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Monday, October 22, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday October 22 2007 - (813)

Monday October 22 2007 edition
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News Analysis: With Wall Street Slowing, Uncertainty Descends
2007-10-22 01:04:46
Now that the biggest firms on Wall Street, widely regarded as the economic engines of New York City, have begun to sputter, economists and city officials are beginning to fear that the city’s run of steady growth will stall.

One big bank after another has announced shrinking profits, job cuts or both. And the gloomy reports are dashing hopes that large year-end bonus checks for investment bankers and traders would continue to fuel the local economy.

The latest psychic blow came on Thursday when the chief executive of Bank of America hinted that his company might reverse the expansion of its investment banking operations after suffering big trading losses in the last three months. That warning seemed particularly ominous because the bank, based in North Carolina, is building a $1 billion office tower on 42nd Street to herald its arrival as an important player in the financial capital of the country.

With the tally of casualties from the turmoil in the financial markets mounting, analysts are rethinking their predictions of a gradual cooling of the local economy.

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Kurds Cross From Iraq, Kill 17 Turkish Troops
2007-10-22 01:04:11
Pre-dawn attack ratchets up pressure on Turkish govt. to launch a military offensive into Iraq as U.S. says its troops killed 49 fighters in Sadr City.

An audacious cross-border ambush by Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq killed at least 17 Turkish soldiers Sunday, ratcheting up pressure on the Turkish government to launch a military offensive into Iraq.

The pre-dawn attack took place as the U.S. military said its troops killed 49 fighters in Baghdad's Sadr City  neighborhood, one of the highest death tolls for a military operation since President Bush declared an end to active combat in 2003.

Iraqi officials and residents of the vast Shiite enclave, loyal to powerful anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, said 13 people were killed and all of the victims were innocent civilians, including children. They warned that the attack could lead Sadr to rescind a suspension of his militia's operations.

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Dry Growth Fuels Wildfires Across Southern California
2007-10-22 01:03:22
More than a dozen firestorms consume up to 35,000 acres throughout southern California; one person is killed and at least 10 people are injured.

More than a dozen wind-driven firestorms consumed up to 35,000 acres across Southern California Sunday, including a vast expanse of northern Los Angeles County where 10 structures were destroyed, 800 homes were evacuated and additional 3,800 residences were threatened.

The fires raced through dry growth in hilly terrain stretching from Santa Barbara County to the Mexican border. In San Diego County, one person was killed and at least 14 injured, four of them firefighters.

Near the 14 Freeway leading to Palmdale, three people suffered burn injuries in the so-called Buckweed Fire, which began near Agua Dulce and leapfrogged through the hills, starting new flare-ups that threatened subdivisions in Canyon Country and surrounding areas.

Firefighters were battling the blaze along a 15- to 20-mile fire line. The fire had burned 10,000 acres by evening with no containment in sight. Winds near the fire lines were whipping up to 80 mph, and officials predicted they could intensify overnight. The blaze moved so quickly that fire officials had to relocate their command center five times to keep up with the advancing flames.
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Federal Trade Commission Balks At Intel Investigation
2007-10-22 01:02:13
The head of the Federal Trade Commission has rejected requests by lawmakers, other commissioners and a small rival company to open a formal antitrust investigation of Intel, the world’s largest maker of computer microprocessors, for anticompetitive conduct, said government officials and lawyers involved in the proceeding.

In recent weeks, regulators in Korea and with the European Commission have separately accused Intel of antitrust violations by offering large discounts to computer makers in exchange for their not using products by the rival company, Advanced Micro Devices (A.M.D.) which has struggled to compete and has waged a global antitrust campaign against Intel. Japanese officials made similar accusations in 2005.

The trade commission has been conducting an informal review of A.M.D.’s complaints for more than a year, gathering thousands of documents from Intel and its customers. But the commission’s chairwoman, Deborah P. Majoras, has rejected requests to elevate the inquiry to a formal investigation, which would give staff members the authority to issue subpoenas and compel testimony from executives of the companies involved.

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Energy Traders Avoid Scrutiny - Making Manipulation Of Energy Prices Difficult To Detect
2007-10-21 03:33:21
Commodity trading is exploding in complexity and popularity with almost no oversight, as federal regulators struggle to keep up.

