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.