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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday March 15 2008 - (813)

Saturday March 15 2008 edition
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News Analysis: Behind Bear Stearns Rescue Plan, A Wall Street Domino Theory
2008-03-15 03:52:39
The Federal Reserve’s unusual decision to provide emergency assistance to Bear Stearns underscores a long-building concern that one failure could spread across the financial system.

Wall Street firms like Bear Stearns conduct business with many individuals, corporations, financial companies, pension funds and hedge funds. They also do billions of dollars of business with each other every day, borrowing and lending securities at a dizzying pace and fueling the wheels of capitalism.

The sudden collapse of a major player could not only shake client confidence in the entire system, but also make it difficult for sound institutions to conduct business as usual. Hedge funds that rely on Bear to finance their trading and hold their securities would be stranded; investors who wrote financial contracts with Bear would be at risk; markets that depended on Bear to buy and sell securities would screech to a halt, if they were not already halted.

“In a trading firm, trust is everything,” said Richard Sylla, a financial historian at New York University. “The person at the other end of the phone or the trading screen has to believe that you will make good on any deal that you make.”

Commercial banks, mutual fund companies and other big financial firms with deep pockets would presumably weather such turmoil. Firms that traded extensively with Bear Stearns could be at great risk if the bank failed.

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Commentary: Cellphones To Keep Track Of Your Purchases - And You
2008-03-15 03:51:54
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Los Angeles Times consumer columnist David Lazarus and appears in the L.A. Times online edition for Saturday, March 15, 2008.

You might not know it, but as of January it became illegal in California for companies to require workers to have devices implanted under their skin that would reveal their whereabouts at all times.

State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) called his legislation a safeguard against "the ultimate invasion of privacy." Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law in October.

But your privacy may not be completely safe. The same chip-based technology that California won't allow to be forcibly placed under people's skin will soon be ubiquitous in cellphones, which the telecom industry believes will be increasingly used as electronic wallets to make purchases.

Virtually all leading cellphone makers are already introducing this technology to their handsets. Payments by cellphone are expected to explode over the next few years as more stores are equipped to handle such transactions.

Here's how it'll work: You go to the Gap, select a pair of khakis and wave your phone in front a reader at the cash register. The purchase price is instantly deducted from your checking account like a debit card or applied to a credit card account. A record of the purchase is also entered into the Gap's database.
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Editorial: Leaving Musharraf Behind
2008-03-15 03:51:00
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times editio for Saturday, March 15, 2008.

Parliamentary elections in Pakistan last month delivered a verdict that was just clean enough to be credible - a stern rout of President Pervez Musharraf’s party. Now, rivals Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, the leading opposition politicians, have further defied expectations by joining forces in a deal that could force Mr. Musharraf from office.

Assuming the agreement holds, the new Parliament, set to convene on Monday, would reinstate the Supreme Court judges whom Mr. Musharraf fired last year in a desperate bid to hold on to power. Once reinstated, the Supreme Court is likely to do exactly what Mr. Musharraf feared: invalidate his re-election. Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif also agreed to pass legislation stripping the former army chief of the power to dissolve Parliament and appoint military leaders.

As a monthlong surge in suicide bombings attests, this is a dangerous time for Pakistan, which has both nuclear arms and a far too cozy relationship with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. If Mr. Musharraf is ousted as a result of Pakistan’s democratic processes, that is Pakistan’s decision. The United States should not interfere.

The Bush administration stubbornly supported Mr. Musharraf as he ran roughshod over the Constitution and Pakistan’s people. The administration has promised to work with whatever government emerges, but it has refused to take a position on reinstating the judges and still seems to be betting that Mr. Musharraf will survive.

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Obama Denounces Pastor's Comments
2008-03-14 21:50:11
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Friday denounced inflammatory remarks from his pastor, who has railed against the United States and accused its leaders of bringing on the Sept. 11 attacks by spreading terrorism.

As video of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has widely aired on television and the Internet, Obama responded by posting a blog about his relationship with Wright and his church, Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, on the Huffington Post.

Obama wrote that he's looked to Wright for spiritual advice, not political guidance, and he's been pained and angered to learn of some of his pastor's comments for which he had not been present. A campaign spokesman said later that Wright was no longer on Obama's African American Religious Leadership Committee, without elaborating.

