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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday February 21 2008 - (813)

Thursday February 21 2008 edition
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Clinton: Obama Isn't Ready
2008-02-20 23:49:59
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton launched a tough new offensive against Sen. Barack Obama on Wednesday, asserting flatly that her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination is not prepared to serve as commander in chief.

"It is time to get real - to get real about how we actually win this election, and get real about the challenges facing America," the senator from New York told a cheering crowd at Hunter College in Manhattan. 

Resounding Obama victories on Tuesday in Wisconsin and Hawaii pushed the senator from Illinois farther ahead in the delegate count and have turned the Ohio and Texas primaries on March 4 into do-or-die battles for Clinton. After 10 straight defeats, she now trails Obama in overall delegates 1,351 to 1,262, according to an Associated Press tally, and faces a dwindling number of opportunities to slow her rival's pursuit of the 2,025 delegates needed to claim the party's nomination. The first chance will come Thursday night in Austin, Texas, where the two will debate.

Clinton's 17-percentage-point loss in Wisconsin was especially crushing, a sign that her criticisms of Obama - which were most intense during the Badger State showdown - did little to sway voters.

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Major Disease Outbreaks Around The World Becoming More Common
2008-02-20 23:49:10

Major outbreaks of disease have become more common around the globe in the past 40 years, according to the largest ever investigation into emerging infections.

Diseases such as Ebola and SARS, which originally spread from animals, are an increasing threat to human health, and many infections have now become resistant to antibiotics, said researchers.

The international team of scientists warned that tropical regions are likely to become a future hotspot for new diseases, and called for early warning systems to be set up in countries to spot outbreaks before they become unmanageable.

Researchers from the Zoological Society of London, the Wildlife Trust and Columbia University analyzed databases of outbreaks and found 335 cases of emerging diseases between 1940 and 2004. Of these, 60.3% were infections which also affected animals, and 71.8% were known to have triggered disease in humans after spreading from wildlife.

The research, published in Nature, identifies "hotspots" where new diseases are expected to come from wildlife, driven by the proximity of dense human populations and high levels of biodiversity.

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Alarm Over China's New Oil-From-Coal Plans
2008-02-20 23:48:04
Chinese energy company to open plant to make synthetic diesel, dubbed "Nazi fuel"; environmentalists say the process will worsen global warming.

A Chinese energy company is poised to open a chemical plant to make liquid fuels for cars and aircraft from coal, a move that has alarmed environmental campaigners who say it will increase carbon emissions and worsen global warming.

The plant, in Inner Mongolia, will use technology developed by Germany during the second world war to convert coal directly into synthetic diesel, dubbed "Nazi fuel". China says the process will help break its booming economy's reliance on foreign oil, and that it will build more such plants.

The U.S. and India are also investing heavily in the technology, which is being heavily promoted by coal companies across the world as a cost-effective solution to soaring oil prices and concerns about energy security.

The Chinese facility, operated by Shenhua Corporation, will be the first of its type in the world. Shenhua would not say when it expects the plant to open, but industry experts said it would be within weeks. Last month, company officials said construction work was 99.5% complete.

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BP Goes Back To Petroleum - Shift To Renewables Ditched
2008-02-20 23:46:27

The Armani-style beige suits worn by security staff at BP headquarters in London and introduced under the reign of former boss, Lord (John) Browne, are to be quietly dropped in favor of more traditional grey ones. It is a small change but one dripping with symbolism that the flamboyant days of the "sun king" are definitely over and the company is going back to basics and a bit of no-nonsense austerity.

New chief executive, Tony Hayward, has embarked on a cost-cutting program that will see the removal of 14,500 jobs and slice £500 million ($1 billion) off the company's overheads as part of a wider plan to streamline the business.

The biggest change at the oil major is associated with none of these initiatives: it is the decision to accept that high crude prices of between $60 and $90 per barrel are here to stay, which will affect the whole strategy of BP. This "seismic shift," as one veteran analyst described it, promises to hasten in an era of higher dividends, more capital expenditure and investments in high-cost areas such as the oil sands of Canada that were previously considered too costly - and environmentally unfriendly.

'Climate Crime'

BP appears to be dropping a central plank of Browne's strategy, the green promise to go "beyond petroleum", in favor of going back to petroleum - a move which many believe has riled the former boss. In what some saw as a thinly veiled criticism, Browne argued at a recent conference that some energy groups were "in denial" over the need to clean up their carbon output.

