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Friday, November 09, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday November 9 2007 - (813)

Friday November 9 2007 edition
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Bush Administration Tells E.U. Firms To Quit Iran Now
2007-11-09 02:03:41
U.K., French and German companies begin pullout as U.S. piles on pressure due to Tehran's nuclear program.

Multinational companies are coming under increasing pressure from the U.S. to stop doing business with Iran because of its nuclear program. European operators are facing threats from Washington that they could jeopardize their U.S.  interests by continuing to deal with Tehran, with increasing evidence that European governments, mainly France, Germany and Britain, are supporting the U.S. campaign.

It emerged Thursday night that Siemens, one of the world's largest engineering groups and based in Germany, has pulled out of all new business dealings with Iran after pressure from the U.S. and German governments. This follows the decision by Germany's three biggest banks, Deutsche, Commerzbank, and Dresdner, to quit Iran after a warning from U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney that if firms remain in Tehran, they are going to have problems doing business in the U.S.

The British Foreign Office, while sympathizing with City firms, has privately backed the U.S. warnings in recent weeks, telling companies such as Shell and BP of the risks of continuing business with Iran. The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has urged French energy firms Total and GDF not to pursue new business in Iran. Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, is joining him in pressing for new sanctions, probably at E.U. level.

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Bhutto Placed Under House Arrest Prior To Protest Rally
2007-11-09 02:03:14
Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was placed under house arrest this morning, her political party said. Streets were filled with police officers carrying batons and shields, and trucks blocked roads, trying to prevent access to a protest rally that Ms. Bhutto had helped organize in Rawalpindi, the garrison city adjacent to the capital of Islamabad.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Thursday, a day after President Bush called, that Pakistan’s parliamentary elections would be held before Feb. 15. But his security forces continued to widen their crackdown and jailed thousands of opposition party members before the rally, which is scheduled to start in the early afternoon today.

In making the lone concession, General Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, appears to have calculated that it would be enough to defuse his opposition here and to satisfy the White House, which called the general’s announcement of an election timetable a “good thing.”

Even so, Bhutto called General Musharraf’s statement “vague” and said Thursday that she was determined to go ahead with her protest rally, despite fears of heavy clashes between the police and protesters.

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Exceptional Tidal Surge Puts Britain's East Coast On Emergency Alert
2007-11-09 02:02:37
Cabinet officials meet to prepare for breach in U.K.'s flood defenses; "extreme danger to life and property" warning issued.

Thousands of people on the east coast of England were preparing to evacuate their homes Thursday night, having been told of an "extreme danger to life and property" as eight severe flood warnings were issued by the country's Environment Agency.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown convened a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee last night amid signs a storm surge off the coast of East Anglia would lead to flash flooding. Ministers are particularly concerned over the vulnerability of the port of Lowestoft in Suffolk.

The first indication of the scale of the risk came when the environment secretary, Hilary Benn, told the House of  Commons of the danger, but ministers had decided it was sufficiently acute to convene Cobra, a meeting of government  ministers and emergency planners from across Whitehall.

The Environment Agency said gale-force winds in Scotland and a high tide were expected to cause a 2.9 meter (9 feet  6 inches) tidal surge, and suggested the areas at greatest risk were the Norfolk Broads and the coast south of Great Yarmouth including Lowestoft and Felixstowe.

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U.S. Senate Confirms Mukasey As U.S. Attorney General
2007-11-09 02:01:21

A divided Senate narrowly confirmed former federal judge Michael B. Mukasey Thursday night as the 81st attorney general, giving the nominee the lowest level of congressional support of any Justice Department leader in the past half-century.

The 53 to 40 vote came after more than four hours of impassioned floor debate, and it reflected an effort by Democrats to register their displeasure with Bush administration policies on torture and the boundaries of presidential power.

The final tally gave Mukasey the lowest number of yes votes for any attorney general since 1952, just weeks after lawmakers of both parties had predicted his easy confirmation. His supporters believe that Mukasey is the best possible replacement for Alberto R. Gonzales, who left under a cloud of scandal in September.

He avoided defeat only because a half dozen Democrats voted in favor of the appointment along with Republicans and Democrat-turned-independent Joseph I. Lieberman (Connecticut). 

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Merck Agrees To Settle Vioxx Suits For $4.85 Billion
2007-11-09 02:00:44

Three years after withdrawing its pain medication Vioxx from the market, Merck has agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle 27,000 lawsuits by people who claim they or their family members suffered injury or died after taking the drug, according to two lawyers with direct knowledge of the matter.

The settlement, one of the largest ever in civil litigation, comes after nearly 20 Vioxx civil trials over the last two years from New Jersey to California. After losing a $253 million verdict in the first case, Merck has won most of the rest of the cases that reached juries, giving plaintiffs little choice but to settle.

The settlement will help put Vioxx behind Merck, as well as sharply reduce its Vioxx-related legal defense fees, which are now running at more than $600 million annually.

Judges in Louisiana, New Jersey and California, who oversee nearly all the lawsuits, had pressed for a deal before a new wave of trials was scheduled to begin in January.