"I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies," said Obama. "I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Reverend Wright that are at issue."

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Stocks Tumble On Bear Stearns Troubles
2008-03-14 21:49:32

Stocks took a sharp dive on Friday after an emergency bailout for Bear Stearns, the troubled investment bank, rocked Wall Street’s confidence in the fragile credit market.

Though the rumors that Bear was in trouble had swirled for days, the announcement that JPMorgan Chase and the Federal Reserve would step in to prop up the bank seemed to catch Wall Street by surprise. Faced with fresh evidence that even the nation’s biggest banks remain vulnerable to the credit crisis, investors scurried for safety, sending the Dow Jones industrials down more than 300 points by mid-afternoon.

The blue-chip index finished down 194 points, or 1.6 percent, at 11,951.09, erasing nearly all its gains for the week.

The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, a broader measure of the stock market, lost 2.1 percent after following a similar trajectory, and the Nasdaq composite index shed 2.2 percent.

Concerns about credit have played havoc with the markets in recent weeks, leading the Dow to three triple-digit sell-offs in the last week alone. Market watchers are worried that banks will be less willing to lend to businesses, consumers, and other financial institutions, blocking up the bloodstream of the nation’s economy.

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U.S. House Rejects Telecom Immunity In Surveillance Bill
2008-03-14 21:48:43
After its first secret session in a quarter-century, the House on Friday rejected retroactive immunity for the phone companies that took part in the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless eavesdropping program after the Sept. 11 attacks, and it voted to place greater restrictions on the government’s wiretapping powers.

The decision, by a largely party-line vote of 213 to 197, is one of the few times when Democrats have been willing to buck up against the White House on a national security issue. It also ensures that the months-long battle over the government’s wiretapping powers will drag on for at least a few more weeks and possibly much longer.

With President Bush and Democratic leaders squaring off almost daily on the wiretapping question, neither side has shown much inclination to budge. The question now moves to the Senate, where lawmakers passed a bill last month that was much more to the liking of the White House. Unlike the bill approved Friday by the House, it would give legal immunity to the phone providers that helped in the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program, which President Bush says is essential to protect national security.

The House bill approved Friday includes three key elements: it would refuse retroactive immunity to the phone companies, providing special authority instead for the courts to decide the liability issue; it would add additional judicial restrictions on the government’s wiretapping powers while plugging certain loopholes in foreign coverage; and it would create a Congressional commission to investigate the N.S.A. program.

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European Union Gives U.S. Airlines 'Go Green' Ultimatum
2008-03-14 21:47:48

U.S. airlines must pay for their carbon dioxide emissions or face a curb on flights to the European Union, the E.U.  Transport Commissioner warned.

The "go green" ultimatum was issued by Jacques Barrot as the transatlantic airline market undergoes its biggest shakeup in 30 years when limits on flights between the E.U. and U.S. are lifted this month. Barrot said negotiations on a second phase for the treaty, will include a demand that U.S. carriers join the E.U. emissions trading scheme or an equivalent system in the U.S.

He added that requests by Washington, D.C., for data on passengers overflying the U.S. are disproportionate and will not be accepted by the E.U., in a warning that aviation security measures across the Atlantic are becoming too draconian.

However, the environmental dispute between the E.U. and the U.S. administration, which is refusing to let airlines join a carbon trading scheme, is set to escalate following Barrot's comments on Open Skies negotiations. Discussions on a second phase with officials from the U.S. department of transportation begin in May and Barrot said the E.U. had the power to withdraw flying rights if a deal is not reached.

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Eli Lilly E-Mail Discussed Unapproved Off-Label Drug Use
2008-03-14 21:46:12
John C. Lechleiter, an Eli Lilly official who is about to become the company’s top executive, wrote e-mail in 2003 that appears to have encouraged Lilly to promote its schizophrenia medicine Zyprexa for a use not approved by federal drug regulators.

Dr. Lechleiter’s comments came in a March 2003 e-mail message he wrote to other Lilly executives, after he traveled to Cincinnati to watch Lilly sales representatives talk to doctors.

