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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday October 14 2007 - (813)

Sunday October 14 2007 edition
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Illegal Export Of U.S. Military Technology Is Growing
2007-10-14 03:04:33

Pentagon investigators thought they had discovered a major shipment of contraband when they intercepted parts for F-14 Tomcat warplanes headed to Iran, via FedEx, from Southern California. Under U.S. sanctions since its 1979 revolution, Tehran had been trying for years to illegally obtain spare parts for the fighters, which are used only in Iran.

When agents descended on the Orange County, California, home of Reza Tabib, the 51-year-old former flight instructor at John Wayne Airport who sent the shipment, they were astonished to discover 13,000 other aircraft parts, worth an estimated $540,000, as well as a list of additional requests by an Iranian military officer and two airplane tickets for Tehran.

Caught red-handed, the Iranian-born American citizen pleaded guilty in May and was sentenced to two years in prison.

The Tabib tale is among a growing array of cases either under investigation or being prosecuted for illegally exporting sensitive military equipment, from missile parts and body armor to nuclear submarine technology, according to the Justice Department. Many are destined for groups or countries that target the United States and its allies, such as night-vision equipment destined for Iran and for Lebanon's Hezbollah, and components for improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, used against U.S. troops in Iraq. 

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Editorial: Spies, Lies and FISA
2007-10-14 03:03:57
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Sunday, October 14, 2007.

As Democratic lawmakers try to repair a deeply flawed bill on electronic eavesdropping, the White House is pumping out the same fog of fear and disinformation it used to push the bill through Congress this summer. President Bush has been telling Americans that any change would deny the government critical information, make it easier for terrorists to infiltrate, expose state secrets, and make it harder “to save American lives.”

There is no truth to any of those claims. No matter how often Mr. Bush says otherwise, there is also no disagreement from the Democrats about the need to provide adequate tools to fight terrorists. The debate is over whether this should be done constitutionally, or at the whim of the president.

The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, requires a warrant to intercept international communications involving anyone in the United States. A secret court has granted these warrants quickly nearly every time it has been asked. After 9/11, the Patriot Act made it even easier to conduct surveillance, especially in hot pursuit of terrorists.

But that was not good enough for the Bush team, which was determined to use the nation’s tragedy to grab ever more power for its vision of an imperial presidency. Mr. Bush ignored the FISA law and ordered the National Security Agency to intercept phone calls and e-mail between people abroad and people in the United States without a warrant, as long as “the target” was not in this country.

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Is There Life On A Moon Of Saturn?
2007-10-14 03:03:05
New images of a giant planet's satellites taken by the 10-Year Cassini probe have excited scientists.

They are visions of a unique family of worlds on the other side of the solar system: a moon with lakes of liquid methane: a tiny, rocky world with geysers of water that are being sprayed into space and a strange mottled moon that has been splattered with dark, organic-rich gunk, like a comedian who has been hit by a custard pie.

These bizarre sets of images were released last week as NASA, and the European Space Agency (ESA) prepare to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the launch of their Cassini-Huygens probe to Saturn. Blasted into space on 15 October, 1997, the probe took seven years to reach Saturn. Since then, the robot spacecraft has been delivering stunning photographs of the ringed planet and its fantastic family of moons. "The launch was the start of one of space exploration's great adventures and we didn't really know what we would find," said Professor Andrew Coates, of University College London, who heads one of the U.K. teams involved in Cassini. "Now we are reaping the rewards of nearly 20 years work on the mission and the science continues to be amazing."

The mission's most spectacular moment occurred in December 2004, when its tiny Huygens probe separated from its mother craft, Cassini, and headed towards Saturn's main satellite, Titan, the only moon in the solar system with an atmosphere. Several weeks later, it parachuted down to a landing on its surface and returned close-up images of this weird, distant world.

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Canadian Airlines Say U.S. Homeland Security Plan Violates Canadian Privacy Laws
2007-10-13 16:04:38
Canadian airlines are balking at a U.S. Department of Homeland Security plan that would require them to turn over information about passengers flying over the United States to reach another country.

The proposal, which appears at odds with Canada's privacy laws, would mostly involve Canadians who join the annual winter exodus to Mexico, Cuba and the Caribbean. It is also viewed by the Canadian airline industry as a rejection of several costly measures already taken by the Canadian government to assuage American concerns about air safety.

“I appreciate and respect United States citizens’ concern for their safety and security,” said Fred Gaspar, the vice president of policy and strategic planning for the Air Transport Association of Canada. “But we need to understand what the gap is they need to fix. The only thing you can come up with is very, very generic language about the need for ensuring security. This is pretty dramatically offside with Canadian privacy laws.”

The proposal is part of a broad U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA)  plan known as the Secure Flight Program. Last month, the agency released rules it hopes to impose when it takes over from the airlines the job of matching passenger names with terrorism watch lists and no-fly lists.

