Thursday, January 12, 2012
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A federal judge has ordered the immediate removal of a prayer mural displayed in the auditorium of a Rhode Island public high school.
Teenage atheist student Jessica Ahlquist had sued Cranston city and Cranston High School West officials, demanding they remove the banner because it promotes a religion.
She calls it offensive to non-Christians.
City officials claimed the mural is a historical artifact from the school's early days and serves no religious purpose. The prayer encourages students to strive academically. It begins with the words "Our Heavenly Father" and ends with "Amen."
A senior U.S. District Court judge on Wednesday ruled in the atheist student's favor.
The student has 20 days to file counsel fees and costs. City officials will have 10 days to respond. The court will enter judgment after these issues are resolved.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/01/11/federal-court-orders-rhode-island-school-to-remove-prayer/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+foxnews%2Fpolitics+%28Internal+-+Politics+-+Text%29&utm_content=Google+Reader#ixzz1jFwCSa3p
STANFORD, Calif.--President Obama is planning to hand the U.S. Commerce Department authority over a forthcoming cybersecurity effort to create an Internet ID for Americans, a White House official said here today.
It's "the absolute perfect spot in the U.S. government" to centralize efforts toward creating an "identity ecosystem" for the Internet, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said.
That news, first reported by CNET, effectively pushes the department to the forefront of the issue, beating out other potential candidates, including the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The move also is likely to please privacy and civil-liberties groups that have raised concerns in the past over the dual roles of police and intelligence agencies.
The announcement came at an event today at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, where U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Schmidt spoke.
The Obama administration is currently drafting what it's calling the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, which Locke said will be released by the president in the next few months. (An early version was publicly released last summer.)
"We are not talking about a national ID card," Locke said at the Stanford event. "We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy, and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities."
The Commerce Department will be setting up a national program office to work on this project, Locke said.
Details about the "trusted identity" project are remarkably scarce. Last year's announcement referenced a possible forthcoming smart card or digital certificate that would prove that online users are who they say they are. These digital IDs would be offered to consumers by online vendors for financial transactions.
Schmidt stressed today that anonymity and pseudonymity will remain possible on the Internet. "I don't have to get a credential, if I don't want to," he said. There's no chance that "a centralized database will emerge," and "we need the private sector to lead the implementation of this," he said.
Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology, who spoke later at the event, said any Internet ID must be created by the private sector--and also voluntary and competitive.
"The government cannot create that identity infrastructure," Dempsey said. "If it tried to, it wouldn't be trusted."
Inter-agency rivalries to claim authority over cybersecurity have existed ever since many responsibilities were centralized in the Department of Homeland Security as part of its creation nine years ago. Three years ago, proposals were circulating in Washington to transfer authority to the secretive NSA, which is part of the U.S. Defense Department.
In March 2009, Rod Beckström, director of Homeland Security's National Cybersecurity Center,resigned through a letter that gave a rare public glimpse into the competition for budgetary dollars and cybersecurity authority. Beckstrom said at the time that the NSA "effectively controls DHS cyberefforts through detailees, technology insertions," and has proposed moving some functions to the agency's Fort Meade, Md., headquarters.
One of the NSA's missions is, of course, information assurance. But its normally lustrous star in the political firmament has dimmed a bit due to Wikileaks-related revelations.
Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private who is accused of liberating hundreds of thousands of confidential government documents from military networks and sending them to Wikileaks, apparently joked about the NSA's incompetence in an online chat last spring.
"I even asked the NSA guy if he could find any suspicious activity coming out of local networks," Manning reportedly said in a chat transcript provided by ex-hacker Adrian Lamo. "He shrugged and said, 'It's not a priority.'"
The financial crisis threatens to drag the world back to the dark days of the 1930s and wipe out the gains of globalisation, a hard-hitting report said tonight.
In its annual assessment of the global economy, the World Economic Forum warned of a rising tide of protectionism, nationalism and protests as seen during the Great Depression.
It blamed the ‘chronic’ state of government finances and the widening gap between the rich and poor as the world lurches from one crisis to another.
The WEF, which holds its yearly meeting for leading politicians, economists, businessmen and academics in the Swiss ski resort of Davos later this month, said the ‘seeds of dystopia’ have been sown.
It warned that without action to tackle youth unemployment and support an ageing population the world would become ‘a place where life is full of hardship and devoid of hope’.
The survey of 469 global experts warned the world was ‘vulnerable’ to fresh economic shocks, major social unrest, and food and water crises.
Lee Howell, managing director of the WEF, said: ‘For the first time in generations, many people no longer believe that their children will grow up to enjoy a higher standard of living than theirs.
