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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday November 17 2007 - (813)

Saturday November 17 2007 edition
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U.N. Says It's Time To Adapt To Global Warming
2007-11-17 01:38:53
In the final installment of its landmark report, the climate change panel says many countries will just have to learn to live with the effects of global warming.

The United Nations' Nobel Prize-winning panel on climate change approved the final installment of its landmark report on global warming on Friday, concluding that even the best efforts at reducing CO2 levels will not be enough, and the world must also focus on adapting to "abrupt and irreversible" climate changes.

New and stronger evidence developed in the last year also suggests that many of the risks cited in the panel's first three reports earlier this year will actually be larger than projected and will occur at lower temperatures, according to a draft of the so-called synthesis report.

The report from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarizes thousands of pages of research produced over the last six years by delegates from 140 countries and is expected to serve as a "how-to" guide for governments meeting in Bali, Indonesia, beginning Dec. 3 to hammer out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire in five years.
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Britain's Climate Change Dept. Facing $600 Million In Cuts
2007-11-16 21:23:44
Recycling and nature protection cut as U.N. calls for tougher measures on carbon emissions.

The British government department spearheading the fight against climate change is planning an emergency package of at least £300 million ($600 million) of budget cuts covering key environmental services, the Guardian reports.

Frontline agencies tackling recycling, nature protection, energy saving, carbon emissions and safeguarding the environment are all being targeted in the package which is being drawn up by Helen Ghosh, the top civil servant at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Details of the cuts have emerged just as the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is due to publish its latest report. The study, to be made public Saturday ahead of a U.N. climate meeting in Bali, Indonesia, will warn that all forms of carbon pollution from flights to inefficient light bulbs must become more expensive if the world is to avert catastrophic effects of warming.

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Are You Being Watched? If You Said 'No', Think Again
2007-11-16 15:26:40

Don't look now. Somebody's watching.

But you knew that, didn't you? How could you not? It's been apparent for years that we're being watched and monitored as we traverse airports and train stations, as we drive, train, fly, surf the Web, e-mail, talk on the phone, get the morning coffee, visit the doctor, go to the bank, go to work, shop for groceries, shop for shoes, buy a TV, walk down the street. Cameras, electronic card readers and transponders are ubiquitous. And in that parallel virtual universe, data miners are busily and constantly culling our cyber selves.

Is anywhere safe from the watchers, the trackers? Is it impossible to just be let alone?

There, in that quintessentially public space, the Mall, came Michael Thrasher, 43, an ordinary guy, just strolling on a lovely recent day. We found him near an entrance to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, where a tower-high surveillance camera loomed overhead.

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Editorial: In Contempt
2007-11-16 15:25:28
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Friday, November 16, 2007.

White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, showed their utter disregard for Congress, the Constitution and the American people when they defied Congressional subpoenas in the United States attorneys scandal. The House Judiciary Committee rightly voted to hold them in contempt, and now the matter goes to the full House.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi should schedule a vote quickly, the House should hold them in contempt and Attorney General Michael Mukasey should ensure that they are punished for their defiance of the nation’s law.

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten in connection with its investigation of the purge of nine top federal prosecutors and other apparent malfeasance in the Justice Department. Invoking executive privilege, Ms. Miers refused to appear and Mr. Bolten refused to turn over critical documents.

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Senate Republicans Block $50 Billion War Funding Bill
2007-11-16 15:24:49
Measure would have required Bush to begin Iraq troop withdrawals.

Senate Republicans blocked the latest Democratic effort to end the Iraq war, rejecting a $50 billion funding package that would require President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops.

The 53-45 vote fell seven short of the 60 votes needed for the measure to clear Republican procedural hurdles. A GOP alternative, which would have provided $70 billion with no strings attached, failed 45-53, or 15 votes short of the 60-vote threshold.

The Democratic version, approved by the House earlier this week, would have required President Bush to start a phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq within 30 days of its enactment and shift the military role to specific missions. Those include protecting U.S. diplomatic facilities, assisting Iraqi Security Forces and engaging in targeted counterterrorism operations. It set a December 15, 2008 goal for completing the process.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada) said he may bring the Democratic bill back to the floor in December, but he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) have asserted that Bush would not receive more war funding this year unless the president accepts Democratic withdrawal terms.

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Pakistanis Growing Frustrated With U.S. Policies
2007-11-16 02:32:08
Inside call centers and in high school social studies classes, at vegetable markets and in book bazaars, Pakistanis from different walks of life here say that ever since President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule two weeks ago, he's been the most unpopular figure in the country. But running a close second, many say, is his ally: President Bush. 

