Sunday, May 01, 2011

Report: Mexico, Egypt No Longer Have a Free Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Mexico can no longer be considered to have a free press because of the threats and violence associated with drug trafficking, but an eight-year decline in press freedom around the world appears to have begun leveling off in 2010, an independent advocacy group reported.
In its annual accounting of press freedoms, Freedom House said the Middle East and North Africa showed a dramatic deterioration in 2010. The assessment of 196 countries and territories will be released Monday.
Among the results: Egypt was downgraded to "not free," while Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Tunisia continued to rank among the worst countries in the world for media independence and press freedom. Only Saudi Arabia, among those five countries, was not swept early this year by uprisings and appeals for freedom.

"In 2010, we saw how readily governments in the Middle East turned to repression of the media," said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, managing editor of the Freedom House study. Gains have to be implemented quickly or "this window of opportunity will be lost," she said.
"The openings that have taken place early in 2011 give us hope that gains in the Middle East may lead the way to improvements in the global level of press freedom," she said in an interview. But recent moves by the army in Egypt to restrict news coverage are worrying, she said.

The decline in Mexico's ranking to "not free"' was described as a surprise and attributed to violence related to drug trafficking. Attacks on journalists, self-censorship and a climate of fear were among the results.
Around the world, one in six people live in countries with a free press, Freedom House said, and those with access to a free and independent media declined to the lowest level in over a decade. Besides Egypt and Mexico, significant declines occurred in Honduras, Hungary, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine.

Over the past five years, countries with significant declines have outnumbered countries with similar gains by a more than 2-to-1 margin. However, the report said, the global trend of declines seems to have leveled off in 2010. It is not clear whether there will be an overall improvement this year, the report said.

The 10 worst-rated countries are Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
"In these states, independent media are either nonexistent or barely able to operate," the report said. "The press acts as a mouthpiece for the region, citizens' access to unbiased information is severely limited, and dissent is crushed through imprisonment, torture and other forms of repression."

Osama bin Laden is dead

After ten years of hunting, a team of U.S. personnel kill Osama bin Laden in a firefight near the Pakistani capital

  • (CBS News) 
Updated 12:17 p.m. ET
The founder and spiritual figurehead for al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, is dead.
President Barack Obama said in an address from the White House that a small team of Americans carried out the operation to kill bin Laden in Pakistan, and that cooperation from Pakistani authorities was crucial.

"Shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda," Mr. Obama said. "Tonight, we can say to those who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda's terror, justice has been done."

Mr. Obama said bin Laden was killed after a firefight with a U.S. team, and his body is currently in U.S. hands.

A senior official told CBS News that Obama chaired no fewer than five National Security Council meetings meeting on the pursuit of bin Laden, and gave order to plan attack on compound on the morning of April 29. He gave final order for the attack this morning, which he described in his speech as resulting in a "firefight" in which no U.S. personnel were harmed.

A senior U.S. counterterrorism official told the Associated Press that bin Laden was killed in a ground operation in Pakistan, in a mansion near the capital, Islamabad. While details are still sketchy, CBS News correspondent Chip Reid reports from the White House that officials are saying bin Laden was shot in the head.

Key dates in the hunt for Osama bin Laden
The long-lost terrorist mastermind had eluded an aggressive hunt by U.S. authorities for nearly ten years since the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11, 2001.
CBS News correspondent Lara Logan reports that human intelligence was vital in killing bin Laden, which is an important boost to the image of U.S. international intelligence gathering, because it says that no enemy is safe anywhere.

Bin Laden's death is a major accomplishment for Mr. Obama and his national security team, as the administrations of both presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush hunted the Saudi-born terrorist.

WikiLeaks: al Qaeda watched towers burn
Al Qaeda looks to co-opt Egypt, Tunisia unrest
Security at "strategic places in Pakistan has been beefed up as a precaution against any retaliation to news of Osama bin Laden's death", a senior Pakistani security official told CBS News early on Monday. "If he (bin Laden) is really dead, there will be attempts to seek revenge," said the official who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity.
Former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Twitter: "#BinLaden's death does not eliminate the threat from #alQaeda, but it is hard to see anyone playing the same organizational role he did."


