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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday December 20 2007 - (813)

Thursday December 20 2007 edition
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EPA Administrator Denies California's Limit On Auto Emissions
2007-12-20 01:37:32

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson Wednesday denied California's petition to limit greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, overruling the unanimous recommendation of the agency's legal and technical staffs.

The decision set in motion a legal battle that EPA's lawyers expect to lose and demonstrated the Bush administration's determination to oppose any mandatory measures specifically targeted at curbing global warming pollution. A total of 18 states, representing 45 percent of the nation's auto market, have either adopted or pledged to implement California's proposed tailpipe emissions rules, which seek to cut vehicles' greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent between 2009 and 2016.

In a telephone news conference last night, Johnson said he thinks that the higher fuel-economy standards and increased renewable-fuel requirements in the energy bill President Bush signed into law Wednesday will do more to address global warming than imposing tailpipe rules in individual states.

"The Bush administration is moving forward with a clear national solution, not a confusing patchwork of state rules, to reduce America's climate footprint from vehicles," said Johnson. "President Bush and Congress have set the bar high, and, when fully implemented, our federal fuel-economy standard will achieve significant benefits by applying to all 50 states."

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Pakistan - The Army Won't Return To Barracks
2007-12-20 01:37:02
Pervez Musharraf wants to impose an authoritarian presidential system on Pakistan in which the army preserves the dominant role. His people want a civilian government and a rule of law. That - not Islamic militancy - is the crux of the crisis in Pakistan.

A year ago Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf commanded a growing economy, international support and a docile political opposition. There were squalls - a separatist insurgency in Baluchistan, a Taliban redoubt on the border with Afghanistan - but these were on the outer limits of the state, remote from Islamabad, the sanitized, whitewashed capital. For a procession of U.S. envoys, Musharraf’s Pakistan was the epitome of a moderate Muslim nation in transition to democracy. It was almost a light in a landscape darkened by Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today Pakistan is stricken by its fifth bout of martial law in five decades. Political and civic dissidents are in jail, the judiciary has been purged and a relatively free media muzzled. What tipped Musharraf’s “enlightened moderation” into repression? There were two overlapping crises. One was an inevitable clash between eight years of military rule and a restive civil society, spearheaded by an independent judiciary. The other was a native, Talibanized insurgency, arching from the Afghan borderlands to settled districts like Swat in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), just 300 kilometers from the capital.

But the cause of the fall - and the link between the crises - is the institution that has ruled Pakistan directly for most of its existence and indirectly for the rest. The Pakistani army commands 600,000 men and women and perhaps 50 nuclear warheads. Under Musharraf’s tutelage, it has become a leviathan: worth $20 billion in assets, controlling a third of all heavy manufacturing and owning 12 million acres of land. Hundreds of military officers have civilian jobs in ministries and state corporations. Deeply politicized intelligence agencies fix elections (which has long been their prerogative), and build and un-build coalitions for the “president”.

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Mukasey To Restrict Case Discussions With Employees
2007-12-19 21:19:05
The Justice Department on Wednesday limited the number of its employees who can discuss investigations with the White House, seeking to end any political meddling in sensitive cases.

The change rolls back a more lax policy, set under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, that critics said allowed hundreds of Justice Department and White House workers to communicate about topics that only a few people should have handled.

In a memo Wednesday to department lawyers, Attorney General Michael Mukasey said that only he and his deputy attorney general can initiate conversations with the White House about civil and most criminal cases - and then only to the president's counsel and deputy counsel. Only cases deemed necessary to the president's duties can be discussed, said Mukasey.

"This limitation recognizes the president's ability to perform his constitutional obligation to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed' while ensuring that there is public confidence that the laws of the United States are administered and enforced in an impartial manner," Mukasey wrote in the two-page memo.

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Al-Qaeda Offers Interviews With Al-Zawahri
2007-12-19 21:18:33
Al-Qaeda has invited journalists to send questions to its No. 2 figure, Ayman al-Zawahri, in the first such offer by the increasingly media-savvy terror network to "interview" one of its leaders since the 9-11 attacks. The invitation is a new twist in al-Qaeda's campaign to reach a broader audience, and represents an attempt by al-Zawahri to present himself as a sophisticated leader rather than a mass murderer.

