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Friday, April 18, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday April 18 2008 - (813)

Friday April 18 2008 edition
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U.S. Workers Get Fewer Hours, Deepening The Economic Downturn
2008-04-18 01:01:22

Not long ago, overtime was a regular feature at the Ludowici Roof Tile factory in eastern Ohio. Not anymore. With orders scarce and crates of unsold tiles piling up across the yard, the company has slowed production and cut working hours, sowing worry and thrift among its workers.

“We don’t just hop in the car and go shopping or get something to eat,” said Kim Baker, whose take-home pay at the plant has recently dropped to $450 a week, from more than $600. “You’ve got to watch everything. If we go to town now, it’s for a reason.”

Throughout the country, businesses grappling with declining fortunes are cutting hours for those on their payrolls. Self-employed people are suffering a drop in demand for their services, like music lessons, catering and management consulting. Growing numbers of people are settling for part-time work out of a failure to secure a full-time position.

The gradual erosion of the paycheck has become a stealth force driving the American economic downturn. Most of the attention has focused on the loss of jobs and the risk of layoffs. But the less-noticeable shrinking of hours and pay for millions of workers around the country appears to be a bigger contributor to the decline, which has already spread from housing and finance to other important areas of the economy.

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Chinese Ship Carries Arms Cargo To Mugabe Regime
2008-04-18 01:00:29

A Chinese cargo ship believed to be carrying 77 tons of small arms, including more than 3 million rounds of ammunition, AK47 assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, has docked in the South African port of Durban for transportation of the weapons to Zimbabwe, the South African government confirmed Thursday. It claimed it was powerless to intervene as long as the ship's papers are in order.

Copies of the documentation for the Chinese ship, the An Yue Jiang, show that the weapons were sent from Beijing to the Zimbabwe Ministry of Defense in Harare. Headed "Dangerous goods description and container packing certificate", the document was issued on April 1, three days after Zimbabwe's election. It lists the consignment as including 3.5 million rounds of ammunition for AK47 assault rifles and for small arms, 1,500 40mm rockets, 2,500 mortar shells of 60mm and 81mm caliber, as well as 93 cases of mortar tubes.

The carrier is listed as the Cosco shipping company in China.

South Africa's national conventional arms control committee issued a permit on Monday for the trans-shipment of the cargo from Durban to Harare. The head of government information in South Africa, Themba Maseko, said Thursday: "We are not in a position to act unilaterally and interfere in a trade deal between two countries." South Africa had to "tread very carefully", given the complexity of the situation in Zimbabwe, said Maseko.

South Africa was not encouraging the purchase of weapons by Zimbabwe, he said, pointing out that there was no United Nations trade embargo against that country.

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Global Warming Could Cut Pyranees' Snowfall By Half
2008-04-18 00:59:55

By the end of the century skiing holidays to the Pyrenees could be a distant memory, according to a study which says snowfalls could decrease by half.

Spanish scientists from the Pyrenean Ecological Institute predicted that temperatures in the mountain range in eastern Spain and southwest France could rise by between 2.8 degrees Celsius and 4 degrees Celsius by the start of the 22nd century. At the same time, snowfall levels could decline by between 30% and 50%.

The study also claimed that the slopes above 2,000 meters (over 6,000 feet) may see snow for only four to five months, whereas today they are covered for up to six months.

The report, published in the International Journal of Climatology, also claimed rainfall levels could go down by between 10.7% and 14.8% a year by the end of this century.

Researchers said the predictions, which cover the period between 2070 and 2100, were based on possible rises in greenhouse gases. They used six climate models which accurately estimated conditions in the Pyrenees between 1960 and 1990.

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Shareholders Tell BP Board: Invest In Iraq And You Repeat Past Mistakes
2008-04-18 00:58:46

Investors Thursday accused BP of repeating past mistakes by investing in Iraq as the corporation's board came under fire from shareholders at the annual meeting in London.

Protest groups used their stakes to attack BP for developing tar sands in Canada and there was criticism of high executive pay.

The board said BP was moving back on track after a year of falling profits, management reshuffles and an under  performing share price.

