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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday December 15 2007 - (813)

Saturday December 15 2007 edition
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Fed Reserve's Effort To Curb Mortgage Excesses Falls Short Of More Stringent Measures
2007-12-15 01:26:23

The Federal Reserve is set to change home-loan lending practices that are blamed for pushing the nation into a housing downturn, but the effort is expected to fall short of far more stringent efforts by the U.S. Congress.

The new Fed rules, which may be announced as soon as Tuesday, aim to curb predatory lending and the overuse of exotic home loans without hurting the financial system that backs mortgage lending, according to lawmakers and sources close to the Fed.

Members of Congress are calling for a far-reaching reshaping of the mortgage industry. Several bills introduced by Democrats would radically alter compensation for tens of thousands of home-loan brokers. Homeowners found to be victims of predatory lending could be empowered to sue their lenders. The measures could also lead to the elimination of entire categories of mortgages, such as adjustable-rate subprime loans, industry groups contend.

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Commentary: After The Money's Gone
2007-12-15 01:25:52
Intellpuke: The following commenatry was written by columnist Paul Krugman and appeared in the New York Times edition for Friday, December 14, 2007. Mr. Krugman's commentary follows:

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve announced plans to lend $40 billion to banks. By my count, it’s the fourth high-profile attempt to rescue the financial system since things started falling apart about five months ago. Maybe this one will do the trick, but I wouldn’t count on it.

In past financial crises - the stock market crash of 1987, the aftermath of Russia’s default in 1998 - the Fed has been able to wave its magic wand and make market turmoil disappear. But this time the magic isn’t working.

Why not? Because the problem with the markets isn’t just a lack of liquidity - there’s also a fundamental problem of solvency.

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French Senators Demand Moratorium On Biofuel
2007-12-15 01:25:14
On Tuesday, December 11, two French senators, Socialist Claude Saunier and the UMP's Pierre Laffitte, members of the Parliamentary Office of Scientific Choices and Techniques, made public a report devoted to the collapse of biodiversity. The authors talk about a coming "biological shock," comparable to the "climate shock."

"The biodiversity of ecosystems, a support for humanity's development, is heading for a nosedive," they note. They present the figures scientists advance: for two centuries, the rate of species extinction has been ten to a hundred times higher than the natural rate. Overfishing, forest exploitation, the transformation of natural into urban regions, the introduction of invasive species and climate change figure among the principal causes of the phenomenon.

According to these elected officials, this issue was inadequately treated by the Environment Roundtable [la Grenelle de l'environment]. They propose "to go further" and formulate recommendations. The most immediate of these concerns biofuels: Messrs. Saunier and Laffitte demand a European moratorium on the development of those crops (the European goal is to incorporate 5.75% biofuels into gas and diesel between now and 2012).

Many studies have recently warned against the perverse effects - notably on biodiversity - of the development of these petroleum substitutes.

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E.U. Summit Gambles On Kosovo Mission
2007-12-14 19:56:26
Move a response to "strong pressure" from Washington.

European leaders Friday agreed to send up to 1,800 police, judges, and administrators to Kosovo in its biggest foreign policy gamble, aimed at nurturing the breakaway Balkan province towards full statehood.

Despite persistent divisions within the European Union over how to react to Kosovo's secession from Serbia, now expected in February, a summit of E.U. presidents and prime ministers decided to launch Europe's biggest nation-building operation, telling union foreign ministers to work out the details after the new year.

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown, making his first visit to Brussels, Belgium, as prime minister indicated the mission would be deployed - probably in February.

"The E.U. mission is very much part of the next stage," he said.

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Bali Talks Yield Some Progress On Global Warming Pact - Sort Of
2007-12-14 16:02:40
International negotiators continued to meet around the clock Friday, making some headway in their effort toward achieving a new global climate pact by the end of 2009, including agreement on a deal to protect the world's tropical forests.

In an evening press conference, U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer told reporters that delegates were "on the brink of agreement," having established what developed countries must do to confront a warming earth. Negotiators were still exploring how to define the role of developing countries in the upcoming climate negotiations, which will culminate in Copenhagen two years from now.

"People are working very hard to resolve outstanding issues," said de Boer. "The only question is how long is it going to take to get, how long we will have to stay up to wait for it."

While negotiators have not fully resolved whether industrialized countries should pledge to aim for a 25 to 40 percent emissions cut by 2020, according to participants in the talks, they made initial progress today by establishing a process to help compensate poor nations for preserving their tropical forests. Without divulging the details, European Union environment minister Stavros Dimas said of the forest package, "It is a good balance, and is one of the substantial achievements of this conference."

