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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday December 12 2007 - (813)

Wednesday December 12 2007 edition
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U.S. Appeals Court Says Some Provisions Of Patriot Act Are Unconstitional
2007-12-11 20:34:06
A federal appeals court ruled Monday that some portions of the U.S. Patriot Act that govern dealings with foreign terrorist organizations are unconstitutional because the language is too vague to be understood by a person of ordinary intelligence.

The ruling released Monday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirms a 2005 decision by U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins.

Collins ruled on a petition seeking to clear the way for U.S. groups and individuals to assist organizations in Turkey and Sri Lanka with training on applying for disaster relief or conducting peace negotiations.

Collins said language in the Patriot Act was vague on matters involving training, expert advice or assistance, personnel and service to foreign terrorist organizations.

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Climate Scientist: 'The Arctic Is Screaming'
2007-12-11 20:33:31
An already relentless melting of the Arctic greatly accelerated this summer, a warning sign that some scientists worry could mean global warming has passed an ominous tipping point. One even speculated that summer sea ice would be gone in five years.

Greenland's ice sheet melted nearly 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark, and the volume of Arctic sea ice at summer's end was half what it was just four years earlier, according to new NASA satellite data obtained by the Associated Press.

"The Arctic is screaming," said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the government's snow and ice data center in Boulder, Colorado.

Just last year, two top scientists surprised their colleagues by projecting that the Arctic sea ice is melting so rapidly that it could disappear entirely by the summer of 2040.

This week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: "At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions."

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Forest Protection Expected To Be Key Part Of Bali Climate Deal
2007-12-11 20:32:41

Negotiators working on a new global climate deal in Bali scored their first success Tuesday with progress agreed on deforestation and how to help poor countries adapt to climate change.

Officials said steps to protect forests were included in a new draft of the so-called Bali roadmap, and that they expected them to appear in the final text produced at the end of the talks on Friday. The move would make financial rewards for not cutting down trees a key part of a new climate deal.

Hilary Benn, Britain's Environment Secretary, said: "It looks like we're going to get something on deforestation, which would be great."

Brazil and India are believed to have concerns about the way the agreement is worded, but negotiators are confident they can be ironed out by Friday.

Nations also broke a long-standing deadlock on how to release funds to help developing countries build seawalls and take other steps to adapt to the effects of climate change.

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Spy Court Won't Release U.S. Wiretap Documents
2007-12-11 20:31:28
America's spy court said Tuesday that it will not make public its documents regarding the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in a rare public opinion, said the public has no right to view the documents because they deal with the clandestine workings of national security agencies.

The American Civil Liberties Union asked the court to release the records in August. Specifically, the organization asked for the government's legal briefs and the court's opinions on the wiretapping program.

Writing for the court, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates refused. Releasing the documents would reveal closely guarded secrets that enemies could used to evade detection or disrupt intelligence activities, he said.

"All these possible harms are real and significant and, quite frankly, beyond debate," Bates wrote.

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NATO: Musa Qala Battle Won In Afghanistan
2007-12-11 20:30:41
The battle to retake the Taliban's only urban base of Musa Qala in southern Afghanistan has been completed, NATO  announced Tuesday.

The declaration came 24 hours after the Afghan Defense Ministry said NATO and Afghan forces had "completely captured" the town in Helmand province.

Afghan soldiers, backed by British, U.S. and Estonian forces, were reported to have moved into the center of Musa Qala this morning with little resistance. Taliban commanders withdrew their forces after heavy bombardment.

A statement from NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said troops had been welcomed by residents after they "liberated" the center of the town.

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Stocks Fall Sharply As Fed Cuts Interest Rates By A Quarter Point
2007-12-11 16:00:46
Dow drops 200 points in minutes.

The Federal Reserve cut a key short-term interest rate Tuesday by a quarter of a percentage point, to 4.25 percent, signaling its concern that the credit crisis might be gradually damaging the broader economy beyond housing.

Policy makers also cut the discount rate to 4.75 percent, from 5 percent, essentially encouraging bankers to turn to borrow from the Fed to keep up their lending to the consumes and businesses.

