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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday November 13 2007 - (813)

Tuesday November 13 2007 edition
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Federal Judge Orders White House To Hold On To E-Mails
2007-11-13 02:53:59
A federal judge Monday ordered the White House to preserve copies of all its e-mails, a move that Bush administration lawyers had argued strongly against.

U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy directed the Executive Office of the President to safeguard the material in response to two lawsuits that seek to determine whether the White House has destroyed e-mails in violation of federal law.

In response, the White House said it has been taking steps to preserve copies of all e-mails and will continue to do so. The administration is seeking dismissal of the lawsuits brought by two private groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive.

The organizations allege the disappearance of 5 million White House e-mails. The court order issued by Kennedy, an appointee of President Clinton, is directed at maintaining backup tapes which contain copies of White House e-mails.

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British Commonwealth Issues Ultimatum To Musharraf
2007-11-13 02:53:37
British Commonwealth foreign ministers threatened Pakistan Monday night with expulsion from their organization if its president, Pervez Musharraf, fails to repeal the state of emergency and step down as army chief in the next nine days.

The government in Islamabad shrugged off the threat, saying it would manage the transition to democracy in its own way and on its own timetable. It signalled its defiance by ordering the detention of the People's party leader, Benazir Bhutto, for seven days - pre-empting her plans to lead a "long march" from Lahore to Islamabad in protest against emergency rule.

The threat to suspend Pakistan from the Commonwealth, for the second time since Musharraf seized power in 1999, came from an "action group" meeting of foreign ministers in London. A joint statement condemned the suspension of Pakistan's constitution, describing the arrest of opposition activists and restrictions on the press as "violations against Commonwealth fundamental values of freedom of expression and human rights".
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U.S. Rep. Don Young Used Position For Funds And His Donors' Projects
2007-11-12 18:04:37
As chairman of the House transportation committee, Alaska Congressman Don Young flew at least three times to upstate New York aboard a jet owned by Robert Congel, an ambitious shopping mall developer seeking federal highway money.

With Young's help, Congel got millions of dollars to boost his dream of building the largest mall in North America. The veteran Republican congressman got something, too: more than $33,000 in political contributions from Congel, his family and his associates.

For Young, the Congel story was hardly unusual. Time after time in recent years, Young approved millions of dollars for highway projects for people who in turn fattened his campaign treasury.

With money pouring in from transportation interests, Young amassed $6.5 million in political contributions from 2001 to 2005. Facing weak political opposition at home, he didn't need much for his campaign. Instead, Young tapped his campaign fund to travel the country, often lavishly and in corporate jets, to meet with more developers and view their proposed highway projects.

Now Young's campaign donations are going for another purpose. He's spent nearly $450,000 on criminal defense lawyers so far this year after he learned of an FBI investigation into his relationships with political donors, who include a Florida real estate developer seeking a highway ramp near his undeveloped land.

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Pentagon Preparing To Fight Next Battle From Space
2007-11-12 16:25:19
While wrestling with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon is preparing weapons to fight the next battle from space, according to information in the 621-page, House-Senate conference report on the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations bill.

The $459 billion bill, which awaits President Bush's signature, provides $100 million for a new "prompt global strike" program that could deliver a conventional, precision-guided warhead anywhere in the world within two hours. It takes funds away from development of a conventional warhead for the Navy's submarine-launched Trident Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and from an Air Force plan for the Common Aero Vehicle.

The new program, dubbed Falcon, for "Force Application and Launch from CONUS," centers on a small-launch-vehicle concept of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).The agency describes Falcon as a "a reusable Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle (HCV) capable of delivering 12,000 pounds of payload at a distance of 9,000 nautical miles from [the continental United States] in less than two hours."

Hypersonic speed is far greater than the speed of sound. The reusable vehicle being contemplated would "provide the  country with significant capability to conduct responsive missions with quick turn-around sortie rates while providing aircraft-like operability and mission-recall capability," according to DARPA.

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Editorial: The Plight Of America's Veterans
2007-11-12 16:24:06
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Monday, November 12, 2007.

As an unpopular, ill-planned war in Iraq grinds on inconclusively, it can be a bleak time to be a veteran.

There is little outright hostility toward returning military personnel these days; few Americans are reviling them as “baby killers” or blaming them for a botched war of choice launched by the White House. Indeed, both Congress and the White House have been hymning their praises in the run-up to Veterans Day. But all too often, soldiers who return from Iraq or Afghanistan - and those who served in Vietnam or Korea - have been left to fend for themselves with little help from the government.

