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Indefinite detention bill passes in Senate December 16, 2011


December 15, 2011

by legitgov

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Breaking: Indefinite detention bill passes in Senate 16 Dec 2011 (rt.com) Exactly 220 years to the date after the Bill of Rights was ratified, the US Senate today voted 86 to 13 in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, allowing the indefinite detention and torture of Americans. After a back-and-forth in recent days between both the Senate and House yielded intense criticism from Americans attempting to hold onto their Constitutional rights, NDAA FY2012 is now on its way to the White House, where yesterday the Obama administration revealed that the president would not veto the legislation, cancelling a warning he offered less than a month earlier.

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US flag ceremony ends war in Iraq December 15, 2011


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US Defences Secretary, Leon Panetta: “To all of the men and women in uniform today your nation is deeply indebted to you.”

The flag of American forces in Iraq has been lowered in Baghdad, bringing nearly nine years of US military operations in Iraq to a formal end.

The US Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, told troops the mission had been worth the cost in blood and dollars.

He said the years of war in Iraq had yielded to an era of opportunity in which the US was a committed partner.

Only about 4,000 US soldiers now remain in Iraq, but they are due to leave in the next two weeks.

At the peak of the operation, US forces there numbered 170,000.

Continue reading the main story

Analysis




For 40 years, Iraq has been one of the most damaged countries on earth.

The American-led invasion and overthrow of Saddam led to a savage civil war which is still not finished.

The United States leaves behind a country embittered by the occupation.

And yet today, as the Americans pull down their flag and leave, some Iraqis hope that their country’s luck may be turning.

If Iraq becomes wealthy, if it can stay more or less democratic, if it can finally bring terrorism to an end, then the 40 years of horror may be over.

Its people deserve a little good luck at last.

The symbolic ceremony in Baghdad officially “cased” (retired) the US forces flag, according to army tradition.

It will now be taken back to the USA.

Mr Panetta told US soldiers they could leave Iraq with great pride.

“After a lot of blood spilled by Iraqis and Americans, the mission of an Iraq that could govern and secure itself has become real,” he said.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said Iraqis were glad the US troops were leaving.

“They have been difficult years,” he told the BBC.

“We have had some successes together. We had some failures. We have some mishaps.

“I think we are all happy that the American soldiers are returning home safely to their families and we are also confident that the Iraqi people and their armed forces, police, are in a position now to take care of their own security.”

Some 4,500 US soldiers and more than 100,000 Iraqis have died in the war.

The conflict, launched by the Bush administration in March 2003, soon became hugely unpopular as claims that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction and supporting al-Qaeda militants turned out to be untrue.

The war has cost the US some $1tr.

Republicans have criticised the pullout citing concerns over Iraq’s stability, but a recent poll by the Pew Research Centre found that 75% of Americans backed the troop withdrawal.

‘Moment of success’

President Barack Obama, who came to office pledging to bring troops home, said on Wednesday that the US left behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq”.

In a speech in North Carolina to troops who have just returned, Mr Obama hailed the “extraordinary achievement” of the military and said they were leaving with “heads held high”.

“Everything that American troops have done in Iraq, all the fighting and dying, bleeding and building, training and partnering, has led us to this moment of success,” he said.


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Barack Obama: “You have shown why the US military is the finest fighting force in the history of the world”

“The war in Iraq will soon belong to history, and your service belongs to the ages.”

He said the war had been “a source of great controversy” but that they had helped to build “a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people”.

Mr Obama announced in October that all US troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, a date previously agreed by former President George W Bush in 2008.

Some 1.5 million Americans have served in Iraq since the US invasion in 2003. In addition to those who died, nearly 30,000 have been wounded.

Troop numbers peaked during the height of the so-called surge strategy in 2007, but the last combat troops left Iraq in August last year.

A small contingent of some 200 soldiers will remain in Iraq as advisers, while some 15,000 US personnel are now based at the US embassy in Baghdad – by far the world’s largest.

‘Ruin and mess’

Some Iraqis have said they fear the consequences of being left to manage their own security.

Baghdad trader Malik Abed said he was grateful to the Americans for ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein, but added: “I think now we are going to be in trouble. Maybe the terrorists will start attacking us again.”

But in the city of Falluja, a former insurgent stronghold which was the scene of major US offensives in 2004, people burned US flags on Wednesday in celebration at the withdrawal.

“No-one trusted their promises, but they said when they came to Iraq they would bring security, stability and would build our country,” Ahmed Aied, a grocer, told Reuters news agency.

“Now they are walking out, leaving behind killings, ruin and mess.”

Concerns have also been voiced in Washington that Iraq lacks robust political structures or an ability to defend its borders.

There are also fears that Iraq could be plunged back into sectarian bloodletting, or be unduly influenced by Iran.

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Moscow Protests Get Legs with Social Media December 14, 2011

A Moscow march to protest election fraud unexpectedly drew tens of thousands of people on Saturday. With 40 percent of Russian adults online, many say social media, including the Russian social networking site VKontakte, has made it possible for a long stalled opposition movement in Russia to organize a rally that size.

Last Saturday Danila Lindele stood in downtown Moscow tweeting about the revolution.

Dressed in a sweater his mother knit him, the 23-year-old is a new breed of Russian activist more likely to reach for an iPad than a bullhorn. “When it comes to the rally today, Internet has played an extremely vital role in making it happen because nothing was broadcast on television. Everything is disseminated through Twitter, Facebook and through our VK site,” he said.

After recent parliamentary elections, YouTube was flooded with videos alleging vote rigging by the country’s ruling United Russia party.

Russia’s state-run media on the other hand was conspicuously silent.

Protesters like 22-year-old student and first-time election observer Denis Kandrotenko are keenly aware of the information divide between television and the Internet. “I know the real amount of votes United Russia received during the elections. It received very few votes. And because of that the people, rose up and came out today. They want fair and honest elections, not what they show us on TV,” he said.

According to a report by Russian search giant Yandex, Russia has over one million Twitter users. A five-fold increase over last year.

And nearly 40,000 people signed up to attend Saturday’s rally on Facebook, despite efforts by state-run television to brand such gatherings as dangerous and the protesters themselves as violent rabble rousers.

Masha Lipman, an analyst at Carnegie Center Moscow, admits the Internet is an important tool, but says it was election fraud, not micro-blogging, that galvanized people. “As soon as the mood was one of action, not just sitting there and grumbling, the Internet came in very handy and indeed played a huge role … in actually planning and organizing the rally that brought together an unprecedented number of people,” she said.

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Moscow on Saturday, the largest number to rally since the fall of the Soviet Union nearly two decades ago. Organizers were keenly aware they couldn’t have done it without the Internet.

“I want to say a big hello to Twitter and Facebook. Hoorah Internet! Today they [points at Kremlin] can’t control us thanks to social networking sites and us,” said writer Sergei Shargunov.

Still, Carnegie’s Masha Lipman said, “There were revolutions before the age of Internet and even before radio and television. We had a powerful showing of public sentiments and public activism back 20 years ago, late 80s. … our rallies were 10 times bigger than what we had in Russia on Saturday.”

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Full text of Barack Obama’s speech in Osawatomie, Kansas December 7, 2011

Well, I want to start by thanking a few folks who’ve joined us today. We’ve got the mayor of Osawatomie, Phil Dudley is here. We have your superintendent Gary French in the house. And we have the principal of Osawatomie High, Doug Chisam. And I have brought your former governor, who is doing now an outstanding job as secretary of health and human services – Kathleen Sebelius is in the house. We love Kathleen.

Well, it is great to be back in the state of Tex – [laughter] – state of Kansas. I was giving Bill Self a hard time, he was here a while back.

As many of you know, I have roots here. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Obamas of Osawatomie. Actually, I like to say that I got my name from my father, but I got my accent – and my values – from my mother. She was born in Wichita. Her mother grew up in Augusta. Her father was from El Dorado. So my Kansas roots run deep.

My grandparents served during World War II. He was a soldier in Patton’s army; she was a worker on a bomber assembly line. And together, they shared the optimism of a nation that triumphed over the Great Depression and over fascism. They believed in an America where hard work paid off, and responsibility was rewarded, and anyone could make it if they tried – no matter who you were, no matter where you came from, no matter how you started out.

And these values gave rise to the largest middle class and the strongest economy that the world has ever known. It was here in America that the most productive workers, the most innovative companies turned out the best products on Earth. And you know what? Every American shared in that pride and in that success – from those in the executive suites to those in middle management to those on the factory floor. So you could have some confidence that if you gave it your all, you’d take enough home to raise your family and send your kids to school and have your health care covered, put a little away for retirement.

Today, we’re still home to the world’s most productive workers. We’re still home to the world’s most innovative companies. But for most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and their investments – wealthier than ever before. But everybody else struggled with costs that were growing and paycheques that weren’t – and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.

Now, for many years, credit cards and home equity loans papered over this harsh reality. But in 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We all know the story by now: mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them, or even sometimes understand them. Banks and investors allowed to keep packaging the risk and selling it off. Huge bets – and huge bonuses – made with other people’s money on the line. Regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn’t have the authority to look at all.

It was wrong. It combined the breathtaking greed of a few with irresponsibility all across the system. And it plunged our economy and the world into a crisis from which we’re still fighting to recover. It claimed the jobs and the homes and the basic security of millions of people – innocent, hardworking Americans who had met their responsibilities but were still left holding the bag.
And ever since, there’s been a raging debate over the best way to restore growth and prosperity, restore balance, restore fairness. Throughout the country, it’s sparked protests and political movements – from the Tea Party to the people who’ve been occupying the streets of New York and other cities. It’s left Washington in a near-constant state of gridlock. It’s been the topic of heated and sometimes colorful discussion among the men and women running for president.

