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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday February 14 2008 - (813)

Thursday February 14 2008 edition
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U.S. Passes Ban On Waterboarding, Other Interrogation Techniques
2008-02-14 00:56:12
The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to ban waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics used by the CIA,  matching a previous House vote and putting Congress on a collision course with the White House over a pivotal national security issue.

In a 51 to 45 vote, the Senate approved an intelligence bill that limits the CIA to using 19 less-aggressive interrogation tactics outlined in a U.S. Army Field Manual. The measure would effectively ban the use of simulated drowning, temperature extremes and other harsh tactics that the CIA used on al-Qaeda prisoners after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

President Bush has vowed to veto the legislation, which the House approved in December, and Congress does not appear to have enough votes to override a veto.

House lawmakers, meanwhile, bickered Wednesday over a Senate bill approved Tuesday that would permanently expand the government's ability to eavesdrop on terrorism suspects without warrants and would protect telecommunication firms from lawsuits for helping conduct such wiretaps. A temporary law that does not include the immunity provision is due to expire Saturday.

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Editorial: Time To Vote Contempt
2008-02-14 00:55:38
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Thursday, February 14, 2008.

Alberto Gonzales may be out, but the country is still waiting for a full accounting of how he and his White House patrons cynically politicized the Justice Department. Congress is rightly asking questions about the actions of yet another United States attorney: New Jersey’s Christopher J. Christie. The House also needs to stop procrastinating and vote to hold witnesses in contempt for refusing to testify in the wider scandal.

Federal prosecutors must be scrupulously nonpartisan. Mr. Christie, a Republican activist who got his job despite a lack of trial and criminal-law experience, has gone up to the line of acceptable behavior - and possibly crossed it.

He began an investigation of Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, late in a hard-fought election campaign. The charges now appear baseless, but at the time the news provided a big boost to Mr. Menendez’s Republican opponent. Mr. Christie went against a long Justice Department presumption against opening investigations or bringing indictments right before an election, to avoid affecting the outcome.

There are also questions about Mr. Christie’s decision to award, without competitive bidding, a lucrative contract to monitor a company accused of consumer fraud. The winner? Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, an influential Republican who was once Mr. Christie’s boss. Senate and House leaders have asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate.

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Number Of Wild Tigers In India Dwindles To 1,400
2008-02-14 00:55:08

The number of wild tigers in India has dwindled to little more than 1,400, less than half the previous estimate, in an alarming decline blamed by wildlife experts on poaching and urbanization.

The last major survey, in 2002, recorded 3,642 tigers. Until this census, India was thought to be home to 40% of the world's tigers, with 23 tiger reserves in 17 states.

Rajesh Gopal, of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, said: "The tiger has suffered due to direct poaching, loss of quality habitat, and loss of its prey."

The government authority said its monitoring methods had changed; it now relied on cameras rather than pugmark (footprint) counts, but it is clear that tiger numbers have dropped. Some reserves, such as Sariska in Rajasthan, have been cleared by poachers. Others, such as Bandhavgarh in Madya Pradesh, have seen sharp drops due to encroachment on the forest. The only exception has been Tamil Nadu, where the numbers have risen to 76 from 60 five years ago.

A century ago India had a population of more than 40,000 tigers.

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Earthquake Swarm Rattles Residents Of California, Mexico Border Towns
2008-02-14 00:54:28
Residents of California's Imperial Valley are living on shaky ground these days.

Since Friday, cities such as Calexico and El Centro, as well as Mexicali across the border, have been rocked by hundreds of earthquakes, from tiny to teeth-rattling - three have registered a magnitude of 5.0 or more.

The onslaught of temblors is known as a swarm, in which quakes of varying sizes can strike every few minutes, said Kate Hutton, a staff seismologist at the California Institute of Technology. The Imperial Valley and Baja are prone to the swarms, she said; they can last a few days to a week.

Though the quakes aren't breaking any geologic records, they've caused several sleepless nights for Calexico resident Barbara Lopez.

