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Chicago, US: Ex-FBI worker pleads guilty in theft scheme

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© unk
A former FBI evidence technician in northwest Indiana has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of making a false statement in connection with a scheme in which about $80,000 was taken from a storage vault.

The Times of Munster reports 36-year-old Melissa Sims of Lowell made the plea Tuesday in return for prosecutors dropping three counts of embezzlement and one count of witness tampering. She also committed to paying restitution.

She told U.S. Judge Philip Simon that she kept money that she had been directed to return to others. Sims work for about a decade in the FBI's Merrillville office, keeping inventory of evidence.

Attention

A Tipping Point Is Nearing

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© AFP
We are facing a tipping point. There will soon be a crisis affecting US citizens beyond any experienced since the Great Depression. And it may happen within the year. This past week three awful developments put a dagger into the hope for a growth-led recovery, which held promise of possibly averting a debt and currency implosion crushing the American economy.

The first was a little-noticed, but tragic, series of events in the newly elected House of Representatives. The speaker, Mr. Boehner, had given the task of fashioning the majority's spending cut agenda to Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), a rising conservative star representing the vocal wing of fiscal conservatives in the House. Promising to cut $100 billion of government spending, Mr. Boehner spoke before the elections of the urgency to produce immediately when Republicans took control.

Out of a $3.8 trillion government spending agenda, the wonkish Mr. Ryan, considered by many to be the best hope for fiscal conservatives, revealed proposed cuts of a whopping $74 billion. After some tense meetings, (referred to as a "revolt" by some media) newly elected conservative congressmen convinced the leadership to commit to unspecified cuts of an additional $26 billion. The actual "cuts" from any such legislation will, of course, be less once the appropriate political log rolling and deal-making are done- let's call it $50 billion (while the deficit grows by $26 billion during the week it takes to discuss it). So go the hopes for serious spending restraint from our newly elected wave of rabid, anti-big government Republicans. They may deliver cuts 1.3% of total spending that is itself approximately 90% greater than collected taxes. Let's mark this spending reduction effort as an epic fail, at a time when epic success is almost required for survival.

The second awful development to occur last week was the employment report from the Labor Department, describing employment conditions in the U.S. economy in January, 2011. The report was packed with statistics, all pointing to anemic growth with a modest pickup in manufacturing employment. The little-noticed (not by the bond market) aspect of the report was the "benchmark" revisions, an attempt to get the total picture more accurate each year than simply adding up all the monthly change numbers. This year's benchmark revisions showed two alarming things: a decline from previously reported employment in December 2010 of nearly 500,000 jobs, and a reduction in the workforce of a similar amount.

Info

Pakistan Official: U.S. Murder Suspect Has Immunity

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© The Associated Press
Jan. 28: Pakistani security officials escort Raymond A. Davis, a U.S. consulate employee, center, to a local court in Lahore, Pakistan.
A Pakistani official says that a U.S. consulate employee held for the murder of two men is shielded by diplomatic immunity, according to Reuters.

"We will present all relevant laws and rules about immunity before the court and will plead that prima facie it is a case of diplomatic immunity. But it is for the court to decide," the official told Reuters Wednesday, on condition of anonymity.

Raymond Davis has been in custody since Jan. 27, saying he shot the two Pakistanis in Lahore in self-defense as they tried to rob him.

The shooting has caused protests in Pakistan, with many calling for him to be tried and not handed over to the U.S. The Taliban has threatened retaliation if he is handed back to the U.S.

Pakistan's former foreign minister said Wednesday that legal advisers told him Davis did not qualify for blanket diplomatic immunity.

Attention

'Many Egypt protesters still missing'

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© unknown
Pro-democracy protesters sit down in front of Egyptian Army tanks to prevent them from moving at the protest site near Cairo's Liberation Square on February 7, 2011.
Human rights groups says hundreds of Egyptian people have gone missing in the recent popular revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.

A leading human rights group said on Tuesday that some people were being held by the armed forces.

"There are hundreds of detained, but information on their numbers is still not complete ... The army was holding detainees," AFP quoted Gamal Eid, a lawyer who heads the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, as saying.

The group says it was still receiving "information relating to the disappearances of many youths and citizens."

Eid urged the military to publish a list of detainees' names and to guarantee their rights.

Reports say at least 500 people were arrested in the recent popular protests that toppled the ruling regime.

Padlock

Cenk Uygur and Matt Taibbi: Why isn't Wall Street in jail?

MSNBC's Cenk Uygur and Matt Taibbi are aghast at the scale and depth of fraud that goes on day by day, steadily worsening until America's economy blows up. It's a class war, no doubt about it.


Handcuffs

Zero Tolerance Policies: Are the Schools Becoming Police States?

teacher spanking student
© n/a
"We end up punishing honor students to send a message to bad kids. But the data indicate that the bad kids are not getting the message." ~ Professor Russell Skiba

What we are witnessing, thanks in large part to zero tolerance policies that were intended to make schools safer by discouraging the use of actual drugs and weapons by students, is the inhumane treatment of young people and the criminalization of childish behavior.

