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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday December 5 2007 - (813)

Wednesday December 5 2007 edition
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Non-Profit Groups Become A Force In Primaries
2007-12-05 03:22:39
Use of donations is under scrutiny.

Nonprofit groups created to educate the public and lobby on issues have started inserting themselves into the presidential primaries, adding an unexpected wild card to wide-open elections in both parties.

The groups provide a new avenue for routing millions of dollars into an election cycle already awash with spending by traditional political organizations. The nonprofits are competing with the campaigns for voter attention, especially in early-voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, and their advertising, phone calls and mailings could help diffuse the candidates' own messages.

The nonprofits enjoy advantages over traditional political groups because there is no limit to who can give or the size of the donations, and no requirement to publicly disclose the contributors.

After months of quiet planning, the groups' activities are starting to surface in the primary states:

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Evidence Of Detainee's Innocence Rejected At Guantanamo
2007-12-05 03:22:12

Just months after U.S. Army troops whisked a German man from Pakistan to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002, his American captors concluded that he was not a terrorist.

"USA considers Murat Kurnaz's innocence to be proven," a German intelligence officer wrote that year in a memo to his colleagues. "He is to be released in approximately six to eight weeks."

Yet the 19-year-old student was not freed. Instead, over the next four years, two U.S. military tribunals that were responsible for determining whether Guantanamo Bay detainees were enemy fighters declared him a dangerous al-Qaedaally who should remain in prison.

The disparity between the tribunal's judgments and the intelligence community's consensus view that Kurnaz is innocent is detailed in newly released military and court documents that track his fate. His attorneys, who sued the Pentagon to gain access to the documents, say that they reflect policies that result in mistreatment of the hundreds of foreigners who have been locked up for years at the controversial prison.

The U.S. Supreme Court intends to weigh the legitimacy of the military tribunals at a hearing Wednesday morning. Lawyers for Kurnaz and other detainees plan to argue that the panels violate the U.S. Constitution and international law. They say that the proceedings have not provided Guantanamo Bay detainees with a fair and impartial hearing.

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Bulgaria To Build Nuclear Plant Near Active Fault
2007-12-05 03:21:32
Bulgaria is poised to build the first Russian-designed nuclear power plant in the European Union. However, the site was rejected in the 1980s because it was prone to earthquakes.

The proposed site, at Belene, is near an active fault, according to Gueorgui Kastchiev, the former head of Bulgaria's nuclear plant at Kozloduy - where four of the six Russian reactors have been deemed unsafe and shut down.

Last week, Kastchiev argued that the site was rejected in the 1980s by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and Soviet experts. In 1977, an earthquake killed 120 people in a village 15 kilometers (7 miles) away. Also, Kastchiev says, the design is untested, and Bulgaria has a poor safety culture.

Bulgaria's National Electricity Company denies that the region is prone to serious earthquakes.
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Riots And Hunger Feared As Grain Demand Causes Prices To Soar
2007-12-04 21:20:55
Expert to warn industry of threats to world supply; biofuel and Chinese boom put pressure on harvests.

The risks of food riots and malnutrition will surge in the next two years as the global supply of grain comes under more pressure than at any time in 50 years, according to one of the world's leading agricultural researchers.

Recent pasta protests in Italy, tortilla rallies in Mexico and onion demonstrations in India are just the start of the social instability to come unless there is a fundamental shift to boost production of staple foods, Joachim von Braun, the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute, warned in an interview with the Guardian newspaper.

The growing appetite of China and other fast-developing nations has combined with the expansion of biofuel programs in the United States and Europe to transform the global food situation.

After decades of expanding crop yields and falling food prices, the past year has seen a sharp rise in the cost of wheat, rice, corn, soya and dairy products.

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How U.K. Banks Exploit Charity Tax Laws
2007-12-04 21:20:21
$568 billion of mortgages put in trusts supposedly for the benefit of good causes.

