the New York Daily News, he has been talking about his walk through Zuccotti Park yesterday, saying some people offered food, one person offered “more than that”. Bloomberg said Brookfield may go ahead with its clear-up of Zuccotti in a few days, but it would be harder for police to assist with it. (I’m not entirely clear why this is – he doesn’t appear to have elaborated.) “The longer this goes on, the worse it is for our economy,” he said.

8.47am: I’ve tuned in now, and Bloomberg says he’s concerned about the cost of policing Occupy Wall Street, but he said it wasn’t the “most important thing” that worried him about the protest. “The most important thing is that people have their first amendment right to protest, and their right not to protest and go about their business.”

9.04am: Bloomberg said city officials had put pressure on the Zuccotti park owners to call off the clean-up. “Brookfield got lots of calls from many elected officials threatening them, saying ‘if you don’t stop this we’ll make your life more difficult’.”

9.53am: An update on the arrests earlier: Adam says he saw four people arrested during the impromptu march to the Wall Street area. I also saw reports on Twitter of one or two arrests – these could be duplicate reports, of course.



Police arrest a Legal Aid Society obsever on an Occupy Wall Street march after a planned cleanup of Zuccotti park was postponed. Photograph: Mary Altaffer/AP

As these pictures show, things got pretty tense for a short while.



Occupy Wall Street protests confront police as they march on the street in the Wall Street area in New York. Photograph: Mary Altaffer/AP

We’ll get an accurate figure on the arrests from the NYPD later.



An Occupy Wall Street campaign demonstrator stands in Zuccotti Park, New York. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

10.17am: In case you are just logging on, here’s a summary of events in a fast-moving morning.


The real estate company that owns Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, home of the Occupy Wall Street camp for the past four weeks, called off their planned “clean-up” of the park. Brookfield Properties said it wanted to clean the plaza and had asked for the NYPD to help enforce a “no-tents, no sleeping bags” rule, which would effectively have ended the occupation. Fears of an ugly confrontation between police and protesters were averted.

Some protesters marched in celebration towards Wall Street. For the first time since the protests began, some marchers managed to get onto Wall Street proper. Police made a handful of arrests. Other protesters marched on City Hall.

In his weekly radio show, mayor Michael Bloomberg said Brookfield called off the clean-up late last night. He suggested that some city officials – not himself – had put pressure on the company.

Dozens of people have been arrested in Denver as state police moved to clear an “occupy” camp there. Police said at least 24 people had been arrested and that one protester was treated for a minor injury. ABC7 News in Denver reports that a small group of protesters remain in the camp in Veteran’s Park.

10.23am: Adam Gabbatt writes: I’ve been getting reaction from the people here in Zuccotti Park to the news that the plaza’s owners have postponed their planned clean-up. “Fucking exhilarating,” was Tyler Laurie-Spicer’s verdict on the moment the 4,000 crowd learned they would not be evicted from Zuccotti Park.

Apologising for his profanity, the 20-year-old student added: “The call-and-response started saying ‘we have a proposal from Brookfield Properties’, then their faces started lighting up but with call-and-response we were getting the news two seconds after them. There were four sections of the call-and-response but I don’t think it got past two before everyone was just laughing and hugging each other.”

Erin Bridges, 20, flew from California to join Occupy Wall Street on Wednesday, along with 21-year-old boyfriend Zack Erickson. She was “super stoked” at the news. The pair had been staying in a hostel, and arrived at Zuccotti Park at 4.30am. “We were going to be in the lines protecting the park,” Bridges said. “I guess I came here prepared to get arrested, so I was really excited.”

Bob Ballard, 58, drove from California to Washington DC to attend the Occupy protest there, before travelling down to New York. “It was the second time in a week I’ve felt the same thing,” he said. “I was in Freedom plaza in Washington when we were going to be evicted from there, but we weren’t.”

“There was too many people here for them to close it. We have enough numbers, they won’t do anything.”

Semi, 25, travelled from Norh Carolina to be at Occupy Wall Street, but said his joy was tempered. “In a moment there was jubilation, and there was joy, and there was thankfulness to all of those who stayed through the night and cleaned through the night,” he said.

