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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday October 11 2007 - (813)

Thursday October 11 2007 edition
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U.S. Army Offers $35,000 Bonuses To Retain Officers
2007-10-11 03:57:01
Ranks are depleted by frequent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan; plans project a shortfall of about 3,000 captains and majors through 2013.

The Army is offering cash bonuses of up to $35,000 to retain young officers serving in key specialties - including military intelligence, infantry and aviation - in an unprecedented bid to forestall a critical shortage of officer ranks that have been hit hard by frequent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Army officials said that lengthy and repeated war-zone tours - the top reason younger officers leave the service - plus the need for thousands of new officers as the Army moves forward with expansion plans have contributed to a projected shortfall of about 3,000 captains and majors for every year through 2013.

In response, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates approved the unusual incentives last month as a temporary measure for this fiscal year, and over the past three weeks, more than 6,000 Army captains have accepted cash awards ranging from $25,000 to $35,000 in exchange for committing to serve three more years.

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EPA Will Not Use Clean Air Act To Force Power Plants To Upgrade Pollution Controls
2007-10-11 03:56:32

Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined in a legal settlement this week to force the largest power-plant pollution cleanup in U.S. history, the Bush administration signaled in the agreement that it has no intention of taking enforcement actions against the utility for the same kind of Clean Air Act violations in the future.

The language of the settlement indicates that the administration has not wavered in its distaste for a Clinton-era policy of using the law to force power plants to upgrade their pollution controls whenever they significantly update or expand a plant. That marks a significant victory for the power industry, which has strenuously opposed the "New Source Review," saying that it penalizes them for efficiency improvements that ultimately benefit consumers and the environment.

"That is something that we fought to get in the settlement that was very important to us," said American Electric Power (AEP) spokesman Pat D. Hemlepp, whose company settled with the EPA and other groups on Tuesday. "There are a lot of things we can do ... to improve the efficiency of our plants."

Buried in paragraph 133 of the consent decree, in which the utility agreed to install $4.6 billion in pollution-control measures at 16 existing plants and pay $75 million in penalties, is a section that assures AEP that the government will not pursue any action stemming from the "modification" of these plants between now and Dec. 31, 2018. The EPA has inserted similar language in other settlements.

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Contract Deal Ends 6-Hour Strike At Chrysler
2007-10-11 03:55:38
The United Auto Workers (UAW) announced Wednesday that it reached a tentative contract agreement with Chrysler after a six-hour strike against the automaker.

Chrysler said the agreement includes a provision that places responsibility for retiree health care with a union-managed trust fund. Analysts have said that Chrysler owes as much as $19 billion for retiree health care.

Such health-care trusts have been a top priority for the three Detroit, Michigan, automakers in their talks with the UAW this year. General Motors and the union last month agreed on a contract that contained a similar provision to enable GM to turn over $50 billion in retiree health-care obligations to a union-run fund. UAW members employed by GM ratified the contract, with 65 percent voting in favor of the deal, the union announced Wednesday.

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Atlantic City's Missing Mayor Resigns
2007-10-10 17:36:59
First he was missing and now he is gone. Mayor Robert W. Levy of Atlantic City, New Jersey, resigned effective Wednesday, October 10.

The city learned Tuesday why and where Levy took an indefinite medical leave, putting this resort city in municipal limbo for nearly two weeks. He has been under investigation by federal officials regarding his military service in Vietnam.

Levy’s lawyer, Edwin J. Jacobs, said today during a televised news conference that Levy’s medical problems plus the investigation made it impossible for him to stay in office.

“Mr. Levy has concluded that public confidence is so eroded by these circumstances that the only responsible action is to step down,” said Jacobs. “He does so with great regret and with apologies to his supporters, to the people of Atlantic City, and to his family and friends.”

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Dow Falls On Boeing, Alcoa Reports, Stocks End Mixed
2007-10-10 17:36:32
Wall Street stumbled through a lopsided session Wednesday, closing mixed as profit warnings and news from blue chip names Alcoa Inc. and BoeingCo. dragged down the Dow Jones industrial average but largely spared technology stocks.

A pullback was to be expected after the Dow and the Standard & Poor's 500 index finished at new highs Tuesday amid enthusiasm over comments from Federal Reserve policymakers about interest rates, but corporate news appeared to hasten Wednesday's slide.