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Bernanke Tells Congress Economic Growth Likely To Slow
2007-11-08 14:30:19
Federal Reserve chairman urges Congress to take steps to ease the mounting mortgage crisis amid renewed turbulence in global markets.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke urged Congress Thursday to take steps to ease the mounting mortgage crisis as renewed turbulence in global stock and currency markets continues driving down the value of the dollar and raising doubts about U.S. economic performance.

In prepared testimony before the Joint Economic Committee, Bernanke said that the U.S. economy was likely to "slow noticeably" in coming months and on into next year under the combined effects of a crunch in the housing industry, an anticipated decline in consumer spending and a possible decrease in business investment. To avoid compounding the problem, Bernanke said, Congress should take steps to ensure that home foreclosures are kept to a minimum as aggressive adjustable mortgages reset to higher interest rates in coming months.

Bernanke said that in excess of 2 million mortgages will be readjusted to higher rates by the end of next year, crimping homeowners who are already late or defaulting on their payments in record numbers. He suggested that Congress, for example, give final approval to a pending proposal to change Federal Housing Administration programs that help make mortgage loans available to people with middle to low incomes.

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Bush Handed First Veto Override On Water Bill
2007-11-08 14:29:49
President Bush suffered the first veto override of his seven-year-old presidency Thursday as the Senate enacted a $23 billion water resources bill despite his protest that it was filled with unnecessary projects.

The 79-14 vote included 34 Republicans who defied the president. Enactment was a foregone conclusion, but it still marked a milestone for a president who spent his first six years with a much friendlier Congress controlled by his Republican Party.

Now he confronts a more hostile, Democratic-controlled legislature, and Thursday's vote showed that most of the Republicans will defy him on spending matters dear to their political careers.

The bill funds hundreds of Army Corps of Engineers projects, such as dams, sewage plants and beach restoration, that are important to local communities and their representatives. It also includes money for the hurricane-hit Gulf Coast and for Florida Everglades restoration efforts.

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Pakistan's Musharraf Agrees To Elections
2007-11-08 14:29:19
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has decided that parliamentary elections will be held by Feb. 15 and reiterated plans to step down as head of the Army, partial concessions to the pressure building on him from Washington and inside Pakistan since he declared a state of emergency over the weekend.

However the embattled president still seemed headed for direct confrontation with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who said Thursday's announcements would not dissuade her from a mass rally planned for Friday in Rawalpindi. Authorities rounded up hundreds of members of Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party in overnight raids - the first time that party activists have been targeted since the emergency was declared.

At a news conference in Islamabad, Bhutto said that neither Musharraf's announcement nor the government's crackdown against her party would deter the protest. She called on all Pakistanis to attend, regardless of their party.

"If you support democracy, please join us," she said.

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Majory Oil Discovery Rocks Brazil
2007-11-09 02:03:29
A huge offshore oil discovery could raise Brazil's petroleum reserves by a whopping 40 percent and boost this country into the ranks of the world's major exporters, said officials.

The government-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, said the new "ultra-deep" Tupi field could hold as much as 8 billion barrels of recoverable light crude, sending Petrobras shares soaring and prompting predictions that Brazil could join the world's "top 10" oil producers.

Petrobras President Sergio Gabrielli said Thursday the oil from ultradeep areas, including the Tupi field, would give Brazil the world's eighth-largest oil and gas reserves.

"Brazil's reserves will lie somewhere between those of Nigeria and those of Venezuela," Gabrielli said at a news conference.

Petrobras says the Tupi field, off Brazil's southeastern Atlantic coast, has between 5 billion and 8 billion barrels - equivalent to 40 percent of all the oil ever discovered in Brazil.

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As Yellowstone Bubbles, Experts Are Calm
2007-11-09 02:02:51

Something is stirring deep below the legendary hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone, the first and most famous national park in America - and home to a huge volcanic caldron.

Parts of the park have been rising the past three years at a rate never before observed by scientists. They believe that magma - molten rock - is filling pores in the Earth's crust and causing a large swath of Yellowstone to rise like a pie in the oven.

That doesn't mean you should cancel any vacation plans. Scientists see no sign that Yellowstone is about to blow its top.

"There's no evidence of eruption," said Robert B. Smith, a University of Utah geophysicist and co-author of a new report on Yellowstone's unusual behavior, published Friday in the journal Science. The park's recent rise is "just part of the natural process."

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U.S. Claims Al-Qaeda Out Of Baghdad - European Analysts Doubt Assessment
2007-11-09 02:02:01
The U.S. military has painted its most upbeat assessment yet of security in the Iraqi capital, claiming it has forced the most extreme of the insurgent groups, al-Qaeda in Iraq, out of every neighborhood in Baghdad, and has cut the number of murders by 80%.

In a move described as over-optimistic by some observers, Major-General Joseph Fil, commander of the U.S. forces in Baghdad, told reporters that the clear-out of extremists would make it easier for the U.S. military to reduce its presence in the city beginning next year.

Speaking to reporters in the Iraqi capital, Gen. Fil said "there's just no question" that violence had declined since a rise in June. He said: "Murder victims are down 80% from where they were at the peak." He added: "The Iraqi people have decided that they've had it up to here with violence."