Investors reacted by sending the markets sharply lower, pushing the Dow down more than 200 points in a matter of minutes. Treasury notes, however, rallied on the news.

In an unusual statement after the meeting, the Fed’s policymakers declined to say whether they were more concerned about inflation or the outlook for economic growth. Their statement said that “Recent developments, including the deterioration of financial market conditions, have increased the uncertainty” about what will happen next.

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Central U.S. Reeling From Ice Storms
2007-12-11 16:00:17

Ice, sleet and freezing rain beset much of the central part of the United States today, causing deaths in traffic accidents on slippery roads and cutting power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.

The National Weather Service posted winter storm warnings for parts of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. In Oklahoma, where the storm hit on Monday, as many as half a million homes and businesses were without electricity as the ice dragged down power lines and loaded up tree limbs that fell onto the lines. Thousands of others were blacked out in Missouri and Illinois, and in some areas there, service may not be restored for a week.

As many as 22 deaths were attributed to the storm, most of them in traffic accidents. . The weather service said travel would be “dangerous, if not impossible” in the areas affected by the storm.

The Tulsa airport lost power on Monday and halted operation, and most flights in and out of Kansas City were canceled. The airport at Des Moines was also shut due to ice accumulation. Hundreds of flights were canceled at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and a lesser number were canceled at Midway Airport as the metropolitan area braced for the onset of the storm later in the day. Even Greyhound bus passengers had to spend the night at a church shelter in Tulsa after downed power lines made major roads impassible.

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Putin's Chosen Successor Would Name Him Prime Minister
2007-12-11 15:59:47
A day after Russian President Vladimir V. Putin endorsed a loyal protege, Dmitri A. Medvedev, as his successor,  Medvedev went before the nation Tuesday and declared that he in turn wanted to name Putin as his prime minister.

The announcement could bring to a close questions about how Putin intends to wield influence over Russia after his term ends next year. Putin is barred by the Constitution from running for a third consecutive term, but he had indicated in recent months that he had no intention of giving up all his power when he stepped down in the spring.

Medvedev has no background in the state security services and virtually no power base in the Kremlin, and he is seen here as a relatively weak figure beholden to Putin. With Putin as prime minister, it would appear that little would change in who controls Russia.

Some analysts conjectured that Medvedev could even step down before his term as president ends - clearing the way for Putin to be elevated from prime minister to president, which would be possible under the Constitution.

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Virus Starts Like A Cold But Can Turn Into A Killer
2007-12-11 03:28:02

Infectious-disease expert David N. Gilbert was making rounds at the Providence Portland Medical Center in Oregon in April when he realized that an unusual number of patients, including young, vigorous adults, were being hit by a frightening pneumonia.

"What was so striking was to see patients who were otherwise healthy be just devastated," said Gilbert. Within a day or two of developing a cough and high fever, some were so sick they would arrive at the emergency room gasping for air.

"They couldn't breathe," said Gilbert. "They were going to die if we didn't get more oxygen into them."

Gilbert alerted state health officials, a decision that led investigators to realize that a new, apparently more virulent form of a virus that usually causes nothing worse than a nasty cold was circulating around the United States. At least 1,035 Americans in four states have been infected so far this year by the virus, known as an adenovirus. Dozens have been hospitalized, many requiring intensive care, and at least 10 have died.

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Commentary: The Correct Answer Is To Leave Fossil Fuels In The Ground
2007-12-11 03:27:19
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Prof. George Monbiot and appears in the Guardian edition for Tuesday, December 11, 2007. Prof. Monbiot writes: "All the talk in Bali about cutting carbon means nothing while ever more oil and coal is being extracted and burned." His commentary follows:

Ladies and gentlemen, I have the answer! Incredible as it might seem, I have stumbled across the single technology which will save us from runaway climate change! From the goodness of my heart, I offer it to you for free. No patents, no small print, no hidden clauses. Already this technology, a radical new kind of carbon capture and storage, is causing a stir among scientists. It is cheap, it is efficient and it can be deployed straight away. It is called ... leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

On a filthy day last week, as governments gathered in Bali to prevaricate about climate change, a group of us tried to put this policy into effect. We swarmed into the opencast (open pit) coal mine being dug at Ffos-y-fran in South Wales and occupied the excavators, shutting down the works for the day. We were motivated by a fact which the wise heads in Bali have somehow missed: if fossil fuels are extracted, they will be used.