Declines by Dow components Boeing and Alcoa, among others, hurt the 30-stock index. Meanwhile, International Paper Co. and ChevronCorp. moved lower on profit news.

With investors thumbing through fresh quarterly results and company news, the latest economic readings did little to dislodge the dichotomy between blue chips and tech stocks. A report showed inventories among U.S. wholesalers ticked up in August, while a trade group for real estate agents warned the drop in sales of existing homes this year will be steeper than had been expected.

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Shooting Update: Student Opens Fire At Cleveland Hiigh School, Allegedly Shoots Himself
2007-10-10 16:37:27
Two students, 2 adults wounded, 1 girl injured while escaping.

A student opened fire inside a Cleveland high school Wednesday, shooting and wounding several people and creating moments of sheer terror for students, school officials and parents. He then apparently shot and killed himself, The Associated Press reported, citing police officials.

Mayor Frank Jackson said the injured included two male students and two male adults, who suffered gunshot wounds, and a 14-year old girl who hurt her knee while trying to escape the chaos that erupted in the school as word of the shootings spread.

"All the children are in stable, good condition," Jackson said outside the school, Success Tech Academy, in downtown Cleveland, referring to the injured. He added that the two injured adults were in a more "elevated" condition.

"They have the shooter," he said of the police, who descended on the school shortly after 1 p.m. Eastern time. In his brief remarks to reporters, the mayor provided few other details about the shooter, or about how the incident ended.

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Bush Threatens Veto Of Bill To Revise Wiretapping Laws
2007-10-10 15:45:59
President Bush said Wednesday that he will not sign a new eavesdropping bill if it does not grant retroactive immunity to U.S. telecommunications companies that helped conduct electronic surveillance without court orders.

A proposed bill unveiled by Democrats on Tuesday does not include such a provision. Bush, appearing on the South Lawn as that measure was taken up in two House committees, said the measure is unacceptable for that and other reasons.

"Today the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees are considering a proposed bill that instead of making the Protect America Act permanent would take us backward," said the president.

Bush wants legislation that extends and strengthens a temporary bill passed in August. Democrats want a bill that rolls back some of the new powers it granted the government to eavesdrop without warrants on suspected foreign terrorists.

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Bush Opposes Bill That Would Label Mass Murders Of Armenians As 'Genocide'
2007-10-10 15:45:27

A proposed House resolution that would label as "genocide" the deaths of Armenians more than 90 years ago during the Ottoman Empire has won the support of a majority of House members, unleashing a lobbying blitz by the Bush administration and other opponents who say it would greatly harm relations with Turkey, a key ally in the Iraq war.

All eight living former secretaries of state have signed a joint letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) warning that the nonbinding resolution "would endanger our national security interests." Three former defense secretaries, in their own letter, said Turkey probably would cut off U.S. access to a critical air base. The government of Turkey is spending more than $300,000 a month on communications specialists and high-powered lobbyists, including former congressman Bob Livingston, to defeat the initiative.

This morning, President Bush and two key Cabinet members bolstered those efforts, calling on Congress to drop the legislation. "I urge members to oppose the Armenian genocide resolution now being considered by the House Foreign Affairs Committee," Bush told reporters in a prepared statement he made on the South Lawn of the White House. "We all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Armenian people that began in 1915. This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror."

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Putin: No Nuclear Proof Against Iran
2007-10-10 15:44:51
There is no proof Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said Wednesday, but he said Tehran should make its atomic activity "as transparent as possible".

"We do not have data that says Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons. We do not have such objective data,"  Putin told a news conference in Moscow after talks with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. "Therefore we proceed from a position that Iran has no such plans, but we share the concern of our partners that all programs should be as transparent as possible."

Echoing Putin, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said hasty action would be irresponsible before receiving more information from the nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"Until the IAEA reports on what is going on in Iran, until we receive these answers, it would be irresponsible to make any sharp movements," Lavrov was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying.

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Commentary: The Not-So-Small Price Of Iraq
2007-10-10 03:21:05
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Dante Zappala, a member of Military Families Speak Out. It appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News edition for Monday, October 8, 2007. Mr. Zappala's commentary follows:

Until recently, I thought America agreed that the death of over 3,800 troops in Iraq is a tremendous loss to this country.

