Monday, March 9, 2009

Today's News Book Club A Girl Named Job By Marie Antionette

Today's News NJ Book Club

Marie Antionette
Author of A Girl Named Job

Marie Antionette is a native Trentonian, former Trenton High Student, mother of two, government worker, author and publisher. As a child growing up, she watched her mother write in various notebooks and tablets, jotting down her thoughts and ideas, then at the age of sixteen, inherited the journal of her late grandfather, a WWII Veteran who wrote numerous poetry verses while serving his country. After being told by countless people, her relaxing hobby could truly be a gift, she decided to take her writing much more seriously, and set her focus on becoming a published author.

Marie first stepped onto the literary scene back in November 2006, with the first print of her book titled, A Girl Named Job. However after learning the true meaning of the term “self-published” decided to revise her memoirs for a second print, through her own publishing, Cauzing Elevation Publishing, LLC.

A Girl Named Job is a chronological recall of memoirs illustrating one woman’s triumphs over adversity, hindrances and arrest. Beginning with a failed impromptu adoption and pondering the identity and whereabouts of her father, whose discipline she desperately needed. The writer points out how na├»ve and trusting most young women really are, as well as how easy it is to submit to the foul influences of peer pressure and men of little or no honor. Betrayed by those she held dear to her heart, A Girl Named Job divulges common and un-common hardships that everyone can relate to either from personal experiences or through someone we know. Battles with abusive relationships and reproductive disorders once had this diamond in the rough doubting her self worth. Then just when she thought all was well, during her second pregnancy, suffered the loss of her job, home and car simultaneously, after being set up by a trusted life long friend… One’s darkest hour can not be put into words but faith, mercy and grace played a miraculous role in restoring this tarnished jewel, and now she’s an inspiring force of nature that’s wise, confident and virtually unstoppable.


NY Times - One in every 31 adults, or 7.3 million Americans, is in prison, on parole or probation, at a cost to the states of $47 billion in 2008, according to a new study. Criminal correction spending is outpacing budget growth in education, transportation and public assistance, based on state and federal data. Only Medicaid spending grew faster than state corrections spending, which quadrupled in the past two decades, according to the report by the Pew Center on the States, the first breakdown of spending in confinement and supervision in the past seven years. . .

States have shown a preference for prison spending even though it is cheaper to monitor convicts in community programs, including probation and parole, which require offenders to report to law enforcement officers. A survey of 34 states found that states spent an average of $29,000 a year on prisoners, compared with $1,250 on probationers and $2,750 on parolees. The study found that despite more spending on prisons, recidivism rates remained largely unchanged.

Talking to the Taliban has failed before

Obama's call to peel off Taliban 'moderates' has been happening at a local level for several years – and it hasn't worked

President Barack Obama's latest statements on strategy for Afghanistan are full of good sense. "We are not winning," he has admitted, something that has been patently obvious to anyone who has spent any time in the country in recent years. He could have added too that the US and its allies are not losing either. Instead there is just a vicious stalemate, a trial of patience as much as a trial of force, in which those Afghans caught in the crossfire – figuratively, or increasingly literally – are the losers.

With this stalemate various factors external to the immediate battle for control over terrain (the west's major metric) or the population (the measure by which the Taliban measure their success) gain greater significance. There is the regional situation. Can we expect a significant improvement on the Pakistani side of Afghanistan's eastern and southern border in the near future? There is the question of domestic support for the war in the west. Are Europeans and Americans going to allow their political leaders to commit men and money to the war indefinitely? There is the crucial internal question: are we likely to see a major improvement in terms of governance in Afghanistan in the near future too? The answer to all these questions is probably no.

Obama's team is aware of all these problems. One area they think they can make an immediate difference in is military strategy and military-political strategy within Afghanistan. It is therefore inevitable that the surge in Iraq is looked to for inspiration, not least because it is seen to have brought quick results.

The surge involved more troops, of course, but also a new strategy, carefully constructed by men like General David Petraeus himself and his key adviser, David Kilcullen, an Australian former army officer and political anthropologist. It was based on getting troops out of bases and among communities and on understanding what drove the insurgents and giving them reasons for stopping fighting.

In Afghanistan in recent years I have been repeatedly struck by the extreme isolation of western forces from the people they are supposed to protect. From desert camps like the British Bastion in Helmand or Kandahar air force base – enormous constructions in the middle of nowhere – troops effectively conduct intermittent raids into enemy territory. Changing this will be difficult but a new strategy will require it. As Kilcullen notes in his recently published book, The Accidental Guerilla, the aim must be to "protect the population", not just win land.

