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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday December 16 2007 - (813)

Sunday December 16 2007 edition
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Experts Fear 'Superbug' Caught By Troops Will Invade Civilian Hospitals
2007-12-16 02:13:57
Britain, the United States and Canada are facing growing fears over a drug-resistant "superbug" being brought back by wounded soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq that threatens to contaminate civilian hospitals.

The intensified concern comes amid sharply rising infection rates in the U.S. and fresh worries in Canada that the bug could be imported into its civilian healthcare system. Military health officials who have studied the bacterium in Afghanistan believe the infection of wounded British soldiers in field hospitals there is probably inevitable.

The U.S. military originally thought the bug came from contaminated Iraqi soil, but troops in Afghanistan have also been infected. Canada's public health service last week revealed it had ordered the screening of all its wounded soldiers being repatriated from Afghanistan.

The bacterium, Acinetobacter baumannii, first emerged as a "mystery infection" afflicting U.S. service personnel returning from the war in Iraq in 2003-04. It was described by a scientific journal specializing in hospital epidemiology as the "most important emerging hospital-acquired pathogen worldwide". The journal added that it was potentially a "major threat to public health" due to its ability to mutate rapidly and develop a resistance to all known drugs.

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Bush Administration Defends Destruction Of Interrogation Tapes
2007-12-16 02:13:04

The Bush administration has told a federal judge that its 2005 destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes did not violate a court order because the captives in question were being kept in secret prisons at the time, not at the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In court papers, the government also urged U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., not to seek further information about the tapes to avoid interfering with the inquiries of the Justice Department and the CIA's inspector general.

"In light of the current inquiries by the political branches into the destruction of the tapes that occasioned petitioners' motion, it would not be appropriate to institute a judicial inquiry," according to the filing by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey S. Bucholtz and two federal prosecutors.

The motion, which was filed late Friday night, is the first courtroom statement by the Bush administration since the CIA disclosed that videotapes of coercive interrogation techniques used on two "high-value detainees" were destroyed in November 2005.

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Top British Terror Suspect Escapes In Pakistan
2007-12-16 02:12:15
The alleged British terrorist mastermind behind a plot to simultaneously blow up at least 10 transatlantic airliners in an atrocity that had the potential to dwarf September 11 was on the run Saturday night.

One of Britain's most wanted men slipped his handcuffs and fled after appearing at a court in Islamabad, Pakistan, where his lawyers were protesting against requests for his extradition. Saturday night two Pakistani policemen were being questioned about the incident.

Rashid Rauf's escape now threatens to spark a major diplomatic row by reigniting questions about why Pakistan's authorities had not approved his extradition, despite repeated requests from Britain dating back more than a year. Britain has been at pains to claim that Pakistan's President, Pervez Musharraf, is a key ally in targeting Islamist terrorism and someone who has played a vital role in sharing information between the countries' intelligence communities. The fact Rauf was able to escape so easily will raise questions about the security status given to him by the Pakistani authorities.

It is also likely to inflame relations with the U.S. The Observer understands the CIA was preparing to "render" Rauf when details of the alleged airliner plot emerged in August 2006. Alarmed at the U.S.'s attempts to grab Rauf, Britain's intelligence services, who had been monitoring the plot, swooped, arresting more than 20 suspects in the largest security operation of its kind in Britain.

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Second Storm In A Week Moves East
2007-12-16 02:11:05
Snow fell from the Plains across the Midwest on Saturday, accumulating as much as a foot in places, as the second wintry storm in a week barreled through on its way to New England.

Tens of thousands of people still had no electricity since the first storm slammed Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri earlier in the week. That storm was blamed for at least 38 deaths.

Winter storm warnings and watches extended Saturday from Missouri across parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, said the National Weather Service. As much as 15 inches of snow was forecast in sections of southern Michigan, with 10 inches possible in Detroit, Michigan.

Snow started falling early in the afternoon in Pittsburgh but was expected to change to rain and freezing rain.

"We'll have little bit of everything before the night is over," said Bill Drzal, a Weather Service meteorologist in Pittsburg

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In Break With President Morales, Four Bolivian States Push For Self-Rule
2007-12-16 02:10:27
Four Bolivian states bitterly opposed to a proposed new constitution unveiled plans Saturday for greater self-rule, challenging President Evo Morales and sparking demonstrations throughout the country.

