Monday, February 28, 2011

The Official Not-For-Profit Blog of Keith Olbermann

Early Reviews for Keith Olbermann's Fok News Channel

It turns out that some of the key ingredients in Keith Olbermann's recently canceled show Countdown--the "Worst Persons in the World" segment, the digs at Fox News--didn't disappear when the outspoken liberal host left MSNBC in January. No, they've just migrated from television to the web. Over the weekend, Olbermann, who will soon host a nightly news and commentary show for Current TV, launched a "not for profit blog" called the FOK News Channel. The masthead mimics Fox News' logo, but the FOK stands for "Friends of Keith."

So far, Olbermann has deemed Mike Hogan--the Republican nominee for mayor of Jacksonville--the Worst Person of the Day for joking that bombing an abortion clinic might cross his mind (Olbermann's nemesis, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, was, naturally, a runner-up). Olbermann's also introduced a new shtick--"Snappy Answers to Stupid Headlines"--and penned a post criticizing the New York Times for describing a source inaccurately in an article about union solidarity declining in Wisconsin.

What are the early reviews of Fok News?

•I'm Impressed Digby thinks Olbermann's post on the Times story "is a lovely little story of Big Media and its biases working in favor of the ruling class ... It turns out that Keith Olberman is a very good blogger."

•Falls Short of Show Don Irvine at the Canada Free Press isn't impressed: "Olbermann seems to think that all he has to do is set up a website and make pithy comments and that people will follow. But so far his posts lack the humor and edginess that made him MSNBC's top rated news show."

•Too Cute Suzanne Murray at The Stir says Olbermann shouldn't have turned his pun into a full-fledged blog. While she's an Olbermann's fan, she dislikes Fox News and "that big red, white, and blue FOK News logo sitting there staring me in the face just rubs me the wrong way ... The only upside to the whole thing? A bad typist trying to get to Fox News could land on FOK News--and might actually learn a thing or two about what's really going on in the world."

•A Lonely Endeavor Emily Esfahani Smith at The Blaze asserts that "so far, the 'Friends of Keith' network is just a community of one: Keith Olbermann himself. Let's hope that this doesn’t turn into a dating website."

Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Unions

As labor battles erupt in state capitals around the nation, a majority of Americans say they oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and are also against cutting the pay or benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Labor unions are not exactly popular, though: A third of those surveyed viewed them favorably, a quarter viewed them unfavorably, and the rest said they were either undecided or had not heard enough about them. But the nationwide poll found that embattled public employee unions have the support of most Americans — and most independents — as they fight the efforts of newly elected Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio to weaken their bargaining powers, and the attempts of governors from both parties to cut their pay or benefits.

Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.

Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits, breaking down along similar party lines. A majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Governors in both parties have been making the case that public workers are either overpaid or have overly generous health and pension benefits. But 61 percent of those polled — including just over half of Republicans — said they thought the salaries and benefits of most public employees were either “about right” or “too low” for the work they do.

When it came to one of the most debated, and expensive, benefits that many government workers enjoy but private sector workers do not — the ability to retire early, and begin collecting pension checks — Americans were closely divided. Forty-nine percent said police officers and firefighters should be able to retire and begin receiving pension checks even if they are in their 40s or 50s; 44 percent said they should have to be older. There was a similar divide on whether teachers should be able to retire and draw pensions before they are 65.
The nationwide telephone poll was conducted Feb. 24-27 with 984 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all adults. Of those surveyed, 20 percent said there was a union member in their household, and 25 percent said there was a public employee in their household.

Tax increases were not as unpopular among those surveyed as they are among many governors, who have vowed to avoid them. Asked how they would choose to reduce their state’s deficits, those polled preferred tax increases over benefit cuts for state workers by nearly two to one. Given a list of options to reduce the deficit, 40 percent said they would increase taxes, 22 percent chose decreasing the benefits of public employees, 20 percent said they would cut financing for roads and 3 percent said they would cut financing for education.

The most contentious issue to emerge in the recent labor battles has been the question of collective bargaining rights. A proposal by Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin to weaken them sent Democratic state lawmakers out of state to prevent a vote, flooded the Capitol in Madison with thousands of protesters and sparked a national discussion about unions.

The poll found that an overwhelming 71 percent of Democrats opposed weakening collective bargaining rights. But there was also strong opposition from independents: 62 percent of them said they opposed taking bargaining rights away from public employee unions.

Phil Merritt, 67, a retired property manager from Crossville, Tenn., who identifies himself as an independent, explained in a follow-up interview why he opposed weakening bargaining rights for public workers. “I just feel they do a job that needs to be done, and in our country today if you work hard, then you should be able to have a home, be able to save for retirement and you should be able to send your kids to college,” he said. “Most public employees have to struggle to do those things, and generally both spouses must work.”

The one group that favors weakening those rights, by a slim majority, was Republicans. Warren Lemma, 56, an electrical contractor from Longview, Tex., said states did not have the money to pay for many benefits that state workers enjoy.

“Retirement benefits should not be taken away from those about to retire, but the system should be changed for the people starting to teach just now,” said Mr. Lemma, a Republican. “And the only way the system will change is to do something about unions and their control, and the only way to do that is to take away collective bargaining.”

The poll found that 45 percent of those surveyed said they believed that governors and state lawmakers who are trying to reduce the pay or benefits of public workers were doing so to reduce budget deficits, while 41 percent said they thought they were doing so to weaken unions’ power.

Although cutting the pay or benefits of public workers was opposed by people in all income groups, it had the most support from people earning over $100,000 a year. In that income group, 45 percent said they favored cutting pay or benefits, while 49 percent opposed it. In every other income group, a majority opposed cutting pay or benefits: Among those making between $15,000 and $30,000, for instance, 35 percent said they favored cutting pay or benefits, while 60 percent opposed it.

Labor unions, including private sector labor unions, are seen as less influential now than they were three decades ago. The poll found that 37 percent of those surveyed believe that labor unions have “too much influence” on American life and politics, while 48 percent said they had the “right amount” or “too little” influence. In a 1981 poll, by contrast — soon after President Ronald Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers — 60 percent of those surveyed said unions had “too much influence.” Of course, union membership has declined since then.


Marina Stefan contributed reporting.

Oral sex now main cause of oral cancer: Who faces biggest risk?

 What's the leading cause of oral cancer? Smoking? Heavy drinking?
Actually, it's oral sex.

Scientists say that 64 percent of cancers of the oral cavity, head, and neck in the U.S. are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which is commonly spread via oral sex, NPR reported. The more oral sex you have - and the more oral sex partners you have - the greater the risk of developing these potentially deadly cancers.

"An individual who has six or more lifetime partners - on whom they've performed oral sex - has an eightfold increase in risk compared to someone who has never performed oral sex, Ohio University's Dr. Maura Gillison, said at a recent scientific meeting, according to NPR.

It's news that might alarm some parents, who worry about adolescents' appetite for oral sex.

"Today's teens consider oral sex to be casual, socially acceptable, inconsequential, and significantly less risky to their health than 'real' sex," Dr. Gillison and colleagues said in a written statement released in conjunction with the meeting.

Teens simply think oral sex is "not that a big a deal," Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, told NPR. "Parents and health educators are not talking to teens about oral sex. Period."

But simply needling teens about the risks posed by oral sex and HPV - the same virus that causes cervical cancer - is no substitute for literally giving them the needle.

"When my patients ask whether they should vaccinate their sons, I say 'certainly," Gillison said, the Telegraph reported. "The vaccine will protect them against genital warts and anal cancer and also as a potential byproduct of that it may protect them against oral cancer caused by HPV."

This year, 37,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. Eight thousand will die from the cancers.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


FOX: Huckabee "very much considering" running for president

ABC: Moammar Gaddafi's son -- "We didn't use force" against protesters

NBC: McCain -- "We've really got to get tough" on Libya

CNN: Lieberman, McCain discuss military option in Libya

C-SPAN: Van Hollen "cautiously optimistic" shutdown will be averted

CBS: Christie -- Collective bargaining rights "didn't come down from tablets on top of the mountain"

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) said that he's "very much considering" running for president again but is "working through that process," noting that he's looking at whether he can raise the "obscene amount of money" necessary to compete in the GOP primary and against a president "who's going to have a billion dollars piled up just waiting on somebody to come after him." Huckabee criticized President Obama on the economy, charging that he "has created more debt in two years than George Bush did in eight." He also said that Obama has "alienated the African-American community" by directing the Department of Justice to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act, adding that Obama "better explain" why he changed his view. Asked about his previous criticism of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) on health care, Huckabee said that Romney's role in implementing health care reform in Massachusetts doesn't "disqualify" him from running for president but added that Romney should acknowledge that "it didn't really work like we thought. ... That's what leaders do."

