Clem's Chronicles: Jobs Report/Amanda Knox/Afghanistan Offensive

Happy Friday folks. Here's what's cooking......

JOBS REPORT-Nothing like a nice surprise on a Friday morning! The November jobs report came in much better than expected. While still losing jobs, the economy last month shed the fewest-11 thousand-and gave the Obama Administration the best jobs report in the past two years. With the general consensus a monthly job loss of over 130 thousand, today’s numbers took nearly everyone by surprise. David Kerley traveled with the President today for the start of his “White House to Main Street” jobs tour. Kerley: “Speaking in Allentown, Pennsylvania area on the first stop of his "jobs listening tour," Mr. Obama said of the jobs report, "This is good news, just in time for the season of hope.’ So Betsy Stark, care to explain the good news? “The improvements came from several corners of the economy” Stark reported on WORLD NEWS. “There were much smaller losses in the hard-hit construction, transportation and financial industries. And hiring picked up in Public Education, department stores and especially at temp agencies which typically signals better job numbers ahead.” “Economists”, Stark adds “credit the government’s massive stimulus spending with getting the job market to this point.” But don’t expect to hear any crowing coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue-Stark says that “the White House is more hopeful too but with more than 15 million Americans still out of work and another 9 million plus forced to work part-time because full-time jobs are unavailable, Administration officials were careful today not to declare ‘Mission Accomplished’.” Jake Tapper concurs: “There’s a feeling they need to talk about this being positive so as to boost consumer confidence”, Tapper told Charles Gibson on WORLD NEWS, “and try to get businesses to hire again, but they know that one month does not make a trend.” Tapper also provided some information on President Obama’s upcoming Tuesday night speech on the economy. Tapper: “I’m told he’s likely to talk about job creation programs that he wants Congress to address. One would be green jobs, energy jobs which would likely be about weatherization for homes and businesses. Another would be incentives for small businesses to hire or expand their businesses and a third would be in infrastructure spending.”.

AMANDA KNOX VERDICT-Stunning news out of an Italian courtroom earlier this evening. A jury in Italy has convicted American college student Amanda Knox of murdering her British roommate and sentenced her to 26 years in prison. Her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito was also convicted and sentenced to 25 years after midnight Saturday. The 22-year-old Knox and 25-year-old Sollecito were charged with murder and sexual assault in the slaying of Meredith Kercher more than two years ago. Elizabeth Vargas was there in Perugia, Italy and reported for WORLD NEWS. Vargas: “The jury deliberated nearly 11 hours before giving its verdict tonight….as the verdict was read, a crowd outside the courtroom burst into cheers. Inside the courtroom, Amanda Knox and her family began to sob.” Vargas tells us that Knox’s family “does plan to appeal this guilty verdict and of course the sentence of 26 years.” Gibson asked Vargas about the Italian justice system and if the 26 year sentence was “hard and fast…or is there a chance for an earlier release?” Vargas: “There is the chance of parole. There is also the chance that the U.S. government may work out a deal where she can serve that sentence here in the United States. But that would have to be with an agreement that she serve the entire sentence.”

AFGHANISTAN OPERATION: The first offensive since President Obama announced his new war strategy is underway in southern Afghanistan. About 1,000 U.S. Marines and 150 Afghan troops are taking part in what’s being called ‘Operation Cobra’s Anger’ in the Now Zad Valley of Helmand province. It’s aimed at disrupting Taliban supply and communications lines there. Miguel Marquez is with embedded with the contingent: “The Marines began the battle today with explosive force. Shredding Taliban minefields, Marines with a new assault vehicle …it fires a rocket that drags a 1700 pound rope of C4 explosives behind it…to clear safe corridors for Marines to drive through.” The city of Now Zad was once a thriving market and commercial area. As Miguel explains: “30,000 people used to live in Now Zad, making it the second largest city in Helmand province. But for the last four years the Taliban has set up a show government here, planted thousands of homemade bombs…turning it into a ghost town.” In just the first day of the clearing operation, more than 300 mines and roadside bombs were found, according to one official, who also said the bodies of at least four Taliban fighters have been recovered. No word yet on any casualties among the Marines or Afghan fighters. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)

VIRGINIA TECH REPORT-An updated report out today on the Virginia Tech massacre. The biggest change is an updated timeline-it took much longer than we were originally led to believe to warn people on campus. David Wright, reporting on WORLD NEWS, says that “Nearly an hour and half before the alert went out to the Virginia Tech campus, school officials took steps to ensure their own safety and warn their own families.” Wright explains the new timeline revelations-“The shooting spree began about 7:15am in one of the dorms. At 8:52, Virginia Tech ordered the doors to the college president’s office to be locked. At 9:25am, one top official emailed her family ‘I’m safe’. ‘There is an active shooter on campus’ she wrote. ‘I’ll let you know when it’s over.’ But not until 9:50am did the school send out a campus wide email.” Today’s timeline also contradicts university officials’ reasons for delay-Wright: “School officials have long maintained they delayed issuing a warning because they believed the dorm shooting was an isolated incident and by 7:30am they already had a possible suspect. Today’s report makes it clear that’s not true. They didn’t have any information about a possible suspect until an hour later.” For families upset about these latest revelations, there may not be much they can do about it. Wright tells us “these new details have come to light too late for most of the families. All but 2 families have signed a settlement, preventing any lawsuits.”

