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Friday, March 21, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday March 21 2008 - (813)

Friday March 21 2008 edition
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Economic Slump Moves From Wall Street To Main Street
2008-03-21 03:55:56

In Seattle, Washington, sales at a long-established hardware store, Pacific Supply, are suddenly dipping. In Oklahoma City, couples planning their weddings are demonstrating uncustomary thrift, forgoing Dungeness crab and special linens. And in many cities, the registers at department stores like Nordstrom on the higher end and J.C. Penney in the middle are ringing less often.

With Wall Street caught in a credit crisis that has captured headlines, the forces assailing the economy are now spreading beyond areas hit hardest by the boom-turned-bust in real estate like California, Florida and Nevada. Now, the downturn is seeping into new parts of the country, to communities that seemed insulated only months ago.

The broadening of the slowdown, the plunge in home prices and near-paralysis in the financial system are fueling worries that what most economists now see as an inevitable recession could end up being especially painful.

Indeed, some economists fear it will last longer and inflict more bite on workers and businesses than the last two recessions, which gripped the economy in 2001 and for eight months straddling 1990 and 1991. This time, these experts say, a recession in which economic activity falls over a sustained period and joblessness rises across the board could even persist into next year.

“It’s not hard to construct very dark scenarios, primarily because the financial system is in disarray, and it’s not clear how to get it all back together again,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's 

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Despite Intelligence Estimate, Bush Insists Iran Is A Nuclear Threat
2008-03-21 03:55:33
President Bush said Thursday that Iran has declared that it wants to be a nuclear power with a weapon to "destroy people," including others in the Middle East,contradicting the judgments of a recent U.S. intelligence estimate.

The president spoke in an interview intended to reach out to the Iranian public on the Persian new year and to express "moral support" for struggling freedom movements, particularly among youth and women. It was designed to stress U.S. support for Iran's quest for nuclear energy and the prospects that Washington and Tehran can "reconcile their differences" if Iran cooperates with the international community to ensure that the effort is not converted into a weapons program.

Most striking was Bush's accusation that Iran has openly declared its nuclear weapons intentions, even though a National Intelligence Estimate concluded in December that Iran had stopped its weapons program in 2003, a major reversal in the long-standing U.S. assessment.

"They've declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people - some in the Middle East. And that's unacceptable to the United States, and it's unacceptable to the world," Bush told U.S.-funded Radio Farda, which broadcasts into Iran in Farsi.

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Failure Of Vaccine A Setback In AIDS Fight
2008-03-21 03:54:58

The two-decade search for an AIDS vaccine is in crisis after two field tests of the most promising contender not only did not protect people from the virus but may actually have put them at increased risk of becoming infected.

The results of the trials, which enrolled volunteers on four continents, have spurred intense scientific inquiry and unprecedented soul-searching as researchers try to make sense of what happened and assess whether they should have seen it coming.

Both field tests were halted last September, and seven other trials of similarly designed AIDS vaccines have either been stopped or put off indefinitely. Some may be modified and others canceled outright.

Numerous experts are questioning both the scientific premises and the overall strategy of the nearly $500 million in AIDS vaccine research funded annually by the U.S. government.

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2 U.S. State Dept. Employees Fired For Viewing Obama Passport File
2008-03-21 03:54:25

Two State Department employees were fired and a third has been disciplined for improperly accessing Sen. Barack Obama's passport file, the State Department announced Thursday night.

Senior department officials said they learned of the incidents only when a reporter made an inquiry Thursday afternoon. They said an initial investigation indicated that the employees - all of whom worked on contract - were motivated by "imprudent curiosity."

Bill Burton, spokesman for Obama's presidential campaign, called the incidents "an outrageous breach of security and privacy." He said this is "a serious matter that merits a complete investigation," adding that the campaign will "demand to know who looked at Senator Obama's passport file, for what purpose, and why it took so long for them to reveal this security breach."