But, Osawatomie, this is not just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. Because what’s 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, secure their retirement. Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for way too many years. And their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.

I am here to say they are wrong. I’m here in Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we’re greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules. These aren’t Democratic values or Republican values. These aren’t 1% values or 99% values. They’re American values. And we have to reclaim them.
You see, this isn’t the first time America has faced this choice. At the turn of the last century, when a nation of farmers was transitioning to become the world’s industrial giant, we had to decide: Would we settle for a country where most of the new railroads and factories were being controlled by a few giant monopolies that kept prices high and wages low? Would we allow our citisens and even our children to work ungodly hours in conditions that were unsafe and unsanitary? Would we restrict education to the privileged few? Because there were people who thought massive inequality and exploitation of people was just the price you pay for progress.

Theodore Roosevelt disagreed. He was the Republican son of a wealthy family. He praised what the titans of industry had done to create jobs and grow the economy. He believed then what we know is true today, that the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history. It’s led to a prosperity and a standard of living unmatched by the rest of the world.
But Roosevelt also knew that the free market has never been a free licence to take whatever you can from whomever you can. He understood the free market only works when there are rules of the road that ensure competition is fair and open and honest. And so he busted up monopolies, forcing those companies to compete for consumers with better services and better prices. And today, they still must. He fought to make sure businesses couldn’t profit by exploiting children or selling food or medicine that wasn’t safe. And today, they still can’t.

And in 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came here to Osawatomie and he laid out his vision for what he called a New Nationalism. “Our country,” he said, “means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy … of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him.”

Now, for this, Roosevelt was called a radical. He was called a socialist – even a communist. But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight-hour work day and a minimum wage for women, insurance for the unemployed and for the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax.

Today, over 100 years later, our economy has gone through another transformation. Over the last few decades, huge advances in technology have allowed businesses to do more with less, and it’s made it easier for them to set up shop and hire workers anywhere they want in the world. And many of you know firsthand the painful disruptions this has caused for a lot of Americans.

Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas, where workers were cheaper. Steel mills that needed 100 – or 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100 employees, so layoffs too often became permanent, not just a temporary part of the business cycle. And these changes didn’t just affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs and the internet.

Today, even higher-skilled jobs, like accountants and middle management can be outsourced to countries like China or India. And if you’re somebody whose job can be done cheaper by a computer or someone in another country, you don’t have a lot of leverage with your employer when it comes to asking for better wages or better benefits, especially since fewer Americans today are part of a union.

Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let’s respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes – especially for the wealthy – our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, well, that’s the price of liberty.
Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That’s in America’s DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. But here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the 50s and 60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade. I mean, understand, it’s not as if we haven’t tried this theory.

Remember in those years, in 2001 and 2003, Congress passed two of the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history. And what did it get us? The slowest job growth in half a century. Massive deficits that have made it much harder to pay for the investments that built this country and provided the basic security that helped millions of Americans reach and stay in the middle class – things like education and infrastructure, science and technology, Medicare and social security.

Remember that in those same years, thanks to some of the same folks who are now running Congress, we had weak regulation, we had little oversight, and what did it get us? Insurance companies that jacked up people’s premiums with impunity and denied care to patients who were sick, mortgage lenders that tricked families into buying homes they couldn’t afford, a financial sector where irresponsibility and lack of basic oversight nearly destroyed our entire economy.

We simply cannot return to this brand of “you’re on your own” economics if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country. We know that it doesn’t result in a strong economy. It results in an economy that invests too little in its people and in its future. We know it doesn’t result in a prosperity that trickles down. It results in a prosperity that’s enjoyed by fewer and fewer of our citisens.

Look at the statistics. In the last few decades, the average income of the top 1% has gone up by more than 25% to $1.2m per year. I’m not talking about millionaires, people who have a million dollars. I’m saying people who make a million dollars every single year. For the top one hundredth of 1%, the average income is now $27m per year. The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her worker now earns 110 times more. And yet, over the last decade the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about 6%.

Now, this kind of inequality – a level that we haven’t seen since the Great Depression – hurts us all. When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, when people are slipping out of the middle class, it drags down the entire economy from top to bottom. America was built on the idea of broad-based prosperity, of strong consumers all across the country. That’s why a CEO like Henry Ford made it his mission to pay his workers enough so that they could buy the cars he made. It’s also why a recent study showed that countries with less inequality tend to have stronger and steadier economic growth over the long run.
Inequality also distorts our democracy. It gives an outsised voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and it runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. It leaves everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is rigged against them, that our elected representatives aren’t looking out for the interests of most Americans.

But there’s an even more fundamental issue at stake. This kind of gaping inequality gives lie to the promise that’s at the very heart of America: that this is a place where you can make it if you try. We tell people – we tell our kids – that in this country, even if you’re born with nothing, work hard and you can get into the middle class. We tell them that your children will have a chance to do even better than you do. That’s why immigrants from around the world historically have flocked to our shores.

And yet, over the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class has shrunk. You know, a few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance had fallen to around 40%. And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a one-in-three chance of making it to the middle class – 33%.

It’s heartbreaking enough that there are millions of working families in this country who are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal. But the idea that those children might not have a chance to climb out of that situation and back into the middle class, no matter how hard they work? That’s inexcusable. It is wrong. It flies in the face of everything that we stand for.

Now, fortunately, that’s not a future that we have to accept, because there’s another view about how we build a strong middle class in this country – a view that’s truer to our history, a vision that’s been embraced in the past by people of both parties for more than 200 years. It’s not a view that we should somehow turn back technology or put up walls around America. It’s not a view that says we should punish profit or success or pretend that government knows how to fix all of society’s problems. It is a view that says in America we are greater together – when everyone engages in fair play and everybody gets a fair shot and everybody does their fair share.

So what does that mean for restoring middle-class security in today’s economy? Well, it starts by making sure that everyone in America gets a fair shot at success. The truth is we’ll never be able to compete with other countries when it comes to who’s best at letting their businesses pay the lowest wages, who’s best at busting unions, who’s best at letting companies pollute as much as they want. That’s a race to the bottom that we can’t win, and we shouldn’t want to win that race. Those countries don’t have a strong middle class. They don’t have our standard of living.

The race we want to win, the race we can win is a race to the top – the race for good jobs that pay well and offer middle-class security. Businesses will create those jobs in countries with the highest-skilled, highest-educated workers, the most advanced transportation and communication, the strongest commitment to research and technology.

The world is shifting to an innovation economy and nobody does innovation better than America. Nobody does it better. No one has better colleges. Nobody has better universities. Nobody has a greater diversity of talent and ingenuity. No one’s workers or entrepreneurs are more driven or more daring. The things that have always been our strengths match up perfectly with the demands of the moment.

But we need to meet the moment. We’ve got to up our game. We need to remember that we can only do that together. It starts by making education a national mission – a national mission. Government and businesses, parents and citisens. In this economy, a higher education is the surest route to the middle class. The unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average. And their incomes are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma. Which means we shouldn’t be laying off good teachers right now – we should be hiring them. We shouldn’t be expecting less of our schools –- we should be demanding more. We shouldn’t be making it harder to afford college – we should be a country where everyone has a chance to go and doesn’t rack up $100,000 of debt just because they went.

In today’s innovation economy, we also need a world-class commitment to science and research, the next generation of high-tech manufacturing. Our factories and our workers shouldn’t be idle. We should be giving people the chance to get new skills and training at community colleges so they can learn how to make wind turbines and semiconductors and high-powered batteries. And by the way, if we don’t have an economy that’s built on bubbles and financial speculation, our best and brightest won’t all gravitate towards careers in banking and finance. Because if we want an economy that’s built to last, we need more of those young people in science and engineering. This country should not be known for bad debt and phony profits. We should be known for creating and selling products all around the world that are stamped with three proud words: Made in America.

Today, manufacturers and other companies are setting up shop in the places with the best infrastructure to ship their products, move their workers, communicate with the rest of the world. And that’s why the over 1 million construction workers who lost their jobs when the housing market collapsed, they shouldn’t be sitting at home with nothing to do. They should be rebuilding our roads and our bridges, laying down faster railroads and broadband, modernizing our schools – all the things other countries are already doing to attract good jobs and businesses to their shores.

Yes, business, and not government, will always be the primary generator of good jobs with incomes that lift people into the middle class and keep them there. But as a nation, we’ve always come together, through our government, to help create the conditions where both workers and businesses can succeed. And historically, that hasn’t been a partisan idea. Franklin Roosevelt worked with Democrats and Republicans to give veterans of World War II – including my grandfather, Stanley Dunham – the chance to go to college on the GI Bill. It was a Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, a proud son of Kansas who started the interstate highway system, and doubled down on science and research to stay ahead of the Soviets.

Of course, those productive investments cost money. They’re not free. And so we’ve also paid for these investments by asking everybody to do their fair share. Look, if we had unlimited resources, no one would ever have to pay any taxes and we would never have to cut any spending. But we don’t have unlimited resources. And so we have to set priorities. If we want a strong middle class, then our tax code must reflect our values. We have to make choices.

Today that choice is very clear. To reduce our deficit, I’ve already signed nearly $1tn of spending cuts into law and I’ve proposed trillions more, including reforms that would lower the cost of Medicare and Medicaid.

But in order to structurally close the deficit, get our fiscal house in order, we have to decide what our priorities are. Now, most immediately, short term, we need to extend a payroll tax cut that’s set to expire at the end of this month. If we don’t do that, 160 million Americans, including most of the people here, will see their taxes go up by an average of $1,000 starting in January and it would badly weaken our recovery. That’s the short term.

In the long term, we have to rethink our tax system more fundamentally. We have to ask ourselves: Do we want to make the investments we need in things like education and research and high-tech manufacturing – all those things that helped make us an economic superpower? Or do we want to keep in place the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in our country? Because we can’t afford to do both. That is not politics. That’s just math.

