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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Momentum builds for nationwide freeze on foreclosures

Momentum builds for nationwide freeze on foreclosures
Senior Obama administration officials said Friday that a nationwide moratorium on foreclosure sales may be inevitable, despite their grave reservations about the impact a broad freeze would have on the nation's housing market and economic recovery.
Their remarks were made as pressure for a nationwide moratorium mounted Friday when Bank of America, the nation's largest bank, halted foreclosure sales in all 50 states. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who is locked in a tight reelection campaign, called on other major lenders to follow suit.
The White House has so far resisted joining the election-season calls for action but convened two interagency meetings this week to discuss reports that banks filed fraudulent documents to evict delinquent borrowers and to deal with questions about whether banks are seizing properties without having clear ownership of the mortgages.
One meeting was made up mostly of groups that regulate the housing industry, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Treasury Department and the White House. The other, which involved the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. attorneys from across the country, was focused on the question of whether financial fraud was committed.
With foreclosed properties comprising one in every four homes sold in the United States, the spreading moratorium could disrupt real estate deals in progress, slow down the process of clearing the backlog of troubled home loans and prolong the economic recovery, analysts said.
A freeze would also strike at the financial sector, just two years after it suffered one of the worst crises in its history. One government official who has been in discussions with several big financial firms said the banks are bracing themselves for a wave of lawsuits from homeowners who are fighting to keep their homes and from investors who had bought mortgage loans on Wall Street. On Friday, while the Dow Jones industrial average crossed 11,000, most major bank stocks fell.

29 NATO tankers torched in Pakistan

29 NATO tankers torched in Pakistan

Gunmen armed with a rocket torched 29 NATO oil tankers in southern Pakistan on Saturday, the latest attack on the supply line for international troops in Afghanistan since a key border crossing was closed in a dispute with the U.S. (The Associated Press)

Jobless After 50? You May Be Out of Luck : NPR

Jobless After 50? You May Be Out of Luck : NPR

The economy officially crept out of recession in June of 2009, but for many Americans, the economic markers that really count are the ones that come out each month from the Department of Labor: unemployment statistics.

CSPAN - Racist Callers - Washington Journal | Mediaite

CSPAN - Racist Callers - Washington Journal | Mediaite

90-Year-Old C-SPAN Caller Wants ‘Coloreds’ To Thank White People For ‘Free Everything’

Unemployment Refuses To Rally For Elections : NPR

Unemployment Refuses To Rally For Elections : NPR

Obama ask China to free Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu - Hindustan Times

Obama ask China to free Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu - Hindustan Times

US President Barack Obama has applauded Nobel Committee's decision to honour jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo with the 2010 Peace Prize and asked Beijing to release the "courageous" human rights activist as soon as possible.
"By granting the prize to Liu, the Nobel Committee has chosen someone who has been an eloquent and courageous spokesman for the advance of universal values through peaceful and non-violent means, including his support for democracy, human rights and the rule of law," Obama said in a statement last night.
"This award reminds us that political reform has not kept pace, and that the basic human rights of every man, woman and child must be respected. We call on the Chinese government to release Liu as soon as possible," Obama said.
Welcoming the Nobel Committee's decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu, Obama, who was the recipient of the coveted prize in 2009, said: "Last year, I noted that so many others who have received the award had sacrificed so much more than I. That list now includes Mr Liu, who has sacrificed his freedom for his beliefs."
"As I said last year in Oslo, even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal to all human beings," the US President said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also welcomed the decision of the Nobel Committee to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu.
Throughout its history, the Peace Prize has often been used to recognise the heroism of those who have, through persistent and peaceful efforts, sought to build a world that is more fair and free, she said in a statement.
"Mr Liu has been a consistent advocate for fundamental freedoms and human rights for his fellow citizens and for peaceful political reform.
"Mr Liu's work, including his role in the drafting of Charter '08 (which called for greater freedom and an end to the Communist Party's political dominance), and his receipt of this honour highlight the fact that while China has made tremendous economic progress in the last three decades, political reform has lagged behind," Clinton said.

