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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday October 4 2007 - (813)

Thursday October 4 2007 edition
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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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U.S. Republican Sen. Pete Domenici Announces Retirement
2007-10-03 18:43:12
Republican U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, of New Mexico, intends to retire at the end of his term next year, closing out a 36-year career in Congress, Republican officials said Wednesday.

These officials said the 75-year-old Domenici intends to make a formal announcement on Thursday in his home state. They spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the six-term lawmaker.

Domenici would be the fifth Republican senator to decline to seek a new term, giving Democrats an opportunity to expand their majority in the 2008 elections. GOP Sens. John Warner, of Virginia, Chuck Hagel, of Nebraska, Larry Craig, of Idaho, and Wayne Allard, of Colorado, have previously announced plans not to run again.

The New Mexico Republican had earlier signaled a desire to run for re-election, despite coming under criticism this year over his role in urging the administration to fire U.S. Attorney David Iglesias.

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3,000 Workers Trapped In South Africa Gold Mine
2007-10-03 18:42:13
A water pipe burst and soil in an underground shaft probably collapsed Wednesday morning, trapping about 3,000 workers in a gold mine near Johannesburg, South Africa's economic capital and gold-mining center, said the workers' union.

It was not immediately possible to get comment from the management of Harmony Gold's Elandsrand Mine in Carletonville, nor details, such about how deep down the shaft is.

The spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers, Lesiba Seshoka, said the managers were meeting with union members.

Miners had gone down the shaft, then the water pipe burst, and they had not been heard from since about 10 a.m., he said.

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Bush Vetoes Children's Health Insurance Plan
2007-10-03 15:15:52

President Bush this morning vetoed a bill that would renew and expand the state-federal health insurance program for low-income children, delivering on his threat to block a measure he has said is too costly and could lead to excessive government control of the health-care system.

Bush vetoed the measure shortly before leaving this morning on a brief trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he was planning to speak to business leaders about his efforts to hold the line on federal spending. The White House has sought to make fiscal discipline a broad element of its legislative strategy this fall.

In vetoing the bill to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the president finds himself isolated politically. The measure, which would expand the program by $35 billion over the next five years, is broadly popular in Congress, even among many Republicans, and has wide support among governors, health-care groups and the health insurance industry.

Bush appears to have the votes to sustain his veto, the fourth of his presidency, in the House, but Republicans have warned the White House that Bush is endangering the party's political prospects in 2008.

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Pakistan Seen As Losing Fight Against Terrorism
2007-10-03 15:15:19
Pakistan's government is losing its war against emboldened insurgent forces, giving al-Qaeda and the Taliban more territory in which to operate and allowing the groups to plot increasingly ambitious attacks, according to Pakistani and Western security officials.

The depth of the problem has become clear only in recent months, as regional peace deals have collapsed and the government has deferred developing a new strategy to defeat insurgents until Pakistan's leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, can resolve a political crisis that threatens his presidency.

Meanwhile, radical Islamic fighters who were evicted from Afghanistan by the 2001 U.S.-led invasion have intensified a ruthless campaign that has consumed Pakistan's tribal areas and now affects its major cities. Military officials say the insurgents have enhanced their ability to threaten not only Pakistan but the United States and Europe as well.

"They've had a chance to regroup and reorganize," said a Western military official in Pakistan. "They're well equipped. They're clearly getting training from somewhere. And they're using more and more advanced tactics."

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N. Korea Reaches Nuclear Agreement With U.S.
2007-10-03 15:14:48
North Korea will disable key nuclear facilities by the end of the year and start disclosing details of its nuclear programs under a six-nation agreement released Wednesday in China. The deal appears to have been aided by a "side understanding" between Washington and Pyongyang that could accelerate the removal of North Korea from a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The United States also appeared willing to accept, initially, more limited action than it originally sought to disable three key nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, with the understanding that additional work to incapacitate the facilities would occur later. In exchange, North Korea is expected to disclose the extent of its weapons-grade plutonium, including how much was used in a nuclear test last year.

According to the text of the document, released by China's official Xinhua news agency, North Korea agreed to disable the 5 megawatt experimental reactor at Yongbyon, a fuel reprocessing plant, and a nuclear fuel rod facility by Dec. 31. The work will be paid for and overseen by the U.S. Alongside that commitment, the document says that the U.S. will "begin the process of removing" North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism and lifting trade sanctions.

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Sen. Clinton Steals Obama's Fundraising Thunder
2007-10-03 01:33:10
A major dynamic behind the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination - fund-raising - shifted Tuesday as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign announced that it had beaten Senator Barack Obama in donations since July, stripping him at least temporarily of a crucial political advantage.

