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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday February 16 2008 - (813)

Saturday February 16 2008 edition
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U.S. Border Fence Sparks Property Rights Dispute
2008-02-16 03:03:21
In the 240 years since the Spanish Crown granted Eloisa Tamez's colonial ancestors title to this flat, grassy expanse along the Rio Grande's northern bank, her family has steadily lost its holdings to the Mexican War of Independence, the U.S. annexation of Texasand the Great Depression.

Now Tamez faces what could prove the final blow: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has proposed building a section of the U.S-Mexico border fence mandated by Congress directly through the last three acres of the family's original 12,000-acre tract.

The 72-year-old nursing professor has a message for any government officials who expect her to leave quietly. "I'm not going down without a fight," said Tamez, her dark eyes narrowing as she gazed beyond her back yard toward a field where she used to pick tomatoes as a child. "My father, my grandfather and my great-grandfather farmed this land. This is the land that gave me my life and my spirit. ... I will fight this all the way."

Across South Texas, dozens of landowners and municipal leaders are making similar vows, mounting a concerted effort to prevent government surveyors from even examining their properties, let alone erecting the fence on them.

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NIU Gunman Was Once 'Revered' On Campus
2008-02-15 20:30:44

A day after a lecture hall was attacked at Northern Illinois University, the gunman emerged in two portraits not easily reconciled.

In recent weeks, Steve Kazmierczak, turned erratic after suspending an unidentified medication. He gathered the tools for a slaughter, and carried it out quickly, silently and without emotion.

Yet that person bore no resemblance to the 27-year-old man who Donald Grady, the chief of the college’s department of public safety, said “was revered by the faculty and staff and students alike” and was completely unknown to police.

“There were no red flags,” said Grady. Later, he told the Chicago Sun-Times, “It’s unlikely that anyone would ever have the ability to stop an incident like this from beginning.”

Kazmierczak bought two of the four guns used in the attack - a 12-gauge shotgun and a 9-millimeter Glock pistol - six days ago from a gun dealer in the Champaign area where he lived, and they were legally registered to him, said  authorities. The two other pistols, a 9-millimeter and a .38-caliber, were being traced.

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Coroner Condemns Britain's Defense Ministry Over Soldier's Death
2008-02-15 20:30:16

An Oxford coroner Friday delivered a blistering attack on Britain's Ministry of Defense, accusing it of betraying soldiers' trust by sending troops to Afghanistan without basic equipment.

Andrew Walker castigated the ministry at the end of an inquest into the death of Captain James Philippson, 29, who was killed in a June 2006 gun battle with the Taliban in which British troops were described as being "totally outgunned".

An internal army board of inquiry into Philippson's death concluded that U.K. soldiers deployed to southern Afghanistan were ill-prepared, badly led, undermanned and lacked "mission essential" equipment because of "political machinations'" by ministers.

The board's report described the operation in which Philippson was killed as an "ill-prepared rush".

Had his unit been given more essential equipment - notably night vision goggles and light machine guns - "it is less likely that Captain Philippson would have been killed", the document says.

The Royal Artillery officer died from a single gunshot wound to the head as his patrol was ordered to recover an unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) near their base at Sangin in Helmand province.

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Hezbollah Threat Echoes In Argentina
2008-02-15 20:29:17
Every day for the last 14 years, Sergio Burstein has thought of his wife Rita, one of 85 victims of a terrorist bombing that reduced a seven-story Jewish community center in Argentina's capital to a pile of bloody rubble.

When Hezbollah - the main suspect in that bombing - vowed this week to attack Jewish targets worldwide in retaliation for the death of one of its commanders, Burstein's longing turned to fear.

''Without a doubt a threat of this kind doesn't leave us very peaceful,'' he said. ''It just can't happen that a terrorist group declares war on the world.''

Argentina's community of 200,000 Jews, the largest in South America, has already been hit twice in the aftermath of events that happened thousands of miles away. A 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy, which killed 29, came a month after Israel assassinated Hezbollah leader Abbas Musawi. The 1994 community center bombing came weeks after Israel captured a Hezbollah leader in Lebanon.

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Countrywide Financial: Foreclosure Rate At New Record
2008-02-15 15:27:30
Countrywide Financial Corp., the largest U.S. mortgage lender, said on Friday foreclosures and late payments rose in January to the highest on record, reflecting the nation's deepening housing and credit crunch.

