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Los Angeles Times loses another editor December 14, 2011

The Los Angeles Times has lost another editor. The resignation of Russ Stanton after four years was announced yesterday. He will leave on 23 December.

He is the fourth editor in a row – after John Carroll, Dean Baquet and James O’Shea – to leave amid demands for job cuts.

“It’s kind of a tradition – a sad tradition,” said one unidentified staffer quoted by Reuters.

During his tenure as editor, Stanton’s staff shrank from 900 to about 550. New cuts are on the horizon, with between 12 and 20 staff due to be laid off early in the new year.

Davan Maharaj, managing editor for news since May 2008, will replace Stanton.

The LA Times’s print circulation stood at 572,998 in September, a 21% drop from March 2009. It is the fifth-largest circulation in the US.

The paper is planning to charge for access to its website in the first quarter of 2012. It is also said to be launching its own tablet (not an app or tablet edition) but the physical object itself.

All the disruptions at the LA Times have to be seen in the context of its parent company, Tribune, being in bankruptcy.

Sources: Reuters/New York Times

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Gingrich-Huntsman debate: no news, just snooze December 13, 2011

If the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates had been as insipid and smug as yesterday’s self-styled copy – a debate between Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman – slavery would probably still be legal in America.

In reality the long-winded discussion in New Hampshire between the two 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls was more like a warm bath than a hot-tempered dialogue.

In 1858 Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas clashed over slavery, equality and what Lincoln called “the eternal struggle” over right and wrong – “The two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time,” in Lincoln’s words.

By 2011, Gingrich and Huntsman politely mused alongside each other’s thoughts, largely agreeing and when they didn’t agree they merely agreed not to disagree. How agreeable.

The high point of the night came when Huntsman, in the middle of a windy reply, spotted a family member in the audience falling asleep. “I see my daughter nodding off, so let’s move on,” he said.

Note to politicians: when you are boring your own adult children to sleep, it may be time to reconsider the wisdom of your longshot run for the presidential nomination.

Rather than serving up an intellectual feast for Republican voters, the pair offered up arguments “as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death,” as Lincoln said of Douglas’s rhetoric, back in the days when Lincoln-Douglas debates meant fighting talk.

Trailing badly in the polls, Huntsman could have used the opportunity to put some clear blue water between himself and the baggage-laden former Speaker of the House. Instead the two men united against their sworn enemy: Mitt Romney.

On the subject of Iran, for example, the only difference was in tone. Gingrich described the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran as “a holocaust” while Huntsman merely called it “the transcendent issue of this decade”.

Certainly, historians don’t recall Lincoln or Douglas offering each other the vice presidency*, as Huntsman did to Gingrich. And thank goodness.

* For historical accuracy: Lincoln and Douglas debated while competing for an Illinois US Senate seat, although both men did later run for the White House in 1860. And of course they couldn’t have offered each other the vice presidency since they were both residents of the same state, something prohibited by the constitution.

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African Group Narrows Focus in Durban December 8, 2011

African delegates at United Nations climate talks in South Africa have narrowed their focus on two key priorities, as time runs out for negotiators to agree on any major deals to combat climate change.

The African Group at the COP17 climate conference is continuing to push for a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol, a legal mandate that binds governments to cut emissions blamed for global warming.

Although no African nations are part of the Kyoto Protocol, African Group lead negotiator Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, said Thursday that the mechanism is effective for cutting emissions and a good template for a future global agreement. He added that African countries also are willing to commit to emissions cuts, if they receive support from the international community.

“Because Africa has said for the longest time that we’re willing to undertake action as long as that action is supported through the means of implementation: i.e., finance, technology transfer and capacity building,” he said. “But we are willing to do our fair share in order to resolve this global issue.”

That introduces the second priority for the African Group: financing. The group wants nations to finalize agreements made at the last U.N. climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, to establish a Green Climate Fund to help developing nations.

Mpanu-Mpanu says his group has narrowed its push to these two priorities — the Kyoto Protocol and financing — in the final hours of COP17, which is scheduled to end Friday.

“Whether we are reducing our priorities to two, while yesterday I spoke about five priorities, I will even go further and say that the priority that we have is only one: to keep one billion Africans safe as regards the adverse effect of a climate change phenomenon to which they did not contribute.”

At the opening ceremony for the African Pavilion in Durban, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi praised African delegates for speaking with one voice at the conference. The African Group, which represents 54 nations, has presented a united front throughout the negotiations, with few disagreements among them.

Meles also spoke about the importance of securing financing for African developing projects. He noted that, because African nations are among the least developed in the world, they have tremendous opportunity to grow in an environmentally responsible way.