Ninth grader Andrew Mikel is merely the latest in a long line of victims whose educations have been senselessly derailed by school administrators lacking in both common sense and compassion. A freshman at Spotsylvania High School in Virginia, Andrew was expelled in December 2010 for shooting a handful of small pellets akin to plastic spit wads at fellow students in the school hallway during lunch period. Although the initial punishment was only for 10 days, the school board later extended it to the rest of the school year. School officials also referred the matter to local law enforcement, which initiated juvenile proceedings for criminal assault against young Andrew.

Andrew is not alone. Nine-year-old Patrick Timoney was sent to the principal's office and threatened with suspension after school officials discovered that one of his LEGOs was holding a 2-inch toy gun. That particular LEGO, a policeman, was Patrick's favorite because his father is a retired police officer. David Morales, an 8-year-old Rhode Island student, ran afoul of his school's zero tolerance policies after he wore a hat to school decorated with an American flag and tiny plastic Army figures in honor of American troops. School officials declared the hat out of bounds because the toy soldiers were carrying miniature guns. A 7-year-old New Jersey boy, described by school officials as "a nice kid" and "a good student," was reported to the police and charged with possessing an imitation firearm after he brought a toy Nerf-style gun to school. The gun shoots soft ping pong-type balls.

Arrow Down

US: Borders Files Bankruptcy, Is Closing Up to 275 Stores

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© Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg
A stop sign stands in front of a Borders Group Inc. bookstore that closed last month in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Borders Group Inc., the second- biggest U.S. bookstore chain, filed for bankruptcy in New York today after management changes, job cuts and debt restructuring failed to make up for sagging book sales in the face of competition from Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Borders plans to keep operating and restructure with $505 million in so-called debtor-in-possession financing from lenders led by GE Capital, according to a statement. The 40-year-old chain listed debt of $1.29 billion and assets of $1.28 billion as of Dec. 25 in its Chapter 11 petition filed today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.

The reorganization is only possible if Borders immediately closes 200 of its 642 stores, according to an emergency motion to sell furniture and merchandise filed in Manhattan bankruptcy court today. Sales need to start no later than Feb. 19 to take advantage of the President's Day long weekend, and another 75 stores may need to close if concessions aren't won from landlords, the company said.
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© Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg
A Borders Group Inc. bookstore that closed last month stands in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

"Closing the stores right away is essential because the Debtors are losing approximately $2 million per week at the closing stores," lawyers for Borders wrote in court pleadings.

Family

People Power! US, Wisconsin Teachers Protest Ed Budget, Union Cuts

Green Bay protest
© H. Marc Larson/The Green Bay Press-Gazette/AP Photo
Area residents turn out during a rally to protest Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill, at the Brown County Courthouse in downtown Green Bay, Feb. 16, 2011.
Governor's Proposal Would Strip Teachers of Their Union Bargaining Rights

Thousands of students across Wisconsin have the day off, again, as teachers continue to protest Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to limit their union bargaining rights.

Roughly 30,000 protestors gathered in Madison on Wednesday and thousands continue to pour into the state Capitol today. At least 15 school districts across the state canceled class Thursday as teachers threatened to stay home or called in sick.

"We've seen student walk outs, faculty teach-ins, citizens setting up camp overnight in the rotunda. Since Monday, spontaneous rallies have popped up in every corner of the state, denouncing Walker's extremist agenda," the president of the American Federation of Teachers in Wisconsin, Bryan Kennedy explained.

Comment: Now note in the following video how Fox's Stuart Varney, is attacking this attempt of the teachers to stand up to their rights: with twisting facts and pushing the attention of the viewer away from the matter at hand


And read also: Wisconsin Governor Threatens To Replace Union Workers With National Guard


Eye 1

Wisconsin Governor Threatens To Replace Union Workers With National Guard

winsconsin union protests
© Associated Press
State workers in Wisconsin are protesting a statement by Republican Governor Scott Walker that, union reps say, amounts to a threat to use the National Guard to help break the public union.

Citing a $137 million budget deficit, Walker announced a plan last week which would essentially take away the public union's collective bargaining rights and slash benefits for state employees. Meanwhile, the share of corporate tax revenue funding the state government has fallen by half since 1981 and, according to Wisconsin Department of Revenue, two-thirds of corporations pay no taxes.

In the case of a walkout, Walker has put the National Guard on alert. Last week, he told reporters that the guard is "prepared" for "whatever the governor, their commander-in-chief, might call for," such as staffing prisons if guards go on strike.

Comment: Read also: People Power! US, Wisconsin Teachers Protest Ed Budget, Union Cuts


Megaphone

Algeria tried to block internet and Facebook as protest mounted

Algerian protesters
© EPA
Algerian protesters chant slogans during a demonstration in Algiers
Internet provision was blocked in parts of Algeria and there were claims of Facebook accounts being deleted as thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators were arrested in violent street demonstrations.

The Algerian government was blamed by protesters for preventing access to internet providers across much of the capital, Algiers, and other cities including Annaba for much of Saturday morning and afternoon in an attempt to prevent planned demonstrations gathering pace.

Plastic bullets and tear gas were used to try and disperse large crowds in major cities and towns, with 30,000 riot police taking to the streets in Algiers alone.

There were also reports of journalists being targeted by state-sponsored thugs to stop reports of the disturbances being broadcast to the outside world.