Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Mayor Steve Lonegan, Republican for Governor, Addresses CPAC"

Steve Lonegan Candidate for Governor of New Jersey Addresses the CPAC Convention.

Daryl Mikell Brooks of Today's News NJ Speaks at Taxpayer Rally in Trenton

The New Jersey Statehouse steps overflowed with hundreds of New Jersey taxpayers saying "enough is enough" to out-of-control government at an Americans for Prosperity rally led by long-time Mayor Steve Lonegan.

US Senate candidate Darryl Brooks addressed the crowd of citizens, who came from every corner of New Jersey to rally against higher taxes and the outrageous spending habits in Trenton.

Turning up the grassroots heat on big-spending, big-government lawmakers won historic ballot victories in New Jersey last year against higher taxes and more debt. Increasing pressure from taxpayers will permanently kill Governor Corzine's schemes for taxpayer-funded housing, toll hikes, and merging small towns.

The Thursday rally was followed on Friday by AFP Foundation's daylong Defending the American Dream Summit, which featured a debate between U.S. Senate candidates.

Chairman Michael Steele speaking at The State Of The Black Union 2009 in Los Angeles

Chairman Michael Steele speaking at The State Of The Black Union 2009 in Los Angeles

Rep. Ron Paul Speech at CPAC

Representative Ron Paul spoke to conservative activists about U.S. foreign policy, the costs of overseas troop deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as federal spending priorities and monetary policy. He also spoke about limited government and individual rights, emphasizing personal responsibility over the regulatory power of government.

Newt Gingrich Speech at 2009 CPAC

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich spoke to conservative activists about the future of the conservative movement, the political climate in Washington, DC, and proposed solutions to the current economic crisis. In his remarks he criticized the Obama administration's budget proposals and recent remarks by Attorney General Holder about race relations in America. He also talked about ways in which conservatives could make their voices heard.

Johnathan Krohn Remarks at 2009 CPAC

Author Johathan Krohn spoke to conservative activists about conservative principles.

Black Children are more likely to go to jail

Today I attended a luncheon hosted by the Charlotte Junior League that featured Marian Wright Edelman. Mrs. Edelman is a remarkable woman from Civil Rights fame who has dedicated her life to the empowerment, protection, and education of children. Indeed, her organization, the Children’s Defense Fund, has been responsible for a number of programs and initiatives that creatively seek to give children (especially minority children) a fair shot at life.

I use the phrase “fair shot at life,” because of one statistic that Mrs. Edelman shared with the audience today. She reported that according to data gathered by the Children’s Defense Fund, 1 in 3 African American youth will be incarcerated during their lifetime. The percentage for Caucasian youth is 1 in 17. Roughly speaking, this figure means that twenty of the children enrolled in my church’s after school program will end up in jail at one time or another. That reality haunted me as I worked with our children tonight.

Mrs. Edelman emphasized that children should not be punished for the parents they have, the area into which they are born, or the school they attend. She also emphasized the need for all children to have access to quality health services including mental and dental care. For how can we expect a child to do well in school if he/she is suffering from a malady impacting his/her ability to learn? And if that child does not do well in school, his/her chances of breaking out of poverty go to slim to none.

I walked away from the luncheon today alarmed, offended, and deeply saddened by the statistics and stories presented. Even more pressing in my mind was the fact that I could list off the names of kids I know who are very likely to keep supporting these statistics. This is not an abstract issue; this is a reality that keeps me awake at night. There is a sense of urgency that drives me to do my part in eradicating this 1 in 3 statistic. The stakes are too high to do nothing and much too important to only give it lip service.

Much prayer is required, and then much action.

Strange Bedfellows in the State House Press Corps By Richard A. Lee

Of all the many changes taking place in New Jersey’s news organizations over the past 12 months, perhaps none carries more significance than the decision by The Star-Ledger and The Record to merge their State House bureaus.

Up until now, the layoffs, cutbacks and consolidations have taken place within the confines of individual news organizations. The merger of the Ledger/Record bureaus marks the first time that two of the state’s competing news entities will be combining forces.

The decision is not without some precedent. Since 1970, joint operating agreements authorized by the U.S. Newspaper Preservation Act have provided competing newspapers with exemptions from antitrust laws, making it possible for them to combine operations within the same market area.

More along the lines of the Ledger/Record bureau merger, The St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald announced plans to merge their Tallahassee-based staffs into a single statehouse bureau late last year. Likewise, The Charlotte Observer and The Raleigh News & Observer have merged the papers' capital bureaus and sports staffs. Although both papers have been owned by the McClatchy Company since 2006, they had initially remained somewhat independent and continued to compete with each other.

