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Thursday, March 06, 2008

[Spam (4) ssss] [Disarmed] Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday March 6 2008 - (813)

Thursday March 6 2008 edition
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U.S.Agencies Form National Intelligence Network
2008-03-06 03:25:09
Fledgling Justice Department system enables authorities to examine enormous caches of digital records and raises civil liberties concerns.

Several thousand law enforcement agencies are creating the foundation of a domestic intelligence system through computer networks that analyze vast amounts of police information to fight crime and root out terror plots.

As federal authorities struggled to meet information-sharing mandates after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, police agencies from Alaska and California to the Washington, D.C., region poured millions of criminal and investigative records into shared digital repositories called data warehouses, giving investigators and analysts new power to discern links among people, patterns of behavior and other hidden clues.

Those network efforts will begin expanding further this month, as some local and state agencies connect to a fledgling Justice Department system called the National Data Exchange, or N-DEx. Federal authorities hope N-DEx will become what one called a "one-stop shop" enabling federal law enforcement, counterterrorism and intelligence analysts to automatically examine the enormous caches of local and state records for the first time.

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FDA Finds Contaminant In Blood Thinner Heparin
2008-03-06 03:24:32
U.S. federal drug regulators have discovered that a critical blood thinner that has been linked to at least 19 deaths and whose raw components are produced in China contained a possibly counterfeit ingredient that mimicked the real drug.

Routine tests failed to distinguish the contaminant from the drug, heparin. Only sophisticated magnetic resonance imaging tests uncovered that as much as 20 percent of the product’s active ingredient was a heparin mimic blended in with the real thing.

“At this point, we do not know whether the introduction was accidental or whether it was deliberate,” said Deputy Commissioner Janet Woodcock of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Heparin is made from pig intestines. Scientific Protein Laboratories, based in Waunakee, Wisconsin, bought raw heparin produced in some cases in small, unregulated family workshops in China and processed it in plants in Wisconsin and China, according to heparin traders and producers in China. Baxter International purchased the active ingredient from Scientific Protein and sold the finished drug.

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Poll: McCain Trails Clinton And Obama In Matchups
2008-03-05 22:30:35
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) kicks off his general-election campaign trailing both potential Democratic nominees in hypothetical matchups, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Sen. Barack Obama (Illinois) leads McCain, who captured the delegates needed to claim the Republican nomination Tuesday night, by 12 percentage points among all adults in the poll; Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York) holds a six-point lead over the Republican nominee. Both Democrats are buoyed by moderates and independents when going head to head with McCain and benefit from sustained negative public assessments of President Bush and the war in Iraq. 

About two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job and think the war was not worth fighting, and most hold those positions "strongly." A slim majority also doubt that the United States is making progress toward restoring civil order in Iraq, even as McCain and others extol recent successes there.

These views are closely related to voters' choices: McCain does poorly against Clinton and Obama among those who disapprove of the president and those opposing the war.

Among independents, those who see improvements in Iraq prefer McCain to either Democrat, while six in 10 of those more skeptical of progress would go for a Democrat.

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NATO: Cyber Warfare A Great A Threat As Missile Attack
2008-03-05 22:30:10
NATO is treating the threat of cyber warfare as seriously as the risk of a missile strike, according to a senior official.

A London conference was told that online espionage and internet-based terrorism now represent some of the gravest threats to global security.

Suleyman Anil, who is in charge of protecting NATO against computer attacks, said: "Cyber defense is now mentioned at the highest level along with missile defense and energy security. We have seen more of these attacks and we don't think this problem will disappear soon. Unless globally supported measures are taken, it can become a global problem."

Anil, who is head of NATO's computer incident response center, told the E-Crime congress in London that the cost of hi-tech strikes on government communications is falling, yet the amount of damage they could inflict grew.

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Britain Fears Iran Is Still Working On A Nuclear Weapon
2008-03-05 22:29:16

The British government said Wednesday that Iran could still be developing a nuclear weapon, and called into question a key American intelligence finding that work on building an Iranian bomb had stopped in 2003.

For the first time, a senior British diplomat cast doubt on the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) published last November which reported "with high confidence" that Tehran's nuclear weapons program had been halted in autumn 2003. The NIE also judged "with moderate confidence" that the program had not been restarted.

The intelligence report blocked momentum towards U.S. military action and delayed the passing of a third sanctions resolution against Tehran - a mild version of which was approved this week in an effort to persuade Iran to suspend enrichment of uranium. Yet the senior British diplomat claimed there was no serious evidence that Iran's efforts to build a nuclear weapon had halted.