Now, so far, most of my Republican friends in Washington have refused under any circumstance to ask the wealthiest Americans to go to the same tax rate they were paying when Bill Clinton was president. So let’s just do a trip down memory lane here.

Keep in mind, when President Clinton first proposed these tax increases, folks in Congress predicted they would kill jobs and lead to another recession. Instead, our economy created nearly 23 million jobs and we eliminated the deficit. Today, the wealthiest Americans are paying the lowest taxes in over half a century. This isn’t like in the early 50s, when the top tax rate was over 90%. This isn’t even like the early 80s, when the top tax rate was about 70%. Under President Clinton, the top rate was only about 39%. Today, thanks to loopholes and shelters, a quarter of all millionaires now pay lower tax rates than millions of you, millions of middle-class families. Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1%. One percent.

That is the height of unfairness. It is wrong. It’s wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker, maybe earns $50,000 a year, should pay a higher tax rate than somebody raking in $50m. It’s wrong for Warren Buffett’s secretary to pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. And by the way, Warren Buffett agrees with me. So do most Americans – Democrats, independents and Republicans. And I know that many of our wealthiest citisens would agree to contribute a little more if it meant reducing the deficit and strengthening the economy that made their success possible.

This isn’t about class warfare. This is about the nation’s welfare. It’s about making choices that benefit not just the people who’ve done fantastically well over the last few decades, but that benefits the middle class, and those fighting to get into the middle class, and the economy as a whole.
Finally, a strong middle class can only exist in an economy where everyone plays by the same rules, from Wall Street to Main Street. As infuriating as it was for all of us, we rescued our major banks from collapse, not only because a full-blown financial meltdown would have sent us into a second Depression, but because we need a strong, healthy financial sector in this country.
But part of the deal was that we wouldn’t go back to business as usual. And that’s why last year we put in place new rules of the road that refocus the financial sector on what should be their core purpose: getting capital to the entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and financing millions of families who want to buy a home or send their kids to college.

Now, we’re not all the way there yet, and the banks are fighting us every inch of the way. But already, some of these reforms are being implemented.
If you’re a big bank or risky financial institution, you now have to write out a “living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills if you fail, so that taxpayers are never again on the hook for Wall Street’s mistakes. There are also limits on the sise of banks and new abilities for regulators to dismantle a firm that is going under. The new law bans banks from making risky bets with their customers’ deposits, and it takes away big bonuses and paydays from failed CEOs, while giving shareholders a say on executive salaries.
This is the law that we passed. We are in the process of implementing it now. All of this is being put in place as we speak. Now, unless you’re a financial institution whose business model is built on breaking the law, cheating consumers and making risky bets that could damage the entire economy, you should have nothing to fear from these new rules.

Some of you may know, my grandmother worked as a banker for most of her life – worked her way up, started as a secretary, ended up being a vice president of a bank. And I know from her, and I know from all the people that I’ve come in contact with, that the vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals, they want to do right by their customers. They want to have rules in place that don’t put them at a disadvantage for doing the right thing. And yet, Republicans in Congress are fighting as hard as they can to make sure that these rules aren’t enforced.

I’ll give you a specific example. For the first time in history, the reforms that we passed put in place a consumer watchdog who is charged with protecting everyday Americans from being taken advantage of by mortgage lenders or payday lenders or debt collectors. And the man we nominated for the post, Richard Cordray, is a former attorney general of Ohio who has the support of most attorney generals, both Democrat and Republican, throughout the country. Nobody claims he’s not qualified.

But the Republicans in the Senate refuse to confirm him for the job; they refuse to let him do his job. Why? Does anybody here think that the problem that led to our financial crisis was too much oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors?

Audience: No!

Obama: Of course not. Every day we go without a consumer watchdog is another day when a student, or a senior citisen, or a member of our Armed Forces – because they are very vulnerable to some of this stuff – could be tricked into a loan that they can’t afford – something that happens all the time. And the fact is that financial institutions have plenty of lobbyists looking out for their interests. Consumers deserve to have someone whose job it is to look out for them. And I intend to make sure they do. And I want you to hear me, Kansas: I will veto any effort to delay or defund or dismantle the new rules that we put in place.

We shouldn’t be weakening oversight and accountability. We should be strengthening oversight and accountability. I’ll give you another example. 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. I’ll be calling for legislation that makes those penalties count so that firms don’t see punishment for breaking the law as just the price of doing business.

The fact is this crisis has left a huge deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. And major banks that were rescued by the taxpayers have an obligation to go the extra mile in helping to close that deficit of trust. At minimum, they should be remedying past mortgage abuses that led to the financial crisis. They should be working to keep responsible homeowners in their home. We’re going to keep pushing them to provide more time for unemployed homeowners to look for work without having to worry about immediately losing their house.

The big banks should increase access to refinancing opportunities to borrowers who haven’t yet benefited from historically low interest rates. And the big banks should recognise that precisely because these steps are in the interest of middle-class families and the broader economy, it will also be in the banks’ own long-term financial interest. What will be good for consumers over the long term will be good for the banks.

Investing in things like education that give everybody a chance to succeed. A tax code that makes sure everybody pays their fair share. And laws that make sure everybody follows the rules. That’s what will transform our economy. That’s what will grow our middle class again. In the end, rebuilding this economy based on fair play, a fair shot, and a fair share will require all of us to see that we have a stake in each other’s success. And it will require all of us to take some responsibility.

It will require parents to get more involved in their children’s education. It will require students to study harder. It will require some workers to start studying all over again. It will require greater responsibility from homeowners not to take out mortgages they can’t afford. They need to remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

It will require those of us in public service to make government more efficient and more effective, more consumer-friendly, more responsive to people’s needs. That’s why we’re cutting programs that we don’t need to pay for those we do. That’s why we’ve made hundreds of regulatory reforms that will save businesses billions of dollars. That’s why we’re not just throwing money at education, we’re challenging schools to come up with the most innovative reforms and the best results.

And it will require American business leaders to understand that their obligations don’t just end with their shareholders. Andy Grove, the legendary former CEO of Intel, put it best. He said, “There is another obligation I feel personally, given that everything I’ve achieved in my career, and a lot of what Intel has achieved…were made possible by a climate of democracy, an economic climate and investment climate provided by the United States.”

This broader obligation can take many forms. At a time when the cost of hiring workers in China is rising rapidly, it should mean more CEOs deciding that it’s time to bring jobs back to the United States, not just because it’s good for business, but because it’s good for the country that made their business and their personal success possible.

I think about the Big Three auto companies who, during recent negotiations, agreed to create more jobs and cars here in America, and then decided to give bonuses not just to their executives, but to all their employees, so that everyone was invested in the company’s success.

I think about a company based in Warroad, Minnesota. It’s called Marvin Windows and Doors. During the recession, Marvin’s competitors closed dozens of plants, let hundreds of workers go. But Marvin’s did not lay off a single one of their 4,000 or so employees – not one. In fact, they’ve only laid off workers once in over a hundred years. Mr. Marvin’s grandfather even kept his eight employees during the Great Depression.

Now, at Marvin’s when times get tough, the workers agree to give up some perks and some pay, and so do the owners. As one owner said, “You can’t grow if you’re cutting your lifeblood – and that’s the skills and experience your workforce delivers.” For the CEO of Marvin’s, it’s about the community. He said, “These are people we went to school with. We go to church with them. We see them in the same restaurants. Indeed, a lot of us have married local girls and boys. We could be anywhere, but we are in Warroad.”

That’s how America was built. That’s why we’re the greatest nation on Earth. That’s what our greatest companies understand. Our success has never just been about survival of the fittest. It’s about building a nation where we’re all better off. We pull together. We pitch in. We do our part. We believe that hard work will pay off, that responsibility will be rewarded, and that our children will inherit a nation where those values live on.

And it is that belief that rallied thousands of Americans to Osawatomie – maybe even some of your ancestors – on a rain-soaked day more than a century ago. By train, by wagon, on buggy, bicycle, on foot, they came to hear the vision of a man who loved this country and was determined to perfect it.
“We are all Americans,” Teddy Roosevelt told them that day. “Our common interests are as broad as the continent.” In the final years of his life, Roosevelt took that same message all across this country, from tiny Osawatomie to the heart of New York City, believing that no matter where he went, no matter who he was talking to, everybody would benefit from a country in which everyone gets a fair chance.

And well into our third century as a nation, we have grown and we’ve changed in many ways since Roosevelt’s time. The world is faster and the playing field is larger and the challenges are more complex. But what hasn’t changed – what can never change – are the values that got us this far. We still have a stake in each other’s success. We still believe that this should be a place where you can make it if you try. And we still believe, in the words of the man who called for a New Nationalism all those years ago, “The fundamental rule of our national life,” he said, “the rule which underlies all others – is that, on the whole, and in the long run, we shall go up or down together.” And I believe America is on the way up.

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US politics live: Herman Cain denies endorsement rumours December 6, 2011

Good morning: Herman Cain may have crashed out of the Republican presidential nomination contest but now the battle begins for his followers, donors and supporters, orphaned by Cain’s decision to drop out.

Cain is said to be holding a press conference at 2pm today – supposedly to announce who he is endorsing – although Cain’s chaotic campaign appears once again to be in two minds about what is actually happening, including whether Cain will endorse anyone and whether the press conference will actually take place at all. So no change there.

In other political news, soi-disant Republican front-runner Newt Gingrich will make a visit to Donald Trump in New York City, as controversy swirls over Trump’s plan to hold a Republican candidates debate in Iowa on 27 December.

And with exactly a month to go until the Iowa caucuses, Gingrich launches his first television ad in the Hawkeye State as a new poll shows him leading, and Mitt Romney suffers a backlash from his “Mittless protection programme” campaign strategy.

