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Friday, October 05, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday October 5 2007 - (813)

Friday October 5 2007 edition
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World Bank Accused Of Razing Congo Forests
2007-10-04 20:22:28
Internal report says mass logging threatens Pygmies; findings are embarrassing for British government.

The World Bank encouraged foreign companies to destructively log the world's second largest forest, endangering the lives of thousands of Congolese Pygmies, according to a report on an internal investigation by senior bank staff and outside experts. The report by the independent inspection panel, seen by the Guardian, also accuses the bank of misleading Congo's government about the value of its forests and of breaking its own rules.

Congo's rainforests are the second largest in the world after the Amazon, locking nearly 8% of the planet's carbon and having some of its richest biodiversity. Nearly 40 million people depend on the forests for medicines, shelter, timber and food.

The report into the bank's activities in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 2002 follows complaints made two years ago by an alliance of 12 Pygmy groups. The groups claimed that the bank-backed system of awarding vast logging concessions to companies to exploit the forests was causing "irreversible harm".

It will be discussed at board level in the World Bank within weeks and may lead to a complete rethink of how forestry in the DRC is practiced.

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Wall Street Firms Wield The Axe - Job Cuts Triple
2007-10-04 20:21:59
America's battered financial industry has suffered a threefold leap in job cuts during 2007 as mortgage lenders and Wall Street banks slash their payrolls to cope with the summer's credit crunch.

Cutbacks have taken place at Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse in the last few days alone as blood-letting gathers pace - and there were rumors Thursday of imminent layoffs at Merrill Lynch.

A study published Thursday by a Chicago employment consultancy, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, revealed that in the first nine months of the year, the U.S. financial industry shed 129,927 employees - compared with 34,903 over the same period in 2006 and 41,475 the year before that.

The consultancy's chief executive, John Challenger, warned that the pain was far from over: "The dominoes are likely to keep toppling as home values fall and foreclosures continue to climb. Even if the worst of the crisis is over, as some are saying, we could continue to see heavy job cuts in the financial sector through the end of the year."

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Britain's High Court Orders Defense Ministry To Release Documents On Iraqi's Death
2007-10-04 20:19:23
Britain's high court Wednesday ordered the U.K.'s Ministry of Defense (MoD) to disclose to lawyers key documents about the circumstances surrounding the death of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi who died in British custody in Basra four years ago. The move came after the lawyers for Mr. Mousa's family and the families of 10 other Iraqis detained by British soldiers accused the MoD of "obfuscation and delay" in providing vital information.

The family demanded the documents after an MoD offer for them to take part in an inquiry into incidents in Basra in 2003. The information they wanted includes the background of military training regarding treatment of detainees, and the orders given in Iraq. "It was a shameful episode for the British army and for Britain itself," Jason Coppel, counsel for the families, told Justice Jackson.

The defense secretary, Des Browne, promised an inquiry after the collapse of a court martial in which the judge referred to a "closing of ranks" within the MoD and the army. Mr. Mousa, a Basra hotel receptionist, suffered 93 injuries and died in British custody. Evidence about abuse emerged during the court martial of Colonel Jorge Mendonca and five soldiers who were acquitted of negligence and abuse.

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All 3,200 Trapped Gold Miners Rescued In South Africa
2007-10-04 20:18:40
Singing and dancing despite exhaustion, the last of 3,200 miners trapped deep underground for more than a day emerged safely Thursday night, delivering a happy ending but raising questions about the safety of South Africa's important gold mines.

Government officials announced that the Elandsrand mine, one of the top producers in the world's leading gold-mining nation, would stay shut for at least six weeks while experts studied what caused a pipe to break and crash down the main shaft Wednesday, knocking out the elevator.

The national miners union threatened unspecified "industrial action" against the mining business, accusing managers of earning fortunes while compromising on safety. It said that among other things, companies have let alternative escape routes flood rather than maintain them.

The final group of 45 workers brought out through an auxiliary shaft normally used to remove debris arrived at the surface shortly before 9 p.m., walking out caked in dust but otherwise healthy a day and a half after the accident.

