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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday December 22 2007 - (813)

Saturday December 22 2007 edition
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Federal Judge Hears CIA Tapes Case
2007-12-21 16:29:27
Attorney says destruction of tapes signals administration's willingness to destroy evidence.

Lawyers for suspected enemy fighters imprisoned at a U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay urged a federal judge Friday morning to investigate whether the Bush administration has destroyed evidence about their clients, citing the CIA's recent acknowledgement that it destroyed videotapes of interrogations of two other prisoners.

U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy scheduled the hearing Friday morning - despite the objection of the government. Although he expressed some concerns about the new request Friday, Kennedy said he would consider the lawyers' arguments for an urgent court inquiry into whether the destruction of the CIA tapes may have violated Kennedy's June 2005 order requiring the government to preserve any evidence related to mistreatment of Guantanamo detainees.

The Guantanamo detainees, some held for as long as six years without charges, have challenged their imprisonment and claimed their U.S. captors have tortured and abused them.

David Remes, an attorney for several detainees, argued Friday that the destruction of the CIA tapes signals the administration is willing to destroy evidence of possible torture and asked the court to conduct a broad inquiry into whether other evidence covered by the order was also gone.

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Cigna Under Fire In Girl's Death
2007-12-21 16:28:43
Cigna refused to pay for a 17-year-old leukemia patient's liver transplant until the family staged a protest Thursday, but Nataline Sarkisyan died shortly after the reversal.

A grieving family is blaming an insurance company for the death Thursday of a 17-year-old leukemia patient, who died hours after the company reversed course and agreed to pay for her to receive a liver transplant.

Nataline Sarkisyan was being treated at UCLA Medical Center, where she had been unresponsive in intensive care for about three weeks, said her mother.

"She had a 65% chance of survival if she had gotten the liver," Hilda Sarkisyan said from her home this morning.

The Sarkisyans' insurer, Philadelphia-based Cigna HealthCare, denied the transplant earlier this month.

Doctors at UCLA sent a letter Dec. 11 to Cigna emphasizing that Nataline was eligible for a transplant, said Hilda Sarkisyan. But Cigna refused to pay, citing a lack of medical evidence the procedure would help.
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U.S. Special Envoy For Sudan Resigns
2007-12-21 16:28:03
President Bush's special envoy for Sudan, Andrew Natsios, has resigned, U.S. officials said Friday.

Natsios oversaw a push to end the violence that the United States calls genocide in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region and worked to maintain a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of civil war between north and south Sudan.

The officials who confirmed Natsios' resignation spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to make the announcement, which was expected from the White House along with the nomination of his successor, former deputy U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Williamson.

Williamson, a senior Republican party official in Illinois, is close to current Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, whom he worked under when Negroponte was the top U.S. envoy at the U.N.

No details of Natsios' resignation were immediately available but several officials and Darfur observers said he had been frustrated by bureaucratic infighting within the administration over Sudan policy and recently informed Bush and White House chief of staff Josh Bolten of his intention to resign. Others noted he had accepted the job for a one-year tour.

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Next Up For Alaska - A $20 Million 'Ferry To Nowhere'
2007-12-21 03:49:59

Twice in the past two years, Alaska lawmakers lost congressional earmarks to build two "bridges to nowhere" costing hundreds of millions of dollars after Congress was embarrassed by public complaints over the pet projects hidden in annual spending bills.

This year, U.S. Rep. Don Young and U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, who are Alaska Republicans, found another way to move cash to their state: Stevens secured more than $20 million for an "expeditionary craft" that will connect Anchorage with the windblown rural peninsula of Point MacKenzie, located across Cook Inlet from Anchorage in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Now what Alaska has, budget watchdogs contend, is a ferry to nowhere.

"Earmarks are a bipartisan affliction," said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group that tracks the projects. "It would take leadership in both parties - and a lot more shame - to ever rein them in."

The $555 billion annual "omnibus" spending bill approved by Congress this week and the $459 billion defense bill passed last month collectively contain more than 11,000 earmarks, despite Democrats' vow to use their first year in the majority to slash the number of such pet projects.

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IMF: Subprime Crisis Impacts European, U.S. Growth
2007-12-21 03:49:23
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said on Friday global financial stability had taken a blow from the subprime crisis and European and U.S. growth will be weaker as a result.

"Stability has taken a blow," Strauss-Kahn said in an interview on French RTL radio.

"We know that it (growth) will be hit. We know that it will be weaker. Is this reduction in growth in the United States and Europe massive? Not yet, not yet," he said.

"The effects that we can measure, notably at the IMF, are significant. Growth will be weaker. It will not necessarily be catastrophic, it will continue to exist."

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50 Killed In Pakistan Suicide Bombing
2007-12-21 03:46:47
A suicide attacker detonated a powerful bomb inside a crowded mosque in northwestern Pakistan Friday morning, killing as many as 50 men and wounding 80 as they prayed to mark the Muslim holiday of Id al-Fitr, said Pakistan's former interior minister.

The attack appeared to be the second assassination attempt on the former minister, Aftab Khan Sherpao, in eight months.

“It was a massacre,” said Sherpao, who was unhurt. “That's what I can say.”

In a telephone interview, Sherpao said the bomber detonated the device in the row of worshipers just behind him and his family in his ancestral village of Sherpao as they prayed Friday morning. He said he did not know the identity or affiliation of the attacker.

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Asteroid On Track For Possible Mars Hit
2007-12-21 16:29:11
An asteroid similar to the one that flattened forests in Siberia in 1908 could plow into Mars next month, scientists said Thursday.