The U.S. has been providing arms to militia groups in Baghdad and elsewhere to take on al-Qaeda. Gen. Fil's comments are in line with recent U.S. assessments that there have been improvements in security, albeit often marginal. European defense analysts cautioned against rushing to premature judgments. One, speaking on condition of anonymity, described Gen. Fil's assessment as "wildly optimistic" and warned that there was a danger of his words "coming back to bite him".

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FDA: Some Anemia Drugs Lead To Tumor Growth
2007-11-09 02:01:01
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration called on physicians Thursday to warn cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy that certain anti-anemia drugs led to tumor growth and decreased survival in some patients.

At issue are drugs sold under the brand names Procrit, Epogen and Aranesp. They are genetically engineered versions of a natural protein that increases the number of red blood cells. The drugs generated $10 billion in sales last year.

The FDA also approved several new labeling changes, which emphasize that the drugs caused tumor growth and shortened survival in cancer patients with advanced breast, head and neck, lymphoid, or non-small-cell lung cancer.

The patients at greater risk for the adverse effects received a dose that attempted to raise hemoglobin levels in blood to at least 12 grams per deciliter. The new boxed warning emphasizes that no clinical data are available that would exclude similar risks for patients getting smaller doses, said FDA officials.

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Kerik's Corruption Case Dogs Giuliani
2007-11-09 02:00:27
The scene outside the old Victorian-style courthouse in Dubuque, Iowa, on Thursday morning showed that the indictment of Bernard B. Kerik is at the very least a big distraction for Rudolph W. Giuliani's presidential campaign.

The site had been chosen with care: Giuliani spoke across from the courthouse, which has a statue of Justice atop its golden cupola. With him were two former United States attorneys who were there to talk about Giuliani’s record as a corruption-busting federal prosecutor before he became mayor of New York.

But the only federal corruption case that reporters asked about was the one being built against Kerik - Giuliani's former driver, police commissioner, partner, and, briefly, choice to head the federal Department of Homeland Security. A grand jury on Thursday voted to charge Kerik, and he is expected to be arraigned on a sealed indictment at midday Friday in United States District Court in White Plains, New York, on corruption-related charges, according to people briefed on the case.

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How Blackwater Sniper Fire Felled Three Iraqi Guards
2007-11-08 14:30:04
Witnesses call shooting from Justice Ministry unprovoked, but U.S. State Department cleared its security team after a brief probe.

Last Feb. 7, a sniper employed by Blackwater USA, the private security company, opened fire from the roof of the Iraqi Justice Ministry. The bullet tore through the head of a 23-year-old guard for the state-funded Iraqi Media Network, who was standing on a balcony across an open traffic circle. Another guard rushed to his colleague's side and was fatally shot in the neck. A third guard was found dead more than an hour later on the same balcony.

Eight people who responded to the shootings - including media network and Justice Ministry guards and an Iraqi army commander - and five network officials in the compound said none of the slain guards had fired on the Justice Ministry, where a U.S. diplomat was in a meeting. An Iraqi police report described the shootings as "an act of terrorism" and said Blackwater "caused the incident." The media network concluded that the guards were killed "without any provocation."

The U.S. government reached a different conclusion. Based on information from the Blackwater guards, who said they were fired upon, the State Department determined that the security team's actions "fell within approved rules governing the use of force," according to an official from the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Neither U.S. Embassy officials nor Blackwater representatives interviewed witnesses or returned to the network, less than a quarter-mile from Baghdad's Green Zone, to investigate.

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Aqua Dots Toy Pulled From Shelves After Date Rape Drug Found In Dots
2007-11-08 14:29:32
A woman whose toddler son ingested a popular toy that contains a chemical that turns into a powerful "date rape" drug when eaten said Thursday she knew he was ill when he began to stumble, seemed drunk and started vomiting.

The mother, Shelby Esses, said her 20-month-old son Jacob, fell down and was limp after getting into his older sister's Aqua Dots, a Chinese-made toy recalled Wednesday by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"And that's when we knew what he had eaten and that things were pretty bad," she told ABC's "Good Morning America."

Aqua Dots, a highly popular holiday toy sold by Australia-based Moose Enterprises, are beads that can be arranged into designs and fused when sprayed with water. The toy was pulled from shelves in North American and Australia after scientists found they contain a chemical that converts into a dangerous drug when eaten. Two children in the U.S. and three in Australia were hospitalized after swallowing the beads.

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Ford Reports $380 Million Loss For Third Quarter
2007-11-08 14:29:04
Ford Motor Co. posted a third-quarter loss of $380 million on Thursday, a vast improvement over its $5.2 billion loss a year earlier.

Although the performance was worse than its second-quarter profit of $750 million, Ford still was in the black for the year and its executives said a turnaround plan is taking hold.

The second-biggest U.S-based automaker also said it is near a deal to sell its Jaguar and Land Rover units but its CEO said there are no plans to sell its Volvo business.

The latest results beat Wall Street expectations, and its shares edged up 6 cents to $8.30 in midday trading.

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