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The USA is the most corrupt country in the world and I have 10,000 posts that point heavily to that fact…

Teens charged in death of retired NFL player’s son November 20, 2011

Los Angeles (CNN) — Four southern California teenagers have been charged following the apparent drug overdose death of an 18-year-old high school quarterback whose father is a retired NFL player, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Saturday.

Three of the teens have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Griffen Kramer, son of former pro quarterback Erik Kramer, who played for several NFL teams including the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, officials said.

Griffen Kramer played quarterback at Thousand Oaks High School, which lists him as a 6-foot 210-pound senior.

Kramer was found dead October 30 in a friend’s bedroom in Agoura Hills, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

That friend, David Nemberg, 19, of Agoura Hills, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and possession of a controlled substance, authorities said.

After investigating several of Kramer’s acquaintances who were involved in narcotics-related activities, police also charged Corey Baumann, 19, also of Agoura Hills, with involuntary manslaughter and possession of a controlled substance for sales, the sheriff’s office said.

Baumann and Nemberg were each released in lieu of a $125,000 bail, authorities said.

The two other accused teenagers are minors, whose names weren’t released, the sheriff’s office said.

A 17-year-old boy from Oak Park, California, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and possession of a controlled substance, the sheriff’s office said. He is being held at Sylmar Juvenile Hall without bail, authorities said.

Investigators found “deplorable” living conditions during the search of the boy’s home and took five children from the residence into protective custody, said authorities.

The fourth teen, also a 17-year-old boy, of Agoura Hills, was charged with possession of a controlled substance, the sheriff’s office said. He was released to his parents’ custody, according to police.

Police allege Griffen, Nemberg and a juvenile met at Sumac Park in Agoura Hills on October 29 and drove to a nearby cul-de-sac, where Griffen injected narcotics, causing him to instantly become ill and unconscious, authorities said.

Nemberg allegedly dragged the unconscious Griffen into his car and then drove him around the area, police said.

Nemberg called acquaintances and asked them if he could drive to their residences, but they told him no because their parents were home, police said.

Nemberg allegedly took a still unconscious Griffen to Nemberg’s home, authorities said.

He didn’t seek medical attention for Griffen until the next morning, when Nemberg woke up and saw Griffen was still unconscious, authorities alleged.

“He woke up the following morning and called 911 because Griffen was unresponsive,” Sheriff’s Sgt. Barry Hall said in a statement.

Griffen was believed to have been dead for several hours before Nemberg made the call, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

Investigators believe Griffen had likely died from an overdose, but “we’re still waiting for a toxicology results to determine the ultimate cause of death,” Hall said.

CNN’s Michael Martinez contributed to this report.

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On the heels of Avatar, directors turn increasingly to 3D November 18, 2011

Next Friday marks the release of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, a 3D adaptation of Brian Selznick’s novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Set in 1930s Paris, Hugo Cabret is a thief and an orphan, living in the walls of a train station.

Though the story has some fantastical elements, it’s not your classic 3D fodder. Likewise, Ang Lee’s forthcoming The Life of Pi, starring Tobey Maguire, is a 3D film of the Booker Prize-winning novel.

Peter Jackson is in New Zealand filming The Hobbit in 3D, and (purists, look away now), in Australia, Baz Luhrmann is making his much-anticipated The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, in 3D. (He’s also making it in good, old-fashioned, ‘flat’ 2D too).

Two years after the release of Avatar, which became the highest-grossing film of all time, smashing worldwide box office records with takings of $2.7bn, every Hollywood heavy-hitter is getting in on the 3D act.

The man propelling the 3D juggernaut most forcibly is, perhaps unsurprisingly, James Cameron himself. One of the biggest 3D events of 2012 will be Titanic 3D, steaming back onto cinema screens in April to tie in with the hundredth anniversary of the ship’s sinking.

Fifteen years on from its first film voyage, Cameron has spent $18m and employed 300 artists to painstakingly transpose the 1997 classic into 3D.
Of course, he’s probably making a canny investment. As the second highest-grossing film of all time (beaten only by Avatar), Titanic made $1.8bn in box office takings and won 11 Oscars, including one for Cameron as director.

Now there’s an entire new generation that can be persuaded to see it on the big screen. As Cameron said recently: “The 3D factor is almost an excuse to bring the movie back to theatres, to re-invent the idea of the re-release.” To that end, it won’t even be classed as a re-release, but instead, as an entirely new release, with a glitzy London premiere to go with it.

I was recently treated to a 17-minute sneak preview of some scenes from the film. The eight clips included epic crowd shots on the dockside in Southampton; the dramatic scenes on deck as the fatal iceberg approaches; the famous scene with Kate Winslet ‘flying’ on the bow of the ship, held tight by Leonardo DiCaprio; and the moment when the Titanic finally upends and plunges towards the ocean floor.

It certainly still looks impressive 15 years on, but does 3D really add anything to the experience? I’m not sure it does. I did not feel more terrified or emotionally invested because the water on deck appeared to be lapping towards me a little.

The most startling thing I took away from the screening was how baby-faced and beautiful DiCaprio once looked and how buxom and creamy 21-year-old Winslet was before she got the Hollywood makeover.

Cameron isn’t proposing to remake his entire back catalogue, including The Terminator, True Lies, and Aliens, into 3D. But such an evangelist of the medium is he that he has vowed never to make another film in 2D. He’s fully confident that filming in 3D is the future.

But then, he has a vested interest in that future. A sizeable portion of the $257m he netted last year (making him the highest earner in Hollywood, according to Vanity Fair), came from his company, the Cameron Pace Group, a technology firm providing systems and services for 3D filming in sports and entertainment.

According to Cameron, his movie-making brethren Scorsese, Luhrmann and Lee all have the right idea: we need to get over our association of 3D with high-octane, high-action and adventure. It is actually used to best effect, he believes, in more intimate moments.

“Simple, straightforward drama, no visual effects, no action, no explosions, no big stylistic things going on – that actually benefits from 3D more than those big action scenes,” he has said. “There’s a voyeuristic quality, you become one of the characters, you feel what they are feeling.”

Call me a Luddite, but I don’t feel that I need my depth perspective altered in order to imagine myself in the shoes of a compelling character. I’ve never (not since Jaws 3D in 1983, at least) needed to wear a pair of cheap plastic specs to help me to lose myself in a captivating story. If a film is well made, superbly acted and beautifully shot, 3D adds nothing. It’s needless technology tinkering with film purely for the sake of it.

For me, the extra dimension is actually a distraction … but that’s just my perspective.

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Heavy D post-mortem inconclusive November 16, 2011

Heavy D performed at Michael Jackson’s tribute concert in Cardiff

Results of a post-mortem into the death of rapper Heavy D have been inconclusive in determining why he died last week.

The Los Angeles coroner’s office has deferred judgment on how the rapper died suddenly at the age of 44.

Last week, a coroner’s spokesman said there were no illegal drugs found in his Beverly Hills home.

Toxicology results have not yet been released. Heavy D’s funeral takes place near New York on Friday.

Heavy D died on 8 November after being found unconscious at his Los Angeles home.

According to Lieutenant Mark Rosen of the Beverly Hills police, the rapper experienced breathing difficulties while returning home from shopping.

After collapsing in an exterior hallway, he was transported to Cedars Sinai Medical Centre where he later died.