10.11am: Now Fox News is quoting “reports” that there will be no Herman Cain endorsement today. Why does that not surprise me?



Donald Trump. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

10.26am: Earlier this morning serial self-publiscist Donald Trump got into a verbal tussle with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that was – how can we put this? – not the highest point in either man’s career.

Part of the issue was Trump’s vanity Republican presidential debate supposedly scheduled for 27 December – although criticism from within the Republican base may mean it never actually happens, which would be a loss to the gaity of the nation.

So far Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul have said they will not appear. Huntsman – who appears to be enjoying a mini-revival – appeared on Fox News just now, and said à propos of Trump’s debate:

I’m not going to kiss his ring, I’m not going to kiss any other part of his anatomy.

That’s not image we need on a Monday morning, Jon Huntsman.

10.34am: Cruel, cynical journalists are pointing out that Newt Gingrich’s meeting with Donald Trump at Trump Tower is conventiently next door to Tiffany’s. Which could be handy:

In 2005 and 2006, the former House speaker turned presidential candidate carried as much as $500,000 in debt to the premier jewelry company, according to financial disclosures filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

10.43am: Will the Trump debate happen? Karl Rove isn’t happy at the idea, and blasted the concept in a Fox News interview this morning, picked up by Mediaite:

It’s really odd. Here’s a guy [Trump] who is saying, I’m going to endorse one of you and that gives him leverage … more importantly, what the heck are Republicans candidates doing showing up to a debate with a guy who says, ‘I may run for president as an independent’? I think the Republican national chairman should step in and say, we strongly discourage every candidate from appearing….

And anyway, says Karl Rove, nobody will watch a political debate on 27 December.

11am: What is going on in Iowa? This is the most interesting news piece of the day – an excellent Roll Call piece explaining that the 2012 Iowa ground operations are a shadow of the frantic activity that marked 2008:

Presidential candidates have minimally organized their Iowa campaigns — if they’re organizing at all. One month before the Jan. 3 caucuses, Iowa veterans expect one of the most unpredictable, nontraditional caucuses in recent history.

“To be sitting here on Dec 1 with no campaign announcing a 99-county chair organization is mind-boggling,” said Tim Albrecht, a veteran of the caucuses and spokesman for Governor Terry Branstad, who has not endorsed a candidate. “That’s the first thing you check off on your organizational checklist. This is the clearest, most glaring indication of just how wide open the Iowa caucus is at this point.”

Not a single presidential candidate has opened more than one office in the Hawkeye State. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who polls show is a frontrunner in the race, just opened his first Iowa office, a headquarters based in Urbandale.

That is amazing. So here’s my prediction: Ron Paul will win the Iowa caucus on 3 January. You read it here first, or first-ish. The reason being: winning caucuses requires a huge administrative effort: lots of staff, lots of volunteers and lots of effort. From what I can tell, Ron Paul is the only one with all three in Iowa right now.

And also: hats off to Roll Call for doing some reporting on ground, rather than sucking their thumbs in their NYC or DC offices.

11.08am: Quote of the day from the Roll Call reporting on Iowa mentioned below. It comes from Chuck Laudner, said to be a Santorum supporter and “longtime Iowa operative”:

I would remind people that this is a caucus, not a primary. And the caucus is on January 3, after a three-day, federal, drunken holiday.

11.26am: So, Newt Gingrich to be the Republican nominee? Not according to those who know Newt well – such as Republicans who served in Congress under Gingrich’s leadership a million years ago in the 1990s.

Tom Coburn, now the Republican senator from Oklahoma, was first elected to Congress as part of the 1994 wave of “Contract With America” Republicans and served in the House under Speaker Gingrich. He’s unleashed this killer quote:

His life indicates he does not have a commitment to the character traits necessary to be a great president. I am not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich, having served under him for four years and experienced personally his leadership.

Zing.

11.48am: The Daily Beast gets an interview with Ginger White, the former lady friend of Herman Cain. It’s a typically tasteful, restrained piece of Daily Beast reporting:

White said that over the years, her arrangement with Cain took an emotional toll. “One time we were having sex, and I was looking up at the ceiling, thinking about, ‘What am I going to buy at the grocery store tomorrow? What am I going to do with my kids tomorrow?’” she recalled.

12.03pm: Non-career politician (prior to 2001) Mitt Romney likes to boast of his success at Bain Capital as part of his resume as a private sector “job creator”. The Los Angeles Times takes a closer look at Romney’s record there:

Four of the 10 companies Bain acquired declared bankruptcy within a few years, shedding thousands of jobs. The prospectus shows that Bain investors profited in eight of the 10 deals, including three of the four that ended in bankruptcy.

Interesting sidenote, in light of the fact that Herman Cain’s CV highlight was as head of Godfather’s Pizza, is this:

The firm’s largest investment was its 1999 buyout of Domino’s Pizza, into which Bain put $188.8m, eventually reaping a fivefold return.

So after Cain was head of Godfather’s Pizza, Romney was de facto head of Domino’s Pizza? Basically the 2012 Republican nomination was a re-run of the late 1990s pizza wars.

12.21pm: No news on Herman Cain’s endorsement today. The New York Times’s Caucus blog talks to the lonely, orphaned supporters of Herman Cain in Iowa, now floating in political purgatory:

Jeff Jorgensen, the Republican chairman in Pottawattamie County, who endorsed Mr Cain, said the main priority was finding a viable candidate who can defeat Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination.

“We are definitely trying to stop the steamrolling Romney machine,” Mr Jorgensen said. “It’s not that we don’t like him – he’s a formidable candidate. But we don’t think he espouses the conservative values we’d like to see in our nominee.

12.42pm: Here’s that Donald Trump interview-cum-slagfest with dear old Chuck Todd on MSNBC today.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Donald Trump doesn’t take no for an answer. Or Yes. Or anything.

12.55pm: Roll the “breaking news” screen splash: President Obama – remember him? – is to make a statement at 1.30pm ET. We think it’s about a compromise deal with Republicans over the payroll tax. Or it could be to appoint Herman Cain as Secretary of State. Who knows? Actually we know and it’s the former.

1.25pm: While we are waiting on President Obama to do some actual presidenting, here’s Newt Gingrich’s new campaign ad now running in Iowa:

“Some people say the America we know and love is a thing of the past,” says cuddly Uncle Newt, adding: “I don’t believe that.” Who are these “some people” Newt?

Vanity Fair’s Juli Weiner notes: “the one-minute spot includes a dreamy, vaguely upbeat flute-driven song that sounds identical to the one that plays when Sam returns to the Shire at the end of The Lord of the Rings.”

Insert your own geeky Lord of the Rings reference here comparing Newt to Saruman or something:

Once he was as great as his fame made him. His knowledge was deep, his thought was subtle, and his hands marvelously skilled; and he had a power over the minds of others. The wise he could persuade, and the smaller folk he could daunt.

There’s also a Gladiator reference in there. Anyway, Newt’s wasting his time with LOTR’s references. Everyone knows Ron Paul has got that fanbase sewn up.

1.36pm: Slate’s David Weigel follows up on Senator Tom Coburn’s attack on Newt Gingrich by reading Coburn’s book about the 1994 Republican revolution, Breach of Trust. He finds a few gems of Newtophobia:

Before the government shutdown we thought Newt Gingrich was invincible,” writes Coburn. “After the shutdown, however, he was like a whipped dog who still barked, yet cowered, in Clinton’s presence.

Get that quote into an attack ad, pronto.

1.45pm: Meanwhile, here’s a rocking ad from the Ron Paul campaign, which appears to be aimed at the crucial 15-year-old male demographic:

As the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake notes: “The only thing missing from this Ron Paul ad as Denis Leary as narrator and more Ford trucks.” Indeed. Someone should sue.

2.01pm: So we had the two minute warning for Obama to appear … about 10 minutes ago.

2.08pm: Another two-minute warning for Obama to start speaking at the White House briefing room.

2.10pm: Obama appears, finally. CNN has lost the sound feed.

Obama says he wants to extend the payroll tax cut, to “provide security for middle class families” by adding around $1,000 for the average working family. His jobs package would extend and widen the payroll tax cut, taking the benefit to $1,500 a year – but Republicans won’t join him:

I know there are plenty of Republicans who have sworn never to raise taxes … How come the only time there’s a catch is when it comes to middle class families?

Obama says he is willing to work with Republicans for tax cuts “in a responsible way”. But in a surprise move, it appears the Republican proposals are “irresponsible”. Obama is also calling for extending unemployment insurance for long-term out of work

In what can only be pure coincidence, Obama’s delayed statement happened to coincide with the start of the Newt Gingrich-Donald Trump joint press conference. Fancy.

But even after Obama has finished, Fox News isn’t cutting over to Gingrich/Trump.

2.20pm: Sensible Republican operative Mike Murphy tweets his foreboding about the Donald Trump debate:

GOP candidates would be foolish to show up at Trump’s clown circus/debate. Walk away…

Obviously as a journalist I hope the Trump debate goes ahead. As a human being, not so much.



Herman Cain announcing the suspension of his presidential campaign. Photograph: John Adkisson/Reuters

2.42pm: So Herman Cain will be making no endorsement today, according to the man himself:

I am not endorsing anybody today or in the very immediate future. I can’t say I won’t endorse, but not in the immediate timeframe.

That’s from MSNBC, which listened into a conference call between Cain and his soon-to-be former staff members:

Cain’s plans for the next chapter of his career were quickly followed by an attempt to directly address accusations that he sought to promote his recently-published book while campaigning, or perhaps host a cable news television show in the future.

“That is not my motivation,” he said. “I did not choose to run for the president of the United States to advance my own self.

By the way, Cain sent out an appeal for donations from his supporters the day before “suspending” his campaign.