"We used to love America. Give me Tom Cruise and a vacation in Florida any day," said Parveen Aslam, 30, who like many Pakistanis has relatives in the United States. "But why isn't the U.S. standing up for Pakistan when we need it most? Is America even listening to us? We are calling them Busharraf now. They are the same man."

While many Pakistanis lament that the Bush administration is involved in their country's politics, they also see the United States as the only force strong enough to do what they say is necessary to temper the crisis: pressure the military-led government to restore the constitution, release thousands of political prisoners and lift restrictions on the news media.

The White House has taken note as Pakistanis' ire has risen. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte is due in Islamabad on Friday, carrying what diplomats say will be a tough message for Musharraf, who has been a U.S. ally on counterterrorism. Negroponte is also expected to visit with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was placed under house arrest in Lahore on Tuesday just hours before she was to lead a procession to Islamabad in protest of emergency rule. [The Pakistani government lifted the detention order early Friday.]

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Commentary: The Threat From Terrorism Does Not Justify Slicing Away Our Freedoms
2007-11-16 02:31:41
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by author Timothy Garton Ash and appears in the Guardian edition for Thursday, November 15, 2007. Mr. Ash writes: "Britain is now one of the most spied upon societies, where such rights as habeas corpus are hacked to bits."  Though he is writing about Britain, I found that Mr. Ash's comments have resonance for American's as well. His commentary follows:

Smiley swirled the last of the brandy in his balloon glass and muttered: "We've given up far too many freedoms in order to be free. Now we've got to take them back." That legendary spymaster's warning about the over-intrusive, over-mighty national security states that we in the self-styled "free world" built up during the cold war was delivered in John le Carre's novel of 1990, "The Secret Pilgrim". But instead of taking those freedoms back, British people have lost more of them. Across the western world, vastly more personal information is held on individuals by states and private companies; ancient liberties are curbed, people detained without trial, free speech stifled.

Shamingly, among the very worst offenders, the most careless with its citizens' liberties, the most profligate in surveillance, is the British state. Once proud to style itself "mother of the free", Britain has the most watched society in Europe. The country that invented habeas corpus now boasts one of the longest periods of detention without charge in the civilized world. And the guardians of national security want to make that even longer. Yet these same guardians cannot detect illegal immigrants working in their own offices (and even, in one case, reportedly helping to repair the prime minister's top-security car), nor detain a terrorist suspect (who turned out to be a wholly innocent Brazilian) without shooting him in the head.

A compulsion to legislate ever more new restrictions is combined with paroxysms of staggering inefficiency. Can anyone think of a better formula for sacrificing liberty without gaining security? Smiley must be turning in his grave. Or if, as is sometimes rumored, he is still living quietly in Cornwall under another name, then we need to hear his voice again: "We are giving up far too many freedoms in order to be free. We must take them back."

The salami-slicing of Britain's civil liberties, including the right to privacy, has at least two causes. One is the spectacular growth, since Smiley's day, of the technologies of information, communication, observation and data registration. The other is the threat of international terrorism, especially jihadist terrorism, made dramatically visible by the New York, Madrid and London bombings. Even without the atrocities of 9/11 and 7/7, there would have been a vast growth in the personal information stored in computer servers, mobile phone records, credit-rating databanks, CCTV videos and the like. Even without that explosion in the technological possibilities for state and private Big Brothering, such terrorist attacks would have provoked a tightening of security.

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Democrat Contenders Step Up Attacks At Las Vegas Debate
2007-11-16 02:29:59
With less than 50 days until the first presidential primary begins, sharp exchanges mark debate.

Sen. Barack Obama, stepping up his criticism of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, directly accused her of being duplicitous in one of several testy exchanges that marked the Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, Thursday night as one of the most heated of the presidential campaign.

With less than 50 days until primary voting begins, the Democratic contenders showed off newly polished answers on a range of familiar questions. Clinton (New York), the front-runner criticized for sounding evasive during the last debate, on Oct. 30, was much more aggressive, repeatedly challenging her rivals by name, as she had not done in past debates. She also denied playing up her gender, even as she described her delight at the possibility of being a serious contender to become the first female president.

If Clinton was significantly more critical of her rivals, Obama was more direct than he has been in previous debates. In response to his first question from moderator Wolf Blitzer, he said that "what the American people are looking for right now is straight answers to tough questions, and that is not what we've seen out of Senator Clinton on a host of issues."

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Stocks Fall Amid Consumer Concerns
2007-11-16 02:29:04
Wall Street skidded lower Thursday as investors grappled with concerns about the strength of consumer spending and the overall economy after downbeat comments from J.C. Penney Co. and Wells Fargo & Co.  Investors soured on retailers and banks, while falling oil prices hurt shares of energy companies.