The move into tar sands through a deal with Husky Energy has been condemned by Greenpeace as "a climate crime" because three times as much carbon is produced extracting the crude from the ground compared with ordinary oil operations. Steam or hot water is used to separate the oil from the sand and then more power must be used to turn it into useable fuel. Hayward has also upset green groups by downgrading the company's alternative energy portfolio and dropping plans for an innovative carbon capture and storage (CCS) experiment at Peterhead, Scotland.

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U.S. Supreme Court Says 401(k) Pension Participants Can Sue
2008-02-20 15:50:59
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that individual participants in the most common type of retirement plan can sue under a pension protection law to recover their losses.

The unanimous decision has implications for 50 million workers with $2.7 trillion invested in 401(k) retirement plans.

James LaRue of Southlake, Texas, said the value of his stock market holdings plunged $150,000 when administrators at his retirement plan failed to follow his instructions to switch to safer investments.

The issue in the LaRue case was whether the Employee Retirement Income Security Act permits an individual account holder to sue plan administrators for breaching their fiduciary duties.

The language of the law refers to recovering money for the "plan" rather than for an individual, raising the question of whether a participant can sue solely for himself.

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Lights At Night Are Linked To Breast Cancer
2008-02-20 15:50:26

Women who live in neighborhoods with large amounts of nighttime illumination are more likely to get breast cancer than those who live in areas where nocturnal darkness prevails, according to an unusual study that overlaid satellite images of Earth onto cancer registries.

The finding adds credence to the hypothesis that exposure to too much light at night can raise the risk of breast cancer by interfering with the brain's production of a tumor-suppressing hormone.

"By no means are we saying that light at night is the only or the major risk factor for breast cancer," said Itai Kloog, of the University of Haifa in Israel, who led the new work. "But we found a clear and strong correlation that should be taken into consideration."

Scientists have known for years that rats raised in cages where lights are left on for much of the night have higher cancer rates than those allowed to sleep in darkness. And epidemiological studies of nurses, flight attendants and others who work at night have found breast cancer rates 60 percent above normal, even when other factors such as differences in diet are accounted for.

On the basis of such studies, an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) announced in December its decision to classify shift work as a "probable carcinogen." That put the night shift in the same health-risk category as exposure to such toxic chemicals as trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

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Editorial: Twilight of the Dictators - A Chance For Pakistan And The U.S.
2008-02-20 15:49:54
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008.

After years of American enabling and billions in American aid, Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf, was - to put it delicately - trounced in Monday’s parliamentary elections. The results are much better than the United States could hope for, and more than President Bush deserved after over investing in the former general and his anti-democratic excesses.

The White House has long insisted that there was no choice but to look the other way as Mr. Musharraf jailed journalists and lawyers, dismissed the Supreme Court and declared emergency rule. Islamist extremists, we were told, would win any fair democratic fight.

Instead, even with a rigged system, the moderates managed to win. Now the question is whether the Bush administration can take this opportunity and develop a sensible policy that focuses both on building stable democratic institutions in Pakistan and winning popular support for combating al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Even with all that American money - and the advice of an American public relations firm - Mr. Musharraf could not overcome a tidal wave of popular contempt. His party lost overwhelmingly to two moderate opposition parties: the Pakistan Peoples Party of the assassinated leader Benazir Bhutto, and the Pakistan Muslim League-N of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

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Obama, McCain Win Wisconsin, McCain Also Wins Washington
2008-02-20 03:55:17

Sen. Barack Obama (Illinois) decisively defeated Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York) in Tuesday's Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary, scoring a ninth consecutive victory over the New York senator and ramping up the pressure on her to break that streak early next month in Ohio and Texas.

On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain (Arizona) easily beat former governor Mike Huckabee (Arkansas) in Wisconsin and the Washington State primary, two wins that further cement his status as the race's front-runner.

Obama entered the race with considerable momentum and substantial support from liberal Democratic voters centered in Madison. Clinton in recent days made a heavy investment of campaign time and money in Wisconsin, attempting to tap into the state's overwhelmingly white rural and blue-collar vote to close the gap, but her last-minute push fell far short.

"I am grateful to the people of Wisconsin for their friendship, their support and their tremendous sense of civic pride," Obama said in a victory speech in Houston to thousands of cheering supporters. He then turned to the challenges that remained and offered a now-familiar indictment of the status quo in the nation's capital.

"The problem that we face in America is not a lack of good ideas," said Obama. "It's that Washington has become a place where good ideas go to die."

