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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday October 27 2007 - (813)

Saturday October 27 2007 edition
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3 States Competing For Water From Dwindling Lake Lanier
2007-10-27 03:55:30
Georgia, Alabama and Florida each petition federal government for larger share of lake's water.

No gauges are necessary at Lake Lanier to measure the ravages of the Southeast's drought.

Wooden fishing docks tower 10 feet over dried mud that used to be squishy lake bottom. Boat ramps begin at the parking lot and end in sand. New islands emerge from shallows.

"If the water drops another foot, I don't know that anyone will be able to get a boat in," said Mike Boyle, 64, a resident who has long trolled the lake for spotted and striped bass.

The waters of Lake Lanier, funneled through federal dams along the Chattahoochee River, sustain about 2.8 million people in the Atlanta, Georgia,metropolitan area, a nuclear power plant that lights up much of Alabama, and the marine life in Florida's Apalachicola River and Bay.

Now, amid one of the worst droughts on record, all three places feel uncomfortably close to running dry. That has prompted a three-state fight that has simmered for years to erupt into testy exchanges over which one has the right to the lake's dwindling water supply and which one is or is not doing its share to conserve it.

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Even U.S. Diplomats Don't Want To Go To Iraq
2007-10-27 03:53:50
State Dept. to order as many as 50 diplomats to Iraq.

The State Department will order as many as 50 U.S. diplomats to take posts in Iraq next year because of expected shortfalls in filling openings there, the first such large-scale forced assignment since the Vietnam War.

On Monday, 200 to 300 employees will be notified of their selection as "prime candidates" for 50 open positions in Iraq, said Harry K. Thomas, director general of the Foreign Service. Some are expected to respond by volunteering, he said. However, if an insufficient number volunteers by Nov. 12, a department panel will determine which ones will be ordered to report to the Baghdad embassy next summer.

"If people say they want to go to Iraq, we will take them," Thomas said in an interview. But "we have to move now, because we can't hold up the process." Those on the list were selected by factors including grade, specialty and language skill, as well as "people who have not had a recent hardship tour," he said.

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U.S. Consumer Safety Panel Has Trouble Forcing Recall Of ATVs For Children
2007-10-27 03:52:52
Panel says ATV's are "defective and dangerous" and put childen at risk of injury or death.

In June, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an unusual warning about a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle designed for children, calling it "defective and dangerous."

"Children are at risk of injury or death due to multiple safety defects with this off-road vehicle," the agency said in a news release.

That vehicle, the Kazuma Meerkat 50, was not recalled, however, which prompted consumer advocates to raise the question: If it was so dangerous, why did the CPSC allow it to remain on the market?

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Keeping Blackwater Actions Quiet
2007-10-26 15:08:17
U.S. State Dept. e-mails show officials tried to deflect a Los Angeles Times inquiry into a 2005 incident involving security contractor.

Even as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended her department's oversight of private security contractors, new evidence surfaced Thursday that the U.S. sought to conceal details of Blackwater shootings of Iraqi civilians more than two years ago.

In one instance, internal e-mails show that State Department officials tried to deflect a 2005 Los Angeles Times inquiry into an alleged killing of an Iraqi civilian by Blackwater guards.

"Give [the Los Angeles Times] what we can and then dump the rest on Blackwater," one State Department official wrote to another in the e-mails, which were obtained by ABC News. "We can't win this one."

One department official taking part in a chain of e-mails noted that the "findings of the investigation are to remain off-limits to the reporter." Another recommended that there be no mention of the existence of a criminal investigation since such a reference would "raise questions and issues."

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Security Forces In Battle At Pakistan Cleric's Stronghold
2007-10-26 15:06:43
Pakistani security forces exchanged heavy gunfire with militants at the sprawling seminary of an increasingly powerful extremist cleric in the troubled North-West Frontier Province Friday, according to regional police officials.

The fighting was in the same region where a bomb attack on Thursday killed 17 members of a civil armed guard and 3 civilians.

The cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, is also known as Maulana Radio for his illegal radio broadcasts urging Taliban-style Islamic law. The provincial government deployed 2,500 troops to the area, known as Swat, two days ago, to join army forces trying to quell the rise of extremism the cleric has fostered. He is believed to have gone underground since the troops arrived.

Swat, once a peaceful tourist area, has been transformed in the past few months by a series of deadly bombings that have been aimed at civilians. The cleric is believed to have 4,500 armed followers.

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Astronauts Add New Room To Space Station
2007-10-26 15:06:14
Astronauts added the newest room to the International Space Station this morning. Working both outside the station and within it, the astronauts moved the Harmony module, which will serve as a connection point for two new laboratories for the station, to a temporary location on the side of the station.

The space station’s robot arm, operated by Stephanie Wilson and Daniel Tani, smoothly moved the 16-ton module out of the shuttle and onto the station, where automatic bolts secured it in place in a temporary home on the left side of the station’s living quarters.

The work outside was more strenuous. Astronauts Scott E. Parazynski and Douglas Wheelock began their spacewalk shortly after 6 a.m. Eastern time. They prepared the Harmony module for its removal from the shuttle’s payload bay and performed some of the preliminary work for the other big task of the mission, moving an enormous set of solar arrays and the truss they stand on from their initial position atop the station to the permanent home on the far end of the truss on the station’s left side.

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Experts: U.S. Military Strike On Iran Would Have Dire Consequences On Oil Market
2007-10-26 01:33:23
A U.S. military strike against Iran would have dire consequences in petroleum markets, say a variety of oil industry experts, many of whom think the prospect of pandemonium in those markets makes U.S. military action unlikely despite escalating economic sanctions imposed by the Bush administration.

The small amount of excess oil production capacity worldwide would provide an insufficient cushion if armed conflict disrupted supplies, oil experts say, and petroleum prices would skyrocket. Moreover, a wounded or angry Iran could easily retaliate against oil facilities from southern Iraq to the Strait of Hormuz.

Oil prices closed at a record $90.46 a barrel in New York Thursday as the Bush administration tightened U.S. financial sanctions on Iran over its alleged support for terrorism and issued new warnings about Tehran's nuclear program. Tension between Turkey and Kurds in northern Iraq, and fresh doubts about OPEC output levels also helped drive the price of oil up $3.36 a barrel, or 3.8 percent.

Although the Bush administration is not openly threatening a military strike against Iran, the president recently spoke of needing to avoid "World War III," and Vice President Cheney said that the United States would "not stand by" while Iran continued its nuclear program. "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," he said.

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Sluggish U.S. Economy Keeps Dollar Vulnerable
2007-10-26 01:32:47
The dollar was under pressure on the foreign exchanges Thursday as fresh evidence of the weakness of the U.S. economy intensified speculation about a cut in interest rates from the Federal Reserve next week.

Data for durable goods orders, weekly jobless claims and sales of new homes all increased expectation on Wall Street that the U.S. central bank would ignore the plight of the greenback and take steps to boost the economy.

The dollar was Thursday within a whisker of its record low against the euro and trading at around $2.05 against the British pound.

A sharp drop in Pentagon orders for new planes was the main factor behind the 1.7% drop in durable goods orders last month, but analysts pointed out that even when volatile goods such as military hardware and aircraft were stripped out orders were 5.6% lower than a year ago.

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U.S. Nuclear Submarine Commander Removed
2007-10-26 01:32:06
The commanding officer of the nuclear-powered submarine USS Hampton was relieved of his duty Thursday because of a loss of confidence in his leadership, said the Navy.

Cmdr. Michael B. Portland was relieved of duty after a U.S. Navy investigation found the ship failed to do daily safety checks on its nuclear reactor for a month and falsified records to cover up the omission.

''His oversight of the crew's performance did not identify these issues'' on his own, Navy Lt. Alli Myrick, a public affairs officer, told the Associated Press. Portland's commanders identified the problems during a routine review, she said.