Britain's high street banks have raised billions of pounds in funds through complex financial deals that use supposedly charitable trusts which are not donating a penny to good causes, the Guardian newspaper reports.

A dozen of the country's best-known banks and financial institutions have raised funds on the back of $586 billion (£234 billion) worth of home loans over the past seven years, using trusts which have charitable status but rarely give anything to charity.

Officials of the Charity Commission are already examining Northern Rock after the Guardian reported last week that it was using the name of a small charity for children with Down's syndrome. That inquiry now looks likely to be expanded, with the activities of up to 11 more banks coming under scrutiny, and the commission seeking to establish whether any have breached U.K. charity law.

The trusts were all set up during an elaborate process known as securitization, which has increasingly replaced the traditional mortgage model in which banks made loans to home buyers and held on to the loans until they were paid off.

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World Reaction To Iran Nuclear Report
2007-12-04 21:18:42
A report by U.S. intelligence agencies has contradicted the Bush administration's claims that Iran is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons program, concluding instead that such work stopped four years ago.

Reaction to the surprise findings has been varied:

Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki
"It's natural that we welcome it when those countries who in the past have questions and ambiguities about this case ... now amend their views realistically."

The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini
"Remarks by Bush and other U.S. administration officials, who have continuously talked about the danger of Iran's nuclear program, are baseless and unreliable."

Israel's defense minister, Ehud Barak
"It's apparently true that in 2003 Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program for a time. But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that program."
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News Analysis: A Blow To Bush's Iran Policy
2007-12-04 14:06:08
President Bush got the world's attention this fall when he warned that a nuclear-armed Iran might lead to World War III, but his stark warning came at least a month or two after he had first been told about fresh indications that Iran had actually halted its nuclear weapons program.

The new intelligence report released Monday not only undercut the administration's alarming rhetoric over Iran's nuclear ambitions but could also throttle Bush's effort to ratchet up international sanctions and take off the table the possibility of preemptive military action before the end of his presidency.

Iran had been shaping up as perhaps the dominant foreign policy issue of Bush's remaining year in office and of the presidential campaign to succeed him. Now leaders at home and abroad will have to rethink what they thought they knew about Tehran's intentions and capabilities.

"It's a little head-spinning," said Daniel Benjamin, an official on President Bill Clinton's National Security Council. "Everybody's going to be trying to scratch their heads and figure out what comes next."

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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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150 Million To Face Flood Risk By 2070
2007-12-05 03:22:25
As many as 150 million people in the world's big coastal cities are likely to be at risk from flooding by the 2070s, more than three times as many as now, according to a report released on Tuesday.

Climate change, population growth and urban development will mean the number at risk will rise from the current 40 million while total property and infrastructure exposure is forecast to rise to $35 trillion - 9 percent of projected global GDP.

The report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, put together by disaster modeling firm Risk Management Solutions and leading scientists, is the first part of the largest ever study on urban coastal flood exposure.

The report analyzed the vulnerability now and in the future of 130 port cities to a major flood, on a scale likely to occur once in 100 years.

Miami, Florida, will remain the city with the highest value of property and infrastructure assets exposed to coastal flooding caused by storm surge and damage from high winds, according to the report.

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Israel Frees 429 Palestinian Prisoners
2007-12-05 03:21:45
The largest single release in nearly three years is a goodwill gesture in advance of upcoming peace talks.

Jubilant relatives greeted 429 Palestinian prisoners with firecrackers, blaring horns and tearful embraces Monday after Israel freed them in a peace gesture to moderate Palestinian leaders.

Although it was the largest number of prisoners released by Israel in a single batch in nearly three years, Palestinian officials said they were far from satisfied and would keep insisting on a broader amnesty during peace talks set to begin next week.

Israel's prison service says it now holds about 8,800 Palestinians accused or convicted of security-related offenses; Palestinian officials put the number at 11,500. Many of those freed had just a few months remaining in their sentences.

