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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday January 29 2008 - (813)

Tuesday January 29 2008 edition
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President Bush 2008 State of the Union Address
2008-01-29 03:20:19
Intellpuke: Following is the full text of President Bush's State of the Union address. The text was prepared by Congressional Quarterly Transcripts and provided to various news organizations. President Bush's address follows:

BUSH: Madam Speaker, Vice President Cheney, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Seven years have passed since I first stood before you at this rostrum. In that time, our country has been tested in ways none of us could have imagined. We faced hard decisions about peace and war, rising competition in the world economy, and the health and welfare of our citizens.

These issues call for vigorous debate, and I think it's fair to say we've answered the call.


Yet history will record that, amid our differences, we acted with purpose. And together we showed the world the power and resilience of American self-government.

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Editorial: The State Of The Union
2008-01-29 03:19:45
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Tuesday, January 29, 2008.

Six years ago, President Bush began his State of the Union address with two powerful sentences: “As we gather tonight, our nation is at war, our economy is in recession, and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers. Yet the state of our union has never been stronger.”

Monday night, after six years of promises unkept or insincerely made and blunders of historic proportions, the United States is now fighting two wars, the economy is veering toward recession, the civilized world still faces horrifying dangers - and it has far less sympathy and respect for the United States.

The nation is splintered over the war in Iraq, cleaved by ruthless partisan politics, bubbling with economic fear and mired in debate over virtually all of the issues Mr. Bush faced in 2002. And the best Mr. Bush could offer was a call to individual empowerment - a noble idea, but in Mr. Bush’s hands just another excuse to abdicate government responsibility.

Monday night’s address made us think what a different speech it might have been if Mr. Bush had capitalized on the unity that followed the 9/11 attacks to draw the nation together, rather than to arrogate ever more power and launch his misadventure in Iraq. How different it might have been if Mr. Bush meant what he said about compassionate conservatism or even followed the fiscal discipline of old-fashioned conservatism. How different if he had made a real effort to reach for the bipartisanship he promised in 2002 and so many times since.

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Snowstorms Kill At Least 24 In China
2008-01-29 03:19:12
Severe snowstorms over broad swaths of eastern and central China have wreaked havoc on traffic throughout the country, creating gigantic passenger backups, spawning accidents and leaving at least 24 people dead, according to state news reports.

In many areas, where snow has continued falling for several days, the accumulation has been described as the heaviest in as many as five decades. The impact of the severe weather was complicated by the timing of the storms, which arrived just before the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, when Chinese return to their family homes by the hundreds of millions.

On Monday, the government announced a severe weather warning for the days ahead, as forecasts suggested that the snowfall would continue in many areas, including Shanghai, which is unaccustomed to severe winter weather.

“Due to the rain, snow and frost, plus increased winter use of coal and electricity and the peak travel season, the job of ensuring coal, electricity and oil supplies and adequate transportation has become quite severe,” Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said in a statement issued late Sunday.

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Kennedy's Support For Obama Alters Democrat Campaigns
2008-01-29 03:17:40
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy delivered a highly prized endorsement for Sen. Barack Obama Monday as well as a pointed rebuttal to the main lines of attack used against him by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, Bill Clinton. 

In a clear reference to the criticism repeated by the Democratic senator from New York and the former president that Obama (D-Illinois) does not have the experience for the White House, Kennedy - borrowing one of the Clintons' favorite phrases - said Obama is "ready to be president on Day One."

He also rebutted their contention that Obama has been inconsistent in his opposition to the war in Iraq and said Obama represents a new era and a rejection of "old politics."

"From the beginning, he opposed the war in Iraq. And let no one deny that truth,'' said Kennedy (D-Massachusetts).

Kennedy praised Hillary Clinton and the third candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, former senator John Edwards, of North Carolina, describing them as "friends" and declaring he would support the party's nominee.

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NYC To Ban Geiger Counters And Other Detection Devices
2008-01-28 17:42:30
Damn you, Osama bin Laden! Here's another rotten thing you've done to us: After 9/11, untold thousands of New Yorkers bought machines that detect traces of biological, chemical, and radiological weapons. But a lot of these machines didn't work right, and when they registered false alarms, the police had to spend millions of dollars chasing bad leads and throwing the public into a state of raw panic.