The state governments formally announced their intentions less than a week after a constitutional assembly backed by Morales approved a draft of a new constitution that would expand presidential powers.

Regional leaders in Santa Cruz, a state whose residents are overwhelmingly opposed to Morales's policies, began collecting signatures Saturday to hold a referendum on an "autonomy statute" - a move followed by officials in the eastern states of Tarija, Beni and Pando.

The four states are considered the wealthiest in Bolivia, South America's poorest country. Their collective call for autonomy could give them much greater control over local tax revenue, land titles and security forces. Bolivia has nine states, called departments.

"We want the central government to hear our message of nonviolent autonomy," Roly Aguilera, the secretary general of Santa Cruz, said Saturday. "We will now be collecting signatures for a departmental referendum so we can approve the autonomy statute."

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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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Late-Night Drama In Bali Pushes U.S. Into Global Warming Deal
2007-12-16 02:13:30
The conference overran by a day and the American delegation found itself being roundly booed, but a compromise deal on saving the planet was hammered out at the climate change conference.

After tears, jeers and a dramatic eleventh-hour U-turn by the United States, a compromise deal for a new international climate change agenda was finally struck in Bali Saturday, just as talks appeared on the brink of collapse.

Amid extraordinary and emotional scenes, which at one point saw the American delegation booed at the United Nations climate change conference, ministers from more 180 countries thrashed out agreement after days of wrangling.

The resulting "Bali roadmap" is a global warming pact that starts a two-year process of negotiations designed to agree a new set of emissions targets to replace those in the Kyoto protocol.

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Editorial: Plenty Of Blame For Afghanistan
2007-12-16 02:12:33
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Sunday, December 16, 2007.

It was not a pretty sight: Defense Secretary Robert Gates, last week, accusing NATO allies of not doing nearly enough in Afghanistan. But beyond the finger-pointing, there is a much more serious issue. Unless the United States and Europe come up with a better strategy - and invest more money, attention and troops - the “good war” will go irretrievably bad.

One year after NATO took over all peacekeeping responsibilities (the United States still has 26,000 troops there), attacks by Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, including suicide bombings, are on the rise. Afghans are growing increasingly disillusioned both about their country’s government and its Western backers. Poppy production is also soaring as the Kabul government, Washington and Europe squabble over the best approach to eradication.

There is plenty of blame to go around. President Hamid Karzai and his government are weak. Pakistan, with Washington’s acquiescence, has not done enough to root out al-Qaeda along Afghanistan’s border. NATO has 28,000 troops on the ground, but member states seem to be losing their enthusiasm for the effort.

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Clinton, McCain Win Endorsement From Des Moines Register Newspaper
2007-12-16 02:11:38
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) was endorsed by the Des Moines Register last night, a much-needed victory for a front-runner who has stumbled in recent weeks.

The Register praised Clinton's "readiness" for the presidency, saying that it "sets her apart from a constellation of possible stars in her party, particularly Barack Obama, who also demonstrates the potential to be a fine president."

Of her main rival, the paper wrote: "When Obama speaks before a crowd, he can be more inspirational than Clinton. Yet, with his relative inexperience, it's hard to feel as confident he could accomplish the daunting agenda that lies ahead." Obama did, however, win the endorsement of the Boston Globe, which also was announced Saturday night.

Sen. John McCain (Arizona) won the Register's backing on the Republican side. He also was the Globe's pick among the GOP contenders.

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Handover In Basra As Killings Go On
2007-12-16 02:10:45
Sunday the British Army formerly transfers command in the province to the Iraqis, but the toll of factional warfare is still growing.

After four years, eight months and 11 days, after the deaths of unknown thousands of Iraqis, after 174 British fallen, and billions expended on reconstruction and the cost of a military mission, Sunday the British mission in Iraq takes a large step towards being wound up.

In a ceremony that will begin with a few verses from the Koran and end with an exchange of flags, handshakes and a few cans of fizzy drink, the British army will formally hand over control of security in Basra Province to the soldiers of the Iraqi Army's 14th Division.

It continues a process that began in September when British soldiers pulled out of their last much-rocketed positions in Basra Palace, close to the Shatt al-Arab waterway, and will continue in the spring when 4,700 British servicemen will be reduced to some 2,500.
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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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