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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday April 17 2008 - (813)

Thursday April 17 2008 edition
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Los Angeles Sues Anthem Blue Cross Over Dropped Policies
2008-04-17 02:48:03
California's largest for-profit health insurer, Anthem Blue Cross, was accused Wednesday of a widespread pattern of false advertising and fraud in a $1-billion lawsuit that claims that the company's coverage "is largely illusory".

Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo alleged in the suit that the insurer sold people false promises of coverage and concealed a scheme to renege on policies for those diagnosed with serious and often expensive medical conditions, including cancer and congestive heart failure. The suit says more than 500,000 people were tricked into buying individual and family policies from Blue Cross.

"Countless Californians who believe they have insurance actually have policies that aren't worth the paper they're printed on," Delgadillo said. An Anthem Blue Cross spokeswoman said the company intended to vigorously defend itself and "strongly disagrees with the allegations." A spokesman for the insurer's parent company, Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc., declined to discuss the allegations.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accuses Blue Cross and WellPoint of violating more than 25 state and federal laws. It demands  restitution for patients who were left with medical bills and seeks more than $1 billion in penalties.
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U.S. Railroads Directed To Analyze Hazardous Materials Routes
2008-04-17 02:47:27
The U.S. Transportation Department issued a rule Wednesday that orders railroads to extensively analyze security risks in choosing the routes on which they ship hazardous chemicals.

Railroads will be required to do a safety and security risk analysis of primary routes and any practical alternatives they might use, the department said. By September 2009, they must route trains with dangerous chemicals based on the studies. Those that do not use the safest routes could be fined up to $10,000 a day and ordered to reroute trains.

Congress had ordered the department to come up with the rule to comply with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. 

The movement of trains carrying hazardous cargo such as chlorine through Washington, D.C., has stirred controversy because of concerns about a terrorist threat. The D.C. government passed a law barring the shipment of dangerous cargo through the city in 2005. CSX Transportation and the Bush administration fought the ban in federal court, where the case is still tied up. The ban never took effect.

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Clinton Emphatically Says Obama Can White House
2008-04-16 23:49:40
Hillary Rodham Clinton said emphatically Wednesday night that Barack Obama can win the White House this fall, undercutting her efforts to deny him the nomination by suggesting he would lead the party to defeat.

"Yes, yes, yes," she said when pressed about Obama's electability during a campaign debate six days before the Pennsylvania primary.

Asked a similar question about Clinton, Obama said "Absolutely and I've said so before" - a not-so-subtle response to suggestions from his rival that he could not defeat Republican Sen. John McCain.

In a 90-minute debate, both rivals pledged not to raise taxes on individuals making less than $200,000, and said they would respond forcefully if Iran obtains nuclear weapons and uses them against Israel.

"An attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation by the United States," said Clinton.

Obama said, "The U.S. would take appropriate action."

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Oil Futures Jump Past $115, Settle At $114.93
2008-04-16 23:49:15
Crude futures made their first foray past $115 (U.S.) Wednesday, propelled to a record by concerns about how much gasoline will be available during the peak summer months.

Inventories of gas fell by 5.5 million barrels last week, according to the U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration, a much bigger decline than forecast by analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires. Light, sweet crude for May delivery responded by rising as high as $115.07 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and later settled up $1.14 at a record $114.93 a barrel.

The report said crude inventories fell by 2.3 million barrels last week, compared to the gain analysts expected.

Oil prices were also boosted by the falling dollar, which declined to a new low against the euro on Wednesday. Many investors buy commodities such as oil as a hedge against inflation and a falling greenback. A weaker dollar also makes oil cheaper to investors overseas.

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British Prime Minister Tells U.N. Mugabe Has Stolen Election Win
2008-04-16 23:48:47
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown Wednesday directly accused Robert Mugabe of stealing the Zimbabwe presidential election, as Britain abandoned its softly, softly approach to Zimbabwe.

In a hardening of British rhetoric, the prime minister used an address to the United Nations Security  Council to say Mugabe was thwarting the will of the Zimbabwean people. "No one thinks, having seen the results at the polling stations, that President Mugabe has won this election," Brown told a special U.N.  debate on Africa. "A stolen election would not be a democratic election at all.

"So let a single clear message go out from here that we are and will be vigilant for democratic rights, that we stand solidly behind democracy and human rights for Zimbabwe, and we stand ready to support Zimbabweans build a better future."

Brown's remarks, to a meeting chaired by South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki and attended by other African leaders, were stronger than Britain's recent interventions.

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Frustrated By Lack Of Federal Action, States Tackle Foreclosure Problem
2008-04-16 16:10:11

This month alone, Philadelphia's sheriff delayed foreclosure auctions of 759 homes at the city council's urging.  Maryland extended the time it takes to complete a foreclosure. State leaders in Ohio recruited more than 1,000 lawyers to aid distressed borrowers.

Frustrated by the slow pace of federal action on behalf of struggling homeowners, some states and cities have struck out on their own to stem an alarming rise in foreclosures that has depressed home prices in most parts of the country and eroded local governments' revenues as property taxes and utility bills go unpaid.

Nine states have committed more than $450 million to "loan funds" aimed at refinancing the mortgages of at-risk borrowers, according to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts. A handful have brokered deals with major lenders who have pledged to ease terms for some troubled loans. A few states have lengthened the time it takes to complete a foreclosure.

