November 23rd, 2010
CR Editor's Note: Now things get "Really" interesting for the Supreme leader. Lacking any true public support, "certain things" in past disdained, will now bob to the surface like a bloated corpse.
By Andrew Malcom
President Obama has passed the Big 4-0 -- going the wrong way.
Turns out voters were not simply satisfied to spank the Democrat and his party in the Nov. 2 midterm elections with historic losses in the House of Representatives.
Obama's job approval rating as calculated by the Zogby Poll has now sunk to 39%, a new low for his 22-month presidency that began with so much hope and excitement and poll numbers up around 70. As recently as Sept. 20, his job approval was 49%.
A whopping 60% now disapprove of his job, up from 51% disapproval Sept. 20.
Obama now trails in hypothetical 2012 matchups against Republicans Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and the next Bush, Jeb.
And, oh, my! Lookee here! Obama has even fallen into a statistical tie with none other than Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor. How embarrassing that is because other polls have shown a majority of Americans believe she is unqualified for the presidency. So it appears many have now decided, on second thought, Obama looks that way too.
Obama began losing the support of independents in the summer of 2009, as he responded to polls showing voter concerns focused on the economy by staging 59 town hall meetings on healthcare. Independents were a crucial part of his coalition win in 2008 but have now dwindled to 39%.
Only 6% of Republicans, not surprisingly, approve of Obama's job performance. But younger voters, also crucial in the ex-state senator's convincing defeat of John McCain, now approve by only 42%.
Nearly 7 in 10 likely voters say the country is on the wrong track, rarely a good sign for incumbents.
But, Zogby notes, perhaps most ominous for the president is that he's now losing support among his own party people. His approval plopped nearly 10% in just one week, from 78% down to 72% in Zogby's latest read.
Obama, John Zogby writes, "is failing to please more than one-fourth of his own party’s voters. This is a perilous position for the President.
"Conventional wisdom calls for him to reach for the center and assume that Democrats will stay with him in 2012. But as we saw in the mid-terms, Democrats can't win without strong turnout from the young and minorities, both of which are demographics that need more motivation than others to vote."
Former governor Romney fares the best against Obama (44-38%), then comes Gingrich (43%-39%), then another former governor, Jeb Bush (40%-38%), who says he is not running. Palin ties (40%-41%). Obama does, however, destroy developer Donald Trump (39%-29%) and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (32%-13%). (A separate Quinnipiac Poll Monday found Obama in dead heats with either Romney or former Gov. Mike Huckabee.)
-- Andrew Malcolm
Photos: Chile Navy via Associated Press; Larry Downing / Reuters.
November 23rd, 2010
Lawmakers also launched a new petition to bring a debate on the president's impeachment, conservative newspapers reported Monday.
The reports of challenges to Mr. Ahmadinejad were intended as retorts to a powerful body of clerics that urged Mr. Khamenei to curb the parliament's authority and give greater clout to the president.
In a report released Sunday and discussed in parliament Monday, four prominent lawmakers laid out the most extensive public criticism of Mr. Ahmadinejad to date.
They accused him and his government of 14 counts of violating the law, often by acting without the approval of the legislature. Charges include illegally importing gasoline and oil, failing to provide budgetary transparency and withdrawing millions of dollars from Iran's foreign reserve fund without getting parliament's approval.
"The president and his cabinet must be held accountable in front of the parliament," the report stated. "A lack of transparency and the accumulation of legal violations by the government is harming the regime."
The moves against Mr. Ahmadinejad come as the regime faces domestic pressure over his plans to gradually eliminate subsidies for fuel, food and utilities from an economy strained by a string of international sanctions over Tehran's controversial nuclear program.
Authorities have tightened security and arrested members of the opposition to prevent riots and uprisings in response to the subsidy cuts, which economists say will drive up inflation.
