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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday April 10 2008 - (813)

Thursday April 10 2008 edition
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Fewer American Workers Confident They Will Retire Comfortably
2008-04-10 03:34:53

Fewer American workers are confident that they will have enough money to retire comfortably, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The percentage of workers who said they were very confident about having enough money for retirement decreased from 27 percent last year to 18 percent this year, the sharpest one-year drop since the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a private nonprofit group that focuses on retirement and economic security issues, began the survey 18 years ago.

Current retirees were also less confident about their prospects for financial security. Last year, 41 percent of retirees surveyed were confident about their retirement, compared with 29 percent this year.

Researchers attributed the growing pessimism to concerns about rising health-care costs, a flagging economy and declining home values. The sentiment was spread across all age groups and income levels but was particularly strong among younger workers and those with lower incomes, the researchers said. The Retirement Confidence Survey was conducted in January through telephone interviews with 1,322 people nationwide, both workers and retirees, ages 25 and over.

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Chaos At Airports Could Go On For Weeks
2008-04-10 03:34:11
Air travelers, whose plans have already been disrupted by thousands of canceled flights recently, may face continued chaos in coming weeks as the Federal Aviation Administration and the airlines expand their scrutiny of passenger planes.

The groundings at airlines like American, Alaska, Delta and Southwest resulted from a broader round of inspections, ordered by the F.A.A., to determine whether the airlines have complied with past directives to check airplane structures, wires, electronics and other components.

A second wave of audits began on March 30 and will continue through June 30. Laura J. Brown, a spokeswoman for the F.A.A., said it could not rule out further groundings. “We don’t know,” she said. “We find what we find.”

That will do little to reassure travelers, who face difficulties switching to other flights because planes are generally flying full on popular routes.

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Oil Near $111 A Barrel After Hitting Record
2008-04-10 03:33:29
Oil prices steadied near $111 a barrel Thursday after jumping to a new record in the previous session on an unexpected drop in U.S. crude inventories.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) inventory report, closely watched by the market, showed Wednesday that crude stocks fell 3.2 million barrels last week.

''The crude inventory draw was a big surprise to the market, which had actually expected an increase of 2 to 3 million barrels. It was a substantial drawdown,'' said Victor Shum, an energy analyst with Purvin & Gertz in Singapore.

Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had expected, on average, an increase of 2.4 million barrels.

The decline in crude stockpiles pushed light, sweet crude for May delivery up $2.37 to settle at a record $110.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday. It rose as high as $112.21 a barrel during the floor session, surpassing the previous trading record of $111.80 set last month.

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Blood Thinner Heparin Suspected Of 62 Deaths Across U.S.
2008-04-10 03:32:33
The number of suspicious deaths in the United States linked to the blood thinner heparin has risen to 62 from 19, with most of them reported this past December, January and February, according to the first detailed analyses of heparin fatalities by the Food and Drug Administration.

The F.D.A. is still investigating whether those deaths and hundreds of allergic reactions were caused by a heparinlike contaminant made in China that was added to the drug somewhere during the manufacturing process.

The drug agency defined suspicious deaths as those involving one or more allergic reactions or a drop in blood pressure. There have been no reports of deaths since the end of February, after Baxter International recalled heparin made with ingredients from a Chinese supplier.

The agency’s Web site reported Tuesday that the 62 deaths covered a 14-month period that began in January 2007. In comparison, the agency said, there were three suspicious deaths involving heparin in all of 2006.

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White House, In Attempt To Pre-empt Democrats, Offers New Housing Plan
2008-04-09 20:17:25
The Bush administration on Wednesday proposed a new effort to help homeowners in danger of foreclosure by loosening the eligibility criteria for new mortgages insured by the federal government. The program seemed designed, at least in part, to pre-empt legislation sought by Congressional Democrats for a much broader expansion of federally insured loans.

The commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration, Brian D. Montgomery, announced the new proposal at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee. He said the expansion of an existing loan insurance program, called FHA Secure, would help as many as 100,000 additional homeowners by the end of 2008.

Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the financial services committee, has put forward a more expansive plan that he has said could help as many as 1.5 million troubled borrowers.

