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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday January 5 2008 - (813)

Saturday January 5 2008 edition
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More Than 1 Million Lose Power In California Storm
2008-01-04 21:06:09
Howling winds, pelting rain and heavy snow pummeled California on Friday, toppling trees, flipping big rigs, cutting power to more than a million people and threatening mudslides in fire-scarred areas.

Flights were grounded in Northern California as gusts reached 80 mph during the second wave of an arctic storm that sent trees crashing onto houses, cars and roads. Forecasters expected the storm to dump as much as 10 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada by Sunday.

The heavy snow was slowing search efforts for a family believed to be missing in the mountains, said authorities.

Highways from Sacramento to San Francisco were closed because of debris or toppled big rigs blocking lanes, and local roads were flooded.

''A huge tree, over 100 years old, just fell across the house. It just wrecked the whole thing,'' said Faye Reed, whose daughter Teenia owns the damaged home north of Sacramento. ''They won't be able to live in it. The whole ceiling fell in, and now it's raining inside.''

More than a million people from the Bay Area to the Central Valley were in the dark. Crews worked to restore power, but it could be days before all the lights are on, said Pacific Gas & Electric spokeswoman Darlene Chiu.

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Storm Hits Northern California Hard, Southern Cal Braces For A Pounding
2008-01-04 21:05:44
A storm expected to begin dropping heavy rains on the Los Angeles area by Friday night's evening commute ripped through the San Francisco Bay Area today with wind gusts that topped 100 mph in mountain areas, forcing the closure of bridges to car and truck traffic and shutting down U.S. 101 in San Rafael.

"It looks like the main threat is going to be at 6 p.m. this evening through Saturday morning," said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist at the National Weather Service office in Oxnard, California.

Seto said rains could fall at rates as high as half an inch to an inch per hour with the storm, with forecasters expecting 2 to 4 inches along the coasts and in the valleys, with up to 10 inches in the mountains.

By mid-afternoon, the front - the second in a series of expected storms - was dropping a steady drizzle on downtown Los Angeles.

Forecasters said the rains would pick up by the time most people are heading home from work, and officials urged motorists to avoid driving through flooded roadways.
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Newsblog: A Political Earthquake In The U.S. Midwest
2008-01-04 21:04:25
Eight years after Iowa voters did the conventional - sending George W. Bush and Al Gore on to meet in the election of 2000 - they shook up the status quo in both parties as never before.

The victories of Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee jolted the expectations of establishment candidates with far stronger conventional credentials.

Neither victory was nationally determinative, but early favorites Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mitt Romney were badly damaged by the Iowa results and may have a hard time recovering.

Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and a favorite of Christian conservatives who dominated the Republican turnout in Iowa, still faces a formidable challenge from Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is now the favorite in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.

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Wake-Up For Nuclear Security
2008-01-04 03:04:52
As superiors ignore him, whistleblower tapes nuclear security guards literally asleep on the job.

Kerry Beal was taken aback when he discovered last March that many of his fellow security guards at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania were taking regular naps in what they called "the ready room".

When he spoke to supervisors at his company, Wackenhut Corp., they told Beal to be a team player. When he alerted the regional office of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, regulators let the matter drop after the plant's owner, Exelon,  said it found no evidence of guards asleep on the job.

So Beal videotaped the sleeping guards. The tape, eventually given to WCBS, a CBS television affiliate in New York City, showed the armed workers snoozing against walls, slumped on tabletops or with eyes closed and heads bobbing.

The fallout of the broadcast is still being felt. Last month, Exelon, the country's largest provider of nuclear power, fired Wackenhut, which had guarded each of its 10 nuclear plants. The NRC is reviewing its own oversight procedures, having failed to heed Beal's warning. Wackenhut says that the entire nuclear industry needs to rethink security if it hopes to meet the tougher standards the NRC has tried to impose since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

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Bush Administration Curtailing States' Ability To Expand Medicaid Rolls
2008-01-04 03:04:12
The Bush administration is imposing restrictions on the ability of states to expand eligibility for Medicaid, in an effort to prevent them from offering coverage to families of modest incomes who, the administration argues, may have access to private health insurance. 