The John H. Armwood Weekly News Podcast for The Week Ending Saturday October 9, 2010

This podcast is for the week ending Saturday October 9, 2010.  The Archive of my previous News Podcasts is found here

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With Drilling Near End, Chile Rescue Enters Risky Phase -

With Drilling Near End, Chile Rescue Enters Risky Phase -
SAN JOSÉ MINE, Chile — After more than two months living nearly half a mile underground, the 33 miners trapped below this scorching desert could be just a few short days from emerging into what will seem like a blinding sun.
A powerful drill, twisting and pounding its way through the abrasive volcanic rock, was only about 130 feet from breaking through to the miners on Friday afternoon, nearly completing a rescue hole for them to be hauled to the surface, according to Chile’s mining minister. If all went well, he said, the drill could reach the miners early Saturday.
But a rescue would still be days away, and officials here warned that the operation was entering its most dangerous phase. Every decision, they said, carried a risk that the inspiring story consuming the Chilean government and captivating the world could quickly turn toward disaster.
“We have done everything that technology permits,” said Miguel Fortt, a consultant on underground mining rescues in the Atacama region. “If the Lord doesn’t send us an earthquake, we’ll be O.K.”
The miners themselves may have to set off dynamite to widen the hole at their end so that the rescue capsule — named the Phoenix — has enough room. Engineers at the surface also need to decide whether to line the rescue hole with steel pipes to prevent loose rocks from falling into the shaft and damaging or blocking the capsule.
But whatever the approach, it is going to be a very tight fit. The rescue hole is only a little more than two feet wide and it is not even straight, which could create potential snags as the capsule shimmies up, carrying one man at a time.

Friday, October 08, 2010

North Korea confirms Kim Jong-il's son will take over as leader | World news | The Guardian

North Korea confirms Kim Jong-il's son will take over as leader | World news | The Guardian
Senior official says nation will be honoured to serve 'young general' Kim Jong-un in handover to third generation of communist dynasty
Kim Jong-il's heir apparent Kim Jong-un (front) with other Workers' party officials at Kumsusan Palace in Pyongyang. Photograph: Korean Central News Agency/EPA
A senior North Korean official confirmed today that Kim Jong-il's youngest son will succeed him as the next leader of the reclusive communist nation.
In the first public confirmation of the succession plan, Yang Hyong-sop referred to Kim Jong-un as "the young general" during an interview with Associated Press Television News. Yang said the nation's people were honoured to serve him as their leader.
He would be the third successive generation of his family to lead of the nation of 24 million people founded by his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, in 1948 on a policy of self-reliance called "juche. " Kim Il-sung built a cult of personality around himself and his son, Kim Jong-il.
"Our people take pride in the fact that they are blessed with great leaders from generation to generation," Yang said.
"Our people are honoured to serve the great President Kim Il-sung and the great leader Kim Jong-il," he added. "Now we also have the honour of serving young general Kim Jong-un."

Nobel Peace Prize Given to Jailed Chinese Dissident -

Nobel Peace Prize Given to Jailed Chinese Dissident -
BEIJING — Liu Xiaobo, an impassioned literary critic, political essayist and democracy advocate repeatedly jailed by the Chinese government for his writings, won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in recognition of “his long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”
Mr. Liu, 54, perhaps China’s best known dissident, is currently serving an 11-year term on subversion charges.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry reacted angrily to the news, calling it a “blasphemy” to the Peace Prize and saying it would harm Norwegian-Chinese relations. “Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who has been sentenced by Chinese judicial departments for violating Chinese law,” it said in a statement.
Mr. Liu is the first Chinese citizen to win the Peace Prize and one of three laureates to have received it while in prison.
In awarding the prize to Mr. Liu, the Norwegian Nobel Committee delivered an unmistakable rebuke to Beijing’s authoritarian leaders at a time of growing intolerance for domestic dissent and spreading unease internationally over the muscular diplomacy that has accompanied China’s economic rise.
In a move that in retrospect may have been counterproductive, a senior Chinese official recently warned the Norwegian committee’s chairman that giving the prize to Mr. Liu would adversely affect relations between the two countries.
In their statement in Olso announcing the prize, the committee noted that China, now the world’s second-biggest economy, should be commended for lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and for broadening the scope of political participation. But they chastised the government for ignoring freedoms guaranteed in the Chinese Constitution.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

