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Monday, March 31, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday March 31 2008 - (813)

Monday March 31 2008 edition
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Clinton, Obama Supporters Wrangle Over Delegates
2008-03-30 16:57:45
Less than a month ago, Texas Democrats turned out in huge numbers for the presidential nominating contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, confident that, no matter who won, the party would have a popular, well-financed candidate.

But that exuberance is gone now.

Across the state this weekend, tense confrontations - even shoving matches - erupted as partisans for Clinton and Obama battled over how to interpret the March 4 election results and how to choose delegates to the Texas Democratic convention.

At one particularly raucous session Saturday at Texas Southern University, a leading Clinton backer, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, was booed by hundreds of Obama supporters, and police were called later to break up heated exchanges that left some in tears.

"It's bedlam," said Houston lawyer Daniel J. Shea, a Clinton backer.
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Editorial: My Way Or The Highway
2008-03-30 16:56:51
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Sunday, March 30, 2008.

President Bush likes to talk about not being swayed by public opinion, especially the views of Democrats. At a news conference last December, he said the most important criterion for picking a president is “whether or not somebody’s got a sound set of principles from which they will not deviate as they make decisions.”

Unhappily for the country, we have learned that Mr. Bush has no idea when standing on principle becomes blind stubbornness and then destructive obsession. So it goes with his choice to run the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Steven Bradbury.

In a lower job in that office, Mr. Bradbury signed off on two secret legal memos authorizing torture in American detention camps. The first approved waterboarding, among other things. When Congress outlawed waterboarding, the other memo assured Mr. Bush that he could ignore the law.

Mr. Bradbury is widely viewed on both sides of the aisle as such a toxic choice that he will never be confirmed. The Senate has already refused to do so twice. Still, Mr. Bush clings to this lost cause, snarling the confirmation process for hundreds of nominees and crippling parts of the federal regulatory apparatus.

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Muqtada Sadr Orders Followers To End Fighting
2008-03-30 16:56:20
The Shiite Muslim cleric disavows armed members who attack Iraqi government institutions and party officers. He calls for the government to end what he calls random raids and to release all prisoners.

Radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr ordered his followers Sunday to end six days of fighting, which has killed more than 300 people and threaten to reverse recent security gains across Iraq.

In a statement issued by Sadr's headquarters in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, the cleric disavowed any armed members who attack government institutions and party offices.

"Based on the responsibility imposed by Islamic law and to save precious Iraqi blood ... we have decided the following: to end the armed manifestation in Basra and all over the governorates," said Sadr.
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Europe-wide Radio Network Could Pick Up Alien Broadcast
2008-03-30 03:31:31

Scientists are finalizing plans to link radio wave detectors in five countries and create a device sensitive enough to pick up signals from worlds the other side of the galaxy.

By connecting banks of detectors in fields across Britain, France, Holland, Sweden and Germany, astronomers aim to create a radio telescope that will have the accuracy of a machine the size of Europe. They believe it could solve some of the universe's most important secrets - including the discovery of radio broadcasts from intelligent extraterrestrials.

"This system works by collecting radio waves over a range of frequencies," said cosmologist Robert Nichol, of Portsmouth University. "These can then be analyzed using arrays of computers which can identify patterns from the data streaming from our detectors.

"Some of these signals will reveal information about the early universe, for example. However, broadcasts by alien intelligences would also be revealed by our computers because we will, primarily, be collecting radio signals. Signals that have regular patterns will give themselves away as the possible handiwork of extraterrestrials. Such work is a bonus, however. The main work of the system is basic research," added Nichol.

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Environment: Times Runs Out For Islanders On Global Warming's Front Line
2008-03-30 03:30:16
Rising sea levels threaten to flood many of the islands in the fertile Ganges Delta, leading to an environmental disaster and a refugee crisis for India and Bangladesh.

Dependra Das stretches out his arms to show his flaky skin, covered in raw saltwater sores. His fingers submerged in soft black clay for up to six hours a day, he spends his time frantically shoring up a crude sea dyke surrounding his remote island home in the Sundarbans, the world's largest delta.