"When the NIE came out many of us were surprised at how emphatic the writers of it were - that all the activity stopped in 2003 and the medium confidence that it had not been resumed," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "I haven't seen any intelligence that gives me even medium confidence that these programs haven't resumed. It's an uncertain picture."

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Apologies For Our Downtime
2008-03-05 21:22:01

  I would like to apologize to all of our readers for our recent downtime.  This is a long story, but starts here.

  On 03/02/2008 at 11:06am, we had a hard drive crash.  There are good and bad points of this.  Our server does run with a RAID5 for the data.  Unfortunately, during the crash, the filesystem became corrupt.

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U.S. West Coast Ports Have Sinking Feeling
2008-03-05 18:30:47
Soaring fuel prices, economic doldrums and rising competition raise fears that the Los Angeles and Long Beach complex could see a reversal of fortune.

At Southern California's twin ports, there is a growing feeling that the economic tide has begun to turn.

Imports are down. Experts expect another year of little or no cargo growth in 2008; and other harbors are getting serious about luring business away from Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation's largest seaport complex, and other West Coast ports. Competitors along the East and Gulf coasts, once content to take on whatever Los Angeles and Long Beach couldn't handle, have embarked on major expansion projects. Billions of dollars are being spent to transform the Panama Canal so that it can handle the largest ships. In Canada, a port project once viewed as little more than a safety valve for times of congestion has been elevated to a national priority.

In response to the economic stresses, A.P. Moller-Maersk Group last year pulled about 30% of the vessels that the world's biggest shipping line used to run between Asia and the U.S. West Coast, most of which had been routed through Los Angeles. There may be more to come from other companies.
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McCain Wins President Bush's Endorsement
2008-03-05 18:30:17
A triumphant Senator John McCain on Wednesday received the political blessing of a man with whom he once feuded bitterly, President Bush, and said he would welcome the president’s campaigning on his behalf.

“I’m honored and humbled,” McCain said outside the White House, declaring that he felt both “respect and affection” for Bush.

The senator emphasized that he would welcome Mr. Bush’s personal appearances by his side “in keeping with the president’s heavy schedule.” For the moment, at least, his comments dispelled any impression that McCain would prefer that Bush, whose ratings have been slumping, keep his distance. (The chief White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said later that Bush and McCain aides were conferring “to see how best we can fit into their operation and help.”)

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French Peacekeeper's Body Found In Sudan
2008-03-05 18:29:23
The Sudanese military confirmed Wednesday that it had found the body of a French soldier killed on the border with Chad and was turning it over to French authorities.

''Upon request of the French government, our forces engaged in a search and found the body of the soldier ... inside Sudanese national territory,'' army spokesman Brig. Gen Osman Mohamed al-Aghbash said in a written statement carried by the official news agency.

The statement added that four civilians trying to carry the body were killed when one of his grenades detonated.

The body will be flown from West Darfur to the capital, Khartoum, where it will be given back to the French, according to the statement.

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Human Immune Systems Increasingly Under Attack
2008-03-05 03:42:34

First, asthma cases shot up, along with hay fever and other common allergic reactions, such as eczema. Then, pediatricians started seeing more children with food allergies. Now, experts are increasingly convinced that a suspected jump in lupus, multiple sclerosis and other afflictions caused by misfiring immune systems is real.

Though the data are stronger for some diseases than others, and part of the increase may reflect better diagnoses, experts estimate that many allergies and immune-system diseases have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled in the last few decades, depending on the ailment and country. Some studies now indicate that more than half of the U.S. population has at least one allergy.

The cause remains the focus of intense debate and study, but some researchers suspect the concurrent trends all may have a common explanation rooted in aspects of modern living - including the "hygiene hypothesis" that blames growing up in increasingly sterile homes, changes in diet, air pollution, and possibly even obesity and increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

"We have dramatically changed our lives in the last 50 years," said Fernando Martinez, who studies allergies at the University of Arizona. "We are exposed to more products. We have people with different backgrounds being exposed to different environments. We have made our lives more antiseptic, especially early in life. Our immune systems may grow differently as a result. And we may be paying a price for that."

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Oil Money Is Coming And There Is Little The West Can Do About It
2008-03-05 03:42:07
Energy producing countries are buying global power after decades of subjugation.

Larry Summers was in full flow. Addressing a packed meeting on sovereign wealth funds (SWF) at the Davos gathering of the World Economic Forum in January, the former U.S. Treasury Secretary told the investment arms of foreign governments they should sign up to a code of conduct and be more transparent.

