N. Korea claims LWR progress

PYONGYANG, North Korea, Nov. 30 (UPI) — North Korea is making progress both in low enriched uranium and construction of a light water reactor, its foreign ministry said Wednesday.

The announcement came as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, proceeding to Myanmar for an official visit, stopped in South Korea’s Busan city, where she told reporters North Korea should take concrete steps toward denuclearization.

North Korea’s official news agency KCNA quoted its foreign ministry spokesman as saying the activities are for peaceful purposes.

“The construction of experimental LWR and the low enriched uranium for the provision of raw materials are progressing apace … ,” said the report, carried by China’s Xinhua news agency.

The spokesman said peaceful use of nuclear energy is the legitimate right of a sovereign state under international law.

He said concerns should be addressed through the six-party talks and called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify North Korea’s intentions.

The six-party talks begun in 2003 among the two Koreas, Japan, China, Russia and the United States for North Korea’s nuclear disarmament are currently stalled. Lately, the North has said it is ready to resume the talks without preconditions.

The latest North Korean announcement could have an impact diplomatic efforts to resume the talks, Yonhap news agency said.

South Korea and the United States want the North to first demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization by closing its uranium enrichment plant before talks can resume.

In Busan, Clinton said: “The United States stands with our ally and we look to North Korea to take concrete steps that promote peace and stability and denuclearization.”

Clashes in Tahrir end 2nd day of voting

CAIRO, Nov. 30 (UPI) — More than 100 people were injured in clashes in Cairo’s Tahrir Square late Tuesday as the second day of voting in parliamentary elections came to an end.

Mohammed el-Sherbeeny, a Health Ministry spokesman, told Ahram Online Wednesday 108 people were injured, 10 seriously, in clashes that erupted when scores of armed men attacked protesters staging a sit-in in the square.

“I can see Molotov [cocktails] thrown into the square and I hear gunshots fired. There are also people standing on top of 6 October bridge, which overlooks the square, and they are throwing stones at protesters,” Mohammed el-Badry, a member of the General Secretariat of the Revolution, told Nile TV. He said two people were shot in the eye and were taken to nearby field hospitals for treatment. No military forces or police intervened, he said.

The results of the two-day vote in the first stage of parliamentary elections are expected to be published Wednesday.

The al-Ahram and al-Shorouk newspapers predicted the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party will dominate. The British daily The Guardian said an initial count shows the FJP is in the lead with 40 percent of the vote and the Salafists are in second.

Obama’s schedule for Wednesday, Nov. 30

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (UPI) — President Obama travels to Pennsylvania Wednesday to discuss extending and expanding the payroll tax cut, the White House said.

The daily schedule indicates Obama will:

— Receive the daily briefing.

— Travel to Scranton, Pa., to meet a family then speak at Scranton High School, urging Congress to act to extend and expand the payroll tax cut.

— Travel to New York, where he will deliver remarks at several campaign events.

Malaysia bans street demonstrations

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Nov. 30 (UPI) — Malaysia’s Parliament, despite a walkout of by opposition party members and a protest rally outside by lawyers, passed a bill that bans street demonstrations.

The National Front coalition government of Prime Minister Najib Razak claimed the Peaceful Assembly Act relaxes legal requirements for protest groups to have demonstrations that will be allowed in designated assembly areas such as athletics stadiums and public halls.

Unsuitable locations for demonstrations are deemed to be anywhere close to schools, hospitals, places of worship, airports or gasoline stations.

The act also bars people under 15 and foreigners from attending demonstrations. The act bars people under 21 from organizing rallies and protests.

Demonstrators and organizers can be fined up to $6,200 for breaking the law.

A previous requirement for organizers to give police at least 30 days notice of a demonstration has been shortened to 10 days.

Once a demonstration is approved, anyone objecting to it would have 24 hours to lodge a protest with police. Previously there was a five-day period to formally object to the demonstration.

Police also must move faster to investigate an objection and come to a conclusion about allowing a demonstration to continue. They must respond to the objection within five days, not 12 as before.

However, police were given increased powers to restrict aspects of demonstrations, including time and place, in an effort to maintain public order.

Government ministers claimed the act strikes a balance between the right to protest and public security.

But opposition party members cried foul during the heated debate in the Dewan Rakyat, Malaysia’s lower house of Parliament, and walked out before the vote, which went in the government’s favor, a report by the national news agency Bernama said.

During a street protest by around 500 lawyers before the vote, marchers shouted “freedom to assemble” and “freedom to the people.” Police stopped them from entering the area immediately around Parliament, the report said.

