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Monday, March 10, 2008

[Disarmed] Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday March 10 2008 - (813)

Monday March 10 2008 edition
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E.U. Told That Global Warming May Spark Conflict With Russia
2008-03-10 03:55:20

European governments were told to plan for an era of conflict over energy resources, with global warming likely to trigger a dangerous contest between Russia and the west for the vast mineral riches of the Arctic.

A report from the European Union's (E.U.'s) top two foreign policy officials to the 27 heads of government gathering in Brussels, Belgium, for a summit this week warns that "significant potential conflicts" are likely in the decades ahead as a result of "intensified competition over access to, and control over, energy resources".

The seven-page report, obtained by the Guardian, was written by Javier Solana, the E.U.'s foreign policy chief, and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the commissioner for external relations. It predicts that global warming will precipitate security issues for Europe, ranging from energy wars to mass migration, failed states and political radicalization.

The report warns of greater rich-poor and north-south tension because global warming is disproportionately caused by the wealthy north and west while its impact will be most catastrophic in the poor south.

The officials single out the impact of the thawing Arctic and its emergence as a potential flashpoint of rival claims, pointing to the Kremlin's grab for the Arctic last year when President Vladimir Putin hailed as heroes a team of scientists who planted a Russian flag on the Arctic seabed.

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New Studies: Carbon Output Must Stay Near Zero To Avert Danger
2008-03-10 03:54:49

The task of cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough to avert a dangerous rise in global temperatures may be far more difficult than previous research suggested, say scientists who have just published studies indicating that it would require the world to cease carbon emissions altogether within a matter of decades.

Their findings, published in separate journals over the past few weeks, suggest that both industrialized and developing nations must wean themselves off fossil fuels by as early as mid-century in order to prevent warming that could change precipitation patterns and dry up sources of water worldwide.

Using advanced computer models to factor in deep-sea warming and other aspects of the carbon cycle that naturally creates and removes carbon dioxide (CO2), the scientists, from countries including the United States, Canada and Germany, are delivering a simple message: The world must bring carbon emissions down to near zero to keep temperatures from rising further.

"The question is, what if we don't want the Earth to warm anymore?" asked Carnegie Institution senior scientist Ken Caldeira, co-author of a paper published last week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. "The answer implies a much more radical change to our energy system than people are thinking about."

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Southern Baptists Back A Shift On Global Warming
2008-03-10 03:53:52

Signaling a significant departure from the Southern Baptist Convention's official stance on global warming, 44 Southern Baptist leaders have decided to back a declaration calling for more action on climate change, saying its previous position on the issue was “too timid.”

The largest denomination in the United States after the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, with more than 16 million members, is politically and theologically conservative.

Yet its current president, the Rev. Frank Page, signed the initiative, “A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change.” Two past presidents of the convention, the Rev. Jack Graham and the Rev. James Merritt, also signed.

“We believe our current denominational engagement with these issues has often been too timid, failing to produce a unified moral voice,” the church leaders wrote in their new declaration.

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Editorial: Prison Nation
2008-03-10 03:52:52
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Monday, March 10, 2008.

After three decades of explosive growth, the nation’s prison population has reached some grim milestones: More than 1 in 100 American adults are behind bars. One in nine black men, ages 20 to 34, are serving time, as are 1 in 36 adult Hispanic men.

Nationwide, the prison population hovers at almost 1.6 million, which surpasses all other countries for which there are reliable figures. The 50 states last year spent about $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections, up from nearly $11 billion in 1987. Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan and Oregon devote as much money or more to corrections as they do to higher education.

These statistics, contained in a new report from the Pew Center on the States, point to a terrible waste of money and lives. They underscore the urgent challenge facing the federal government and cash-strapped states to reduce their over-reliance on incarceration without sacrificing public safety. The key, as some states are learning, is getting smarter about distinguishing between violent criminals and dangerous repeat offenders, who need a prison cell, and low-risk offenders, who can be handled with effective community supervision, electronic monitoring and mandatory drug treatment programs, combined in some cases with shorter sentences.

