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Oct 6, 2011


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Last time we had this much mess was in 1930s. WhenRoosevelttook office, 13,000,000 were unemployed, a huge number considering U.S. population at that point. He beat incumbent Herbert Hoover in the middle of great depression. He is often voted as the most liberal president in U.S. history. His "new deal" for economic recovery looked radical, but worked, until it was gradually shed off by step-by-step counter legislation.

Photo of Franklin D. Roosevelt

Please refer to article "Franklin D. Roosevelt" on It states: "Assuming the Presidency at the depth of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt helped the American people regain faith in themselves." "Born in 1882 at Hyde Park, New York--now a national historic site--he attended Harvard University and Columbia Law School." "Following the example of his fifth cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt, whom he greatly admired, Franklin D. Roosevelt entered public service through politics, but as a Democrat." "In the summer of 1921, when he was 39, disaster hit-he was stricken with poliomyelitis." "He was elected President in November 1932, to the first of four terms." "By 1935 the Nation had achieved some measure of recovery, but businessmen and bankers were turning more and more against Roosevelt's New Deal program." "In 1936 he was re-elected by a top-heavy margin." "Roosevelt had pledged the United States to the "good neighbor" policy," "When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt directed organization of the Nation's manpower and resources for global war. "Feeling that the future peace of the world would depend upon relations between the United States and Russia, he devoted much thought to the planning of a United Nations, in which, he hoped, international difficulties could be settled." As the war drew to a close, Roosevelt's health deteriorated, and on April 12, 1945, while at Warm Springs, Georgia, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage." Please, read the article "Franklin D. Roosevelt" on Wikipedia. It mentions: "Franklin Delano Roosevelt (play /ˈroʊzəvɛlt/ roh-zə-vɛlt or play /ˈroʊzəvəlt/ roh-zə-vəlt; January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945), also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States (1933–1945) and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century." "In his "first hundred days" in office, which began March 4, 1933, Roosevelt spearheaded major legislation and issued a profusion of executive orders that instituted the New Deal—a variety of programs designed to produce relief (government jobs for the unemployed), recovery (economic growth), and reform (through regulation of Wall Street, banks and transportation)." "As World War II loomed after 1938, with the Japanese invasion of China and the aggressions of Nazi Germany, FDR gave strong diplomatic and financial support to China and Britain, while remaining officially neutral." "Roosevelt dominated the American political scene, not only during the twelve years of his presidency, but for decades afterward." "Roosevelt is an Anglicized form of the Dutch surname 'Van Rosevelt,' or 'Van Rosenvelt', meaning 'from field of roses.'" "One of the oldest families in New York State, the Roosevelts distinguished themselves in areas other than politics." "Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882, in the Hudson Valley town of Hyde Park, New York. His father, James Roosevelt, and his mother, Sara Ann Delano, were sixth cousins"

Sample of the Inaugural speech from FDR

"Roosevelt grew up in an atmosphere of privilege." "Roosevelt attended Groton School, an Episcopal boarding school in Massachusetts; ninety percent of the students were from families on the social register." "Roosevelt entered Columbia Law School in 1904, but dropped out in 1907 after he passed the New York State Bar exam." "On March 17, 1905, Roosevelt married Eleanor despite the fierce resistance of his mother." "Although Eleanor had an aversion to mating, and considered it "an ordeal to be endured"; they had six children, the first four in rapid succession: Anna Eleanor (1906–1975; age 69) James (1907–1991; age 83) Franklin Delano, Jr. (March 18, 1909 – November 7, 1909) Elliott (1910–1990; age 80) a second Franklin Delano, Jr. (1914–1988; age 74) John Aspinwall (1916–1981; age 65)." "Roosevelt allegedly had affairs outside his marriage, including one with Eleanor's social secretary Lucy Mercer which began soon after she was hired in early 1914." "Roosevelt allegedly had affairs outside his marriage, including one with Eleanor's social secretary Lucy Mercer which began soon after she was hired in early 1914." "Roosevelt's dog, Fala, also became well known as Roosevelt's companion during his time in the White House, and was called the "most photographed dog in the world."" "In the State election of 1910, Roosevelt ran for the New York State Senate from the district around Hyde Park in Dutchess County, which had not elected a Democrat since 1884." "Franklin D. Roosevelt was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by Woodrow Wilson in 1913 and served under Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels." "In 1914, Roosevelt made an ill-conceived decision to run for the U.S. Senate seat for New York." "In March 1917, after Germany initiated its submarine warfare campaign, Roosevelt asked Wilson for permission, which was denied, to fit the naval fleet out for war." "During these war years, Roosevelt acted to make peace with the Tammany Hall forces, and in 1918 the group actually supported others in an unsuccessful attempt to convince him to run for governor of New York." "The 1920 Democratic National Convention chose Roosevelt by acclamation as the candidate for Vice President of the United States." "In August 1921, while the Roosevelts were vacationing at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada, Roosevelt contracted an illness diagnosed then as polio which resulted in permanent paralysis from the waist down; this diagnosis has since been questioned." "Roosevelt's "First 100 Days" concentrated on the first part of his strategy: immediate relief." "Relief measures included the continuation of Hoover's major relief program for the unemployed under the new name, Federal Emergency Relief Administration." "Reform of the economy was the goal of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of 1933." "Recovery was pursued through "pump-priming" (that is, federal spending)." "Executive Order 6102 made all privately held gold of American citizens property of the U.S. Treasury." "Roosevelt tried to keep his campaign promise by cutting the federal budget, including a reduction in military spending from $752 million in 1932 to $531 million in 1934 and a 40% cuts in spending on veterans' benefits."