3.03pm: Currently trending on Twitter – #GOPMuppetHearings:

Mr Grover, who, exactly are the monsters at the end of this ‘book’ that you keep warning us about?

3.18pm: Exciting news for West Wing fans:

Exclusive: The upcoming HBO drama about cable news from The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin finally has a name. TVNewser has learned that HBO is expected to call the series Newsroom.

Sorkin’s series follows fictional cable news anchor Will McCallister (Jeff Daniels) and his “News Night” staff at the fictional cable news channel UBS.

Not sure that the Swiss investment bank UBS will be delighted. Or the BBC’s Newsnight, for that mater. But otherwise: high pressure TV environment … hmm, shades of Studio 60 anyone?



Newt Gingrich hearts Donald Trump. Photograph: Paul Sancya/AP

3.28pm: So Newt Gingrich met Donald Trump today, with Newt making industrial-grade sucking noises to attract Trump’s endorsement, as if that’s of any value.

The two held a press conference – well, they talked into some TV cameras – afterwards, according to AP, where Gingrich defended his decision to take part in Trump’s vanity-debate later this month:

This is a country that elected a peanut farmer to the presidency. This is a country that elected an actor who made two movies with a chimpanzee to the presidency. Donald Trump is a great showman; he’s also a great businessman. I think one of the differences between my party and the other party is we actually go to people who know how to create jobs. We need to be open to new ways of doing things.

For his part Trump defended Gingrich’s recent remarks that poor children should be working part-time cleaning toilets in schools:

I thought it was a great idea. We’re going to be picking 10 young wonderful children and make them ‘apprenti’. We’re going to have a little fun with it.

See, Newt Gingrich? You meet with Donald Trump and all he does is launch a new reality TV show.

3.38pm: Politics in Vermont is always slightly different to the rest of America:

The state of Vermont threw its support Monday behind a folk artist whose T-shirt business is being threatened by the nation’s second largest chicken restaurant chain because of his use of the phrase “eat more kale.”

Governor Peter Shumlin said that state would do all it could to help Bo Muller-Moore raise money to defend his small business, and by extension all Vermont small businesses and local agriculture, against what they both see as “corporate bullying” by the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A.

4.03pm: AP reports that the White House is backing its ambassador to Belgium, accused by some – including Mitt Romney – of downplaying anti-semitism in a recent speech. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said today that Howard Gutman would remain in his post in Brussels.

Here’s the transcript of Gutman’s remarks:

What I do see as growing, as gaining much more attention in the newspapers and among politicians and communities, is a different phenomena. … It is the problem within Europe of tension, hatred and sometimes even violence between some members of Muslim communities or Arab immigrant groups and Jews. It is a tension and perhaps hatred largely born of and reflecting the tension between Israel, the Palestinian Territories and neighboring Arab states in the Middle East over the continuing Israeli-Palestinian problem.

It too is a serious problem. It too must be discussed and solutions explored. No Jewish student – and no Muslim student or student of any heritage or religion – should ever feel intimidated on a University campus for their heritage or religion leading to academic leaders quitting in protest. No high school or grammar school Jewish student – and no Muslim high school or grammar school student or student of any heritage or religion – should be beaten up over their heritage or religion.

4.13pm: The National Review also thunders against the Trump debate idea, calling it a “sideshow”:

We had hoped that after the brief and frivolous publicity stunt Trump branded as exploration of a presidential run, there would be no further occasion to rehearse the many ways in which his sometime association with the Republican party hurts the conservative cause. So we’ll keep it brief: Trump is a tax-hike-supporting, missile-defense-opposing, universal-health-care-advocating, eminent-domain abusing, Schumer-Weiner-Rangel-Reid-donating, long-time-pro-choice economic protectionist who in 2008 called George W. Bush “evil” and lauded president-elect Barack Obama as a potentially “great president” who would “lead by consensus.

4.20pm: Oh dear. It appears that former vice president Dan Quayle is endorsing Mitt Romney. Yes, that’ll do it.

Republican officials on Monday told The Associated Press that Quayle plans to announce his support for the former Massachusetts governor Tuesday afternoon.

Romney has an event scheduled Tuesday in Paradise Valley, Arizona, where Quayle has a home.

4.35pm: The National Journal breaks down the latest Gallup poll of the Republican candidates and concludes that only Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich pass the voters’ acceptability threshold, in effect making this a two-horse race from now on:

Romney and Gingrich are the only two candidates that Republican primary voters believe would be acceptable presidential nominees. Gingrich holds a narrow, but significant advantage over Romney on this front, with 61% viewing him as acceptable, with 54% viewing Romney acceptably.

Polling figures can change, as we have seen so far.

5pm: Time to wrap things for the evening – which means Herman Cain will probably endorse Donald Trump for president at 5.01pm ET. In which case, we’ll have to cover it tomorrow when Cain retracts the endorsement and instead backs Hillary Clinton.

And as for Donald Trump: an online Fox News poll found that 31% said a Trump endorsement would make them less likely to vote for that candidate.

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Assange in court for final battle against extradition December 5, 2011


December 5, 2011

by legitgov

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Assange in court for final battle against extradition 05 Dec 2011 WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will today make what could be a last throw of the legal dice to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex crime allegations. He will ask to have his case taken to Britain’s Supreme Court. If they say no, he could be headed to Stockholm within days. The 40-year-old Australian behind the secret-spilling website has spent almost a year on bail fighting extradition for questioning over claims of rape and molestation made by two Swedish women.

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US forced to leave Pakistan base as relations reach new low after NATO attack


December 5, 2011

by legitgov

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US forced to leave Pakistan base as relations reach new low after NATO attack that killed 24 04 Dec 2011 US military personnel have begun leaving Shamsi air base in Pakistan, after a NATO attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border plunged U.S.-Pakistani relations to an all time low. More than 70 US marines and CIA operatives are set to leave the base today. An official told NBC: ‘Two U.S. cargo planes reached Shamsi Airport and the loading of the equipment and other cargo items has also started.’

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Pearl Harbor survivors pass the baton December 4, 2011

(CNN) — For 70 years, survivors of the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor have captivated listeners with their firsthand accounts, recalling buddies who died in their arms or the glasses worn by a low-flying Japanese pilot.

They have participated in solemn wreath-laying ceremonies and spoken to civic groups and school children about the infamous day and the need for the United States to remain vigilant.

But the gradual loss of the World War II generation has accelerated, and this year, perhaps more than any before it, evidence of a tide change is inescapable.

The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, founded in 1958, is dissolving December 31. The passing of time, the difficulty in finding chapter officers and the health of its 2,700 members have taken their toll.

“We don’t like to see it happen,” said George Bennett, 87, the organization’s national secretary and a Pearl Harbor survivor. “But we don’t have young members coming in like other organizations.” Informal social and local activities will continue, he said.

About 84,000 uniformed Americans were on Oahu that fateful day. Only an estimated 8,000 are alive today — and they are in their late 80s and older. Children and grandchildren have stepped up to carry the flag of their forefathers.

The Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors, with about 20 chapters, is helping to “carry on the legacy left to us,” said national president Louella Large, whose father served at the U.S. Army’s Schofield Barracks during the attack.

Large, like others, is concerned that most U.S. schoolchildren today know almost nothing about the surprise attack that pulverized battleships and aircraft stationed at Hawaii.

Flying from aircraft carriers, Japanese pilots attacked eight battleships, destroying two, and left a trail of death and destruction across the verdant landscape. About 2,400 people, most of them in the military, were killed. The attack shook America’s confidence and ushered the country into World War II.

About 120 Pearl Harbor survivors are registered to attend Wednesday morning’s annual memorial ceremony.

Four military and four civilian survivors will be on panels at a symposium that concludes Monday. No Japanese military veterans of the attack are able to be on hand for ceremonies honoring U.S. dead at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

Perspectives at the symposiums, held every five years, are shifting.

“We were able in the past to (tell the story) through the mouths of those who saw it,” said Lisa Ontai, spokeswoman for Pacific Historic Parks, an organization that assists the National Park Service. “Now, we are showing it through experts who studied it over the years.”

Among others traveling to Hawaii are families of two servicemen who died in the past two years.

Remains of Vernon Olsen, 91, of Port Charlotte, Florida, will be interred Wednesday in the battleship USS Arizona, on which he served and where 1,117 sailors and Marines died in the attack.

Those of Lee Soucy, 90, of Plainview, Texas, will be carried Tuesday by a diver to the USS Utah, which also is entombed off Ford Island.

“I think it’s pretty awesome that we are getting to do this,” said daughter Mary McCormick.

Soucy’s children also will spread ashes belonging to their father and mother, Peggy, at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Honolulu, where the pair were married in January 1945. Peggy Soucy was a Navy nurse who met her future husband at Pearl Harbor.

Memorial ceremonies, boat and bus tours are taking place this week on Oahu. Veterans and others will converge on current and former military installations, including Hickam Field, Pearl Harbor, Wheeler Army Airfield and the Marine Corps base at Kaneohe Bay.

A Blu-ray version of the the 1970 film “Tora! Tora! Tora!” with extended footage, was to be shown Sunday evening at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, near the USS Arizona.

Historians say the passage of time is allowing for a broader, more objective look at the attack.

Research has provided new insights, particularly about the Japanese perspectives and source material on the attack. In recent years, interpretation also has shifted its focus “from engagement to peace,” with recognition that both sides fought a “savage war,” said Daniel A. Martinez, chief historian at the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

‘I harbor no ill will’

McCormick, 65, of Amarillo, Texas, told CNN her father’s enlistment was due to expire December 7, 1941. Soucy, a pharmacist’s mate on the USS Utah, would vividly recall a peaceful Sunday morning that quickly turned to terror, she said.

“He was looking out the port window and saw what he thought would be his last day there. He saw these planes coming in. He thought it must be the Marines because nobody else would be working on Sunday.”

