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Monday, November 12, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday November 12 2007 - (813)

Monday November 12 2007 edition
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Top U.S. Intelligence Official: Expect Less Privacy
2007-11-11 16:56:56
As Congress debates new rules for government eavesdropping, a top intelligence official says it is time that people in the United States changed their definition of privacy.

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people's private communications and financial information.

Kerr's comments come as Congress is taking a second look at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Lawmakers hastily changed the 1978 law last summer to allow the government to eavesdrop inside the United States without court permission, so long as one end of the conversation was reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S.

The original law required a court order for any surveillance conducted on U.S. soil, to protect Americans' privacy. The White House argued that the law was obstructing intelligence gathering because, as technology has changed, a growing amount of foreign communications passes through U.S.-based channels.
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Pay It Off Later - Debt Is The New American Dream
2007-11-11 16:56:25
The U.S. addicted to debt -- and the country and millions of its citizens are at the brink of bankruptcy.

Money for nothing. Own a home for no money down. Do not pay for your appliances until 2012. This is the new American Dream, and for the last few years, millions have been giddily living it. Dead is the old version, the one historian James Truslow Adams introduced to the world as "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement."

Such Puritan ideals - to work hard, to save for a better life - didn't die from the natural causes of age and obsolescence. We killed them, willfully and purposefully, to create a new gilded age. As a society, we told ourselves we could all get rich, put our feet up on the decks of our new vacation homes, and let our money work for us. Earning is for the unenlightened. Equity is the new golden calf. Sadly, this is a hollow dream. Yes, luxury homes have been hitting new gargantuan heights. Ferrari sales have never been better. But much of the ever-expanding wealth is an illusory façade masking a teetering tower of debt - the greatest the world has seen. It will collapse, in a disaster of our own making.

Distress is already rumbling through Wall Street. Subprime mortgages leapt into the public consciousness this summer, becoming the catchphrase for the season. Hedge fund masterminds who command salaries in the tens of millions for their supposed financial prescience, but have little oversight or governance, bet their investors' multi-multi-billions on the ability that subprime borrowers - who by very definition have lower incomes and/or rotten credit histories - would miraculously find means to pay back loans far exceeding what they earn. They didn't, and surging loan defaults are sending shockwaves through the markets. Yet despite the turmoil this collapse is wreaking, it's just the first ripple to hit the shore. America's debt crisis runs deep.

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Iraqi Government To U.N.: 'Don't Extend Mandate For Bush's Occupation'
2007-11-11 16:55:45
Bush needs the U.N.'s cover to justify the occupation, but the only way he can renew the expiring U.N. mandate is to cut Iraq's frail democracy out of the process.

The United Nations Security Council, with support from the British and American delegations, is poised to cut the Iraqi parliament out of one of the most significant decisions the young government will make: when foreign troops will depart. It's an ugly and unconstitutional move, designed solely to avoid asking an Iraqi legislature for a blank check for an endless military occupation that it's in no mood to give, and it will make a mockery of Iraq's nascent democracy (which needs all the legitimacy it can get).

While the Bush administration frequently invokes sunny visions of spreading democracy and "freedom" around the world, the fact remains that democracy is incompatible with its goals in Iraq. The biggest headache supporters of the occupation of Iraq have to deal with is the occupation itself. As far back as the middle of 2004, more than nine out of 10 Iraqis said the U.S.-led forces were "occupiers," and only 2 percent called them "liberators." Things have only gone downhill since then, and any government that represents the will of the Iraqi people would have no choice but to demand a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops. This fact poses an enormous problem, as the great triumph of the Bush administration and its supporters has been in their ability to convince Americans that Iraqi interests and Washington's interests are in harmony, even when they're diametrically opposed.

Crucial to this fiction is a U.N. mandate that confers legal cover on the so-called "multinational" forces in Iraq. The mandate is now coming up for renewal, and a majority of Iraqi legislators oppose its renewal unless conditions are placed on it, conditions that may include a timetable for the departure of American troops.

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Clinton, Obama Trade Barbs At Iowa Fundraiser
2007-11-11 16:55:09
Democrats also skewer Bush, Republicans

U.S. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York) and Barack Obama (Illinois) drew sharp contrasts with one another Saturday night at a state party fundraiser over who is best able to lead the Democratic Party in next year's presidential election, less than eight weeks before Iowa's critical January caucuses.

A long night of political oratory that featured the six major Democrats ended with Clinton and Obama, in back-to-back speeches, taking aim at each other. Clinton sought to rebut criticism that she has been vague and calculating in her campaign and, targeting what her aides believe is one of Obama's weaknesses, argued that she has the strength and experience to move the country away from the policies of President Bush.

