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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday March 18 2008 - (813)

Tuesday March 18 2008 edition
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Fed Reserve's Plan May Signal More Economic Turbulence Ahead
2008-03-18 03:42:31

Investors dumped stocks of the nation's major investment firms yesterday after a rescue plan for one of the biggest, Bear Stearns, exposed unexpectedly large cracks in the foundation of the financial system.

Even after the Federal Reserve on Sunday night offered an unprecedented credit line to investment banks, their shares plummeted. Lehman Brothers was down 19 percent. Europe's largest bank, UBS, which has recorded huge losses from mortgage investments like those at its U.S. counterparts, suffered its sharpest drop in European trading in nearly 10 years.

U.S. currency traders launched a furious sell-off of the dollar immediately after the Fed acted Sunday, some staying up all night on concerns, they said, that major U.S. bank failures could be on the horizon. Major stock market indicators swung wildly, with the Standard and Poor's 500-stock index falling as much as 2.4 percent but ending 0.9 percent lower. The Dow Jones industrial average rebounded from early losses, finishing up about 0.2 percent on the strength of J.P. Morgan Chase, which has agreed to purchase Bear Stearns for a fire-sale price.

President Bush said his administration is "on top of the situation" in dealing with the slumping economy, praising the Fed for its steps. "One thing is for certain - we're in challenging times. But another thing is for certain - that we've taken strong and decisive action," he told reporters after meeting with Treasury Secretary Henry M. paulson, Jr., and other economic advisers.

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Editorial: Who Will Come To The Rescue?
2008-03-18 03:41:57
Intellpuke: The following editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Tuesday, March 18, 2008.

The more the Federal Reserve does to avert financial contagion, the clearer it becomes that the Fed alone cannot solve the problems in the financial system. To many Americans, it’s now obvious that taxpayers will have to step in. Less obvious is that if the United States government doesn’t stabilize the markets, foreign governments increasingly will, in exchange for an ever larger stake in the American financial system.

Over the weekend, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Jr., said the government would do “what it takes” to keep order in the financial markets. On Monday, President Bush echoed that point, when he wasn’t making inappropriate jokes. The American people need an explanation of what they may have in mind.

The Fed’s huge loans and interest rate cuts can buy time for flagging banks. They can also help prevent specific problems, like last weekend’s near collapse of Bear Stearns, from causing a chain reaction. They cannot save defaulting homeowners, transform bad mortgage loans into good ones, or do the same for hundreds of billions of dollars of securities tied to those loans.

As those problems persist, financial institutions are under increasing pressure to write off their losses, cutting ever deeper into their capital. As capital shrinks, creditors have to clamp down on lending, to good and bad borrowers alike, no matter what the Fed may do.

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Men In Black They're Not - 2 Private Eyes Take On Cold UFO Case
2008-03-18 03:40:38
Where's that power pole? And the guy who said he photographed a flying saucer above it? Two down-to-earth private eyes want to know.

Private eye T.K. Davis has worked his share of oddball cases. Once he tracked down a one-armed woman wanted for child endangerment. He staked out a backyard to catch a guy throwing dirt clods into a pool. When you make your living answering life's mysterious questions at $100 an hour, you take a few calls out of the blue.

He works the streets of Capitola, California, a suburban town near Santa Cruz, where dog-walking mothers and aging hippies compete for beach time. Oh, sure, it might seem innocent enough, but it can get a little creepy if you let it. People might see things - unusual objects in the sky, for instance - and not say a thing for fear of being ridiculed.

At times like that, a private eye comes in handy. He can look around, ask a few hard questions - even if it means risking his reputation built over 30 years as a deputy sheriff.

That's more or less where Davis finds himself now, behind the wheel of his blue Ford Explorer, with his partner Frankie Dixon. They're cruising down streets, looking at utility poles and trying to figure out: Is that the one in these three pictures, the pictures with the unidentified flying object?
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Update: Man Says Ricin Belonged To His Brother
2008-03-18 03:39:38
The man at the center of a ricin scare at a Las Vegas, Nevada, motel says he never had any intention of hurting anyone with the deadly biological agent, his brother told the Associated Press.