The Utah was quickly disabled. Soucy swam 200 yards to shore from the sinking vessel and was quickly recruited, because of his medical training, to help treat the injured.

After the war, Soucy moved to Plainview, where he raised his family. He died in January 2010; his wife passed away this year.

The family will take part in the sunset ceremony, accompanied by full military honors, Tuesday at the USS Utah memorial. U.S. Navy divers will help lower the remains inside the vessel.

McCormick said her father spoke at previous symposiums and met Japanese pilots.

“He forgave,” McCormick said. “On his Pearl Harbor Survivors garrison cap he had a button that read ‘love not war’ written in Japanese.”

Bennett, of Battle Ground, Washington, was a radio-trained 17-year-old seaman first class on December 7, 1941. He leaves Monday to make the trip to Hawaii, where he had been assigned to a squadron of PBY-3 aircraft at Ford Island.

On the day of the attack, Bennett heard explosions, but thought it might be part of a U.S. military exercise or an accident. He then saw a Japanese plane flying low over barracks near the USS California. He and others worked to put out a fire on a hangar roof, but eventually were ordered to get down.

“Toward the end, the Japanese started to strafe us up there,” Bennett told CNN on Friday.

“We were trained to fight the Japanese, and the Japanese were trained to fight us,” Bennett said. “It was the leaders in Japan who made this happen. That’s the way I look at it. I harbor no ill will toward the Japanese today.”

Martinez and other staff members have recorded video interviews with many veterans, preserving their memories. “They tell me stories they haven’t told their families,” he said.

Teaching your children

In San Diego, Stu Hedley, 90, said fewer Pearl Harbor survivors are available in Southern California to give talks to groups or schools. Sixteen members of his chapter have died this year alone.

Hedley, the head of a local survivors chapter, will take part in a December 7 program in San Diego on the USS Midway carrier. A comrade will attend a ceremony at the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center.

“We’re all moving into our 90s and late 80s,” Hedley said of the disbanding of the national organization. “It’s part of life. We have to accept it one day at a time.”

More than 100 crew members on his ship, the USS West Virginia, were killed in the attack, he said.

Hedley said he believes members of the U.S. government “sold us out” in 1941 and made the attack possible. President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted a “war economy … and his idea was to let them fire the first shot,” said the Navy veteran.

These days, Hedley said, he gives two principal admonitions to students.

“My first warning to you is to say in school. Don’t quit under any circumstances.” He recounted dropping out of high school in 1939, three months before graduation. That kept him from becoming an officer.

“The other admonition is learn to live with one another,” he said. “Regardless of race, creed, religion or whatever.”

Hedley is concerned about how little many Americans know about Pearl Harbor.

“I’ve had college students who have asked me what Pearl Harbor was,” he said. “If you can find a paragraph (in California textbooks) about Pearl Harbor, you are doing good.”

Large said the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors safeguards stories of their parents.

Her late father, Army Cpl. Harry M. Cross, was in an artillery unit at Schofield Barracks and got a close-up view of a Japanese pilot strafing U.S. troops.

“One of his buddies died in his arms,” said Large, 63, of East Canton, Ohio. “He said he had a hole in his chest where he could put his fist in.”

Cross never was able to forgive the Japanese, Large said. She, however, supports moving forward and reconciliation.

Large said the Sons and Daughters will take over a national scholarship the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association once managed and invite veterans to its 2012 convention. Pacific Historic Parks will publish a portion of the Gram, the survivors’ newsletter.

Though Large is concerned about what young people know about Pearl Harbor and its role in bringing the United States into World War II, she has experienced good moments during her efforts to spread the word. Students have told her they learned more from one of her talks than from their lessons.

Large recalled talking several years ago to a group of fifth-graders, her father at her side.

“Afterward, a young boy asked if he could shake his hand. He did so,” Large said. “He said ‘can I give you a hug?’ Dad bent down and hugged him. The boy said, ‘I wanted to thank you for protecting our freedom.’”


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US Senators Spar Over Key Tax Cut

The White House and congressional Democrats continue to press for a federal-tax-cut extension that would benefit nearly all wage and salary earners, but especially the middle class.  Paying for the extension remains a sticking point on Capitol Hill, where Republicans object to a proposed surcharge on millionaires.  

Position reversal

It is a rare reversal of partisan and ideological positions: Democrats fighting to sustain a tax cut and Republicans raising objections.

Last year, it was Republicans who insisted that lower tax rates enacted under former President George W. Bush be extended for all income levels, and Democrats who said the top tax rate paid by the richest Americans should rise.  In the end, all Bush-era tax cuts were extended, without any corresponding tax hikes or spending cuts to offset the fiscal impact.

At issue today are taxes collected to fund the federal program that provides income to retirees, known as Social Security.  For 2011, those taxes were reduced by about a third to give Americans bigger paychecks and, it was hoped, stimulate economic growth.

Economic impact

Unless Congress acts, full Social Security taxes will be collected once again in 2012.  Democratic Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota says that would be disastrous for America’s fragile economic recovery.

“What the country needs right now is additional lift for the economy,” he said. “We still have one-in-six Americans either unemployed or underemployed.  We should not have a tax increase on the middle class.  That just makes no sense.”

Conrad spoke on the U.S. television program Fox News Sunday.

Last week, Senate Republicans defeated a Democratic proposal to pay for a Social Security tax cut extension by tax hike on millionaires.  Senate Democrats defeated a Republican proposal for a similar tax cut offset by federal spending reductions.

Also appearing on Fox was Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who argued that fixing the massive federal deficit requires fiscal discipline.

“The question the American people ought to ask is, ‘Where is the backbone in Washington to actually pay for these extensions?’  All we see coming out of Washington is a promise about collecting revenue in the future to pay for expenditures today.  We ought to pay for that by decreasing spending now in other low-priority areas,” he said.

Tax cuts for the wealthy

Democrats argue the Republican position shows they are only interested in preserving tax cuts for the wealthy.  Republicans fire back that Democrats are fundamentally unwilling to reduce the size and scope of government in the U.S. economy.

President Barack Obama has suggested Congress remain in session until the Social Security tax cut is extended, even if that means keeping the legislature open through the upcoming Christmas holiday period.  Kent Conrad announced on Fox that the Senate’s top Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid, is working on a compromise proposal to be unveiled this week.   

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Is America exceptional? Views from left and right December 3, 2011

Editor’s note: David A. Lake is the Jerri-Ann and Gary E. Jacobs professor of social sciences, distinguished professor of political science and acting dean of social sciences at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of “Hierarchy in International Relations.”

(CNN) — The United States is an exceptional country. On this, almost all U.S. politicians agree. And millions of Americans, do too, according to recent polls.

More than three centuries after John Winthrop first preached that the new Massachusetts Bay colony would be a “city upon a hill,” Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan both reiterated his admonition that “the eyes of all people are upon us.” For President Barack Obama, the United States is “not just a place on a map, but the light to the world.”

This broad agreement on American exceptionalism is often overlooked. This is especially so for conservatives, who now demand allegiance to the idea and chastise Obama, despite all evidence to the contrary, for not believing sufficiently in the exceptional nature of the country he leads.

Exceptionalism is a flashpoint in American politics today not because the claim is contested, but because conservatives and liberals hold differing views of what makes the United States exceptional. These differences are at the core of our current fights over foreign policy.

Conservatives believe the United States is exceptional because its people are inherently good. And we are. By and large, Americans are upstanding, moral individuals who instinctively support noble policies in our relations with other countries. Nonetheless, conservatives are much more likely than liberals to believe that American values and culture are superior to those of other nations.

In a recent Pew Research Center poll, 63% of conservatives believe our culture is superior to others, compared with just 45% for moderates and 34% for liberals. Although the decline in overall support for this view of cultural superiority from 60% in 2002 to only 49% today received the headline attention, the dispersion across political ideologies is perhaps even more important. For conservatives compared with liberals, American exceptionalism rests in large part on a belief in the country’s superior culture and values.

This conservative version of “America the exceptional” was on full display among the Republican candidates in the recent CNN debate on foreign policy.

Conservatives expect other countries to recognize the inherent goodness of the American people and the foreign policies produced by our government, and to accept our international leadership because of our self-evident virtue. Indeed, many conservatives call for a foreign policy that is free of constraints by the United Nations or other multilateral institutions precisely because they believe accommodating the desires of other countries would limit our ability to act on our goodness.

It is striking that the most avid proponents of an assertive unilateralism in which other countries are expected to trust us — and our government — simply because we are good are the same conservatives who so distrust government at home.

In the words of Reagan, endorsed by all the current major Republican candidates, “government is the problem, not the solution.” In relations with other countries, however, many conservatives argue that the goodness of the United States will be translated directly into action. Economic or social policy at home may be distorted and even captured by “special interests,” but foreign policy remains pure and reflects the high morals of the American people. How government can be “the problem” in domestic policy and untainted in its actions toward others is never addressed.

Liberals see the United States as exceptional because of our principles of limited government, embedded in the Constitution. Accepting that inherently good Americans often have different ideas of what goodness means, liberals celebrate our system of checks and balances.

Although few liberals believe in the cultural superiority of the American people, 73% of Democrats in a 2010 USA Today/Gallup poll believe that its “history and its Constitution” make the United States “the greatest country in the world.” This is the view of American exceptionalism held by Obama. As he stated in a 2009 news conference in Strasbourg, France, “I think we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.”

Contemporary liberals support a larger, more activist role for government at home and abroad because they trust that the competing branches of government will limit the influence of what James Madison called “factions.” Expecting the government to usually “do the right thing” because of its institutional constraints, liberals are more comfortable giving it a larger role in our lives.

Liberals extend the principles of limited government to the international arena. Believing that a leader needs followers, and that followers will only follow if the leader can be trusted, liberals embrace multilateralism.