Jackson tribute

It is common practice to perform toxicology tests if someone relatively young dies unexpectedly at home.

Rap mogul Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs and the Reverend Al Sharpton will speak at the private funeral service at Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon on 18 November.

Meanwhile, BET Networks is planning a tribute for the late rapper at Sunday’s Soul Train awards.

Born Dwight Arrington Myers in Jamaica in 1967, Heavy D found fame with his band The Boyz scoring hits with such tracks as Now That We Found Love.

He appeared on Michael Jackson’s 1991 song Jam and recently performed at the singer’s tribute concert in Cardiff.

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Immortals commands US box office November 15, 2011

Superman actor Cavill stars as Theseus in Immortals, directed by Tarsem Singh

Action movie Immortals, the story of Greek hero Theseus, has topped the North American box office, taking $32m (£20.1m) in its opening weekend.

The film, starring British actor Henry Cavill – who will star as Superman in Man of Steel – beat Adam Sandler comedy Jack and Jill into second place, with debut takings of $26m (£16.3m).

3D animation Puss in Boots dropped to three after two weekends at the top.

Drama J Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, opened in fifth.

The Clint Eastwood film, starring DiCaprio as the late FBI chief J Edgar Hoover, opened with $11.5m (£7.2m), according to studio estimates.

Some 75% of people who watched the film were under 35 while 60% were male, according to studio Relativity Media.

Kyle Davies, president of worldwide theatrical distribution for the studio, said “people were concerned action fans were staying away from the cinema”.

Continue reading the main story

North American box office

1. Immortals – $32m

2. Jack and Jill – $26m

3. Puss in Boots – $25.5m

4. Tower Heist – $13.2m

5. J Edgar – $11.5m


“They definitely came out in force for Immortals,” he added.

Action comedy Tower Heist, starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy, was at number four in its second week of release, taking $13.2m (£8.3m). analyst Paul Dergarabedian said it was “one of the first weekends we’ve seen in a while that had a nice combination of films that gave us a really solid weekend”.

“To me, this is what the holiday season is all about, having films like Immortals in the mix in the top five with a drama like J Edgar.”

A Very Harold Kumar 3D Christmas dropped three place to six while Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried sci-fi thriller In Time dropped two places to seven.

Paranormal Activity 3 was at eight, remake Footloose was at nine and robot boxing film Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman, was at number 10.

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Suicide attackers storm Afghan governor’s office November 12, 2011

November 12, 2011

by legitgov


Suicide attackers storm Afghan governor’s office –A meeting between government and Nato officials was under way at the time of the attack. 10 Nov 2011 Attackers have stormed the offices of a governor in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktia province, killing at least four Afghan security personnel. Several suicide attackers, armed with bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, stormed the offices in the Samkani district of the province.

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Berlusconi Promises to Resign After Economic Reforms November 9, 2011

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says that he will resign after parliament passes crucial economic reforms aimed at stabilizing Italy’s economy.  

Berlusconi made the announcement Tuesday after he lost parliamentary majority during a vote on a routine budget measure in the lower house, with seven ruling party members defecting.  The measure passed with 308 votes in favor, but 321 deputies abstained from voting.

After more than half the 630-seat chamber parliament refused to vote, the opposition called for Berlusconi to step down.  The beleaguered prime minister acknowledged that the lower house was paralyzed, while noting his coalition still has a majority in the Senate.   

Berlusconi is under the pressure by the eurozone leaders to pass a cost-reducing budget and avoid a financial crisis like the one in Greece.  Both houses of parliament are expected to vote on his budget reforms this month.

On Wednesday, Italy’s 10-year bond yield topped 7 percent.

The prime minister reiterated Wednesday that he will step down as soon as the budget law is passed.  Berlusconi also told Italy’s La Stampa newspaper that he sees Italy holding elections in early 2012.  He will not seek office in the next election.  

Berlusconi has picked former justice minister Angelino Alfano as his party’s candidate for the prime minister’s post.   

Italy is the third largest economy in the Eurozone and the seventh largest in the world.  But it faces potential economic crisis caused by a ballooning public debt.

Italy’s borrowing costs have increased to their highest level since it joined the common euro currency zone and are now close to the 7 percent level that pushed Ireland, Portugal and Greece to seek bailout loans.

The debt crisis sweeping the Eurozone has put pressure on Berlusconi’s government to move quickly to enact unpopular austerity reforms to protect the Italian economy.

But Emiliano Alessandri of the German Marshall Fund in the United States says even if Berlusconi left office, Italy’s problems would remain.

He says the idea Italy’s structural problems will be solved by Berlusconi’s political demise alone is “wishful thinking.”

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Air base ‘lost US troop remains’

Dover Air Force Base has received more than 6,300 military casualties for burial since 2003

A US Air Force base tasked with preparing military casualties for burial lost portions of remains twice during 2009, a probe has found.

The incidents were brought to light by civilian mortuary workers at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which held its own investigation, said the air force failed to “acknowledge culpability for wrongdoing”.

Three supervisory air force officials at Dover were found to be at fault.

None of the three were fired, but they were demoted or moved to other departments.

Col Robert H Edmondson, who received a letter of reprimand for “failure in leadership”, was reassigned to a personnel division.

Col Edmondson’s top civilian deputy, Trevor Dean, took a different job at Dover in a lower pay grade.

The director of the mortuary division at Dover, Quinton Keel, was reassigned at the base to a non-supervisory position, although the OSC report said the position was created specifically for him after he was no longer director.

In a statement, the Air Force said the mortuary suffered from “deficiencies” in some procedures like paperwork, but “processes to which they related were appropriately conducted”.

Two panels will review operations at the Dover mortuary and identify any improvements.

“I want to reassure our men and women in uniform, and the American public, that the Air Force mortuary standards they expect for our fallen heroes are being met,” Gen Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff said.

Credibility problems

The whistle-blowing mortuary workers revealed 14 specific incidents at Dover.

They including the discovery of an empty bag that was supposed to contain an ankle from a soldier killed in Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported.

In the search, officials found that the remains of two other soldiers were found to have gone missing three months earlier.

In one grisly incident in April 2009, mortuary workers were ordered to saw off the arm bone of a deceased soldier in order to fit his body into a military uniform for burial, in accordance with the wishes of his family.

The workers initially objected but eventually went ahead with the procedure on the order of their superiors – without gaining the consent of the family.

The office of the US Air Force Inspector General, while confirming the overall pattern of complaints, found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing and concluded that the mortuary officials named had not personally broken rules or regulations.

A similar investigation by the Office of the Special Counsel, an independent federal body based at the Department of Justice, said the US Air Force’s conclusions “do not appear reasonable”, considering the base’s responsibility to handle the remains of war casualties with the highest regard.

“More concerning, however, are the findings that these managers ignored evidence given to them, presented baseless explanations that were ‘simply not credible’, and took affirmative steps to conceal the problem,” Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner wrote in a letter to US President Barack Obama.

Ms Lerner also questioned whether the Air Force officials had been appropriately disciplined.

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Democracy Candidates Barred from Beijing Elections November 8, 2011

Pro-democracy candidates hoping to take part in a round of district-level elections in the Chinese capital Beijing Tuesday have been barred from running. The central government has showcased the grass roots elections as proof that its tight grip on China’s political process is being gradually loosened.

The Chinese government often claims to the world it is gradually introducing democracy to its people at grass-roots level.

