Obama Addresses Protesters During Jobs Speech

Confronted earlier in the week by Occupy protesters during a speech on jobs at a high school in Manchester, N.H., President Barack Obama offered the movement an endorsement of sorts.

As the President began his speech, protesters in the audience spoke up using the “one voice to many” tactic that has become popular within the movement, according to The Washington Post.

Audience members booed, but Obama allowed the protesters to speak. They voiced concerns about the arrests of Occupy protesters that have taken place throughout the Nation and said that they felt their First Amendment rights were being trampled by authorities.

Obama directly addressed the protesters.

“For a lot of the folks who have been in New York and all across the country in the Occupy movement, there is a profound sense of frustration about the fact that the essence of the American dream, which is if you work hard, if you stick to it that, you can make it, feels like that’s slipping away,” Obama said. “And that’s not the way things are supposed to be. Not here. Not in America.”

Obama went on to say that he agreed with the protesters in that he wanted to see an America where “not only a sliver of folks have opportunity” but where “everybody has opportunity,” a goal he said would take time.

Occupy Los Angeles Offered Farmland, Offices To Get Out

Officials in the City of Angels are attempting to reach an agreement with the Occupy protesters that have been camped in front of their city hall for the past several weeks: Leave and we’ll provide you with office space and farmland.

Los Angeles, which has reportedly been one of the friendliest cities to the Occupy protesters, has extended the olive branch to the group in an official effort to avert violent demise of the protest encampment similar to what has taken place in New York; Oakland, Calif., and other cities in recent weeks.

According to Los Angeles Times, details of the proposal were revealed Monday during the demonstration’s nightly general assembly meeting by Jim Lafferty, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild who has been advocating on behalf of the protest since it began seven weeks ago.

The city has refused to comment on the proposals, saying only that negotiations are ongoing, but reports indicate that the offer includes: a $1-a-year lease on a 10,000-square-foot office space near Los Angeles City Hall, the promise of farmland for protesters who wish to continue to camp and want to farm, and housing for many of the large number of homeless people who have joined the city’s Occupy group.

Lafferty said that it is unclear whether Occupy L.A. will accept the proposal which has angered at least some of the protesters.

“I don’t appreciate people appointing themselves to represent me, to represent us,” one woman called out during the assembly. “Who was in those meetings?”

Congress Blocks Climate Analyzing Bureaucracy

Congress recently blocked a $322 million measure that would have created a new Federal bureaucracy to make long-term climate forecasts similar to the short-term forecasts provided by the National Weather Service.

The National Climate Service was proposed in response to complaints from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that the agency had been inundated with requests for climate change data in recent years, according to International Business Times.  

The Democratic-led Senate approved nearly all aspects of the climate service in its budget, while the House, with its Republican majority, rejected all of it. Democrats claimed that the creation of the service would have no financial impact, but a report released by the House Appropriations Committee last week estimated savings of $322 million in fiscal year 2012 by rejecting the idea.

While many people who supported the new entity have called its failure a sign of climate-change denial, there is evidence that the Federal government is analyzing climate trends in other ways. A recent report from the Defense Science Board, a Federal advisory committee that reports to the Secretary of Defense, urges the CIA to begin sharing the intelligence it has accumulated on climate change.

Many Seniors Unwittingly Take Potentially Dangerous Medicines

A study recently published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine shows that about 40 percent of seniors who are in the care of a home-health agency are taking prescription medications that may be dangerous to their health.

Researchers conducting the study, led by Dr. Yuhua Bao, assistant professor of public health at Weill Cornell Medical College, found that home-healthcare patients aged 65 and older are prescribed Potentially Inappropriate Medications (PIMs) at rates three times higher than patients who visit a medical office for care. Data from the study show that home-health patients are taking 11 different prescription medications on average, and that the constant intake of several medications is directly related to the presence of PIMs.