“It doesn’t make sense at all when you are carrying out investment in the green field investment area to start with yesterday’s technology,” said the Ethiopian prime minister. “We have to start with what is viable in the future. Therefore climate-resilient development is our only option.”

Although Africa produces the least amount of carbon dioxide of any other region in the world, it is considered the most vulnerable to droughts, floods and other extreme weather events that scientists say will increase as the earth gets hotter.

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Over two million UK public sector workers strike December 2, 2011


December 2, 2011

by legitgov

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Over two million UK public sector workers strike By Julie Hyland 01 Dec 2011 Over two million public sector workers took part yesterday in a 24-hour strike against the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government’s attack on their pensions. The largest national walk-out for more than 30 years involved members of 37 unions in an action backed by the Trades Union Congress (TUC). They included teachers, health workers, civil servants and workers in local authorities and other areas of social provision, angered at the coalition’s plans to make public service employees pay more, and work longer for lower pensions on retirement.

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US Dept of Defense November 22, 2011


November 21, 2011

by legitgov

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US Dept of Defense – Senate Committee Considers Special Operations Nominee 21 Nov 2011 The Senate Armed Services Committee met yesterday to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee for assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflict. If confirmed by the Senate, Michael R. Sheehan will advise the defense secretary on special operations and low-intensity conflict matters. He also will be responsible for overall supervision of special operations and low-intensity conflict policy, resources and activities including counterterrorism, unconventional warfare, direct action, special reconnaissance, foreign internal defense, civil affairs, information and psychological operations, and counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

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GOP presidential debate in South Carolina November 13, 2011

7.20pm: If you really want a fair fight with a referee and a clear winner, then you are wasting your time following tonight’s debate. What you really want is the Manny Pacquiao versus Juan Manuel Márquez fight in Vegas tonight. And my colleague Steve Busfield is doing the live blow-by-blow here.

7.15pm ET: So after his brain feeze last time, Rick Perry is putting in more preparation, right? Mmm. Here’s a tweet from @GovernorPerry from this afternoon:

Debate prep in Spartanburg, SC !!
http://yfrog.com/h714wrizj

Very droll, and even more so when Perry forgets which state he’s in later tonight.

7.10pm ET: The Republican debate is being carried by the CBS network – live on network television, which is unusual for primary debates so far in this cycle. Either it means the debate ratings are creeping up, or its unusually dismal Saturday night programming for CBS.

CBS News is live streaming the debate right here for those you without benefit of a telly or US geographical location.

Welcome to live coverage of tonight’s Republican presidential candidates debate in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The topic tonight is supposedly foreign policy but never mind that – the real questions are: Can Rick Perry remember what day of the week it is? Can Herman Cain make it through 90 minutes without casual misogyny? And can anyone lay a finger on frontrunner Mitt Romney?

And the definitive answer to all three questions is: maybe.

It seems like only yesterday that the Texas governor sent his ailing campaign into a tail spin when he blanked out on the third thing in a list of three. In fact it was the day before the day before yesterday It could happen to anybody, said his supporters. But anybody isn’t running for president – even if the current Republican field is a veritable “who’s that?” of political talent.

Perry of course has to make it through the whole debate without even the hint of a gaffe, snafu or misstatement. But of course that’s why we are all watching. Deer caught in headlights have better debate repartee than Rick Perry.

Foreign policy, though, is the hardest subject for the eight Republican candidate on stage tonight, because it not only requires them to know facts but also that it is the one area where even the occasional Republican concedes that President Obama has had one or two tiny successes, such as the death of whats-his-name, that guy, Osaka Lin Baden.

Of the candidates, Ron Paul has at least a coherent presidential foreign policy, which is not to have a foreign policy and leave the rest of the world to its own devices. For the rest, foreign policy boils down to two words “Israel” (good) and “China” (bad). The only exception is Jon Huntsman, who runs with “China” (good) – although he is hampered by knowing something about the subject, as a former US ambassador to China.

The only other performance of note could be that of Herman Cain, and the increasing ludicrous contortions he needs to go through to link foreign policy with his tedious 9-9-9 tax reform boondoggle.

The action starts at 8pm ET and we’ll be blogging every hesitation, repetition and deviation by Rick Perry right here. Or you can follow me on Twitter @RichardA and read much the same nonsense but shrunk to just 140 characters. And why not vent your frustration by leaving a comment below? It’s therapeutic.