It appears from a preliminary investigation on the Hampton that sailors in Submarine Squadron 11 had skipped the required analysis of the chemical and radiological properties of the submarine's reactor for more than a month, even though a daily check is required.

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'Not Worth Another Soldier's Life'
2007-10-27 03:55:06
U.S. unit returns tired, bitter and skeptical after 14 months in Baghdad district riven by sectarian violence.

Their line of tan Humvees and Bradley Fighting Vehicles creeps through another Baghdad afternoon. At this pace, an excruciating slowness, they strain to see everything, hoping the next manhole cover, the next rusted barrel, does not hide another bomb. A few bullets pass overhead, but they don't worry much about those.

"I hate this road," someone says over the radio.

They stop, look around. The streets of Sadiyah are deserted again. To the right, power lines slump down into the dirt. To the left, what was a soccer field is now a pasture of trash, combusting and smoking in the sun. Packs of skinny wild dogs trot past walls painted with slogans of sectarian hate.

A bomb crater blocks one lane, so they cross to the other side, where houses are blackened by fire, shops crumbled into bricks. The remains of a car bomb serve as hideous public art. Sgt. Victor Alarcon's Humvee rolls into a vast pool of knee-high brown sewage water - the soldiers call it Lake Havasu, after the Arizona spring-break party spot - that seeps in the doors of the vehicle and wets his boots.

"When we first got here, all the shops were open. There were women and children walking out on the street," Alarcon said this week. "The women were in Western clothing. It was our favorite street to go down because of all the hot chicks."

That was 14 long months ago, when the soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division,  arrived in southwestern Baghdad. It was before their partners in the Iraqi National Police became their enemies and before Shiite militiamen, aligned with the police, attempted to exterminate a neighborhood of middle-class Sunni families.

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CIA's 'Ghost Prisoners' Fade Into Obscurity
2007-10-27 03:53:08
Since agency emptied overseas secret prisons in Sept. 2006, dozens of inmates have been detained in home countries or vanished without a trace.

On Sept. 6, 2006, President Bush announced that the CIA's overseas secret prisons had been temporarily emptied and 14 al-Qaeda leaders taken to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Since then, there has been no official accounting of what happened to about 30 other "ghost prisoners" who spent extended time in the custody of the CIA.

Some have been secretly transferred to their home countries, where they remain in detention and out of public view, according to interviews in Pakistan and Europe with government officials, human rights groups and lawyers for the detainees. Others have disappeared without a trace and may or may not still be under CIA control.

The bulk of the ghost prisoners were captured in Pakistan, where they scattered after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan  in 2001.

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Childrens' Cold Medicines Were Questioned For Years
2007-10-26 15:08:31
Recent finding raises question: How could medicines stay on the market without any proof they work?

For years, Joshua Sharfstein shuddered whenever he walked down a drugstore aisle lined with cough and cold products for babies and toddlers.

"It never ceased to aggravate me," said Sharfstein, a pediatrician and father of two young boys. "Kids with colds were getting these medicines that had never been shown to be either effective or safe."

So when Sharfstein became Baltimore, Maryland's health commissioner, he launched a campaign that led an expert panel of the Food and Drug Administration to conclude last week that the products should not be used in children younger than 6, shocking many parents and setting up a possible clash between the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry, which is vowing to continue selling the products.

The case has also raised many questions: How could the products remain on the market for so long without proof they work? Why didn't the FDA act sooner? Why didn't the medical establishment warn parents? Are there other medications in a similar situation?

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In California, Santiago Fire Flares, 750 Homes In Jeopardy
2007-10-26 15:08:07
Crews try to keep the fast-moving Orange County blase from backing down into Silverado Canyon or reaching Riverside County. Contain ment still just 30%.

The Santiago fire in Orange County continued to rage this morning in the Santa Ana Mountains, threatening 750 homes in Silverado Canyon, advancing on critical communication equipment atop Modjeska Peak and moving quickly toward Riverside County.

