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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday February 17 2008 - (813)

Sunday February 17 2008 edition
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Al Gore Emerges As Democrat Power Broker
2008-02-16 23:57:04

Al Gore, who lost to George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election, is becoming a key potential power broker in the increasingly bitter battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to win the Democrat nomination.

Gore emerged Saturday as a possible mediator who could negotiate a resolution if the primary campaign ends in a stalemate and has to be decided by the party convention, where divisions are likely to run deep.

The former vice-president, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental campaign, is among a number of party 'elders' who plan to remain neutral in order to keep such an option open, the New York Times reported Saturday.

They are increasingly concerned that the momentum built up by Clinton and Obama's enthralling race could be squandered if neither lands a knockout blow and the nomination is decided at the convention by an elite of 796 Democratic "super-delegates". A perception that a backroom deal had ignored the wishes of millions of voters could be a gift to the Republicans, who have already in effect settled on John McCain as their candidate.

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Democrat 'Superdelegates' Tugged In Two Directions By Old Clinton Ties And Sway Of Voters
2008-02-16 23:56:32
The dwindling group of elected officials and party leaders publicly undecided in the Democratic presidential contest - about 300 out of the 795 so-called superdelegates who may determine the party’s nominee - includes at least 30 who have a long and often personal history with the Clinton family.

Yet more than 100 of them are from states whose voters have spoken in primaries and caucuses and voted, often overwhelmingly, for Senator Barack Obama, and in a year where Mrs. Clinton has drawn much of her strength from women, there are nearly twice as many men as women who remain undecided.

Even at a time when Clinton is struggling to hold on to the superdelegates she has, both candidates view the remaining 300 delegates who have not taken sides as probably the most critical audience they are competing for in the months ahead. The campaigns provided an internal list of their superdelegate supporters to the New York Times that, combined with interviews with many of the superdelegates and campaign and party officials, drew a portrait of an electorate - particularly, the remaining undecided superdelegates - that in many ways marks the final contest of the nominating battle.

The candidates’ targets - an elite electorate - are in flux. The superdelegates face a set of political crosscurrents, especially since Clinton has surrendered her early status as her party’s clear front-runner, and with it the pressure she could exert on her party’s leaders to get on board early with her. And they are in an unaccustomed position because neither Clinton nor Obama are expected to win the 2,025 delegates needed to claim the nomination before the end of the voting season, so they will need the support of superdelegates to get over the top.

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Commentary: A Veto Of The FISA Bill Endangers Americans
2008-02-16 23:54:44
Intellpuke: The following commentary is by Keith Olbermann, host of MSNBC's "Countdown" program which aired the commentary on Thursday, February 14, 2008. Mr. Olbermann's commentary follows:

A part of what I will say, was said here on Jan. 31. Unfortunately it is both sadder and truer now than it was then.

"Who's to blame?" Mr. Bush also said this afternoon, "Look, these folks in Congress passed a good bill late last summer.... The problem is, they let the bill expire. My attitude is: If the bill was good enough then, why not pass the bill again?"

Like the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Or Executive Order 90-66. Or The Alien and Sedition Acts. Or slavery.

Mr. Bush, you say that our ability to track terrorist threats will be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger. Yet you have weakened that ability!

You have subjected us, your citizens, to that greater danger! This, Mr. Bush, is simple enough for even you to understand.

For the moment, at least, thanks to some true patriots in the House, and your own stubbornness, you have tabled telecom immunity, and the FISA act.

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Dreams Stifled, Egypt's Young Turn To Islamic Fervor
2008-02-16 23:53:45
The concrete steps leading from Ahmed Muhammad Sayyid’s first-floor apartment sag in the middle, worn down over time, like Sayyid himself. Once, Sayyid had a decent job and a chance to marry, but his fiancee’s family canceled the engagement because after two years, he could not raise enough money to buy an apartment and furniture.

Sayyid spun into depression and lost nearly 40 pounds. For months, he sat at home and focused on one thing: reading the Koran. Now, at 28, with a diploma in tourism, he is living with his mother and working as a driver for less than $100 a month. With each of life’s disappointments and indignities, Sayyid has drawn religion closer.

Here in Egypt and across the Middle East, many young people are being forced to put off marriage, the gateway to independence, sexual activity and societal respect. Stymied by the government’s failure to provide adequate schooling and thwarted by an economy without jobs to match their abilities or aspirations, they are stuck in limbo between youth and adulthood.

“I can’t get a job, I have no money, I can’t get married, what can I say?” Sayyid said one day after becoming so overwhelmed that he refused to go to work, or to go home, and spent the day hiding at a friend’s apartment.