The government’s move to get a greater handle on protests before they hit the streets comes after a large-scale anti-government demonstration in Kuala Lumpur in July. Estimates of the number of protesters ranged from 5,000-10,000.

Although no deaths were reported, hundreds of people were injured as police used water cannon and fired tear gas into the crowds. Police also took more than 1,400 protesters into custody, including several opposition party members.

Most protesters were released the next day police and the government came under much criticism for what demonstrators said was an unwarranted heavy-handedness.

Protesters were demanding electoral reforms and the government stands down before the next scheduled general election in 2013. Part of the Najib government’s lack of popularity comes from reforms that include cutting fuel subsidies.

There also is concern about plans to do away with some affirmative-action programs — in place since the early 1970s and designed to improve daily life for the country’s indigenous Malay majority over people of Chinese and Indian extraction. Malays made up most of the country’s poorest people.

The rally organizers in July said Malaysia’s electoral system is plagued with fraud, a BBC report said at the time. Longer campaign periods are needed with automatic voter registration and equality of access for opposition groups to the largely government-controlled mainstream media.

The Peaceful Assembly Act is expected to get the nod through the upper Parliament where the National Front also has a majority of seats.

2 GOP lawmakers: Raise top earners’ taxes

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (UPI) — A Republican plan to offset an extension of a U.S. payroll tax cut could involve raising taxes on high-income people, two Republican senators said.

The party’s plan to cover revenue lost by extending a 2 percent cut in the amount of money employees pay for Social Security taxes could involve a small tax increase for some high-income people who meet certain criteria, Senate Finance Committee member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said Tuesday.

His remarks, cited by The New York Times, offered no further details, and his press office did not immediately respond to a United Press International inquiry late Tuesday night.

Most Republican lawmakers signed a “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” promoted by conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist, promising never, under any circumstances, to support a tax increase.

Senate Appropriations Committee member Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she supported the “millionaires surtax” but wanted to exempt small businesses from increased taxes.

“I don’t think we should be imposing additional taxes on working families at a time when the economy is so fragile,” she said Tuesday in support of extending the payroll tax cut.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday Republicans would propose a bill this week to extend the payroll tax cut, but it would do it in a way that would not make up for the lost revenue by surcharging million-dollar incomes, which Democrats proposed.

“At the end of the day, there’s a lot of sentiment in our conference, clearly a majority sentiment, for continuing the payroll tax relief that we enacted a year ago in these tough times,” he said at a news conference. “But we believe in these tough times we ought to pay for it.”

He wouldn’t provide details of the GOP plan, but predicted Congress would extend the tax cut, which expires Dec. 31.

The Democrats’ bill would not simply extend the tax cut but also expand it.

Payroll taxes, cut last year to 4.2 percent from 6.2 percent, would be lowered further to 3.1 percent, providing middle-class families with as much as $1,500 more in their paychecks next year, Democrats said.

The bill would also partially extend the tax break to employers, a move intended to encourage hiring.

The price tag of the bill is about $265 billion, Democratic aides said.

Democrats proposed paying for it in part with a 3.25 percent surtax on annual income over $1 million.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pointed to polls showing most Republican voters say wealthy Americans should increase how much taxes they pay.

“The only place in America that people don’t want a fair system is Republicans here in the Senate,” Reid said at a news conference Tuesday. “Republicans outside this Capitol think the rich should bear some of the burdens we have in our country today.”

Democrats pointed out that Republicans have long insisted tax cuts keep money in the hands of Americans who then funnel it back into the economy, negating the need to offset the revenue loss.

Turkey poised to slap sanctions on Syria

ANKARA, Turkey, Nov. 30 (UPI) — Turkey was likely to impose sanctions on Syria for its military crackdown on anti-regime protesters, the semi-official Anatolian News Agency reported.

“Our work is complete and the sanctions are ready,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference Tuesday, without saying when he would announce the sanctions, although the report said the sanctions would be announced Wednesday.

He said Turkey, one of Syria’s most important trading partners, would do nothing that would harm ordinary Syrians. Total trade between the two countries was $2.4 billion last year and, until Syria’s uprising began, was forecast to rise 30 percent this year, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Davutoglu gave no further details about the sanctions other than to say they would differ in “nuance” from Sunday’s sanctions announced by the Arab League.”

The Arab League sanctions include a travel ban on top Syrian officials and a freeze on assets related to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Davutoglu told the news conference creating a military buffer zone inside Syria along the border with Turkey was “not on the agenda.”