An increasing number of political office seekers have responded by launching bids as independent candidates. Factory workers, housewives, students and journalists have tried to run for office in local elections and challenge the ruling Communist Party’s practice of hand-picking candidates.

In in Beijing’s municipal elections this week, independent candidates complained that authorities are cracking down on their campaign by erasing their names from ballots, preventing them from taking part.

Independent candidate Ye Jinghuan is among 13 people who campaigned and applied to participate in the ballot.

She says despite applying, she and the other members of the group have been told by the authorities they are not allowed to run for office.

Ye says they have not been told why they cannot run to become independent members of China’s 30,000 local People’s Congresses.

She says she wanted to take part because current local government officials rarely listened to the concerns of residents in her district.

Ye says the treatment has made independent candidates angry.

She says the way the authorities choose candidates is completely undemocratic and they have no chance of being elected.

Most independent candidates have turned to the internet to seek-out political support, and there are signs that the success of the online platforms has authorities worried.

Earlier this week the central government earlier ordered the bosses of China’s most popular Web sites  – including Sina Corporation – to attend workshops where they were told to tightly enforce censorship directives.

Many of the independent candidates’ web and social network sites have subsequently been shut down.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Tuesday he was unaware of the barring of candidates in Beijing’s election.

But he claimed all Chinese citizens have their rights guaranteed by the Chinese constitution and the country’s laws.

Voting for the local Congresses began months ago and is scheduled to finish in mid-2012.

Not all independent candidates who have campaigned have failed to get elected.

Two candidates have managed to win elections in southern Guangdong province.

60-year-old Foshan farmer Guo Huojia won 7,000 out of 9,000 votes in his district in September.

He lobbied for the rights of villagers who had their land grabbed by local government officials and property developers.

But he was given no time to act on behalf of his constituents because he was arrested the day after winning.

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Herman Cain ignores the PR rulebook in race for White House November 6, 2011

Link to this video

Herman Cain dates the start of his presidential ambitions to a few minutes before 10 o’clock on the evening of 22 January 1999. His first grandchild, Celena, had just been born and as he held her in his arms he was moved by a sense of calling.

He wrote a poem about the experience called Little Faces, signing it The Hermanator:

For a moment, I didn’t know who I was or where,

I could only think of her and so happy to be there.

Born into the world with all the other little faces,

What will we do, to make it a better place?

It’s clear that whatever else Cain does in the next few months, he should stay away from rhyming verse. But that’s just about the only thing that’s clear about Herman Cain. In all other regards, he’s shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable and baffling candidates in the history of American presidential races.

Those qualities have been on full display this week with the eruption of sexual harassment allegations against him. The accusations date back to the 1990s when Cain was head of the National Restaurant Association. Three women, all unnamed former employees, are now known to have complained about inappropriate behaviour that allegedly included invitations back to his hotel room. Two of the women received confidential settlements.

True to form, Cain has dealt with the allegations in a way that is the complete opposite of the crisis PR rulebook. Politico gave him 10 days to respond to their questions, yet when the website broke the story on Sunday night he responded as though it was the first he’d heard about the accusations. In the media hurricane that followed, he began by denying any knowledge of a “settlement”, then memories slowly returned.

“I was able to gradually recall more and more details about what happened 12 years ago,” he told the cable news channel HLN, including what he now called a “separation agreement” with the women. He said one of the women had been paid two or three months salary in the deal – though we now know it was a full year’s remuneration of about $35,000 and $45,000 respectively.

According to the rulebook, mistake number one is to eke out your account of what happened, thus prolonging the media storm. Mistake number two is to change your story, making you look duplicitous. And mistake number three – which he’s also fallen into royally this week – is to blame other people: in Cain’s case his female accuser whose work he snarkily said had not been “up to par”, the press and, most provocatively, his rival in the presidential competition Rick Perry.

“We live in an era when what you say during a crisis is often more important than what you did to cause it in the first place,” says Michael Wissot, a senior strategist with the political consultancy Luntz Global who advised John McCain in his presidential runs in 2000 and 2008. “All this finger-pointing by Cain has merely extended the crisis and got him engaged in petty politics, which is dangerous because the one thing that set him apart was that he was not engaged in petty politics.”

Or rather, not engaged in politics, period. The single most extraordinary part of the Cain story is that he is a frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination without ever having held public office. His formal electoral record so far stretches to an attempt in 2004 to enter Georgia’s state senate in which he didn’t even get past the primaries.

“Historically, there’s no precedent,” says Larry Sabato, at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “There’s a reason that parties don’t nominate people without experience in office and that’s because they don’t react well under a crisis – as we’re seeing this week.”

Another puzzle is that Cain came from the sort of background that you’d expect would have directed him more towards the Democratic or labour movement than the Republicans. As he says in his new book This Is Herman Cain: “I grew up po’, which is even worse than being poor.”

His great-great-grandparents were slaves and his father still worked the fields as a young man before branching out to become a chauffeur. His mother was a maid. Cain was born in Memphis and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, under segregation. He remembers being mischievous – a key trait even as a child – sipping water from the white as well as coloured fountains, and being surprised that they tasted the same.

His identity as a black American came not just from negative experiences of racism but also through positive role models. His university years were spent at Morehouse College, an all-male, all-black institution in Atlanta.

But cutting against that collective identity was the driving ambition of Cain the individualist, or the “CEO of self” to use his own catchphrase. He now derides the overwhelming affiliation of African Americans with the Democratic party as a form of “brainwashing”.

From a young age Cain saw himself as on his own trajectory, free of societal norms. He set his American dream on earning a salary of $20,000 – which he soon surpassed as he rose up the corporate ladder, culminating with his appointment as chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza.

Cain makes a lot on the campaign trail of his time at the fast-food chain, regularly telling supporters: “We turned it around with commonsense principles, and we can turn the country around the same way.”

Up to a point. The company did not go into bankruptcy, it is true, largely because Cain slashed costs and sacked up to 400 workers. But nor did it do roaring trade, remaining a relatively marginal player in the pizza market.

Still, his style of slash-and-burn economics does carry real appeal to the Tea Party-fuelled base of the Republican party. It was Tea Partiers who propelled Cain into politics. In 2005 he did a stint as a motivational speaker for Americans for Prosperity, the right-wing network founded and funded by the oil billionaires, the Koch brothers. Most of Cain’s current campaign team, including Mark Block, the adviser who appeared in a recent political advert in which he smokes a cigarette, came from Americans for Prosperity and share the Kochs’s and the Tea Party movement’s anti-government and anti-tax principles.

“I was thinking Tea Parties before Tea Parties was cool,” Cain once said.

He’s carried those Tea Party credentials with him on to the campaign trail, using them to win over the ranks of right-wing conservatives who are disaffected with the establishment Republican elite.

In the first few months of his candidacy he remained obscure but his impressive performance on the televised Republican debates catapulted his poll ratings. For a candidate who has been vague about policies, the one that stands out is a “9-9-9″ regressive tax policy that abolishes personal income, corporate, estate and other taxes and replaces them with a flat 9% tax on retail sales, 9% individual income tax and 9% business tax to the almost certain detriment of poorer families and benefit of the super rich.

As Jeff Jorgensen, who was one of the first to endorse Cain in the key caucus state of Iowa, puts it: “The fact that he’s not a politician is the biggest factor for me. Politicians got us to this point and it’s not politicians who will get us out of it.”