Recent surveys have painted an appalling picture. Almost half a million of the nation’s 24 million veterans were homeless at some point during 2006, and while only a few hundred from Iraq or Afghanistan have turned up homeless so far, aid groups are bracing themselves for a tsunamilike upsurge in coming years.

Tens of thousands of reservists and National Guard troops, whose jobs were supposedly protected while they were at war, were denied prompt re-employment upon their return or else lost seniority, pay and other benefits. Some 1.8 million veterans were unable to get care in veterans’ facilities in 2004 and lacked health insurance to pay for care elsewhere. Meanwhile, veterans seeking disability payments faced huge backlogs and inordinate delays in getting claims and appeals processed.

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Iraq Government Resists Incorporating 70,000 U.S.-Trained Sunnis Into Police, Army
2007-11-12 16:23:14
The U.S. effort to organize nearly 70,000 local fighters to solidify security gains in Iraq is facing severe political and logistical challenges as U.S.-led forces struggle to manage the recruits and the central government resists incorporating them into the Iraqi police and army, according to senior military officials.

Gen. David H. Petraeus and other top commanders have hailed the initiative to enlist Iraqi tribes and former insurgents in the battle against extremist groups, but leaders of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government have feared that the local fighters known as "volunteers" - more than 80 percent of whom are Sunni - could eventually mount an armed opposition, said  Iraqi and U.S. officials.

In some cases, the government has confined the fighters to their headquarters or local mosques. Nevertheless, the volunteers pour in by the hundreds every week, forming a massive but cumbersome force lacking common guidelines, status, pay or uniforms. The effort represents an opportunity to shore up local police and eventually relieve U.S. troops, but one that could prove fleeting or backfire if the volunteers are not organized quickly, said officials.

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At Least 6 Dead After Hamas Fires On Arafat Rally
2007-11-12 16:22:41
Hamas security forces opened fire Monday at a rally by the rival Fatah movement commemorating Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Six people were killed in the bloodiest day of intra-Palestinian fighting since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June.

Some 250,000 Fatah supporters joined Monday's rally in a major square of Gaza City, carrying pictures of Arafat, yellow Fatah flags and wearing trademark black-and-white Arab headdresses. It was the biggest outpouring of support for Fatah since Hamas' violent takeover of the territory.

The crowd scattered as masked Hamas security men ran through the city streets, firing weapons. Two hours later, hundreds of Hamas gunmen controlled the protest site and were arresting protesters as they tried to flee.

An eyewitness, identifying himself as Abu Samir, said Hamas security men appeared to fire unprovoked. "I saw brutality. I saw gunmen shoot at people. I saw them catch a boy and beat him with a stick," he said.

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'Hidden Costs' Double The Price Of Iraq, Afghanistan Wars
2007-11-13 02:53:50
Study says wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost average U.S. family of four more than $20,000.

The economic costs to the United States of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so far total approximately $1.5 trillion, according to a new study by congressional Democrats that estimates the conflicts' "hidden costs" - including higher oil prices, the expense of treating wounded veterans and interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars.

That amount is nearly double the $804 billion the White House has spent or requested to wage these wars through 2008, according to the Democratic staff of Congress's Joint Economic Committee. Its report, titled "The Hidden Costs of the Iraq War," estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have thus far cost the average U.S. family of four more than $20,000.

"The full economic costs of the war to the American taxpayers and the overall U.S. economy go well beyond even the immense federal budget costs already reported," said the 21-page draft report, obtained yesterday by the Washington Post.

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Former Pilots, Government Officials Call For U.S. UFO Investigation
2007-11-13 01:20:23
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich may have been ridiculed for saying he had seen a UFO, but for some military pilots and other observers, unidentified flying objects are no laughing matter.

An international panel of two dozen former pilots and government officials called on the U.S. government Monday to reopen its generation-old UFO investigation as a matter of safety and security given continuing reports about flying discs, glowing spheres and other strange sightings.

"Especially after the attacks of 9/11, it is no longer satisfactory to ignore radar returns ... which cannot be associated with performances of existing aircraft and helicopters," they said in a statement released at a news conference.

The panelists from seven countries, including former senior military officers, each said they have seen a UFO or conducted an official investigation into UFO phenomena.

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U.S. Supreme Court May Hear 'Right To Keep And Bear Arms' Case
2007-11-12 16:25:31
Both sides in a closely watched legal battle over the District of Columbia’s strict gun-control law are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. If the justices agree - a step they may announce as early as Tuesday - the Roberts court is likely to find itself back on the front lines of the culture wars with an intensity unmatched even by the cases on abortion and race that defined the court’s last term.