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Posted: Oct 6, 2011 2:57pm
May 13, 2011

LAKE PROVIDENCE, La. – In an agonizing trade-off, Army engineers said they will open a key spillway along the bulging Mississippi River as early as Saturday and inundate thousands of homes and farms in Louisiana's Cajun country to avert a potentially bigger disaster in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

About 25,000 people and 11,000 structures could be in harm's way when the gates on the Morganza spillway are unlocked for the first time in 38 years.

Opening the spillway will release a torrent that could submerge about 3,000 square miles under as much as 25 feet of water but take the pressure off the downstream levees protecting New Orleans, Baton Rouge and the numerous oil refineries and chemical plants along the lower reaches of the Mississippi.

Engineers feared that weeks of pressure on the levees could cause them to fail, swamping New Orleans under as much as 20 feet of water in a disaster that would have been much worse than Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Instead, the water will flow 20 miles south into the Atchafalaya River. From there it will roll on to the Gulf of Mexico, flooding swamps and croplands. Morgan City, an oil-and-seafood hub and a community of 12,000, shored up levees as a precaution.

The corps said it will open the gates when the river's flow rate reaches a certain point, expected Saturday. But some people living in the threatened stretch of countryside — an area known for small farms, fish camps and a drawling French dialect — have already started fleeing for higher ground.

Sheriffs and National Guardsmen will warn people in a door-to-door sweep through the area, Gov. Bobby Jindal said. Shelters are ready to accept up to 4,800 evacuees, the governor said.

"Now's the time to evacuate," Jindal said. "Now's the time for our people to execute their plans. That water's coming."

The Army Corps of Engineers employed a similar cities-first strategy earlier this month when it blew up a levee in Missouri — inundating an estimated 200 square miles of farmland and damaging or destroying about 100 homes — to take the pressure off the levees protecting the town of Cairo, Ill., population 2,800.

With crop prices soaring, farmers along the lower Mississippi had been expecting a big year. But now many are facing ruin, with floodwaters swallowing up corn, cotton, rice and soybean fields.

In far northeastern Louisiana, where Tap Parker and about 50 other farmers filled and stacked massive sandbags along an old levee to no avail. The Mississippi flowed over the top Thursday, and nearly 19 square miles of soybeans and corn, known in the industry as "green gold," was lost.

"This was supposed to be our good year. We had a chance to really catch up. Now we're scrambling to break even," said Parker, who has been farming since 1985.

Cotton prices are up 86 percent from a year ago, and corn — which is feed for livestock, a major ingredient in cereals and soft drinks, and the raw material used to produce ethanol — is up 80 percent. Soybeans have risen 39 percent. The increase is attributed, in part, to worldwide demand, crop-damaging weather elsewhere and rising production of ethanol.

While the Mississippi River flooding has not had any immediate impact on prices in the supermarket, the long-term effects are still unknown. A full damage assessment can't be made until the water has receded in many places.

Some of the estimates have been dire, though.

More than 1,500 square miles of farmland in Arkansas, which produces about half of the nation's rice, have been swamped over the past few weeks. In Missouri, where a levee was intentionally blown open to ease the flood threat in the town of Cairo, Ill., more than 200 square miles of croplands were submerged, damage that will probably exceed $100 million. More than 2,100 square miles could flood in Mississippi.

When the water level goes down — and that could take many weeks in some places — farmers can expect to find the soil washed away or their fields covered with sand. Some will probably replant on the soggy soil, but they will be behind their normal growing schedule, which could hurt yields.

Many farmers have crop insurance, but it won't be enough to cover their losses. And it won't even come close to what they could have expected with a bumper crop.

"I might get enough money from insurance to take us to a movie, but it better be dollar night," said Karsten Simrall, who lives in Redwood, Miss.

Simrall's family has farmed the low-lying fields in Redwood for five generations and has been fighting floods for years, but it's never been this bad. And the river is not expected to crest here until around Tuesday.

"How the hell do you recoup all these losses?" he said. "You just wait. It's in God's hands."

The river's rise may also force the closing of the river to shipping, from Baton Rouge to the mouth of the Mississippi, as early as next week. That would cause grain barges from the heartland to stack up along with other commodities.

If the portion is closed, the U.S. economy could lose hundreds of millions of dollars a day. In 2008, a 100-mile stretch of the river was closed for six days after a tugboat collided with a tanker, spilling about 500,000 gallons of fuel. The Port of New Orleans estimated the shutdown cost the economy up to $275 million a day.


Mohr reported from Redwood, Miss. AP Agribusiness Writer Christopher Leonard contributed to this report.

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Posted: May 13, 2011 5:36pm
Apr 18, 2011

WASHINGTON – Standard & Poor's Ratings Service downgraded its outlook Monday on U.S. government debt, expressing unprecedented doubts over the ability of Washington to bring the massive federal budget deficits under control.

The agency lowered the long-term outlook to "Negative" from "Stable," saying there is a one in three chance the United States could lose its top investment rating on its debt in the next two years.