In opposition to the conservative lawmakers are Iran's ultraconservatives—led by Mr. Khamenei, who has final say in all state matters—who have increasingly backed the president when he carries out policy without parliamentary approval.
Mr. Ahmadinejad hails from this ultraconservative camp, which has largely supported populist economic policies and taken a defiant stance abroad, as opposed to mainstream conservatives' more pragmatic approach.
Conservative newspapers reported on Monday that lawmakers have started a motion to collect the 74 signatures needed to openly debate impeachment. Mousa Reza Servati, the head of the parliament's budgetary committee, was quoted as saying 40 lawmakers, including Mr. Servati, have signed the motion.
A President Accused | Lawmakers' allegations against Ahmadinejad
- Withdrawing $590 million from the Central Bank's foreign reserve fund without approval.
- Trading 76.5 million barrels of crude oil in exchange for gasoline imports in 2008 without approval.
- Illegally importing gasoline, oil and natural gas at a value of about $9 billion since 2007.
- Failing to provide transparency in budget spending and curbing parliamentary oversight.
- Failing to provide transparency about the source of money for the president's domestic travels and about the allocation of money in Iran's provinces.
- Failing to implement or notify ministries about 31 legislative items passed by the parliament in 2010.
Iran's Islamic Consultative Assembly
The move to remove the president from office marks the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic that parliament has discussed impeachment of a president. Though the legislature is backed by the Iranian constitution, lawmakers can't drive Mr. Ahmadinejad from office without the supreme leader's agreement.
One issue on which both camps are broadly united is in supporting Iran's right to proceed with its nuclear program against the objections of the international community.
Mr. Ahmadinejad is likely to continue positioning himself on the international stage as the defiant voice of Iran's leadership as Tehran eyes a new round of nuclear talks, proposed for Dec. 5.
The conservative camp also closed ranks behind Mr. Ahmadinejad after the turbulent 2009 presidential election and its violent aftermath—setting aside differences to support the regime. But a considerable portion of highly influential members of the conservative bloc, such as speaker of the parliament Ali Larijani, appear to have begun to view Mr. Ahmadinejad as a liability.
U.S. officials on Monday said they're watching the political clashes in Tehran and believe they've fueled, in part, by sanctions imposed by Washington, the United Nations and the European Union since June. The Obama administration has hoped that these tensions could lead Tehran to return to negotiation aimed at containing its nuclear program, something, so far, it hasn't decided to do.
"There are clear rivalries within the Iranian government and multiple camps around Ahmadinejad, Larijani and others," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. "Those tensions have certainly been exacerbated as Iran feels more pressure from sanctions and political isolation."
Still, because rival political forces inside Iran, particularly those concentrated around Mr. Larijani, are also supportive of Iran's nuclear work, is unclear how much Iran's foreign policy would change if Mr. Ahmadinejad exits the scene, U.S. officials said.
On websites and blogs, the primary outlet for Iran's opposition, Iranians urged parliament not to give in to Mr. Khamenei's orders and, as one blogger wrote, "act independently for the good of the public."
On Saturday, the Guardian Council, the appointed body of ultraconservative clerics that oversees legislation and acts as a mediator between the government and the parliament, said a "mediating committee" that included council members recommended Mr. Khamenei curb the powers of the parliament.
The remarks infuriated lawmakers, who said they had made no such recommendation, leading to a heated open debate on the parliament floor on Monday.
Some of Mr. Ahmadinejad's alleged violations included withdrawing $590 million from the Central Bank's foreign reserve fund, trading 76.5 million barrels of crude oil in exchange for importing gasoline in 2008, and illegal imports of gasoline, oil and natural gas since 2007 at a value of about $9 billion.
Mr. Ahmadinejad has had an uneasy relationship with parliament since his election in 2006, but the differences escalated in his second term, when lawmakers refused to approve eight of his cabinet nominees.
