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Friday, January 25, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday January 25 2008 - (813)

Friday January 25 2008 edition
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Drought Could Force U.S. Nuclear Plant Shutdowns
2008-01-24 21:47:45
Nuclear reactors across the U.S. Southeast could be forced to throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying up the rivers and lakes that supply power plants with the awesome amounts of cooling water they need to operate.

Utility officials say such shutdowns probably wouldn't result in blackouts, but they could lead to shockingly higher electric bills for millions of Southerners, because the region's utilities may be forced to buy expensive replacement power from other energy companies.

Already, there has been one brief, drought-related shutdown, at a reactor in Alabama over the summer.

"Water is the nuclear industry's Achilles' heel," said Jim Warren, executive director of N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, an environmental group critical of nuclear power. "You need a lot of water to operate nuclear plants." He added: "This is becoming a crisis."

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U.S. Senate Plans Immunity For Telecoms
2008-01-24 21:47:11

The Senate gave a strong boost Thursday to legal protections for telephone companies that helped the government conduct a warrantless wiretap program, dramatically increasing the chances the legislation will survive a final vote next week.

In a lopsided 60-36 vote, the Senate rejected a proposal from the Senate Judiciary Committee that did not include immunity for the telecoms. Instead, the Senate kept alive a competing proposal from the Senate intelligence committee that would offer legal protections to the companies and that has strong support from the White House.

The outcome increases the chance of an intra-party Democratic skirmish over the surveillance law, which would replace a stopgap measure passed last August that is due to expire in just eight days.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nevada) has asked President Bush to agree to a one-month extension, but Bush said in a statement Thursday that lawmakers must act quickly.

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U.S. To Insist Iraq Grant It A Wide Mandate In Operations
2008-01-24 21:46:44
With its international mandate in Iraq set to expire in 11 months, the Bush administration will insist that the government in Baghdad give the United States broad authority to conduct combat operations and guarantee civilian contractors specific legal protections from Iraqi law, according to administration and military officials.

This emerging American negotiating position faces a potential buzz saw of opposition from Iraq, with its fragmented Parliament, weak central government and deep sensitivities about being seen as a dependent state, according to these officials.

At the same time, the administration faces opposition from Democrats at home, who warn that the agreements that the White House seeks would bind the next president by locking in Bush’s policies and a long-term military presence.

The American negotiating position for a formal military-to-military relationship, one that would replace the current United Nations mandate, is laid out in a draft proposal that was described by a range of White House, Pentagon, State Department and military officials on ground rules of anonymity. It also includes less controversial demands that American troops be immune from Iraqi prosecution, and that they maintain the power to detain Iraqi prisoners.

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Italy's Government Collapses After Prime Minister Prodi Loses Confidence Vote
2008-01-24 21:45:23
Italy's government finally fell Thursday, after Prime Minister Romano Prodi lost a confidence vote that made it clear that Italy’s leaders know they face a deep political and economic crisis but are venomously divided over how to solve it.

Emblematic of those divisions, during the debate one senator rushed in fury to the desk of a colleague, Stefano Cusumano, and taunted and apparently tried to attack him. Cusumano, 60, reportedly cried, then collapsed.

“If I had the chance, I would have spit in his face,” said the attacker, Senator Tommaso Barbato, who had to be held back by his colleagues. His action came after Cusumano changed his vote to support Prodi.

After the vote, which Prodi lost 161 to 156, he submitted his resignation, ending his 20 turbulent months in office and the 61st government here since World War II.

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Rogue Trader Blamed For Market Crash
2008-01-24 21:47:31
City of London awash with rumors that £3.7 billion ($7.4 billion) fraud is at the heart of the market turmoil.

A brilliant young rogue trader, who spun an elaborate web of fake transactions from his desk, has cost France's second-biggest bank €4.9 billion (£3.7 billion or $7.4 billion) in what appears to be the largest-ever fraud by a single trader.

Societe Generale was Thursday night struggling to shore up confidence in the banking system after the huge fraud was conducted undetected by the junior trader at its headquarters.

Jerome Kerviel, 31, deemed "a genius of fraud" by France's top banker, caused five times the financial damage of the notorious rogue trader Nick Leeson, who sparked the collapse of Barings Bank in 1995 with losses of £800 million ($1.6 billion).

The discovery over the weekend of what Societe Generale deemed an isolated fraud of "unprecedented size" caused concern in a market already reeling from the sub-prime crisis. There was astonishment at how a junior trader on the bank's award-winning derivatives desk, described as both "brilliantly intelligent" and a troubled Walter Mitty character, could create fictitious accounts and wreak havoc. The young trader appeared to have acted alone and reaped no personal financial benefit. "[It's] everyone's worst nightmare," said Richard Fuld, chairman of the rival bank Lehman Brothers at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

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10 Die In Mistaken Firefight Between U.S. Troops And Afghan Police Officers
2008-01-24 21:46:57
At least nine Afghan police officers and a civilian were killed early Thursday in a firefight between American forces and the officers in Ghazni Province, just south of the capital, said local officials.

The American forces were searching houses in a village on the outskirts of Ghazni town and blew open the gates of a house, according to local Afghan officials. District police officers heard the explosion and rushed to the scene, suspecting that the Taliban were in the area, but were themselves mistaken for Taliban and shot by the American soldiers, said the officials. Aircraft supporting the operation fired on one of the police cars.

The killings set off protests in the town on Thursday afternoon, and demonstrators blocked the main highway and prevented a government delegation from reaching the town from a nearby airfield, said local officials.

“Another big cruelty was made by American forces this morning,” said Khial Muhammad Hussaini, a member of Parliament from the province who was among the elders and legislators who had traveled to the town to try to calm people and persuade them to reopen the highway.

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Pakistan Army Launches Assault On Taliban Commander Mehsud
2008-01-24 21:46:09
The Pakistani army has launched a blistering air and ground assault on the mountain stronghold of Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban commander accused of orchestrating the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, as a battle for control of the lawless region near the Afghan border intensifies.

The onslaught follows months of sporadic clashes in Waziristan, where Islamists have embarrassed Pakistani forces in recent weeks, and comes amid growing pressure from the U.S., which finances the operations against the extremists.

Hundreds of soldiers supported by tanks, helicopter gunships and a multi-pronged artillery barrage encircled Mehsud's home territory in South Waziristan, sending refugees fleeing into North West Frontier province, some on foot. The death toll was heavy but disputed. The army said it killed 40 militants and captured 30. A Mehsud spokesman said he lost seven militants but killed 25 soldiers.

It was the most concerted drive yet against Mehsud, variously tagged as a religious warrior, suicide bombing godfather and the architect of Bhutto's death. Last week the CIA director, Michael Hayden, supported government allegations linking him to the assassination. "This was done by the network around Baitullah Mehsud. We have no reason to question that," he told the Washington Post.

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