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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday April 5 2008 - (813)

Saturday April 5 2008 edition
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Germany 2nd Largest State-Owned Bank, Writes Down $6.7 Billion In Subprime Loses
2008-04-04 21:07:14
Germany's second biggest state-owned bank, Bayerische Landesbank, revealed Thursday that the global credit crunch has cost the bank €4.3 billion ($6.7 billion) - far more than it had previously predicted and more than any German state-owned bank has suffered so far.

BayernLB, which is based in Munich, Germany, reported writedowns of €2.3 billion in 2007 and another €2 billion for the first quarter of this year as a result of the fallout from the U.S. housing market crisis.

During a presentation of the bank's results Thursday, the company said that €24 billion of its assets were at risk of devaluation. The bank and its owners, the state of Bavaria and the Bavarian Association of Savings Banks, have agreed to cover as much as €6 billion in possible losses from those assets, which will be shifted to a new finance affiliate.

So far, the fallout from the credit crisis has led German state-owned banks to write off over €11 billion from their investments. On Wednesday, Germany's third biggest state-owned bank, WestLB, reported it had lost €1.6 billion  in 2007 after the credit crunch cost it over €2 billion last year.

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NATO Summit Fails To Heal Deep Divisions
2008-04-04 21:06:32
The smiles in Bucharest were little more than show. Politically, the NATO summit was a fiasco. The Western alliance remains deeply divided and faces an identity crisis - with Russian relations just one of the alliance's many points of dispute.

Around 40 presidents, prime ministers as well as hordes from foreign and defense ministries and around 3,000 advisors, secretaries and other officials were all smiles during the three-day NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania.

Optimistic about the state of the world, safe in the embrace of the happy NATO family, Angela Merkel, George W. Bush and friends almost seemed happily re-energized by the policy wrangling in the luxury palace in Bucharest. Symbolically it was the German chancellor who set the final tone. "I am very satisfied as I go home," she said before leaving for the airport.

At the very least, the much feared open row between the alliance partners had been avoided. And the dream of the outgoing U.S. president of seeing the most powerful military alliance in the world enlarged was fulfilled - at least partially. Croatia and Albania can now snuggle up under the NATO security blanket. And Macedonia should be able to join them as soon as its bizarre dispute with neighboring Greece over its name is put to rest.

But that was about it. All the other important decisions were postponed - yet again. The allies didn’t even dare begin the urgent discussions about strategies and plans. They were afraid that by doing so they would no longer be able to conceal the deep division that cuts right across the defense alliance. The old common enemy - a Soviet-dominated Eastern Block - is gone, having done away with itself. And NATO has so far not been able to agree on a new enemy. Is it to become the world's policeman now, or should it remain a self-defense pact?
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U.N. Chief Calls For Review Of Biofuels Policy
2008-04-04 21:05:54
Ban Ki-moon speaks out amid global food shortage; 33 countries facing unrest as families go hungry.

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has called for a comprehensive review of the policy on biofuels as a crisis in global food prices - partly caused by the increasing use of crops for energy generation - threatens to trigger global instability.

"We need to be concerned about the possibility of taking land or replacing arable land because of these biofuels," Ban told the Guardian in Bucharest while attending this week's NATO summit. But he added: "While I am very much conscious and aware of these problems, at the same time you need to constantly look at having creative sources of energy, including biofuels. Therefore, at this time, just criticizing biofuel may not be a good solution. I would urge we need to address these issues in a comprehensive manner."

Climate change has been a priority for Ban since he took over from Kofi Annan, and he has embraced the potential of biofuels, derived from plants, as a long-term substitute for fossil fuels. Yet, as food prices have soared - driven by rising demand, high fuel costs, and climate change - the cultivation of biofuels has come under fire for diverting fertile land from food production.

Some of the loudest criticism has come from within U.N. food agencies, which are struggling to keep up with commodity prices. Last month the World Food Program (WFP) issued an emergency $500 million appeal to donors to help it meet its existing commitments to the world's hungry.

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Bush Promises More U.S. Troops For Afghanistan
2008-04-04 21:04:59

George Bush Friday promised to send more troops to Afghanistan after his departure from the White House next year, whatever the status of troop withdrawals from Iraq.

The pledge, delivered at a NATO summit in Bucharest, would add a "significant" number of troops in Afghanistan in 2009, the Pentagon chief, Robert Gates, told reporters.

Gates said he expected the next president - Democrat or Republican - to honor the commitment. "I think that no matter who is elected they will want to be successful in Afghanistan," said Gates. "I think this was a pretty safe thing for him to say."

