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Monday, April 14, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday April 14 2008 - (813)

Monday April 14 2008 edition
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Clinton, Obama Discuss Faith At College Forum
2008-04-14 03:05:17
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) asserted Sunday night that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois), through his recent description of sentiments in small-town America, reinforced a stereotype of "out-of-touch" Democrats that doomed the party's past two presidential nominees.

"We had two very good men, and men of faith, run for president in 2000 and 2004, but large segments of the electorate concluded that they did not really understand or relate to or frankly respect their ways of life," said Clinton at Messiah College, referring to former vice president Al Gore and Sen. John F. Kerry (Massachusetts). She repeated her view that Obama had been "elitist ... and, frankly, patronizing."

Her remarks came in a nationally televised forum on religious and moral values, which brought Clinton and her rival to the private Christian school just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The discussion represented a remarkable departure from the Democrats' increasingly harsh tone of campaign rhetoric. Both candidates dropped biblical references and spoke of policy issues such as energy and health care in the context of their Christian faith.

Obama was questioned at the start of his session about his reference to religion in his small-town remarks - perhaps the most controversial word he uttered. Describing the Pennsylvania political landscape at a private fundraiser last Sunday in San Francisco, California, Obama told of how people "cling" to such issues as religion and guns when they become disillusioned by hard economic times and by politicians who promise much but deliver little.

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U.N. Climate Chief Says Rich Nations Failing To Lead On CO2 Emissions
2008-04-14 03:04:35
Developing world "dismayed by lack of leadership; new deal to replace Kyoto protocol under threat.

Developing countries, including China and India, are unwilling to sign up to a new global climate change pact to replace the Kyoto protocol in 2012 because the rich world has failed to set a clear example on cutting carbon emissions, according to the United Nation's top climate official.

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said too many rich countries, including the US, had failed to take the action needed to convince the developing nations to sign up to a deal in Copenhagen next year that could help to stabilize global emissions.

"You may not be able to get an agreement in one shot, let's say by Copenhagen, that sets you on the path of stabilization in keeping with some kind of long-term target," Pachauri told the Guardian. "Looking at the politics of the situation, I doubt whether any of the developing countries will make any commitments before they have seen the developed countries take a specific stand."

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Is Northern Afghanistan Becoming A Powderkeg?
2008-04-14 03:03:29
The slayings of six development aid workers and three attacks against the German military in four weeks underscore the "alarming developments" in Northern Afghanistan, warns the head of the German Army, the Bundeswehr. The area of German deployment once believed to be safe is turning into a powderkeg.

It was a dark Wednesday for the Bundeswehr in Afghanistan. First, a car laden with explosives managed to wedge its way between an armored Wolf jeep and a Mungo truck near Kunduz at 6:35 p.m. Then the driver detonated a bomb. It was only by chance that nothing terrible happened in Esakhail that evening. Other than suffering from fear and shock, the Germans escaped uninjured. The Germany army, the Bundeswehr, though, knew the area had become dangerous. Indeed, just days before, at the end of March, an explosive device was detonated near a military convoy.

Just two hours later, the next alarm bells began to ring. A reconnaissance patrol was driving a Fennek vehicle out of the camp at Kundus as the Germans were attacked with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. The soldiers reacted to the attack, which set fire to a camouflage net on a vehicle, by firing back from their own cannon. The troops returned to the base after the incident and no German soldiers were injured.

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Pakistan's Musharraf Blasts West Over Olympics, Criticism Of China
2008-04-14 03:02:50
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is accusing Western leaders and media of politicizing the Olympics by criticizing China's human rights record and its policy in Tibet.

"First of all, we consider Tibet an inalienable part of China," he said in an interview with China Daily on Sunday. If "anyone is harboring or abetting the separatists, we condemn that."

Musharraf is in Beijing to meet with various Chinese officials.

Last week the international leg of the Olympic torch relay set off protests in London, Paris and San Francisco. The relay received warmer receptions over the weekend in Argentina and Tanzania.
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Former Maoist Guerrillas On Brink Of Historic Nepal Election Victory
2008-04-14 03:02:07

Former communist rebels in Nepal appear to be on the brink of a historic sweep in elections that will decide the political future of the Himalayan nation and end the rule of its 239-year-old royal dynasty.

