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Purveyor's Journal
Purveyor's Journal
December 23, 2011

Russia And US Clash Over NATO Bombing Probe

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Russia urged the U.N. Security Council on Thursday to investigate civilian deaths in Libya from NATO's bombing campaign, a move the United States immediately dismissed as "a cheap stunt" to distract from Moscow's failure to condemn the Syrian government's ongoing killing of protesters.

The sharp exchange reflected the deep division in the council over the NATO campaign which the U.S., France, Germany and others hailed for saving hundreds of thousands of Libyan lives, but which Russia, China and the African Union have strongly criticized.

Russia and its supporters argue that NATO misused the limited council resolution imposing a no-fly zone and authorizing the protection of civilians as a pretext to promote regime change in Libya. Libya's longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was ousted after 42 years, captured and killed in October.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said a council-mandated investigation is essential "given the fact that initially we were led to believe by NATO leaders there are zero civilian casualties of their bombing campaign."



December 23, 2011

US Earmarks $235 Million For Israel's Defense Systems

WASHINGTON – The Unites States has announced it will allocate $235 million for the development of safeguards against rockets and missiles that could be launched towards Israel by Hezbollah and Iran.

A large part of the funds will go towards the development of the David's Sling system, designed to intercept medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles, and the Arrow 2 and 3 systems against long-range ballistic missiles.

This unprecedented sum comes at an unexpected time, while the American government is dealing with large budget cuts, including at the Pentagon.

However, Pentagon officials were the ones who requested that Congress approve a $106 million aid budget for Israel's defense systems against missiles, on top of the Iron Dome budget.



December 22, 2011

Appeals Court Tosses Obama Birthplace Challenge

(12-22) 11:12 PST San Francisco (AP) --

A federal appeals court has tossed out a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama's U.S. citizenship and his eligibility to serve as commander in chief.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that none of the challengers had legal standing to file the lawsuit on Jan. 20, 2009, the day Obama was inaugurated. The unanimous three-judge panel cited various reasons for disqualifying six sets of plaintiffs, who included Obama's political rivals, taxpayers and military personnel.

It's the latest legal setback for the so-called birther movement, which has filed multiple lawsuits, so far with no success.



December 22, 2011

Analysis: Tiny Desserts, Bacon Backlash Shape 2011

(12-22) 09:47 PST , (AP) --

2011: The year I officially became the last American to still eat gluten.

Or did it just feel that way? Because though only a tiny fraction of Americans suffer sensitivities to this wheat protein, the multibillion dollar industry of foods, cookbooks and magazines touting their gluten-free cred this year would suggest an epidemic.

Didn't notice? Perhaps you were too busy chugging raw milk, herding your backyard flock of chickens and hunting down nearby sources for heirloom vegetables, all popular pastimes buoyed by growing demand for so-called "local" foods — a market the government predicted this year would generate some $7 billion in sales.

And so went the year in food, a period marked by some unusual dietary dichotomies.



December 22, 2011

Iran Moves Websites To Avoid Cyber Attacks

TEHRAN — Iran has moved most of its government websites to local hosts to protect them from cyber attacks, the country's deputy communications minister said on Thursday.

Ali Hakim Javadi, who is also head of Iran's technology organisation, said more than 90 percent of the websites had already been transferred as "it was necessary to protect governmental information on the Internet."

Quoted in local media, he said some 30,000 Iranian websites, "including those of key organisations such as ministries," were previously hosted by foreign companies, particularly by those in North America.

"The websites were under constant threat (of cyber attacks) and thus information could be exposed and manipulated," Hakim Javadi added.



December 22, 2011

Pakistan Prime Minister Fears Ouster

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday said conspirators were plotting to bring down his government, giving his most public indication yet that he fears being ousted from power.

He spoke as the Supreme Court met again to decide whether to order a formal inquiry into a secret memo, allegedly written with approval from the president, on seeking American help in curbing the powerful military.

Rampant speculation that President Asif Ali Zardari could be forced to step down over illness and the scandal has refused to die, despite his return this week from treatment in a Dubai hospital.

“I want to make it clear today that conspiracies are being hatched here to pack up the elected government,” Gilani told a gathering at the National Arts Gallery, without naming any names.



December 22, 2011

To End Ridiculous Pot Arrests, Jurors Should Refuse to Convict Marijuana Arrestees (And Can Do So...

Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor and law professor at George Washington University, has an idea to help everyday Americans stand-up against the harsh marijuana laws most of them do not support: "If you are ever on a jury in a marijuana case, I recommend that you vote 'not guilty' — even if you think the defendant actually smoked pot, or sold it to another consenting adults," he wrote Monday in an op-ed for the New York Times. The tactic is called "jury nullification," and it is perfectly legal. "As a juror, you have this power under the Bill of Rights; if you exercise it, you become part of a proud tradition of American jurors who helped make our laws fairer," Butler said.

