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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday April 6 2008 - (813)

Sunday April 6 2008 edition
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Wall Street 'Hooked On Emergency Funds Scheme'
2008-04-06 03:15:14

Fears are mounting that Wall Street banks are relying too heavily on tens of billions of dollars in loans made available by the U.S. Federal Reserve. Their borrowing levels have rocketed by almost 200 per cent to $38 billion (£19 billion) a day in just three weeks.

The latest loan data released by the Fed shows that Wall Street banks and investment firms borrowed an average of $38.4 billion every day last week, a big jump from the $32.9 billion borrowed the week before, but almost three times the $13.4 billion borrowed when the emergency scheme was launched on March 17.

The loan program was part of a wider Wall Street rescue package ushered in to stave off the imminent collapse of Bear Stearns, the troubled investment bank being bought by JP Morgan.

The scheme, called the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, is made available through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and is designed to help big investment banks oil the wheels of the credit market so they can continue with business as usual, even though the credit crunch shows no signs of abating.

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Flood Season Begins Unusually Early In America's Heartland
2008-04-06 03:14:28
The flood season in the nation's midsection started early this year, and there's no letup in sight, spurring federal, state and local officials to brace for what looks likely to be an unusually watery spring.

At least 16 deaths were linked to heavy flooding across Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma and other states in March; another was tied to flooding Friday in Kentucky. Last week, snow that could set off more flooding blanketed parts of the Midwest. And Kentucky and parts of Arkansas and Missouri that are struggling to recover from previous deluges remained vulnerable to the threat of weekend rain.

State and local agencies and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been ramping up their readiness efforts: stocking up sandbags and other emergency supplies; inspecting levees for groundhog holes and errant trees that can take root and weaken them; and holding regular multi-agency meetings.

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Environment: Britain's Biofuel Needs 'Threaten Delta' In Kenya
2008-04-06 03:13:56
Hundreds of bird species are in danger from plans to plant sugar cane and build a refinery in Kenya.

The lush, muddy wetlands of the Tana river delta, teeming with birds and home to hippos and crocodiles, lions and elephants, are more than 4,000 miles from Britain, but this patchwork of savannah and mangrove swamp on the east coast of Africa is the latest victim of the British thirst for biofuels.

To meet the worldwide demand and the regulation that, from next week, petrol and diesel sold in Britain must be mixed with bioethanol or biodiesel as part of a drive to cut the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, the Mumias Sugar Company in Kenya is planning to plant 20,000 hectares of the Tana delta to grow sugar cane for biofuels and food. The £165 million ($330 million) project, including an ethanol refinery and food-processing plant, promises to create thousands of jobs in an area dominated by traditional cattle herding, small-scale rice and subsistence farming.

Environmentalists claim that the scheme would destroy the wetlands - home to 345 species of birds, including the threatened Basra reed warbler, the Tana river cisticola, and 22 species of waterbirds such as slender-billed gulls and Caspian terns, which are so numerous there they are considered "internationally important" to the global populations. Globally the boom in this and other projects is causing growing concern about environmental damage and the part played by biofuels in pushing up food prices.

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Mugabe 'Prepares For War' Over Zimbabwe Election Results
2008-04-06 03:13:16

Robert Mugabe was accused last night of preparing a war against Zimbabwe's people, in an attempt to overturn the opposition's presidential election victory.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, who has already claimed outright victory in last Saturday's election, even though the official count has yet to be released, said the government was reviving the war veterans and party militias to bludgeon the opposition into submission and terrorize voters before a run-off ballot.

"Violence will be the new weapon to reverse the people's will," said Tsvangirai. "Militants are being prepared. War vets are on the warpath."

Tsvangirai called Mugabe a lame-duck President and said he "must concede to allow us to move on with the business of rebuilding and reconstructing the country".

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Texas Officials Remove 183 People From Polygamist Compound
2008-04-06 03:12:43
Among them are 137 children. Authorities seek a 16-year-old girl and the 50-year-old man said to have abused her.

Texas child welfare officials said Saturday that they had removed 183 people - including 137 children - from an isolated polygamist compound in southwestern Texas after allegations that a 16-year-old girl there had been sexually abused.