‘This new malaise is particularly acute in the industrialised countries that historically have been a source of great confidence and bold ideas.’
The growing number of young people who cannot find a job and the increasing number of the elderly depending on debt-ridden states are ‘fuelling resentment worldwide’, it said in the Global Risks 2012 report.
‘Both young and old could face an income gap as well as a skills gap so wide as to threaten social and political stability,’ said the WEF.
‘This could precipitate a downward spiral of the global economy fuelled by protectionism, nationalism and populism.’
The Great Depression of the Thirties was exacerbated by a wave of protectionism that saw governments impose tariffs of imports in a desperate effort to protect their own manufacturers.
Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King has warned that a rerun of those policies would have ‘ruinous consequences’ for the global economy.
The WEF issued a call to arms as it warned that debt-ridden governments could no longer ensure higher living standards for future generations.
‘Individuals are increasingly being asked to bear risks previously assumed by governments and companies to obtain a secure retirement and access to quality healthcare,’ said John Drzik, chief executive of management consultants Oliver Wyman.
‘This report is a wake-up call to both the public and the private sectors to come up with constructive ways to realign the expectations of an increasingly anxious global community.’
The report welcomed advances in communications and technology but warned that there is a ‘dark side to connectivity’ which left society vulnerable to ‘malicious’ and ‘devastating’ cyber-attacks.
‘The Arab Spring demonstrated the power of interconnected communications services to drive personal freedom, yet the same technology facilitated the riots in London,’ said Steve Wilson, chief risk officer for general insurance at insurance giant Zurich.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2085346/Global-financial-crisis-threatens-drag-world-1930s.html#ixzz1jFspdEWf
The leaders of Italy and Germany dealt a blow to France's hopes for a financial transaction tax yesterday, indicating they could only support it if it applied to the whole European Union and not just the eurozone.
Italy's prime Minister Mario Monti said his government was more open to the idea in principle, abandoning Italy's blanket opposition in the past, but said the levy should apply across the EU.
"We are willing to back this initiative on an EU level. The ideal situation would be to have it globally. It could make sense if it were among all 27 EU countries. I'm not sure if it makes sense only at eurozone level," he said in Berlin at a press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Mrs Merkel said that while she and her party would back a tax on a eurozone level, Germany could not support that since her coalition partners will only back it on a EU-wide basis. Among the 10 EU countries outside the eurozone, Britain and Sweden are against the tax, fearing it would harm their financial sectors. This concern is shared by some eurozone nations such as Ireland.
David Cameron has said the UK could only agree to the tax if it were accepted globally.
(Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Wednesday that a new aircraft carrier strike group had arrived in the Arabian Sea and that another was on its way to the region, but denied any link to recent tensions with Iran and portrayed the movements as routine.
The shift in the powerful U.S. naval assets comes at a moment of heightened tensions with Iran, which has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz - the world's most important oil shipping lane - if U.S. and EU sanctions over its nuclear program cut off its oil exports.
The U.S. military has said it will halt any blockade of the strategic strait and the top U.S. naval officer acknowledged on Tuesday that preparing for a potential conflict there was something that "keeps me awake at night."
Still, the Pentagon denied any direct link between recent tensions and the movement of aircraft carriers.
"I don't want to leave anybody with the impression that we're somehow (speeding) two carriers over there because we're concerned about what happened, you know, today in Iran. It's just not the case," said Captain John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman.
Military officials said the USS Carl Vinson arrived in the Arabian Sea on Monday to replace the outgoing USS John C. Stennis carrier strike group, which Iran last week warned not to return to the Gulf after departing in late December.
The Stennis was due to return to its home port in San Diego but the Pentagon did not say when that would happen.
Another carrier strike group, led by the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, concluded a port visit to Thailand on Tuesday and was now in the Indian Ocean. It is on track to join the Vinson in the Central Command area of operations, which begins in the neighboring Arabian Sea.
It is "not unusual to have two carriers in the CENTCOM theater at the same time," a second U.S. military official said.
Another official said there had been two carriers in the Gulf region at least twice in the past 18 months.
Tensions between Iran and the United States ratcheted up again in the past week. Iran started an underground uranium enrichment plant and sentenced an American to death for spying. Washington and Europe have stepped up efforts to cripple Iran's oil exports, and Tehran on Wednesday blamed U.S. and Israeli agents for killing an Iranian nuclear scientist.
Israel declined to comment on the killing and the United States denied any U.S. role and condemned the attack, in which the scientist was blown up by a bomb attached to his car by a motorbike hitman.