Gates gave no further details on how many troops would be deployed in Afghanistan. The U.S. has about 31,000 troops in the country.

The offer comes at a time when attention in Washington is focused on the U.S. military presence in Iraq and there are renewed concerns about the effectiveness of Iraqi government forces.

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German Police Officers Secretly Trained Libyan Forces
2008-04-04 21:03:56
Some 30 officers from elite police units and the armed forces in Germany are under investigation over allegations they secretly trained Libyan security forces on their own time and without permission.

More than 30 German elite police officers and soldiers are under investigation over allegations they trained Libyan security forces on their own account - and without permission from their superiors.

According to a report in the Friday edition of the German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung, around 30 officers from across Germany carried out or organized training courses in Libya.

Eight police officers in North Rhine-Westphalia are under investigation, accused of breaching secrecy regulations, the state's Interior Minister Ingo Wolf said Thursday. Disciplinary proceedings have been instigated against all eight officers, who went to Libya in their free time without the knowledge of their superiors. "The conduct of the officers is completely unacceptable," said Wolf. According to a report in the German regional newspaper Westfalen-Blatt Friday, the officers have already been transferred from elite SWAT-style units to normal police duties.

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Putin Meets With NATO Leaders
2008-04-04 16:56:33
Russia President Vladimir V. Putin complained on Friday that NATO was not taking Russia’s legitimate security concerns into account, but he also said that President Bush was listening to Moscow’s criticisms of a planned missile defense system for Europe, which is to be based in the Czech Republic and Poland.

In a closed meeting with NATO leaders, Putin was both combative and thoughtful, criticizing NATO’s promise to eventually make Ukraine and Georgia members, according to officials who were there.

“NATO cannot guarantee its security at the expense of other countries’ security,” said Putin, according to one official, and he complained that some NATO members, presumably those that were once under Soviet occupation, “went as far as total demonization of Russia, and can’t get away from this even now.”

Putin denied that Russia had imperial ambitions. He said that Moscow wanted cooperation with NATO on joint security problems - like Afghanistan and terrorism - and he agreed with Bush that the cold war was over, said  another Western official.

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Ethnic Unrest Continues In China
2008-04-04 16:56:01
Fresh ethnic violence has erupted in a Tibetan region of southwestern China, with disputed reports of eight people shot dead by the police, and the Chinese government on Friday vowed swift and severe punishment of Tibetans accused of rioting and taking part in last month’s anti-government protests.

Police officers fired Thursday evening on a crowd of protesters outside government offices in the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province along the border with Tibet. A Tibet activist group said the shooting left eight protesters dead, according to the Associated Press.

Signs of ethnic unrest in another area, in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, have also begun to emerge in recent days, with details of protests and rumored plotting by Muslim separatists in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and of police crackdowns in several areas of the region.

China’s official Xinhua news agency confirmed the latest incidence of Tibetan unrest in Sichuan Province, saying that a riot had broken out and that the “police were forced to fire warning shots to put down the violence,” citing a local official. It said a government official was attacked and seriously injured in the protest, but gave no details of other injuries or deaths.

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U.S. Says B-1 Bomber Crashes In Quatar
2008-04-04 16:55:15
The U.S. military says a B-1 bomber has crashed at an American Air Force base in the Middle East.

A military official says that details are sketchy but initial reports are that the bomber crashed in the nation of Qatar at al-Udeid Air Base, the headquarters of all American air operations in the Middle East. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the reports are preliminary.

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Editorial: There Were Orders To Follow
2008-04-04 03:10:04
Intellpuke: The following editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Friday, April 4, 2008.

You can often tell if someone understands how wrong their actions are by the lengths to which they go to rationalize them. It took 81 pages of twisted legal reasoning to justify President Bush’s decision to ignore federal law and international treaties and authorize the abuse and torture of prisoners.

Eighty-one spine-crawling pages in a memo that might have been unearthed from the dusty archives of some authoritarian regime and has no place in the annals of the United States. It is must reading for anyone who still doubts whether the abuse of prisoners were rogue acts rather than calculated policy.

The March 14, 2003, memo was written by John C. Yoo, then a Pentagon lawyer. He earlier helped draft a memo that redefined torture to justify repugnant, clearly illegal acts against al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners.

The purpose of the March 14 memo was equally insidious: to make sure that the policy makers who authorized those acts, or the subordinates who carried out the orders, were not convicted of any crime. The list of laws that Mr. Yoo’s memo sought to circumvent is long: federal laws against assault, maiming, interstate stalking, war crimes and torture; international laws against torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and the Geneva Conventions.

