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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday March 22 2008 - (813)

Saturday March 22 2008 edition
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NYPD In Turf War With FBI In Battle Against Terrorism
2008-03-22 02:41:45
Not long after Sept. 11, 2001, as New York City began to build a counterterrorism effort to rival those of most nations, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly decided to put an end to the department's reliance on the FBI for classified data coming in from Washington, D.C.

Kelly, who was working to protect the city against another attack, wanted his own access to the stream of threat reporting concerning New York. The solution was to install a classified-information vault, like the FBI's, at the headquarters of the New York City Police Department. 

Kelly made the request in the spring of 2002 and waited six years for an answer. After questions from the Washington Post for this story, the FBI said it has decided to approve the vault, a specially designed, guarded room known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.

No other police department in the United States has responded to the threats of terrorism in quite the same way as the NYPD - or clashed as sharply with the nation's primary counterterrorism agency, the FBI.

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S&P Lowers Its Credit Outlook For Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers
2008-03-22 02:41:07
Goldman Sachs Group, the biggest U.S. securities firm, and rival Lehman Brothers Holdings had their credit-rating outlooks cut to negative by Standard & Poor's, which said Wall Streetbanks' profits may fall as much as 30 percent in the coming year.

"Our current expectation is that net revenue could decline" by at least 20 percent at independent securities firms, S&P said in a statement yesterday. It affirmed its long-term credit rating of AA- for Goldman and A+ for Lehman. A+ is slightly lower than AA-.

The Federal Reserve's decision last week to open a lending facility for brokers and provide financial support for J.P. Morgan Chase's emergency takeover of Bear Stearns "mitigates liquidity concerns," S&P said. "Nonetheless, we see some possibility, were there to be persisting capital markets turmoil and sharply weakening economic conditions, that financial performance could deteriorate significantly."

J.P. Morgan, the third-largest U.S. commercial bank by assets, agreed March 16 to buy Bear Stearns in an all-stock deal that values the securities firm at $366 million, based on yesterday's closing price. The collapse of Bear Stearns ranks along with Drexel Burnham Lambert as the biggest in Wall Street history.

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Doctors Are New Focus Of Inquiry Into Bribes
2008-03-22 02:40:15

A long-running federal investigation into the orthopedic device industry’s suspected kickback payments to hip and knee surgeons now has the doctors in the spotlight.

Having reached settlements with the five leading makers of artificial joints last year over the payments, the government has been focusing on the many doctors who receive money as the companies’ paid consultants.

“We are going to be looking at those soliciting kickbacks,” Lewis Morris, the chief counsel in the federal office that pursues civil complaints of Medicare fraud, told an audience of hundreds of doctors, company representatives and investors this month in San Francisco, California, at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

The same message has gone out to health care lawyers attending legal education seminars in recent months and, directly from Christopher J. Christie, Jr., the United States attorney in Newark, New Jersey, who is overseeing the investigation. Executives say Christie has addressed sales meetings of the five companies, which reached a settlement last fall to avoid prosecution on charges they had routinely paid illegal kickbacks to surgeons.

Christie said: “ ‘I’ve dealt with the supply issue, now I need to deal with the demand issue’,” recalled Edward B. Lipes, the executive vice president in charge of surgeon relationships at the device maker Stryker Corporation, the first of the companies to cooperate in the investigation, which began in 2005.

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Russian TV Journalist Hanged, Stabbed To Death
2008-03-22 02:38:56
A television journalist was found dead in a Moscow apartment Friday with a belt around his neck and numerous stab wounds - a grisly murder that reinforces Russia's image as one of the most dangerous countries for reporters.

Hours after the body of Ilyas Shurpayev was discovered, an executive in charge of the provincial state TV station in his home region of Dagestan was shot to death by unidentified men, and police were looking for links between the two killings.

More than a dozen journalists have been killed since 2000. Many appear to have been targeted because of their attempts to dig into allegations of corruption.

Charges have rarely been filed, including in the 2006 slaying in Moscow of Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative reporter who won acclaim for her reporting of atrocities against civilians in war-scarred Chechnya.

