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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday December 9 2007 - (813)

Sunday December 9 2007 edition
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Justice Dept., CIA Announce 'Preliminary' Inquiry Into Destruction Of Interrogation Tapes
2007-12-09 01:57:32
The U.S. Justice Department and the CIA announced Saturday that they have started a preliminary inquiry into the CIA's 2005 destruction of videotapes that depicted harsh interrogation of two terrorist suspects.

The announcement follows congressional demands Friday for an investigation into the CIA's action despite warnings from the White Houseand congressional leaders to preserve the tapes.

CIA Director Michael V. Hayden disclosed the destruction of the tapes Thursday in a letter to his staff, telling them that the identities of the interrogators in the 2002 sessions needed to be protected. Some lawmakers have rejected that explanation.

In a letter sent Saturday, Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's national security division, wrote to CIA General Counsel John A. Rizzo to confirm the inquiry and asked the CIA to preserve evidence and documents.

Wainstein indicated in the letter that he will be working with the CIA inspector general's office to determine "whether a further investigation is warranted."

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Preserving Tropical Forests Is Key Issue At Global Warming Conference
2007-12-09 01:56:51

As 12,000 people gathered in Bali this week to begin framing a global response to Earth's warming climate, efforts to close a deal that would slow destruction of tropical forests appear to be the best prospect for a concrete achievement from the historic assemblage.

The deforestation issue is also Exhibit A for the disputes that have made climate negotiations lengthy and divisive despite widening agreement that global warming is real and largely man-made. While scientific dispute over what causes global warming has ended, the debate over how to address it has just begun.

Deforestation is one of the biggest drivers of the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Each year, tropical forests covering an area at least equal to the size of New York state are destroyed; the carbon dioxide that those trees would have absorbed amounts to 20 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, about the same as total U.S. emissions.

The bargain is being championed by a dozen of the world's developing countries at the conference, whose ultimate goal is to map out a two-year path aimed at forging a global system for imposing and enforcing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

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Iran Aims 'To Foment Instability', Says U.S. Defense Secretary
2007-12-09 01:56:09
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates argued forcefully at a Persian Gulf security conference in Manama, Bahrain, Saturday that U.S. intelligence indicates Iran could restart its secret nuclear weapons program "at any time" and remains a major threat to the region.

Tough and at times sarcastic, Gates said the Iranian government also is supplying weapons to insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, backing the radical Islamic movements Hezbollah and Hamas, and developing medium-range ballistic missiles.

"Everywhere you turn, it is the policy of Iran to foment instability and chaos, no matter the strategic value or cost in the blood of innocents," Gates said in a speech to defense leaders from 23 countries attending the Manama Dialogue, a security conference organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Gates acknowledged that the recent release of a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, which determined that the country halted its secret nuclear weapons program in 2003, was awkward and frustrating for the Bush administration. He explained that the CIA director decides on the content and release, without influence from Congress or the executive branch.

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Oprah Stumps For Obama In Iowa
2007-12-09 01:55:34
Oprah Winfrey put her star power behind Sen. Barack Obama on Saturday, telling a rapt audience of thousands that she is joining the fight for the White House because she is "so tired" of the status quo in Washington, D.C.

"You know I've never done this before and it feels like I'm out of my pew," Winfrey told the crowd. "I'm nervous."

Without mentioning Obama's chief rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York), by name, Winfrey made a vigorous case against her. Winfrey said she is concerned that "if we continued to do the same things over and over and over again, I know that you get the same results."

The popular talk-show host's dramatic appearance at a packed arena overlooking the state Capitol - her first on behalf of a presidential candidate - helped underscore the high stakes in the nation's first caucuses, scheduled for Jan. 3. Running neck-and-neck in the polls here and unable to predict how voters will react to sharp clashes close to the holidays, Clinton and Obama (D-Illinois) are campaigning furiously, with an emphasis on female voters.

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World Global Warming Protests Get Underway
2007-12-09 01:54:43
Skiers, fire-eaters and an ice sculptor joined in worldwide demonstrations Saturday to draw attention to climate change and push their governments to take stronger action to fight global warming.

