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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday September 27 2007 - (813)

Thursday September 27 2007 edition
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Diplomats Accuse Bush Of Attempting To Derail U.N. Climate Talks
2007-09-27 02:31:26
President goes ahead with his own environment meeting. Fear that U.S. will again reject limit on emissions.

President George Bush was criticized Wednesday by diplomats for attempting to derail a United Nations initiative on climate change by pressing ahead with his own conference, which starts in Washington today (Thursday).

One European diplomat described the U.S. meeting as a spoiler for a U.N. conference planned for Bali in December. Another, who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, claimed that the U.S. conference was merely a way of deflecting pressure from other world leaders who had asked at the G8 summit this year for the U.S. to make concessions on global warming.

They predicted that Bush, who is to address Thursday's meeting, will stress the need to make technological advances that can help combat climate change but will reject mandatory caps on emissions.

The British government shares the frustration of other European governments with the lack of urgency on the part of the Bush administration. The British assessment of Bush's conference is reflected in the level of representation - Phil Woolas, a junior environment minister.

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Report: Pentagon's Promised Fixes At Walter Reed Haven't Materialized
2007-09-27 02:30:55

More than half a year after disclosures of systemic problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military hospitals, the Pentagon's promised fixes are threatened by staff shortages and uncertainty about how best to improve long-term care for wounded troops, according to a congressional report issued Wednesday.

Army units developed to shepherd recovering soldiers lack enough nurses and social workers, and proposals to streamline the military's disability evaluation system and to provide "recovery coordinators" are behind schedule, according to the Government Accountability Office report.

Members of a congressional oversight committee, discussing the report at a hearing Wednesday, said the effort to reform the medical bureaucracy has itself become mired in bureaucracy.

"After so many promises but so little progress, we need to see more concrete results," said U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Virginia), the ranking Republican on the panel. His staff hears "appalling stories" every week from soldiers dealing with the disability process, he said, adding that "they're trapped in a system they don't understand and that doesn't understand them."

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Editorial: The 'Crazies' And Iran
2007-09-27 02:28:54
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Thursday, September 27, 2007.

Like Mohamed ElBaradei, we want to make sure what he calls the “crazies” don’t start a war with Iran. We fear his do-it-yourself diplomacy is playing right into the crazies’ hands - in Washington, D.C., and Tehran.

Last month, Mr. ElBaradei, the chief nuclear inspector for the United Nations, cut his own deal with Iran’s government, intended to answer questions about its secretive nuclear past. Unfortunately, it made no mention of Iran’s ongoing, very public refusal to stop enriching uranium - usable for nuclear fuel or potentially a nuclear weapon - in defiance of Security Council orders.

In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly this week, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wasn’t shy about explaining what a great deal he’d gotten: gloating that the dispute over his country’s nuclear program is now “closed.” That’s not true, but the deal has given Russia and China another reason to delay imposing new sanctions on Iran for its continued defiance.

We’d like to hear the answers to a lot of those outstanding questions. Among our favorites: Has Iran built more sophisticated uranium centrifuges for a clandestine program? And, what were Iran’s scientists planning to do with designs, acquired from Pakistan, to mold uranium into shapes that look remarkably like the core of a nuclear weapon?

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U.S. Defense Secretary Gates Seeks $190 Billion For Wars
2007-09-27 02:27:48
$42 billion boost would raise 2008 total to $190 billion.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates asked Congress Wednesday to approve an additional $42.3 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the Bush administration's 2008 war funding request to nearly $190 billion - the largest single-year total for the wars so far.

The move came as Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., the Army chief of staff and former top U.S. commander in Iraq,  warned lawmakers that the Army is stretched dangerously thin because of current war operations and would probably have trouble responding to a major conflict elsewhere. "The current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply," Casey said Wednesday. "We are consumed with meeting the demands of the current fight and are unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as necessary for other potential contingencies."

The administration's funding request - which came on the same day that the Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a nonbinding resolution calling for the split of Iraq into three semiautonomous regions - would boost war spending this year by nearly 15 percent and would bring the total cost of both conflicts to more than $800 billion since Sept. 11, 2001, according to the Congressional Research Service. The request comes two weeks after President Bush  announced a limited troop drawdown from Iraq starting in December and the continuation of the "surge" troop increase through next summer. In the days since, Democrats have failed to force a shift in policy on troop rotations or the adoption of withdrawal timelines, but the debate over war funding offers them another chance to push for a change in course.

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Junta Cracks Down On Burmese Protesters
2007-09-26 13:06:02
Reports of 1 monk killed, 4 wounded by gunshots, others injured by truncheons as scores are arrested.

Ending nine days of restraint, Burma's military rulers cracked down on protesting Buddhist monks Wednesday, with security forces firing warning shots, shooting tear gas canisters, swinging truncheons and making scores of arrests. .