The foreclosure rate for the 9.02 million mortgages on which Countrywide collects and processes payments roughly doubled to 1.48 percent from 0.77 percent a year earlier, and rose from December's 1.44 percent.

Delinquencies rose to 7.47 percent of unpaid balances from 4.32 percent a year earlier, and 7.20 percent in December. Countrywide services $1.48 trillion of home loans.

Countrywide also said it funded $21.9 billion of home loans in January, down 41 percent from $37.1 billion a year earlier, and 6 percent from December's $23.4 billion.

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Commentary: Aboard The Condoleezza Rice
2008-02-15 15:27:04
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by journalist, author and columnist Robert Scheer and posted on's website on Wednesday, February 13, 2008.  In his commentary, Mr. Scheer writes, "Clearly, what's good for big oil isn't good for most Americans. So why are the interests of oil companies mistaken for those of the nation?" His commentary follows:

Whadda you mean “we,” Mr. TV Pundit? When you say “we” are doing better in Iraq or, even more absurd, that “we” were right to invade that country in the first place, are you putting Joe Blow American in the same bag as the top officers of Exxon, which made $40.6 billion in profit last year thanks to the turmoil in the energy markets? That royal “we” is good for the royals who control our government, but its persistent use embodies a pernicious lie that betrays the core ideal of representative democracy.

Ever since “we” invaded Iraq, most of us have gotten nothing to show for it other than an enormously increased national debt that we will be paying off for decades to come and an economy that is sputtering into recession. Oil sold for $22.81 the year before the war was launched against a country with the world’s second-largest holding, and the average price last year was almost three times that, at $64.20.

With oil bouncing up to $100 in the fourth quarter, Exxon recorded the highest corporate quarterly return ever. Chevron, the country’s second-biggest oil company, saw profits rise 29 percent that quarter, contributing to an enviable profit of $18.7 billion for 2007. Clearly, what’s good for big oil is not good for most Americans, few of whom would look back on 2007 with favor.

It’s easy for the Bush big shots to equate the fortunes of big oil with that of the nation. After all, George W. got to be president only because his failed career in the Texas oil industry exposed his charms to the big energy guys, who then bankrolled his political career. Dick Cheney was an out-of-work defense secretary when picked to be CEO of Halliburton, which has profited mightily from its dealings with Exxon, not to mention running the Iraq franchise.

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Commentary: Every Year Brings Us Closer To 1984
2008-02-15 15:26:31
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Leonard Pitts, Jr., and appeared in the Miami Herald edition for Tuesday, February 12, 2008. In his commentary, Mr. Pitts writes, "In the beginning, the government just collected fingerprints - now they want eye scans and a host of other biometrics. Where will it stop?" Mr. Pitts' commentary follows:

In the beginning was the fingerprint.

It was in the 19th century that scientists realized the ridged whorls on the tip of the finger constituted a unique marker that could be used to tell one person from another. And eventually, the FBI built a massive database of fingerprints.

Then came DNA. In the 20th century, scientists learned to use the double helix nucleic acid molecule as a means of identification even more definitive than the fingerprint. And the FBI built a DNA database as well.

Now the feds are building yet another database. And it has some folks worried.

Maybe you missed it in the run-up to Super Duper Tuesday, but CNN and the Associated Press reported last week that the FBI will soon award a $1 billion, 10-year contract for construction of an electronic file that would store not just fingerprints and DNA, but a vast compendium of other physical characteristics. We're talking eye scans, facial shape, palm prints, scars, tattoos and other biometrics, all for the purpose of identifying and capturing bad guys.

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Bernanke, Paulson See Bleaker Outlook For U.S. Economy
2008-02-15 03:52:48
With the credit markets once again deteriorating, the nation’s two top economic policy makers acknowledged Thursday that the outlook for the economy had worsened, as both came under criticism for being overtaken by events and failing to act boldly enough.

In testimony to Congress, Ben S. Bernanke, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, signaled that the Fed was ready to reduce interest rates yet again, pointing out that problems in housing and mortgage-related markets had spread more widely and proved more intractable than he predicted three months ago.

His sobering assessment was echoed by U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr., who appeared with him. Both continued to avoid predicting a recession but said they were scaling back the more optimistic forecasts they had issued in November.