OK, none of that has actually happened. But Richard Falkenrath, the NYPD's deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, knows that it's just a matter of time. That's why he and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have asked the City Council to pass a law requiring anyone who wants to own such detectors to get a permit from the police first. And it's not just devices to detect weaponized anthrax that they want the power to control, but those that detect everything from industrial pollutants to asbestos in shoddy apartments. Want to test for pollution in low-income neighborhoods with high rates of childhood asthma? Gotta ask the cops for permission. Why? So you "will not lead to excessive false alarms and unwarranted anxiety," the first draft of the law states.

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New Home Sales In U.S. Fall By Record Amount
2008-01-28 16:23:43
Sales of new homes plunged by a record amount in 2007 while prices posted the weakest showing in 16 years, demonstrating the troubles builders are facing with a huge backlog of unsold homes.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported Monday that sales of new homes dropped by 26.4 percent last year to 774,000. That marked the worst sales year on record, surpassing the old mark of a 23.1 percent plunge in 1980.

The government reported that the median price of a new home barely budged last year, edging up a slight 0.2 percent to $246,900, the poorest showing since prices fell by 2.4 percent during the 1991 housing downturn.

The new report reinforced the view that housing is currently undergoing its worst downturn in more than two decades, with the slump threatening to surpass in some ways the severe housing recession of the early 1980s.
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Iraq Contractors Recruiting From Latin America's Needy
2008-01-28 16:23:11
Thousands with limited opportunities at home are lured by pay; but for some who are injured or disabled, the cost is high.

Sometimes he wakes up with a shudder, thinking he needs to take cover, fast. At other moments he dreams he's running and the mortar shell strikes again, fiery shards of metal ripping through his flesh.

"I take pills to help me sleep," Gregorio Calixto says, proffering a box of cheap over-the-counter medication, the only kind he can afford.

In the United States, Calixto might be under treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Iraq, receiving daily physical therapy and counseling. Here he's an unemployed street vendor, renting a spartan room and struggling to recover physically and emotionally from severe shrapnel wounds.

He is one of several thousand Latin Americans who have taken jobs with U.S. contractors as security guards in Iraq and Afghanistan. About 1,200 Peruvians are in Iraq, mostly guarding sites in Baghdad's Green Zone. Chileans, Colombians, Salvadorans and Hondurans have also served as part of the polyglot assemblage providing "conflict labor" in U.S. war zones.
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Gunmen In Pakistan Free Dozens Of School Hostages
2008-01-28 16:22:05
Gunmen held dozens of students and teachers hostage for five hours at a school in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, but authorities allowed the captors to flee without punishment to avoid bloodshed, said a tribal negotiator.

None of the hostages were hurt, but the standoff underscored the government's fragile grip on Pakistan's borderlands near Afghanistan,where crime is rife and security forces are struggling to contain rising Islamic militancy.

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Pakistan, particularly in the northwest, and police said the gunmen were criminals seeking profit rather than militants.

The mounting violence has contributed to the growing unpopularity of President Pervez Musharraf, who was on his last stop Monday of a European tour. After talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Musharraf insisted his U.S.-backed policies to fight religious extremism were working.

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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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News Analysis: Bush's State Of The Union Focused On Past Achievements
2008-01-29 03:19:58
Gone were the grand dreams of remaking Social Security, immigration law or the tax code. In their place were modest initiatives, such as hiring preferences for military spouses. The economic package targeted tax breaks to low- and middle-class workers. And the foreign policy stressed Middle East peacemaking and diplomacy with rogue nations.

President Bush took office with so much derision for the outgoing president that critics defined his attitude toward governing as ABC - "anything but Clinton". He would not play "small ball," he declared, nor would he coddle North Korea or waste time mediating between the Israelis and Arabs. But as he delivered his final State of the Union address last night, Bush increasingly appeared to be adopting some of his predecessor's approach.

Turning the corner into his last year in office with the nation already voting on who might succeed him, Bush is recalibrating what remains possible in a Congress controlled by the opposition and rethinking the most effective way to get what he wants on the international front. While aides insist he is not dwelling on his legacy, the "unfinished business" agenda he outlined seemed geared toward consolidating past achievements and focusing strategically on where he can win a few more.

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Cough, Cold Medicines Put 7,000 Children A Year In Emergency Rooms
2008-01-29 03:19:28
More than 7,000 children get rushed to emergency rooms each year after suffering adverse reactions to cough and cold medicines, according to the first national estimate of the risks posed by the widely used remedies.

Most of the problems occur in children ages 2 to 5 who get into the medications on their own, researchers said. They based their conclusions on an analysis of data from a nationally representative sample of 63 emergency rooms in 2004 and 2005.

"Anytime a child ends up in the emergency department because they had access to a bottle of medication, that is a problem that could be prevented," said Daniel S. Budnitz of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  which conducted the research.