Shurpayev worked for Channel One, a station controlled by the Kremlin.

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Pakistan's New Leaders To Talk With Militants
2008-03-22 02:38:21
Faced with a sharp escalation of suicide bombings in urban areas, the leaders of Pakistan’s new coalition government say they will negotiate with the militants believed to be orchestrating the attacks, and will use military force only as a last resort.

That talk has alarmed American officials, who fear it reflects a softening stance toward the militants just as President Pervez Musharrafhas given the Bush administration a freer hand to strike at militants using pilotless Predator drones.

Many Pakistanis, however, are convinced that the surge in suicide bombings - 17 in the first 10 weeks of 2008 - is retaliation for three Predator strikes since the beginning of the year. The spike in attacks, combined with the crushing defeat of Musharraf’s party in February parliamentary elections, has brought demands for change in his American-backed policies.

Speaking in separate interviews, the leaders of Pakistan’s new government coalition - Asif Ali Zardari, of the Pakistan Peoples Party, and Nawaz Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N - tried to strike a more independent stance from Washington and repackage the conflict in a more palatable way for Pakistanis.

They said they were determined to set a different course from that of President Musharraf, who has received generous military financial help of more than $10 billion from Washington for his support.

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Gov. Bill Richardson Endorses Obama
2008-03-21 16:42:10
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson delivered a forceful endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for president on Friday, urging Democrats to unite behind his candidacy to move the nation beyond its racial and partisan divide.

“It is now time for a new generation of leadership to lead America forward,” said Richardson, speaking to thousands of supporters at a rally in Portland, Oregon. “Barack Obama will be a historic and a great president, who can bring us the change we so desperately need by bringing us together as a nation here at home and with our allies abroad.”

Richardson, who sought to become the nation’s first Hispanic president, dropped out of the Democratic race in January after finishing behind Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the opening contests of Iowa and New Hampshire. Since then, he had been aggressively courted by his former rivals, but he said Friday that he could no longer stand on the sidelines of his party’s nominating fight.

“My great affection and admiration for Senator Clinton and President Bill Clinton will never waver,” said Richardson. “It is time, however, for Democrats to stop fighting amongst ourselves and prepare for the tough fight we will have against John McCain in the fall.”

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Starbucks Must Repay $100 Million To Baristas For Tips Shared With Supervisors
2008-03-21 16:41:34
Starbucks got caught with its hand in the tip jar and was ordered Thursday to pay California baristas more than $100 million.

In a San Diego County class-action lawsuit, a judge ordered the coffee giant to pay back tips, with interest, that the company had handed over to shift supervisors. Some baristas could receive more than $10,000, according to their attorney.

The ruling was met with cheers by California baristas. "I'm stoked," said Leekeisha Smith, who makes coffee drinks in the Starbucks at Sunset Boulevard and La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles.

"Wow. I'm just shocked that we'll get that [money] back." Smith, 23, said she found out about the lawsuit from a letter sent to employees.

Starbucks Corp. said it was outraged and vowed to appeal. In a statement, the company said the decision "is not only contrary to law, it is fundamentally unfair and beyond all common sense and reason."
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A Burst Of Light From Halfway To The Beginning Of The Universe
2008-03-21 16:40:43
How far can you see with your own eyes on a clear night? Would you believe seven billion light years?

Early Wednesday morning, a spot of light just barely visible to the human eye (about fifth magnitude in astronomical parlance) appeared in the constellation Bootes. Astronomers say it was the toasted remains of one of the most titanic examples yet of the explosions known as gamma-ray bursts. News about the burst, in a galaxy seven billion light years away, began circulating by e-mail in the astronomical community when it was detected by NASA’s Swift satellite on March 19.

Gamma ray bursts are some of the most violent and enigmatic events in nature. Astronomers surmise that they might mark the implosion of a massive star into a black hole, or the collision of a pair of dense neutron stars.