Roger Bergendorff, who finally regained consciousness last week after almost a month of hospitalization, possessed the ricin powder found in his motel room in February and believes he was contaminated by it, said Erich Bergendorff, who talked to his brother on the phone Sunday.

"He just confirmed that it was not intended for anybody," Erich Bergendorff said in a telephone interview from his home north of San Diego in Escondido. "It was something that would be used for his own purposes, for self-defense."

Roger Bergendorff, 57, was upgraded from critical to fair condition Monday at Spring Valley Medical Center.

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Rights Group: Attacks In Kenya Are 'Meticulously' Organized
2008-03-18 03:38:55
Post-election attacks on villagers in Kenya's Rift Valley were often "meticulously" organized by local opposition leaders who called for "war" against people from President Mwai Kibaki's Kikuyu ethnic group, according to a detailed report released Monday by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.

The report also describes killings of hundreds of opposition supporters by Kenyan police, especially in the slums of Nairobi and the opposition stronghold of Kisumu in western Kenya. In other instances, it says, police failed to use adequate force to protect people who came under attack by militias and gangs.

Based on 200 interviews with witnesses, police officers, politicians and others, the report also found evidence suggesting that senior government officials had been aware of planned reprisal attacks by Kikuyu gangs against opposition supporters in several western towns.

"This was not done by ordinary citizens, it was arranged by people with money," said one young man who took part in the revenge attacks, according to the report. "They brought the jobless like me."

Violence following Kenya's disputed Dec. 27 presidential election is estimated to have killed at least 1,000 people and displaced half a million, with most of the unrest taking place across the volatile Rift Valley, where successive Kenyan governments have failed to address long-standing grievances over land.

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2.4 Million Magnetic Toys Recalled
2008-03-17 21:33:00
Toy distributor Mega Brands Inc. recalled about 2.4 million Chinese-made toys Monday, because small magnets could fall out and cause internal damage.

These tiny magnets could fall out of the toys and be swallowed or inhaled by children. If more than one magnet is swallowed, they can attach to each other and cause intestinal perforation, infection or blockage, which can be fatal.

Mega Brands is recalling 1.1 million Magtastik and Magnetix Jr. preschool toys. The company and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have received 19 reports of magnets falling out of these toys. In one incident an 18-month-old boy put a magnet in his mouth, but it was not swallowed. In another, a 3-year-old boy needed medical treatment to remove a magnet from his nasal cavity.

The recall also includes about 1.3 million MagnaMan magnetic action figures. The company and commission have received 25 reports of magnets falling out of the figures. No incidents involving magnets from the action figures have been reported.

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Zimbabwe Vows To Arrest 'Spying' Journalists
2008-03-17 21:32:20

Zimbabwe's government has threatened to arrest western journalists - a Guardian reporter among them - whom it accuses of spying on behalf of "hostile" countries ahead of next week's presidential election.

President Robert Mugabe's spokesman, George Chiramba, told the state-run press the government would "flush out" reporters he described as "agitators embedded in journalism".

The statement appeared to be a move to justify barring journalists from Britain and other countries during the March 29 election after a blanket ban on election monitors from western nations, including all European Union countries and the U.S.

Chiramba specifically threatened reporters who have entered the country without prior press accreditation after this was refused under draconian media laws used to shut down opposition newspapers and detain reporters critical of the government.

"We are also aware of journalists from western countries who have sneaked into the country, for example one from the British Guardian newspaper, and our security personnel are on the spoor.

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U.S. Supreme Court To Review FCC Ban On Profanity
2008-03-17 16:16:49
The Supreme Court Monday announced it would review the Federal Communications Commission's policy banning even the fleeting use of expletives on the airwaves, the first time in 30 years the court has considered broadcast decency standards.

The FCC in 2004 reversed its previous policy and said even the one-time use of obscenities on broadcast television and radio was a violation of decency standards. The agency reprimanded Fox Broadcasting for separate incidents in 2002 and 2003 when singer Cher and celebrity Nicole Richie, during live award shows, used variations of a vulgar, four-letter word.