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Obama Cuts Into Clinton's Superdelegate Lead
2008-04-04 03:09:18
Nearly three weeks remain before the next Democratic primary, but the results are rolling in from another part of the presidential contest - and they signify trouble for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Democratic Party officials and insiders known as superdelegates are jumping to Barack Obama's camp or signaling that's where they are headed, including such prominent figures as former President Jimmy Carter. Some superdelegates who back Clinton have begun laying out scenarios under which they would abandon her for Obama.

"My children and their spouses are pro-Obama. My grandchildren are also pro-Obama," Carter told a Nigerian newspaper during a visit to Africa. "As a superdelegate, I would not disclose who I am rooting for, but I leave you to make that guess."

Clinton trails Obama in fundraising and in the total number of delegates awarded in state primaries and caucuses. One bright spot for her campaign had been the quest for superdelegates - the nearly 800 elected officials and Democratic activists who are not bound by election results and are free to vote at the party's nominating convention for the candidate of their choice.

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More Than 1,000 In Iraq's Forces Quit Basra Fight
2008-04-04 03:08:32
More than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen either refused to fight or simply abandoned their posts during the inconclusive assault against Shiite militias in Basra last week, a senior Iraqi government official said Thursday. Iraqi military officials said the group included dozens of officers, including at least two senior field commanders in the battle.

The desertions in the heat of a major battle cast fresh doubt on the effectiveness of the American-trained Iraqi security forces. The White House has conditioned further withdrawals of American troops on the readiness of the Iraqi military and police.

The crisis created by the desertions and other problems with the Basra operation was serious enough that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Malikihastily began funneling some 10,000 recruits from local Shiite tribes into his armed forces. That move has already generated anger among Sunni tribesmen whom Maliki has been much less eager to recruit despite their cooperation with the government in its fight against Sunni insurgents and criminal gangs.

A British military official said that Maliki had brought 6,600 reinforcements to Basra to join the 30,000 security personnel already stationed there, and a senior American military official said that he understood that 1,000 to 1,500 Iraqi forces had deserted or underperformed. That would represent a little over 4 percent of the total.

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Panel Investigating Links Between Chemical Industry And EPA's Review Panels
2008-04-04 03:07:48

A congressional committee is investigating ties between the chemical industry and expert review panels hired by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  to help it determine safe levels for a variety of chemical compounds.

Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Michigan), chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Michigan), chairman of the oversight and investigations subcommittee, have demanded documents from the EPA and the American Chemistry Council to probe the roles of nine scientists who are serving on EPA panels or have done so in the past.

The lawmakers sent a letter to the chemical industry Wednesday, expanding a probe that began earlier this month.

"Americans count on sound science to ensure that consumer products are safe," Dingell said through a spokesman Thursday. "If industry has undue influence over this science, then the public's health is endangered."

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Mugabe: I Will Quit, As Long As I Do Not Face Prosecution
2008-04-04 03:06:58

Robert Mugabe's aides have told Zimbabwe's opposition leaders that he is prepared to give up power in return for guarantees, including immunity from prosecution for past crimes.

The aides have warned that if the Movement for Democratic Change does not agree then Mugabe is threatening to declare emergency rule and force another presidential election in 90 days, according to senior opposition sources.

The opposition said the MDC leadership is in direct talks with the highest levels of the army but it is treating the approach with caution because they are distrustful of the individuals involved and calling for direct contact with the president, fearing delaying tactics.

Those fears were reinforced last night when at one point Zimbabwe's election commission abruptly halted the release of official results from the Saturday's election for "logistical reasons" and the police raided opposition offices.

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Tornado Sweeps Through Little Rock, Arkansas
2008-04-04 03:05:55
A tornado hit parts of Little Rock and its suburbs Thursday, injuring an unknown number of people while damaging businesses and downing trees and power lines.

The National Weather Service, which said a tornado passed directly over its North Little Rock office, reported injuries at a Benton trailer park. An elderly woman was treated by paramedics outside her Cammack Village home.

Meanwhile, at the North Little Rock airport, the storm destroyed a hangar and left several single-engine planes flipped over onto their wings while others were destroyed.

Gregory Greene, 39, said he was outside a restaurant when the tornado hit.

''I saw debris flying around in a circle when I was about to go in and pick up my girlfriend from work,'' said Greene. ''Stuff was going around in circles.