Both the plan sought by Democrats and the administration’s plan seek to stabilize the battered housing market by allowing homeowners, many of whom owe more than their homes are now worth, to refinance expensive, adjustable rate mortgages with a more stable and affordable 30-year loan backed by the federal government.

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Financial Fallout Continues As Regulators Close Down German Bank
2008-04-09 20:16:42
A small bank based in Bremerhaven, Germany, has had its services suspended by federal financial authorities in Germany. As insolvency proceedings are ordered, Weserbank's leaders are blaming the global financial crisis.

Weserbank, a small German bank based in Bremerhaven, was forced to close Wednesday due to over-indebtedness.

Germany's banking supervisory agency, BaFin, announced Wednesday that it placed a prohibition on the sale or transfer of Weserbank's holdings and asked a local court to open insolvency proceedings against the institution because it was unable to cover operating costs.

Weserbank CEO Gerold Lehmann blamed the global financial crisis for the bank's collapse.

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Turkish Politics Take An Economic Toll
2008-04-09 20:15:45
The fight over secularism is dimming the economic prospects of the republic: Growth has slowed, inflation is up, and the lira is down.

The political drama in Turkey this spring may turn out to be a rite of passage for Turkish democracy. After an intense year of infighting between the country's powerful secular establishment and the popular Islamist-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, matters have come to a head with the March 31 decision by the nation's Constitutional Court to hear a lawsuit seeking to abolish Erdogan's party for undermining the secular nature of the republic.

If the court decides against Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the organization could be outlawed and both the Prime Minister and President Abdullah Gül, who also hails from the AKP, could be banned from politics for five years. Although most observers think that outcome unlikely, the mere possibility has thrown Turkey into turmoil and cast a shadow over its economic prospects.

It may be difficult for outsiders to understand the stakes - or even to imagine the scenario. After all, nobody has tried to sue the Republican Party in the U.S. for violating the separation of church and state because President George W. Bush is an avowed Christian. But the entire history of modern Turkey is staked on the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who led the battle for Turkish independence after World War I and founded the Republic in the 1920s on secular principles.
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End Of The World As We Know It - The End Of The American Empire
2008-04-09 20:12:59
"In short, this country will be well on its way to the post-industrial Stone Age."
"If you're alive in a decade, it will be because you've figured out how to forage locally."

End of the world as we know it

You might feel fine, but high oil cost, scarcity mean American Empire is about to come crashing down

Guy R. McPherson
University of Arizona professor
Apr. 6, 2008 12:00 AM

 Peak oil spells the end of civilization. And, if it's not already too late, perhaps it will prevent the extinction of our species.

M. King Hubbert, a petroleum geologist employed by Shell Oil Co., described peak oil in 1956. Production of crude oil, like the production of many non-renewable resources, follows a bell-shaped curve. The top of the curve is termed "peak oil," or "Hubbert's peak," and it represents the halfway point for production.

The bell-shaped curve applies at all levels, from field to country to planet. After discovery, production ramps up relatively quickly. But when the light, sweet crude on top of the field runs out, increased energy and expense are required to extract the underlying heavy, sour crude. At some point, the energy required to extract a barrel of oil exceeds the energy contained in barrel of oil, so the pumps shut down.

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Late-Night Call Revealed Secret World At Polygamist Compound
2008-04-09 15:39:12
The cry for help came late at night - at 11:32 p.m. - and it came in a whisper.

Speaking in a low voice to avoid being overheard, the 16-year-old girl - mother of an 8-month-old baby and pregnant with a second child - sketched out chilling tales. She spoke of teenage girls, some as young as 13, being forced to have sex with older men for the purpose of bearing their children. She said she was the seventh "spiritual" wife of a 49-year-old man. She described beatings by him as so vicious that one time several of her ribs had been broken.

The March 29 phone call, and one the next day from the compound run by an insular and secretive splinter sect of the Mormon Church, prompted raids by authorities; they took 416 children into protective custody, the largest child removal in Texas history. The children, mostly girls, ranged in age from infants to 17. Several have babies or are pregnant.

The girl's harrowing tale and the subsequent investigation provided for the first time a glimpse of life inside the compound. It was an existence so removed from mainstream society that many female inhabitants did not know how to spell their last name and many children could not state their birth date.