Earlier in the day, he told Turkey’s private Kanal 24 TV station such a buffer zone would be an option if tens of thousands of refugees pour over the border into Turkey. He said Turkey was “ready for all possible scenarios” in Syria but hadn’t considered a military intervention and didn’t want to.

A Turkish newspaper reported Wednesday Turkey’s largest petrochemical company, Tupra, ended a 17-year-old oil-purchase deal with Syrian government-controlled oil company, Sytrol.

The newspaper said the deal was terminated this month.

Britain to hit Iran with new sanctions

LONDON, Nov. 30 (UPI) — London will hit Tehran with new sanctions, officials said, after Iranians protesting prior sanctions stormed the British Embassy as security forces looked on.

The British sanctions, to be imposed as early as Wednesday, will be “robust and resolute,” government officials told the Daily Mail.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague — who with Prime Minister David Cameron expressed outrage at the Tuesday siege — promised “other, further and serious consequences” and said he would address Parliament Wednesday.

An additional consequence could be other European nations recalling their ambassadors, removing a key channel of communication, The Washington Post reported.

The European Union is to debate new sanctions against Iran Thursday.

Europe remains one of Iran’s largest trading partners and a key conduit between the country and Washington, which severed ties after the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was overtaken Nov. 4, 1979.

In the British Embassy siege — which evoked memories of the U.S. Embassy takeover that led to a 444-day hostage crisis — young Iranians surged through lines of riot police, ransacked embassy offices, seized classified documents and briefly held six staff members captive, video by the official Iranian English-language TV channel indicated.

The TV channel broadcast the entire assault, which Western diplomats said was led by paramilitary Basij brigades controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and loyal to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The Islamist brigades, known for policing morals and suppressing dissident gatherings, consist of young Iranians who volunteer, often in exchange for official benefits.

The force of about 50, chanting “Death to England,” ripped the gilded British crest off the embassy, tore down the Union Jack, replacing it with the Iranian flag, tore up portraits of Queen Elizabeth II and threw satellite dishes off the roofs of embassy buildings.

They smashed windows and scattered thousands of papers onto the street, where British, U.S. and Israeli flags were set on fire. Thousands of student protesters rallied in front of the embassy.

About 200 to 300 other rioters got into Britain’s 50-acre diplomatic compound, housing British diplomats and their families, in the northern Tehran neighborhood of Gholhak, a few miles north of the embassy. The compound, called Qolhak Garden, is also home to the Tehran War Cemetery and has been at the center of diplomatic tension between Britain and Iran over its ownership and management.

Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency said police officers freed six British staff members who had been surrounded by the Qolhak Garden protesters, adding 12 protesters were arrested.

The attacks, to protest economic sanctions against Iran’s suspect nuclear energy program, ended after several hours.

Besides Britain — which called the attacks “outrageous and indefensible” and said it upbraided Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in the “strongest terms” — the United States, France, EU and U.N. Security Council condemned the assault.

Russia, Iran’s closest ally, described it as “unacceptable and deserving condemnation.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry expressed “regret” over the “unacceptable behavior by [a] few demonstrators” in spite of preventive efforts, and promised an investigation with wrongdoers prosecuted.

Occupy LA braces for imminent eviction

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 30 (UPI) — Los Angeles police put up traffic barriers around City Hall and issued a citywide tactical alert as Occupy LA protesters braced for an imminent eviction.

Several people reported seeing large numbers of police cars driving into Dodger Stadium, adjacent to downtown Los Angeles, where officers were apparently gathering, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday night.

The tactical alert was “due to unusual occurrence in downtown LA,” a police e-mail said.

The e-mail did not indicate plans to enforce an eviction of protesters from the City Hall lawn.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had set a 12:01 a.m. PST Monday deadline for protesters to clear their tents and other possessions from the camp on City Hall’s south lawn. Police withdrew from the area at dawn Monday without trying to break up the encampment.

Police Chief Charlie Beck said Monday officers would enforce the closure when they could “do it effectively and efficiently and with minimal force.”

At an Occupy LA meeting Tuesday evening, organizers said it was “very probable” some kind of raid would occur overnight, the Times said. They did not reveal the source of the information.

About half the nearly 500 tents originally at the encampment remained on the lawn around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Villaraigosa — a former union organizer and former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union — told the Times Tuesday he and Beck had made the decision to allow overnight camping on the lawn in the hope of charting a “different path” with protesters.

That was in part because he respects many of their views, he said.