My brother, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, is just one in that number. He was a soldier in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, and was killed in an explosion in Baghdad on April 26, 2004.

Sherwood, like other fallen heroes, was a leader in his community, a vital link in the fabric that binds us as Americans. His son, growing into a young man, has the loss etched into his long, penetrating stares. Who could look at him and say his father's sacrifice was, in actuality, not a large one?

A chorus of war enthusiasts is giving it a shot. House GOP leader John Boehner said it best when asked recently about the monetary and human price tag of the war. He categorized these costs as a "small price to pay".

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Commentary: Britain's New Coal Age
2007-10-10 03:20:13
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Prof. George Monbiot an appears in the Guardian edition for Tuesday, October 9, 2007. In his column, Prof. Monbiot investigates work got started on Europe's  largest open pit coal mine on a green hilltop in  Wales when the government says it wants a low-carbon economy, and local residents have mounted huge opposition to the project.  His commentary follows:

As I watched the machine scraping away the first buckets of soil, one thought kept clanging through my head: "If this is allowed to happen, we might as well give up now." It didn't look like much: just a yellow digger and a couple of trucks taking the earth away. But in a secure compound behind me were the heaviest beasts I have ever seen - 1,300 horsepower or more - lined up and ready to start digging one of the largest opencast (open pit in the U.S.) coal mines in Europe. In Romania perhaps? The Czech Republic? No, on a hilltop in south Wales.

The diggers at Ffos-y-fran, on the outskirts of Merthyr Tydfil, are set to excavate 1,000 acres of land to a depth of 600 feet. There has never been a hole quite like it in Britain, and our government's climate change policies are about to fall into it.

Everything about this scheme is odd. The edge of the site is just 36 meters from the nearest homes, yet there will be no compensation for the owners, and their concerns have been dismissed by the authorities. Though local people have fought the plan, their council, the Welsh government and the Westminster government have collaborated with the developers to force it through, using questionable methods. I have found evidence that suggests to me that a member of Tony Blair's government used false or outdated information to seek to persuade the Welsh administration to approve the pit. Yet perhaps the most remarkable fact is this: outside Merthyr Tydfil, hardly anyone knows it is happening.

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Republicans Oppose Attempt To Revise Wiretap Law
2007-10-10 03:19:18

A House Democratic effort to revise the nation's new foreign intelligence surveillance law met swift resistance Tuesday from the White House, Republican lawmakers and even some party members.

The Republican leaders of both chambers said the bill introduced Tuesday by the chairmen of the House intelligence and Judiciary committees seeks to impose restrictions that would impede intelligence and law enforcement efforts to prevent a terrorist attack.

Meanwhile, Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-New Jersey), a member of the House intelligence panel, and a handful of other Democrats introduced a competing bill that would impose even more surveillance restrictions than those endorsed by the committee leaders.

The Democratic chairmen said their bill is an attempt to fix the temporary Protect America Act, which was passed under White House pressure in August with a February expiration date. The Bush administration wants to make the act permanent.

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Effort To Curb Hiring Of Illegal Workers Blocked
2007-10-11 03:56:50
Injunction blocks federal plan to press employers to fire up to 8.7 million workers with suspect papers.

A federal judge barred the Bush administration Wednesday from launching a planned crackdown on U.S. companies that employ illegal immigrants, warning of its potentially "staggering" impact on law-abiding workers and companies.

In a firm rebuke of the White House, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer, of San Francisco, California, granted a preliminary injunction against the president's plan to press employers to fire as many as 8.7 million workers with suspect Social Security numbers, starting this fall.

President Bush made the effort the centerpiece of a re-energized enforcement drive against illegal immigration in August after the Senate rejected his proposal to overhaul immigration laws. But the court ruling - sought by major American labor, business and farm organizations - highlighted the chasm that the issue has opened between the Republican Party and its traditional business allies.

The case also called attention to the gulf between Washington rhetoric about the need to curtail illegal immigration and the economic reality that many U.S. employers rely on illegal labor, as well as to the government's inability for nearly three decades to develop adequate tools for identifying undocumented workers.