It is only by creating opportunities for other countries to voice their preferences and to shape American policy through joint decision-making that other countries will accept the unique leadership status of the United States, they believe. In this view, the United States can and should welcome limits on its freedom of action abroad — just as it does at home. According to the Pew Research Center poll, 57% of liberals believe the United States should get United Nations approval before using military force, while only 38% of conservatives say this is an important step.

These competing views of exceptionalism mean that too often Americans talk past one another. Although most of us agree that the United States is exceptional, we do so for very different reasons. Exceptionalism has become a conservative trope, a rhetorical tool with which to challenge the nationalism of liberals.

Focusing more on values, a strong majority of Republicans in the Gallup poll report that they do not believe Obama thinks the United States is exceptional, whereas an overwhelming majority of Democrats believe he does.

Rather than painting liberals as unpatriotic, conservatives should hold up a mirror to their own view and reflect on the contradiction. How they can believe that the will of the people is always distorted at home but flawlessly translated into policy abroad is, well, exceptional.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David A. Lake.


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17 Detroit Officers Suspended After Walkout November 26, 2011


November 26, 2011

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17 Detroit Officers Suspended After Walkout –After walking off of the job Friday, 17 Detroit police officers have been suspended. 22 Nov 2011 After walking off of the job Friday, 17 Detroit police officers have been suspended, pending the outcome of an Internal Affairs investigation, Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said in a statement today. The officers, from the Northeastern District, left their post between 5:30-8 p.m. Friday, just days after Detroit Mayor Dave Bing proposed a 10% pay cut for police and fire personnel. The officers are alleged to be in violation of a state statute entitled “Participation in a Strike.”

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Criminals who commit offences online to be banned from the web


November 26, 2011

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Criminals who commit offences online to be banned from the web 25 Nov 2011 Criminals who commit offences online and cyber bullies will be banned from the internet as part of the Government’s new cyber security strategy, announced today. It calls for police and courts to make more use of existing “cyber sanctions” to restrict access to the social networks and instant messaging services in cases of hacking, fraud and online bullying… Similar orders have been imposed on those charged with involvement in a series of cyber attacks by the Anonymous and LulzSec groups earlier this year, while they await trial.

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Obama heckled as Occupy protesters drown out President in New Hampshire November 24, 2011


November 24, 2011

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‘Banksters are destroying America!’: Obama heckled as Occupy protesters drown out President in New Hampshire –President paused as ‘Mic check!’ echoed through crowd 23 Nov 2011 President Barack Obama was heckled today as he gave a speech in New Hampshire about the state of the U.S. economy. Mr Obama, trailed by Occupy Wall Street protesters, dashed into the state for his speaking event at Central High School in Manchester. There, he stood face-to-face with those calling themselves ‘the 99 per cent’ fighting economic inequality. But as he began, activists drowned out his remarks, chanting: ‘Over 4,000 peaceful protesters have been arrested while “banksters” continue to destroy the American economy.’

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DHS denies report of water utility hack


November 23, 2011

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DHS denies report of water utility hack 22 Nov 2011 The Department of Homeland Security and FBI today dismissed the conclusions of a report that a cyber intrusion caused a pump at an Illinois water utility to burn out. But the statement doesn’t explain why an Illinois state terrorism intelligence center would say it was a hacker when it wasn’t. In the meantime, the DHS is investigating a claim by a hacker who goes by “pr0f” who claimed to have compromised a Texas water utility last week.

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US debt-reduction panel spirals toward failure November 21, 2011


November 21, 2011

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US debt-reduction panel spirals toward failure –Barring breakthrough, super dictatorship to concede failure on Monday [Just save everyone time and declare failure *today.*] 20 Nov 2011 A months-long effort to set U.S. finances on a sustainable course appeared likely to end in failure on Monday as lawmakers in Congress were unable to bridge a deep divide over taxes and benefits. Republican and Democratic participants cast doubt on any possibility of agreement in appearances on Sunday political talk shows. Without some unexpected breakthrough, aides said, a 12-member bipartisan “super committee” tasked with drawing up a deficit-cutting plan will admit defeat on Monday.

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Occupy Wall Street day of action – live coverage November 17, 2011

12.57pm: Here’s a roundup of other developments at Occupy protests around the United States.

Portland, Oregon

Marchers staged a protest on the Steel Bridge, a major crossing over the Willamette River, which had been closed to traffic by police. According to oregonlive.com , police arrested at least 14 protesters from a group who had sat down on the bridge. The protesters moved on after about 45 minutes, and say they plan to occupy banks and other financial institutions in the city later.

Los Angeles

From the Associated Press: Los Angeles police have declared an unlawful assembly at a rally by Occupy Wall Street sympathizers in the downtown financial district. Sixteen people who plan to be arrested Thursday have linked arms around several tents as officers gather nearby.

Two other people were arrested earlier for interfering with officers but the march and rally has otherwise been peaceful.

The group, chiefly a coalition of labor unions, gathered between the Bank of America tower and Wells Fargo Plaza, chanting “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.” The protesters then marched several blocks and occupied an intersection.

Good Jobs LA, a coalition that includes labor organizations, community groups and others, is organizing the protest. Many are wearing purple Service Employees International Union jackets and T-shirts.

Dallas

Police evicted dozens of protesters from their campsite near City Hall citing public safety and hygiene issues, according to the Associated Press. They arrested 18 protesters who refused to leave.

Berkeley

Two protesters were arrested and about 20 tents removed at an encampment on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley.

12.47pm: The NYPD has told our reporter Karen McVeigh that at least 100 people were arrested this morning.



Police arrested a woman in a wheelchair at the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York. Photograph: Michael Moore

Among those arrested was a woman in a wheelchair. The activist film-maker Michael Moore took this picture, and said officers couldn’t work out what to do with her. In the end, they gave her a ticket, he said.

12.17pm: The number of people arrested today is rising. The New York Daily News says it’s 60, while the New York Times puts it at 75. Reporter Ryan Deveraux has been among those who thronged back into Zuccotti Park after the demonstrations near Wall Street.

As many as 1,000 Occupy Wall Street protesters returned to Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, flanked by scores of police on motor-scooters and on foot. When they reached the plaza, some demonstrators took drastic measures to enter.

Since the mass eviction earlier this week the NYPD ringed the park with metal barriers. Access has been carefully monitored by private security guards employed by the park’s owners, Brookfield Properties, allowing people in one by one. When protesters returned to the park today a number of them began pushing against barricades, while police shoved back. Ultimately the demonstrators managed to wrest one metal barricade from the officers, opening a space for people to pass through.

There were scuffles between officers and protesters, before police moved back into the street. In the park, protesters celebrated with music and dancing. The plaza, which has near-empty over the last two days, is now filled with protesters preparing for further actions planned throughout the city.

11.57am: In Zuccotti Park, Adam Gabbatt has been talking to protesters about how they feel the start of today’s day of action has gone so far.

Requests are currently going around for lunch to be sent to the former camp, and most seem satisfied with the first demonstration in what OWS is billing as a day of action.

“I think it started well, and we’ve still got a long day ahead of us,” said Fran Agnone, between sips on a coffee. She said it did not matter that the demonstration had not achieved its aim of shutting down the New York stock exchange. “That will come another day. All that matters is we’re changing people’s ideas.”

Esidra Swift and Kayla Braun travelled to New York from Norfolk, Virginia, where they have been part of the “100-200″ strong Occupy camp there. “I feel like this is gonna be historic,” said Braun, who is enjoying her first visit to New York today. “There’s so many people here I feel like we have to make a difference.”

Louis Warner-Kamsler was among a group of 12 people draped in green foliage. “We are the trees from Liberty Square,” he said. “And we are sending the message that if you take the park, we’ll take the streets.”

Warner-Kamsler and his fellow trees were on the march this morning. “I think it went pretty well, we showed our strength, made out points, and soon we’ll do it again even stronger, because we’re not going away.”

11.32am: Police say that by 10am, about 50 arrests had been made at the Occupy protests in New York. CNBC reported that many New York Stock Exchange workers were up to an hour late for work, but – despite the claims of Occupy protesters on Twitter – the sounding of the opening bell at 9.30am was not delayed.

Protesters have now regrouped in Zuccotti Park, which is packed with hundreds of people. There have been scuffles here, and a number of arrests.

11.16am: Activist Michael Kink, executive director of the Strong Economy for All Coalition, got inside the New York Stock Exchange this morning and managed to indulge in a little direct action. It appears he was allowed in to be a guest on the business network CNBC, which has studios inside NYSE.


View the story “Occupy Wall Street: activist inside NYSE” on Storify]

11.02am: Our reporter Karen McVeigh, who is also on the scene in the Financial District, notes that Wall Street workers were furious at the disruption to their day.

Protesters had threatened to stop the bell that marks the start of trading at the New York Stock Exchange in Wall Street. But in the end, Occupy Wall Street marchers were not allowed anywhere near it The NYSE is surrounded on all sides by metal barricades, designated a “frozen area” by police.

Only employees with company ID are being allowed through. Workers, already blocked from leaving the subway at their usual exits are tutting and exhaling at police officers directing them away from streets closed because of the march.

There was little sympathy for the occupy movement here. “I’ve been trying to get to work for half an hour, they should throw them all in jail,” one woman said as she approached Exchange Place, where protesters had gathered and were sitting in a circle telling stories of economic hardship.

A man in a suit waiting to be allowed through a police barricade told his friend: “Don’t worry they’ll all get arrested in a minute.” Groups of protesters gathered in the streets parallel to Wall street, singing and chanting behind barriers.



Occupy Wall Street protesters at William Street and Exchange Place in Lower Manhattan. Photograph: Karen McVeigh/guardian.co.uk

10.34am: Adam Gabbatt has been speaking to a Wall Street worker who opposes the protests. Here’s an audio recording of his interview.