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Shadowy Russian Firm In St. Petersburg Seen As Conduit For Cybercrimes
2007-10-13 03:42:35

An Internet business based in St. Petersburg, Russia, has become a world hub for Web sites devoted to child pornography, spamming and identity theft, according to computer security experts. They say Russian authorities have provided little help in efforts to shut down the company.

The Russian Business Network sells Web site hosting to people engaged in criminal activity, say the security experts.

Groups operating through the company's computers are thought to be responsible for about half of last year's incidents of "phishing" - I.D.-theft scams in which cybercrooks use e-mail to lure people into entering personal and financial data at fake commerce and banking sites.

One group of phishers, known as the Rock Group, used the company's network to steal about $150 million from bank accounts last year, according to a report by VeriSign of Mountain View, California, one of the world's largest Internet security firms.

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After The Demonstrations, Burma Returns To Unspoken Terror
2007-10-13 03:41:41
Many of those who took part in pro-democracy demonstrations flee in fear of reprisals by the military.

It's 9:30 p.m. and the buses in downtown Rangoon have stopped running. People scuttle home across the city's potholed roads and broken pavements and the few taxis still operating will only make short trips. With only 30 minutes to curfew, no one takes chances with the Burmese military these days.

Carrying shotguns and assault rifles, teenagers in military and police uniforms cluster at street corners until curfew, then retreat to fenced-off government buildings as darkness settles.

When the residents of this sprawling city of five million people withdraw to their homes, only pick-up trucks carrying troops ply the downtown area, scattering the dogs that take over the empty streets until the curfew ends at 4 a.m.

With the killing of an unknowable number of peaceful protesters and the imprisonment of thousands more during the pro-democracy demonstrations last month, many people fear reprisals by the military. At the Shwedagon pagoda, the nucleus of the protests, the military is still in force. Wearing steel helmets, flak jackets and carrying extra ammunition, the number of troops far exceeds the few old monks who potter among the golden spires of what is the spiritual center  of Burmese life.

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China To Move 4 Million People From Three Gorges Dam Area
2007-10-13 03:40:14
China plans to move at least 4 million people from their homes to ensure the "environmental safety" of the Three Gorges Dam, state media reported Friday.

The shift of a population the size of Ireland's over the next 10 to 15 years will be one of the biggest environmental resettlements in modern history. Yu Yuanmu, Chongqing city vice-mayor, said the move was necessary to protect the ecology of the 400-mile reservoir formed by the dam, according to Xinhua news agency.

"The reservoir area has a vulnerable environment and the natural conditions make large-scale urbanization or serious overpopulation impossible here," he was quoted as saying.
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In China, Lake's Champion Is Silenced
2007-10-14 03:04:20
China treats environmental advocates as bigger threats than the pollution that prompts them to speak out.

Lake Tai, the center of China’s ancient “land of fish and rice,” succumbed this year to floods of industrial and agricultural waste.

Toxic cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as pond scum, turned the big lake fluorescent green. The stench of decay choked anyone who came within a mile of its shores. At least two million people who live amid the canals, rice paddies and chemical plants around the lake had to stop drinking or cooking with their main source of water.

The outbreak confirmed the claims of a crusading peasant, Wu Lihong, who protested for more than a decade that the region’s thriving chemical industry, and its powerful friends in the local government, were destroying one of China’s ecological treasures.

Wu, however, bore silent witness. Shortly before the algae crisis erupted in May, the authorities here in his hometown arrested him. In mid-August, with a fetid smell still wafting off the lake, a local court sentenced him to three years on an alchemy of charges that smacked of official retribution.

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U.S. Tries To Halt Turkey Attack In Iraq
2007-10-14 03:03:42
U.S. diplomats fly to Ankara to stop military move against Iraqi Kurds after "genocide" resolution.

Senior U.S. officials were engaged last night in last-ditch efforts to persuade Turkey not to launch a major military incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan to target armed separatists.

A team was diverted from a mission to Russia to make an unscheduled stop in Ankara Saturday. Against the background of the escalating diplomatic row between Turkey and the U.S. over a congressional resolution that branded as "genocide" massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice revealed she had personally urged Turkey to refrain from any major military operation in northern Iraq.

The row between the two NATO allies comes against the dangerous background of a threat by the Turkish parliament to approve this week a "hot pursuit" of the Kurdish separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK, across the border into northern Iraq.

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Commentary: It's The Oil
2007-10-13 16:04:57
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Jim Holt and appears in the The London Review of Books edition for October 18, 2007. Mr. Holt writes for the New York Times Magazine, and the New Yorker. In his commentary he writes that Bush and Cheney invaded Iraq so that country's vast oil reserves will go to Western oil companies. His commentary follows:

Iraq is "unwinnable", a "quagmire", a "fiasco": so goes the received opinion. Yet there is good reason to think that, from the Bush-Cheney perspective, it is none of these things. Indeed, the U.S. may be "stuck" precisely where Bush et al want it to be, which is why there is no "exit strategy".