Most of the governments of the rich world now exhort their citizens to use less carbon. They encourage us to change our lightbulbs, insulate our lofts, turn our televisions off at the wall. In other words, they have a demand-side policy for tackling climate change. But as far as I can determine, not one of them has a supply-side policy. None seeks to reduce the supply of fossil fuel. So the demand-side policy will fail. Every barrel of oil and ton of coal that comes to the surface will be burned.

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Israeli Tanks Move Into Southern Gaza
2007-12-11 03:25:40
About 30 Israeli tanks and bulldozers moved into the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday in an operation against Palestinian militants, setting off clashes with Hamas fighters firing rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds.

Soldiers took over the rooftops of several homes and detained about 60 people in house-to-house raids, said residents. The Israeli military said they were detained for questioning.

The gunfire kept frightened motorists away from the main road between the towns of Khan Younis and Rafah, which was blocked at one section by an Israeli tank. Troops also were demolishing a gas station on the road.

The military described the operation as a routine operation "against the terror infrastructure". Militants in Gaza routinely fire crude rockets and mortars at Israeli border communities, and smuggle in weapons from Egypt.

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Democrats Accuse Bush Administration Of Censoring Global Warming Testimony
2007-12-11 20:33:50
The White House censored climate scientists and edited their testimony on global warming before Congress, Democrats charged Monday after a 16-month investigation into allegations of political interference with scientific inquiries.

The Bush administration was "particularly active in stifling discussions" of a potential link between climate change and the intensity of hurricanes, according to the findings in a draft report issued Monday by Democrats on the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Climate scientists are divided about whether the storms that hit the U.S. in 2004 and 2005 were part of a cyclical weather pattern or attributable to higher global temperatures.

The report said that after Hurricane Katrina, the administration steered journalists toward government scientists who discounted a link between climate change and increased hurricane intensity. It also accused staffers on the Senate Commerce Committee of influencing the public testimony of climate experts such as former National Hurricane Center director Max Mayfield.

"The White House exerted unusual control over the public statements of federal scientists on climate change issues," said the report, which acknowledges that there's no scientific consensus on whether global warming leads to stronger hurricanes.

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'The Biggest Environmental Crime In History'
2007-12-11 20:33:12

BP, the British oil giant that pledged to move "Beyond Petroleum" by finding cleaner ways to produce fossil fuels, is being accused of abandoning its "green sheen" by investing nearly £1.5 billion ($3 billion) to extract oil from the Canadian wilderness using methods which environmentalists say are part of the "biggest global warming crime" in history.

The multinational oil and gas producer, which last year made a profit of £11 billion ($22 billion), is facing a head-on confrontation with the green lobby in the pristine forests of North America after Greenpeace pledged a direct action campaign against BP following its decision to reverse a long-standing policy and invest heavily in extracting so-called "oil sands" that lie beneath the Canadian province of Alberta and form the world's second-largest proven oil reserves after Saudi Arabia.

Producing crude oil from the tar sands - a heavy mixture of bitumen, water, sand and clay - found beneath more than 54,000 square miles of prime forest in northern Alberta - an area the size of England and Wales combined - generates up to four times more carbon dioxide, the principal global warming gas, than conventional drilling. The booming oil sands industry will produce 100 million tons of CO2 (equivalent to a fifth of the U.K.'s entire annual emissions) a year by 2012, ensuring that Canada will miss its emission targets under the Kyoto treaty, according to environmentalist activists.

The oil rush is also scarring a wilderness landscape: millions of tons of plant life and top soil is scooped away in vast open-pit mines and millions of liters of water are diverted from rivers - up to five barrels of water are needed to produce a single barrel of crude and the process requires huge amounts of natural gas. The industry, which now includes all the major oil multinationals, including the Anglo-Dutch Shell and American combine Exxon-Mobil, boasts that it takes two tons of the raw sands to produce a single barrel of oil. BP insists it will use a less damaging extraction method, but it accepts that its investment will increase its carbon footprint.