One year ago, a 32-year-old trader at a giant hedge fund named Amaranth held huge sway over the price the country paid for natural gas. Trading on unregulated commodity exchanges, he made risky bets that led to the fund's collapse - and, according to a congressional investigation, higher gas bills for homeowners.

Still, as another winter approaches, lawmakers and federal regulators have yet to set up a system to prevent another big fund from cornering a vital commodity market. Called by some insiders the Wild West of Wall Street, commodity trading is a world where many goods that are key to national security or public consumption, such as oil, pork bellies or uranium, are traded with almost no oversight.

Part of the problem is that the regulator, the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission, has had a hard time keeping up with the sector it oversees. Commodity trading has exploded in complexity and popularity, growing six-fold in trading volume since 2000 - the year that a handful of giant energy companies, including Enron, successfully lobbied to get Congress to exempt energy markets from government regulation.

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Tighter Border Delays Re-entry By U.S. Citizens
2007-10-21 03:32:53
United States border agents have stepped up scrutiny of Americans returning home from Mexico, slowing commerce and creating delays at border crossings not seen since the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The increased enforcement is in part a dress rehearsal for new rules, scheduled to take effect in January, that will require Americans to show a passport or other proof of citizenship to enter the United States. The requirements were approved by Congress as part of antiterrorism legislation in 2004.

Border officials said agents along the southern border were asking more returning United States citizens to show a photo identity document. At the same time, agents are increasing the frequency of what they call queries, where they check a traveler’s information against law enforcement, immigration and antiterror databases.

The new policy is a big shift after decades when Americans arrived at land crossings, declared they were citizens and were waved through. Since the authorities began ramping up enforcement in August, wait times at border stations in Texas have often stretched to two hours or more, discouraging visitors and shoppers and upsetting business.

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3 More UAW Locals Reject Contract With Chrysler
2007-10-21 03:32:16
Workers at three more local unions of the United Auto Workers (UAW) have rejected a tentative contract agreement between the UAW and Chrysler, even as union leaders from Detroit, Michigan,spent the latter part of the week lobbying for yes votes.

The contract was rebuffed Saturday at Local 110 in Fenton, Missouri, one of Chrysler's largest, with 2,781 hourly workers at the South Assembly Plant. A recording at the Local 110 union hall said Saturday that 66 percent of skilled-trades workers voted against the contract, while 79 percent of non-skilled workers opposed it. It did not mention the number of workers who voted.

Local unions in Newark, Delaware, and Twinsburg, Ohio, also voted no, in both cases by smaller margins than in Missouri. 

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China's Vice President Steps Down
2007-10-21 03:31:47
China's politically powerful vice president stepped down Sunday amid a reshuffling of the Communist Party leadership, removing from office a potential challenger to President Hu Jintao's unrivaled authority.

Closing out a week-long party congress, delegates selected a new Central Committee, a body that approves leadership positions and sets broad policy goals. Vice President Zeng Qinghong not among those selected, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

Zeng's absence means he cannot be in the Politburo or its Standing Committee, the powerful grouping that runs China, whose members will be approved by the Central Committee on Monday.

Aside from Zeng, Xinhua said two other Standing Committee members, the defense minister and two vice premiers were among the more senior officials stepping aside. No reasons were given but all were either over or near the party's preferred, but not mandatory, retirement age.

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15 Bodies Recovered In Mexico Shipwreck
2007-10-21 03:29:57
Authorities have recovered the bodies of 15 Central American migrants whose boat capsized in the Pacific Ocean, the Mexican navy said on Saturday. The vessel was believed to be carrying more than 20 migrants.

Survivor Noemi Martinez, 29, of El Salvador, said the boat departed from Guatemala and capsized Tuesday with more than 20 people aboard, according to Moises Hernandez, regional commander for ministerial police in Oaxaca.

State authorities identified the only other known survivor as Salvadoran Walter Alan, 23.

Search efforts were suspended on Saturday because of heavy rain that flooded rivers and creeks. Earlier, a military helicopter searched the sea while state authorities combed the beach near the towns of San Francisco Ixhuatan and San Francisco del Mar, about 200 miles from the Guatemalan border.