Among the short-timers was Basel abu Hmaid, who was jailed in 2003 for his role in the last Palestinian uprising. He had been scheduled to be released in May. At Israel's Ofer military camp, he and others were loaded onto four Palestinian buses and driven to freedom, followed by carloads of family members who had been waiting in the West Bank a few yards away.

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Home Depot Closes 3 Call Centers, Cut 950 Jobs
2007-12-04 23:11:43
Home improvement retailer Home Depot Inc is closing three call centers that aid its home services business, cutting about 950 jobs, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

The centers include one in Tampa, Florida, that has about 751 workers, and two smaller ones in Chicago and Dallas that each employ about 100 people. The centers work with customers to facilitate installations of doors and other products.

The [Tampa] office building, in an office park at U.S. 301 and Causeway Boulevard, cleared out after the early afternoon announcement. Employees were told they could have the remainder of the day off with pay.
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Baghdad Kidnappers Give Ultimatum To British Forces In Iraq
2007-12-04 21:20:36
"Leave Iraq within 10 days or we will kill hostage."

Shia militiamen who kidnapped five Britons in Iraq six months ago have threatened to kill one of them if British forces do not leave the country within 10 days.

The threat, made in a video broadcast on an Arabic television station Tuesday, was condemned by British Foreign Office officials who said it would cause great distress to the hostages' families.

One of the hostages identifies himself by his first name in the video clip and says: "Today is November 18. I have been here now 173 days and I feel we've been forgotten." He is flanked by two masked men brandishing assault rifles and in the background a banner with a sign reading "the Islamic Shi'ite Resistance in Iraq" is visible.

A written statement shown with the clip threatens that if the group's deadline for the withdrawal of British forces is not met, "this hostage will be killed as a first warning, which would be followed with details that you would not wish to know".

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Britain's Police Anti-Terror Chief Quits
2007-12-04 21:19:37
Britain's chief anti-terrorism officer, Andy Hayman, announced his resignation Tuesday, saying "unfounded accusations" against him had taken a personal toll.

The third most senior police officer in Britain, who worked as head of specialist operations at Scotland Yard, said he felt it was the "right time" to retire from the force.

In recent weeks he has been dogged by controversy over claims he ran up credit card expenses of more than £15,000 ($30,000) and took his female staff officer on foreign trips.

He was also criticized over the Metropolitan police's handling of the shooting dead of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube (subway) station in 2005.
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Huh? Intelligence: Iran Quit Nuke Bomb Program In 2003 - Bush: Report Is Warning Signal
2007-12-04 14:06:25

President Bush asserted Tuesday that Iran's nuclear program remains a danger to international security despite an assessment in a new U.S. intelligence report that the Tehran government stopped work four years ago on a suspected effort to build nuclear weapons.

In a White House news conference, Bush argued that Iran continues to develop the capability to enrich uranium and that this know-how ultimately could be transferred to a new clandestine weapons program.

"Look, Iran was dangerous," said Bush. "Iran is dangerous. And Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

In response to persistent questioning about the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a declassified summary of which was released Monday, Bush emphasized the review's finding that Iran had a covert nuclear weapons program until 2003, when Tehran halted it under international scrutiny and pressure.

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Food Allergies Among Children Growing At An Explosive Rate
2007-12-04 14:05:53
More children are showing up at hospitals at a younger age with their first allergic reactions, despite doctors' warnings. The reasons for the earlier onset remain unknown, but researchers agree on one thing: Food allergies are growing at an explosive rate.

Anne McDonah's first three children were allergy-free. So, even though some pediatricians recommend holding off on peanuts, Ms. McDonah wasn't overly worried about peanut exposure with her fourth baby.

But when 10-month-old Olivia took a bite of her sister's peanut butter sandwich in August, within seconds, nasty red hives broke out over her body. She was rushed to an emergency room and a subsequent allergy test turned up positive.

"I was aware of peanut allergies," said Ms. McDonah, of Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada, though she'd "never dreamed of it" in her own kids.

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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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