Tuesday, November 30, 2010

WHILE AMERICA WAS SLEEPING I fixed a 'news breakfast' for you -- ready each weekday morning at 6am Eastern to satisfy your media craving [feature permalink here]. These must-reads will help you kick start the day:

Wikileaks Fallout
WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 29: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton comments on the recent release of some 250,000 classified cables released by Wikileaks at the State Department November 29, 2010 in Washington, DC. Clinton refused to comment on specific reports included in the release of documents but said the disclosure of the sensitve cables was harmful to U.S. foreing policy and that the U.S. would take aggressive steps to hold accountable those responsible for the release. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

How Damaging? "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemns the WikiLeaks 'attack on the international community' as harmful to US policy goals. But major geopolitical shifts are unlikely, analysts say." (Christian Science Monitor)

Obama Weighing Criminal Action: "The Obama administration moved Monday to contain potential damage to U.S. national security from the WikiLeaks release of tens of thousands of sensitive U.S. diplomatic documents and said it might take criminal action against the whistle-blowing Internet site." (McClatchy)

A Few Questions: For Julian Assange, the U.S. government, and Sarah Palin. (Dan Gillmor @ Salon)

Assange -- Obama Stifles Freedom of the Press: "Assange did not address the assertion that has risked lives by releasing confidential diplomatic cables, saying only that the Obama administration was trying to make it impossible to publish information responsibly. The comments were made in a video recorded on a cell phone in Assange's London hiding place and sent to The Telegraph." (JPost/AP)

Role of Free Press Weighed: "At the heart of the heated reaction Monday to WikiLeaks' latest giant government document drop were fundamental questions about the role of a free press in a democracy: Would the publication of secret State Department information serve the public good? Or would it merely endanger diplomats, jeopardize international relations and complicate the war on terror?" (USA Today)

Anatomy of a Leak: " Fallout from Wikileaks' cache of embarrassing diplomatic cables has left fingers of blame pointed across the world, but the well-organized leak has also shed light on a new breed of cooperation to get the story out.  Once considered a rogue organization, Wikileaks appears to have gained even more credibility with this latest set of documents -- at least among the news media." (ABC)

Was It the Result of Too Much Sharing? "The WikiLeaks fiasco is not an inevitable consequence of information sharing. It's an inevitable consequence of information sharing done wrong. The scandal will probably have all kinds of chilling effects. Diplomats will be more careful about what they put in writing. Agencies will err on the side of overclassification instead of underclassification. But the only real solution is to enforce information security on the ground level—to make sure that whoever sees the dots is actually trying to connect them." (Slate)

China Blocks Wikileaks: "China has blocked Internet access to WikiLeaks' release of more than 250,000 U.S. Department of State cables, with its Foreign Ministry saying that it does not wish to see any disturbance in China-U.S. relations." (PC World)

Wikileaks Sets Sight on U.S. Bank: "The founder of whistle-blower website WikiLeaks plans to release tens of thousands of internal documents from a major U.S. bank early next year, Forbes Magazine reported on Monday. Julian Assange declined in an interview with Forbes to identify the bank, but he said that he expected that the disclosures, which follow his group's release of U.S. military and diplomatic documents, would lead to investigations." (Reuters)


What to Expect From Obama-G.O.P. Meeting: "When President Obama sits down with the new Republican congressional leaders for their first face-to-face meeting on Tuesday, the stated mission will be to make progress on ratifying an arms agreement with Russia and reaching a deal on soon-to-expire tax cuts. But with the White House session scheduled to last just one hour, neither side anticipates emerging with a grand compromise. Instead, the goal will be to set a course for the weeks ahead - and to try to determine whether either side is serious about making concessions necessary to reach a deal." (WaPo)

Is Voter Fraud at Play In Close N.Y. Election? "The closest Congressional race in the nation could be decided by people who don't really live in the district, and a Fox News investigation has uncovered evidence of voter registration illegalities, including one voter who apparently voted twice. The candidates, Long Island Democratic incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop and Republican challenger Randy Altschuler, have been as close as just 15 votes apart, out of roughly 180,000 cast in New York's 1st Congressional District. The latest count puts Democrat Bishop ahead by about 235 votes. But both sides are now challenging roughly 2,000 absentee ballots that will eventually determine if the seat stays Democratic or falls to the Republicans." (Fox News)