Wall Street is concerned about rising gas prices. Although oil has come off the highs seen last week, prices remain elevated and could crimp consumer spending as the all-important holiday shopping season approaches.

''The J.C. Penney comments in terms of their guidance have sort of put another nail in retail. The assumption is the consumer has given up,'' said Charlie Smith, chief investment officer at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh. ''Three-dollar to $3.20 a gallon gas and house prices falling at 5 percent a year is really a double-whammy the consumer can't overcome.''

Wells Fargo president and chief executive John Stumpf said the housing market is seeing its steepest decline since the Great Depression. The bank has boosted its loss provisions in recent quarters to cover increasing defaults on mortgages and home-equity products. Still, the company has been able to avoid big writedowns that other banks have faced because it has little exposure to some complex financial instruments such as mortgage-backed securities that have recently soured.

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1,100 Feared Dead As Cyclone Cuts Path Of Destruction Through Bangladesh
2007-11-16 21:24:00
A powerful cyclone ripped through Bangladesh Friday leaving a trail of destruction that claimed more than 1,000 lives and caused hundreds of thousands to flee the strong winds and driving rain.

Cyclone Sidr crashed into the southwestern coast Friday after racing up the Bay of Bengal at 150 mph and triggered a five-meter (15 feet) high tidal wave that washed away three coastal towns. More than 600,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes.

For hours the fury of the cyclone levelled villages, destroyed crops and sent telephone poles into the sky across a dozen districts abutting the sea. For most of Friday electricity and telephone lines were cut across the country.

The lack of power made it difficult for officials to uncover the true extent of the disaster. The United News of Bangladesh, which has reporters across the devastated region, put the toll at 1,100.

According to reports many towns in the countryside, where homes are shacks made of bamboo and tin, were simply blown away by the cyclone's winds.

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The God Of Small Things
2007-11-16 21:23:32
40 years ago, an unknown physicist in Edinburgh, Scotland, came up with a theory of how the universe holds together - sparking a multibillion dollar race to find the key particle. Is the most sought after prize in modern physics about to be won at last?

Amid 800 acres of landscaped grounds a mile from Princeton, New Jersey, stands the Institute for Advanced Study, one of the world's most prestigious centers of scientific thought. Within this intellectual microcosm, many of the most accomplished physicists in history, from Oppenheimer to Einstein, have wrestled with the deepest puzzles of the universe. To be invited to talk at Einstein's former lab remains among the highest honors a scientist can receive. And it was with this terrifying thought in mind that in March 1966 Peter Higgs, a 36-year-old physicist from Edinburgh University, loaded up his car and headed up the freeway.

Tucked into Higgs's luggage was the reason he had been invited. The notes for his highly contentious lecture overturned some of the most deeply-held beliefs of the resident experts. They proposed something remarkable, that an invisible field, which stretches throughout the entire universe, holds the key to one of the greatest mysteries of modern science - the nature of matter and mass.

Higgs was pondering the talk and how it would go down among the biggest brains in physics, when it all suddenly became too much for him. Out of the window, he glimpsed a roadsign to Princeton. It was enough to trigger a fit of panic. Shaking, Higgs pulled into a rest area and sat there panting, waiting to regain his composure.

As expected, Higgs faced a barrage of questions but, to his relief, none of the eminent scientists in the audience found a flaw in his thinking. The lecture became a landmark in the folklore of theoretical physics and quickly set the stage for what was to become the most spectacular quest in modern science.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Drops Immunity For Telecoms From Surveillance Bill
2007-11-16 15:26:23
Reflecting the deep divisions within Congress over granting legal immunity to telephone companies for cooperating with the Bush administration’s program of wiretapping without warrants, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a new domestic surveillance law on Thursday that sidestepped the issue.

By a 10 to 9 vote, the committee approved an overhaul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that dropped a key provision for immunity for telecommunications companies that another committee had already approved. The Senate leadership will have to decide how to deal with the immunity question on the Senate floor.

On Thursday night, the House voted 227 to 189, generally along party lines, to approve its own version of the FISA bill, which also does not include immunity.

The administration has made clear that President Bush will veto any bill that does not include what it considers necessary tools for government eavesdropping, including the retroactive immunity for phone carriers that took part in the National Security Agency's (NSA) wiretapping program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

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U.S. Justice Dept. Investigating Baghdad Embassy Contracts
2007-11-16 15:25:13

The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a criminal probe into the awarding of the contract and related subcontracts in the troubled construction of the massive $736 million U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, according to sources and congressional testimony this week.