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Commentary: A Swiftly Melting Planet
2007-10-04 14:26:38
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Thomas Homer-Dixon and appears in the New York Times edition for Thursday, October 4, 2007. Mr. Homer-Dixon is a professor of peace and conflict studies at the University of Toronto, Canada, and is author of "The Upside Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization". His commentary follows:

The Arctic ice cap melted this summer at a shocking pace, disappearing at a far higher rate than predicted by even the most pessimistic experts in global warming. But we shouldn’t be shocked, because scientists have long known that major features of earth’s interlinked climate system of air and water can change abruptly.

A big reason such change happens is feedback - not the feedback that you’d like to give your boss, but the feedback that creates a vicious circle. This type of feedback in our global climate could determine humankind’s future prosperity and even survival.

The vast expanse of ice floating on the surface of the Arctic Ocean always recedes in the summer, reaching its lowest point sometime in September. Every winter it expands again, as the long Arctic night descends and temperatures plummet. Each summer over the past six years, global warming has trimmed this ice’s total area a little more, and each winter the ice’s recovery has been a little less robust. These trends alarmed climate scientists, but most thought that sea ice wouldn’t disappear completely in the Arctic summer before 2040 at the earliest.

But this past summer sent scientists scrambling to redo their estimates. Week by week, the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, reported the trend: from 2.23 million square miles of ice remaining on Aug. 8 to 1.6 million square miles on Sept. 16, an astonishing drop from the previous low of 2.05 million square miles, reached in 2005.

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Kraft Foods Recalls White Chocolate Over Salmonella Fears
2007-10-04 14:25:52
Kraft Foods announced Thursday it is recalling white chocolate distributed in the United States because of possible salmonella contamination.

Kraft said consumers who purchased its six ounce, Baker's Premium White Chocolate Baking Squares should immediately discard the product. The recalled product was distributed nationally, and have the UPC Code 0043000252200 and for best when used by March 31, April 1, April 2 and April 3, 2008.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration detected the presence of salmonella in some packages of the white chocolate baking squares during tests, according to Kraft.

Kraft said in a statement that it was aggressively investigating the source of the problem.
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Iraqis To Pay China $100 Million For Weapons
2007-10-04 02:13:04
News of major arms deal comes as a top U.S. commander tells Washington Post he expects U.S. troops to stay in Iraq for "at least three to five more years."

Iraq has ordered $100 million worth of light military equipment from China for its police force, contending that the United States was unable to provide the materiel and is too slow to deliver arms shipments, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Wednesday.

The China deal, not previously made public, has alarmed military analysts who note that Iraq's security forces already are unable to account for more than 190,000 weapons supplied by the United States, many of which are believed to be in the hands of Shiite and Sunni militias, insurgents and other forces seeking to destabilize Iraq and target U.S. troops.

"The problem is that the Iraqi government doesn't have - as yet - a clear plan for making sure that weapons are distributed, that they are properly monitored and repeatedly checked," said Rachel Stohl of the Center for Defense Information, an independent think tank. "The end-use monitoring will be left in the hands of a government and military in Iraq that is not yet ready for it. And there's not a way for the U.S. to mandate them to do it if they're not U.S. weapons."

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U.S. Congress To Focus On Climate
2007-10-04 02:12:29
Bills indicate that Congress will press ahead with a sweeping proposal despite president's opposition.

Legislative leaders in the U.S. House and Senate said Wednesday that they plan to press ahead with proposals to limit U.S. emissions linked to global warming, focusing on mandatory, economy-wide caps of the kind that President Bush explicitly rejected last week in a climate conference he hosted.

While the bills are less ambitious than many climate scientists and environmental activists have wanted, they indicate that Congress plans to press ahead with a sweeping climate change proposal despite the president's opposition.

Wednesday, Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee issued a white paper outlining a cap-and-trade system that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent to 80 percent below current levels. Under the system envisioned by Chairman John D. Dingell (D-Michigan) and a key subcommittee chairman, Rick Boucher (D-Virginia), the federal government would distribute greenhouse gas allowances that could be bought and sold, though the lawmakers left open the possibility of using taxes as well.

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Homeland Security's Bulletin Problem Creates Message Flood
2007-10-04 02:11:27
It started off early Wednesday as an innocuous request from a North Carolina businessman to the Homeland Secuirty Department. He was responding to a daily antiterrorism bulletin by asking that it be sent to another e-mail address.

By afternoon, a programming flaw involving the “reply” function transformed that e-mail message into a flood of more than 2.2 million messages nationwide that clogged the e-mail accounts of government and private experts on domestic security, including the operators of an Illinois nuclear power station.