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Clintons' Tax Returns Show Couple Earned $109 Million Since Leaving White House
2008-04-04 21:06:59

Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton have made more than $109 million since they left the White House seven years ago, according to tax records released Friday.

The Clintons paid more than $33 million in taxes on their income and donated about $10 million to charities between 2000 and 2007.

Their income in recent years came largely from their best-selling books, Bill Clinton's public speech making, and the former president's payments from an investment firm partly controlled by the Dubai government.

Hillary Clinton has faced mounting pressure from presidential rival Barack Obama to release her tax returns since his were unveiled last month. Her campaign ultimately outdid Obama's by releasing the Clintons' estimated taxes for 2007, which show a joint income of $20.4 million.

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Does NATO Want Out Of Afghanistan?
2008-04-04 21:06:16

In public, NATO is demanding that all allies contribute their fair share to the ongoing effort in Afghanistan. But behind closed doors, a paper has been circulated that may provide the beginnings of an exit strategy. Germany is pushing the plan.

So far, little has remained behind closed doors at the NATO summit in Bucharest. Almost every cough from every negotiating session has found its way into the press. But there is one paper that has remained largely in the shadows. NATO diplomats have been working on a far-reaching strategy paper for the ongoing mission in Afghanistan.

The secrecy, some say, is necessary as the dossier contains details that could compromise the safety of NATO troops in Afghanistan. Others have been a bit more direct, saying that the paper is simply too controversial to be made public.

According to diplomats, there are indeed some interesting details to be found. The paper illustrates a new train of thought developing within NATO: For the first time, a step-by-step outline has been sketched - with substantial help from Germany - for when the 47,000 NATO troops currently in Afghanistan might be pulled out. According to diplomats, concrete benchmarks are laid out - though any withdrawal, they make clear, would not be immediate.

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Iraqi Christians Seek Refuge In Germany
2008-04-04 21:05:21
Christians are being severely persecuted in Iraq. German churches are now urging the government to be generous in granting them asylum - and have encountered broad support.

The peaceful, idyllic scenery outside their window is completely foreign to them. The house in the western German city of Essen, where they had arrived the previous Wednesday, faces a landscape of small gardens in full bloom. Fascinated, the seven children in the Jalal family are constantly looking out the window. They have come from Mosul in Iraq to Germany's Ruhr region, where their grandparents, who have already been living here for four years, have taken them in.

Armed Sunnis forced their way into the Jalal family's house last August. Screaming "damned Christians," they beat the children, the eldest of them only 14. The attackers spat at pictures of the Virgin Mary on the wall and then shot the mother to death in front of her children. Her husband had been kidnapped a few days earlier on the way to work and disappeared without a trace.

The escape from Iraq took the children to Germany by way of Damascus, Syria. Staff members at the German embassy in the Syrian capital were so touched by their story that they did everything within their power, even involving senior members of the German Foreign Ministry, to help the children.
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Environment: Cuba's Organic Revolution
2008-04-04 21:04:36
The collapse of the Soviet Union forced Cuba to become self-reliant in its agricultural production. The country's innovative solution was urban organic farming, the creation of "organonponicos". But will it survive a change of government?

Below the high ceilings of the Telegraph hotel in Bayamo, southeast Cuba, the barman is mixing a perfect mojito. Rum, sugarcane juice, lime, carbonated water, and a whole sprig of mint.

But the key ingredient isn't any old mint. This is mint, as the Cubans say, "from the patio". Or at least, from the hotel's own rooftop garden.

"It's not very big," says the barman, "just two boxes." But it's where the hotel grows all its mint for its mojitos. And if there's a run on mojitos, what then? "El organiponico," he replies. An organic vegetable garden on the outskirts of Bayamo has all the mint you could wish for, he explains.

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U.S. Unemployment Rises, 80,000 Jobs Cut In March
2008-04-04 16:56:50

The U.S. economy shed 80,000 jobs in March, the third consecutive month of rising unemployment, presenting a stark sign that the country may already be in a recession.

Sharp downturns in the manufacturing and construction sectors led the decline, the biggest in five years. The Labor Department also said employers cut far more jobs in January and February than originally estimated.

The unemployment rate ticked up to 5.1 percent from 4.8 percent, its highest level since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. More Americans looked for work than in February, when many simply took themselves out of the job market, but employment opportunities remained sparse.

“Three months in a row of payroll job losses and a sizable negative revision: these are clear signs that the job market is in recession,” said Jared Bernstein, an economist at the Economics Policy Institute. “I’m hard-pressed to imagine anyone who would raise doubt to that at this point.”