The probe came to light Wednesday during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing into the actions of State Department Inspector General Howard J. Krongard. Though lawmakers appeared careful not to mention names of people under investigation, Krongard mentioned two people during his testimony, both of whom are key figures in the building of the embassy, as he defended his practice of meeting with people under investigation.

"I would like to tell you exactly what I was doing, both with Mr. Golden and Ms. French," Krongard told lawmakers.

James L. Golden is a Washington-based contract employee of the State Department who oversees the project, though earlier this year the U.S. ambassador to Iraq barred him from returning to that country after he was suspected of altering evidence after a mortar attack. Mary French is the embassy project coordinator based in Baghdad.

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Citing Kremlin Restrictions, Election Observer Cancels Mission
2007-11-16 15:24:16
Western election observers pulled out of a mission today to monitor Russia's Dec. 2 parliamentary elections, citing restrictions imposed by the Kremlin on their work.

The cancellation by the election monitoring arm of the 56-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) means the elections being held by President Vladimir V. Putin's government may not be seen as legitimate by Western Europe and the United States.

The group’s decision to withdraw from the monitoring mission marked the first such occurrence in Russia since the country undertook to allow access for election observers in 1990, as the Soviet Union was disintegrating, and would likely be seen as another breach between the government of President Vladimir V. Putin and the West.

But a separate mission under the auspices of the OSCE, made up of members of Parliament from the member countries, is still considering attending the Russian elections for the 450-seat Duma, the lower house of Parliament.

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Senators, NASA Concerned About U.S. Access To Space Station
2007-11-16 02:31:57
When the space shuttle fleet is retired in 2010, the United States will be dependent on an increasingly hostile Russia for five years to give American astronauts access to the International Space Station, lawmakers and NASA officials said Thursday.

Senator Bill Nelson, the Florida Democrat who leads the Senate subcommittee on space, which oversees the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said he was concerned about the gap before the launching of the shuttle’s replacement, the Orion crew vehicle, in 2015.

This gap gives Americans no independent access to the $60 billion space station that they are largely paying for, he told a subcommittee hearing. It also gives Russia, whose leader, Vladimir V. Putin, is increasingly challenging American interests, greater influence over the joint project.

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Commentary: Are You With Us Or Against Us? The Road From Washington To Karachi To Nuclear Anarchy
2007-11-16 02:31:00
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Jonathan Schell and appared on the website on Tuesday, November 13, 2007. Mr. Schell is the author of "The Fate of the Earth" and other books, and the just-published "The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger". His commentary follows:

The journey to the martial law just imposed on Pakistan by its self-appointed president, the dictator Pervez Musharraf, began in Washington on September 11, 2001. On that day, it so happened, Pakistan's intelligence chief, Lt. General Mahmood Ahmed, was in town. He was summoned forthwith to meet with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who gave him perhaps the earliest preview of the global Bush doctrine then in its formative stages, telling him, "You are either one hundred percent with us or one hundred percent against us."

The next day, the administration, dictating to the dictator, presented seven demands that a Pakistan that wished to be "with us" must meet. These concentrated on gaining its cooperation in assailing Afghanistan's Taliban regime, which had long been nurtured by the Pakistani intelligence services in Afghanistan and had, of course, harbored Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda training camps. Conspicuously missing was any requirement to rein in the activities of Mr. A.Q. Khan, the "father" of Pakistan's nuclear arms, who, with the knowledge of Washington, had been clandestinely hawking the country's nuclear-bomb technology around the Middle East and North Asia for some years.

Musharraf decided to be "with us"; but, as in so many countries, being with the United States in its Global War on Terror turned out to mean not being with one's own people. Although Musharraf, who came to power in a coup in 1999, was already a dictator, he had now taken the politically fateful additional step of very visibly subordinating his dictatorship to the will of a foreign master. In many countries, people will endure a homegrown dictator but rebel against one who seems to be imposed from without, and Musharraf was now courting this danger.

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OPEC Members Split On Response To High Oil Prices
2007-11-16 02:29:38
Oil cartel contends with politics, prices and its future.

In September 1960, after the mighty Standard Oil of New Jersey dictated a cut in the price it was willing to pay for Middle Eastern oil, an angry group of leaders from the region and Venezuela got together and founded the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). 

No one paid much attention. Two months later, a 43-page CIA report on "Middle East Oil" devoted only four lines to the new group, according to Daniel Yergin's history "The Prize".

Few would dismiss OPEC with such brevity today. Its often-squabbling members have wrested control of their oil fields from the big oil companies. In the 1970s, they administered two price shocks to the world economy. And now, a decade after oil prices collapsed during a financial crisis in Asia, unrefined crude is hovering around its all-time inflation-adjusted peak, channeling as much as $700 billion a year to exporting nations and threatening to slow even the world's strongest economies.

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