This, of course, the Taliban understood years ago. Their strategy was multi-layered – social, political, cultural and military. Combat actions usually came after lengthy groundwork building parallel administrations in target areas, as I found when reporting from Wardak province in August last year.

The Petraeus-Kilcullen approach, and they are far from the first to have thought of it, involves "disaggregating" the Taliban and al-Qaida. The first element is to peel off the Taliban from the international militants who pose the most serious threat to the west. The second is to break up the Taliban themselves by peeling off "moderates". This is what Obama was talking about in his most recent interview.

Again, such initiatives are not new. They have been happening at a local level for several years and the Afghan government has tried, with the Saudis co-ordinating, to bring so-called moderate Taliban to the negotiating table. But this has not worked on a general scale for two main reasons. First, those Taliban who are willing to meet and talk have little influence. Second, because those who do have influence feel, possibly rightly, that they are winning at the moment, and thus have no need to compromise. At a local level there have been some small successes, but that's it.

The real problem currently is that the Taliban has been able to appropriate the role of defenders of the culture, religion and political interests of the Pashtun rural conservative constituency in the south and east of the country. The gaping hole in the western strategy in Afghanistan is the lack of a political vehicle that would allow this constituency to feel their interests were represented in Kabul, and thus that they could enter the political process and stop supporting the fighters. In Vietnam and Algeria military battles were won, but the fundamental lack of legitimacy at the heart of the political setup undermined all other efforts. Obama did not talk about this particular very thorny problem.

Global Financial Assets Lost $50 Trillion Last Year, ADB Says

BLOOMBERG - Shamim Adam
March 9 (Bloomberg) -- The value of global financial assets including stocks, bonds and currencies probably fell by more than $50 trillion in 2008, equivalent to a year of world gross domestic product, according to an Asian Development Bank report.

Asia excluding Japan probably lost about $9.6 trillion, while the Latin American region saw the value of financial assets drop by about $2.1 trillion, said Claudio Loser, a former International Monetary Fund director and the author of the report that was commissioned by the ADB. The report didn’t give a breakdown of asset declines in other regions.

“The loss of financial wealth is enormous, and the consequences for the economies of the world will unfortunately commensurate,” said Loser, now the Latin American president of strategic advisory firm Centennial Group Inc.. “There are serious economic and political stumbling blocks that may well cause the recovery to be costly and slow to consolidate.”

Some of the world’s biggest financial companies including Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co. have collapsed as banks and other financial institutions reported almost $1.2 trillion of losses and writedowns since the start of 2007. Global stock markets lost about $28.7 trillion in 2008, and another $6.6 trillion has been wiped from the value of world equities in 2009.

“Poor macroeconomic and regulatory policies allowed the global economy to exceed its capacity to grow and contributed to a buildup in imbalances across asset and commodity markets,” Loser said. “The previous sense of strength and invulnerability is now gone.”

Global Recession

The global economy is likely to shrink for the first time since World War II, and trade will decline by the most in 80 years, the World Bank said yesterday. Its assessment is more pessimistic than an IMF report in January predicting 0.5 percent global growth this year.

Developing nations will bear the brunt of the contraction and they will face a shortfall of between $270 billion and $700 billion to pay for imports and service debts, the Washington- based World Bank said.

“This crisis is the first truly universal one in the history of humanity,” former IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus said at an ADB forum in Manila today. “No country escapes from it. It has not yet bottomed out.”

Growth in 2009 may drop by half in developing and emerging countries, and a recovery in the global economy may only begin late this year or in early 2010, Loser said. Developing nations, which mostly escaped the earlier effects of the credit crisis, are facing more problems as the downturn worsens, the report said.

‘Mounting Difficulties’

“Emerging economies were initially able to absorb the initial impact of the crisis on account of the considerable progress in recent years in consolidating economic performance,” Loser said. “This group of countries is experiencing mounting difficulties. Policy makers will thus need to find a balance between economic stimulus and financial stability.”

Asia is likely to recover with “vibrant” growth once the crisis recedes in 2010, Manu Bhaskaran, the Singapore-based head of economic research at Centennial Group, said in a separate report for the ADB released today. South Asia’s growth prospects “remain good,” he said.

“Asia is mainly suffering a cyclical slowdown because of problems in the developed economies, it is not suffering a structural economic breakdown,” Bhasakaran said. “There is no reason to think that the growth engines that have been unleashed in many parts of Asia are likely to weaken.”