PLANE BABY-Well you don’t hear stories like this every day. A mother gave birth to a healthy baby boy today…aboard a Southwest Airlines plane. Lisa Stark, reporting for WORLD NEWS, explains: “The flight was heading from Chicago to Salt Lake City. The jet was soaring at about 30 thousand feet above Colorado when one of the passengers told flight attendants she was in labor.” The pilot asked for and received clearance to divert the plane to Denver, but the baby couldn’t wait. Thankfully, a doctor and a few nurses were on board for the delivery, albeit using methods not seen on “Grey’s Anatomy”. Stark: “One of the nurses had a child’s blunt scissors. That’s what was used to cut the cord.” For those wondering about flying restrictions…Stark says that “the mom was apparently supposed to deliver in January. Airlines have no restrictions on travel during the first 8 months of pregnancy.” RUSSIA/NIGHT CLUB BLAST- An explosion apparently caused by pyrotechnics tore through a nightclub in the Russian city of Perm early Saturday, killing at least 101 people and injuring at least 140 others, according to news reports in the country. Alexander Marquardt, monitoring Interfax from Moscow adds that most of the deaths were “because of fire, smoke inhalation and trampling.” The club, Marquardt also noted was celebrating its 8th anniversary “and most of the 200 guests were employees and family according to Russia Today TV.”

MAJOR TREATY EXPIRES: The United States and Russia say they’ve agreed to maintain the ‘spirit’ of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that expired tonight while they continue work on a new treaty. The nuclear arms control treaty required each country to cut its nuclear warheads by at least one-fourth, to about 6,000, and to implement procedures for verifying that each side was sticking to the agreement. President Obama and Russian President Medvedev agreed at a Moscow summit in July to cut the number of nuclear warheads each possesses to between 1,500 and 1,675 within seven years as part of a broad new treaty. Today they put out a statement that said: “We express our commitment, as a matter of principle, to continue to work together in the spirit of the START Treaty following its expiration, as well as our firm intention to ensure that a new treaty on strategic arms enter into force at the earliest possible date.” Here’s what our Alexander Marquardt in Moscow thinks of that: “From what I can tell, working together “in the spirit of the START Treaty” does not mean the US got the “bridging agreement” they were hoping for. Russia did not want a bridge deal that would simply extend START because there are provisions in there they’re trying to get rid of in the new treaty. Most notably, 20 American observers at the Topol missile factory in Votkinsk who left this morning, according to the US Embassy here. Russian observers left the US years ago when the US stopped producing ICBMs, which Russia still does.” (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)

OBAMA/CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE-From Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller: “Originally scheduled to appear at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen next week, on Wednesday, December 9, at the beginning of the conference, President Obama will change his schedule and appear instead more than a week later on Friday, December 18, on the day of its conclusion, officials said. A statement from the White House said that based on President Obama’s conversations with other world leaders as well as the “progress that has already been made to give momentum to negotiations” he believes that his presence will be most productive at the end of the conference. Specifically, recent moves by China and India announcing carbon emission reduction goals have made the conference more likely to achieve a substantive agreement, the White House said, for which the White House seemed to take some credit.”

OTHER STUFF- -- SLIM FAST RECALL-Unilever, the maker of Slim Fast, is recalling all cans/cartons of the popular diet drink out of concern they may be contaminated with bacteria. The bacteria, Bacillus cereus, apparently can cause nausea and diarrhea (NOT the way to lose weight!). Unilever spokeswoman Anita Larsen stressed that the recall involves only liquid products in cans and boxes -- not powdered shakes or diet bars. (Brian Hartman) -- WORLD CUP DRAW-Good news/bad news for the US Mens’ Soccer team after today’s World Cup draw. First the bad news-The United States starts its’ World Cup competition against England. Now the good news-the other two teams in their group? Algeria and Slovenia, no pushovers but a much more favorable draw than gotten by other countries. Every World Cup seems to have a Group of Death-an opening group of three or more excellent teams in the four-team group. This year is no exception-Group G features powerhouses Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast as well as North Korea. The top two teams in each group advance to the next round. (Matt Jaffe) -- SWINE FLU ON THE WANE-More proof that the H1N1 virus may have peaked (for now)-The CDC reports that last week flu activity was widespread in 25 states, down from 32 states before Thanksgiving. (Brian Hartman) -- BANK CLOSURES- Regulators have shut down big Ohio bank AmTrust Bank. They also closed three banks in Georgia Friday, bringing to 128 the number of U.S. bank failures this year in a climate of economic struggle and deepening loan defaults. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over AmTrust Bank, based in Cleveland, with about $12 billion in assets and $8 billion in deposits. Also seized by the FDIC were Buckhead Community Bank, based in Atlanta; First Security National Bank, based in Norcross, Ga., and Tattnall Bank, of Reidsville, Ga.

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