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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday October 9 2007 - (813)

Tuesday October 9 2007 edition
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Leak Severs Link To Al-Qaeda
2007-10-09 02:42:39
Security breach that firm used to monitor terror groups is closed after exposure to the White House. Firm says Bush Administration's handling of video ruined its spying efforts.

A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.

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From Cocaine To Plutonium: Italian Mafia Clan Accused of Trafficking In Nuclear Waste
2007-10-09 02:42:04
Authorities in Italy are investigating a mafia clan accused of trafficking nuclear waste and trying to make plutonium.

The 'Ndrangheta mafia, which gained notoriety in August for its blood feud killings of six men in Germany, is alleged to have made illegal shipments of radioactive waste to Somalia, as well as seeking the "clandestine production" of other nuclear material.

Two of the Calabrian clan's members are being investigated, along with eight former employees of the state energy research agency ENEA.

The eight are suspected of paying the mobsters to take waste off their hands in the 1980s and 1990s. At the time they were based at the agency's center at Rotondella, a town in Basilicata province in the toe of Italy, which today treats "special" and "hazardous" waste. At other centers, ENEA studies nuclear fusion and fission technologies.

The 'Ndrangheta has been accused by investigators of building on its origins as a kidnapping gang to become Europe's top cocaine importer, thanks to ties to Colombian cartels. The nuclear accusation, if true, would take it into another league.

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Burma's Junta Shuts Down Last Communication Links
2007-10-09 02:40:55
Satellite phones seized in communications blackout; crackdown reflects worry over world opinion.

Burma's regime is targeting the last remaining communications links that brought images of the bloody crackdown on the recent pro-democracy protests to the outside world.

Exiled dissident groups in neighboring Thailand say up to 10 satellite telephones and countless computers earlier smuggled into Burma have been seized, the last lines of contact after the government shut down the internet and blocked mobile and fixed-line telephones.

Officials from Burma's Foreign Afairs Ministry and Home Department security officers also visited a United Nations  office in the Traders Hotel in downtown Rangoon late last week and demanded to see the organization's permits for its satellite phones.

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Kabul Rejects U.S. Pleas To Spray Opium Poppies
2007-10-09 02:39:57
Renewed American efforts to persuade the Afghan government to use crop dusters against poppy production have failed, despite Washington dispatching a top scientist to advocate the safety of spraying herbicides.

Charles Helling met representatives of the Afghan ministries of counter-narcotics, health, and rural rehabilitation on Sunday to discuss fears over the side effects of glyphosate, one of the most effective methods for the mass eradication of opium poppies. Kabul, however, remained unconvinced.

"We have rejected the spraying of poppy in Afghanistan for good reasons: the effect on the environment, other smaller crops and on human genetics," the acting minister for counter-narcotics, General Khodaidad (who uses only one name), told the Guardian. "It was a very friendly discussion, but it is difficult to change our mind," he added.

The U.S. maintains that the herbicide is safe for the environment and the local population. It says the misgivings of the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, are based on myth and Taliban disinformation.

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As Iraq War Dragged On, Tone Of Coverage Weighed Heavily On News Anchors
2007-10-08 15:47:53
This article is adapted from the book "Reality Show: Inside the Last Great Television News War" by Howard Kurtz, and published by Free Press, New York.

Charlie Gibson is a product of the Vietnam War era. When he was a television reporter in Lynchburg, Virginia, he had driven to Washington. D.C., on weekends to march in antiwar demonstrations. And he had lost friends in that jungle war.

Now Gibson had friends whose sons were dying in Iraq. His thoughts kept returning to one central question: When you commit kids to war, what are they fighting for? What was the mission in Iraq? How could a family say that the war was worth little Johnny's well-being?

The ABC anchor was obsessed with this point. If you were president, and you decided to go to war, was there a calculus in your mind, that the goal was worth so many American lives? After all, your generals would tell you that X number were likely to die. What was the acceptable trade-off? Gibson's threshold would be one: Was the war worth one life?

As the U.S. occupation of Iraq stretched into its fourth bloody year, the media coverage was turning increasingly negative, and the three evening news anchors constantly agonized over how to deal with the conflict.

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Britain To Reduce Forces In Iraq By Half
2007-10-08 15:46:54
Only 2,500 British troops to be in Iraq by next summer.

Britain will withdraw nearly half its troops in Iraq beginning next spring, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday, leaving a contingent of 2,500 soldiers in the highly unpopular war.

