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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday February 26 2008 - (813)

Tuesday February 26 2008 edition
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The Three Trillion Dollar War
2008-02-26 02:52:37
The cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have grown to staggering proportions.

The Bush Administration was wrong about the benefits of the war and it was wrong about the costs of the war. The president and his advisers expected a quick, inexpensive conflict. Instead, we have a war that is costing more than anyone could have imagined.

The cost of direct U.S. military operations - not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans - already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War.

And, even in the best case scenario, these costs are projected to be almost ten times the cost of the first Gulf War, almost a third more than the cost of the Vietnam War, and twice that of the First World War. The only war in our history which cost more was the Second World War, when 16.3 million U.S. troops fought in a campaign lasting four years, at a total cost (in 2007 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) of about $5 trillion. With virtually the entire armed forces committed to fighting the Germans and Japanese, the cost per troop (in today's dollars) was less than $100,000 in 2007 dollars. By contrast, the Iraq war is costing upward of $400,000 per troop.

Most Americans have yet to feel these costs. The price in blood has been paid by our voluntary military and by hired contractors. The price in treasure has, in a sense, been financed entirely by borrowing. Taxes have not been raised to pay for it - in fact, taxes on the rich have actually fallen. Deficit spending gives the illusion that the laws of economics can be repealed, that we can have both guns and butter. But of course the laws are not repealed. The costs of the war are real even if they have been deferred, possibly to another generation.

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EPA May Relax Farm Emission Reporting Rules
2008-02-26 02:51:15

Under pressure from agriculture industry lobbyists and lawmakers from agricultural states, the Environmental Protection Agency wants to drop requirements that factory farms report their emissions of toxic gases, despite findings by the agency's scientists that the gases pose a health threat.

The EPA acknowledges that the emissions can pose a threat to people living and working nearby, but it says local emergency responders don't use the reports, making them unnecessary. But local air-quality agencies, environmental groups and lawmakers who oppose the rule change say the reports are one of the few tools rural communities have for holding large livestock operations accountable for the pollution they produce.

Opponents of the rule change say agriculture lobbyists orchestrated a campaign to convince the EPA that the reports are not useful and misrepresented the effort as reflecting the views of local officials. They say the plan to drop the reporting requirement is emblematic of a broader effort by the Bush-era EPA to roll back federal pollution rules.

"One of the running themes we have seen is they have taken numerous industry-friendly actions that are shot down in the courts, but they buy time for industry" in appeals and reviews that could extend years into the next administration, said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a nonprofit environmental group based in Washington.

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Pfizer To End Lipitor Ads Featuring Jarvik
2008-02-26 02:50:19
Under criticism that its ads are misleading, Pfizer said Monday that it would cancel a long-running advertising campaign using the artificial heart pioneer Robert Jarvik as a spokesman for its cholesterol drug Lipitor.

Pfizer has spent more than $258 million advertising Lipitor since January 2006, most of it on the Jarvik campaign, as the company sought to protect Lipitor, the world’s best-selling drug, from competition by cheaper generics.

The campaign had come under scrutiny from a Congressional committee that is examining consumer drug advertising and has asked whether the ads misrepresented Dr. Jarvik and his credentials. Although he has a medical degree, Dr. Jarvik is not a cardiologist and is not licensed to practice medicine.

One television ad depicted Dr. Jarvik as an accomplished rower gliding across a mountain lake, but the ad used a body double for the doctor, who apparently does not row.

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Clinton Aides Claim Obama Photo Wasn't Intended As A Smear
2008-02-25 20:33:38

Barack Obama's campaign team Monday accused Hillary Clinton's beleaguered staff of mounting a desperate dirty tricks operation by circulating a picture of him in African dress, feeding into false claims on U.S. websites that he is a Muslim.

Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, described it as "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election". Obama has had to spend much of the campaign stressing he is a Christian not a Muslim and did not study at a madrassa.

Aides for Mrs. Clinton, who is fighting a last-ditch battle to keep her hopes of the White House alive, initially tried to brush off the furore, but later denied having anything to do with the distribution of the picture. "I just want to make it very clear that we were not aware of it, the campaign didn't sanction it and don't know anything about it," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson told reporters. "None of us have seen the email in question."

Obama and Clinton go to the polls in the Texas and Ohio primaries next week. If Clinton loses either, her bid for the Democratic nomination could be over.

The picture showing Obama in a turban during a visit to Kenya in 2006 first appeared on the Drudge Report website Monday.

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Cuba Ushers In Era Of Raul Castro
2008-02-25 20:32:48

Cuba's national assembly unanimously named Raul Castro as head of state last night, formally ending almost half a century of Fidel Castro's rule.