“For the two of us, each the editor in charge of projects at North Carolina's two largest daily newspapers, telling each other what we're working on was like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox exchanging strategies for an upcoming three-game series in the midst of a heated pennant race,” Gary Schwab, The Observer’s projects editor, wrote in an article for Nieman Reports.

In the article, Schwab explained the guidelines the two newspapers agreed to in order to coordinate their reporting and ensure proper recognition when one of the papers breaks a story. He also provided an example of how the combined news operations resulted in a powerful series of stories on the poultry industry. The articles led to the resignation of a state health official and the convening of Congressional hearings.

Indeed, this is the type of journalism envisioned by the Ledger and Record officials who announced the merger last month. “At a time when newspapers have had to cut back news staffs, this cooperation allows us to pool resources and better serve all our readers," Star-Ledger editor Jim Willse explained at the time. Record editor Frank Scandale said the move will enable each newspaper to provide a broader range of daily information.

The downside of such mergers, however, is the danger of the news becoming homogenized. Stories geared toward wider audiences can become broader and more general in content, lacking some of the local details and information that are important to individual readers.

“Diverse media ownership can create the robust and unconstrained debate that allows the best ideas to prevail,” communications professor John H. McManus wrote in an Issues in Ethics journal article. “Consolidation, in contrast, constricts the number of information providers and can cut down on the debate that is essential to a democracy.”

In addition, the role of competition cannot be underestimated. Journalists strive to deliver the news accurately and quickly while serving as public watchdogs. But scooping the competition adds a little extra incentive that may now be missing. It is like the difference between hitting a baseball out of the park during batting practice and doing it in the bottom of the ninth inning with the game on the line.

As journalist Andy Schneider explained in an American Journalism Review article about competition between newspapers in Seattle: “Joint operating agreements, profit margins, marketing and acquisitions strategies, reader retention rates: Mention any of it to most reporters and editors, and you might as well be talking about differential equations. They just don’t care. But give them a big breaking news story, pit them against a crosstown rival, and the boys are back in the locker room, gearing up for the big win.”

How things will play out in New Jersey remains to be seen. There are excellent reporters in the Ledger and Record State House bureaus, but the transition from competitors to colleagues can be a delicate one. Nevertheless, given the current economics of the industry, the merger may be the type of bold, innovative action needed to keep New Jersey news organizations alive in the 21st Century.

# # #
Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey. A former journalist and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies.

SmarTrend® News Watch: AutoZone Tops Fiscal Q2 Estimates

AutoZone (NYSE:AZO) reported fiscal Q2 EPS of $2.03, ex-items, beating consensus estimates of $1.84. Revenues in the quarter rose 8.1% year-over-year to $1.45 billion, and came in ahead of consensus estimates of $1.38 billion. The company said it repurchased 2.8 million shares for $375 million during the quarter and still has $462 million remaining in the share repurchase program. The company's CEO, Bill Rhodes made this statement, "We remain committed to growing our business through a relentless focus on customer service, continual refinement of our product offerings and ongoing improvements to grow our commercial sales, all while managing our expenses appropriately. At the end of the second quarter, our balance sheet was in excellent condition, and we remain committed to our disciplined approach of growing operating earnings while utilizing our capital effectively."

US Stocks Open Modestly Higher

Stocks rose modestly on Tuesday after tumbling to their worst levels in more than a decade.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was recently higher by about 60 points at 6,823, helped by sharp gains in its banking components and a 5.3% jump in shares of Alcoa. The S&P 500 gained 1.2% amid an across-the-board climb for all its sectors, with energy and basic materials recording gains of around 2%. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 1.1%.
Stocks were routed world-wide on Monday after American International Group reported the worst-ever quarterly loss in U.S. corporate history and after HSBC Holdings said it would issue nearly $18 billion of discounted stock. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, closing at its worst levels since April 1997, dropped 299 points and the S&P 500 fell 34 points to its worst finish since 1996.
Strategists at Deutsche Bank say they now think the market is looking cheap. "We can finally make a case for equities being "cheap" for not only the first time in this crisis but for the first time in at least 14 years," they said. But, they added, that doesn't mean a rebound is in store. "Given the magnitude of this crisis we may have to eventually see very cheap levels before we bottom. So cheap is helpful but not a reason to suggest an imminent sustainable bounce."
Investors showed a modestly stronger appetite for risk. The dollar rose against the yen but declined against the euro on Tuesday. Gold futures fell about $15 an ounce, while crude-oil futures, which fell more than 10% Monday, climbed. Treasury prices declined.
Markets have been focused on Washington's efforts to halt the economic and financial crisis, with many traders saying the Obama administration's plans so far have been vague. The Wall Street Journal reported that the administration is considering creating multiple investment funds to purchase the bad loans and other distressed assets that lie at its heart.

