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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday December 4 2007 - (813)

Tuesday December 4 2007 edition
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Powerful Storm Batters U.S. Pacific Northwest
2007-12-04 03:13:41
Hurricane-force winds and heavy rain battered the Northwest for a second day Monday, killing at least two people and leaving entire communities dark and isolated as the storms blocked roads with trees, power lines, high water and mud.

Dozens of people stranded by flood waters required rescue as the second of two storms blew through, and Oregon transportation officials warned drivers not to attempt passage through the Coast Range.

''This storm is hitting the coast so hard, it's not leaving any road open,'' said Transportation Department spokeswoman Christine Miles.

The first wave of severe weather in the Northwest, which hit Sunday, was expected to reach the Upper Midwest with snow Tuesday, said the National Weather Service. That region had already been battered over the weekend by ice and snow before the storm blew into the Northeast on Monday.

The governors of Washington and Oregon declared states of emergency, which will allow for easier aid to stricken communities.

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Commentary: Climate Crisis Demands A Reappraisal Of Who We Are And What Progess Means
2007-12-04 03:13:08
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Prof. George Monbiot and appears in the Guardian edition for Tuesday, December 4, 2007. Prof. Monbiot writes: "Outdated figures have been hiding the full extent of climate change. But I am still advocating action, and not despair." His commentary follows:

When you warn people about the dangers of climate change, they call you a saint. When you explain what needs to be done to stop it, they call you a communist. Let me show you why.

There is now a broad scientific consensus that we need to prevent temperatures from rising by more than 2 degree Celsius above their pre-industrial level. Beyond that point, the Greenland ice sheet could go into irreversible meltdown, some ecosystems collapse, billions suffer from water stress, and droughts start to threaten global food supplies.

The government proposes to cut the U.K.'s carbon emissions by 60% by 2050. This target is based on a report published in 2000. That report was based on an assessment published in 1995, which drew on scientific papers published a few years earlier. The U.K.'s policy, in other words, is based on papers some 15 years old. Our target, which is one of the toughest on earth, bears no relation to current science.

Over the past fortnight, both Gordon Brown and his adviser, Sir Nicholas Stern, have proposed raising the cut to 80%. Where did this figure come from? The last G8 summit adopted the aim of a global cut of 50% by 2050, which means that 80% would be roughly the U.K.'s fair share. But the G8's target isn't based on current science either.

In the new summary published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), you will find a table that links different cuts to likely temperatures. It suggests that to prevent global warming from eventually exceeding 2C, by 2050 the world will need to cut its emissions to roughly 15% of the volume in 2000.

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NASA Plans One Last Ride To Hubble Space Telescope
2007-12-04 03:12:20
It’s the last roundup for the People’s Telescope.

Next August, after 20 years of hype, disappointment, blunders, triumphs and peerless glittering vistas of space and time, and four years after NASA decided to leave the Hubble Space Telescope to die in orbit, setting off public and Congressional outrage, a group of astronauts will ride to the telescope aboard the space shuttle Atlantis with wrenches in hand.

That, at least, is the plan.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride from hell,” Preston Burch, the space telescope’s project manager, said in his office here in Greenbelt, Maryland, at the Goddard Space Flight Center of the controversy and uncertainty.

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U.N. Starts Climate Conference In Bali
2007-12-03 18:57:17
U.S. wants to negotiate new climate pact.

American delegates at the United Nations climate conference insisted Monday they would not be a "roadblock" to a new international agreement aimed at reducing potentially catastrophic greenhouse gases, yet Washington refused to endorse mandatory emissions cuts, which are seen by many governmental delegations at the meeting as crucial for reining in rising temperatures.

Faced with melting polar ice and worsening droughts, delegates from nearly 190 nations opened the two-week conference with pleas for a new climate pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. That deal required the 36 signatories to cut emissions by 5 percent.

A key goal of the conference will be to draw in a skeptical United States, now the sole industrial power that has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, citing fears it would hurt the U.S. economy because cuts aren't required of rising economies like those in China and India.

"We're not here to be a roadblock," Harlan L. Watson, a top U.S. climate negotiator, told reporters. "We're committed to a successful conclusion, and we're going to work very constructively to make that happen."