As Jorgensen suggests, what Cain is not is almost more important than what he is. Crucially, he’s not Mitt Romney, the other Republican frontrunner who angers the right-wing Tea Party movement because he’s too moderate. And he’s certainly not Barack Obama, who he castigates as a “socialist”, though he does have the benefit in some conservatives’ eyes of also being black.

“He’s actually blacker than Obama, Obama’s mother was white,” said Timothy Johnson, founder of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a network of black conservatives.

By capturing the imagination of a roiled Republican base, Cain has already gone much further than anyone expected. The latest polls put him in the lead, well ahead of Romney, though the full fallout of this week’s shenanigans has yet to be felt.

Wissot says that Luntz Global’s polling data shows Cain performing strongly in several key early states, notably Iowa and South Carolina. “If Cain can weather the sexual harassment allegations and continue to fight off Perry for ownership of the title of Tea Party darling, then he has a chance of winning the nomination.”

But there’s a long way to go yet. A final puzzle is that Cain has virtually no campaign infrastructure in any of those states and his financial war-chest is so small compared to Romney’s or Perry’s that some commentators have wondered whether Cain’s efforts amount to nothing more than an elaborate scheme to sell his book.

As a sign perhaps that things are about to get a little more serious, Cain has reportedly now hired a crisis PR firm. Better late than never. But surely this is not the last of the surprises we’ll enjoy on Cain’s bewildering journey towards the White House.

Key dates in the battle for the presidency

9 November The next national TV debate between the Republican candidates. Will Cain look like damaged goods, or will it be his chance to put this week’s troubles behind him?

10 December The first of three TV debates between the candidates to be staged in Iowa ahead of the crucial opening caucus there.

3 January 2012 And they’re off! The first contest of the nomination process begins with the Iowa caucus in America’s corn-growing heartland. Polls currently show Cain and Romney equal frontrunners

10 January The focus swings to New Hampshire where Romney is way out in front. He will hope that commanding victory here will propel him on to Super Tuesday

21 January On to South Carolina. A big one for Cain this, partly because of its large black population and partly because of its strong Baptist community which suits Cain, who is a pastor in an Atlanta church

6 March Super Tuesday this time round won’t be quite as definitive as in previous presidential years, because fewer states are taking part. But it will still help to separate the sheep from the goats

3 October Denver, Colorado. The first of three televised face-offs between Barack Obama and the Republican nominee (there will also be one vice-presidential debate). A chance to deliver body blows either way

6 November The big day. Will the Republican nominee succeed in doing what Ronald Reagan did to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton did to the elder George Bush?

The decision will lie with 538 electors drawn from the 50 states.

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ICC Trying to Secure Surrender of Gadhafi Son, Spy Chief November 3, 2011

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) says his office has been “galvanizing efforts” to bring a son of Moammar Gadhafi to justice as well as the former Libyan leader’s spy chief.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo says efforts are underway to secure the surrender of Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, as part of a broader probe into alleged war crimes committed by pro-Gadhafi forces, revolutionary fighters and NATO.

He says his office is also examining whether former spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi ordered mass rapes to persecute those considered Libyan dissidents or rebels. The exact whereabouts of both men are unknown.

The ICC prosecutor commented on Wednesday in remarks to the United Nations Security Council.  

He said a probe has been launched concerning alleged crimes committed by Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), including the detentions of civilians suspected of being mercenaries and the killing of detained combatants.  

Rights groups have said NTC fighters singled out sub-Saharan African migrant workers for arbitrary arrest due to assumptions they supported Gadhafi.

Moreno-Ocampo did not provide details of possible crimes by NATO forces.  However, western allies, have denied allegations they deliberately targeted civilians during NATO’s seven-month bombing campaign against pro-Gadhafi forces, which ended Monday.

The ICC prosecutor said his office has been informed that Libya’s new leaders will look into the circumstances surrounding Gadhafi’s death.  Libyan Deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi told the council Tripoli would ensure all those involved in crimes not covered by ICC jurisdiction receive “transparent investigations and fair and just trials in Libyan courts.”

Earlier Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used a visit to Libya to urge the country’s new leaders to secure weapons stockpiled by the former government.

Ban said it is particularly important to secure stocks of shoulder-fired missiles and chemical and biological weapons. Some of those arsenals were left unguarded during the chaotic outcome of Libya’s popular uprising this year.

The U.N. Security Council warned in a resolution Monday of the risk that terrorists and other armed groups in the region could gain access to the Gadhafi government’s weapons.

Ban, visiting Libya for the first time since the uprising began in March, told NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil the United Nations will support the Libyan people in their transition to democracy.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Elderly US ‘ricin plotters’ held

Ricin was found in US Senate office buildings in 2004

Four elderly men from the US state of Georgia have appeared in court charged with plotting to murder officials using explosives and the lethal toxin ricin.

Court documents say the group scoped out federal buildings and asked a contact to produce ricin.

The FBI used a confidential informant to record the group’s meetings.

The men were arrested on Tuesday days after a laboratory test found trace amounts of ricin in their possession, the authorities said.

‘Blow the building’

The four were named as Frederick Thomas, Dan Roberts, Ray Adams, and Samuel Crump, all ranging in age from 65 to 73.

The bespectacled accused appeared to have trouble hearing the judge at the federal court in Gainesville, even though she was using a microphone.

A bail hearing is scheduled for next week.

Mr Thomas allegedly wanted to model the group’s actions on the online novel Absolved, which involves small groups of citizens attacking US officials.

The novel’s author, Mike Vanderboegh, wrote on his blog on Wednesday his book was fiction, and was sceptical the group could have ever carried out the attacks.

Mr Vanderboegh told the Associated Press his novel was intended as a “useful dire warning” about the US government encroaching too far on the rights of armed citizens.

According to court documents, Mr Thomas told the group he had a “bucket list” of politicians, employees and others he felt needed to be “taken out”.

He allegedly told an informant: “There’s two schools of thought on this: go for the feds or go for the locals. And I’m inclined to consider both.

“We’d have to blow the whole building like Timothy McVeigh.”

Mr Crump and Mr Adams were allegedly assigned to try to obtain or make ricin.

Mr Crump was recorded in September saying he would like to make 10lb (4.5kg) of the toxin.

Charlotte Thomas, Mr Thomas’s wife, told the AP the charges against her husband were baseless.

“He spent 30 years in the US Navy. He would not do anything against his country,” she said. “He loves his country.”

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Israel to speed up settlement construction in Jerusalem, West Bank November 2, 2011

November 1, 2011

by legitgov


Israel to speed up settlement construction in Jerusalem, West Bank –Official: Construction will take place in areas that are expected to be part of Israeli territory 01 Nov 2011 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday called for speeding up the construction of 2,000 housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The announcement from his office comes in retaliation for the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO’s vote, a day earlier, to accept a Palestinian bid for full membership. According to a senior Israeli official, the plan involves building 1,650 units in East Jerusalem and the rest in the West Bank settlements of Efrat and Maaleh Adumin.

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CIA, Other Spy Agencies Spent $54.6 Billion In Secret For 2011 October 31, 2011

October 30, 2011

by legitgov


CIA, Other Spy Agencies Spent $54.6 Billion In Secret For 2011 28 Oct 2011 Congress appropriated a whopping $54.6 billion for classified intelligence operations in 2011, an increase over the previous two years. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — whose office was created after the 9/11 attacks to oversee the government’s 16 intelligence agencies — made the disclosure in a dry news release Friday. The top line number represents the aggregate amount of money lawmakers doled out for the National Intelligence Program’s black budget last year.

