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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday November 18 2007 - (813)

Sunday November 18 2007 edition
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Hundreds Convicted Using Faulty FBI Tool
2007-11-18 02:52:34
Bureau scrapped 40-year-old forensic test, but failed to alert affected defendants or the courts, a joint project by the Washington Post and "60 Minutes" shows.

Hundreds of defendants sitting in prisons nationwide have been convicted with the help of an FBI forensic tool that was discarded more than two years ago, but the FBI lab has yet to take steps to alert the affected defendants or courts, even as the window for appealing convictions is closing, a joint investigation by the Washington Post and "60 Minutes" has found.

The science, known as comparative bullet-lead analysis, was first used after President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963. The technique used chemistry to link crime-scene bullets to ones possessed by suspects on the theory that each batch of lead had a unique elemental makeup.

In 2004, however, the nation's most prestigious scientific body concluded that variations in the manufacturing process rendered the FBI's testimony about the science "unreliable and potentially misleading". Specifically, the National Academy of Sciences said that decades of FBI statements to jurors linking a particular bullet to those found in a suspect's gun or cartridge box were so overstated that such testimony should be considered "misleading under federal rules of evidence".

A year later, the bureau abandoned the analysis.

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Commentary: Learn To Swim
2007-11-18 02:52:03
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Tim Watkin and appeared in The Guardain edition for Friday, November 16, 2007. In his commentary, Mr. Watkin writes: "Climate change skeptics can no longer argue with the evidence that the planet is warming. Instead they say we'll just have to adapt." His commentary follows:

It's remarkable what some people will do to maintain the purity of their ideology. Speaking to an influential business lobby group in New Zealand this week, former chancellor of the exchequer Nigel Lawson argued that we should simply learn to adapt to climate change rather than attempt to combat it, as adaptation is cheaper and can preserve the free market. He said humanity had dealt with crises before without resorting to government intervention and could do so again.

The adaptation argument has become the retreat position in recent months for climate change skeptics who now find climate data and evidence from the poles mounting against them. No longer able to argue that there's no need to act because the climate isn't changing, they now argue against action because it's too expensive, requires too much government leadership (they say intervention) and because, what the heck, it may be too late anyway.

They see the climate as they do the market - there will be winners and losers, but, so long as they're among the winners, it's best to let the forces at play work themselves out.

The economics alone are questionable. The massive and detailed Stern report last year concluded that the negative impact of climate change could cost the world economy 20 times more than acting to prevent the damage in the first place. Lawson's concern is that nothing interferes with globalization, but he ignores the fact that climate change could destroy more demand-and-supply chains around the world than new government policies ever could.

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Commentary: Private Equity Is On The Move
2007-11-18 02:51:28
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Ignacio Ramonet and appears in Le Monde Diplomatique's November 2007 edition.

While critics of the economic horrors of globalization argue, a new and even more brutal form of capitalism is in action. The new vultures are private equity companies, predatory investment funds with vast amounts of capital at their disposal and an enormous appetite for more.

Their names, among them the Carlyle Group, KKR, the Blackstone Group, Colony Capital, Apollo Management, Cerberus Partners, Starwood Capital, Texas Pacific Group, Wendel, Euraze, are still not widely known. And while still a secret they are getting their hands on the global economy. Between 2002 and 2006 the capital raised by these funds from banks, insurance companies, pension funds and the assets of the super-rich rose from $135 billion to $515 billion. Their financial power is phenomenal, more than $1,600 billion (or $1.6 trillion), and they cannot be stopped. In the United States, the principal private equity firms invested some $417 billion in takeovers last year and more than $317 billion in the first quarter of 2007, acquiring control of 8,000 companies. One American in four and almost one Frenchman or woman in every 12 now works for them.

France is now their prime target, after the United Kingdom and the U.S. Private equity firms, mainly American or British, acquired 400 companies in France last year for $14 billion. They now manage more than 1,600 French companies, including such famous names as Picard Surgeles, Dim, the Quick restaurant chain, Buffalo Grill, Pages Jaunes (the French Yellow Pages), Allocine and Afflelou, and they are looking at other big names on the French stock market index, the CAC 40.

Predatory funds are not new. They first appeared about 15 years ago but have recently reached alarming proportions, encouraged by cheap credit facilities and sophisticated financial instruments. The basic principle is simple: a group of wealthy investors buys up companies and manages them privately, without reference to the stock exchange and its restrictive rules and without having to answer to shareholders. The idea is to get round the fundamental principles of capitalist morality and back to the law of the jungle.