Alongside him, across the beach in long lines, the villagers of Ghoramara island, the women dressed in purple, orange and green saris, do the same, trying to hold back the tide.

For the islanders, each day begins and ends the same way. As dusk descends, the people file back to their thatched huts. By morning the dyke will be breached and work will begin again. Here in the vast, low-lying Sundarbans, the largest mangrove wilderness on the planet, Das, 70, is preparing to lose his third home to the sea in as many years; here global warming is a reality, not a prediction.

Over the course of a three-day boat trip through the Sundarbans, The Observer found Das' plight to be far from unique. Across the delta, homes have been swept away, fields ravaged by worsening monsoons, livelihoods destroyed. It confirms what experts are already warning: that the effects of global warming will be most severe on those who did the least to contribute to it but can least afford measures to adapt or save themselves. For these islanders, building clay walls is their only option.

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British Army Joins Battle To Control Basra
2008-03-30 03:28:44

British troops became involved in the intense fighting in Basra Saturday night as clashes continued between Iraqi government forces and Shia militia. The army launched artillery shells at a mortar position of the Shia Mahdi Army, led by the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, in the al-Klalaf area in the north of the city that had been firing on Iraqi troops.

Military sources admitted that the militia had consolidated a number of "criminal strongpoints" in the city. The involvement of the British is the first time U.K. forces have engaged militias since the Iraqi army operation, personally supervised by the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, began in the city last Tuesday morning.

British army spokesman in Basra, Major Tom Holloway, told the BBC the engagement had been successful: "This is something we were always prepared to do. There are still a number of militia criminal strongpoints in the city, and we know where they are. Elsewhere they are consolidating their positions and gains."

British aircraft have been patrolling above the city during the course of the operation, but have not so far been used to attack militia positions.

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Medical Journal Issues Warning On 2 Cholesterol Drugs
2008-03-30 16:57:31
Two widely prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs, Vytorin and Zetia, may not work and should be used only as a last resort, the New England Journal of Medicine said in an editorial published on Sunday.

The journal’s conclusion came as doctors at a major cardiology conference in Chicago, Illinois, saw for the first time the full results of a two-year clinical trial that showed that the drugs failed to slow, and might have even sped up, the growth of fatty plaques in the arteries. Growth of those plaques is closely correlated with heart attacks and strokes.

Merck and Schering-Plough, the companies that make Vytorin and Zetia, said on Sunday that despite the results of the trial, they would continue to promote their medicines as first-line treatments for high cholesterol.

The medicines are among the top-selling drugs in the world, with total sales of about $5 billion last year. About four million Americans take them.

Some scientists, including many of the same doctors who criticized Merck over the arthritis drug Vioxx and were eventually proved correct about Vioxx’s risks, say the companies are overstating the evidence of the drugs’ effectiveness and that doctors should not prescribe the drugs.

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A $10,000 Lesson In Airline Policies And Missed Connections
2008-03-30 16:56:39

This is a story about two retirees who bought $753 round-trip tickets to Europe and wound up paying nearly $10,000.

It's also a story about self-serving airline policies, regulatory indifference and the perils of booking separate tickets for connecting flights.

If it doesn't make your blood boil, consult a cardiologist.

Anthony and Carol Lopilato of Redondo Beach booked their bargain fares from New York's JFK Airport to Rome, Italy, flying out Dec. 19 and back Jan. 2, on Alitalia. Then, they booked an American Airlines flight from LAX scheduled to arrive at JFK more than three hours before their Alitalia flight.

It didn't.

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Dollar Chilled By Rise Of Euro
2008-03-30 03:31:50
The once-unchallenged world hegemony of the U.S. currency is under threat as its value plummets and investors desert it.

Lurking behind the headline-grabbing stories about the credit crunch, the U.S. housing crash and the near-death experiences of Northern Rock and Bear Stearns, is the bigger one about the slump in the value of the American dollar.