Mr. Khamenei intervened, asking parliament members to compromise. In the end only three cabinet choices were refused. The parliament also fought Mr. Ahmadinejad for a year over his economic plan and the subsidy cuts. Mr. Ahmadinejad finally wrote a letter to Mr. Khamenei complaining that the parliament was acting as an obstacle for his administration.
More in World from WSJ
—Jay Solomon contributed to this article.
Write to Farnaz Fassihi at email@example.com
November 23rd, 2010
UK Daily Mail
Furious security staff have hit back at pat down searches in place across America, claiming that they hated dealing with obese travellers and those with personal hygiene problems.
There has already been a angry passenger backlash against the measures introduced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
But after being contacted by a travel blog, 17 staff have also expressed their disgust after the policy was put in place last month.
The staff said that they hated having to carry out the body searches, with one claiming that it was worse for him than the passenger.
A traveller undergoes an enhanced pat down by a Transportation Security Administration agent: Staff have said that they also find the searches unpleasant
Rush: Passengers move through a main security checkpoint at the Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado
'It is not comfortable to come to work knowing full well that my hands will be feeling another man’s private parts, their butt, their inner thigh,' one told the BoardingArea blog.
'Even worse is having to try and feel inside the flab rolls of obese passengers and we seem to get a lot of obese passengers!'
Another said he had a huge problem dealing with a 'large number of passengers... daily that have a problem understanding what personal hygieneFur is.'
All the staff said that they had experienced a high level of personal abuse while carrying out the pat-downs.
'Being a TSO means often being verbally abused, you let the comments roll off and check the next person,' one said.
'However, when a woman refuses the scanner then comes to me and tells me that she feels like I am molesting her, that is beyond verbal abuse.
'I asked the woman if she thought I like touching other women all day and she told me that I probably did or I wouldn’t be with the TSA.
'I just want to tell these people that I feel disgusted feeling other peoples private parts, but I cannot because I am a professional.'
Angry passengers have subjected TSA officers to verbal abuse and even physical threats.
The American Federation of Government Employee, the union which represents officers, said a TSO was punched by a passenger in Indianapolis.
Union President John Gage called for more information on the searches including leaflets for passengers.
He said: 'TSA must act now — before the Thanksgiving rush — to ensure that TSOs are not being left to fend for themselves.'
Up to two million passengers per day are expected to fly today and tomorrow ahead of Thanksgiving, with huge delays expected.
Huge queues: Passengers move in line for the checks at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta
Meanwhile, one patient traveller has proved it is possible to bypass the high-level security measures in place at all airports, but only if you have time on your hands.
Blogger Matt Kernan recorded his epic experience as he returned to North Kentucky International Airport in Cincinnati from Paris on Sunday.
Exasperated at being told to prepare for a body scan and with time on his hands, the determined businessman decided to make a stand - with remarkable results.
Writing on his website noblasters.com, he said: 'I certainly don’t enjoy being treated like a terrorist in my own country, but I’m also not a die-hard constitutional rights advocate.
'However, for some reason, I was irked.'
'Maybe it was the video of the three-year old getting molested, maybe it was the sexual assault victim having to cry her way through getting groped, maybe it was the father watching teenage TSA officers joke about his attractive daughter.
'Whatever it was, this issue didn’t sit right with me. We shouldn’t be required to do this simply to get into our own country.'
As a result, Mr Kernan informed staff he did not want to go through the infamous Backscatter imaging machine.
He was told he would have to undergo an invasive pat-down search, but again politely told staff that he would consider any contact with his genital areas as assault.
After being told that the two options were TSA policy, he replied: ' I disagree with the policy, and I think that it is unconstitutional.
No exemptions: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa goes through an Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) full-body scanner at the city's airport
'As a US citizen, I have the right to move freely within my country as long as I can demonstrate proof of citizenship and have demonstrated no reasonable cause to be detained.'
As the situation escalated further airport police were called and more senior TSA officials but Mr Kernan refused to back down, remaining calm throughout.