The Maoists' party has won 42 seats and is leading in 58 constituencies, the election commission said in a statement on its website. The traditional politicians, who had expected to win the polls, have been reduced to bit-part players.

The country's oldest and biggest political party, the Nepali Congress, has so far won 13 seats and the Unified Marxist-Leninists, the traditional communist party, had just 14 seats in the latest count.

The vote is the culmination of a peace process that began in 2006 when street protests ended the absolute rule of King Gyanendra.

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Obama Blends His Messages On U.S. Economy
2008-04-13 15:53:40

James P. Hoffa stood outside the brick Hershey candy factory here in Reading, Pennsylvania, one day last week and tried to sell Sen. Barack Obama to a cluster of Teamsters who are losing their jobs because the company is going to start making the York peppermint patty in Mexico. 

Obama would "change all the bad things" about the North American Free Trade Agreement, said Hoffa, the Teamsters union president, brandishing a peppermint patty for emphasis. "I don't know if we're here in time for this [factory]. ... Everybody got sold this [expletive] about free trade. But we've got to start somewhere. So let's vote for Barack Obama. Let's not have any more victims."

Then, as if just remembering Obama's signature message, Hoffa added: "You can't give up. There's got to be hope. We've got to have hope in the system."

As Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton head into next Tuesday's Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, the reeling U.S. economy is looming as a major focus of the upcoming general election contest against Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona),a development that opinion polls suggest will play strongly to the Democrats' benefit. The focus on the economy also presents a challenge for Obama and his labor allies.

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Democratic Party Officials Question McCain Campaign Financing
2008-04-13 15:52:34
Democratic Party officials want a federal judge to order an investigation into whether Sen. John McCain violated election laws by withdrawing from public financing, saying federal regulators are too weak to act on their own.

A lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission (FEC), to be filed Monday in U.S. District Court, questions the agency's ability to enforce the law and review McCain's decision to opt out of the system. The Republican presidential candidate, who had been entitled to $5.8 million in federal funds for the primary campaign, decided earlier this year to give up that money so he could avoid strict spending limits between now and the Republican national convention in September.

During a conference call with reporters Sunday, Democratic National Committee (DNC) officials said the FEC is unable to act because four of its six seats are vacant. They want a judge to either order the FEC to begin an immediate review, or allow the Democratic Party to file a lawsuit against McCain's campaign challenging his decision.

Tom McMahon, the party's executive director, said "there is a compelling public interest in determining whether Senator McCain agreed to participate in the matching funds program so he could get a loan for his campaign, then violated the terms of that agreement so he could ignore the spending cap and raise unlimited money from lobbyists and special interests."

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Iraq Dismisses 1,300 Troops, Police
2008-04-13 15:51:47
The Iraqi government has dismissed about 1,300 soldiers and policemen who deserted or refused to fight during last month's offensive against Shiite militias and criminal gangs in Basra, officials said Sunday.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said 921 police and soldiers were fired in Basra. They included 37 senior police officers ranging in rank from lieutenant colonel to brigadier general.

The others were dismissed in Kut, one of the Shiite cities where the fight had spread.

Last month, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the security forces to confront armed groups in Basra, Iraq's  second largest city, but they met fierce resistance and the attack quickly ground to a halt as fighting flared across the Shiite south and Baghdad.

Since then, government officials have revealed that about 1,000 members of the security forces - including an entire infantry battalion - had mutinied, on some cases handing over vehicles and weapons to the militias.

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American Airlines Returns All MD-80s To Service
2008-04-13 15:50:37
American Airlines on Saturday received clearance from federal aviation officials to return all of its 300 grounded jets to service, said an airline spokesman.

After 200 cancellations Saturday morning, Fort Worth-based American was running a full schedule by the afternoon with no cancellations, said spokesman Charley Wilson.

Starting Tuesday, the nation's largest airline canceled nearly 3,300 flights, as it grounded 300 MD-80 jets to wrap wiring bundles to meet federal safety standards and prevent fires.

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Britain's Chancellor Calls For Urgent Review Of Biofuels Policies
2008-04-13 04:00:33

Alistair Darling, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, has demanded an urgent review of international biofuel programs as part of a plan to tackle the world's mounting food crisis. The Chancellor (comparable to the U.S. Secretary of the Treasry) said he had asked the World Bank to produce an analysis - for June's G7 meeting of global leaders - on the impact of green policies, including America's and Europe's biofuel programs, on global food shortages.