In the last 50 years, whenever there has been an employment downturn like the one of the last few months, a recession has followed.

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U.S., Iraqi Limits Exposed In Basra Assault
2008-04-04 16:56:22
When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched an offensive in Basra last week, he consulted only his inner circle of advisers. There were no debates in parliament or among his political allies. Senior American officials were notified only a few days before the operation began.

He was determined to show, his advisers said, that Iraq's central government could exert order over a lawless, strategic port city ruled by extremist militias. The advisers said Maliki wanted to demonstrate that he was a strong leader who could shed his reputation as a sectarian figure by going after fellow Shiites, and who could act decisively without U.S. pressure or assistance.

A week later, his ultimately unsuccessful gambit has exposed the shaky foundation upon which U.S. policy in Iraq rests after five years of war, according to politicians and analysts. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker are to report to Congress next week on Iraq's progress.

The offensive, which triggered clashes across southern Iraq and in Baghdad that left about 600 people dead, unveiled the weaknesses of Maliki's U.S.-backed government and his brash style of leadership. On many levels, the offensive strengthened the anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. 

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In Zimbabwe, Mugabe Will Fight On, His Party Says
2008-04-04 16:55:41
Dampening speculation that Zinbabwe's strongman, President Robert Mugabe, would step down after 28 years in power, the senior leadership of the country’s ruling party decided on Friday that he should contest a run-off with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai if neither one of them wins a majority.

Six days after Zimbabwe voted, there is still no definitive answer to who won. Zimbabwe’s electoral commission has yet to release the result of the presidential vote, though Mugabe’s party has lost its majority in the lower house of Parliament for the first time since the country’s independence from white rule in 1980.

The slowness to announce a presidential victor has led to deep suspicions of vote tampering. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change claims its tally of the votes, posted at each polling station, showed that  Tsvangirai had eked out a bare majority. An independent projection of results by local democracy advocates put  Tsvangirai well ahead of Mugabe, but not by enough to avoid a second round of voting.

The ruling party’s decision on the runoff came after a marathon all day meeting of its politburo. Didymus Mutasa, the ruling party’s secretary for administration, told journalists afterward that there was a consensus Mugabe should stand in a second round of voting.

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Poll: 81% Of Americans Say Nation Headed On Wrong Track
2008-04-04 03:10:21

Americans are more dissatisfied with the country’s direction than at any time since the New York Times/CBS News poll began asking about the subject in the early 1990s, according to the latest poll.

In the poll, 81 percent of respondents said they believed “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track,” up from 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in early 2002.

Although the public mood has been darkening since the early days of the war in Iraq, it has taken a new turn for the worse in the last few months, as the economy has seemed to slip into recession. There is now nearly a national consensus that the country faces significant problems.

A majority of nearly every demographic and political group - Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school - say the United States is headed in the wrong direction. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was better off.

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Rising Grain Prices Panic The Developing World
2008-04-04 03:09:41
A spike in the price of rice and other food staples is triggering consumer panic, including food riots in Yemen and Morocco, and hoarding in Hong Kong.

Governments around the world have taken radical measures in recent weeks to control their countries' supplies of rice. Egypt last week said it would ban all rice exports for six months. Cambodia has stopped all private-sector exports of rice, and India and Vietnam also have imposed restrictions.

The price of grains - corn, wheat, and rice - has been rising since 2005 under pressure from farmers who would rather plant crops for biofuels than for food, the lack of technological breakthroughs in crop yields, and drought and disease. The sharpest increase has been this year, with the price of Thai rice, a world benchmark, nearly doubling since January, to $760 per metric ton. Some analysts expect that price to reach $1,000 in the next three months.

Tang Min, a former chief economist for the Asian Development Bank, said the price increase is the inevitable consequence of supply and demand. "The world population is increasing, but the increase in the planting of rice has not been as fast," he said.

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Actor Kirk Douglas Gets The Vote Out
2008-04-04 03:08:48
As F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously said, there are no second acts in American life, but Kirk Doublas, at age 91, has not only found a second act but now is writing a third in, of all places, cyberspace.

Douglas, once a matinee idol to millions, has found an entirely new public as one of the older members of MySpace, where he blogs and chats online with people young enough to be his great-grandchildren. They are drawn by encounters with his many classic films and the chance to put questions to a cinematic legend, but they stay to read and discuss his opinions on a range of social and political issues.