In a review of data of 3,124 senior home-health patients, the researchers found 38 percent were taking at least one PIM. Senior patients taking 15 or more medications were five to six times as likely to be prescribed PIMs as patients taking seven or fewer medications.

The researchers said in most cases the problem could be eliminated if patients demanded a comprehensive review of their prescription list with home-healthcare providers to find precisely why each medication is prescribed, whether any could be eliminated and if any are age-inappropriate.

According to the study, the high prevalence of PIMs among elderly home-healthcare patients is a symptom of a fragmented healthcare system. Many separate doctors may be treating a patient for different ailments simultaneously.

Software Updates May Be Hacking Attempts

Over the past year, the growing computer surveillance industry has made great strides in creating software that may encourage computer users to unknowingly install surveillance viruses on their personal machines.

Gamma International UK Ltd., a surveillance company, recently touted its ability to send messages to individuals claiming that an update is needed to software on their computers mimicking messages from Apple, Adobe and other software providers, according to The Wall Street Journal. When users download the update, their computer is infected with surveillance software; the sender of the software is then able to track everything that is done on the machine.

The news outlet reports that Gamma’s products are not unique, but part of a growing trend in surveillance technology used by governments — and sometimes criminals — to obtain computer users’ information. The providers of the hacking software say that it is a necessary tool in the fight against terror.

The article says that many privacy experts believe that the software is being heavily marketed to low-level law enforcement agencies. The experts say that is cause for concern. As more people obtain the hacking software, the opportunity for abuse grows.

“The use of this technology represents a huge encroachment on civil rights and could only be justified during the most serious national security investigations,” said Eric King, of the U.K. nonprofit Privacy International.

The Journal has begun a new series of special reports called “The Surveillance Catalog” that documents a number of growing trends in the cybersurveillance industry.

GOP Hopefuls Debate National Security

The CNN GOP Presidential national security debate on Nov. 22 gave the eight Republican candidates an opportunity to face off on issues including The Patriot Act, foreign policy, homeland security and the War on Terror.

Within the first minutes of the debate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Representative Ron Paul of Texas engaged in a quarrel over The Patriot Act.

Gingrich said that it was in the best interest of the American public to continue to expand The Patriot Act in an effort to keep mass-casualty events from happening in the United States. Paul likened the expansion of the act to requiring a police officer in every American home to curtail incidents of domestic violence, reminding the audience that the Founding Fathers warned against giving up freedoms for protection.

U.S. military aid to Israel, always a key foreign policy topic for the GOP candidates, came to the table as the Presidential hopefuls discussed issues abroad.

Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Gingrich and Michele Bachmann had very similar views on the Israeli issue. All contended that if Iran posed an imminent threat to the Israelis, they would use their Presidential power to intervene. Paul said the United States needs to get out of the way because Israel is capable of defending itself.

Perry said the government should stop writing “blank checks” to Pakistan and other countries that fail to protect American interests, but Bachmann called that proposal “naïve” because the country has nuclear weapons that must be protected from al-Qaida operatives.

In previous debates, Paul seemed to be given fewer questions and less speaking time than the other candidates. A debate-time tally issued by CNN shows that candidates were given more of a fair shake in the most recent debate. Gingrich was asked 11 questions and spoke for 11 minutes, 38 seconds; Romney: 12 questions, 11:3; Perry: 11 questions, 10:32, Paul: 9 questions; 9:40; Bachmann: 9 questions, 8:43; Huntsman: 8 questions, 8:14; Santorum: 6 questions, 7:41; Cain: 7 questions, 5:19.

An article in Forbes said that Paul, Gingrich and Romney performed most strongly in the debate.

Pakistan In Negotiations With Taliban

Pakistani officials, who recently have grown tired of American military influence in their region, have begun preliminary peace talks with members of the Taliban, according to reports.

Pakistani Taliban members have waged war against the government of the country over the past several years, according to The Associated Press. Recently, the Taliban have increased the number of suicide bombings and attacks in the region, and many Pakistanis believe the increase is related to the government cooperating with the United States. It is believed that a peace deal between Pakistanis and the group could represent the best hope of ending years of fighting that has killed thousands of security personnel and civilians.