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Polar Melting Occurs At Alarming Rate
2007-10-22 01:04:25
For scientists, global warming is a disaster movie come to life with first scenes set at Earth's poles.

For scientists, global warming is a disaster movie, its opening scenes set at the poles of Earth. The epic already has started. And it's not fiction.

The scenes are playing, at the start, in slow motion: The relentless grip of the Arctic Ocean that defied man for centuries is melting away. The sea ice reaches only half as far as it did 50 years ago. In the summer of 2006, it shrank to a record low; this summer the ice pulled back even more, by an area nearly the size of Alaska. Where explorer Robert Peary just 102 years ago saw "a great white disk stretching away apparently infinitely" from Ellesmere Island, there is often nothing now but open water. Glaciers race into the sea from the island of Greenland, beginning an inevitable rise in the oceans.

Animals are on the move. Polar bears, kings of the Arctic, now search for ice on which to hunt and bear young. Seals, walrus and fish adapted to the cold are retreating north. New species - salmon, crabs, even crows - are coming from the south. The Inuit, who have lived on the frozen land for millennia, are seeing their houses sink into once-frozen mud, and their hunting trails on the ice are pocked with sinkholes.

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Inch By Inch, Great Lakes Are Getting Smaller, And Cargo Carriers Face Losses
2007-10-22 01:03:47
From his office at the port in Oswego, New York, Jonathan Daniels stared at a watermark etched on the rocks that hug one of the commercial piers - a thick dark line several inches above the surface of Lake Ontario - and wondered how much lower the water would dip.

“What we need is some rain,” said Daniels, director of the Port of Oswego Authority, one of a dozen public port agencies on the United States side of the Great Lakes. “The more we lose water, the less cargo the ships that travel in the Great Lakes can carry, and each time that happens, shipping companies lose money,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s people like you and I who are going to pay the price.”

Water levels in the Great Lakes are falling; Lake Ontario, for example, is about seven inches below where it was a year ago. And for every inch of water that the lakes lose, the ships that ferry bulk materials across them must lighten their loads by 270 tons - or 540,000 pounds - or risk running aground, according to the Lake Carriers’ Association, a trade group for United States-flag cargo companies.

As a result, more ships are needed, adding millions of dollars to shipping companies’ operating costs, experts in maritime commerce estimate.

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U.S. Planners: Shiite Militias Are Rising Threat To U.S. In Iraq
2007-10-22 01:03:03
Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassasor Ryan C. Crocker have concluded that Shiite extremists pose a rising threat to the U.S. effort in Iraq, as the relative influence of Sunni insurgent groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq has diminished drastically due to ongoing U.S. operations.

This judgment forms part of the changes that Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, approved last week to their classified campaign strategy for the country, which covers the period through summer 2009. The updated plan anticipates shifting the U.S. military effort to focus more on countering Shiite militias - some backed by Iran - that have generated new violence as they battle for power in the south and elsewhere in Iraq, said senior military and diplomatic officials familiar with the plan.

"As the Sunni insurgents quit fighting us, the problems we have with criminality and other militia, many of them Shia, become relatively more important," said a U.S. Embassy official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan is not finalized.

The plan also acknowledges that the U.S. military - with limited time and troops - cannot guarantee a wholesale defeat of its enemies in Iraq, and instead is seeking "political accommodation" to persuade them to end the use of violence, the officials said.

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Pro-Business Party Wins Poland Election
2007-10-22 01:01:58
A pro-business opposition party that wants Poland's troops out of Iraq ousted Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's government in parliamentary elections Sunday, as Poles opted for leadership offering a more cooperative approach to the European Union (E.U.).

Donald Tusk's Civic Platform party led with 40 percent of the vote after 32 percent of the ballots were counted early Monday, which would give the party 194 seats in the 460-seat Sejm lower house.

That would be short of the 231 needed for a majority - but close enough for it to join with a smaller party to form a government.

"Today I am the happiest person in the world," a teary-eyed Tusk told supporters. "People in Poland voted today to choose their own fate and have put a great responsibility, a great task on our shoulders. We undertake this great responsibility."