Iran had warned the Stennis not to re-enter the Gulf and it is unclear when another U.S. carrier will enter Gulf waters. The Pentagon has suggested only that, sooner or later, a carrier will pass through the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf.
"We routinely operate our ships - all of our ships, all of our types of ships - inside the Arabian Gulf and that will continue," Kirby said.
The world’s vulnerability to further economic shocks and social upheaval
risk undermining the progress that globalization has brought, warns the
World Economic Forum in its Global Risks 2012 report, the seventh
edition, published today.
Chronic fiscal imbalances and severe income disparity are the risks seen
as most prevalent over the next 10 years. These risks in tandem threaten
global growth as they are drivers of nationalism, populism and
protectionism at a time when the world remains vulnerable to systemic
financial shocks, as well as possible food and water crises. These are
the findings of a survey of 469 experts and industry leaders, indicating
a shift of concern from environmental risks to socioeconomic risks
compared to a year ago.
“For the first time in generations, many people no longer believe that
their children will grow up to enjoy a higher standard of living than
theirs,” said Lee Howell, the World Economic Forum Managing Director
responsible for the report. “This new malaise is particularly acute in
the industrialized countries that historically have been a source of
great confidence and bold ideas.” Global Risks 2012 analyses
three major risk cases of concern globally:
1.Seeds of Dystopia
Bulging populations of young
people with few prospects, growing numbers of retirees depending on
debt-saddled states (stoking fiscal imbalances) and the expanding gap
between rich and poor are all fuelling resentment worldwide.
Collectively, these trends risk undoing the progress that globalization
“Individuals are increasingly being asked to bear risks previously
assumed by governments and companies to obtain a secure retirement and
access to quality healthcare. This report is a wake-up call to both the
public and private sectors to come up with constructive ways to realign
the expectations of an increasingly anxious global community,” said John
Policies, norms and institutions
from the 20th century may no longer protect us in a more complex and
interdependent world. The weakness of existing safeguards is exposed by
risks related to emerging technologies, financial interdependence,
resource depletion and climate change, leaving society vulnerable.
“We’ve seen examples of over-regulation, like the response to the
Icelandic volcanic eruptions, or under-regulation, such as the subprime
or Eurozone crises. We need to get the balance right with regulations
and, to that end, our safeguards must be anticipatory rather than
reactive. It’s equally important that regulations be made more flexible
to effectively respond to change,” said David Cole, Chief Risk Officer
at Swiss Re.
3.The Dark Side of Connectivity
Our daily lives are
almost entirely dependent on connected online systems, making us
susceptible to malicious individuals, institutions and nations that
increasingly have the ability to unleash devastating cyberattacks
remotely and anonymously.
“The Arab Spring demonstrated the power of interconnected communications
services to drive personal freedom, yet the same technology facilitated
riots in London. Governments, societies and businesses need to better
understand the interconnectivity of risk in today’s technologies if we
are truly to reap the benefits they offer,” said Steve Wilson, Chief
Risk Officer for General Insurance at Zurich.
Natural disasters also remind us of the devastating power of nature and
the limits of technology, as witnessed by last year’s Great East Japan
Earthquake and subsequent crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant. In a
special chapter on key lessons to be gleaned from the disaster, the report stresses that
organizations are far more resilient to major shocks if they have clear
lines of communication and employees across the organization are
empowered to take decisions.
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Economic+social+turmoil+risk+reversing+gains+globalization+report+warns/5980737/story.html#ixzz1jFrezPBL
Britain appears to have won a key concession from European leaders drawing up the new economic stability pact for the eurozone.
British ministers and officials have had no formal role in drafting the EU fiscal treaty due to be ratified by all EU states, apart from Britain, in March.
But the latest leaked draft of the treaty contains no reference to deeper integration of the single market as one of the objectives of those who sign up to the pact. British officials feared such a reference would lead to key decisions affecting the UK being taken outside the structures of the EU.
Mr Cameron's official spokesman said Downing Street regarded the latest draft as "progress". "Our position has always been that this [26-way] agreement is fundamentally about fiscal rules for the eurozone and how to conduct fiscal policy in the eurozone," he said.
"That seems to be the nature of the draft agreement as it stands. I think there is a view in lots of European countries that this agreement is clearly very important – they need new fiscal rules and greater co-ordination of fiscal policy to make the euro work effectively – but the agreement shouldn't cut across existing treaties."
Talks about private sector creditors paying for part of a second Greek bailout are going badly, senior European bankers said on Wednesday, raising the prospect that euro zone governments will have to increase their contribution to the aid package.