The FCC said the rules were necessary to protect the public from declining standards of decency, and said technological advances made it possible for networks to better police what went out over the airwaves.

But the networks sued, saying the rules would chill artistic expression, and won. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York said the FCC's "new policy sanctioning 'fleeting expletives' is arbitrary and capricious" and raised questions about First Amendment protections.

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U.N., NATO Forces Battle Serbs In Kosovo
2008-03-17 16:16:22
International forces pulling Serb demonstrators from a U.N. courthouse were attacked Monday by hundreds of furious protesters who massed outside, setting off an hours-long battle with rocks, grenades and live ammunition.

U.N. and NATO forces responded with tear gas, stun grenades and gunshots. At least 42 U.N. and NATO forces and 70 protesters were wounded in the worst violence in Kosovo since its declaration of independence last month.

The U.N. police stormed the courthouse just before dawn to arrest dozens of Serbs who had occupied the U.N. building since Friday to protest Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia.

Hundreds of Serbs surrounded the courthouse as the police tried to leave with the arrested demonstrators. Polish, Ukrainian and Bulgarian members of the U.N. force and NATO troops backing them up were pelted with rocks, Molotov cocktails and hand grenades. Some demonstrators fired guns at the international forces. Witnesses said others surrounded and attacked three U.N. vehicles, pulling out and freeing about 20 of the 53 protesters who had been arrested in the courthouse. The rest of the 53 were freed after questioning.

At least one U.N. vehicle and one NATO truck were set ablaze.

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Suicide Blast In Iraq Overshadows Cheney's Visit
2008-03-17 16:15:43
A female suicide bomber penetrated one of the most secure perimeters in Iraq Monday evening and killed at least 42 people near the Imam Hussein shrine in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, according to the Iraqi authorities.

The explosion, the deadliest attack in Karbala in nearly a year, overshadowed a Baghdad visit by Vice President Dick Cheney, who met with Iraqi and American leaders and extolled what he described as “phenomenal” security improvements in the country.

The explosion rocked central Karbala at about 6 p.m. “Many people were killed and wounded,” said Abu Ahmed, 36, who minutes earlier had walked past the site where the blast would occur, and then came rushing back afterward to help the wounded. “Everyone near the bomber was killed.”

Iraqi forces sealed off the area, and a grim mood descended on the city. Areas that are normally brisk evening shopping districts were deserted, and shops were closed.

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McCain's Mixed Signals On Foreign Policy
2008-03-17 02:52:03
Sen. John McCain is well-known for scorching denunciations of Democrats, who he says would raise the "white flag of surrender" by cutting off funds for U.S. troops in Iraq.

Yet 15 years ago, it was McCain himself who startled colleagues by proposing to cut off money for a struggling and embattled U.S. force in another perilous place: Somalia.

On the campaign trail today, McCain is seen as an unyielding hawk but, before his first presidential run in 2000, he declared he would work with the Democratic Party's brain trust to devise his foreign policy.

While he now describes himself as a "foot soldier in the Reagan revolution," he infuriated Republicans as a freshman congressman in 1983 by trying to thwart President Reagan's deployment of troops in Lebanon.

The presumptive Republican nominee for president, McCain - who leads a congressional delegation to Europe and the Middle East this week - has adopted a surprising diversity of views on foreign policy issues during his 25 years in Congress. It is a pattern that brings uncertainty to the path he would take if elected.
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Major Stock Markets In Asia Take Sharp Fall
2008-03-17 02:51:34
Major Asian stock markets fell sharply in early trading on Monday as pessimism continued to spread despite the Fed’s dramatic moves over the weekend, sending Tokyo’s benchmark index to a three-year low.

The markets responded negatively to the purchase of Bear Stearns over the weekend by JPMorgan Chase. The acquisition, backed by the Federal Reserve, underscored the severity of the credit crisis in the United States and the weakness of the American economy.