The e-mail message was discussed earlier this week in an Anchorage courtroom in a lawsuit against Lilly by the state of Alaska. The suit seeks reimbursement for the medical costs of Medicaid patients who developed diabetes while taking Zyprexa. The drug causes severe weight gain and cholesterol problems in many patients and has been linked to diabetes.

Zyprexa is federally approved only for use by adults diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. While doctors are free to prescribe it “off label” for any patients for any use, it would be a violation of federal law for Lilly to actively encourage off-label use of the drug. In his e-mail message, Dr. Lechleiter discusses the use of Zyprexa by children and teenagers.

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Pentagon Accused Of Doctoring Guantanamo Tribunal Evidence
2008-03-14 21:44:49
The Navy defense lawyer for a Canadian prisoner accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan six years ago accused the Pentagon on Thursday of doctoring evidence to make his client appear guilty.

In pretrial motions in the case of Omar Khadr, who was 15 when he was wounded and arrested by U.S. forces, Lt. Cmdr. William C. Kuebler said the Army commander for the Khost region of eastern Afghanistan reported on July 28, 2002, that the person who threw a grenade that killed Sgt. 1st Class Christopher J. Speer also died in the firefight.

Two months after that report, the commander altered his account to say Speer's attacker was "engaged" by U.S. forces, Kuebler said. The officer was identified only as Lt. Col. W.

The government has listed the commander as a potential prosecution witness in Khadr's trial. Kuebler had sought to interview the lieutenant colonel but was denied access by the prosecution. At Thursday's hearing, he appealed to the Army judge handling Khadr's case, Col. Peter Brownback III, to make Lt. Col. W available to explain the change.
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Bear Stearns To Get Funds From J.P. Morgan Chase, N.Y. Fed Reserve
2008-03-14 15:02:42
Wall Street circled around one of its own Friday, with J.P. Morgan Chase and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York moving to bolster the finances of ailing investment firm Bear Stearns in hopes of fending off a broader unraveling of the financial sector.

U.S. markets plunged on the news, taking it as confirmation that one of Wall Street's high-profile players was in the midst of a cash crunch that threatened its business. Major exchanges fell as much as 2.5 percent, but the losses moderated for part of the morning and then the markets slumped again after noon. The Dow Jones industrial average  was down roughly 232 points, or about 1.9 percent, shortly before 1 p.m.

Shares in Bear Stearns had lost nearly 50 percent in initial trading as investors evaluated a bailout plan coordinated by J.P. Morgan and the New York Fed.

The two institutions Friday morning agreed to provide temporary funding to Bear Stearns, the Wall Street firm that was among the first to be hit by problems related to investments in risky U.S. subprime mortgages when two of its hedge funds failed last summer. Months later, amid a global credit crunch, those problems have extended to investments backed by even high-grade U.S. mortgages - a fact that led to the quick demise of the Carlyle Capital Corp. during the past week when creditors began demanding more collateral on loans used to make those investments.

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Gasoline Prices Hit New Record High
2008-03-14 15:02:05
The rally in energy prices gained momentum Friday, with retail gas prices rising further into record territory and diesel and heating oil futures setting records of their own amid concerns about strong global demand and tight supplies.

Crude oil prices fell modestly as a downturn in the stock market and worries about the economy prompted some profit-taking. But with the Federal Reserve expected to cut interest rates again next week, analysts expect the dollar to weaken further, propelling crude to new records.

At the pump, gas prices set records for the 4th straight day, rising 1.3 cents Friday to a national average price of $3.28 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Average prices are nearing $4 in some parts of Hawaii.

Diesel, meanwhile, rose 2.9 cents to a new record national average of $3.938 a gallon. Heating oil, a fellow distillate and close cousin of diesel, jumped to new records on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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GM Recalls 207,000 Pontiacs, Buicks
2008-03-14 15:01:03
General Motors Corp. says it is recalling more than 207,000 Buick Regal and Pontiac Grand Prix sedans because they can develop oil leaks that can cause fires.

GM says the cars are safe to drive, but drivers should not park them in garages or carports.