Undersecretary of State Patrick F. Kennedy, in a hastily arranged conference call with reporters, said he asked the State Department inspector general to open an inquiry into the matter and acknowledged that it might need to be expanded.

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Western China Rattled By 7.2 Earthquake, Three Other Quakes
2008-03-21 03:53:13
A total of four earthquakes - the strongest of them a powerful 7.2 magnitude quake - hit western China on Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

The Chinese Seismological Network also reported the quakes - estimating the initial quake at 7.3 on the Richter scale and reporting a fifth tremor about two hours afterward. The network uses the Richter scale to measure quake intensity rather than magnitude.

There were no immediate reports of damage or fatalities, said a spokeswoman for the seismological network. She said the quake happened in Yutian County, a remote region in the Kunlun Mountains far from any residential areas.

The quakes hit the border area of western China's Xinjiang and Xizang regions starting at about 6:30 a.m. local time, according to the USGS. Their epicenters were all at least six miles under the Earth's surface.

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Soggy U.S. Midwest Braces For More Flooding
2008-03-20 16:30:15
Residents warily watched as rivers continued to rise Thursday from heavy storms that dumped as much as a foot of rain in the Midwest and left behind more than a dozen deaths.

While the first day of spring brought much needed sunshine Thursday to Ohio and other states, authorities warned that many rivers would crest well above flood stage in the next several days.

The death toll rose to at least 14, with the death of a woman whose car was swept away by floodwaters near the southwest Ohio city of Wilmington on Wednesday. The woman had clung to a tree for hours before she was rescued but died a short time later at a hospital.

Many areas remained flooded Thursday.

Drivers trying to reach downtown Columbus from the south were being detoured off heavily traveled U.S. 23, because its northbound lanes were flooded at Interstate 270.

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Oil, Gold Prices Continue Sharp Drop
2008-03-20 16:29:45
The plummeting price of oil and gold on Thursday raised hopes that consumer prices could start to moderate, even as some investors wondered whether one of the last safe spots in a tumultuous market was beginning to collapse.

“Oil and commodities became a safe haven,” said Fadel Gheit, an oil analyst at Oppenheimer & Company in New York. “It was the last thing that bankers can hang their hats on. Everything else had melted before their eyes.”

On Thursday, those markets were in free fall. The price of crude oil and gold fell almost 10 percent in less than 36 hours. Gold, which recently crossed the $1,000 mark, slid to nearly $900 a troy ounce in overnight trading. Futures contracts for crude oil were trading below $100 for the first time in more than two weeks.

Wheat, sugar, corn, copper and platinum also dropped. “These are all significant declines,” said James Steel, a commodities analyst at HSBC.

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Vatican Security Worries Over Bin Laden Threat
2008-03-20 16:29:13
The Vatican on Thursday rejected an audiotaped accusation from Osama bin Laden that Pope Benedict XVI was leading a “new crusade” against Muslims, but Italian security officials are concerned about the threats included in Bin Laden’s new message.

“These accusations are absolutely unfounded,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the pope’s chief spokesman, said in a telephone interview. “There is nothing new in this, and it doesn’t have any particular significance for us.”

The new audio message attributed to bin Laden was released Wednesday night and was addressed to “the intelligent ones in the European Union". It was posted by the SITE Intelligence Group, a group based in Bethesda, Maryland, that tracks al-Qaeda postings on the Internet.

The audiotape listed broad grievances, but specifically mentioned the pope, and coincided with the busiest week of the year at the Vatican, leading up to Easter Sunday. The pope, who turns 81 next month, will appear at several public events, including the annual Good Friday procession of the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum.

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Borders Book Stores May Be Sold
2008-03-20 16:28:10
Borders, the nation's second-largest bookseller, said Thursday it may put itself up for sale and that it has lined up $42.5 million in financing to help the chain continue operations.

Shares tumbled more than 29 percent, or $2.07, to $5.03 in volatile trading at midday.

Borders has lost market share both to online retailers and to discounters like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and its possible sale was given mixed prospects by industry analysts.