In a telling sign of the shift in the balance of global economic power, the sovereign wealth funds told Summers to get lost.

The Saudis accused him of double standards: hedge funds were not being regulated despite causing mayhem in the financial markets, so why pick on SWFs? The Russians - reveling in Washington's discomfort - said American attempts to restrict investment were "not helpful".

This week the fears resurfaced. Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said Brussels could not allow non-European funds "to be run in an opaque manner or used as an implement of geopolitical strategy".

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Editorial: Border Insecurity
2008-03-05 03:41:25
Intellpuke: The following editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Tuesday, March 4, 2008.

From San Diego on the Pacific to Brownsville on the Rio Grande, a steel curtain is descending across the continent. Behind it lies a nation so confused and conflicted by its immigration problems that it has decided to wall itself off and wait for things to fix themselves. This country once was a confident global magnet for an invigorating flow of immigrant workers and citizens-to-be. Now it is just hunkering.

The evidence of this neurosis is visible at the border with Mexico, where the Department of Homeland Security has been rushing to reinforce an ineffective system of fencing and sensors, trucks and boots on the ground. The mission, imposed upon it by Congress after a wearying stalemate on immigration reform, is a mandate to do the impossible, at record speed and at record expense.

This commitment to enforcement alone, without fixing legal immigration, was always Plan B. Even President Bush, the master of the botched federal initiative, predicted it would fail. He is looking unusually prescient.

In Arizona, a 28-mile pilot project to build a “virtual fence” of sensors and cameras has fallen short of expectations. The problem, according to the Government Accountability Office, was too much haste and too little consultation with the Border Patrol. The main contractor, Boeing, rushed into the project with the wrong software. Its cameras couldn’t focus on targets, and systems were confounded by innocuous things like rain. The Bush administration has confused things further by saying the system is working as planned - but won’t be expanded.

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European Homes, Property Losing Value
2008-03-05 03:40:42

Britons and others with second homes abroad are facing a grim year, with the value of property across Europe likely to fall as the long-running continental housing boom finally runs out of steam, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) warned Wednesday.

The RICS annual survey of European housing markets found that almost all countries suffered either a sharp drop in house price inflation or actual falls as a result of a rise in interest rates in the eurozone and elsewhere in Europe.

"The knock-on effect of European Central Bank interest rate policies and general rises in interest rates have led to the noticeable slowing of Europe's housing markets," said the report.

The ECB raised rates to 4% last year from 2% at the end of 2005, leading to a sharp rise in mortgage rates for holiday homeowners who had taken out variable-rate mortgages. About 300,000 Britons have a second home abroad.

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Venezuela, Ecuador Order Troops To Columbia Border
2008-03-05 03:39:54
Bogota ratchets up tension with call for Chavez to face genocide charges.

Venezuelan and Ecuadorean troops deployed on Colombia's frontier Tuesday night as South America's military and diplomatic crisis escalated into a dangerous showdown between President Hugo Chavez and Colombia's U.S.-backed government.

Venezuela started shutting crossing points on the 1,400-mile border to try to isolate its neighbor after Bogota made a series of extraordinary allegations about the Venezuelan leader funding Marxist guerrillas intent on building a uranium-enriched "dirty" bomb.

"Colombia proposes to denounce Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, in the international criminal court for sponsoring and financing genocide," said President Alvaro Uribe.

The Organization of American States, a pan-regional body, held an emergency meeting in Washington, D.C., to seek a diplomatic solution after President George Bush sided with Colombia, his administration's key ally in Latin America. The U.S. president accused Venezuela of "provocative manoeuvres" and said he stood by Bogota and its fight against terrorism. He also urged Congress to approve a free-trade agreement with Colombia.

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U.S. Construction Drop Hits 14-Year High
2008-03-05 03:39:16
Confirming for many that the economy will get worse before it gets better, construction spending in January recorded its sharpest decline in 14 years while a closely watched indicator of manufacturing activity dropped last month to its lowest level in five years.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that spending on residential and nonresidential construction projects declined 1.7% in January from December on a seasonally adjusted basis. Spending was down 3.3% from a year earlier. The downturn affected commercial and government projects as well as housing.

Until January, spending on nonresidential construction had been strong enough to compensate for a rapid decline in home building, keeping the construction sector roughly flat for the last year.

A decline in the availability of commercial loans combined with slowing demand throughout the economy has widened the hit to the construction industry, economists said.
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Hamas Rockets Bring Israeli City Into Range
2008-03-05 03:38:46

It was a few minutes after 5 a.m. on Saturday when Silvio Grinberg, half asleep, heard the warning on the neighborhood loudspeakers: "Color Red, Color Red."