Iraq has 115 billion barrels of known oil reserves. That is more than five times the total in the United States. And, because of its long isolation, it is the least explored of the world's oil-rich nations. A mere two thousand wells have been drilled across the entire country; in Texas alone there are a million. It has been estimated, by the Council on Foreign Relations, that Iraq may have a further 220 billion barrels of undiscovered oil; another study puts the figure at 300 billion. If these estimates are anywhere close to the mark, U.S. forces are now sitting on one quarter of the world's oil resources. The value of Iraqi oil, largely light crude with low production costs, would be of the order of $30 trillion at today's prices. For purposes of comparison, the projected total cost of the U.S. invasion/occupation is around $1 trillion.

Who will get Iraq's oil? One of the Bush administration's "benchmarks" for the Iraqi government is the passage of a law to distribute oil revenues. The draft law that the U.S. has written for the Iraqi congress would cede nearly all the oil to Western companies. The Iraq National Oil Company would retain control of 17 of Iraq's 80 existing oilfields, leaving the rest - including all yet to be discovered oil - under foreign corporate control for 30 years. "The foreign companies would not have to invest their earnings in the Iraqi economy," the analyst Antonia Juhasz wrote in the New York Times in March, after the draft law was leaked. "They could even ride out Iraq's current 'instability' by signing contracts now, while the Iraqi government is at its weakest, and then wait at least two years before even setting foot in the country." As negotiations over the oil law stalled in September, the provincial government in Kurdistan simply signed a separate deal with the Dallas-based Hunt Oil Company, headed by a close political ally of President Bush.

How will the U.S. maintain hegemony over Iraqi oil? By establishing permanent military bases in Iraq. Five self-sufficient "super-bases" are in various stages of completion. All are well away from the urban areas where most casualties have occurred. There has been precious little reporting on these bases in the American press, whose dwindling corps of correspondents in Iraq cannot move around freely because of the dangerous conditions. (It takes a brave reporter to leave the Green Zone without a military escort.) In February last year, the Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks described one such facility, the Balad Air Base, forty miles north of Baghdad. A piece of (well-fortified) American suburbia in the middle of the Iraqi desert, Balad has fast-food joints, a miniature golf course, a football field, a cinema and distinct neighborhoods - among them, "KBR-land", named after the Halliburton subsidiary that has done most of the construction work at the base. Although few of the 20,000 American troops stationed there have ever had any contact with an Iraqi, the runway at the base is one of the world's busiest. "We are behind only Heathrow right now," an air force commander told Ricks.

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Former Qwest CEO Says NSA Punished Company For Refusal To Participate In Warrantless Surveillance Program
2007-10-13 03:42:57
NSA wanted company to participate in warrantless surveillance of Americans seven months before 9/11 attacks, according to court documents.

A former Qwest Communications International executive, appealing a conviction for insider trading, has alleged that the government withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars after Qwest refused to participate in an unidentified National Security Agency (NSA) program that the company thought might be illegal.

Former chief executive Joseph P. Nacchio, convicted in April of 19 counts of insider trading, said the NSA approached Qwest more than six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to court documents unsealed in Denver, Colorado, this week.

Details about the alleged NSA program have been redacted from the documents, but Nacchio's lawyer said last year that the NSA had approached the company about participating in a warrantless surveillance program to gather information about Americans' phone records.

In the court filings disclosed this week, Nacchio suggests that Qwest's refusal to take part in that program led the government to cancel a separate, lucrative contract with the NSA in retribution. He is using the allegation to try to show why his stock sale should not have been considered improper.

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As Logging Fades, Rich Carve Up Open Land In West
2007-10-13 03:42:03
With the timber industry in decline, some new investors are snapping up open spaces to be private playgrounds.

William P. Foley II pointed to the mountain. Owns it, mostly. A timber company began logging in view of his front yard a few years back. He thought they were cutting too much, so he bought the land.

Foley belongs to a new wave of investors and landowners across the West who are snapping up open spaces as private playgrounds on the borders of national parks and national forests.

In style and temperament, this new money differs greatly from the Western land barons of old - the timber magnates, copper kings and cattlemen who created the extraction-based economy that dominated the region for a century.

Foley, 62, standing by his private pond, his horses grazing in the distance, proudly calls himself a conservationist who wants Montana to stay as wild as possible. That does not mean no development and no profit. Foley, the chairman of a major title insurance company, Fidelity National Financial, based in Florida, also owns a chain of Montana restaurants, a ski resort and a huge cattle ranch on which he is building homes.

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Putin Warns: We Will Dump Missile Treaty
2007-10-13 03:40:35
Russia's president tells Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates that missile deal "must cover China and India".

Vladimir Putin warned Friday that Russia was considering withdrawing from a major cold war arms treaty banning intermediate nuclear missiles unless it was expanded to include other states.

President Putin said that Moscow was planning to dump the intermediate range nuclear forces treaty (INF) - signed in a landmark deal between the U.S. and Soviet Union in 1987 - unless countries such as China were included in its provisions.

His comments came during talks in Moscow Friday involving U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, and Defense Minister, Anatoly Serdyukov.

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