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U.S. Water Pipelines Are Breaking
2008-04-09 15:38:44
Two hours north of New York City, a mile-long stream and a marsh the size of a football field have mysteriously formed along a country road. They are such a marvel that people come from miles around to drink the crystal-clear water, believing it is bubbling up from a hidden natural spring.

The truth is far less romantic: The water is coming from a cracked 70-year-old tunnel hundreds of feet below ground, scientists say.

The tunnel is leaking up to 36 million gallons a day as it carries drinking water from a reservoir to the big city. It is a powerful warning sign of a larger problem around the country: The infrastructure that delivers water to the nation's cities is badly aging and in need of repairs.

The Environmental Protection Agency says utilities will need to invest more than $277 billion over the next two decades on repairs and improvements to drinking water systems. Water industry engineers put the figure drastically higher, at about $480 billion.

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E.U. Panel Wants Internet Search Data Deleted
2008-04-09 15:38:03
A European Union privacy panel wants Internet search engine providers like Google and Yahoo to delete data taken from users after six months, even when they operate abroad.

The new report from the E.U.-funded privacy watchdog recommended that search engines follow European data protection rules regardless of their headquarters' location.

Although the watchdog has no policy powers, its report could lead to stricter privacy rules. The E.U.'s executive, the European Commission,is currently redrafting data-protection rules for the 27-nation bloc.

The panel's report said search engines fall under E.U. laws if they collect users' numeric Internet Protocol, or I.P., addresses or track search history using a unique I.D. on small data files called cookies installed on users' computers.

Most search engines, including Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp.'s MSN and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, do so to gather insights on usage.

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7 Killed As Rioting Erupts In Pakistan
2008-04-09 15:36:55
Clashes between government supporters and opponents set off rioting in Pakistan's biggest city Wednesday, leaving seven people dead in the worst outburst of political violence since a new government took office.

A building near Karachi's courts was set ablaze, and five charred bodies were found inside, said police officer Syed Sulaiman. Two people died of gunshot wounds, including a paramedic whose ambulance came under fire while trying to help the injured.

The trouble began when a group of attorneys protested in downtown Karachi against an assault on a former Cabinet member aligned with President Pervez Musharraf. The protesters say they came under attack by lawyers aligned with the new coalition government, which has vowed to curb Musharraf's powers.

It was not immediately clear how the trouble spread or who was responsible for the arson and shooting, which occurred mainly in a stronghold of the pro-Musharraf Mutahida Quami Movement party.

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Saudi Prisoner Slams, Then Leaves, Guantanamo Hearing
2008-04-09 15:36:13
In a hearing plagued by translation problems on Wednesday, a Saudi Arabian prisoner first criticized and then boycotted the U.S. war crimes court where he is accused of plotting with al-Qaeda to blow up ships in the Middle East.

With the aid of Arabic-English translators, defendant Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al Darbi understood the proceedings well enough to tell the military judge that he believed the court at a U.S. naval base in a remote corner of Cuba was "a scam."

"I believe there is no international court or local court in the United States that treats detainees or accused people the same way we are treated here," said al Darbi.

History, he added, would record the trials as "a scandal."

The translator quoted al Darbi several times as calling the tribunal "illegal", but the military lawyer assigned to defend him, Army Lt. Col. Bryan Broyles, later said that was a mistranslation and the transcript would be corrected to show he had actually called it "a violation of human rights."

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Environment: Global Warming Brings Health Risks
2008-04-10 03:34:40
A top government health official said Wednesday that global warming is expected to have a significant impact on health in the next few decades, with certain regions of the country - and the elderly and children - most vulnerable to increased health problems.

Howard Frumkin, a senior official of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gave a detailed summary on the likely health impacts of global warming at a congressional hearing, but he refrained from giving an opinion on whether carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, should be regulated as a danger to public health.

"The CDC doesn't have a position on ... EPA's regulatory decisions," said Frumkin, determined to avoid getting embroiled in the contentious issue over whether the Environmental Protection Agency should regulate CO2 under the federal Clean Air Act.

The Supreme Court a year ago declared CO2 a pollutant under the federal air quality law and told the EPA it must determine whether CO2's link to climate change endangers public health or welfare. If it does, it must be regulated, said the court. Yet the EPA has been slow to respond to the court directive, saying it must review such a regulation's broad impact on emissions from everything from cars and power plants to schools.