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Another Wintry Blast Targets Oklahoma, Kansas
2007-12-14 16:02:06
Another wintry blast was forecast Friday for the nation's midsection, where hundreds of thousands are still in the dark after a deadly ice storm brought down power lines, snapped trees and coated roads.

The system could complicate restoration efforts to the some 355,000 homes and businesses in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri still without power after the first storm darkened 1 million customers at its height earlier this week.

"If this turns out to be a heavy snow event, especially a wet snow, that's going to cause a lot of problems," said Sid Sperry of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives.

Between 2 and 6 inches of snow was predicted for parts of Kansas and Oklahoma, said Ken Harding, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Topeka, Kansas. The National Weather Service issued winter weather watches for the northwest two-thirds of Oklahoma from Friday afternoon through Saturday morning.

In Missouri, the weather service said two waves of snow Friday night and Saturday could dump up to 7 inches.

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Acidic Seas Threaten World's Reefs
2007-12-14 16:01:32
The majority of the world's coral reefs are in danger of being killed off by rising levels of greenhouse gases, scientists warned yesterday. Researchers from Britain, the U.S. and Australia, working with teams from the United Nations and the World Bank, voiced their concerns after a study revealed 98% of the world's reef habitats are likely to become too acidic for corals to grow by 2050.

The loss of big coral reefs would have a devastating effect on communities, many of which rely on fish and other marine life that shelter in the reefs. It would leave coastlines unprotected against storm surges and damage often-crucial income from tourism. Among the first victims of acidifying oceans will be Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest organic structure.

The oceans absorb around a third of the 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide produced each year by human activity. While the process helps to slow global warming by keeping the gas from the atmosphere, in sea water it dissolves to form carbonic acid - rising levels of which cause carbonates to dissolve. One of these minerals, aragonite, is used by corals and other marine organisms to grow their skeletons. It is particularly susceptible to carbonic acid. Without it, corals become brittle and are unable to grow and repair damage caused by fish, snails and natural erosion.

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Karl Rove, Joshua Bolten Found In Contempt Of Congress
2007-12-14 03:41:45
Senate committee cites top Bush advisers in probe of U.S. attorney firings.

A Senate panel found former presidential adviser Karl Rove and current White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten  in contempt of Congress Thursday for refusing to testify and to turn over documents in the investigation of the firings of nine U.S. attorneys last year.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved contempt citations against Rove and Bolten on a 12 to 7 vote, rejecting the White House position that the work of two of President Bush's closest advisers is covered by executive privilege.

Earlier this year, the House Judiciary Committee cited Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers for contempt, but action by either chamber of Congress is still weeks or months away. Lawmakers and aides said neither house will take up the issue until late January at the earliest.

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Clinton Apologizes To Obama Over Aide's Drug Remark
2007-12-14 03:40:59
On a day when her campaign advisers had hoped the final debate before the Iowa caucuses would help Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton reestablish herself as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton offered a formal apology to Sen. Barack Obamaand accepted the resignation of a prominent campaign organizer who had raised questions about her rival's use of drugs.

Bill Shaheen, Clinton's New Hampshire co-chair and the husband of former governor Jeanne Shaheen, said in a statement announcing his resignation that his remarks to the Washington Poston Wednesday were "in no way authorized" by the senator from New York or her campaign.

"I made a mistake," said Shaheen, adding that it was a "personal decision" to step aside as co-chairman of Clinton's New Hampshire operation.

Obama advisers were reluctant to let the issue drop, asserting that Shaheen, a close friend of the Clintons, had deliberately put the drug issue into play in the primary in an effort to stem Obama's rise in early-voting states. In his autobiography, the senator from Illinois acknowledged experimenting with marijuana and cocaine in his younger days.

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U.N. Rights Envoy Suspects CIA Torture At Guantanamo
2007-12-15 01:26:07
A United Nations investigator said on Thursday he strongly suspected the CIA of using torture on terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, suggesting many were not being prosecuted to keep the abuse from emerging at trial.

On a visit to the U.S. detention centre in Cuba last week, Martin Scheinin, U.N. special rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism, attended a pre-trial hearing of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former driver.

Scheinin said U.S. officials had told him that of the roughly 300 detainees currently held at Guantanamo, 80 were expected to face military trials for suspected crimes. Another 80 inmates had been cleared for release, he said.

No decision had been made to either prosecute or release the remaining 150, including many so-called "high value" detainees, he said. Some have been held six years without trial.