CNN – Barrasso: “I’m going to support the Ryan plan”
FOX – Graham: NATO airstrike in Libya “a good move”
NBC – Rubio: I won’t be on White House 2012 GOP ticket
CBS – McCain: “I think Mr. Trump is having a lot of fun”
ABC – Ryan on political perils of budget blueprint: “I don’t care about that”
CSPAN – Iowa GOP Chairman: ”Things have started much slower here”


Barrasso: “I’m going to support the Ryan plan”

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) echoed the party line on high gas prices, arguing that eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies would not lead to an increase in prices at the pump. “We’ve seen a supply disruption, which has helped feed a speculative bubble,” he said. The Maryland Democrat proposed releasing oil from the petroleum reserves, something the president has resisted doing despite pressure from within his own party to do so.  Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) countered, saying that the increase in gas prices was due to an increase in demand.
Both lawmakers were at odds over the debt ceiling as well. “I’m not ready to give the president what he wants, and what he wants is a blank check and a new credit card,” said Barrasso, arguing that the debt ceiling should not be raised, while Van Hollen argued that failing to do so would bring on a fiscal catastrophe.
“I’m going to support the Ryan plan,” Barrasso, a former doctor, said when asked about the controversial proposed changes to Medicare.
During a roundtable discussion on the decline of American schools, Sen. Michael Bennet (D- Colo.) said, “My view is that if we were given a blank sheet of paper to re-design the system, we wouldn’t design the system we have today.” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Capitol Preparatory Magnet School founder Steve Perry delved into the disagreement over school choice and teacher compensation. As Alexander and Perry pressed for school vouchers, Weingarten countered that such “silver-bullet solutions” don’t get at the underlying problem of high costs. Perry countered that such costs were being driven by guaranteed compensation for teachers — compensation that is defended by teachers’ unions, regardless of teacher performance.


Graham: NATO airstrike in Libya “a good move”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called this weekend’s NATO strike that killed members of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s family a “good move by NATO to go after the source of the problem.” “In my view, (Gaddafi) is not a foreign leader,” Graham said. “In my view, he’s a murderer. He’s killing his own people. ... He should be brought to justice or killed.” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) declined to say whether he believed NATO forces should go after Gaddafi personally, cautioning that “we have legal issues I’m not an expert on.” On the ongoing budget negotiations among the bipartisan “Gang of Six” senators, Conrad declined to say whether the group is approaching a final proposal. “I hope that we are able to announce an agreement soon,” he said. Asked about Donald Trump’s viability as a potential GOP presidential contender, Graham was less than effusive. “Most Americans don’t want their president to go around saying the f-word,” he said. “So Mr. Trump has a lot to offer, but he will have a tough sale in South Carolina.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) defended her decision not to participate in next week’s South Carolina GOP primary debate. “I’m not making my formal announcement either way until June, so I didn’t feel that it was appropriate to be in the first official debate,” Bachmann said. Asked about the debt ceiling debate, Bachmann said that “no one is advocating defaulting” on the country’s debts. She also defended a plan drafted by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) that would direct the Treasury Department to first pay off the country’s obligations and then prioritize spending. Bachmann, who voted for both Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget plan and the conservative Republican Study Committee’s alternative, also stopped short of saying that she fully supports the idea of a Medicare voucher plan. “I’m wedded to the idea of efficiencies and cost-cutting and savings,” she said. “How we get there is open to discussion.” On Libya, Bachmann said that President Obama’s “policy of leading from behind is an outrage;” she also cited a report from the Libyan ambassador over the weekend that she said projected 10,000 to 30,000 people have been killed in the NATO air strikes.


Rubio: I won’t be on White House 2012 GOP ticket

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said that “under no circumstance” would he be on the Republican Party’s 2012 White House ticket. Asked about Donald Trump as a presidential contender, Rubio brushed off the idea. “I am more concerned about the issues that are happening back here on planet earth.” On Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) 2012 budget blueprint, Rubio pushed back against criticism from Democrats that the plan would gut Medicare. “The only people in this town who have voted to cut Medicare spending are the people who voted in favor of Obamacare. . . .What is their plan to save a program that’s going to go bankrupt in five to 12 years? Don’t just criticize, propose. Otherwise, you’re not serious.”
Senior Obama adviser David Axelrod, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) also appeared on the show. McDonnell said he would prefer a governor on the GOP’s 2012 presidential ticket. “Governors have to balance a budget. They have to be decisive,” he said. Bloomberg said that on the issue of the deficit, “the first and most important thing is what are we going to do to keep this country safe and growing.” Axelrod poked fun Trump’s emphasis on the Obama birth certificate issue and also criticized the media’s coverage of the matter. “I’m happy we could contribute to Mr. Trump’s self image, that he feels good about himself, proud; he needs that little ego boost,” he said, adding that “Donald Trump didn’t make the decision to put himself on a split screen. Donald Trump didn’t make the decision to cover this over and over and over again once he raised the issue.”