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) rejected the idea of making a deal with Democrats who have fled to Illinois in order to block action in the state legislature, saying that "we will talk about what sort of changes or amendments they might want, but while they are subverting the democratic process, there is nothing to talk about." Asked how he would reform Social Security, Daniels said that he would "bifurcate" it so that those who are already in the program are "good to go" while younger people would have a "brand new compact;" he also advocated for raising the retirement age. Daniels sketched out a similar "bifurcated" approach to Medicare, noting that he would leave the program as is for older Americans and support a private voucher program for younger people. Asked about his tenure as budget director under President George W. Bush, Daniels said that voters should look at his six years as Indiana governor; "don't look at two-and-a-half years where I was in the supporting cast with no vote." On his call for a "truce" on social issues, Daniels said that "it's only a truce if both sides agree to stop fighting for a little while." He also declined to give a timeline on deciding on a presidential run and joked that "if it comes down to height and hair, I probably wouldn't do very well."


Moammar Gaddafi's son: "We didn't use force" against protesters

Saif Gaddafi, son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, said that the crisis in Libya right now is not "American business" and that the government didn't use force against protesters. "Show me a single attack," Gaddafi said. "Show me a single bomb. Show me a single casualties. The Libyan air force destroyed just the ammunition sites." On the resignation of senior Libyan officials, Saif Gaddafi said that "the ship is sinking, they think, so it's better to jump." He dismissed the possibility that he or his father will leave the country. "We live here; we die here; this is our country," he said. He also charged that "there's a big gap between reality and the media reports," contending that much of the country is calm. Another of Gaddafi's sons, Saadi Gaddafi, warned that there would be "civil war" in Libya if Moammar Gaddafi were to leave the country. He also contended that Libyans have had normal freedoms. "Everybody wants more; there is no limit," Saadi Gaddafi said. "You give this, then you get asked for that, you know?"

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) discussed the ongoing standoff in Wisconsin. Patrick argued that states can make tough budget decisions "with labor at the table, instead of doing it to labor." Haley charged that Democratic lawmakers who left Wisconsin were "cowardly" and "irresponsible;" Brewer called it "despicable" that the Democratic legislators "would leave their job." Meanwhile, Patrick said that his predecessor, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R), "deserves a lot of credit" for co-authoring the state's health-care overhaul. And Haley declined to make an endorsement among the potential White House 2012 contenders, noting that "there is no one that I feel like I owe at this time."


McCain: "We've really got to get tough" on Libya

Arizona Sen. John McCain (R), speaking from Cairo, sais that he agreed with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice's statement that Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi "has lost the legitimacy to rule." Noting that the Libyan government is "using air power and helicopters to continue these massacres," McCain said that a no-fly zone could be imposed and that the U.S. should recognize a provisional government in eastern Libya. "We should make it clear that we will provide assistance to that provisional government, and finally, we should make it absolutely clear that anyone who continues or is engaged in these kinds of barbarous acts are going to find themselves on trial in a war crimes tribunal. We've really got to get tough," McCain said. He said "Gaddafi's days are numbered" and the question is "how many people are going to be massacred before he leaves, one way or the other."
McCain also projected that the types of uprisings happening in the Middle East could spread to other countries, pointing to recent calls for protest in China. Asked about the recent Rolling Stone report that he was among several senators targeted by alleged "psy-ops" by the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, McCain said he wasn't sure whether anything happened that went beyond the legitimate way that briefers are briefed, adding, "put me down as skeptical."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) defended his position on curtailing collective bargaining rights for public employees. Asked about exemptions for police officers and firefighters, Walker argued that "this is not a value judgment about employees, but it is ultimately about preserving public safety." Walker stood by his remark that "this is our moment in Wisconsin's history," saying," I make no apology for the fact that this is an important moment in time."
 Asked about how the standoff may end, Walker described himself as "an eternal optimist" and predicted that "at least some" of the state senators who have fled the state will return. He cautioned, though, that if the bill fails to pass by Tuesday, the state will lose $155 million in savings, and "if we continue down that path, we start seeing layoffs." Walker also said he had rejected the idea of planting troublemakers into the crowd of protesters. "The bottom line is we rejected that because we have had a civil discourse," he said.


Lieberman, McCain discuss military option in Libya

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) joined in a pre-taped interview from Cairo to discuss the uprising in Libya. Asked if there was a military option for Libya, McCain said, "I think there possibly could be." Lieberman joined McCain in criticizing the Obama administration's response as being too slow and not clear enough, acknowledging that the White House had been cautious in its response due to safety concerns for Americans still in Libya. "Now is the time for action, not just statements," said Lieberman.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) discussed the fast-approaching threat of a government shutdown. Conrad said that House Republicans' most recent two-week proposal is "acceptable" but "not the way to go," urging passage of a longer-term funding measure. Asked whether he felt he could cut $57 billion out of the 2011 funding measure, Conrad said it was possible, but that the ramifications of such deep cuts could be unsustainable. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) discussed the states' budget crises and the ongoing union protests in Wisconsin. "Do I think the Democrats look great in this? No," said Malloy, calling the situation in Wisconsin a "travesty."


Van Hollen "cautiously optimistic" shutdown will be averted

Maryland Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen said he was "cautiously optimistic" that a government shutdown would be averted, at least for the next couple of weeks. He argued that "what Republicans are proposing right now is reckless," citing reports that immediate deep cuts could prove problematic.

"I think we can come together on some specific cuts based on the merits," he continued, calling it "wrong" to put forward a specific projection for total cuts. "Republicans should not be using the budget process to deal with hot-button social issues," Van Hollen added, referring to recent Republican amendments such as one that would block federal funding for Planned Parenthood.


Christie: Collective bargaining rights "didn't come down from tablets on top of the mountain"

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) discussed the situation in Wisconsin and the continuing protests by state government workers against a move by Gov. Scott Walker (R) to eliminate collective bargaining rights. Those rights "didn't come down from tablets on the top of the mountain," Christie said. He also had harsh words for the teachers' unions, charging that they "protect the worst of the worst...and it's ruining our education system." He praised President Obama's overall approach to education reform. "I think the president's been on the right track," Christie said, praising Obama's push for merit pay and the "Race to the Top" program. But Christie added: "Overall, I didn't vote for him, and I doubt I'll vote for him next time."

Christie reiterated that he will not run for president in 2012 and declined to say who he would support among the potential candidates, noting that "we don't have a field yet." He praised Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), saying he was addressing real issues. "You cannot be blow-dried and poll-tested," he continued. Asked if he was referring to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R), Christie said his comment was aimed at all of the potential candidates, but that the first time he made the comment it was indeed directed at Palin. Christie also declined to say whether Palin was ready to run for president, saying that it was a decision for her to make. Christie also said that he thought criticism of First Lady Michelle Obama's attempts to push for better nutrition was "unnecessary," acknowledging his own struggles with his weight and his support for efforts that would help children avoid such struggles in adulthood.

Washington Post Felicia Sonmez & Emi Kolawole

LUNTZ'S 11 for '11: These sell people the same old stuffing!

Frank I. Luntz's "11 phrases for 2011: the phrases that you should or would be hearing if the political and business leaders really were listening to America" - excerpted from the 80 specific words and phrases in his new book, "Win: The Key Principles to Take Your Business From Ordinary to Extraordinary," to be unveiled Tuesday on the "Today" show. The book is the third (and last) installment in Luntz's best-selling series exploring the language of America.

--'Imagine' is still the most powerful word in the English language because it is inspiring, motivating, and has a unique definition for each person.

--'No excuses.' Of all the messages used by America's business and political elite, no phrase better conveys accountability, responsibility and transparency.

--'I get it.' This explains not only a complete understanding of the situation but also a willingness to solve or resolve the situation. It's short, sweet and effective.

--'If you remember only one thing...' is the surest way to guarantee that voters will remember the one point that matters most to you. This is essential in complicated situations like the upcoming debt ceiling vote.

--'Uncompromising integrity.' Of all the truthiness words, none is as powerful as 'integrity,' but in today's cynical environment, even that's not enough. People also need to feel that your integrity is absolute.

--'The simple truth' comes straight from billionaire businessman Steve Wynn, and it sets the context for a straightforward discussion that might otherwise be confusing or contentious.

--'Believe in better' comes from BSkyB, the satellite television provider owned in part by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. empire. Of all the corporate mission statements of the Fortune 100, 'believe in better' is the second-most popular -- and it applies to politics as well.

--'Real-time.' This is not a pitch for Bill Maher. Many Americans were furious that they couldn't get the details of the health-care legislation in a timely fashion. 'Real-time' communicates receiving information at the speed of life.

--'You decide.' No, this is not paying homage to Fox News. The lesson of 2010 is that Americans want control of their lives back and they don't want Washington or Wall Street making their decisions for them.

--'You deserve.' This comes from DNC Chairman Tim Kaine and it was first employed by him in his highly praised 2006 SOTU response. It tells voters exactly what they should expect from their politicians and their government.

-- 'Let's get to work' was employed by Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) in his successful campaign. No other end-of-speech rallying cry is more motivational to voters.

Lawmakers Debate Effect of Weapons on Campus (Can no believe people really think this is a real solution to a complex problem?!)

PHOENIX — Along with the meaning of life and the origin of the universe, college students across the country have another existential question to ponder: the wisdom of allowing guns in class.