Persuading public officials to adopt a more rational, cost-effective approach to prison policy is a daunting prospect, however, not least because building and running jailhouses has become a major industry.

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U.K. Parliament Members Demand Inquiry On U.S. Torture Flights
2008-03-10 03:52:13
Members of the British Parliament and human rights groups Sunday demanded an independent inquiry into the use of U.K. territory by CIA "torture flights" as fresh questions emerged over the government's handling of the issue.

British government ministers are coming under growing pressure as officials made it clear they still could not be certain of the extent to which U.S. aircraft made use of British facilities when taking alleged terrorists to prisons where they were likely to be subjected to inhumane treatment.

Last month, David Miliband, the foreign secretary, apologized to Parliament members, admitting that contrary to "earlier explicit assurances" two flights had landed at Diego Garcia, the British Indian Ocean territory where the U.S.  has a large airbase. He said the flights had refueled there, and each had had a single detainee on board who did not leave the aircraft.

British and U.S. officials have refused to give details about the two detainees other than that one is in Guantanamo Bay and the other has been released. Miliband said he had asked his officials for a list of all flights on which rendition had been alleged.

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In Municipal Elections French Voters Deal Setback To Sarkozy
2008-03-10 03:50:57
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling party appeared to suffer major losses in municipal elections across the country Sunday in what some voters and public surveys described as a rebuke of his personal escapades and uneven economic programs.

Voting returns and exit polls indicated that Socialist candidates could unseat members of Sarkozy's ruling Union for a Popular Movement in key towns in runoff elections next Sunday and were easily maintaining their power bases in Paris and Lyon, the country's third-largest city.

Nine months after his inauguration, Sarkozy has become such a liability to his party that most of its candidates shunned his support and some stripped the governing party's labels from their Internet sites and campaign literature.

Socialist leader Francois Hollande said voters sent "a warning to the president of the republic and the government on the policies conducted over the past nine months."

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Water Makes U.S. Troops In Iraq Sick
2008-03-09 15:39:43
Dozens of U.S. troops in Iraq fell sick at bases using "unmonitored and potentially unsafe" water supplied by the military and a contractor once owned by Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, the Pentagon's internal watchdog says.

A report obtained by the Associated Press said soldiers experienced skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections, diarrhea and other illnesses after using discolored, smelly water for personal hygiene and laundry at five U.S. military sites in Iraq.

The Defense Department's inspector general's report, which could be released as early as Monday, found water quality problems between March 2004 and February 2006 at three sites run by contractor KBR Inc., and between January 2004 and December 2006 at two military-operated locations.

It was impossible to link the dirty water definitively to all the illnesses, according to the report, but it said KBR's water quality "was not maintained in accordance with field water sanitary standards" and the military-run sites "were not performing all required quality control tests."

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Pakistan's Political Rivals Join Forces To Fight Musharraf
2008-03-09 15:39:17
The leaders of the two major political parties, in an unexpectedly strong show of unity against President Pervez Musharraf, agreed Sunday that they would reinstate judges fired by the president and would seek to strip him of crucial powers.

The power sharing deal, announced by Asif Ali Zardari, the leader of the largest party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, and Nawaz Sharif, the head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, represented another tough challenge to the already waning authority of Musharraf, a favorite ally of the Bush administration.

The two men, appearing at a news conference together in the resort area of Bhurban, said they would seek to remove the president’s power to dissolve the Pakistani Parliament and his power to appoint the chiefs of the military services. Together, the two parties control just shy of two-thirds of the Parliament after an election last month in which  Musharraf’s party was routed.

The agreement settled key differences that had clouded the post-election atmosphere.

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Ex-Pentagon Official Blames Colleagues On Iraq War
2008-03-09 03:56:09

In the first insider account of Pentagon decision-making on Iraq, one of the key architects of the war blasts former secretary of state Colin Powell, the CIA retired Gen. Tommy R. Franks and former Iraq occupation chief L. Paul Bremer for mishandling the run-up to the invasion and the subsequent occupation of the country.

Douglas J. Feith, in a massive score-settling work, portrays an intelligence community and a State Department that repeatedly undermined plans he developed as undersecretary of defense for policy and conspired to undercut President Bush'spolicies.