“It was a beautiful moment, but it’s only the beginning of the day, and that adamant feeling of them wanting us out is still here.”

10.28am: We’ve just published a fantastic gallery of pictures from last night and this morning, chronicling the story from the announcement that the park’s owners wanted to conduct a clear-up and to enforce the no-camping rule, to the news this morning that the plan was abandoned, and the subsequent impromptu march.

11.50am: Adam Gabbatt writes: We still don’t have a firm figure from the NYPD for the number of people arrested on the march from Zuccotti Park this morning, but a spokesman told me there were “multiple persons apprehended”.

I thought I’d post some more detail about the march. It began on a wave of jubilation after it was confirmed to the crowd – which I estimate numbered around 4,000 – that the clean-up of Zuccotti (which many suspected was a cover for an eviction) would not happen. At the Broadway side of the park a small number of people attempted to drum up support for a march on Wall Street; with one protester eventually walking from group to group shouting: “We’re marching to Wall Street now.”

Some 200 set off initially, south along Broadway at about 7am, turning left onto Exchange Place and left again up New Street. The police appeared to be caught out by the spontaneity of the action, and officers were only seen for the first time when protesters reached the top of New Street at the intersection with Wall Street – the march breaking into a full sprint as protesters saw police attempting to block the top of the road. Initially some feared the protesters would be kettled, but officers instead funnelled protesters out onto Wall Street and north onto Broadway – in the direction of Zuccotti Park.

By this time a second march to Wall Street was under way, and was itself firmly entrenched on Broadway – meaning that instead of police coaxing 200 protesters back to the park, they were confronted with around 300 more. The enlarged group turned and set off south along Broadway once more, down to Beaver Street and then turning back up William Street in the direction of Wall Street.

At this point, police insisted protesters get back onto the sidewalk, but many refused, instead gathering in the middle of the road. The police attempted to split the group by driving scooters down the road towards them, but the attempt failed, leading to a standoff, which led to much pushing and shoving, and two arrests.

This video, uploaded to YouTube by a protester, shows the moment police tried to split the crowd with scooters:


YouTube footage of Wall Street march

The marchers made it onto the lower end of Wall Street – sprinting at times – and worked their way round to Maiden Lane, where there were further clashes after protesters would not keep to the sidewalk. (In some cases this was impossible, due to the numbers.) Police again used scooters to split the crowd. At least two arrests took place here, at around 8.20am, accompanied by cries from the crowd that the police had been overly aggressive in the way they detained people.

“I think its pretty typical that when the police are tested, they don’t like it very much,” said Christianne Karefa-Johnson, 19, who was visiting Occupy Wall Street for the first time. “But I think the people arrested were trying to rile things up.”

Legal observer Naomi Brussel, 69, said the police appeared to be in smaller numbers than at previous actions. “They were not en masse as they were in the past,” she said, adding: “Today people showed they could go round the police,” referring the almost cat and mouse state of affairs for long periods of the march.

For Donald Grove, 51, who said he had been involved in demonstrating since the 1970s, the march was a “great idea” but he said people involved in the action “may not be used to marching”.

“People are getting excited, going out on the streets and they move too fast. They need to stick together.” He added: “But this is what it is. These people have done something outstanding here.”

1.29pm: In an odd “Occupy” development, the son of the rhythm and blues singer Bo Diddley has been arrested in Bo Diddley Plaza in Gainsville, Florida, after supporting protesters who had occupied the park. I’ve written up the story here – and here’s an extract:

The son of the rhythm and blues singer Bo Diddley has been arrested as he tried to support occupiers of a plaza in Florida named after his father.

A number of protesters, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street takeover of Zuccotti Park in New York, had set up camp at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza in Gainesville.

After the city authorities refused the protesters’ request to extend a permit that allowed them to remain in the park overnight on Wednesday, police moved in on Thursday night and ordered about 50 occupiers to leave. Diddley’s son, Ellas Anthony McDaniel, 56, was among four who were picked up.

1.47pm: I posted a picture at 9.53am showing a legal observer from the National Lawyers’ Guild being arrested by police in the Wall Street area this morning. I’ve found another picture from the same set – it seems the observer was run over by a police scooter.