The automaker said Friday the recall affects 1997 to 2003 Buick Regal GS and Grand Prix GDP models with 3.8-liter supercharged V-6 engines.

GM says oil can leak onto the exhaust manifold if a driver brakes hard. If the oil gets hot enough it can catch fire.

It says the problem has caused 267 fires and six injuries.

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Your High-Tech Gadget May Have A Pre-Intalled Virus
2008-03-14 02:54:35
From iPods to navigation systems, some of today's hottest gadgets are landing on store shelves with some unwanted extras from the factory - pre-installed viruses that steal passwords, open doors for hackers and make computers spew spam.

Computer users have been warned for years about virus threats from downloading Internet porn and opening suspicious e-mail attachments. Now they run the risk of picking up a digital infection just by plugging a new gizmo into their PCs.

Recent cases reviewed by the Associated Press include some of the most widely used tech devices: Apple iPods, digital picture frames sold by Target and Best Buy stores and TomTom navigation gear.

In most cases, Chinese factories - where many companies have turned to keep prices low - are the source.
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EPA Closure Of Libraries Faulted For Curbing Access To Key Data
2008-03-14 02:53:45

A plan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to close several of its 26 research libraries did not fully account for the impact on government staffers and the public, who rely on the libraries for hard-to-find environmental data, congressional investigators reported Thursday.

The report by the Government Accountability Office found that the EPA effort, begun in 2006 to comply with a $2 million funding cut sought by the White House, may have hurt access to materials and services in the 37-year-old library network.

Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tennessee), chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, said the report reveals a "grim picture" of mismanagement at the EPA. The panel's oversight and investigations subcommittees held a hearing on the reorganization Thursday.

The libraries provide technical information and documentation for enforcement cases and help EPA staff members track new environmental technologies and the health risks associated with dangerous chemicals.

They also are repositories of scientific information that is used to back up the agency's positions on new regulations and environmental reports and data that are tapped by people such as developers and state and local officials. The collections include hard-to-find copies of documents on federal Superfund hazardous waste sites, water-quality data and the health of regional ecosystems.

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Georgia Students Ponder Future As Schools Court Disaster
2008-03-14 02:52:41
District would be the first in the U.S. since the '60s to lose its accreditation. Students are frustrated and residents of the predominantly black county are embarrassed.

Kyanda Daniels, a junior, ran for miles with the Jonesboro High School track team the other day. When she was done, she stood above the stadium, gasping for air, and wondering what on Earth she was striving for.

"We're in school for nothing, basically," said Daniels, 17. "When I get out my homework, I think to myself, 'Man, why am I doing this?' What college is going to accept us? Who would give us a scholarship?"

Anxiety has engulfed students across Clayton County, a predominantly black area south of Atlanta, Georgia, ever since they learned their school district could become the first in the nation since the 1960s to lose its accreditation.

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Chrysler To Shut Down Company For Two Weeks
2008-03-14 02:51:44
Chrysler, which is restructuring a troubled business under private ownership, told its workers in an e-mail Thursday that almost all of the company will shut down for two weeks in July to save money.

"This year, in order to create better alignment and efficiency across organizational lines and boost productivity, Chrysler will use a corporate-wide vacation shutdown for the weeks of July 7 and July 14," chief executive Robert L. Nardelli  wrote to Chrysler's 71,578 employees.

Sales of new autos are down 5.4 percent this year, as the economy flags and the national average price of gasoline tops $3 per gallon. Chrysler's sales are down 13 percent for the first two months of this year compared with last year. Toyota Motor said Thursday that it would cut production of its Tundra pickup trucks at plants in Texas and Indiana. 

Automakers in recent years have selectively shut down plants or entire manufacturing units, usually during the summer, to save money. General Motors and Ford plan two-week plant shutdowns this summer. During the technology crash of 2001, several Silicon Valley companies, such as Adobe Systems and Sun Microsystems, ordered employees to take a week off to save money.

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Soldiers, Marines Tell Of Iraq, Afghanistan Incidents Live Online
2008-03-15 03:52:12
Grim-faced and sorrowful, former soldiers and Marines sat before an audience of several hundred Friday in Silver Spring, Maryland, and shared their recollections of their service in Iraq.

