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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday March 16 2008 - (813)

Sunday March 16 2008 edition
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Commentary: A Deluded Wall Street Threaten The World Economy
2008-03-16 04:00:56
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by columnist Will Hutton and appeared in the The Observer's online edition for Sunday, March 16, 2008. Mr. Hutton writes: "The United States is about to be trashed by perhaps the greediest, most arrogant, self-deluding financial class in the country's history." His commentary follows:

If you'd been in Volare restaurant in downtown Chicago, Illinois, on Monday night, you would not have thought a U.S.  recession was imminent; the place was packed, as, earlier, was most of Michigan Avenue, the principal shopping street, despite the freezing winds.

That was before Friday as news spread of the collapse of Bear Stearns, America's fifth largest investment bank. A mounting financial crisis threatens to undermine the economy that supports, among many others, the clientele of Volare. The United States is about to be trashed by perhaps the greediest, most arrogant, self-deluding financial class in the country's history.

It is an epic tragedy whose ramifications are bound to impact on Britain and the rest of the world, beginning with the sanguine economic assumptions - of only the mildest of economic slowdowns - that underpinned Alistair Darling's Budget forecasts last week. But whether in Britain or America, politicians and policy-makers seem frozen into inactivity (with the honorable exception of the U.S. Federal Reserve, America's central bank). Messrs Brown and Darling echo President Bush and US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson; as little as possible must be done to regulate or impede the operation of the titans of Wall Street and the City, whatever their recklessness. Even Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, slugging it out for the Democratic presidential nomination, are happier to talk about the threat to American jobs from foreign trade than the mortal threat constituted by an out-of-control and broken financial system.

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Beijing Locks Down Lhasa, Tibet, As Crisis Grows
2008-03-16 04:00:17
At least 10, possibly dozens, killed in Tibet as violence spreads and international protests mount.

China flooded the streets of Lhasa with riot police, Saturday, as the international community urged an end to the bloodshed in Tibet that has already claimed at least 10 - possibly dozens more - lives.

Security forces were also used to regain control of a second community yesterday as a protest in Xiahe, Gansu province, followed the worst riots in Lhasa in almost 20 years. Thousands of protesters smashed government offices in Xiahe after marching through the streets chanting support for the Dalai Lama, according to overseas support groups. Observer correspondent Tania Branigan said the crowd was dispersed with tear gas, but quickly regrouped.

The disruption comes just months before the Olympic Games, when China's leaders had hoped to display a "harmonious society". However, chaos has gripped Xiahe, which is home to a large community that considers itself part of greater Tibet even though it is outside the Tibet Autonomous Region.

According to Sanjay Tashi of the Free Tibet Campaign, the city center was filled with tear gas, cars were set on fire, government buildings ransacked and the banned Tibetan flag flown over a school. Other witnesses said they saw 10 to 20 truckloads of riot police moving into the area. Police have fired tear gas rounds and arrested some protesters; ut the crowd stormed the jail and released the prisoners, said Tashi. However, other witnesses said the protests were mostly peaceful.

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Britain's MI5 Seeks Powers To Trawl Personal Records In New Terror Hunt
2008-03-16 03:59:42
Counter-terrorism experts call it a "force multiplier": an attack combining slaughter and electronic chaos. Now Britain's security services want total access to U.K. commuters' travel records to help them meet the threat.

Millions of U.K. commuters could have their private movements around cities secretly monitored under new counter-terrorism powers being sought by Britain's security services.

Records of journeys made by people using smart cards that allow 17 million Britons to travel by underground (subway), bus and train with a single swipe at the ticket barrier are among a welter of private information held by the state to which MI5 and police counter-terrorism officers want access in order to help identify patterns of suspicious behavior.

The request by the security services, described by shadow Home Secretary David Davis last night as "extraordinary", forms part of a fierce Whitehall debate over how much access the state should have to people's private lives in its efforts to combat terrorism.

It comes as the Cabinet Office finalizes Gordon Brown's new national security strategy, expected to identify a string of new threats to Britain - ranging from future "water wars" between countries left drought-ridden by global warming to cyber-attacks using computer hacking technology to disrupt vital elements of national infrastructure.

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Tornado Kills 1, Pummels Downtown Atlanta - Damage Estimated At $150 Million
2008-03-15 16:57:06

One person is dead and Atlanta is under a state of emergency as the city picks up from the first downtown tornado in history.

