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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday March 11 2008 - (813)

Tuesday March 11 2008 edition
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U.S. Buyout Industry Staggers Under Weight Of Debt
2008-03-11 03:44:31
With their big paydays and bigger egos, private equity moguls came to symbolize an era of hyper-wealth on Wall Street.

Now their fortunes are plummeting.

Celebrated buyout firms like the Blackstone Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company, hailed only a year ago for their deal-making prowess, are seeing their profits collapse as the credit crisis spreads through the financial markets.

Investors fear that some of the companies that these firms bought on credit could, like millions of American homeowners, begin to buckle under their heavy debts now that a recession seems almost certain. The buyout lords themselves suddenly confront gaping multibillion-dollar losses on their investments.

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Liquidity Rumors Cause Bear Stearns Shares To Drop 14%
2008-03-11 03:43:32

Rumors of a liquidity crisis at Bear Stearns sent the Wall Street brokerage's shares diving by 14% to a five-year low Monday, prompting the chairman of its executive committee to hit out at "totally ridiculous" speculation.

Bear Stearns, which employs 14,000 people, has been among the financial institutions worst hit by the sub-prime home loans crisis. It lost more than $1.9 billion on mortgage-linked securities last year.

In a sign of a sudden weakening in confidence, the cost of insuring Bear Stearns' debt jumped by 1.5 percentage points to 5.9% during early trading for credit default swaps in New York.

The firm's shares opened at $70.28 and dropped to $60.26 at one point, before recovering to $63.94 by lunchtime on Wall Street. Alan Greenberg, who chairs the bank's executive committee, expressed frustration. "It's ridiculous, totally ridiculous," he told CNBC television. "They're rumors. What can I do about it?"

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In U.S., Domestic Terror Groups In Disarray Since Sept. 11, 2001
2008-03-11 03:42:31
Three years after foreign terrorists killed nearly 3,000 Americans in the Sept. 11 attacks, Steve Holten left the San Francisco Bay Area, drove east through the Tahoe National Forest, skirted the Truckee River and settled himself in Reno, Nevada. Here he proclaimed himself a lieutenant colonel of the local chapter of Aryan Nations. He sent an e-mail to area newspapers declaring war on the federal government, the media and the Jews.

But no war came. Holten's career as a domestic terrorist was short and uneventful. FBI agents promptly arrested him, and a federal grand jury indicted him for transmitting a threatening e-mail. He pleaded guilty and served four months in prison. After getting out he contracted the AIDS virus, and he was rearrested, this time for soliciting a man for sex in a nearby city park.

With shaved head and Nazi lightning-bolt tattoos on his neck, Holten is emblematic of how far the anti-government terrorism movement has sunk in the years since the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

Richard Butler was a lion of the movement. He built the Church of Jesus Christ Christian/Aryan Nations from a barbed-wire-encircled compound in Hayden, Idaho, into a hate empire. But when he died in September 2004, at age 86, he left a depleted organization with two factions feuding over the detritus.
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High Winds, Rain And Snow Bring Parts Of U.K. To Standstill
2008-03-11 03:41:20

Planes, trains, ferries and hovercraft were canceled Monday as wind, rain and snow brought parts of the U.K. to a standstill.

In the end, the weather didn't quite justify the apocalyptic early morning predictions - or, arguably, Prime Minister Gordon Brown calling a crisis meeting - but the storm forced well over 200 cancellations in and out of Heathrow, and 10 inbound flights to Gatwick were diverted to other airports.

Train services were delayed by damaged power lines, and trees blocked many roads. The AA said it was anticipating 16,000 call-outs, compared with 9,500 on an average day.

It was a good day for Eurotunnel, when it became the only available option to reach France after the port of Dover closed for much of the morning. Ferries from Holyhead to Dublin and from Pembroke to Rosslare were also called off, as were hovercraft from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight. P&O Ferries has canceled Tuesday's sailing from Bilbao in northern Spain to Portsmouth.

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Iran Bars Contact With Its Nuclear Scientists
2008-03-11 03:40:26

Iranian nuclear engineer Mohsen Fakhrizadeh lectures weekly on physics at Tehran's Imam Hossein University. Yet for more than a decade, according to documents attracting interest among Western governments, he also ran secret programs aimed at acquiring sensitive nuclear technology for his government.

Experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have repeatedly invited Fakhrizadeh to tea and a chat about Iran's nuclear work but, for two years, the government in Tehran has barred any contact with the scientist, who U.S. officials say recently moved to a new lab in a heavily guarded compound also off-limits to U.N. inspectors.

The exact nature of his research - past and present - remains a mystery, as does the work of other key Iranian scientists whose names appear in documents detailing what U.N. officials say is a years-long, clandestine effort to expand the country's nuclear capability. The documents, which were provided to the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear agency, in recent months by two countries other than the United States, partly match information in a stolen Iranian laptop turned over by Washington.

IAEA officials say these documents identify Fakhrizadeh and other civilian scientists as central figures in a secret nuclear research program that operated as recently as 2003. So far, however, Iran is refusing to shed light on their work or allow U.N. officials to question them. After being presented with copies of some of the new documents, Tehran denied that some of the scientists exist.

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New York Governor Eliot Spitzer Linked To Prostitution Ring
2008-03-10 16:11:25
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has been caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a high-priced prostitute at a Washington, D.C., hotel last month, according to a person briefed on the federal investigation.

The wiretap recording, made during an investigation of a prostitution ring called Emperors Club VIP, captured a man identified as Client 9 on a telephone call confirming plans to have a woman travel from New York to Washington, where he had reserved a room. The person briefed on the case identified Spitzer as Client 9.

The governor learned that he had been implicated in the prostitution probe when a federal official contacted his staff last Friday, according to the person briefed on the case.

The governor informed his top aides Sunday night and this morning of his involvement. He canceled his public events today and scheduled an announcement for this afternoon after inquiries from the Times.

The governor’s aides appeared shaken, and one of them began to weep as they waited for him to make his statement at his Manhattan office. Spitzer was seen leaving his Fifth Avenue apartment just before 3 p.m. with his wife of 21 years, Silda, heading to the news conference.

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Carlyle Group Holding Crisis Talks In New York
2008-03-10 16:10:05

Executives of the Washington, D.C.-based Carlyle Group are holding crisis talks in New York today over the fate of their Carlyle Capital Corp. (CCC) affiliate, as pressure mounts from creditors over the company's investments in U.S. mortgages.

Carlyle co-founders David Rubenstein and William Conway and Chief Financial Officer Peter H. Nachtwey are leading the team that meets Monday with a consortium of banks in an effort to resolve a series of demands that might threaten Carlyle Capital's ability to stay in business.

The company said today in a news release that some of its 13 lenders had demanded it post $400 million in additional collateral to protect against the chance that Carlyle Capital's portfolio of mortgage-backed investments might be worth less than expected, despite the high-grade nature of the mortgages involved.

Some lenders have already declared Carlyle Capital to be in default of its financing agreements with them. The company said this morning that its lenders might have sold off as much as $5 billion in assets used as collateral for loans - an amount equal to nearly 25 percent of Carlyle Capital's holdings.

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5 American Soldiers Killed In Baghdad
2008-03-10 16:09:32
Five American soldiers on foot patrol in an upscale shopping district in central Baghdad were killed Monday when a man walked up to them and exploded the explosive-laden vest he was wearing, according to American military officials.

Hours later, a car bomb exploded outside the most important hotel in the northern Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, killing 2 people and wounding 30 in the first significant attack in the normally placid city in several years.

Taken together, the two attacks underscored how fragile security in Iraq remains despite a recent drop in attacks and assertions by American military officials that Sunni insurgents are on the run.

In the Baghdad bombing, which occurred about 3 p.m. in the city’s Mansour neighborhood, four soldiers died at the scene. A fifth died later from the injuries he suffered in the explosion. Three other soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter who accompanied them were wounded, according to the military. An official at a nearby hospital said that nine Iraqi civilians were also wounded in the blast.

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E.U. Told That Global Warming May Spark Conflict With Russia
2008-03-10 03:55:20

European governments were told to plan for an era of conflict over energy resources, with global warming likely to trigger a dangerous contest between Russia and the west for the vast mineral riches of the Arctic.

A report from the European Union's (E.U.'s) top two foreign policy officials to the 27 heads of government gathering in Brussels, Belgium, for a summit this week warns that "significant potential conflicts" are likely in the decades ahead as a result of "intensified competition over access to, and control over, energy resources".

