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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday April 13 2008 - (813)

Sunday April 13 2008 edition
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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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UPDATE: 9 Dead, 105 Wounded In Iran Mosque Bombing
2008-04-12 19:32:57
A hand-made bomb exploded after evening prayers Saturday at a mosque in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, and Iran's state-run television reported nine dead and 105 wounded.

The blast and subsequent fire happened about 6 p.m. in the men's section of the mosque while a cleric was addressing the worshippers, according to the Fars news agency. The explosion on Saturday was caused by "a powerful bomb at Shiraz's Mosque of the Martyrs after evening prayers", a report by Fars news agency said, citing city officials.

The sermon denounced Bahai and Wahabi faiths, both of which are considered heresies by some Shiites.

Fars reported that the mosque hosted weekly speeches about Wahaabism â€" a version of Sunni Islam - and the outlawed Bahai faith. Iran is a predominantly Shia country.

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Editorial: Iraq's Prospects
2008-04-12 19:32:24
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Arab News edition for Saturday, April 12, 2008.

Gen. Petraeus, the head of U.S. forces in Iraq, has had his way: President George Bush ordered a moratorium on American troop withdrawals for Iraq after July - precisely what the general called for in U.S. Senate hearings on Tuesday. Ostensibly, it is a temporary decision; the moratorium is to give the general time to assess the situation. It could be that he recommends continuing the withdrawals; alternatively, he could say they have to be halted. Whichever, the reality is that the fate of the entire American presence in Iraq will be decided upon in November when the Americans go to the polls. Iraq is a key issue in the presidential election and voters will have a clear choice before them. If they vote Republican, for John McCain, troops will remain. If they vote Democrat, regardless whether the candidate is Barak Obama or Hilary Clinton, troops will be pulled out.

A McCain victory will prolong the occupation and the violence, horror and misery it has brought to Iraq. If, on the other hand, Americans vote Democrat - and if the new administration keeps its word - there will be dramatic changes. There will be a power vacuum. The Iraqi Army cannot impose the government’s will as it is. Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki is going to be even less in control than at present. The result can be a bitter civil war, which the Arab world cannot allow to happen.

So, Arab contingency plans for a U.S. withdrawal have to be made now. Waiting until a new Democratic president taking office in January will be suicidal. In fact, once either of them wins, factions in Iraq will start gearing up for the U.S. withdrawal and the consequent vacuum. That will create a momentum of its own, probably triggering a power struggle even earlier.

The only way to ensure Iraq’s future is by sending in a Pan-Arab force to replace the Americans and restore order in Baghdad. It is what should have been done in the first place immediately after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, rather than leaving Iraq in the control of an alien and resented occupying army. But at that time, America would not have entertained the idea of allowing an Arab force in. Before the Iraqi resistance proved on the ground that longtime occupation would be too costly, Washington’s plan was to justify the occupation with shibboleths like bringing democracy or preventing violence.

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Iraq Veterans Help New Immigrants
2008-04-12 19:31:35
Bullets whizzed past as ''Sarah'' translated for U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Shrapnel from a roadside blast hit her protective vest. In her off hours, she worried about retribution for helping the Americans. A sign reading ''traitor'' was posted on her family's door.

''I survived by chance,'' she said.

Now, she is in the United States under a visa program for Iraqis who have aided the U.S. military, and she is being helped by a network of Iraq veterans who try to make sure those new immigrants make a soft landing in this country.

Mathew Tully, an Albany-area lawyer who served in Iraq as a National Guard major, volunteered along with his wife to take in Sarah until she gets settled in a new culture and carves out a new life.

He didn't know Sarah in Iraq, but he feels a sense of duty.

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Breaking News: Several Dead In Iran Mosque Blast
2008-04-12 16:06:37
Eight people have been killed and 50 others wounded in an explosion in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, state television has reported.
The explosion on Saturday was caused by "a powerful bomb at Shiraz's Mosque of the Martyrs after evening prayers," a report by Fars news agency said, citing city officials.

The death toll is expected to rise due to the severity of some people's injuries, officials have said.