Biden to Meet Issa: "Vice President Joe Biden welcomes California Rep. Darrell Issa to the White House Tuesday, the White House’s first outreach to the chairman that has vowed to investigate every corner of government. The meeting, which will be at 3 p.m. in the White House, will focus on tracking stimulus spending, White House and Hill sources say." (Politico)

Ethics Committee Refers Rangel Resolution to House: "Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the chair of the House Committee on Standards on Official Conduct, told reporters late Monday evening that the ethics committee has tonight submitted a resolution to the House of Representatives regarding the matter with Rep. Charles Rangel. A senior aide from the Speaker's office had not heard the news about the resolution, but suggested if it was true that the full House of Representatives could consider the ethics committee's recommendations as early as Tuesday or Wednesday." (ABC)

Civil War? What Civil War? "Anyone hoping for 2011 GOP infighting is going to be disappointed." (David Weigel @ Slate)

In Terrorism Stings, Questions of Entrapment: " Some defense lawyers and civil rights advocates said the government’s tactics, particularly since the Sept. 11 attacks, have raised questions about the possible entrapment of people who pose no real danger but are enticed into pretend plots at the government’s urging.  But law enforcement officials said on Monday that agents and prosecutors had carefully planned the tactics used in the undercover operation that led to the arrest of the Somali-born teenager, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a naturalized United States citizen. They said that Mr. Mohamud was given several opportunities to vent his anger in ways that would not be deadly, but that he refused each time. " (NY Times)

Hostage Taking Drama Ends at Wisconsin School: "All 24 hostages held captive by a hangun-toting student in northeast Wisconsin were freed Monday night, after several hours of being confined inside a high school classroom, police said." (CNN)


Obama Freezes Pay for Federal Workers: " The pay freeze amounted to an opening bid as the president and Republican Congressional leaders begin jousting in earnest over tax and spending policy. It also illustrated how Mr. Obama can use his office on occasion to get ahead of newly elected Republicans; they had been talking about making such a move when they assume control of the House and additional Senate seats in January." (NY Times)

Economists' Grail: A Post-Crash Model: "In the wake of a crisis that models failed to capture, economists are questioning the foundations on which those models are built." (WSJ)

Debt Contagion Fears Still Hurting European Markets: "The euro hit a 10-week low against the dollar and world stocks struggled on Tuesday as euro zone debt problems weighed on investor sentiment even after Ireland's bailout. The premium investors demand to hold Spanish and Italian sovereign bonds over German bonds hit their highest since the euro's launch while some of the region's "core" debt issuers, including France, were pressured. An 85 billion euro package for Ireland announced on Sunday did little to stem fiscal concerns, as speculators targeted other debt-laden countries." (Reuters)

Bad News For Oh-So-Exquisite Gourmets: "In a brief, but pointed quarrel with Fiji's government, the US-based premium water distributor that makes up 20 percent of Fiji’s exports has decided to cease operations here and cancel outstanding development projects. On Monday, November 29, the company laid-off nearly 400 people at its bottling plant in the mostly rural Ra Province in Western Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island. A reporter for the Fiji Times estimates the closure could affect 4,000 people." (Global Voices)


Russia Nuke Movement Worries U.S.: "The U.S. believes Russia has moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to facilities near North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies as recently as this spring, U.S. officials say, adding to questions in Congress about Russian compliance with long-standing pledges ahead of a possible vote on a new arms-control treaty. U.S. officials say the movement of warheads to facilities bordering NATO allies appeared to run counter to pledges made by Moscow starting in 1991 to pull tactical nuclear weapons back from frontier posts and to reduce their numbers. The U.S. has long voiced concerns about Russia's lack of transparency when it comes to its arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, believed to be many times the number possessed by the U.S." (WSJ)