Along the way, dozens of the recipients including federal employees, security officers and local officials exchanged lighthearted remarks about random topics like astrological signs and wine preferences.

“It’s good here in D.C.,” Bill Miller wrote from the Office of Emergency Programs in the Treasury Department. “Just a bit muggy!”

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Ukraine President Urges Unity After Tense Election
2007-10-04 02:10:53

Ukraine's pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko urged unity Thursday after bitterly contested parliamentary elections, inviting his Russian-backed opponents to join a broad coalition government.

"My main goal is that Ukraine should emerge united from these elections," Yushchenko said in a televised address.

He said he had instructed "all" parties that won seats in Sunday's snap election to start "provisional political consultations on the formation of a majority in the Ukrainian parliament and formation of a government."

Yushchenko was speaking after near final results showed that he and Yulia Tymoshenko, his ally from the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution, had won a slender controlling share of the ex-Soviet republic's 450-seat Rada, or parliament.

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U.S. House Resolution Could Delay U.S.-India Nuclear Deal
2007-10-04 20:22:12

Key lawmakers in Congress have crafted a bipartisan House resolution that urges a group of nations engaged in nuclear trade to place toughly-worded constraints on future nuclear dealings with India.

The resolution, introduced late Wednesday by Rep. Howard Berman (D-California), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nevada) is non-binding, but it has the potential to significantly delay, or even derail, final approval of a nuclear deal that President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice consider part of their foreign policy legacy.

Congressional aides said the resolution was aimed at influencing the coming debate within the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and a budding controversy in India over the pact. The timing of the legislation also appears linked to the visit next week in India of Mohamed El-Baradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Bush's agreement with India is designed to solidify Washington's relationship with a fast-emerging economic power. If Congress give the deal final approval, India would be able to engage in civil nuclear trade with the United States even though it has not signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

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Commentary: Conquer And Divide In Iraq
2007-10-04 20:21:38
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Simon Tisdall an assistant editor of the Guardian and a foreign affairs columnist. The commentary appears in the Guardian's online edition for Thursday, October 4, 2007. Mr. Tisdall writes that the inertia and impotence of Iraq's central government is fueling renewed talk of partitioning the country. His commentary follows:

After months of grueling work, including major counter-insurgency operations in June, U.S. commanders in Iraq have growing reason to believe their controversial "surge" policy is working.

But even as the military finally gets a grip, the effectiveness and cohesion of the civilian-led, Shia-dominated central government in Baghdad slips by the day, fueling renewed talk of partition.

U.S. officials say the number of Iraqi civilians and American soldiers killed in September was lower than at any time since January 2006. The overall death toll has been falling for four months.

Lieutenant General Raymon Odierno, the U.S. deputy commander, said this week that al-Qaeda bases and safe havens have been reduced by 60-70% since the surge began.

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U.N. Report: Suicide Bombings Fuel 30% Surge In Afghanistan Violence
2007-10-04 20:19:12
An alarming surge in suicide attacks has fueled a 30% rise in violence in Afghanistan this year, according to the United Nations.

This year has seen an average of 550 violent incidents a month compared with 425 in 2006, said a report by the  U.N.'s Department of Safety and Security.

The past 10 days have been a sobering indicator of the trend - almost 300 people have died in coalition air strikes, roadside ambushes and suicide bombings.

The bloodshed is in stark contrast with Iraq, where the death rate has been steadily falling, partly due to a U.S. troop surge. There are 40,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan and more than 175,000 in Iraq.

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U.S. House Passes Bill To Prosecute Contractors Working In Combat Zones
2007-10-04 14:26:58
Bill passes on 389 to 30 vote.

The House passed a bill Thursday that would make all private contractors working in Iraq and other combat zones subject to prosecution by U.S. courts. It was the first major legislation of its kind to pass since a deadly shootout last month involving Blackwater employees.

Democrats called the 389-30 vote an indictment of the shooting incident there that left 11 Iraqis dead. Senate Democratic leaders said they planned to follow suit with similar legislation and send a bill to President Bush as soon as possible.

"There is simply no excuse for the de facto legal immunity for tens of thousands of individuals working in countries" on behalf of the United States, said Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas.