Among the disclosures made by Feith in "War and Decision," scheduled for release next month by Harper Collins, is Bush's declaration, at a Dec. 18, 2002, National Security Council meeting, that "war is inevitable". The statement came weeks before United Nations weapons inspectors reported their initial findings on Iraq and months before Bush delivered an ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.Feith, who says he took notes at the meeting, registered it as a "momentous comment."

Although he acknowledges "serious errors" in intelligence, policy and operational plans surrounding the invasion, Feith blames them on others outside the Pentagon and notes that "even the best planning" cannot avoid all problems in wartime. While he says the decision to invade was correct, he judges that the task of creating a viable and stable Iraqi government was poorly executed and remains "grimly incomplete."

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Northern Europe Experiences Record Warm Winter
2008-03-09 03:55:23

This has been the warmest-ever winter in parts of Scandinavia, where dog sled owners have faced snow shortages, ski races have been cancelled and Baltic Sea ice is at an all-time low. Germany has also seen an unusually mild winter.

Dogsled operators in Tromso Villmarkssenter are once again showing a certain optimism. "At the moment, we're able to offer our dogsled tours on a regular basis," says a sled dog handler named Agneta.

That hasn't always been the case this winter. From mid-December to mid-January, there was so little snow in northern Norway that the sleds had to be kept in their sheds. Instead of dog sledding, tourists could go on hikes in the coastal mountains with the temporarily unemployed huskies.

"Now we hope that at least the snow will stay on the ground for a while," says Agneta. Even now, there still isn't that much snow. But at least the locals in Tromso can take comfort in the fact that it is reasonably cold for the moment.

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Update: Human Rights Lawyer Released By China's Police
2008-03-09 03:53:52
A prominent Chinese human rights lawyer was released Saturday after two days of secret police detention.

Teng Biao, 34, said police questioned him about articles calling for an independent and fair legal system that he has written for his blog and overseas Chinese Web sites. China's Communist Party controls the judiciary, which routinely imprisons dissidents after convicting them in secret trials.

"I was released around 1:40 this afternoon, and they put me down at a place near my home," Teng said in a telephone interview. "The police were from the Beijing Public Security Bureau, but they don't allow me to tell any more details."

Teng has defended dissidents and been an outspoken critic of human rights abuses in China, especially as international scrutiny has increased ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games, which open here Aug. 8.

Witnesses said Teng was forced into a black Jetta without license plates after he had driven home Thursday evening, according to his wife, who reported him missing that night.

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Commentary: Can Obama Attack A Woman Without Looking Like A Bully?
2008-03-10 03:55:04
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Guardian American editor Michael Tomasky, writing from Washington, D.C., and appears in the Guardian edition for Monday, March 10, 2008. In his commentary, Mr. Tomasky writes: "Hillary can fight dirty - that's part of being a Clinton. But her rival has to find the line between toughness and misogyny."

Even after the turbulence he encountered last week, Barack Obama still seems the probable Democratic nominee for one simple reason. By June 8, all 54 primaries and caucuses will be completed. (Why 54? In typical American fashion, we do things to excess, so not only are all 50 states represented, but the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and "Democrats Abroad".) And on that morning, Obama will, unless something really weird happens, be ahead of Hillary Clinton in the count of pledged delegates. It's difficult to imagine the so-called superdelegates going against the guy in the lead - "overturning the will of the voters", in the fashionable parlance.

Difficult to imagine, but hardly impossible. Obama may win the mathematics argument, but the Clinton campaign is counting on persuading uncommitted superdelegates - the 300 or so elected officials and party insiders who have a vote but haven't made up their minds yet - that Obama is unfit both to go up against John McCain this November and to govern the country. Her only hope is to make the superdelegates, many of whom will be on the ballot themselves in November, queasy enough about Obama that they'll damn the numbers.

Hence Clinton's recent attacks. Some have been fair, some have crossed the line. But they have been relentless since her campaign announced its "kitchen sink" strategy in advance of the Ohio and Texas voting, and will presumably continue to be so. How Obama responds - how forcefully he decides to return fire, and by what means - will be the main factor in determining whether he's the nominee. Here's why: to be elected president, one has to prove somewhere along the campaign trail that one is tough enough to be president, and the handiest way to show that is to fight off the opponent's punches and land a few of one's own.