Obama was even more direct in trying to raise doubts about Clinton as a candidate, saying: "If we are really serious about winning this election, Democrats, then we can't live in fear of losing. This party, the party of Jefferson and Jackson and Roosevelt and Kennedy, has always made the biggest difference in the lives of the American people when we led not by polls but by principle, not by calculation but by conviction, when we summoned the entire nation to ... a higher purpose."

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Russian Oil Tanker Splits In Half Spilling 560,000 Gallons Of Fuel
2007-11-11 14:37:12
A Russian oil tanker split in two during a fierce storm early Sunday, spilling some 560,000 gallons of fuel into a strait leading to the Black Sea in one of the worst environmental disasters in the region in years, said authorities.

Two freighters carrying sulfur also sank nearby in the Strait of Kerch, a narrow strait linking the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov to the northeast, said Sergei Petrov, a spokesman for the regional branch of Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry.

Operations to rescue the crews of all three ships were under way, officials said.

The oil tanker, the Volganeft-139 - loaded with about 1.3 million gallons of fuel oil - was stranded several miles from shore. Stormy weather is preventing emergency workers from collected the spilled oil, said authorities.

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U.S. Concerned About Pakistan's Nuclear Limits
2007-11-11 01:41:49
Lack of knowledge about Islamabad's weapons arsenal leaves White House with few good options to prevent it from falling into wrong hands.

When the United States learned in 2001 that Pakistani scientists had shared nuclear secrets with members of al-Qaeda,  an alarmed Bush administration responded with tens of millions of dollars worth of equipment such as intrusion detectors and I.D. systems to safeguard Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

But Pakistan remained suspicious of U.S. aims and declined to give U.S. experts direct access to the half-dozen or so bunkers where the components of its arsenal of about 50 nuclear weapons are stored. For the officials in Washington now monitoring Pakistan's deepening political crisis, the experience offered both reassurance and grounds for concern.

Protection for Pakistan's nuclear weapons is considered equal to that of most Western nuclear powers, but U.S. officials worry that their limited knowledge about the locations and conditions in which the weapons are stored gives them few good options for a direct intervention to prevent the weapons from falling into unauthorized hands.

"We can't say with absolute certainty that we know where they all are," said a former U.S. official who closely tracked the security upgrades. If an attempt were made by the United States to seize the weapons to prevent their loss, "it could be very messy," the official said.

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Editorial: Abdicate And Capitulate
2007-11-11 01:41:12
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Sunday, November 11, 2007.

It is extraordinary how President Bush has streamlined the Senate confirmation process. As we have seen most recently with the vote to confirm Michael Mukasey as attorney general, about all that is left of “advice and consent” is the “consent” part.

Once upon a time, the confirmation of major presidential appointments played out on several levels - starting, of course, with politics. It was assumed that a president would choose like-minded people as cabinet members and for other jobs requiring Senate approval. There was a presumption that he should be allowed his choices, all other things being equal.

Before George W. Bush’s presidency, those other things actually counted. Was the nominee truly qualified, with a professional background worthy of the job? Would he discharge his duties fairly and honorably, upholding his oath to protect the Constitution? Even though she answers to the president, would the nominee represent all Americans? Would he or she respect the power of Congress to supervise the executive branch, and the power of the courts to enforce the rule of law?

In less than seven years, Mr. Bush has managed to boil that list down to its least common denominator: the president should get his choices. At first, Mr. Bush was abetted by a slavish Republican majority that balked at only one major appointment - Harriet Miers for Supreme Court justice, and then only because of doubts that she was far enough to the right.

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Forced Iraq Posting Possible At U.S. State Dept.
2007-11-11 01:40:31
Days before deadline for volunteers, about half of 48 slots at U.S. embassy in Baghdad are unfilled.

Four days before a deadline for Foreign Service officers to volunteer to go to Iraq or face the prospect of being ordered there, the State Department notified employees Saturday that "about half" of 48 open assignments there for next year have been filled.

"This reduces but does not eliminate the possibility that directed assignments may be necessary," Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negropontewrote in an e-mailed update. Filling the remaining jobs is still "the Department's priority," he said, adding that he is optimistic that more will volunteer.

With 26 positions still open, however, it appeared increasingly unlikely that they will all be filled by Tuesday's deadline. Both Negroponte and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have made clear in recent days that they intend to proceed with a mandatory call-up if spots remain unstaffed.

"If I need somebody to serve in Iraq, they have to serve there," Rice said in an interview on Friday with the Dallas Morning News. 

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Editorial: Veterans Without Health Care
2007-11-11 01:39:15
Intellpuke: The following editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Friday, November 9, 2007.