In Arizona, known for its gun-friendly ways, state lawmakers are pushing three bills this year focused on arming professors and others over the age of 21 on Arizona campuses. Sponsors talk of how professors and students are now sitting ducks for the next deranged gunman to charge through the classroom door. Some gun rights advocates go so far as to say that grade school teachers ought to be armed as well, although even this state is not ready for that proposition.

About a dozen legislatures nationwide, concerned about the potential for campus shootings, are considering arming their academies. Gun control advocates say Texas is probably the most likely to pass such a measure, with Arizona also in the mix.

Arizona’s proposals to loosen restrictions on campus weaponry, coming so soon after the shooting rampage in Tucson that left six dead and 13 wounded, have prompted a fierce debate at the state’s public universities, with significant brain power focusing on the issue of firepower. Administrators and campus police chiefs at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona have all expressed opposition to allowing guns. Faculty members are circulating petitions against guns as well. Most, but not all, students also appear opposed.

Still, the state’s powerful gun lobby, with allies galore in the Legislature, is pushing hard. The notion has been floated in previous legislative sessions, but this year proponents believe they may have the momentum to get it done.

“We can’t rest on our laurels,” said Todd Rathner, who runs the Rathner & Associates lobbying firm and is working to have Colt named the state’s official firearm. “We’re making inroads, but I’ve been in politics long enough to know that the pendulum swings and there is no way to know if the pendulum won’t swing in the other direction.”

Campus shootouts are a relative rarity, but they do occur. The most notorious shooting at an Arizona university took place in 2002 when a disgruntled nursing student shot three professors to death.
Anthony Daykin, the police chief at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where the shootings occurred, said his officers would be at a loss if they arrived at a shooting scene in a lecture hall holding hundreds of students and found scores of people pointing, and possibly shooting, weapons at one another.

One student who found himself in the midst of a campus shooting agreed. “I don’t think two people having guns and firing them in public is that good of an idea,” said Nate Hightower, who was at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix in 2008 when a former student opened fire in a dispute with another young man, injuring three people.

On Feb. 14, there could have been a shooting at a Phoenix-area high school. Officials say a student had intended to kill a teacher, but a classmate told the authorities that the student had a gun before he could carry out his plan.

Keeping guns out, not allowing more in, is the answer, critics of the bills say. Others contend that allowing guns on campus will help ensure that universities stay relatively tranquil.

State Representative Jack Harper, who introduced a bill allowing professors to carry guns, said an Arizona State University professor, whom he has refused to identify, first raised the issue with him. “When law-abiding, responsible adults are able to defend themselves, crime is deterred,” Mr. Harper said in a statement.
That is the philosophy in Arizona as a whole, where gun laws are among the least restrictive in the country. If law-abiding people can carry guns one step outside the campus to keep criminals at bay, supporters ask, why not allow them to enter a university with their firearms? That is already permitted in Utah, alone so far in allowing guns to be carried on all state campuses.

“I think that every person has the right to bear arms no matter what the circumstances,” said Ashlyn Lucero, a political science student at Arizona State University who has served in the Marine Corps, is the daughter of a sheriff and grew up hunting.

Ms. Lucero carries her Glock pistol whenever possible and would carry it on campus if she could. “If I’m going out to eat somewhere, I usually have a gun with me always,” she said. “It’s just one of those things that you never know what’s going to happen.”

Thor Mikesell, a senior majoring in music who grew up hunting, is also a backer of allowing guns on campus. “There’s no magic line, there’s no magic barrier that makes me more safe on the campus than it is when I’m being a real person in the real world outside of the school,” he said.
Mr. Mikesell said he does not carry his gun with him all the time because his girlfriend objects. But he does not consider gun carriers extreme.

“This is not the 1890s’ O.K. Corral shoot ’em up, bang ’em up,” he said. “These are not vigilante kind of people. Their interest is their personal security and the security of their family.”
The State Senate president, Russell Pearce, who recently said he would not prevent senators from taking guns into the Senate chamber despite rules against it, is an advocate for loosening as many gun restrictions as possible.

There are a bevy of other gun proposals this year, including measures that would allow guns in public buildings and make the Republican-dominated Legislature the sole arbiter of gun laws throughout the state. A Democratic proposal to restrict the sale of high-capacity magazines like those used in the Tucson shooting stands little chance of passing.

“Guns save lives, and it’s a constitutional right of our citizens,” Mr. Pearce said of the guns-on-campus proposal. Speaking of the Tucson shooting, which took place at a shopping center and not on a university campus, Mr. Pearce, a former sheriff’s deputy, said, “If somebody had been there prepared to take action, they could have saved lives.”

Carmen Themar, a program coordinator at the University of Arizona College of Nursing, was at the university on the morning nine years ago when a student began moving through the building and shooting professors. Despite the terror of the episode, she is not convinced that more guns would have prevented the attacks.

“Let’s say we had guns on the campus back then,” she said. “We might have had a shootout, more bullets in the air, and bullets don’t always go where they are aimed.”
Anne Mariucci, the chairwoman of the Arizona Board of Regents, the governing board for the state’s universities, said she would prefer that universities be places where disagreements are resolved by debating, not squeezing the trigger.

“Yes, the world is a dangerous place these days, but I don’t think you fight fire with fire,” she said. “I don’t think that bringing guns on campuses is the image of the peaceful, civil discourse that universities are supposed to be about.”

Have You Driven a Smartphone Lately? By MAUREEN DOWD

I’m barreling along a rural Michigan highway at 75 miles per hour in a gray Ford Taurus X when I glance down to check a number on a screen.
It can’t be more than two seconds, but when I look back up, I’m inches from plowing into a huge green truck. Panicked, I slam on the brakes.

Even though I’m in Virttex, the Ford simulator that uses virtual reality to give you the eerily real sensation that you’re flying down the highway past cars and barns, I still feel shaken.
I made the mistake of taking my eyes off the road for more than 1.5 seconds, which is the danger zone, according to technology experts at Ford headquarters
Ford, Chrysler, Chevy and other car companies are betting on the proposition that, as long as your eyes don’t stray from the road for more than a moment, your other senses can enjoy a cornucopia of diversions on your dashboard.

I worried in a prior column that Ford cars with the elaborate and popular new “in-car connectivity” sounded like death traps. Ford Sync lets you sync up to apps, reading your Twitter feeds to you. MyFord Touch plays your iPod on demand and reads your texts to you — including emoticons — and allows you to choose one of 10 prewritten responses (“I’m on my way,” “I’m outside,” “O.K.”). It also has voice-activated 3-D navigation that allows you to merely announce “I’m hungry” or “Find Chinese restaurant.”

Your car can even help you with a bad mood by giving you ambient lighting, vibrating your seat or heating your steering wheel.

Ford executives invited me to Detroit to experience their snazzy new technology firsthand.
They are on the cusp of a system featuring the futuristic avatar Eva, the vaguely creepy face and voice of a woman on your dashboard who can read you your e-mail, update your schedule, recite articles from newspapers, guide you to the restaurant where you’re having lunch and recommend a selection from your iPod. Ford’s working on a Web browser, which would be locked while driving.

Remember when your car used to be a haven of peace from the world? Now it’s just a bigger, noisier and much more dangerously distracting smartphone.
Over lunch at Ford, Sue Cischke, a dynamic company executive, argued that even before cellphones and iPods, drivers were in danger of distraction from reaching for a briefcase or shooing away a bee.
“Telling younger people not to use a cellphone is almost like saying, ‘Don’t breathe,’ ” she said.
Given that Americans are addicted to Web access and tech toys, she said, it will never work to simply ban them. “So we’ve got to figure out how we make people safer,” she said, “and the more people can just talk to their car like they’re talking to a passenger, the more useful it would be.”

Given that, however, we’re talking about human beings who live in an A.D.D. world, wouldn’t it be safer to try to curb the addiction, rather than indulging it? Nobody thought you could get young people to pay for music after downloading it for free, either, but they do.
David Teater, a former market research consultant to auto manufacturers, lost his 12-year-old son in a distracted driving accident in Grand Rapids, Mich., seven years ago. A 20-year-old nanny driving her charge in her employer’s Hummer was so immersed in a cellphone call that she ran a red light and smashed into Teater’s wife’s Chevy Suburban. Now he works at the National Safety Council.

He says he doesn’t expect car companies — which are trying to make cars more seductive — to be arbiters of safety. “They were slow to move toward seat belts and airbags until we, the customer, said we want it,” he said. He sees the overwrought dashboards as trouble. “We can chew gum and walk, but we can’t do two cognitively demanding tasks simultaneously.”

Ray LaHood, the secretary of transportation, is livid about the dashboard bells and whistles. When he saw a Ford ad with a bubbly young woman named Kelly using the new souped-up system to gab on the phone hands-free and not paying attention to the road, he called Alan Mulally, the president and C.E.O of Ford.
“I said to him, ‘That girl looks so distracted, it belies belief that this is what you want in terms of safety,’ ” LaHood told me. “Putting entertainment centers in automobiles does not contribute to safe driving. When you’re trying to update your Facebook or put out a tweet, it’s a distraction.”
He said he would compile his own statistics, meet with car executives and use the bully pulpit. “We’ll see what the auto companies can do voluntarily and what we need to do otherwise,” he said. “I don’t think drivers should be doing any of that.”