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Justice inspector general: There were no $16 muffins October 29, 2011

Washington (CNN) — Oops.

The Justice Department inspector general announced Friday that its highly publicized assertion last month that department officials paid $16 per muffin at a Washington legal conference was wrong.

Acting Inspector General Cynthia Schnedar issued a revised report, which said her office’s highly publicized original report in September had incorrectly concluded that the cost of the muffins at a 2009 conference were so pricey. “We regret the error in our original report,” the new document says.

The $16 claim created an inside-the-Beltway storm, with both the Hilton hotel chain and key department officials blasting the independent inspector general’s report. The report cited the high cost of the muffins as an example of uncontrolled federal costs.

“After publication of the report, we received additional documents and information concerning the food and beverage costs at the Executive Office of Immigration Review conference,” the new inspector general’s report said.

“After further review of the newly provided documentation and information and after discussions with the Capital Hilton and the (Justice) Department, we determined that our initial conclusions concerning the itemized costs of refreshments at the EOIR conference were incorrect and that the department did not pay $16 per muffin.”

“We have therefore revised the report based on these additional documents and deleted references to any incorrect costs,” the reported noted.

The new report does not attach a cost to the notorious muffins.

The EOIR hosted the August 2009 conference at the Capital Hilton in downtown Washington.

The Hilton chain and conference organizers vigorously challenged the initial cost assertion, which cited the $4,200 cost for 250 muffins at a conference reception. The hotel chain said the muffin and pastry costs included fresh fruits and beverages, and that space for the conference was provided free of charge.

Though the initial inspector general’s report said the receipts specifically cited “muffins,” the hotel insisted that was simply shorthand.

The story received front-page treatment in Washington-area newspapers, and came amid high-profile battles over government budgets and the need for cost-cutting.

“We hope that our correction of the record for this one conference among the 10 conferences we reviewed does not detract from the more significant conclusion in our report: Government conference expenditures must be managed carefully,” the new report noted. “The department can do more to ensure that taxpayers’ dollars are spent wisely and accounted for properly.”

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For Herman Cain, the astroturf is sprouting | Ana Marie Cox October 28, 2011

Joe, whose name is not Joe, the Plumber, who is not a licensed plumber, is running for Congress. But that doesn’t make Sam Joseph Wurzelbacher a politician, as I wrote here. Indeed he is running for office to save us from those in office: “Politicians keep playing politics with our lives,” he says. I wonder if he realises that “playing politics” is unavoidable if one wants to, you know, be a politician. Actually you don’t even have to be a politician to play politics, much as you don’t have to be a licensed plumber to plumb.

Wurzelbacher’s run evokes two themes of modern American thinking. First, the idea that politics is a closed loop, or a thing that happens outside the lives of ordinary folks (they’re always “folks”). Second, the idea that fame translates across the occupational spectrum: at its upper reaches, it’s a weird equaliser – Bristol Palin on Dancing with the Stars and Kanye West at Occupy Wall Street. See also Herman Cain.

It is almost impossible, as a political professional, to take Cain, putative Republican presidential nominee, seriously. That he was the chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza – a chain whose name is a joke of sorts – is just the first place to start sniggering. There’s also his weirdly excitable stage presence, where his exuberant mannerisms and obsessive repetition of “9-9-9″ make him seem more like a sitcom’s idea of a political candidate: all catchphrases and mugging for the camera. Or, if you have seen his most recent campaign ad, all catchphrases, smoking and mugging for the camera. He is the South Park candidate by way of Mad Men – quotable and unfiltered, obscene for reasons one can’t quite put a finger on. Oh, and endlessly entertaining.

And then there are his policy proposals. Those who have tried sober analysis of his tax plan tend to come away more shocked than awed. Progressives can only type “the most regressive tax policy ever seriously proposed” so many times before it becomes simply an absurdist nightmare, like “President Bachmann.” Even conservatives sputter about the implications of a national 9% sales tax. The scheme’s very simplicity could ease the way to equally simple tax increases. “How,” wondered Fox News’s Chris Wallace, “do you guarantee that 9-9-9 down the line doesn’t become 12-12-12?” Cain’s answer, that “I want a two-thirds vote required by the Senate in order for them to change it”, points to the other huge brick wall analysts continually thump their heads against in considering Cain: he apparently has no idea how federal government actually works. See, a president can’t just “require” a two-thirds majority, and even if somehow he could, it would be unconstitutional and how would you get the votes in the Senate …

To Republican primary voters these flaws are not bugs, they’re features. The former professional lobbyist (for the National Restaurant Association) is an outsider! The former Federal Reserve Board chairman wants to simplify things! Interviews with supporters suggest they’ve turned to Cain out of disgust with the current political landscape, but the Cain sensation says less about how American politics is broken than it does about how Republican politics is broken.

The GOP establishment embraced the Tea Party early and vigorously, legitimising its internally inconsistent complaints (“Government hands off my Medicare!”) and fetishising negation as a policy “solution” (“Repeal Obamacare!”). Republican leaders who saw restlessness in the crowd switched the rhetorical background music from a genteel waltz to something better suited to slamdancing. But the GOP’s more traditional candidates for president – Rick Perry and Mitt Romney – are still trying to move to 3/4 time. Cain is doing the electric slide. (Ron Paul is off in the corner, pogo-ing.)

Pundits have been busy explaining all the reasons why Cain could not possibly get the nomination. Cain, though, polished his candidacy as a speaker on the Americans for Prosperity circuit – a Tea Party-aligned, big moneyed interest group that operates just outside the margins of the visible political spectrum. Critics say it specialises in “astroturf” campaigns, generating the illusion of grassroots support via paid volunteers and professional lobbying. In the case of Cain, the astroturf seems to have sprouted.

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Top 1 Percent of Earners Doubled Share of Nation’s Income, Study Finds October 27, 2011

October 27, 2011

by legitgov


Top 1 Percent of Earners Doubled Share of Nation’s Income, Study Finds 26 Oct 2011 The top 1 percent of earners more than doubled their share of the nation’s income over the last three decades, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday, in a new report. In addition, the report said, government policy has become less redistributive since the late 1970s, doing less to reduce the concentration of income. “The equalizing effect of federal taxes was smaller” in 2007 than in 1979, as “the composition of federal revenues shifted away from progressive income taxes to less-progressive payroll taxes,” the budget office said.

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Occupy Wall Street: live coverage of protests October 25, 2011

2.40pm: It was only a matter of time before the first book was written about Occupy Wall Street, and news has arrived in my inbox of just such a tome.

OR Books today announces a new book: Occupying Wall Street: The Inside Story of an Action that Changed the Course of America. An instant history of the anti-capitalist protest which began on September 17th in Liberty Square, downtown Manhattan, the book is being written by a group, Writers for the 99%, who are active in supporting the occupation.

Those hoping for a Mills and Boon-esque novel are likely to be disappointed. It sounds heavy.

Based on extensive interviews with those taking part and written as a compelling story, the book focuses on the everyday activity in the square, drilling down into the detail of how the occupation works. Separate chapters look at the general assembly, the kitchen, the medical center, clean-up, education and empowerment, the library, media center and outreach. Along the way the book tells the stories of those involved in the action and recounts the major events that have occurred in its early days.