In their frustration, the young are turning to religion for solace and purpose, pulling their parents and their governments along with them.

With 60 percent of the region’s population under the age of 25, this youthful religious fervor has enormous implications for the Middle East. More than ever, Islam has become the cornerstone of identity, replacing other, failed ideologies: Arabism, socialism, nationalism.

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Insurance Securities Market Is Next To Face Big Credit Test
2008-02-16 16:43:04

Few Americans have heard of credit default swaps, arcane financial instruments invented by Wall Street about a decade ago, but if the economy keeps slowing, credit default swaps, like subprime mortgages, may become a household term.

Credit default swaps form a large but obscure market that will be put to its first big test as a looming economic downturn strains companies’ finances. Like a homeowner’s policy that insures against a flood or fire, these instruments are intended to cover losses to banks and bondholders when companies fail to pay their debts.

The market for these securities is enormous. Since 2000, it has ballooned from $900 billion to more than $45.5 trillion - roughly twice the size of the entire United States stock market.

No one knows how troubled the credit swaps market is, because, like the now-distressed market for subprime mortgage securities, it is unregulated. Because swaps have proliferated so rapidly, experts say that a hiccup in this market could set off a chain reaction of losses at financial institutions, making it even harder for borrowers to get loans that grease economic activity.

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FBI Received Unauthorized E-Mail Access
2008-02-16 16:42:34
A technical glitch gave the FBI access to the e-mail messages from an entire computer network - perhaps hundreds of accounts or more - instead of simply the lone e-mail address that was approved by a secret intelligence court as part of a national security investigation, according to an internal report of the 2006 episode.

FBI officials blamed an “apparent miscommunication” with the unnamed Internet provider, which mistakenly turned over all the e-mail from a small e-mail domain for which it served as host. The records were ultimately destroyed, said officials.

Bureau officials noticed a “surge” in the e-mail activity they were monitoring and realized that the provider had mistakenly set its filtering equipment to trap far more data than a judge had actually authorized.

The episode is an unusual example of what has become a regular if little-noticed occurrence, as American officials have expanded their technological tools: government officials, or the private companies they rely on for surveillance operations, sometimes foul up their instructions about what they can and cannot collect.

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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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Commentary: Rule By Fear Or Rule By Law?
2008-02-16 23:56:47
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Lewis Seiler, president of Voice of the Environment, Inc., and Dan Hamburg, Voice of the Environment's executive director and a former U.S. Representative in the Congress. It appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle's edition for Monday, February 4, 2008, but I didn't want it to fall through the cracks without posting it here as well. Seiler's and Hamburg's commentary follows:

"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist." - Winston Churchill, Nov. 21, 1943

Since 9/11, and seemingly without the notice of most Americans, the federal government has assumed the authority to institute martial law, arrest a wide swath of dissidents (citizen and noncitizen alike), and detain people without legal or constitutional recourse in the event of "an emergency influx of immigrants in the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs."

Beginning in 1999, the government has entered into a series of single-bid contracts with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) to build detention camps at undisclosed locations within the United States. The government has also contracted with several companies to build thousands of railcars, some reportedly equipped with shackles, ostensibly to transport detainees.

According to diplomat and author Peter Dale Scott, the KBR contract is part of a Homeland Security plan titled ENDGAME, which sets as its goal the removal of "all removable aliens" and "potential terrorists."

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Secret Papers Reveal Saudi Prince's Threats Of Terror Against London
2008-02-16 23:55:48

Saudi Arabia's rulers threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless corruption investigations into their arms deals were halted, according to court documents revealed Thursday.

Previously secret files describe how investigators were told they faced "another 7/7" and the loss of "British lives on British streets" if they pressed on with their inquiries and the Saudis carried out their threat to cut off intelligence.

Prince Bandar, the head of the Saudi national security council, and son of the crown prince, was alleged in court to be the man behind the threats to hold back information about suicide bombers and terrorists. He faces accusations that he took more than £1 billion ($2 billion) in secret payments from the arms company and British defense contractor BAE.

He was accused in Friday's high court hearings of flying to London in December 2006 and uttering threats which made the prime minister, Tony Blair, force an end to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into bribery allegations involving Bandar and his family.

The threats halted the fraud inquiry, but triggered an international outcry, with allegations that Britain had broken international anti-bribery treaties.

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Editorial: Questions, Not Just On Iraq
2008-02-16 23:54:07
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Sunday, February 17, 2008.