Also Tuesday, the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve launched a highly anticipated lending facility aimed at generating up to $1 trillion in consumer and small business loans.
The Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, referred to as the TALF, is scheduled to begin disbursing funds March 25. It will make loans to purchasers of AAA-rated securities backed by new auto, credit card, student and Small Business Administration guaranteed loans.
Financial stocks, which have led the market downward, were modestly higher. Citigroup gained 4.2% and Bank of America advanced 5.2%.
Looking ahead Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will testify on the budget to separate Senate and House committees. Data on pending home sales for January will be released. Also, automakers will report monthly sales.
Edmunds.com forecasts sales declined 41.4% industry-wide last month. Most Wall Street analysts believe the seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales to have fallen to the low nine-million range, down from 9.6 million last month, which marked a 26-year low. Sales for General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler all are seen dropping by over 40%.
Overseas, Asia stocks fell but closed off their worst levels, with the Nikkei 225 down 0.7%. Europe stocks initially rose but quickly soured, with the FTSE 100 recently falling 1% in London.

Sri Lankan cricketers shocked and shaken by terrorist attack

LAHORE, Pakistan — Sri Lanka cricket captain Mahela Jayawardene paid tribute Tuesday to the heroism of his team's bus driver and security forces after gunmen opened fire at the Sri Lankan team bus and killed six police officers Tuesday.

"We are obviously all still shocked and shaken after this morning's attacks and all very relieved that no one in the team was seriously injured," Jayawardene said in a statement.

At least 12 men armed with grenades, rocket launchers and automatic weapons attacked the team bus Tuesday at a roundabout close to the Gaddafi stadium in the eastern Pakistan. Attackers fired a rocket that caused a "huge explosion" next to the bus but did not damage it, bus driver Mohammad Khalil said.

Seconds later, an attacker jumped in front of the bus and hurled a grenade at it, which also missed.

"We were very lucky to escape this terrible ambush and we are extremely grateful to those that showed such courage in trying to protect us," Jayawardene said.

The bus wound up with 25 bullet holes, its front windshield shattered. When it reached the stadium, bloodied players were taken out.

"We owe the team bus driver our lives for his remarkable bravery in the face of direct gunfire," Jayawardene said. "Had he not had the courage and presence of mind to get the bus moving after the initial attack then we'd have been a far easier target for the terrorists.

"We are now looking forward to returning home to Sri Lanka to be with our families."

The incident is one of the most high-profile attacks on a sports team since the killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Pakistan captain Younis Khan met with the Sri Lankan players at the airport. They were scheduled to leave for Sri Lanka later Tuesday.

"As an ordinary Pakistani I think it's too bad as it happened to our guests," said Khan, who was with teammates Shoaib Malik and Misbah-ul-Haq. "I met with captain Jayawardene, (Muttiah) Muralitharan and (Ajantha) Mendis and they have no complaints from anyone. They took it as a bad experience for them."

Khan said he did not believe it was a security lapse.

"It's not a security failure because such a thing has never happened in sports in Pakistan," Khan said. "Full marks to the bus driver who drove the Sri Lankan team to the stadium."

Khan said Jayawardene has a scratch on his foot, Mendis was hurt by glass and Samaraweera was also slightly injured.

"Murli told me that the driver didn't panic and he even gave his shirt and cash award to the driver," Khan said.

Khan said it was sad that such an incident happened in the last Test for Jayawardene, who will be quitting the captaincy after the two-Test series against Pakistan.

Rush On Michael Steele: He's Alright, But He's Not Real...

I've been pretty hard on Michael Steele for his abuse of Ebonics. But I think his most recent sonning courtesy of Rush Limbaugh needs to be put in perspective:

"My intent was not to go after Rush - I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh," Mr. Steele told The Politico. "I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership."

I'm not offended that Steele is kow-towing to Rush. I'm offended that Steele would wrap himself in the garb on hip-hop, and then apologize to Rush.

Man listen: The first rule for establishing "Off The Hook Urban-Suburban Hip-Hop Strategies" is if you gonna dis a mofo, then dis him. Don't come out the box quoting "How You Like Me Now," and then go and apologizes to the guy who you just dissed.

Could you imagine Moe Dee apologizing to LL? Kris apologizing to Shan? Shante apologizing to the Real Roxanne? Hillary Duff apologizing Lindsay Lohan?

Come on man. You ain't no wiling-out-for-the-night-fist-thrower:

Mr. Steele called Mr. Limbaugh after the radio host belittled Mr. Steele on his show, questioning his authority and saying the new Republican leader was off "to a shaky start."