The book will be published on 17 December in paperback and as an ebook, and all profits will go to the occupation OR Books said. Colin Robinson, co-publisher at OR Books, said it was a “a tremendous challenge” to produce.

“But Occupy Wall Street is an action of historic proportions and we believe it’s important to create at least a first draft of that history as its occurring,” he said. “We’re making no claims to be creating the authorized version of events, that’s impossible at this point. But by bringing together first-rate interviewers, writers and editors, we believe we can tell a story of the occupation that describes its extraordinary achievements and encourages their spread across America and around the world.”

12.56pm: My colleague Karen McVeigh writes that half of the 750 Occupy Wall Street protesters arrested on Brooklyn Bridge in a controversial mass arrest operation have had offers to have their cases dismissed.

Lawyers for the protesters, who are seeking a dismissal of all cases of disorderly conduct, said they had not yet spoken with those charged about the offer and it was unclear whether they would accept it.

Martin Stolar, a defence lawyer, said he was wary of the deal, as it would become void if a protester was re-arrested over a six month period.

“That might put a chilling effect on further protest activities” Stolar told the Daily News.

The offer came after a meeting between civil rights lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild and prosecutors at Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office.

This type of conditional offer, of an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, is typical of minor cases where those arrested have no previous convictions.

Stolar was critical of the DA’s decision to dismiss only 340 of the 750 cases the police logged during the mass arrests of 700 on Brooklyn Bridge on 30 September and others a week earlier at Union Square.

He said that prosecutors claimed they could dismiss cases in which desk appearance tickets were issued by police but not the cases in which police issued summonses, but that it was “totally arbritary” who got a summons and who got a desk appearance.

12.45pm: That was interesting… here’s a summary of what we’ve just learned:

Oakland police confirmed they deployed teargas and said a “non-lethal” projectile was fired from a shotgun in this morning’s operation. “Several hundred” officers were involved in clearing Frank Ogawa Plaza and Snow Park, a spokesman said.

The police spokesman said he was “very pleased” with how the operation was conducted. Officers were “being pelted with rocks and bottles” by protesters, hence the use of tear gas and the shotgun, which was used to fire beanbags, police said.

Most arrests were for misdemeanours, including unlawful assembly, police said. Some were arrested on felony charges. The arrested are being processed in the usual fashion.

Police were pressed on why they arrested people in Snow Park, Oakland after 6am – when it is legally open. The spokesman said the operation there began at 4.30am, but did not seem to deny arrests took place post 6am.

12.34pm: As the team of three police representatives gets up to leave there are shouts from the room where the press conference took place.

“What about my daughter, who’s in jail right now,” shouts one woman.

12.33pm: Police don’t know how many officers were at Occupy Oakland, and they aren’t in a position to say. IT was “several hundred”.

Those arrested will be protested in the usual fashion.

Most were arrested for misdemeanours, such as unlawful assembly. There were some felonies.

The spokesman says he is “very pleased” with how the operation went.

12.30pm: Police said “as far as we know we were the ones that deployed tear gas”. There were mixed reports that it may have come from protesters.

An officer says they were “being pelted with rocks and bottles” before it was used. He adds that firecrackers were thrown at police.

He confirms a non-lethal shotgun was used.

He repeats that police had bottles thrown at them. Protesters “were going back for more bottles” to throw at them.

12.26pm: A press conference is being given by Oakland police now. You can watch it live here.

12.10pm: I’ve just been speaking to Susie Cagle, a graphic journalist who was at Occupy Oakland when the police moved in this morning.

Cagle said there were three police lines at Frank Ogawa Plaza. She was stood between the second and third lines when tear gas was let off in the crowd of protesters at the plaza.

“It was completely blinding and opaque. It just shot a white cloud up into the air, across a multi-lane road. It was quite a ways-away, but the quickness that it came to us took me by surprise.”

“It burned my eyes and throat. We ran two blocks away but it was still coming down towards us, the wind was carrying it down the street.”

Cagle, a freelancer who has been reporting on Occupy Oakland since demonstrations began, described the police operation as “extremely militant”.

“There were three helicopters, hundreds of police officers, vastly outnumbering any potential group of protesters that they would have faced, and then on top of that this gross use of force that just seemed completely out of line with what was happening.

“My last view of the camp before the tear gas went off was protesters stood inside the camp with their arms linked, chanting.”

I haven’t been able to get through to Oakland police department’s press office yet, but will post the police response as I get it. The use of tear gas has been widely reported.

11.13am: I’m hoping to speak to someone from Occupy Oakland shortly. In the meantime here’s Reuters’ take on the events there:

Police cleared out protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement in Oakland, California, early Tuesday, breaking up a camp near city hall that has been the site of two weeks of demonstrations, a city spokeswoman said.
Oakland city spokeswoman Karen Boyd said she did not know how many of the protesters had been arrested in what the city described as an enforcement action at Frank Ogawa Plaza.
“We have contained the plaza, we are in the process of mobilizing the clean-up phase,” Boyd said.
The city said in a statement it had told protesters last Thursday to cease overnight camping and cooking at the plaza. More warnings were issued on Friday and Monday. Daytime demonstrations will be permitted, the city said.
Officials said police began to clear the plaza at about 4:30 a.m. and had “contained” the area in about an hour.
Businesses were asked to delay opening indefinitely Tuesday and city employees were advised to delay their arrival at work. A nearby rail station was closed and buses rerouted temporarily, the city said.
A statement from the city said conditions at the plaza had started to deteriorate by the second week with police, fire and medical personnel saying they were denied access to the plaza to respond to calls.

10.48am: More from Oakland, where dozens of people were arrested according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Protesters had been occupying the Frank Ogawa Plaza in the city, but the early morning police raids appear to have moved them on:

The police action there began at 4.45am and involved hundreds of officers from at least 10 law enforcement agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, the Alameda County sheriff’s office and various East Bay police departments. Squads of officers had assembled at the Oakland Coliseum before traveling downtown in convoys.

Officers in riot helmets began arriving in force and formed a line in the street adjacent to the plaza while motorcycle officers shut down the street. Some protesters began shouting, “Cops, go home!”

Protesters pulled a metal trash container into the middle of the intersection, and officers quickly pushed it to the side of the road.

At 4.40am, an officer used a public-address system to warn protesters that they would be making arrests if they did not leave the plaza.

“Attention all persons in Frank Ogawa Plaza. It has been determined you are illegally blocking Frank Ogawa Plaza and are the subject to arrest,” said the officer, who ordered protesters to remove their belongings, secure their dogs and exit toward Telegraph Avenue. “Those remaining in the park will be arrested,” he said.

The officer further warned that those who did not comply could, besides being arrested, face other “police action” that could result in injury.

At 4.50am, some loud bangs were heard after officers lobbed “flash-bang” grenades, and smoke rose into the air. After a protester apparently released a smoke bomb, officers began putting on gas masks. A police helicopter flew overhead with its spotlight on.

10.30am: Good morning. Today we’ll try to gain an understanding about what comes next for the Occupy movement. After a whirlwind seven weeks of occupations, meetings and arrests, Occupy Wall Street will vote tomorrow on a proposal to change their decision making process to that of a ‘spokescouncil’, with the hope that it will speed up the group’s ability to decide on issues while maintaining their consensus-based democracy.