The restrictions mirror those the administration placed on the State Children's Health Insurance Program in August after states tried to broaden eligibility for it as well.

Until now, states had generally been free to set their own Medicaid eligibility criteria, and the Bush administration had not openly declared that it would apply the August directive to Medicaid. State officials in Louisiana, Ohio and Oklahoma said they had discovered the administration’s intent in negotiations with the federal government over the last few weeks.

The federal government has leverage over states, because it pays a large share of the costs for Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and states have to comply with federal standards to get federal money. The insurance program was created for children whose families have too much income to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy private insurance.

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Iowa Democrats Pick Obama - Clinton, Edwards Battle For Second
2008-01-04 03:02:55
Sen. Barack Obama, riding a message of hope and change and buoyed by extraordinary turnout, decisively won the Iowa Democratic caucuses Thursday night, dealing a significant setback to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the battle for the party's 2008 presidential nomination.

With almost all of the state's 1,781 precincts reporting, Obama (Illinois) was winning 38 percent of the delegates being awarded in the competition. Clinton (New York) took 29 percent to run third behind former senator John Edwards (North Carolina), who garnered 30 percent.

Obama's victory came after the longest, costliest and most intensely fought campaign in the history of the Iowa caucuses. The year-long competition produced a huge turnout that temporarily swamped some precincts and reflected the energy and enthusiasm among Democratic voters determined to recapture the White House in November.

Party officials said turnout exceeded 236,000, far above the 124,000 who participated four years ago and eclipsing even the campaigns' most optimistic forecasts.

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U.S. Job Creation Grinds To A Virtual Halt
2008-01-04 21:05:55

Shares went into sharp retreat on both sides of the Atlantic Friday as gloomy jobs data from the United States heightened fears over prospects for the global economy.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled more than 180 points, taking it below the 13,000 level. In London, earlier gains were wiped out, with the FTSE 100 index trading more than 140 points down towards the close.

Unemployment in the U.S. rose to its highest level in more than two years last month as the job-creation machine in the world's biggest economy virtually ground to a halt, according to figures released in Washington Friday.

The Labor Department prompted fresh speculation on Wall Street that the Feberal Reserve would cut interest rates later this month when it said the jobless rate rose from 4.7% to 5% in December. It also sent the FTSE 100 index down into negative territory, wiping out earlier gains, and pushed the dollar down against a range of currencies including sterling (i.e. the British pound).

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U.K. Scientists Critical Of Prime Minister's Nuclear Power Plans
2008-01-04 21:04:50
Academics say safety concerns of new generation of nuclear plants not yet addressed.

A group of U.K. scientists and academics Friday condemned as undemocratic and possibly illegal the British  government's plans to force through a new generation of nuclear power stations to meet Britain's energy needs for the next 30 years.

They warn that questions about the risks from radiation, disposal of nuclear waste and vulnerability to a terrorist attack have not been addressed - even though the government was ordered last February to repeat a public consultation on energy supply, after its exercise was declared unlawful by a high court judge.

Friday the nuclear consultation group, made up of 17 energy economists and several of the government's independent advisers on nuclear waste, condemned the methods used in the second attempt to gather public and expert opinion.

"We are profoundly concerned that the government's approach was designed to provide particular and limiting answers," said Paul Dorfman, a spokesman for the independent group, which includes professors of Oxford, Sussex, and Lancaster universities, and Rutgers in the U.S. "Those answers risk locking in U.K. energy to an inflexible and vulnerable pathway that will prove unsustainable," he added.

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Guardian Journalist Expelled From Iran
2008-01-04 21:04:11
Robert Tait, the Iran correspondent for Britain's Guardian newspaper, was expelled from Iran without explanation after nearly three years of reporting from the country.