Ethan S. Harris, chief United States economist for Lehman Brothers, said that both policy makers had “come clean” about the economy’s problems but that investors were not impressed.

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War Torn: When Strains On Military Families Turn Deadly
2008-02-15 03:51:35

A few months after Sgt. William Edwards and his wife, Sgt. Erin Edwards, returned to a Texas Army base from separate missions in Iraq, he assaulted her mercilessly. He struck her, choked her, dragged her over a fence and slammed her into the sidewalk.

As far as Erin Edwards was concerned, that would be the last time he beat her.

Unlike many military wives, she knew how to work the system to protect herself. She was an insider, even more so than her husband, since she served as an aide to a brigadier general at Fort Hood.

With the general’s help, she quickly arranged for a future transfer to a base in New York. She pressed charges against her husband and secured an order of protection. She sent her two children to stay with her mother. And she received assurance from her husband’s commanders that he would be barred from leaving the base unless accompanied by an officer.

Yet, on the morning of July 22, 2004, William Edwards easily slipped off base, skipping his anger-management class, and drove to his wife’s house in the Texas town of Killeen. He waited for her to step outside and then, after a struggle, shot her point-blank in the head before turning the gun on himself.

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In U.S., Trade Hits Stiff Headwind
2008-02-15 03:49:25

As the Bush administration races to push free-trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea through Congress before leaving office next year, it is meeting a level of resistance observers call high even by the normally contentious standards of such debates.

It happens as the administration is confronting the most hostile domestic environment toward free trade in years. Recent polls suggest more Americans than ever view globalization as negative, blaming free trade for the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs that have moved overseas. As the economy falters, populist pundits of the Lou Dobbsian school are blaming reckless trade deals. In a hotly contested election year, Democratic candidates are jockeying for the labor vote, questioning the wisdom of such accords as the North American Free Trade Agreement. 

Anti-globalization sentiments at home are nothing new. Think back to Ross Perot's "great sucking sound," or the rock-throwing protesters at the World Trade Organization's 1999 meeting in Seattle, Washington,  but observers say the stalled Colombia, Panama and South Korea deals are raising a fundamental question for the United States. At a time when faith in free trade is seriously failing in various corners of the world, particularly Latin America, is Washington itself still a true believer?

Since World War II, free trade emerged as America's economic mantra, Uncle Sam's recipe for developing nations seeking to fight poverty and integrate globally. But even as economists grumble about resurgent resistance to open markets by emerging economies including India and Brazil, perhaps the most notable shift is happening in the United States.

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China Defends Its Role In Sudan Following Spielberg's Resignation
2008-02-15 03:48:24
Chinese officials defended the country's human rights record regarding the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur on Thursday in the first official reaction to Steven Spielberg's abrupt resignation as an artistic adviser to the Beijing Olympic Games.

In withdrawing Tuesday, the American movie director said China "should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering" in Darfur, where fighting between rebellious African tribes and government-backed Arab militias has led to the deaths of as many as 450,000 people and displaced 2.5 million others.

China buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil exports and sells weapons to the Sudanese government. Spielberg's departure from the board advising the Chinese government on how to stage the Games' opening and closing ceremonies in August undermined China's efforts to present itself as a modern and advanced nation.

As Chinese officials returning from the Lunar New Year holiday scrambled to respond to Spielberg's widely publicized resignation, many Chinese seemed to rally around the government against the foreign criticism.

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Bleak New Batch Of Data On U.S. Economy
2008-02-15 20:30:59

A fresh batch of data on Friday presented a bleak picture of the economy, with rising prices of imported goods, struggling manufacturing and an erosion in consumer confidence.

With the price of oil near record levels, import costs grew in January at the highest annual rate in a quarter century, the Labor Department said. In New York, manufacturing activity fell to its lowest level in five years. And consumers, responding to a national survey, said they felt worse about the economy than any time since the recession era of the early 1990s.

“This is just horrible,” wrote Ian Shepherdson, the chief United States economist for High Frequency Economics, a research firm. “The sustained volatility in the markets, the rise in energy and food prices and, of course, the catastrophe in the housing market, is making consumers extraordinarily miserable.”

