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Monday, March 24, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday March 24 2008 - (813)

Monday March 24 2008 edition
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Rising U.S. Health Costs Cut Into U.S. Workers' Wages
2008-03-24 03:06:39

Recent history has not been kind to working-class Americans, who were down on the economy long before the word recession was uttered.

The main reason: spiraling health-care costs have been whacking away at their wages. Even though workers are producing more, inflation-adjusted median family income has dipped 2.6 percent - or nearly $1,000 annually since 2000.

Employees and employers are getting squeezed by the price of health care. The struggle to control health costs is viewed as crucial to improving wages and living standards for working Americans. Employers are paying more for health care and other benefits, leaving less money for pay increases. Benefits now devour 30.2 percent of employers' compensation costs, with the remaining money going to wages, the Labor Department reported this month. That is up from 27.4 percent in 2000.

"The way health-care costs have soared is unbelievable," said Katherine Taylor, a vice president for Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union."There are people out here making decisions about whether to keep their lights on or buy a prescription."

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Editorial: U.S. Parks In Peril
2008-03-24 03:06:00
Intellpuke: The following editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Monday, March 24, 2008.

The country’s treasured open spaces are no more immune to air pollution from coal-fired power plants than are its big cities. Sulfur dioxide causes acid rain and kills trees. Mercury emissions poison streams. Nitrogen oxides and sulfates create smog and haze.

For all these reasons, Congress in 1977 amended the Clean Air Act to require the Environmental Protection Agency to make a special effort to clean the air in national parks, wildlife refuges and other places of “scenic” and “historical” value it hoped to leave in somewhat better shape for future generations.

No administration since, Democratic or Republican, has paid any attention to this mandate, and despite high hopes, the Bush administration seems likely to fail as well. Two weeks ago, the anti-regulatory brigade in the Office of Management and Budget killed ozone standards that would have offered stronger protections for plants, trees, crops and wildlife. And the Environmental Protection Agency, ignoring protests from its own regional offices and the National Park Service, is nearing approval of regulations that would make it easier to build coal-fired plants near parks and wilderness areas without installing pollution controls.

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Mother Fights U.S. Army Over Son's Death
2008-03-24 03:05:07
Joan McDonald believes her son was a casualty of the war in Iraq, but the Army says that while he did suffer a severe head wound in a bomb blast, the cause of his death is undetermined, keeping him off the casualty list.

She and her family are demanding more answers in the death of Sgt. James W. McDonald.

"I don't want it to be an undetermined cause of death," said Joan McDonald. "That is ridiculous."

McDonald, 26, was injured in a roadside bomb blast in Iraq last May. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment based at Fort Hood, Texas. After treatment in Germany, McDonald returned to Fort Hood and underwent extensive facial surgery in August.

His body was found in his barracks apartment Nov. 12, a Monday. He was last seen alive the previous Friday.

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2 Divergent McCain Moments Rarely Mentioned
2008-03-24 03:04:11
Senator John McCain never fails to call himself a conservative Republican as he campaigns as his party’s presumptive presidential nominee. He often adds that he was a “foot soldier” in the Reagan revolution and that he believes in the bedrock conservative principles of small government, low taxes and the rights of the unborn.

What McCain almost never mentions are two extraordinary moments in his political past that are at odds with the candidate of the present: His discussions in 2001 with Democrats about leaving the Republican Party, and his conversations in 2004 with Senator John Kerry about becoming Kerry’s running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket.

There are wildly divergent versions of both episodes, depending on whether Democrats or McCain and his advisers are telling the story. The Democrats, including Kerry, say that not only did McCain express interest but that it was his camp that initially reached out to them. McCain and his aides counter that in both cases the Democrats were the suitors and McCain the unwilling bride.

Either way, the episodes shed light on a bitter period in McCain’s life after the 2000 presidential election, when he was, at least in policy terms, drifting away from his own party. They also offer a glimpse into his psychological makeup and the difficulties in putting a label on his political ideology over many years in the Senate.

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Key Backers Could Seal Obama Nomination
2008-03-23 16:02:26
Barack Obama will go a long way to locking up the Democratic presidential nomination if he convinces the two pivotal endorsements left in this internecine race - Al Gore and John Edwards - to join Bill Richardson in his camp.

Hillary Clinton's campaign this week will mount a major offensive to corral her husband's former vice-president, who is become the eminence grise of the U.S. Left, and Edwards, who has strong support among poor whites, a demographic Senator Obama covets.