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Afghan forces will take over in 3 years — US general October 23, 2011


October 23, 2011

by legitgov

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Afghan forces will take over in 3 years — US general 21 Oct 2011 The Afghan security forces will be prepared to take the leading role in their country’s security when foreign troops withdraw in around three years’ time, a top US military official said yesterday. Lieutenant General William Caldwell, commander of the Nato Training Mission in Afghanistan, told a small group of journalists in Dubai yesterday that after December 2014 the role of international troops will become more advisory and supporting. [Hopefully, the foreign troops will be forced out long before then.]

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Amanda Knox flies home as prosecutor vows to launch appeal October 4, 2011


Meredith Kercher’s family says they still have no answers regarding the death of the British student. Link to this video

Amanda Knox is flying back to her native Seattle as the prosecutor who led the investigation into the murder of Meredith Kercher indicated he would seek to overturn her acquittal and that of her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, in Italy‘s top appeals court.

The murdered Briton’s family, who will be returning to London on Tuesday after hearing the appeal decision, expressed bewilderment and frustration at the outcome.

Lyle Kercher, her brother, told a press conference: “While we accept the decision that was handed down yesterday, respect the court, and obviously the Italian justice system, we do find now that we are looking at this again and thinking how a decision that was so certain two years ago has been so emphatically overturned now.”

The Italy-US Foundation, which has championed Knox’s cause, said the American was at Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome boarding a flight to London, where she would catch a connecting flight to the United States. Knox was believed to have been escorted by police through a non-public entrance to the airport.

Giuliano Mignini, the prosecutor who led the investigation, said he was confident the court of cassation, Italy’s highest appeals tribunal, would deliver justice. Lyle Kercher said he understood that Mignini intended to take the case further.

Though Knox was acquitted of murdering her British flatmate, she was given a heavier sentence for slandering her former employer, a Congolese bar owner. In a statement to police, signed without the assistance of a lawyer, she said Diya “Patrick” Lumumba was the murderer. Lumumba spent a brief period in jail as a result.

“What was the motive for the slander if she was not involved in the murder?” asked Mignini.

A fourth person, Rudy Guede, was later found to have been at the scene of the crime. He was tried in separate proceedings and convicted of Kercher’s murder. He lost two subsequent appeals.

Mignini remarked that the court of cassation had accepted the view that Guede did not act alone. The point was echoed by Lyle Kercher.

“If the two who were released yesterday were not the guilty parties, we are left wondering who are the other person or people and for us it feels very much like back to square one,” he told reporters.

The Italian justice system envisages a trial, appeal and second appeal to the court of cassation. But the second appeal normally only considers points of law or procedure.

An appeal to Italy’s supreme court is open to both sides in a case. But Lyle Kercher noted that Mignini would need authorisation from his superiors to go further.

The prosecutor has previously argued that the review of DNA evidence ordered by the appeal court – which cleared the way for the acquittal of Knox and Sollecito – could be ruled null and void by the court of cassation since such reviews must be ordered at a defendant’s first trial.

If the Rome court ordered the appeal to be restaged, it would most likely be held in Florence, said Mignini, who left the hearing on Monday night without making any comment on the outcome. He criticised the media’s focus on the American student.

“I have never seen such media pressure. We can’t go on like this,” he said.

So far the Kerchers’ lawyer has aligned them in court four-square behind the prosecution’s case that the victim died resisting a violent, four-way sex game. But the press conference saw the family hit a more sceptical note.

Meredith Kercher’s sister, Stephanie, said: “We don’t want the wrong people put away for a crime they didn’t commit.” The press conference also revealed that the family’s chief legal representative, Francesco Maresca, had stopped Sollecito’s father from talking to the Kerchers after the verdict.

Maresca said: “Yesterday, in front of the bench in court, did not seem to me to be the best moment.”

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Civilians accuse NATO of massacre in Sirte raids October 2, 2011


October 1, 2011

by legitgov

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Civilians accuse NATO of massacre in Sirte raids 28 Sep 2011 The civilians pouring out of the besieged city of Sirte accused NATO of genocide yesterday as rebel forces called in reinforcements and prepared for a fresh assault on Muammar Gaddafi’s home town… Rebel forces fighting for the National Transitional Council added artillery and mortar fire. The people leaving the town, many looking scared, said conditions inside Sirte were disastrous. They made claims which, if verified, are a challenge for NATO – which operates under a UN mandate to protect civilians – saying the NATO bombing raids hit homes, schools and hospitals.

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Watch: U.S. News‘s Making Science Cool September 29, 2011

Yesterday, business leaders, educators, and decision makers met at the National Press Club to discuss the national science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education crisis in America. Here’s full footage of the event. Also read a recap of the event, catch up on live tweets from the event, and check out out U.S. News‘s inaugural rankings of the Best High Schools for Math and Science.

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