S&P said it has little confidence that the White House and Congress will agree on a deficit-reduction plan before the fall 2012 elections and doubts any plan would be in place until after 2014.

The government is on pace to run a record $1.5 trillion deficit this year, the third consecutive deficit exceeding $1 trillion. President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans are sparring over how to reduce the nation's red ink. Their differences over where to cut have put a crucial decision over raising the nation's debt limit in jeopardy.

"We see the path to agreement as challenging because the gap between the parties remains wide," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Nikola G. Swann.

Stocks plunged after the rating agency lowered its outlook The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 200 points in afternoon trading.

S&P reaffirmed its investment-grade credit ratings on the U.S. long- and short-term debt itself. But it said the U.S. government is in danger of losing the top ranking if it doesn't come up with a credible plan for reducing its debt.

The agency gives its top investment rating to just 19 of the 127 countries it analyzes. But it says Britain, France and Germany have moved much more quickly to contain deficits after the 2008 financial crisis and 2007-2009 recession — which cut tax revenues and forced governments to spend more on unemployment benefits, aid to the poor and bailouts of the banking system.

S&P said the U.S. has a fundamentally strong, diversified economy. Still, the agency noted that the U.S. deficit grew to 11 percent of gross domestic income in 2009. That is much higher than the 5 percent or less the country had averaged in the previous six years.

Obama and Republicans have each proposed plans that would cut $4 trillion from future deficits over the next 12 years.

The White House wants to reduce the deficit through spending cuts and by ending tax cuts for the wealthy enacted during the presidency of George W. Bush. Congressional Republicans oppose that approach, rejecting what they see as an increase in taxes. They seek instead to narrow the deficit largely by overhauling Medicare and cutting spending elsewhere.

Mary Miller, the assistant Treasury secretary for financial markets, said S&P "underestimates the ability of America's leaders to come together to address the difficult fiscal challenges facing the nation."

The president and Congress are working on ways to reduce budget deficits over the long term, she said.

The fight over the deficit and next year's budget is threatening the government's ability to borrow. Analysts say S&P is warning the two parties not to play politics with the debt ceiling.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Sunday that Republican leaders have privately assured the Obama administration that Congress will raise the government's borrowing limit in time to avoid an unprecedented default on the nation's debt.

But a top Republican quickly pushed back and said there was no guarantee the GOP would agree to increase the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling without further controls on federal spending.

Geithner has said that the government will hit its current limit no later than May 16. But Geithner said it will be able to avoid an unprecedented default on the national debt through various accounting maneuvers for possibly another two months.


AP Business Writers Janna Herron in New York and Jeannine Aversa in Washington contributed to this report.

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Posted: Apr 18, 2011 10:45am
Dec 12, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS – The inflatable roof of the Minnesota Vikings' stadium collapsed Sunday and roads were closed throughout the upper Midwest as a storm that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow in some areas crawled across the region.

A blizzard warning was in effect for parts of eastern Iowa, southeastern Wisconsin, northwestern Illinois, and northern Michigan, according to the National Weather Service. Surrounding areas including Chicago were under winter storm warnings.

The Metrodome's Teflon roof collapsed after Minneapolis got more than 17 inches of snow. No injuries were reported. The snowfall that ended Saturday night was one of the five biggest in Twin Cities history, National Weather Service meteorologist James McQuirter said. Some surrounding communities got more than 21 inches of snow, he said.

Interstate 90 from Albert Lea to the South Dakota border and state highways remained closed. Plows that had been pulled off the roads Saturday began work at 4 a.m. Sunday but were struggling with drifts as high as 5 feet, Minnesota Department of Transportation spokeswoman Rebecca Arndt said. Plow drivers also were hampered by a large number of stalled cars.

"Stalled vehicles slow them up more than big drifts," Arndt said.

Although roads were open in Wisconsin, state officials urged drivers to stay home because blowing snow severely limited visibility. Tod Pritchard, a spokesman for Wisconsin Emergency Management, said travel was expected to become even more difficult in the afternoon because temperatures were falling and at a certain point, road salt would no longer be effective.

"We're really urging everyone to stay off the roads today and stay hunkered down at home," Pritchard said.

The storm had already dropped up to 18 inches of snow in parts of northern and central Wisconsin, he said, and light snow continued Sunday morning.

Some 420 air travelers spent the night in Grand Forks, N.D., after four planes were diverted from Minneapolis, where the storm had closed all but one of that airport's runways. After a traction truck broke down on the one operational runway, planes circled the airport until they had to head to other regional airports for fuel.

Some passengers stayed at the airport, others got hotel rooms.

"It was chaotic, it was crazy completely. We were packed like sardines and we were shocked," passenger Leah Edmondson told WDAZ.

Three of the four planes had left Grand Forks by late Sunday morning.

The weather was an unexpected burden for one Minnesota man who had pledged to camp out on the roof of a coffee shop to help his daughter's school raise money.

Hospital executive Robert Stevens donned four layers of long underwear, heavy boots and a down coat before embarking on his quest Friday night. He vowed not to come down until he had raised $100,000 — but at about 3 p.m. Saturday, he decided to come down after high winds shredded his tent canopy and kept knocking over the hay bales protecting his tent.

But then on Sunday morning, Stevens was headed back up to brave the subzero wind-chills. He had only raised $54,000 and said if he didn't get to his goal the school would likely close.