Eventually causing a stand-off between police and TSA officers over who should resolve the situation, Mr Kernan was told by a superviser: 'Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to escort you out of the terminal to the public area.
'You are to stay with me at all times. Do you understand?'
He was then escorted by the police and no less than 13 TSA officer through security without a hand laid on him.
He said: 'And then came the most ridiculous scene of which I’ve ever been a part.
'I gather my things – jacket, scarf, hat, briefcase, chocolates.
'We walk over to the staff entrance and he scans his badge to let me through. We walk down the long hallway that led back to the baggage claim area. We skip the escalators and moving walkways.'
He was then waved away by annoyed officers and said: 'In order to enter the US, I was never touched, I was never “Backscatted,” and I was never metal detected.
'In the end, it took 2.5 hours, but I proved that it is possible. I’m looking forward to my next flight on Wednesday.'
THE INCIDENTS FUELLING THE OUTCRY
A flight attendant and cancer survivor revealed her horror at being forced to show her prosthetic breast to a security agent during a pat-down at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Cathy Bossi said two female Charlotte TSA agents subjected her to what Ms Bossi described as an aggressive pat down.
She said they stopped when they got around to feeling her right breast - the one she had lost through her illness.
She was then apparently asked to remove the prosthetic breast from her bra and show it to the TSA agents.
'There are blowers and there are dogs out there that can sniff out bombs', she said. 'There's no reason to have somebody's hands touching your body parts.'
Another woman is also comparing her experience at Lambert Airport in St. Louis to being sexually assaulted.
Penny Moroney was flying home to Chicago when while going through security, the metal in her artificial knees set off the detectors.
She had to undergo more screening because of the alarm going off and when Ms Moroney asked if she could go through a body scanner she was told none were available.
The only alternative offered to Ms Moroney was a pat-down which she said she found a horrific experience.
'Her gloved hands touched my breasts... went between them. Then she went into the top of my slacks, inserted her hands between my underwear and my skin... then put her hands up on the outside of my slacks, and patted my genitals', Ms Moroney explained.
Patdown search: Mandy Simon
'I was shaking and crying when I left that room. Under any other circumstance, if a person touched me like that without my permission, it would be considered criminal sexual assault.'
And in a third incident security footage showed three-year-old Mandy Simon sobbing and pleading with staff to 'Stop touching me' as she searched in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
She had become upset after her teddy bear was put through an X-ray machine.
Bladder cancer survivor Thomas Sawyer, 61, was left 'humiliated' after a pat-down search burst his urostomy bag leaving him covered in his own urine.
He said: 'I am totally appalled by the fact that agents that are performing these pat-downs have so little concern for people with medical conditions.'
The incident occurred on November 7 at Detroit Metropolitan Airport and Mr Sawyer claims staff ignored his pleas about the bag.
However at San Diego Airport on Friday, Samuel Wolanyk stripped down to his underwear rather than walk through a body imaging machine.
He refused to put his clothes back and was arrested for not allowing security officials to search him
November 23rd, 2010
Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- In a sharp escalation of hostility along their disputed sea border, North Korean and South Korean forces traded fire Tuesday, a deadly skirmish that jacked up diplomatic tensions in a volatile region.
Two South Korean marines were killed and 15 South Korean soldiers and civilians were wounded when the North fired about 100 rounds of artillery at Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea, South Korea authorities said, according to the South Korean Yonhap news agency.
South Korea's military responded with more than 80 rounds of artillery and deployed fighter jets to counter the fire, defense officials said.
Firing between the two sides lasted for about an hour in the Yellow Sea, a longstanding flashpoint between the two Koreas. In March, a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, was sunk in the area with the loss of 46 lives in a suspected North Korean torpedo attack.
"Restraint should be exercised on both sides," said Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. special envoy on North Korean denuclearization. He was in Beijing to discuss nuclear matters and spoke to reporters.
