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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday November 3 2007 - (813)

Saturday November 3 2007 edition
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Witnesses Tell Congress That FDA Cannot Ensure That Drugs Are Safe
2007-11-03 02:56:21

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cannot guarantee the safety of the nation’s drug supply because it inspects few foreign drug manufacturers and the inspections it does carry out abroad are less rigorous than those performed in this country, witnesses told a Congressional subcommittee Thursday.

While foreign companies manufacture as much as 80 percent of all ingredients used by American drug makers, the drug agency’s record keeping is so poor that it cannot say which of those have not been inspected, according to the testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

“More than nine years after we issued our last report on this topic, F.D.A.’s effectiveness in managing the foreign drug inspection program continues to be hindered by weaknesses in its data systems,” Marcia Crosse, director of health care for the Government Accountability Office, said in a statement to the committee.

The agency is supposed to inspect domestic drug makers every two years, but there is no such requirement for foreign suppliers, even though foreign factories are more likely to have quality problems, said witnesses.

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Worst Floods In 50 Years Affect Almost A Million People In Mexico
2007-11-03 02:55:32
Famlies sent to shelters forced to flee again; fears of disease grow, more rain forecast.

A huge rescue operation began in southern Mexico Friday, with rescue workers in boats, helicopters and military trucks striving to bring relief to almost a million people whose homes have been overwhelmed by the worst floods in the area in at least half a century.

Families who ignored calls to leave their homes were huddled on rooftops with no food and drinking water as murky waters surged up to the eaves of buildings and forecasters warned of more rain to come. Others were evacuated to shelters that later also proved vulnerable to the floods.

In an address to the nation in which he appealed for donations of everything from can openers to generators, President Felipe Calderon called the crisis in Tabasco state "one of the worst disasters in the history of the country".

The state governor, Andres Granier, said the floods had directly affected 900,000 people. Half a million had been made homeless, and of these, 300,000 still required rescuing. With many of the buildings designated as shelters now also under water, Granier said the authorities were desperately trying to find other accommodation to cope with the new influx of displaced people.

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Condoleezza Rice Faces Subpoena In Espionage Case
2007-11-03 02:54:06
Federal judge orders secretary of state, Wolfowitz, Feith and others to testify at trial of pro-Israel lobbyists.

A federal judge Friday issued a rare ruling that ordered Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and more than 10 other prominent current and former government officials to testify on behalf of two pro-Israel lobbyists accused of violating the Espionage Act at their upcoming criminal trial.

The opinion by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria, Virginia, directed that subpoenas be issued to officials who include Rice, national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, former high-level Department of Defense officials Paul D. Wolfowitz and Douglas J. Feith, and Richard L. Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state.

Their testimony has been sought by attorneys for Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, former employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,or AIPAC, who are accused of conspiring to obtain classified information and pass it to members of the media and the Israeli government.

Attorneys for Rosen and Weissman say Rice and the other officials could help clear them because they provided the former lobbyists with sensitive information similar to what they were charged for, according to Ellis' ruling and lawyers familiar with the case. Prosecutors have been trying to quash the subpoenas during secret hearings and in classified legal briefs, but Ellis wrote that the testimony could help "exculpate the defendants by negating the criminal states of mind the government must prove.''

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Unusually Risky Spacewalk To Mend Solar Array
2007-11-03 02:51:53

Astronauts will take part in an unusually risky spacewalk Saturday in an effort to mend a torn solar array on the International Space Station.

In the procedure, Scott E. Parazynski will be far out on a limb - or, rather, out on the end of a 50-foot-long boom gripped by the space station’s robotic arm. Dr. Parazynski will either unsnag or cut a wire that appears to have hung up on a hinge of a solar panel, putting two tears in a left-side solar array.

Dr. Parazynski will carry a tool kit that includes a craft project put together based on instructions radioed from mission control - five straps with ends like a cufflink’s. They will be pushed through reinforced holes in the arrays that were manufactured to slide pins through for safe storage during ascent.