"Governments are mulling an increase of their share of the burden," said one of the bankers, who is familiar with the talks.
Banks and investment funds have been negotiating with Athens for months on a bond swap scheme to cut Greece's debt burden from 160 percent of the nation's annual output to a more manageable 120 percent by 2020. This is central to a second, 130 billion euro[EUR= 1.2775 0.0069 (+0.54%) ] ($165 billion) bailout that international lenders have drawn up to help the country avert default.
As part of these talks, banks have agreed to a "voluntary" 50 percent write-down on Greek debt holdings but have faced demands to make further concessions, a factor that has made it less attractive for some of the investors to take part on a voluntary basis.
The participation rate among private sector investors is currently less than 75 percent, which means Greece's debt will be reduced by far less than expected, the source said.
Asked whether governments will have to put up more cash to make up for such a shortfall, another senior banker said: "Nothing is decided yet, but the bigger the imposed haircut, the less appetite there is for voluntary conversion."
A third senior banker, who was asked the same question, said: "Private sector involvement is going badly."
There are suggestions in euro zone government circles that ministers are realizing they may need to bolster the planned second bailout if the voluntary bond swap scheme falls short of expectations.
Stumping up yet more money would be politically difficult in Germany and other countries in the northern part of the currency bloc.
An Athens-based source close to the talks on private sector involvement (PSI) insisted: "The government is pushing hard and is close to signing a deal." But the source declined to give an indication about take-up.
Merkel, Sarkozy Insist
On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy insisted private-sector bondholders must share in reducing Greece's debt burden and said no further aid would flow to Athens without a deal.
Banks and other private sector creditors attempted to agree to a deal before Christmas to cut the value of their bonds by half in return for a mix of cash and new bonds.
But the talks hit trouble over the details of the debt swap such as the coupon, maturity and the credit guarantees. These will determine the bonds' Net Present Value (NPV), and thereby the actual hit the banks need to take.
Policymakers insist agreement is near despite weeks of talks already. EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Tuesday negotiators were "about to finalize shortly."
Athens needs to conclude the deal and secure funding from its euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund to be able to redeem 14.5 billion euros of maturing bonds on March 20. A deal needs to come well before that, because the paperwork alone takes at least six weeks.
Hedge funds who have picked up Greek debt are intent on staying out of the bond swap deal, sources say. They either prefer letting the country go under, which would trigger the credit insurance they have bought, or hope to get paid out in full if enough others sign up.
But Athens could change its laws and impose Collective Action Clauses which would force all creditors to sign up to the bond swap if a clear majority had voluntarily done so.
Charles Dallara, the head of a group representing private-sector banks, will hold talks in Athens on Thursday with Greek government officials on a voluntary swap of privately held Greek bonds, a spokesman for Dallara's Institute of International Finance said.
According to a weekend report in German magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday, the IMF believes Greece will still be sinking under the burden of its debts even after a bond swap deal is struck, and that further measures may need to be taken if the country is to avoid default.
The euro fell Wednesday, a day ahead of a closely watched meeting of the European Central Bank and as comments by an official with Fitch Ratings added to worries that Europe’s debt crisis will spread.
The euro was trading down 0.6 per cent at $1.2702 US early in the afternoon, after dropping as low as $1.2661 earlier in the day, its lowest point since Sept. 10, 2010.
European markets closed in the red with London's FTSE 100 index off 0.45 per cent, Frankfurt's DAX down 0.17 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 dipping 0.19 per cent.
The ECB’s monetary policy committee will hold its monthly meeting tomorrow and the consensus among economists surveyed by Bloomberg News is that it will keep its key interest rate unchanged at one per cent.
It has already dropped the rate by a quarter-point at each of its last two meetings.
The head of Fitch’s sovereign ratings, David Riley, said the ECB should increase its efforts to buy the bonds of Europe’s troubled countries in order to avoid a collapse of the 17-nation currency.
Both Fitch and rivals Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s have warned they are reviewing the ratings of eurozone countries and may announce downgrades.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told journalists after meeting in Berlin Wednesday with Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Monti that Germany might increase its contribution to Europe’s bailout fund to send the message that European leaders are ready to ease the crisis.
The drop in the euro came amid other troubling signs that the region may already be in recession and that the debt crisis could deepen.
German economy likely contracted
Germany’s Federal Statistics Office said Europe’s largest economy likely contracted by 0.25 per cent in the last quarter of 2011 despite showing strong overall growth for the year of three per cent.
The exact figure for fourth-quarter growth is due only in mid-February and could be revised.
Speculation rose that the Bank of England will move to stimulate its economy after new figures showed the U.K. trade deficit increased more than expected.