The operations financing announced Thursday comes from hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management LP, its largest shareholder, and includes an offer to buy Borders' international businesses.

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With Supplies Short, Coal Price Rise Surpasses Oil
2008-03-20 14:13:40

Long considered an abundant, reliable and relatively cheap source of energy, coal is suddenly in short supply and high demand worldwide.

An untimely confluence of bad weather, flawed energy policies, low stockpiles and voracious growth in Asia's appetite has driven international spot prices of coal up by 50 percent or more in the past five months, surpassing the escalation in oil prices.

The signs of a coal crisis have been showing up from mine mouths to factory gates and living rooms: As many as 45 ships were stacked up in Australian ports waiting for coal deliveries slowed by torrential rains. China and Vietnam,  which have thrived by sending goods abroad, abruptly banned coal exports, while India's import demands are up. Factory hours have been shortened in parts of China, and blackouts have rippled across South Africa and Indonesia's most populous island, Java.

Meanwhile mining companies are enjoying a windfall. Freight cars in Appalachia are brimming with coal for export, and old coal mines in Japan have been reopened or expanded. European and Japanese coal buyers, worried about future supplies, have begun locking in long-term contracts at high prices, and world steel and concrete prices have risen already, fueling inflation.

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Al-Qaeda Still Eluding U.S. Spies
2008-03-20 14:04:41
A decade after al-Qaeda issued a global declaration of war against America, U.S. spy agencies have had little luck recruiting well-placed informants and are finding the upper reaches of the network tougher to penetrate than the Kremlin during the Cold War, according to U.S. and European intelligence officials.

Some counterterrorism officials say their agencies missed early opportunities to attack the network from within. Relying on Cold War tactics such as cash rewards for tips failed to take into account the religious motivations of Islamist radicals and produced few results.

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, officials said, al-Qaeda has tightened its internal security at the top, placing an even greater emphasis on personal and tribal loyalties to determine who can gain access to its leaders.

Alain Chouet, former chief of the security intelligence service of the DGSE, France\'s foreign spy agency, said it can take years for informants to burrow their way into radical Islamist networks. Even if they're successful at first, he said, new al-Qaeda members are often "highly disposable" - prime candidates for suicide missions.

He said it might be too late for Western intelligence agencies, having missed earlier chances, to redouble efforts to infiltrate the network. "I think you cannot penetrate such a movement now," he said.

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At Lead 13 Die In U.S. Midwest Flooding - Worst May Be Yet To Come
2008-03-20 13:56:29
Flooding across the central part of the country over the past three days has killed at least 13 people and forced thousands to evacuate - and the worst may be yet to come as rivers approach record levels in the next few days.

Rain has fallen continuously in the Midwest since Monday, dumping more than a foot of water in some regions. National Weather Service flood warnings and advisories cover much of Ohio, Indiana, northern Kentucky,  Arkansas, Missouri and southern Illinois, eastern Oklahoma and northeastern Texas.

In Kentucky, a weather-related traffic accident killed five people Wednesday. In Texas, a teenager was swept down a drainage pipe Tuesday. In Arkansas, at least three vehicles were swept away by water Wednesday. In Missouri, a state Transportation Department worker was killed Tuesday by a tractor-trailer while setting up flood barriers, three people perished with vehicles caught in rushing water, and a teenager was found dead in the water.

More than 500 homes were evacuated in Missouri, where Gov. Matt Blunt (R) mobilized the National Guard and all state agencies. He asked the federal government to declare 70 counties and the city of St. Louis disaster areas.

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Commentary: Iraq - A War Of Utter Folly
2008-03-20 13:53:21
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Hans Blix, former head of the U.N. weapons inspections team in Iraq in 2003. It appeared in the Guardian edtion for Thursday, March 20, 2008.