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Death Toll From Third Superbug Soars In U.K.
2007-11-18 02:50:15
Pseudomonas is resistant to hospital cleaning - antibiotics are proving ineffective.

Britain's health workers are struggling to control a surge in an "untreatable" hospital-acquired infection that is estimated to be killing hundreds of patients a year. The number of cases of Pseudomonas rose by 41 per cent from 2,605 in 2002 to 3,663 last year, according to U.K. Health Protection Agency figures.

Cleaning agents that hospitals rely on to kill bacteria are proving inadequate, while most antibiotics that usually help patients repel infections are ineffective. It often contaminates water and moisture, so is a particular problem in breathing equipment, intravenous lines and catheters. One child cancer patient caught it when his lips were sprinkled with holy water at a Leeds hospital.

The bug is similar to the potentially fatal MRSA and C difficile infections. MRSA was cited as a cause of death in 1,629 people in England and Wales in 2005, up from 734 in 2001. C difficile was given as the reason for the death of 3,807 people in 2005, compared with 1,214 people in 2001.

There are no official statistics on the number of deaths from Pseudomonas, but Professor Mark Enright, an expert on healthcare-acquired infections at Imperial College London, estimates that it kills "at least hundreds a year", especially those who get blood poisoning as a result. Previous studies have shown that those who develop septicaemia related to Pseudomonas have only a 20 per cent chance of survival.

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Saudis Object To Chavez's OPEC Stance
2007-11-18 02:49:02
To the annals of peculiar diplomatic and cultural moments, add Saturday's ceremony opening the summit of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). 

The meeting was held in an ornate royal conference center, with Corinthian columns and carved archways worthy of ancient Rome or the Venetian doges. The OPEC leaders were led to a room with 11 giant crystal chandeliers, marble floors, 20-foot doors of inlaid wood and gold trim, cavernous ceilings with carved patterns painted powder blue, eggshell white and pink, and enough cushy seats for 2,000 people.

After the chanting of an opening prayer from the Koran about God's "sublime light that reflects on mankind," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took the stage, crossed himself, invoked Jesus and launched into a 24-minute rallying cry to re-energize what he called OPEC's "revolutionary" battle against "exploitation" and to do more to alleviate poverty.

After Chavez spoke, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said that "oil is a tool for construction and prosperity ... and it should not be a means for disputes or serving whims."

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U.S. Army Desertion Rate Up 80 Percent Since 2003
2007-11-17 15:18:27
Soldiers strained by six years at war are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80 percent increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.

While the totals are still far lower than they were during the Vietnam War, when the draft was in effect, they show a steady increase over the past four years and a 42 percent jump since last year.

"We're asking a lot of soldiers these days," said Roy Wallace, director of plans and resources for Army personnel. "They're humans. They have all sorts of issues back home and other places like that. So, I'm sure it has to do with the stress of being a soldier."

The Army defines a deserter as someone who has been absent without leave for longer than 30 days. The soldier is then discharged as a deserter.

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Musharraf Ties Pose Dilemma For Bush
2007-11-17 15:18:01
Emergency rule puts U.S. priorities at risk.

Even before he walked through the door at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York for his first face-to-face meeting with President Bush in 2001, Pervez Musharraf was something of a hero within the administration for his decisive stand against the Taliban and al-Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Over the course of a dozen private meetings and numerous phone conversations since then, the savvy and well-spoken Pakistani president has made a point of cementing his personal relationship with Bush. Musharraf has regaled the U.S. president with stories of his youth in Punjab, his empathy for rank-and-file soldiers and his desire to reform the education system in Pakistan, according to individuals familiar with those conversations.

"I think [the president] took an instant liking to Musharraf," said former deputy secretary of state Richard L. Armitage.  "At a key moment for us, we gave Musharraf a very tough series of choices, and he came down on our side. He is blunt, and Bush likes that."

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Death Of Ex-Policeman's Wife Called A Homocide
2007-11-17 15:17:02
Amid the search for a former police officer's fourth wife, a renowned pathologist said Saturday he has examined a previous wife's exhumed remains and determined she was killed.

Former New York City chief medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden said he analyzed Kathleen Savio's remains at the request of her relatives, who disagree with an earlier ruling that her death was an accident. He concluded she died after a struggle, and her body was placed in the bathtub where she was found.

"I'm convinced she was the victim of a murder. 'Who done it' is up to the police to resolve," Baden said in a telephone interview.

Results of a separate, official autopsy will not be available for several days, said authorities.

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China Warns Against Protesting At 2008 Olympic Games
2007-11-17 15:15:03
Official pledges to punish demonstrators.