Although many Americans believe that the nation’s veterans have ready access to health care, that is far from the case. A new study by researchers at the Harvard Medical School has found that millions of veterans and their dependents have no access to care in veterans’ hospitals and clinics and no health insurance to pay for care elsewhere. Their plight represents yet another failure of our disjointed health care system to provide coverage for all Americans.

The new study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, estimated that in 2004 nearly 1.8 million veterans were uninsured and unable to get care in veterans’ facilities. An additional 3.8 million members of their households faced the same predicament. All told, this group made up roughly 12 percent of the huge population of uninsured Americans.

Most of the uninsured veterans were working-class people who were too poor to afford private insurance but not poor enough to qualify for care under a priority system administered by the Veterans Affairs Department. Some were unable to get care because there was no V.A. facility nearby, or the nearest facility had a long waiting list, or they could not afford the co-payments required of some veterans.

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U.S. Investors Brace For Economic Downturn
2007-11-11 16:56:37
The gloom is spreading.

For weeks, credit worries had weighed on the stock market. Investors fled from financial shares as the nation's giant banks wrote down billions of dollars against losses from the subprime debacle. With the financial shakeout still far from over, fresh anxieties surfaced last week as General Motors reported a staggering loss and the lofty tech sector started sinking back to earth.

When the stock market opens again tomorrow, investors will be looking for signs of the depth of the downturn. Earnings reports from two industry leaders this week, Wal-Mart and Home Depot, will help provide a picture on consumer spending. Data on home sales, retail sales and inflation also will give the markets some direction. One key will be the impact of rising oil and commodities prices on inflation. A sharp uptick could prevent the Federal Reserve from lowering interest rates if the economy weakens.

The drumbeat of grim news last week - initial reports of poor retail sales, slumping consumer sentiment and no evidence of a letup in the slide of the dollar - has heightened concerns about the state of the U.S. economy. On Thursday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke weighed in, testifying before Congress that growth is likely to slow through the first half of 2008.

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Commentary: Biofuels Could Kill More People Than The Iraq War
2007-11-11 16:56:00
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by George Monbiot and appeared in the Guardian edition for Friday, November 9, 2007. In his commentary, Prof. Monbiot writes: "If the governments promoting biofuels do not do not reverse their policies, the humanitarian impact will be greater than that of the Iraq war." Prof. Monbiot's commentary follows:

It doesn't get madder than this. Swaziland is in the grip of a famine and receiving emergency food aid. Forty per cent of its people are facing acute food shortages. So what has the government decided to export? Biofuel made from one of its staple crops, cassava. The government has allocated several thousand hectares of farmland to ethanol production in the county of Lavumisa, which happens to be the place worst hit by drought. It would surely be quicker and more humane to refine the Swazi people and put them in our tanks. Doubtless a team of development consultants is already doing the sums.

This is one of many examples of a trade described last month by Jean Ziegler, the United Nation's special rapporteur, as "a crime against humanity." Ziegler took up the call first made by this column for a five-year moratorium on all government targets and incentives for biofuel: the trade should be frozen until second-generation fuels - made from wood or straw or waste - become commercially available. Otherwise the superior purchasing power of drivers in the rich world means that they will snatch food from people's mouths. Run your car on virgin biofuel and other people will starve.

Even the International Monetary Fund, always ready to immolate the poor on the altar of business, now warns that using food to produce biofuels "might further strain already tight supplies of arable land and water all over the world, thereby pushing food prices up even further." This week the UN Food and Agriculture Organization will announce the lowest global food reserves in 25 years, threatening what it calls "a very serious crisis." Even when the price of food was low, 850 million people went hungry because they could not afford to buy it. With every increment in the price of flour or grain, several million more are pushed below the breadline.

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Former British Soldier Arrested In Spy Sting
2007-11-11 16:55:26
A former British soldier has been arrested on suspicion of spying for the Russian intelligence services.

Peter Hill, a former Territorial Army trooper in the Royal Armored Corps, was detained under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly trying to sell classified military documents to the Russians.

Hill was arrested after a London Metropolitan Police sting in which an undercover officer was believed to have posed as a Kremlin agent.

Hill, 23, described as an "opportunist", is understood to have been under surveillance for some time and was arrested in Leeds in the north of England, last Wednesday, within minutes of the alleged exchange taking place.

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Sharif Writes To Bhutto In Support Of Opposition Unity
2007-11-11 16:54:39
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has “wholeheartedly” welcomed Benazir Bhutto’s proposal for an all parties conference aimed at uniting all political parties opposing the military regime [of Gen. Pervez Musharraf].