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a tragedy - for Iraq, for the U.S., for the U.N., for truth and human dignity. I can only see one gain: the end of Saddam Hussein, a murderous tyrant. Had the war not finished him he would, in all likelihood, have become another Gadafy or Castro; an oppressor of his own people but no longer a threat to the world. Iraq was on its knees after a decade of sanctions.

The elimination of weapons of mass destruction was the declared main aim of the war. It is improbable that the governments of the alliance could have sold the war to their parliaments on any other grounds. That they believed in the weapons' existence in the autumn of 2002 is understandable. Why had the Iraqis stopped U.N. inspectors during the 90s if they had nothing to hide? Responsibility for the war must rest, though, on what those launching it knew by March 2003.

By then, Unmovic inspectors had carried out some 700 inspections at 500 sites without finding prohibited weapons. The contract that George Bush held up before Congress to show that Iraq was purchasing uranium oxide was proved to be a forgery. The allied powers were on thin ice, but they preferred to replace question marks with exclamation marks.

They could not succeed in eliminating WMDs because they did not exist. Nor could they succeed in the declared aim to eliminate al-Qaeda operators, because they were not in Iraq. They came later, attracted by the occupants. A third declared aim was to bring democracy to Iraq, hopefully becoming an example for the region. Let us hope for the future; but five years of occupation has clearly brought more anarchy than democracy.

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Osama bin Laden Criticizes E.U. For Publication Of Anti-Islamic Cartoons
2008-03-20 13:47:21
Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden addressed the "wise men" of the European Union in a new audio message late Wednesday, slamming the publication of drawings insulting to the Prophet Muhammad and vowing a strong reaction.

The message, which appeared on a militant Web site that has carried al-Qaeda statements in the past and bore the logo of the extremist group's media wing al-Sahab, showed a still image of bin Laden aiming with an AK-47.

A voice believed to be bin Laden's described the attacks of the Europeans on women and children but said these "paled (in comparison) when you went overboard in your unbelief and freed yourselves of the etiquettes of dispute and fighting and went to the extent of publishing these insulting drawings, this is the greatest misfortune and the most dangerous."
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Editorial: Socialized Compensation
2008-03-21 03:55:43
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Friday, March 21, 2008.

How can one feel sorry for James Cayne? The potential losses of the chairman and former chief executive of Bear Stearns must rank up there with the biggest in modern history. The value of his stake in Bear Stearns collapsed from about $1 billion a year ago to as little as $14 million at the price JPMorgan Chase offered for the teetering bank on Sunday.

Still, Mr. Cayne was paid some $40 million in cash between 2004 and 2006, the last year on record, as well as stocks and options. In the past few years, he has sold shares worth millions more. There should be financial accountability for the man who led Bear Stearns as it gorged on dubious subprime securities to boost its profits and share price, helping to set up one of the biggest financial collapses since the savings-and-loan crisis in the 1980s. Some might argue that he should have lost it all.

But that’s not how it works. The ongoing bailout of the financial system by the Federal Reserve underscores the extent to which financial barons socialize the costs of private bets gone bad. Not a week goes by that the Fed doesn’t inaugurate a new way to provide liquidity - meaning money - to the financial system. Bear Stearns isn’t enormous. It doesn’t take deposits from the public. Yet the Fed believed that letting it implode could unleash a domino effect among other banks, and the Fed provided a $30 billion guarantee for JPMorgan to snap it up.

Compared to the cold shoulder given to struggling homeowners, the cash and attention lavished by the government on the nation’s financial titans provides telling insight into the priorities of the Bush administration. It’s not simply a matter of fairness, though. The Fed is probably right to be doing all it can think of to avoid worse damage than the economy is already suffering. But if the objective is to encourage prudent banking and keep Wall Street’s wizards from periodically driving financial markets over the cliff, it is imperative to devise a remuneration system for bankers that puts more of their skin in the game.

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Sunni Militia Strike Could Derail U.S. Strategy Against Al-Qaeda
2008-03-21 03:55:12

The success of the U.S. "surge" strategy in Iraq may be under threat as Sunni militia employed by the U.S. to fight al-Qaeda are warning of a national strike because they are not being paid regularly.