He and his wife Alba would normally wake and prepare breakfast at that time and sit at their table with its view over the Israeli city of Ashkelon and the Mediterranean. But on that day they stayed in bed, a decision that almost certainly saved their lives. Moments later a 122mm Grad rocket, fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, crashed through the ceiling of their sixth-floor apartment and into their kitchen.

"I didn't understand what was going on," said Grinberg, 61. "Then I heard a boom and the glass breaking. I was thrown into the air and onto the floor. For five hours I had no idea who or where I was."

He returned briefly to his apartment Tuesday to salvage what clothes and documents he could. The rocket had carved a hole in the kitchen ceiling, where twisted metal struts stuck out of the concrete.

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Tensions Intensify Between Columbia, Ecuador And Venezuela
2008-03-05 03:37:37
Intellpuke: President George W. Bush Tuesday said the United States would stand with Columbia in its dispute with Ecuador and Venezuela. In brief comments on the White Lawn early Tuesday afternoon, Bush said the U.S. will back its democratic ally.

More accusations of cross-border meddling intensified diplomatic tensions Monday between Colombia and its neighbors Ecuador and Venezuela, as other Latin American leaders tried to defuse a crisis they fear could threaten regional stability.

Venezuela and Ecuador deployed troops to their borders with Colombia, which on Saturday attacked a jungle encampment in Ecuadoran territory used by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, or FARC. A senior leader of the Marxist insurgency, which has battled the Colombian government for more than four decades and profits from the drug trade, was killed in the raid.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa formally cut diplomatic ties with Colombia and has joined Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in denouncing the attack as a violation of his country's sovereignty. Venezuela said later that it would expel the Colombian ambassador and other diplomatic personnel. Regional leaders, including officials in Brazil and Chile, strongly questioned Colombia's military incursion into Ecuador, but urged peaceful negotiations to avert a regional military conflict.

Colombian officials said Monday that they do not plan to send troops to the borders with Venezuela and Ecuador, but they contended that the raid proved their long-held suspicion that Colombian guerrillas have been using neighboring countries as havens from which to attack Colombian forces.

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U.S. Congress Irked By Decision On Air Force Tanker Contract
2008-03-05 03:36:34
A political backlash erupted on Monday over a decision by the U.S. Air Force to pass over U.S. aerospace giant Boeing Co and criticizing the Air Force for not considering U.S. jobs in its decision.

Gabriela Lemus, executive director of the AFL-CIO's Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, said EADS had received subsidies for years.

"If this is allowed to stand, the Department of Defense will have declared open season on American aerospace jobs," Lemus said.

EADS -- with major manufacturing facilities in France and Germany -- teamed up with U.S. aerospace group Northrop Grumman to outbid Boeing for the job, which will bring with it thousands of high-paying jobs over many years.

The Air Force plans to buy 179 aircraft over 15 years to replace aging KC-135 tankers, which were built by Boeing. Tankers refuel fighter jets and other warplanes in midair.

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Iran President Ahmadinejad, In Baghdad, Says U.S. Should Leave
2008-03-05 03:35:52
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, on the second day of his visit here in Baghdad, called on Monday for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraqi soil, saying their presence was the root of Iraq's instability and violence.

Ahmadinejad, the first Iranian president to come to Iraq since the two nations fought a brutal war in the 1980s, contended that Iraq was now ready to assume full control of its affairs and that the presence of the American military served its own interests, and not Iraqi goals.

“The people of this area get nothing from the occupation here except damage, sabotage, destruction, insults and degradation,” he said during a news conference in Baghdad on Monday. “All of the people here want those forces to go back home.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad added that the people of Iraq are “capable of managing their lives perfectly” without the presence of the American military.

But American officials countered that Iran has been a destabilizing factor, saying that it finances Shiite militias and allows Iranian-made weapons to be moved across the Iraq-Iran border.

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Columbia: Chavez Funding FARC Rebels
2008-03-05 03:35:12
Venezuela and Ecuador sought Monday to make Colombia pay a high diplomatic and economic price for killing a leftist rebel leader in the Ecuadorean jungle - expelling its diplomats, ordering troops to the border and largely halting trade at key points along the frontier.

Colombia quickly struck back, revealing what it said were incriminating documents seized from the rebel camp that suggest its neighbors have been secretly supporting the rebels' deadly insurgency.

In a tit-for-tat move, Venezuela later displayed the laptop of a slain drug trafficker, which it said contained information implicating Colombia's national police chief in the cocaine trade.