Mohamed Hasan al-Bahrani, Al Jazeera's Tehran bureau chief, said that available information says that a bomb detonated in the mosque after Maghreb and Isha prayers.

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Satellite Exposes Iran Rocket Site
2008-04-12 16:06:01
A secret site where Iran is suspected of developing long-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching targets in Europe has been uncovered by new satellite photographs.

The imagery has pinpointed the facility from where the Iranians launched their Kavoshgar 1 "research rocket" on February 4, claiming it was in connection with their space program.

Analysis of the photographs taken by the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite four days after the launch has revealed several intriguing features that indicate to experts it is the same site where Iran is focusing its efforts on developing a ballistic missile with a range of about 6000 kilometers (about 4,000 miles).

A previously unknown missile location, the site, about 230 kilometers (160 miles) southeast of Tehran and the link with Iran's long-range program, was revealed by Jane's Intelligence Review after a study of the imagery by a former Iraq weapons inspector. A close examination of the photographs has indicated the Iranians are following the same path as North Korea, pursuing a space program that enables Tehran to acquire expertise in long-range missile technology.

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Stolen U.S. Military Gear Hawked On eBay, Craigslist
2008-04-12 16:04:29

Stolen and sensitive U.S. military equipment, including fighter jet parts wanted by Iran and nuclear biological protective gear, has been available to the highest bidder on popular internet sales sites, according to congressional investigators.

Using undercover identities, investigators purchased a dozen defense-related items on the auction site eBay and the online network Craigslist from January 2007 through last month and received the items "no questions asked."

The Defense Department regards much of the stolen equipment to be on the U.S. Munitions List, meaning there are restrictions on their overseas sales, the Government Accountability Office said Thursday.

The equipment could land in international brokers' hands or be transferred overseas, said the GAO, Congress' investigative arm.

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French Commandos Attack Somali Pirates
2008-04-12 16:02:45
Helicopter-borne French troops swooped in on Somali pirates Friday after they freed 30 hostages from a yacht, seizing six of the hijackers and recovering sacks of money - apparently ransom paid by the ship's owners.

The pirates had boarded the 288-foot French luxury yacht a week ago, capturing its mostly French crew off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden.Pirates seized more than two dozen vessels off the Somali coast last year.

Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, chief of staff of France's armed forces, said the pirates released the hostages after negotiating with the ship's owner. That phase of the operation was calm, with no weapons fired, he said. The hostages were brought to safety and the pirates went ashore.

After the pirates were on Somali territory, a French attack helicopter chased a vehicle carrying some of them, firing to destroy its engine, said the general.

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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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Israel: Hamas' Strength Is Growing
2008-04-12 19:33:11
Hamas in the Gaza Strip has morphed in the past three years from a guerilla/terrorist group into a formidable military force with 20,000 fighters organized along conventional military lines, according to an Israeli think tank.

A report issued Saturday by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center suggests that uprooting Hamas'  infrastructure in Gaza would require an effort by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) similar in scale to its war against Hezbollah in Lebanon two years ago.

"Hezbollah's success in providing an asymmetric response to the IDF's might during the second Lebanon war made it a role model for Hamas," the report says.

The IDF's failure to subdue Hezbollah in that war led to a revision of tactics to help it cope with the challenge posed by Hamas.

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Saudi Economist Partly Blames U.S. Adventurism In Iraq For Recession
2008-04-12 19:32:40
A prominent Saudi economist has blamed the current American economic recession partly on Washington’s adventurism in Iraq that has already cost the world’s only superpower more than $1 trillion.

“The U.S. attack on Iraq has not only destroyed a relatively well-developed Muslim country but also harmed the U.S. economy,” said Dr. Umar Chapra, who served for 35 years as a senior economic adviser at the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA).

Speaking to Arab News, Chapra emphasized the need to reintroduce moral values into economics for the welfare of humanity. The absence of moral constraints on economic pursuits would have disastrous consequences.