Yet Senator Clinton faces a daunting task, considering Gore has little affinity for her on a personal level after their time in the Clinton White House, and Edwards was openly hostile to her during the early Democratic presidential debates.

Senator Clinton will need to bury the hatchet with both men after the shock defection of Bill Richardson, her husband's former ambassador to the United Nations and arguably the most influential Hispanic politician in the U.S.

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Missouri Residents Worry As Flood Waters Rise
2008-03-23 16:01:49
After days spent sandbagging, rounding up livestock and spiriting their valuables to higher ground, residents along the Meramec River basin watched Saturday as the volatile river neared record levels. The river engulfed hundreds of homes, threatened to overwhelm a major Interstate and left residents to worry what they would come home to when the water finally receded.

By early Saturday, the Meramec River, which snakes through the hill country before feeding into the Mississippi, had crested here, about 30 miles west of St. Louis, and in nearby Eureka. In the afternoon, the National Weather Service reported that the river had peaked in Valley Park at 37.83 feet, less than two feet shy of the record, about 20 miles west of St. Louis.

In Pacific, the Meramec crested at 28.84 feet, below earlier estimates and well shy of the record flood of 1982 when the river topped out at 33.6 feet. Nonetheless, the river spread wide across the town, inundating more than 30 city blocks and displacing more than 500 people.

As the water lapped at sandbags and flowed through living rooms, many people were left staring helplessly at their homes a few hundred yards away.

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As Prices Rise In Saudi Arabia, Residents Ask Government To Intervene
2008-03-23 16:00:54
Prices of essential commodities and house rents have increased by 30 to 50 percent, prompting Saudis and expatriates to call for government intervention to curb the unprecedented phenomenon and for increasing their salaries to cope with the situation.

“The government should stop the monopoly of big companies that supply essential commodities,” Dr. Abdul Ilah Saaty, of King Abdul Aziz University, told [Riyadh-based] Arab News. “Salaries must be increased further. The five-percent increase in salary is nothing compared to the price hike.”

Saaty urged the government to re-introduce subsidies for medicines, especially after the huge increase in medicine prices. The professor objected to cutting interest rates, saying it would push up inflation.

The Council of Ministers adopted a 17-point program on Jan. 28 in order to keep prices under control. It also increased the subsidies for rice, barley and baby milk, but people have not yet felt the effect of these measures.

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At Least 42 Are Killed In Attacks Across Iraq
2008-03-23 16:00:18
A suicide car bomber penetrated tight security to strike an Iraqi military base on Sunday in the deadliest of a series of attacks that killed at least 42 people across Iraq. In Baghdad, the U.S.-protected Green Zone came under heavy fire by rockets or mortar rounds.

Seven people also were killed and 14 wounded in a suicide car bombing in the Shiite area of Shula in the capital.

The attacks underscored the fragility of Iraq's security, despite a decline in violence over the past year. They also came as the U.S. military death toll in Iraq nears 4,000.

Weekend raids across Iraq resulted in 17 insurgents killed and 30 detained, said the U.S. military. The deadliest was an operation Sunday targeting a suspected suicide bombing network east of Baqouba that killed 12 armed men, according to the military.

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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Vows To Rule Until Death
2008-03-23 15:58:10
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has vowed that Zimbabwe's main opposition party will never rule during his lifetime and threatened to expel companies from Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler Britain in a campaign speech ahead of polls this week that are shaping up to be his toughest election battle.

Mugabe, 84, the only head of state Zimbabwe has known since independence in 1980, dismissed the electoral aspirations of the country's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

"It will never happen as long as we are still alive - those (ofus) who planned the liberation struggle," Mugabe told thousands of supporters at his first rally in the capital since hitting the campaign trail last month.

The veteran leader, whose bid for a sixth term must overcome an economy crippled by record inflation, made no mention of Simba Makoni, who has broken ranks with the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) to stand against Mugabe as an independent.

Mugabe has called Makoni a "prostitute" for taking him on and the former finance minister was expelled from the ZANU-PF last month after announcing his challenge.

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U.S. Congress, Bush Split Over Regulation Of Wall Street
2008-03-23 01:20:17
As Congress and the Bush administration struggle to contain the housing and credit crises - and prevent more Wall Street firms from collapsing as Bear Stearns did - a split is forming over how to strengthen oversight of financial institutions after decades of deregulation.