Investigators from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services were still inside the YFZ Ranch - a guarded, self-sufficient compound of large dormitories built around an imposing white temple - on Saturday evening, two days after they began examining allegations that scores of girls may have been abused.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a 10,000-member sect that broke away from the Mormon Church in the 1930s, began building the compound on the former exotic game preserve four years ago. YFZ stands for "Yearning for Zion."

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Pharmaceutical Companies Near An Old Goal: A Legal Shield
2008-04-05 17:13:54

For years, Johnson & Johnson obscured evidence that its popular Ortho Evra birth control patch delivered much more estrogen than standard birth control pills, potentially increasing the risk of blood clots and strokes, according to internal company documents.

Yet, because the Food and Drug Administration approved the patch, the company is arguing in court that it cannot be sued by women who claim that they were injured by the product - even though its old label inaccurately described the amount of estrogen it released.

This legal argument is called pre-emption. After decades of being dismissed by courts, the tactic now appears to be on the verge of success, lawyers for plaintiffs and drug companies say.

The Bush administration has argued strongly in favor of the doctrine, which holds that the F.D.A. is the only agency with enough expertise to regulate drug makers and that its decisions should not be second-guessed by courts. The Supreme Court is to rule on a case next term that could make pre-emption a legal standard for drug cases. The court already ruled in February that many suits against the makers of medical devices like pacemakers are pre-empted.

More than 3,000 women and their families have sued Johnson & Johnson, asserting that users of the Ortho Evra patch suffered heart attacks, strokes and, in 40 cases, death. From 2002 to 2006, the food and drug agency received reports of at least 50 deaths associated with the drug.

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Editorial: Unemployment Rising
2008-04-05 17:13:23
Intellpuke: The following editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Saturday, April 5, 2008.

Friday’s awful news of 80,000 lost jobs in March surprised economic forecasters, who had not expected such a severe contraction. But it’s safe to say that it did not surprise most Americans. Just days before the report, a poll taken by this paper and CBS News showed that a stunning 81 percent of Americans believe the nation is on the wrong track. That’s the highest percentage since the poll began asking about the country’s direction in the early 1990s. Two in three respondents said they believed the economy was in a recession.

The March employment report leaves virtually no doubt they are right. The job contraction last month was on top of large losses in January and February. Not since the 1950s has job growth contracted for three months straight without recession. The question is whether lawmakers in Washington will catch up to where the people are in time to help in a meaningful way.

The worsening job market, for instance, could worsen the foreclosure crisis. To date, many foreclosures have occurred because mortgages were made to people who had no ability to repay over time. Poorly underwritten, such loans are now being foreclosed in large numbers, even for borrowers who have not experienced job loss or other adverse financial events, like illness or divorce. Now, on top of junk loans that are headed for default, more people will find themselves strapped because they are out of work.

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U.S. Army Worried By Rising Stress Of Return Tours To Iraq
2008-04-05 17:12:26
Army leaders are expressing increased alarm about the mental health of soldiers who would be sent back to the front again and again under plans that call for troop numbers to be sustained at high levels in Iraq for this year and beyond.

Among combat troops sent to Iraq for the third or fourth time, more than one in four show signs of anxiety, depression or acute stress, according to an official Army survey of soldiers’ mental health.

The stress of long and multiple deployments to Iraq is just one of the concerns being voiced by senior military officers in Washington as Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior Iraq commander, prepares to tell Congress this week that he is not ready to endorse any drawdowns beyond those already scheduled through July.

President Bush has signaled that he will endorse General Petraeus’ recommendation, a decision that will leave close to 140,000 American troops in Iraq at least through the summer but, in a meeting with Bush late last month in advance of General Petraeus’ testimony, the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed deep concern about stress on the force, said senior Defense Department and military officials said.

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Storms Rip Through U.S. South
2008-04-05 17:11:19
Strong thunderstorms toppled trees, knocked out power and damaged homes Friday across the South, while flooding in Kentucky forced evacuations and left a 2-year-old girl dead.

In Mississippi, fast-moving storms unleashed possible tornadoes, heavy rain and some hail. Power failures were reported in several communities, including near downtown Vicksburg and in Jackson.

Tate Moudy, of Brandon, had just walked into the Southern States Utility Trailer Sales office on U.S. Highway 49 in Richland after showing a trailer to a customer when "there was a big bang from a transformer being knocked out and debris started flying through the front door."