A New York police officer on a scooter runs over a National Lawyers Guild observer as Occupy Wall Street demonstrators marched in Lower Manhattan. Photograph: Mary Altaffer/AP

Police had been trying to separate the crowd by driving scooters into them (see 11.50am). The moment was captured by Associated Press photographer Mary Altaffer.

2.27pm: I mentioned a crackdown in Denver, Colorado earlier on. We should also note a similar police operation in Seattle on Wednesday, when police charged through Westlake Park, arresting 25 protesters and dragging off tents that had been erected by the Occupy Seattle movement.

Mother Jones is tracking all arrests connected to the Occupy movement in the United States on this Google map.

3.36pm: More on the legal observer hit by a police scooter. This video, uploaded to Vimeo by the East Village local blog, shows the officer running over the observer’s foot, before he was apparently beaten with nightsticks and arrested.

OWS_PoliceScooter from The Local East Village on Vimeo.


A police officer runs over a legal observe’rs foot

The East Vilage’s writeup says:

The man was struck with a baton and arrested moments later as witnesses called out, “You ran over his foot” and chanted, “The whole world is watching.” One bystander hurled a bag of trash at police officers as they pushed protestors back onto the sidewalk.

3.39pm: Earlier I reported that New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said on his radio show today that “elected officials” had contacted the owners of Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Properties, urging the company to avoid confrontation. One of those officials was New York state senator Daniel Squadron. He said in a statement on his website:

Brookfield Properties’ decision to delay the clean-up of Zuccotti Park creates a window for real dialogue between Occupy Wall Street, the community, Brookfield, and the City.

Yesterday, I stood with the Borough President, community leaders, and OWS representatives to call for further discussion before proceeding with the clean-up.

Late into the night, I had a number of conversations with Brookfield Properties CEO Richard Clark and other stakeholders, urging Brookfield to delay the clean-up.

Late last night, Brookfield Properties made the right decision in postponing its scheduled clean-up of Zuccotti Park. They deserve real credit.

Now, the dialogue must continue. The stakeholders must come together to find a solution that respects the protesters’ fundamental rights, while addressing the legitimate quality of life concerns in this growing residential neighborhood.

4.16pm: Supporters of the Occupy movement interrupted the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who was speaking at an education conference in San Francisco this morning. Reporter Eoin Reynolds sends this dispatch for the Guardian:

Members of the US Uncut San Francisco group stole into the Grand Ballroom at the Palace Hotel where Mr Murdoch was giving his keynote speech Friday morning.

Shouting “Occupy Wall Street, occupy main stream media, occupy private education” and wearing Sesame Street masks, at least seven demonstrators made their way inside.

They made their protests at different times during Mr Murdoch’s speech before being removed by security. Police were called and gave warnings to some of the protesters but no arrests were made.

One of the protesters, who would not give her name, said other people attending the conference grabbed her as she stood up and prevented her from putting on her mask.

Mr Murdoch responded to the disruption saying: “A bit of controversy makes it more interesting.”

Outside a group of about 40 people gathered to protest against the conference, which was organised by former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s Excellence in Education Foundation.

4.45pm: We’re wrapping up today’s coverage with a summary:


The real estate company that owns Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, home of the Occupy Wall Street camp for the past four weeks, called off its planned “clean-up” of the park in the early hours of this morning. Brookfield Properties said it wanted to clean the plaza and had asked for the NYPD to help enforce a “no-tents, no sleeping bags” rule, which would effectively have ended the occupation. Fears of an ugly confrontation between police and protesters were averted.

Some protesters marched in celebration towards Wall Street. For the first time since the protests began, some marchers managed to get onto Wall Street proper. Police made a handful of arrests and an officer on a scooter ran over a legal observer. The observer was apparently beaten by police and arrested.

In his weekly radio show, mayor Michael Bloomberg said Brookfield called off the clean-up said some elected officials – although not him – had put pressure on the company. Later a New York state senator, Daniel Squadron, a Brooklyn Democrat, said he had called the CEO of Brookfield to urge him to call off the clean-up in an effort to avoid confrontation.

Dozens of people have been arrested in Denver as state police moved to clear an “occupy” camp there. Police said at least 24 people had been arrested and that one protester was treated for a minor injury. ABC7 News in Denver reports that a small group of protesters remain in the camp in Veteran’s Park.