The resort to violence, despite appeals for negotiations from around the world, suggested the military junta has decided to put an end to what has become the country's most serious political uprising since 1988, even at the price of more opprobrium from abroad.

The government said on state television and radio that one man, 30, was killed, apparently hit by a ricocheting shell, according to the Associated Press. The government said three people were wounded, two men aged 25 and 27, and a 47-year-old woman, but they were not hurt by gunshots but rather from being caught in a melee, said the A.P.

Maung Maung, secretary general of the National Council of the Union of Burma, a Thailand-based exile group, said he had reports from a Rangoon hospital that four protesting monks were treated for bullet wounds and a fifth had died after being shot. Other sources in Rangoon, cited by Reuters news agency, said two monks were killed.

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FBI, Following Example Of Britain's MI5, Reorganizes Two Anti-Terror Units Into One
2007-09-26 13:05:25

The FBI has begun the most comprehensive realignments of its counter-terrorism division in six years so it can better detect the growing global collaborations by terrorists and dismantle larger terrorist enterprises, according to senior bureau officials.

The bureau will merge its two international terrorism units - one for Osama bin Laden's followers and the other for more established groups such as Hezbollah - into a new structure that borrows both from Britain's MI5 domestic intelligence agency and the bureau's own successful efforts against organized-crime families, Joseph Billy, Jr., the FBI's assistant director for counterterrorism, said in an interview.

The new approach is meant to channel raw intelligence and threat information through "desk officers" with expertise on specific world regions or terrorist groups, allowing those experts to spot trends and set investigative strategies for field agents and joint terrorism task forces that collaborate with local law enforcement, said Billy.

That change emulates some aspects of Britain's MI5, which bureau critics and members of the Sept. 11 commission have frequently cited as a model for fighting domestic terrorism. "We want to place these people together so the intelligence is being shared across each way - left, right, up and down - and that, in turn, will help drive the tactical aspect of how we focus our resources," said Billy.

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Inspector Finds Broad Failure In U.S. Program To Collect Billions From Oil Companies
2007-09-26 03:22:59
Report says program is plagued with ethical lapses.

The U.S. Interior Department's program to collect billions of dollars annually from oil and gas companies that drill on federal lands is troubled by mismanagement, ethical lapses and fears of retaliation against whistle-blowers, the department’s chief independent investigator has concluded.

The report, a result of a year-long investigation, grew out of complaints by four auditors at the agency, who said that senior administration officials had blocked them from recovering money from oil companies that underpaid the government.

The report stopped short of accusing top agency officials of wrongdoing, concluding that the whistle-blowers were sometimes unaware of other efforts under way to recover the missing money and that they sometimes simply disagreed with top management.

It offered a sharp description of failures at the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the agency within the Interior Department responsible for collecting about $10 billion a year in royalties on oil and gas. Many of the issues, including the complaints by whistle-blowers, were initially reported last year by the New York Times.

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Commentary: For All This Talk, Still We Head Steadfastly For Catastrophe
2007-09-26 03:22:16
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Kevin Watkins, director of the U.N.'s Human Development Report Office. In his commentary, which appears in the Guardian edition for Wednesday, September 26, 2007, Mr. Watkins writes that this week's summit on climate change will accomplish nothing if rich countries don't finally show some leadership. His commentary follows:

If talking could cut greenhouse gas emissions, then this would be a good week for international action on climate change. It opened with more than 80 speeches from governments at a special session on the issue at the United Nations, and will close with a two-day "summit" in the White House bringing together all the world's major emitters. The bad news is that we are still heading steadfastly in the direction of an avoidable climate catastrophe.

The special session was a bold effort by the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, to instill urgency into climate negotiations. His aim: to prepare the ground for an international treaty with real, enforceable limits on greenhouse gas emissions. That means a more ambitious, and inclusive, successor to the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012. Negotiations begin in earnest in December at a summit in Bali - or they might if governments can bring themselves to stop dithering and start acting.

It's hard to exaggerate the importance of Bali. There is still a window of opportunity for avoiding the worst effects of climate change - but that window is closing. Most governments broadly accept the need to restrict average temperature increases to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Business-as-usual will take us over twice that level by the end of the century, so every year of delay will make it more difficult to achieve the target.

Climate change threatens to cause unprecedented reversals in human progress in our lifetime. Increased exposure to droughts, floods, storms and climatic uncertainties will reinforce the poverty trap affecting millions of the world's most vulnerable people. Future generations will have to live with potentially catastrophic ecological risks.

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Iran's Ahmadinejad Considers Nuclear Dispute 'Closed', Vows To Resist U.N. Sanctions
2007-09-26 03:21:24
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, said Tuesday he considered the dispute over his country’s nuclear program “closed” and that Iran would disregard the resolutions of the Security Council, which he said was dominated by “arrogant powers”.

