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Monday, January 28, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday January 28 2008 - (813)

Monday January 28 2008 edition
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Bush Threatens To Veto Wiretap Law
2008-01-28 03:47:32
The White House warned Democratic leaders Sunday that President Bush would veto a proposal to extend an expiring surveillance law by 30 days, saying that Congress should quickly approve a Senate bill favored by the Bush administration.

The move is aimed at forcing Congress to renew and expand the Protect America Act - which is due to expire at the end of the day Thursday - and escalates a national security showdown between Democrats and the White House just before the president's annual State of the Union address.

A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of ongoing negotiations with Congress, said lawmakers "have had six months to not pass a bill - they don't need 30 more days to not pass a bill."

The veto threat prompted a swift condemnation from Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nevada), who called the warning "irresponsible" and said Bush was "posturing" just before Monday night's speech.

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Commentary: The U.S. Economy - Darker Days Ahead?
2008-01-28 03:47:10
Intellpuke: The following commentary is from an interview with Robert Reich that appeared in Newsweek's edition for Wednesday, January 23, 2008. In the interview, Mr. Reich states that a recession, or worse, could be coming. His interview follows:

Think the last few days have been bad for Wall Street and the rest of the world's markets? Hang on, things are probably going to get worse, says Robert Reich, President Clinton's former secretary of Labor and author of the recent book "Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy and Everyday Life." According to Reich, who currently teaches public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, the United States might even be headed toward a depression.

Newsweek's Arlyn Tobias Gajilan talked to Reich about the Fed's surprise rate cut Wednesday, the "D word," the growing criticism of Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and whether a stimulus package will include $500 check for each American. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: Many investors had hoped for an interest-rate cut, but this cut's size and timing took people by surprise. Were you taken aback by the Fed's three-quarter basis-point cut, the largest single-day reduction in the Fed's history? And do you think it's necessary?

Robert Reich: Yes and yes. The Fed is clearly becoming aware of the serious potential of an economic meltdown. The size of the cut is larger than anyone expected because the Fed usually moves in [increments of] .25 or .50 percentage points. But the danger of a cut this size is that it may panic the investors. They may conclude that the Fed has determined that the economy is even worse than assumed and that there is still a way to go before we hit bottom. Yet the Fed has to [cut]. Credit markets are still uncomfortably frozen, and the housing slump continues to worsen.

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Shell Oil Set To Stir Gas-Price Debate With Record Profits Of Amost $27 Billion
2008-01-28 03:46:03

Shell will be at the center of a political storm this week when it posts profits of almost $27 billion (£13.6 billion), the highest earnings ever made by a British-Dutch company.

The record-breaking profits, on the back of soaring oil prices, seem likely to stir fresh allegations of profiteering. The price of petrol has been increasing sharply, rising from 71pence a liter five years ago to about 104 pence a liter today, according to the AA.

Texas-based Exxon Mobil, the world's largest privately-owned oil company, is expected to improve on its own previous record on Friday by reporting earnings of $39.6 billion, the biggest annual profits that the U.S. has ever seen.

Kate Gibbs at the Road Haulage Association described Shell's profits as "absolutely scandalous" but reserved her strongest criticism for the chancellor of the exchequer, Alistair Darling, who is planning to add another 2 pence a liter in fuel duty in April. More than 65% of the cost of unleaded petrol goes to the exchequer in fuel tax and VAT (value added tax).

"If it is not Shell reporting record figures, it is BP," said Gibbs. "We don't like it but what's the point in criticizing? But we have a chancellor who is hellbent on adding to the fuel duty and we are doing all we can to lobby parliament."

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President Of Mormon Church, Gordon B. Hinckley Dies At 97
2008-01-28 03:45:11

Gordon B. Hinckley, 97, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and an energetic grandson of pioneers who led his denomination during a period of great expansion in membership and facilities, died last night at his home in Salt Lake City, said a church spokeswoman.

In 1995, after many years in leadership posts in what is often called the Mormon church, Hinckley became president. He was the 15th person to hold that post.

The president of the church is held in special regard by the members, who see him as a prophet of God "in the same way they revered the prophets of scripture," according to material posted on the church's Web site.