Leading members of the 80,000-strong Sahwa, or awakening, councils have said they will stop fighting unless payment of their $10 a day (£5) wage is resumed. The fighters are accusing the U.S. military of using them to clear al-Qaeda militants from dangerous areas and then abandoning them.

A telephone survey by GuardianFilms for Channel 4 News reveals that out of 49 Sahwa councils four with more than 1,400 men have already quit, 38 are threatening to go on strike and two already have.

Improved security in Iraq in recent months has been attributed to a combination of the surge, the truce observed by Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, and the effectiveness and commitment of the councils, which are drawn from Sunni Arabs and probably the most significant factor, according to most analysts.

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Dalai Lama Fears Village Massacres As Chinese Troops Retaliate For Protests
2008-03-21 03:54:42

The Dalai Lama said Thursday that he feared villagers in remote parts of Tibet are "facing death" from Chinese troops intent on seeking retribution for last week's protests, but emphasized that he was prepared to meet Chinese leaders to resolve the crisis.

Speaking to journalists in the office of his long yellow bungalow in the north Indian town of Dharamsala, the Buddhist religious leader warned that columns of army trucks were being sent across the Tibetan plateau, with troops deployed in many villages as unrest flared in far-flung corners of the country.

"There are many remote places cut off from the world where the only sign is Chinese troop movement. I am really worried that a lot of casualties may happen. Then [there are] no medical facilities. So I am appealing to the international community, please think about these helpless unarmed innocent people who simply love Tibetan culture and are not willing to accept others' bullying. These are now facing death."

There is no doubt the fallout from last Friday's deadly riots has been bloody. The Dalai Lama's government-in-exile puts the number of dead at "about 100". China says 16 people were killed.

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Scotland Hospital Confirms First U.K. Case Of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis
2008-03-21 03:53:36

Doctors have diagnosed the first ever U.K. case of a virtually untreatable strain of tuberculosis, marking a further step in the disease's fightback against the antibiotics that once kept it in check. A man in his 30s is in isolation at a hospital in Glasgow and is being treated with a cocktail of antibiotics in an effort to control the extreme drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), the Guardian reported Friday.

A spokeswoman at Gartnavel general hospital confirmed the case and said health officers were tracing people who may have come into close contact with the man.

This is the first time a patient has been diagnosed and treated for XDR-TB in the U.K. The World Health Organization has warned of the danger that XDR-TB poses because of the ease with which the airborne disease can travel in an era of mass migration and global travel.

Tuberculosis is spread only through close and prolonged contact with other people, such as in a family or among children in a school, so there is no suggestion that a single case could spark an epidemic. The arrival of XDR-TB in the U.K. is, however, a warning of the need for greater vigilance against the disease.

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Compact Fluorescent Lights May Be More Dangerous Than Good
2008-03-21 02:49:25
Compact Flourescent (CF) light bulbs are extremely energy-efficient, one problem hasn’t gone away: All CFLs contain mercury, a neurotoxin that can cause kidney and brain damage.

The amount is tiny -- about 5 milligrams, or barely enough to cover the tip of a pen -- but that is enough to contaminate up to 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe drinking levels, extrapolated from Stanford University research on mercury. Even the latest lamps promoted as “low-mercury” can contaminate more than 1,000 gallons of water beyond safe levels.

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U.S. Factory And Other Data Adds Evidence Of Recession
2008-03-20 16:29:58
Evidence of a U.S. recession mounted Thursday with reports showing Mid-Atlantic factory activity in its worst slump since the start of the Iraq war and more workers claiming jobless benefits.

Separately, the private Conference Board reported its forecasting gauge fell for the fifth straight month in February, bolstering the view that the economy has stalled and could face a contraction.

The Economic Cycle Research Institute, a New York-based independent forecasting group, added a further note of pessimism, saying the U.S. economy is "unambiguously" in a recession.