McCain: “I think Mr. Trump is having a lot of fun”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who recently returned from Libya, discussed the ongoing fight between rebel forces and Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. McCain said the government did not have confirmation that one of Gaddafi’s sons had been killed by a NATO air strike Saturday. “It’s not as easy as you think,” McCain said of eliminating dictators and terrorist organization chiefs, “so we should be taking out his command and control, and if he is killed or injured because of that, that’s fine.” McCain emphasized that the focus should be on aiding the rebels in their effort to overthrow the Libyan leader.
McCain said he wanted the president to “say that United State air assets...and other assets should be brought into the fight.” McCain said that he is against sending ground troops to the country. He also said another priority should be to “kick” Gaddafi off of the television airwaves.
Conversation turned briefly to the anti-government protests in Syria. “I think it’s going very badly for Syria and frankly, I don’t see a military option,” McCain said. He said strengthening sanctions against Syria was a potential tool against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
McCain said that he recognized that it may not always seem appropriate for him to “second guess” the president, given the he lost to Obama in the 2008 election. “How we handle [the Mid-East uprisings] will determine the entire future of the 21st century,” he said.
The discussion turned domestic, with McCain saying he had “very mixed emotions” on whether to eliminate tax breaks for oil and gas companies. “Obviously, we’re going to have to ask everybody to make sacrifices,” he said.
Asked if he thought the president was trying to make real estate mogul and reality television personality Donald Trump the face of the Republican party, McCain was dismissive. “I think he may try to, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think Mr. Trump is having a lot of fun. If Mr. Trump wants to run, he’s welcome to run,” McCain said.
On the subject of whether Trump was playing the race card by questioning the president’s academic abilities and accomplishments, McCain said, “I wouldn’t accuse him of that, but all of this is so unnecessary.”


Ryan on political perils of budget blueprint: “I don’t care about that”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) defended his 2012 budget blueprint. “I hear this all the time from the political people, from the pundits and the pollsters that this could hurt us politically,” Ryan said. “I don’t care about that. What I care about is fixing this country and getting this debt situation under control.” Ryan called House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) recent remark that he’s “not wedded to one single idea” on the budget an “institutional statement reflecting budget resolutions.. . . I didn’t take it personally.” Ryan also acknowledged that any eventual budget plan will need to garner bipartisan support. “Look, we’re probably not going to get some grand-slam agreement that fixes all of these problems,” he said. “My now hope is to get a single or a double, you know, to get something done that gets us on the right path.”


Iowa GOP Chairman: ”Things have started much slower here”

New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Jack Kimball and Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn discussed the slow wind-up of the 2012 presidential primary. Asked about Donald Trump, Strawn did not dismiss the real estate magnate. “There is an interest in Mr. Trump, but...we do have a very wide-open field right now,” Strawn said. He said the “real test” would be whether candidates visited Iowa’s local coffee shops. Asked about former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and whether he was active on the ground in Iowa, Strawn said that a number of Huckabee’s past campaign advisers were already signed on with other potential candidates, making the head-start Hukcabee had coming out of 2008 potentially short-lived if he waited much longer to declare. Asked about Romney, Strawn said that “things have started much slower here” and that Romney had yet to be seen in Iowa.
The same criticism was levied at former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who is considering a presidential run. “I can honestly say I haven't' spoken to [Huntsman] myself,” Kimball said. “He’s going to have to get here pretty soon,” Strawn said from Iowa.
“The potential exists for a dramatically increased caucus election on the Republican side,” Strawn said, referring to activity on the ground for Republican voters. Asked if he thought Trump would be a fundraising boon for the party and if that was the leading reason Strawn invited him to attend the Lincoln Day Dinner, Strawn held his cards close. “It’s not for the chairman of the party. . .to speculate on the various strengths of the candidates,” he said.
Asked if either had seen activity that led them to believe a dark-horse candidate was on the way, Kimball said “I don’t see who that person would be on the scene.”
Asked about Florida’s attempts to claim first-in-the-nation primary status by moving up its primary date, Kimball said, “I think their original position is a much more impacting position.” New Hampshire has, historically, been the first primary state.
By Emi Kolawole and Felicia Sonmez

Hong Kong Gives Workers Minimum Wage

HP Main - Hunt Suitcase Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of the richest cities in the world, but the low men on the capitalist totem pole have been cheated by the system for years—until now. Hong Kong has passed legislation to give its low-paid workers—roughly 10 percent of the population—a minimum hourly wage. Lawmakers were under pressure from the public to narrow the city's gigantic wealth gap between rich businessmen and impoverished street sweepers. Legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, head of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, insists "the employers now cannot squeeze the lowest-paid sectors of society," but business leaders say the new law will force them to make layoffs. Other critics say the legislation goes against Hong Kong's free-market roots. Unions had asked for a minimum wage of HK$33 ($4.24) an hour but will be paid HK$28 ($3.60) an hour. Most Asian countries now have a minimum wage or are in the process of implementing one, with the exception of Singapore.