In Tokyo, the region’s largest stock exchange, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index was trading at an almost three-year low. By midday, the index dropped 4.2 percent to 11,726.99, falling below 12,000 for the first time since August 2005.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index was also down 2.4 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index fell 2.4 percent, and in New Zealand, the NZX 50 index dropped 1.9 percent.

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Britain's CO2 Emissions May Be 12% Higher Than Stated
2008-03-17 02:50:24

Britain's climate change emissions may be 12% higher than officially stated, according to a National Audit Office investigation which has strongly criticized the government for using two different carbon accounting systems. There is "insufficient consistency and coordination" in the government's approach, said the NAO.

Using one system, which the government presents to the United Nations and in public, Britain emitted 656 million tons of CO2 in 2005, and claims an improvement on 1990 figures. However, the lesser-known but more accurate data in the government's national environmental accounts show emissions to be in the region of 733 million tons in 2005, a NAO report said Monday.

"There are two different bases on which the government reports emissions: that required for the U.N., and the environmental accounts prepared for the Office of National Statistics ... [which are] more comprehensive as they include aviation and shipping emissions. They present U.K. progress in reducing emissions in a markedly different light", says the report.

The report says there have been "no reductions in U.K. emissions" if measured by the national accounts method.

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Fisheries Experts Come Up Dry On Why Chinook Salmon Vanished Without A Trace
2008-03-17 02:49:23
Where did they go?

The Chinook salmon that swim upstream to spawn in the fall, the most robust run in the Sacramento River, have disappeared. The almost complete collapse of the richest and most dependable source of Chinook salmon south of Alaska left gloomy fisheries experts struggling for reliable explanations - and coming up dry.

Whatever the cause, there was widespread agreement among those attending a five-day meeting of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council here last week that the regional $150 million fishery, which usually opens for the four-month season on May 1, is almost certain to remain closed this year from northern Oregon to the Mexican border. A final decision on salmon fishing in the area is expected next month.

As a result, Chinook, or king salmon, the most prized species of Pacific wild salmon, will be hard to come by until the Alaskan season opens in July. Even then, wild Chinook are likely to be very expensive in markets and restaurants nationwide.

“It’s unprecedented that this fishery is in this kind of shape,” said Donald McIsaac, executive director of the council, which is organized under the auspices of the Commerce Department.

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Economic Turmoil Shakes Up Campaign Strategies
2008-03-18 03:42:14
McCain, Clinton and Obama offer few specifics for handling the recent upheaval. The new focus on the issue may work to the Democrats' advantage.

For months, the top presidential candidates have focused on showing a war-weary public that they have what it takes to be the next commander in chief, but on Monday, as the Iraq war entered its sixth year, they faced a test with far more relevance to the everyday lives of Americans: whether they could serve as economist in chief.

With turmoil growing in financial markets that rely on trust and public confidence, each of the three candidates claimed to have ideas to guide the country through this complex and risky time.

That meant shifting gears quickly. Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain was in Iraq, a trip intended in part to add to his foreign policy credentials. Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton was in Washington to deliver what her campaign called a "major speech" on the war. And Barack Obama, her party rival, was preparing to give an address on race and politics in Philadelphia today.
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Commentary: Social Insecurity, Sooner Than You Think
2008-03-18 03:41:42
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Allan Sloan, Fortune magazine's senior editor at large. It appears in the Washington Post online edition for Tuesday, March 18, 2008. Mr. Sloan's commentary follows:

One of Washington's rites of spring is almost upon us. It's the wonks' version of the Cherry Blossom Festival: the release of the annual Social Security trustees' report showing the health of our nation's biggest social program. Each year, the report touches off a debate, mostly misguided, about Social Security's financial status. Given the political environment this year, you can expect more heat than usual when the report comes out. But you're unlikely to see much light.

So let me try to illuminate things for you. Forget all the talk you'll hear about how Social Security is okay until 2040 or thereabouts. That is, as we'll soon see, utter nonsense. The real problem starts only a decade or so from now, when Social Security begins to take in less cash than it spends.