The administration and Democratic lawmakers in Congress agree that the meltdown in credit markets exposed weaknesses in the nation’s tangled web of federal and state regulators, which failed to anticipate the effect of so many new players in the industry.

In Congress, Democrats are drafting bills that would create a powerful new regulator - or simply confer new powers on the Federal Reserve - to oversee practices across the entire array of commercial banks, Wall Street firms, hedge funds and non-bank financial companies.

The Treasury Department is rushing to complete its own blueprint for overhauling what is now an alphabet soup of federal and state regulators that often compete against each other and protect their particular slices of the industry as if they were constituents.

The two sides strongly disagree about whether, after decades of a freewheeling encouragement of exotic new services and new players like hedge funds, the pendulum should swing back to tighter control.

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Editorial: The Supreme Court And Indecency
2008-03-23 01:19:45
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Sunday, March 23, 2008.

The Supreme Court is throwing itself back into the debate over indecency on television, and that may not be a good thing. It agreed last week to review the Federal Communications Commission’s policy of punishing broadcasters for airing “fleeting expletives” - a few isolated bad words. A federal appeals court wisely struck down the F.C.C.’s harsh rules, which have done serious damage to free speech. We hope the Supreme Court does not authorize the F.C.C. to return to its censorial policies.

For decades, the commission took a tolerant attitude toward fleeting expletives. As long as they were not used in a deliberate and offensive way, it would not punish broadcasters for airing them. The commission suddenly changed course in a case involving the 2003 Golden Globes Awards show, which included the singer Bono’s uttering a single expletive as he accepted an award. Reversing its long-held precedents, the F.C.C. decided that Bono’s lighthearted slip made the broadcast indecent.

The F.C.C. also ruled that two Billboard Music Awards programs were indecent because of brief comments by the entertainers Cher and Nicole Richie. It put networks and television stations on notice that in the future, broadcasting “fleeting expletives” could lead to sizable fines.

Broadcasters challenged the commission’s new rules, and last June the New York-based United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit struck them down. Federal agencies like the F.C.C., which interpret Congressional laws, have to make reasoned decisions, and the court ruled that the fleeting expletive policy was not properly reasoned. It carefully dissected the F.C.C.’s analysis, which it rightly found to be “divorced from reality.” The court also noted that the commission’s rules most likely violated the First Amendment.

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Pentagon Rules Out Adm. Fallon Testimony Before Congress
2008-03-23 01:18:44
The Pentagon on Friday ruled out including Adm. William Fallon as a witness before Congress when the top U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Baghdad testify next month on the way ahead in Iraq.

Fallon's abrupt announcement March 11 that he was resigning, effective March 31, as chief of U.S. Central Command overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan triggered accusations by Democrats in Congress that he was being forced out for publicly opposing launching a war against Iran.

In declaring that Fallon would not join Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker as witnesses before Congress next month, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the decision had nothing to do with Fallon's views on Iran or the reasons for his unexpected resignation and retirement.

''I know there have been requests, in fact, from members of Congress to have Adm. Fallon testify with Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, and I can tell you that Adm. Fallon will not be testifying'' with them, Morrell told a Pentagon news conference.

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Environment: Krill Fishing Threatens Antarctic
2008-03-23 01:17:52

The Antarctic, one of the planet's last unspoiled ecosystems, is under threat from mankind's insatiable appetite for harvesting the seas.

The population of krill, a tiny crustacean, is in danger from the growing demand for health supplements and food for fish farms. Global warming has already been blamed for a dramatic fall in numbers because the ice that is home to the algae and plankton they feed on is melting. Now "suction" harvesting which gathers up vast quantities has been introduced to meet the increased demand. It threatens not just krill, but the entire ecosystem that depends on them, say environmental campaigners. Krill are also believed to be important in removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by eating carbon-rich food near the surface and excreting it when they sink to lower, colder water to escape predators.

"Whales, penguins, seals, albatrosses and petrels - all those creatures we think are absolute icons of Antarctica - depend on krill," said Richard Page, a marine reserves expert with Greenpeace International. "It's part of the global commons, and one of the most pristine environments on Earth. That's why we should treat it with the greatest of respect."

However, scientists say they are monitoring the fishing but so far the total catch is a small proportion of the population.

"We're aware of this fishing effort gearing up and we're not particularly concerned at the moment," said Dr. Geraint Tarling, head of ecosystem dynamics at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). "When people get close to the allowable catches we'd be concerned, but at the moment it's nowhere near."