Colombia's national police chief said the documents show Venezuela recently paid $300 million to the rebels, among other financial and political ties that date back years, and that high-level meetings have been held between rebels and Ecuadorean officials.

And this shocker: Colombia says some documents suggest the rebels have bought and sold uranium.

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Bush Administration: No Need For Lawmakers' Of Iraq Pact
2008-03-06 03:24:49
The Bush administration Wednesday advanced a new argument for why it does not require congressional approval to strike a long-term security agreement with Iraq, stating that Congress had already endorsed such an initiative through its 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein. 

The 2002 measure, along with the congressional resolution passed one week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks authorizing military action "to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States," permits indefinite combat operations in Iraq, according to a statement by the State Department's Bureau of Legislative Affairs.

The statement came in response to lawmakers' demands that the administration submit to Congress for approval any agreement with Iraq. U.S. officials are traveling to Baghdad this week with drafts of two documents - a status-of-forces agreement and a separate "strategic framework" - that they expect to sign with the Iraqi government by the end of July. It is to go into effect when the current U.N. mandate expires Dec. 31.

Rep. Gary L. Ackerman (D-New York), whose questions at a House hearing Tuesday elicited the administration statement, described it as an "open-ended, never-ending authority for the administration to be at war in Iraq forever with no limitations." The conditions of 2002 no longer exist, he said.
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Homeland Security Mandates, Goals Remain Unmet
2008-03-06 03:24:15
"Virtual fence" is latest agency effort deemed ineffective, incomplete or too costly to sustain.

Stumping for President Bush's ill-fated immigration overhaul in 2006, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff  vowed that his department would wrest "operational control" of the nation's borders away from human and drug traffickers within five years.

That projection was based on the prospect of tough new enforcement measures as well as a temporary-worker program meant to stanch the flow of illegal immigrants, including the most ambitious use of surveillance technology ever tried on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Two years later, the legislative overhaul has been shelved, development of the "virtual fence" has been delayed, and its designers are going back to the drawing board. Completion of its first phase has been put off until as late as 2011, congressional investigators say. The possibility of this outcome was flagged early on by internal and external watchdogs, who warned of unrealistically tight deadlines, vague direction to contractors, harsh operating conditions and tough requirements of Border Patrol end-users.

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Clinton Campaign Advisers Plan For Endgame, Focus On Pennsylvania
2008-03-05 22:30:26
Advisers to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton Wednesday began plotting a ground game, advertising budgets and a confidence-brimming outreach strategy in hopes of both scoring a big victory in April’s Pennsylvania primary and accumulating enough superdelegates over time to even the nomination fight against Senator Barack Obama.

Obama, who had 11 straight primary and caucus victories in February, has enjoyed momentum lately in picking off superdelegates, the party leaders who have a vote in the nomination. Clinton and her advisers now believe that with her victories in Texas and Ohio last night, she can convince superdelegates to stand with her after a Pennsylvania victory.

She also believes that a strong showing in Pennsylvania, which has 188 delegates at stake, could set up a powerful one-two punch two weeks later in the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, which have a combined 218 delegates. Her team believes she has an especially good shot at winning Indiana, where the state’s influential Democratic senator, Evan Bayh, a former two-term governor, was one of Clinton’s earliest supporters.

Clinton advisers acknowledged on Wednesday that the delegate arithmetic still has them at a disadvantage; Obama has 1,456.5 delegates to Clinton’s 1,370, and the upcoming primaries will award delegates proportionally to both the winner and the loser. That will have the effect making each candidate inch toward the 2,025 delegates needed for the nomination.

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British Drug Firms Face New Laws As Result Of 4-Year Inquiry
2008-03-05 22:29:39

A major tightening of U.K. law governing the oversight of drug companies will be announced Thursday when the British government says GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) delayed informing the authorities that a controversial drug increased the likelihood of suicide among teenagers.

Britain's health minister, Dawn Primarolo, will tell Parliament members that new legislation will be introduced by the end of the year to ensure drugs companies pass on results of clinical trials as soon as the alarm is raised about one of their medicines.

The government is to intervene after a four-year investigation by the drug regulatory body into the way GSK withheld the full results of their trials of the antidepressant Seroxat on children.

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Human Rights Groups: Sanctions Causing Gaza To 'Implode'
2008-03-05 22:29:00

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are living through their worst humanitarian crisis since the 1967 war because of the severe restrictions imposed by Israel since the Islamist movement Hamas seized power, a report by U.K. humanitarian and human rights groups said Thursday.