Researchers attached to NASA's Near-Earth Object Program, who sometimes jokingly call themselves the Solar System Defense Team, have been tracking the asteroid since its discovery in late November.

The scientists, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, put the chances that it will hit the Red Planet on Jan. 30 at about 1 in 75.

A 1-in-75 shot is "wildly unusual," said Steve Chesley, an astronomer with the Near-Earth Object office, which routinely tracks about 5,000 objects in Earth's neighborhood.

"We're used to dealing with odds like one-in-a-million," said Chesley. "Something with a one-in-a-hundred chance makes us sit up straight in our chairs."
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New Warning On Pain Relief Patch
2007-12-21 16:28:28
Improper use of patches that emit the painkiller fentanyl is still killing people.

The Food and Drug Administration Friday issued a new safety warning for a potent painkiller that comes in a patch and has been linked to hundreds of accidental overdose deaths, in many instances because doctors have mistakenly prescribed the narcotic to the wrong kinds of patients.

The warning was unlikely to satisfy patient safety advocates, who have been urging the agency to restrict the use of the fentanyl medication patch. An earlier warning by the FDA in 2005 did not do enough to reduce the risk to patients, all sides acknowledge.

However, the agency said it did not want to sharply restrict the use of the fentanyl patch because that could keep many patients who would benefit from getting relief for their pain.
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Putin, The Kremlin Power Struggle And The $40 Billion Fortune
2007-12-21 03:50:14
An unprecedented battle is taking place inside the Kremlin in advance of Vladimir Putin's departure from office, Britain's Guardian newspaper has learned, with claims that the president presides over a secret multibillion-dollar fortune.

Rival clans inside the Kremlin are embroiled in a struggle for the control of assets as Putin prepares to transfer power to his hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, in May, well-placed political observers and other sources have revealed.

At stake are billions of dollars in assets belonging to Russian state-run corporations. Additionally, details of Putin's own personal fortune, reportedly hidden in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, are being discussed for the first time.

The claims over the president's assets surfaced last month when the Russian political expert Stanislav Belkovsky gave an interview to the German newspaper Die Welt. They have since been repeated in the Washington Post and the Moscow Times, with speculation over the fortune appearing on the internet.

Citing sources inside the president's administration, Belkovsky claims that after eight years in power Putin has secretly accumulated more than $40 billion (£20 billion). The sum would make him Russia's - and Europe's - richest man.

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Editorial: Arrogance And Global Warming
2007-12-21 03:49:41
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Friday, December 21, 2007.

The Bush administration’s decision to deny California permission to regulate and reduce global warming emissions from cars and trucks is an indefensible act of executive arrogance that can only be explained as the product of ideological blindness and as a political payoff to the automobile industry.

The decision, announced Wednesday by Stephen Johnson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, overrode the advice of his legal and technical staffs, misconstrued the law and defied both Congress and the federal courts. It also stuck a thumb in the eyes of 17 other state governors who have grown impatient with the federal government’s failure to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and wanted to move aggressively on their own.

The Clean Air Act of 1970 gave California authority to set its own clean air standards if it first received a federal waiver. The law also said that other states could then adopt California’s standards. In 2004, California asked permission to move ahead with a law requiring automakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and light trucks by 30 percent by 2016. That would require improvements in fuel economy far beyond those called for in the energy bill signed this week.

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Personal Touch For Presidential Candidate Richardson In Envoy Role
2007-12-21 03:47:18
In 1998, Bill Richardson, then the United States ambassador to the United Nations, flew to Japan in search of backing for potential military strikes in Iraq.

Landing in Tokyo, Japan, he asked how a previous session, conducted by his boss, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright,  had gone. Not well, Richardson learned. Dr. Albright’s Japanese counterpart requested permission to smoke, she lectured him on the dangers of tobacco, and things never improved from there.

Now Richardson, 60, is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, running not only on his years as an elected official - he was a congressman from New Mexico and is now governor - but also on his parallel career, as a self-appointed and official diplomat. He argues that no Democratic candidate has as much international experience and puts withdrawal from Iraq at the center of his pitch. A recent New York Times/CBS poll puts him a distant fourth in Iowa, New Hampshire and nationally, leading to speculation that he could end up as a vice-presidential nominee or in a cabinet post.

So Richardson began his meeting with a question.

“Mind if I smoke?” he asked, pulling out the cigar he had tucked into his jacket a moment before. He left Japan with the assurances for which he had come.

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In Europe, Nine More Nations Drop Checkpoints
2007-12-21 03:46:21
For more than 60 years, Hradek Nad Nisou, a remote stretch of bottomland in the Czech Republic was one of the most closely guarded sectors of Central Europe.

The borders of three countries - Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic - intersect here along the Neisse River. For as long as anyone can remember, the rhythms of life on all sides have been regulated by a dense network of security depots, road barriers and immigration checkpoints that were originally designed to keep people out and prevent others from leaving.

On Friday, however, each of the crossings will finally go dark as borders are thrown open here and along frontiers that had separated Eastern and Western Europe since the end of World War II. The last vestiges of the Iron Curtain will disappear.

With fireworks and speeches, the switch began shortly after midnight Friday at multiple crossing points up and down the long frontier, as people crossed from country to country freely, no questions asked. At the frontier between Austria and Slovakia, leaders of the two nations ceremonially hand-sawed through a red and white border barrier.

For the first time, travelers have the freedom to drive east from the Algarve coast of Portugal all the way to the edge of Russiawithout encountering a border guard demanding proof of identification.

"It will be a monumental event," said Martin Puta, mayor of Hradek nad Nisou, a town of about 7,500 people. "It will not only mean the end of border controls, but also the end of a psychological barrier."

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