Peter Sutherland, the chairman entering his last 12 months in office, admitted performance in 2007 had not been good, but rebuilding by new chief executive Tony Hayward meant BP is now "much better placed and we are seeing forward momentum". Hayward accepted BP needed to "raise its game" further but was optimistic that prioritizing safety, people and performance was paying dividends.

In a world moving towards clean energy, BP was "part of the solution not part of the problem". Greg Muttit, from the Platform human rights group, said the oil giant risked repeating mistakes by tying up agreements in Iraq.

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U.S. Begins Erecting Wall In Sadr City
2008-04-18 00:58:07
Trying to stem the infiltration of militia fighters, American forces have begun to build a massive concrete wall that will partition Sadr City, the densely populated Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital.

The construction, which began Tuesday night, is intended to turn the southern quarter of Sadr City near the international Green Zone into a protected enclave, secured by Iraqi and American forces, where the Iraqi government can undertake reconstruction efforts.

“You can’t really repair anything that is broken until you establish security,” said Lt. Col. Dan Barnett, commander of the First Squadron, Second Stryker Cavalry Regiment. “A wall that isolates those who would continue to attack the Iraqi Army and coalition forces can create security conditions that they can go in and rebuild.”

On Wednesday night, huge cranes slowly lifted heavy concrete blocks into place under a moonless sky. The barriers were implanted on Al Quds Street, a major thoroughfare that separates the Tharwa and Jamilla districts to the south from the heart of Sadr City to the north.

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A Jump In Doctor Visits And Death In Flu Season
2008-04-18 00:57:23
The current flu season has been more severe than the last three, with more doctor visits and more deaths from flu and pneumonia, federal health officials are reporting.

The season peaked in February, when flulike illnesses accounted for 5.9 percent of doctor visits. Over all, doctor visits for these illnesses were higher than normal for 13 consecutive weeks.

The death rate related to flu and pneumonia was also higher than usual for 13 consecutive weeks; at the worst point, in March, the illnesses were listed as underlying or contributing causes of death in 9.1 percent of deaths. Any rate over 6.9 percent is considered unusually high.

The deaths included 65 children under 18. The youngest was a month old, and the median age was 4.5 years. In each of the three previous flu seasons, 46 to 74 children died.

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U.S. House Committee Investigates Chemical Industry's Influence On EPA Panels
2008-04-17 15:15:44
A congressional investigation is trying to determine whether ties between the chemical industry and the Environmental Protection Agency put children' health at risk. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is examining whether chemical companies influence EPA panels that review chemicals for safety. The committee's concern is that panels may be stacked with industry scientists who downplay the real risks of toxic substances.

The House committee is focusing on the American Chemistry Council, the main lobbying group for the chemical industry. This is a landmark investigation, says the Environmental Working Group, a non-partisan policy organization, because Congress doesn't usually put trade groups under the microscope.

Influence from industry could have significant consequences for children's health. Some chemicals under review have added risks for children and infants and, according to lawmakers and environmental advocates, industry scientists deny the need to regulate use of those chemicals. Recent EPA actions to weaken safety standards for children have left the relationship between industry and the government agency open to scrutiny.

The Energy and Commerce Committee's investigation is looking at several panels to find out whether industry bias played a role in weakening standards - especially dangerous to children, who are more vulnerable to toxic exposure. In the wake of this investigation, the EPA has convened yet another panel with scientists who have industry ties - a panel that is considering easing safeguards that protect children from carcinogens.
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Commentary: The Man Who Would Be Bush
2008-04-17 15:15:05
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by journalist and author Robert Scheer and appeared on the website's edition for Tuesday, April 15, 2008. Mr. Scheer's commentary follows:

Are Americans unusually stupid or is it something our president put in the water? As millions surrender their homes and sacrifice other standards of our nation’s economic and political reputation to the caprice of the Bush-Cheney imperium, a majority of voters tell pollsters that they might vote for a candidate who promises more of the same.

Assuming that likely voters are not now thinking of yet another Republican president simply because John McCain is the only white guy left standing - an excuse as pathetic in its logic as the decision four years ago to return two Texas oil hustlers to the White House because they were not Massachusetts liberals - must mean that tens of millions of Americans have taken leave of their senses.