Security Council Calls for War Crimes Inquiry in Libya

The U.N. Security Council called for an international war crimes investigation into “widespread and systemic attacks” against Libyan citizens.

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Saturday night to impose sanctions on Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and his inner circle of advisers, and called for an international war crimes investigation into “widespread and systemic attacks” against Libyan citizens who have protested against the government over the last two weeks.
The vote, only the second time the Security Council has referred a member state to the International Criminal Court, comes after a week of bloody crackdowns in Libya in which Colonel Qaddafi’s security forces have fired on protesters, killing hundreds.
Also on Saturday, President Obama said that Colonel Qaddafi had lost the legitimacy to rule and should step down. His statement, which the White House said was made during a telephone call with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, was the strongest yet from any American official against Colonel Qaddafi.
The Security Council resolution also imposes an arms embargo against Libya and an international travel ban on 16 Libyan leaders, and freezes the assets of Colonel Qaddafi and members of his family, including four sons and a daughter. Also included in the sanctions were measures against defense and intelligence officials who are believed to have played a role in the violence against civilians in Libya.
The sanctions did not include imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, a possibility that had been discussed by officials from the United States and its allies in recent days.

The resolution also prohibited all United Nations member nations from providing any kind of arms to Libya or allowing the transportation of mercenaries, who are believed to have played a part in the recent violence. Suspected shipments of arms should be halted and inspected, the resolution said.
While the sanctions are likely to take weeks to have an effect, they reflected widespread condemnation of Colonel Qaddafi’s tactics, by far the most brutal crackdown in the region since antigovernment demonstrations began.
Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, called the resolution “a clear warning to the Libyan government that it must stop the killing.”
But Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warned Saturday that sanctions would do more harm to Libya’s people than to Colonel Qaddafi.

The attacks by Libya’s security forces on the protesters led the United States to close its embassy in Tripoli on Friday and Britain and France to close theirs on Saturday.
The United States on Friday imposed unilateral sanctions against Libya. It also froze billions of dollars of Libyan government assets and announced that it would do the same with the assets of high-ranking Libyan officials who took part in the violent crackdown.

At the United Nations, Security Council members initially disagreed during deliberations Saturday whether to approve the resolution, circulated by France, Germany, Britain and the United States, that would refer Colonel Qaddafi and his top aides to the International Criminal Court for prosecution, according to a senior United States official who observed the negotiations.

Libya’s own delegation to the United Nations had renounced Colonel Qaddafi on Monday, and later sent a letter to the Security Council president, Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil, supporting such a referral. That statement, the official said, went far to persuade reluctant Council members that they should go ahead with the referral.
After the resolution was approved, Libya’s ambassador to the United Nations, Abdurrahman Shalgam, who was once a close confidant of Colonel Qaddafi, said it would “help put an end to this fascist regime, which is still in existence in Tripoli.”

While some other details of the resolution were haggled over, the measure was remarkable for how quickly it came together, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve the confidentiality of the discussions. The official said the mood in the chamber was focused, with representatives of several countries expressing concern about the well-being of their citizens and generally exhibiting “a strong sense of urgency.”

Much uncertainty remained throughout the afternoon about how China, one of the Security Council’s five permanent members, would vote after having expressed doubt about the referral to the international court. After the Chinese delegation consulted with Beijing, it signaled it would vote to approve the measure.

The Security Council cast a similar vote before, in 2005 when it called for an investigation of violence and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region of Sudan, the American official said. The United States abstained from that vote, which the official attributed to “a different administration.” The court has indicted Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, on charges of genocide.

The United Nations resolution on Saturday also established a committee to consider whether additional, targeted sanctions should be imposed on other individuals and entities “who commit serious human rights abuses, including ordering attacks and aerial bombardments on civilian populations or facilities.”

In Washington, a White House account of Saturday’s telephone call between Mr. Obama and Chancellor Merkel of Germany said the president told Mrs. Merkel that “when a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now.”

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Obama: Qaddafi lost legitimacy, must leave "now"

In marked turn from Egypt diplomacy, calls for immediate departure of Libya's embattled ruler, once a U.S. ally

  • The U.S. is paying close attention to Qaddafi's assests, but mystery surrounds exactly how much he is worth. CBS News Chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports.
  • Video Obama: Qaddafi must leave now President Obama addressed the crisis in Libya saying that Moammar Qadaffi must leave now. Joel Brown reports from the White House.
  • A picture of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi is burned during a demonstration in front of the Libyan embassy in Paris, Feb. 25, 2011. A picture of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi is burned during a demonstration in front of the Libyan embassy in Paris, Feb. 25, 2011.  (Msrtin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images)

In a private phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Barack Obama said the embattled Libyan leader must leave the country now because he has lost the legitimacy of his rule.

Mr. Obama made the comments to Merkel Saturday as they discussed the violence in Libya. The White House says President Obama told Merkel that when a leader's only means of holding power is to use violence against his people, then he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what's right for his country by "leaving now."

Complete coverage: Anger in the Arab world

The comments mark the first time that President Obama has called on Qaddafi to step down.

President Obama signed an executive order Friday that froze assets held by Qaddafi and four of his children in the United States. On Saturday, U.S. government revoked visas for senior Libyan officials and their family members.

United Nations ponders more Libya sanctions

Qaddafi has launched a violent crackdown against protesters demanding his ouster. He has vowed a bloody fight to the end.

The public call for Qaddafi's ouster is a noticeably different diplomatic tact than the one the Obama administration took in neighboring Egypt last month when former President Hosni Mubarak's supporters were using violent tactics to suppress anti-government demonstrations.

In Egypt, Obama administration officials were careful to never call for the departure of Mubarak, who was once America's closest Mideast ally. Instead, they called for peaceful reforms, but did not specify what that meant.

During the Bush administration, Qaddafi too had become a U.S. ally after giving up his nuclear program and denouncing terrorism

Warning Against Wars Like Iraq and Afghanistan (TO BAD NO ONE TOLD GWB!)

WEST POINT, N.Y. — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates bluntly told an audience of West Point cadets on Friday that it would be unwise for the United States to ever fight another war like Iraq or Afghanistan, and that the chances of carrying out a change of government in that fashion again were slim.

“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it,” Mr. Gates told an assembly of Army cadets here.

That reality, he said, meant that the Army would have to reshape its budget, since potential conflicts in places like Asia or the Persian Gulf were more likely to be fought with air and sea power, rather than with conventional ground forces.

“As the prospects for another head-on clash of large mechanized land armies seem less likely, the Army will be increasingly challenged to justify the number, size, and cost of its heavy formations,” Mr. Gates warned.

“The odds of repeating another Afghanistan or Iraq — invading, pacifying, and administering a large third-world country — may be low,” Mr. Gates said, but the Army and the rest of the government must focus on capabilities that can “prevent festering problems from growing into full-blown crises which require costly — and controversial — large-scale American military intervention.”

Mr. Gates was brought into the Bush cabinet in late 2006 to repair the war effort in Iraq that was begun under his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and then was kept in office by President Obama. He did not directly criticize the Bush administration’s decisions to go to war. Even so, his never-again formulation was unusually pointed, especially at a time of upheaval across the Arab world and beyond. Mr. Gates has said that he would leave office this year, and the speech at West Point could be heard as his farewell to the Army.

A decade of constant conflict has trained a junior officer corps with exceptional leadership skills, he told the cadets, but the Army may find it difficult in the future to find inspiring work to retain its rising commanders as it fights for the money to keep large, heavy combat units in the field.

“Men and women in the prime of their professional lives, who may have been responsible for the lives of scores or hundreds of troops, or millions of dollars in assistance, or engaging or reconciling warring tribes, may find themselves in a cube all day re-formatting PowerPoint slides, preparing quarterly training briefs, or assigned an ever-expanding array of clerical duties,” Mr. Gates said. “The consequences of this terrify me.”

He said Iraq and Afghanistan had become known as “the captains’ wars” because “officers of lower and lower rank were put in the position of making decisions of higher and higher degrees of consequence and complexity.”

To find inspiring work for its young officers after combat deployments, the Army must encourage unusual career detours, Mr. Gates said, endorsing graduate study, teaching, or duty in a policy research institute or Congressional office.

Mr. Gates said his main worry was that the Army might not overcome the institutional bias that favored traditional career paths. He urged the service to “break up the institutional concrete, its bureaucratic rigidity in its assignments and promotion processes, in order to retain, challenge, and inspire its best, brightest, and most battle-tested young officers to lead the service in the future.”

There will be one specific benefit to the fighting force as the pressures of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan decrease, Mr. Gates said: “The opportunity to conduct the kind of full-spectrum training — including mechanized combined arms exercises — that was neglected to meet the demands of the current wars.”

Attack shuts Iraq's largest oil refinery, kills 1

BAGHDAD – Gunmen attacked Iraq's largest oil refinery before dawn Saturday, killing a guard and detonating bombs that sparked a fire and forced the facility to halt operations, officials said.