This latest action occurred during South Korean maritime military drills.
In Seoul, the South Korea government swiftly denounced the action as an "indisputable armed provocation against the Republic of Korea. Making matters worse, it even indiscriminately fired against civilians. Such actions will never be tolerated."
In its statement, the South Korean government said it "immediately and strongly responded to the provocation in accordance with the rules of engagement" and will retaliate against any additional acts of provocation in a resolute manner."
After the incident, Yonhap news agency in South Kore said the Seoul government "banned its nationals from entering the communist state, indefinitely postponed their scheduled Red Cross talks and began looking at ways to push the United Nations to condemn Pyongyang."
North Korea, meanwhile, said the incident stemmed from South Korean military drills, codenamed Hoguk, exercises that Pyongyang calls "war maneuvers for a war of aggression."
The "South Korean puppet group" engaged in "reckless military provocation" by firing "dozens of shells" inside its territorial waters "despite the repeated warnings of the DPRK" or Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's military said in a statement.
"The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK standing guard over the inviolable territorial waters of the country took such decisive military step as reacting to the military provocation of the puppet group with a prompt powerful physical strike," the statement said.
"It is a traditional mode of counter-action of the army of the DPRK to counter the firing of the provocateurs with merciless strikes," said the statement, which warned that it "will unhesitatingly continue taking merciless military counter-actions against it" if the border is crossed.
This incident comes after a U.S. scientist reported that North Korea has a new uranium enrichment facility. North Korean officials said the facility is operating and producing low-enriched uranium, according to Stanford University professor Siegfried S. Hecker.
The enrichment facility contains 2,000 centrifuges and appears to be designed for nuclear power production, "not to boost North Korea's military capability," Hecker says.
But U.S. and South Korean diplomats said the latest relevation confirms the country's long-term deceit.
Sanctions have been progressively placed on North Korea in response to a succession of nuclear and missile tests and the sinking of the South Korean warship in March.
The United States said it would not dismiss restarting six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing the North. However, it said it would not return to negotiations unless North Korea showed good faith.
Countries that had been negotiating with North Korea over its nuclear program issued swift reaction.
The United States "strongly" condemned North Korea's action, and a U.S. Defense Department official told CNN that the "hope is that this is just one isolated incident, not an escalation into a different military posture" by the North.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China had "taken note of relevant reports" and expressed its "concern." "Relevant facts need to be verified and we hope both parties make more contributions to the stability of the peninsula," he said.
Russia's Interfax news agency said Russia condemned North Korea's artillery shelling and said "those who initiated the attack on a South Korean island in the northern part of the inter-Korean maritime border line assumed enormous responsibility."
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan's cabinet held a ministerial meeting and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku announced a government statement condemning North Korea and calling the act "unpardonable."
"This provocation by North Korea compromises the peace and security of not only South Korea, but also the entire region of North East Asia, including Japan. Japan demands North Korea to stop such action immediately," the statement said.
Asked whether the violence in the Yellow Sea would make resumption of six-party talks more difficult, Bosworth said, it's never been easy to reconvene the talks.
Yeonpyeong island is part of a small archipelago about 80 kilometers [49 miles] west of the South Korean port of Inchon, which serves Seoul, and is close to the tense Northern Limit Line, the maritime border between the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea.
North Korean artillery is extremely difficult to hit, because it is dug into coastal cliffs. Though the North has tested its artillery -- and tested anti-shipping missiles -- it has not fired artillery into South Korean territory in recent years. One of North Korea's most potent threats is artillery dug in along its demilitarized zone with South Korea and ranged on Seoul.
While the reason for the attack was in dispute, one North Korea watcher said the incident stems from the nuclear issue..
Choi Jin-wook, senior researcher at the Korea Institute of National Unification, said Pyongyang is "frustrated with Washington's response to their uranium program and they think that Washington has almost given up on negotiations with North Korea."
