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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday February 3 2008 - (813)

Sunday February 3 2008 edition
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Prospects For Japan's Economic Growth Dim
2008-02-02 14:59:42
As the United States frets noisily about a recession, Japan is quietly enduring a far more fundamental economic slide, one that seems irreversible. This country, which got rich quick in a postwar miracle of manufacturing and alarmed Americans by buying up baubles such as Rockefeller Center, is steadily slipping backward as a major economic force.

Fifteen years ago, Japan ranked fourth among the world's countries in gross domestic product per capita. It now ranks 20th. In 1994, its share of the world's economy peaked at 18 percent; in 2006, the number was below 10 percent.

The government acknowledged last month what has long been obvious to economists and foreign investors, if not to the Japanese public and many politicians. The minister of economic and fiscal policy, Hiroko Ota, told parliament that Japan could no longer be described as a "first-class" economy.

"I have a sense of crisis because Japan has not nurtured industries that will grow in the future," said Ota, who offered no specific remedies for the crisis.

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World's Rainforests Fall At 'Alarming Rate'
2008-02-02 14:59:03
In the gloomy shade deep in Africa's rain forest, the noontime silence was pierced by the whine of a far-off chain saw. It was the sound of destruction, echoed from wood to wood, continent to continent, in the tropical belt that circles the globe. From Brazil to central Africa to once-lush islands in Asia's archipelagos, human encroachment is shrinking the world's rain forests.

The alarm was sounded decades ago by environmentalists - and was little heeded. The picture, meanwhile, has changed: Africa is now a leader in destructiveness. The numbers have changed: United Nations specialists estimate 60 acres of tropical forest are felled worldwide every minute, up from 50 a generation back. And the fears have changed.

Experts still warn of extinction of animal and plant life, of the loss of forest peoples' livelihoods, of soil erosion and other damage, but scientists today worry urgently about something else: the fateful feedback link of trees and climate.

Global warming is expected to dry up and kill off vast tracts of rain forest, and dying forests will feed global warming. 

''If we lose forests, we lose the fight against climate change,'' declared more than 300 scientists, conservation groups, religious leaders and others in an appeal for action at December's climate conference in Bali, Indonesia.

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Beatles Song "Across The Universe" To Be Beamed Across The Universe
2008-02-02 14:55:43
The songs of the Beatles have always enjoyed a global appeal. Now one of their best-loved recordings is to be beamed into the galaxy in an attempt to introduce the Fab Four's music to alien ears.

NASA will broadcast the song, "Across the Universe", through the transmitters of its deep space communications network on Monday - the 40th anniversary of its recording at London's Abbey Road studios.

The music will be converted into digital data and sent on a 431 light year-journey towards Polaris, the North Star, in a stunt that also commemorates the space agency's 50th anniversary.

The former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, who co-wrote the song with John Lennon and played an extraterrestrial concert from Earth to the crew of the international space station in 2005, said he was excited by the project. "Well done NASA," he said. "Send my love to the aliens."
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Blood Thinner Sickens Dialysis Patients
2008-02-02 14:52:53
More than 50 dialysis patients in 12 states have come down with allergic reactions that are being blamed on recalled batches of a blood thinner, federal health officials said Friday.

The cases are being called the largest national outbreak of treatment-related allergic reactions ever seen in dialysis patients.

Since the middle of November, 53 dialysis patients developed reactions after receiving injections of heparin made by Baxter Healthcare Corp. And another 36 reports are under investigation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

None of the patients died, said CDC officials.

Baxter last month announced the voluntary recall of nine lots of multi-dose vials after learning of adverse events in dialysis patients, but the details of the outbreak were not disclosed until the CDC released the information late Friday afternoon.

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Editorial: Secrets and Rights
2008-02-02 02:11:51
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Saturday, February 2, 2008.

President Bush’s excesses in the name of fighting terrorism are legion. To avoid accountability, his administration has repeatedly sought early dismissal of lawsuits that might finally expose government misconduct, brandishing flimsy claims that going forward would put national security secrets at risk.

The courts have been far too willing to go along. In cases involving serious allegations of kidnapping, torture and unlawful domestic eavesdropping, judges have blocked plaintiffs from pursuing their claims without taking a hard look at the government’s basis for invoking the so-called state secrets privilege: its insistence that revealing certain documents or other evidence would endanger the nation’s security.

As a result, victims of serious abuse have been denied justice, fundamental rights have been violated and the constitutional system of checks and balances has been grievously undermined.

Congress - which has allowed itself to be bullied on national security issues for far too long - may now be ready to push back. The House and Senate are developing legislation that would give victims fair access to the courts and make it harder for the government to hide illegal or embarrassing conduct behind such unsupported claims.

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U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's Powers Diminished
2008-02-02 02:10:51

When the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission returns to work on Monday, it will not have the authority to adopt safety rules, order mandatory recalls of dangerous products, or impose civil penalties on companies that do not report product hazards immediately.

The agency, which polices more than 15,000 types of products, will lose those powers tomorrow when its temporary quorum expires for the second time in little more than a year.

Normally, the CPSC needs all three members for a quorum, but it has had a vacancy since Chairman Harold D. Stratton, Jr., left in July 2006, leaving Nancy A. Nord, who has been acting chairman, and Thomas Hill Moore on the commission. The agency was able to operate with two members for six months. The temporary quorum lapsed in January 2007, and Congress granted an extension in August.

Congress has not passed another one, and the Bush administration has not nominated a new chairman who could restore quorum since its last pick, industry lobbyist Michael E. Baroody, withdrew his name in May after protest by Senate Democrats and consumer groups.

