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JFK mini series may never be shown in US

Image
© Rex/Getty

Jackie Kennedy (L) who is to be played in a new film by Katie holmes (R)
A £20 million mini series about slain John F Kennedy is unlikely to ever be shown in the US after pressure from his surviving family members.

Maria Shriver and Caroline Kennedy are reported to have lobbied hard for the History Channel to pull the plug on the series.

The eight part film, which stars Katie Holmes as First Lady Jackie Kennedy and Greg Kinnear as JFK, was due to air in the US later this year.

But TV insiders said it was unlikely the series will ever be shown after being branded historically "inaccurate".

Among the most controversial parts of the film were scenes depicting JFK as a "sex fiend" and telling his brother of his need to sleep with women other than his wife.

The series was billed as "an inside look behind the secret doors of the White House," which also "unveils the secrets of the Kennedy family."

Eye 2

UK: MPs' expenses: Eric Illsley pleads guilty to dishonestly claiming more than £14,000

Eric Illsley MP fraud
© Anthony Devlin - Associated PPress
British Member of Parliament Eric Illsley walks outside Southwark Crown Court in London Tuesday Jan. 11, 2011 . The MP pleaded guilty to charges connected to the country's lawmakers' expense scandal. Illsley told the London court Tuesday that he now admitted he dishonestly claimed about 14,000 pounds (US$22,000). Illsely had previously denied three charges of false accounting. Justice John Saunders said he will be sentenced next month.
A House of Commons legislator said Wednesday he will quit after pleading guilty to charges over Britain's expense claims scandal - avoiding an embarrassing ouster under Parliamentary rules, or in a vote of lawmakers.

Eric Illsley confirmed in a statement that he planned to stand down within the next month, which will trigger a special election in the northern England district he has served since 1987.

At a court hearing on Tuesday, the 55-year-old pleaded guilty to three charges of false accounting and acknowledged he had dishonestly claimed about 14,000 pounds ($22,000) in expense payments.

He will be sentenced next month and, if jailed for 12 months or more, would have been expelled from the House of Commons under the chamber's rules.

Lawmakers had also begun considering a vote to remove Illsley from his seat in Parliament whatever the sentence imposed by the courts, seeking to invoke a rare sanction against miscreant legislators not used since 1954.

Pistol

US: The Fruits of Political Extremism

The motives of the gunman who shot the US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six bystanders in Tuscon on Saturday are unclear. We do not know whether the youth who has been arrested for the crime, Jared Loughner, was driven by political grievance or mental illness. But to many in America this looks like an atrocity that was waiting to happen.

Since Barack Obama entered the White House two years ago, the American right has adopted partisan rhetoric of the most reckless kind. A year ago, Sharron Angle, the right-wing Tea Party favourite and Nevada's Republican Senate nominee, warned that "if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies". This was a reference to the right of US citizens to bear arms. Meanwhile, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, has sought to motivate supporters with slogans such as "Don't retreat - instead, reload".

The vitriol has been alarmingly personal too. President Obama has seen his place of birth and religion repeatedly questioned by right-wing "shock jocks" and political opponents alike. And Ms Palin featured Ms Giffords, along with 19 other Democratic Congressional Representatives, on an electoral "hit-list". The Congresswoman explicitly warned about the use of rifle cross-hairs on Ms Palin's website, saying: "When people do that, they've got to realise that there are consequences to that action." Those words now look chillingly prescient.

USA

US: Saunders Fundraises Off Arizona Murders

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Bernie Saunders
There has been no shortage of individuals and institutions that have sought to capitalize on the shootings in Tucson. Add Vermont senator Bernie Sanders to that list.

This afternoon Sanders sent out a fundraising appeal, seeking to raise money to fight Republicans and other "right-wing reactionaries" responsible for the climate that led to the shooting.

He writes:
Given the recent tragedy in Arizona, as well as the start of the new Congress, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few words with political friends in Vermont and throughout the country. I also want to thank the very many supporters who have begun contributing online to my 2012 reelection campaign at www.bernie.org. There is no question but that the Republican Party, big money corporate interests and right-wing organizations will vigorously oppose me. Your financial support now and in the future is much appreciated.

Mr. Potato

Dem Congressman Who Called for GOP Gov. to be Put Against a Wall and Shot Now Pleads for Civility

Ex-Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., pens an op-ed in the New York Times today about the proper political response to this weekend's tragedy. I wholeheartedly support the former Congressman (Kanjorski lost his seat in November) when he argues that, following this weekend's shooting, Congressmen need to remain open and accessible to the public. However, Kanjorski is rather hypocritical when he climbs up on his soapbox:
We all lose an element of freedom when security considerations distance public officials from the people. Therefore, it is incumbent on all Americans to create an atmosphere of civility and respect in which political discourse can flow freely, without fear of violent confrontation.

Bad Guys

Government Experiments on U.S. Soldiers: Shocking Claims Come to Light in New Court Case

CIA seal
© logo
Their stories are a staple of conspiracy culture: broken men, suffering hallucinations and near-total amnesia, who say they are victims of secret government mind-control experiments. Think Liev Schreiber in The Manchurian Candidate or Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory. Journalists are a favorite target for the paranoid delusions of this population. So is Gordon Erspamer - and the San Francisco lawyer's latest case isn't helping him to fend off the tinfoil-hat crowd. He has filed suit against the CIA and the US Army on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans of America and six former American soldiers who claim they are the real thing: survivors of classified government tests conducted at the Army's Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland between 1950 and 1975. "I get a lot of calls," he says. "There are a lot of crazy people out there who think that somebody from Mars is controlling their behavior via radio waves." But when it comes to Edgewood, "I'm finding that more and more of those stories are true!"

