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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday March 1 2008 - (813)

Saturday March 1 2008 edition
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U.S. Attorney General Mukasey Refuses Investigation Of Bush Aides
2008-03-01 03:42:49
U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused Friday to refer the House's contempt citations against two of President Bush's top aides to a federal grand jury. Mukasey said White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former presidential counsel Harriet Miers committed no crime.

As promised, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she has given the Judiciary Committee authority to file a lawsuit against Bolten and Miers in federal court.

"The House shall do so promptly," she said in a statement.

Mukasey said Bolten and Miers were right in ignoring subpoenas to provide Congress with White House documents or testify about the firings of federal prosecutors.

"The department will not bring the congressional contempt citations before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute Bolten or Miers," Mukasey wrote Pelosi.
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Clinton Raises Doubts On Obama
2008-03-01 03:42:21
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton launched an across-the-board assault on Sen. Barack Obama on Friday, questioning in a provocative new television ad his ability to keep the nation safe as her advisers sought to raise an array of questions about her rival's ethics and electability.

In the ad, a narrator says that a telephone is ringing in the White House and that "your vote" will determine whether "someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world" will answer it. In the last scene, Clinton (New York) is pictured picking up a phone while the narrator says: "It's 3 a.m., and your children are safely asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?"

Obama (Illinois) dismissed the ad as fear-mongering. "The question is not about picking up the phone. The question is, what kind of judgment will you make when you answer?" he said in a meeting with veterans in Houston, Texas. "We've had a red-phone moment. It was the decision to invade Iraq. And Senator Clinton gave the wrong answer."

The Obama campaign said it was putting up its own ad, with a similar script but a different ending: "Who understood the real threat to America was al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan, not Iraq?" the narrator asks. "Who led the effort to secure loose nuclear weapons around the globe? ... In a dangerous world, it's judgment that matters."

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Soaring Food Prices Putting American Aid In Trouble
2008-03-01 03:41:53

The U.S. government's humanitarian relief agency will significantly scale back emergency food aid to some of the world's poorest countries this year because of soaring global food prices, and the U.S. Agency for International Development is drafting plans to reduce the number of recipient nations, the amount of food provided to them, or both, said officials at the agency.

USAID officials said that a 41 percent surge in prices for wheat, corn, rice and other cereals over the past six months has generated a $120 million budget shortfall that will force the agency to reduce emergency operations. That deficit is projected to rise to $200 million by year's end. Prices have skyrocketed as more grains go to biofuel production or are consumed by such fast-emerging markets as China and India.

Officials said they were reviewing all of the agency's emergency programs - which target almost 40 countries and zones including Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia, Honduras and Sudan's Darfur region - to decide how and where the cuts will be made.

"We're in the process now of going country by country and analyzing the commodity price increase on each country," said Jeff Borns, director of USAID's Food for Peace, the organization's food aid arm. "Then we're going to have to prioritize."

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Bush Aid Admits Plagiarism, Resigns
2008-03-01 03:41:02
A longtime aide to President Bush who wrote occasional guest columns for his hometown newspaper resigned on Friday evening after admitting that he had repeatedly plagiarized from other writers.

The White House called his actions unacceptable.

The aide, Tim Goeglein, had worked for Bush since 2001, as a liaison to social and religious conservatives, an important component of the president’s political base. Goeglein was influential in decisions on a range of questions important to that constituency, including stem cell research, abortion and faith-based initiatives.

A blogger in Goeglein’s hometown, Fort Wayne, Indiana, found the plagiarism.

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New Of AIG's Subprime Losses Sends U.S. Stocks Tumbling
2008-02-29 15:41:50
A report from Swiss Bank UBS predicting more severe subprime mortgage losses also sends shivers across Wall Street.

Another batch of distressing news from the beleaguered financial sector sent the stock market reeling this morning.

A brutal loss at insurance giant American International Group Inc. and a prediction that subprime mortgage losses will hit $600 billion renewed fears that the subprime collapse and credit crisis are continuing to deepen despite Wall Street's $150 billion in writedowns so far.

As of 8:30 PST, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 210.12 points, or 1.7%, to 12,372.06. It was off almost 245 points at its low. It has fallen 6.7% this year.
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Commentary: The Silent Coup - How A Nation Ruled By Law Becomes A Nation Ruled By Men
2008-02-29 15:41:31
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Liza Persson and appeared on the's website edition for Thursday, February 28, 2008.