However, in a letter addressed to Benazir, a copy of which was e-mailed to journalists Saturday, Sharif did seek clarification from Benazir regarding the “nature and details” of promises made to her by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

“You have announced your plan to organize a long march from Lahore on Nov. 13 in case Musharraf fails to fulfill his promises. As we are not aware of the nature of these promises, we would appreciate if you could take us into confidence concerning their details,” wrote Sharif.

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Iraqi Insurgents 'Grilled For Iran Evidence'
2007-11-11 01:42:00
Privately contracted interrogator says U.S. military seeks evidence incriminating Iran from Iraqi fighters.

U.S. military officials are putting huge pressure on interrogators who question Iraqi insurgents to find incriminating evidence pointing to Iran, it was claimed last night.

Micah Brose, a privately contracted interrogator working for American forces in Iraq, near the Iranian border, told The Observer that information on Iran is "gold". The claim comes after Washington imposed sanctions on Iran last month, citing both its nuclear ambitions and its Revolutionary Guards' alleged support of Shia insurgents in Iraq. Last week the U.S. military freed nine Iranians held in Iraq, including two it had accused of links to the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force.

Brose, 30, who extracts information from detainees in Iraq, said: "They push a lot for us to establish a link with Iran. They have pre-categories for us to go through, and by the sheer volume of categories there's clearly a lot more for Iran than there is for other stuff. Of all the recent requests I've had, I'd say 60 to 70 per cent are about Iran.

"It feels a lot like, if you get something and Iran's not involved, it's a let down." He added: "I've had people say to me, 'They're really pushing the Iran thing. It's like, shit, you know'."

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U.S. Army Spending $2.6 Billion On Helicopters That Overheat
2007-11-11 01:41:34
The U.S. Army is spending $2.6 billion on hundreds of European-designed helicopters for homeland security and disaster relief that turn out to have a crucial flaw: They aren't safe to fly on hot days, according to an internal report obtained by the Associated Press.

While the Army scrambles to fix the problem - adding millions to the taxpayer cost - at least one high-ranking lawmaker is calling for the whole deal to be scrapped.

During flight tests in Southern California in mild, 80-degree weather, cockpit temperatures in the UH-72A Lakota soared above 104, the point at which the Army says the communication, navigation and flight control systems can overheat and shut down.

No cockpit equipment failed during the nearly 23 hours of testing, according to the Pentagon report, prepared in July, but the report concluded that the aircraft "is not effective for use in hot environments."

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Pressure In Pakistan Builds As Bhutto Pushes Ahead To Endgame
2007-11-11 01:40:54
Freed opposition leader makes U-turn over fired lawyers and judges and calls on her supporters to march.

President Pervez Musharraf began buckling to international pressure Saturday as Pakistan's attorney-general, Malik Mohammad Qayyum, suggested the state of emergency - announced eight days ago amid his "post-modern coup"  against his own regime - could be lifted within a month.

It came as the temporary house arrest imposed on former Prime Minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, to prevent her from addressing a rally of tens of thousands of her supporters in Rawalpindi on Friday, was also lifted.

The latest concession by the President and chief of the army to the demands of Washington and London, which have been attempting to broker a power-sharing deal between Musharraf and Bhutto, comes after Musharraf suggested elections, originally planned for January, would go ahead by February 15.

The reversals came as Bhutto aligned herself for the first time with deposed chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. The move by Musharraf is unlikely to be enough to end days of protests - led by lawyers and journalists - over Musharraf's purging of the country's Supreme Court, which had sought to hold the regime accountable for corruption and human rights abuses.

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Thousands Of Veterans Turn Out For Vietnam Memorial's 25th Anniversary
2007-11-11 01:39:29

Thousands of graying Vietnam veterans, many clad in jungle boots and old fatigues, marched down Constitution Avenue Saturday to mark the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and to pay tribute to the more than 58,000 war dead enshrined on the Wall.

Their numbers thinned by age, their marching cadence uneven, the men and women who served in the war paraded to the rousing music of Sousa and the calls of "Thank you!" and "Welcome home!" and "Hoo-Ah!" from the crowds who lined the sidewalk.

They came from across the country and from all lines of work, many now retired. They carried flags and banners or wore jackets and T-shirts proclaiming where and when they had served. The names of such battles as Khe Sanh and Ia Drang, once places of death and horror, were emblazoned on signs and windbreakers. Many marchers sported the insignia of their old division: the Americal's white stars on a blue field or the 1st Cavalry's black horse's head on a yellow shield.

There were marchers who had been soldiers, Marines, medics, nurses, Red Cross volunteers, airmen who handled fierce attack dogs, sailors who manned heavily armed harbor patrol boats and simple "grunts."

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