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Monday, January 21, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday January 21 2008 - (813)

Monday January 21 2008 edition
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Power Switch: New Law Will Change How We Save Electricity In The Home
2008-01-20 03:40:49

From light bulbs to clothes washers, the energy law passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in December will change many of the appliances in the average American home. The incandescent light bulb, invented two centuries ago and perfected and popularized by Thomas Edison in the late 1800s, will become a thing of the past by the middle of the next decade.

The look of the future? The curvaceous compact fluorescent bulbs that recently have become popular and other bulbs featuring light-emitting diodes or other advanced technologies.

The energy law will also bring about important but less noticeable changes in the way clothes washers, dishwashers, boilers and dehumidifiers use energy and water.

The goal is to reduce U.S. electricity use, a major source of greenhouse gases that scientists say contribute to global climate change. Half of the nation's electricity generation comes from coal-fired plants, which emit carbon dioxide. Moreover, if households cut electricity used for lighting and appliances, it could become easier to introduce electric cars, which could cut oil use without creating the need for a massive, new electricity-generating investment.

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Wall Street Shaken By Bond Fears
2008-01-20 03:40:11

Wall Street's biggest investment banks face at least $10 billion (£5.1 billion) of fresh write-downs related to the possible collapse of some of the world's biggest bond insurers - a new problem that could be just the tip of another financial iceberg.

Merrill Lynch shed some light on the extent of the bond insurance crisis when it revealed another set of ballooning losses last Thursday. Alongside that $16.7 billion mountain of virtually worthless sub-prime related paper was a $3.1 billion charge connected to insurance taken out to protect some of the mortgage-backed securities on its books.

It set aside $1.9 billion alone for contracts insured by ACA Capital Holdings, the most troubled of the bond insurers.

Banks such as Merrill Lynch and UBS, among others, transferred billions of dollars of credit risk to so-called  "monoline" insurers in case the dodgy sub-prime backed bonds on their books ever defaulted. It seems the banks were right to be cautious, as the bonds have since proved to be next to worthless. Yet the sheer volume of defaults has ramped up the pressure on the monoline insurers to such a degree that many are unable to meet their obligations.

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Clinton Wins Nevada Caucuses, Handing Obama Second Setback
2008-01-20 03:39:24
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won Nevada's Democratic caucuses on Saturday, handing Sen. Barack Obama a second consecutive setback in a volatile nominating contest that is now poised to become a coast-to-coast battle.

Competing in the first state with significant blocs of minority voters, Clinton won 51 percent of the vote, Obama took 45 percent and former senator John Edwards garnered 4 percent, the result of a colorful and at times chaotic process that included caucuses held in casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.Clinton won almost every casino site and dominated among women and Latino voters, while Obama drew overwhelming support from blacks - a potential foreshadowing of how the contest could play out when almost two dozen states vote on Feb. 5.

"I guess this is how the West was won," Clinton declared at a victory rally in Las Vegas.

Obama's campaign argued that the outcome in Nevada was a shared victory and laid claim to 13 delegates, compared with 12 for Clinton, because of the way his support was distributed around the state. Obama aides also complained of what they said were voter-suppression tactics. "We're not treating this as a loss," said senior adviser David Axelrod.  "We'll keep letting them spin the victories, and we'll keep taking the delegates." Obama left the state without delivering a concession speech, and his campaign sent messages to supporters heralding the edge in delegates.

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Biofuels 'Do More Harm Than Good'
2008-01-20 03:38:49
Members of Britain's Parliament warn of emission and rainforest risks.

Controversial plans to make cars greener by using fuel made from crops and animal fat will be thrown into doubt in the U.K. this week when Parliament members are expected to question whether they will do more harm than good.

Biofuels have been hailed as a green alternative to oil by some, but in the U.S., where there are massive plants converting maize (corn), it has been criticized for making food more expensive and being environmentally unfriendly.

From April, gasoline and diesel sold in the U.K. must have 2.5 per cent biofuels, drawn from sources such as tallow, rapeseed and sugar beet, rising to 5 per cent in two years' time. The European Union (E.U.) wants to increase this to 10 per cent by 2020.

