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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday November 27 2007 - (813)

Tuesday November 27 2007 edition
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Stocks Plunge On Financial System Fears
2007-11-27 02:03:16
The Dow tumbles 237 points, while the S&P 500 is down 10% from its record high.

Stocks plunged anew Monday on worsening fears about the financial system, driving the Dow index down 237 points and leaving the Standard & Poor's 500 index off more than 10% from its recent record high - the sharpest pullback in more than four years.

Markets may be reaching a pivotal moment in the turmoil rooted in the housing sector's troubles, some analysts say.

With the latest steep sell-off in stocks, blue-chip indexes fell into "correction" territory - meaning a decline of at least 10% from their peaks.
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Comet Conundrum: Comet 17P/Holmes Keeps Getting Bigger
2007-11-27 02:02:48
The comet 17P/Holmes has astronomers scratching their heads in confusion. The heavenly body just keeps getting bigger - and is now twice the diameter of our sun.

Comets, of course, are no rarity. And it seems like every couple of years or so, one becomes big and bright enough that it can easily be seen from Earth. But the behavior of 17P/Holmes has mystified both hobby astronomers and professionals around the globe.

Rather than shrinking as it gets farther from the sun as most comets do, this one just keeps getting bigger and brighter. At the beginning of the week, the cloud of dust and gas surrounding the comet's core - called the coma - had already grown larger than the sun. Now, just a few days later, the coma's diameter is twice that of the sun - the dust cloud measures some 2.7 million kilometers across whereas the sun is just 1.39 million kilometers across. And there is no sign that it is finished.

"The comet is now a long ways away, but the dust cloud is still growing," Dr. Maciej Mikolajewski from the Torun Center for Astronomy at Nicolaus Copernicus University told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "It's the first time I've ever seen such a thing. I've never seen such a bright comet in my life."

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Australia's New Prime Minister Says He Will Apologize To Aborigines
2007-11-27 02:02:15
Newly elected Australian leader Kevin Rudd renewed a commitment Monday to apologize to indigenous Aborigines for past indignities.

The issue of apologizing for policies that helped make the continent's original inhabitants its most impoverished minority is a highly divisive one in Australia.

The policies included the forcible removal of indigenous children from their families on the premise that Aborigines were a doomed race and saving the children was a humane alternative. The practice did not end until the 1970s.

The Labor Party leader said his government would offer the apology on behalf of the nation early in his first term - suggesting a timeframe of next year.

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Chief Of Britain's Ruling Labor Party Resigns Amid Donations Scandal
2007-11-26 20:38:29
Party left reeling after General Secretary admits he knew true source of cash.

Britain's Labor Party's attempt to reclaim control of the political agenda was derailed Monday night when the party's most senior official resigned after admitting he knew a millionaire businessman was using intermediaries to secretly donate hundreds of thousands of pounds.

A week after being hit with claims of incompetence over the lost data, the government was reeling over allegations the party had been dishonest about the source of the third-biggest donation received under Gordon Brown's leadership.

Peter Watt quit as party general secretary after acknowledging that he knew that the property developer David Abrahams gave money to associates who passed the cash on to the Labor party. Watt's resignation came less than 48 hours after Labor announced that he would lead the investigation into the affair.

Monday night it emerged that the scale of the donations channelled from Abrahams was bigger than first reported, at more than £600,000 ($1.2 million). The revelation is a blow to Brown who hoped to evade the kind of controversies over party fundraising that bedeviled Tony Blair's last 18 months in office. It also sabotaged his attempt to refocus the government after recent debacles. The Tories demanded a full explanation from Labor as they voiced skepticism that Watt was, as the party claimed, the only official to know of the circumstances of the donations.

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U.S. Supreme Court Won't Review San Diego's Warrantless Home Searches
2007-11-26 15:25:46
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge Monday to a county's practice of routinely searching welfare applicants' homes without warrants and ruling out assistance for those who refuse to let them in.

The justices refused, without comment, to intervene in the case from San Diego County, where investigators from the local District Attorney's office show up unannounced at applicants' homes and conduct searches that include peeking into closets and cabinets. The visits do not require any suspicion of fraud and are intended to confirm that people are eligible for government aid.

Failure to submit to the searches, which can last an hour, disqualifies applicants from assistance.

The 10-year-old program was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of six single parents who were seeking assistance. The welfare applicants argued that the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches, protects them from the home visits.

"When the investigator conducts the home inspection, no part of the home is off-limits," they said.

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18 British Firms Urge Action On Climate
2007-11-26 15:25:16
Britain’s largest companies are pledging to offer greener products and invest in research and technology as part of a wider push to reduce carbon emissions.

In an unprecedented joint effort, 18 of Britain’s top companies, including carmakers, airlines, retailers and banks, are publishing a report on Monday in which they promise to develop new products and services that allow customers to cut their carbon emissions.

The initiative is also intended to send a message to companies around the world to move climate change higher on their agendas.

The companies say that they will develop a standard for all businesses to report carbon emission levels regularly, invest in technology and emission-saving projects and promote greener behavior among their employees, starting by reducing emissions from company cars and offices. Among the companies are BP, the supermarket operator Tesco and the phone company BT.