That government scientists conducted human experiments at Edgewood is not in question. "The program involved testing of nerve agents, nerve agent antidotes, psychochemicals, and irritants," according to a 1994 General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) report (pdf). At least 7,800 US servicemen served "as laboratory rats or guinea pigs" at Edgewood, alleges Erspamer's complaint, filed in January in a federal district court in California. The Department of Veterans Affairs has reported that military scientists tested hundreds of chemical and biological substances on them, including VX, tabun, soman, sarin, cyanide, LSD, PCP, and World War I-era blister agents like phosgene and mustard. The full scope of the tests, however, may never be known. As a CIA official explained to the GAO, referring to the agency's infamous MKULTRA mind-control experiments, "The names of those involved in the tests are not available because names were not recorded or the records were subsequently destroyed." Besides, said the official, some of the tests involving LSD and other psychochemical drugs "were administered to an undetermined number of people without their knowledge."

Erspamer's plaintiffs claim that, although they volunteered for the Edgewood program, they were never adequately informed of the potential risks and continue to suffer debilitating health effects as a result of the experiments. They hope to force the CIA and the Army to admit wrongdoing, inform them of the specific substances they were exposed to, and provide access to subsidized health care to treat their Edgewood-related ailments. Despite what they describe as decades of suffering resulting from their Edgewood experiences, the former soldiers are not seeking monetary damages; a 1950 Supreme Court decision, the Feres case, precludes military personnel from suing the federal government for personal injuries sustained in the line of duty. The CIA's decision to use military personnel as test subjects followed the court's decision and is an issue Erspamer plans to raise at trial. "Suddenly, they stopped using civilian subjects and said, 'Oh, we can get these military guys for free,'" he says. "The government could do whatever it wanted to them without liability. We want to bring that to the attention of the public, because I don't think most people understand that." (Asked about Erspamer's suit, CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf would say only that the agency's human testing program has "been thoroughly investigated, and the CIA fully cooperated with each of the investigations.")

Dollar

US Federal Reserve Makes $80.9 Billion Profit

Bernanke
© Reuters
After the first round of QE in March of last year, the Federal Reserve, chaired by Ben Bernanke, embarked on controversial second round in November
It seems that being the lender of last resort in a financial crisis has its benefits. The US Federal Reserve recorded $80.9bn (£52bn) profit last year thanks to the interest payments on the vast amount of US government and private debt it now owns.

More than $75bn of the total, which it hands over to the Treasury, came from income generated by its holdings of Treasury bonds, mortgage-backed securities and debt issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The 65pc jump in profits compared with 2009 comes as the Fed's quantitative easing (QE) programme has pushed the size of its balance sheet to almost $2.5 trillion. After the first round of QE in March of last year, the Fed embarked on controversial second round in November designed to boost the US economy's stuttering recovery. Critics say QE is the wrong policy to try to cut unemployment with, and it risks sparking inflation as more money chases investments.

Bad Guys

Iran Says More Than 10 Suspects Linked to Mossad

mossad graphic
© Latoff
Iran's intelligence chief said Tuesday that more than 10 people arrested in connection with last year's killing of a nuclear physicist were linked to the Mossad and he warned that Israel's spy agency was out to roll back scientific progress in Muslim nations.

Heidar Moslehi revealed few new details to bolster the claim a day earlier that Iran's probe into the killing had led its agents to infiltrate the Mossad. He did not say exactly how many people were arrested but accused "more than 10" of them of belonging to networks linked to the Israeli agency. Officials also displayed for reporters several handguns - one fitted with a silencer - that they said were seized from the suspects.

Tehran University physics professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi was killed by a bomb-rigged motorcycle that exploded outside his house as he was leaving for work in January 2010. Possible explanations for why he was targeted have never been clear, particularly as he had no known link to Iran's nuclear program.

In November, a pair of mysterious bomb attacks in Tehran killed one nuclear scientist and wounded another - both of whom appeared deeply involved in the country's atomic work.

Speaking to reporters, Moslehi said Israel was out to stop nations in the region from making scientific advancements.

Gear

Hillary Clinton Compares Gabrielle Giffords Shooting to 9/11 Attacks

Hillary Clinton
© Associated Press
Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton compared the man who shot Gabrielle Giffords to Islamist terrorists and the 9/11 attackers and said the incident showed America and the Arab world faced similar problems.

In a television broadcast filmed before students in Abu Dhabi, Mrs Clinton was asked why the 9/11 terror attacks, the work of a handful of men, had been allowed to colour American views of a whole people.

She replied that America was "proud" of its many Muslim citizens and public servants, and said that the media exaggerated the voices of those who presented hostile views of the Muslim and Arab worlds.

She then raised the shooting at the weekend of the Arizona Democratic congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords.

"We have extremists in our country," she said. "A wonderful and incredibly brave young woman congress member was just shot by extremists in our country.

"We have the same kinds of problems, so rather than standing off of each other we should work to try and prevent the extremists wherever they are from being able to commit violence."

Ascribing the Arizona shootings to political extremism rather than the work of a mentally deranged loner has already proved controversial, and President Barack Obama avoided doing so directly in his address to the American people afterwards.

Mrs Clinton may be taking an even bigger risk in comparing the attack, even obliquely, to al-Qaeda's war on America.

Dollar

A yacht to smile about: Billionaire Google founder buys 193-foot boat for $45million ... but he bought it second-hand

Google mogul Larry Page has joined the billionaire boat owner club by splashing out $45m on his own super yacht - but unlike many moguls, he bought his yacht used.

Page, 37, picked up the 193-ft boat 'Senses' which comes with a helipad, gym, multi-level sun decks, ten luxurious suites, a crew of 14 and interior design by famed French designer Philippe Starck.
Image
© Unknown
The 193-foot Senses first set sail in 1999.