"This is an urgent problem," said Darling, who was speaking in Washington, D.C., at a meeting of G7 leaders. "People across the world will say, 'Why didn't you see this coming?' when it is staring us in the face. We have got to take action."

He added: "It would be a profound mistake if we get into a situation where we are growing corn that is essential for feeding people and converting it into fuel. That is not sustainable."

The move to re-examine links between food shortages and global biofuel policies comes as riots have gripped many of the world's poorest nations. Demonstrators have protested, with increasing violence, about the soaring prices of wheat, rice, soya and other staples.

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Afghanistan Fighting Poised To Escalate
2008-04-13 04:00:10
The arrival of a Marine unit raises hopes that NATO will finally tame the violent south. But many Taliban fighters are returning after a winter lull.

For weeks now, the men in black turbans have been coming. They travel in pairs or small groups, on battered motorbikes or in dusty pickups, materializing out of the desert with Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers slung from their shoulders.

With the advent of warmer weather, villagers say, Taliban fighters are filtering back from their winter shelters in Pakistan, ensconcing themselves across Afghanistan's wind-swept south.

"Every day we see more and more of them," said Abdul Karim, a farmer who had sent his family away for safety.

The insurgents aren't the only ones girding for battle.
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Unusual Earthquakes Measured Off Oregon Coast
2008-04-13 03:59:44
Scientists listening to underwater microphones have detected an unusual swarm of earthquakes off central Oregon, something that often happens before a volcanic eruption - except there are no volcanoes in the area.

Scientists don't know exactly what the earthquakes mean, but they could be the result of molten rock rumbling away from the recognized earthquake faults off Oregon, said Robert Dziak, a geophysicist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Oregon State University (OSU).

There have been more than 600 quakes over the past 10 days in a basin 150 miles southwest of Newport. The biggest was magnitude 5.4, and two others were more than magnitude 5.0, OSU reported.

On the hydrophones, the quakes sound like low thunder and are unlike anything scientists have heard in 17 years of listening, said Dziak. Some of the quakes have also been detected by earthquake instruments on land.

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This Can't Possibly Go Wrong. Right?
2008-04-13 03:59:11
Europe's enormous $8-billion particle accelerator, to be activated as early as this summer, is generating both excitement and fear because the new atom smasher in scientific knowledge - or open a black hole.

Michelangelo L. Mangano, a respected particle physicist who helped discover the top quark in 1995, now spends most days trying to convince people that his new machine won't destroy the world.

"If it were just crackpots, we could wave them away," the physicist said in an interview at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym, CERN. "But some are real physicists."

What the critics are in such a lather about is the $8-billion Large Hadron Collider, a massive assemblage of iron, steel and superconducting wire 300 feet underground in a 17-mile-long circular tunnel on the Franco-Swiss border.

The most complex piece of scientific equipment ever built, the collider will send particles crashing into each other at just a wink shy of the speed of light, generating energies more powerful than the sun.
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World Bank Call For Immediate Action On World Food Crisis
2008-04-14 03:04:59

Gunfire in Haiti. Riots in Cameroon. A government crisis in the Philippines. The effects of skyrocketing food prices have reached every corner of the globe. Now, the World Bank has called for world leaders to take action before it is too late.

The president of the World Bank Sunday urged immediate action to deal with sharply rising food prices, which have caused hunger and violence in several countries.

Robert B. Zoellick said the international community has to "put our money where our mouth is" now to help hungry people. Zoellick spoke as the bank and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, ended two days of meetings in Washington, D.C.

Zoellick said that the fall of the government in Haiti over the weekend after a wave of deadly rioting and looting over food prices underscores the importance of quick international action.

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Fossilized Finds - Scientists Reveal Secrets Of Opaque Amber
2008-04-14 03:03:57

Until now, fossils hidden inside opaque amber have remained elusive to scientists. But now French researchers have developed a special technique which allows them to peer inside the material using X-rays - and the results are spectacular.

Opaque amber conceals insights into life forms from tens of millions of years ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. But until now, the animals preserved inside the opaque "stones" have remained tantalizingly hidden.

However, a new technological breakthrough has changed all that, enabling scientists to peer into the amber chunks for the first time - and make some fascinating discoveries.