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Humans Are Still Evolving - And It's Happening Faster Than Ever
2007-12-11 20:32:05

Humans are evolving more quickly than at any time in history, researchers say. In the past 5,000 years, humans have evolved up to 100 times more quickly than any time since the split with the ancestors of modern chimpanzees 6m years ago, a team from the University of Wisconsin found.

The study also suggests that human races in different parts of the world are becoming more genetically distinct, although this is likely to reverse in future as populations become more mixed.

"The widespread assumption that human evolution has slowed down because it's easier to live and we've conquered nature is absolutely not true. We didn't conquer nature, we changed it in ways that created new selection pressures on us," said anthropologist Dr. John Hawks, who led the study.

The researchers analyzed data from the international haplotype map of the human genome, and analyzed genetic markers in 270 people from four groups: Han Chinese, Japanese, Africa's Yoruba and northern Europeans.

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Poll: Huckabee Closes In On Republican Front-Runner Giuliani
2007-12-11 20:31:15

Three weeks before the first contest of the 2008 campaign, Republicans remain sharply divided over whom to choose as their presidential nominee and which of the five leading candidates best embodies the core values of a fractured GOP, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. 

Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani continues to lead the Republican field in the national poll, but his support is at its lowest point this year. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, has more than doubled his support among likely GOP voters since early November and runs just behind Giuliani.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tennessee) and Sen. John McCain (Arizona) also draw double-digit support in the new poll, hinting at a potential free-for-all when the voting begins in Iowa and New Hampshire early next month.

The Democratic race nationally continues to feature Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York) far ahead of Sen. Barack Obama (Illinois) and the rest of the field; but a highly competitive campaign in Iowa pitting Clinton, Obama and former senator John Edwards (North Carolina), along with signs of a tightening contest in New Hampshire, suggests that the Democratic race is also far from settled.

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Former Peru Leader Fujimori Is Convicted, Sentenced
2007-12-11 20:29:58
Former President Alberto Fujimori was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison on Tuesday on a charge of abuse of authority stemming from an illegal search he ordered as his government imploded in scandal seven years ago.

Supreme Court Judge Pedro Guillermo Urbina declared that Fujimori was guilty of abusing his power when he ordered an aide to pose as a prosecutor and search the luxury apartment of the wife of his spy chief without a warrant in November 2000. He also fined him the equivalent of $134,900.

It was the first prison sentence handed down for Fujimori, 69, who ruled Peru from 1990 to 2000, before fleeing to Japan, his ancestral homeland, as his government collapsed. He faces three other trials on charges that include murder, kidnapping and corruption.

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At Least 60 Killed By Twin Bombs Near U.N. Offices In Algeria
2007-12-11 16:00:35
Twin car bombs near United Nations offices and an Algerian government building killed dozens of people Tuesday in the deadliest attack in the capital, Algiers, in more than a decade.

Two European diplomats in Algiers said that reports from rescue and medical workers led them to believe news agency tolls of 60 or more. But the Algerian interior minister, Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni, told reporters at a news conference this evening that there were only 22 confirmed dead. He blamed the terrorist group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb for the attacks, without elaborating.

Some of the dead were students aboard a bus that was on its way to a university when it was struck by the second car bomb. One United Nations staff member was also confirmed among the dead in the first bombing, about 10 minutes earlier, and a dozen others were missing.

Marie Okabe, the deputy spokeswoman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said that preliminary figures showed that at least five United Nations staff members had died and that the organization was trying to account for 14 more who are missing.

“Our people are working with Algerian authorities in pulling people from the rubble, and one person was pulled out alive with the last hour,” she told reporters at a noon briefing in New York.

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U.S., European Union Deadlocked On Emission Targets At Climate Conference
2007-12-11 16:00:04
As a United Nations conference on global warming in Nusa Dua, Indonesia, entered its final stretch, the United States and the European Union remained deadlocked Tuesday on whether countries should commit now to including specific cuts in climate-warming emissions in a new climate pact that will not be fully negotiated for at least two more years.