In a rambling and defiant 40-minute speech to the opening session of the General Assemly, he said Iran would from now on consider the nuclear issue not a “political” one for the Security Council, but a “technical” one to be decided by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.

Ahmadinejad’s assertion that the matter belonged with the nuclear agency indicated his preference to work with Mohamed ElBaradei,its director.

Dr. ElBaradei has been at odds with Washington, and some European powers, who have accused him of meddling in the diplomacy by seeking separate accords with Iran, and in their eyes undercutting the Security Council resolutions.

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Burma's Junta Declares Curfew, Bans Assembly
2007-09-26 03:20:41
Troops move into the streets of Rangoon.

Troops moved into the streets of Rangoon, Burma in apparent readiness for a confrontation with pro-democracy protesters as the U.S. and U.K. Tuesday stepped up pressure on Burma's military government, threatening punitive measures against the regime.

The Burmese junta last night imposed a 60-day 9 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew and ban on gatherings of more than five people, according to reports from the country's two biggest cities, Rangoon and Mandalay.

Truckloads of armed security forces in riot gear surrounded several of the key protest sites, including Rangoon's city hall and the nearby Sule pagoda, in advance of Wednesday's planned marches. Earlier tens of thousand of monks and pro-democracy demonstrators defied government warnings and paraded through the streets of the old capital Tuesday, as they have for the past week.

Ministers from the Burmese junta met in emergency session in the new capital, Naypyidaw, to discuss the growing threat to their regime. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, 62, had been moved to the notorious Insein prison on Sunday from the lakeside villa where she was under house arrest.
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Federal Judge Rules That Two Provisions Of USA Patriot Act Are Unconstitutional
2007-09-27 02:31:09
Judge rules law gives to much power to executive branch.

A federal judge in Oregon ruled Wednesday that two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional, marking the second time in as many weeks that the anti-terrorism law has come under attack in the courts.

In a case brought by a Portland, Oregon, man who was wrongly detained as a terrorism suspect in 2004, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Patriot Act violates the Constitution because it "permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment."

"For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law - with unparalleled success," Aiken wrote in a strongly worded 44-page opinion. "A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised."

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As Burmese Troops Fire On Monks, Russia And China Block Sanctions
2007-09-27 02:29:59
Burma's military rulers were facing calls from around the world Wednesday night to show restraint in their treatment of pro-democracy demonstrators, but China and Russia blocked more punitive measures.

After troops in Rangoon opened fire on monks and their supporters on the bloodiest day of the week-long protests, the United Nations Security Council held an emergency session to consider a joint call for sanctions from the U.S.  and the European Union.

George Bush announced new sanctions on Tuesday and European ministers said they would consider toughening the existing package of European Union sanctions, as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had demanded.

But any suggestion of global sanctions against the Burmese regime was blocked by China and Russia, who had tried to halt Wednesday night's council meeting.
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Federal Prisons To Restore Purged Religious Books
2007-09-27 02:28:16
Facing pressure from religious groups, civil libertarians and members of Congress, the federal Bureau of Prisons has decided to return religious materials that had been purged from prison chapel libraries because they were not on the bureau’s lists of approved resources.

The bureau had said it was prompted to remove the materials after a 2004 Department of Justice report mentioned that religious books that incite violence could infiltrate chapel libraries.

After the details of the removal became widely known this month, Republican lawmakers, liberal Christians and evangelical talk shows all criticized the government for creating a list of acceptable religious books.

The bureau has not abandoned the idea of creating such lists, Judi Simon Garrett, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail message, but, rather than packing away everything while those lists were compiled, the religious materials will remain on the shelves, Garrett explained.

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HIV-Infected Condoms Sent To Kill Africans, Claims Archbishop
2007-09-27 02:27:12
Mozambique's Roman Catholic archbishop has accused European condom manufacturers of deliberately infecting their products with HIV "in order to finish quickly the African people".

The archbishop of Maputo, Francisco Chimoio, told the BBC that he had specific information about a plot to kill off Africans. "I know that there are two countries in Europe ... making condoms with the virus, on purpose," he alleged. But he refused to name the countries.

He added: "They want to finish with the African people. This is the program. They want to colonize until up to now. If we are not careful we will finish in one century's time."

His views have prompted outrage from activists trying to combat AIDS and help sufferers. They described the statements as ridiculous. Medical specialists said it was impossible for the AIDS virus to live inside condoms for any length of time.
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UAW, GM Reach Tentative Agreement
2007-09-26 13:05:45
General Motors and the United Auto Workers agreed to a new contract early Wednesday, ending a two-day nationwide strike with a watershed deal that establishes a new union-managed trust fund for retiree health care but does not include wage hikes.

The tentative four-year agreement was reached around 3 a.m. Union officials promptly called off the strike - the first national job action against GM in more than 30 years - and said the new contract will be submitted to union members for ratification by the weekend.