Clearly, public opinion is not reflected in the federal government's crackdown on legal medical marijuana programs, nor is it evident in high arrest rates. A recent Gallup poll showed that 50% of Americans' favor marijuana legalization -- a record high --, and a CBS poll found that even more Americans, 77 percent, believe medical marijuana should be legal, though the majority also said that current medical marijuana programs are not being used to alleviate "suffering serious medical conditions." And yet, even as more Americans than ever support some kind of marijuana legalization, arrests for medical marijuana are at an all-time high: "In 2010, police made 853,838 arrests in 2010 for marijuana-related offenses, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report," Paul Armentano recently reported on AlterNet.

Butletr suggests that Americans need not lie down as hundreds of thousands of us are arrested for pot offenses, the majority of which are personal possession charges. According to Butler, jury nullification "is premised on the idea that ordinary citizens, not government officials, should have the final say as to whether a person should be punished. As Adams put it, it is each juror’s “duty” to vote based on his or her 'own best understanding, judgment and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.'"

Prosecutors, however, have taken legal action to prevent Americans from being informed of this right. Butler said disclosing the truth about nullification to potential jurors could result in a six-month prison sentence:



Original NY Op-Ed: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/21/opinion/jurors-can-say-no.html?_r=1

December 22, 2011

Bunker Buster Blunder

Back in 2009, following his anointment as President, Barack Obama secretly approved the sales of game-changing “bunker-buster” bombs to Israel. His predecessor George W. Bush had refused the Israelis' initial request in 2005, and frozen most U.S.-Israeli defence cooperation agreements “out of concern that Israel was transferring advanced military technology to China”.

However the 2009 transaction, which still remains an official secret despite officials leaking the story to Newsweek magazine earlier this year, must have made Iranian authorities lose many nights' sleep fearing that their aggressive neighbour would target them under the guise of going after underground nuclear reactors. Yet more recent developments suggest that it may well be the Israelis who will be worrying about the 5,000-pound bombs exploding too early, possibly over their own heads.

This week the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that a key supplier of components for the bunker-busters called Kaman Precision Products Inc., in Orlando, Florida, would be required to pay the federal government $4.75 million following allegations that it had submitted false claims for non-conforming fuzes sold to the U.S. Army for use in the bombs.

Prosecuting Kaman under the False Claims Act, the DoJ has filed for breach of contract and alleged that the defence contractor “knowingly substituted a component in four lots of fuzes that made them unsafe for use in military operations”. Specifically, the U.S.' allegations related to FMU-143 fuzes for use in hard target penetration warheads, said the DoJ in an angry statement.



December 22, 2011

Consumer Confidence in U.S. Climbs More Than Forecast in Michigan Index

By Bob Willis - Dec 22, 2011 10:12 AM ET

Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, talks about the U.S. economy, Treasuries and stock market. He speaks with John Dawson on Bloomberg Television's "First Up." (Source: Bloomberg)

Confidence among U.S. consumers rose more than forecast in December, to a six-month high, as Americans began wrapping up their holiday spending.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of consumer sentiment climbed to 69.9 from 64.1 at the end of November. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey called for 68 after a preliminary reading of 67.7. The gauge averaged 89 in the five years leading up to the recession that began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.

A drop in unemployment and lower gasoline prices may be boosting confidence, raising the odds that the pickup in household spending will continue into 2012. Still, gridlock over deficit-cutting measures in Congress and taxes may limit further gains in sentiment.

“Income growth and a reviving job market are helping restore confidence,” Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said before the report. “Recent decline in jobless claims and gasoline prices are a positive.”



December 22, 2011

Leading U.S. Indicators Rise More Than Forecast in Sign of Further Growth

By Timothy R. Homan - Dec 22, 2011 10:00 AM ET

Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Robert Burke, chief executive officer of Robert Burke Associates, talks about the outlook for luxury retail sales and consumer sentiment. Burke speaks with Lisa Murphy and Hitha Prabhakar on Bloomberg Television's "In the Loop." (Source: Bloomberg)

The index of U.S. leading indicators climbed more than forecast in November, a sign that the world’s largest economy will keep growing in early 2012.

The Conference Board’s gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months rose 0.5 percent after a 0.9 percent October increase, the New York-based research group said today. The median forecast of 54 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News projected the gauge would advance 0.3 percent.

Gains in manufacturing and consumer spending, alongside improvements in the housing market, indicate the economy will probably weather a possible recession in Europe. At the same time, political gridlock in Washington that threatens to cause a tax cut to expire raises the risk that household purchases and overall growth will cool early next year.

“The economy’s underlying momentum appears to be improving steadily as we head into next year,” Richard DeKaser, deputy chief economist at the Parthenon Group Inc. in Boston, said before the report. “The two areas which seem to be trending most favorably are the labor market and the housing market.”



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