"I think their media capability is sophisticated as ever," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert and professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. "It shows how this group with 7th century ideology is exploiting 21st century media capabilities."

The advertisement, issued by the group's media arm Al-Sahab on an Islamic militant Web site, invites "individuals, agencies and all media" to submit written questions for al-Zawahri by sending them to the Web forums where Al-Sahab traditionally posts its messages.

Al-Sahab asked the forums to send it the questions "with no changes or substitutions, no matter whether they agree or disagree (with the question)."

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Guantanamo Three Will Not Face Charges In Britain
2007-12-19 21:17:17
Spain will seek extradition after men are released from Guantanamo.

Three men released from Guantanamo Bay after five years Wednesday are expected to be freed by British police and are unlikely to face criminal charges in the U.K., according to counter-terrorism sources.

However, it camed out last night that Spanish authorities have told British police they will seek to extradite two of the men - Jamil el-Banna and Omar Deghayes - who could face terrorism charges in Spain.

Clive Stafford Smith, who represents el-Banna and Deghayes, has pledged to fight any attempts to have them sent abroad to face charges. He had encouraged a Spanish extradition request in 2005, he said, as a means of extracting the men from Guantanamo, but the authorities in Madrid had not pursued it. "For quite a long time, we tried to get the Spanish to demand their release because we thought it was an elegant way to get them out of Guantanamo," he said.

"I find it very sad and very dismaying. The fact that the Spanish were behind this wrongful detention in Guantanamo Bay is something they should be ashamed of. The idea now that they want to use this evidence we have proved to be false to take them for further detention is very worrying."
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Amid Loses, Morgan Stanley Sells Stake To China
2007-12-19 15:35:13
China agreed to pump $5 billion into Morgan Stanley as the U.S. investment bank reported a stunning fourth-quarter loss fueled by a bigger-than-expected $9.4 billion of write-downs in mortgages and other assets.

China's investment, which could translate into as much as a 9.9 percent stake in Morgan Stanley, marks the latest capital infusion by a sovereign wealth fund into a major U.S. bank hurt by this year's credit crunch.

Morgan Stanley's shares rose more than 3 percent as investors hoped the large write-downs may be a sign of the beginning of the end of the subprime mess.

"A lot of people feel maybe the worst is behind us, and there is going to be tremendous value to obtain in this sector. I think a lot of that feeling is misguided. No one truly knows how much risk they have left," said Matt McCormick, portfolio manager at Bahl & Gaynor Investment Counsel in Cincinnati, which does not own Morgan Stanley shares.

Last month, Morgan Stanley said that traders betting the bank's own capital had incurred $3.7 billion in losses on U.S. subprime mortgages. On Wednesday the bank disclosed it took an additional $5.7 billion in write-downs, reflecting further deterioration in mortgages and losses on other debt.

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'Clone-Free' Products Could Get Label
2007-12-19 15:34:29

Responding to consumer queasiness about eating meat and drinking milk from cloned animals, and frustrated by continued delays in the government approval process, the nation's two largest cloning companies will Wednesday roll out a voluntary program aimed at helping shoppers avoid food from clones.

Meat and milk from the offspring of clones would, however, become part of the general food supply.

The new "supply chain management" system is built on the hope - supported by a modest amount of data - that people opposed to consuming meat or milk products that come directly from clones will accept food from their progeny.

The system calls for all cloned farm animals to be registered in a central tracking system and requires farmers who raise them to sign affidavits promising to keep them out of the food supply or to segregate their meat and milk so that other foods can be reliably labeled as "clone-free." Violators would face financial penalties.

Farmers have begun to acquire cloned animals with the expectation that the Food and Drug Administration will soon approve their use. For now, most do not intend to butcher or milk their clones, because the animals are too valuable for such ordinary use. Farmers see the clones as high-quality breeding stock.