"It's been scary," said Lopez, a 27-year-old apartment leasing agent, of what she describes as nonstop quakes. "You're like constantly thinking: 'Is the big one going to hit? Are we prepared?' Of course we're not."
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Bombing Kills Senior Hezbollah Leader Imad Mughniyeh In Syria
2008-02-14 00:52:36
Imad Mughniyeh, a senior but shadowy Hezbollah commander accused by the United States and Israel of masterminding suicide bombings, hijackings and hostage-takings that spanned 25 years, was killed by a car bomb in the Syrian capital of Damascus, the Shiite Muslim group and other officials said Wednesday.

Hezbollah accused Israel of carrying out the attack on Mughniyeh, a charge that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office denied. In the past, Israeli officials have rarely confirmed or denied their involvement in assassinations abroad.

A State Department spokesman welcomed the news of Mughniyeh's death, but said he did not know who was responsible for it.

"The world is a better place without this man in it. He was a cold-blooded killer, a mass murderer and a terrorist responsible for countless innocent lives lost," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. "One way or another, he was brought to justice."

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Japan's Anger Focused On U.S. In Rape Arrest Of U.S. Marine
2008-02-14 00:51:59
Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda voiced anger on Tuesday over accusations that a United States Marine had raped a 14-year-old girl in Okinawa, calling the episode “unforgivable.”

“Even though this has occurred several times in the past, it has happened again,” said Fukuda. “I take this very seriously.”

The marine, Staff Sgt. Tyrone Luther Hadnott, 38, from Camp Courtney in Okinawa, was arrested after being accused of attacking the girl in his car on Sunday night. Sergeant Hadnott, who has denied raping the girl, has not yet been formally charged.

The case roused anger in Okinawa. Dozens of people protested outside an American base there. The regional assembly passed a resolution of protest against the United States and Tokyo.

After being summoned by the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Joseph R. Donovan, the deputy chief of mission at the United States Embassy in Japan, told reporters that this “is an extremely regrettable case and that we take this very, very seriously.”

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Rest In Peace Nathan
2008-02-13 15:08:22
In Memoriam
Nathaniel David Jacobson-Babitchenko
Born: November 9th, 1994.
Died: February 10, 2008

  Nathan was born in California to parents who loved him dearly and he returned that love with everyone in his family.

  Nathan was bright, inquisitive and intelligent and made friends easily. In his short life, he met many people and always strived to make them feel at ease. His laughter was contagious and always shared by any who were present. He was curious about his surroundings and life and in general -- questioning, testing, reading or whatever it took to satisfy his need to understand something. Though young, he was an avid seeker of knowledge. 

    In 2006, he and his mother, stepfather, and soon to be born baby sister drove across the country from California to Florida. He saw the Rocky Mountains and the mesas and plains of the American Southwest, he saw thunderstorms moving across a desert, the lush Missouri and Mississippi river basins, the Gulf of Mexico and all the vistas and wonders of nature along the route that America has to provide.

    Although moving across the country can be a challenge at any age, and particularly challenging for one in his early teens, Nathan adapted quickly, forging new friendships with those he met.

    In early 2007, sister, Cassandra, was born. They quickly forged a special bond.

    At an early age, Nathan was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome; and in mid-2007, he was diagnosed with epilepsy, yet he did not let these problems deter him from living the same full and active life of any healthy child. He showed an early interest in music and played alto sax in his school band. He played with the numerous friends he made in his neighborhood and especially enjoyed competing with others playing online computer games. He not only played on the Internet, he also interacted with others around the world  that he encountered online, asking questions about their lives and where they lived.
   On Feb 10, 2008, Nathan unexpectedly passed away, at his home, taken away much, much too early by "Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy" (SUDEP).  He is survived by his mother, Amy Jacobson; father, Gene Babitchenko; stepfather Peter Vogel, and sister Cassandra Jacobson-Vogel.  He is also survived by his maternal and paternal grandparents and several aunts, uncles and cousins.

  We all love you Nathan. We miss you terribly.

  Services for Nathan will be at Garden Of Memories at 4207 East Lake Avenue, Tampa, FL.  The viewing will be on Thursday February 14th starting at 1pm, and the services will begin at 3pm.  Anyone who knew him are more than welcome to attend.  Any donations made to Free Internet Press for the next two weeks will be donated directly towards the family's funeral expenses.

  Requiescat in pace.