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Sudan's President Pardons British Teacher Over Teddy Bear Incident
2007-12-03 18:56:47
A British school teacher jailed in Sudan for two weeks after allowing her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad was freed Monday following a pardon by the Sudanese president.

President Omar al-Bashir's pardon of Gillian Gibbons allowed her to leave prison before the end of her 15-day sentence, and ended a diplomatic tangle, resulting in what British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called a victory for common sense.

Bashir pardoned Gibbons, 54, of Liverpool, after meeting with two Muslim members of Britain's House of Lords, Nazir Ahmed and Sayeeda Warsi, who had traveled to the predominantly Muslim African nation to lobby for her release.

"This is a case which is unfortunate, unintentional, innocent misunderstanding," Ahmed told reporters in Khartoum after the pardon was announced. Wire services reported from Khartoum that Gibbons was released to British diplomats around 7 a.m.

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Losing Ground In Iowa, Clinton Questions Obama's Character
2007-12-03 04:13:14
With a new poll showing her losing ground in the Iowa caucus race, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York)  mounted a new, more aggressive attack against Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) on Sunday, raising direct questions about his character, challenging his integrity and forecasting a sharp debate over those subjects in the days ahead.

Clinton has hammered Obama recently over his health-care proposal, arguing that he is misleading voters because it omits millions of people and would not lower costs. Sunday, in a dramatic shift, she made it clear that her goal is to challenge Obama not just on policy but also on one of his strongest selling points: his reputation for honesty.

"There's a big difference between our courage and our convictions, what we believe and what we're willing to fight for," Clinton told reporters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She said voters in Iowa will have a choice "between someone who talks the talk, and somebody who's walked the walk."

Asked directly whether she intended to raise questions about Obama's character, she replied: "It's beginning to look a lot like that."

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U.S. Seeks Alliance With China, India To Block Climate Protection
2007-12-04 03:13:29
Officially, the U.S. government says it wants to push in Bali for a climate protection "road map." But Spiegel Online has learned that this may not be true. U.S. government officials are already attempting to coordinate with China and India to prevent binding emissions limits.

In recent official statements, Washington has indicated it might be looking for a compromise during negotiations in Bali for a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. But sources say the White House is discreetly searching for partners in Beijing and Dehli to derail the prospects for any binding agreements to curb emissions of greenhouse gases.

In the run-up to the Bali Climate Conference that opened Monday, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush established contact with representatives of the Chinese and Indian governments in an attempt to curb progress on climate protection initiatives, Spiegel Online has learned from a source familiar with the White House's Bali strategy.

According to the source, Washington is hoping that the two greenhouse gas emitters will openly declare during the conference that they are unwilling to accept any binding limits on emissions of greenhouse gases - at least not as long as the U.S. is unwilling to do more or if the Western industrial nations do not provide them with more financial aid for climate protection initiatives. If successful, the U.S. could use the tactic to prevent itself from becoming an isolated scapegoat if negotiations in Bali end in a stalemate.
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Traditional Native Lifestyle Collides With Big Oil On Edge Of Alaska
2007-12-04 03:12:40
Each summer and fall, the Inupiat, natives of Alaska’s arid north coast, take their sealskin boats and gun-fired harpoons and go whale hunting. Kills are celebrated throughout villages as whaling captains share their catch with relatives and neighbors. Muktuk, or raw whale skin and blubber, is a prized delicacy.

Now, that traditional way of life is coming into conflict with one of the modern world’s most urgent priorities: finding more oil.

Royal Dutch Shell is determined to exploit vast reserves believed to lie off Alaska’s coast. The Bush administration backs the idea and has issued offshore leases in recent years totaling an area nearly the size of Maryland.

Those leases have received far less attention than failed efforts to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but they may prove to be far more important. By some estimates, the oil under the Alaskan seabed could exceed the reserves remaining in the rest of the United States, though how much might ultimately be recoverable is uncertain.

Shell is eager to find out. It tried to make headway this summer, only to be stopped by an unusual alliance of Inupiat whalers and environmental groups who filed a suit in federal court.

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U.S. Intelligence: Iran Halted Nuclear Weapons Program In 2003
2007-12-03 18:57:30
Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to international pressure, and while it continues to develop an enriched uranium program, it apparently has not resumed moving toward a nuclear capability, according to a consensus judgment of the U.S. intelligence community released Monday by Director of National Intelligence John M. McConnell.