The vote could represent a new stage for the Occupy movement, with people empowered to speak on behalf of different working groups. (Although there would be checks – more on that later).

We’ll also have live updates from around the occupations. In the early hours of this morning Oakland police moved to disperse the demonstrations at Frank Ogawa Plaza and Snow Park, reportedly using tear gas and ‘flash bang grenades’ to clear protesters. Some reports suggest up to 70 people were arrested.

Meanwhile in New York state assemblyman Vito Lopez is leading a march from Brooklyn to Occupy Wall Street this afternoon – a reverse route of that which saw 700 people arrested at the beginning of October.

If you were at the Oakland occupation, it’d be great to hear from you. Contact me on Twitter @AdamGabbatt or email

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Police contacted in 2003 about chief suspect in Philly captives case

(CNN) — The family of a woman who died three years ago wants to know whether she is the victim of a suspect accused of locking up four people in a Philadelphia basement.

Maxine Lee, who died in 2008 in Norfolk, Virginia. was a roommate of Linda Weston, the accused ringleader of a group charged with locking up four mentally disabled adults in an apartment’s boiler room.

“I want police to re-open this. I do,” her sister, Tracey Lee, told CNN. Lee said her family believes she died under suspicious circumstances.

The suspects are charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, unlawful restraint, criminal trespass, and conspiracy. The alleged victims were discovered severely malnourished, without food, and left with buckets to go to the bathroom. A landlord discovered them and called police.

CNN gets access to captives’ ‘dungeon’

Disabled adults held captive speak out

Maxine Lee died after disappearing several years earlier. She had last worked as a security guard after jobs with the post office and the IRS, her family told CNN.

Her relatives didn’t know what happened to her until they got a call in November 2008 from Virginia police saying Maxine was dead. She rushed to Norfolk from Philadelphia to get whatever information she could from police.

“I was surprised that they weren’t at all supportive,” Lee said.

Lee said police told her they couldn’t find Weston or another man who had been in the apartment.

When she asked about whether they had any of her sister’s belongings, she said police “printed me a map to find her house on my own.”

“I felt like I was a reporter trying to find out what happened,” Lee added.

Lee says she was taken to identify her sister’s body. “Her hair was falling out,” she said.

She was told her sister died of acute bacterial meningitis with a contributing factor of malnutrition. Her manner of death is listed as “natural causes.”

Tracey Lee says her family was devastated. She was frustrated police said they couldn’t find the people living with her sister. When she heard Weston’s name in connection with the bruised, malnourished, allegedly mistreated disabled woman and three men imprisoned in a basement, she immediately recognized the name.

“I said ‘it can’t be. It can’t be.’ I was distraught,” Lee said.

After hearing about Weston’s charges, Tracey Lee wonders whether her sister could be another possible victim of Weston’s.

“I think she played a role (in her sister’s death). “Maxine probably went days without water. And if she was so sick, why didn’t she take her to the ER?” she said.

Norfolk Police tell CNN they’re looking at Maxine Lee’s case again but haven’t formally re-opened it.

Philadelphia police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers says they’re aware of Maxine Lee’s death and her connection to Weston.

They’ve set up a task force to investigate every aspect of the Philadelphia case, looking for more people who might have been victimized by Weston and her co-defendants.

Investigators found about 50 different identification cards among Weston’s belongings.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told CNN on Monday that Weston had IDs for about 50 people in her possession: “Social Security information, power of attorney information, those kinds of things.”

“We’re looking at everything,” Evers said. ‘Are these people dead, alive?” He says they have to track down each person and look for any connections to Weston and her three co-defendants.

Police say Weston’s motive may have been befriending needy victims and eventually ripping off their Social Security checks.

The case continued to develop Friday when CNN uncovered new information that shows the Philadelphia case was not the first time Weston has drawn scrutiny for possible Social Security fraud.

The Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General confirmed to CNN that it investigated Weston in 2009 for continuing to collect benefits for her roommate, Maxine Lee, after she died of acute meningitis.

When the administration finally cut off benefits, Weston appeared at a Philadelphia office seeking to have the benefits reinstated, the Office of Inspector General said in a statement to CNN.

The money — totaling less then $3,000 — was repaid to the Social Security Administration, the inspector general said.

The acknowledgment by the inspector general’s office has raised questions about why the Social Security Administration allowed Weston, a convicted murderer, to serve as a “representative payee” for a Social Security recipient. Under Social Security Administration policy, certain individuals convicted of criminal offenses are prohibited from serving as representative payees.

The Social Security Administration is reviewing its handling of Weston. After initially asking for questions for comment in writing from CNN, a spokeswoman for the administration declined to provide details of the Weston case, including whether Weston was the representative payee for any of the people found in captivity in Philadelphia.

“We are very concerned about this situation. As this is an ongoing investigation, we can’t provide you any details at this time,” spokeswoman Kia Green said.

As for Tracey Lee and her mother, they plan to attend Monday’s first public court appearance for Weston and the three other defendants in Philadelphia.

“I plan on getting up early and sitting in the first row, ” Mary Lee said.

CNN’s Mike Ahlers and Sarah Hoye contributed to this report.

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Manhattan District Attorney Won’t Drop Charges Against Protesters

October 24, 2011

by legitgov


Manhattan District Attorney Won’t Drop Charges Against Protesters 24 Oct 2011 The Manhattan district attorney’s office will not summarily dismiss the charges against some 300 Occupy Wall Street protesters who were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct during rallies on the Brooklyn Bridge and at Union Square, a lawyer for the protesters said Monday. The lawyer, Martin R. Stolar, who met with prosecutors, said he was told that the district attorney’s office would offer what is known as an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, or A.C.D. Under that offer, defendants will have the charges against them dismissed as long as they do not get arrested again in the next six months.

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Occupy Chicago and Wall Street protests October 24, 2011

2.17pm: Judith Butler visited Occupy Wall Street yesterday, speaking briefly to the crowds through the human mic. Here’s a video of her – hat-tip to Salon for the link.

People have asked, so what are the demands? What are the demands all of these people are making? Either they say there are no demands and that leaves your critics confused, or they say that the demands for social equality and economic justice are impossible demands. And the impossible demands, they say, are just not practical. If hope is an impossible demand, then we demand the impossible — that the right to shelter, food and employment are impossible demands, then we demand the impossible. If it is impossible to demand that those who profit from the recession redistribute their wealth and cease their greed, then yes, we demand the impossible.

But it is true. There are no demands that you can submit to arbitration here. Because we’re not just demanding economic justice and social equality. We are assembling in public, we are coming together as bodies in alliance in the street and in the square, we’re standing here together making democracy, enacting the phrase ‘We the people’.

1.26pm: Tech President have analysed the growth in online interest in the Occupy movement, and deem that it may well be levelling out.

The site has been tracking nearly 500 Facebook pages, reporting that “overall interest” is “cresting.

At the same time, the movement–which deliberately has avoided appointing leaders and spokespeople–continues to expand its networked base. Nearly 250 of those Facebook groups have at least 1,000 members. Another 70 “Occupy X” Twitter accounts also have at least 1000 followers. And in a fascinating development noticed by Shane Castlen, who is tracking all of these metrics on his website, while the main Reddit community for OWS now has more than 10,000 members, a number of local Occupy groups are slowly building their own “subreddits” focused on the news and debates occurring around their own encampments. Boston, Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago, DC, Orlando, Philadelphia, Seattle, Richmond, Omana, Columbus, South Dakota and Boise are all active there.