But he decided to order Occupy LA to leave the lawn after he learned children were at the encampment, he said. He was also concerned about public health risks and damage to the lawn, which Villaraigosa estimated would cost “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars” to repair.

Hong Kong fire kills at least 9

HONG KONG, Nov. 30 (UPI) — A fire erupted in a building in the Kowloon part of Hong Kong early Wednesday morning, killing at least nine and injuring 26 others, fire officials said.

Nine charred bodies were found at the site of the blaze in the densely populated shopping area in the Mong Kok section of Kowloon and another 26 people were sent to hospitals, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported, quoting fire officials.

The fire was raging 6 hours after it started around 4:40 a.m., and rescuers were trying to save those trapped on rooftops.

The cause had not yet been determined but authorities had not ruled out arson, Xinhua reported, quoting police.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang and senior city officials visited the injured at the hospitals.

Xinhua reported about 70 households had been affected by the fire and neighborhood shopkeepers expected to suffer big losses.

CNN reported the first started at a retail stall. The report said an arson fire last year destroyed 50 stalls on the same street.

Clinton to seek further Myanmar reforms

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar, Nov. 30 (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during a visit to Myanmar, will express support for reforms in the nation once ruled by the military, officials said.

Clinton, whose unexpected trip was announced by U.S. President Barack Obama during his recent Asia tour, will be the first U.S. official of her rank to visit the isolated south Asian country in about 50 years. The visit comes as Myanmar, formerly called Burma, has begun to make progress toward democratic reforms under the new civilian government of President Thein Sein after decades of brutal military rule.

During her three-day visit beginning Wednesday, Clinton “will register support for reforms that we have witnessed in recent months and discuss further reforms in key areas, as well as steps the U.S. can take to reinforce progress,” the State Department said on its Web site.

The report said Clinton “will underscore the U.S. commitment to a policy of principled engagement and direct dialogue as part of our dual-track approach” and “will consult with a broad and diverse group of civil society and ethnic minority leaders to gain their perspectives on developments in the country.”

While announcing the Clinton visit, Obama had said the United States is considering new relationship which would depend on “the Burmese government taking more concrete action.”

Thein Sein, a former general, became president after last year’s elections, which were first in two decades.

Immediately after the elections, the new government freed opposition and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi after holding her under house arrest for years.

The new government also changed some laws to allow Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party to contest in elections. Public protest, not encouraged during the junta rule, resulted in the new government suspending a hydroelectric dam project involving aid from China, a close ally of Myanmar.

In another major reform, the government has freed dozens of political prisoners. The government also has passed reforms for protection of basic human rights.

Aung Zaw, editor of Irrawaddy Magazine, was quoted by CNN as saying Clinton’s visit will the boost the government’s reform process and legitimacy.

Clinton’s Myanmar trip comes as the U.S. foreign policy pivots to the Asia-Pacific region, with Washington determined to play its leadership role. Some experts still express doubts as to whether the new leadership in Myanmar will remain committed to its democratic reforms.

Former U.K. tabloid editor defends hacking

LONDON, Nov. 30 (UPI) — A former editor at News of the World defended phone hacking and other intrusive techniques Tuesday before a panel investigating British media ethics.

Paul McMullan, a deputy features editor who left the now-closed tabloid in 2001, criticized his former employers for lacking “strength of conviction,” The New York Times reported. He was especially harsh about Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, two former top News of the World editors who have denied knowing about phone hacking.

“They should have been the heroes of journalism, but they aren’t,” he said. “They are the scum of journalism for trying to drop me and my colleagues in it.”

The Leveson Inquiry, which is considering whether the news media need more regulation, has been hearing from celebrities and crime victims who have described the damaging effects of intrusive journalism on them and their families. Owner Rupert Murdoch closed the News of the World this summer because of public outrage that a private detective working for the paper had hacked a missing schoolgirl’s cellphone and deleted some of the messages, leading her parents to believe she was still alive.

McMullan detailed his own activities, including going through trash to find documents, paying police officers for information and posing as a teenage male prostitute to catch a pedophile priest. His work was often dangerous and unpleasant, he said, saying he escaped from the priest dressed only in underpants and was once forced at knifepoint to consume marijuana spiked with cocaine.

He suggested the alternative to a press free to stray into “gray areas” to get stories is a country where only the intelligence agencies are hacking phones.

“For a brief period of about 20 years, we have actually lived in a free society where we can hack back,” McMullan said.

Search yields no trace of Air Force wife

OKINAWA, Japan, Nov. 30 (UPI) — More than a month of searching has turned up no trace of a U.S. Air Force wife and mother who disappeared from a base in Okinawa, Japan, authorities said.