By aiming a high-tech X-ray machine at opaque amber chunks found near Charentes in southwest France, Paul Tafforeau from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, was able to shine a new light into the amber's secrets.

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Chinese Ambassador To London Warns Of Backlash Over 'Demonization' Of China
2008-04-14 03:03:06

The western media's "demonization" of China could lead to a backlash against the west, the Chinese ambassador to London warned Sunday.

Fu Ying said that "violent attacks on the torch" in London eight days ago, when thousands of people protested, had convinced Chinese Olympic athletes that people in Britain "were against them". Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Fu said: "One girl remarked she couldn't believe this land nourished Shakespeare and Dickens. Another asked: where is the 'gentlemenship'?"

The ambassador warned that negative media coverage and the protests that have dogged the Olympic torch relay were damaging the west's image in China.

"Many who had romantic views of the west are very disappointed at the media's attempt to demonize China. We all know demonization feeds a counter-reaction," she said. "Many complain about China not allowing enough access to the media. In China, the view is that the western media need to earn respect."

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Kenyan Rivals Reach Accord On Cabinet
2008-04-14 03:02:24
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and his political rival Raila Odinga agreed on the details of a 40-member cabinet Sunday, implementing a power-sharing deal they reached in February.

The two leaders had bickered for weeks over key ministries as Kenyans grew increasingly worried that the country was again slipping into the violence that killed an estimated 1,000 people and displaced as many as a million after the disputed Dec. 27 presidential election.

Last week, demonstrators took to the streets in two Odinga strongholds, the western city of Kisumu and Kibera, one of Nairobi's poorest neighborhoods, as people grew impatient waiting for the political announcement.

With international pressure mounting, Kibaki on Sunday announced the new cabinet and named Odinga as prime minister. Odinga will oversee and manage the cabinet.

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Secret Iraqi Deal Shows Problems In Arms Orders
2008-04-13 15:53:54
An $833 million Iraqi arms deal secretly negotiated with Serbia has underscored Iraq's continuing problems equipping its armed forces, a process that has long been plagued by corruption and inefficiency.

The deal was struck in September without competitive bidding and it sidestepped anti-corruption safeguards, including the approval of senior uniformed Iraqi Army officers and an Iraqi contract approval committee. Instead, it was negotiated by a delegation of 22 high-ranking Iraqi officials, without the knowledge of American commanders or many senior Iraqi leaders.

The deal drew enough criticism that Iraqi officials later limited the purchase to $236 million. And much of that equipment, American commanders said, turned out to be either shoddy or inappropriate for the military’s mission.

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In Gaza, Jobless Turn To Hamas
2008-04-13 15:53:23
Less than a year ago, Abu Hammed worked in a garment factory, sewing pants.

Now he totes a Kalashnikov assault rifle as a Hamas police officer, imposing order in this eerily desolate city on behalf of the armed Islamist movement.

Given a choice, he'd rather be back in the factory.

"If the Israelis opened the crossings again, I would leave the police and become a tailor again," said Abu Hammed, who would give only his nickname for fear of a Hamas reprisal. "The salary is better in the factory."

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100,000 Books On Humanity's History Destroyed By UNESCO
2008-04-13 15:52:07
For more than two decades, 250 historians and specialists labored to produce the first six volumes of the General History of Latin America, an exhaustive work financed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the U.N. organization created to preserve global culture and heritage.

Then, over the course of two years, UNESCO paid to destroy many of those books and nearly 100,000 others by turning them to pulp, according to an external audit.

"This is the intellectual organization of the United Nations system," Aziza Bennani, Morocco's ambassador to UNESCO, said in an interview. "How could an employee of UNESCO make a decision to destroy these books?"

Homero Aridjis, Mexico's ambassador, said at the organization's executive council meeting this week, "This is not only a blow to the culture and knowledge of entire populations and nations, it contradicts the mandate entrusted to UNESCO." He demanded an internal investigation.

UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura said it was "completely incomprehensible and inappropriate" that some of the organization's "most important and successful collections" were ordered destroyed, including histories of humanity and Africa, and surveys of ancient monuments.

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Iranian Officials Rule Out Sabotage In Mosque Blast
2008-04-13 15:51:22
Iranian officials on Sunday ruled out an attack as the cause of an explosion that killed 11 people in the southern city of Shiraz, saying it was an accident that was likely caused by leftover ammunition.