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UFOs 'Definitely' Exist, Says Japanese Government Spokesman
2007-12-19 15:33:21
Japan's air force has never spotted a UFO, but the country's top government spokesman said Tuesday he "definitely" believes they exist.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura was speaking to reporters in response to demands lodged by an opposition lawmaker for an inquiry into "frequent reports of UFO sightings."

The government said in an official reply that it had "not confirmed sightings of unidentified flying objects believed to be from outer space."

Still, "I definitely believe they exist," Machimura said as reporters erupted in laughter.

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At Least 4 White House Lawyers Met With CIA On Interrogation Tapes
2007-12-19 03:22:54
At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from al-Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials.

The accounts indicate that the involvement of White House officials in the discussions before the destruction of the tapes in November 2005 was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged.

Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales, who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David S. Addington, who was the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is now his chief of staff; John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet E. Miers, who succeeded Gonzales as White House counsel.

It was previously reported that some administration officials had advised against destroying the tapes, but the emerging picture of White House involvement is more complex. In interviews, several administration and intelligence officials provided conflicting accounts as to whether anyone at the White House expressed support for the idea that the tapes should be destroyed.

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Editorial: A Crisis Long Foretold
2007-12-19 03:22:11
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Wednesday, December 19, 2007.

A truism of crisis management is that most seemingly out-of-the-blue disasters could have been prevented if someone had paid attention.

An article in The [New York] Times on Tuesday by Edmund L. Andrews leaves no doubt that the twin crises of the subprime lending mess - mass foreclosures at one end of the economic scale and a credit squeeze afflicting the financial system - are rooted in the willful failure of federal regulators to heed numerous warnings.

The Federal Reserve is especially blameworthy. Starting as early as 2000, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan brushed aside warnings from another Fed governor, Edward M. Gramlich, about subprime lenders who were luring borrowers into risky loans. Mr. Greenspan’s insistence, to this day, that the Fed did not have the power to rein in such lending is nonsense.

In 1994, Congress passed a law requiring the Fed to regulate all mortgage lending. The language is crystal clear: the Fed “by regulation or order, shall prohibit acts or practices in connection with A) mortgage loans that the board finds to be unfair, deceptive, or designed to evade the provisions of this section; and B) refinancing of mortgage loans that the board finds to be associated with abusive lending practices, or that are otherwise not in the interest of the borrower.”

Yet, the Fed did nothing as junk lending proliferated - including loans that were unsustainable unless house prices rose in perpetuity, riddled with hidden fees and made to borrowers who could not repay. Mr. Greenspan has said that the law was too vague about the meaning of “unfair” and “deceptive” to warrant action.

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China Being Poisoned By Its Food Industry Says Author
2007-12-20 01:37:16
Antibiotics in the meat, pesticide used as preservatives, mercury in the drinking water - Chinese author Zhou Qing says China's food industry is poisoning the country in its greed for profit. If ordinary people knew, there would be a revolution, he adds.

Chinese journalist Zhou Qing, a critic of the regime, unearthed political dynamite in his two-year investigation of China's food industry. He interviewed grocers, restaurant owners, farmers and food factory managers for an expose for which he won a prize as part of the German "Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage" in 2006.

His book is a dark account of a ruthless food mafia that stops at nothing to maximize its profits, for example by using contraceptives to accelerate the growth of fish stocks, lengthening the shelf-life of cucumbers with highly toxic pesticide DDT, using hormones and poisoned salt in food production and putting absurd amounts of antibiotics in meat.

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CIA Will Release Video Tape Documents
2007-12-20 01:36:38
The CIA said Wednesday it would begin handing over documents to Congress about the destruction of videotapings showing the harsh interrogation of two terror suspects after the House Intelligence Committee threatened to subpoena two agency officials.

Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, said Wednesday he had prepared subpoenas for former and current CIA officials and attorneys if they won't appear before the committee voluntarily. The panel rejected a Bush administration request that it defer to an executive branch preliminary inquiry and has launched its own investigation into the videotape destruction.