A few hours later, a small refinery in the south shut down after a technical failure sparked a fire in a storage unit, an official said.

If not fixed swiftly, the two shutdowns could translate into long lines at fuel stations and longer electricity outages. The dearth of reliable electricity — some Iraqis get just a few hours a day — was one of the leading complaints of protesters during violent anti-government protests across Iraq on Friday.

The attack on Iraq's largest refinery, Beiji, began at about 3:30 a.m. Assailants carrying pistols fitted with silencers attacked guards and planted bombs near some production units for benzene and kerosene, said the spokesman for Salahuddin province, Mohammed al-Asi.

One guard was killed and another wounded, al-Asi said.

Iraqi Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said an investigation would be launched and that he hoped operations could resume shortly.

The Beiji refinery, located about 155 miles (250 kilometers) north of Baghdad, has two sections. The attackers targeted the installation's North Refinery that handles 150,000 barrels a day. The second section, the Salahuddin Refinery, is under renovation. It used to process 70,000 barrels per day.

At the height of the insurgency from 2004 to late 2007, the Beiji refinery was under control of Sunni militants who used to siphon off crude and petroleum products to finance their operations.

Hours after the Beiji facility was attacked, a small refinery in Samawa, a city on the Euphrates River about 230 miles (370 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, went offline due to a fire in the storage unit, according to a local official.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to release information, said the fire was caused by a technical failure, not foul play. He wouldn't say when work would resume at the plant which has the capacity of 30,000 barrels of a day.

Iraq's overall refining capacity is currently slightly over 500,000 barrels per day. Its three main oil refineries — Dora, Shuaiba and Beiji — process slightly over half of the 700,000 barrels-per-day capacity they had before the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Iraq sits on the world's third-largest known oil reserves with an estimated 115 billion barrels, but its production is far below its potential due to decades of war, U.N. sanctions, lack of foreign investment and insurgent attacks.

Iraq has been importing refined products since 2003 because of the dilapidated refining sector and booming local demand.

Saturday's closures could spell trouble for Iraqi consumers, especially at a time when the weather is just beginning to warm and more citizens will be relying on their air conditioning.

Also Saturday, health officials and police said two teens, ages 12 and 18, died of injuries sustained in the anti-government protests, bringing the death toll for the day to 14. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information.

On Friday, thousands marched on government buildings and clashed with security forces in cities across Iraq in an outpouring of anger, the largest and most violent anti-government protests in the country since political unrest began spreading in the Arab world weeks ago.

The protests, billed as a "Day of Rage, were fueled by anger over corruption, chronic unemployment and shoddy public services from the Shiite-dominated government.

In Battle Over State Payrolls, Data Show a Mixed Picture

In Battle Over State Payrolls, Data Show a Mixed Picture
The janitors who buff floors and empty wastebaskets for the State of California earn a median wage of a little over $31,000 a year, which is 45 percent more than janitors in the private sector earn there. Georgia’s janitors, by contrast, earn less than $21,000, about 6 percent below their private sector counterparts.
And in Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker’s face-off with unions has thrust public sector compensation into the national spotlight, the state pays janitors a median wage of nearly $27,000, about the same as they would make in the private sector.

The wide range in this single job category shows how hard it can be to answer one of the basic questions at the heart of the budget skirmishes that are now spreading across the country: Are state workers overpaid?
An analysis of recently released census data compiled for The New York Times by demographers at Queens College of the City University of New York yields a complicated picture, one that highlights the variation in pay from state to state and occupation to occupation, and one that does not fit neatly into a one-size-fits-all approach to cost cutting.

The clearest pattern to emerge is an educational divide: workers without college degrees tend to do better on state payrolls, while workers with college degrees tend to do worse. That divide has grown more pronounced in recent decades. Since 1990, the median wage of state workers without college degrees has come to surpass that of workers in the private sector. During the same period, though, college-educated state workers have seen their median pay lag further behind their peers in the private sector.

The census data analyzed by The Times do not include information on pensions and other benefits, which is crucial for a fuller comparison because public sector workers typically receive more in benefits than workers in the private sector do. California’s corrections officers, for instance, can retire at 50 with pensions worth 90 percent of their salaries, an option open to very few private sector workers. New Jersey pays 92 percent of the cost of health care for its workers, much more than private companies typically pay. Studies have regularly found that state and local governments offer more valuable retirement and health benefits than the private sector. And many state workers enjoy harder-to-calculate nonmonetary benefits like greater job security and shorter work hours.

Still, an examination of wages alone is useful in informing the debate. For one thing, public sector workers have long contended that their enviable benefits make up for paltry pay rates.
The Times analyzed data on workers on the payrolls of state governments — not localities, which are the bigger employers of firefighters, police officers, teachers and some others — from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which is conducted among more than three million households. The large survey allows for a more detailed understanding of differences among states. Previous analyses have mostly used the Current Population Survey, a monthly poll of 65,000 households. But the relatively limited sample makes state-by-state comparisons more difficult.

The Times’s analysis found that over all, median wages for state workers exceeded that of private sector workers in all but three states — Indiana, Missouri and New Hampshire. Those numbers, however, can be deceptive. State workers tend to be more highly educated than those in the private sector: More than half of state workers have college degrees, compared with just over one-quarter of those in the private sector. Researchers have also said that states tend to employ few high school dropouts.

“Because the public sector is much more likely to be highly educated, we would fully expect them to earn more on average because of that, just like we would expect somebody with a master’s degree to earn more than somebody with a high school education,” said Keith A. Bender, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who has studied compensation in the public and private sectors.
When workers are divided into two groups — those with bachelor’s degrees and higher and those without — a very different pattern emerges. State workers with college degrees earn less, often substantially less, than private sector workers with the same education in all but three states — Montana, Nevada and Wyoming.

Less educated workers on state payrolls, however, tend to do better than their counterparts in the private sector. The median wages of state workers without bachelor’s degrees are higher than those in the private sector in 30 states. California, New York, Connecticut and Nevada lead the way, each paying workers without degrees at least 25 percent more than the private sector pays those workers.
Certain states, however, are clearly more generous than others, at least relative to the private sector. California, Iowa, Nevada, New York and Rhode Island are at the upper end of the spectrum for both college-educated workers and those without college degrees.

Meanwhile, others states, like Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Texas, are much more frugal with both groups.

The disparity can be attributed to a number of factors: the power of unions in different states, the strength of the private sector, local political traditions, education levels.

In Wisconsin, for instance, where Governor Walker, a Republican, is trying to sharply curtail collective-bargaining rights and to limit yearly raises for state workers to no more than the Consumer Price Index, the median wage for state workers exceeds that of the private sector by 22 percent. But more than 60 percent of state workers are college educated.

In other places where the median wage for state workers is higher than that of the private sector, there is a relatively undereducated private sector work force. In Alabama, where the median wage for state workers is 23 percent higher than that of private sector workers, fewer than 20 percent of employees in the private sector have college degrees.

The education split complicates choices for policymakers. An across-the-board pay cut for state workers in a place like California, which is confronting a $26.6 billion budget hole, for example, would help bring workers without college degrees, whose median wages exceed the private sector’s by 35 percent, more in line with the private sector. It would impose, however, a steeper wage penalty on state workers with college degrees, whose median wage is 12 percent below the private sector’s.

Unionization levels are another critical factor. In some of the more generous states relative to the private sector, like California, New York and Rhode Island, public employees are among the most heavily unionized in the country.

The opposing trends in public-private pay among college- and non-college-educated workers have generally widened over the last two decades. This is seen in the most recent data available, from 2006 through 2008, before many states cut pay through furloughs and other measures. For that period, the median wage of all state workers without college degrees, working 35 or more hours a week and at least 40 weeks a year, exceeded that of private sector workers by 6 percent. For those with college degrees, the median wage for state workers was 20 percent less than their private-sector counterparts.

In 1990, according to census data, the median wage for private-sector workers without college degrees exceeded that of state workers by 2 percent, in contrast with today. Among those with college degrees, the median wage for state workers was 14 percent less, leaving them even further behind the private sector.
At the local level, the phenomenon is similar: the median wage for college-educated workers trails that of their private-sector counterparts by about 20 percent, while local workers without college degrees earn 10 percent more than their private-sector peers.

Adding benefits into the analysis is not easy to do. Many college-educated state and local workers are teachers and professors, who have several months off each year. Some public-sector workers can retire after 20, 25 or 30 years of work and begin drawing pension checks long before they reach what most people consider retirement age. In the private sector, meanwhile, most companies have phased out their traditional defined-benefit pensions altogether.

 Nevertheless, some of the more generous states when it comes to what they pay their employees — notably, New York and California — also stand out for having among the most generous pension plans, according to data put together by Sylvester J. Schieber, a former chairman of the Social Security Advisory Board and now an independent consultant on retirement benefits.
Using financial statements, Mr. Schieber calculated an average wage for workers covered by state pension plans and then the percentage of that wage that would be replaced by the average annual pension benefit in the state.