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Editorial: The World Food Crisis
2008-04-10 03:33:53
Intellpuke: The following editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Thursday, April 10, 2008.

Most Americans take food for granted. Even the poorest fifth of households in the United States spend only 16 percent of their budget on food. In many other countries, it is less of a given. Nigerian families spend 73 percent of their budgets to eat, Vietnamese 65 percent, Indonesians half. They are in trouble.

Last year, the food import bill of developing countries rose by 25 percent as food prices rose to levels not seen in a generation. Corn doubled in price over the last two years. Wheat reached its highest price in 28 years. The increases are already sparking unrest from Haiti to Egypt. Many countries have imposed price controls on food or taxes on agricultural exports.

Last week, the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, warned that 33 nations are at risk of social unrest because of the rising prices of food. “For countries where food comprises from half to three-quarters of consumption, there is no margin for survival,” he said.

Prices are unlikely to drop soon. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says world cereal stocks this year will be the lowest since 1982.

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Bush To Cut Army Combat Tours From 15 Months To 12 Months
2008-04-10 03:33:06
President Bush plans to announce Thursday that he will cut Army combat tours in Iraq from 15 months to 12 months, returning rotations to where they were before last year's troop buildup in an effort to alleviate the tremendous stress on the military, said administration officials.

The move is in response to intense pressure from service commanders who have expressed anxiety about the toll of long deployments on their soldiers and, more broadly, about the U.S. military's ability to confront unanticipated threats. Bush will announce the decision during a national speech, in which aides said he will also embrace Army Gen. David H. Petraeus' plan to indefinitely suspend a drawdown of forces.

The twin decisions may set the course for U.S. policy in Iraq through the fall and perhaps for the rest of Bush's presidency. Frustrated by their inability to force Bush to shift direction since they took over Capitol Hill more than a year ago, congressional Democrats began coalescing behind a strategy of trying to force the Iraqis to shoulder more of the costs of the war and reconstruction. Key Republicans signaled support for the approach.

The political maneuvering came as Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker completed two days of lengthy congressional hearings in search of continued support for the war effort. Their conclusion that Iraq has begun making significant but fragile progress on both security and political fronts changed few minds and left lawmakers in both parties impatient for a clear path to resolution.

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Gen. Petraeus: Iranian-Backed 'Special Groups' Greatest Threat In Iraq
2008-04-10 03:32:10
Some officials and experts disagree.

Ever since Army Gen. David H. Petraeus was appointed to oversee the U.S. military in Iraq more than a year ago, the primary enemy for his troops has been shifting. When Petraeus left for Baghdad, the Pentagon considered radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr the gravest threat. Once he arrived, it switched to Sunni Arab extremists claiming affiliation with al-Qaeda, an old foe.

This week, things changed again. In two days of Capitol Hill testimony, Petraeus declared Iranian-backed "special groups" - hardened fighters who are part of larger Shiite militias - to be the "greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq."

The shifting U.S. view of its top enemy reflects both the changing nature of the conflict and the complexity of Iraq's array of armed groups. As threats from Sadr and the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq receded, others were magnified.

Despite new intelligence, officials can't agree whether it shows Iran in control of Iraq's Shiite factions or merely as one key player.
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'If The Games Fail, Human Rights Will Suffer'
2008-04-09 20:17:03
Intellpuke: With the Olympic Games rapidly approaching, more attention than ever is being focused on China's handling of protests in Tibet and on the state of human rights in the Communist country. German news magazine Spiegel recently interviewed Chinese human rights advocate Liu Xiaobo about what to expect. The interview, conducted by Spiegel correspondent Andreas Lorenz, follows:

China's government has come under massive international criticism over its human rights record in the run-up up to the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer. China wanted to use the Olympics to show the world a new, modern face but the plan seems to be backfiring as Western countries sharply criticize China's handling of protests in Tibet last month. Some have even openly considered boycotting the Games.

Spiegel spoke to prominent human rights activist Liu Xiaobo about the current situation of human rights in China and the prospects for change.

SPIEGEL: A few months before the Olympic Games, criticism is mounting against the Chinese government - both for its activity in Tibet and the fact that it throws human rights activists such as Hu Jia in jail. Did Beijing underestimate the consequences of hosting the Games?