If not the white-guy syndrome, why would even a shocking minority of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama supporters say they prefer McCain to the other Democrat? How otherwise to explain the nation’s widespread bipartisan rejection of the Bush presidency and yet a willingness to let McCain continue in that vein?

To be sure, as a senator, McCain has exhibited flashes of independence on behalf of taxpayers, as in his support of campaign-finance reform in which he partnered with Democrat Russ Feingold. McCain’s investigations of the military-industrial complex’s shameless exploitation of terrorism fears set a high standard, as in exposing the air-tanker scandal that dispatched a Boeing exec and a former Pentagon employee to prison. But his political ambition is showing. Although he previously harshly criticized the enormous waste in the Iraq occupation, today, as a presidential candidate, he opens the door to a hundred years of taxpayer dollars tossed down the drain in Iraq. The man who was tortured now hugs a leader who authorized the same.

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Study: 20% Of Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans Have Depression, PTSD
2008-04-17 15:14:37
The Army has stepped up mental health screening at the end of tours, but the Rand study says many soldiers are still undiagnosed. Less than half of the 300,000 affected veterans have been treated.

Nearly one in five veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is currently suffering from depression or stress disorders, according to the latest and most comprehensive study of current and former military service members, released Thursday.

Less than half of those 300,000 veterans have received care for depression or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the study, signaling significant problems with the U.S. mental healthcare system.

The study shows that the stress disorders may be more prevalent and lasting than previously known. Although the Army has conducted annual evaluations of troops deployed in Iraq, the new study, conducted by the Rand Corp. and funded by the California Community Foundation, is the first to try and assess the mental health of the 1.65 million service members that have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.
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Hearing On Children In Polygamist Case Descends Into Chaos
2008-04-17 15:10:38
A hearing here in San Angelo, Texas, on the fate of 416 children taken from a polygamist compound descended into chaos on Thursday as defense lawyers in two different locations entered a flurry of objections as the state tried to present its case.

Before the proceedings were recessed after about 45 minutes of wrangling, a lawyer for the state’s Department of Child Protective Services said it would seek psychiatric examinations for the children, as well as genetic testing of both the children and the adults, and would try to have the children relocated to other parts of the state outside of this town in west Texas.

The request for genetic testing appeared to be a way for officials to establish the family relationships between the children, many of whom appear to be half-brothers and half-sisters, and the adults involved.

Because to the large number of people involved, the session quickly became unwieldy, with the judge telling lawyers in the courtroom to coordinate their objections with those at the nearby city hall, where others were watching a live video of the proceedings. The recess came as state officials were attempting to introduce medical records of what were described as three underage girls.

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Los Angeles Sues Anthem Blue Cross Over Dropped Policies
2008-04-17 02:48:03
California's largest for-profit health insurer, Anthem Blue Cross, was accused Wednesday of a widespread pattern of false advertising and fraud in a $1-billion lawsuit that claims that the company's coverage "is largely illusory".

Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo alleged in the suit that the insurer sold people false promises of coverage and concealed a scheme to renege on policies for those diagnosed with serious and often expensive medical conditions, including cancer and congestive heart failure. The suit says more than 500,000 people were tricked into buying individual and family policies from Blue Cross.

"Countless Californians who believe they have insurance actually have policies that aren't worth the paper they're printed on," Delgadillo said. An Anthem Blue Cross spokeswoman said the company intended to vigorously defend itself and "strongly disagrees with the allegations." A spokesman for the insurer's parent company, Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc., declined to discuss the allegations.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accuses Blue Cross and WellPoint of violating more than 25 state and federal laws. It demands  restitution for patients who were left with medical bills and seeks more than $1 billion in penalties.
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U.S. Railroads Directed To Analyze Hazardous Materials Routes
2008-04-17 02:47:27
The U.S. Transportation Department issued a rule Wednesday that orders railroads to extensively analyze security risks in choosing the routes on which they ship hazardous chemicals.