A top Chinese security official vowed Friday to punish anyone who takes part in a political, religious or ethnic demonstration or protest "in any form" at an Olympic site during the 2008 Beijing Games.

"We shall punish all activities in any form that violate the [Olympic] charter in accordance with law, to make sure we have a harmonious Olympics. This is our commitment," said the deputy head of security for the Games, Liu Shaowu, unveiling security measures at a new indoor stadium.

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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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Deepening China-Iran Ties Weaken Bid To Isolate Iran
2007-11-18 02:52:18
Tehran increasingly important in Beijing's energy quest.

The rapidly growing relationship between Iran and China has begun to undermine international efforts to ensure that Iran cannot convert a peaceful energy program to develop a nuclear arsenal, U.S. and European officials say.

The Bush administration and its allies said last week that they plan to seek new United Nations sanctions against Iran, after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iranian officials had given inadequate answers to questions about the country's past nuclear activities. U.S. and European officials now worry more about a Chinese veto than about opposition from Russia, which has previously assisted and defended the Iranian nuclear energy program.

U.S. and European officials charged Friday that Beijing is deliberately stalling to protect its economic interests.

"China needs to play a more responsible role on Iran, needs to recognize that China is going to be very dependent in the decades ahead on Middle East oil, and, therefore, China, for its own development and its own purposes, is going to need a stable Middle East, and that an Iran armed with nuclear weapons is not a prescription for stability in the Middle East," national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley told reporters Friday.

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Commentary: We Must Not Tolerate This Putsch Against Our Freedoms
2007-11-18 02:51:49
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Henry Porter and appears in The Observer edition for Sunday, November 18, 2007. Mr. Porter writes: "A few journalists and Parliament members are prepared to fight the [British] government's sinister anti-libertarianism. More people should join them." His commentary follows:

Welcome to Fortress Britain, a fortress that will keep people in as well as out. Welcome to a state that requires you to answer 53 questions before you're allowed to take a day trip to Calais. Welcome to a country where you will be stopped, scanned and searched at any of 250 railways stations, filmed at every turn, barked at by a police force whose behavior has given rise to a doubling in complaints concerning abuse and assaults.

Three years ago, this would have seemed hysterical and Home Office ministers would have been writing letters of complaint. But it is a measure of how fast and how far things have gone that it does nothing more than describe the facts as announced last week.

We now accept with apparent equanimity that the state has the right to demand to know, among other things, how your ticket has been paid for, the billing address of any card used, your travel itinerary and route, your email address, details of whether your travel arrangements are flexible, the history of changes to your travel plans plus any biographical information the state deems to be of interest or anything the ticket agent considers to be of interest.

There is no end to Whitehall's information binge. The krill of personal data is being scooped up in ever-increasing quantities by a state that harbors a truly bewildering fear of the free, private and self-determined individual, who may want to take himself off to Paris without someone at home knowing his movements or his credit card number.

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Goldman Sachs Staff To Share $18 Billion Pot
2007-11-18 02:51:07

Goldman Sachs bankers and traders are in line for record bonuses, despite the turmoil in the credit markets. The bank, dubbed "Goldmine Sachs" by rivals, has escaped most of the multi-billion-dollar write-downs and losses that have hit other investment banks such as UBS, Citigroup and Deutsche.

City remuneration experts point out that staff at Goldman are already eligible for $16.9 billion (£8.4 billion) set aside in the first nine months of this year; this compares with $16.4 billion paid out by the bank for the whole of 2006. By the end of 2007, the pot should be worth at least $18 billion. (Intellpuke: When Britons refer to "City" with a capitol "C", they are referring to London's financial district, much as Americans refer to Wall Street.)

Goldman pays up to half its net profits to employees, with the largest sums going to senior directors such as chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and Michael Sherwood, its co-chief exec in Europe, as well as top deal makers such as Yoel Zaoui. Before the credit crisis, Goldman had been offloading sub-prime debt, so it escaped relatively unscathed.

American markets are braced for another week of turmoil as analysts fear that more bad news from the housing sector will slam the brakes on stock and bond markets to create a credit crunch as bad as the one in August.

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U.N. Chief Seeks More Climate Change Leadership
2007-11-18 02:49:23
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, describing climate change as “the defining challenge of our age,” released the final report of a United Nations panel on climate change in Valencia, Spain, on Saturday and called on the United States and China to play “a more constructive role”.

His challenge to the world’s two greatest greenhouse gas emitters came just two weeks before the world’s energy ministers meet in Bali, Indonesia, to begin talks on creating a global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

The United States and China are signatories to Kyoto, but Washington has not ratified the treaty, and China, along with other developing countries, is not bound by its mandatory emissions caps.