"Mother Nature won out yesterday — but I'm looking for the win today," Stevens said.


Associated Press writer Dirk Lammers in Sioux Falls, S.D., contributed to this report

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Posted: Dec 12, 2010 11:54am
Nov 30, 2010

WASHINGTON – Heralding a new era of divided government, President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans pledged warily to seek common ground on tax cuts and reduced spending Tuesday in their first meeting since tumultuous midterm elections.

Obama also made a strong plea to Senate Republicans to permit ratification of a new arms control treaty with Russia by year's end, raising the issue first in a session in the White House's Roosevelt Room and then in a follow-up meeting without aides present, officials said.

No substantive agreements on essential year-end legislation emerged from the session, and none had been expected. Instead, the meeting was a classic capital blend of substance and style, offering a chance for Obama, House Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell to become more comfortable in one another's presence.

"The American people did not vote for gridlock. They didn't vote for unyielding partisanship. They're demanding cooperation and they're demanding progress," the president told reporters, referring to elections that gave the GOP control of the House and a stronger say in the Senate.

Back at the Capitol after the meeting, Boehner said, "I think that spending more time will help us find some common ground," and he credited Obama with opening the session by saying he had not reached out enough in the past to Republican leaders.

Even so, there was little or no attempt to minimize the differences that divided the parties during the election campaign, including a disagreement on legislation to extend Bush-era tax cuts due to expire at year's end.

"It is the view of 100 percent of Senate Republicans, and a number of Senate Democrats as well ... that we ought to treat all taxpayers the same," McConnell told reporters.

Obama and most Democrats, by contrast, want to extend existing tax cuts to all workers with family incomes under $250,000 but allow them to expire for those at higher levels.

In a sign of urgency, Obama and leaders of both parties appointed a small group to begin talks immediately on resolving the issue so lawmakers can approve a compromise before wrapping up their work.

One possible compromise is for Democrats to agree to extend the tax cuts for all, and for Republicans to drop their insistence that the lower tax rates be made permanent. An extension for a few years would allow both sides to claim victory while limiting the cost to the government at a time when deficit reduction is a major priority of both parties.

Officials said there was relatively little discussion of another major issue confronting lawmakers in the current postelection session, the need for a new spending bill so the government can run without interruption. Current spending authority expires on Dec. 3, and majority Democrats intend to extend that to Dec. 17.

The next steps are unclear, though, and a struggle is possible between Democrats who are about to lose their majority in the House, and Republicans who won the election with a call for significant spending cuts.

In addition, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said it was important for Congress to pass an extension of unemployment benefits before heading home, officials said, adding that Obama concurred.

The president has called repeatedly in recent days for the Senate to ratify the proposed new START treaty with Russia. In remarks to reporters, he called it essential for the national security and said it would permit the United States to "monitor Russia's nuclear arsenal, reduce our nuclear weapons and strengthen our relationship with Russia."

Ratification requires a two-thirds vote, meaning Republican support is essential. Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the GOP point man on the issue, said in the meeting that Democrats should quickly resolve the tax and spending issues to allow time for a debate on the treaty. Kyl did not say whether he intended to vote for or against the pact, according to officials.

He and other Republicans have been involved in intensive negotiations with administration officials and Senate Democrats over terms of accompanying legislation covering the modernization and security of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The treaty itself calls for destruction of hundreds of old nuclear weapons, relics of the Cold War, and a system for each country to verify the other has reduced its stockpile as promised.

The timetable Kyl laid out would leave little if any time for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to seek passage of other items on the Democratic list, including an end to the Pentagon's policy of discharging openly gay servicemen and servicewomen.

The sternest test for Obama and the congressional Republicans will come after the GOP takes power in the House in January and begins trying to follow through on its pledge to cut spending deeply, limit the scope of government and repeal the president's cherished health care legislation.

Both sides mentioned the obvious in post-meeting remarks to reporters.

"You know, there's a difference — we have Democrats — there's a reason why we have Democrats and Republicans. We believe in different things about the appropriate role of the federal government," said Boehner.

Obama put it this way: "We have two parties for a reason. There are real philosophical differences, deeply held principles to which each party holds."

Beneath the talk of possible cooperation, political maneuvering was evident from beginning to end.

Obama went from the meeting to an appearance with White House reporters, where he provided his account of what had happened, while Republicans rode back to the Capitol so they could offer their impressions.

And a day earlier, Obama announced he wanted lawmakers to impose a two-year pay freeze on roughly 2 million federal workers, leaving Republicans to grumble he had stolen one of their ideas without crediting them.

As for the Republicans, Boehner and McConnell greeted the president a few hours before their talks with an op-ed article in the Washington Post.

"Despite what some Democrats in Congress have suggested, voters did not signal they wanted more cooperation on the Democrats' big-government policies that most Americans oppose," they wrote.

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Posted: Nov 30, 2010 2:22pm
Nov 25, 2010

Hello dear C2 friends,

Here at "Build a new world", we had a late start because C2 would not let me post anything for a while. But now, as I have hopefully overcome those technical issues, I want all of you to get fired up and come back to propose, discuss and comment on 'global change for a good' ideas. I believe, we must utilize this great forum and opportunity, as much as we can.
Thank you for your participation.
Navaid I. Syed.
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Posted: Nov 25, 2010 8:38am
Nov 25, 2010

YEONPYEONG ISLAND, South Korea – South Korea's defense minister resigned Thursday amid intense criticism two days after a North Korean artillery attack killed four people on a small island near the Koreas' disputed frontier.