The AP reported that U.S. military officials may be wary of the peace deals, since they likely will create a vast safe haven in the country for terrorist planners. However, the United States recently sought a similar peace agreement with the Afghan Taliban, so public denouncement of the talks is unlikely. The Pakistani Taliban trained the Pakistani-American who carried out a failed car bombing in New York’s Times Square in 2010.

On Saturday, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman told the AP that the group has demanded the Pakistani government cut ties with the United States if it wants to make peace with the militants.

Obama Administration Tightens Sanctions On Iran

The Administration of President Barack Obama announced earlier in the week that the United States will team with Britain and Canada in enacting tough economic sanctions in an effort to pressure Tehran to halt its suspected nuclear weapons program.

The coordinated actions represent the first direct response to the U.N. nuclear agency’s recent report suggesting Iran is working toward the development of atomic weapons, according to The Associated Press.

The U.N. report sparked increased international discussion over how to halt the Iranian threat, with Obama pressing the leaders of Russia and China a little more than a week ago to join the United States and its partners in taking action.

The Iranian nuclear program has been a hot topic in headlines of late and a key talking point among the GOP Presidential primary candidates, many of whom view Obama’s Iranian foreign policy as a failure. At a Nov. 12 debate, many of the candidates called for a military strike against Iran as a means by which to resolve the issue.

Obama has taken an approach to the country that reflects former President George W. Bush’s Iranian foreign policy. Obama believes a military strike will only postpone Iran’s ability to acquire nuclear weapons and is not worth the risk to the United States or its allies at this time.

NYC Authorities Nab Would-Be Terrorist

The New York Police Department’s anti-terrorism unit arrested an alleged terrorist on Saturday. Police say he had planned to bomb police departments, post offices and returning U.S. soldiers near the city.

The suspect, 27-year-old Jose Pimentel, is described as an al-Qaida sympathizer who had a fascination with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and even referred to himself as Osama Hussein, according to Infowars.

Authorities said on Sunday that the Dominican Republic native was using his New York apartment as a factory for making bombs to use in attacks.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the suspect’s uncle, who shared the apartment, said that the young man had converted to Islam two years ago. Authorities said the suspect was inspired by the American-born al-Qaida preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, and had accelerated a plot to make bombs after al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen in September.

According to officials, Pimentel ran a blog, trueislam1.com, where he published articles discussing Islamic religious issues. The site contains sections dedicated to such things as defining what jihad means to Muslims and why it is superior to traditional war.

The terrorist plotter followed bomb-making instructions from Inspire Magazine, an al-Qaida propaganda outlet, authorities said.

Supercommittee Plays Blame Game

As many pundits prepare to name the current Congress the “worst ever,” the Congressional budget supercommittee has spent its final hours discussing how to publicly admit its failure rather than how to reach a deficit-reduction compromise.

According to The Washington Post, members of the special deficit-reduction committee spent last weekend casting blame, pointing fingers and bracing for the reaction of its failure from financial markets.

Many supercommittee members spent Sunday making rounds on political talk shows to blame their colleagues on the other side of the aisle for the most recent failure and promising that the automatic spending cuts that will be implemented in 2013 will be monitored closely.

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) accused Republicans of blocking progress by demanding that George W. Bush’s tax cuts remain in place and refusing to administer tax increases on wealthy Americans. Kerry said: “We didn’t come here to do another tax cut to the wealthiest people while we’re [asking] fixed-income seniors to ante up more, people on Medicaid who are poor to ante up more.”

Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona was among the Republicans who said Democrats risked throwing the economy back into a recession for just the opposite reason, using the supercommittee’s mandate to raise taxes on small businesses and other drivers of job creation.

“Our Democratic friends said we won’t cut one dollar more without raising taxes,” Kyl told CNN. “That tells you a lot about the ethos in Washington. We went into the exercise to try to reduce federal government spending. What we get from the other side is, no, we won’t make more cuts unless you raise taxes.”