Liu: I don't think so. The leadership knew that the conviction of Hu Jia would ruffle feathers. But it wasn't reckoning with the protests in Tibet. Now the entire world has its eyes on China. The response of European countries has been especially tough, much tougher than the U.S. response. That surprised Beijing.

SPIEGEL: Why did Beijing want to host the Olympics in the first place?

Liu: The Party leader at the time, Jiang Zemin, wanted to show the world China's new status. And in winning the bid, the leaders could show the people how strong the government was. Plus, the leadership wanted to use the Games to strengthen nationalist sentiment. After June 4, 1989…
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Israel Retaliates For Attack At Fuel Depot
2008-04-09 20:16:09
Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip crossed into Israel and killed two civilians at a vital fuel depot Wednesday. The surprise attack prompted an immediate Israeli military push into Gaza that threatened to spiral into wider clashes.

At least 20 Israeli tanks rushed into northern Gaza in the wake of the mid-afternoon attacks at the Nahal Oz terminal, currently the only conduit for gasoline shipped into Gaza. Subsequent Israeli shelling and air strikes killed at least nine Palestinians, said officials in the coastal strip.

The radical Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad, along with Mujahedin Brigades and the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed responsibility for the attack. Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, did not claim a role, but Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum later praised the attacks as "heroic."

Israeli officials have repeatedly said they hold Hamas responsible for the activities of all Gaza militant groups. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the attack on the coastal area's vital fuel lifeline shows the militants' "total and complete disregard" for the well-being of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
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Catholic Church Employed 6,000 Forced Laborers In WWII
2008-04-09 20:15:14
Germany's Catholic Church employed almost 6,000 forced laborers during World War II, according to new research commissioned by the church. The report highlights the church's ambivalent relationship with the Nazis.

The German Catholic church made no secret of the fact that it employed forced labor under the Nazis and commissioned research into its history in 2000. That research was published on Tuesday, providing detailed figures on the numbers of forced laborers used and underscoring the church's "historical burden," according to Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the bishop of Mainz.

Records collected from the Catholic dioceses over the last seven years showed a total of 4,829 civilian laborers and 1,075 prisoners of war worked in 776 Catholic institutions such as hospitals, homes and monasteries, on church-owned farms or gardens during World War II. They came mainly eastern territories overrun by the Nazis such as Poland, Ukraine and the Soviet Union.

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IMF Says U.S. Crisis Is 'Largest Financial Shock Since The Great Depression'
2008-04-09 19:18:48

America's mortgage crisis has spiralled into "the largest financial shock since the Great Depression" and there is now a one-in-four chance of a full-blown global recession over the next 12 months, the International Monetary Fund warned Wednesday.

The U.S. is already sliding into what the IMF predicts will be a "mild recession" but there is mounting pessimism about the ability of the rest of the world to escape unscathed, the IMF said in its twice-yearly World Economic Outlook. Britain is particularly vulnerable, the IMF warned, as it slashed its growth targets for both the U.S. and the U.K.

The report made it clear that there will be no early resolution to the global financial crisis.

"The financial shock that erupted in August 2007, as the U.S. sub-prime mortgage market was derailed by the reversal of the housing boom, has spread quickly and unpredictably to inflict extensive damage on markets and institutions at the heart of the financial system," it said.

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Survey: Americans Feel They Haven't Made Economic Progress Over 5 Years
2008-04-09 15:39:01

Offering the gloomiest assessment of personal economic progress in close to half a century, a new survey has found that most Americans think they have not made economic progress over the past five years, as their incomes have stagnated and they have increasingly borrowed money to finance their lifestyles.

As many Americans struggle with declining housing values, increasing food and energy prices and growing unemployment after a long period of flat wages, well over half of respondents said they are either losing ground economically or are stuck in the same place, according to the report released today by the Pew Research Center. Only four in 10 said they have moved forward in the past five years - a record low, Pew says, and far off the record 57 percent who in 1997 said they had moved forward in the previous five years.

The squeeze is particularly tight for those who are low-income and for the 53 percent of Americans who classify themselves as middle-class. Nearly four out of five middle-class adults say it is more difficult for people like them to maintain their standard of living. In 1986, fewer than two of three middle-class people shared that opinion.