GM's 73,000 unionized employees are expected back on the job Wednesday afternoon and now must ratify the contract hammered out by union leadership.

To win over workers and get the deal wrapped up quickly, GM is dangling a $3,000 signing bonus for each member, with a possibility of additional signing bonuses in later years of the contract.

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At Least 52 Killed In Hanoi, Vietnam, Bridge Collapse
2007-09-26 13:05:06
A section of a bridge under construction in southern Vietnam collapsed Wednesday, killing at least 52 workers and injuring 97 others, said officials.

The bridge was being built across the Hau River, a branch of the Mekong River, in the southern city of Can Tho. It is part of a heavily used route linking the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City.

The collapsed section was more than 98 feet tall and was situated above land on the river bank in Vinh Long province, said Vo Thanh Tong, chairman of the Can Tho people's committee. The four-lane bridge was not yet open to traffic.

Images broadcast on Vietnamese television showed mounds of twisted steel and cables shrouded in dust and smoke. Dozens of workers in yellow helmets rushed about the wreckage, some carrying stretchers with bloody victims.

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Pentagon Pressing State Dept. To Assert More Control Over Blackwater
2007-09-26 03:22:43
A confrontation between the U.S. military and the State Department is unfolding over the involvement of Blackwater USA in the shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad square Sept. 16, bringing to the surface long-simmering tensions between the military and private security companies in Iraq,according to U.S. military and government officials.

In high-level meetings over the past several days, U.S. military officials have pressed State Department officials to assert more control over Blackwater, which operates under the department's authority, said a U.S. government official with knowledge of the discussions. "The military is very sensitive to its relationship that they've built with the Iraqis being altered or even severely degraded by actions such as this event," said the official.

"This is a nightmare," said a senior U.S. military official. "We had guys who saw the aftermath, and it was very bad. This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib, and it comes at a time when we're trying to have an impact for the long term." The official was referring to the prison scandal that emerged in 2004 in which U.S. soldiers tortured and abused Iraqis.

In last week's incident, Blackwater guards shot into a crush of cars, killing at least 11 Iraqis and wounding 12. Blackwater officials insist their guards were ambushed, but witnesses have described the shooting as unprovoked. Iraq's Interior Ministry has concluded that Blackwater was at fault.

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U.S. House Committee Says Rice Is Hindering Its Work
2007-09-26 03:21:55
Blackwater, corruption in Iraq at issue.

An ongoing battle between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a House committee investigating Iraqi government corruption and the activities of the Blackwater USA security firm erupted into another skirmish Tuesday as U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-California) accused Rice of interfering with the committee's work and preventing administration and Blackwater officials from providing pertinent information.

In the latest of a series of exchanges, Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote Rice to urge that she "reconsider the unusual positions you are taking." Congress has a "constitutional prerogative" to look into the issues, he wrote, and she is "wrong to interfere with the Committee's inquiry."

State Department spokesman Tom Casey cited a "misunderstanding" on Waxman's part. "All information requested by the committee has been or is in the process of being provided," he said.

The dispute began late last month when the Nation magazine published an account of an internal memo by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The 82-page draft document, which was subsequently widely leaked, said the Iraqi government was "not capable of even rudimentary enforcement" of its own anti-corruption laws and would not meet "any reasonable timeline" for improvement.

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Shaky U.S. Home Prices And German Ills Hits Markets
2007-09-26 03:21:00
Financial markets on both sides of the Atlantic took fright Tuesday at economic data showing weakness in the U.S.  and Germany as investors fretted about banks' balance sheets in the wake of Britain's Northern Rock Bank fiasco.

The FTSE 100 share index fell almost 100 points, or 1.5%, although by the close it had recovered to 6,397, down 69 points.

Dealers sold bank shares on worries that the sector could be hit by further problems in credit markets, which caused the Northern Rock crisis. Barclays and the French banks BNP Paribas and Societe Generale were among the biggest losers.

In the U.S., fresh signs of weakness from the summer's crisis in sub-prime mortgages emerged as figures showed house prices dropped by 4.5% year-on-year during July - the biggest fall for 16 years.
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Air Traffic Near Memphis, Tennessee, Grounded, Ripple Effect Extends Across U.S.
2007-09-26 03:20:14
Communications equipment failed Tuesday at a regional air-traffic control center, shutting down all airline traffic within 250 miles of Memphis and causing a ripple effect across the country that grounded dozens of passenger and cargo flights.

The problem started when a major telephone line to the Memphis center went out at 12:35 p.m. EDT. The Federal Aviation Administration said air-traffic control operations were back to normal about three hours later.

Air-traffic control centers in adjacent regions handled flights that were already in the air when the problem was discovered.

"The airspace was completely cleared by 1:30 (p.m.) Eastern time," said FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen.

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