ACLU Sues S.C. Jail Over Bible-Only Policy : NPR

ACLU Sues S.C. Jail Over Bible-Only Policy : NPR
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing a South Carolina jail over a policy that prohibits inmates from having any reading materials other than the Bible.
The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday seeking to overturn the policy on behalf of Prison Legal News, a monthly journal on prison law. Since 2008, the magazine's publishers have tried to send magazines, letters and self-help books to inmates at the Berkeley County Detention Center in Moncks Corner, about 100 miles southeast of Columbia. Some were sent back, and in July, a jail official wrote an e-mail to the publishers referencing the jail's policy.
"Our inmates are only allowed to receive soft back bibles in the mail directly from the publisher," First Sgt. K. Habersham noted in the e-mail. "They are not allowed to have magazines, newspapers, or any other type of books."
ACLU staff attorney David Shapiro said the policy effectively bans prisoners from all books and violates a number of the magazine's and inmates' constitutional rights.
"The first [right it violates] is the right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment, which carries with it the right to receive materials and read," he said, adding that the policy also discriminates on the basis of religion.
The jail said Wednesday that it doesn't have a library and confirmed the only reading material its roughly 450 inmates are allowed to have are paperback Bibles. A spokesman for Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt said the sheriff had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.

Kimchi crisis raises tempers in South Korea

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 09:  South Korea...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeKimchi crisis raises tempers in South Korea
SEOUL, South Korea - Freakish fall weather has resulted in a national kimchi crisis, causing South Korean consumers to clutch at their purses, hearts and stomachs as they seek to deal with a shortage of the oblong-shaped cabbage used to make the ubiquitous spicy dish.
With heavy September rains ruining much of the Napa, or Chinese, cabbage crop, prices have jumped fourfold to more than $10 a head.

Sharron Angle Edges Past Harry Reid in Nevada Senate Race

Sharron Angle Edges Past Harry Reid in Nevada Senate Race
After being no more than 3 points apart in six previous match-ups dating back to early July, Republican Sharron Angle has edged ahead of Democrat Harry Reid by 50 percent to 46 percent with 2 percent preferring some other candidate and 2 percent undecided, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll conducted Oct. 5. However, that still is within the 4 point margin of error in this close race.
Both candidates continue to suffer from high negatives. Fifty-two percent of voters see both Angle and Reid unfavorably, and the number of those who say they regard them "very" unfavorably is 43 percent for both.

Judge bans key witness from detainee’s NY trial | Raw Story

Judge bans key witness from detainee’s NY trial | Raw Story
Openings delayed at Guantanamo detainee's trial after judge rules key witness can't testify
The first civilian trial for a Guantanamo Bay detainee was delayed Wednesday after a Manhattan judge told prosecutors they cannot call their star witness.
U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan blocked the government from calling a man who authorities said sold explosives to the defendant, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani. Defense lawyers say investigators only learned about the witness after Ghailani underwent harsh interrogation at a secret CIA-run camp overseas between 2004 and 2006.
"The court has not reached this conclusion lightly," Kaplan wrote. "It is acutely aware of the perilous nature of the world in which we live. But the Constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction."
The government immediately asked for a delay of the trial, which had been expected to begin with opening statements on Wednesday, so that it has time to appeal the ruling, should it decide to do so.

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg Wants Ban on Food Stamp Use for Soft Drinks

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg Wants Ban on Food Stamp Use for Soft Drinks
In New York they call it "soda," not pop, not a soft drink. Call it what you like, if Mayor Michael Bloomberg gets his way, NYC residents won't be able to use food stamps to buy their favorite carbonated beverages or other sugared drinks.
The request, made Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, would apply to 1.7 million food stamp recipients in the city's five boroughs. It's part of a nutrition push by the mayor that also includes advertisements, rules for food sold in schools and a failed bid to get a state tax on sugared drinks, the New York Times reports.
Bloomberg said his proposal would attack obesity and diabetes by giving "New York families more [food stamp] money to spend on foods and drinks that provide real nourishment."
But why single out low-income folks for a restrictive plan that libertarians, at least, would call social engineering? "The world would be better, I think, if people limited their purchases of sugared beverages," said George Hacker of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "However, there are a great many ethical reasons to consider why one would not want to stigmatize people on food stamps."