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Energy Stocks Haven't Caught Up With Oil Prices
2008-03-23 01:17:01

Energy companies have recorded whopping profits as the price of oil has surged over the past year. But while shares of those firms have traditionally tracked oil prices, they haven't kept pace this time around.

The cost of one barrel of oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange, for example, has doubled in a little over a year, rising from $50 in January 2007 to $101.84 last week. Yet the S&P Energy Index, which tracks the stocks of major energy companies, has risen only about 26 percent over the same period.

The reason, analysts said, is that oil prices have been driven to record highs by more than just demand for the product.

The decline of the dollar, in which commodities are priced, has helped make oil more expensive. At the same time, large institutional investors seeking shelter from the recent volatility of the stock market have rushed into commodities, driving up the price of oil and other goods on speculation, analysts said.

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Stolen National Institutes of Health Laptop Held 7 Years Of Clinical Trial, Patients' Data
2008-03-24 03:06:23

A government laptop computer containing sensitive medical information on 2,500 patients enrolled in a National Institutes of Health(NIH) study was stolen in February, potentially exposing seven years' worth of clinical trial data, including names, medical diagnoses and details of the patients' heart scans. The information was not encrypted, in violation of the government's data-security policy.

NIH officials made no public comment about the theft and did not send letters notifying the affected patients of the breach until last Thursday - almost a month later. They said they hesitated because of concerns that they would provoke undue alarm.

The handling of the incident is reminiscent of a 2006 theft from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)  employee of a laptop with personal information about veterans and active-duty service members. In that case, VA officials waited 19 days before announcing the theft.

"The shocking part here is we now have personally identifiable information - name and age - linked to clinical data," said Leslie Harris, executive director of the Center for Democracy & Technology. "If somebody does not want to share the fact that they're in a clinical trial or the fact they've got a heart disease, this is very, very serious. The risk of identity theft and of revealing highly personal information about your health are closely linked here."

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Al-Zawahri, Al-Qaeda's No. 2, Urges Attacks On U.S., Israel
2008-03-24 03:05:38
Al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri called on Muslims in a new audiotape released Monday to strike Jewish and American targets in revenge for Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip earlier this month.

The al-Zawahri tape came on the heels of a message from Osama bin Laden, who called for a holy war to liberate the Palestinian territories - a new push by the terror network's leadership to use widespread anger over the Gaza violence to whip up support.

The authenticity of the 4 minute, 44-second audiotape could not be independently confirmed, but the voice on it resembled that of al-Zawahri on previous audio and videotapes confirmed to be his. It was posted on an Islamic militant Web site where al-Qaeda usually releases its statements, and a banner advertising the tape had the logo of al-Qaeda's media arm, Al-Sahab.

''Muslims, today is your day. Strike the interests of the Jews, the Americans, and all those who participated in the attack on Muslims,'' said al-Zawahri. ''Monitor the targets, collect money, prepare the equipment, plan with precision, and then - while relying on God - assault, seeking martyrdom and paradise.''

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An 'Astounding Time' For Discovering Planets
2008-03-24 03:04:31

It used to be that planets were familiar places such as Mars and Saturn that orbited our sun and were well known to all schoolchildren.

Since astronomers identified the first planet outside our solar system 13 years ago, however, that idea has become downright quaint. Because now, according to the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia, there are 277 confirmed "extrasolar" planets, and quite a few more on the list of those suspected but not yet confirmed.

This explosion in planetary discoveries is taking place at such warp speed that even those most intimately involved are often amazed - especially because their ultimate goal is nothing less than finding life elsewhere in the universe.

"This is an absolutely astounding time for this field," said Mark Swain of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who last week reported finding the first "exoplanet" to have organic methane in its atmosphere.

"We're not only finding them rapidly and in great variety, but we're starting to characterize them - their mass and orbits, the properties of their atmospheres, measurements of day and night, dynamics of their winds," he said after the methane discovery was released last week.

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U.S. Death Toll In Iraq Hits 4,000
2008-03-24 03:03:41
A roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers in Baghdad on Sunday, the military said, pushing the overall American death toll in the five-year war to at least 4,000. The grim milestone came on a day when at least 61 people were killed across the country.

Rockets and mortars pounded the U.S.-protected Green Zone, underscoring the fragile security situation and the resilience of both Sunni and Shiite extremist groups despite an overall lull in violence.

The attacks on the Green Zone probably stemmed from rising tensions between rival Shiite groups and were the most sustained assault in months against the nerve center of the U.S. mission.