Officials from the United Nations, backed by the European Union and many developing countries, have offered a draft “road map” for talks over the next two years that includes a commitment by industrialized countries to cut such emissions 25 percent to 40 percent by 2020.

This year’s studies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that centuries of warming, rising seas, and species extinctions would likely result without sharp curbs in emissions.

“Logic requires that we listen to the science,” Stavros Dimas, the European Union’s environment commissioner, said Tuesday. “I would expect others to follow that logic.”

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Former CIA Officer Recounts Detainee Waterboarding
2007-12-11 03:28:23

A former CIA officer who participated in the capture and questioning of the first al-Qaeda terrorist suspect to be waterboarded said Monday that the harsh technique provided an intelligence breakthrough that "probably saved lives," but that he now regards the tactic as torture.

Zayn Abidin Muhammed Hussein abu Zubaida, the first high-ranking al-Qaeda member captured after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, broke in less than a minute after he was subjected to the technique and began providing interrogators with information that led to the disruption of several planned attacks, said John Kiriakou, who served as a CIA interrogator in Pakistan. 

Abu Zubaida was one of two detainees whose interrogation was captured in video recordings that the CIA later destroyed. The recent disclosure of the tapes' destruction ignited a recent furor on Capitol Hill and allegations that the agency tried to hide evidence of illegal torture.

"It was like flipping a switch," said Kiriakou, the first former CIA employee directly involved in the questioning of "high-value" al-Qaeda detainees to speak publicly.

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U.S. Resists Setting Target On Cutting Carbon Pollution
2007-12-11 03:27:37
Call to reduce emission by 25-40% is key issue; Democrats would back limits, says Kerry.

Britain's Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, will Tuesday begin attempts to persuade the Bush administration to agree to firm targets on carbon pollution as part of a new deal on global warming. Benn arrived at the United Nations climate talks in Bali Monday night, as the U.S. said it is unwilling to approve a draft agreement which called on developed countries to reduce emissions by between 25% and 40% by 2020.

The U.S. said the proposal, which is backed by Britain and the European Union, was "totally unrealistic" and "unhelpful". Other countries, including Japan and Canada, are also believed to be against the idea.

The U.S. said it was in Bali to be "constructive" and wanted the meeting to agree a roadmap to a new agreement on climate change which would be concluded by 2009, but it said it would not agree a firm target, presented either as an emissions reduction or as a maximum temperature rise. European negotiators argue that a target is needed to reflect the urgency of the problem and to encourage industry to invest in green technology. The high-level segment of the talks begins tomorrow, when senior ministers replace civil servants at the negotiating table.

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Leniency Suggested For Suicidal Iraq Veteran
2007-12-11 03:26:26

An Army hearing officer recommended Monday that 1st Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside, a patient undergoing psychiatric treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, should not face a court-martial or other administrative punishment for having endangered the life of another soldier and attempting suicide while in Iraq.

"One of the Army values is integrity, which is defined as doing what is right, legally and morally," Maj. Mervin H. Steals, the investigating officer assigned to conduct a preliminary hearing, wrote in his decision. "The moral thing to do is dismiss these charges, to allow 1LT. Whiteside to end her military service and receive the benefits that she will desperately need for the remainder of her life."

Steals's recommendation will be passed to Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe, Jr., commander of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, D.C., which has jurisdiction over the matter. He can decide to accept, modify or reject Steals'  recommendation.

Whiteside, whose case was recently profiled in the Washington Post, said Monday that she was happy with Steals'  decision. "I'm feeling all right. ... It's not over yet."

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Pakistan Test Fires Medium-Range Missile
2007-12-11 03:25:21
Pakistan's military said Tuesday it had successfully test-fired a medium-range cruise missile capable of delivering nuclear warheads.

The launch of a new version of the Hatf-VII or Babur missile, which has a range of 435 miles, was "part of a continuous process of validating the design parameters set for this weapon system," said an army statement.

It didn't disclose the site of the missile test, but said it will "consolidate Pakistan's strategic capability and strengthen national security".

The Babur missile was first test-fired in 2005, and it can hit targets deep inside India, the main rival of this Islamic nation.

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