The visible glow from this burst, said Neil Gehrels of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, was 10 million times as bright as a supernova at that same distance. The universe is some 14 billion years old, which means that the news of this cataclysm has been on its way to us for half the age of the universe. Whatever stars went to their grave then have been dead since before the Sun and Earth were born.

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Editorial: Socialized Compensation
2008-03-21 03:55:43
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Friday, March 21, 2008.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pelosi Urges World To Condemn China Over Tibet Crackdown
2008-03-22 02:41:27

The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Friday called on the international community to condemn China for its crushing of protests in Tibet, saying the crisis was a challenge to the "conscience of the world".

Nancy Pelosi, who leads the Democratic party in the U.S. House, was the first foreign politician to meet the Dalai Lama since the bloody unrest spread across the roof of the world. Her appearance alongside the Tibetan spiritual leader at his home in the north Indian town of Dharamshala was condemned by Beijing, which accused her of meddling in China's internal affairs.

Pelosi's visit and strong language are the most serious breach in a western consensus that China's economic and strategic strength renders impossible any protest beyond verbal expressions of unease.

She did not call for an Olympic boycott, which the Dalai Lama has also opposed, but appeared to open the door to one if China maintained its crackdown in Tibet. She said the "world is watching" events there, and called for an international investigation into the violence, and access to the region for journalists and international human rights monitors.

Pelosi said it was incumbent on "freedom-loving people throughout the world" to speak out against China's "oppression". If they did not, "we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world".

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Buildings Crack Up As Black Forest Town Sinks Into The Ground
2008-03-22 02:40:47

In the last six months mysterious cracks have appeared in buildings in a picturesque Black Forest town. As the cracks have grown, so have residents' concerns. The problem is the town is slowly sinking into the ground. A geothermal project is apparently to blame.

People living in the small town of Staufen could be forgiven for having that sinking feeling. The citizens of Staufen, a picturesque town on the edge of the Black Forest in southern Germany, have good reason to feel worried: parts of their historic town center are slowly sinking into the ground.

As the earth beneath the town has given way, large cracks have appeared in the town hall, a church, two schools and over 50 homes. The first of the mysterious cracks, which have got bigger and bigger, was spotted two weeks after the town council embarked on an innovative geothermal project.

But what happened next took the forward-thinking town council by surprise. By trying to do its bit for the environment, the council appears to have upset a delicate balance. A couple of weeks after carrying out the work, the first cracks in the facade of buildings started to appear. So far, Staufen Mayor Michael Benitz told Spiegel Online, the damage has been primarily cosmetic. "No buildings are in danger of collapsing," he said.

The problems began when, as part of the refurbishment of the town hall - built in 1546 - the council decided to heat the building with geothermal power from deep below the earth's surface. In September last year an Austrian company sunk seven geothermal probes 140 meters into the ground.

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Wi-Fi Woes: Hopes For Wireless Cities Fade As Internet Providers Pull Out
2008-03-22 02:39:48
It was hailed as Internet for the masses when Philadelphia officials announced plans in 2005 to erect the largest municipal Wi-Fi grid in the country, stretching wireless access over 135 square miles with the hope of bringing free or low-cost service to all residents, especially the poor.

Municipal officials in Chicago, Illinois, Houston, Texas, San Francisco, California, and 10 other major cities, as well as dozens of smaller towns, quickly said they would match Philadelphia’s plans.

But the excited momentum has sputtered to a standstill, tripped up by unrealistic ambitions and technological glitches. The conclusion that such ventures would not be profitable led to sudden withdrawals by service providers like EarthLink, the Internet company that had effectively cornered the market on the efforts by the larger cities.

Now, community organizations worry about their prospects for helping poor neighborhoods get online.

In Tempe, Arizona, and Portland, Oregon, for example, hundreds of subscribers have found themselves suddenly without service as providers have cut their losses and either abandoned their networks or stopped expanding capacity.

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Sanctions Against Iran Are Failing, Say Analysts
2008-03-22 02:38:35

The conservative consolidation of power in Iran's parliamentary elections has shown that international sanctions are backfiring, according to liberal analysts in Tehran.