The straps will bind the panels to their neighbors and take on the strain that the torn panels can no longer handle, allowing full deployment of the array. Col. Douglas H. Wheelock will be positioned at the base of the array to provide visual cues to Dr. Parazynski.

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Top U.S. Regulators Took Trips Paid For By Industries They Were Supposed To Regulate
2007-11-02 01:46:06

The chief of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and her predecessor have taken dozens of trips at the expense of the toy, appliance and children's furniture industries and others they regulate, according to internal records obtained by the Washington Post. Some of the trips were sponsored by lobbying groups and lawyers representing the makers of products linked to consumer hazards.

The records document nearly 30 trips since 2002 by the agency's acting chairman, Nancy Nord, and the previous chairman, Hal Stratton, that were paid for in full or in part by trade associations or manufacturers of products ranging from space heaters to disinfectants. The airfares, hotels and meals totaled nearly $60,000, and the destinations included China, Spain, San Francisco, New Orleans and a golf resort on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Notable among the trips - commonly described by officials as "gift travel" - was an 11-day visit to China and Hong Kong in 2004 by Stratton, then chairman. The $11,000 trip was paid for by the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory, an industry group based in an office suite in Bethesda, Maryland, whose only laboratories are in Asia. 

The CPSC says that at the time, the group had no pending regulatory requests. Since then the fireworks group has urged the commission to adopt its safety standards, an idea that is still pending, according to an organization newsletter.

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Commentary: The Calamity Of Iraq Has Not Even Won Us Cheap Oil
2007-11-02 01:45:40
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Geoffrey Wheatcroft and appears in the Guardian edition for Friday, Nov. 2, 2007. In his commentary, Mr. Wheatcroft writes, "We knew the war was built on lies - but to have increased petrol prices as well as terror will surely seal history's verdict." His commentary follows:

Although "the judgment of history" has a sonorous ring, it doesn't necessarily require the long gestation that phrase might imply: sometimes there's no need for the owl of Minerva to hang around waiting for the sun to go down. When one eminent historian, Sean Wilentz of Princeton, pronounces bluntly that George Bush the Younger is "the worst president in American history", and another, Tony Judt of New York University, calls the Iraq war "the worst foreign policy error in American history", not many of us will argue with them.

Yet history still doesn't know the half of it. It has long since ceased to be a matter for debate that the Iraq adventure began in mendacity and ended in calamity. Sir Richard Dearlove's public penitence this week merely confirmed what he had already said privately, and not only has every single one of the original official reasons for the invasion been falsified, they have all been stood on their heads. Now, even what many suspected was the ulterior motive - a war for oil - has gone awry

Speaking at the LSE on Wednesday, Dearlove said the government had put "too much emphasis on intelligence" as a justification for the war in order to win [British] parliamentary support. But even before the notorious specious dossiers were compiled - which is what he meant - he had already said with deadly candor in the July 2002 memo, written in greatest secrecy by Dearlove as head of MI6 for the eyes of Blair and his colleagues, that a decision for war had been taken, and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy".

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Undecided, Sen. Schumer May Be Key To Mukasey's Confirmation Chances
2007-11-02 01:45:12
Judiciary Committee chairman endorsed attorney general nominee but says he, like other Democrats, is concerned about torture question.

As Democratic opposition builds over attorney general nominee Michael B. Mukasey, no Democratic lawmaker has found himself in a tighter spot than Sen. Charles E. Schumer (New York), who had eagerly recommended the former federal judge as a consensus candidate.

After Mukasey refused to say whether an interrogation technique called waterboarding amounts to illegal torture, Schumer has watched a growing number of his colleagues announce their opposition to the judge.

