[imgcontainer right] [img:14china-image2-popup.jpeg] [source]New York Times[/source] Rural Chinese in Wukan have been protesting the confiscation of farmland by the government. A leader of the movement died while being held by authorities. [/imgcontainer]

Talk about Occupy! Here’s the lead of a story in today’s New York Times: 

A long-running dispute between farmers and local officials in southern China exploded into open rebellion this week after villagers chased away government leaders, set up roadblocks and began arming themselves with homemade weapons, residents said.

The protests began in September, after the government began to seize farmland to be used for industrial purposes. Farmers received little or no compensation. Residents demonstrated and even burned two police cars.

The government negotiated with the villagers, who chose a butcher named Xue Jinbo as one of their representatives. He was taken into custody and died. Residents say he was tortured and then killed. Authorities say he had a heart attack.

The government said it would investigate the death.

•The Postal Service has called for a moratorium on the closing of all post offices and processing plants. The moratorium will end May 15. 

Save The Post Office reminds us that over 500 post offices have closed this year, and another 100 had been notified that they were to close in January. There are 3,650 other local post offices on the closure list and waiting to hear when their time was up.

Twenty-two Senate Democrats sent a letter in early December asking colleagues to include language in upcoming legislation that would prevent the Postal Service from closing more offices or consolidating mail processing centers.

Now Congress has until May to deal with reforms that will allow the Postal System to find some fiscal footing.

• The House voted 234 to 193 to extend a one year break in the payroll tax, but included in that bill a provision that would speed construction of an oil pipeline that would be built between Canada and the Gulf Coast. 

Republicans paired the tax cut (pushed by President Obama) and the Keystone XL pipeline provision. The U.S. State Department recently held up approval of a required permit for Keystone after it was opposed by environmentalists and by the Nebraska legislature. Nebraska landowners said the pipeline would cross fragile territory and the Ogallala Aquifer.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat, said the bill would not pass through the Senate with the Keystone amendment.

•Just 51 percent of all adults (18 or older) are married. In 2000, according to the Pew Research Center, 57 percent were married. 

In Washington, D.C., just one in four adults is married.

“In the 1950s, if you weren’t married, people thought you were mentally ill,” said Andrew J. Cherlin, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist who studies families. “Marriage was mandatory. Now it’s culturally optional.”

• The number of homeless vets is down 12 percent from last year, according to an annual count. 

One night a year, the federal government tries to count the number of homeless vets. Last year, census takers found 76,329 homeless veterans. This year, there were 67,495.

That’s still a lot of homeless veterans.

Dan Piller explains the ongoing conflict between Deere & Co. and LightSquared, a company that wants to create an expanded wireless broadband network in rural areas. 

Deere is afraid that LightSquared’s network will disrupt the Global Positioning System used by the company to guide its tractors and combines. Farmers have responded that this just isn’t so. Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley is in the middle of the fight. He’s holding up two nominees to the Federal Communications Commission until the agency provides more information on LightSquared’s plans.

• The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers only has enough money to fix 11 of 68 Missouri River levees damaged in this year’s flood. Now the Corps is trying to lower levels in upstream reservoirs in anticipation of spring rains. 

• A Minnesota farmer testified this week in Congress on the collapse of MF Global, the brokerage company that has lost $1.2 billion in private accounts, many owned by farmers. 

“This money was real money in real banks. It wasn’t under somebody’s mattress,” said farmer Dean Tofteland of Luverne, Minnesota, who has $200,000 at MF Global. “Somebody at the company knows where the money’s at. We have to ask, if there’s a debit there has to be a credit. Where’s the credit?”

“It’s like if I bring my pickup truck to the car dealership to get the oil changed and over the weekend they close the doors, the bank comes in and the next day they put my pickup on the lot with the cars that are going to be foreclosed on. You know, my pickup is my pickup,” Tofteland said.

Now one MF Global executive says that company CEO Jon Corzine knew that money was taken from customer accounts and then used as company funds. Corzine has denied knowledge of the transfers. 

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