Based on those figures, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Kansas, whose wages for state workers relative to the private sector are at the lower end of the scale, also have among the least generous pension benefits for state workers.
Other states are harder to assess. Georgia, for instance, is one of the more frugal states when it comes to pay but has some of the most generous pension benefits; Iowa is the opposite.
Drilling down to specific occupations yields some glimpses of just how large the differences among states really are.

Secretaries without bachelor’s degrees on the Iowa payroll have a median wage of about $35,000, 19 percent more than the median wage in the private sector. In contrast, in Indiana, secretaries with the same level of education working for the state have a median wage of $25,000, which is actually 16 percent less than the private sector.

Arizona pays professors at its state colleges and universities a median salary of about $61,000, 40 percent more than professors at private nonprofit colleges in the state earn. Iowa, on the other hand, pays its professors a median of about $43,000, which is 22 percent less than their peers at nonprofit institutions.
Of course, there are limits to comparisons between public and private pay scales. Some well-paying public sector jobs, like police officers, simply have no private sector equivalent. Some low-paying private sector jobs, like migrant farm workers, have no public sector equivalent.

But even among jobs that are relatively unique to the public sector, like corrections officers, there is a wide range of pay. After adjusting for cost-of-living differences using an experimental state-by-state price index produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the data show that corrections officers in California, Michigan and Oregon are among the highest paid in the country, with median wages of at least 60 percent more than those at the bottom end, in places like Virginia, Tennessee and Louisiana.


Absorbing the Pain BOB HERBERT NYTimes

Lynda Hiller teared up. “We’re struggling real bad,” she said, “and it’s getting harder every day.”

A handful of people were sitting around a dining room table in a row house in North Philadelphia on Wednesday, talking about the problems facing working people in America. The setting outside the house on West Harold Street was grim. The remnants of a snowstorm lined the curbs and a number of people, obviously down on their luck, were moving about the struggling neighborhood. Some were panhandling.

The small gathering had been arranged by a group called Working America, which is affiliated with the A.F.L.-C.I.O., but the people at the meeting did not belong to unions. They were just there to talk in an atmosphere of mutual support.

What struck me about the conversation was the way people talked in normal tones about the equivalent of a hurricane ripping through their lives, leaving little but destruction in its wake.

Ms. Hiller had come in from Allentown. She’s 63 years old and still undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Her husband, Howard, who was not at the meeting, had been a long-distance truck driver for 35 years before losing his job in 2007, the same year Ms. Hiller received her diagnosis. Mr. Hiller thought at the time that with all of his experience he would find another job pretty quickly. He was mistaken.

“He looked for two years,” Ms. Hiller said. “He applied every place he could, sometimes four or five times at the same company. He went everywhere, to every job fair you can think of, to every place where there was even a mention of an opening. But for every job that came available, there were 20 people or more who showed up for it.”

Last fall, Mr. Hiller took a part-time job as a dishwasher at a Red Lobster restaurant. “It’s a job,” Ms. Hiller said. “It’s not fancy. It’s not truck driving.”

And it was not enough for them to keep their home. Ms. Hiller lost her job at a bank when she became ill. With both paychecks gone, meeting the mortgage became impossible. The Hillers lost their home and are now living day to day. “If my husband can get 30 hours of work in a week, then maybe we can pay some bills,” Ms. Hiller said. “If he can’t, we can’t. We’ve downsized our lives so much.”

The meeting was in the home of Elizabeth Lassiter, a certified nursing assistant whose job is in Hatfield, Pa., about 45 minutes north of Philadelphia. She doesn’t earn a lot or get benefits, but it’s a big step up from last year when she was working part time in Warminster and for a while had to sleep in her car.

“Back then I was working for a nursing agency and they kept saying they didn’t have full-time work,” she said. Until she could raise enough money for an apartment, the car was her only option. “I needed someplace to lay my head,” she said. “It was very hard.”

These are the kinds of stories you might expect from a country staggering through a depression, not the richest and supposedly most advanced society on earth. If these were exceptional stories, there would be less reason for concern. But they are in no way extraordinary. Similar stories abound throughout the United States.

Among the many heartening things about the workers fighting back in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere is the spotlight that is being thrown on the contemptuous attitude of the corporate elite and their handmaidens in government toward ordinary working Americans: police officers and firefighters, teachers, truck drivers, janitors, health care aides, and so on. These are the people who do the daily grunt work of America. How dare we treat them with contempt.

It would be a mistake to think that this fight is solely about the right of public employees to collectively bargain. As important as that issue is, it’s just one skirmish in what’s shaping up as a long, bitter campaign to keep ordinary workers, whether union members or not, from being completely overwhelmed by the forces of unrestrained greed in this society.

The predators at the top, billionaires and millionaires, are pitting ordinary workers against one another. So we’re left with the bizarre situation of unionized workers with a pension being resented by nonunion workers without one. The swells are in the background, having a good laugh.

I asked Lynda Hiller if she felt generally optimistic or pessimistic. She was quiet for a moment, then said: “I don’t think things are going to get any better. I think we’re going to hit rock bottom. The big shots are in charge, and they just don’t give a darn about the little person.”

Friday, February 25, 2011

MICHELLE 77% SARAH 22% Who would be best President? 2 days left vote on blog,,,,

Details emerge about blundering suspects arrested in Rio robbery DUMB & DUMBER?

Even Hollywood wouldn't be dumb enough to pair "Ocean's Eleven" with The Three Stooges.
But from the bumbling gaffes displayed in Thursday's robbery of the Rio, it's clear -- anything is possible when there's money involved.

The poorly thought-out plot was detailed in an arrest report for Hiroyuki Yamaguchi, 61, and Edward Land, 41, accused of being accomplices to the crime.
The alleged ringleader, Steven Gao, was the man police say entered the Rio at 4:30 a.m. Thursday in a disguise that included a wig, fedora and fake mustache, and stole $33,200 in gaming chips from a pai gow table. He was still at large as of Friday night.

• Yamaguchi, a taxi driver, used his own cab as the getaway car. Police were able to track the car and quickly linked Yamaguchi to the scene.

• Gao and Yamaguchi covered the cab's interior camera to hide their faces, but didn't realize the audio was still recording -- and captured their incriminating conversations about the robbery.

• Gao used a casino pay phone to call Land after the crime. Police viewed Gao on the casino surveillance tape and tracked the call to Land's cell phone.

• They left evidence everywhere -- in the getaway car, in the casinos, in a backyard and even their own pockets.
This plot had many, many holes, but the one that effectively sunk the ship was the decision to use Yamaguchi's cab as the escape pod.
According to the report, Yamaguchi, a 10-year veteran cabbie in Las Vegas who drives for the Lucky Cab Co., took Gao from the Rio to Terrible's hotel-casino immediately after the stickup, knowing Gao had just committed a robbery.

Video evidence from the cab later recovered by police show Yamaguchi taping over the car's interior camera, trying to conceal his fare's face.

But although the camera had been blinded, the audio was still recording.

"While driving, the suspect (Gao) is heard saying he was upset that he dropped the $10,000 chip," the arrest report states, referring a chip he dropped inside the casino. "The suspect then asks Yamaguchi to hide the gun and that there are no bullets in the gun."

Police later discovered the firearm hidden under the driver's seat of Yamaguchi's cab. He also had electrical tape in his pocket and $1,000 in Rio chips in his bag, the report states.

Yamaguchi initially lied about his involvement to police, and said Gao was a random fare he had met only once before, the report states.
But unfortunately for him, police didn't buy his story:

"It is the opinion that the average person would know that placing tape over a surveillance camera would only be done to hide fruits of a crime," the detective wrote in the report.

The two met inside Terrible's, where Gao gave Land a black shoulder bag and said he "got some chips" and he "won."
Gao told Land he could now pay back the $15,000 he owed him.

Their next rendezvous was at Land's home at 8111 Retriever Ave., near Spring Mountain Road and Durango Drive.
Land told police he took a shower while Gao buried the money in the backyard. Land denied ever looking inside the bag, but said he asked Gao, "Did you rob a casino?"

Gao told him, "You don't wanna know. It's fine, and you will get your money," Land told police.

Land later dropped Gao off at Harrah's, he said, so Gao could "catch a bus" to California. He would return in several days to pay Land his money "with interest," the report said.

Land told police he was more interested in getting paid by Gao than staying out of the cover-up. Police served a search warrant at Land's home and recovered the wig, the shoulder bag and $17,000 in Rio chips.

None of the three suspects has a criminal record, according to police.

During the early-morning robbery, dealer K.C. Patrick saw a man in a disguise and brandishing a gun walk up to the dealer's table next to her and start snatching chips off the table. Patrick called out for security, and a supervisor saw the dealer trying to prevent the suspect from taking the chips. The supervisor, noticing the gun, told the dealer to let the suspect have his way, and the man quickly snatched the chips and left.

Patrick said she wasn't surprised that the suspects were identified.
"I said at the beginning, he's not going to spend a dollar. He's going to get caught," she said.