Capital Flows

Net capital flows to emerging markets may fall to $165 billion this year, from $470 billion in 2008 and a record $930 billion in 2007, Loser said, citing estimates from the Institute for International Finance. Net flows to emerging Asian economies may drop by 80 percent from the peak in 2007, he said.

Protectionist measures by countries to prevent a deeper fallout from the global downturn won’t work, Loser said.

“There is no room for denial or populist policies,” Loser said. “Otherwise the crisis will become even deeper and harder to reverse.”

Oprah thinks that Chris Brown will continue to hit Rihanna!

The Queen of Daytime, Oprah Winfrey, had some advice for Rihanna…

“Give it some time, get yourself some counseling,” O said in an open statement to Rihanna on Friday’s edition of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

“Take care of yourself, heal yourself first. And also, love doesn’t hurt… and if a man hits you once, he will hit you again.”

Speaking directly into the camera, Winfrey said, “If a man hits you once, he will hit you again. He will hit you again.”

Ten Years of Church Shootings

Previous church shootings include the following (more complete than the AP or other lists):

March 8, 2009 - Maryville, Illinois - Suspect Terry Joe Sedlacek, 27, of Troy, walks into the First Baptist Church, and shoots pastor Fred Winters dead, point blank. Several church members are injured by a knife in the struggle to capture after the attack, The suspect also had stabbed himelf, but survived, when his gun jams.

Feb. 18, 2009 - Garden Grove, California - A man walks into the internationally known Crystal Cathedral, hands a greeter a note, then kneels in front of a cross and shoots himself in the head, leaving him dead at the altar.

July 27, 2008 - Knoxville, Tennessee - A gunman opens fire in a church during a youth performance, killing two people and injuring seven.

Dec. 9, 2007 - Colorado - Three people are killed and five wounded in two shooting rampages, one at a missionary school in suburban Denver and one at a church in Colorado Springs. The gunman in the second incident is killed by a guard.

May 20, 2007 - Moscow, Idaho - A standoff between police and a suspect in the shootings of three people in a Presbyterian Church ended with three dead, including one police officer.

Aug. 12, 2007 - Neosho, Missouri - First Congregational Church - 3 killed - Eiken Elam Saimon shot and killed the pastor and two deacons and wounded five others.

Oct. 2, 2006 - Lancaster County, Pennsylvania - Attack by a gunman who killed five girls and then himself, while not a church, occurs at an Amish school targeted a religious site.

May 21, 2006 - Baton Rouge, Louisiana - The Ministry of Jesus Christ Church - 4 killed - The four at the church who were shot were members of Erica Bell's family; she was abducted and murdered elsewhere; Bell's mother, church pastor Claudia Brown, was seriously wounded - Anthony Bell, 25, was the shooter.

Feb. 26, 2006 - Detroit, Michigan - Zion Hope Missionary Baptist Church - 2 killed + shooter - Kevin L. Collins, who reportedly went to the church looking for his girlfriend, later killed himself.

April 9, 2005 - College Park, Georgia - A 27-year-old airman died after being shot at a church, where he had once worked as a security guard.

March 12, 2005 - Brookfield, Wisconsin - Living Church of God - 7 killed + shooter - Terry Ratzmann opened fire on the congregation, killing seven and wounding four before taking his own life.

July 30, 2005 - College Park, Georgia - World Changers Church International - shooter killed - Air Force Staff Sgt. John Givens was shot five times by a police officer after charging the officer, following violent behavior.

Dec. 17, 2004, Garden Grove, Calif.: A veteran musician at the Crystal Cathedral shoots himself to death after a nine-hour standoff.

Oct. 5, 2003 - Atlanta, Georgia - Turner Monumental AME Church - 2 killed + shooter - Shelia Wilson walked into the church while preparations are being made for service and shot the pastor, her mother and then herself.

June 10, 2002 - Conception, Missouri - Benedictine monastery - 2 killed + shooter - Lloyd Robert Jeffress shot four monks in the monastery killing two and wounding two, before killing himself.

March 12, 2002 - Lynbrook, New York - Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church - 2 killed - Peter Troy, a former mental patient, opens fire during Mass, killing the priest and a parishioner. He later receives a life sentence.

May 18, 2001 - Hopkinsville, Kentucky - Greater Oak Missionary Baptist Church - 2 killed - Frederick Radford stood up in the middle of a revival service and began shooting at his estranged wife, Nicole Radford, killing her and a woman trying to help her.

Nov. 1, 2000, Kansas City: The wife of a minister fatally shoots her daughter and then herself.