"We are living in an era of extraordinary expansion of executive authority…."
- Arlen Specter United States Senator (Republican Pennsylvania)

"[the Adminstration] asserted a broad doctrine of presidential "inherent authority" to ignore the laws passed by Congress when prosecuting the war on terror. In other words, the rule of law is suspended, and the President is above the law, for the uncertain and no doubt lengthy duration of the undefined war on terror."
- Patrick Leahy United States Senator (Democrat Vermont)

"If Congress doesn't have the power to define the contours of the President's Article II powers through legislation…//…If the President's legal theory, which is shared by some of our witnesses today, is correct…//…Under this theory, we no longer have a constitutional system consisting of three co-equal branches of government, we have a monarchy."
- Russ Feingold United States Senator (Democrat Wisconsin)

"It is our duty as loyal Americans to shut up once the fighting begins. Once the war against Saddam begins, we expect every American to support our military, and if they can't do that is to shut up."
    - Bill O'Reilly

There is a battle far from getting the attention it deserves considering the stakes - the rule and governing of the USA.

You would only notice with great difficulty and after spending a lot of time viewing hearing in various congressional committees, picking up a piece here and another there, and painstakingly putting them into a historical context in a far from obvious manner.

At the center is the question of presidential power vis-a-vis the congress, a group of embittered individuals set on making right what they consider a violation of the constitution.

When many Americans saw a restoration of balance of power when Congress went after and eventually reined in the Executive Branch in the Iran-Contra Affair, others saw an unconstitutional and deeply offensive act of neutering. The same people saw the same unconstitutional usurpation of executive powers when, following the Vietnam War, laws were passed and investigations were launched attempting to explore and rein in what was seen as abuses of the executive branch's wartime powers (e.g Church Committee, Pike Committee, War Powers Act ).

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Baghdad U.S. Embassy Project In Trouble
2008-02-29 15:40:53
Federal officials last year certified as complete the new $600 million U.S. embassy in Iraq, even though the mammoth complex was still plagued by construction defects, a senior House Democrat charged Friday.

Rep. Henry Waxman, who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called on the State Department to respond in a March 12 hearing and demanded they release internal documents related to the project.

Waxman cites a Feb. 13 independent assessment of the embassy that found ''major'' infrastructure problems and ''critical and non-critical'' deficiencies in most buildings, despite a December 2007 certification by a senior project official that the embassy was complete.

''These inspection reports raise many questions about whether the embassy is safe for occupation and why the State Department certified the project as substantially complete in December,'' Waxman wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. 

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Turkey Withdraws Troops From Iraq
2008-02-29 15:36:49

Turkey’s military announced it had withdrawn all of its troops from northern Iraq by Friday morning, bringing an eight-day ground offensive against Kurdish guerrillas to a close, just one day after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates  warned Turkey to pull out its troops.

Even so, reports differed on the extent of the withdrawal, with an American military official in Iraq and a representative for the Kurdish fighters saying some troops were still in the country.

The Turkish military bristled at the suggestion that it had been influenced by the United States, and said that the ground campaign in which 24 Turkish soldiers and as many as 243 Kurdish fighters were killed had simply run its course as its goals had been met.

“Both the start and the ending of the operation were fully determined on our part,” the military said in a statement. “Any internal or outside influence on the decision of the Turkish armed forces is out of discussion.”

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Prince Harry Being Withdrawn From Afghanistan
2008-02-29 15:36:06
Britain's defense chief decided Friday to immediately pull Prince Harry out of Afghanistan after news of his deployment was leaked on the U.S. Web site the Drudge Report.

Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup, chief of the Defense Staff, said he decided to withdraw the prince after senior commanders assessed the risks, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Harry, third in line to the British throne, has been serving on the front line with an army unit in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province since mid-December. He was originally due to return to Britain within weeks, but "the situation has now clearly changed," the statement said.

The decision was based on concerns that worldwide media coverage of Harry in Afghanistan could put him and his comrades at increased risk.
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Blood Thinner Might Be Linked To More Deaths
2008-02-29 03:55:15
Amid indications that more people may have died or been harmed after being given a brand of the blood thinner heparin, federal drug regulators said Thursday that they had found “potential deficiencies” at a Chinese plant that supplied much of the active ingredient for the drug.

Baxter International, which makes the brand of heparin associated with the problems, and buys supplies from the Chinese plant, announced that it was expanding a recall to include virtually all its heparin products. Though Baxter produces much of the heparin used in the United States, regulators said the other major supplier would be able to meet the demand.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the number of deaths possibly associated with the drug, made from pig intestines, had risen to 21 from 4, but it cautioned that many of those patients were already seriously ill and that the drug might not have caused their deaths.