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Pakistan Election Victors Want Dialogue With Militants
2008-02-20 03:54:49
The winners of Pakistan’s parliamentary elections said Tuesday that they would take a new approach to fighting Islamic militants by pursuing more dialogue than military confrontation, and that they would undo the crackdown on the media and restore independence to the judiciary.

With nearly complete returns from Monday’s vote giving it the most seats, the party of the assassinated opposition leader Benazir Bhutto,led by her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, made clear that a new political order prevailed in Pakistan.

Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, said the new Parliament would reverse many of the unpopular policies that fueled the strong protest vote against President Pervez Musharraf and his party.

Bush administration officials said the United States would still like to see Pakistan’s opposition leaders find a way to work with Musharraf, a staunch ally for more than six years, but conceded that the notion appeared increasingly unlikely.

Though Zardari said he wanted a government of national consensus, he ruled out working with anyone from the previous government under Musharraf.

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For McCain, Self-Confidence On Ethics Poses Its Own Risk
2008-02-20 23:49:40
Intellpuke: There are two articles here. The first is the New York Times' article. The Times broke this story. Below this article you can find the Washington Post's article on the same topic. Here's the N.Y. Times' article:

Early in Senator John McCain's first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself - instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee  McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

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How Britain's Labor Party Used The Law To Keep Criticism Of Israel Secret
2008-02-20 23:48:26

The full extent of the Labor-led government's anxiety about the state of British-Israel relations was exposed for the first time Wednesday in a secret document seen by the Guardian newspaper.

The document reveals how the Foreign Office successfully fought to keep secret any mention of Israel contained on the first draft of the controversial, and now discredited, Iraq weapons dossier. At the heart of it was nervousness at the top of government about any mention of Israel's nuclear arsenal in an official paper accusing Iraq of flouting the U.N.'s authority on weapons of mass destruction.

The dossier was made public this week, but Britain's Foreign Office succeeded before a tribunal in having the handwritten mention of Israel kept secret.

The Foreign Office never argued that the information would damage national security. The Guardian has seen the full text and a witness statement from a senior Foreign Office official, who argued behind closed doors that any public mention of the candid reference would seriously damage U.K./Israeli relations. In the statement, he reveals that in the past five years there have been 10 substantial incidents and 20 more minor ones relating to Israeli concerns about attitudes to their government within Whitehall.

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U.S. Navy Missile Hits Failing Spy Satellite, Results Unclear
2008-02-20 23:46:50
A missile launched from a Navy ship successfully struck a dying U.S. spy satellite passing 130 miles over the Pacific on Wednesday, a defense official said. Full details were not immediately available.

It happened just after 10:30 p.m. EST.

Two officials said the missile was launched successfully. One official, who is close to the process, said it hit the target. He said details on the results were not immediately known.

The goal in this first-of-its-kind mission for the Navy was not just to hit the satellite but to obliterate a tank aboard the spacecraft carrying 1,000 pounds of a toxic fuel called hydrazine.

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U.N., NATO Troops Secure Kosovo Border
2008-02-20 23:44:55

NATO troops and United Nations police moved to secure Kosovo's northern borders Wednesday as ethnic Serbs mounted more demonstrations to assert Serbian control of the northern portion of the country.

The moves came as Germany became the latest state to announce it would recognize the former south Serbian province of Kosovo, which declared independence on Sunday.

French troops sealing the frontier at Jarinje, where the border post was destroyed by masked Serbian hardliners on Tuesday, were stoned early Wednesday as they put up coils of razor wire to prevent a further influx of hardliners crossing from southern Serbia into Kosovo in advance of huge anticipated demonstrations in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, Thursday and in Kosovo itself.

Lieutenant General Xavier Bout de Marnhac, who is the NATO commander, blamed local Serbian leaders for the unrest. "The leaders should think deeply of their responsibility when they trigger this type of demonstration," he said yesterday, as visibly nervous NATO forces strengthened their presence at potential flashpoints in the north.

Organizers of the demonstrations - from Serbia's main political blocs - are expecting several hundreds of thousands of protesters to turn out Thursday in Belgrade.

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U.S. Federal Reserve Lowers Economic Projection - Forecasts Inflation, Unemployment
2008-02-20 15:50:47
The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday lowered its projection for economic growth this year, citing damage from the double blows of a housing slump and credit crunch. It said it also expects higher unemployment and inflation.