The explosion ripped through a mosque packed with hundreds of worshipers late Saturday as a cleric delivered his weekly speech against extremist Wahabi beliefs and the outlawed Baha'i faith, said the semiofficial Fars news agency.

Authorities said besides the 11 killed, 191 people were wounded, some of them critically, the state IRNA news agency reported.

On Sunday, the deputy interior minister in charge of security, Abbas Mohtaj, said the "explosion was due to an accident which is under investigation."

"It was not because of bombing," Mohtaj said, but did not elaborate.

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S. Korea Bird Flu Case Cause By Deadly Strain
2008-04-13 15:49:32
South Korea's government confirmed a fourth outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu virus in the country's southwest Sunday, as the tally of birds slaughtered to control the spread of the disease rose to 1.3 million.

Government tests confirmed the latest H5N1 outbreak at a farm in Yeoungam, about 236 miles southwest of Seoul, Agriculture Ministry official Kim Chang-sup said.

Earlier this month, South Korea reported its first case of H5N1 in more than a year. Since then, three more H5N1 outbreaks have been confirmed, Kim said. Six further outbreaks were being tested for the deadly strain, he said.

Quarantine workers have slaughtered 470,000 chickens and ducks at 20 farms within a 1.8 mile radius of the site of the latest outbreak, according to Ryu Chul-hyuk, an official of the South Jeolla provincial government.

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Editorial: All The Time He Needs
2008-04-13 04:00:21
Intellpuke: The following editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Sunday, April 13, 2008.

President Bush said last week that he told his Iraq war commander, Gen. David Petraeus, that “he’ll have all the time he needs.” We know what that means. It means that the general, like the Iraqi government, should feel no pressure to figure a way out of this disastrous war. It means that even after 20,000 troops come home there will be nearly 140,000 American troops still fighting there - with no plan for further withdrawals and no plan for leading them to victory.

It means, as we’ve always suspected, that Mr. Bush’s only real strategy for Iraq has been to hand the mess off to his successor. Mr. Bush gave himself all the time he needs to walk away from one of the biggest strategic failures in American history.

General Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the American ambassador to Baghdad, did not try to hide any of that in their Stay-the-Course 2008 Tour. There were the obligatory claims of military and political progress, but with a lot less specificity than during Stay-the-Course 2007. Mr. Crocker did not even bother to bring charts assessing Iraqi performance on political benchmarks. General Petraeus’ charts showed that American troop numbers would come down to around 140,000 this summer - but showed nothing beyond that.

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Royal Dutch Shell's Future In Nigeria In Doubt
2008-04-13 03:59:56

Royal Dutch Shell is facing pressure from the Nigerian government and increasingly violent opposition in the Niger Delta oil-producing region, raising questions over its long-term future in the country.

Sources in the Delta say the Nigerian government has withheld up to $1 billion as part of a production-sharing agreement while the two sides are locked in talks over how to pay for new investments in the oil industry. The decision to withhold funds is preventing contractors from getting paid, say sources.

The government of President Umaru Yar'Adua, who last year won an election fraught with intimidation, is taking a harder line on historic oil contracts, many of which are being renegotiated. Pressure on Shell comes as a steel firm controlled by the Mittal family attacked the Nigerian government last week, after its concessions were confiscated.

The difficulties for Shell and other western oil producers, including Chevron and Agip, could push oil prices to new heights. Last week, U.S. light crude reached an all-time record of $112.21.

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Departing U.S. Housing Chief Inattentive To Mortgage Crisis, Say Critics
2008-04-13 03:59:32

In late 2006, as economists warned of an imminent housing market collapse, housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson  repeatedly insisted that the mounting wave of mortgage failures was a short-term "correction."

He pushed for legislation that would make it easier for federally backed lenders to make mortgage loans to risky borrowers who put less money down. He issued a rule that was criticized by law enforcement authorities because it could increase the difficulty of detecting and proving mortgage fraud.

As Jackson leaves office this week, much of the attention on his tenure has been focused on investigations into whether his agency directed housing contracts to his friends and political allies; but critics say an equally significant legacy of his four years as the nation's top housing officer was gross inattention to the looming housing crisis.

They contend that Jackson ignored warnings from within his agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), whose inspector general told Congress that some of the secretary's efforts were "ill-advised policy" and likely to put more families at risk of losing their homes.

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