Railroads will be required to do a safety and security risk analysis of primary routes and any practical alternatives they might use, the department said. By September 2009, they must route trains with dangerous chemicals based on the studies. Those that do not use the safest routes could be fined up to $10,000 a day and ordered to reroute trains.

Congress had ordered the department to come up with the rule to comply with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. 

The movement of trains carrying hazardous cargo such as chlorine through Washington, D.C., has stirred controversy because of concerns about a terrorist threat. The D.C. government passed a law barring the shipment of dangerous cargo through the city in 2005. CSX Transportation and the Bush administration fought the ban in federal court, where the case is still tied up. The ban never took effect.

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Across The Planet, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger
2008-04-18 01:01:04
Hunger bashed in the front gate of Haiti’s presidential palace. Hunger poured onto the streets, burning tires and taking on soldiers and the police. Hunger sent the country’s prime minister packing.

Haiti’s hunger, that burn in the belly that so many here feel, has become fiercer than ever in recent days as global food prices spiral out of reach, spiking as much as 45 percent since the end of 2006 and turning Haitian staples like beans, corn and rice into closely guarded treasures.

Saint Louis Meriska’s children ate two spoonfuls of rice apiece as their only meal recently and then went without any food the following day. His eyes downcast, his own stomach empty, the unemployed father said forlornly, “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry.”

That anger is palpable across the globe. The food crisis is not only being felt among the poor but is also eroding the gains of the working and middle classes, sowing volatile levels of discontent and putting new pressures on fragile governments.

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Hijackings Force U.N. To Cut Darfur Food Aid By Half
2008-04-18 01:00:10

The Unied Nations World Food Program (WFP) is to halve food rations for up to 3 million people in Darfur beginning in May because of insecurity along the main supply routes.

At least 60 WFP trucks have been hijacked since December in Sudan's western province, where government forces and rebels have been at war for five years. The hijacks have drastically curtailed the delivery of food to warehouses ahead of the rainy season that lasts from May to September, when there is limited market access and crop stocks are depleted.

Instead of the normal ration of 500 grams of cereal a day, people in displaced persons' camps and conflict-affected villages will only get 225 grams from next month, the U.N. agency said Thursday. Rations of pulses and sugar will also be halved, giving people barely 60% of their recommended minimum daily calorie intake.

The WFP said that while Sudan's government provided security for convoys on the main supply routes, the escorts were too infrequent, given the huge demand for food at this time of year.

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U.S. Senate Seeks Criminal Investigation Into $10 Million Earmark Change
2008-04-18 00:59:32

The U.S. Senate Thursday requested a federal criminal investigation into changes to a $10 million earmark in 2005, and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and top Republicans endorsed an ethics committee investigation of how the language governing the pet project was altered.

On a bipartisan 64 to 28 vote, the Senate approved a resolution asking the Justice Department to look into the circumstances surrounding the $10 million expenditure for a highway interchange in Florida backed by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the former chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Lawmakers and aides said they could not recall Congress previously requesting a criminal investigation into an earmark.

Young acknowledged this week that he requested the earmark, and an aide conceded that his staff changed its language after both the House and Senate had voted on a highway funding bill that contained the measure. But Young denied that he pushed the provision as a result of receiving $40,000 in campaign donations from developers who owned 4,000 acres of land next to the proposed interchange on Interstate-75 just east of Naples, Florida.

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Report Finds Air Force Officers Steered Contract
2008-04-18 00:58:29

Sitting at the head of the table, Air Force Maj. Gen. Stephen Goldfein, the highest-ranking officer in the room, leaned forward and told the officers and others assembled before him that they should steer a multimillion-dollar Air Force contract to a company named Strategic Message Solutions.

"I don't pick the winner, but if I did, I'd pick SMS," Goldfein said to the seven-person group that was selecting a contractor to jazz up the Air Force's Thunderbirds air show with giant video boards, according to a lengthy report by the Defense Department's  inspector general. The head of the selection team almost immediately "caved," giving in to what he believed was a fixed process, while another member of the team called it "the dirtiest thing" he had ever experienced.

