Feb. 5, 2011

John Taylor Skilling, a 20-year-old communications major at Chapman College in Orange, Calif., and the son of imprisoned ex-Enron chief Jeffrey Skilling, was found dead from what police say was a drug overdose.

Paramedics broke into his apartment after friends were concerned and found Skilling in the bedroom with a bottle of prescription drugs by his bed.

“They were supposed to meet him for dinner and he didn’t show up and they knew he was despondent over a recent break-up with a girlfriend,” Santa Ana Police Corporal Anthony Bertagna told Reuters. “They looked in the window and they could see him lying on the bed.”

“We don’t know yet if it’s a possible accidental overdose or suicide,” he said.

John Taylor Skilling, or JT as he was called, was 15 when his father was sentenced to a 24 years in a federal prison in Englewood, Colo.

His lawyers reported that the older Skilling was ” heartbroken and distraught and devastated” by the tragedy.

Friends told ABC News that the younger Skilling had not seemed depressed and were adamant that people not equate the death with Skilling’s emotional state over his father.

“They had a very strong relationship,” said one close Texas friend, who asked to remain anonymous. “He loved his Dad so much, and through everything that has happened over the years, he stuck by his Dad’s side. That surprised a lot of people.”

“He was not at all a depressive person,” said the friend. “Honestly, I don’t know what the drugs were prescribed for. That’s something we will find out later. I just think it was an accident. This is the last kid who would take his own life.”

An autopsy showed no foul play and there was no suicide note, according to police. It will be four to six weeks until toxicology tests are completed.

Skilling’s death echoed that of Mark Madoff,, the son of disgraced financier
Bernard Madoff. The 46-year-old killed himself last December possibly over the disgrace of his father’s conviction on charges of running an investment Ponzi scheme.

In his case, say friends, the father of four had been “struggling” emotionally.

Madoff’s suicide coincided with the second anniversary of his father’s crimes against investors and a flurry of multi-billion-dollar civil suits.

Psychologists say that the sins of a father can have a devastating effect on the development of a younger child and — though it may not be true in this case — can eventually lead to depression or suicide.

“I found myself wondering more about how this young man dealt with his own anger toward his much loved father, and what the breakup with and loss of his girlfriend meant to him in terms of loss of support and understanding, given what he must have been carrying,” said Michael Diamond, a clinical professor of psychiatry, UCLA.

Skilling’s father was convicted of conspiracy, insider trading and securities fraud in 2006. An appeals court in New Orleans is now considering his latest appeal.

Accounting tricks led to the 2001 collapse of Enron, which was one of the leading electricity, natural gas, communications, and pulp and paper companies. An estimated 22,000 jobs were lost, as well as $60 billion in stock and $2 billion in employee pension plans.

“JT was a wonderful young man,” Skilling’s attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, said in a brief written statement. “Jeff and his family are heartbroken.”

“We have applied for permission for Jeff to attend his son’s funeral, which will likely occur early next week. We are waiting for a response.”

Continue reading here: Ex-Enron Chief’s Son John Taylor Skilling Dies of Possible Overdose – ABC News

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Reagan’s myth has grown over time – CNN International

On February 5, 2011, in Latest News, by nadia

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan sign a nuclear arms treaty in December 1987. STORY HIGHLIGHTS Sunday marks the 100th birthday of the late President Ronald Reagan Historians look back on his legacy and some of the political myths surrounding him Douglas Brinkley: Today’s GOP “created this fantasy role of Reagan as anti-government” Lou Cannon: “His greatest single quality was his self-deprecating humor” CNN will broadcast ceremonies from the Reagan ranch and his presidential library Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan sign a nuclear arms treaty in December 1987.


  • Sunday marks the 100th birthday of the late President Ronald Reagan
  • Historians look back on his legacy and some of the political myths surrounding him
  • Douglas Brinkley: Today’s GOP “created this fantasy role of Reagan as anti-government”
  • Lou Cannon: “His greatest single quality was his self-deprecating humor”

CNN will broadcast ceremonies from the Reagan ranch and his presidential library Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. ET.

Washington (CNN) — As the late President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday is observed, historians point out that his political successes, not his persona, have been mythologized over the years.