Perhaps most surprising was that the Clinton campaign reported attracting at least 7,000 more new donors than  Obama, depriving his campaign of the bragging rights that he was more popular with contributors despite Mrs. Clinton’s strong performance in opinion polls and televised debates.

Clinton’s fund-raising success came even as some Democratic elected officials continue to have concerns about her electability and the possibility that a Clinton candidacy next November would drag down fellow candidates for Congressional and state races.

The fund-raising also unfolded as her campaign was dealing with a scandal involving a top donor, Norman Hsu, who raised $850,000 for Clinton and turned out to be a fugitive from justice.

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From Family Errand To Fatal Shot To Hail Of Fire To 17 Deaths
2007-10-03 01:32:34
Details of Sept. 16 incident differ from Blackwater USA's initial descriptions.

It started out as a family errand: Ahmed Haithem Ahmed was driving his mother, Mohassin, to pick up his father from the hospital where he worked as a pathologist. As they approached Nisour Square at midday on Sept. 16, they did not know that a bomb had gone off nearby or that a convoy of four armored vehicles carrying Blackwater guards armed with automatic rifles was approaching.

Moments later a bullet tore through Ahmed’s head, he slumped, and the car rolled forward. Then Blackwater guards responded with a barrage of gunfire and explosive weapons, leaving 17 dead and 24 wounded - a higher toll than previously thought, according to Iraqi investigators.

Interviews with 12 Iraqi witnesses, several Iraqi investigators and an American official familiar with an American investigation of the shootings offer new insights into the gravity of the episode in Nisour Square. And they are difficult to square with the explanation offered initially by Blackwater officials that their guards were responding proportionately to an attack on the streets around the square.

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U.S. Sen. John Warner In Hospital With Heart Problem
2007-10-03 01:31:47
Senator, 80, expected to return to work next week.

U.S. Senator John W. Warner was admitted to Inova Fairfax Hospital Tuesday to correct an abnormal heartbeat, and he is expected to be home by the weekend and back at work next week, according to his Senate office.

Warner, 80, went to work Tuesday but checked in with the Capitol physician's office midmorning, according to a statement released by his office. He left for the hospital in the afternoon for a procedure to correct atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat. He is scheduled to undergo a second procedure Wednesday.

"I think he just noticed something and felt that it needed attention," Warner's chief of staff, Carter Cornick, said from the hospital. "He was not in any visible pain at all."

Hospital staff would not comment.

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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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Oil's Slippery Slope
2007-10-03 18:42:52
Intellpuke: More and more oil executives maintain that there are just a few years left before oil production reaches its peak, and that we are sleepwalking into econmic catastrophe. Author and journalist David Strahan reports on dwindling global oil reserves. His article was posted on the Guardian's website edition for Wednesday, October 3, 2007.

The Irish chapter of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) could hardly have wished for better. Last week, on the first day of ASPO's recent conference in Cork, the oil price obliged by striking a new all-time high. And in the following days it struck three more in a row.

This was no mere serendipity. The price has since drifted a little, but at the time of going to press remains around $8o a barrel. That is an eightfold increase in less than a decade, and several analysts now forecast $100 oil by the end of next year. All of which reflects not only the usual short-term vicissitudes of the oil market - hurricanes, Iran, trouble in the Niger Delta - but also the gnawing realization that global oil production is approaching some fundamental geological limits.

For many years, the idea that global oil production will soon start to fall, with potentially catastrophic economic consequences, has languished on the fringes of the environmental debate, with nothing like the recognition of climate change, and shunned by the industry itself. But when the history is written, 2007 is likely to go down as the year the issue of peak oil production went mainstream. In Cork, the former U.S. energy secretary, James Schlesinger, used his keynote speech to tell delegates that they were no longer a tiny minority crying in the wilderness: "You can declare victory ... and prepare to take yes for an answer."

It was a bold claim, but true. Although most senior oil executives continue to deny publicly what is becoming more obvious by the month, the industry-wide "omerta" is beginning to crack. Thierry Desmarest, chairman of Total, declared last year that production would peak in 2020, and urged governments to suppress demand to delay the witching hour. In Cork, the former Shell chairman, Lord Oxburgh, told me he expects demand to outstrip supply within 20 years, and that the oil price may well hit $150. He warned: "We may be sleepwalking into a problem that is actually going to be very serious, and it may be too late to do anything about it by the time we are fully aware."

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Moderate Earthquake Rocks Central New Zealand
2007-10-03 18:41:57
A magnitude 5.6 earthquake shook central New Zealand Thursday, rocking homes across a wide area, but there were no immediate reports of injury or damage, emergency services said.

The quake hit at 8:15 a.m. Thursday and was located in the north of South Island, about 100 miles from the southern city of Christchurch, geological sciences agency, GNS Science, reported on its web site.