Tait, based in Tehran, was forced to leave the country after the Iranian authorities declined to renew his visa and residence permit, despite an appeal on his behalf from the Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, to Iran's culture and Islamic guidance ministry, which supervises the activities of all foreign and domestic media. He is now back in the U.K., along with his Iranian wife.

The ministry gave no reason for its decision but said the newspaper was free to put forward another journalist as its correspondent in Iran.

Tait, 43, was originally ordered to leave the country last March after officials expressed displeasure over his reporting. He was subsequently allowed to remain after the Guardian successfully appealed for his residence permit to be renewed.

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CIA Planned Destruction Of Interrogations Tapes In 2003
2008-01-04 03:04:34
A key member of Congress disclosed Thursday that the CIA said in February 2003 that it planned to destroy videotapes of harsh interrogations after the agency's inspector general finished probing the episodes, an account that adds detail to recent CIA statements about the circumstances surrounding the tapes' destruction.

U.S. Rep. Jane Harman (D-California) released a declassified copy of a letter she secretly wrote to the CIA in February 2003, in which she quoted then-CIA General Counsel Scott W. Muller as telling her a tape of the agency's interrogation of Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, better known as Abu Zubaida, "will be destroyed after the Inspector General finishes his inquiry". The CIA Thursday confirmed Harman's account of Muller's statement.

Harman at that time had recently become the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, and in her letter she urged Muller to "reconsider" that plan and predicted that the tapes' destruction "would reflect badly on the agency".  Agency officials nonetheless destroyed the tapes in 2005, and on Wednesday, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey  ordered a formal criminal probe into the destruction.

In recent public accounts about the tapes, CIA officials have said that no definitive decision was made about destroying the tapes until 2005. Beginning in early 2003, senior officials expressed an "intention to dispose" of the videos, according to a Dec. 6 statement by CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, but an internal debate over the tapes' disposition continued for two more years, with senior CIA lawyers advising against their destruction.

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User Data Stolen From Pornographic Websites
2008-01-04 03:03:10
Hackers apparently were after e-mail addresses for spam, not credit card information.

Consumers of Internet pornography who secretly signed up for memberships on adult-oriented Web sites in the past few months may be in for a shock - some of their personal information, including e-mail addresses, may have been compromised by a security breach.

Though the breach, which potentially could affect tens of thousands of customers, reportedly did not involve the theft of credit card information, it could nonetheless have a significant impact on the lucrative Internet pornography industry, according to those who monitor the market. These observers note that online porn relies, as much as anything else, on the promise that its customers can enjoy complete anonymity as they indulge their favorite niche pastimes from the privacy of their own computers.

"It's a huge concern," said Jason Tucker, whose Falcon Foto company boasts one of the world's largest erotic libraries. "The relationship we have with our customers is based on trust. The industry's concern is if that trust has been violated, we could see a drop-off in customers."

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Iowa Republicans Pick Huckabee - Evangelicals Fuel Win Over Romney
2008-01-04 03:02:40
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee rode a wave of evangelical fervor to victory over Mitt Romney in Iowa's  Republican caucus Thursday, an outcome that hardly seemed possible two months ago.

"Tonight what we have seen is a new day in American politics," Huckabee told supporters at the Embassy Suites here. "And tonight it starts in Iowa, but it doesn't end here. ... It goes to all the other states and ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." 

After spending nine months near the bottom of the pack, Huckabee surged to become the front-runner in Iowa in December and never relinquished the position, despite a barrage of negative ads from Romney's methodically built and well-financed operation.

Huckabee now heads to New Hampshire, where voting takes place Tuesday, with little support in the polls and only a ragtag organization to mount a second come-from-behind victory. To succeed, he will have to broaden his message, which has largely been designed to appeal to the social-conservative voters who helped him win Thursday night. New Hampshire voters tend to be less focused on social issues and more concerned with lowering taxes and reducing the size of government.

Sixty percent of Republican caucus-goers described themselves as evangelicals, according to entrance polls. Those voters went for Huckabee over Romney by more than 2 to 1.

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