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Good-Bye California

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© Unknown
How The 'Progressives' Ruined The State

The last three weeks I have traveled about, taking the pulse of the more forgotten areas of central California. I wanted to witness, even if superficially, what is happening to a state that has the highest sales and income taxes, the most lavish entitlements, the near-worst public schools (based on federal test scores), and the largest number of illegal aliens in the nation, along with an overregulated private sector, a stagnant and shrinking manufacturing base, and an elite environmental ethos that restricts commerce and productivity without curbing consumption.

During this unscientific experiment, three times a week I rode a bike on a 20-mile trip over various rural roads in southwestern Fresno County . I also drove my car over to the coast to work, on various routes through towns like San Joaquin , Mendota, and Firebaugh. And near my home I have been driving, shopping, and touring by intent the rather segregated and impoverished areas of Caruthers, Fowler, Laton, Orange Cove, Parlier, and Selma . My own farmhouse is now in an area of abject poverty and almost no ethnic diversity; the closest elementary school (my alma mater, two miles away) is 94 percent Hispanic and 1 percent white, and well below federal testing norms in math and English.

Here are some general observations about what I saw (other than that the rural roads of California are fast turning into rubble, poorly maintained and reverting to what I remember seeing long ago in the rural South). First, remember that these areas are the ground zero, so to speak, of 20 years of illegal immigration. There has been a general depression in farming - to such an extent that the 20- to-100-acre tree and vine farmer, the erstwhile backbone of the old rural California , for all practical purposes has ceased to exist.

Che Guevara

Popular uprising in Yemen continues

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© Unknown
Yemeni protesters in Sanaa, January 27
As the uprising in Yemen enters its eighth day, four pro-democracy protesters have been killed in the southern port of Aden and scores were reported injured across the country.

On Thursday, riot police gunfire killed four protesters and injured 17 others in Aden, where around 3,000 people held pro-democracy rallies.

In capital Sanaa, 40 people were injured when some of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's loyalists, some of whom armed with guns, attacked a crowd of protesters.

Saleh has described the pro-democracy protesters that demand his ouster as "elements of a coup."

Meanwhile, the government has planned a million-man counter rally across the country in a show of support for the president.

Black Cat

Former Tunisian dictator Ben Ali 'in coma after stroke'

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© Unknown
Deposed Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Deposed Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has reportedly slipped into a coma after suffering a stroke and is currently hospitalized in Saudi Arabia.

French newspaper Le Monde reported on Thursday that Ben Ali had a stroke earlier this week in Saudi Arabia, where he fled to in January following his ouster.

The paper has described the deposed president's condition as "worrying," citing the blog of French journalist Nicolas Beau, a veteran reporter specializing in Tunisia.

The 74-year-old reportedly slipped into a coma on Tuesday while being treated in a Jeddah hospital after suffering a stroke.

The hospital in Jeddah, where Ben Ali was admitted under false identity, is reserved for Saudi princes, according to Le Monde.

Stormtrooper

24 protesters killed in Libya: Human Rights Watch

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© Unknown
Muammar Gaddafi, human?
At least 24 protesters have been killed and hundreds wounded in Libya during anti-government demonstrations, demanding the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators have flooded the streets of Libya's eastern city of Benghazi, as the wave of protests spread across North Africa and the Middle East.

Clashes have been reported between security forces and protesters. In the nearby eastern town of Benghazi al-Baida, people were bringing tents to camp out on the streets, Reuters reported on Friday.

Some pro-government activists have also been reported on the streets shouting slogans in support of Gaddafi.

In defiance to warnings by government forces against demonstrations, thousands of protesters took to streets of Benghazi and al-Baida on Thursday. At least six people were killed and more than forty were reported injured.

USA

The Shame Of Being An American...

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The United States government has overestimated the amount of shame that it and American citizens can live down. On February 15 "the indispensable people" had to suffer the hypocrisy of the U.S. Secretary of State delivering a speech about America's commitment to Internet freedom while the U.S. Department of Justice (sic) brought unconstitutional action against Twitter to reveal any connection between WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning, the American hero who, in keeping with the U.S. Military Code, exposed U.S. government war crimes and who is being held in punishing conditions not permitted by the U.S. Constitution. The corrupt U.S. government is trying to create a "conspiracy" case against Julian Assange in order to punish him for revealing U.S. government documents that prove beyond every doubt the mendacity of the U.S. government.

This is pretty bad, but it pales in comparison to the implications revealed on February 15 in the British newspaper, The Guardian.

The Guardian obtained an interview with "Curveball," the source for Colin Powell's speech of total lies to the United Nations about Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Colin Powell's speech created the stage for the illegal American invasion of Iraq. The Guardian describes "Curveball" as "the man who pulled off one of the greatest confidence tricks in the history of modern intelligence." As The Guardian puts it, "Curveball" "manufactured a tale of dread."

Family

Suit says US Scout leaders were warned of abuser

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© Associated Press/Rick Bowmer
Attorney Kelly Clark announces a new child sexual abuse lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011, in Portland, Ore. The lawsuit claims the leader of a Boy Scout troop in Oregon sponsored by the Mormon church sexually abused a boy in Portland in the 1980s.
Portland, Oregon - A Scouts leader in Portland, Oregon, subjected a boy to hundreds of instances of fondling, sodomy, oral sex and masturbation in the 1980s, even though Scout and Mormon Church leaders had been warned for years that the man was an abuser, a suit filed Tuesday alleges.

In all, the suit says, there were 14 reports of sexual abuse or inappropriate behaviour on the part of the man before the boy joined a Cub Scout den in 1981.

The suit seeking $5.2 million from the Scouts was filed by Portland lawyers Kelly Clark and Paul Mones, who won a major abuse suit against the Scouts last year and have continued to file similar suits.

The victim, Clark said, is a member of the armed forces, in his mid-30s who is "emotionally shut down" and trying to come to terms with the abuse, Clark said. He has a history of troubles with relationships and authorities, Clark said.

Briefcase

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.