The latest developments:

-- Another large storm system was moving through metro Atlanta during the 4 p.m. hour. Doing the most damage: marble-sized hail, which left dents in cars in DeKalb County and covered lawns like snow.

-- Gov. Sonny Perdue declared a state of emergency in the areas of metro Atlanta damaged by Friday night's storms. In signing the executive order, Perdue said, "State resources are being made available to assist in the cleanup efforts. I have also spoken to FEMA Administrator David Paulison, and we will continue to coordinate closely to marshal federal, state and local resources as we recover."

-- One person was killed and another injured in a house on Live Oak Road in Polk County, near the line with Floyd County, Polk County 911 director Thomas Wilson told the AJC at 2:30 p.m. The victims have not been identified because their relatives have not been notified. Earlier reports had indicated two deaths.

-- The National Weather Service said Atlanta can expect more severe weather in the 4 p.m. hour. A new storm system was heading east along Interstate 20, and expected to reach metro Atlanta then.

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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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Concessions To Germany Threaten Plan To Combat Global Warming
2008-03-16 04:00:41

Europe's chances of spearheading a global post-Kyoto climate change accord were jeopardized Friday when Germany secured pledges that several of its heavy industries could be protected from international competition and exempted from the European Union's plan to combat global warming.

The concessions, agreed at a summit of European leaders in Brussels, Belgium will also complicate the chances of Europe delivering on its commitments to slash greenhouse gas emissions by a fifth by 2020.

Under intense pressure from German industrial lobbies, chancellor Angela Merkel won changes to the wording of the summit statement ordering the European commission to spell out how "energy-intensive industries" could be granted special treatment in the climate change package.

Britain and the commission had opposed German demands but, according to senior E.U. sources, Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the head of the commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, brokered the deal with Merkel.

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In Atlanta, 2 Killed In Saturday's Storm, After Night Of Tornado
2008-03-16 04:00:00

Two people are dead and Atlanta is under a state of emergency as the city picks up from the first downtown tornado in history.

The latest developments:

-- A broad-reaching tornado watch spanning the upper half of the state has been issued until early Sunday morning. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a tornado watch that stretches from Rome to Columbus. The watch, designating conditions favorable for one or more tornadoes, will last until 1 a.m.

-- Georgia nearly closed in on last year's record number of tornado reports, and 75 hail storms were reported Saturday. The NWS reported 10 possible tornadoes Saturday, all clustered in northern metro Atlanta and North Georgia, said forecaster Stephen Konarik.

"On March 1 last year, we had 14 tornados across the state," Konarik said. "That would be the bar in terms of most tornadoes in a single day."

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160 Feared Dead In Albania Explosion
2008-03-16 03:59:16

One hundred and sixty people, many of them Americans, are feared dead or injured after a series of large explosions at an army base on the outskirts of Tirana, the capital of Albania, said officials.

People suffering with burns, concussions and broken limbs were rushed to local hospitals following the blasts, believed to have begun while teams were dismantling munitions at a storage base. Many of the injuries were a result of flying glass or shrapnel.

"We do not know the exact number, but we fear the worst for the three teams, each of 21 people, working there at the time," said Juela Mecani, spokeswoman for the country's prime minister, Sali Berisha. "Several were U.S. citizens."

A spokesman for the Albanian interior ministry, Avni Neza, said army and police forces were trying to reach the area in armoured cars. "Helicopters have not yet managed to land because the explosions continue," he said.

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Update: 'War Zone' In Downtown Atlanta
2008-03-15 04:05:00
More severe storms expected Saturday.

When the storms hit Atlanta Friday night at its busiest basketball time, they hit hard, leaving the Centennial Olympic Park area looking like what one witness described as a "war zone."

There were injuries, including many abrasions from flying glass, but by midnight it appeared most were not critical.

The storm that made a direct hit on downtown Atlanta was reported widely as a "possible tornado," based on damage reports, radar sightings and the because "some people thought they may have heard a freight train sound" as it passed, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Leary.

Thunderstorms were expected to have passed out of the metro Atlanta area by 2 a.m., but even heavier weather was expected Saturday afternoon and evening.

The storms that hit Atlanta on Friday could be "nothing to compare with what's coming in tomorrow," said Leary.

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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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