The price of imports rose 1.7 percent in January and was up 13.7 year over year, the highest annual rate since the Labor Department records began in 1983. Fuel costs led the rise, ballooning by 5.5 percent last month. Imported food and beverages also cost more in January, and the price of Chinese goods ticked up by 0.8 percent. Export prices rose 1.2 percent, and American companies are also charging more for food, industrial supplies, and agricultural products.

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Commentary: Adding Insult To Injury
2008-02-15 20:30:28
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by William Hopkins and appeared in the Guardian newspaper's edition for Friday, February 15, 2008. Mr. Hopkins is a consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist who has worked at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture since 2001. He has actively campaigned against the use of force-feeding in Guantanamo Bay and has spoken extensively about both the psychological effects of torture and therapeutic work with survivors. His commentary follows:

Let us be clear: waterboarding is torture. There is no argument to be made that can alter that fact.

It is a terrifying ordeal. A person is strapped to a board, often upside down, with their mouth gagged by a cloth. Gallons of water are then poured over their face. The victim's fear of drowning links with their most primal instinct for survival with the immediate response of panic as the human reflexes struggle against an inability to breathe. The instinct is to try to escape while at the same time being crushed by the sense that it is futile to try to do so.

Is this how we defend human rights? Is this behavior consonant with a government that says it believes in human dignity?

From years of working with those who do manage to survive, I have no doubt whatsoever that waterboarding is torture in the extreme. It leaves victims helpless and unable to control an overwhelming sense of fear. They are convinced they are dying, and the lack of oxygen to their brain disables the emotional ability to cope.

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Huge Study Gives Wake-Up Call On State Of The World's Oceans
2008-02-15 20:29:59

Fishing, climate change and pollution have left an indelible mark on virtually all of the world's oceans, according to a huge study that has mapped the total human impact on the seas for the first time. Scientists found that almost no areas have been left pristine and more than 40% of the world's oceans have been heavily affected.

"This project allows us to finally start to see the big picture of how humans are affecting the oceans," said Ben Halpern, assistant research scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who led the research.

"Our results show that when these and other individual impacts are summed up the big picture looks much worse than I imagine most people expected. It was certainly a surprise to me."

Human impact is most severe in the North Sea, the South and East China Seas, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Gulf, the Bering Sea, along the eastern coast of North America and in much of the western Pacific.

The oceans at the poles are less affected but melting ice sheets will leave them vulnerable, said researchers.

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Serbia Issues Threat Over Kosovo Independence
2008-02-15 20:28:56

Serbia signaled Friday it would withdraw ambassadors from countries that recognize an independent Kosovo but insisted it would retain diplomatic ties.

As it prepares for the inevitable loss of its southern province, Belgrade drew back from previous threats of severing diplomatic relations with countries that recognize Kosovo.

"Bilateral ties [with countries that recognize Kosovo] most certainly would not be of the quality and level they are today," said Serb President Boris Tadic. "But, if Serbia decides to withdraw its ambassadors, it does not mean it would stop communicating with those countries or cut ties with those countries."

Serbia's prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, again denounced countries that support independence, saying they were demanding Serbia agree to "slave-like" status.

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Commentary: John McCain Sells His Soul - Backs Off On Torture Ban
2008-02-15 15:27:17
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Arianna Huffington and posted on the Huffington Post's online edition for Friday, February 15, 2008. Ms. Huffington's commentary follows:

Has there ever been a more repugnant example of political pandering than John McCain's decision to vote against a bill banning waterboarding, putting hoods on prisoners, forcing them to perform sex acts, subjecting them to mock executions, or depriving them of food, water, and medical treatment?

That's right, John McCain, the former POW who has long been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration's disturbing embrace of extreme interrogation techniques.

But that was before his desperate attempt to win over the lunatic fringe that is running the Grand Old Party.

Earlier this week, I showed how outdated the image of McCain as an independent-thinking maverick had become -  and called on the media and independent voters to snap out of their 2000 reverie and see the 2008 McCain for what he has turned into: a Rove-embracing Bush clone, willing to jettison his principles in his hunger for the presidency.

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Sweden Posts Wallenberg Records Online
2008-02-15 15:26:49
The Swedish government has launched an online database with more than 1,000 documents on the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg, a diplomat who saved thousands of Jews from Nazi death camps.