The move came as President Lee Myung-bak vowed to send more troops to the front-line South Korean island and as residents tried to salvage belongings from the blackened wreckage of their homes. Pyongyang warned of additional attacks if provoked.

Hours before Defense Minister Kim Tae-young's resignation, lawmakers had lashed out at the government, claiming officials were unprepared for Tuesday's attack and that the military response to the North's barrage was too slow. Even those in Lee's ruling party demanded Kim's dismissal as well as those of military leaders and some presidential aides.

Lee accepted Kim's resignation and a new defense chief will be announced Friday, presidential chief of staff Yim Tae-hee said.

Skirmishes between the Korean militaries are not uncommon, but North Korea's heavy bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island was the first on a civilian area, raising fears of an escalation that could lead to a new war on the Korean peninsula. South Korean troops had returned fire and scrambled fighter jets in response.

Seoul and Washington ratcheted up pressure on China to rein in its ally North Korea, and China on Thursday urged both sides to show restraint.

Reporters allowed for the first time onto the island found streets strewn with broken glass and charred debris. Blackened beer bottles lay beside what was left of a supermarket as coast guard officers patrolled in pairs past deserted offices and schools used by relief workers for meetings and meals.

Many residents fled as quickly as they could, but restaurant owner Lee In-ku, 46, joined a handful of villagers trying to salvage belongings from half-destroyed homes.

"It was a sea of fire," Lee said of Tuesday's attack. "Many houses were burning and many people were just running around in confusion. It was real chaos."

At an emergency meeting in Seoul on Thursday, President Lee ordered top-level weapons for troops manning the tense Yellow Sea, a presidential aide said.

"We should not ease our sense of crisis in preparation for the possibility of another provocation by North Korea," presidential spokesman Hong Sang-pyo quoted Lee as saying. "A provocation like this can recur any time."

Hong said South Korea will sharply raise the number of ground troops on Yeonpyeong and four other islands, reversing a 2006 decision to draw down forces. He declined to discuss specifics but said troops there currently are about 4,000.

He also said the military would change its rules of engagement to better counter North Korean provocations.

The defense minister's resignation came hours after he visited Yeonpyeong, home to military bases as well as a fishing community of 1,300 residents. It lies about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from South Korea's western port of Incheon, and just 7 miles (11 kilometers) from North Korean shores

Two marines and two civilians were killed in Tuesday's exchange, and at least 18 people — most of them troops — were wounded.

Marine Lt. Col. Joo Jong-wha acknowledged that the island is acutely short of artillery, saying it has only six pieces, the howitzers used in Tuesday's skirmish.

"In artillery, you're supposed to move on after firing to mask your location so that they don't strike right back at you. But we have too few artillery," he said on Yeonpyeong.

Military officials analyzing debris have not ruled out North Korea's use of thermobaric bombs, which burn more violently and increase casualties and property destruction, a Joint Chiefs of Staff official said. He asked not to be identified, saying he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The two Koreas are required to abide by an armistice signed at the close of their three-year war, but the North does not recognize the maritime line drawn by U.N. forces in 1953 and considers South Korean maneuvers near Yeonpyeong island a violation of its territory. South Korea was conducting firing drills, though not in North Korea's direction, when the North Korean artillery barrage came Tuesday.

The attack added to animosity from the March sinking of a South Korean warship in nearby waters that killed 46 sailors in the worst military attack on the nation since the Korean War.

The defense minister also offered to resign following that incident, but the president refused.

The shelling occurred as North Korea is undergoing a delicate transition of power from leader Kim Jong Il to his young son Kim Jong Un. The son, who is in late 20s, was made a four-star general and nominated to high-ranking Workers' Party posts in the first steps toward eventually succeeding his father.

North Korea's state news agency reported Monday, a day before the attack, that the elder Kim and the son and other key political and military figures visited duck and fish farms in an area about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the base where the artillery barrage was launched.

The attack alarmed world leaders, including President Barack Obama, who reaffirmed plans for joint maneuvers with Seoul involving a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea starting Sunday.

North Korea made no specific mention of those exercises but warned Thursday of "strong physical retaliations without hesitation if South Korean warmongers carry out reckless military provocations."

Pyongyang also said Washington was partly to blame for letting South Korea hold artillery drills that it said prompted the artillery barrage.

Washington "should thoroughly control South Korea," it said. The warning was issued by North Korea's military mission at the truce village of Panmunjom and carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration urged China to rein in ally North Korea.

"We really think it's important for the international community to lead, but in particular China," said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington.

South Korea said it will increase diplomatic efforts to get China, which supplied North Korea with troops during the Korean War and remains its main ally and biggest benefactor, to put pressure on Pyongyang.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called on all sides to show "maximum restraint" and called again for renewed six-nation talks aimed at persuading North Korea to dismantle its nuclear programs. Wen said those talks, involving the two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the United States, are the best way to ensure stability on the peninsula and its denuclearization.

In Seongnam just outside Seoul, military officers, family members and dignitaries mourned the two marines killed in the attack, laying flowers and burning incense at an altar. Funerals are to take place Saturday.