Yet the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee is likely to call Monday for the schemes to be delayed because of fears that biofuels can have negative consequences. Criticisms include claims that producing some biofuels emits more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and that habitats such as tropical rainforests are being destroyed to plant the new crops. The report, "Are Biofuels Sustainable?", is also thought to predict that rising food prices pushed up by competition for land could restrict growth in the industry.

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Ocean Floor Sensors Will Warn Of Failing Gulf Stream
2008-01-20 03:40:34
Britain will be in deep freeze if current strays.

An armada of robot submarines and marine sensors are to be deployed across the Atlantic, from Florida to the Canary Islands, to provide early warning that the Gulf Stream might be failing, an event that would trigger cataclysmic freezing in Britain for decades.

The £16 million ($32 million) system, called "Rapid Watch", will use the latest underwater monitoring techniques to check whether cold water pouring south from melting Arctic ice sheets is diverting the current's warm waters away from Britain.

Without the Gulf Stream, the U.K. would be as cold as Canada in winter. Ports could freeze over and snowstorms and blizzards would paralyze the country. An extreme version of this meteorological mayhem provided the film "The Day After Tomorrow" with its plot line.

" 'The Day After Tomorrow' suggested the Gulf Stream could fail within a couple of days," said Rapid Watch's coordinator, Meric Srokosz of the Southampton Oceanographic Center. "In reality, a collapse will take a lot longer, but could still occur in about 10 years." Rapid Watch has been designed to discover if such weakening is already occurring or is about to begin.

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Bush's Economic Proposal Fails To Stop Stocks' Steep Decline
2008-01-20 03:39:52

U.S. stocks posted their steepest weekly drop since July 2002 after President Bush's proposal to stimulate the economy failed to allay investors' concern about a possible recession. Stocks also were hit last week by a flow of weak economic data.

Bush proposed an economic stimulus package of up to $150 billion and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke  said last week that the central bank is ready to take "substantive additional action" on interest rates.

"You can see almost every member of our government talking about their concern for the economy and what they're trying to do to help, but that only makes it feel worse from the financial markets' point of view," said David Pearl, head of U.S. equities at Epoch Investment Partners in New York.

Housing starts fell 14 percent in December, concluding the worst year for the industry since 1980, said the U.S. Commerce Department. Other government reports, showing retail sales fell for the first time since June and manufacturing in the Philadelphia region slid to a six-year low, heightened concern that the housing slowdown is infecting the broader economy.

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McCain Beats Huckabee In North Carolina; Clinton And Romney Win In Nevada
2008-01-20 03:39:08
Sen. John McCain conquered the South Carolina Republican primary Saturday, giving his once-embattled presidential campaign another significant boost and helping to wipe away bitter memories of his defeat here eight years ago.

McCain (Arizona) opened his victory speech in Charleston by alluding to that loss. "It took us a while, but what's eight years among friends?" he said, a big smile crossing his face.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, looking for a victory in the first Southern primary of the 2008 nomination battle, finished second to McCain, but not getting a victory in this conservative state is a blow to his underdog hopes of winning the GOP nomination.

Earlier in the day in Nevada, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney easily won the Republican caucuses. It was his second victory in five days and kept alive a candidacy that was on life support after early losses in Iowa and New Hampshire. Romney finished fourth in South Carolina.

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Violence Fear In The Netherlands Over Anti-Muslim Film
2008-01-20 03:37:35
The Dutch government is bracing itself for violent protests following the scheduled broadcast this week of a provocative anti-Muslim film by a radical right-wing politician who has threatened to broadcast images of the Koran being torn up and otherwise desecrated.

Cabinet ministers and officials, fearing a repetition of the crisis sparked by the publication of cartoons of Muhammad in a Danish newspaper two years ago, have held a series of crisis meetings and ordered counter-terrorist services to draw up security plans. Dutch nationals overseas have been asked to register with their embassies and local mayors in the Netherlands have been put on standby.

Geert Wilders, one of nine members of the extremist VVD (Freedom) party in the 150-seat Dutch lower house, has promised that his film will be broadcast - on television or on the internet - whatever the pressure may be. It will, he claims, reveal the Koran as a "source of inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror".

Dutch diplomats are already trying to pre-empt international reaction.

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