Brown told lawmakers the move is possible because of improving security following the U.S. increase in troop numbers this summer and detailed discussions with the Iraqi government on a visit last week.

"We plan from next spring, to reduce force numbers in southern Iraq to a figure of 2,500," Brown said in a statement to Britain's Parliament.

Britain is currently scaling back forces and by the year's end will have 4,500 troops based mainly at an air base camp on the fringe of the southern city of Basra.
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Reconciliation Remains Unreconciled As Top Iraqis Pull Back From Key U.S. Goal
2007-10-08 02:33:38
Iraqi leaders argue that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure of their government and national reconciliation is not a realistic goal.

For much of this year, the U.S. military strategy in Iraq has sought to reduce violence so that politicians could bring about national reconciliation, but several top Iraqi leaders say they have lost faith in that broad goal.

Iraqi leaders argue that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure of their government. Instead of reconciliation, they now stress alternative and perhaps more attainable goals: streamlining the government bureaucracy, placing experienced technocrats in positions of authority and improving the dismal record of providing basic services.

"I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd. "To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power."

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Editorial: The American Dream In Reverse
2007-10-08 02:32:58
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Monday, October 8, 2007.

For the first time since the Carter administration, homeownership in the United States is set to decline over a president’s tenure. When President Bush took office in 2001, homeownership stood at 67.6 percent. It rose as the mortgage bubble inflated but is projected to fall to 67 percent by early 2009, which would come to 700,000 fewer homeowners than when Mr. Bush started. The decline, calculated by Moody’s, is inexorable unless the government launches a heroic effort to help hundreds of thousands of defaulting borrowers stay in their homes.

These days, modest relief efforts are in short supply, let alone heroic ones. Some officials seem to think that assistance would violate the tenet of personal responsibility that borrowers should not take out loans they cannot afford. That is simplistic.

The foreclosure crisis is rooted in reckless - and shamefully underregulated - mortgage lending. Many homeowners -  mainly subprime borrowers with low incomes and poor credit - are now stuck in adjustable-rate loans that have become unaffordable as monthly payments have spiked upward. Their predicament is not entirely of their own making, and even if it were they would need to be bailed out because mass foreclosures would wreak unacceptable damage on the economic and social life of the nation.

The relief efforts so far have been too little, too late. In August, the White House established a program to allow an additional 80,000 borrowers to refinance their loans through the Federal Housing Administration - on top of 160,000 who were already eligible. That’s not enough. Foreclosure filings soared to nearly 244,000 in August alone.

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Six Teenagers Shot Dead By Off-Duty Officer At High School Party
2007-10-08 02:32:20
Gunman, 20, later killed by police sniper.

A police officer in a small town in northern Wisconsin shot dead at least six young people on Sunday, including a 14-year-old girl, at a house party before he was shot and killed by a police sniper.

News reports from Crandon, a close-knit town of 2,000 people, suggested the suspected shooter and his victims were part of the same circle of friends - high school students and recent graduates, who had gathered on Saturday night to celebrate a high school football victory.

Six people were reported killed at the party, in a white clapboard house in the center of town. A seventh was critically injured and in a hospital Sunday.

At least three of the dead were high school students, including a 17-year-old believed to have been a former girlfriend of the suspected shooter. Another of the victims, Lindsey Stahl, was 14. Her mother, Jenny Stahl, told reporters her daughter had called home to ask permission to sleep at a friend's house on Saturday night.

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Dragonfly Or Insect Spy? Scientists At Work On Robobugs
2007-10-09 02:42:22
Government says flying robots disguised as dragonflies do not exist yet, but they are being developed. Others aren't so sure they don't already exist.

Vanessa Alarcon saw them while working at an antiwar rally in Washington, D.C.'s Lafayette Square last month.

"I heard someone say, 'Oh my god, look at those'," the college senior from New York recalled. "I look up and I'm like, 'What the hell is that?' They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects."

Out in the crowd, Bernard Crane saw them, too.

"I'd never seen anything like it in my life," said the Washington, D.C., lawyer. "They were large for dragonflies. I thought, 'Is that mechanical, or is that alive?' "

That is just one of the questions hovering over a handful of similar sightings at political events in Washington, D.C.,  and New York. Some suspect the insect-like drones are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security. 

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Sen. Reid: Bill To Increase Tax Rate On Massive Earnings By Firms Won't Pass Senate
2007-10-09 02:41:15
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nevada) has told private-equity firms in recent weeks that a tax-hike proposal they have spent millions of dollars to defeat will not get through the Senate this year, according to executives and lobbyists.