We will be back tomorrow with live coverage of more protests that are planned for New York and London. Thanks for reading and for all your comments today.

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Afghanistan: the limits of power | Editorial October 7, 2011

America and Britain invaded Afghanistan 10 years ago, for reasons which were understandable, to wage a short war that was unavoidable. We stayed, through all the twists and turns imposed by events and by the incoherence of our own changing policies, for reasons which have become less and less understandable. The short war has become a long war which even now we do not know how to end. The ambition to remake Afghanistan on the western model has been silently discarded.

Optimistic generals have come and gone. Increasingly sceptical diplomats have filed ever more pessimistic dispatches to their capitals. Idealistic aid agencies have seen their work prosper, only to find it blighted by shifts in the balance between government and insurgents or undermined by corruption. Journalists have written their reports and made their television programmes. Mercenaries have made their money and consultants have taken their fees. The invaders have changed, and so have the Taliban in ways that are still evolving. There have been many books, some of them bestsellers, some of them illuminating, some meretricious, some self-serving. And, at home, endless comment. The only reason for adding to that quantity is that an anniversary of this kind has a sobering effect.

We should look back on what we have learned, and look forward to answer the question of what we should do now. What we have learned is that we hugely overestimated the capacity of our military, diplomatic and intelligence establishments to change other societies. The hubris was most evident in the United States, but it was not absent in Britain, nor, if more briefly, in the other countries which joined in the Afghan intervention. This overweening sense that anything and everything was possible goes back to the moment of triumphalism at the end of the cold war. Its military dimension was expressed in one rightwing intellectual’s claim that the American empire had “appropriated the entire Earth and was ready to flood the most obscure areas of it with troops at a moment’s notice”.

The trouble was that, once in that obscure corner, whether Iraq or Afghanistan, they were confronted by shrewd and ruthless opponents who soon found ways of countering the technical superiority of the invaders. But this military overconfidence, of which the British armed forces had their own scaled-down version, was not the only problem. Soft power was found as wanting as hard power in the Afghan story. Some Afghans were indeed “like us”, recognisably middle class or western in their beliefs and aspirations, and the effect of our intervention may well have been to increase that number. In some of Afghanistan’s possible futures, they may have a more important role to play, and we can hope we have planted seed that will bear fruit later. But the majority were not like us, and we could not make them so by wish or fiat.

The problem is not that Afghanistan is unconquerable, as some claim. It is that we, like the Russians before us, joined an ongoing conflict between different ethnicities, between modernisers and traditionalists, between social classes, and between newer and older forms of religiosity. As the Guardian’s Jonathan Steele underlines in his new book, we pushed our way into a civil war whose nature we at first understood hardly at all. When we did understand it better, we did not know what to do about it. The situation now is one of stalemate. The Taliban cannot be defeated, but nor are they likely to be able to prevail in large parts of the country. There is a minimal common interest in a power-sharing settlement as part of a deal under which foreign forces leave, and neighbouring powers agree to certain rules about their permissible influence in Afghanistan. That may be beyond achievement, but, after 10 years of muddle and mayhem, it must be our duty – our remaining duty – to aim at it.

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Arkansas prepares for Clinton love-in September 30, 2011

Bill Clinton will return to his old stomping ground of Little Rock in Arkansas on Friday to engage in a nostalgic celebration of the launch of his rise to the White House in a way that also carries a potential sting in its tail for Barack Obama.

The two-day Clintonfest will mark the 20th anniversary of the moment the then-governor of Arkansas announced he was running for the White House. On Saturday, Clinton will stand on the lawn of the Old State House on precisely the spot where on 3 October 1991 he threw his hat into the presidential ring, promising the American people he was committed to “preserving the American dream, restoring the hopes of the forgotten middle class, and reclaiming the future for our children”.

That announcement heralded the start of an extraordinary political journey that would cast the elder George Bush from the White House and usher in the first two-term Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt. And, to this day, the last.

Which is where the sting comes in. At a time when Obama is struggling from sagging ratings in opinion polls, and facing an increasingly confident Republican challenge in next year’s presidential race, Clinton’s very public marking of his own electoral successes appear perilously close to gloating.