The soldiers with Multi-National Division - Baghdad were on a patrol when their vehicle was struck at about 10 p.m. in southern Baghdad, said the military. Another soldier was wounded in the attack - less than a week after the fifth anniversary of the conflict

Identities of those killed were withheld pending notification of relatives.

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McCain's Record On Iraq Is Mixed
2008-03-23 16:02:08
As America's war in Iraq enters its sixth year, Sen. John McCain is hoping that his long effort to send thousands more U.S. troops - a "surge" that has helped lower casualties - will propel him into the White House.

Yet McCain's record on Iraq is decidedly mixed. If the Arizona Republican proved prescient in his calls for a military buildup, many of his other predictions and prescriptions turned out wrong.

Before the war, McCain predicted a quick and easy victory, not a vicious insurgency. He issued dire warnings about Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction but didn't read the full 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that showed gaps in the intelligence.

Soon after the March 2003 invasion, however, he began criticizing the Bush administration's management in Iraq and clashed repeatedly with then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In mid-2003, he started advocating a larger U.S. force to battle the insurgency, a strategy the White House finally approved last year.

McCain did not publicly embrace or join the hard-core neoconservatives who pushed hardest to unleash the U.S. military against Baghdad before the war. But McCain backed many of the same policies.
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Commentary: The World Is Round
2008-03-23 16:01:16
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Indian journalist, author and blogger M.J. Akbar and appeared in the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Arab News edition for Sunday, March 23, 2008.

If Dr. Manmohan Singh loses the next general election - predicted for October by the knowledgeable - he will know whom to blame: His best new friend George Bush. Bush has achieved something unique. He has globalized defeat.

The reasons and means vary. In Britain Tony Blair may be eased out and in Australia John Howard may be driven out, but the word in common is “out”. Bush crippled himself long before time made him a lame duck. He began to cripple his friends at the height of his power, and the curse continues in the twilight of his term.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh escaped the swamps of Iraq but he could become the victim of one bilateral Bush initiative, the potential nuclear deal with India, and the huge, chaotic mismanagement of the economy that has compounded the gushing fiscal wounds of the Iraq-Afghanistan war. Bush has financed this colossal misadventure with IOUs on history and debt from the world economy, setting off a sinful (as opposed to virtuous) cycle.

Debt and war have destroyed perpetrator and victim alike in the past. They are doing so again. Bush’s wars cost $33.8 billion in 2002; they have ballooned to $171 billion by 2007. Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel for Economics, has estimated that the cost of the Bush wars could cross $3 trillion by 2017, that is, in another 10 years. Go figure, as they say in America. Where has the money come from? Debt.

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Indonesian Islamic Cleric Urges Attacks On 'Infidel' Australians
2008-03-23 16:00:38
Indonesian Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has returned to his hardline rhetoric with a call for followers to "beat up" Western tourists and for young Muslims to die as martyrs.

In the sermon, organized by an Islamic youth organization and delivered a few kilometers from the home village of convicted Bali bombers Amrozi and Mukhlas, Bashir likened tourists in Bali to "worms, snakes, maggots", and specifically referred to the immorality of Australian infidels.

The address was caught on video by an Australian university student.

"The youth movement here must aspire to a martyrdom death," said the cleric, who was convicted of conspiracy over the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, but was later cleared and released from prison.

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Chinese Scholars Urge Dialogue With Dalai Lama
2008-03-23 16:00:01
A group of prominent Chinese intellectuals has circulated a petition urging the government to stop what it has called a “one-sided” propaganda campaign and initiate direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

The petition, which was signed by more than two dozen writers, journalists and scholars contains 12 recommendations which, taken together, represent a sharp break from the Chinese government’s response to the wave of demonstration that have swept Tibetan areas of the country in recent days.

They come, moreover, at a time when the government is working hard to convey a sense of strong international support for putting down what is being depicted here as a civil disturbance by lawless people being instigated by the Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who Beijing denounces as a secessionist, or “splittist.”

In recent days, the state controlled press has also stepped up its criticisms of the international press for what it says has been biased and overblown coverage of the Tibetan crisis.

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Pope Prays For Peace On Easter Sunday
2008-03-23 15:57:51
Pope Benedict XVI led prayers for peace on the holiest day of the Christian year at a rainy outdoor mass here Easter Sunday, exulting conversions to the faith hours after the Vatican highlighted the baptism of Italy’s most prominent Muslim.