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Oil Prices Rise On Nigeria Strike, Another Fire At BP's Alaska Oil Field
2007-10-11 03:56:13
Oil prices rose Thursday in Asia, extending overnight gains on news of a surprise strike at Chevron Corp. facilities in Nigeria and another fire at BP PLC's Alaskan oil field.

Light, sweet crude for November delivery climbed 20 cents to $81.50 a barrel in Asian electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midmorning in Singapore. The contract rose $1.04 to settle at $81.30 a barrel Wednesday in New York.

Oil prices often rise when oil supplies are threatened in Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer and one of the top overseas suppliers to the United States.

"Employees of some of the companies providing labor work force to Chevron, and belonging to the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers ... initiated (a) strike" at six facilities, Chevron said in a statement, adding that production was unaffected.

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Former President Carter Says U.S. Tortures Prisoners
2007-10-10 17:37:11
The United States tortures prisoners in violation of international law, former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday.

"I don't think it. I know it," Carter told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

"Our country for the first time in my life time has abandoned the basic principle of human rights," said Carter. "We've said that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to those people in Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo, and we've said we can torture prisoners and deprive them of an accusation of a crime to which they are accused."

Carter also said President Bush creates his own definition of human rights.

Carter's comments come on the heels of an October 4 article in the New York Times disclosing the existence of secret Justice Department memorandums supporting the use of "harsh interrogation techniques." These include "head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures," according to the Times.

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Syria Tells Journalists Israeli Raid Did Not Happen
2007-10-10 17:36:46
Foreign journalists perused the rows of corn and the groves of date palms pregnant with low-hanging fruit here this week, while agents of Syria’s ever-present security services stood in the background, watching closely, almost nervously.

“You see - around us are farmers, corn, produce, nothing else,” said Ahmed Mehdi, the Deir Zoir director of the Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands, a government agricultural research center, as he led two of the journalists around the facilities.

It was here at this research center in the sleepy Bedouin city of Deir Zoir in eastern Syria that an Israeli journalist reported Israel had conducted an air raid in early September.

Ron Ben-Yishai, a writer for the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, grabbed headlines when he suggested that the government facility here was attacked during the incursion, snapping photos of himself for his article in front of a sign for the agricultural center.

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German Scientist Gerhard Ertl Wins Nobel Prize For Chemestry
2007-10-10 17:36:17
A German scientist whose studies of chemical reactions on solid surfaces have affected agriculture, manufacturing and environmental science won the Novel Prize in Chemistry Wednesday.

Gerhard Ertl, an emeritus professor at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin, received the $1.5 million prize for pioneering work in surface chemistry, which has applications across a broad array of fields. It helps explain the processes in manufacturing computer chips, in the function of automobiles’ catalytic converters and on the surface of stratospheric ice crystals that have implications for global warming.

The prize was announced by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Dr. Ertl’s 71st birthday, and he said in remarks broadcast from Stockholm that winning the prize “is the best birthday present that you can give to somebody.” He was born in 1936 in Bad Cannstadt, Germany.

In an interview with the Associated Press from his office in Berlin, he said, “I am speechless,” and added, “I was not counting on this.”

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Breaking News: Gunfire Erupts At Cleveland High School
2007-10-10 15:46:23
Witness says three people taken out on stretchers.

A gunman opened fire in a downtown high school in Cleveland, Ohio, on Wednesday, and a witness said he saw three people taken out on stretchers.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson later said that the school had been secured, although police were searching floor by floor.

Ronnell Jackson, 15, said he saw a shooter running down a hall at SuccessTech Academy.

"He was about to shoot me but I got out just in time," he said. "He was aiming at me I got out just in time."

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Thousands Of Chrysler Workers Walk Off Job
2007-10-10 15:45:46
Strike is second against a major automaker in recent weeks as union tries to restructure wage, benefit packages in a competitive global market.

Members of the United Auto Workers began walking off the job at Chrysler plants this morning after an 11 a.m. deadline passed without a new contract, the second strike to hit Detroit's Big Three automakers in recent weeks as they try to restructure wage and benefit packages in a competitive global environment.

Neither Chrysler nor the auto workers' union issued a statement about the strike, but negotiations, which had continued through the morning, broke off after the 11 a.m. deadline set by the union.