U.S. Tries to Calm Pakistan Over Airstrike on Its Border -

U.S. Tries to Calm Pakistan Over Airstrike on Its Border - "WASHINGTON — The Obama administration scrambled to halt a sharp deterioration in its troubled relationship with Pakistan on Wednesday, offering Pakistani officials multiple apologies for a helicopter strike on a border post that killed three Pakistani soldiers last week.
But even as the White House tried to mollify Pakistan, officials acknowledged that the uneasy allies faced looming tensions over a host of issues far larger than the airstrike and the subsequent closing of supply lines into Afghanistan.
American pressure to show progress in Afghanistan is translating into increased pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terrorist groups. It is also running up against Pakistan’s sensitivity about its sovereignty and its determination to play a crucial role in any reconciliation with the Taliban.
American and NATO officials said privately that the Pakistani government’s closing of a crucial border crossing might have made it easier for militants to attack backed-up tanker trucks carrying fuel through Pakistan to Afghanistan to support the American war effort.
Still, the unusual apologies, officials and outside analysts said, were intended to clear away the debris from the explosive events along the border, in hopes of maintaining Pakistani cooperation."

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Polls: Coons up big on O'Donnell -

Who knew? Turns out the Tea Party was just ano...Image by Felix_Nine via FlickrPolls: Coons up big on O'Donnell -

Chris Coons, the Democratic candidate for the Delaware Senate seat once held by Vice President Joe Biden, has a substantial lead over his GOP opponent Christine O'Donnell, according to two polls released Wednesday.
A University of Delaware poll shows Coons with a 19-point lead over tea party favorite O’Donnell. His advantage widens to 24 points — 61 to 37 percent — when the poll estimates the probable preferences of the 13 percent of respondents who said they were undecided.

High Court Struggles With Military Funerals Case : NPR

High Court Struggles With Military Funerals Case : NPR
The Supreme Court on Wednesday weighed the thorny First Amendment issues raised by a fundamentalist church bent on picketing U.S. service members' funerals and a grieving father who wants it to stop.
The justices heard oral arguments in the case brought by Albert Snyder of York, Pa., against the head of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. Snyder's son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, died in Iraq in 2006, and the congregation picketed his private funeral with signs declaring "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "God Hates the USA."
The church, led by the Rev. Fred Phelps, also posted a poem on its website that attacked Snyder and his ex-wife for the way they brought up Matthew.
Snyder wants the Supreme Court to reinstate a lower court's $5 million verdict against the church for intentional infliction of emotional distress and privacy violations.
Westboro members have picketed hundreds of military funerals to make their point that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are punishment for Americans' immorality, including tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the question is whether the First Amendment must tolerate "exploiting this bereaved family."
There was no clear answer from the court.
Justice Stephen Breyer said the Internet aspect of the case, Snyder v. Phelps, troubled him because the church was saying something "very obnoxious" about private individuals. "To what extent can they put that on the Internet?" Breyer said. "I don't know what the rules ought to be."
The case pits Snyder's right to grieve privately against the church members' right to express their views, no matter how offensive.

Panel: White House blocked oil spill figures

Panel: White House Blocked BP Oil Spill Figures

Monday, October 04, 2010

Chinese Premier's Slightly Unpersuasive Defense Of China's Internet Policy : The Two-Way : NPR

Wen Jiabao (温家宝), Chinese PremierImage via WikipediaChinese Premier's Slightly Unpersuasive Defense Of China's Internet Policy : The Two-Way : NPR
Once more your faith in the basic nature of political leaders is confirmed.
Foreign Policy caught Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's Sarah Palin moment in his interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria:
Wen Jiabao: China now has over 200 million Internet users, and the freedom of Internet in China is recognized by many, even from the west. Nonetheless, to uphold state security, China, like many countries in the world, has also imposed some proper restrictions. That is for the safety, that is for the overall safety of the country and for the freedom of the majority of the people.
I can also tell you on the Internet in China, you can have access to a lot of postings that are quite critical about the government.
It is exactly through reading these critical opinions on the Internet that we try to locate problems and further improve our work.
I don't think a system or a government should fear critical opinions or views. Only by heeding those critical views would it be possible for us to further improve our work and make further progress.
I frequently browse the Internet to learn about a situation.
Zakaria: What are your favorite sites?
Wen Jiabao: I've browsed a lot of Internet Web sites.