The FBI is currently leading an investigation into the Sept. 16 shootout, although administration officials acknowledge they are unsure whether U.S. courts would have jurisdiction in the case or others like it.

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2,700 South African Gold Miners Rescued, More Anticipated
2007-10-04 14:26:14
Some 2,700 gold miners - some singing, some swearing, but most looking dazed - were hauled from deep underground Thursday as efforts continued to bring hundreds more to the surface after an accident crippled an elevator.

There were no casualties when a pressurized air pipe snapped at the mine near Johannesburg and tumbled down a shaft Wednesday, causing extensive damage to an elevator and stranding more than 3,000 miners more than a mile underground.

The trapped workers were bringing brought to the surface in a second, smaller cage in another shaft that can hold about 75 miners at a time. Most of the miners who emerged into the blinding sunlight looked dazed and exhausted, but there were no signs of injuries. The mineworkers union said 500 people were still trapped by evening.

"We nearly died down there," one man yelled as he walked past reporters. "I'd rather leave (the job) than die in the mine."

Sethiri Thibile, who was in the first batch of miners to be rescued about 19 hours after the accident, said there had been no food or water in the mine.

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Secret U.S. Endorsement Of 'Severe' Interrogations
2007-10-04 02:13:32
When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.

But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales' arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency. 

The new opinion, said the officials, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.

Gonzales approved the legal memorandum on “combined effects” over the objections of James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, who was leaving his job after bruising clashes with the White House. Disagreeing with what he viewed as the opinion’s overreaching legal reasoning, Comey told colleagues at the department that they would all be “ashamed” when the world eventually learned of it.

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Australia's Bush Fires Add To Fears About Climate Change
2007-10-04 02:12:43
As the first bush fires of the year rage through Australia’s national forests, concern over climate change and its effects is intensifying among Australians. A telephone survey of more than 1,000 people released Thursday showed that 40 percent of Australians thought that global warming was a greater threat to security than Islamic fundamentalism. Only 20 percent thought it was less serious.

The survey, by the United States Studies Center, based at the University of Sydney, came a day after the government’s most senior scientific body said that rising temperatures and reduced rainfall were inevitable in Australia.

The report brought calls for more resources to be focused on mitigating the effects of future climate change rather than the current policy of concentrating on trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Extreme weather, including a drought that has persisted in some places for six years, has focused the Australian public on climate change, and it is shaping up as a major issue in the general elections that are expected to be called in the next few weeks.

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Tracing The Paths Of 5 Who Died In A Storm Of Gunfire
2007-10-04 02:11:47
Events in Baghdad's Nisoor Square shooting are contested, but it's clear many victims were civilians.

Minutes after noon on Sept. 16, Ali Khalil drove his black motorcycle toward Nisoor Square. Three days earlier, the 54-year-old blacksmith and father of six children had felt safe enough in the capital to reopen his shop.

Osama Fadhil Abbas, a 40-year-old car dealer, was approaching the square in his white truck, on his way to wire $1,000 to Dubai.

Mehasin Muhsin Kadhum, a 46-year-old doctor, and her eldest son, Ahmed Haitham, 20, were nearing the square in their white sedan, after a morning of errands that included picking up college application forms for Kadhum's daughter.

From the southeast, along a road that leads from the Green Zone, a convoy of four armored Blackwater USA  vehicles also made its way to the square.

Fifteen minutes later, the convoy sped away through a thick cloud generated by smoke bombs, leaving behind a tableau of bullet-pocked cars and broken lives. The events of that afternoon are still contested, but what is clear is that many of those killed and wounded were civilians struggling with the vicissitudes of their turbulent nation.

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Burma Junta Warns Of More Arrests
2007-10-04 02:11:08

Burma's military regime kept up the pressure on its people Thursday after last week's bloody crackdown on protesters as the European Union agreed in principle to punish the junta with sanctions.

Troops who last week killed at least 13 and arrested over 1,000 people to suppress the largest pro-democracy protests in nearly 20 years have continued overnight arrests and mounted patrols to strike terror into the population.

"You must stay inside. Don't come out," soldiers said through blaring loudspeakers as they drove around Burma's biggest city, Rangoon. "We have photographs of the people we're looking for. We will arrest them."

In one pre-dawn raid, the regime detained a local United Nations staff member, her husband and two relatives, said U.N. resident coordinator Charles Petrie.

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