The 76-year-old defense minister took power in a choreographed ceremony of party unity which cast his brother in the role of revered, but no longer omnipotent, oracle of the revolution.

As the constitutionally-designated successor, Raul's appointment was expected but the elevation of an ideological hardliner as his deputy was a surprise. Jose Ramon Machado, a 77-year-old veteran of Fidel's Sierra Maestra guerrilla campaign, was promoted ahead of young potential reformers.

In his first speech as leader Raul, in a suit and tie instead of his usual fatigues, promised to consult Fidel on important decisions of state. "The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution is unique. Fidel is Fidel, as we all know well, he is irreplaceable," he said.

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Turks Fighting In Northern Iraq For Fifth Straight Day
2008-02-25 20:30:03
Iraq's national security adviser expresses concern.

Turkish troops this morning continued to fire on northern Iraq as clashes with militants from the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) entered a fifth day.

Marking the seriousness of the current Turkish campaign, the state-run Anatolian news agency reported that President Abdullah Gul had postponed a planned trip to Africa due to start tomorrow. This morning Gul paid an unexpected visit to the headquarters of the military general staff in Ankara where he received a briefing on the campaign.

Though this morning's fresh artillery fire did not seem to have inflicted any casualties, Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, voiced fears this afternoon that a prolonged Turkish incursion into northern Iraq could trigger clashes between Turkish troops and Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces. Al-Rubaie said it could have "very serious consequences" for a part of Iraq that has been relatively stable compared with the rest of the country.

Last night the Turkish army said it had sent another 25 tanks across the border to help the hunt for PKK fighters, whom Turkey accuses of launching attacks on its forces from bases in the sparsely populated mountains along the Turkish-Iraqi border.

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Clinton's Lead Over Obama In Ohio Is Shrinking
2008-02-25 16:05:38
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to lead her opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, in the must-win Democratic presidential primary in Ohio, but the lead has significantly narrowed, according to a poll released this morning by Quinnipiac University.

Clinton is backed by 51% of those surveyed, compared with Obama's 40%. That is down from a Feb. 14 Quinnipiac survey that showed her ahead by 21 points.

"Sen. Clinton's lead remains substantial, but the trend line should be worrisome for her in a state that even her husband, former President Bill Clinton, has said she must win," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Brown attributed Obama's growing support to national momentum, fueled by 11 straight wins in February.

"If she is to stop his momentum in Ohio, she must retain her margins among her core backers - women, older voters and those lower on the social-economic and education scale," Brown said in a statement on the website of the Connecticut university.
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FCC To Act On Delaying Of Broadband Traffic
2008-02-25 16:05:14
The head of the Federal Communications Commission and other senior officials said on Monday that they were considering taking steps to discourage cable and telephone companies from discriminating against content providers as the broadband companies go about managing heavy Internet traffic that they say is clogging their networks.

The agency is considering new rules and enforcement decisions that would force the cable and telephone companies to more clearly disclose to consumers the circumstances in which they might delay some traffic. Comcast recently disclosed that the heavy use of video sharing applications has forced them to slow down some broadband traffic. Consumer groups have replied that such packet discrimination is both unnecessary and potentially threatens to undermine the freewheeling nature of the Internet.

“They must be conducted in an open and transparent way,” said Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, at a hearing on network neutrality and network management here Monday. “While networks may have reasonable practices, they obviously cannot operate without taking some reasonable steps but that does not mean they can arbitrarily block access to certain services.”

Michael J. Copps, a Democratic commissioner, said that until recently, the cable companies had been decided “in a black box that the American public could not peek into.” He expressed alarm that any cable companies might be degrading or slowing down network traffic.

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Suicide Bomb Kills Pakistani General
2008-02-25 16:04:38
A top Pakistani general was killed Monday when a suicide attacker approached his car at a traffic light in Rawalpindi and blew himself up, said military officials.

In a separate development, three Pakistani workers were killed when a bomb exploded at the office of Plan International, a British aid agency, in Mansehra in the North-West Frontier Province, according to Pakistani officials.

In addition to killing the general, Lt. Gen. Mushtaq Ahmad Baig, the surgeon general of the Pakistani Army, the attack on his staff car claimed the lives of eight other people, including the attacker and five civilians.

The attack took place at 2:45 p.m. in a crowded commercial neighborhood in Rawalpindi, the garrison town just outside the capital, Islamabad. The blast, which could be heard from several miles away, tore through a busy road and damaged at least four vehicles. The general’s car was badly mangled.

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Did Ex-Alabama Governor Get A Raw Deal?
2008-02-26 02:52:15
Intellpuke: There are three related items here. The following transcript is from the "60 Minutes" program that aired on CBS on Sunday, February 24, 2008. Below the "60 Minutes" transcript, there are two more articles relating to Siegelman's case.