The seven-page report, obtained by the Guardian, was written by Javier Solana, the E.U.'s foreign policy chief, and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the commissioner for external relations. It predicts that global warming will precipitate security issues for Europe, ranging from energy wars to mass migration, failed states and political radicalization.

The report warns of greater rich-poor and north-south tension because global warming is disproportionately caused by the wealthy north and west while its impact will be most catastrophic in the poor south.

The officials single out the impact of the thawing Arctic and its emergence as a potential flashpoint of rival claims, pointing to the Kremlin's grab for the Arctic last year when President Vladimir Putin hailed as heroes a team of scientists who planted a Russian flag on the Arctic seabed.

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New Studies: Carbon Output Must Stay Near Zero To Avert Danger
2008-03-10 03:54:49

The task of cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough to avert a dangerous rise in global temperatures may be far more difficult than previous research suggested, say scientists who have just published studies indicating that it would require the world to cease carbon emissions altogether within a matter of decades.

Their findings, published in separate journals over the past few weeks, suggest that both industrialized and developing nations must wean themselves off fossil fuels by as early as mid-century in order to prevent warming that could change precipitation patterns and dry up sources of water worldwide.

Using advanced computer models to factor in deep-sea warming and other aspects of the carbon cycle that naturally creates and removes carbon dioxide (CO2), the scientists, from countries including the United States, Canada and Germany, are delivering a simple message: The world must bring carbon emissions down to near zero to keep temperatures from rising further.

"The question is, what if we don't want the Earth to warm anymore?" asked Carnegie Institution senior scientist Ken Caldeira, co-author of a paper published last week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. "The answer implies a much more radical change to our energy system than people are thinking about."

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Southern Baptists Back A Shift On Global Warming
2008-03-10 03:53:52

Signaling a significant departure from the Southern Baptist Convention's official stance on global warming, 44 Southern Baptist leaders have decided to back a declaration calling for more action on climate change, saying its previous position on the issue was “too timid.”

The largest denomination in the United States after the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, with more than 16 million members, is politically and theologically conservative.

Yet its current president, the Rev. Frank Page, signed the initiative, “A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change.” Two past presidents of the convention, the Rev. Jack Graham and the Rev. James Merritt, also signed.

“We believe our current denominational engagement with these issues has often been too timid, failing to produce a unified moral voice,” the church leaders wrote in their new declaration.

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Editorial: Prison Nation
2008-03-10 03:52:52
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Monday, March 10, 2008.

After three decades of explosive growth, the nation’s prison population has reached some grim milestones: More than 1 in 100 American adults are behind bars. One in nine black men, ages 20 to 34, are serving time, as are 1 in 36 adult Hispanic men.

Nationwide, the prison population hovers at almost 1.6 million, which surpasses all other countries for which there are reliable figures. The 50 states last year spent about $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections, up from nearly $11 billion in 1987. Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan and Oregon devote as much money or more to corrections as they do to higher education.

These statistics, contained in a new report from the Pew Center on the States, point to a terrible waste of money and lives. They underscore the urgent challenge facing the federal government and cash-strapped states to reduce their over-reliance on incarceration without sacrificing public safety. The key, as some states are learning, is getting smarter about distinguishing between violent criminals and dangerous repeat offenders, who need a prison cell, and low-risk offenders, who can be handled with effective community supervision, electronic monitoring and mandatory drug treatment programs, combined in some cases with shorter sentences.

Persuading public officials to adopt a more rational, cost-effective approach to prison policy is a daunting prospect, however, not least because building and running jailhouses has become a major industry.

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U.K. Parliament Members Demand Inquiry On U.S. Torture Flights
2008-03-10 03:52:13
Members of the British Parliament and human rights groups Sunday demanded an independent inquiry into the use of U.K. territory by CIA "torture flights" as fresh questions emerged over the government's handling of the issue.

British government ministers are coming under growing pressure as officials made it clear they still could not be certain of the extent to which U.S. aircraft made use of British facilities when taking alleged terrorists to prisons where they were likely to be subjected to inhumane treatment.

Last month, David Miliband, the foreign secretary, apologized to Parliament members, admitting that contrary to "earlier explicit assurances" two flights had landed at Diego Garcia, the British Indian Ocean territory where the U.S.  has a large airbase. He said the flights had refueled there, and each had had a single detainee on board who did not leave the aircraft.