The assessment states "with moderate confidence" that "Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program" as of mid-2007, but suggests that Tehran continues to keep that option open.

"Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005," according to one of the key judgments of the new assessment. Two years ago, the intelligence community said publicly that it had "high confidence that Iran was currently determined to have nuclear weapons," a senior intelligence official said Monday.

After that assessment was released, the community increased its clandestine and open collection of information about Iran's program, actions that led to Monday's reassessment, said the officials.

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U.S. Sen. Craig Denies Reports He Had Sex With Several Men
2007-12-03 18:57:06
U.S. Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) Monday denied a newspaper report that he had sexual encounters with several men over the last two decades and vowed to continue to serve out his term in the Senate. Craig said the latest allegations, in Sunday's Idaho Statesman, had "no basis in reality" and accused the paper of "tabloid journalism" in a report that included two identified men who said they had sexual encounters with Craig.

One of those men is a former male escort whose revelations of encounters with the Rev. Ted Haggard prompted Haggard's resignation as president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

"Despite the fact the Idaho Statesman has decided to pursue its own agenda and print these falsehoods without any facts to back them up, I won't let this paper's attempt to malign my name stop me from continuing my work to serve the people of Idaho," Craig said in a statement.

The newspaper reported that Mike Jones, 50, said that Craig paid him $200 for sex in a Denver apartment in the winter of 2004-2005. Jones, a gay escort at the time, has published a book about his affair with Haggard, drawing charges from Craig's aides that Jones is trying to increase book sales with his latest allegations.

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Venezuelan Voters Deny Chavez Additional Authority
2007-12-03 04:13:28
President concedes defeat in 51- 49 vote.

Venezuelan voters delivered a stinging defeat to President Hugo Chavez on Sunday, blocking proposed constitutional changes that would have given him political supremacy and accelerated the transformation of this oil-rich country into a socialist state.

Hours after the final ballots were cast, the National Electoral Council announced at 1:15 a.m. local time Monday that voters, by a margin of 51 to 49 percent, had rejected 69 reforms to the 1999 constitution. The modifications would have permitted the president to stand for reelection indefinitely, appoint governors to provinces he would create and control Venezuela's sizable foreign reserves.

Chavez immediately went on national television and conceded before a roomful of government allies and other supporters. "I thank you and I congratulate you," Chavez said calmly, directing his comments to his foes. "I recognize the decision a people have made." Chavez admitted, though, that he had found himself in a quandary on Sunday night as votes were being tallied, because the vote was so close. He said that with nearly 90 percent of 9 million ballots counted, it became clear that his opponents' victory was irreversible. "I came out of the dilemma," he said, "and I am calm."

The victory for the "No" vote represents the first electoral setback for Chavez, 53, a former lieutenant colonel who won the presidency in a 1998 landslide and, until now, had trounced his opponents in one referendum and presidential election after another. Political analysts had said last week that the populist leader had lost standing this year after implementing unpopular policies, such as canceling a television station's broadcast license and displaying increasingly erratic behavior in verbal spats with foreign leaders.

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Scientists Get Rare Look At Dinosaur Soft Tissue
2007-12-03 04:12:59

A high school student hunting fossils in the badlands of his native North Dakota discovered an extremely rare mummified dinosaur that includes not just bones but also seldom seen fossilized soft tissue such as skin and muscles, scientists will announce Monday.

The 25-foot-long hadrosaur found by Tyler Lyson in an ancient river flood plain in the dinosaur-rich Hell Creek Formation is apparently the most complete and best preserved of the half-dozen mummified dinosaurs unearthed since early in the last century, they said.

Much scientific investigation remains to be done, and no peer-reviewed studies of it have yet been published, but the discovery appears to be yielding tantalizing new clues about the size, body mechanics and appearance of the reptilian beasts that ruled the Earth millions of years ago, said paleontologists studying the specimen.

"He looks like a blow-up dinosaur in some parts," said Phillip Manning, a paleontologist at the University of Manchester  in England who is leading the inquiry. "When you actually look at the detail of the skin, the scales themselves are three dimensional. ... The arm is breathtaking. It's a three-dimensional arm, you can shake the dinosaur by the hand. It just defies logic that such a remarkable specimen could preserve."

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