Sept. 15, 1999 - Fort Worth, Texas - Wedgewood Baptist Church - 7 killed + shooter - Larry Gene Ashbrook shot dead seven people and injured a further seven at a concert by Christian rock group Forty Days in Fort Worth, Texas before killing himself.

April 15, 1999 - Salt Lake City, Utah - LDS Church Family History Library - 2 killed + shooter - Sergei Babarin, 70, with a history of mental illness, entered the library, killed two people and wounded four others before he was gunned down by police.

Besides the March 8, 2009, Maryville, Illinois incident, church shootings have been discussed on this blog as having occurred in Toronto, Ontario, and Knoxville, Tennessee, in July 2008, and in Colorado, in December 2007.

Dr Marc Lamont Hill: How the GOP Undressed Michael Steele

by Dr. Marc Lamont Hill

Columbia University

Over the past week, the political world has been tuned into a highly unusual soap opera involving Republican Committee Chair Michael Steele and conservative radio jock Rush Limbaugh. After Limbaugh was publicly lambasted for stating that he wanted President Obama’s agenda to fail, Democratic leaders wisely used the moment as an opportunity to anoint the polarizing pundit as the de facto leader of the GOP. Steele, the actual leader of the party, dismissed Limbaugh as a mere “entertainer” whose show trades in “ugly” and “incendiary” remarks. Limbaugh soon fired back, telling Steele to do his job and to stop acting like a “talking head media star.”

Of course, partisan infighting is not uncommon in politics –though such public spats are typically the property of the Democrats. The difference, however, has been the party’s response. Instead of rallying around its newly appointed leader Steele, GOP honchos have either taken the side of Rush Limbaugh or remained conspicuously silent. Even Steele himself caved into Limbaugh, apologizing for his remarks and removing any lingering doubt about who the real don is.
By allowing Michael Steele to be publicly undressed by a party extremist, Republicans have tacitly confirmed what many of us already knew: they haven’t changed one bit. Despite their post-November promises to rise above bitter partisanship, the GOP decided to cosign Limbaugh’s antipatriotic machinations. Instead of living up to their promise to broaden their message and appeal, Republicans have instead opted to defer to the steward of its most vile, ignorant, and bigoted constituency. Most disturbingly, they have legitimized their antidemocratic enterprise by hiring a black man, but giving him no more political muscle than the queen of England.

To be clear, I am not trying to diss Michael Steele, who I know personally and like a great deal despite our political differences. My concern is that the seductive aroma of power and prestige have diverted his attention from the harsh realities of his circumstance.
Like many prominent African Americans, Steele has climbed the heights of white society under the false premise that he is being judged purely on merit rather than color. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While the Republican party is willing to use Steele’s black face to celebrate its ostensible progress, it is equally committed to reducing him to nothing more than a paper champion. Hopefully, Brother Steele will stop drinking the Kool-Aid long enough to recognize this and come back home.

Cops: 4 Latinos arrested in racial attack on black man

Daryl Jackson, who police say was attacked in a hate crime, rests in a hospital room at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. (Photo by Peter Walden Sr. / March 8, 2009)

Nassau police have arrested four men and are looking for a fifth after a group of Hispanic men, yelling racial slurs and wielding baseball bats, attacked a black man in front of a Roosevelt deli Sunday, county and police officials said.

Daryl Jackson, 52, of Roosevelt, was in stable condition Sunday at Nassau University Medical Center, where he was being treated for head, neck and back injuries.

"I'm in very bad pain," Jackson said in an interview in his hospital room. "I don't understand it. I wasn't bothering anyone."

Jackson said he was standing in front of the deli on Nassau Road at about 8:15 a.m. when three Hispanic men told him to move.

Jackson told them he was waiting to use a pay phone, and one of the men used a racial epithet toward him, he said.

"I said, 'I don't like to be called names' and the other said, 'Go back to Africa,' " he recalled from his hospital bed, where he wore an immobilizing neck brace and took medicine through a straw.

"There's no question that a violent crime has taken place and there's no question that racial epithets were used in the attack," Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi said. "It's a heinous crime and people will pay for it."

Suozzi said police were investigating to determine whether the attack was motivated by race, or whether there were other factors involved, before they could rule it a hate crime.

Hempstead Town Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, whose district includes Roosevelt, said a town employee saw the beating and stopped it.

Dave Tillery, 39, of Freeport, said he was driving along Nassau Road when he saw eight Hispanic men - some wielding bats - beating Jackson and yelling racial slurs.