The heist came just months after a December robbery at the Bellagio, an incident that also was not carried out by a criminal mastermind.
Anthony Carleo, the son of Municipal Court Judge George Assad, made off with $1.5 million in chips but was done in by his own braggadocio, according to police.

After arriving in a motorcycle, he ran through the casino wearing a motorcycle helmet and held up a craps dealer, police said.

But he told so many people about his exploits that police were able to track him down and arrest him.

Mike Blasky

If it comes to a shutdown - NEWT says do it!

If it comes to a shutdown, the GOP should stick to its principles

The Washington establishment believes that the government shutdown of 1995 was a disastrous mistake that accomplished little and cost House Republicans politically.
The facts are exactly the opposite.

While the shutdown produced some short-term pain, it set the stage for a budget deal in 1996 that led to the largest drop in federal discretionary spending since 1969. The discipline imposed by this budget - overall spending grew at an average of 2.9 percent a year while I was speaker of the House, the slowest rate in decades - allowed us to reach a balanced-budget deal in 1997.

This would all have been impossible had Republicans not stood firm in 1995 and shown the American people (and the White House) that we were serious about reducing spending.
This historic success was not an achievement of the Clinton administration. In the summer of 1995, administration officials publicly expressed doubt that our aggressive timeline for a balanced budget was even possible. Instead, the balanced budget was an outcome driven by House Republicans with limited support from skeptical Senate Republicans.

How did it happen?

In the spring of 1995, House Republicans passed a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. Seventy-two Democrats joined us, giving us the required two-thirds majority to amend the Constitution. Unfortunately, the Senate failed to reach this threshold by one vote.

At a three-hour leadership dinner shortly thereafter, House Republicans, including Texas's Bill Archer of the Ways and Means Committee, Louisiana's Bob Livingston of the Appropriations Committee and, most important, Ohio's John Kasich of the Budget Committee, agreed that we were at a crossroads.
A typical group of politicians would have decided that we had technically kept our word in the Contract With America by holding the vote on the balanced-budget amendment, so it was now okay to revert to politics-as-usual and continue deficit spending.

But we weren't interested in procedural success. We were elected to deliver results. So the House Republican leadership decided that we would voluntarily balance the budget, even without an amendment.
Our constitutional amendment would have set a seven-year deadline to balance the budget. We adopted the same timetable and created a plan that would end deficit spending by 2002. As we developed the reforms and spending cuts, Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) and Rep. John Porter (R-Ill.) encouraged us to be smart rather than cheap.

 We realized that cutting spending in areas that produce long-term savings was destructive to the goal of a sustainable balanced budget. That is why, in the midst of a broad array of reductions and reforms, we doubled the budget for the National Institutes of Health and increased defense and intelligence funding.
The crisis came late in 1995, when the Clinton White House and Senate Democrats set out to test our seriousness. They made a calculated, cynical decision to use the threat of a presidential veto - which would close the government - to insist that we drop our balanced budget.
This point deserves reiteration.

It was President Bill Clinton's veto of our budget in December 1995 that closed the government. The White House knew that it could use the power of the presidency and the support of liberal media to blame us.

So, we faced a choice. We could cave in and be accepted by the Washington establishment, or we could stand firm for a balanced budget for the American people.
We decided to stick to our principles through a very contentious and difficult period. Our attempt to balance the federal budget was distorted in the news media as an effort to ruin family vacations, frustrate visitors to the nation's capital and prevent government employees from going to work. For the Republican leadership, the effort to hold together the House and Senate caucuses while negotiating with the White House became extraordinarily exhausting.

Nonetheless, the ultimate result was the first four consecutive balanced budgets since the 1920s, paying off more than $450 billion in federal debt. We also overhauled welfare - the most successful and popular entitlement reform of our lifetime - strengthened Medicare and enacted the first tax cut in 16 years. It was this tax cut that boosted economic growth and allowed us to balance the budget four years earlier than projected. During my years as speaker, more than 8.4 million new jobs were created, reducing the national unemployment rate from 5.6 percent to 4.3 percent.

Those who claim that the shutdown was politically disastrous for Republicans ignore the fact that our House seat losses in 1996 were in the single digits. Moreover, it was the first time in 68 years that Republicans were reelected to a House majority - and the first time that had ever happened with a Democrat winning the presidency.

Neither these historic achievements nor this historic win would have been possible had Republicans not stood firm and showed the country that we were serious about keeping our commitments.
The lesson for today's House Republicans is simple: Work to keep the government open, unless it requires breaking your word to the American people and giving up your principles. Becoming one more promise-breaking, Washington-dominated, sellout group is a much worse fate - politically and ethically - than having the government close for a few days.

House Republicans should give President Obama the opportunity to sign significant spending reductions and keep the government open, or to veto their cuts and close the government. Similarly, they should give Senate Democrats a chance to accept real spending reductions or make clear that it is their stubborn liberalism that is closing the government.

Another shutdown of the federal government is not an ideal result, but for House Republicans, breaking their word would be far worse.
Newt Gingrich is a former speaker of the House and chairman of American Solutions for Winning the Future.

BIG SIGN SARAH PALIN ISN'T RUNNING: Neither she, nor anyone on her behalf, is courting top donors, early-state activists or experienced operatives - all of whom are getting locked down, day by day.

4 of the Most Dangerous Myths About Washing Your Hands

Review reveals nine widely held myths about washing your hands. Here are a few of them:

Hot water is better than cold water for effective handwashing

Scientists have found that various temperatures had "no effect on transient or resident bacterial reduction." Not only does hot water not show any benefit, but it might increase the "irritant capacity" of some soaps, causing dermatitis.

Hand sanitizers kill germs more effectively than soap

Using alcohol-based hand-hygiene products is in general not more effective than washing your hands with plain soap and water.

Frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizers promotes healthy skin

In fact, contact dermatitis can develop from frequent and repeated use of hand hygiene products, exposure to chemicals and glove use.

Soap with triclosan is an effective antimicrobial for handwashing

A recent study compared an antibacterial soap containing triclosan with a non-antibacterial soap. The results showed that the antibacterial soap did not provide any additional benefit. In addition, concerns have been raised about the use of triclosan because of the potential development of bacterial resistance.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Insurers raked in $12B profit This will make you feel better with the high preiumen and copays you pay!

The nation’s top five health insurers made nearly $12 billion in profits last year, according to a senior House Democrat.
The insurers – UnitedHealth, WellPoint, Aetna, Humana and Cigna – were more profitable than the top five firms in the energy, construction, aviation, motor vehicle and part manufacturing industries, according to a new fact sheet from Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.).

According to Stark, three of the insurers padded their profits by more than $3.5 billion by boosting premiums. Meanwhile, Stark said, Aetna and WellPoint padded their profits by $800 million by spending less on medical care.

Stark, the ranking member of the House Ways and Means health subpanel, touted healthcare reform provisions that require greater transparency from insurers.

“While insurance companies were proposing double-digit premium increases on consumers, they were earning billions in profits at the same time,” Stark said in a statement. “The health reform law protects consumers from unjustified premium hikes, while ensuring that premium dollars go primarily to medical care and not profits."

The nation's health insurance lobby Thursday afternoon downplayed the report, saying that industry profit margins have been generally declining since 2005. America's Health Insurance Plans said the insurers' average profit margins (4.9 percent) are slim compared to pharmaceutical companies (16 percent) and the entire healthcare sector (21 percent).

The Department of Health and Human Services announced $200 million in grants Thursday to help states set up programs to scrutinize “unreasonable” rate hike proposals. Insurers that show a pattern of excessive rate hikes can be banned from offering plans in new state-run health insurance exchanges opening in 2014.

New medical-loss ratio rules also require insurers to spend at least 80 percent (85 percent in the large group market) of premium dollars on healthcare services.

Arizona Lawmakers Push New Round of Immigration RestrictionsBy

PHOENIX — Arizona lawmakers are proposing a sweeping package of immigration restrictions that might make the controversial measures the state approved last year, which the Obama administration went to court to block, look mild.

Illegal immigrants would be barred from driving in the state, enrolling in school or receiving most public benefits. Their children would receive special birth certificates that would make clear that the state does not consider them Arizona citizens.

Some of the bills, like those restricting immigrants’ access to schooling and right to state citizenship, flout current federal law and are being put forward to draw legal challenges in hopes that the Supreme Court might rule in the state’s favor.

Arizona drew considerable scorn last year when it passed legislation compelling police officers to inquire about the immigration status of those they stopped whom they suspected were in the country illegally. Critics said the law would lead to racial profiling of Latinos, and a federal judge agreed that portions of the law, known as Senate Bill 1070, were unconstitutional.
Similar legal challenges are likely to come in response to the latest round of legislation, some of which cleared a key Senate committee early Wednesday after a long debate that drew hundreds of protesters, some for and some against the crackdown.

“This bill is miles beyond S.B. 1070 in terms of its potential to roll back the rights and fundamental freedoms of both citizens and noncitizens alike,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Arizona. She said the measures would create “a ‘papers, please’ society” and that a new crime — “driving while undocumented” — would be added to the books.