10.08am: The Occupy protesters have succeeded in causing considerable disruption in Lower Manhattan this morning, but police have secured the New York Stock Exchange and split the march into smaller, more easily contained groups. There have been more scuffles and arrests:

This video, taken by Adam Gabbatt, shows a man being arrested and bundled into a police van on Broadway.

Earlier, the NYPD broke up a human blockade of Occupy Wall Street protesters in order to allow a police bus to be moved in the direction of the New York Stock Exchange, reports Ryan Devereaux.

Protesters had gathered in front of the police barricades at the intersection of Broad earlier this morning. Shortly before 9:30 the department moved in a bus directly in front of the gathered demonstrators. The police then opened the barricades and began pushing demonstrators from behind. One young man was pulled over a barricade and thrown to the ground. Roughly a half dozen were arrested.

Shortly thereafter another skirmish broke out as officers attempted to push protesters onto the sidewalk. Earlier at the intersection police struck a Russia Today producer with a baton as she was filming.

9.37am: You can see how the protests are spread out around Wall Street in this map curated by the protest organisers.

9.31am: The opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange was rung on time at 9.30am.

9.17am: Occupy protesters appear to have succeeded in blocking all access points to Wall Street now, with no-one being allowed in. The Stock Exchange is due to open at 9.30am, and Salon reporter Justin Elliott says there’s speculation that protesters may make a symbolic move at that time. Our reporter Adam Gabbatt says he thinks enough workers will have made it in to the NYSE for the opening bell to be rung and the exchange to open as planned.

9.08am: Here and there, localised scuffles are breaking out. Freelance journalist Andrew Katz says he counted 22 arrests at the intersection of Broadway and Pine. Multiple reports on Twitter say batons have been drawn and pepper spray deployed at the intersection of Broadway and Beaver.

8.46am:Here’s a report from Adam Gabbatt of the first 90 minutes of the protest today.

The first event in Occupy Wall Street’s “day of action” is an attempt to “shut down Wall Street”- kicking off a series of protests on the movement’s two month anniversary. At 6.30am around 100 people were gathered at Zuccotti Park, but with a steady stream of protesters beginning to arrive.

Some 300m south, a police barricade, flanked by TV news crews, was blocking access to Wall Street. Workers were allowed to enter the street, but only after showing company ID. I tried to enter, but was told “no press today, for security reasons”, by a police officer.

By 7.30am the crowd had left Zuccotti Park, but only to gather in the square opposite their former camp. Some 500 people massed there, listening to briefings about what to do if arrested, before setting off on the march to Wall Street.

Heading east, the streets leading south onto Wall Street were blocks by police officers and metal barricades. Protesters finally accessed Wall street after finding a route along Pearl Street, gathering outside Deutsche Bank for around five minutes before setting off
again.

The march is quite spread out, with regular shouts of “slow down” to those at the front appearing to go unheeded.

Police are taking preventative action by blocking key streets before protesters arrive, but are generally allowing the march to progress.

8.37am: Here’s a recap of the first hour or so of the protest, as told by Adam Gabbatt on Twitter.


View the story “Occupy Wall Street – day of action” on Storify]

You can follow his tweets here.

8.31am: The marchers appear to be playing a cat-and-mouse game with police, according to Ryan Devereaux.

Occupy Wall Street protesters are within blocks of the New York Stock Exchange. Hundreds, if not thousands, accessed Wall Street to the east but were blocked by a police line. The march is now snaking its way through the streets of the financial district but running into police blockades at every turn and becoming increasingly divided. One young man carries what appears to the sign that lists the rules of Zuccotti Park; the space that had become the protesters base of operations until they were evicted earlier this week.

8.18am: In the past hour, hundreds of protesters have marched the few blocks south from Zuccotti Park towards their target of Wall Street and the New York Stock exchange. Earlier, Adam Gabbatt followed preparations at the protesters’ base:

Around 200 people were gathered at Zuccotti Park at 7am, with a steady stream of protesters arriving.

Access was permitted through one gap in the police barricades, with security staff in fluorescent jackets looking on as people filtered through.

Inside last minute briefings were taking place, telephone numbers for lawyers and right to remain silent being refreshed.

8.00am: Police are out in force in Lower Manhattan this morning in preparation for a day of action by Occupy Wall Street protesters.

A crowd gathered at Zuccotti Park at 7am today to prepare for a march on Wall Street, and an attempt to “occupy” the New York Stock Exchange.

Later, there are plans to protest on the New York city subway system, at at least 16 locations simultaneously. Our reporters are out in the city. You can follow @AdamGabbatt on Twitter, as well as comprehensive live updates here.

Democracy Now reporter Ryan Devereaux, filing today for the Guardian, sends this preview:

As expected, the police presence in Lower Manhattan is extremely heavy this morning as the city awaits a massive day of action led by Occupy Wall Street protesters. NYPD vehicles and barricades are visible along every street. At least four helicopters can be seen circling overhead. Meanwhile the area near Wall Street itself is guarded by scores of officers wearing riot helmets. The police are asking individuals to present their work IDs to access streets in the area. A team of mounted police stands guard in front of the New York Stock Exchange.

The protesters have planned a multi-stage blitz on the global financial center with the goal of shutting down the area. The plan, which included several weeks of preparation, involves multiple autonomously-functioning groups carrying out individual actions amid a mass number of marchers. Organizers of the protest say online RSVPs for the demonstration trippled after the city evicted the protesters for their encampment at Zuccotti Park earlier this week. City officials say they have prepared for tens of thousands of demonstrators in the streets.

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Somalia Loses World Cup Qualifier, Wins Admiration

Ethiopia’s football team has reached the group stage of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers with a comfortable victory over neighboring Somalia. But, for the thousands of Somalis packed into a corner of Addis Ababa stadium, a 5-0 drubbing felt like a victory.

As Somalia’s fans trooped out of the stands following Wednesday’s game, you might have thought they had won.  Twenty-five-year-old Mohamed Hussein, a Somali refugee from Mogadishu, was ecstatic.

“I’m so happy, I want to thank the players, and I want to thank the people of Somalia today who stay in Addis Ababa who support our team,” said Hussein.

A valiant Somali side held Ethiopia to a scoreless draw in the first leg of this home and away match, held Saturday in Djibouti.

In this return leg in Addis Ababa, the Ocean Stars trailed by only 1-0 at the one hour mark, before the superior Ethiopian side unleashed a torrent of goals.

The team for war-torn Somalia faces huge disadvantages in international competition, among them the lack of a home field.  Mogadishu Stadium has not been used for sporting events in recent years.  Instead, it was used by Islamist militant group al-Shabab for floggings and executions.

Somali refugee Hamdi Wardhere called the final score “great” considering the difficulties his country faces.

“I’m very delighted how I see my team and how they played, so I’m very happy really,” said Wardhere. “Because I know my team haven’t got a lot of training, and Ethiopia have trained in Germany.  They have had time to train.  We don’t have enough government that can control this, and give the funds, so I’m very happy.”

Ethiopian officials estimate as many as 200,000 Somali refugees live in Addis Ababa, half a million nationwide, including those in refugee camps along the Ethiopia/Somalia border.

The thousands who packed a corner of Addis Ababa stadium waved Somalia’s light blue flag, though many waved the Somali and Ethiopian banners side by side to show appreciation to their host country.

Emil Barre, a Somali now living in London, called this a rare opportunity to feel pride in Somalia’s achievements.

“I was really proud to support my country,” said Barre. “Actually we lost, but that doesn’t change how we love our team and our country, so it doesn’t make a difference.”

Ethiopia will next play South Africa in a group stage match in Johannesburg next June. After today’s defeat, Somalia will go home to regroup as it tries to rebuild a football program, and a country wracked by two decades of war, famine and anarchy.

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New York Police in Riot Gear Clear ‘Occupy’ Protesters From Zuccotti Park November 16, 2011


November 16, 2011

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New York Police in Riot Gear Clear ‘Occupy’ Protesters From Zuccotti Park 15 Nov 2011 New York City police in riot gear swept into a Lower Manhattan park early today to remove Occupy Wall Street demonstrators who had been camping there for more than eight weeks to protest income inequality. Zuccotti Park will remain off-limits to protesters who want to camp there in tents and sleeping bags. Demonstrators lost a bid to return to the park with those items when state Supreme Court Judge Michael Stallman lifted a temporary restraining order late this afternoon, ruling that the city had the power to rid the plaza of the protesters’ gear.

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London Olympics Security: FBI Agents, Surface-to-Air Missiles November 15, 2011


November 15, 2011

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London Olympics Security: FBI Agents, Surface-to-Air Missiles 15 Nov 2011 U.S. and British officials will meet today in Washington to plan security for next summer’s Olympic games in London, where the massive U.S. law enforcement presence will include more than 500 federal agents. U.S. and U.K. security and terrorism officials told ABC News that thousands of police officers, soldiers, intelligence officers, firefighters and private guards — a force that could at times top 40,0000 — will be on hand at 32 sports venues. U.K. Defense Secretary Philip Hammond told Parliament Monday that security measures might even include surface-to-air missiles. British officials have closely coordinated their efforts with their American counterparts, and the meetings that begin today are only the latest in a series of high-level meetings stretching back more than a year, officials from the CIA, State Department and FBI told ABC.

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Occupy Oakland: ACLU files suit against Oakland Police Department


November 15, 2011

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Occupy Oakland: ACLU files suit against Oakland Police Department 14 Nov 2011 Earlier today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the National Lawyers’ Guild filed a federal lawsuit against the Oakland Police Department seeking an emergency temporary restraining order to stop police violence against the protesters, according to a news release. The suit was urgent because another police encounter was imminent, following the removal of the Occupy Oakland camp this morning, the news release stated.

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