  We would like to thank everyone who responded to his emergency, including the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department, Fire Rescue, Paramedics, Coroners, and Child Protection Service investigators.  Every person who we've dealt with through this entire experience were very compassionate.  We know everyone tried to maintain their professionalism, but it's hard for anyone to deal with a loss like this. 

  Since it's happened, his family, friends, teachers, and neighbors have been amazingly supportive.  We thank all of you.

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U.S. Senate Approves Expansion Of Surveillance, Immunizes Telecoms
2008-02-13 03:30:26

The Senate Tuesday approved a sweeping measure that would expand the government's clandestine surveillance powers, delivering a key victory to the White House by approving immunity from lawsuits for telecommunications companies that cooperated with intelligence agencies in domestic spying after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

On a 68 to 29 vote, the Senate approved the reauthorization of a law that would give the government greater powers to eavesdrop in terrorism and intelligence cases without obtaining warrants from a secret court.

The Senate's action, days before a temporary surveillance law expires Friday, sets up a clash with House Democrats, who have previously approved legislation that does not contain immunity for the telecommunications industry. The chambers have been locked in a standoff over the immunity provision since the House vote Nov. 15, with President Bush demanding the protection for the industry.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the president "will not sign another extension" of the temporary law, a decision that could force congressional leaders to reconcile their differences this week.

"The House is risking national security by delaying action," said Fratto. "It's increasingly clear Congress will not act until it has to, and a second extension will only lead to a third."

House leaders vowed again Tuesday to oppose the telecom immunity provision until the White House releases more information about the controversial warrantless surveillance program it initiated shortly after the terrorist attacks.

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Panel Cites Drop In Pentagon's Attention To Security Of U.S. Nuclear Arsenal
2008-02-13 03:29:32

The U.S. Defense Department is displaying a "precipitous decrease in attention" to the security and control of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, according to a Defense Science Board task force that examined the broader causes behind the U.S. flight in August of a B-52 bomber that inadvertently carried six cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads.

"The decline in DoD focus has been more pronounced than realized and too extreme to be acceptable," the task force said in a report released Tuesday by its chairman, retired Air Force Gen. Larry D. Welch, at a Senate Armed Service Committeehearing.

Welch, who served in the 1980s as head of the Strategic Air Command and later as Air Force chief of staff, told the senators about his concern that "the nation and its leadership do not value the nuclear mission and the people who perform that mission."

The six cruise missiles, which were mistakenly believed to be carrying dummy warheads, were loaded on an Air Force B-52 and flown 1,400 miles from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.  

"No one knew where they were, or even missed them, for over 36 hours," said Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Michigan), chairman of the Senate committee. "This entire episode really is a wake-up call."

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Australia Offers An Apology To Aborigines
2008-02-13 03:28:40
Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd opened a new chapter in Australia’s tortured relations with its indigenous peoples on Wednesday with a comprehensive and moving apology for past wrongs and a call for bipartisan action to improve the lives of Australia’s Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

“The Parliament is today here assembled to deal with this unfinished business of the nation, to remove a great stain from the nation’s soul, and in a true spirit of reconciliation to open a new chapter in the history of this great land, Australia,” Rudd told Parliament.

This was “Government business, motion No. 1,” the first act of Rudd’s Labor government, which was sworn in Tuesday after a convincing electoral win over the 11-year administration of John Howard, who had for years refused to apologize for the misdeeds of past governments.

Rudd’s apology was particularly addressed to the so-called Stolen Generations, the tens of thousands of indigenous children who were removed, sometimes forcibly, from their families in a policy of assimilation that only ended in the 1970s.

In some states it was part of a policy to “breed out the color,” in the words of Cecil Cook, who held the title of chief protector of Aborigines in the Northern Territory in the 1930s.

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FBI, SEC Investigate Dozens Of Companies In Connection With Mortgage Crisis
2008-02-14 00:55:54
The U.S. Congress approved an economic stimulus package. The Treasury Department pressed lenders to reset mortgage rates for millions of troubled homeowners. And New York's insurance regulator is attempting to bail out a critical sector of the industry.

Progressing more slowly is the work of investigators probing dozens of companies for fraud and insider trading in connection with the subprime mortgage crisis that set off the country's current economic woes.