Detroit television news helicopters showed crowds of plant workers surrounding Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, blocking entrances with picket circles. State police officers began closing highway ramps that lead to the facility. The scene was in sharp contrast to the relatively orderly strike that workers conducted against General Motors during a strike in late September.
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Space Dust May Help Answer Where We Came From
2007-10-10 15:45:14
Astronomers have taken a baby step in trying to answer the cosmic question of where we come from.

Planets and much on them, including humans, come from dust - mostly from dying stars. But where did the dust that helped form those early stars come from?

A NASA telescope may have spotted one of the answers. It's in the wind bursting out of super-massive black holes.

The Spitzer Space Telescope identified large quantities of freshly made space dust in a quasar about 8 billion light years from here.

Astronomers used the telescope to break down the wavelengths of light in the quasar to figure out what was in the space dust. They found signs of glass, sand, crystal, marble, rubies and sapphires, said Ciska Markwick-Kemper of the University of Manchester in England. She is the lead author of a study that will be published later this month in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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As Mideast Realigns, U.S. Leans Toward Sunnis
2007-10-10 03:23:08
The White House is re-embracing Sunni authoritarian regimes to counter the rise of Shiite Iran.

Americans are hearing much less from the Bush administration about democracy for the Middle East than they did a year ago. As Shiite Iran rises, the White House has muted its calls for reform in the region as it redirects policy to re-embrace Sunni Arab allies - who run, to varying degrees, authoritarian regimes.

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 shifted the balance of power in the Middle East, delivering a Shiite-led government to a country that had for decades been dominated by its minority Sunnis. That, in turn, opened the door to Iranian expansion.

To contain Tehran, Washington is now reaching out to Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states, Egypt, and Jordan, in the form of large arms deals and new talks on such issues as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which in the eyes of most Arabs and many others remains the greatest source of tension - and extremist support - in the region.

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Britain's Big Business Is 'Failing On Climate Change'
2007-10-10 03:20:49
Report finds that less than half of the U.K.'s FTSE 350 companies have introduced schemes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.K.'s top companies are failing to face up to climate change, with less than half of the FTSE 350 companies introducing schemes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report released Tuesday.

The second annual report from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a New York-based independent organization which works with shareholders and corporations to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions, found that only 38% of the companies that responded to its survey have put in place emissions reduction schemes with targets.

The findings of the report have prompted a unlikely coalition of leading environmental agencies, U.K. companies and cross party Parliament members to write an open letter to Britain's environment secretary, Hilary Benn, and the business and enterprise secretary, John Hutton, arguing for standardized carbon reporting.

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Clinton Cites Lessons Of Partisanship
2007-10-10 03:19:44
In interview, senator argues political battles she has weathered equip her to unite the nation.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton pushed back against criticism from fellow Democrats that she is too polarizing to unite the country as president, arguing that the political battles she has been through make her uniquely equipped to bring the nation together and build a centrist governing coalition.

In an interview aboard her campaign bus, Clinton (New York) acknowledged that she has contributed to the divisive politics of the past decade but said she has learned from those experiences. She said that if she becomes president, she will attempt to assemble a broad, centrist coalition on such key issues as health care, energy independence and national security.

The former first lady called President Bush's political and governing strategy of concentrating primarily on his party's base for support "a tragedy" for the country's politics.

"I actually think that in a way, the fact that I've been through so much incoming fire all these years is an advantage," she said, adding: "It's been my observation that when you're attacked continually in American politics, you either give up or get disoriented or you either lose or leave - or you persevere and show your resilience."

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Israeli Army Orders Confiscation Of Palestinian West Bank Land
2007-10-10 03:18:36
Seizure would allow huge expansion of Israeli settlements; move seen as rush to make changes before U.S. summit.

The Israeli army has ordered the seizure of Palestinian land surrounding four West Bank villages apparently in order to hugely expand settlements around Jerusalem, it emerged Tuesday.

The confiscation happened as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met to prepare the ground for a meeting hosted by President George Bush in the United States aimed at reviving a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

However, critics said the confiscation of land suggested that Israel was imposing its own solution on the Palestinians through building roads, barriers and settlements that would render a Palestinian state unviable.

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