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Commentary: The Disgraceful Treatment Of Our Veterans
2007-12-15 01:25:39
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Joseph L. Galloway and appeared on the McClatchy Newspapers' website on Thursday, December 13, 2007. Mr. Galloway's commentary follows:

As you do your holiday shopping this year and think about a big turkey dinner and piles of gifts and the good life that most Americans enjoy, please spare a thought for those who made it all possible: Those who serve in our military and the veterans who've worn the uniform.

There are some new statistics that give us reason to be ashamed for the way that our country has treated those who've served and sacrificed for us.

Those statistics damn the politicians who start every speech by thanking the troops and veterans and blessing them. They indict our national leaders who turn up at military bases and the annual conventions of veteran's organizations and use troops and veterans as a backdrop for their photo-ops.

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U.S. Rep. Holt Would Require Videos Of All CIA Interrogations
2007-12-14 19:56:41
Amid the growing furore in Congress over the CIA's destruction of videos showing al-Qaeda suspects under brutal questioning, the senior Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives' intelligence oversight panel is offering a unique solution: require the taping of all interrogations.

Representative Rush Holt, named by senior Democrats to head the new oversight panel this year, has long advocated the recording of all interrogations conducted in U.S. custody. Required videotaping would not only protect terrorism suspects from possible abuses, Holt contends, but also shield U.S. operatives from unjustified suspicion and ensure higher-quality intelligence is received.

Now that the destroyed CIA tapes have upended the spy agency and sparked multiple inquiries, Holt told Guardian America, "I figured the time was right to re-introduce the videotape bill, partly because a major objection of the intelligence community - that it can't be and never is done - has been removed."

When CIA director Michael Hayden came before Holt's panel Thursday, the Democrat urged him to consider supporting the videotaped interrogations proposal; but the Bush administration has opposed the bill since its first introduction, before the revelations of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison facility in Iraq, and is unlikely to bend despite the pressure of the destroyed tapes scandal.

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U.S. Attorney General Mukasey Rejects Calls For CIA Tape Details
2007-12-14 16:02:58

Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey Friday sharply rebuffed congressional demands for details about the Justice Department's inquiry into the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes, saying that providing such information would make it appear that the department was "subject to political influence."

In letters to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee and others, Mukasey also reiterated his opposition to appointing a special prosecutor to the tapes investigation, saying he was "aware of no facts at present" that would require such a step.

"At my confirmation hearing, I testified that I would act independently, resist political pressure and ensure that politics plays no role in cases brought by the Department of Justice," Mukasey wrote. "Consistent with that testimony, the facts will be followed wherever they lead in this inquiry, and the relevant law applied."

One letter was sent to Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vermont) and Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania), the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Similar correspondence was sent to Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and to House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Michigan) and other House Democrats.

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U.S. Inflation Being Driven By Rising Gas Prices
2007-12-14 16:02:23

Consumer prices increased by their fastest pace in more than two years in November, cutting into wages and raising the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will hold off on further interest rate cuts even as the economy slows.

New figures from the Department of Labor showed that overall prices surged 0.8 percent in November on a seasonally adjusted basis, the biggest monthly increase since September 2005.

The cost of fuel - driven by crude oil prices the nearly topped $100 a barrel - was the chief culprit. Energy costs increased 5.7 percent in November alone and have increased at a 33 percent annual rate during the past three months.

Excluding volatile energy and food costs, so-called core inflation also rose more quickly than expected, with prices for transportation, clothing and other items pushing upward. Transportation costs, which had fallen for three of the past five months, jumped by 2.9 percent in November; clothing prices, falling for much of the year, increased 0.8 percent.

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Bird Flu Flares Again In Asia
2007-12-14 16:01:46
Bird flu has resurfaced in parts of Asia, with human deaths reported in Indonesia and China and fresh outbreaks plaguing other countries during the winter months when the virus typically flares.

Indonesia, the nation hardest hit by the H5N1 virus, announced its 93rd death on Friday. A 47-year-old man died a day earlier in a Jakarta hospital, said Health Ministry spokesman Joko Suyono. The man fell ill on Dec. 2 and was admitted with flu-like symptoms, becoming Indonesia's 115th person infected with the disease.

In China, the military in eastern Nanjing banned the sale of poultry this week after a father and son came down with the disease earlier this month. Health officials confirmed the 24-year-old man died from the virus a day before his father, 52, became sick. It was the country's 17th bird flu death.

The two were believed to have eaten a traditional dish known as ''beggar's chicken,'' in which the bird is wrapped in lotus leaves and baked. However, the cause of infection remains unclear.

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U.S. House Passes Bill To Ban CIA From Waterboarding, Harsh Interrogation Techniques
2007-12-14 03:42:01

The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation Thursday that would bar the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, drawing an immediate veto threat from the White House and setting up another political showdown over what constitutes torture.