Former President Kim Young-sam used the occasion to criticize North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, saying he is "not a human," and said that a China that defends North Korea "can never be trusted," Yonhap said.


Kwang-tae Kim reported from Seoul. Kelly Olsen and Foster Klug in Seoul, and Matthew Lee in Washington, also contributed to this report.

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Posted: Nov 25, 2010 8:34am
Nov 21, 2010

DUBLIN – Debt-struck Ireland on Sunday formally appealed for a massive EU-IMF loan to stem the flight of capital from its banks, joining Greece in a step unthinkable only a few years ago when Ireland was a booming "Celtic tiger" and the economic envy of Europe.

European Union finance ministers quickly agreed to the bailout, saying it "is warranted to safeguard financial stability in the EU and euro area."

Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan spent much of the night talking to other finance chiefs across the 16-nation eurozone about the complex terms and conditions of the emergency aid package taking shape.

Lenihan said Ireland needed less than euro100 billion ($140 billion) to use as a credit line for its state-backed banks, which are losing deposits and struggling to borrow funds on open markets. The money will come from the EU's executive commission and a financial backstop set up by eurozone nations earlier this year. There may also be additional bilateral loans from countries outside the eurozone.

Ireland has been brought to the brink of bankruptcy by its fateful 2008 decision to insure its banks against all losses — a bill that is swelling beyond euro50 billion ($69 billion) and driving Ireland's deficit into uncharted territory.

This country of 4.5 million now faces at least four more years of deep budget cuts and tax hikes totaling at least euro15 billion ($20.5 billion) just to get its deficit — bloated this year to a European record of 32 percent of GDP — back to the eurozone's limit of 3 percent by 2014.

The European Central Bank and other eurozone members had been pressing behind the scenes for Ireland — long struggling to come to grips with the true scale of its banking losses — to accept a bailout that would reassure investors the country won't, and can't, go bankrupt. Those fears have been driving up the already inflated borrowing costs of several eurozone members, particularly Portugal and Spain, on bond markets.

Still, the rapid pace of Sunday's humiliating Irish U-turn surprised many analysts. More than 30 banking experts from the International Monetary Fund, ECB and European Commission had arrived in Dublin only three days before to begin poring over the books and projections of the government, treasury and banks, a mammoth task expected to take weeks.

But Lenihan said it was now painfully clear that Ireland couldn't go it alone any longer, and its cutthroat plans for recovery would require a major shot of "financial firepower" immediately.

Lenihan said Ireland was asking eurozone and IMF donors to loan money to a "contingency" fund from which Irish banks could borrow. He said the funds would "not necessarily" be used. He emphasized that the government's own operations are fully funded through mid-2011.

"Not all the money will go in (to the banks) at all. It's a standby fund," Lenihan told Irish state broadcasters RTE.

Ireland's move comes just six months after the EU and IMF organized a euro110 billion ($150 billion) bailout of Greece and declared a euro750 billion ($1.05 trillion) safety net for any other eurozone members facing the risk of imminent loan defaults. It demonstrates that creating the three-layered fund didn't, by itself, reassure global investors that it would be safe, or smart, to keep lending to the eurozone's weakest members.

The United Kingdom, the country with the most exposure to Ireland's banks, reiterated Sunday it was ready to help fund Ireland's loan facility. The U.K. Treasury said in a statement it was in "Britain's national interest" to revive Ireland's banks and that it would be "closely involved in discussions on the scale and type of assistance."

Ireland's precipitous fall has been tied to the fate of its overgrown banks, which received access to mountains of cheap money once Ireland joined the eurozone in 1999. The Dublin banks bet the bulk of its borrowed funds on rampant property markets in Ireland, Britain and the United States, a strategy that paid rich dividends until 2008, when investors began to see the Irish banking system as a house of cards.

When the most reckless speculator, Anglo Irish Bank, faced bankruptcy in September 2008, it and other Irish banks persuaded Lenihan and aides that they faced only short-term cash problems, not a terminal collapse of their loan books.

Lenihan announced that Ireland would insure all deposits — and, much more critically, the banks' massive borrowing from overseas investors — against any default, an unprecedented move.

At the time, Lenihan billed his fateful decision as "the cheapest bailout in history" and claimed it wouldn't cost the Irish taxpayer a penny. The presumption was that confidence would return and Ireland's lending would resume its runaway trend.

But two years later, Lenihan had already nationalized Anglo and two other small banks and taken major stakes in the country's two dominant banks, Allied Irish and Bank of Ireland. The flight of foreign capital was accelerating again amid renewed doubts that the government understood the full scale of its losses.

Lenihan and the Irish Central Bank responded by estimating the final bill at euro45 billion to euro50 billion ($62 billion to $69 billion). But investors resumed their withdrawal from Irish banks and bond markets in mid-October, driving up the borrowing costs for Portugal and Spain, which face their own deficit and debt crises.

Economists increasingly doubt that the economies of Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece will grow sufficiently to build their tax bases and permit them to keep financing, never mind paying down, their debts.

The first portion of Ireland's loan might come from the European Commission, the EU's executive. After that, the Washington-based IMF and a facility funded by eurozone nations could raise money in bond markets.

When Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen gathered his 15-member Cabinet together for a rare Sunday meeting, his aides briefed reporters that the main topic would be approval of Ireland's four-year austerity plan. It has been in the works since September and seeks to close the gap between Ireland's spending, currently running at euro50 billion, and depressed tax revenues of just euro31 billion. It proposes the toughest steps in the 2011 budget, when euro4.5 billion will be cut from spending and euro1.5 billion in new taxes imposed — steps that threaten to drive Ireland's moribund economy into recession and civil unrest.

Both Cowen and Lenihan have stressed that Ireland's 12.5 percent rate of tax on business profits — its most powerful lure for attracting and keeping 600 U.S. companies based here — would not be touched no matter what happened. France, Germany and other eurozone members have repeatedly criticized the rate as unfair and say it should be raised now given the depth of Ireland's red ink.

The 2011 budget faces a difficult passage through parliament when it is unveiled Dec. 7. Cowen has an undependable three-vote majority that is expected to disappear by the spring as byelections, or special elections, are held to fill seats.

Cowen and his long-dominant Fianna Fail party are languishing at record lows in opinion polls. The latest survey published in the Sunday Business Post newspaper said Fianna Fail has just 17 percent support, whereas the two main opposition parties, Fine Gael and Labour, command 33 percent and 27 percent respectively. Those two parties are widely expected to form a center-left government after Cowen loses his majority, which would force an early election.

Reflecting the national mood, the Sunday Independent newspaper displayed the photos of Ireland's 15 Cabinet ministers on its front page, expressed hope that the IMF would order the Irish political class to take huge cuts in positions, pay and benefits — and called for Fianna Fail's destruction at the next election.

"Slaughter them after Christmas," the Sunday Independent's lead editorial urged.


Associated Press Writers Raphael G. Satter in London and Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.

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Posted: Nov 21, 2010 1:16pm
Nov 18, 2010

NEW YORK – General Motors stock began trading on Wall Street again Thursday, signaling the rebirth of an American corporate icon that collapsed into bankruptcy and was rescued with a $50 billion infusion from taxpayers.

The stock rose sharply in its first minutes of buying and selling, going for nearly $36 per share — nearly $3 more than the price GM set for the initial public offering. The stock traded for less than a dollar when the company filed for bankruptcy last year.

On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, a crowd eight deep jostled around the company's trading post, adorned with its familiar blue-square logo with an underlined "GM." CEO Dan Akerson rang the opening bell as raucous cheers went up and the sound of a Chevrolet Camaro's revving engine echoed through the room.

The government hopes that the stock offering will be the first step toward ultimately breaking even on the bailout. For that to happen, the government needs to sell its remaining GM holdings for an average of roughly $50 a share over the next several years.

In the initial offering, the government reduces its ownership stake from 61 percent to 33 percent. The federal Treasury is unloading more than 400 million shares of the resurrected GM, which is smaller — but cleansed of most of its debt. The company is making money.

"There's a lot of work to do, but today is the beginning of the new company," said Mark Reuss, GM's North American president.

The IPO could wind up as the largest in history. GM raised the initial price to $33 and increased the number of shares it was offering because investor demand was so high. Counting preferred stock issued by the company, the deal's value could top $23 billion.

The stock offering is the latest in a series of head-spinning developments over the past two years for an American corporate icon.

In September 2008, to mark its 100th birthday, the automaker celebrated in the grand three-story atrium on the ground floor of its Detroit headquarters.

Two months later, then-CEO Rick Wagoner found himself in front of members of Congress, begging for money to keep GM alive. Four months after that, he was ousted by President Barack Obama.

By June 2009, GM had filed for bankruptcy. It emerged relieved of most of its debt but mostly owned by the government and saddled with a damaging nickname: "Government Motors." The value of its old stock was wiped out, along with $27 billion in bond value.

Now GM is a publicly traded company again with the familiar stock symbol "GM." Obama on Wednesday said GM's IPO marks a major milestone not only in the turnaround of the company, but of the U.S. auto industry as a whole.

Most of the new stock will go to institutional investors, not to everyday investors, following a Wall Street system that rewards investment banks' big customers. GM will set aside 5 percent of its new stock for employees, retirees and car dealers to buy at the offering price. The deadline to sign up was Oct. 22, but the company has not revealed how many people took the offer.

Early Thursday, GM's main joint venture partner in China, SAIC Motor Corp., said it has bought a nearly 1 percent stake in GM, buying shares being offered in the IPO at a total cost of nearly $500 million. The Shanghai-based, state-run SAIC said the share purchase is meant to enhance its cooperation with GM in China, the world's biggest auto market.

Senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday that the Treasury Department sought to strike a balance between getting a return for taxpayers and exiting government ownership as soon as practical.

The government has agreed that it will not sell shares outside the IPO for six months after the sale. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they would assess their options for selling the government's stake further.

In the stock offering, the government made $11.8 billion by selling 358 million shares at $33 apiece. It stands to make $13.6 billion if bankers exercise options for up to 412 million shares, as planned. The government would still have about 500 million shares, a one-third stake. It would have to sell those shares over the next two to three years at about $53 a share for taxpayers to come out even.

The government's strategy in retaining shares is to wait for GM's finances to improve, pushing the stock price up even further during the next couple of years. If that happens, the government stands a chance of getting most of its money back.

The total bailout was $50 billion. GM has already paid or agreed to pay back $9.5 billion. That comes from cash and payments related to preferred stock held by the government.

Reuss said he knows there's pressure to keep performing well and boost the stock price even further.