China: Global Economic Recovery Starts At Home

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan said on Monday that the global economic outlook is extremely grim, and that China will seek to bolster its own economy as the rest of the world lags behind.

Wang said he believes an “unbalanced” global recovery is the best way to approach the global financial crises and that his country is looking to invest 10 trillion yuan ($1.7 trillion) to spark its own economic growth, according to Reuters.

The investment amount is more than two times larger than China’s 4 trillion yuan stimulus package launched during the global financial crisis plans first reported by Reuters a year ago.

Wang suggested that the United States take note of China’s plan to invest in sectors including alternative energy, biotechnology and advanced equipment manufacturing. The country’s aim is to shift the growth engine of its economy to cleaner and high-tech sectors.

“As major world economies, China and the United States would make a positive contribution to the world through their own steady development,” Wang said.

Economic policy experts are still speculating whether, with the most recent round of global economic uncertainty, China will work to boost its exports like it did during the 2008-2009 crisis.

Americans No Longer Feel Exceptional

The majority of American citizens seemingly no longer believe that theirs is the best Nation in the world, a recent Pew Research Center poll indicates.

The American-Western European Values Gap poll, which addressed a number of domestic policy questions, asked people in the United States, Germany, Spain, Britain and France whether they agree or disagree with the following statement:  Our people are not perfect but our culture is superior to others.

In a blow to the idea of American Exceptionalism, people in the United States are less likely than ever to feel cultural superiority. Only about 49 percent of those polled agreed with the statement as compared to 55 percent in 2007 and 60 percent in 2002. Individuals in the other countries all agreed to the statement more than 50 percent of the time; the French were most likely to feel superior with 73 percent agreement.

Belief in cultural superiority fell across age, gender and education groups in the United States, though conservatives and older Americans are far more likely to retain the concept.

The idea of American Exceptionalism can be traced back to 1831 when a French writer named Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of Americans’ exceptional circumstances and attitudes and suggested that all democratic nations be held up to the example of America in his book Democracy in America. The concept has since been credited as the catalyst behind many of the country’s finest hours of development by historians.

Supercommittee Outcome Likely Un-Super

If Americans were expecting an outcome from the deliberations of the Congressional panel called the debt reduction supercommittee that is as impressive as its name, they will likely be disappointed when the Thanksgiving deadline arrives.

The 12-member committee, established under a summer budget and debt pact made between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), has for most of its existence been stalemated as the lawmakers quarrel over where they can find $1.2 trillion to cut from the Federal budget over the next decade.

Reports indicate that disagreement may not be the only thing impeding the supercommittee. If the members are unable to come to an agreement by their deadline, nothing will really happen. Automatic spending cuts were put in place to create a sense of urgency in the budget debate, but those do not take effect until 2013, according to The Washington Post. That means lawmakers have a full year to come up with an alternate plan. In past months, the threat of chaotic government shutdowns has been the only thing to spark urgent Congressional budget action.

If the Thanksgiving deadline is not met, lawmakers will likely avoid working on a debt-reduction deal until after the November 2012 elections.

Chinese Yuan Years From Eclipsing Dollar

The noticeable shift of Western Economic power to the East could be complete by the end of the next decade with the Chinese yuan taking over the U.S. dollar as the principal world reserve currency, some experts say.

Since 2009, according to Shanghai Daily, Chinese officials have been promoting the yuan — also called renminbi (RMB) — outside its borders as a way to settle trade agreements. The result of this push has been a buildup of deposits in Hong Kong creating a thriving yuan bond market.

As China works to make the yuan more desirable to international investors, its strict domestic capital controls appear to be its biggest hurdle in economically eclipsing the United States. But many economic experts believe that China will gradually change its domestic economic policy over the next few years to draw investors. Alicia Garcia-Herrero, chief emerging markets economist at Spanish bank BBVA in Hong Kong, said that China could make the yuan appear more desirable than the dollar in as few as five years by just slightly altering its domestic economic policy.