Schumer, who has remained uncharacteristically quiet throughout the furor, said in an interview Thursday that he is now "wrestling" with whether to vote against a nomination that he was instrumental in bringing about. He compared the controversy to the 2005 nomination battle over Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

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Ex-Alaska Lawmaker Convicted Of Bribery
2007-11-02 01:44:04
A federal jury convicted a former Alaska lawmaker Thursday of corruption charges involving tax protections sought by oil companies as part of plans for a multibillion-dollar natural gas pipeline.

Vic Kohring, who served in the state House, was accused of demanding and accepting at least $2,600 from Veco Crop. executives for his support on legislation. Prosecutors also contend Kohring solicited a job for his nephew from Veco and sought $17,000 to pay off a credit card debt.

Veco was a major Alaska oil-field services company until it was sold in August.

During the trial, Veco founder and chief executive Bill Allen testified that he was blackmailed by an employee over renovations that Veco workers made at U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens' home. The home improvement project is at the center of a Justice Department corruption investigation into the powerful Republican, who has denied wrongdoing and said he paid all the bills he was given for the work.

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Global Food Crisis Looms As Climate Change, Rising Fuel Prices Bite
2007-11-03 02:55:59
Demand for biofuels and soaring crop prices raise fears of political instability.

Empty shelves in Caracas. Food riots in West Bengal and Mexico. Warnings of hunger in Jamaica, Nepal, the Philippines and sub-Saharan Africa. Soaring prices for basic foods are beginning to lead to political instability, with governments being forced to step in to artificially control the cost of bread, maize, rice and dairy products.

Record world prices for most staple foods have led to 18% food price inflation in China, 13% in Indonesia and Pakistan, and 10% or more in Latin America, Russia and India, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Wheat has doubled in price, maize is nearly 50% higher than a year ago and rice is 20% more expensive, says the U.N. Next week the FAO is expected to say that global food reserves are at their lowest in 25 years and that prices will remain high for years.

Last week the Kremlin forced Russian companies to freeze the price of milk, bread and other foods until January 31, for fear of a public backlash with a parliamentary election looming. "The price of goods has risen sharply and that has hit the poor particularly hard," said Oleg Savelyev, of the Levada Center polling institute.

India, Yemen, Mexico, Burkina Faso and several other countries have had, or been close to, food riots in the last year, something not seen in decades of low global food commodity prices. Meanwhile, there are shortages of beef, chicken and milk in Venezuela and other countries as governments try to keep a lid on food price inflation.

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Homeland Security Relaxes Chemical Plant Storage Rules
2007-11-03 02:55:06
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Friday eased rules requiring tens of thousands of U.S. chemical plants to protect their stockpiles from terrorists, pleasing chemical industry lobbyists but disappointing environmentalists and some Democratic lawmakers, who said they will beef up requirements next year.

The regulations will touch a wide range of U.S. industry, including pulp and paper mills, petroleum plants, food and agriculture facilities, and manufacturing and industrial cleaning sites.

The measure has been delayed for years by disagreements within the Bush administration over the need for new regulations after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Partisan battling is likely to intensify in the Democratic Congress because the chemical security legislation expires in September 2009.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff described the rules as "a critical piece" of federal efforts to diminish the threat posed by large private stockpiles of dangerous chemicals.

DHS in April proposed a list of 344 chemicals that businesses would have to track and disclose to the department through an online reporting system but,  under heavy criticism from industry, it released a less stringent version Friday, reducing the number of targeted chemicals to about 300 and raising the reporting threshold of many chemicals of highest security concern.

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Loyal To Kerik, Giuliani Missed Warning Signs
2007-11-03 02:53:42
New evidence suggests Rudolph W. Giuliani overlooked disturbing information as he supported Bernard B. Kerik.

If the rise of Bernard B. Kerik under the mentorship of Rudolph W. Giuliani was meteoric, the speed of his fall was breathtaking.

In December 2004, President Bush nominated Kerik, a former New York police commissioner, to head the federal Department of Homeland Security.Seven days later, Kerik withdrew as a nominee.