Kelli Abad was last seen leaving her home on Kadena Air Base the evening of Oct. 26, and her sport utility vehicle was found at a cape nearby three days later, Stars and Stripes reported.

“It’s like she just vanished,” said Abad’s mother, Janice Cribbs, who traveled from Georgia to Japan two weeks ago to search for her daughter. “In all the years she’s been married, she never left the kids or went off on her own for more than a few hours to cool off.”

U.S. and Japanese authorities — with the aid of boats, helicopters, divers and cadaver dogs — have searched the coast and waters near the shore.

Abad has a 4-year-old daughter and 22-month-old son.

“I just don’t believe she walked off and left them,” Cribbs said Tuesday. “She was a good mother.”

Abad is listed as missing by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Kadena Air Base spokesman Ed Gulick said.

The Air Force helped Cribbs create an announcement, which is appearing on the local American Forces Network channel, Gulick said. Abad’s photo, along with contact information, has also appeared on poles, bus stops and on fliers around military bases and Japanese police stations in Okinawa.

Her spouse’s name was not reported.

Defense Secretary Commutes Home On Taxpayer Dollars

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta commutes home to Monterey, Calif., nearly every weekend on a government jet and reimburses just a small percentage of the cost to American taxpayers, The Washington Times reported.

Since becoming the Defense Secretary in July, Panetta has flown home 14 times as of last week. Despite the public knowledge of this commuting, he has no plans to change his travel arrangements.

“The White House understood when Mr. Panetta took the job that he would return to Monterey to visit his family, as he did when he was director of the CIA,” a senior administration official said in a statement. “That’s where his family lives, after all.”

According to the newspaper, the cross-country commuting was first reported in September, but is drawing second looks due to a call by President Barack Obama for Cabinet agencies to make cuts.

The Hill reported that Panetta has recently spoken out about the potential cuts to the Defense budget and the Pentagon, saying that slicing funding would be devastating for the department.

The Five People You’ll Meet In Charlotte

In 2003, Detroit-based sportswriter Mitch Albom published the much-heralded The Five People You Meet In Heaven. The book spent nearly two years on the bestseller list and was made into a TV movie starring Jon Voight. It told the tale of one man’s life, growth and death as seen through the lens of five individuals with whom he is inextricably linked.

Granted, none of the five folks of whom I speak today offer opportunities for growth beyond the sort achieved by fungus and mold, and their connection to life and death revolves around the former for murderers and the latter for unborn babies. Some might even see my references to Albom’s work as a shameless attempt to hitch my rhetorical wagon to an enormously successful writer. It is. But Albom lives in Detroit, so I’m certain he has suffered greater pain. And Albom has sold about 30 million books, so I’m quite sure he’ll survive the indignity.

This summer, the Democratic Party will hold its quadrennial Presidential nominating convention in Charlotte, N.C. Among the rogue’s gallery who will descend upon that poor city to re-coronate President Barack Obama (or perhaps not; check out Chip Wood’s column The Plot To Make Hillary President) will be the usual coterie of bottom-feeders who populate every large gathering of liberals. While every single one of them will share the dubious distinction of being members of the Democratic Party, they generally will fit into one of five categories (although given the girth of some of their masters, some pushing and/or WD40® will be involved).

With apologies to Albom, I present: the five people you’ll meet in Charlotte.

The Egghead

Distinguishing characteristics of the egghead include: unwashed hair, a ponytail (regardless of both gender and amount of hair remaining atop the head), speaking with eyes closed and spectacular body odor.

Often nominally employed as either a lawyer or college professor (or worse, both), the egghead suffers from an odd combination of low self-esteem and overestimation of his own intellectual import. This psychological stew produces an individual who recognizes that no one really cares what he thinks, and he responds by replacing import with volume.

The egghead carries a dog-eared copy of Rules for Radicals and the latest issue of Mother Jones in the tote bag he earned for donating $25 to his local PBS affiliate. The veterans write for hate-speech blogs like Dailykos; the real all-stars quote their own material in the third person.

Eggheads are fond of making definitive statements about the evils of conservatives, such as: “The Rethuglicans are pushing for immigration reform because they’re racist” and “The ‘teabaggers’ are so stupid.” The egghead laments 9-11, but only because it made life harder for Muslims. The egghead considers Michael Moore a visionary and George Soros a saint, and he has no issue with the fact that both are archetypal hypocrites.