The stories spilled out, sometimes haltingly, sometimes in a rush: soldiers firing indiscriminately on Iraqi vehicles, an apartment building filled with Iraqi families devastated by an American gunship. Some descriptions were agonized, some vague; others offered specific dates and locations. All were recorded and streamed live to the Web.

The four-day event, "Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan - Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations," is sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War and is expected to draw more than 200 veterans of the two wars through Sunday.  Timed for the eve of the fifth anniversary of the war's start next week, organizers hope the soldiers' accounts will galvanize public opposition.

For some of the veterans speaking Friday, the experience was catharsis.

Former Marine Jon Turner began his presentation by ripping his service medals off his shirt and tossing them into the first row. He then narrated a series of graphic photographs showing bloody victims and destruction, bringing gasps from the audience. In a matter-of-fact voice, he described episodes in which he and fellow Marines shot people out of fear or retribution.

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NATO Expansion, Bush Legacy In Doubt
2008-03-15 03:51:28
President Bush’s efforts to cement a trans-Atlantic legacy by adding three nations to NATO appear in disarray as the alliance struggles with internal political divisions, new tensions with Russia and the combat mission in Afghanistan that have exposed disparities of might and will among current members, said officials, diplomats and analysts.

As Bush and other leaders of the alliance prepare to meet in Romania in three weeks, invitations to Albania, Croatia and Macedonia to join have become mired in a spat with Greece over Macedonia’s name and more fundamental concerns that none of the three prospects have met all of the domestic political qualifications for membership.

And the administration’s hope of extending “road maps” to membership to two former Soviet republics, Ukraine and Georgia, has run into strong opposition from some of the United States’ closest allies, including Germany, which fear provoking Russia, according to two NATO-nation diplomats and a Bush administration official.

The potential for confrontation with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, who will attend part of the summit meeting in Bucharest, has caused such anxiety that Bush has dispatched his secretaries of state and defense to Moscow for meetings on Monday and Tuesday to soothe some of Russia’s anger. Their agenda includes American plans to install missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, which Russia strongly opposes, although NATO expansion is likely to be discussed, said officials.

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Breaking News: Tornado Hits Downtown Atlanta, Rescuers Search For Victims
2008-03-15 02:47:00
The search for anyone who might be trapped in an apartment building that collapsed when a tornado swept through downtown Atlanta Friday evening could last until Sunday, Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran said early Saturday.

The Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts, just east of downtown Atlanta, collapsed in a "pancake fashion," said Cochran.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said emergency officials have determined that it was a tornado that ripped through the heart of her city, damaging the roof of the Georgia Dome during a college basketball game, shattering windows and tearing roofs from buildings before continuing into several residential neighborhoods.

Officials at two Atlanta hospitals said they'd treated at least 15 people for injuries - two of them firefighters.

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Judge Calls Immigration Officials' Decision 'Beyond Cruel'
2008-03-14 21:49:51
The ruling says a detainee who later died of penile cancer was denied a biopsy of a lesion though several doctors said the procedure was urgently needed. His family will be allowed to seek damages.

In a stinging ruling, a Los Angeles federal judge said immigration officials' alleged decision to withhold a critical medical test and other treatment from a detainee who later died of cancer was "beyond cruel and unusual" punishment.

The decision from U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson allows the family of Francisco Castaneda to seek financial damages from the government.

Castaneda, who suffered from penile cancer, died Feb. 16. Before his release from custody last year, the government had refused for 11 months to authorize a biopsy for a growing lesion, even though voluminous government records showed that several doctors said the test was urgently needed, given Castaneda's condition and a family history of cancer, said Pregerson.
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Commentary: Interrogators Don't Need To Torture: It Doesn't Work
2008-03-14 21:49:07
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Robert Weiner and John Larmett and first appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer's edition for Friday, March 14, 2008. Mr. Weiner is president of Robert Weiner Associateds Public Affairs and Issue Strategies, and was a public affairs director in the Clinton administration. Mr. Larmett is a senior policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates. Their commentary follows:

The House vote this week was 225 to 188 - not enough to override President Bush's veto of legislation requiring the CIA to abide by the same interrogation rules that bar torture by the military.