FBI officials said Wednesday that they are conducting criminal investigations of 16 companies, while their partners at the Securities and Exchange Comission (SEC)are probing nearly two dozen more. Those federal investigations follow subpoenas from attorneys general in at least four states and class-action lawsuits that target home builders, lenders, credit-rating agencies and the banks that packaged groups of mortgages into securities.

"These are going to be complex investigations," FBI section chief Sharon E. Ormsby said in an interview. Policing mortgage and credit-related fraud is the "number one priority" of the FBI's financial crimes unit, she added.

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Bank Of England Governor: U.K. Might Be On Verge Of Recession
2008-02-14 00:55:27

Bank of England governor Mervyn King admitted Wednesday that the U.K. economy might grind to a halt this year - but warned that the continuing risk of inflation made further interest rate cuts unlikely.

Faced with stagnating growth and rising prices for food and energy, King said the bank was facing one of its trickiest periods since assuming control of interest rate policy more than 10 years ago.

When asked whether a recession was possible this year, he said the predictions for growth in Wednesday's inflation report were "not inconsistent" with two quarters of zero or negative growth - the technical definition of a recession.

He also warned that house prices could fall but said the committee's projection was for a few years of steady house prices, during which average earnings would catch up with house prices to some extent. "We are moving into territory where there is greater uncertainty than ever," he said.

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British Appeal Judges Clear 5 Muslims Of Terror Charges
2008-02-14 00:54:49

Five young British Muslim men had their terrorism convictions quashed Wednesday after judges concluded that reading Islamist material was not illegal unless there was "direct" proof it was to be used to inspire violent extremism.

The men had been jailed in July 2006 with the trial judge saying they had been "intoxicated" by extremism after Islamist ideological CDs and computer downloads were found in their possession. The prosecution at their trial claimed the men were preparing to train in Pakistan before fighting in Afghanistan.

They were prosecuted under section 57 of Britain's Terrorism act 2000, which makes it an offense to have books or items useful for a terrorist. Striking down the convictions, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips said: "[Section 57] must be interpreted in a way that requires a direct connection between the object possessed and the act of terrorism."

Directions given to the jury by the trial judge did not tell jurors "that they had to be satisfied that each appellant intended to use the relevant articles to incite his fellow planners to fight in Afghanistan".

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British Police Investigate Death Of Billionaire Who Warned Of Assassination
2008-02-14 00:54:03

Arkadi "Badri" Patarkatsishvili had predicted that he might be assassinated; he was certain that his political opponents wanted him dead. "I have 120 bodyguards, but I know that's not enough," said the 52-year old Georgian in December last year. "I believe they want to kill me."

Wednesday, after the exiled billionaire collapsed and died at his mansion in Surrey, police launched an investigation to discover if his prophecy had come true.

Weeks ago, the businessman said he knew that a plot had been hatched to get rid of him. He had been campaigning to oust President Mikhail Saakashvili and he claimed that an official from the Georgian government had tried to hire a hitman to kill him in a plane crash or assassinate him in London.

Patarkatsishvili had heard a covertly taped conversation apparently between two men which he said proved it.

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Interpreter Freed, CBS Journalist Still Held Hostage
2008-02-14 00:52:08
An Iraqi interpreter kidnapped in the southern city of Basra was freed Wednesday, but the CBS journalist seized with him this week is still being held.

Amid reports of a deal to free both men, however, the American military and Iraqi officials both said they hoped the journalist would be released shortly.

“We are hopeful they will be released in the coming days, if not hours,” a military spokesman, Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, told reporters here in the capital shortly before the interpreter was released.

Earlier in the day, the head of the Basra office of Moktada al-Sadr, the anti-American Shiite cleric, said his group had successfully negotiated the release of both men, though only the interpreter was freed.

“We will keep working and we hope this matter will be over in the next 24 hours,” said the official in Basra, Hareth al-Ethari.

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Defense Secretary Gates Slips On Ice, Breaks Arm
2008-02-14 00:51:31

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates fell victim to the sheer ice that covered much of the Washington, D.C., area Tuesday night, fracturing his right arm after taking a hard spill outside his home.