The updated forecasts come amid worry by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues that the economy could continue to weaken, even after their aggressive interest rate cuts in January, according to minutes of those private deliberations released Wednesday.

"With no signs of stabilization in the housing sector and with financial conditions not yet stabilized, the committee agreed that downside risks to growth would remain even after this action," minutes of the Fed's Jan. 29-30 closed door meeting showed.

The Fed at that session voted to cut a key interest rate by one-half percentage point to 3 percent at that meeting. Just eight day earlier, the Fed, in an emergency session, slashed its rate by a rare three-quarters percentage point. The two rate cuts together marked the most dramatic rate reductions in a single month by the Fed in a quarter century.

Under its new economic forecast, the Fed said that it now believes the gross domestic product will grow between 1.3 percent and 2 percent this year. That's lower than a previous Fed forecast for growth, which at that time was estimated to be between 1.8 percent and 2.5 percent.

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Supreme Court Limits Suits Over Medical Devices
2008-02-20 15:50:14
The Supreme Court on Wednesday made it harder for consumers to sue manufacturers of federally approved medical devices.

In an 8-1 decision, the court ruled against the estate of a patient who suffered serious injuries when a catheter burst during a medical procedure.

The case has significant implications for the $75 billion-a-year health care technology industry, whose products range from heart valves to toothbrushes.

In a recent three-month span, federal regulators responded to over 100 safety problems regarding medical devices.

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7.5 Earthquake Hits Western Indonesia
2008-02-20 04:12:26
A major earthquake shook western Indonesia on Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

The magnitude 7.5 quake's epicenter was about 195 miles (315 kilometers), south-southeast of Banda Aceh, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the USGS said on its Web site.

A 2004 earthquake near Banda Aceh killed hundreds of thousands of people. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii issued a local tsunami watch for the area - normal protocol in such instances.

It is up to local governments to issue tsunami warnings. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, according to Indonesian national radio.

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Small Donations Add Up For Obama
2008-02-20 03:55:00
A cluster of cramped cubicles, tucked away in a rear corner of Senator Barack Obama's campaign headquarters here, serves as the heart of a fund-raising machine that has reshaped the calculus of the 2008 election.

Obama’s finance director, Julianna Smoot, who has helped him raise more than $150 million so far, does not even have her own office. A Ping-Pong table is the gathering spot for Friday lunches for her team.

The setting, which has the feel of an Internet start-up, is emblematic of how Obama, of Illinois, has been able to raise so much money. On Wednesday, the Obama campaign will report to the Federal Election Commission that it collected $36 million in January - $4 million more than campaign officials had previously estimated - an unprecedented feat for a single month in American politics that was powered overwhelmingly by small online donations. That dwarfed the $13.5 million in January that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, of New York, is expected to report Wednesday and the $12 million Senator John McCain's campaign said he brought in for the month.

Obama’s startling success, however, has also now put him on the spot, tempting him to back away from indications he gave last year that he would agree to accept public financing in the general election if the Republican nominee did the same. The hesitation has given McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee whose advisers concede he would most likely fall far short of Obama’s fund-raising for the general election, fodder for a series of attacks.

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U.S. Defense Contractor Gets 12 Years In Prison For Bribery
2008-02-20 03:54:37
Brent R. Wilkes, a California defense contractor and prominent Republican campaign contributor, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison Tuesday for lavishing a Republican congressman with money, prostitutes and other bribes in exchange for nearly $90 million in work from the Pentagon.

Wilkes, 53, was convicted in November of 13 felony crimes including bribery, conspiracy and fraud for giving the gifts to former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-California), who is serving an eight-year prison term for accepting millions in bribes from Wilkes and others.

The sentence by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns in San Diego, California, was far smaller than the 25-year term federal prosecutors had sought or the 60-year term urged by federal probation officers. U.S. Attorney Karen P. Hewitt said nonetheless that Wilkes "has earned every day of the sentence he received" and that the prison term "reflects the egregiousness of the corrupt conduct."

Wilkes has steadfastly maintained his innocence since being charged a year ago, saying his dealings with Cunningham were legitimate and blaming wrongdoing on others. "I am a man who cares deeply for this community, for my family, for my country," Wilkes said in a brief statement to the court, the Associated Press reported.

The judge said he was troubled by Wilkes's failure to accept responsibility for his crimes. "If you were to do the right thing about this, today is the day to own up," the judge told Wilkes, according to the A.P. "You have no sense of contrition. You had this corrupt relationship with the congressman and you profited from it."

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