Reyes wants acting CIA general counsel John Rizzo and Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the National Clandestine Service, to testify to the committee on Jan. 16. Rodriguez is the official who directed that the tapes, which document the interrogation of two al-Qaeda suspects in 2002, be destroyed.

He told reporters the CIA had agreed to begin providing documents regarding the 2005 destruction of the tapes this week. That could be as early as Thursday, according to senior intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the legal inquiries. If that doesn't happen, the committee will subpoena them too, Reyes said. The document request includes records related to the 9/11 Commission and to al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, whose attorneys were seeking interrogation videos.

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Dad, 3 Children, Found Alive After Three Days In Snow
2007-12-19 21:18:50
A father and three children who vanished on a Christmas tree-cutting trip in the Northern California mountains were found alive Wednesday after huddling in a culvert for warmth during three days of heavy snow.

"Our hearts are all full right now," said Cory Stahl, who closed his pest control business so his employees could help look for the father, Frederick Dominguez, their co-worker. "It's a very merry Christmas now."

A California Highway Patrol helicopter crew spotted Dominguez atop a small bridge and landed nearby, sinking into 2 feet of snow, said flight officer David White. The family had taken shelter in a culvert beneath the bridge and stomped "help" in the snow, he said.

White said it was the last opportunity for the helicopter, with snow falling heavily as it descended.

"With another storm coming in, they were just happy to get out of there and get home," he said.

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European Union Plans Single Market For Healthcare
2007-12-19 21:17:34

Patients across the European Union will be allowed to opt for healthcare in any member state under new plans. The European commission says E.U. citizens should be entitled to healthcare anywhere in the union if the treatment is allowed in their own country. If E.U. ministers approve the measure, patients could be traveling routinely abroad for treatment by 2010.

Under the proposals, to be published in January, patients would have to pay up front for an operation in another E.U.  country then apply to have the cost reimbursed.

The new "single market" in medical treatment is partly a response to a European legal ruling last year which stipulated that patients should be reimbursed for receiving care abroad if there are "undue delays" in getting treatment in their own country.

The ruling followed a case involving 75-year-old Briton Yvonne Watts, who paid £3,900 ($7,800) for a hip replacement in France because she refused to wait a year for an operation in the U.K.

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U.S. Federal Reserve Loans $20 Billion To Banks
2007-12-19 15:35:33
Cash-strapped banks took the Federal Reserve up on its offer of $20 billion in short-term loans to help them overcome credit problems, but the interest rate wasn't as low as some had hoped.

The central bank said Wednesday that it had received bids for $61.6 billion worth of loans, more than three times the amount that was made available. The loans carried an interest rate of 4.65 percent, which is slightly less than the 4.75 percent the Fed charges banks on emergency loans through its "discount" window. Banks have been reluctant to use the Fed's discount window because of the fear that investors will believe they are having trouble getting funds in a normal manner.

There were 93 bids for the loans, the Fed said. Each bank could submit up to two bids. The auction for the 28-day loans was conducted on Monday, and the results released on Wednesday.

Asked how the first auction fared, T.J. Marta, a fixed-income strategist at RBC Capital Markets, replied: "I was standing next to two seasoned traders and one thought this auction was fantastic and another one thought it was horrible."

For his own part, Marta said it was "unsatisfying" because investors had thought the rate on the loans would have been lower, around 4.30 percent or 4.40 percent, rather than 4.65 percent.

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Giuliani's Kerik Woes Resurface Through Informant
2007-12-19 15:34:51
Candidate distancing himself from former confidant.

In the heady days of the 1990s when Rudolph W. Giuliani was mayor of New York and Bernard B. Kerik was one of his most trusted lieutenants, Lawrence Ray enjoyed his own wild ride.

Ray was one of Kerik's closest friends and the best man at his 1998 wedding. As Kerik was rising to become New York's police commissioner, Ray was in touch with him regularly - lending him money, discussing possible business opportunities, and using Ray's contacts in Russia to arrange a meeting for Giuliani with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Much has changed since then. Giuliani is now a leading Republican presidential candidate. Kerik has pleaded guilty to state ethics charges and is under federal indictment. And Ray, a convicted felon now in prison on a parole violation, has turned on his former friend. He has provided to state and federal authorities half a dozen boxes of e-mails, memos, faxes, financial statements, photographs and other materials about Kerik's alleged wrongdoing.

