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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday November 28 2007 - (813)

Wednesday November 28 2007 edition
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Palestinians, Israelis Will Restart Peace Negotiations
2007-11-28 00:50:00

Israeli and Palestinian leaders pledged Tuessday in Annapolis, Maryland, to begin negotiations next month for a possible peace agreement, but their speeches before representatives of 40 countries - including Arab nations with no diplomatic ties to Israel - laid bare the deep grievances between them and the tough compromises that will be necessary to forge a lasting deal.

The conference, held at the U.S. Naval Academy, marked the most intense U.S. effort to restart talks in the seven years since they collapsed at the end of the Clinton administration. President Bush indicated Tuesday that pursuing a peace deal that eluded his predecessors will be a central element of the final year of his presidency, and he agreed to a broad U.S. role in overseeing implementation of any agreements.

"I believe now is precisely the right time to begin these negotiations," he told the delegates arrayed around a U-shaped table in a stately room honoring academy graduates killed in operations or in action. "America will do everything in our power to support their quest for peace, but we cannot achieve it for them."

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China Warship Makes First Visit To Japan
2007-11-28 00:49:33
A Chinese warship dropped anchor off Tokyo on Wednesday for the communist nation's first military visit to Japan  since World War II, in a highly symbolic display of improving ties between the two Asian giants.

The port call by the guided missile destroyer Shenzhen was part of a mutual exchange that will bring a Japanese warship on a visit to China at a later date. It was the first visit ever to Japan by Communist China's People's Liberation Army.

The Chinese ship arrived under heavy security with a Japanese destroyer as its escort and a half dozen helicopters buzzing the sky.

On board, a navy band played "Anchors Away," while a cheering section of Chinese well-wishers brought by bus by the embassy waved Chinese flags and performed a lion dance.

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Recession Fears Over U.S. House Prices
2007-11-27 22:36:03
Survey finds sharpest drop in values in 21 years while gloom could spread into labor market, say experts.

U.S. house prices have suffered their worst plunge for two decades as defaults on sub-prime mortgages have shattered homebuyers' confidence and battered lenders have withdrawn cheap loan deals.

According to the key Standard & Poor's housing index, released Tuesday, third-quarter U.S. prices were down 4.5% on 2006 and were 1.7% lower than the second quarter of this year - the sharpest drop in the study's 21-year history.

The figures, released on the same day as research revealing a collapse in consumer confidence, showed that a once patchy economic downturn has become a nationwide phenomenon. The investment bank Goldman Sachs warned Tuesday that the chances of a recession had risen to between 40% and 45%.

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Iran Says New Missile Has 1,200-Mile Range
2007-11-27 13:44:49
Iran announced Tuesday that it has produced a new missile called Ashura with a range of 1,200 miles, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, the defense minister, said in a meeting with the Basij militia force that the Ministry of Defense had produced the missile, along with tanks, rockets, submarines and advanced communication systems, the news agency reported.

Iran had developed a medium-range ballistic missile known called Shahab-3 with a range of 800 miles. Officials said in 2005 that the range of Shahab-3, meaning the shooting star, was increased to 1,200 miles. It was not clear what the difference was between Ashura, the new missile, and the one announced in 2005.

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Stocks Rebound On Citigroup And Oil News
2007-11-27 13:44:21

Stock markets snapped back Tuesday after promising news emerged from the Middle East.

Financial shares rose after the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, a Middle Eastern sovereign fund, made a $7.5 billion investment in Citigroup, which is struggling to work off its exposure to subprime mortgage securities. Shares of Citigroup were up 1.4 percent in midday trading.

Meanwhile, crude oil futures fell nearly $3 a barrel after Saudi Arabia’s oil minister announced an increase in production levels. The price decline briefly allayed fears that expensive energy will drag down consumer spending over the holidays.

The optimistic developments sent the Dow Jones industrial average up more than 220 points, or 1.7 percent, in midday trading, to 12,958.20. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index rose 1.2 percent, to 1,423.92. The yields on Treasury bonds, a traditional safe haven for anxious investors, recovered after hitting three-year lows Monday.

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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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Blackwater Probe Stifled By Conflicts
2007-11-28 00:49:45
The State Department's acerbic top auditor wasn't happy when Justice Department officials told one of his aides to leave the room so they could discuss a criminal investigation of Blackwater Worldwide, the contractor protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq.

The episode reveals the badly strained relationship between Bush administration officials over the probe into whether Blackwater smuggled weapons into Iraq that could have gotten into insurgents' hands.