"I jumped out of my car and I told the guys, 'Hey, hey, what are you doing?' " he said. The attackers then fled, he said.

A police source said Jackson often uses a pay phone in front of the deli, where regular customers are both black and Hispanic.

The source said that police know the name of the fifth suspect. Witnesses and the arrested men have confirmed that racial slurs were used during the attack, the source said.

Speaking to Newsday last night, Jackson said he works as a bouncer at a lounge near the deli.

"I told them this is a free country and I can stand where I want to stand," he recalled. "I said, 'Why are you bothering me?' and then they surrounded me and they started beating me. I tried to get away and one of them hit me in the back of my neck. I felt two hits . . . and then I lost consciousness."

Tillery, a school safety officer for Uniondale public schools and an employee with Hempstead's traffic department, said he was wearing his school safety uniform at the time, which may have made the men think he was a police officer.

Goosby said the town will issue a proclamation next week to recognize Tillery as a Good Samaritan.

Buffett Warns Economy Has "Fallen Off A Cliff"

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett warned Monday that the economy has "fallen off a cliff," accompanied with a drastic change in consumer habits. The CEO of Berkshire-Hathaway (BRK), Buffett offered long-term optimism to temper his short-term pessimism.

Appearing on CNBC, Buffett was blunt about his short-term outlook, adding that consumers are really changing their habits.

"It's fallen off a cliff," Buffett said of the economy. "Not only has the economy slowed down a lot, but people have really changed their habits like I haven't seen."

However, despite gloomy skies on the immediate horizon, Buffett said he has confidence in the U.S. economy.

"Everything will be alright. We do have the greatest economic machine that's ever been created," Buffett said.

The famous investor also explained his bets on the market. For example, he has invested in Tiffany & Co. (TIF), despite the fact that he recognized that it will be a bad year for all luxury dealers and he will likely deal with some losses in the short term. Looking ahead, however, Buffett predicted that Tiffany's will survive, and when the stock rebounds he will catch a big upside.

He has noticeably toned down his presence in the political arena, specifically with the Obama administration. During the campaign and transition period, Buffett served as an advisor to Obama and then on his Transition Economic Advisory Board.

Buffett, 78, expressed on his frustration that some members of Congress have been unable or unwilling to put aside partisan differences and really attack the problem at hand. Although he said overall the economy will recover no matter how Congress acts, the speed of the recovery will be greatly impacted by their decision to cooperate or not.

"It's important in terms of the speed with which we work," Buffett said. "I've been very pleased actually with the immediate response…kind of disappointed as we've gone along in terms of we can't quite get our act together."

He had brief words of advice for Barack Obama, stating that "what is required is a commander in chief that's looked at like a commander in chief in a time of war."

Last week, Berkshire Hathaway reported a steep decline of about 96% in its fourth-quarter profit, while earnings for 2008 declined 62% from last year. Further, the Oracle of Omaha said the economy would be in shambles throughout 2009 and probably well beyond, but expressed hope that America's best days lie ahead.

In his letter to shareholders, the investment guru noted, "Though the path has not been smooth, our economic system has worked extraordinarily well over time. It has unleashed human potential as no other system has, and it will continue to do so."

Buffett's comments and outlook on companies are closely watched by investors and analysts alike, who consider him an astute business man and a far-sighted investor. He was named the richest American by Forbes last year. He took over Berkshire when it was an ailing textile maker. Now, Berkshire owns companies operating in sectors as varied as insurance, utility, furniture, restaurants, carpet and jewelry. It also has interests in companies like Coca-Cola Co., Wells Fargo & Co. and Kraft Foods Inc.

The Omaha, Nebraska-based company's net income for the fourth quarter plummeted to $117 million or $76 per share from $2.947 billion or $1,904 per share in the year-ago period. Revenues dropped to $24.592 billion from $28.043 billion in the same period in 2007.

In a candid admission in the letter, Buffett said, "During 2008 I did some dumb things in investments. I made at least one major mistake of commission and several lesser ones that also hurt...

In War on Drugs, Mexico’s Success Is Our Misfortune By Louis E.V. Nevaer

Editor's Note: The relocation of cartel operations from Mexico to the United States is evidence of Felipe Calderon’s success in the war on drugs, writes the commentator. As Calderon’s "surge" against the drug cartels makes it impossible for them to continue to operate in Mexico, their only alternative is to move across the border.

MERIDA, Mexico –- Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s decision to move troops into drug trafficking hot spots is making it impossible for the cartels to continue to operate in Mexico on a “business as usual” basis -- and their only alternative is to move into the United States.

