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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday October 28 2007 - (813)

Sunday October 28 2007 edition
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Commentary: Disasters In The Making
2007-10-28 04:01:00
Intellpuke: The following commenatry was written by Matthew Yglesias and appeared in the Guardian edition for Friday, October 26, 2007. In his commentary, Mr. Yglesias writes that California's wildfire preparedness reflects how America's preparedness system privileges the needs and interests of the rich over those of the poor. Mr. Yglesias is staff writer at the American Prospect and author of an eponymous blog. His writing has also appeared in Foreign Policy, Slate and the New York Times Magazine. His commentary follows:

Horrible as the disaster currently unfolding as southern California may be, and as striking the parallel images of huddled masses of refugees finding shelter in a huge stadium, the wildfires have surprisingly little in common with Hurricane Katrina in terms of the efficacy of the disaster response. To some, this merely seems to confirm their initial worst suspicions about the roots of the hurricane fiasco: that George Bush, as Kanye West put it at the time, doesn't care about black people.

After all, San Diego County, the main locus of the wildfire disaster, is predominantly white, somewhat below average in its poverty rate, and inhabited by more than its fair share of rich people. New Orleans, by contrast, despite its handful of picturesque neighborhoods, was mostly black and suffered from a sky-high 28% poverty rate.

The Washington Post editorial page, always happy to leap to the defense of powers that be, has been quick to shut such talk down,dismissing it as simplistic. Their alternative explanation, however, that "Californians have something that Louisianans, in particular those in New Orleans, didn't have when they needed it most: leadership, in this case from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the San Diego mayor on down." In other words: New Orleans suffered from bad state and local elected officials, whereas San Diego had good ones. Given that San Diego has a Republican mayor and a Republican governor, whereas New Orleans had a Democratic mayor and a Democratic governor, this particular line seems curiously well-designed to serve as a post facto rehabilitation of the GOP's reputation after Katrina did so much to damage - deservedly - the conservative brand.

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California Does It Again - Sets Record For Home Foreclosures
2007-10-28 04:00:40
The third-quarter's total surpasses 24,000, which is a record. "It's working its way to the Westside," says a real estate agent.

Californians lost their homes to foreclosure in record numbers for a second straight quarter, and the trend is creeping into affluent communities, figures released Friday show.

Foreclosures statewide hit a new high of 24,209, besting the previous record by 39%, according to DataQuick Information Systems. Default notices - the first step toward foreclosure - rose to 72,571 for the three months ended Sept. 30, breaking a record set in 1996.

Separately, the Census Bureau reported that the nation's homeownership rate fell for a fourth straight quarter, the longest decline since 1981. The agency said foreclosures helped push the number of vacant homes to a record 17.9 million.
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Mukasey Supports Warrantless Wiretapping
2007-10-28 04:00:12
President Bush's choice for attorney general told senators Friday the Constitution does not prevent the president from wiretapping suspected terrorists without a court order.

Michael Mukasey said the president cannot use his executive power to get around the Constitution and laws prohibiting torture. But wiretapping suspected terrorists' without warrants is not precluded, he said.

"Foreign intelligence gathering is a field in which the executive branch is regulated but not pre-empted by Congress," Mukasey wrote in response to questions by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

Mukasey's letter was made public by Leahy on Friday as part of a larger package of documents in Judiciary Committee members asked the retired U.S. district court judge from New York to elaborate on two days of oral testimony last week.

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Credit Chaos To Force Fresh U.S. Rate Cut
2007-10-27 21:06:41
Housing market still on the slide, falling as much as 6% in six months, as gasoline prices sprial upwards.

U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is poised to make a second emergency cut in interest rates this Wednesday, as the chaos from the sub-prime mortgage fiasco ripples through America's economy, exposing hundreds of thousands of families to the threat of losing their homes.

Wall Street investors are betting on a quarter-point reduction in borrowing costs at the Fed's two-day meeting this week; but with the news from the collapsing housing market worsening almost by the day, Julian Jessop, of Capital Economics, said Bernanke and his colleagues could even go for a half-point cut.

"I wouldn't rule it out: you can see a case for them saying, 'we need to get ahead of the curve'. Two weeks ago, it looked like they'd be able to keep rates on hold until December. Unfortunately, since then, the goalposts have moved."

The average price of existing homes has dropped by 6 per cent in six months, but analysts are warning that the worst is still not over for American homeowners. Borrowers with shaky credit records and billions of dollars-worth of loans are due to come off cut-price mortgage deals over the next 12 months, many of them facing a sudden increase in interest rates of up to three percentage points.

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Brain-Injured British Soldiers Denied Cash Benefits
2007-10-27 21:06:11
New compensation rules mean "cynically neglected" British troops are missing out on Defense Ministry's aid.