Reid's assurance all but ends the year's highest-profile battle over a major tax increase. Democratic lawmakers, including some presidential candidates, had been pushing to more than double the tax rate on the massive earnings of private-equity managers, who the Democrats say have been chronically undertaxed.

In response, private-equity firms - whose multibillion-dollar deals have created a class of superwealthy investors and taken some of America's large corporations private - hired dozens of lobbyists, stepped up campaign contributions and lined up business allies to wage an unusually conspicuous lobbying blitz. Their argument was that higher taxes would run counter to accepted tax policy and slow economic growth.

Some lawmakers have touted the tax boost as a way to pay for such expensive measures as the repeal of the alternative minimum tax, which this year alone threatens to increase taxes on 23 million households. Lawmakers and lobbyists agree that if the tax is not raised this year, its chances are not strong in 2008, either; Congress tends to be leery of tax increases in election years.

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Turkish Prime Minister Urged To Invade Iraq After Kurdish Rebel Attacks
2007-10-09 02:40:23
Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, came under intense pressure Monday night to order an invasion of northern Iraq following the deadliest attacks for over a decade on the Turkish military and civilians by separatist Kurdish guerrillas.

Erdogan, who has resisted demands from the Turkish armed forces for the past six months for a green light to cross the border into Iraqi Kurdistan, where the guerrillas are based, called an emergency meeting of national security chiefs to ponder their options in the crisis, a session that some said was tantamount to a war council.

A Turkish incursion is fiercely opposed by the Bush Administration since it would immensely complicate the U.S.  campaign in Iraq and destabilize the only part of Iraq that functions: the Kurdish-controlled north.

Two Turkish soldiers were killed Monday in booby trap explosions laid by guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) - fighters classified as terrorists by Ankara, Washington, D.C., and the European Union. Those casualties followed the killing of 13 Turkish soldiers in the southeast on Sunday when PKK forces outgunned a Turkish unit of 18 men without sustaining any casualties, according to the Kurds.

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Democrats To Offer Bill Setting New Surveillance Rules
2007-10-08 15:48:12
Legislation aims to meet privacy and security concerns; fierce debate is expected.

House Democrats plan to introduce a bill this week that would let a secret court issue one-year "umbrella" warrants to allow the government to intercept e-mails and phone calls of foreign targets and would not require that surveillance of each person be approved individually.

The bill is likely to resurrect controversy that erupted this summer when Congress, under White House pressure, rushed through a temporary emergency law that expanded the government's authority to conduct foreign surveillance on U.S. soil without a warrant. The Protect America Act, which expires in February, has been criticized as being too broad and lacking effective court oversight.

The Democrats' legislation, drafted by the Intelligence and Judiciary committee chairmen, is aimed to reconcile civil liberties, privacy and national security concerns. It would overhaul the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a 1978 law amended many times that the Bush administration argues has been outstripped by technology.

"Some conservatives want no judicial oversight, and some liberals oppose any notion of a blanket order," said James X. Dempsey, Center for Democracy and Technology policy director. "So the challenge of the Democratic leadership is to strike a balance, one that gives the National Security Agency the flexibility to select its targets overseas but that keeps the court involved to protect the private communications of innocent Americans."

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Connecticut Lobsters Dying Off
2007-10-08 15:47:19
Global warming, pesticides offered as culprits.

The trap buoys, orange and white, wink between the waves in the murky estuary of Long Island Sound, Connecticut,  beckoning with the promise of the sweetest of New England's delights: lobster. As plentiful as sardines, they were. So much so that generations of Connecticut lobstermen did bang-up business trolling these waters for big and juicy jewels of the sea.

Not anymore. "Everyone thinks that lobsters only come from Maine, but it isn't so - we had tons of lobster right here," said Roger Frate, Jr., 38, yanking up one of dozens of mostly empty traps, salty and pungent with algae from the depths of western Long Island Sound. "We had great hauls. But now? These waters are a graveyard."

Something is killing the lobsters of Long Island Sound. Over the past decade, the lobster boom here has gone almost completely bust. The die-off has been so severe - a 70 to 90 percent drop since 1998, according to scientists and state estimates - that hundreds of lobstermen have been forced out of business. Unable to make a living in waters once as rich as bisque with crustaceans, many have had no choice but to abandon a trade that amounted to more of a cherished lifestyle than a job.