From costume parades in the Philippines to a bicyclists' protest in London, marches were held in more than 50 cities around the world to coincide with the two-week U.N. Climate Change Conference, which runs through Friday in Bali, Indonesia.

Hundreds of people rallied in the Philippine capital, Manila, wearing miniature windmills atop hats, or framing their faces in cardboard cutouts of the sun.

"We are trying to send a message that we are going to have to use renewable energy sometime, because the environment, we need to really preserve it," said high school student Samantha Gonzales. "We have to act now."

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Study: U.S. Ranks Second-Worst In Climate Protection
2007-12-08 12:57:41
A new report rates the climate-protection performance of 56 countries that account for 90 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. While Germany came in at second best, the U.S. ranked second worst.

Traditionally, environmentalists have reserved the majority of their climate-related bile for those countries belching the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But with the world gathered in Bali this week to figure out a way to combat climate change, the annual Climate Change Performance Index, released on Friday, once again reminds us that other factors should be taken into account.

When government policy and long-term trends are considered, Germany rises all the way to second place on the list, which ranked the biggest emissions offenders in the industrialized world - meanwhile, weak policies in the U.S. are only enough to lift it from last place to second-to-last.

The index, compiled by Germanwatch, a nonprofit climate research institute based in Berlin and Bonn, Germany,  evaluates and ranks the climate-protection performance of 56 industrialized nations that account for 90 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. On this year's list, Sweden retained the top spot, while Saudi Arabia was deemed the most irresponsible emitter among the world's major economies.

The ranking is based on energy use and carbon dioxide emissions data compiled by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and on an evaluation of the climate change policies in place in each country. A country's commitment to combating climate change is assessed on a weighted scale that considers emissions (50 percent of a country's score), the upward or downward trend of total emissions (30 percent), and the strength of its governmental climate policies (20 percent).
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Commentary: Bush Administration Delays Protection Of 280 Imperiled Species
2007-12-08 12:57:00
Intellpuke: The following commentary is from the Center for Biological Diversity, based in Tucson, Arizona.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on December 6th issued its annual Endangered Species Act "candidate" list - the official federal list of the most imperiled yet unprotected species in the country. Unlike being placed on the threatened and endangered list, listing as a "candidate" confers no actual legal protections. There are 280 species on the new list.

The Endangered Species Act stipulates that protection can be delayed via the candidate list only if the Fish and Wildlife Service is making "expeditious progress" in placing "higher priority" species on the threatened and endangered lists. This finding of "expeditious progress" is calculated on a yearly basis in the candidate announcement.

The Fish and Wildlife has listed no species as threatened or endangered over the past year. Indeed, it has listed no species during Dirk Kempthorne's tenure as Secretary of the Interior, and no species at all in 576 days. That surpasses even James Watt, who under Reagan, in 1981 and 1982, went 382 days without listing a species. Incredibly, the new candidate notice declares that the listing of no species at all in the past year fulfills the requirement to make "expeditious progress."

"The Bush administration has raised doublespeak to a high art by claiming that no progress qualifies as expeditious progress," said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Despite his claims of having cleaned up the Department of the Interior after the scandals created by Julie MacDonald and Steven Griles, Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has made things much worse. Kempthorne has completely shut down the Endangered Species Act listing program. He has surpassed James Watt as history's worst Endangered Species Act administrator."

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Audit: Military Lost Track Of Equipment In Iraq Worth Millions
2007-12-08 02:33:51

Pentagon auditors said they could not account for millions of dollars worth of rocket-propelled grenades, armored vehicles, ammunition and other supplies and equipment that were to be used to train and equip Iraqi security forces, because of inadequate paperwork and a lack of oversight personnel.

A report released Thursday by the Defense Department's inspector general looked at $5.2 billion in the Iraq Security Forces Fund, which is part of the $44.5 billion U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq.

It found that the command in charge, known as the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, couldn't provide "reasonable assurance" that the money for the Iraqi security forces was used properly and that it was protected from "waste and mismanagement."