The report comes as the Food and Drug Administratrion (FDA) considers whether to further restrict the use of the products because of concern about their risks and questions about their effectiveness. Critics and supporters of the products seized on the new report to support their positions.

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Acrimony Reigns On Eve Of Florida Republican Vote
2008-01-29 03:18:29
The Republican contest for Florida ended in acrimony on Monday as the two leading candidates traded attacks, aggressively courting voters across the Florida peninsula in a primary battle that could produce a clear front-runner for the party’s presidential nomination before a virtual national primary next week.

The sparring, between Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain, of Arizona, came as polls showed the race a statistical tie between them, with Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, lagging.

Giuliani, former New York mayor, pledged that he would participate in a Republican presidential debate in California on Wednesday regardless of where he finished in Tuesday’s voting here. Still, if Florida is not his last stand, it remains the place where he has all but staked his campaign. As the hours before voting waned, that campaign had none of the feel of imminent victory. Though his organization chartered a Boeing 727 for a day of barnstorming on the eve of the primary, none of the rallies at airports in Sanford, Clearwater, Fort Myers or Fort Lauderdale drew even 100 supporters.

Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, began attacking at dawn, accusing McCain of allying himself with liberal Democrats in the Senate and betraying conservative principles on legislation involving immigration, the environment and campaign finance.

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U.S. Senate Reveals Its Own Economic Stimulus Bill
2008-01-29 03:16:34

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Monday unveiled a rival plan to stimulate the economy, offering a $500 check to virtually every American - including low-income seniors and rich financiers - in a direct challenge to the bipartisan deal reached last week by President Bush and House leaders.

The $156 billion measure by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), which will be drafted by the committee Wednesday, also would extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless by 13 weeks, a proposal that had been rejected by Bush and House Republican leaders as they crafted their $150 billion stimulus package.

That delicate compromise, unveiled last week, proposed to cap eligibility for somewhat larger tax rebates at $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples.

With the strong backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nevada), the package that emerges from the Finance Committee is likely to pass the Senate, forcing House-Senate negotiations that Bush and House leaders had hoped to avoid. The House is expected to approve its stimulus plan Tuesday.

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Perdue Researches To Make Cell Phones Detect Radiation
2008-01-28 17:42:23
Researchers at Purdue University are working with the state of Indiana to develop a system that would use a network of cell phones to detect and track radiation to help prevent terrorist attacks with radiological "dirty bombs" and nuclear weapons.

Such a system could blanket the nation with millions of cell phones equipped with radiation sensors able to detect even light residues of radioactive material. Because cell phones already contain global positioning locators, the network of phones would serve as a tracking system, said physics professor Ephraim Fischbach. Fischbach is working with Jere Jenkins, director of Purdue's radiation laboratories within the School of Nuclear Engineering.

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U.S. Stocks Mixed; Asian, European Markets Decline
2008-01-28 16:23:24

U.S. markets seesawed this morning after another day of declines on stock markets in Asia and Europe and ahead of an important round of new economic data scheduled to be released this week.

On Wall Street, U.S. indexes began the day with small gains, fell sharply, then rebounded into positive territory. Shortly after 2 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average had risen 107 points, about 0.8 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up nearly 15 points, or more than 1 percent. The Nasdaq composite index was gaining nearly 16 points, or .07 percent.

Overseas the mood was more clearly pessimistic, with continued concern about the U.S. economy and the global financial system pushing stocks down.

Some Asian exchanges fell by nearly 7 percent overnight, as investors worried that a slowdown in the United States will hurt Asian exporters. In Europe, jitters about the health of bank and financial companies pushed major exchanges down between 1 and 2 percent.

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Federal Agency: Mine Operators Often Go Unpunished After Citations
2008-01-28 16:22:50
The federal agency that regulates the nation's mining industry says it has failed to penalize mine operators for thousands of citations issued since 2000, and the oversight could extend back more than a decade.

"And we would guess it goes back far beyond 1995, but because of a lack of electronic records before that year, I can't verify that," Matthew Faraci, spokesman for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), said Sunday. "Given that this seems to have been an endemic problem that has been with the agency for quite some time, the part that we're optimistic about is that we know about it and are working to fix it."

Preliminary data showed that penalties had not been assessed against operators for about 4,000 citations the agency issued between January 2000 and July 2006, the Charleston Sunday Gazette-Mail reported. MSHA Director Richard Stickler told the newspaper that the review also showed that penalties had never been assessed for a few hundred citations issued in 1996.

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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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