"It's time, Mr. Steele, for you to go behind the scenes and start doing the work that you were elected to do instead of trying to be some talking head media star, which you're having a tough time pulling off," Mr. Limbaugh said, in a transcript of his remarks he posted on his Web site.

"Mr. Steele: You are head of the R.N.C.," Mr. Limbaugh said. "You are not head of the Republican Party. Tens of millions of conservatives and Republicans have nothing to do with the R.N.C. and right now they want nothing to do with it."

Shorter Rush Limbaugh--"Don't make me have to call your name out\Your crew is featherweight\My talk-show will make you levitate..."

Apple updates Mac Pro, iMac, and Mac Mini

As expected, Apple announced desktop updates on Tuesday with a focus on energy efficiency.

There are new Mac Pro high-end desktops powered by Intel's Nehalem-based Xeon processors, new and more graphics-intensive Mac Mini machines, and updated iMacs that offer the lowest price yet on these consumer desktops.

Here are the new ports on the updated Mac Mini.

(Credit: Apple)
All the new machines meet the requirements for Energy Star 5.0 certification, which kicks in this summer.

The new Mac Pro is priced at $2,499 for the quad-core version and at $3,299 for the eight-core version, with the Nehalem-based Xeon processors running at 2.93 GHz. The interior of the machine has been cleaned up to make physical expansions easier.

The new iMac all-in-one desktop offers a 24-inch screen and is priced at $1,499, the cost of Apple's previous 20-inch iMac. The 20-inch model now costs $1,199.

The 20-inch version comes with a 2.66 GHz processor, a 320GB hard drive, and 2GB of RAM expandable to 8GB. The 24-inch model offers processor speed options of 2.66 GHz, 2.93 GHz (for $1,799), or 3.02 GHz (for $2,199). The 24-incher comes with a 640GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM expandable to 8GB.

As for the new Mac Mini, the big upgrade: the Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics chip, which Apple says will improve graphics performance as much as fivefold. The machine (sans a monitor) costs $599 for a lower-end edition (1GB RAM, 120GB hard drive) or $799 for the higher-end (2GB RAM, 320GB hard drive).

The Mac Mini is the "world's most energy efficient desktop computer," Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook claimed in a statement. Cook is currently at the helm of the company while CEO Steve Jobs is out for six months for health reasons.

Rumors of new Apple desktop computers were first reported at AppleInsider.

U.S. Offers To Abandon Missile-Defense Plans

A U.S. defensive missile launches from the Pacific Missile Range in 2008

By Brian Whitmore
The United States is offering to abandon plans to build a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe in exchange for Russia's help in curbing Iran's nuclear program.

The proposal, first reported by the Russian daily "Kommersant" and confirmed by administration officials, was outlined in a letter from U.S. President Barack Obama to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that was hand-delivered to the Kremlin leader three weeks ago.

News of the offer came just days before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was due to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva for talks.

A senior administration official confirmed to RFE/RL on March 2 that "a letter from President Obama was sent to President Medvedev." The official would not comment on the specific contents of the letter, but said that Washington would welcome Moscow's help in curbing the Iranian nuclear program.

"One way to reduce the level of the [Iranian nuclear] threat is through a strategic dialogue with Russia," a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The official added that the United States was prepared to consult with Russia about "alternative missile-defense configurations."

Iran Nuke Issue

"The New York Times," also citing senior administration officials, reported that the letter was not a direct quid pro quo, but was rather an attempt to provide Moscow with an incentive to work together with Washington in resolving the Iranian nuclear issue.

Yevgeny Volk, director of the Heritage Foundation's Moscow office, says the "devil will be in the details" of any agreement that threatens to limit Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran.

"Nuclear cooperation with Iran is very profitable for Russia both politically and economically," Volk says. "Russian participation in Iran's nuclear program provides a livelihood for many people in the Russian nuclear industry who are concerned about the crisis, and, politically, Russia is interested in political cooperation with Iran in order to limit American influence in Central Asia."

The U.S. plan to install a radar facility in the Czech Republic and deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland was a signature project of the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush, who argued it was necessary to counter the growing Iranian nuclear threat.

Moscow staunchly opposed the deployment so close to its borders, arguing that it constituted a threat to Moscow's security.

Obama has repeatedly said he plans to continue the missile-defense project, provided that it is proven to actually work and is cost-effective. A senior administration official told RFE/RL that the plans could be altered "depending on the nature of the threat."

Analysts say this leaves the administration just enough wiggle room to cut a deal with Russia when such an agreement would be advantageous to U.S. interests.