A government report showed the number of U.S. workers filing initial claims for unemployment aid climbed 22,000 last week, while the overall number on the benefit rolls rose a 3-1/2 year high a week earlier.
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Ex-Cheney Aide I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby Disbarred
2008-03-20 16:29:28

Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was disbarred today by a District of Columbia court that ruled that his convictions last year for perjury and obstructing justice in a White House leak investigation disqualify him from practicing law.

Under the ruling by the D.C. Court of Appeals, Libby will lose his license to practice or appear in court in Washington until at least 2012. As is standard custom, he also would lose any bar membership he might hold in any other states.

Libby was convicted of lying to the FBI and federal investigators about whether he discussed the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame with reporters in the spring and summer of 2003. At the time, according to evidence presented at trial, Cheney had instructed Libby to talk to reporters to rebut claims made by Plame's husband that the administration had twisted intelligence to justify going to war with Iraq.

A three-member panel of the Court of Appeals decided that the D.C. Code gave it no choice on the decision. Libby has not disputed the D.C. Bar Counsel's recommendation that he be disbarred.

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British Actor Paul Scofield Dies at 86
2008-03-20 16:28:39
Paul Scofield, the British actor who created the role of Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt's “A Man for All Seasons” and brought freshness and power to Hamlet, King Lear and many other classic roles, died Wednesday at a hospital near his home in southern England, the Associated Press reported. He was 86.

He had been suffering from leukemia, said his agent Rosalind Chatto.

Mr. Scofield won international fame and an Academy Award for the 1966 film of "A Man For All Seasons". 

Although he was regarded by his peers as one of the greatest actors in the English-speaking world, Mr. Scofield would have been better known to the public if he had been less withdrawn. He seldom gave interviews and never appeared on television talk shows, explaining that he hated chatting about himself and found his craft difficult to discuss. A shy, reclusive man, he even refused to accept the knighthood that was offered to him in the 1960’s. He became so used to being described by journalists as a private person that, he once joked, “I half-expect people to phone me and say, ‘Hello, is that Paul Scofield, the very private person?’ ”

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States' Battles Over Energy Grow More Fierce With U.S. In A Policy Gridlock
2008-03-20 14:14:56

Utility executives in Kansas were shocked last fall when a state environmental official rejected two coal-fired power plants because of the millions of tons of carbon-dioxide emissions they could produce. In a state where coal generates 73 percent of the electricity, the pro-coal forces were unable to work their will.

That ineffectiveness will be underscored as early as Friday if Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, as expected, vetoes an effort by the Kansas State Legislature to ensure the plants are approved. A handful of lawmakers seeking a new energy policy are blocking the attempt to override.

The struggle over those plants is an example of a growing trend in climate-change politics. In the absence of clear federal mandates for emissions from smokestack industries, states that have been proving grounds for new environmental approaches to energy are becoming battlegrounds as well.

“There are certainly battles happening all over the nation,” said Steve Clemmer, the Clean Energy Program research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In Kansas and Washington State, the battles are over individual plants. Other fights, as in California, are over how to structure carbon controls - essentially, who will have to pay, and how much. Some, as in Minnesota, are over how much renewable energy must be created and what forms are appropriate.

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Commodities: Latest Boom, Considerable Risk
2008-03-20 14:06:26
The booming commodities market has become increasingly attractive to investors, with hard assets like oil and gold perhaps offering a safe hedge against inflation, as well as the double-digit gains that have fast been disappearing from the markets for stocks, bonds and real estate.

Undeterred by the kind of volatile downdrafts that sent oil plunging 4.5 percent Wednesday, to settle at $104.48 a barrel, large funds and rich individual investors have sent a torrent of cash into this arcane market over the last year, toppling records for new money flowing in.

Small investors are plunging in, too, using dozens of new retail commodity funds to participate in markets that by one measure have jumped almost 20 percent in the last six months and doubled in six years.

