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US: Million-plus jobless Californians are facing benefit cutoff

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© Heidi Schumann/The New York Time
More than 1 million jobless California workers could have their unemployment insurance benefits cut off soon if Congress does not continue federally financed benefit extensions of up to 99 weeks, state officials said Wednesday.

At least 100,000 of those workers, those who have been unemployed the longest, could see a cutoff of benefits as early as the first week of January.

The state has more than 2 million unemployed workers, and 1.1 million of them are now collecting benefits -- either the 26 weeks of state-financed payments, or the up to 73 weeks of federally financed extended benefits in five tiers, in order, of 20, 14, 13, six and 20 weeks. Benefits range from $40 to $450 a week.

In all, California is paying out about $1.2 billion in state and federal unemployment insurance benefits a month.

Stormtrooper

IDF soldiers: Problem in West Bank isn't Palestinains, it's Jews

Nadav Bigelman of Haifa.
© Abdulla Shama
Nadav Bigelman of Haifa. 'It’s the same people who bring you cake at 2 A.M.'

'Our purpose there is to protect the Jews, but they generate many of the problems. It's very confusing,' says combat soldier discharged last year.

Recent attacks by right-wing extremists on Israel Defense Forces soldiers in the West Bank are just one manifestation of the violence to which many have been subjected during their service in recent years. Both regular and reserve soldiers, including junior officers, spoke about the complicated situation they find themselves in: having to protect the settlers while at the same time being attacked by them.

"Our purpose there is to protect the Jews, but they generate many of the problems. It's very confusing," said Nadav Bigelman, a combat soldier who was discharged last year.

"You understand pretty quickly what is going on, but it's not so clear what you are supposed to do about it," he said. "We never received an order telling us what to do when a Jewish boy throws stones at a Palestinian. Are we allowed to detain him or not? There's a gap between the battalion commander's instructions and what happens on the ground.

"It's the same people who bring you cake when you're on guard at 2 A.M.," he added. "What, are you going to arrest their kid when he throws stones the next day?"

Wall Street

Plan B - How to Loot Nations and Their Banks Legally

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© foolscrow.wordpress.com
Is there a plan B? That question is usually asked of governments regarding their attempts to 'save' the banks domiciled in their country. But has anyone asked if the banks have a plan B?

Does anyone think that if our governments fail to keep to their austerity targets and fail to keep bailing out the banking sector, that the banks will just shrug and say, "Well, thanks for trying" and accept their fate? Or do you think the banks might have a Plan B of their own?

First let's be clear about Plan A. That plan is to enforce an era of long-term austerity cuts to public services, in part to cut public expenditure so as to free up money for spending on the banks, but perhaps more importantly to further atrophy public services so that private providers can take over. A privatization of services which will bring great profits and cash flow to the private sector and to the banks who finance them, and a further general victory for those who feel that private debts rather than public taxes should be what underpins our national life and social contract.

Cheeseburger

Stifled by Corporate America, The Young Turn to Farming

organic farmers
© Jim Mone/AP Photo
Laura Frerichs, 31, is shown with husband Andy carrying infant son Eli on her organic farm outside of Hutchinson, Minn.
While fresh demographic information on U.S. farmers won't be available until after the next agricultural census is done next year, there are signs more people in their 20s and 30s are going into farming: Enrollment in university agriculture programs has increased, as has interest in farmer-training programs.

The young entrepreneurs typically cite two reasons for going into farming: Many find the corporate world stifling and see no point in sticking it out when there's little job security; and demand for locally grown and organic foods has been strong enough that even in the downturn they feel confident they can sell their products.

Farming is inherently risky: Drought, flooding, wind and other weather extremes can all destroy a year's work. And with farmland averaging $2,140 per acre across the U.S. but two to four times that much in the Midwest and California, the start-up costs can be daunting.

Still, agriculture fared better than many parts of the economy during the recession, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts record profits for farmers as a whole this year.

Che Guevara

Hugo Chávez Says Obama is "A Clown and An Embarrassment"

Hugo Chávez with Ahmadinejad
© Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images
Hugo Chávez with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: the Venezuelan president has been criticised for his links to Iran.
Venezuelan president makes comments after US leader criticises his links with Iran and Cuba in a newspaper interview

On the eve of his first official overseas trip since being diagnosed with cancer, Hugo Chávez has launched a blistering attack on Barack Obama, describing the US president as a "clown" and an "embarrassment".

"Focus on governing your country, which you've turned into a disaster," the Venezuelan president told state TV on Monday. Chávez touched down in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, on Tuesday for a summit of Mercosur, South America's leading trade bloc.

Chávez's comments followed a rare and strongly worded interview with Obama published by the Caracas-based El Universal newspaper. The American president criticised Venezuela's business and political links with Iran and Cuba, and raised concerns at what he called threats to the country's democracy.