As a result of the bureaucratic crosscurrents between the State Department's top auditor and the Justice Department, the investigation has been bogged down for months.

A key date was July 11, when Howard Krongard, the State Department's inspector general, sent an e-mail to one of his assistant inspector generals, telling him to "IMMEDIATELY" stop work on the Blackwater investigation. That lead to criticisms by Democrats that Krongard has tried to protect Blackwater and block investigations into contractor-related wrongdoing in Iraq.

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Investors Move To Safer Options
2007-11-28 00:49:18
Investors are confronting the most volatile financial markets in years, and all signs suggest that the wild ride will continue.

The stock market on Monday was down 10 percent from its October peak - the definition of a correction. It rebounded Tuesday as the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index climbed 1.5 percent, but share prices remain at levels that indicate Wall Street is expecting a sharp slowing in the economy, and hence in corporate profits, next year.

The big swings this week are emblematic of the new era of volatility that began in financial markets in July, and they have become more severe this month. The S&P 500 has moved by 1 percent or more on 12 of 18 trading days in November. It moved that much only twice in November 2006.

The reason, market analysts say, is increased uncertainty about what the future holds. Forecasters' expectations for 2008 vary much more than usual, from a sharp recession to decent economic growth and everything in between. Wall Street is trying every day to extrapolate from the latest bits of news which is going to happen, hence the near daily swings in stock prices and bond yields.

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86 Police Officers Hurt In Paris Riots
2007-11-27 13:45:03
The number of police officers injured during clashes by French youths in a suburb north of Paris rose to 86 after a second bout of violence overnight in which 60 officers were hurt, including six who are in serious condition, said police officials.

Of the six in serious condition, four were hurt as a result of gunfire, said Francis Debuire, a representative of the General Union of Police Officers in the district where the fighting took place. One of the four lost an eye and another officer’s shoulder was shattered by a bullet after some of the youths used hunting shotguns as well as more conventional guns, firebombs and rocks.

Police union officials expressed concern that the violence was more severe than the fighting that had occurred in the Paris suburbs over three weeks of rioting in 2005. “The violence over the last days has been worse than two years ago in terms of its intensity,” said Debuire.

The clashes began when two teenagers traveling on a motorbike died in a collision with a police car Sunday afternoon in the town of Villiers-le-Bel, about 12 miles north of Paris, in the Val d’Oise department.

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Abu Dhabi Fund Invests $7.5 Billion In Citigroup
2007-11-27 13:44:39
Citigroup announced Monday night that it is selling a $7.5 billion stake to a Middle Eastern sovereign fund in the latest bid to shore up its balance sheet.

The fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), has agreed to buy a 4.9 percent equity stake in a complex transaction that has been approved by federal regulators. It will have no role in the management or governance of Citigroup, nor any presence on Citigroup’s board.

Abu Dhabi’s 4.9 percent stake will make it Citigroup’s single largest shareholder, overtaking Prince Walid bin Talal, of Saudi Arabia. He has owned close to a 5 percent stake since the early 1990s, when he made a similar investment to bail out the company. Together, their holdings will mean that nearly 10 percent of the Citigroup will be owned by Middle Eastern investors.

“This investment reflects our confidence in Citi’s potential to build shareholder value,” said ADIA’s managing director, Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

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Iraq Violence Leaves At Least 35 Dead
2007-11-27 13:44:05
American troops killed at least five people, including a child, when they fired on vehicles trying to drive through roadblocks in two separate incidents, military officials and witnesses said Tuesday. Across Iraq, at least 30 other people were killed or found dead. In one incident, a suicide bomber in Baquba claimed the lives of three women and three policemen.

One of the shootings involving American soldiers occurred this morning on a main road in Shaab, a neighborhood of northern Baghdad dominated by the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia loyal to the cleric Moktada al-Sadr. American soldiers fired on a minibus that was traveling on a street where only cars were allowed to pass, said a military spokesman, Lt. Justin Cole.

In an e-mail message, Lieutenant Cole said that the driver had failed to heed a warning shot, and that two passengers in the minibus were killed and four wounded. An Interior Ministry official said that four people were killed. A witness said three of them were women. Witnesses said that the bus was filled with workers on their way to a local branch of al-Rasheed bank. One witness, who declined to give his name, said the driver may not have realized that buses were not allowed on the street, since it was rush hour, around 8:30 a.m., and several cars could be seen on the street.

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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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