60 Minutes reports on bribery conviction of Don Siegelman in a case criticized by Democrats and Republicans.

Is Don Siegelman in prison because he's a criminal or because he belonged to the wrong political party in Alabama? Siegelman is the former governor of Alabama, and he was the most successful Democrat in that Republican state. But while he was governor, the U.S. Justice Department launched multiple investigations that went on year after year until, finally, a jury convicted Siegelman of bribery.

Now, many Democrats and Republicans have become suspicious of the Justice Department's motivations. As correspondent Scott Pelley reports, 52 former state attorneys-general have asked Congress to investigate whether the prosecution of Siegelman was pursued not because of a crime but because of politics.

Ten years ago life was good for Don Siegelman. After he became governor, many believed he was headed to a career in national politics. In 1999, Siegelman's pet project was raising money to improve education, so he started a campaign to ask voters to approve a state lottery. He challenged Republicans to come up with a better idea.

"You tell us how you're going to pay for college scholarships. You tell us how you're going to put state of the art computers inside every school in this state," he said.

But now the applause has long faded. Today, Siegelman is at a federal prison camp in Louisiana. He's doing seven years. The main charge against him was that he took a bribe, giving a position on a state board to businessman Richard Scrushy, who had made a big donation to that lottery campaign. There was a star witness, Nick Bailey, a Siegelman aide who had a vivid story to tell.

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FCC Head Eyes World Wide Web Controls
2008-02-26 02:50:57

The chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission Monday sharply questioned Internet service providers who control consumers' Web access over their networks, and suggested the agency could intervene against the practice.

Kevin J. Martin made his remarks at an unusual off-site hearing to address complaints that cable provider Comcast  restricts the flow of content - such as video and music clips - through file-sharing service BitTorrent. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts),chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet and a proponent of so-called net neutrality rules barring online traffic controls, offered opening remarks. "While carriers will assert the need to manage networks in their current state of evolution, we need to remember that Internet freedoms are most properly thought of as consumer-centric," he said.

The hearing, held at Harvard University, pit Comcast and DSL provider Verizon against legal scholars and public interest advocates who have pushed for open-Internet rules.

The issue is among the most hotly debated in technology. Comcast and other service-providers say they must be able to control the flow of information over their networks in order to ensure quality service and to protect their multi-billion dollar investments. Proponents of openness rules said Comcast's admission that it controls its own network unfairly restricts what users can do online.

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As Global Prices Soar, U.N. Warns Of New Face Of Hunger
2008-02-25 20:33:54

The United Nations warned Monday that it no longer has enough money to keep global malnutrition at bay this year in the face of a dramatic upward surge in world commodity prices, which have created a "new face of hunger".

"We will have a problem in coming months," said Josette Sheeran, the head of the U.N.'s World Food Program (WFP). "We will have a significant gap if commodity prices remain this high, and we will need an extra half billion dollars just to meet existing assessed needs."

With voluntary contributions from the world's wealthy nations, the WFP feeds 73 million people in 78 countries, less than a 10th of the total number of the world's undernourished. Its agreed budget for 2008 was $2.9 billion (£1.5 billion). But with annual food price increases around the world of up to 40% and dramatic hikes in fuel costs, that budget is no longer enough even to maintain current food deliveries.

The shortfall is all the more worrying as it comes at a time when populations, many in urban areas, who had thought themselves secure in their food supply are now unable to afford basic foodstuffs. Afghanistan has recently added an extra 2.5 million people to the number it says are at risk of malnutrition

"This is the new face of hunger," said Sheeran. "There is food on shelves but people are priced out of the market. There is vulnerability in urban areas we have not seen before. There are food riots in countries where we have not seen them before."

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Psychiatrist: Guantanamo Guards Suffer Psychological Trauma
2008-02-25 20:33:19

The guards at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp are the "overlooked victims" of America's controversial detention facility in Cuba, according to a psychiatrist who has treated some of them.

In some cases, a tour of duty at the camp has made guards suicidal and prompted a variety of psychiatric symptoms, from depression and insomnia to flashbacks. The guards' testimony also provides a harrowing insight into the treatment of prisoners.

Professor John Smith, a retired U.S. Air Force captain, treated a patient who was a guard at the camp. "I think the guards of Guantanamo are an overlooked group of victims," Smith told the American Academy of Forensic Sciences annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. "They do not complain a lot. You do not hear about them."

The patient ("Mr. H.") is a national guardsman in his early 40s who was sent to Guantanamo in the first months of its operation, when prisoners captured in Afghanistan were beginning to flood into the camp. Mr. H. reported that he found conditions at the camp extremely disturbing. For example, in the first month two detainees and two prison guards committed suicide.