It was during that meeting in November 2005, according to the 251-page report, obtained by the Washington Post,  that a controversial $50 million contract was awarded to a company that barely existed in an effort to reward a recently retired four-star general and a millionaire civilian pilot who had grown close to senior Air Force officials and the Thunderbirds.

In a probe that lasted more than two years, investigators concluded that Goldfein and others worked inside the Air Force contracting system to favor SMS and its owners, despite an offer by the company that was more than twice as expensive as a competing bid.

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Reuters Cameraman Killed In Gaza By Israeli Shell
2008-04-18 00:57:52

A Palestinian journalist who died in Gaza on Wednesday was killed by metal darts from a shell fired by an Israeli tank, doctors said Thursday.

Thousands gathered for the funeral of Fadel Shana, 23, a Reuters cameraman. His body was carried through the streets of Gaza City, draped in a Palestinian flag. His camera and bloodied flak jacket were carried on a second stretcher. Reuters said x-rays showed several inch-long darts, known as flechettes, embedded in Shana's chest and legs as well as his flak jacket. His jacket was marked with a fluorescent "Press" sign and his car, which was not armored, was marked Press and TV.

Flechettes are small metal darts contained in some tank shells which explode above the ground and can cover a wide area. They have been used in conflicts since the first world war and have been used by the Israeli military in the past. In 2003 the Israeli high court rejected a petition by two human rights groups asking for flechette shells to be banned in Gaza.

The Israeli military Thursday refused to discuss which weapons it had used, but said all the ammunition used by the military was legal. A military official said: "We wish to express sorrow for the death ... the area in which the cameraman was hurt is an area in which ongoing fighting against armed, extreme and dangerous terrorist organizations occurs on a daily basis.

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Pope Praises Americans' Spirit Of Hope
2008-04-17 15:16:00

In his first Mass on American soil, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged the damage done by the church's sexual abuse scandal, asked that the American spirit of hope help heal that pain and urged Catholic Americans toward a renewal of their faith.

Before a standing-room-only crowd of 46,000 at Nationals Park, the pope said that while the country is challenged by "an increasingly secular and materialistic culture," it remains a place of hope for people throughout the world.

"Dear friends, my visit to the United States is meant to be a witness to Christ, our hope. Americans have always been a people of hope: Your ancestors came to this country with the expectation of finding new freedom and opportunity, a new nation on new foundations," he said. "To be sure, this promise was not experienced by all the inhabitants of this land; one thinks of the injustices endured by the Native American peoples and by those brought here forcibly from Africa as slaves. Yet hope, hope for the future, is very much a part of the American character."

In his homily, Benedict again acknowledged the damage done by the church's sexual abuse scandal - the third time he has raised it during his trip.

"No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse," he said. "Yesterday, I spoke with the bishops about this. Today, I encourage each of you to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt."

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Merrill Lynch Reports $2 Billion 1st Quarter Loss
2008-04-17 15:15:29
The brokerage reports losing $2 billion in the first quarter, with 4,000 job cuts and $6.6 billion in write-offs due to the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Its shares rise on hopes that storm has peaked.

Brokerage giant Merrill Lynch & Co. reported a $2-billion quarterly loss today as the continuing effects of the sub-prime mortgage crisis led to 4,000 job cuts and more than $6.6 billion in write-offs.

The results were worse than Wall Street had expected, but Merrill's shares inched upward on hopes that investment banks are finally getting past the worst of the sub-prime maelstrom. Its stock rose 98 cents, or 2.2%, to $45.87.

For the first quarter, Merrill reported a net loss of $1.96 billion, or $2.19 per share, compared to net income of $2.16 billion, or $2.26, a year ago.

Revenue slumped 69% to $2.9 billion, and the brokerage wrote off losses in a variety of areas, including mortgage securities, mortgage loans and loans made to finance corporate buyouts by private-equity firms.
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Scientists Voice Doubts About U.S. Anti-Missile Plan
2008-04-17 15:14:53
A group of prominent scientists who have been critical of missile defense plans told lawmakers Wednesday that a system being built by the United States cannot protect the country.

They also questioned whether the Defense Department has misled the public and European allies about the system's capabilities.