“Today’s Republicans created this fantasy role of Reagan as anti-government,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. “He was really Reagan of government efficiency.”

Brinkley, who edited the best-selling book “The Reagan Diaries,” which is based on the 40th president’s diary accounts, said Reagan mainly wanted to roll back the “excesses of the ‘Great Society’ domestically, not abolish them.”

“He was never talking about doing away with Medicaid, Medicare, or abolishing HUD,” he said. “It had more to do with trimming the federal budget.”

Upon taking office, Reagan faced a severe recession and double-digit inflation. Gas station lines stretched for miles. Americans simply lost hope in their economic future, historians say.

Read more about Reagan’s life and legacy

The former governor of California used his experiences in politics and his career in Hollywood — first as an actor and later as president of the Screen Actors Guild — to help change the American way of life.

But for all the praise by current conservatives for the economic turnaround during his presidency, historians also note that many conservatives of his day weren’t exactly big fans of all of his policies, including his negotiations with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev over nuclear arms. At the time, many within his own party felt reaching out to the Soviets was a sign of willingness to negotiate with an evil dictator.

“What made Reagan different from many of his fellow conservatives — and different, too, from liberals who looked upon the Cold War as an eternal condition — was that he really wanted to negotiate and thought he had learned the art of doing so by bargaining with movie producers when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild,” Lou Cannon, author of several books on Reagan, wrote in a commentary for AOL News.

Journalist Will Bunch, author of the book “Tear Down This Myth,” pointed out in an interview with National Public Radio on Thursday that many forget that Reagan was divisive and had “virtually zero support from African-Americans.”

“The Reagan myth is pretty simple,” said Bunch, a senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. “Basically, people want Ronald Reagan remembered as the man who won the Cold War and as the man who turned the economy around … this idea that Reagan brought down the Berlin Wall and that he cut taxes and saved the American economy.”

Read Bunch’s CNN.com commentary

He noted that conservatives also fail to mention that Reagan raised taxes throughout his presidency and was willing to work across the aisle with Democrats on major policies such as Social Security.

“When he had to govern, he was actually kind of a great compromiser. He was willing to make compromises to get things done. You almost never hear about the fact he reached a deal with Democrats on Social Security,” Bunch said. “He signed off on some sort of tax increase every year of his presidency after 1982, including one that was at the time the largest tax increase in American history to undo the fact that the ’81 tax cut went too far.”

Brinkley said conservatives forget that he was actually influenced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat responsible for the “New Deal” big-government program; and by President Dwight Eisenhower, a moderate Republican who “showed huge senses of pragmatism and doing big American things well, like the interstate highway.”

Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist and CNN.com contributor, recently wrote that it wasn’t only his ability to compromise to get a deal with Congress, but “but he never gave up on the things he truly believed in,” including his economic philosophies. Rollins, it should be noted, served in Reagan’s administration and managed both of his presidential campaigns.

Read William Bennett’s CNN.com commentary on Reagan’s legacy

The praise for his economic policies, though, is somewhat inflated, Cannon argued.

“His greatest domestic accomplishment — breaking the back of inflation that terrified the nation in the late 1970s — was a product not of ‘supply side’ economics ballyhooed by conservatives, but of the drastic tightening of interest rates by Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker,” Cannon wrote. Volcker later became the chairman of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

For all the criticism of the myths surrounding Reagan, his supporters point out his enormous success in restoring Americans’ faith in their country through his personality, charm and effective speaking.

“His greatest single quality was his self-deprecating humor, which came naturally to him and was honed into an effective political weapon,” said Cannon, who covered the Reagan White House for The Washington Post. “He made fun of his age, his work habits, his vanities, his ideology, his alleged lack of intelligence and his supposed domination by his wife [Nancy].”

Brinkley added: “Reagan had a healthy smelling-salts effect on the economy. Somehow, by talking about the power of the corporation again and why business was good for America, he was able to instill confidence in the market and also kind of do some things that were beneficial for America’s trade policy. So it’s not just a claim of this percentage or that percent but some of Reagan’s leadership and tone and tenor.”

That tone also reached the ears of Democrats frustrated by Jimmy Carter’s presidency. A new band of “Reagan Democrats” sprang up — something championed today by conservatives and Democrats looking to invoke Reagan as a guidepost for a successful presidency.