Congress is considering extending the quorum as part of legislation to improve the nation's product-safety system. That legislation is tied up in the Senate.

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How One Clumsy Ship Cut Off The Web For 75 Million People
2008-02-02 14:59:19

A flotilla of ships may have been dispatched to reinstate the broken submerged cable that has left the Middle East and India struggling to communicate with the rest of the world, but it took just one vessel to inflict the damage that brought down the internet for millions.

According to reports, the internet blackout, which has left 75 million people with only limited access, was caused by a ship that tried to moor off the coast of Egypt in bad weather on Wednesday. Since then phone and internet traffic has been severely reduced across a huge swath of the region, slashed by as much as 70% in countries including India, Egypt and Dubai.

While tens of millions have been directly affected, the impact of the blackout has spread far wider, with economies across Asia and the Middle East struggling to cope. Governments have also become directly involved, with the Egyptian communications ministry imploring surfers to stay offline so business traffic can take priority. "People who download music and films are going to affect businesses who have more important things to do," said ministry spokesman Mohammed Taymur.

Yet, as backroom staff at businesses across the globe scrambled to reroute their traffic or switch on backup satellite systems, experts said the incident highlighted the fragility of a global communications network we take for granted.

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FAO Report 'Alarming' Rate Of Mangrove Habitat Loss
2008-02-02 14:58:35

Mangrove ecosystems should be better protected, the United Nation's food agency has warned as it published new figures showing that 20% of the world's mangrove area has been destroyed since 1980.

A study by the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that the environmental and economic damages caused by the "alarming" loss of mangroves in many countries should be urgently addressed. Countries must engage in more effective conservation and sustainable management of the world's mangroves and other wetland ecosystems, it warned, ahead of World Wetlands day Saturday.

The world has lost around 3.6 million hectares (20%) of mangroves since 1980, the report showed.

The total mangrove area has declined from 18.8 million hectares (46.4 million acres) in 1980 to 15.2 million hectares  (37.5 million acres) in 2005. However the report did show that there has been a slowdown in the rate of mangrove loss: from some 187,000 hectares destroyed annually in the 1980s to 102,000 hectares a year between 2000 and 2005. This reflected an increased awareness of the value of mangrove ecosystems, the report said.

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Tony Blair: I'll Be European Union President If You Give Me The Power
2008-02-02 14:55:16
Tony Blair has been holding discussions with some of his oldest allies on how he could mount a campaign later this year to become full-time president of the E.U. council, the prestigious new job characterized as "president of Europe".

Blair, currently the Middle East envoy for the U.S., Russia, European Union and the U.N., has told friends he has made no final decision, but is increasingly willing to put himself forward for the job if it comes with real powers to intervene in defense and trade affairs.

Blair, who is being actively promoted by the French president Nicolas Sarkozy, recognizes he would need to abandon his well-paid, private sector jobs if he won. His wife Cherie - often portrayed as seeking ever more wealth and well-paid consultancies for her husband - is understood to be supportive of him accepting the job.

Some Blair allies also say that he now recognizes that as envoy in the Middle East he is not going to be allowed to become the key player in furthering Israeli-Palestinian talks this year, and will be reduced to a role of supporting political development in Palestine and boosting its economy.

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CIA Makes Changes To Is Inspector General's Oversight
2008-02-02 02:12:14
The CIA's inspector general has agreed to tighter controls over its investigative procedures, agency officials revealed yesterday, in what appeared to be an attempt to soften resentments among agency officials over the watchdog's aggressive probes into the legality and effectiveness of the CIA's counterterrorism efforts and detention programs.

The revisions, which include the appointment of a special ombudsman to oversee the I.G.'s work, were disclosed by CIA Director Michael V. Hayden in an e-mail sent to employees, announcing the end of an unusual inquiry into the performance of Inspector General John L. Helgerson,a 36-year CIA veteran and the man chiefly responsible for the spy agency's internal oversight.

The inquiry, begun last year, had raised concern among lawmakers who worried that the CIA was seeking to undermine the independence of Helgerson and his staff of auditors and inspectors. Helgerson angered top officials at the agency after leading aggressive investigations into the CIA's performance before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as well as its use of secret prisons and harsh interrogation methods against suspected terrorists.

Hayden, in the note to employees, praised Helgerson and his staff as being "committed to performing investigations . . . of the highest quality, integrity and timeliness," but said the inspector general had agreed on the need for changes.
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Commentary: Why I'm Backing Obama
2008-02-02 02:11:39
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Susan Eisenhower and appears in the edition for Saturday, February 2, 2008. Ms. Eisenhower is the granddaughter of former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Her commentary follows:

Forty-seven years ago, my grandfather Dwight D. Eisenhower bid farewell to a nation he had served for more than five decades. In his televised address, Ike famously coined the term "military-industrial complex," and he offered advice that is still relevant today. "As we peer into society's future," he said, we "must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow."

Today we are engaged in a debate about these very issues. Deep in America's heart, I believe, is the nagging fear that our best years as a nation may be over. We are disliked overseas and feel insecure at home. We watch as our federal budget hemorrhages red ink and our civil liberties are eroded. Crises in energy, health care and education threaten our way of life and our ability to compete internationally. There are also the issues of a costly, unpopular war; a long-neglected infrastructure; and an aging and increasingly needy population.

I am not alone in worrying that my generation will fail to do what my grandfather's did so well: Leave America a better, stronger place than the one it found.

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