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Global Economic Slowdown Fears As Oil Prices Soar
2007-10-21 03:33:05
OPEC under fire as U.S. crude nears $100 a barrel.

Finance ministers from the G7 nations issued a blunt warning this weekend that rising energy costs and the American housing crisis will put the brakes on the global economy over the next 12 months, as oil prices surged towards $100 a barrel.

Crude prices have smashed a series of records in recent weeks, as the producers' cartel, OPEC, gambles that oil-consuming countries can withstand a fresh jump in costs. U.S. crude for November delivery touched $90 a barrel on Friday.

At the same time, equity prices on both sides of the Atlantic plunged and the dollar hit new lows against global currencies amid pessimism that the fallout from the U.S. sub-prime crisis will spread well beyond the housing sector.

Gathering in Washington, D.C., on the fringes of the International Monetary Fund's annual meeting, G7 finance ministers issued a statement saying that the fundamentals of the world economy remain strong, but the U.S. housing downturn and high oil prices will hit growth.

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Bhutto Defiant As Bomb Suspects Held
2007-10-21 03:32:32
The terror outrage could strengthen ties between Benazir Bhutto and Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Even her supporters call it "blind faith". In a Karachi mortuary last week it was a faith articulated by Rustam, a poor Sindhi farmer, who choked back tears as he searched for the body of his slain brother. "If we have to, I will sacrifice 10 more brothers," he said.

Last week the growing political cult of Benazir Bhutto was cemented in the most terrible way, amid bomb blasts and bloodshed, during a rapturous return to Pakistan, the country from which she was exiled. Suddenly a persecution which seemed soft and unshaped during her years of exile has been given a hard edge by events.

"What I really need to ask myself," Bhutto told the BBC in the wake of the explosion which killed 138 of her supporters, "is, do I give up, do I let the militants determine the agenda?" She has decided to fight the parliamentary elections due in mid-January.
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Obama Calls For Ouster Of Justice Dept. Official After Remark
2007-10-21 03:32:03
U.S. Senator Barack Obama said the leader of the civil rights division of the Justice Department should step down after suggesting that minority voters were not widely disenfranchised by laws requiring photo identification because many members of minorities died before reaching old age.

“This administration has shown very little interest in making sure that all people have equal access to the ballot box,” Obama said in a telephone interview. “It’s important for all of us to embrace the basic notion that we should try to make voting easier, not harder.”

Obama, an Illinois Democrat who is seeking his party’s presidential nomination, was responding to a remark made by John Tanner, the chief of the Justice Department’s civil rights division. In a speech to a Latino group earlier this month in Los Angeles, Tanner said that a disproportionate share of elderly minority voters did not have identification, but added that it was not a widespread problem because of their life expectancy.

“Creating problems for elderly persons just is not good under any circumstance,” Tanner told the National Latino Congreso, according to a video posted on YouTube. “Of course, that also ties into the racial aspect because our society is such that minorities don’t become elderly the way white people do. They die first.”

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Israel Shaken By Troops' Tales Of Brutality Against Palestinians
2007-10-21 03:31:20
A psychologist blames assaults on civilians in the 1990s on soldiers' bad training, boredom and poor supervision.

A study by an Israeli psychologist into the violent behavior of the country's soldiers is provoking bitter controversy and has awakened urgent questions about the way the army conducts itself in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Nufar Yishai-Karin, a clinical psychologist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, interviewed 21 Israeli soldiers and heard confessions of frequent brutal assaults against Palestinians, aggravated by poor training and discipline. In her recently published report, co-authored by Professor Yoel Elizur, Yishai-Karin details a series of violent incidents, including the beating of a four-year-old boy by an officer.

The report, although dealing with the experience of soldiers in the 1990s, has triggered an impassioned debate in Israel, where it was published in an abbreviated form in the newspaper Haaretz last month. According to Yishai Karin: "At one point or another of their service, the majority of the interviewees enjoyed violence. They enjoyed the violence because it broke the routine and they liked the destruction and the chaos. They also enjoyed the feeling of power in the violence and the sense of danger."
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