There lies the paradox of Mexico’s war on drugs: If Calderon wins, he will create a problem for his neighbor to the north.

Figures provided by the FBI documenting the spread of cartel activity to dozens of American cities substantiate Mexico’s success. The current spike in violence –- along with the relocation of cartel operations from Mexico to the United States -– is evidence of Mexico’s success. “It is reflecting how they are melting down,” Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina argues.

Calderon is convinced that 2009 will be a crucial year, one in which there will be greater violence as the Mexican army continues to disrupt and destroy the drug cartels’ operations, forcing them to abandon Mexico for the United States.

His decision to move forward with a military show of force last week by sending an additional 7,500 troops to secure Ciudad Juarez has Mexicans wondering if this “surge” against the drug cartels will work.

Mexico has been rocked by an escalation of violence, with more than 1,000 slain in the first two months of this year. Not a day goes by without authorities announcing the gruesome discovery of dead, and often mutilated, bodies dumped along the road, or a shootout between the military or police and members of a drug cartel.

This escalation of violence has stunned Mexicans, who are fearful that it signals a broadening of Calderon’s “war” on the cartels. Last year more than 6,290 people were killed in Mexico, and 2009 is on track to be even bloodier.

Calderon’s critics charge that declaring “war” on the cartels has unleashed a wave of violence from these drug syndicates, which are better-financed and better-armed than the Mexican police and army.

Within weeks of taking office in December 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared the drug cartels the greatest single national security threat to the integrity of the Mexican State. Mexico moved forcefully throughout 2007, and the drug cartels retaliated, killing police, attacking the army, demanding that public officials resign or face “assassination.”

As gun battles between drug cartels and the police made headlines, Calderon was forced to order the army to “secure” civil authority, occupying airports and setting up military checkpoints on the nation’s highways. The violence continued to escalate, with drug cartels taking a page from Iraqi insurgents, torturing their victims before mutilating their bodies. The sight of decapitated bodies thrown near schoolyards continues to unsettle the Mexican public.

“Mexico right now has issues of violence that are a different degree and level than we’ve ever seen before,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently testified before Congress.

Critics charge that Calderon runs the danger of unleashing a civil war, where violence becomes uncontrollable.

Calderon disagrees. “It’s either the narcos, or the state,” Calderon said in an interview published in February in the Mexican newspaper El Universal.

He has continued to move forward with his “surge” against the cartels, deploying the military to border cities.

Looking beyond the horrific daily headlines of violence, there is compelling evidence that Calderon’s “surge” is working.

Despite the gruesome and relentless news of killings, Calderon has done a remarkable job of containing the violence to the principal actors: drug cartels and law enforcement. In a country of 110 million people, 6,290 people killed in 2008. Of these, more than 90 percent were members of the drug syndicates. Nearly 800 of the dead were police officers or army soldiers, and fewer than 250 were innocent civilians. The majority of the violence stems from struggles among the various syndicates, particularly the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels, to fill in the power vacuum created by Calderon’s success in disrupting their organizations. That Mexicans can go about their lives almost untouched by the violence swirling around them is a testament to how effectively Calderon has prevented violence from spilling into civilian society.

Calderon bristles at the notion that Mexico is a “failed state,” with the implication that the drug cartels are asserting control over communities. “I have not lost any part –- any single part -– of Mexican territory,” he said in an interview last month. When the U.S. Joint Forces Command recently stated that Mexico could face a “rapid and sudden collapse,” it harkened back to the 1990s when alarmist books, such as “Bordering on Chaos” described the “imminent” collapse of the Mexican state. Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina points out that the army is fully in control of highways, airports and municipal buildings in the cities of greatest activity. “We want to raise the opportunity costs of our country as a route of choice,” he said.

Unlike Colombia, where Pablo Escobar was beloved and protected by the public, no drug lord has won the loyalty of the Mexican people. Fed up with their nation being hijacked by criminal gangs, Mexicans staged a peace march in cities around the country, “Iluminemos Mexico,” or “Let’s Illuminate Mexico,” that drew millions of citizens to participate in candlelight vigils. When the Mexican army moves in to secure airports, police stations and highways, Mexicans stand in their doorways and applaud.