British soldiers with serious brain injuries are being deliberately denied tens of thousands of pounds in damages, according to the mother whose son's horrific wounds prompted the government's recent review of compensation for casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Diane Dernie, whose 23-year-old son Lance Bombadier Ben Parkinson, a paratrooper, sustained multiple injuries in an Afghan mine blast, accused the Ministry of Defence of "cynically neglecting" seriously brain-damaged soldiers.

Although Parkinson's case forced ministers to announce changes to the much-criticized compensation rules this month, she claimed Whitehall officials had ignored pleas to address the rising number of serious brain injuries suffered by other British troops.

Dernie said: "There are other soldiers who have suffered brain injuries from roadside bombs or mortars who get scandalously little compensation and are not covered by the changes."
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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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Global Warming Revives Flora And Fauna Of Greenland
2007-10-28 04:00:51
A strange thing is happening at the edge of Poul Bjerge’s forest, a place so minute and unexpected that it brings to mind the teeny plot of land Woody Allen's father carries around in the film “Love and Death.”

Its four oldest trees - in fact, the four oldest pine trees in Greenland, named Rosenvinge’s trees after the Dutch botanist who planted them in a mad experiment in 1893 - are waking up. After lapsing into stately, sleepy old age, they are exhibiting new sprinklings of green at their tops, as if someone had glued on fresh needles.

“The old ones, they’re having a second youth,” said Bjerge, 78, who has watched the forest, called Qanasiassat, come to life, in fits and starts, since planting most of the trees in it 50 years ago. He beamed like a proud grandson. “They’re growing again.”

When using the words “growing” in connection with Greenland in the same sentence, it is important to remember that although Greenland is the size of Europe, it has only nine conifer forests like Bjerge’s, all of them cultivated. It has only 51 farms. (They are all sheep farms, although one man is trying to raise cattle. He has 22 cows.) Except for potatoes, the only vegetables most Greenlanders ever eat - to the extent that they eat vegetables at all - are imported, mostly from Denmark.

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Chertoff Rips Phony FEMA 'Press Conference'
2007-10-28 04:00:29
The Homeland Security Dept. chief on Saturday tore into his own employees for staging a phony news conference at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 

''I think it was one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I've seen since I've been in government,'' said Michael Chertoff.

''I have made unambiguously clear, in Anglo-Saxon prose, that it is not to ever happen again and there will be appropriate disciplinary action taken against those people who exhibited what I regard as extraordinarily poor judgment,'' he added.

Asked specifically if he planned to fire anyone at FEMA, which is part of his department, Chertoff declined to say, citing personnel rules.

''There will be appropriate discipline,'' he told reporters at a news conference with New York's governor where they announced an agreement on a driver's license plan.

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Indian 'Slave' Children Found Making Low-Cost Clothes Headed For Gap Kids
2007-10-27 21:06:50
Child workers have been found working in a textile factory in conditions close to slavery.

Child workers, some as young as 10, have been found working in a textile factory in conditions close to slavery to produce clothes that appear destined for Gap Kids, one of the most successful arms of the high street giant.

Speaking to The Observer, the children described long hours of unwaged work, as well as threats and beatings.

Gap said it was unaware that clothing intended for the Christmas market had been improperly subcontracted to a sweatshop using child labor. It announced it had withdrawn the garments involved while it investigates breaches of the ethical code imposed by it three years ago.

The discovery of the children working in filthy conditions in the Shahpur Jat area of Delhi has renewed concerns about the outsourcing by large retail chains of their garment production to India, recognized by the United Nations as the world's capital for child labor.
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Scientists: Eating Red Meat And Drinking Alcohol 'Raise The Risk Of Cancer'
2007-10-27 21:06:30
Eating red meat and drinking alcohol in even small quantities increases the risk of developing cancer, a group of world renowned scientists will warn this week.

People should minimize their consumption of both in order to safeguard their health, the biggest inquiry ever undertaken into lifestyle and cancer will recommend.

In addition, the millions of people who are now obese are running as great a risk of getting cancer as smokers do, a major global report by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) will also warn.

The findings from a panel of 21 experts in diet, nutrition and public health will reopen the controversy about the role that red meat such as beef, pork and lamb and alcoholic drinks play in causing cancer, and how much it is safe to consume. The livestock and drink industries are likely to object fiercely to the report. The experts, who have spent five years producing the document, insist their recommendations are based on the most up-to-date, accurate and credible scientific and medical research evidence available worldwide.

"The bad guys in terms of increasing your chances of getting cancer are alcohol, meat consumption and being seriously overweight," said one senior figure behind the report. "There's plenty of evidence showing that clearly meat is linked to cancer. Huge numbers of studies have shown that. Alcohol also increases your risk of cancer. Any alcohol above zero increases your risk of developing breast cancer and other cancers."

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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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