"I can't control share prices," he said. "I'll just go right back to designing and building and selling the world's best vehicles. That's what we can control."

The GM debut comes at a time when auto stocks are performing well generally. The stock of GM's crosstown rival, Ford, has risen steadily this year, from about $10 in January to about $16.50 as the GM IPO approached. The stock traded for a dollar in November 2008, and Ford never even took bailout money.

As for GM, whether bankruptcy actually fixed the company remains an open question, but it is far healthier in its new form. The company closed 14 of its 47 plants, shuttered or sold off its Hummer, Saturn, Saab and Pontiac brands, and slashed its debt from about $46 billion to about $8 billion.

Union retiree health care costs are now the United Auto Workers' responsibility, and the controversial jobs program that paid idled workers almost a full salary has been scaled back dramatically.

GM employs 209,000 people in the United States today, down from 324,000 in 2004. But it's making money. Before bankruptcy, GM lost about $4,000 per car. Now it makes about $2,000 each.


AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher in Detroit and Elaine Kurtenbach in Shanghai contributed to this report.

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Posted: Nov 18, 2010 8:41am
Nov 15, 2010

WASHINGTON – Dejected Democrats and invigorated Republicans returned to the Capitol Monday to face a mountain of unfinished business and greet more than 100 mainly Republican freshmen-elect lawmakers determined to change how they do that business.

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, in line to become speaker when the new Republican-led Congress convenes in January, told GOP newcomers Sunday evening that they may spend their next two years doing just two things: stopping what he called "job-killing policies" and the "spending binge."

"The American people are sick and tired of the 'Washington knows best' mentality. All the power in this town is on loan from the people," he told the group, which he noted includes seven farmers, six physicians, three car dealers, two funeral home directors, a former FBI agent, a pizzeria owner, an NFL lineman, and an airline pilot.

First, though, lawmakers must slog through the post-election session that, as with past lame ducks, is expected to be unpopular and largely unproductive.

Republicans are looking ahead to January, when they will take back control of the House; many Democratic lawmakers and staff are more focused on cleaning out their desks and looking for new jobs.

Democrats also have the sad occasion of seeing one of their most venerable members go on trial on ethics charges. The House ethics committee opened the trial Monday of 80-year-old Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the former Ways and Means Committee chairman charged with 13 counts of financial and fundraising misconduct violating House rules.

In an indication of how far the 20-term lawmaker has fallen, Rangel told the four Republicans and four Democrats on the jury that he had run out of money to pay his previous attorney and asked that the trial be postponed until he could get a new lawyer.

High on the agenda for the lame-duck Congress: Lawmakers must act before year's end on expiring Bush-era tax cuts to protect millions of people from significant tax increases. Congress failed to pass even a single annual spending bill this year, and funds are needed to keep federal agencies financed and avoid a government shutdown. Doctors, meanwhile, face a crippling cut in Medicare reimbursements.

Democrats still command sizable majorities in the House and Senate and have other ambitions for the lame-duck session. Most will go unfulfilled.

There are efforts to give Social Security recipients a $250 check to make up for no cost-of-living increase next year; to extend unemployment benefits; to allow gays to serve openly in the military; to ratify a nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia; and to extend government oversight of food safety.

Congress will be in session for a week, break for Thanksgiving week and return on Nov. 29. Lawmakers will continue until they complete their work or give up.

Most of the attention this week will be on activities off the House and Senate floors.

Elsewhere on the Hill, more than 100 incoming House and Senate freshmen started learning the rules of decorum, how to run a congressional office and how not to get lost in the Capitol basement. Two Democratic senators — Joe Manchin, who won the seat of the late Robert Byrd of West Virginia, and Chris Coons, elected to Vice President Joe Biden's Delaware seat — will be sworn in Monday.

On Tuesday the Senate parties elect their leaders. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada will continue to head the reduced Democratic majority, with Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky still guiding the Republicans.

House leadership elections take place Wednesday. Pending the official floor vote in January, Republicans will confirm Boehner as the next speaker and Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia as future majority leader.

Things appear to have settled on the Democratic side.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wants to stay on as Democratic leader, and a Democratic arrangement reached Friday clears the way for Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer to become second in command without a challenge from South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn.

The chances of bipartisan action during the lame-duck session could become clearer when President Barack Obama meets next week with leaders of both parties at the White House.

On the most pressing issue facing Congress, extension of the Bush tax cuts, Obama wants to extend them for couples earning less than $250,000 annually while seeking a compromise, perhaps a temporary continuation, for wealthier taxpayers. Buoyed by their advantage, Republicans are holding firm on permanent extensions for all.

This, Boehner said last week, "will be the most important thing we can do to help create jobs in the country."

On Sunday, Obama said that if Republicans "feel very strongly about it, then I want to get a sense of ... how they intend to pay for it."

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Posted: Nov 15, 2010 8:10am


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Navaid Syed
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Few images evoke the romantic spirit of the West like a herd of wild horses galloping under a cloudless sky.\\r\\n\\r\\nBut this romance is a heartbreaker.\\r\\n\\r\\n More wild horses are being held in captivity at taxpayer expense than can be found in the wi...
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The Interior Department\\\'s U.S Fish and Wildlife Service began to implement its ill-conceived plan to eliminate all wild horses and burros in the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in northern Nevada. The first of two large-scale roundup...