British and U.S. officials have refused to give details about the two detainees other than that one is in Guantanamo Bay and the other has been released. Miliband said he had asked his officials for a list of all flights on which rendition had been alleged.

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In Municipal Elections French Voters Deal Setback To Sarkozy
2008-03-10 03:50:57
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling party appeared to suffer major losses in municipal elections across the country Sunday in what some voters and public surveys described as a rebuke of his personal escapades and uneven economic programs.

Voting returns and exit polls indicated that Socialist candidates could unseat members of Sarkozy's ruling Union for a Popular Movement in key towns in runoff elections next Sunday and were easily maintaining their power bases in Paris and Lyon, the country's third-largest city.

Nine months after his inauguration, Sarkozy has become such a liability to his party that most of its candidates shunned his support and some stripped the governing party's labels from their Internet sites and campaign literature.

Socialist leader Francois Hollande said voters sent "a warning to the president of the republic and the government on the policies conducted over the past nine months."

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U.S. Agency Faces Court Action For Delay In Protecting Polar Bears
2008-03-11 03:44:02
Critics say delay is to allow oil and gas lease sales to go forward in Arctic.

The U.S. government agency responsible for including the polar bear on its list of endangered species faced a new legal challenge Monday over its failure to protect the supreme Arctic predator. Environmental groups are ready to sue the Bush administration in federal court in California, claiming the Fish and Wildlife Service was in breach of its own mandate.

A decision on classifying the polar bear as threatened due to global warming was to have been made by January 9, a year after consultations began on the issue. Officially, the service says it is still reviewing technical data and more than 670,000 comments on the issue but its own inspector general has announced a preliminary investigation into the delay to determine whether a full investigation is warranted.

Environmental campaigners widely believe the decision is being held up by the administration so it can complete sales of valuable oil and gas leases in coastal waters in Alaska that are considered prime bear habitat.

"The Bush administration seems intent on slamming shut the narrow window of opportunity we have to save polar bears," said Kassie Siegel, the climate program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, which - along with Greenpeace and the National Resource Defense Council - is involved in the court action.

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Gulf War Syndrome's Chemical-Origin Theory Upheld
2008-03-11 03:43:01
A review of medical studies on Gulf War syndrome supports the theory that the still-hazy disorder was caused by a group of related chemicals found in pesticides used around military facilities and anti-nerve-gas pills given to soldiers, according to a study released Monday.

A similar chemical was also found in nerve gas that was inadvertently released when U.S. soldiers destroyed a munitions depot just after the 1991 war, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The group of chemicals, known as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, has long been discussed as a possible cause of Gulf War syndrome.

The review "thoroughly, conclusively shows that this class of chemicals actually are a cause of illness in Gulf War veterans," said Dr. Beatrice Golomb, an associate professor of medicine at University of Californiat at San Diego and the author of the latest paper.
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Britain's Leading Homebuilder Sees Sales Plunge 20%
2008-03-11 03:41:42

Bovis Homes delivered the most gloomy assessment yet about the state of Britain's housing market Monday as it urged the Bank of England to cut interest rates after suffering a 20% fall in sales so far this year.

Malcolm Harris, chief executive of Bovis, said it is only a matter of time before the company had to start cutting jobs if conditions did not improve, adding that mortgage lenders should also do their bit to make it easier for homeowners to borrow money.

Rival housebuilders have reported a less steep downturn in orders and have given relatively upbeat messages about the future but Bovis bucked that trend, painting a bleak picture that sent its shares sliding 12.5% and dragged down others in the sector.

"I believe lower interest rates would benefit the economy and benefit the sector," said Harris. "If interest rates do not come down and if the spring selling season is not positive, then we could see volumes will be down in excess of 20% for the full year."

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Shuttle Endeavour Enroute To International Space Station
2008-03-11 03:40:46
Space shuttle Endeavour and a crew of seven blasted into orbit Tuesday on what was to be the longest space station mission ever, a 16-day voyage to build a gangly robot and add a new room that will serve as a closet for a future lab.

The space shuttle roared from its seaside pad at 2:28 a.m., lighting up the sky for miles around.

It was a rare treat: The last time NASA launched a shuttle at nighttime was in 2006. Only about a quarter of shuttle flights have begun in darkness.