''The program offers no prospect of defending the United States from a real-world missile attack and undermines efforts to eliminate the real nuclear threats to the United States,'' Lisbeth Gronlund, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told lawmakers at a House oversight hearing on the missile defense program, according to prepared testimony. Gronlund's group has long expressed skepticism about missile defense.

The hearing was called by the panel's chairman, Rep. John Tierney, D-Massachusetts, who has sought to step up oversight of the missile defense program since the Democrats took control of the House last year. Missile defense traditionally has drawn more support from Republicans.

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At Least 55 Killed In Iraq Suicide Bombing
2008-04-17 15:10:56
A suicide bombing killed 55 people at a funeral service Thursday in a village 90 miles north of Baghdad, the latest in a string of deadly attacks this week attributed to Sunni insurgents.

Police said a suicide bomber blew up an explosive vest he was wearing in the town of Edhaim, in Diyala province,  while mourners were gathering for lunch around 11 a.m. The funeral service was for two members of Sunni Awakening councils - groups of volunteer fighters who have joined with American military and Iraqi security forces to fight insurgents.

Col. Jasim Khalaf al-Ubaidi of the Edhaim police said he expected the number of dead to rise because the wounded were being transferred to hospitals in civilian cars and pickup trucks. He said the area had no police stations or military check points and the closest hospital was located more than 40 miles away.

Police said the two fighters from Sunni Awakening groups were killed in an attack carried out by al-Qaeda in Iraq,  the Sunni insurgent group that has often targeted police officers and security forces from the Shiite-led Iraqi central government.

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New York Times Company Posts 1st Quarter Loss
2008-04-17 15:10:04
The New York Times Company, the parent of the New York Times newspaper, posted a $335,000 loss in the first quarter - one of the worst periods the company and the newspaper industry have seen - falling far short of both analysts’ expectations and its $23.9 million profit in the quarter a year earlier.

The company did break even on a per-share basis, compared with the average analyst forecast of earnings of 14 cents, down from 17 cents in the first quarter of 2007.

The company’s main source of revenue, newspaper advertising in print and online, fell 10.6 percent, the sharpest drop in memory, as the industry suffers the twin blows of an economic downturn and the continuing long-term shift of readers and advertisers to the Internet.

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A Drought In Australia, A Global Shortage Of Rice
2008-04-17 02:47:46
Lindsay Renwick, the mayor of Diniliquin, a dusty southern Australian town, remembers the constant whir of the rice mill. “It was our little heartbeat out there, tickety-tick-tickety,” he said, imitating the giant fans that dried the rice, “and now it has stopped.”

The Deniliquin mill, the largest rice mill in the Southern Hemisphere, once processed enough grain to meet the needs of 20 million people around the world; but six long years of drought have taken a toll, reducing Australia’s rice crop by 98 percent and leading to the mothballing of the mill last December.

Ten thousand miles separate the mill’s hushed rows of over sized silos and sheds - beige, gray and now empty - from the riotous streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but a widening global crisis unites them.

The collapse of Australia’s rice production is one of several factors contributing to a doubling of rice prices in the last three months - increases that have led the world’s largest exporters to restrict exports severely, spurred panicked hoarding in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and set off violent protests in countries including Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

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Clinton Uses Sharp Attacks In Tense Debate
2008-04-17 02:47:01
Intellpuke: This is the second article on this debate posted at Free Internet Press today. The other, by the Guardian newspaper's New York-based correspondent posted elsewhere on today's mainpage, had a different tone and focus than the following article which appeared in the New York Times edition for Thursday, April 17, 2008. The difference was enough that it seemed both articles should be posted.

Senator Barack Obama found himself consistently on the defensive as he and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton met Wednesday night in a tense debate that left him parrying questions and criticism on issues including values, patriotism and his association with onetime radicals from the 1960s.

It was the first time the two candidates had shared a debate stage in seven weeks, and it came six days before a primary in Pennsylvania that could determine whether Clinton can continue her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. It could also prove to be the last debate between them.

Accordingly, Clinton did not let an opportunity pass as she repeatedly challenged Obama on his record and views -  assisted, as it turned out, by vigorous questioning by the two moderators from ABC News, Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous.

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