The inspector general said the command was unable to prove that it received 12,712 of the 13,508 weapons it bought because the serial numbers were not kept when they were brought to the Abu Ghraib warehouse, and when they were sent out there wasn't adequate paperwork tracking them to a contract. The 13,508 weapons were made up of 7,002 pistols, 3,230 assault rifles, 2,389 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and 887 machine guns.

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Blackwater Contracts Short On Details
2007-12-08 02:33:19

The U.S. State Department has released copies of its contracts for private security services with Blackwater Lodge and Training Center and Blackwater Security Consulting.It's a hefty 323-page stack, and it comes with a catch:

About 169 of the pages are blank or mostly blank.

Released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the contracts - worth up to $1.2 billion - have been heavily redacted by the government. A State Department spokesman said the officials responsible for the cuts are simply trying to protect sensitive information that might put individuals at risk. He declined to say what kind of information was cut.

In a cover letter, the department notes that it "gave full consideration" to deletions recommended by Blackwater officials.

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Oil-Rich Nations Using More Energy, Cutting Oil Exports
2007-12-09 01:57:10

The economies of many big oil-exporting countries are growing so fast that their need for energy within their borders is crimping how much they can sell abroad, adding new strains to the global oil market.

Experts say the sharp growth, if it continues, means several of the world’s most important suppliers may need to start importing oil within a decade to power all the new cars, houses and businesses they are buying and creating with their oil wealth.

Indonesia has already made this flip. By some projections, the same thing could happen within five years to Mexico, the No. 2 source of foreign oil for the United States, and soon after that to Iran, the world’s fourth-largest exporter. In some cases, the governments of these countries subsidize gasoline heavily for their citizens, selling it for as little as 7 cents a gallon, a practice that industry experts say fosters wasteful habits.

“It is a very serious threat that a lot of major exporters that we count on today for international oil supply are no longer going to be net exporters any more in 5 to 10 years,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, an oil analyst at Rice University. 

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Kurds Become Pawns As Iraqis Vie For Kirkuk's Oil
2007-12-09 01:56:28
Even by the skewed standards of a country where millions are homeless or in exile, the squalor of the Kirkuk soccer stadium is a startling sight.

On the outskirts of a city adjoining some of Iraq’s most lucrative oil reserves, a rivulet of urine flows past the entrance to the barren playing field.

There are no spectators, only 2,200 Kurdish squatters who have converted the dugouts, stands and parking lot into a refugee city of cinder-block hovels covered in Kurdish political graffiti, some for President Jala Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

These homeless Kurds are here not for soccer but for politics. They are reluctant players in a future referendum to decide whether oil-rich Tamim Province in the north and its capital, Kirkuk, will become part of the semiautonomous Kurdish regional government or remain under administration by Baghdad.

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Clinton Proudly Talks Of Scars While Keeping Her Guard Up
2007-12-09 01:55:50
In July 2000, Hillary Clinton stood on a stage at the University of Arkansas and struggled to keep her composure. Her voice was unusually soft that day, her words seemingly unfiltered.

“Diane, you were the awesomest,” Mrs. Clinton said, referring to Diane Blair, a political science professor whose eulogy she was giving. “You were the best person that one could have as a friend.”

Mrs. Blair, who died at 61, was described as the sister Mrs. Clinton had always wanted. She practically moved into the White House in 1993 to ease Mrs. Clinton’s transition to Washington, and returned at the end, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. She sent Mrs. Clinton recipes (though the first lady did not cook), bird-watching manuals (though she cared little for birds), vitamins ( with a note signed “Nurse Diane Fuzzy Wuzzy”) and cards.

“Whenever you have trouble coping, just think of Snow White,” one note said. “She had to live with seven men.”

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Huckabee Draws More Scrutiny
2007-12-09 01:55:20
Republican candidates criticized for comments on AIDS, foreign policy and his role in an Arkansas pardon.

Rising in the polls in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Mike Huckabee is coming under intense scrutiny from both his 2008 Republican rivals and critics of his tenure as governor of Arkansas, who have seized in recent days on comments he had made about AIDS, on his role in a controversial pardon and on his foreign policy credentials.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that, as a Senate candidate in 1992, Huckabee suggested quarantining people with AIDS, opposed additional federal funding for seeking a cure and said homosexuality was "an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk."