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Boycott Of Tehran Hits Germany's Coffers
2007-11-27 02:02:59
Germany's Finance Ministry is estimating that the current business boycott against Iran has already led to a triple-digit million shortfall in the federal budget. If addition sanctions are imposed, the figure could soon soar to a few billion euros.

The German government's efforts to intensify sanctions against Iran could soon hit taxpayers if the government is forced to pass expected budget shortfalls on to them. Under pressure from Washington, the European Union could place Bank Melli, an Iranian business responsible for the majority of Germany's trade with Iran, on its embargo list.

The German government backs domestic exports to Iran with so-called Hermes export credit protection, and if Iran doesn't pay for the exports, the German government would be forced to foot the bill to German businesses.

Experts at the German Finance Ministry have estimated that budget losses in 2008 alone could amount to 700 million euros ($1.03 billion) to 800 million euros. In the medium-term, however, that figure could swell to 2 billion euros.

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China Revels In View From Its First Lunar Orbiter
2007-11-27 02:02:30
China on Monday proudly unveiled images of the moon taken by its first lunar satellite, launched last month, calling the achievement proof of the country's technological prowess and ability to eventually land an astronaut on the moon.

"The full success of our country's first lunar exploration mission is helping to turn the Chinese nation's 1,000-year-old dream of reaching the moon a reality," Premier Wen Jiabao said at a ceremony in which he displayed a framed, black-and-white composite photograph of the moon, the official New China News Agency reported.

The photograph showed craters large and small, scattered across rugged terrain on the moon's surface. According to the Chinese government, the image merged 19 smaller ones shot from space and covered an area of about 285 by 170 miles.

The ceremony, held at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center, also featured music, including the Chinese communist anthem "The East is Red," that officials said was being broadcast by the lunar orbiter. The song was also played by China's first Earth satellite as it circled the globe in 1970.

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2 Teens Die, 25 Police And 1 Fireman Injured As Riots Return To Paris
2007-11-26 20:38:41
Violence in suburbs after youths die in police crash; Sarkozy urges calm.

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, called for calm Monday after a night of riots in a Paris suburb left 25 police officers and a fireman injured amid a trail of destruction.

The riots broke out on Sunday, hours after two teenagers were killed in a motorcycle accident involving a police car.

The accident resembled the event which triggered suburban riots throughout France in 2005, sparking fears of more violence to come. Two years ago the death of two boys allegedly fleeing the police in Clichy-sous-Bois sparked weeks of violence in France's rundown estates.

Dozens of youths descended on Villiers-le-Bel on Sunday evening, torching the police station, looting shops and setting cars and dustbins on fire. The police station in neighboring Arnouville was ransacked, as well as at least one petrol station, in more than six hours of violence.
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British Teacher In Sudan Faces 40 Lashes For Letting Students Name Teddy Bear 'Muhammad'
2007-11-26 20:38:13
Class of 7-year-olds chose name for cuddly toy; British diplomats urgently trying to secure teacher's release.

It seemed the most innocent of school projects. To encourage her seven-year-old pupils to learn about the animal kingdom, Gillian Gibbons asked them to find a name for a teddy bear. Unfortunately, they chose Muhammad.

Now the 54-year-old teacher from Liverpool, England, is being held in a Sudanese jail facing charges of insulting Islam's prophet. She was detained at her residence at the exclusive British-styled Unity High School in the capital Khartoum on Sunday after a number of parents complained to the Ministry of Education.

The state-run Sudanese Media Center reported that Khartoum's attorney's office would charge her under an act of Sharia Law dealing with "insult of faith". She could face a punishment of 40 lashes, six months in prison or a fine.
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U.S. Sen. Tren Lott Announces Retirement
2007-11-26 15:25:34

U.S. Sen. Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) announced Monday that he will retire from the Senate effective late next month or early January, stunning Republicans who had only last year reinstated Lott to their leadership ranks.

"It's time for us to do something else," he said at a press conference in his hometown of Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Lott, 66, made the decision over the Thanksgiving weekend at home with his family, saying that his state's recovery from Hurricane Katrina had improved sufficiently so that he felt he could pass "the flag" to a younger generation of Mississippians. Lott's move shocked Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have seen a wave of veterans announce their decision to retire next year as the GOP looks increasingly certain to remain in the minority.
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U.S. Obtains Swiss Records, Flies In British Witness In BAE Investigation
2007-11-26 03:01:28
Justice Dept. investigators want papers from Britain's Serious Fraud Office's (SFO) Saudi investigation. Brown government trying to block questions on payments.

U.S. corruption investigators have gone behind the back of Downing Street to fly a British witness to Washington, D.C., to testify about Saudi arms deals with the U.K. arms firm BAE Systems, the Guardian newspaper disclosed Monday. In a hitherto secret move, Swiss federal prosecutors have also agreed to hand over to U.S. Justice Department investigators financial records linked to the Saudi royal family.

The U.S. is seeking - but has so far been refused - more than a million pages of documents seized from BAE, its bankers, Lloyds TSB, and Britain's Ministry of Defense during an investigation by Britain's Serious Fraud Office.

Prince Bandar, the former Saudi ambassador to the U.S., who says there was no impropriety about a $2 billion (£1 billion) payment he received for brokering arms deals with BAE, has hired a former head of the FBI and a retired British high court judge to defend his position. The British government has been attempting to block all investigations into payments from BAE to members of the Saudi regime.
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