How the next president plans to handle the disastrous Iraq war is the most important foreign policy question of this year’s campaign. But it is not the only foreign policy question that voters need answered.

President Bush’s mismanagement reaches far beyond Iraq. He has torn up international treaties, bullied and alienated old friends, and enabled old and new enemies. Before Americans choose a president they will need to know how he or she plans to rebuild America’s military strength and its moral standing and address a host of difficult challenges around the world.

Here is our list of questions. It is by no means comprehensive.

INTERNATIONAL LEADERSHIP: Too many people who long admired this country as a beacon of democratic values now suspect and fear it. What steps would the candidates take to revive America’s reputation and its ability to lead? Would they immediately shut the Guantanamo Bay prison, commit to a global treaty to address climate change and press the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty?

CHINA: How would the candidates handle relations with a rising China? How would they manage a potential military competition while also encouraging democratic reforms there? How would the candidates persuade Beijing to help dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program and contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or to play a constructive role in Sudan and Burma? How would they conduct relations with Taiwan?

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Pakistani Official Caught On Tape Saying Election Vote Will Be Rigged
2008-02-16 23:53:09
A prominent U.S.-based human rights group Friday released what it said was a recording of Pakistan's attorney general acknowledging that next week's national elections would be "massively" rigged.

Human Rights Watch said a journalist made the recording during a telephone interview with Attorney General Malik Qayyum when Qayyum took a second call without disconnecting the first, allowing his end of the second conversation to be overheard and recorded.

In the recording, Qayyum, Pakistan's top legal officer, can be heard advising the caller to accept a ticket he is being offered by an unidentified political party for a seat, said Human Rights Watch.

"They will massively rig to get their own people to win," said Qayyum, according to a transcript released by Human Rights Watch. "If you get a ticket from these guys, take it."

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8 Dead At Illegal Street Race In Accokeek, Maryland
2008-02-16 16:42:49

Eight people are dead and at least three were injured after police said a driver struck a group of people watching an illegal high-speed race early this morning in southern Prince George's County, Maryland,  marking one of the deadliest street racing incidents in the Washington, D.C., area.

At least six of the dead were hit while watching the race in the dark about 3 a.m., along Indian Head Highway (Route 210) at Pine Drive in Accokeek, said police. One of the fatalities was a passenger in a white Crown Victoria that struck the group about 3 a.m., said Cpl. Clinton Copeland. He said one person also may have been hit by a tractor-trailer that came upon the scene but had not been involved in any race.

"It was a very horrific scene with the number of individuals in the road at one time and the amount of debris," said  Copeland. Shoes and pieces of clothing littered the road's grassy median for up to 200 yards.

It was unclear whether the older model Crown Victoria that police say struck the crowd was involved in the street race. WRC-Channel 4 was reporting that the Crown Victoria driver told police he wasn't in the race but had been blinded by smoke and exhaust from other vehicles that were revving up to race. As a result, the driver told police that he could not see the spectators, WRC reported.

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Violence And Fear Rise In Pakistan
2008-02-16 16:42:16
Intellpuke: After the following article was filed, the New York Times reported that a suicide bomber rammed a car into a campaign rally in the tribal areas on Saturday, killing 37 people and wounding at least 90 others. The attack in Parachinar, a town in Kurram, occurred two days before Pakistan's  parliamentary elections on Monday, and was apparently intended to deter voters from participating, said Brig. Javed Cheema, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. The rally at Parachinar was organized by Syed Riaz Hussain, a candidate for the national Parliament who is affiliated with the Pakistan Peoples Party, the opposition party of the assassinated former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

The winners of what may be the most anticipated election this country has held will be settled the usual way on Monday, by the number of ballots and fierce arguments over how they are counted. That, and perhaps the number of guns.

The nationwide parliamentary elections are intended to usher in an era of democracy in Pakistan after months of political turmoil and nearly a decade of military rule under President Pervez Musharraf. 

Here in Punjab Province, the biggest prize, the bare-knuckle election fight has included charges of armed intimidation by the police and private militias, as well as bribes through government favors. The threat of violence and the suspicion of rigging hang thick in the air. There has even been bickering over who should operate the polling stations.

A street-level view of the campaign, in fact, reveals the many stubborn shortcomings of Pakistan’s politics, where the parties are organized less around policies than people, often from feudal families who have held sway for generations.

This election battle is especially sharp because Punjab is the home of the political patrons of Musharraf, the powerful and hard-nosed Chaudhry clan, which is working hard to keep its grip across the province, Pakistan’s most populous. The scion of the family, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, a confidant of Musharraf, is the president’s choice to be the next prime minister should his party win.

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