As Calderon’s surge moves forward, the cartels have moved north into the United States and east to the Bahamas and Cuba. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder characterized Mexican drug trafficking organizations as “a national security threat.” The National Drug Intelligence Center warned last month that Mexican cartels are crossing into the United States where “they control most of the U.S. drug market and have established varied transportation routes, advanced communications capabilities and strong affiliations with gangs in the United States.” The FBI confirms this, noting that “gangs are trafficking illicit drugs at the regional and national levels; several are capable of competing with U.S.-based Mexican drug trafficking organizations.”

McClatchy plans to eliminate 1,600 jobs

Newspaper publisher McClatchy Co. said Monday that it plans to eliminate 1,600 jobs, or 15 percent of its work force, as it contends with declining revenue and a deepening recession.

The company, which owns The Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee and other properties, had said that it planned deep cost cuts this year, hoping to save between $100 million to $110 million, and slashed its dividend 90 percent.

But Chairman and Chief Executive Gary Pruitt said in a statement Monday that "given the worsening economy, we must do more."

The cost-control efforts come as McClatchy is faced with plunging ad revenues plaguing the entire publishing sector, as well as trying to recover $5.3 million owed by newspapers it had sold to companies that have recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

McClatchy also has its own debt worries. The company owed about $2.04 billion as of the end of 2008, stemming mainly from its 2006 acquisition of the Knight Ridder newspaper chain.

While the job cuts will not solve all McClatchy's troubles, the company said its cost-control efforts excluding severance and other benefit charges related to previous reductions led to a 14.4 percent drop in cash expenses for the fourth quarter.

The latest round of cuts, which will start by the end of the first quarter and include just about every business component, will come through attrition, consolidating and outsourcing some functions and will include about $30 million in severance costs.

Last week The Sacramento Bee announced plans to cut 34 of the 268 Guild-covered positions in the editorial and advertising departments. Another 19 jobs would have been in jeopardy, but union members agreed to take pay cuts to save the positions. The Bee eliminated 86 positions in June as part of a 10 percent cut affecting all McClatchy papers and gave buyouts to another 87 employees in September, including 23 in its newsroom.

The newspaper publisher also plans to lower salaries across its operations, with Pruitt taking a 15 percent base pay cut. Last month, Pruitt decided to forgo his 2008 and 2009 bonuses.

Aside from Pruitt, other executives will have their salaries cut 10 percent, and no executives will receive 2009 bonuses. Board members, who declined stock awards for 2008 and 2009, will have their compensation reduced 13 percent, including retainers and meeting fees.

In February, Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's Ratings Services lowered their ratings for McClatchy. S&P said its rating actions reflect a belief that the company is likely to violate the terms of its credit facilities at the end of 2009.

McClatchy has 30 daily newspapers, about 50 non-dailies and direct marketing and direct-mail operations.

Kurt Busch dominant in Atlanta win

HAMPTON, Ga. -- Chalk one up for the older brother.

Kurt Busch scored an emphatic victory in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but he needed a pass in the final two laps to back up brother Kyle Busch's win last week in Las Vegas.

With his No. 2 Penske Dodge on four fresh tires, Busch rocketed past race leader Carl Edwards moments after a restart for a green-white-checkered-flag finish that sent the race five laps beyond its posted distance of 325 laps.

Series points leader Jeff Gordon also passed Edwards on Lap 329 and finished second, trailing Busch to the finish line by .332 seconds. Gordon extended his lead in the points standings to 43 points over Clint Bowyer, who ran sixth.

"Good things come to those who wait," said the race winner, after running a victory lap in reverse around the 1.54-mile speedway. "We waited over a year and a half with this COT (NASCAR's new racecar) to find a good package, and we've had that to start off 2009."

This is the second year in a row the Busch brothers have won back-to-back races. Kyle won June 22 at Infineon and Kurt won the next week at New Hampshire (and then Kyle kept the Busch family in victory lane with wins in the next two races, at Daytona and Chicago).

"That's neat," Busch said of the back-to-back wins with Kyle, who also won the spring race in Atlanta in 2008. "I've got to hold my end of the bargain, because Kyle's on the gas right now. I've got to thank guys like Carl for racing me clean at the end, and Jeff Gordon was strong all day.

"When you beat those two kinds of guys here at Atlanta--especially on a day when it reminded me of Darlington. ... This place will just chew you up and spit you out, and we had the handle."

Busch led six times for 234 laps, 70 more than he led the entire 2008 season.

Edwards held on to third and gained five positions to fourth in points, 87 behind Gordon. Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers ran fourth and fifth, respectively, despite falling off the lead lap when the third caution of the race trapped them during a cycle of green-flag pit stops.

Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart, who also regained lost laps, finished seventh and eighth, respectively. Three-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson came home ninth, and Martin Truex Jr. ran 10th, despite passing a kidney stone Saturday night in the emergency room of a local hospital.

Gordon had to overcome a clutch problem to nail down the runner-up finish.

"We were fast," Gordon said. "We keep having little issues that keep popping up that we have to overcome--last week with the fender (at Las Vegas), this week with the clutch. And these guys (pit crew) are just flawless. They're just not skipping a beat.

"We're going to win races. We're getting close. That was a heck of a battle there for second--had a lot of fun. We'll keep knocking on the door until we get into victory lane."

Jimmy Watts, gas man for the No. 47 Toyota of Marcos Ambrose, threw a monkey wrench into the entire proceedings on Lap 68, when he chased a runaway tire into the grass of the quad-oval below the frontstretch grandstands.

NASCAR called a caution for safety reasons and interrupted a cycle of green-flag stops, trapping the majority of the field a lap down. When Johnson restarted in the lead on Lap 74, Bowyer, Truex, Edwards and Busch were the only lead-lap cars lined up behind him. Nine others, including Gordon, Vickers, Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the green ahead of Johnson on the tail end of the lead lap.

Earnhardt, who finished 11th, was lapped twice thereafter but used two "lucky dogs" (free passes to the top lapped car in the running order) to return to the lead lap. Hamlin, Kahne, Harvick, Stewart, Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton also took advantage of one free pass each.

Notes: After retrieving the wandering tire and causing the third caution, Watts was suspended for the remainder of the race. ... The victory was the 19th of Busch's Cup career, tying him for 33rd on the all-time list with Fonty Flock, Davey Allison and Buddy Baker. ... Johnson's ninth-place run vaulted him to 13th in the Cup standings, one spot outside the Chase-eligible positions. ... Earnhardt jumped five positions to 24th in points with his 11th-place run.

Low-income New Jerseyans to get rebates

TRENTON, N.J. - A state official who has been briefed on the budget Gov. Jon S. Corzine is preparing says property tax rebates won't be cut for New Jersey homeowners making less than $50,000 a year.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity not to upstage the governor's Tuesday budget address, says rebates will be offered on a graduated scale.

But rebates for senior citizens and the disabled won't be slashed.

Last year, rebates cost the state about $1.7 billion. The checks provide relief against the nation's highest property taxes, averaging $6,800 a household.

Households earning up to $100,000 averaged $1,115 last year; those earning $100,000 to $150,000 averaged $665. Those earning more than $150,000 got nothing, while renters got $80.

Real IRA: Northern Ireland's deadly dissenters

LONDON (AP) — The Real IRA, which claimed responsibility for killing two British soldiers over the weekend, has caused more havoc than any other Irish Republican Army splinter group since most IRA members embraced a peace process in Northern Ireland.

The Real IRA pursues a dream, abandoned by the mainstream of the IRA, of forcing Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom and into the Republic of Ireland.

It committed Northern Ireland's deadliest terrorist act, the Aug. 15, 1998 car bombing in Omagh that killed 29 people and wounded more than 300. However, it has shown nothing approaching the IRA's ability to mount attacks from 1970 to 1997, when it killed nearly 1,800 people in both Northern Ireland and Britain.

The dissidents are few in number, according to Paul Bew, professor of Irish politics at Queen's University in Belfast.

"Their potential influence lies in their ability to capsize the arrangements that have been reached between larger groups," Bew said in a commentary published Monday in The Times newspaper in London.

The group's reputed founder, Michael McKevitt, is in jail, the first man ever convicted in Ireland on a charge of directing terrorism.

McKevitt was "quartermaster general" for the IRA, the man responsible for its weapons stockpiles, but he broke away from the group in October 1997 shortly after most of its members accepted a cease-fire and political negotiations in Northern Ireland. He was convicted in 2003.

McKevitt's followers have remained active.

The Independent Monitoring Commission, set up to monitor Northern Ireland's half-dozen paramilitary factions, reported in November that the Real IRA posed "a serious and continuing threat and that it is likely to remain so."

The dissidents have ratcheted up their violence since November 2007, when they shot two policemen in the face with shotguns. Both survived. Several more police officers have been wounded in more than a dozen rocket, bomb and gun attacks since.

The Independent Monitoring Commission noted that the Real IRA and another dissident group, the Continuity IRA, had recently stepped up their activity.

"One possible reason for this may be a perception that the absence of progress on the devolution of justice and policing has created a political vacuum, or may have caused disaffection among republican supporters, which the dissidents think that they are able to exploit," the report said.