Meanwhile, the European Union stepped up the pressure Wednesday against Hungary, saying its fiscal policies were unsustainable and threatening legal action over a new constitution that some fear could push the country back into authoritarianism.
The warnings escalated the standoff between Hungary's government and the EU and underlined the difficulty Budapest will face in negotiating a desperately needed international rescue package from the EU and the International Monetary Fund.
And Spain's parliament approved the new conservative government's first austerity measures Wednesday, which aim to rein in the country's swollen deficit with €8.9 billion ($11.5 billion) in spending cuts.
"The economy is stopped, we're on the verge of a recession and the accounts are unbalanced as a consequence, among other things, of the deplorable decisions taken by the former government, which only made the situation worse," Finance Minister Cristobal Montoro told legislators.
Spain is trying to avert being dragged further into a debt crisis that has already forced Greece, Ireland and Portugal to seek financial bailouts.
A looming hard landing in China will bring the financial and economic crisis of the past five years to a climax in 2012, one of the City of London's leading analysts has warned.
Albert Edwards, head of strategy at Société Générale and one of the UK's leading "bears", said the next 12 months would be the "final year of pain and disappointment".
Predicting a sharp slowdown in activity in the world's fastest-growing emerging economy, Edwards said: "There is a likelihood of a China hard landing this year. It is hard to think 2013 and onwards will be any worse than this year if China hard-lands."
Although China emerged rapidly from the downturn of 2008-09, Edwards said the recovery had been the result of a massive reflationary package by the Chinese government. Beijing, he added, could not afford another big stimulus to offset a weakening of the economy. Falling imports have led to a widening of China's trade surplus, but Edwards said exports were set to slow and a trade deficit was looming.
He added that despite the recent run of more upbeat economic news from the United States, the risk of another recession in the world's biggest economy was "very high". Growth had slowed to an annual rate of 1.5% in the second and third quarters of 2011, below the "stall speed" that historically led to recession. It was unlikely that the economy would muddle through, Edwards said.
China has grown by around 10% a year on average over the past two decades, making it the world's second-biggest economy, but the threat of a double-dip recession in the west, coupled with signs of over-heating in the Chinese property market, have caused some analysts to predict severe problems ahead.
Edwards's view was supported by the historian Edward Chancellor, who said China's recent economic performance conformed to the pattern of previous manias and bubbles in history. These included an uncritically assumed growth story, easy money and credit expansion, investment booms and the misallocation of capital, and conspicuous consumption.
The warning of fresh trouble ahead came as the World Economic Forum said rising youth unemployment, pressure on pensions and a growing gulf between rich and poor were sowing the "seeds of dystopia" that were putting at risk the gains from globalisation.
In its annual assessment of the outlook for the global economy before its meeting in Davos later this month, the WEF expressed concern at the possibility of economic and social upheaval caused by the inability of the young to find work and the dependency of elderly people on states deeply in debt.
"For the first time in generations, many people no longer believe that their children will grow up to enjoy a higher standard of living than theirs," said Lee Howell, the WEF managing director responsible for the report. "This new malaise is particularly acute in the industrialised countries that historically have been a source of great confidence and bold ideas."
The survey of 469 global experts identified chronic problems with government finances and severe income inequality as the most prevalent risks over the next decade.
"These risks in tandem threaten global growth as they are drivers of nationalism, populism and protectionism at a time when the world remains vulnerable to systemic financial shocks, as well as possible food and water crises," the report said.
The study said early hopes that closer global integration would inevitably lead to higher living standards for all were at risk of being dashed by trends that left large numbers of people fearful about the future.
"Individuals are increasingly being asked to bear risks previously assumed by governments and companies to obtain a secure retirement and access to quality healthcare. This report is a wake-up call to both the public and private sectors to come up with constructive ways to realign the expectations of an increasingly anxious global community," said John Drzik, chief executive of management consultants the Oliver Wyman Group .
The study said the policies and institutions of the 20th century no longer offered protection in a more complex and integrated global economy. "The weakness of existing safeguards is exposed by risks related to emerging technologies, financial interdependence, resource depletion and climate change, leaving society vulnerable."
It also warned that there was a "dark side of connectivity", with societies vulnerable to "malicious" and "devastating" cyber attacks.
"The Arab spring demonstrated the power of interconnected communications services to drive personal freedom, yet the same technology facilitated riots in London. Governments, societies and businesses need to better understand the interconnectivity of risk in today's technologies if we are truly to reap the benefits they offer," said Steve Wilson, chief risk officer for general insurance at Zurich.