Gates was returning from dinner about 9:30 p.m. when he slipped on the pathway leading to his house and landed on his right shoulder. Gates, who was with his personal security guards at the time, went inside and immediately called his doctor but chose not to be examined until early this morning, said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.

"When he came to work this morning, he was examined by the Pentagon medical team, and X-rays revealed he suffered a fracture to the upper right humerus," said Morrell, referring to the arm bone that runs from the shoulder to the elbow. "He was then taken to Bethesda Naval Hospital to be checked out by an orthopedic surgeon. Fortunately, it does not appear as though surgery will be required, and he is expected to recover soon."

Gates, 64, who is left-handed, returned to his Pentagon office late Wednesday morning with his right arm in a sling. The injury forced Gates to miss a scheduled House Appropriations subcommittee meeting that focused on the Defense Department budget. Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England appeared in his place.

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Women Who Say They Were Assaulted In Iraq By Co-Workers Unable To Find Justice
2008-02-13 03:30:45
Mary Beth Kineston, an Ohio resident who went to Iraq to drive trucks, thought she had endured the worst when her supply convoy was ambushed in April 2004. After car bombs exploded and insurgents began firing on the road between Baghdad and Balad, she and other military contractors were saved only when Army Black Hawk helicopters arrived.

But not long after the ambush, said Ms. Kineston, she was sexually assaulted by another driver, who remained on the job, at least temporarily, even after she reported the episode to KBR, the military contractor that employed the drivers. Later, she said she was groped by a second KBR worker. After complaining to the company about the threats and harassments endured by female employees in Iraq, she was fired.

“I felt safer on the convoys with the Army than I ever did working for KBR,” said Ms. Kineston, who won a modest arbitration award against KBR. “At least if you got in trouble on a convoy, you could radio the Army and they would come and help you out. But when I complained to KBR, they didn’t do anything. I still have nightmares. They changed my life forever, and they got away with it.”

Ms. Kineston is among a number of American women who have reported that they were sexually assaulted by co-workers while working as contractors in Iraq but now find themselves in legal limbo, unable to seek justice or even significant compensation.

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Editorial: Unnecessary Harm
2008-02-13 03:29:47
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Wednesday, February 13, 2008.

The Bush administration’s decision to put six detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on trial before military tribunals and to seek the death penalty is both a betrayal of American ideals and simply bad strategy. Instead of being what they could and should be - a model of justice dispensed impartially, surely and dispassionately - the trials will proceed under deeply flawed procedures that violate this country’s basic fairness. The intense negative attention they will receive will do enormous damage to what is left of America’s standing in world opinion.

There is good reason to believe that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the five others may have been responsible for horrific acts. If convicted, they should be jailed for life, but that should happen under due process. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the administration has made clear that it wants to give people accused of terrorism as few rights as the Supreme Court will let it get away with.

This week’s announcement is a reminder that those rights will be so limited in the military tribunals that the credibility of any verdict will be undermined. Prosecutors will be able to use evidence obtained by improper means, including by torture. The rules will be stacked in the government’s favor, so hearsay evidence that would not be allowed in civilian courts may be allowed. Prosecutors may rely on classified evidence that the defendants will not be able to challenge. Defendants may not be allowed to call important witnesses.

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Lockheed Martin Secures Contract To Expand Biometric Data Base
2008-02-13 03:28:53

The FBI Tuesday announced the award of a $1 billion, 10-year contract to Lockheed Martin to develop what is expected to be the world's largest crime-fighting computer database of biometric information, including fingerprints, palm prints, iris patterns and face images.

Under its contract to build Next Generation Identification (NGI), the Bethesda, Maryland, contractor will expand on the FBI's electronic database of 55 million sets of fingerprints and criminal histories used by law enforcement and other authorities. The aim is to make the query and results process quicker, more flexible and more accurate.

Lockheed built and maintains the fingerprint database.

"NGI will give us bigger, better, faster capabilities and lead us into the future," said Thomas E. Bush III, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division.

Privacy advocates said that the work is proceeding before the technologies have been proven. "Congress needs to do a better job of assessing how taxpayer dollars are being spent, particularly on programs that impact the privacy rights of Americans," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

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