How can I say that, given Social Security's $2.3 trillion (and growing) trust fund? It's because the fund owns nothing but Treasury securities. Normally, of course, Treasury securities are the safest thing you can hold in a retirement account. But Social Security's Treasurys won't help cover the program's cash shortfall because Social Security is part of the federal government. Having one arm of the government (Social Security) own IOUs from another arm (the Treasury) doesn't help the government as a whole cover its bills.

Here's why the trust fund has no financial value. Say that Social Security calls the Treasury sometime in 2017 and says it needs to cash in $20 billion of securities to cover benefit checks. The only way for the Treasury to get that money is for the rest of the government to spend $20 billion less than it otherwise would (fat chance!), collect more in taxes (ditto), or borrow $20 billion more (which is what would happen). The spend-less, collect-more, and borrow-more options are exactly what they would be if there were no trust fund. Thus, the trust fund doesn't make it any easier for the government to cover Social Security's cash shortfalls than if there were no trust fund.

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Iraq War Opponents Plan Series Of Protests
2008-03-18 03:40:15

Antiwar protesters said Monday that they plan a series of demonstrations starting this evening and lasting through Wednesday that could disrupt traffic, hamper commuters and block access to some buildings in downtown Washington.

The actions, aimed to draw attention to the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, are directed at business, government, political and media centers that demonstrators blame for the continuation of the war, according to members of the United For Peace and Justice coalition, which is heading the protest.

Activists plan Wednesday morning to target the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service, at 12th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, which they said they hope to shut down. They said they will also protest at various corporations in the vicinity of K Street between 13th and 18th streets NW.

Antiwar military veterans plan a 9 a.m. march Wednesday on the Mall from the National Museum of the American Indian to the Capitol.

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New Pakistani Parliament Set To Challenge Musharraf
2008-03-18 03:39:17
Pakistan swore in its newly elected Parliament on Monday, setting the stage for a political clash with the government of President Pervez Musharrafa month after voters handed a victory to the country's major opposition parties.

The long-awaited first session of the 342-member National Assembly convened at Pakistan's gleaming white Parliament house amid tight security, two days after a deadly bomb attack on a popular restaurant in the center of the capital.

Sharpshooters with rifles at the ready stood atop almost every corner of the massive building as a parade of black and silver bulletproof SUVs deposited legislators and Pakistani luminaries at the crowded entrance.

One of the first to arrive was former prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, leader of Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League faction and a strong supporter of the president. Hussain, who lost his parliamentary bid last month, said the convocation of the new Parliament signaled fresh hope for his party and Pakistan: "The future is very bright. It is the first day, and we pray that everything will be all right."

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Bush Sends Putin Missile Defense Offer
2008-03-17 21:33:13
Russian President Vladimir V. Putin on Monday endorsed portions of a private proposal from President Bush that could lead to a new strategic framework between the two nations, including progress on troubling issues like missile defense, nuclear arms control and nonproliferation.

Putin said that a letter from Bush, which had not previously been disclosed, was “a very serious document.” Even so, Putin and his protege, Dmitri A. Medvedev, the president-elect, warned that significant differences remained.

The tone of the opening talks here with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was far more cordial than when the two cabinet members journeyed to Moscow in October for negotiations on missile defense.

And the breadth of issues that two presidents agreed to discuss over two days of talks was evidence that, before he leaves office, President Bush is making a final push to cement a calmer relationship with the Kremlin, after angering it with proposals for American missile defenses in Eastern Europe.

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China Sends In Troops To Seal Off Tibet
2008-03-17 21:32:42

Thousands of paramilitary police were massing in Lhasa and other Tibetan areas of unrest last night ahead of an ultimatum to protesters to hand themselves in. Witnesses reported that arrests had begun long before a midnight deadline passed in the capital, and authorities in other provinces were cracking down both on protests and those who report them.

Hong Kong journalists were ordered to leave Lhasa, and foreign reporters have been turned away or ordered to leave Tibetan areas in the Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu provinces in the past two days.