Congress should pass new legislation and insist on "no torture" as universal U.S. policy. This should be a central presidential campaign issue.

Since the revelations of Abu Ghraib, President Bush has said repeatedly that "We do not torture."

Yet Gen. Michael Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, admitted in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Feb. 5 that the CIA had used waterboarding on terror suspects three times in recent years.

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said last year, "If we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy, that would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary."

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Commentary: Native Americans On 'Longest Walk 2' To Grand Canyon, Colorado
2008-03-14 21:48:09
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Darrin Mortenson, writing from Beale Springs, Arizona, and was first posted on the's website edition for Friday, March 14, 2008. Mr. Mortenson's commentary follows:

When northwestern Arizona's Hualapai Indians got in the way of the Anglos' westward expansion in the 1860's, US soldiers rounded them up, penned them in and forced survivors to march some 100 miles across the desert to a reservation far from white commerce.

"We became strangers to our own land," said Loretta Jackson, the tribe's current director of cultural resources, who says the tribe now suffers a scourge of alcoholism and health issues, encroachment from rampant development and invasions of their sacred sites.

It's a story familiar to Native American tribes across the continent, and one of many such stories now getting a fresh hearing as activists of the American Indian Movement once again take the "Longest Walk" across the nation from Alcatraz, California, to Washington, DC, visiting the Hualapai and other tribes and spotlighting Indian and environmental issues as they go.

Traveling in two groups - a northern band of some 40 hardy souls now entering snowy Colorado, and a southern group of about 100 trekking across the Arizona desert near the Grand Canyon - the activists struck out from San Francisco on foot on February 11 and say they hope to reach the nation's capital on July 11. Once in Washington, they plan to deliver Congress a "manifesto" relating what they learn from tribes and other Americans they meet along the way.

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U.S. State Dept. Report: Anti-Semitism On The Rise Globally
2008-03-14 21:47:17
A report from the U.S. State Department details "an upsurge" across the world of anti-Semitism -- hostility and discrimination toward Jewish people.

"Today, more than 60 years after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is not just a fact of history, it is a current event," the report says.

The report - called "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism" and given to Congress on Thursday - is dedicated to the memory of the late U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, a survivor of the Holocaust, the extermination of 6 million Jews during World War II.

The report details physical acts of anti-Semitism, such as attacks, property damage, and cemetery desecration. It also lists manifestations such as conspiracy theories concerning Jews, Holocaust denial, anti-Zionism and the demonization of Israel.

"Over much of the past decade, U.S. embassies worldwide have noted an increase in anti-Semitic incidents, such as attacks on Jewish people, property, community institutions, and religious facilities," the report says.

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New Evidence In Siegelman Case Points To Republican Cabal
2008-03-14 21:45:26

A new review of evidence suggests that an aligned group of Republican interests were pressing for - and seeking to profit financially from - the trial of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on charges of bribery.

According to court documents and official testimony, months before Siegelman was charged, Rob Riley, the son of the state's governor, expressed confidence that an indictment would occur and that Siegelman's political financier, Richard Scrushy, would be drawn into case.

Around the same time, moreover, Riley managed to maneuver himself into an extremely profitable position: lead local counsel on a separate, massive civil suit against Scrushy and his company, HealthSouth.

How he received the assignment aroused some suspicion.

Riley had limited experience in securities litigation. And, for critics, his appointment gave of the appearance of legal-political insider trading: the governor's son, cognizant that Scrushy would be dragged into Siegelman's case, saw the benefits to be had from the civil suit against Scrushy's company, and positioned himself to profit.

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Archaeologists Discover Ruins Of Inca Temple In Peru
2008-03-14 21:43:49

Archaeologists in Peru have discovered the ruins of an ancient temple, road and irrigation systems at a fortress overlooking the Inca capital of Cuzco.

The lead archaeologist, Oscar Rodriguez, said the temple, on the periphery of the Sacsayhuaman fortress, included 11 rooms thought to have held mummies and idols.

Rodriguez's team of archaeologists believe the structures predate the Inca empire, but were significantly developed and expanded by the civilization.