A cascade of questions followed about his judgment as a public official, not least that he had inappropriately lobbied city officials on behalf of Interstate Industrial, a construction firm suspected of links to organized crime. Giuliani defended Kerik, a friend and business partner, whom he had recommended to the Bush administration, but he also tried to shield himself from accusations that he had ignored Kerik’s failings.

“I was not informed of it,” Giuliani said then, when asked if he had been warned about Kerik’s relationship with Interstate before appointing him to the police post in 2000.

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Citigroup's Prince Set To Resign Amid Losses
2007-11-03 02:51:29
The embattled head of Citigroup, the global banking giant, has told directors that he would resign from the bank after an emergency meeting this weekend in the wake of a $5.9 billion write-down and sharp drop in profit, people briefed on the situation said Friday night.

Charles O. Prince III, 57, the chairman and chief executive, took responsibility for the bank’s disappointing results and said it would be better for the bank if he left, said these people.

At the meeting on Sunday, directors are also expected to formally accept his resignation and discuss the possibility of another write-off, just weeks after announcing large losses related to subprime mortgages and the credit market turmoil. Prince did not return calls Friday for comment.

A search committee will begin looking for Prince’s successor immediately, according to a person briefed on the situation. “The entire organization is in uproar, and people have been looking for leadership,” said one Citigroup executive close to the situation. “The organization is waiting for something.”

“At some point, the company is worse off or better off without the guy,” said this person. “That collective point has come and passed.”

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Britain's Prime Minister Considers Saudi Plan To Give Iran Limited Supply Of Uranium
2007-11-02 01:45:52
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown is considering a Saudi plan to limit the supply of uranium to potential nuclear weapons states and will call for new European Union sanctions against Iran in the next few weeks, most probably in the form of an end to export credit guarantees.

U.S.-allied Gulf states said Thursday they are planning a consortium to provide enough enriched uranium for Iran's civil nuclear program, which they believe could be a deterrent against the development of nuclear weapon.

The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, who announced the plan, discussed it with his British counterpart, David Miliband, during the Saudi state visit this week. The prince also held talks with Brown.

The prime minister, who is concerned that the technological division between civilian and military nuclear use is starting to blur, has been struck by the potential of using supply quotas to limit weapons technology. The Bush Administration  believes that Iran's stated aim of developing a civilian program is a smokescreen for development of a nuclear weapon.

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Chrysler To Lay Off 12,000 Employees, Eliminate 4 New Models
2007-11-02 01:45:23
Chrysler ramped up its North American turnaround plan Thursday, announcing as many as 12,000 layoffs, fresh cuts in factory work shifts and the demise of four slow-selling models.

The moves came just days after the company won deep concessions from the United Auto Workers union in a new labor contract. Some UAW workers said they were shocked by Thursday's announcement. "Not having job guarantees put us in a very vulnerable state," said Brett Ward, a Chrysler worker at a plant near Detroit, Michigan. "We wouldn't have thought that a week later they'd already be announcing drastic cuts."

Analysts said the rapid changes showed how aggressively Cerberus Capital Management, Chrysler's new private-equity owner, was moving to remake the company.

"It is not all that surprising to see them moving aggressively," said Colin C. Blaydon, director of the Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship at Dartmouth College. "These are choices that are harder to make as a public company."

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Television And Movie Screen Writers Going On Strike Over Royalties
2007-11-02 01:44:51
Television and movie screen writers said Thursday they would go on strike for the first time in nearly 20 years in a dispute over royalties.

Four writers told the Associated Press that Writers Guild of America President Patric Verrone made the announcement in a closed-door session, drawing loud cheers from the crowd.

"There was a unified feeling in the room. I don't think anyone wants the strike, but people are behind the negotiation committee," said Dave Garrett, screen writer for the movie "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo."

Writers said the guild board would meet Friday to formally call a strike and decide when it would start. They said guild members would be told Friday afternoon.

Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said in a statement the alliance was not surprised by the action.

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