The powerful storm overturned 18-wheeler trailers, ripped away part of the roof of the sales office and twisted beams in the building, said Moudy. Employees and others had to remain inside because power lines had fallen across vehicles parked in the lot.

"It was scary, I can tell you that," he said.

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Solzhenitsyn Battles Illness To Finish Literary Projects
2008-04-06 03:15:01
Russia's Nobel-winning novelist is now nearly 90, still hard at work - and still outspoken, his wife tells correspondent Luke Harding in a rare interview.

Russia's greatest living novelist, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, is working feverishly to complete his collected works and is writing every day despite failing health, a missing vertebra and being unable to walk, his wife, Natalia, revealed Saturday.

In a rare interview, Natalia Solzhenitsyn told The Observer that her Nobel prize-winning husband - who turns 90 in December - is still working on several major literary projects in his west Moscow dacha, and is determined to oversee the publication of a 30-volume edition of his selected works.

"He hasn't left the house for five years. He has several serious problems, including with his spine - he's missing a vertebra - and he practically can't walk. Physically it's very difficult for him. His health is weak. But every day he sits and works," she said.
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Commentary: The Already Big Thing On The Internet - Spying On Users
2008-04-06 03:14:15
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Adam Cohen and appeared in the New York Times edition for Saturday, April 5, 2008.

In 1993, the dawn of the Internet age, the liberating anonymity of the online world was captured in a well-known New Yorker cartoon. One dog, sitting at a computer, tells another: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Fifteen years later, that anonymity is gone.

It’s not paranoia: they really are spying on you.

Technology companies have long used “cookies,” little bits of tracking software slipped onto your computer, and other means, to record the Web sites you visit, the ads you click on, even the words you enter in search engines â€" information that some hold onto forever. They’re not telling you they’re doing it, and they’re not asking permission. Internet service providers are now getting into the act. Because they control your connection, they can keep track of everything you do online, and there have been reports that I.S.P.’s may have started to sell the information they collect.

The driving force behind this prying is commerce. The big growth area in online advertising right now is “behavioral targeting.” Web sites can charge a premium if they are able to tell the maker of an expensive sports car that its ads will appear on Web pages clicked on by upper-income, middle-aged men.

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Tibetan Unrest Puts China In A Tight Spot
2008-04-06 03:13:33
China's classic tactics - restricting the press and blaming the Dalai Lama - sit poorly with the outside world and a more informed citizenry.

As unrest has spread among China's ethnic Tibetan population, Beijing has found itself caught between its desire to appear reasonable to the outside world and its tendency to come down hard when feeling threatened.

In recent days, the government's propaganda has grown shriller and its security tighter: The London-based Free Tibet Campaign, an activist group, reported late Friday that police in Sichuan province had fired on hundreds of Buddhist monks and residents, resulting in eight deaths. The Chinese government acknowledged unrest in the area and said police had fired warning shots, but reported no deaths.

Yet too much has changed for the emerging world power and soon-to-be Olympic Games host to completely revert to the Communist Party playbook of old, say analysts.
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Sri Lankan Official, 11 Others, Killed In Suicide Bombing
2008-04-06 03:13:02
A suicide bomber attacked the opening ceremony of a marathon outside Sri Lanka's capital Sunday, killing a government minister and 11 other people, said authorities. Dozens were wounded.

Officials blamed the bombing, the second this year resulting in the death of a government minister, on Tamil Tiger  rebels.

Minister of Highways and Road Development Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, who was opening the race 12 miles outside Colombo, was among those killed by the suicide bomber, government spokesman Anusha Paltipa said.

Eleven other people died and more than 90 were wounded, Sri Lanka's Defense Ministry said in a statement posted on its Web site.

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Charlton Heston Dies At 83
2008-04-06 03:12:23
Charlton Heston, who appeared in some 100 films in his 60-year acting career but who is remembered chiefly for his monumental, jut-jawed portrayals of Moses, Ben-Hur and Michelangelo, died Saturday night at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 83.

His death was confirmed by a spokesman for the family, Bill Powers, who declined to discuss the cause.

In August 2002, Mr. Heston announced that he had been diagnosed with neurological symptoms “consistent with Alzheimer’s disease.”

“I’m neither giving up nor giving in,” he said.