The searchable database collects previously published material in one place to make it easier for both government and private researchers to explore Wallenberg's case, said Harald Hamrin, a retired Swedish diplomat who led the initiative.

Wallenberg, who worked as a diplomat in Budapest, is credited for having saved at least 20,000 lives during World War II. He was arrested by Soviet troops in 1945 and is believed to have died in captivity, although the time and circumstances of his death remain unclear.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry's Wallenberg dossier contains more than 10,000 pages of documents, including testimony by Swedish diplomats and police. It also has Soviet documents released after the collapse of the Iron Curtain, including a disputed report saying Wallenberg died of a heart attack in a Soviet prison in July 1947.

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U.S. House Refuses To Budge On Wiretaps, Defies Bush
2008-02-15 03:53:03
The U.S. House of Representatives defied the White House Thursday by refusing to make an expiring surveillance law permanent, prompting a harsh exchange between Republicans and Democrats as they prepared for an extended, election-year battle over national security.

The episode was a rare uprising by Democrats against the White House on a terrorism issue, and it inspired caterwauling on both sides about the dire ramifications of the standoff.

Republicans said Democrats were putting the nation at risk, while President Bush offered to delay his scheduled departure for Africa Friday to reach a deal. Democrats responded with charges of administration recklessness and fear mongering.

The conflict erupted on the same day that House Democrats approved contempt citations against White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten andformer White House counsel Harriet E. Miers over their refusal to cooperate with an investigation into the mass firings of U.S. attorneys.

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Study Finds Humans' Effect On Oceans Comprehensive
2008-02-15 03:52:22

Human activities are impacting every square mile of the world's oceans, according to a study by a team of American, British and Canadian researchers who mapped the severity of the effects from pole to pole.

The analysis of 17 global data sets, led by Benjamin S. Halpern of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, California,details how humans are reshaping the seas through overfishing, air and water pollution, commercial shipping and other activities. The study, published online Thursday by the journal Science, examines those effects on nearly two dozen marine ecosystems, including coral reefs and continental shelves.

"For the first time we can see where some of the most threatened marine ecosystems are and what might be degrading them," Elizabeth Selig, a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a co-author, said in a statement. "This information enables us to tailor strategies and set priorities for ecosystem management. And it shows that while local efforts are important, we also need to be thinking about global solutions."

The team of scientists analyzed factors that included warming ocean temperatures because of greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient runoff and fishing. They found that the areas under the most stress are "the North and Norwegian seas, South and East China seas, Eastern Caribbean, North American eastern seaboard, Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, Bering Sea, and the waters around Sri Lanka." 

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Physicians Group Urges Easing Of Federal Ban On Medical Marijuana
2008-02-15 03:50:18
A large and respected association of physicians is calling on the federal government to ease its strict ban on marijuana as medicine and hasten research into the drug's therapeutic uses.

The American College of Physicians, the nation's largest organization of doctors of internal medicine, with 124,000 members, contends that the long and rancorous debate over marijuana legalization has obscured good science that has demonstrated the benefits and medicinal promise of cannabis.

In a 13-page position paper approved by the college's governing board of regents and posted Thursday on the group's website,the group calls on the government to drop marijuana from Schedule I, a classification it shares with illegal drugs such as heroin and LSD that are considered to have no medicinal value and a high likelihood of abuse.

The declaration could put new pressure on Washington lawmakers and government regulators who for decades have rejected attempts to reclassify marijuana.

Bush administration officials have aggressively rebuffed all attempts in Congress, the courts and among law enforcement organizations to legitimize medical marijuana.
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UPDATE: Illinois Campus Shooting Leaves 6 Dead
2008-02-15 03:48:53
A gunman dressed in black stormed into an oceanography class at Northern Illinois University Thursday afternoon and opened fire with a shotgun and two handguns, killing five students and wounding 16 more in a matter of seconds.

Then, still on stage, he killed himself, authorities said.

The gunman was not a current student at the school of more than 25,000 that rises from cornfields and subdivisions 65 miles west of downtown Chicago, authorities said.

NIU President John G. Peters said the man had been enrolled as a sociology graduate student at NIU but left school last spring. Peters said the gunman had no police record.

Late Thursday, sources confirmed that they have tentatively identified the shooter as a 27-year-old graduate student in social work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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