The egghead supports any legislation and/or court decisions which abrogate the rights to offer opinions, pray or own firearms — except for liberal hate speech, Islamofascism and Mexican narcoterrorists. When eggheads dress down, they wear the jerseys of European Premier League soccer teams and refer to soccer as “football” and football as “American football,” though they’ve never been farther east than a whale-watching trip off Nantucket Island, Mass.

The eggheads’ idols are Keith Olbermann and Rob Reiner. Their defining Issue is the establishment of the United Nations as the world government. Their next destination is Occupy Haight-Ashbury.

The True Believer

Distinguishing characteristics of the true believer include: wearing mom jeans (regardless of gender) and bringing “Hillary ’12” and “Obama ’12” buttons (both homemade) to Charlotte, just to be on the safe side.

When the rest of the fleabaggers headed home to mommy’s basement because it began raining, this was the redoubtable martyr who stayed out there, proudly waving a hand-lettered “I am the 99%” sign. The true believer has never led so much as one of those disjointed chants of which liberals are so fond, but he is the rock upon which the Democrats balance. The true believer isn’t mean-spirited like most liberals; but a dearth of intellect – and, therefore, long-term prospects — have left him vulnerable to believing his party’s promises of an easier life with limited effort. Younger true believers will come to Charlotte with their egghead college professors on junkets paid for by their college student activity funds.

In photos of outraged liberal protesters, the true believer always smiles and is never in the front row. Many members of the Service Employees International Union are true believers who believe that verified reports of union thug and/or occupier violence “are overblown.”

The true believers’ idols are Hillary Clinton (because she’s such a strong woman) and Michelle Obama (because she looked great in the latest issue of People magazine). Their defining issue is… um, let them check with the eggheads. Their next destination is a Unitarian Universalist sing-along and drum circle.

The Joiner

Distinguishing characteristics of the joiner include: owning at least a half-dozen cats, wearing T-shirts proclaiming so (even in rather formal settings) and saying “interwebs” without a hint of irony.

The joiner shows up at Democratic rallies because Democrats need warm bodies, and the joiner has nowhere else to go. The joiner will listen in on conversations of which he is not a part and later misquote the speaker thusly: “They say..” as in: “They say the Koch brothers are funding attacks on the Occupiers!” The joiner seems incongruously cheered by fairly mundane news, as in: “One of Nancy Pelosi’s staffers just told me to step aside.  She was that close to me!”

The joiner watches MSNBC’s nightly tirades and nods the whole time. The joiner reads the eggheads’ blogs, but never writes his own. Male joiners gravitate toward the most outraged female they see. Female joiners gravitate toward the first rock star or movie star they see.

The joiners’ idols are Madonna and Leonardo DiCaprio. They have two defining issues. Older joiners want increased Federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Younger joiners want Federally subsidized weed. Their next destination is determined by their age. Older joiners will go home alone. Younger ones will go back to the vegan dorm.

The Outraged Minority

Distinguishing characteristics of the outraged minority include eight-button suits (male), awesome hats (female) and wardrobe colors not found in nature (both).

The outraged minority Democrat stands apart from the rest of the rabble, partially because he doesn’t like noisy white people and partially because he doesn’t like quiet white people. Outraged minorities will vote for any black Democrat and will subsequently consider any opposition to black Democrats racist. Outraged minorities stood with Marion Barry, O.J. Simpson, Kwame Kilpatrick and William Jefferson, but they consider conservative blacks “Uncle Toms.”

The outraged minorities’ idols are R. Kelly and Johnnie Cochran. Their defining issue is re-election for Obama (and Marion Barry). Their next destination is church; Jeremiah Wright is delivering a special homily.

The Thinker

Distinguishing characteristics of the thinker include: being groomed (but not overly so) and being mortified by his surroundings (but keeping quiet about it).

The thinker is a rare liberal. The thinker is likely socially liberal, but harbors fading hopes that his party can be rescued from the clutches of the aforementioned people. The thinker has studied the issues from multiple angles, and his objections to some positions tend to be fairly well-informed and based on principle — as opposed to ignorance or hate.

Older thinkers voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984 and backed Hillary Clinton in 2008. When Obama loses next November, a large part of his defeat will be due to thinkers abandoning him for Ron Paul.

The thinkers’ idol is President Harry S. Truman. Their defining issue is saving their party from their fellow characters. Their next destination is returning home to their families, followed by work the next morning.

Of course, these categorizations are far too broad. There are many subcategories within each of the aforementioned categories. Unlike the characters in Albom’s bestseller, heaven-bound souls are few and far between; although it would be enormously entertaining to watch a personal injury lawyer try to argue his way past Saint Peter.