The measure, approved by a largely party-line vote of 222 to 199, would require U.S. intelligence agencies to follow Army rules adopted last year that explicitly forbid waterboarding. It also would require interrogators to adhere to a strict interpretation of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war. The rules, required by Congress for all Defense Department personnel, also ban sexual humiliation, "mock" executions and the use of attack dogs, and prohibit the withholding of food and medical care.

The passage of the bill, which must still win Senate approval, fulfills a promise by House Democratic leaders to seek a ban on interrogation practices that have prompted the condemnation of human rights groups and many governments around the world. It comes amid a furor over the CIA's announcement a week ago that it destroyed in 2005 videotapes showing the use of harsh interrogation tactics on two terrorism suspects.

The White House vowed to veto the measure. Limiting the CIA to interrogation techniques authorized by the Army Field Manual "would prevent the United States from conducting lawful interrogations of senior al-Qaeda terrorists to obtain intelligence needed to protect Americans from attack," the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.

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Inspector General For Iraq Under Investigation
2007-12-14 03:41:28
FBI, Congress among those probing allegations of overspending, mismanagement.

Over the past four years, Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., and his staff have probed allegations of waste and fraud in the $22 billion U.S. effort to rebuild Iraq. Their work has led to arrests, indictments and millions of dollars in fines. It has earned Bowen, who had been a legal adviser to President Bush, many admirers among both parties on Capitol Hill for his efforts to identify overspending and mismanagement.

Yet Bowen's office has also been roiled by allegations of its own overspending and mismanagement. Current and former employees have complained about overtime policies that allowed 10 staff members to earn more than $250,000 each last year. They have questioned the oversight of a $3.5 million book project about Iraq's reconstruction modeled after the 9/11 Commission report. And they have alleged that Bowen and his deputy have improperly snooped into their staff's e-mail messages.

The employee allegations have prompted four government probes into the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), including an investigation by the FBI and federal prosecutors into the agency's financial practices and claims of e-mail monitoring, according to law enforcement sources and SIGIR staff members. Federal prosecutors have presented evidence of alleged wrongdoing to a grand jury in Virginia, which has subpoenaed SIGIR for thousands of pages of financial documents, contracts, personnel records and correspondence, several sources familiar with the probe said.

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Britain Headed For Second Hottest Year On Record
2007-12-14 03:40:46

Britain is on course for its second warmest year since records began, according to climate scientists at the Met Office and University of East Anglia.

Preliminary temperature charts covering January to November show the year was 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than the long-term average temperature taken over the 30 years leading up to 2000. Only last year, when July temperatures peaked at a record 36.5 Celsius, was hotter with an average temperature of 1.15 C above the 30-year average.

Scientists at the Met Office's Hadley Center said global temperature charts put 2007 as the seventh warmest year on the planet, according to records that date back to 1850. The figures add to a trend of soaring temperatures, with 11 of the warmest years now recorded around the globe occurring in the past 13 years.

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Blogger VetSignia group said...

U.S. Veterans are an important part of every community. The special men and women who gave time and effort for our country, by serving in the military, should be recognized on more than just a couple of Holidays. To this end, a small group of retired veterans in Blue Bell, PA makes thirty-six metalized film window stickers and magnetic vehicle plaques honoring military service from WWII to present day conflicts. They are called VetSignias and feature black print on bright silver metallic, with a Stars and Stripes background.
The stickers and plaques provide a neat, attractive way for all veterans to show their service. Veterans of WWII, KOREA, VIETNAM, PERSIAN GULF can display the war served and their branch of service. VetSignias for those who served in overseas expeditionary campaigns such as; Panama, Somalia, Bosnia, etc., show Branch of Service and Expeditionary. There are three VetSignias for veterans of the War On Terror. Veterans who served in peacetime can get VetSignias that show Vet and their Branch of Service. VetSignias show combinations like VET/KOREA/U.S. AIR FORCE, VET/VIETNAM/U.S. ARMY, VET/IRAQ/EXPEDITIONARY, or VET/U.S. NAVY.
VetSignias are not big billboards or banners, but they are a distinctive reminder to all. Everybody who sees one of the bright silver VetSignias will immediately know the bearer did something good for our country.
Complete information on all VetSignia Window Stickers and Magnetic Vehicle Plaques, including images, costs, and how to get them, can be found at the group’s web-site . Those who do not have internet access can write to: The VetSignia group, Box 382, Blue Bell PA 19422, or phone (610) 277-1171.

5:39 AM  

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