Tibet's governor, Qiangba Puncog, said that protesters who turned themselves in would be "treated with leniency within the framework of the law ... Otherwise, we will deal with them harshly."

China says 13 "innocent civilians" were killed in the riots in Lhasa. Shops, cars and government related buildings such as the Bank of China and the Tibetan News offices were gutted by fire.

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Britain's Tories To Force Vote On Iraq Investigation
2008-03-17 21:31:57

Britain's Conservatives will next week force a vote on an immediate inquiry into the Iraq invasion, which they say needs to take place "before memories have faded, emails have been deleted and documents have disappeared".

Though Prime Minister Gordon Brown has confirmed that the government will at some point hold an inquiry into the lessons to be learned from the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, his view is that the time is "not now".

In a letter to the Fabian Society released Monday, the prime minister said: "I agree with you that there is a need to learn all possible lessons from the military action in Iraq and its aftermath."

Yet he refused to be drawn on a timetable.

The shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, said that the Conservatives would use an opposition day motion to urge the government to launch an inquiry.

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U.S. Stocks Slide After Fed Actions
2008-03-17 16:16:38

Stocks slid on Monday in volatile trading as investors weighed a stunning series of weekend developments that confirmed investors’ worst fears about the fragile state of the financial industry.

Shares of financial firms plummeted as one of Wall Street’s most storied banks, Bear Stearns, lay on its deathbed and central bankers scrambled to stave off a devastating crisis of confidence in the investment community.

The Dow Jones industrial average plunged almost 200 points at the start of trading, then weaved in and out of negative territory. It was essentially even at 3 p.m. But the broadest measure of the American stock market, the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, was down 1 percent as it edged toward bear-market territory, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 1.5 percent.

Stock markets in Asia and Europe ended the day with even sharper declines, and the credit market sounded a more alarming note. Investors appeared to shrug off a series of emergency measures taken by the Federal Reserve on Sunday to shore up confidence in banks’ ability to pay back loans. Instead, the cost of overnight borrowing between banks rose by the most in seven years, as a benchmark gauge of the credit market remained elevated far above its normal level.

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Olympic Committee Says Beijing Air Could Be Harmful For Athletes
2008-03-17 16:16:05

The International Olympic Committee acknowledged for the first time today that air pollution could be harmful for athletes at this summer's Olympics in Beijing and said it will monitor air quality daily during the Games to see whether events should be moved or postponed.

In a statement, the committee predicted that most competitors would not be affected by poor air quality in the Chinese capital, one of the most polluted cities in the world. But in "a few sports" - notably distance and other endurance events - officials said there was "a possible risk."

The committee said it would rely on daily monitoring of air quality and weather conditions, as well as reports from the Beijing Environment Protection Bureau, to decide whether to postpone outdoor endurance events that require at least an hour of continuous physical effort, including the marathon, triathlon, race walking, urban road cycling, mountain biking and marathon swimming.

"As with all Olympic Games, we want to ensure that air quality risks are mitigated and that measures are put into place to protect the health of the athletes," IOC Medical Commission Chairman Arne Ljungqvist said in the statement. "For a few sports where we do see a possible risk, we will monitor the situation daily during Games time, and take whatever decisions are needed at the time to ensure the athletes' health is protected."

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Mills Gets $48.6 Million In McCartney Divorce
2008-03-17 16:15:03
Paul McCartney's divorce from Heather Mills was settled Monday for $48.6 million.

A document released by the Family Court said the judge awarded Mills a lump sum of $33 million plus the assets she currently holds worth $15.6 million.

''I'm so, so happy with this,'' Mills told reporters following the closed hearing.

The court also ruled that the couple's 4-year-old daughter Beatrice should receive a ''periodical payments order'' of $70,000 per annum. On top of that, McCartney will pay for the child's nanny and school fees.

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JPMorgan To Buy Bear Stearns For $2 A Share
2008-03-17 02:51:49
The deal, valued at $236 million, marks a stunning collapse for one of the world's largest investment banks.