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To Target Ads, Web Is Keeping A Closer Eye On You
2008-03-10 03:54:29

A famous New Yorker cartoon from 1993 showed two dogs at a computer, with one saying to the other, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

That may no longer be true.

A new analysis of online consumer data shows that large Web companies are learning more about people than ever from what they search for and do on the Internet, gathering clues about the tastes and preferences of a typical user several hundred times a month.

These companies use that information to predict what content and advertisements people most likely want to see. They can charge steep prices for carefully tailored ads because of their high response rates.

The analysis, conducted for the New York Times by the research firm comScore, provides what advertising executives say is the first broad estimate of the amount of consumer data that is transmitted to Internet companies.

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U.S. Senate Verdict Is Mixed On Bush's Pre-Iraq War Claims
2008-03-10 03:53:12
"Nobody is going to be happy" with the long-delayed report's mixed verdict on whether the Bush administration misused intelligence to argue for war with Iraq, an official says.

After an acrimonious investigation that spanned four years, the Senate Intelligence Committee is preparing to release a detailed critique of the Bush administration's claims in the buildup to war with Iraq, said congressional officials.

The long-delayed document catalogs dozens of prewar assertions by President Bush and other administration officials that proved to be wildly inaccurate about Iraq's alleged stockpiles of banned weapons and pursuit of nuclear arms.

Officials say the report reaches a mixed verdict on the key question of whether the White House misused intelligence to make the case for war.
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Flawless Launch For Europe's Automated Space Freighter
2008-03-10 03:52:36
20-ton vehicle is expected to take over of NASA's shuttle for ferrying supplies to the International Space Station.

A space freighter loaded with crucial supplies and an ageing copy of a Jules Verne novel thundered into orbit in the early hours of Sunday on its maiden voyage to the International Space Station (ISS).

Officials celebrated what they described as a flawless launch of the 20-ton Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) as it lit up the night sky before clearing the thick cloud cover that hung over the European Space Agency's damp, forest-bordered spaceport near Kourou in French Guiana at 4:03 GMT.

Unusually, the take-off had to be timed to the second, to ensure the ATV would be released into an orbit that exactly matches that of the space station. Seconds after launch, the rocket turned northeast on to a trajectory that took it over the southern tip of Britain and onwards towards the Pacific.

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U.K.'s Defense Ministry Plans To Use Landmine Removal Fund To Keep Jets Flying In Iraq
2008-03-10 03:51:34

Money set aside in Britain's Ministry of Defense budget to clear landmines and remove arms from conflict zones is to be raided to pay a private defense contractor to keep Tornado jets flying in Iraq, according to a confidential memo seen by the Guardian newspaper. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) plans to pay BAE Systems from the multimillion-pound Conflict Prevention Fund - which covers projects such as destroying weapons in Bosnia and landmines in Mozambique - to subsidize the $10 million - $20 million (£5 million - £10 million) cost of servicing each of the six planes.

The move follows a cost-cutting plan which has backfired for the MoD because of increased military action in Iraq.

The memo acknowledges that the emergency measure is needed because the MoD has closed its own state-of-the-art facility for servicing Tornado jets as a way of saving £500 million ($1 billion) over 10 years. A scaled-back facility is still not fully equipped for the job. Memos sent to ministers reveal that the ministry has decided to make the request to BAE Systems because the alternative facility, at RAF Marham in Norfolk, has "insufficient capacity".

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Investigation Finds Drugs In U.S. Water
2008-03-09 15:41:37
A vast array of pharmaceuticals - including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones - have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

Yet the presence of so many prescription drugs - and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen - in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the A.P. discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas - from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville, Kentucky.
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Israel Approves West Bank Construction
2008-03-09 15:39:27
Israel announced plans to build hundreds of homes in the West Bank and disputed east Jerusalem, drawing Palestinian condemnation just days before a visit by a U.S. general to monitor the troubled peace process.