The F.D.A. emphasized that it had yet to identify the root cause of the problem, and that it had not concluded that the Chinese plant was responsible. The agency also said it was investigating two Chinese wholesalers - also called consolidators - that supplied crude heparin to the Chinese plant, Changzhou SPL, as well as those that sold raw ingredients to the consolidators.

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Iraq Approves 'Chemical Ali' Execution
2008-02-29 03:54:45
Iraq's presidency endorsed the execution of Saddam Hussein's cousin known as "Chemical Ali," who was sentenced to death for his role in the 1980s scorched-earth campaign against Kurds, a government adviser said Friday.

The backing by Iraq's President Jalal Talabani and two vice presidents is the final step for the approval of Ali Hassan al-Majid's death sentence, which must be carried out within 30 days of the decision.

Al-Majid was one of three former Saddam officials sentenced to hang in June after being convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for their part in the Operation Anfal crackdown that killed nearly 200,000 Kurdish civilians and guerrillas. An appeals court upheld the verdict in September.
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Markets Fall On Negative Economic Reports
2008-03-01 03:42:37

An outpouring of negative economic and financial reports soured the mood on Wall Street Friday as banks and other lenders further tightened credit in their struggle to contain damage from losses on mortgages, business loans and related debt.

Shares sank, and investors fled to the safety of Treasuries as the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index fell 2.71 percent and the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 315.79 points, or 2.51 percent, to 12,266.39. Both indexes capped their worst four months since 2002.

Prices of municipal bonds, bank loans and high-yield debt all fell as well.

The markets for ultrasafe debt backed by the federal government and other nations were alone in posting gains. Some commodities, including gold, were also up.

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McCain Blasts Clinton's and Obama's Attacks On NAFTA
2008-03-01 03:42:10
During a campaign stop in Texas, the Republican front-runner says he wants to assure Canada, Mexico and other trading partners that he would negotiate and conclude free trade agreements.

Republican John McCain ramped up his criticism of his Democratic rivals' attacks on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Friday - arguing they are sending "the wrong message to the world" by pledging to renegotiate the treaty to protect American workers.

During a town hall meeting at the headquarters of Dell Computers in this suburb of Austin, McCain said criticism of NAFTA by New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama could have "an adverse effect" on Canada's commitment to fighting alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

"We need our Canadian friends and we need their continued support in Afghanistan," McCain said during the meeting with Dell employees. "So what do we do? The two Democratic candidates for president say that they're going to unilaterally ... abrogate the North America Free Trade Agreement. ... Now how do you think the Canadian people are going to react to that?"

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Judge Dismisses Suit On Pentagon's Anthrax Vaccination Policy
2008-03-01 03:41:22

An attorney for six Defense Department employees said Friday that they will appeal a federal judge's dismissal of their lawsuit challenging the Pentagon's policy of compulsory anthrax vaccinations for certain troops.

The employees had argued that, as military personnel, they should not be forced to take the vaccine because there is no scientific proof that it is effective for humans, said Mark Zaid, their attorney. The class-action lawsuit had asked the court to block the Pentagon from inoculating the plaintiffs and to rule that the vaccine was improperly licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled Friday that the FDA "did not act arbitrarily or capriciously" and granted the government's request to dismiss the case.

Zaid said the FDA incorrectly drew conclusions about the effectiveness of the vaccine in people based on old studies involving animals. "This case has repercussions far beyond the anthrax program," he said. "Anyone who is concerned about vaccine safety should be wary of this judicial decision."

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Judge Gives Back Wikileaks ' Web Address
2008-03-01 03:40:47

A federal judge in San Francisco said on Friday that he would withdraw an order that shut down the Web address for, a site that allows anonymous posting of documents to assist “peoples of all countries who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations.”

At a hearing, United States District Judge Jeffrey S. White appeared at times visibly frustrated that technology might have outrun the law and that, as a result, the court might not be able to rein in information disclosed online.

“We live in an age when people can do some good things and people can do some terrible things without accountability necessarily in a court of law,” said Judge White.

The underlying case was brought by Bank Julius Baer & Co., a Swiss banking company, and its Cayman Islands subsidiary, charging that Wikileaks had posted confidential, personally identifiable information about some of the bank’s customers.

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USDA Rejects 'Downer' Cow Meat Ban
2008-02-29 15:41:42

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer told Congress Thursday that he would not endorse an outright ban on "downer" cows entering the food supply or back stiffer penalties for regulatory violations by meat-processing plants in the wake of the largest beef recall in the nation's history.

Appearing at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Schafer said the department is investigating why it missed the inhumane treatment of cattle at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Chino, California, including workers administering electric shocks and high-intensity water sprays to downer cows - those too sick or weak to stand without assistance.