Banking giant JPMorgan Chase & Co. said Sunday that it would buy struggling brokerage Bear Stearns Cos., in a fire-sale deal clearly aimed at stemming broader panic in global financial markets.

The rescue announcement failed to stop a further slide in the dollar's value, which sank to a 12-year low of 97.01 Japanese yen in Asian trading Monday afternoon, from 99.21 on Friday. Asian stock markets also tumbled, although they were recovering somewhat late in the session, with the Nikkei-225 index in Tokyo down 3.1% at about 9:45 p.m. PDT.

The once-vaunted Bear Stearns, which last week neared collapse as some nervous investors and banks pulled their business away from the firm, is valued at a mere $2 a share under the stock-swap agreement with JPMorgan.

The company's stock closed at $30 a share on Friday. It was trading at $158 last April.
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Editorial: Science At Risk
2008-03-17 02:50:36
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Monday, March 17, 2008.

Nobody was greatly surprised last week when Stephen Johnson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, proposed new limits on smog-forming pollutants that were weaker than those his scientists had recommended  - and more to the liking of industry. In the Bush administration, contests between politics and science are usually resolved in favor of politics.

The big surprise was Mr. Johnson’s proposal to rewrite the Clean Air Act to allow regulators to take costs into account when setting air quality standards. Since this would permanently devalue the role of science while strengthening the hand of industry, the proposal has no chance of success in a Democratic Congress.

It was, though, a revelatory moment: one last cry of frustration from an administration that, despite great effort, and persistent lashings from Vice President Dick Cheney, has been largely unsuccessful in undoing three decades of environmental law.

Mr. Johnson’s proposal would cut to the very heart of the Clean Air Act. As written in 1970, the act imposes one overriding obligation on the E.P.A. administrator: to establish air quality standards “requisite to protect the public health” with “an adequate margin of safety.” Economic considerations - costs and benefits - can be taken into account in figuring out a reasonable timetable for achieving the standards. But only science can shape the standards themselves.

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Commentary: The Iraq Experience Has Laid Bare The Limits Of Raw Power
2008-03-17 02:50:06
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by columnist Max Hastings and appeared in the Guardian edition for Monday, March 17, 2008. His commentary follows:

The Iraq war has shown how high is the pain threshold of the west. Five years after the 2003 invasion, the daily roll call of Iraqi suicide bombings, murders, firefights and body-bags has become as familiar a part of our landscape as traffic jams on the M1 and Los Angeles freeway.

The media class on both sides of the Atlantic is deeply engaged, indeed impassioned. The war is much discussed in the U.S. presidential election campaign. But most Americans and Europeans display vastly less interest in the Middle East than in troubles closer to home - the global banking crisis foremost among them.

They have grown used to Iraq in the way they do to a chronic personal ailment. It is there. It is nasty. They wish that it would go away, but it does not inflict the sort of agonizing pain that causes democracies to force urgent action upon their governments.

At this week's bleak anniversary, statisticians measure the cost. Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes tell us that the U.S.  faces a total bill of $3 trillion, and still counting. About 4,000 American soldiers, 171 British and anything between 200,000 and 600,000 Iraqis have died. It would be madness to describe these numbers as acceptable. Yet they have not proved so unacceptable that the U.S. or British government, or even the Iraqi administration in Baghdad, has found it necessary to adopt any radical shift of policy.
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French Voters Deliver Stinging Verdict On Sarkozy's First Year
2008-03-17 02:48:50

The French people's disenchantment with President Nicolas Sarkozy and his government was confirmed last night as the ruling UMP suffered significant losses in the final round of the local elections, just 10 months after his triumph in last year's presidential election.

Socialists retained control of Paris and won a string of towns and cities from Sarkozy's center-right party, including the key cities of Toulouse and Strasbourg.

They failed to win the biggest symbolic prize of the evening, France's third-largest city of Marseille, which the right just managed to hold, saving itself from total humiliation in the nationwide vote.

A survey published after the polls closed suggested the opposition Socialists and their allies had won 49.5%, compared to 47.5% of the vote for the center-right.

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