“The U.S. attack on Iraq, for example, was undertaken to serve the U.S. interest by bringing all the Iraqi oil under its control and later on all the Gulf oil. In the process, the U.S. has killed more than 600,000 Iraqis and 4,000 Americans and wasted more than $1 trillion,” he explained.

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Legal Immigrants, Until They Applied For Citizenship
2008-04-12 19:31:55
Dr. Pedro Servano always believed that his journey from his native Philippines to the life of a community doctor in Pennsylvania would lead to American citizenship.

Yet the doctor, who has tended to patients here in the Susquehanna Valley for more than a decade, is instead battling a deportation order along with his wife.

The Servanos are among a growing group of legal immigrants who reach for the prize and permanence of citizenship, only to run afoul of highly technical immigration statutes that carry the severe penalty of expulsion from the country. For the Servanos, the problem has been a legal hitch involving their marital status when they came from the Philippines some 25 years ago.

Largely overlooked in the charged debate over illegal immigration, many of these are long-term legal immigrants in the United States who were confident of success when they applied for naturalization, and would have continued to live here legally had they not sought to become citizens.

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Bush Administration Set To Use New Spy Satellite Program In U.S.
2008-04-12 16:06:56

The Bush administration said Friday that it plans to start using the nation's most advanced spy technology for domestic purposes soon, rebuffing challenges by House Democrats over the idea's legal authority.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department will activate his department's new domestic satellite surveillance office in stages, starting as soon as possible with traditional scientific and homeland security activities - such as tracking hurricane damage, monitoring climate change and creating terrain maps.

Sophisticated overhead sensor data will be used for law enforcement once privacy and civil rights concerns are resolved, he said. The department has previously said the program will not intercept communications.

"There is no basis to suggest that this process is in any way insufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans," Chertoff wrote to Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Mississippi) and Jane Harman (D-California), chairmen of the House Homeland Security Committee and its intelligence subcommittee, respectively, in letters released Friday.

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U.S. Troops In Iraq Suffer Worst Week This Year
2008-04-12 16:06:21
A roadside bomb killed an American soldier in Baghdad on Saturday, capping the bloodiest week for U.S. troops in Iraq this year. Clashes persisted in Shiite areas, even as the biggest Shiite militia sought to rein in its fighters.

At least 13 Shiite militants were killed in the latest clashes in Baghdad's militia stronghold of Sadr City, the U.S. military said. Iraqi police said seven civilians also died in fighting, which erupted Friday night and tapered off Saturday.

The U.S. military said the American soldier was killed in a blast Saturday morning in northwestern Baghdad but did not say whether Shiite militiamen were responsible.

The death raised to at least 19 the number of American troopers killed in Iraq since last Sunday.

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Texas Polygamists' 'Obedience' May Make Prosecutions Difficult
2008-04-12 16:04:51
Polygamist sect members who were moved to a Texas compound from their longtime homes along the Utah-Arizona line were hand-picked for their fierce loyalty to leader Warren Jeffs, and that allegiance may be a stumbling block for law enforcement, authorities say.

Jeffs, the imprisoned leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, transferred people to Eldorado, Texas, to escape growing government scrutiny on the sect's base in Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.

"This was Warren Jeff's all-star cast," said Goddard, who has been investigating the sect since 2004. "They had the strongest sense of obedience."

As a result, their extreme devotion could make it hard on Texas authorities as they push for prosecutions, said Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

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Australian Prime Minister Warns China On Global Warming
2008-04-12 16:03:25
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ended his Beijing visit with a warning to the two global giants of the coal trade, Australia and China, to do more to address climate change or face "alarming" water shortages.

At a Beijing coal-fired power plant, which is the first to trial Australian CSIRO technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions, the Prime Minister cited the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which warns of significant threats to Australia, including an increase in mosquito-borne diseases and dislocation of agriculture in southeast Australia.

Australia is the world's largest coal producer and China the world's largest coal consumer with an accelerating demand to meet its growing energy needs.

Rudd said the report brought the threat of climate change and its links with coal-fired power into sharp focus, but the pilot project capturing carbon emissions is an important start.

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