Movement is all but impossible and supplies of food and water, sewage treatment and basic health care can no longer be taken for granted. The economy has collapsed, unemployment is expected to rise to 50%, hospitals are suffering 12-hour power cuts and schools are failing - all creating a "humanitarian implosion", according to a coalition of eight U.K. humanitarian and human rights groups.

The data was collated before the recent escalation in Hamas rocket fire and Israel's incursion, which saw 106 Palestinians, at least half of them civilians, killed in five days alone. One Israeli civilian and two soldiers were killed in the same period.

The situation in Gaza is "man-made, completely avoidable, and with the necessary political will can be reversed", say the groups, which include Oxfam, Amnesty and Save the Children.

In Jerusalem Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she had received assurances from Israeli and Palestinian leaders that they would resume the peace negotiations suspended by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, after the Gaza offensive. Rice gave no time frame but said Abbas had not made the resumption conditional on a ceasefire.

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FBI Director: More Privacy Violations Confirmed
2008-03-05 18:31:08
The FBI improperly used national security letters in 2006 to obtain personal data on Americans during terror and spy investigations, Director Robert Mueller said Wednesday.

Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the privacy breach by FBI agents and lawyers occurred a year before the bureau enacted sweeping new reforms to prevent future lapses.

Details on the abuses will be outlined in the coming days in a report by the Justice Department's inspector general.

The report is a follow-up to an audit by the inspector general a year ago that found the FBI demanded personal data on people from banks, telephone and Internet providers and credit bureaus without official authorization and in non-emergency circumstances between 2003 and 2005.

Mueller, noting senators' concerns about Americans' civil and privacy rights, said the new report "will identify issues similar to those in the report issued last March." The similarities, he said, are because the time period of the two studies "predates the reforms we now have in place."

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Oil Hits $104 A Barrel As OPEC Rebuffs Bush
2008-03-05 18:30:33
Oil prices reached a record close, surging above $104 after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided Wednesday to keep its production unchanged. The cartel ignored calls from President Bush to pump more oil into an ailing economy.

OPEC rebuffed its top consumer, arguing that the world is well supplied with oil and blaming financial speculators and mismanagement of the United States economy for the current high prices.

OPEC was not completely oblivious to the political and economic impact of $100 oil. The sharp surge in prices recently has deterred the group’s ministers from cutting their production, a move they seriously contemplated a few weeks ago to offset a seasonal slowdown in global oil demand in the second quarter.

With the United States economy slowing down, oil prices have risen sharply as investors seek refuge in commodities like oil and other hard assets to offset the drop in the value of the dollar and hedge against inflation.

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U.S. Factories See Demand For Products Drop Sharply
2008-03-05 18:29:45
U.S. factories saw demand for their products drop sharply, while the country's service sector contracted, fresh evidence of an economy hobbled by housing and credit crises.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that new orders for manufactured goods fell 2.5 percent in January from the previous month. That marked a deterioration from December's 2 percent increase and was the biggest decline in five months.

"Businesses scaled back spending in an uncertain economic environment," said Tim Quinlan, economic analyst at Wachovia. 

Meanwhile, activity in the nation's service sector shrank in February for the second straight month.

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Newsblog: Clinton Wins Ohio, Texas Primaries
2008-03-05 03:42:51

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton defeated Sen. Barack Obama in Ohio Tuesday and, according to television network projections,  also claimed a primary victory in Texas.

CBS, CNN and NBC called the race for Clinton in Texas shortly before 1 a.m. Eastern time. With 76 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton led Obama, 51 percent to 47 percent.

In Ohio, Clinton led Obama 55 percent to 43 percent, with 88 percent of the precincts reporting. Clinton, taking the stage in Columbus to chants of "Hill-a-ry", acknowledged Tuesday night that many had counted her out before Tuesday night.

"For anyone in Ohio or America who's ever been counted out but refused to be knocked out, for everyone who has stumbled but stood right back up, for everyone who worked hard and never gives up, this one is for you," Clinton said to massive applause.

Putting to rest rumors that she might end her campaign depending on the results of yesterday's vote, Clinton offered an affirmative assertion she would continue on. "We're going on, we're going strong and we're going all the way," Clinton said.

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'Flushing' A Natural Wonder
2008-03-05 03:42:20
Water releases meant to renew the Grand Canyon's river bottom are ill-timed and serve hydropower firms, say park officials.

The Grand Canyon is about to take a bath, and National Park Service officials who oversee the natural wonder are worried.

Federal flood control managers, led by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, this week plan to unleash millions of cubic feet of water from behind Glen Canyon Dam to "flush" the huge canyon bottom with a simulated springtime flood.

Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Geological Survey specialists say the 60-hour "blowout," followed by a series of smaller flows this fall, are needed to scour accumulated sand off the Colorado River bottom, then gradually restore sandy beaches and side pools for endangered species and campers.
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U.N. Warns Drug Cartels Running Rampant
2008-03-05 03:41:43

The United Nation will issue a warning Wednesday that major drug traffickers are operating with virtual impunity because governments across the world are failing to target cartels. Instead, they are concentrating on small-time users, a strategy the U.N. says has led to the "rampant flow" of drugs into fresh markets through new international trade routes.

According to the 127-page annual report from the U.N.'s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), governments need to make greater efforts to freeze traffickers' assets, improve access to drug treatment programs and expand the range of non-custodial sentences available for convicted users.

The main findings were:

-- The emergence of new smuggling routes, in particular cocaine from South America being stockpiled and repackaged in west Africa before entering Europe.

-- Increased cultivation of coca bushes - from which cocaine is derived - in Peru and Bolivia as crop eradication programs reduce production in Colombia.

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Climate Scientist James Lovelock: 'Enjoy Life While You Can'
2008-03-05 03:40:58
Climate science maverick James Lovelock believes catastrophe is inevitable, carbon offsetting is a joke and ethical living a scam. So what would he do?

In 1965 executives at Shell wanted to know what the world would look like in the year 2000. They consulted a range of experts, who speculated about fusion-powered hovercrafts and "all sorts of fanciful technological stuff". When the oil company asked the scientist James Lovelock, he predicted that the main problem in 2000 would be the environment. "It will be worsening then to such an extent that it will seriously affect their business," he said.

"And of course," Lovelock says, with a smile 43 years later, "that's almost exactly what's happened."

Lovelock has been dispensing predictions from his one-man laboratory in an old mill in Cornwall since the mid-1960s, the consistent accuracy of which have earned him a reputation as one of Britain's most respected - if maverick - independent scientists. Working alone since the age of 40, he invented a device that detected CFCs, which helped detect the growing hole in the ozone layer, and introduced the Gaia hypothesis, a revolutionary theory that the Earth is a self-regulating super-organism. Initially ridiculed by many scientists as new age nonsense, today that theory forms the basis of almost all climate science.

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Surprise - NOT! U.K. Energy Firms Launch Pre-Emptive Strike Against Windfall Profits Tax
2008-03-05 03:40:23

Britain's energy companies launched a pre-emptive strike Tuesday night on the government ahead of next week's budget, warning that any windfall tax on the industry would undermine investment in green power projects and other measures to combat climate change.

The companies fear ministers are considering a windfall tax on the industry after a public outcry greeted moves to raise household bills by as much as 15% in recent weeks.

British Gas, whose Centrica parent group is behind a number of wind farm and other renewable schemes, said it was vital companies had a "stable, predictable investment climate" in Britain if they were to deliver the billions of pounds of funding needed for green power generation.

Drax, the owner of the country's biggest single coal-fired power station, also issued a clear warning to ministers. "A surprise or shock tax is very destabilizing for the industry when making long-term investments," said Dorothy Thompson, the chief executive of the company.

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MailScanner has detected a possible fraud attempt from "" claiming to be Unlike Consumers, U.S. Companies Are Piling Up Cash
2008-03-05 03:39:32

At least someone knows how to fill a piggy bank.

Unlike most American consumers, whose failure to save has exasperated economists for years, the typical American corporation has increased its savings so sharply that it probably has enough cash on hand to completely pay off its debts.

That should be good news in an economy unsettled by rising energy prices, tightening credit, gyrating stock prices and declining values for the dollar and the family homestead. Indeed, the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, cited strong corporate balance sheets as a bright spot in the darkening forecast he presented to Congress last week.

Some analysts also speculate that these cash-rich companies may start sharing their wealth with investors through special dividends, providing welcome stimulus for the economy.

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Editorial: Priced Out Of The Market
2008-03-05 03:39:02
Intellpuke: The following editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Monday, March 3, 2008.

The world’s food situation is bleak, and shortsighted policies in the United States and other wealthy countries - which are diverting crops to environmentally dubious biofuels - bear much of the blame.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the price of wheat is more than 80 percent higher than a year ago, and corn prices are up by a quarter. Global cereal stocks have fallen to their lowest level since 1982.

As usual, the brunt is falling disproportionately on the poor. The F.A.O. estimates that the cereal import bill of the neediest countries will increase by a third for the second year in a row. Prices have gone so high that the World Food Program, which aims to feed 73 million people this year, said it might have to reduce rations or the number of people it will help.