Despite boycotts and accusations that the state has become a haven of intolerance, Arizona won plaudits last year from immigration hardliners across the country. On Tuesday night, the Indiana Senate voted to allow its police officers to question people stopped for infractions on their immigration status, one of numerous proposals inspired by Arizona’s law.

“If you are ever going to stop this invasion, and it is an invasion, you have to quit rewarding people for breaking those laws,” said State Senator Russell Pearce, the Senate president, who is leading Arizona’s effort to try to make life so difficult for illegal immigrants that they stop coming, or leave.

Opponents said the changes were a drastic rewriting of the core values of the country. In Tucson, a community group was so enraged by what it called the extremist nature of the proposals from Phoenix that it proposed severing the state in two, creating what some call Baja Arizona.

“Denying citizenship to children because they have parents without documents is crazy,” said the Rev. Javier Perez, a Roman Catholic priest and immigrant from Mexico who waited in the legislative chamber into the night Tuesday for a chance to speak. “Honestly, I don’t think anything I say will change their minds, but it’s immoral what they’re doing and we have to say this is against the values of America.”

The measures would compel school officials to ask for proof of citizenship for students and require hospitals to similarly ask for papers for those receiving non-emergency care. Illegal immigrants would be blocked from obtaining any state licenses, including those for marriage. Landlords would be forced to evict the entire family from public housing if one illegal immigrant were found living in a unit. Illegal immigrants found driving would face 30 days in jail and forfeit the vehicle to the state.

The measures are not assured of passage. Although Republicans have a majority in the Legislature, the restrictions on citizenship failed to win approval in the Judiciary Committee this month, so they were rerouted to the Appropriations Committee, where they won passage.

Some state lawmakers said their constituents were furious over the Obama administration’s lawsuit challenging the last immigration law and wanted the state to continue pressing the issue. Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, said the state would file a countersuit against the federal government accusing it of not enforcing immigration laws.

Supporters of the crackdown include Katie Dionne, who described herself as an “average, everyday American” who wanted to prevent illegal immigrants from changing her way of life. “If their life is so wonderful why did they leave where they’re from?” she asked senators.

Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security and a former Arizona governor, cites statistics showing that the influx of illegal immigrants across the Arizona border has declined markedly with significant increases in federal resources. But that has done little to ameliorate the feeling of crisis expressed by many Arizona politicians.

The state’s business community, stung by a boycott that has reduced the number of conventions in the state, generally opposes the new round of restrictions. “This will put Arizona through another trial and hurt innocent businesspeople who are just trying to get ahead,” said Glenn Hamer of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

No Matter How Much Greta Van Susteren Pushed, Scott Walker Denied Any Wrong Doing During Koch Prank Call


Fox News Chief, Roger Ailes, Urged Employee to Lie, Records Show

It was an incendiary allegation — and a mystery of great intrigue in the media world: After the publishing powerhouse Judith Regan was fired by HarperCollins in 2006, she claimed that a senior executive at its parent company, News Corporation, had encouraged her to lie two years earlier to federal investigators who were vetting Bernard B. Kerik for the job of homeland security secretary.

Ms. Regan had once been involved in an affair with Mr. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner whose mentor and supporter, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, was in the nascent stages of a presidential campaign. The News Corporation executive, whom she did not name, wanted to protect Mr. Giuliani and conceal the affair, she said.

Now, court documents filed in a lawsuit make clear whom Ms. Regan was accusing of urging her to lie: Roger E. Ailes, the powerful chairman of Fox News and a longtime friend of Mr. Giuliani. What is more, the documents say that Ms. Regan taped the telephone call from Mr. Ailes in which Mr. Ailes discussed her relationship with Mr. Kerik.

It is unclear whether the existence of the tape played a role in News Corporation’s decision to move quickly to settle a wrongful termination suit filed by Ms. Regan, paying her $10.75 million in a confidential settlement reached two months after she filed it in 2007.

Depending on the specifics, the taped conversation could possibly rise to the level of conspiring to lie to federal officials, a federal crime, but prosecutors rarely pursue such cases, said Daniel C. Richman, a Columbia University law professor and a former federal prosecutor.

Of course, if it were to be released, the tape could be highly embarrassing to Mr. Ailes, a onetime adviser to Richard M. Nixon whom critics deride as a partisan who engineers Fox News coverage to advance Republicans and damage Democrats, something Fox has long denied. Mr. Ailes also had close ties with Mr. Giuliani, whom he advised in his first mayoral race. Mr. Giuliani officiated at Mr. Ailes’s wedding and intervened on his behalf when Fox News Channel was blocked from securing a cable station in the city.

In a statement released on Wednesday, a News Corporation spokeswoman did not deny that Mr. Ailes was the executive on the recording. But the spokeswoman, Teri Everett, said News Corporation had a letter from Ms. Regan “stating that Mr. Ailes did not intend to influence her with respect to a government investigation.” Ms. Everett added, “The matter is closed.”

Ms. Everett declined to release the letter, and Ms. Regan’s lawyer, Robert E. Brown, said the News Corporation’s description of the letter did not represent Ms. Regan’s complete statement.

The new documents emerged as part of a lawsuit filed in 2008 in which Ms. Regan’s former lawyers in the News Corporation case accused her of firing them on the eve of the settlement to avoid paying them a 25 percent contingency fee. The parties in that case signed an agreement to keep the records confidential, but it does not appear that an order sealing them was ever sent to the clerk at State Supreme Court in Manhattan, and the records were placed in the public case file.

Discussion of the recorded conversation with Mr. Ailes emerges in affidavits from Ms. Regan’s former lawyers who are seeking to document the work they did on her case and for which they argue they deserve the contingency fee. They describe consulting with a forensic audio expert about the tape.

No transcript of the conversation is in the court records.

But Brian C. Kerr, one of Ms. Regan’s former lawyers, describes in an affidavit the physical evidence he reviewed as “including a tape recording of a conversation between her and Roger Ailes, which is alluded to throughout the complaint” that Mr. Kerr and another lawyer, Seth Redniss, drafted for Ms. Regan. That complaint said News Corporation executives “were well aware that Regan had a personal relationship with Kerik.”

“In fact,” the complaint said, “a senior executive in the News Corporation organization told Regan that he believed she had information about Kerik that, if disclosed, would harm Giuliani’s presidential campaign. This executive advised Regan to lie to, and to withhold information from, investigators concerning Kerik.”

Mr. Redniss, in his affidavit, referred to “a recorded telephone call between Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News (a News Corp. company) and Regan, in which Mr. Ailes discussed with Regan her responses to questions regarding her personal relationship with Bernard Kerik.”

“The ‘Ailes’ matter became a focal point of our work,” Mr. Redniss continued.

The dispute involves a cast of well-known and outsize personalities; it also includes some New Yorkers who have had spectacular career meltdowns.

Mr. Kerik was sent to prison last year after pleading guilty to federal charges including tax fraud and lying to White House officials.

The law firm Ms. Regan hired to draft her complaint against News Corporation was headed by Marc S. Dreier, whose firm was cast into bankruptcy in 2008 when he was charged with a $100 million fraud scheme. The firm’s suit seeking the contingency fee from Ms. Regan is being led by the bankruptcy trustee handling the dissolution of the firm. Mr. Redniss was a co-counsel to the Dreier firm.

Ms. Regan’s own crash was remarkable in itself. While often controversial for her book choices, which ranged from literary novels to sex advice from a pornography star, her imprint at HarperCollins had become one of the more financially successful in the business.

The end came quickly in late 2006. Rupert Murdoch, the News Corporation chairman, was quoted saying it had been “ill advised” for her to pursue “If I Did It,” a hypothetical murder confession by O. J. Simpson. A novel that included imagined drunken escapades by Mickey Mantle drew another round of outrage.

Then News Corporation said Ms. Regan had been fired because she made an anti-Semitic remark to a Jewish HarperCollins lawyer, Mark H. Jackson, in describing the internal campaign to fire her as a “Jewish cabal.”

In her 2007 suit, Ms. Regan said the book controversies had been trumped up and the anti-Semitic remark invented to discredit her, should she ever speak out about Mr. Kerik in ways that would harm Mr. Giuliani’s image. The new court documents expand upon that charge and link it to Mr. Ailes. Mr. Redniss wrote in an affidavit that Ms. Regan told him that Mr. Ailes sought to brand her as promiscuous and crazy.

“Regan believed that Ailes and News Corp. subsidiary Fox News had an interest in protecting Giuliani’s bid for the U.S. presidency,” he wrote.

In addition to serving as chairman of Fox News, Mr. Ailes has taken a broader role at News Corporation, including oversight of Fox’s local television stations and Fox Business Network.

As part of the settlement in January 2008, News Corporation publicly retracted the allegation that Ms. Regan had made an anti-Semitic remark to Mr. Jackson.

The court records examined by The New York Times this week, which have subsequently been taken out of the public case file, also reveal another interesting footnote. After Ms. Regan fired her lawyers, a seemingly unlikely figure came forward to help settle the case: Susan Estrich, a law professor and a regular Fox commentator whose book Ms. Regan had published, according to Ms. Regan’s affidavit.