It said the tremblor was "widely felt in South Island" and also lightly rocked the capital, Wellington and southern North Island.

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Sen. Clinton Widens Lead In Poll
2007-10-03 15:15:36
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as consolidated her place as the front-runner in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, outpacing her main rivals in fundraising in the most recent quarter and widening her lead in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. 

For the first time, Clinton (New York) is drawing support from a majority of Democrats - and has opened up a lead of 33 percentage points over Sen. Barack Obama (Illinois). Her popularity, the poll suggests, is being driven by her strength on key issues and a growing perception among voters that she would best represent change.

The new numbers come on the heels of an aggressive push by Clinton to dominate the political landscape. She unveiled her health-care proposal and then appeared on all five Sunday news shows on the same day - all while her husband, former president Bill Clinton, went on tour to promote a new book. Within the past month, at least one Clinton has appeared on television virtually every day, increasing the campaign's exposure among millions of Americans.

Tuesday, her campaign announced that it had topped Obama for the first time in a fundraising period, taking in $22 million in the past three months in funds that can be used for the primary campaign, to Obama's $19 million.

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Bomb Wounds Polish Ambassador To Iraq
2007-10-03 15:15:06
The Polish ambassador to Iraq was slightly wounded and two civilians, including a bodyguard, were killed in a roadside bomb attack Wednesday in downtown Baghdad, according to Polish government officials.

Gen. Edward Pietrzyk was being treated for minor burns covering 20 percent of his body and ''is going to be fine,'' said Deputy Ambassador Waldemar Figaj, who spoke to the Associated Press from a hospital in Baghdad's Green Zone. Pietrzyk was to be flown home to Poland by way of German later in the day.

A civilian passer-by died after at least two roadside bombs were detonated around 10 a.m., an Iraqi police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information. A Polish security guard, Bartosz Orzechowski, 29, died at the hospital a short time later, Poland's Interior Minister Wladyslaw Stasiak said during a news conference.

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Walter Reed Chief Tapped To Be Army Surgeon General
2007-10-03 15:14:30
Maj. Gen. Schoomaker was supposed to fix problems at Walter Reed, but GAO report said promised fixes were not done.

The general brought in to command Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the wake of a scandal over conditions at the hospital was nominated by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates Tuesday as the new surgeon general of the Army.

Maj. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker came to Walter Reed in March to replace Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman following disclosures of poor living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares experienced by some patients recovering from wounds suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To replace Schoomaker at Walter Reed, the Army Tuesday named Maj. Gen. Carla G. Hawley-Bowland, commanding general of Tripler Army Medical Center and the Pacific Regional Medical Command in Hawaii.  Hawley-Bowland, who completed residency training in obstetrics and gynecology at Walter Reed, was previously command surgeon for U.S. Army Europe. 

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Details Of Bush's Warrantless Surveillance Program Tightly Held
2007-10-03 01:32:51

No more than four Justice Department officials had access to details of the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program when the department deemed portions of it illegal, following a pattern of poor consultation that helped create a "legal mess," a former Justice official told Congress Tuesday.

Jack L. Goldsmith, former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the White House so tightly restricted access to the National Security Agency's program that even the attorney general and the NSA's general counsel were partly in the dark.

When the Justice Department began a formal review of the program's legal underpinnings in late 2003, the White House initially resisted allowing then-Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey to be briefed on it, Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith's testimony provided further details about the fierce legal debate and intense secrecy surrounding the NSA surveillance program within the Bush administration in early 2004. The fight culminated in a threat by Goldsmith, Comey and others to resign en masse if the program were allowed to continue without changes.

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Blackwater USA Denies Trigger-Happy Charge
2007-10-03 01:32:14
Firm's chairman tells Congress charges are unfair even as details emerge about Blackwater employee killing Iraq vice president's guard.

The U.S. company at the center of the scandal over the role of private security guards in Iraq Tuesday brushed aside accusations that it was a cowboy outfit, even as details emerged about a incident in which an allegedly drunken member was involved in a fatal shooting. Testifying before a congressional hearing Erik Prince, the normally secretive head of Blackwater, denied his company was overly aggressive.

The company is in the middle of a tug of war between the Iraqi government and the U.S. State Department following the alleged killing of 11 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad on September 16. Blackwater has been blamed.

The Iraqi government has called for the company to be expelled but the state department, which relies on Blackwater for protection of its diplomats, wants it to stay. The hearing offered the first opportunity to hear Blackwater's side of the story in detail, but the U.S. Justice Department unexpectedly stepped in at the last minute and asked that the congressional committee and Prince avoid specific questions about the September incident.

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