“Today the world’s scientists have spoken, clearly and in one voice,” Ban said of the report, the Synthesis Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “In Bali, I expect the world’s policymakers to do the same.”

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U.S. Secretly Aids Pakistan In Guarding Nuclear Weapons
2007-11-17 15:18:45
Over the past six years, the Bush administration has spent almost $100 million so far on a highly classified program to help Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, secure his country’s nuclear weapons, according to current and former senior administration officials.

With the future of that country’s leadership in doubt, debate is intensifying about whether Washington has done enough to help protect the warheads and laboratories, and whether Pakistan’s reluctance to reveal critical details about its arsenal has undercut the effectiveness of the continuing security effort.

The aid, buried in secret portions of the federal budget, paid for the training of Pakistani personnel in the United States and the construction of a nuclear security training center in Pakistan, a facility that American officials say is nowhere near completion, even though it was supposed to be in operation this year.

A raft of equipment - from helicopters to night-vision goggles to nuclear detection equipment - was given to Pakistan to help secure its nuclear material, its warheads, and the laboratories that were the site of the worst known case of nuclear proliferation in the atomic age.

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Chavez: U.S. Attack On Iran Or Venezuela Will Cause Oil Prices To Surge
2007-11-17 15:18:10
In his opening address of a rare OPEC summit, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned the United States on Saturday that oil prices would further surge if the U.S. contemplates an attack against his country or Iran. 

The summit of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) opened Saturday in Saudi Arabia, with heads of states and delegates from 12 of the world's biggest oil-producing nations listening to a recitation from the Quran.

After the quotes from Islam's holy book, Chavez warned that the U.S. should not target OPEC members for foreign policy reasons.

"If the U.S. attacks Iran or Venezuela, the price of oil will jump to hundreds of dollars, not just 100," Chavez told OPEC leaders.

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Critics: Bush Failed To See Mucharraf's Faults
2007-11-17 15:17:46
In the six years since Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, joined President Bush in the fight against al-Qaeda,  it has been an unlikely partnership: a president intent on promoting democracy and a military commander who seized power in a bloodless coup.

Bush has repeatedly called Gen. Musharraf “a friend.” In 2003, the president invited the general to Camp David, a presidential perk reserved for the closest of allies. Last year, at the general’s insistence, Bush risked a trip to Pakistan, jangling the nerves of the Secret Service by spending the night in the country presumed to be home to Osama bin Laden. 

Now that the general has defied the White House, suspending Pakistan’s Constitution and imposing martial law, old tensions are flaring anew. Bush is backing away from the leader he once called a man of “courage and vision,” and critics are asking whether the president misread his Pakistani counterpart.

They said Bush - an ardent believer in personal diplomacy, who once remarked that he had looked into the eyes of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin and had gotten “a sense of his soul” - was taken in by the general, with his fluent English and his promises to hold elections and relinquish military power. They said Bush looked at General Musharraf and saw a democratic reformer when he should have seen a dictator instead.

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Death Toll From Cyclone Exceeds 1,700 In Bangladesh
2007-11-17 15:16:45
Hundreds of thousands of survivors were stuck Saturday behind roads blocked by fallen trees, iron roofs and thick sludge as rescue workers fought to reach towns along Bangladesh's coast that were ravaged by a powerful cyclone that killed at least 1,723 people.

Tropical Cyclone Sidr, the deadliest storm to hit the country in a decade, destroyed tens of thousands of homes in southwest Bangladesh on Thursday and ruined much-needed crops just before harvest season in this impoverished, low-lying South Asian country. More than a million coastal villagers were forced to evacuate to government shelters.

The official death toll rose to 1,723 and authorities feared the figure could rise further as the country works to recover.

The government scrambled Saturday to join international agencies and local officials in the rescue mission, deploying military helicopters, thousands of troops and naval ships.

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Iran Bans Gabriel Garcia Marquez Novel
2007-11-17 15:14:29
An Iranian government decision to forbid the second printing of a Persian translation of Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez has spurred interest in the book, booksellers said Saturday.

The novel by the famed Latin American writer was translated into Persian and had an initial press run of 5,000 copies. It was only banned after the Ministry of Culture received complaints from conservatives who believed the novel was promoting prostitution.

The ban has only provoked greater interest in the novel and on Saturday, copies of the book were being sold for more than twice their list price.

Ahmad Abbasi, 28, had to pay $3.70 to buy the novel on the black market - more than twice the price tag.

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