Arvind Subramanian, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank, believes that as economic power shifts, China’s dominance by 2030 will be similar to the international economic dominance enjoyed by the United States in the 1970s.

Justice Department May Launch Second Lawsuit Against Alabama

The Department of Justice sued Alabama earlier this year for its controversial immigration law; now, as parts of the law take effect, the Department has launched a discrimination investigation against the State.

According to The Washington Post, part of the investigation has Justice Department officials seeking detailed enrollment information from Alabama schools, after reports that several Hispanic families withdrew their children from public schools as a result of the legislation.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has denied the requests and questioned the Federal government’s authority to access such information, and school districts throughout the State have been ordered not to comply. The Justice Department will likely file another lawsuit against the State in light of the controversy over student attendance records.

Strange said that Federal authorities are required by law to hand any complaints that they have received about the law over to the State so that Alabama officials can take action.

Department Of Labor: Farm Work No Good For Teens

The Department of Labor (DOL) wants to implement new rules that would ban certain farm work for children under the age of 16.

The Department, according to NPR, says that children who work on farms are six times more likely to be killed or injured than those who do not. The DOL issued the first new child labor regulations in 40 years, which propose barring children under the age of 16 from performing tasks such as driving tractors, handling pesticides and branding cattle.

The regulations reportedly exempt family-owned farms, but only if they have not grown to the point of becoming incorporated.

The department also proposed preventing anyone under age 18 from working at stockyards, livestock auctions and commercial feed lots or grain elevators.

“So kids of individuals who are involved in a family corporation would no longer be able to help mom and dad on the ranch, on the farm. They wouldn’t be able to work with animals. They wouldn’t be able to work on hay wagons stacking bales six feet tall,” said Jordan Dux, national affairs coordinator with the Nebraska Farm Bureau. “There are lots of things that kids, typical farm practices, that … would be outlawed by the Department of Labor.”

Critics of the regulations see them as a direct assault on an American lifestyle and on getting young people interested in farming in the United States. Public outcry has caused the DOL to extend a forum for public comment on the regulations that was scheduled to end Nov. 1.

U.S. Buys Used Jets From Brits

Last year, the British Royal Navy scrapped its entire fleet of Harrier jump jets following a defense review. The United States has agreed to buy all 74 of the planes in a deal that should close by the end of the week.

According to The Guardian, the trade has raised questions from military experts on both sides of the pond: Why does the U.S. military deem viable a plane that the British no longer believe is needed?

“We’re taking advantage of all the money the Brits have spent on them. It’s like we’re buying a car with maybe 15,000 miles on it,” Lon Nordeen, author of several books on the Harrier, told Navy Times.

Britain retired its Harrier aircraft late last year with much controversy because the measure was part of defense reductions that also cut the aircraft carriers that operated the jets as well as other warships, maritime patrol planes and personnel. The British Ministry of Defense believes that the reductions in force will save the country hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

Officials haven’t said how much the total deal will cost the United States, but it is known that the military has spent about $50 million so far on spare parts alone.

Obama Administration Wants Guns Off Public Land

The United States Department of the Interior has drafted new legislation that would potentially kick firearms enthusiasts off of millions of acres of public lands in order to keep them from “freaking out” urbanites who like to use the land for hiking and dog walking.

According to an article written by Paul Bedard for Washington Whispers, if the Interior Department is successful, large portions of the 245 million acres of public lands controlled by the Bureau of Land Management will likely be off-limits for hunting and target practice. The biggest impact of the laws will be to tracts of land situated in the West.

“It’s not so much a safety issue. It’s a social conflict issue,” said Frank Jenks, a natural resource specialist with the Bureau.

The draft regulations raise concerns about how shooting can cause a “public disturbance,” and also say that shooters can hurt plants and litter public lands.