Only two in five middle-class Americans say they "live comfortably," while one in five says he or she is just able to meet expenses. The others say they are able to meet expenses with some money left. Overall, slightly more than half said they had to "tighten their belts" to adjust to the increasing economic pressure.

The Pew report, which is based on a telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 2,413 adults overlaid with demographic information from the Census Bureau, adds new information about how Americans feel about their economic situations in the midst of a presidential campaign in which the plight of the middle class has been at the heart of the debate.

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Editorial: Immigration Outsourced
2008-04-09 15:38:25
Intellpuke: The following editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Wednesday, April 9, 2008.

Not content to botch immigration policy all by itself, Congress has handed large parts of the job to others to mishandle. It gave the homeland security czar the czarist powers to overturn any law and ignore any court to seal the border. Now Michael Chertoff is clear-cutting a forest of regulations to wall out Mexico by the end of the year. And through the program known as 287(g), his agency is parceling out duties to a growing number of local police and sheriff’s departments, raising an army of junior deputies in the war on illegal immigrants.

To see how unhinged things have become, it pays to zero in on the squalid doings in Maricopa County, Ariz. It is home to Phoenix, the country’s fifth-largest city, and the largest 287(g) program anywhere.

It is run by the county sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who has built a national reputation for toughness through years of cruelty to prison inmates and an insatiable appetite for publicity. Where most departments have only handfuls of officers trained to enforce federal immigration laws, Sheriff Joe, as he is known, has 160. Their efforts are supplemented by what the sheriff says, without apology, is a 3,000-member “posse.”

For months now, Sheriff Joe has been sending squads of officers through Latino neighborhoods, pulling cars over for broken taillights or turn-signal violations, checking drivers’ and passengers’ papers and arresting illegal immigrants by the dozen.

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American Airlines Cancels 1,000 Flights, Stranding Passengers
2008-04-09 15:37:29
American Airlines canceled more than 1,000 flights Wednesday, nearly half of its daily schedule, stranding passengers for a second day so mechanics could reinspect planes to ensure that wire bundling on the jets meets federal safety standards.

The airline scrapped nearly 500 flights Tuesday, and the disruption could continue through tomorrow, the airline said.

"We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused our customers," said Gerard Arpey, chairman and chief executive of American Airlines, according to a statement on the company's Web site. "American will do whatever it takes to assist those affected by these flight changes."

Schedules from the carrier's Dallas and Chicago hubs showed more than 200 flights canceled at those two locations alone. Locally, 14 of 25 American departures from Reagan National and two of six departures from Dulles International were canceled.

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Petraeus Dismisses Talk Of Another Troop Buildup
2008-04-09 15:36:39
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, testifying on Capitol Hill for a second day on the situation in Iraq, Wednesday dismissed the idea of calling for another buildup of U.S. forces in the country if violence escalates, saying he would rely instead on American and Iraqi forces already there.

Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, appeared before the House Armed Services Committee to buttress his recommendation for a pause in the reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq after a drawdown of reinforcements is completed in mid-July. He and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker testified Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees.

The two men heard one lawmaker, Rep. John Spratt (D-South Carolina), report a projection by the Congressional Budget Office that the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could top $2 trillion by 2018. Neither Petraeus nor Crocker disputed the estimate, which Spratt said the Pentagon refused to validate or reject.

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Haitians Riot, Loot Over Food Prices
2008-04-09 15:36:00
Roads were blocked and sustained gunfire rang out in upscale neighborhoods in the mountains above Port-au-Price on Wednesday, as protests and looting over soaring food prices paralyzed the Haitian capital.

National television said President Rene Preval, who has made no public statements since the unrest began last week, would address the nation in a speech that could determine the course of the demonstrations - and of his government.

"I believe if President Preval talks to the people about the high cost of living, people will listen to the president and go home," said Sen. Joseph Lambert, a former senate president and a member of Preval's party. "If not, if there is an attempt at a coup d'etat to remove the president, things will get worse."

Rioters angry over sharply rising food prices in the hemisphere's poorest country have been demanding the resignation of Preval, who was elected in 2006. They tried to break through the gates of the presidential palace on Tuesday before U.N. peacekeepers chased them away with tear gas and rubber bullets.

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