Religious conservatives have won 70% of the seats decided so far and are likely to maintain their grip after an imminent run-off vote for about 90 undecided seats.

The election has strengthened the hand of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, a militantly conservative force with growing control over the economy. At least 120 of the 290 members of the new parliament will be former guardsmen like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Reformists, barred from standing across the country, have only won 40 seats. They expected to do well in Tehran, where they were allowed to compete, but are yet to win a seat there, and demanded a recount.

The election results are a blow to advocates of sanctions as a means to pressure Tehran into suspending uranium enrichment, which the country's critics allege is a cover for a secret arms program. Iran insists it is for energy generation.

A year ago U.S. and British diplomats were pointing to criticism of Ahmadinejad's combative style on the world stage as evidence that economic pressure was working. "It's hard to see that now," a western diplomat in Tehran admitted.

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Scenes Of Horror Described By Witnesses To Tibet Violence
2008-03-22 02:37:47
On a cloudless day near the top of the world, Swiss tourist Claude Balsiger had just finished a late-morning cup of tea and stepped out onto the streets of Tibet's capital. Buddhist monks had been marching against Chinese rule all week, but today seemed calmer.

Suddenly, Tibetan youths started hurling paving stones at police, who tried to protect themselves with their riot shields.

Over the next few hours, the odor of tear gas and fires replaced the scent of incense wafting from backpacker cafes. The intense Himalayan light was blacked out by smoke. And in the days that followed, violence would spread beyond Lhasa to ethnic Tibetan villages deep inside China and to Chinese embassies worldwide.

China has barred Western journalists from entering Tibet and ethnic Tibetan areas. But interviews with foreign witnesses and Chinese residents, as well as blog postings by Tibetans too frightened to be interviewed, show that during three crucial hours on March 14, woefully unprepared police fled, allowing rioters to burn and smash much of Lhasa's commercial center.

Tibetans randomly beat and killed Chinese solely on the basis of their ethnicity: a young motorcyclist bludgeoned in the head with paving stones and probably killed; a teenage boy in school uniform being dragged by a mob. When authorities did regroup, paramilitary troops fired live ammunition into the crowds. Witnesses did not see protesters armed with anything other than stones, bottles of gasoline or a few traditional Tibetan knives.
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McCain, Clinton, Obama Passport Records Breached At State Dept.
2008-03-21 16:41:52

The State Department said Friday that four employees examined the passport files of three presidential candidates without authorization, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised a full investigation into what she called a disturbing breach of privacy.

Rice told reporters this morning that she has apologized to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) for the unauthorized viewing of his passport file by three State Department contract employees. The breach, disclosed last night, prompted the department to fire two of the employees.

Investigators found that one of the contract employees who viewed Obama's file had also looked into the passport file of Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona)without authorization earlier this year, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. That person has been "disciplined" and no longer has access to passport records but has not been fired, he said.

"We are reviewing our options with respect to that individual's continued employment with the department," he said.

A fourth person, a State Department trainee in the passport office, called up the file of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York)during a training session last summer and was "immediately admonished," said McCormack.

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BP Faces Environment Inquiry In Russia
2008-03-21 16:41:04
BP's problems in Russia continued Friday.

A Russian environmental agency announced that it would inspect a large oil field in Siberia, the Samotlor, which is controlled by BP’s joint venture, TNK-BP. The announcement came a day after Russian security authorities arrested an TNK-BP employee for industrial espionage.

Notice of the inspection appeared Friday morning on the Web site of the ministry of natural resources, the Rosprirodnadzor.

Already this week, Russian security forces raided the Arbat Street headquarters of TNK-BP, as well as the offices of BP, carting away documents and computer hard drives in what oil analysts say appears to be a campaign of mounting pressure on BP.

On Thursday, the F.S.B., the main successor agency to the Soviet-era K.G.B., announced the arrest of an employee who had duel Russian and American citizenship, and the man’s brother, on charges of spying for Western oil companies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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