Hinckley underwent cancer surgery in 2006, but church spokeswoman Kim Farah said last night that "the cause [of his death] was incident to his age."

Despite his age, Farah said, Hinckley had remained active and was coming in to the office as recently as last week.

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As The Great Lakes Water Levels Drop, Hardship Flows
2008-01-27 03:01:54
A decade ago, Chicago winters meant monumental ice hillocks and caves forming along the lakeshore, skirted by interlocking ice sheets like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Today, it is rare to see more than a thin frozen shelf or a few small ice floes sloshing in Lake Michigan below the city's skyline.

Decreased ice cover on the Great Lakes, probably caused by increasing air and water temperatures and high winds, is a major culprit in lowering water levels, which have hurt the shipping industry, forced lakeside power plants to extend their cooling pipes, frustrated recreational boaters, dried up wetlands and left coastal landowners with docks extending over yards of unsightly muck.

In September, Lake Superior broke its 81-year-old low-water record by 1.6 inches, and last month it was a foot below its seasonal average. It appeared that Lake Michigan and Lake Huron would log record lows for January until storms helped levels stay above the marks set in the 1960s.

The low water has forced freighters that haul iron ore, steel, limestone and other raw materials to lighten their loads and change their routes to avoid running aground in shallow harbors and waterways.

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Romney, McCain Trade Barbs In Florida
2008-01-27 03:00:58
Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, accused former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney of having once supported a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, sparking an angry demand for an apology from Romney, who called the statement "dishonest".

Both Republicans abandoned all pretense of civility as they campaigned across central Florida in advance of the state's primary Tuesday. Recent polls show a dead heat between McCain and Romney, and the winner here will gain a huge advantage as the nomination fight moves to 21 states a week later.

Stumping in For Myers on Saturday, McCain went on the attack first, linking Romney with Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York): "If we surrender and wave a white flag, like Senator Clinton wants to do, and withdraw, as Governor Romney wanted to do, then there will be chaos, genocide, and the cost of American blood and treasure would be dramatically higher."

He added to reporters that "one of my opponents wanted to set a date for withdrawal that would have meant disaster."

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In More U.S. Court Cases, Combat Trauma Is Taking The Stand
2008-01-27 03:00:17

When it came time to sentence James Allen Gregg for his conviction on murder charges, the judge in South Dakota took a moment to reflect on the defendant as an Iraq combat veteran who suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“This is a terrible case, as all here have observed,” said Judge Charles B. Kornmann of United States District Court. “Obviously not all the casualties coming home from Iraq or Afghanistan come home in body bags.”

Judge Kornmann noted that Gregg, a fresh-faced young man who grew up on a cattle ranch, led “an exemplary life until that day, that terrible morning.” With no criminal record or psychiatric history, Gregg had started unraveling in Iraq, growing disillusioned with the war and volunteering for dangerous missions in the hope of getting killed, he testified.

Nonetheless, the judge found that Gregg’s combat trauma had not rendered him incapable of comprehending his actions when he shot an acquaintance in the back, fled the scene, and then pointed the gun at himself as a SWAT team approached - the helmeted officers “low crawling,” Gregg testified, and looking “like my own soldiers turning on me.”

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Jaguars At Risk As The U.S. Blocks Its Border With Mexico
2008-01-27 02:59:06

America's determination to halt illegal immigration across its border with Mexico is set to claim an unusual victim - the jaguar.

The U.S. government has just vetoed a plan to save the species, Panthera onca, one of the world's most endangered, and beautiful, large cats - and activists blame the Bush administration for its determination to cut illegal immigration from Mexico.

"The U.S. is building a wall along the border to keep out immigrants, but that would stop jaguars crossing the border and entering the U.S. We wanted to set up refuges over here and create breeding populations that might save the species, but the government has said 'no way'. It doesn't want anything interfering with that wall," said Kieran Suckling, of the U.S. Center for Biological Diversity. "Yet the U.S. is the animals' best hope of avoiding extinction. Its numbers are declining alarmingly today. But now that chance has been blocked - for political reasons."