Ben Smith, the highly rated political blogger for the Politico website, told the Guardian: “It’s going to be a moment of great nostalgia for Democrats, who see Clinton as a political genius and Obama as having lost his touch, politically speaking. It also comes at a moment when Clinton’s old advisers are lamenting what they see as Obama’s left turn.”

Smith’s point is underlined by the itinerary for the anniversary bash. On Friday at 5.30pm local time a panel discussion will be convened at the Clinton presidential centre in Little Rock, under the pointed title ‘Reimagining the progressive tradition: the Clinton/Gore campaign and the emergence of a Democratic agenda for the 21st century’.

Among the speakers will be James Carville, a prominent political pundit who led the strategic thinking behind Clinton’s first presidential campaign. Carville wrote a recent comment piece on CNN’s website in which he summarised his advice to Obama and his re-election team in one word: “Panic”.

Carville went on to advise Obama to “fire a lot of people”, change tactics and “wake up – show us you are doing something … The course we are on is not working. The hour is late, and the need is great.”

Another prominent Clinton aide, Mark Penn, this week wrote a scathing column for the Huffington Post in which he accused Obama of “careening down the wrong path towards re-election. He should be working as a president, not a candidate. He should be claiming the vital center, not abandoning it.”

Penn, who was the chief strategist and pollster to Hillary Clinton’s battle against Obama for the 2008 Democratic nomination for presidential candidate, lambasted Obama’s unveiling earlier this month of plans to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Penn adopted the language of Obama’s Republican enemies and accused him of dividing the country “through class warfare”.

And then Penn went on to recall Clinton’s strategy in his re-election battle in 1996 where he did the opposite – famously “triangulating” to the middle ground by cutting taxes and government spending. “As a result, Clinton trounced the Republican nominee and was the first Democrat to serve a full eight years since Roosevelt.”

As a further implicit but pointed comment on Obama’s presidency, Clinton is soon to publish his third book since leaving the White House. It will be called Back to Work, and, according to the publishers, Alfred Knopf, it will give “specific recommendations on how we can put people back to work, increase bank lending and corporate investment, double our exports, restore our manufacturing base, and create new business”.

In early publicity for the book, which comes out in November, Clinton has said that Obama is doing a “good job” on the economy. “I hope I can do things in this book that a president doesn’t have time to do and shouldn’t be doing,” he told Associated Press.

But when 68% of Americans are giving Obama the thumbs down for the way he is running the country, to have Clinton embarking on a nationwide book tour giving his own economic prescription just a year away from presidential election cannot be helpful to his successor. “This feels like a campaign book, and I don’t think Obama will profit from the contrast with Bill Clinton as he launches his campaign to become president to nowhere,” Smith said.

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Should Gary Johnson Be Included in Future GOP Debates? September 24, 2011

Thursday night’s Fox News/Google Republican presidential debate in Florida may have been the third debate in a single month, but it was the first debate that included former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson on the stage. As expected, most of the debate attention focused on the rivalry between front-runners Gov. Rick Perry and former Gov. Mitt Romney. However Johnson did squeeze in one witty one-liner that echoed through the political blogosphere:  “My next-door neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this president.” (Reports later claimed that he lifted the line from Rush Limbaugh.)

[See a collection of political cartoons on the GOP hopefuls.]

Johnson’s moment in the spotlight (albeit a rather small moment—after the debate he joked of being grateful for his “four minutes” of airtime) brought a new philosophical strain to the crowded field. Johnson espouses a diehard commitment to libertarianism. But, unlike the other prominent libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, Johnson is socially liberal. His pro-abortion rights views prompted the Florida Republican Party to object to his participation in the debate. Whether he will continue to appear at primary debates and other major party events is yet to be seen. Johnson is as bottom-tier as they come, and his debate debut came the same day another little-known contender Rep. Thaddeus McCotter dropped from the race. But Johnson’s views—and jokes—do inject some fresh energy into Republican rhetoric that is already beginning to seem a little stale.

What do you think? Should Gary Johnson be included in future GOP debates? Take the poll and comment below.

Previously: Should Troy Davis’s Execution Revive the Death Penalty Debate?

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