"It's from both the Inca and pre-Inca cultures - it has a sequence," Washington Camacho, the director of the Sacsayhuaman archaeological park, told the Associated Press. "The Incas entered and changed the form of the temple, as it initially had a more rustic architecture."

Archaeologists are still waiting for the results of carbon-dating tests, but Camacho said their calculations about the site's age were supported by historical references such as ceramics and construction style.

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Tibet Protests Turn Violent, Shops Burn In Lhasa
2008-03-14 15:02:25
A week of tense confrontations over Chinese rule in Tibet erupted in violence Friday, as hundreds of protesters clashed with police and set fire to shops in the center of Lhasa. Doctors reported dozens of wounded streaming into area hospitals, and one witness said the downtown area was "in a state of siege."

The rare breakout of violence, the worst in 20 years in the capital city of a remote mountainous region that is the heart of Tibetan Buddhism, posed a challenge to the Chinese government as it prepares to host the 2008 Olympic Games in August. Seeking to make the Games a worldwide celebration of its swift economic progress during the past three decades, the Chinese government has steadfastly attempted to project an image of harmony and stability, even while tightening its grip over the restive region.

"This spiraling unrest has triggered the scenario the Chinese prayed would not happen," said Robbie Barnett, director of modern Tibetan studies at Columbia University. "Now we're just watching the clock tick until people get off the street or the Chinese open fire."

Clark T. Randt, Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Chnina, met with officials in Beijing and urged them to use restraint "and not resort to use of force" in their response in Tibet, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told news services in Washington, D.C.

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Witnesses: Chinese Authorities Surround Tibetan Monasteries
2008-03-14 15:01:26
Police surrounded at least two Buddhist monasteries Thursday in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, in an attempt to contain an increasingly desperate protest by monks who oppose China's rule of the region, according to news reports.

Two monks attempted suicide Thursday in the Drepung Monastery near Lhasa, according to Radio Free Asia, a nonprofit news organization funded by the U.S. government. At nearby Sera Monastery, monks began a hunger strike to protest the authorities' response to demonstrations that began Monday to mark the 49th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against the Chinese, Radio Free Asia reported.

Meanwhile, monks launched small-scale protests at monasteries tightly controlled by the Chinese in traditionally Tibetan areas of Qinghai province, which borders Tibet, the Associated Press reported. "For the past few days, we have been on high alert for protests and other formal gatherings by monks as this has been a widespread occurrence," said an official in the local Bureau of Religious Affairs, according to the A.P.

The rare demonstrations, believed to be the largest in two decades, come at a sensitive time for China, which is already under fire for its human rights record as it prepares to host the 2008 Olympic Games in August.

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U.S. Economy Hammered By Toxic Blend Of Ailments
2008-03-14 02:55:04
Almost everything seems to be going wrong for the American economy at once. People are buying less, but most things are costing more. Mortgage rates are rising, the dollar is falling and prices of key commodities like oil are leaping from one record high to the next.

On Thursday, the dollar plumbed new lows against the Japanese yen and several other major currencies; the price of an ounce of gold jumped above $1,000 for the first time; and lenders raised home loan rates once again. Government figures showed retail sales fell in February as consumers cut back on cars, furniture and electronics.

Stocks fell sharply after the retail sales report was released early in the day, and a large investment fund said it was nearing collapse. The volatility that has defined the market lately continued unabated.

The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index fell 2 percent in the morning, then rebounded partly in reaction to a report that said banks were nearing the end of subprime mortgage losses. It was up nearly 1 percent in the afternoon before paring that gain to close up 0.5 percent, to 1,315.48 points. The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 35.5 points, to 12,145.74 points.

A toxic blend of economic and financial developments is testing policy makers and lawmakers who are struggling to contain the slump brought on by the collapse of the mortgage market, a downturn that now looks sure to push the economy into a recession. Though current conditions are a far cry from the 1970s, resurgent inflation is raising the threat of stagflation - a condition in which unemployment and the price of goods and services both rise.

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EPA Weakened Ozone Rules At Bush's Request
2008-03-14 02:54:12

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency weakened one part of its new limits on smog-forming ozone after an unusual last-minute intervention by President Bush, according to documents released by the EPA.