"Good luck and Godspeed, and we'll see you back here in 16 days," launch director Mike Leinbach radioed to the astronauts right before liftoff.
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Scientists Spot White Orca Off Alaska
2008-03-11 01:27:48
A white killer whale (Orca) spotted in Alaska's Aleutian Islands sent researchers and the ship's crew scrambling for their cameras.

The nearly mythic creature was real after all.

"I had heard about this whale, but we had never been able to find it," said Holly Fearnbach, a research biologist with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle who photographed the rarity. "It was quite neat to find it."

The whale was spotted last month while scientists aboard the Oscar Dyson, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research ship, were conducting an acoustic survey of pollock near Steller sea lion haulout sites.

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U.S. House Judiciary Committee Sues To Force 2 Bush Aides To Testify
2008-03-10 16:10:21

The House Judiciary Committee filed a lawsuit today to enforce subpoenas against President Bush's chief of staff and his former counsel in a probe of suspected White House involvement in the controversial firings of nine federal prosecutors in 2006.

The House panel filed the suit in federal court in Washington, D.C., against Joshua B. Bolten, who has been White House chief of staff since April 2006, and Harriet E. Miers, a close associate of Bush's from Texas who resigned as White House counsel in January 2007 after a little more than two years on the job.

The committee's action marked the first time in U.S. history that either chamber of Congress has sued the Executive Branch to enforce a subpoena, according to a spokesman for the Judiciary Committee.

The lawsuit charges that Bolten and Miers, who were cited by the House for contempt of Congress last month, violated their obligations under Judiciary Committee subpoenas by refusing to testify or to provide subpoenaed documents. The House passed the contempt citation by a vote of 223 to 32 after most Republicans boycotted the proceeding.

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Gas Pump Prices Near Record High
2008-03-10 16:09:46
Gasoline prices were poised Monday to set a new record at the pump, having surged to within half a cent of their record high of $3.227 a gallon. Oil prices, meanwhile, surged above $108 to a new inflation-adjusted record and their fifth new high in the last six sessions on an upbeat report on wholesale inventories.

The national average price of a gallon of gas rose 0.7 cent overnight to $3.222 a gallon, 69 cents higher than one year ago, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Last May, prices peaked at $3.227 as surging demand and a string of refinery outages raised concerns about supplies.

That record will likely be left in the dust soon as gas prices accelerate toward levels that could approach $4 a gallon, though most analysts believe prices will peak below that psychologically significant mark. In its last forecast, released last month, the Energy Department said prices will likely peak around $3.40 a gallon this spring; a new forecast is due Tuesday.

Retail gas prices are following crude oil, which has jumped 25 percent in a month. On Monday, crude prices surged to yet another record after the Commerce Department said wholesale sales jumped by 2.7 percent in January, their biggest increase in four years, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

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Vatican Updates Its Thou-Shalt-Not List
2008-03-10 16:08:25
In olden days, the deadly sins included lust, gluttony and greed. Now, the Catholic Church says pollution, mind-damaging drugs and genetic experiments are on its updated thou-shalt-not list.

Also receiving fresh attention by the Vatican was social injustice, along the lines of the age-old maxim: "The rich get richer while the poor get poorer."

In the Vatican's latest update on how God's law is being violated in today's world, Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, was asked by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano what, in his opinion, are the "new sins."

He cited "violations of the basic rights of human nature" through genetic manipulation, drugs that "weaken the mind and cloud intelligence," and the imbalance between the rich and the poor.

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Commentary: Can Obama Attack A Woman Without Looking Like A Bully?
2008-03-10 03:55:04
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Guardian American editor Michael Tomasky, writing from Washington, D.C., and appears in the Guardian edition for Monday, March 10, 2008. In his commentary, Mr. Tomasky writes: "Hillary can fight dirty - that's part of being a Clinton. But her rival has to find the line between toughness and misogyny."

Even after the turbulence he encountered last week, Barack Obama still seems the probable Democratic nominee for one simple reason. By June 8, all 54 primaries and caucuses will be completed. (Why 54? In typical American fashion, we do things to excess, so not only are all 50 states represented, but the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and "Democrats Abroad".) And on that morning, Obama will, unless something really weird happens, be ahead of Hillary Clinton in the count of pledged delegates. It's difficult to imagine the so-called superdelegates going against the guy in the lead - "overturning the will of the voters", in the fashionable parlance.