One of those Democrats appears to be Obama, who has praised Reagan and defended him against liberal critics. During Obama’s December vacation in Hawaii, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs tweeted that the president was reading one of Cannon’s Reagan biographies.

“No matter what political disagreements you may have had with President Reagan — and I certainly had my share — there is no denying his leadership in the world, or his gift for communicating his vision for America,” Obama wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.

Observers argue that Obama is looking to Reagan to find out how to turn around a bad economy, reach out to the other side of the aisle and restore faith in the American spirit.

And Obama, like Reagan, has come under fire from Republicans for negotiating with the Russians on a new nuclear arms treaty reducing missiles in both countries.

“It was a precursor to other agreements, the most recent signed by Barack Obama, which made deeper reductions in nuclear arsenals,” Rollins said. “Today, U.S. and Russian specialists inspect nuclear weapons on each other’s soil, an action that would have been seen as unbelievably utopian when Reagan became president.”

Continue reading here: Reagan’s myth has grown over time – CNN International

Egypt protesters consolidate gains – Aljazeera.net

On February 5, 2011, in General, Latest News, Television, by ayesha

After a day and a half of pitched battle to hold the teeming heart and symbol of Egypt’s uprising, Friday was a time for the pro-democracy demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to consolidate their gains.

After a day and a half of pitched battle to hold the teeming heart and symbol of Egypt’s uprising, Friday was a time for the pro-democracy demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to consolidate their gains.

On Wednesday, a concerted and coordinated attack by supporters of president Hosni Mubarak – many of them reportedly security officers paid to do so – threatened to overrun the square, leading to 12 hours of medieval-style warfare complete with makeshift catapults, metal barricades and flaming projectiles.

Though the fighting subsided early on Thursday morning, protesters remained on high alert throughout the rest of the day and night, fearful that the government – which had earlier mounted an apparently systematic campaign to intimidate reporters off the street – would eventually move to finish them off.

But the expected attack never came, and Friday dawned peacefully over Cairo.  Mohamed Tantawy, the commander of Egypt’s military, visited with protesters in the morning, and a renewed army presence put the square and its immediate surroundings under tight security and blocked many Mubarak supporters from reaching the area.

The main, army-sanctioned route into the square was through an entrance off Kasr al-Nil bridge, which spans the Nile and connects central Cairo with the ritzy island of Zamalek to the west.

A crowd of hundreds queued outside that entrance throughout Friday and streamed into the square, feeding a crowd of hundreds of thousands that rivaled those that have already gathered over the past 11 days of protests, which seek the ouster of Mubarak, president for 30 years, and a complete overhaul of Egypt’s government.

Inside the square, a crowd which had thinned after Wednesday-night clashes was now bolstered by women, children, and a large number of international journalists.

Supplies were coming in as well, and protesters set up new pharmacies and a rapid-response medical clinic – blocked off with metal barricades and marked with the Red Crescent – just 30 metres behind the war-torn northern front line near the Egyptian Museum.


Standing near the clinic was 14-year-old Mohammed, a bedraggled boy who told us that he had snuck away from his home near the well-off Heliopolis neighbourhood to come to the square.

Children have become caught up in Egypt’s violent unrest, and Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Thursday that it was concerned about the protests putting them in “grave danger”.

Mohammed told us that he had called his father, who asked him to come home, but that he had told his father that baltageya – “thugs” – surrounding the area made it too dangerous to return.

Declining food offered by a passing woman who was handing out supplies to the protesters, he told us that he hadn’t been hurt and had come because he was angry with Mubarak, who he said had sent paid fighters to attack the square.

Beyond Mohammed lay three layers of barricades and five human checkpoints where teams of protesters wearing badges labeled “security” frisked entrants and checked their identification cards.

One barricade on Mahmoud Basyouni street, a major thoroughfare leading from the museum barricade’s eastern flank to the formerly busy Talaat Harb square, enjoyed the advantage of a coil of army razorwire left behind and stretched across its front.

At the edge of the protesters defences, in Talaat Harb square itself, a stand-off between hundreds of Mubarak supporters who had managed to reach the area erupted into a rock-throwing battle between the two sides on Friday morning. From the barricade on Mahmoud Basyouni street, scores of rocks could be seeing flying back and forth through the square.