But the meta-trend of rapid attachment to Occupy sites on Facebook has definitely leveled off in the last several days. As the chart below shows, “likes” are slowing down to a rate of about 2% per day.

Searches for “Occupy Wall Street” on Google are also settling down, though as the chart below shows, interest in the movement is currently still at a much higher level than the Tea Party, which it is being compared to.

A quickfire response has already been issued by the Occupy Wall Street official twitter feed.

@OccupyWallSt We’re starting to crest? This generally means everyone knows about the movement now ;) #ows

1.04pm: I’ve just been speaking to Martese Chism, a registered nurse who was arrested at Occupy Chicago after police tried to clear the camp on Saturday night and then spent 23 hours in jail.

Chism was one of two nurses arrested – and one of 130 people in total – arrested by Chicago police after they failed to disperse from their Grant Park camp.

“I was surprised that we were arrested,” she said. “We weren’t there to protest, we were there to set up a first aid base.”

Chism, who works at Stroger hospital in Chicago, said she was handing out water to dehydrated protesters and providing other care.

She was arrested at 2.30am on Sunday, and released at 1.30am this morning. The worst part, Chism said, was the cold temperature of the cell – which was accentuated when her mattress was taken by police, without explanation.

“It was rough. It was cold,” she said. She said police told her she was detained for so long as there was a wait to be finger-printed, but added: “We were seeing other people, who weren’t protesters, get processed in 2-3 hours. It was to send us a message, to stop us protesting.”

Chism was part of a picket line formed by National Nurses United outside Rahm Emanuel’s office this morning, and said the treatment would not deter her from protesting again.

“At first I was like I’m not going to do this ever again,” she said. “But then when the guard refused to give us our mattress, I though I’m not gonna let no one abuse my rights.”

12.24pm: Digital Journal has an interesting update on the Occupy Oakland protests. On Friday the demonstration was issued with an eviction notice by police, warning that camping was no longer allowed. Digitial Journal reports that “the Occupy Oakland General Assembly defied the order to disperse, shutting down streets and storming a Chase bank branch”.

The organization alerted its activist base to be “swarm” downtown Oakland in preparation of a police action to remove them forcibly.

“A police raid of Oscar Grant Plaza is very likely this week,” an alert read on the Occupy Oakland web site. “Text bayaction to 41411 to get on the emergency text alert system of #occupyoakland. In the event of an attempted police eviction, please alert all your friends and swarm downtown Oakland asap!”

Protesters marched through the streets of Oakland on Saturday, blocking highway ramps and the city’s main arteries.

But the Occupy Oakland activists took a more decisive turn when they marched into a Chase branch while chanting, “Chase got bailed out. We got sold out.”

The raucous crowd filled the bank and began throwing deposit slips into the air, shutting down the bank’s operations before returning to their tent encampments outside City Hall.

11.28am: The National Nurses United union is picketing the office of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel’s today.

The demonstration is in response to the arrests at Grant Park in Chicago on Saturday, the union said in a press release.

NNU is asking supporters to call Mayor Emanuel’s office at 312-744-5000 and demand they immediately drop all charges against the nurses and other protesters, and stop the harassment and arrests of the nurses and others peacefully exercising their free speech rights. Nurses will also picket the mayor’s office at 10 a.m. Monday morning, at City Hall at the LaSalle entrance.

Nurse leaders of National Nurses United who set up a nurses’ station to provide basic first aid to Chicago protesters – as NNU has done peacefully in five other cities across the U.S. – were among the some 130 people arrested by Chicago police. The police also tore down the first aid station, and arrested scores of others who had peacefully assembled to support the station.

11.02am: The New York Post – not noted for its sympathetic attitude towards Occupy Wall Street (see ‘Protest mob is enjoying rich diet’)reports that the protests have contributed to a spike in shootings in NYC.

The paper reports that the number of people shot has surged by 154 percent compared to the same week last year, and increased 28 percent over the last month.

Since Occupy Wall Street took over Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17, the NYPD has relied heavily on its borough task forces, the department’s go-to teams for rowdy crowds.

But such protest duty takes the special units away from their regular jobs — patrolling public housing and problem spots and staking out nightclubs plagued by violence, supervisors said.

“Normally, the task force is used in high-crime neighborhoods where you have a lot of shootings and robberies,” said one source.

“They are always used when there are spikes in crime as a quick fix. But instead of being sent to Jamaica, Brownsville and the South Bronx, they are in Wall Street.”

Another NYPD boss is troubled by the resulting slowdown in stop-and-frisks.

When OWS marches, as many as 3,000 cops a day could be called on to keep the peace. That’s about 10 percent of the total force.

“The city is going crazy with demonstrations and protests, and I’m lucky if I can get four cars out there,” said Deputy Inspector Ted Berntsen, commander of the 13th precinct in Chelsea.

10.45am: If, like me, you don’t know what “haircuts” are (in the banking sense), here’s more on the Occupy Wall Street event:

In banking, when a lender has to accept that a loan will not be paid back in full, the lender must then write the loan value down for a loss. This is called taking a “haircut.” Bankers don’t like haircuts – but they treat the 99% and the 1% differently. When faced with losses by homeowners or consumers, they play hardball. They threaten homeowners with foreclosure and report the borrower to the credit agencies, damaging their credit rating.

Apparently “hundreds of barbers” will visit Zuccotti Park to demonstrate the need for banks to provide debt relief. An intimidating prospect.

10.31am: The arrested protesters in Chicago, were charged with violating a city ordinance, the equivalent of the lowest misdemeanour, and most were released after agreeing to appear in court, police said.

The arrests took place after protesters refused to leave Grant Park, the site of large protests against the Vietnam War during the Democratic Party’s convention in Chicago in 1968, after 11pm.

Occupy Chicago said five remained in custody yesterday as they had “pending bail violations” after being arrested on Saturday 15 October as well. The five are being processed at five different court houses today, with demonstrations in support being organised.

Aside from the 9am court hearing at Belmont and Western the rest are at 2:30 pm in 4 different court houses. The reason they have split the occupiers up is so we have a harder time getting them some support, let’s prove them wrong!

2452 W. Belmont – 9am (James Cox)
5555 W. Grand – 2:30pm (Greg Goodman)
2452 W. Belmont 2:30pm ( Richard Malvin)
3151 W. Harrison – 2:30pm (Alec Plant)
727 E. 111th – 2:30pm (Mary Jo Fessenmier)

10.15am: Good morning, welcome to the Guardian’s rolling coverage of the Occupy movement.

Some 130 Occupy Chicago protesters were arrested on Saturday night as they attempted to secure a second location at Grant Park. Demonstrations are expected at the court where the arrested will be processed today.

From Occupy Chicago’s website:

Early [Sunday] morning, roughly 130 people from Occupy Chicago were arrested while attempting for the second time to build a new, permanent home for the Occupation, exercising their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. Arrestees were taken to the District 1 Police Station at 18th State, where they were charged with disturbing the peace.

At Occupy Wall Street a “banks need to take a haircut” protest is planned for 1pm, highlighting what protesters allege is a disparity between banks’ treatment of individuals as opposed to corporations.

Follow here live updates on the demonstrations across the US.

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