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Lawyers Resign En Masse From Britain's Police Complaints Commission
2008-02-25 20:32:31

Britain's Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) faces a crisis of confidence after a network of more than a hundred lawyers who specialize in handling police complaints resigned from its advisory body.

In a letter to Nick Hardwick, the IPCC's chairman, the lawyers' leaders expressed "increasing dismay and disillusionment" at what they described as "the consistently poor quality of decision-making at all levels of the IPCC". They said the IPCC's response to their earlier attempts to deal with problems had been "pitifully poor".

The resignation is a blow to the commission's morale and reputation especially as it was welcomed by criminal lawyers when it was set up in April 2004. After 40 years of slow progress, the organization was seen as providing a robust and independent system for dealing with complaints against police officers.

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Global Warming To Have Profound Impact On Agriculture
2008-02-25 20:29:41

Climate change will have a profound impact on agriculture in the coming decades, either directly or indirectly.

An increase in extreme weather will lead to poor harvests - a trend that has already started - and demand for biofuel will take land away from food production. Other factors such as urbanization and increased demand for meat and dairy products in developing countries will also increase demands for food.

"The pressures on the land and on agriculture are now much higher than we have ever seen," said Dr. Les Firbank at the publicly funded Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research at North Wyke, Devon, England. He led the British government's independent scientific assessment of the impact of GM (genetically modified) crops on the environment, the so-called farm-scale evaluations, which ended in 2005.

He said people are also aware of the other services provided by agricultural land such as flood protection and clean water. "It's not like the time at the end of the second world war where we wanted to ramp up food production at any cost. We are trying to ramp up production, ramp up environmental quality. We are also trying to ramp up the social benefits of the land," said Firbank.

Proponents of GM food argue that the technology could create a "green revolution" that would help farmers grow food more productively and in places that have not been cultivated before, such as regions prone to drought.

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U.S. Existing Home Sales Hit 9-Year Low
2008-02-25 16:05:24
Sales of existing homes fell to the lowest level in nearly a decade in January while the median price for a home dropped for the fifth straight month.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that sales of single-family homes and condominiums dropped by 0.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.89 million units, the slowest sales pace on records going back to 1999.

The median price of a home sold in January slid to $201,100, a drop of 4.6 percent from a year ago.

The drop in sales and the fifth consecutive decline in prices underscored the continued pressure facing housing, which is struggling to emerge from its worst slump in a quarter-century.

Sales were weak in all parts of the country except the Midwest, where sales posted an increase of 3.4 percent. Sales dropped by 3.6 percent in the Northeast, 2.1 percent in the West and 0.5 percent in the South.

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Survey: Many Americans Switch Faith
2008-02-25 16:04:54

Forty-four percent of Americans have either switched their religious affiliation since childhood or dropped out of any formal religious group, according to the largest recent survey on American religious identification.

The survey, released Monday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, found that Americans' faith identity fluctuates during their lives, with vast numbers moving away from the faith tradition of their childhood to embrace other religious traditions - or no faith at all. The survey interviewed 35,000 people.

Among other findings, the survey indicated that members of Protestant denominations now make up only a slight majority - 51.3 percent - of the adult population.

The 44 percent figure includes people who switch affiliations within one of the major faith traditions, such as a Protestant who goes from Baptist to Methodist. Counting only people who switch traditions altogether - say, from Catholic to Orthodox, or Protestant to Muslim - the number drops to 28 percent.

"Constant movement characterizes the American religious marketplace, as every major religious group is simultaneously gaining and losing adherents," said the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.

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Thousands Of Gazans Protest At Border Fence
2008-02-25 16:04:22
Several thousand Palestinians, many of them schoolchildren bused in from their classes, joined peaceful protests in the Gaza Strip along sections of the border with Israel for a couple of hours on Monday, forming human chains in some locations as part of a public campaign against the Israeli blockade.

The turnout, estimated overall at about 5,000, was far smaller than had been expected, and fears in Israel that masses of Gaza residents might try to break through the border fence, as they breached the border with Egypt last month, proved unfounded. Most protesters kept a safe distance from the fence.

The demonstrators dispersed around noon, and shortly after, militants in Gaza fired a number of rockets at Israel. One landed outside an apartment block in the Israeli border town of Sderot. A boy, Yossi Yadlin Haimov, 10, was badly wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel and underwent surgery at a hospital in nearby Ashkelon. A woman and a baby were lightly wounded and arrived at the hospital for treatment.

In northern Gaza, some of the protesters started marching toward the Erez crossing, but they were stopped by a line of armed Hamas policemen. The police officers blocked the road about half a mile south of the crossing, seeking to prevent a confrontation with Israel.

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