Difficult to imagine, but hardly impossible. Obama may win the mathematics argument, but the Clinton campaign is counting on persuading uncommitted superdelegates - the 300 or so elected officials and party insiders who have a vote but haven't made up their minds yet - that Obama is unfit both to go up against John McCain this November and to govern the country. Her only hope is to make the superdelegates, many of whom will be on the ballot themselves in November, queasy enough about Obama that they'll damn the numbers.

Hence Clinton's recent attacks. Some have been fair, some have crossed the line. But they have been relentless since her campaign announced its "kitchen sink" strategy in advance of the Ohio and Texas voting, and will presumably continue to be so. How Obama responds - how forcefully he decides to return fire, and by what means - will be the main factor in determining whether he's the nominee. Here's why: to be elected president, one has to prove somewhere along the campaign trail that one is tough enough to be president, and the handiest way to show that is to fight off the opponent's punches and land a few of one's own.

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To Target Ads, Web Is Keeping A Closer Eye On You
2008-03-10 03:54:29

A famous New Yorker cartoon from 1993 showed two dogs at a computer, with one saying to the other, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

That may no longer be true.

A new analysis of online consumer data shows that large Web companies are learning more about people than ever from what they search for and do on the Internet, gathering clues about the tastes and preferences of a typical user several hundred times a month.

These companies use that information to predict what content and advertisements people most likely want to see. They can charge steep prices for carefully tailored ads because of their high response rates.

The analysis, conducted for the New York Times by the research firm comScore, provides what advertising executives say is the first broad estimate of the amount of consumer data that is transmitted to Internet companies.

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U.S. Senate Verdict Is Mixed On Bush's Pre-Iraq War Claims
2008-03-10 03:53:12
"Nobody is going to be happy" with the long-delayed report's mixed verdict on whether the Bush administration misused intelligence to argue for war with Iraq, an official says.

After an acrimonious investigation that spanned four years, the Senate Intelligence Committee is preparing to release a detailed critique of the Bush administration's claims in the buildup to war with Iraq, said congressional officials.

The long-delayed document catalogs dozens of prewar assertions by President Bush and other administration officials that proved to be wildly inaccurate about Iraq's alleged stockpiles of banned weapons and pursuit of nuclear arms.

Officials say the report reaches a mixed verdict on the key question of whether the White House misused intelligence to make the case for war.
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Flawless Launch For Europe's Automated Space Freighter
2008-03-10 03:52:36
20-ton vehicle is expected to take over of NASA's shuttle for ferrying supplies to the International Space Station.

A space freighter loaded with crucial supplies and an ageing copy of a Jules Verne novel thundered into orbit in the early hours of Sunday on its maiden voyage to the International Space Station (ISS).

Officials celebrated what they described as a flawless launch of the 20-ton Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) as it lit up the night sky before clearing the thick cloud cover that hung over the European Space Agency's damp, forest-bordered spaceport near Kourou in French Guiana at 4:03 GMT.

Unusually, the take-off had to be timed to the second, to ensure the ATV would be released into an orbit that exactly matches that of the space station. Seconds after launch, the rocket turned northeast on to a trajectory that took it over the southern tip of Britain and onwards towards the Pacific.

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U.K.'s Defense Ministry Plans To Use Landmine Removal Fund To Keep Jets Flying In Iraq
2008-03-10 03:51:34

Money set aside in Britain's Ministry of Defense budget to clear landmines and remove arms from conflict zones is to be raided to pay a private defense contractor to keep Tornado jets flying in Iraq, according to a confidential memo seen by the Guardian newspaper. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) plans to pay BAE Systems from the multimillion-pound Conflict Prevention Fund - which covers projects such as destroying weapons in Bosnia and landmines in Mozambique - to subsidize the $10 million - $20 million (£5 million - £10 million) cost of servicing each of the six planes.

The move follows a cost-cutting plan which has backfired for the MoD because of increased military action in Iraq.

The memo acknowledges that the emergency measure is needed because the MoD has closed its own state-of-the-art facility for servicing Tornado jets as a way of saving £500 million ($1 billion) over 10 years. A scaled-back facility is still not fully equipped for the job. Memos sent to ministers reveal that the ministry has decided to make the request to BAE Systems because the alternative facility, at RAF Marham in Norfolk, has "insufficient capacity".

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