After 10 minutes of fighting, the pro-democracy protesters finally stormed out from behind their barricades and drove the Mubarak supporters into the arterial streets feeding into the square from the north and east. A popular protest chant – “The people want the downfall of the system!” – echoed off the surrounding buildings.

Tense stand-off

The two sides stared each other down from a distance after the fighting and even came face-to-face on Talaat Harb street to the north. Despite pressing up against one another, neither the Mubarak supporters nor the pro-democracy protesters fought.

Instead, they exchanged chants and waved banners; the Mubarak crowd raised portraits of the president. Protesters standing toward the back of the anti-government crowd stood with rocks in their hands, waiting.

In a nearby stairwell, a pro-democracy protester asked another onlooker loudly if he was with one side or the other. The man being questioned looked uneasy and warily responded that both were Egyptians. The protester raised his voice, yelling that the man couldn’t simply stand by without choosing.

The man looked away, asking – without expecting an answer – what would happen when this was all finished. He unenthusiastically joined in the anti-government chanting.

Around 30 metres to the rear of the Talaat Harb front lines lay the headquarters of the socialist Tagammu party, an offshoot of Egypt’s original single political party. Inside, dozens of party members and friends eased their tension with tea and conversation.

In a back office, party secretary general Sayed Abdelaal and vice president Anis el-Bayya sat in a circle of chairs and couches with other party members and a high-ranking woman from the Wafd – another opposition party that dates back to Egypt’s early-20th-century independence movement.

Bayya said that Tagammu fully supported the “revolution,” which he also called the “Egyptian intifada,” or uprising. They spoke about where the movement should go from here, with all agreeing that change had to begin with Mubarak stepping down.

In the midst of the interview, a sudden rush from Mubarak supporters threatened to overwhelm the barricades visible on the street below. A Tagammu official assured us that the crowd would not reach the offices, which was guarded by young men associated with the party, but he said that the building had been surrounded two days earlier and its occupants threatened.

False rumour

After the pro-democracy protesters beat the crowd back, Bayya resumed, reinforcing reports that elements from the opposition as well as Western governments and some parts of the Egyptian bureaucracy itself were already planning on ways to ease Mubarak, a former air force officer, out of power.

Most recently, in a televised speech on Tuesday night, Mubarak promised not to run for re-election in September but said he would not step down before then.

Bayya said that a plan was being drawn up whereby all the powers of the presidency would be transferred from Mubarak to Omar Suleiman, the former head of Egyptian intelligence who Mubarak recently appointed – for the first time in his 30-year term – as vice president.

This would be a first step toward removing Mubarak from his post entirely. A transitional government led by Suleiman and steered by a committee of establishment, opposition and military leaders would then take hold until new presidential elections this fall.

Both the People’s Assembly, the lower house of parliament, and the Shoura Council, the upper house, would be dissolved and new elections held. The constitution would be revamped to reign in presidential power and eliminate the emergency national security laws in place since the assassination of Mubarak’s predecessor, Anwar Sadat.

Bayya seemed unsatisfied with the response of US president Barack Obama to the crisis, and described the United States as acting in support of the protesters only after it was clear that they were powerful enough to hold on.

“The US position changes each day with developments on the ground,” he said. “The Egyptian people have their own agenda and their own plans on how to develop.”

The United States also misunderstands the situation on the ground, he said. They were fearful that unrest would unleash sectarian violence, recently heightened with the New Year’s Eve church bombing in Alexandria, but Bayya said that “this revolution includes Christians, Muslims, extremist Muslims, communists, socialists and all kinds of people from all political spectrums and religions”.

Outside the office, another commotion arose suddenly, though this time it was joyous. Men bowed and prayed in the street; one ripped off his shirt and swung it above his head. In the main room outside the office, people jumped from their seats and hugged, yelling that Mubarak had suddenly announced his resignation.

But as all eyes quickly became glued to the television set showing Al Jazeera Arabic, no confirmation came. As the false rumour rippled through Tahrir Square like wildfire, briefly electrifying the crowd, the Tagammu crowd realised their hopes had been dashed, for now.

Continue reading here: Egypt protesters consolidate gains – Aljazeera.net

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