Stormtrooper

Canada: Edmonton Woman Alleges Assault by Mall Guards

People 'who have caused problems in the past' not allowed at West Edmonton Mall

A young Edmonton woman alleges she was assaulted by security guards at West Edmonton Mall last year in a case in which she was initially charged with assault with a weapon - her jacket.


Larissa Sharphead, 20, was taken to a holding cell by guards on Oct. 25, 2010, after she and her sister had too much to drink at the Empire Ballroom, a nightclub inside the massive shopping centre.

Sharphead, who was under a 10-year ban from mall premises, was picked up by the guards just outside the Bourbon Street entrance. Surveillance video of what transpired inside the cell afterwards was obtained by CBC News.

Die

Investors Lose Faith in Stocks as Billions Pour Out of Funds

hundred dollar bill
Investors appeared to have lost faith in stocks this year.

Just over a week ago, equity mutual funds globally had the second-biggest one-day outflow of money in 2011, capping four straight weeks of net redemptions, according to data from EPFR Global.

Worldwide, investors have yanked $34 billion out of equity funds this year and put $75 billion into bonds.

In the U.S., stock funds, including both exchange-traded funds and mutual funds, squeaked out a miniscule $4 billion net inflow this year, while fixed income-focused managers collected a monster $86 billion, according to EPFR.

Burned by two bubbles in the last decade and facing the second global financial crisis in three years, investors simply don't have the risk appetite for stocks.

Newspaper

UK Phone Hacking: Morgan refuses to name McCartney voicemail source

Piers Morgan
© Associated Press
In this image made from video, CNN star interviewer Piers Morgan answers questions Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011
CNN celebrity interviewer Piers Morgan refused to disclose details Tuesday about his most damning link to Britain's phone hacking scandal - his acknowledgment that he once listened to a phone message left by Paul McCartney for his then-wife Heather Mills.

In an eagerly awaited appearance before the U.K.'s media ethics committee, Morgan, who replaced Larry King on CNN, was visibly tense, sometimes hostile and often rejected characterizations of his actions made by inquiry lawyers as "nonsense."

The stakes were high for Morgan. More than a dozen journalists have been arrested, senior executives with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. media empire have lost their jobs, and top U.K. police officers have resigned over their failure to tackle the phone hacking scandal. His testimony Tuesday was given under oath, and Morgan could be subject to criminal proceedings if he was found to have violated any British laws.

Stormtrooper

Dispatches From Cairo: The Worst So Far

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© AP / Nasser Nasser
Egyptian protesters run through the streets of Cairo as they are chased by army soldiers.
We asked Lauren Unger-Geoffroy, an Arabic-speaking American who lives in Cairo, to share her perspective of life in Egypt after the revolution. In this entry, she writes about a new surge in army brutality in suppressing protest.

Foreboding and warning. Egypt should have felt it coming. This was the worst so far. Hope is gone. The people are in despair. As our imam shouted Friday at noon prayer: Will it get worse before we have cleansed the land of Satan?

Authorities are now accusing 164 people of being involved in the new violence and interrogations have begun, with even injured people being questioned in hospitals. Many of the suspects are under 19 years old. Some are children, street kids accused of throwing Molotov cocktails. Some of the doctors at Omar Makram field hospital are being detained. At least one of the detainees has died from his injuries; activists accuse the army and security forces of torturing him in the headquarters of the national Cabinet.

Yet in my neighborhood Thursday night, a time when most Egyptians still were unaware of the beginning of this catastrophe, there was a hopeful festiveness stemming from the opening of a restaurant by a famous takeout food company. Blasting Egyptian dance music through the mosque speakers till midnight, the event was like a wedding celebration, full of lights and decorations.

The spanking-new restaurant brought some prestige to our garbage-strewn and unpaved market area. Groups of cute girls, dressed up, and guys from a nicer area a few blocks away are showing up for El Shabrawy takeout.

People

People more likely to lie when texting, study finds

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© New York Times
A new paper to be published next year in the Journal of Business Ethics finds that people are more likely to lie via text compared to face-to-face communications, video conferencing or audio chat.

The paper is based on a study of 140 students that were grouped into pairs and asked to engage in a role-playing game. One student took on the role of a stockbroker, the other student played a buyer. Researchers told the "stockbroker" that the stock they had to sell would lose 50% of its value in one week. They also gave the "stockbroker" a financial incentive to sell as much of the bad stock to the "buyer" as possible.

Researchers found that the stockbrokers were most likely to engage in duplicitous behavior -- either lying about the quality of the stock, or not mentioning how bad it was -- if they conducted the buy/sell conversation via text message.

They were most likely to be honest about the quality of the stock if the conversation happened via video, which beat out both face-to-face communication and audio chat.