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Washington Post's Walter Pincus Wins Weintal Prize
2008-01-27 02:56:43
Walter Pincus, a reporter covering intelligence for the Washington Post's national news staff, has been awarded a special citation for his decades of "scooping the competition" by the judges of the Edward Weintal Prize for International Reporting.

The Weintal Prize annually recognizes outstanding journalists covering diplomacy and international affairs. The 2008 prize was awarded to Margaret Warner of PBS's "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" and Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Pincus, 75, has reported for the national staff since 1975, when he rejoined the paper after working for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the New Republic. He was one of eight Post reporters whose coverage of the launch of the war on terrorism won a 2002 Pulitzer Prize. 

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Asian Stocks Plunge In Monday Trading
2008-01-28 03:47:22
Asian stocks tumbled Monday as traders took their cues from Wall Street, where persistent worries about a possible U.S. recession sent shares sinking Friday.

India's benchmark stock index dropped 4.6 percent in early trading and Hong Kong's market slid 4.7 percent by midday. U.S. stock index futures also were down, suggesting that shares could drop again when the market opens in New York.

In an anomaly, Australia's main stock index gained 5 percent, or 280.50 points, to close at 5,886.30.

Investors around the world have been jittery for weeks about a U.S. slump, which would likely weaken demand for exports and drag on global growth. There is also concern about a worldwide credit crunch triggered by rising defaults in risky U.S. mortgages, which has led to mountains of bad assets at  major American and European banks.

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Weak Dollar Fuels China Buying Spree In U.S.
2008-01-28 03:46:55
From his posh office in a coastal city in eastern China, millionaire Zhou Jiaru oversees more than 100 workers at an auto parts refurbishing factory he purchased in a struggling manufacturing town on the other side of the world.

Zhou's new company is in Spartanburg, South Carolina. 

The Chinese entrepreneur bought it from Richard Lovely, a 56-year-old industrial engineer and mechanic who says his business was in dire straits because of competition from abroad.

Zhou's 85 percent stake in the company now known as GSP North America is one example of how the weak dollar and weakening U.S. economy have made the United States a bargain for overseas companies shopping for investments.

In 2007, acquisitions in the United States by foreign ventures hit $407 billion, up 93 percent from the previous year, according to Thomson Financial. The top countries investing were Canada, Britain and Germany, the Middle East and Asia - especially China - are quickly catching up.

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News Blog: Sen. Edward Kennedy To Endorse Obama
2008-01-28 03:45:32
Senator Edward M. Kennedy intends to endorse the presidential candidacy of Senator Barack Obama during a rally on Monday in Washington.

The Kennedy endorsement has been underway for days, even before the outcome of the South Carolina primary.  Kennedy told his decision to Obama on Thursday.

“I’ve had ongoing conversations with Ted since I’ve got into this race,” Obama told reporters Sunday as he flew to Alabama.

Of all the endorsements in the Democratic Party, Kennedy’s is viewed as the most weighty. He had vowed to stay out of the presidential nominating fight, but as the contest expands into a state-by-state fight - and given the tone of the race in the last week - associates said he was moved to announce his support for Obama.

The endorsement will be announced at a rally at American University on Monday, hours before the State of the Union Address at the Capitol.

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Barack Obama Is Big Winner In South Carolina
2008-01-27 03:02:17
Sen. Barack Obama, of Illinois, won the South Carolina Democrat primary in a landslide Saturday, attracting a biracial coalition that gave his candidacy a much-needed boost as the Democratic presidential race moves toward a 22-state showdown on Feb. 5.

Obama trounced Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, of New York, in the first Southern primary of the 2008 campaign, winning 55 percent of the vote to Clinton's 27 percent. Former senator John Edwards, of North Carolina,was third with 18 percent.

After a bitter and racially charged campaign in which former president Bill Clinton became the center of controversy, Obama won with overwhelming support from African Americans and attracted about a quarter of the white vote, according to exit polling.

"After four great contests, in every corner of this country, we have the most votes, the most delegates and the most diverse coalition of Americans that we've seen in a long, long time," Obama told an enthusiastic crowd of supporters in Columbia who interrupted his victory speech with chants of "Yes, we can!" and "Race doesn't matter!"