Liberals are fond of overly simplistic generalizations; I am fond of making liberals sputter like preteen girls whose parents confiscated their iPhones. What better way is there to do so than to hold up the mirror and give them (and you) a look at themselves, warts — or fleas — and all?

The New Hampshire vs. Nevada Relay Race

The big deal over the New Hampshire primary election and Nevada caucuses would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. Does anyone care about how the Framers of the Constitution designed for the President of the United States to be selected? We are so far gone that it is doubtful that we can even have an intelligent conversation with anyone in the media, elected officials, those running for office, political science professors, Constitutional law professors, Tea Party leaders or any of the electorate to discuss what the Framers of the U.S. Constitution had in mind.

The Framers designed an ingenious system which was not based on party politics, campaigning, campaign promises, State primary elections leapfrogging each other, party national conventions, billion-dollar beauty pageants or even direct election by the people. It was a multistep, indirect method, using independent-thinking electors in the first step of the process.

The President was not the “King of the People” or the “King of the Party,” but the President of the United States.

The function of the Presidential electors was to identify (nominate) the best possible Presidential individuals (statesmen) based on their merit and service to their country, their States or their local governments (past performance, not campaign promises or self-aggrandizing). The elector’s job was to name (nominate) two outstanding individuals each (not campaign for one or promise his vote to one or to a party). The elector’s assigned task was to take place at the beginning of the selection process, not as a rubber-stamp procedure after a multiyear, multimillion-dollar campaign circus across the Nation.

After the official signed, certified and sealed nominations were tallied in a joint session of Congress, the five highest-ranking individuals (who were then candidates) would be voted on by the States in the House of Representatives. Each State had one vote and requiring a majority of the States to determine a final choice. (Talk about New Hampshire and Nevada having clout then! Their votes would be equal with California, New York, Texas, Florida, etc.) Talk about States’ rights and State sovereignty!

The secret is that Constitutionally, the State Legislatures could take back control of the Presidential election process again now, if they wanted to do so. But because the members of the State Legislatures also get into office by party politics, it would be political suicide to try to take back the process from the parties.

Early on, Constitutional government was destroyed by party politics. The first pillar to fall was the executive branch. The ratification of the 12th Amendment institutionalized party usurpation, the games they were already playing.

An in-depth analysis of the original Electoral College system can be found in the concise volume “The Evolution and Destruction of the Original Electoral College.” The Framers created a far superior system for placing statesmen, not politicians, in the White House.  That system has been ignored for more than two centuries.

Education is the first step to enlightening the hearts and minds of the people to understand the purposes and benefits of the structure of government that the Framers designed. However, we will probably have to be beaten up a lot more before we are willing to give up our political party or give up our supposed “right” to democracy (popular vote) before we will be willing to restore the complex Constitutional representative republic that the Framers established — a system that promoted freedom and prosperity practically overnight. The formula for freedom is found in the structure of the original U.S. Constitution.

–Carolyn Alder

Union Company Working To Eliminate High Workers

Tower Defense and Aerospace, a Detroit company that makes parts for tanks and Humvees for the military as well as civilian aircraft is accused of hiring workers who drank and smoked marijuana on the job.

Last Tuesday, a Detroit affiliate of Fox aired a report that showed workers rolling blunts and drinking alcohol in the parking lot of the plant during their lunch break.

Since the story broke, the company, which receives defense contracts worth several million dollars each year from the Federal government, reportedly has fired 17 employees and is conducting an investigation into the incidents. The company issued a statement saying that it was “working as expeditiously as possible within the bounds of the legal union contract” to eliminate employees who get high on company time and replace them.

The company’s CEO Mark Malcolm said that the problem employees were inherited when Tower was taken over by new owners last April.

“It is important to remember that the overwhelming majority of employees are dedicated and hard working,” he said. “None of the suspended employees were hired by Tower; all were inherited in the acquisition.”

We Are All Terrorists Now

The U.S. Senate is considering a bill (National Defense Authorization Act) that would designate the whole world, including U.S. territory, as a battlefield and subject American citizens in the United States to indefinite military detention without the benefit of trial and to attacks along the lines of the drone assassination of supposed terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki.

Many of you scoffed as right-thinking people noted with dread the consequences of President Barack Obama’s carte blanch “extrajudicial” murder of an American citizen based on the approval of a secret committee. If this bill is passed, then the Rubicon will have been crossed. America will have become a complete and possibly irreversible totalitarian military state.