According to the article, Land Management officers will be assigned the task of assessing areas where hunting or target practice often take place to determine if the area is being misused or if other users of the land are being annoyed by the presence of firearms.

The Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, which represents many organizations that promote hunting and gun sports, is fighting the new rules and has worked to draft a counterproposal to the rules.

Those fighting the rules note that shooters bring fewer accidents and less destruction to public land than other recreationists such as ATV riders.

Since this story first broke, the Interior Department has been under heavy pressure from gun owners to ensure that public lands remain for shooting sports.

A Department official said yesterday that the agency supports shooters and has a goal of keeping most of the land available to them, though some areas closer to homes will be made off limits.

Organization Reports Antibiotic Overuse, Warns Of Consequences

New research indicates that people throughout the United States—especially in the Southeast— heavily overuse antibiotic drugs, which may accelerate the rate at which the drugs become useless as bacteria develop resistance to the medications.

The research, conducted by Extending the Cure, found that between 1997 and 2007 the number of antibiotics prescribed on the whole actually fell by about 12 percent, but the number of people who misguidedly take too many rounds of antibiotics rose. The overconsumption of antibiotic drugs is “alarmingly” higher in the Southeast when compared to States in the Pacific Northwest, the research says.

Among States with the highest antibiotic use in the Nation are West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana and Alabama. Extending the Cure contends that the high usage rates stem from patients demanding antibiotics from their doctors for illnesses caused by viruses, like cold and flu, which are not eliminated by antibiotics.

According to the research, the consequences of antibiotic overuse create a destructive cycle. Antibiotic resistance among bacteria increases—the drugs are already about seven times less effective against E. coli—so doctors prescribe more powerful antibiotics. The cycle accelerates until the drugs, no matter how powerful, might ultimately become completely ineffective against the resistant “superbugs” that the World Health Organization says these pharmaceuticals will help to create.

U.S. Lawmakers Consider China-Like Internet Rules

Bills in both the House and the Senate designed to protect intellectual property online may actually represent a move toward Chinese-style internet censorship in the United States.

The Protect IP Act, in the Senate, and its House counterpart, the Stop Online Piracy Act, are both being backed by well-financed lobbies for the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Motion Picture Association of America, the American Federation of Musicians, the Directors Guild of America, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Screen Actors Guild. These organizations all argue that legislation is needed to curtail Internet piracy of copyrighted creative works including major motion pictures and music. 

Rebecca MacKinnon, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and a founder of Global Voices Online, sees the legislation differently, as she explains in a recent editorial in The New York Times: “ The potential for abuse of power through digital networks — upon which we as citizens now depend for nearly everything, including our politics — is one of the most insidious threats to democracy in the Internet age. We live in a time of tremendous political polarization. Public trust in both government and corporations is low, and deservedly so. This is no time for politicians and industry lobbyists in Washington to be devising new Internet censorship mechanisms, adding new opportunities for abuse of corporate and government power over online speech.”

Some features of the legislation would ultimately make companies liable for user copyright infringements taking place on their websites thereby creating a system that, much like Chinese corporate “self-discipline,” gives website operators incentive to be very strict about the information they allow to be published on their venues.

Suspect Named In White House Shooting

Secret Service officials, investigating an incident of gunshots at the White House, say they have located two bullets and have a suspect in the case.

Last Friday, a round believed to be fired from an AK-47 struck a window at the White House, but authorities say it was stopped by bullet-proof glass.

Police say that a suspect, 21-year-old Oscar Ramiro Ortega, has been identified by a car and the rifle that he abandoned near the Presidential home. ABC News  reported that Ortega has a criminal record that includes domestic violence and drug charges. Authorities believe that Ortega may have been associated with the Occupy DC protest camp, and have since searched the area several times.

The United States Park Police have issued a warrant for Ortega’s arrest and have published a wanted person report on their website that displays photos of the suspect, including one that shows a tattoo on his neck that reads “Israel.” Law enforcement entities throughout the country are searching for the suspect, and there is some speculation that he may intend to try to harm the President.