North Korea Reveals New Nuclear Plant: "Secretive North Korea has detailed for the first time its expanded nuclear programme--a move seen by South Korea and its key ally, the US, as yet another provocation. Pyongyang said on Tuesday that it has thousands of centrifuges at a new uranium enrichment plant as pressure built on China to rein in its ally amid heightened tensions on the peninsula." (Al Jazeera)

U.S. Rejects Talks: "White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters: 'The United States and a host of others, I don't think, are not interested in stabilising the region through a series of PR activities.'" (The Guardian)

Had He Sent Them to Wikileaks, He Wouldn't Be in Trouble: "U.S. Embassy officials in Beijing were barred Tuesday from attending the appeal hearing of an American geologist sentenced by China to eight years in prison on charges of obtaining state secrets. . . . Xue Feng was convicted in July of obtaining state secrets by procuring a database and other information on China's oil industry. His case has underscored China's use of its vague state secrets law to restrict the flow of business information and the vulnerability of Chinese who take foreign citizenship but return to China to work." (NPR)

Will He Serve Before Or After the Death Penalty? "An Iraqi court on Monday convicted Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein's longtime foreign minister, of terrorizing Shiite Kurds during the Iran-Iraq war, sentencing him to 10 years in prison." (AP)

Fairness, Transparency of Egypt Elections Questioned: " The Obama administration on Monday raised serious questions about the fairness of Egypt's weekend parliamentary elections, saying it was disappointed by widespread reports of irregularities that cast doubt on the credibility of the polls in the strong US ally. The State Department said it had closely followed the campaign and Sunday's polling and was concerned by arrests and intimidation of opposition supporters, denial of media access to opposition candidates and Egypt's refusal to allow international monitors to observe the vote." (AP)

Haiti Vote 'Valid' Despite Flaws -- International Observers: "The joint observer mission from the Organization of American States/Caribbean Community said that although there had been widespread problems, including acts of violence and intimidation and poor organization blocking many people from voting, this was not enough to doom the polls." (Al Jazeera)

Tech, Science

BREAKING --  EU Launches Investigation of Google Possible Abuse in Online Search: "The European Union's executive is to launch an anti-trust probe into Google following claims that Google's search engine manipulates results to harm rivals, EU officials announced Tuesday. The investigation comes after some of Google's business rivals complained that its search engine gave their products unfair treatment, the European Commission said in a statement. The launch of a probe does not mean Google is guilty, the commission stressed." (DPA)

Microsoft Sells 2.5 Million Kinects: "Microsoft Corporation in 25 days has sold more than 2.5 million of its motion-controlled Kinect video game systems globally, the software company said Monday. Sales forecasts are tracking toward 5 million this holiday shopping season."

Media, Entertainment, Arts

James Franco, Anne Hathaway To Host Oscars: "Oscar telecast producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer announced just now that 'James Franco and Anne Hathaway personify the next generation of Hollywood icons— fresh, exciting and multi-talented. We hope to create an Oscar broadcast that will both showcase their incredible talents and entertain the world on February 27. We are completely thrilled that James and Anne will be joining forces with our brilliant creative team to do just that.'" (Deadline Hollywood)

Italian Film Giant Mario Monicelli Kills Himself: "Monicelli, 95, was dubbed 'father of Italian comedy' for directing films such as Amici Mei (My Dear Friends) and I Soliti Ignoti (Persons Unknown). He was said to have leapt from the fifth floor of a Rome hospital where he was being treated for terminal cancer." (BBC)

Picasso Treasure Trove Found: "More than 270 previously unknown works by Pablo Picasso recently came to light when a retired electrician sought to have them authenticated by the late artist's estate, the Picasso Administration said Monday. But in a strange twist, 71-year-old Pierre Le Guennec finds himself slapped with a lawsuit filed by the artist's son, Claude Picasso, and five other heirs who say the works are stolen." (CNN)

Inside the Wild, Wacky, Profitable World of Boing Boing: "It's eccentric. It's unprofessional. And it makes money. How four people who do exactly what they want run one of the most popular blogs on the planet." (Fast Company)