The world has faced periodic bouts when it looked as if population growth would outstrip the food supply. Each time, food production has grown to meet demand. This time it might not be so easy.

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China's Military Spending Dramatically Increasing
2008-03-05 03:38:20
China announced a further sharp increase in military spending on Tuesday, a day after the United States renewed its warning that a lack of openness surrounding the rapid buildup of the Chinese armed forces posed a threat to stability in Asia.

China’s military budget for 2008 will increase by 17.6 percent to 417.77 billion yuan, or about $58.8 billion, Jiang Enzhu, spokesman for the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, told a news conference.

This follows a 17.8 percent increase in 2007.

Before the annual legislative session, which begins Wednesday, Jiang also said the situation in the Taiwan Strait was “grim and complex” and called on the Taiwanese president, Chen Shui-bian, to halt what Beijing described as unacceptable moves toward independence. China considers the island of Taiwan a breakaway province.

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Train Derails In Mecca, California, Spilling Toxic Acid
2008-03-05 03:36:56
About 60 residents were evacuated Monday night after a Union Pacific freight train derailed in the Riverside County town of Mecca, California, spilling toxic acid as flames spread.

No one was injured during or after the derailment, about 140 miles southeast of Los Angeles, said authorities. As of Tuesday morning, investigators had not determined the cause.

The 65-car train was traveling from West Colton to El Centro at about 8:45 p.m. Monday when it derailed, spilling phosphoric acid from at least one car and possibly hydrochloric acid from another, according to Union Pacific spokesman James Barnes, who was at the scene this morning.

Hydrochloric acid, used to manufacture fertilizers and dyes, can damage the eyes, skin and mucous membranes, and short-term inhalation can cause fluid buildup in the lungs, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Phosphoric acid is milder, often used to remove rust and prepare steel for painting.
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Rice, Abbas Differ On Peace Talks
2008-03-05 03:36:14
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel must "halt its aggression" toward Gaza in order for peace negotiations to proceed, a stark contrast with the U.S. government's call for Hamas militants to stop firing rockets into southern Israel.

Appearing before reporters with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Abbas said he wanted to resume peace talks, but could not do while an Israeli offensive into Gaza continued.

Rice called on Israel to "make a very strong effort to spare innocent life" in Gaza, but did not rescind her earlier position that walking away from negotiations would be a victory for those who oppose peace.

"First and foremost, Hamas needs to stop firing rockets into Israeli cities," Rice said Monday.

In Cairo early Tuesday, she added that Israel must avoid civilian casualties and ensure that the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip is eased. Most important, she said, peace talks should go on.

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U.N. Security Council Adds Sanctions Against Iran
2008-03-05 03:35:37
The Security Council on Monday adopted its third resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its refusal to cease enriching uranium, an activity that the West suspects Iran may be using to create fuel for a nuclear weapon.

The previous two measures gained unanimous support of the 15-member panel, but in balloting on Monday, Indonesia abstained, saying it “remained to be convinced of the efficacy of adopting additional sanctions at this juncture.” Fourteen countries voted in favor.

The resolution authorizes inspections of cargo to and from Iran that is suspected of carrying prohibited equipment, tightens the monitoring of Iranian financial institutions and extends travel bans and asset freezes against persons and companies involved in the nuclear program.

It adds 13 names to the existing list of 5 individuals and 12 companies subject to travel and asset restrictions. The new names include people with direct responsibility for building fast-spinning centrifuges that enrich uranium ore and a brigadier general engaged in “efforts to get around the sanctions” in the two earlier resolutions.

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U.S. Plotted To Overthrow Hamas After Its Election Victory
2008-03-05 03:34:40

The Bush administration, caught out by the rise of Hamas, embarked on a secret project for the armed overthrow of the Islamist government in Gaza, it emerged Monday.

Vanity Fair reports in its April edition that President George Bush and the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, signed off on a plan for the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to remove the Hamas authorities in Gaza. The plan called for Washington's allies in the region to funnel arms and salaries to Fatah fighters who would lead a rising against Hamas.

But the project was controversial even within the administration, the magazine reports. "There were severe fissures among neoconservatives over this," David Wurmser, a former Middle East adviser to the vice-president, Dick Cheney, told the magazine. "We were ripping each other to pieces."

Wurmser resigned his post in the vice-president's office in July 2007, only weeks after bloody clashes in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah that led to the Islamist organisation taking total control of the territory. "It looks to me that what happened wasn't so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen," he said.

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