This market, despite its glitter, offers risks of its own, including some dangerous weaknesses that are impairing the ability of regulators to police fraud and protect investors. Commodities are also vulnerable to the same worries affecting the rest of Wall Street, where on Wednesday the Dow Jones industrial average plunged almost 300 points, erasing more than two-thirds of Tuesday’s steep gains.

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Editorial: Mission Still Not Accomplished
2008-03-20 13:57:25
Intellpuke: The following editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Thursday, March 20, 2008.

It has been five years since the United States invaded Iraq and the world watched in horror as what seemed like a swift victory by modern soldiers and 21st-century weapons became a nightmare of spiraling violence, sectarian warfare, insurgency, roadside bombings and ghastly executions. Iraq’s economy was destroyed, and America’s reputation was shredded in the torture rooms of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret prisons.

These were hard and very costly lessons for a country that had emerged from the cold war as the world’s sole remaining superpower. Shockingly, President Bush seems to have learned none of them.

In a speech on Wednesday, the start of the war’s sixth year, Mr. Bush was stuck in the Neverland of his “Mission Accomplished” speech. In his mind’s eye, the invasion was a “remarkable display of military effectiveness” that will be studied for generations. The war has placed the nation on the brink of a great “strategic victory” in Iraq and against terrorists the world over.

Even now, Mr. Bush talks of Iraqi troops who “took off their uniforms and faded into the countryside to fight the emergence of a free Iraq” - when everyone knows that the American pro-consul, L. Paul Bremer III, overrode Mr. Bush’s national security team and, with the president’s blessing, made the catastrophically bad decision to disband the Iraqi Army and police force.

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Groups Respond To Obama\'s Call For National Discussion About Race
2008-03-20 13:54:42
The speech Senator Barack Obama delivered Tuesday morning has been viewed more than 1.6 million times on YouTube and is being widely e-mailed. While commentators and politicians debated its political success Wednesday, some around the country were responding to Obama’s call for a national conversation about race.

Religious groups and academic bodies, already receptive to Obama’s plea for such a dialogue, seemed especially enthusiastic. Universities were moving to incorporate the issues Obama raised into classroom discussions and course work, and churches were trying to find ways to do the same in sermons and Bible studies.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of a mostly white evangelical church of about 12,000 in Central Florida, described Obama’s speech, in which the Democratic presidential candidate discussed his relationship with the former pastor of his home church in Chicago, as a kind of “Rorschach inkblot test” for the nation.

“It calls out of you what is already in you,” said Dr. Hunter, predicting that those desiring to address the topic would regard the speech as a spur, while those indifferent to issues of race might pay it little heed.

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FCC Asked To Investigate Wireless Auction
2008-03-20 13:51:11

The failure of a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auction to draw sufficient bids to build a wireless network for emergency responders provoked sharp criticism by members of Congress, consumer groups and leaders of the 9/11 Commission Wednesday. It also prompted a call to investigate whether auction rules were broken.

Nine organizations, including the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union, wrote to FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin, saying the FCC should "investigate carefully the allegations\" that representatives of the nation's police, fire and emergency officials undermined the auction. They cited reports that public-safety representatives demanded that any winner of the auction make additional payments to them.

Regulators prepared to try again to meet a core recommendation of the 9/11 Commission: providing the nation's 55,000 public-safety agencies a dedicated portion of radio spectrum. The lack of interoperable communications networks for police and firefighters has been cited repeatedly as a deadly shortcoming hindering the response to the World Trade Center attack, Hurricane Katrina, the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing and the Air Florida crash in 1981.

"This is a key recommendation, and the fact that it has become so difficult to achieve is a source of deep, deep disappointment to us," said former representative Lee H. Hamilton, co-chairman of the 9/11 panel, which issued its findings in 2004. "I've lost patience. ... The slowness of this just indicates a lack of urgency and a lack of concern about human survival and human life if a disaster strikes."

The 700-megahertz spectrum is considered prime real estate by the telecommunications industry because of the power of signals of that frequency to penetrate walls and buildings.

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