The question is whether the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects an individual right to “keep and bear arms.” If the answer is yes, as the federal appeals court held in March, the justices must then decide what such an interpretation means for a statute that bars all possession of handguns and that requires any other guns in the home to be disassembled or secured by trigger locks.

The Supreme Court has never answered the Second Amendment question directly, and it has been nearly 70 years since the court even approached it obliquely. A decision in 1939, United States v. Miller, held that a sawed-off shotgun was not one of the “arms” to which the Second Amendment referred in its single, densely written, and oddly punctuated sentence: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Asked during his confirmation hearing what he thought that sentence meant, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., responded that the Miller decision had “side-stepped the issue” and had left “very open” the question of whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right as opposed to a collective right.

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'I'll Sell My Soul To The Devil'
2007-11-12 16:24:37
Sweeping federal scandal prove is reaching into top tier of Alaska's well-oiled political hierarchy.

When the FBI came looking for corruption in Alaska politics, it found an excellent perch in Suite 604 of the Baranof Hotel in Juneau, the state capital. There, a profane septuagenarian named Bill Allen did business throughout a 2006 special session called to set taxes on the oil industry. With hundred-dollar bills in his front pocket for ease of access when lawmakers turned up with their hands out, the oil-services company executive turned in a bravura performance before the pinhole camera that federal agents installed opposite his favorite chair.

"Let me count first here," Allen said, shushing a former statehouse speaker as he counted out a bribe in video footage entered as evidence in the lawmaker's September trial, one of several crowding the docket of the federal court here.

On another tape, Pete Kott, the former Republican speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives, crowed as he described beating back a tax bill opposed by oil companies. "I had to cheat, steal, beg, borrow and lie," said Kott.  "Exxon's happy. BP's happy. I'll sell my soul to the devil."

"Well, that will stay in this room," one lobbyist said as a midnight session wound down.

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Federal Criminal Investigation Opens Into California Oil Spill
2007-11-12 16:23:43
Federal investigators were considering Monday whether to file criminal charges against the crew members of a container ship that struck the Bay Bridge and ripped a gash in its fuel tank, creating the San Francisco Bay's worst oil spill in nearly two decades.

The ship was being detained at the Port of Oakland. Crew members of the Asia-based Cosco Busan were questioned on board the vessel beginning Sunday, said Coast Guard attorney Christopher Tribolet.

Any charges would likely fall under the negligence provisions of the Clean Water Act and the U.S. transportation code, Tribolet said.

The Coast Guard notified the U.S. attorney's office Saturday about problems involving management and communication between the officers on the ship's bridge at the time of the crash. Capt. William Uberti, the U.S. Coast Guard commander for the bay region, declined to elaborate, except to say: "It was just the way that everybody interacted" on the bridge.

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UPDATE: At Least 3 Dead In Storm That Caused Black Sea Oil Spill
2007-11-12 16:22:52
A storm on Sunday in the Black Sea sank at least five ships, killing at least three sailors and causing an oil spill.

Three dead sailors and dozens of birds slicked with oil washed ashore Monday after a fierce storm in the Black Sea sank or forced aground at least 12 ships, including a small oil tanker, officials said. Another 20 sailors were missing in one of Russia's worst maritime disasters in recent years.

As Russian investigators continued to assess the disaster, they said they had determined so far that five or more cargo ships sank in the storm, and the others ran aground. One tanker, the Volganeft-139, was carrying 4,000 tons of fuel oil when it split apart and sank, and 1,300 tons of fuel oil - more than 560,000 gallons - spilled into the water. The oil began washing up on nearby shorelines Monday.

The tanker was crippled by 18-foot waves in the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, between Ukraine and Russia, and a crucial pathway for Russian oil exported by tanker to Europe. The tanker’s 13 crew members were later rescued, officials said, but searches were still being conducted for sailors from the dry-cargo ships that sank in the area.

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Pakistan Government Won't Allow Bhutto Protest March
2007-11-12 16:22:15
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government declared that it would block a 185-mile protest march Tuesday by opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. Her party said the march would proceed, setting up a perilous showdown between the two leaders.

Hundreds of armed police were deployed Monday in the streets around the home where Bhutto is staying, and sharpshooters took to surrounding rooftops. A series of three steel-and-barbed wire barricades were erected around her house.

A conflict over the march between Bhutto and Musharraf could intensify the political crisis engulfing Pakistan and further cloud the prospect of the two leaders forming a U.S.-backed alliance against rising Islamic extremism.

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