EPA officials initially tried to set a lower seasonal limit on ozone to protect wildlife, parks and farmland, as required under the law. While their proposal was less restrictive than what the EPA's scientific advisers had proposed, Bush overruled EPA officials and on Tuesday ordered the agency to increase the limit, according to the documents.

"It is unprecedented and an unlawful act of political interference for the president personally to override a decision that the Clean Air Act leaves exclusively to EPA's expert scientific judgment," said John Walke, clean-air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

The president's order prompted a scramble by administration officials to rewrite the regulations to avoid a conflict with past EPA statements on the harm caused by ozone.

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National Republican Congressional Committee Says Ex-Treasurer Diverted Up To $1 Million
2008-03-14 02:53:19

The former treasurer for the National Republican Congressional Committee diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars - and possibly as much as $1 million - of the organization's funds into his personal accounts, Republican Party officials said Thursday, describing an alleged scheme that could become one of the largest political frauds in recent history.

For at least four years, Christopher J. Ward, who is under investigation by the FBI, allegedly used wire transfers to funnel money out of NRCC coffers and into other political committee accounts he controlled as treasurer, NRCC leaders and lawyers said in their first public statement since they turned the matter over to the FBI six weeks ago.

"The evidence we have today indicated we have been deceived and betrayed for a number of years by a highly respected and trusted individual," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), the NRCC chairman.

The committee also announced that it has submitted to banks five years' worth of audits and financial documents allegedly faked by Ward, some of which were used to secure multimillion-dollar loans. It is a violation of federal laws to obtain loans through false statements; the crime is punishable by up to $1 million in fines and 30 years in prison.

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Al-Qaeda Sets Deadline For Captive Tourists
2008-03-14 02:52:12
Al-Qaeda's branch for North Africa on Thursday set a three-day deadline to meet conditions for the release of two Austrian tourists it claimed to have kidnapped in Tunisia last month.

In a statement posted on the Internet - which included six photographs purportedly showing Austrians Wolfgang Ebner and Andrea Kloiber - al-Qaeda in Islamic North Africa said it would free the pair if all of the group's members were released from jails in Tunisia and Algeria. The posting gave Austrian authorities three days, starting midnight Thursday, to comply.

The statement, the authenticity of which could not be independently verified although it was posted on a Web site linked to the group, also called on Western tourists to avoid visiting the Maghreb region in northern Africa.

"Austria is responsible for the lives of the two hostages in the event of the expiration of the time period and not responding to our demands," it said and urged families of the two Austrians to pressure their government to meet the group's demands.

The woman in the photographs, said to be Kloiber, was shown wearing a headscarf and her face was obscured. According to extremist Islamist beliefs, showing a woman's face in public and in images is prohibited. Both she and the man, who had a graying mustache and a short beard, were wearing traditional Arab robes.
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Yuma, Arizona, Wants Moat To Keep Out Migrants
2008-03-14 02:50:29

There have been virtual fences, real fences, increased patrols and night-vision cameras. Now the latest initiative by the U.S. to seal its increasingly porous border with Mexico harks back to one of the oldest approaches: dig a moat. City officials in Yuma, in south-western Arizona, have come up with a scheme to create a "security channel" along the nearby border by reviving a derelict two-mile stretch of the Colorado river.

"The moats that I've seen circled the castle and allowed you to protect yourself, and that's kind of what we're looking at here," Yuma county sheriff Ralph Ogden told the Associated Press. The scheme would see engineers dig out a two-mile stretch of a 180-hectare (440-acre) wetland known as Hunters Hole.

Once a haven to anglers, ducks and the Cocopah Indians, the area is now a thicket of tamarisk, forgotten shoes and old cars providing cover for smugglers and border crossers. Under the plan, all that would change. The banks of the river would be replanted with native cattail, bulrush and mesquite, and wells would supply water to the wetlands as well as to a 20-meter-wide, three-meter-deep channel that would run the length of Hunters Hole.

With the replenished river marking the frontier, would-be border crossers would have to scale a 4.5-meter levee - built with the earth excavated from the riverbed - cross a 120-meter-wide marsh and then ascend another levee on the northern side of the wetlands.

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