"I think they realize they can't expect anything from Washington or Seoul for several months, so I think they made the provocation."
"I definitely think this is centrally directed from Pyongyang. This can't be done without orders from Pyongyang," he added.
Meanwhile, with national leader Kim Jong Il apparently in ailing health, his son Kim Jong Un is being raised to prominence in the isolated state, in what pundits see as a succession process.
Journalist Andrew Salmon and CNN's Steven Jiang and Yoko Wakatsuki, contributed to this report.
November 22nd, 2010
Just make sure not to do something that might make Facebook angry. Otherwise it might nuke every link to your site, choking off this river of traffic that you’ve worked so hard to build.
That’s the message Facebook sent today with its censorship of links to Lamebook, a humor site that posts lewd conversations spotted on the social network. Facebook has confirmed that it is automatically blocking all links to Lamebook and that it has also removed the company’s ‘Fan’ page. Not because the content was offensive, mind you, but because Facebook doesn’t like Lamebook.
Update: Facebook CTO Bret Taylor has written this statement, explaining that this was a mistake. Note that this story originally broke this morning and I’ve been in contact with Facebook most of the afternoon, so this clearly wasn’t just a bug:
This was a mistake on our part. In the process of dealing with a routine trademark violation issue regarding some links posted to Facebook, we blocked all mentions of the phrase “lamebook” on Facebook. We are committed to promoting free expression on Facebook. We apologize for our mistake in this case, and we are working to fix the process that led to this happening.
The move was precipitated by a legal battle between the two companies. Lamebook filed for a declaratory judgement earlier this month that would assert that it is not violating Facebook’s trademark (the two parties have apparently been in negotiations over this for some time). Unsurprisingly, Facebook followed that up with a suit alleging that Lamebook violated its trademark.
Okay, so Facebook doesn’t like Lamebook’s name. I don’t agree with Facebook’s stance, but fair enough — it isn’t the first big company that’s overzealous when it comes to protecting its trademark. But by blocking Lamebook’s content, Facebook is crossing a line.
Not only is it currently impossible to share a Lamebook link to your News Feed or a friend’s Facebook Wall — you can’t even include them as part of a direct message or email to friends (you get an error message indicating that it’s “abusive or spammy”, which isn’t even accurate). That’s completely outrageous, and it’s a warning flag that comes only a few days after Facebook announced a new hybrid email/IM/SMS product. Do you really want someone to be censoring your outbound email?
One reason why Google has done so well is that people trust it. If you sue Google, it isn’t going to threaten to delist your company from its search index. Likewise, Facebook needs to keep its distance from the content its users are sharing. No, it won’t be getting rid of its terms any time soon, which forbid content that is “hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” But there’s a difference between blocking content as a matter of principle and doing it to deter companies from suing you. This is setting a disturbing precedent.
I reached out to Facebook to ask if there was any reason beyond the trademark claim that drove its decision to block Lamebook — maybe there’s something else going on here that would make their decision seem slightly less Orwellian. I also asked if Facebook has previously blocked content to other sites it had a legal dispute with.
A Facebook spokesman said he was unable to answer those questions. He did, however, give me the following statement, which is similar to what Facebook has said before about the issue:
We’re disappointed that after months of working with Lamebook they turned to litigation. We believe their website is an improper attempt to trade off of Facebook’s popularity and fame and we will continue to protect our brand and trademark. As I told Robin earlier, our terms prohibit posting of material or other activities on Facebook that infringe the rights of others. We reserve the right to pull down any content we believe is infringing. That includes linking to material we believe to be infringing. We also specifically prohibit use of any Facebook or confusingly similar marks (See SRR Sec. 5.1, 5.2 & 5.6 http://www.facebook.com/terms.php).
Update: It looks like Lamebook links are working again as of around 6:00 PM PST. I’ve asked Facebook if they’ve changed their decision or if this is simply a bug.
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