The secretary announced interim steps such as more random inspections of slaughterhouses and more frequent unannounced audits of the nearly two dozen plants that process meat for federal school lunch programs.

He deflected calls from Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin), the subcommittee chairman, for the government to ban all downer cows from the food supply, increase penalties for violators and require installation of 24-hour surveillance cameras in processing plants.

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Editorial: Cyber-Searches
2008-02-29 15:41:06
Intellpuke: The following editorial appeared in the French newspaper Le Monde's edition for Thursday, February 28, 2008.

Each citizen has the right to respect for his privacy. That injunction from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is incumbent upon all since 1948. On Wednesday, February 27, it incited the German Constitutional Court to strictly control the police's right to spy on the computers of persons suspected of terrorism via the Internet.

This decision of the Karlsruhe court was all the more anticipated because it bears on a question common to all democracies. At a time when individuals are confiding a growing share of themselves to the Net, where must government intrusions stop? In other words, does the fight against terrorism, pedophilia and cyber-crime justify the police arrogating extended investigatory powers to itself?

The Karlsruhe Court has answered no. It authorizes online searches, but it limits them. The police will have the right to monitor the Internet navigation of persons suspected of a crime from a distance. But it may only do so after obtaining authorization from a judge. And only in the case of concrete threats against human life or the government. Moreover, the data gathered through these cyber-searches may not be used by the justice system if they concern suspects' private lives.

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Deadly Poison Ricin Possibly Found In Las Vegas Motel, Police Investigating
2008-02-29 15:40:31
A substance found at a Las Vegas, Nevada, motel may be the deadly toxin ricin, but authorities said today they don't believe it was intended for a terrorist attack. Lab tests on the substance were pending and seven people were taken to hospitals as a precaution.

"This event does not appear to be terrorism related," FBI spokesman Richard Kolko, in Washington, D.C., said this morning. Kolko said the FBI is assisting local police in the investigation.

Police were called to the Extended Stay America Motel on Thursday and retrieved a package from the motel manager that was determined to be a chemical or controlled substance, said Officer Ramon Denby.

Two preliminary tests indicate it contained ricin, said Denby. Results from further tests by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a second local lab are expected later today, he said.
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U.S. Marine Freed In Japanese Rape Case, After Girl Drops Accusation
2008-02-29 15:36:29
An American Marine accused of raping a 14-year-old girl on Okinawa was released by Japanese police on Friday after the girl dropped her accusation, said the police.

It was unclear if the Marine’s release could help defuse the furor in Japan over the case, which had led to wide questioning of the military alliance with the United States and the presence of more than 40,000 American troops here. Fallout from the accusation had reached the high into United States ties with Japan, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed deep regret to the Japanese prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda.

Earlier, Fukuda had called the incident “unforgivable” and demanded that the United States take action to prevent crime by its service members.

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Bush Administration's Embrace Of Musharraf Irks Pakistanis
2008-02-29 03:55:28
The Bush administration’s continued backing of President Pervez Musharraf, despite the overwhelming rejection of his party by voters this month, is fueling a new level of frustration in Pakistan with the United States.

That support has rankled the public, politicians and journalists here, inciting deep anger at what is perceived as American meddling and the refusal of Washington to embrace the new, democratically elected government. John D. Negroponte, the deputy secretary of state, said Thursday during a Senate panel hearing that the United States would maintain its close ties to Musharraf.

Pakistanis say the Bush administration is grossly misjudging the political mood in Pakistan and squandering an opportunity to win support from the Pakistani public for its fight against terrorism. The opposition parties that won the Feb. 18 parliamentary elections say they are moderate and pro-American. By working with them, analysts say, Washington could gain a vital, new ally.

The American insistence that Musharraf play a significant role, they say, will only draw out a power struggle with the president and distract the new government from pushing ahead with alternatives to Musharraf’s policies on the economy and terrorism, which are widely viewed here as having failed.

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Turkey Says No Timetable For Iraq Pullout
2008-02-29 03:54:57
Turkey said on Wednesday it had "no timetable" to withdraw troops fighting Kurdish guerrillas in northern Iraq, resisting pressure from the United States and other allies to end the offensive quickly.

Thousands of Turkish troops crossed the border last Thursday to root out PKK fighters. The PKK has used remote mountainous northern Iraq as a base in their armed campaign for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey.

"Our objective is clear, our mission is clear and there is no timetable until ... those terrorist bases are eliminated," Turkish envoy Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference after talks in Baghdad with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari.

Davutoglu, chief foreign policy adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, was sent to Baghdad to explain Ankara's position on the offensive. He also met top U.S. officials in Iraq, including military commander General David Petraeus.

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