That evidence, reviewed by the Washington Post, shows that Kerik brought Ray into contact with Giuliani on a handful of occasions documented in photos and that he invoked Giuliani's name in connection with a New Jersey construction company with alleged mob ties that is now at the heart of the criminal cases.

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Lee Wins Landslide Victory In S. Korea Presidential Election
2007-12-19 15:33:35
Lee Myung-bak, a former construction boss known as "the Bulldozer," won a landslide victory Wednesday in South Korea's presidential election, promoting a brand of pro-American, pro-business politics that voters here were eager to buy.

"I know what you want so well," Lee told the nation after his opponents, including Liberal Party candidate Chung Dong-young, had conceded. "I will revive Korea's economy at the bidding of the people. I will unify our society, which has been torn apart."

The former mayor of Seoul, who celebrated his 66th birthday on election day, won about 50 percent of the vote, according to exit polls, nearly double the percentage of his closest competitor.

He won easily despite persistent allegations of corporate corruption that surfaced again last weekend and led to the appointment on Monday of an independent prosecutor, whose investigation will hang over Lee's two-month transition to the presidency.

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White House Office Building Catches Fire
2007-12-19 15:32:51

The historic Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the White House caught fire this morning, and Washington, D.C., firefighters broke windows and doused the second and third floors with water to extinguish the two-alarm blaze.

At an afternoon news conference, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin said security concerns prevented them from saying exactly where or how the fire started.

A source close to the fire said the flames began in a utility closet off Vice President Cheney's ceremonial office on the second floor. The flames were confined to the closet, but a significant amount of smoke raced through the building, said the source.

Rubin said there was a "significant amount of damage" to a ceremonial office on the second floor.

Rubin and Fenty (D) said the building, which was evacuated about 9:40 a.m., may be reoccupied this afternoon. They called the firefighting a success because the flames were brought under control quickly and just one person was slightly injured.

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U.S. House Sends Energy Bill To White House
2007-12-19 03:22:29

A year of rhetoric, lobbying, veto threats and negotiations ended Tuesday as the U.S. House of Representatives voted 314 to 100 to pass an energy bill that President Bush is to sign Wednesday morning. The bill will raise fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles, order a massive increase in the use of biofuels and phase out sales of the ubiquitous incandescent light bulb popularized by Thomas Edison more than a century ago.

Lawmakers said the energy bill will reduce America's heavy reliance on imported oil and take a modest step toward slowing climate change by cutting about a quarter of the greenhouse-gas emissions that most scientists say the United States must eliminate by 2030 to do its share to avert the most dire effects of global warming.

"It is a national security issue, it is an economic issue, it is an environmental issue, and therefore a health issue," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi(D-California). "It is an energy issue, and it is a moral issue."

White House press secretary Dana Perino gave credit to Bush, saying he "pushed Congress to pass this legislation all year," but congressional Democrats said they had withstood veto threats by the White House as well as heavy lobbying by automakers and coal companies before ultimately preserving much of what they wanted in the legislation.

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Snapshot Of Secret Detentions Emerges In Pakistan
2007-12-19 03:21:56
Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, apparently trying to avoid acknowledging an elaborate secret detention system, have quietly set free nearly 100 men suspected of links to terrorism, few of whom were charged, human rights groups and lawyers here say.

Those released, they say, are some of the nearly 500 Pakistanis presumed to have disappeared into the hands of the Pakistani intelligence agencies cooperating with Washington’s fight against terrorism since 2001.

No official reason has been given for the releases, but as pressure has mounted to bring the cases into the courts, the government has decided to jettison some suspects and spare itself the embarrassment of having to reveal that people have been held on flimsy evidence in the secret system, its opponents say.

Interviews with lawyers and human rights officials here, a review of cases by the New York Times and court records made available by the lawyers show how scraps of information have accumulated over recent months into a body of evidence of the detention system.

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