Douglas is a staunch supporter of the state of Israel, and these days he has found an important cause in the movement to draft a formal apology to African Americans for slavery. In fact, he has asked each of the presidential candidates to take on the issue. Their responses have largely been noncommittal, but Douglas is taking the long view. He thinks there is something greater at work in his efforts.

"Someone once told me, 'Be ashamed to die before doing something for humanity'," said Douglas, relaxing on one of the plush couches in his Beverly Hills home, with its gardens and courtyards, colorful paintings by Marc Chagall - a personal friend - and two beloved large dogs wandering in and out. "As you get older, you must think more of other people. You must strive to help other people. Who needs the most help but the young?

"What kind of world are we leaving them?"
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Every Click You Make - Tracking Your Online Behavior
2008-04-04 03:08:18

The online behavior of a small but growing number of computer users in the United States is monitored by their Internet service providers, who have access to every click and keystroke that comes down the line.

The companies harvest the stream of data for clues to a person's interests, making money from advertisers who use the information to target their online pitches.

The practice represents a significant expansion in the ability to track a household's Web use because it taps into Internet connections, and critics liken it to a phone company listening in on conversations, but the companies involved say customers' privacy is protected because no personally identifying details are released.

The extent of the practice is difficult to gauge because some service providers involved have declined to discuss their practices. Many Web surfers, moreover, probably have little idea they are being monitored.

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Commentary: The Road From Kyoto
2008-04-04 03:07:24
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Gwyn Prins, a professor at the London School of Economics & Political Science, and appeared in the Guardian edition for Friday, April 4, 2008. In her commentary, Prof. Prins writes: "The strategy has failed. The world must follow Japan in a radical rethink of climate change policy." Her commentary follows:

A spring gale is lashing orthodox climate policy. This week, an article was published in Nature that should shake the certainty of anyone who assumes that the Kyoto protocol approach is the sensible way to go, and that signing the accord is a responsible step for the United States to take.

Three climate experts offer some inconvenient truths. Roger Pielke, Tom Wigley and Christopher Green are far from being climate change skeptics, but they are vigorous heretics about some of the orthodoxy of the debate. They show it is even more urgent than we thought to abandon the failed Kyoto strategy and move quickly to policies which might actually reduce carbon emissions. Any workable strategy has to include India and China: Kyoto did not. As they rapidly industrialize and reduce poverty, their CO2 emissions will rise steeply - by as much as 13% a year for the period from 2000 to 2010, in the case of China.

The Nature piece is titled "Dangerous assumptions". The most dangerous assumption is how all the scenarios that the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published have a built-in assumption that misleads us about the magnitude of the emissions challenge. It shows that the technological challenge is at least twice as big as people believe. So this is where the rubber hits the road.

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Al-Qaeda Deputy Goes Online To Justify Attacks
2008-04-04 03:06:17

Al-Qaeda has pulled off a propaganda coup by answering questions put to it by hundreds of people invited to take part in an online "open meeting" with Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

In the internet Q&A Zawahiri insisted that his organization does not kill innocent people and justified attacks against "Crusaders", Jews, and their agents and allies in Arab lands. Al-Qaeda's chief ideologue also predicted that "jihadi influence" will spread "to Jerusalem" after the Americans leave Iraq and attacked the United Nations as "the enemy of Islam", defending the bombing of its offices in Iraq and Algeria. Bin Laden, he claimed, is "healthy and well".

Zawahiri, thought to be in hiding in Afghanistan or Pakistan, regularly appears in video or audio clips, but this is the first time he has responded to questions posted on online Islamist forums. The exercise was announced last December by al-Qaeda's media arm, al-Sahab, with media outlets invited to take part.

The 90-minute audio tape was released on to subscriber-only Arabic-language websites with hundreds of links on free file-sharing sites allowing users to download the material. It was accompanied by an English transcript.

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Aztec Math Code Finally Cracked
2008-04-04 03:05:21
A three-decade study "cracks the code" of symbols in registries indicating a complex land survey system.

It has long been a mystery of Aztec arithmetic: What is three arms plus five bones?

Now researchers know: five hearts.

The odd symbols had been noted for centuries - thousands of them appear in Aztec property registries that were created around 1540, but no one knew the value of the symbols or how they were used to represent the size of land plots for tax assessment and other purposes.

After three decades of work, geographer Barbara Williams and mathematician Maria del Carmen Jorge y Jorge have found a solution that reveals a complex surveying system with a rudimentary ability to calculate the area of irregular shapes and manipulate fractional amounts.
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