So steeply has the greenback fallen in value against its main rivals - the euro and the Japanese yen - that economists are talking about the dollar losing its status as the world's reserve currency, a position it has held since 1945.

Commentators have written the dollar's obituary on countless occasions over the past 40 years, principally in the late 1970s and early 1990s, when America's economic performance compared badly with that of Japan or Germany.

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Commentary: Those Who Control Oil And Water Will Control The World
2008-03-30 03:30:43
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by by John Gray and appeared in The Observer edition for Sunday, March 30, 2008. Mr. Gray is author of "Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia", published by Allen Lane. His commentary follows:

History may not repeat itself, but, as Mark Twain observed, it can sometimes rhyme. The crises and conflicts of the past recur, recognizably similar even when altered by new conditions. At present, a race for the world's resources is underway that resembles the Great Game that was played in the decades leading up to the First World War. Now, as then, the most coveted prize is oil and the risk is that as the contest heats up it will not always be peaceful. But this is no simple rerun of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, there are powerful new players and it is not only oil that is at stake.

It was Rudyard Kipling who brought the idea of the Great Game into the public mind in Kim, his cloak-and-dagger novel of espionage and imperial geopolitics in the time of the Raj. Then, the main players were Britain and Russia and the object of the game was control of central Asia's oil. Now, Britain hardly matters and India and China, which were subjugated countries during the last round of the game, have emerged as key players. The struggle is no longer focused mainly on central Asian oil. It stretches from the Persian Gulf to Africa, Latin America, even the polar caps, and it is also a struggle for water and depleting supplies of vital minerals. Above all, global warming is increasing the scarcity of natural resources. The Great Game that is afoot today is more intractable and more dangerous than the last.

The biggest new player in the game is China and it is there that the emerging pattern is clearest. China's rulers have staked everything on economic growth. Without improving living standards, there would be large-scale unrest, which could pose a threat to their power. Moreover, China is in the middle of the largest and fastest move from the countryside to the city in history, a process that cannot be stopped.

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Acid Bacteria Are Threat To Park Beauty
2008-03-30 03:29:51

Many areas of Britain's Peak District are being destroyed by acid excreted by metal-eating bacteria, a legacy of the industrial revolution. Large sections of hillside have been left badly eroded and acid build-up in streams now threatens to poison reservoirs.

In addition, blanket bogs in the Peaks - which are home to rare plants, such as bog rosemary and wild orchids, as well golden plovers and mountain hares - are also threatened by acid build-up.

Details are to be presented to delegates at the Society for General Microbiology's annual meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, Monday. Dr. Patricia Linton, of Manchester Metropolitan University, who with co-workers carried out the study, said the discovery is now "extremely worrying".

"This is a legacy of the pollution that has poured from factories and mines in the area," she said. "Much of that pollution stopped 50 years ago, with the introduction of clean air legislation. However, there has been no improvement to the Peak District's ecology. The damage is still getting worse."

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Zimbabwe Opposition Claims Huge Election Win
2008-03-30 03:28:10

Zimbabwe's opposition party claimed an overwhelming victory against President Robert Mugabe in Saturday's presidential election, saying that the flow of results showed its candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, had "massacred" the ruling Zanu-PF party.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) defied a government ban on pre-empting the official announcement of the election results and released the count from polling stations that showed Tsvangirai beating the man who has ruled Zimbabwe for 28 years, even in the president's home territory of Mashonaland.

"We've won this election," said Tendai Biti, the MDC's secretary-general. "The results coming in show that in our traditional strongholds we are massacring them. In Mugabe's traditional strongholds they are doing very badly. There is no way Mugabe can claim victory unless it is through fraud. He has lost this election."

The government's electoral commission has yet to release the counts formally, but the MDC said that declarations posted at polling stations across Zimbabwe last night, and gathered from its agents observing the counts, showed Tsvangirai ahead of Mugabe in every province where results were available. The most dramatic gap was in Mashonaland West, where the MDC candidate had 88 per cent of the vote to the president's 12 per cent.

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