Scoff again if you must, but do so at your own peril. Consider who the government designates as potential terrorists, according to its own missives: people who oppose Obama’s policies; people who stockpile food; people who oppose one-world government; Christians; military veterans returning from overseas engagements; people unhappy with the government’s actions at Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho; and people opposed to gun control. The Department of Justice and FBI have even sent a form to military-surplus stores describing how to identify suspicious people and instructing them to watch for those who pay with cash; are missing fingers; have a strange smell; make bulk purchases of ammunition, meals ready to eat and flashlights; or who express a concern about privacy.

Coupled with recent news that police and military are now deploying drones over American cities, it’s easy to see — for those who care to look — exactly where we are headed. In the eyes of our government, we are all terrorists now and subject to permanent imprisonment or extermination.

Salon: Ron Paul Would Make The Reagan Revolution Look Like The New Deal

An opinion piece published by Salon accuses GOP Presidential candidate Ron Paul as being a “phony populist” and a true friend of the wealthiest Americans.

Author Gary Weiss, investigative journalist and outspoken Wall Street critic, begins his article by citing remarks Paul made to Occupy protesters who interrupted a speech in Keene, N.H., last week.

Weiss describes the incident as “…the epiphany of the most dreadful presidential campaign in history…” before implicating Paul for being on the radical right, behind the times on foreign policy and a danger to middle-class and poor Americans.

Paul told the Keene hecklers that he was very much on the side of the 99 percent, but that government in the United States was more responsible for the economic disparity than those who work on Wall Street. The candidate continually reiterates his belief that it is the government who controls the money supply and provides massive bailouts to manipulate free markets. Weiss, however, contends in his article that Paul’s message is little more than impressive showmanship at best and, at worst, total fraud.

Of the candidate’s “Plan To Restore America,” which calls for massive reduction in government spending by trimming bloated bureaucracies, Weiss writes:

“This is not a plan for the 99 percent. It is about as much of a 1 percent-oriented ideological meat cleaver as you can find anywhere in the annals of politics.”

Weiss’s article comes just two days after Bloomberg published a long-anticipated report detailing how the Federal Reserve — Paul’s sworn enemy — secretly provided an estimated $13 billion of income to big banks by allowing them to take advantage of below-market rates during the 2007-2008 financial crises.

A statement on Paul’s website says of the findings: “While Fed officials say that almost all of the loans were repaid and there have been no losses, details suggest taxpayers paid a price beyond dollars as the secret funding helped preserve a broken status quo and enabled the biggest banks to grow even bigger.”

Labor Department Allows Ex-Solyndra Employees To Apply For Aid

Hundreds of workers who were laid off by bankrupt solar firm Solyndra are eligible for Federal aid, according to a ruling from the Labor Department, Fox News reported.

According to the news outlet, the ex-employees, who worked for a company that received $528 million from the Federal government, would have potential benefits that fall under a program known as “trade adjustment assistance.”

Fox News reported these benefits are backed by taxpayers and are designed to help workers who lost their jobs due to a shift in production overseas.

“Customer and aggregate United States imports of articles like or directly competitive with the cylindrical solar panel systems by Solyndra LLC have increased,” the Department of Labor said in a statement, adding that this foreign competition “contributed importantly” to the termination of these employees.

The move from the Labor Department came as an initial deadline passed for any satisfactory bids to buy the entire company and restart production. This dampened the hopes that the 1,000 idled workers may be rehired, and has led officials from the business to consider auctioning off equipment, Reuters reported.

British public employees on one-day strike

LONDON, Nov. 30 (UPI) — Government employees protesting pension cuts began a one-day strike just after midnight Wednesday, in an action expected to disrupt all of Britain.

Workers set up picket lines at hospitals and government offices, The Guardian reported. The Trade Union Council predicted more than 2 million employees would stay away from work in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, surpassing the 1.5 million who joined the last mass strike in 1979.

International travelers were warned to expect long lines at airports and ferry terminals. The government asked civil servants with the appropriate security clearance to volunteer for border agent duties, but fewer than half the normal number were expected to be on the job.

More than 2,000 schools were expected to be closed in London. In Scotland, head teachers, who have administrative responsibilities voted to join the strike.

The pension changes include increasing employee contributions and raising the retirement age to 67 by 2026, eight years earlier than originally announced. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne fueled union anger when he said pay increases would be capped at 1 percent for two years after a freeze through 2013.

Unions plan to hold marches and rallies around the country Wednesday.