Housing Minister Zeev Boim said the new housing would include 350 apartments in Givat Zeev, a West Bank settlement just outside of Jerusalem, and 750 homes in the Pisgat Zeev neighborhood of east Jerusalem.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Boim said the Givat Zeev construction initially began some eight years ago, but was suspended because of fighting with the Palestinians.

"When violence subsided, demand grew again and contractors renewed their permits to build there," he said. The Pisgat Zeev construction, he added, "is inside Jerusalem's city borders."

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Democrat Wins Hastert's Seat In Illinois
2008-03-09 03:56:28
A longtime Republican district fell to the Democrats Saturday when a wealthy businessman and scientist snatched former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert's congressional seat in a closely watched special election.

Democrat Bill Foster won 53 percent of the vote compared to 47 percent for Republican Jim Oberweis. With all 568 precincts reporting, Foster had 52,010 votes to Oberweis' 46,988.

"Tonight our voices are echoing across the country and Washington will hear us loud and clear, it's time for a change," Foster told cheering supporters Saturday evening.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen said Foster's win is a rebuke of the Bush administration and of the Republican's apparent presidential nominee, John McCain, who helped raise money for Oberweis.

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New Research Confirms Antarctic Thaw Fears
2008-03-09 03:55:43

New research confirms that ice sheets in West Antarctica are thinning at a far faster rate than in past millennia. Although scientists are divided as to the cause of the melt, many feel it is directly related to global warming.

The boom must have been deafening last fall as the gigantic chunk of ice finally broke off from the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica. For almost a year, the creaks and groans from the river of ice had presaged the birth of a new, expansive iceberg. And finally it was there - 34 kilometers long by 20 kilometers wide, an area almost as great as that of New York City.

As dramatic as the iceberg birth was, it has become a common spectacle in recent years. The gigantic ice shelf that extends into the ocean off of West Antarctica is crumbling - and the glaciers on the continent behind the ice shelf are flowing with increasing speed toward the sea. Concern among scientists is increasing just as quickly. Should the melt-rate continue, or accelerate, many experts fear that the resulting rise in the ocean level could be catastrophic.

Just what is behind the meltdown, however, is not entirely clear. Whereas it is not difficult to pinpoint global warming caused by human activity for increasing temperatures in the Arctic, the southern end of the planet is more difficult. The western side of the continent is thawing out wherever one looks, but on the eastern side, not much is happening.

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More Nevada Surgery Clinics To Be Cited
2008-03-09 03:54:55
A statewide inspection of outpatient surgery centers like the one believed to have spread hepatitis C to its patients has uncovered dangerous practices at four other clinics, a health official said Friday.

The state swore to quickly inspect all 50 Nevada outpatient surgery centers after it was discovered the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada spread the blood-borne virus to at least six patients by reusing syringes and sharing vials of medication.

Of the 18 clinics inspected by Friday, three in northern Nevada and one in Las Vegas will be cited and fined for improper disease prevention techniques, said state health division chief Mike Willden.

Willden said there was no evidence that the clinics were responsible for any outbreaks of disease.

The Gastrointestinal Diagnostic Center in Las Vegas will be cited for repeatedly reusing syringes, he said. Willden could not say whether the center also reused medication vials. Clark County pulled the center's business license, shutting it down shortly after the announcement.

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Serbia In Crisis As Prime Minister Quits Over Kosovo Independence
2008-03-09 03:50:57

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica dramatically resigned Saturday, saying his government had collapsed over the issue of Kosovo's declaration of independence last month. Plunging the country into a new political crisis, he said he would call national elections for May 11.

Kostunica had previously conceded that his government was in "deep crisis", accusing his coalition partners of giving up on defending Serbia's claim to Kosovo in favor of better ties with the West, which backs Kosovo's secession.

Serbia - with the strong support of Russia - has said it would never accept Kosovo's independence.

Kostunica had wanted his coalition allies to reject closer ties with the European Union, many of whose members have recognized Kosovo. Serbia's President, Boris Tadic, opposed him, arguing Serbia can protect its claims to Kosovo only by joining the E.U.

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