Every actor dreams of a breakthrough role, the part that stamps him in the public memory, and Mr. Heston’s life changed forever when he caught the eye of the director Cecil B. De Mille. De Mille, who was planning his next biblical spectacular, "The Ten Commandments", looked at the young, physically imposing Mr. Heston and saw his Moses.

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In Egypt, An Escalating Bread Crisis
2008-04-05 17:13:39
The line started forming before dawn, as soon as the day's first call to prayer had faded from the trash-strewn streets of the Egyptian capital's Zelzal neighborhood. Men began pounding on the green metal shutters of the district's sole bakery.

"Aish! Aish!" - Bread! Bread! - the stubble-faced men yelled, shouting through the grillwork at bakers laboring over a dented, gas-fired oven. Cursing and pushing, the men thrust crumpled currency through the spaces in the grille.

"Have mercy! Have mercy on us!" a woman in a dusty black head scarf and abaya yelled.

Across Egypt this year, people have waited in line for hours at bakeries that sell government-subsidized bread, sign of a growing crisis over the primary foodstuff in the Arab world's most populous country. President Hosni Mubarak  has ordered Egypt's army to bake bread for the public, following the deaths of at least six people since March 17 - some succumbing to exhaustion during the long waits, others stabbed in vicious struggles for places in line.

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Environment: New Focus On Role Of Coal In Global Warming
2008-04-05 17:12:55

James E. Hansen - perhaps the best-known scientific advocate for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions - sent a letter recently to the head of one of the nation's largest power companies calling on him to confront the role that his coal-fired plants play in global warming. Hansen proposed they meet.

On Wednesday, James E. Rogers, of Duke Energy, accepted Hansen's invitation, though he made clear he does not foresee calling off plans to build more of the power plants that Hansen considers a main culprit in climate change.

The exchange - carried out in full public view - highlights both a recent shift in the climate debate and the difficulty of translating this change into concrete action.

Rogers does not question humans' contribution to global warming, and he has pledged to largely "decarbonize" his company's operations by mid-century. Yet he is not moving as fast as environmental activists would like, and some academics are now arguing that scientists have greatly underestimated the technological leap that will be required in coming decades to curb dangerous warming.

The same day Rogers informed Hansen that he was willing to meet, Roger Pielke, Jr., a scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder,co-wrote a commentary piece in the journal Nature that said the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made assumptions about technological advances that are "optimistic at best and unachievable at worst" when it comes to increasing energy efficiency.

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U.S. State Dept. Extends Blackwater Contract For One Year
2008-04-05 17:12:08
Amid investigations into fatal shootings of civilians and allegations of tax violations, Blackwater USA's  multimillion-dollar contract to protect diplomats in Baghdad has been renewed, the State Department said Friday.

A final decision about whether the private security company will keep the job is pending, said the department. Moyock, North Carolina-based Blackwater is one of the largest private military contractors, receiving nearly $1.25 billion in federal business since 2000, according to a House committee estimate.

Blackwater provides security for diplomats in Baghdad, where the sprawling U.S. Embassy is headquartered. Its private guards act as bodyguards and armed drivers, escorting government officials when they go outside the fortified Green Zone.

Iraqis were outraged over a Sept. 16 shooting in which 17 Iraq civilians were killed in a Baghdad square. Blackwater said its guards were protecting diplomats under attack before they opened fire, but Iraqi investigators concluded the shooting was unprovoked.

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Christian Priest Killed At Baghdad Home
2008-04-05 17:10:50
A Christian priest was shot dead outside his home in Baghdad on Saturday by attackers who used a silenced pistol, said witnesses. His wife, they said, who stood near him, did not realize he had been shot until well after he had fallen.

The priest, Faiz Abdel, who was known as Father Youssef, was the second senior Syrian Orthodox priest to be killed this year. And since the 2003 invasion, church officials say, about 40 percent of the denomination, the country’s second-largest Christian group, have fled their homes.

Father Youssef, 49, was shot shortly before noon as he and his wife returned home from a market in the Unity District of east Baghdad.

Friends and officials at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, just around the corner from his house, said that the cleric’s wife had just left the car and was walking across the driveway to the house when he was hit by three or four bullets to the chest and shoulder as he went to close the gate. The gunmen escaped.

As mourners gathered outside the gate of the priest’s home, Archbishop Severius Hawa, Primate of the Diocese of Baghdad and Basra, paid tribute to “our son, the martyr.”

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