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Commentary: This Reckless Greed Of The Few Harms The Future Of The Many
2008-01-27 03:01:25
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Will Hutton and appears in The Observer's edition for Sunday, January 27, 2008. In his commentary, Mr. Hutton writes: "The government must act firmly to control an industry that destabilizes all our lives with its naked pursuit of huge profits." His commentary follows:

Never in human affairs have so few been allowed to make so much money by so many for so little wider benefit. Across the globe, societies and governments have been hoodwinked by a collection of self-confident chancers in the guise of investment bankers, hedge and private equity fund partners and bankers who, in the cause of their monumental self-enrichment, have taken the world to the brink of a major recession. It has been economic history's most one-sided bargain.

Last week's financial panic was further evidence of the extreme foolhardiness with which global finance has been organized and managed. There was the biggest one-day fall in Wall Street since September 11, which spilled over into every world stock market and the largest single cut in American interest rates for 25 years as an emergency attempt to stop the rout. A new crisis emerged in an obscure American insurance business (monoline, it is called). To cap it all, there was the £3.7 billion bank fraud at Societe Generale.

The growing realization of how exposed the financial system is - and from transactions that should never have taken place - is reinforcing the mounting credit crunch, which, in turn, is spooking stock markets. The U.S. economy is weakening while in Britain new mortgage lending is at a 10-year low. The staples of a settled life - jobs, pensions and house prices - are all under threat.

The availability of credit is one of the fundamental pillars of any economic system. Like the delivery of gas, electricity and water, finance should be regarded as a utility and after the credit-crunch disasters of the 1930s, following the free-market 1920s, it was regulated as one. But Anglo-American financiers have used the theories of the free-market fundamentalists to argue that it should be liberated from such regulatory "shackles" and again run as a business like any other.

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John Edwards Vows To Fight On
2008-01-27 03:00:44

In a quiet moment of an otherwise-fiery Democratic debate Monday, Barack Obama reflected on the frenzy sparked by seemingly every one of his and Hillary Rodham Clinton's utterances.

"I'm not entirely faulting the media," offered Obama. "There's no doubt that in a race where you've got an African American and a woman," then, after an uncomfortable pause, he continued, "and John ..."

The camera flashed to former senator John Edwards, smiling bashfully amid a chorus of audience laughter, the white man on a presidential stage that until this year was dominated by white men.

"Who could have imagined 20 years ago, 15 years ago, the white guy in the race would be the afterthought?" presidential historian Robert Dallek asked last night. "It's amazing."

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Pakistan Rebuffs Secret U.S. Plea For CIA Buildup
2008-01-27 02:59:35
The top two American intelligence officials traveled secretly to Pakistan early this month to press President Pervez Musharraf to allow the Central Intelligence Agency greater latitude to operate in the tribal territories where al-Qaeda, the Talibanand other militant groups are all active, according to several officials who have been briefed on the visit.

In the unannounced meetings on Jan. 9 with the two American officials - Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, and Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director - Musharraf rebuffed proposals to expand any American combat presence in Pakistan, either through unilateral covert C.I.A. missions or by joint operations with Pakistani security forces.

Instead, Pakistan and the United States are discussing a series of other joint efforts, including increasing the number and scope of missions by armed Predator surveillance aircraft over the tribal areas, and identifying ways that the United States can speed information about people suspected of being militants to Pakistani security forces, said officials.

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French Rally Behind Rogue Trader
2008-01-27 02:58:19
He committed fraud on a massive scale, but France is lauding Jerome Kerviel as a national hero who took on the system.

He is the man who nearly broke the bank ... and who is fast becoming a hero to millions of his compatriots.

Jerome Kerviel, the 31-year-old trader whose fraudulent stock market transactions last week cost his employer, Societe Generale, £3.7 billion ($7.4 billion), was Saturday in a Paris police station after being taken into custody around 2 p.m. by French financial police, who drove him, hidden in the back of a Renault, past journalists and photographers waiting at the gates. His face has not been glimpsed in public since the scandal broke; it's now known that he had left his own flat and laid low at his brother Olivier's. His home and his workplace were both searched by police this weekend.

Lawyers for Kerviel said Saturday that their client was "entirely prepared to co-operate with the authorities".

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