Though hampered by shifting winds, rugged terrain and the forest's bone-dry 100-year-old growth, firefighters were trying to contain the fire from backing down into Silverado Canyon and jumping a ridgeline and heading toward Lake Elsinore.

The fire's containment remained at 30%, despite the work of 1,100 firefighters, 110 fire engines, three helicopters, four air tankers, 21 hand crews, and 10 bulldozers.
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Countrywide Financial Corp. Posts $1.2 Billion Loss
2007-10-26 15:06:28
Countrywide Fiancial Corp. lost $1.2 billion in the third quarter, but its shares soared Friday after the nation's largest mortgage lender said it expects to be profitable this quarter and next year.

It was Countrywide's first quarterly loss in 25 years.

But the Calabasas, Calif.-based company said it will be profitable in the fourth quarter and in 2008, as it restructures its business to take advantage of the current market.

''We continue to be bullish about the longterm prospects of both Countrywide and our industry.'' Chairman and Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo said during a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

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U.S. Congress Warns Of Mortgage Catastrophe
2007-10-26 01:33:37
"We are headed for billions in lost wealth."

America's sub-prime mortgage crisis is likely to claim the homes of two million families according to an influential congressional committee which warned Thursday that foreclosures pose a grave threat to the U.S. economy.

A "tidal wave" of repossessions could cost a total of $71 billion (£34.61 billion) for homeowners unable to hang on to their properties, plus a knock-on downward effect of $32 billion on the value of neighboring homes, the joint economic committee of Congress predicted.

The figures far outstrip the White House's estimate of 500,000 foreclosures. They are likely to heighten concern that slumping house prices may shatter consumer confidence, causing a drop in high-street spending and pushing America into recession.

The committee's chairman, Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York), said: "From New York to California, we are headed for billions in lost wealth, property values and tax revenues. The current tidal wave of foreclosures will soon turn into a tsunami of losses and debt for families and communities."

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Supply Worries Push Oil Above $90, Stocks End Flat
2007-10-26 01:33:02

Oil prices closed above the symbolic level of $90 a barrel Thursday, pushed up by a host of concerns, from tensions in the Middle East to worries about supply.

Crude oil futures jumped $3.36, to close at $90.46 a barrel, exceeding the highs reached last week, though still shy of the inflation-adjusted record price of $101.70 set in April 1980.

Concern over supplies helped drive the price increase after the Energy Department reported two days ago that crude oil stockpiles fell last week. Additionally, traders reacted to reports Thursday that oil shipments from the Middle East were expected to grow more slowly than expected.

Hostilities between Turkey and Iraqi Kurds contributed to the sudden spike, along with a decision by the United States to impose new sanctions against Iran. Prices were also pushed up by expectations that the Federal Reserve would cut its benchmark interest rate next week, which could strengthen American economic growth and therefore contribute to rising oil demand, said analysts.

“It’s almost like a perfect storm,” said Fadel Gheit, managing director of oil and gas research at Oppenheimer Funds.

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BP Accepts Blame For U.S. Disasters, Agrees To $373 Million In Fines
2007-10-26 01:32:26
BP pleads guilty to Texas explosion felony, Alaska oil leaks and market rigging.

The oil company BP Thursday accepted blame for failures to protect employees, the environment and consumers as it agreed to hand over a total of $373 million to settle a string of criminal investigations into its conduct across America.

In an apparent effort to put lapses under the leadership of Lord Browne behind it, BP struck a broad deal with the U.S. Department of Justice to address the catastrophic 2005 explosion at its Texas City refinery, last year's oil leaks from an Alaskan pipeline and a pattern of manipulation of propane prices by BP's commodity traders.

In Washington, D.C., officials from six U.S. law enforcement bodies gathered to announce the company's guilty pleas.

The acting attorney general, Peter Keisler, said the deal demonstrated the U.S. government's commitment to enforce laws to protect the integrity of both financial markets and the environment.

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