Huckabee is also facing scathing criticism from the mother of a woman who was killed by a convicted rapist whose release from prison was advocated by Huckabee when he was governor of Arkansas.

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CIA Ignored White House, Congress And Justice Dept. Advice To Keep Tapes
2007-12-08 13:21:20
White House and Justice Department officials, along with senior members of Congress, advised the Central Intelligence Agency in 2003 against a plan to destroy hundreds of hours of videotapes showing the interrogations of two operatives of al-Qaeda, government officials said Friday.

The chief of the agency’s clandestine service nevertheless ordered their destruction in November 2005, taking the step without notifying even the C.I.A.’s own top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, who was angry at the decision, said the officials.

The disclosures provide new details about what Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director, has said was a decision “made within C.I.A. itself” to destroy the videotapes. In interviews, members of Congress and former intelligence officials also questioned some aspects of the account General Hayden provided Thursday about when Congress was notified that the tapes had been destroyed.

Current and former intelligence officials say the videotapes showed severe interrogation techniques used on two al-Qaeda operatives, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who were among the first three terror suspects to be detained and interrogated by the C.I.A. in secret prisons after the Sept. 11 attacks.

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Global Warming - Australia's Farmers Likely To Be Among Hardest Hit
2007-12-08 12:57:21
Australian farmers are likely to be among the hardest hit in the world from climate change, losing up to a 10th of their production to global warming in less than 25 years, according to a grim new assessment from the Australian government's agricultural forecaster.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) has estimated that by 2030, output across the wheat, beef, dairy and sugar industries will probably fall by 9-10 per cent if nothing is done to slow or adapt to rising temperatures.

By 2050, the damage done could cost 13-19 per cent of output.

Only India and the world's least developed countries would fare worse than Australia, while farmers in New Zealand will actually benefit from a warming climate.

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Australia's Climate Research Funds Need Doubling
2007-12-08 12:56:38
Funding for the Australian climate science research effort needs doubling, according to Australian Research Council Federation (ARCF) fellow Matthew England.

The oceanographer and climate scientist - among the signatories to Friday's 2007 Bali Climate Declaration by Scientists - said the U.K., Europe and the U.S. were urgently developing climate prediction models to scope local impacts on their societies and natural systems.

While Australia has also been developing climate prediction models, the number of research staff and amount of computational power was magnitudes less than that allocated by Northern Hemisphere economies. Only Australia is modelling climate in the Southern Hemisphere, he said.

Professor England told The Australian newspaper that federal and state governments needed to rethink their approach to climate science research funding. The focus has been recently skewed to adaptation, "but they need also need to remember to resource the science that informs climate adaptation policies, such as the next generation climate models.'' 

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List Of 'Willing' U.S. Allies In Iraq Steadily Shrinks
2007-12-08 02:33:39
The commander of the Kazakh soldiers in Iraq, all 29 of them, keeps a stack of English-language instruction books on his desk inside Forward Operating Base Delta. He already speaks Russian, Turkish and Kazakh, and after English, he plans to learn Chinese. He has the time.

Kazakhstan has two main missions here in Kut, Iraq, on the geographic and strategic periphery of the war, and both of them could be going better. The Kazakh troops are sappers, trained to dispose of explosives. They were ordered by their government not to leave the base after one of those bombs, nearly three years ago, killed the first and only Kazakh soldier to die in Iraq. The soldiers also run a water purification system but find less use for that these days, too. "It's not necessary," said Capt. Samat Mukhanov. "There is bottled water here."

When asked how he felt about working in Iraq, the commander, Maj. Shaikh-Khasan Zazhykbayev, barked in his thick accent: "Not so comfortable! ... But we are military. Our government sends us to serve in Iraq, and we are serving in Iraq."

President Bush once called it the "coalition of the willing," the countries willing to fight alongside the United States in Iraq. The list topped off in mid-2004 at 32 countries; troop strength peaked in November that year at 25,595. The force has since shrunk to 26 countries and 11,755 troops, or about 7 percent of the 175,000-strong multinational force, according to mid-November figures provided by the U.S. military.

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