In a prayer before thousands of soaking pilgrims and tourists on St. Peter’s Square, the pope noted that the disciples had spread the message of Christ’s resurrection - celebrated on Sunday - and as a result “thousands and thousands of persons converted to Christianity.”

“This is a miracle which renews itself even today,” he said.

Days after Osama bin Laden issued a threat against Europe that mentioned the pope specifically, Magdi Allam, an Egyptian-born writer protected by Italian bodyguards for his criticism of radical Islam, was baptized by the pope Saturday night and received his first communion. The news about Allam, a secular Muslim married to a Catholic, was accented by a Vatican press release an hour before the baptism ceremony.

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Stalwart Service For U.S. In Iraq Is Not Enough To Gain Green Card
2008-03-23 01:20:02

During his nearly four years as a translator for U.S. forces in Iraq, Saman Kareem Ahmad was known for his bravery and hard work. "Sam put his life on the line with, and for, Coalition Forces on a daily basis," wrote Marine Capt. Trent A. Gibson.

Gibson's letter was part of a thick file of support - including commendations from the secretary of the Navy and from then-Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus - that helped Ahmad migrate to the United States in 2006, among an initial group of 50 Iraqi and Afghan translators admitted under a special visa program.

Last month, however, the U.S. government turned down Ahmad's application for permanent residence, known as a green card. His offense: Ahmad had once been part of the Kurdish Democratic Party, which U.S. immigration officials deemed an "undesignated terrorist organization" for having sought to overthrow former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. 

Ahmad, a Kurd, once served in the KDP's military force, which is part of the new Iraqi army. A U.S. ally, the KDP is now part of the elected government of the Kurdish region and holds seats in the Iraqi parliament. After consulting public Web sites, however, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services determined that KDP forces "conducted full-scale armed attacks and helped incite rebellions against Hussein's regime, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom."

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White House: Computer Hard Drives Destroyed
2008-03-23 01:18:55
Older White House computer hard drives have been destroyed, the White House disclosed to a federal court Friday in a controversy over millions of possibly missing e-mails from 2003 to 2005.

The White House revealed new information about how it handles its computers in an effort to persuade a federal magistrate it would be fruitless to undertake an e-mail recovery plan that the court proposed.

"When workstations are at the end of their lifecycle and retired ... the hard drives are generally sent offsite to another government entity for physical destruction," the White House said in a sworn declaration filed with U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola.

It has been the goal of a White House Office of Administration "refresh program" to replace one-third of its workstations every year in the Executive Office of the President, according to the declaration.

Some, but not necessarily all, of the data on old hard drives is moved to new computer hard drives, the declaration added.

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Bush Policies Make It More Difficult To Put Animals, Plants On Endangered Species List
2008-03-23 01:18:10

With little-noticed procedural and policy moves over several years, Bush administration officials have made it substantially more difficult to designate domestic animals and plants for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Controversies have occasionally flared over Interior Department officials who regularly overruled rank-and-file agency scientists' recommendations to list new species, but internal documents also suggest that pervasive bureaucratic obstacles were erected to limit the number of species protected under one of the nation's best-known environmental laws.

The documents show that personnel were barred from using information in agency files that might support new listings, and that senior officials repeatedly dismissed the views of scientific advisers as President Bush's appointees either rejected putting imperiled plants and animals on the list or sought to remove this federal protection.

Officials also changed the way species are evaluated under the 35-year-old law - by considering only where they live now, as opposed to where they used to exist - and put decisions on other species in limbo by blocking citizen petitions that create legal deadlines.

As a result, listings plummeted. During Bush's more than seven years as president, his administration has placed 59 domestic species on the endangered list, almost the exact number that his father listed during each of his four years in office. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has not declared a single native species as threatened or endangered since he was appointed nearly two years ago.

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Addiction To Internet Is An Illness?
2008-03-23 01:17:22

Tense? Angry? Can't get online? Internet addiction is now a serious public health issue that should be officially recognized as a clinical disorder, according to a leading psychiatrist.

Excessive gaming, viewing online pornography, emailing and text messaging have been identified as causes of a compulsive-impulsive disorder by Dr. Jerald Block, author of an editorial for the respected American Journal of Psychiatry. Block argues that the disorder is now so common that it merits inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the profession's primary resource to categorize and diagnose mental illnesses. He says internet addiction has four main components:

-- Excessive use, often associated with a loss of sense of time or a neglect of basic drives.

-- Withdrawal, including feelings of anger, tension and/or depression when the computer is inaccessible.

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