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U.S., U.K. Scientists Win Nobel Prize In Medicine For Genetic Work With Mice
2007-10-08 15:46:32
Two American scientists and a Briton won the 2007 Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for groundbreaking discoveries that led to a powerful technique for manipulating mouse genes.

The widely used process has helped scientists use mice to study heart disease, diabetes, cancer, cystic fibrosis and other diseases.

The prize is shared by Mario R. Capecchi, 70, of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City; Oliver Smithies, 82, a native of Britainnow at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and Sir Martin J. Evans, 66, of Cardiff University in Wales.

The Nobel is a particularly striking achievement for Capecchi, (pronounced kuh-PEK'-ee). A native of Italy, he was separated from his mother at age 4 when she was taken to the Dachau concentration camp as a political prisoner during World War II.

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Demand, Federal Subsidies Prime Nuclear Power For U.S. Comeback
2007-10-08 02:33:21
Over the next two years, agency expects that as many as 32 new nuclear reactors will be built.

Two decades ago, after Duke Energy abandoned its partly built nuclear power reactors here, the site was sold and turned into a movie set. Director James Cameron used it to film "The Abyss," a 1989 movie about civilian divers who encounter aliens while trying to rescue a stricken nuclear submarine. Cameron filled the unused nuclear containment building with water and hauled a section of an oil rig, a tiny submarine and fiberglass rocks inside to make convincing underwater scenes.

Now there's a new twist in the plot: The nuclear power industry is trying to come back from its own abyss. With natural gas prices volatile and people anxious about climate change, the nuclear power industry is touting its technology as a way to meet the nation's growing energy needs without emitting more greenhouse gases. Over the next two years, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission expects applications to build as many as 32 new nuclear reactors.

Duke Energy could be among them. It reacquired the Cherokee County site and has been tearing down old buildings so it can ask the NRC to let it start all over again. On a hot mid-September afternoon, a giant wrecking hammer was prying huge chunks of concrete from the walls of the old containment facility. They dangled from steel reinforcing rods like stones tottering from the ruins of an ancient coliseum. Inside, the props for "The Abyss" lay covered with dust.

Other utilities and independent power companies are also laying the groundwork for a new wave of U.S. nuclear plants. On Sept. 24, NRG Energy filed the first full application for a new nuclear unit since the partial meltdown of Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island plant in 1979. Then the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) approved plans to build two new reactors in northern Alabama, where it abandoned two mostly finished units in 1988 when electricity demand failed to meet forecasts. Earlier, Constellation Energy Groupfiled a partial license application to add a nuclear unit to its existing site in Calvert Cliffs, Maryland.

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Iraqi Investigation Faults Blackwater USA
2007-10-08 02:32:46
Iraqi officials conclude that 17 people were killed without provocation at Baghdad square.

An Iraqi government investigation into the Sept. 16 shooting involving Blackwater USA has concluded that the security firm's guards fired without provocation into a Baghdad square, killing 17 and injuring 27, a government spokesman said Sunday.

The Blackwater convoy that entered Nisoor Square, in response to a bomb attack near a U.S. State Department convoy a mile away, was not attacked, "not even by a stone," Ali al-Dabbagh, the spokesman, said in a statement.

The employees of the North Carolina-based company, he said, committed "an intentional murder that needed to be called to account according to the law." The casualty toll he gave was higher than the previous official tally of 14 dead and 18 injured based on hospital records.

The Iraqi government's inquiry echoed similar findings by the Interior Ministry as well as U.S. military reports from the scene. Blackwater insists that its guards were ambushed and that Iraqi policemen and civilians shot at their vehicles.

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Student Editor Keeps Job, Warned About Ethics
2007-10-08 02:32:04

A headline in Friday’s Rocky Mountain Collegian hit especially close to home for the writers and editors of the college newspaper at Colorado State University. 

“Collegian Editor Will Keep His Job,” it said, reporting that an independent review board that oversees The Collegian had decided to admonish, but not fire, the editor who had approved a vulgar, four-word editorial about President Bush in a space that would usually run to hundreds of words.

The unusual editorial, published on Sept. 21 in an extra-large font, contained a four-letter expletive in front of  Bush’s name. The Collegian, led by editor in chief J. David McSwane, said the message was an exercise of free speech; some students on the Fort Collins campus said it was immature and insulting.

Calls for McSwane’s removal were immediate, and the board responsible for the newspaper called a hearing to determine his fate.

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