"What the states are saying is: 'We can't wait any longer for the federal government. We have to get ahead of this'," said Tobi Walker, a senior officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts. "The states are experiencing this pain more directly than the federal government is."

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Bruce Springsteen Backs Obama
2008-04-16 16:09:41
Bruce Springsteen, the rocker who made "Born in the USA" a signature of working-class pride, endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president Wednesday.

"He has the depth, the reflectiveness and the resilience to be our next president," Springsteen said in a letter posted on his website and distributed by the Obama campaign. "He speaks to the American I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit, a place where 'nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone'."

Springsteen did not mention Obama's Democratic rival, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, by name, but the bard of New Jersey, who has written lyrics about the economically devastated towns of the Northeast, seemed to challenge her recent criticisms of Obama for saying that working-class Americans are bitter about their financial hardships, and for fanning the controversy over Obama's involvement with the fiery Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

"Critics have tried to diminish Sen. Obama through the exaggeration of certain of his comments and relationships," Springsteen said in his letter. "While these matters are worthy of some discussion, they have been ripped out of the context and fabric of the man's life and vision .. often in order to distract us from discussing the real issues."
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Poll: Trust In Clinton Eroding
2008-04-16 16:09:07
Lost in the Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign's aggressive attacks on Barack Obama in recent days is a deep and enduring problem that threatens to undercut any inroads Clinton has made in her struggle to overtake him in the Democratic presidential race: She has lost trust among voters, a majority of whom now view her as dishonest.

Her advisers' efforts to deal with the problem - by having her acknowledge her mistakes and crack self-deprecating jokes - do not seem to have succeeded. Privately, the aides admit that the recent controversy over her claim to have ducked sniper fire on a trip to Bosnia probably made things worse.

Clinton is viewed as "honest and trustworthy" by just 39 percent of Americans, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, compared with 52 percent in May 2006. Nearly six in 10 said in the new poll that she is not honest and trustworthy. Now, compared with Obama, Clinton has a deep trust deficit among Democrats, trailing him by 23 points as the more honest, an area on which she once led both Obama and John Edwards. 

Among Democrats, 63 percent called her honest, down 18 points from 2006; among independents, her trust level has dropped 13 points, to 37 percent. Republicans held Clinton in low regard on this in the past (23 percent called her honest two years ago), but it is even lower now, at 16 percent. Majorities of men and women now say the phrase does not apply to Clinton; two years ago, narrow majorities of both did.

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U.S. Transportation Dept. Sweetens Payoff For Bumped Passengers
2008-04-16 16:08:25
Airline passengers will be eligible to receive as much as $800 for being bumped from flights under a new federal rule that goes into effect next month.

The rule doubles the maximum compensation for bumped passengers. It was part of a package of measures announced by the Transportation Department Wednesday to strengthen consumer protections and ease flight delays going into the summer traveling season.

Airlines routinely overbook flights to ensure that as many seats as possible are sold, even if some travelers cancel at the last minute. Denied boardings have been on the rise in recent years as airlines have cut capacity even as demand for air travel has increased, making it harder to find enough passengers who will voluntarily agree to be bumped from an overbooked flight.

The amount of money paid to passengers is determined by the price of the ticket and the length of the delay. Passengers who are involuntarily bumped will receive up to $400 if they reach their destination within two hours of their original arrival time (four hours for international destinations). If the delay is longer, the maximum compensation increases to $800.
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Vioxx-Maker Merck Accused Of Deception
2008-04-16 16:07:19

Two teams of researchers with access to thousands of documents gathered for lawsuits over the painkiller Vioxx  allege that Merck waged a campaign of deception to promote its drug, moving slowly to warn of possible hazards while at the same time dressing up in-house studies as the work of independent academic researchers.

The reports in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association in effect accuse one of the world's biggest pharmaceutical makers of various forms of scientific fraud.

One study alleges that Merck gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) an incomplete accounting of deaths in a clinical trial of Vioxx in people with mild dementia. Federal regulators eventually received the data, which added to growing evidence that Vioxx increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Simultaneously, Merck was using what the JAMA authors call "guest authorship and ghostwriting" to make it appear that research done by its employees or contractors was the work of scientists at medical schools and universities. That presumably gave the findings more credibility when they were published, in medical journals, boosting Vioxx's profile in the crowded painkiller market.

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U.S. Supreme Court Uphold Executions By Lethal Injection
2008-04-16 16:06:18
The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way Wednesday for executions to resume across the nation, ruling that lethal injections, if properly carried out, are a "humane" means of ending a condemned individual's life.

The court upheld Kentucky's use of lethal injections by a surprisingly large 7-2 vote.

"The Constitution does not demand the avoidance of all risk of pain in carrying out executions," said Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and there is little evidence that states subject inmates to needless pain when they are put to death.

The ruling is a defeat for death penalty opponents. They had argued that lethal injections may work to disguise the pain of a dying person, and therefore, should be prohibited.
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Iraq Removes Police Chief After Basra Crackdown
2008-04-16 16:05:32
Iraq's government removed the top police commander in the southern city of Basra on Wednesday, weeks after a botched crackdown on militia fighters there triggered the country's worst fighting in months; but the Defense Ministry denied earlier comments that the top military commander in the southern city, Army Lieutenant-General Mohan al-Furaiji, had also been replaced.

"He is still in his job. He's leading the operations in Basra," Defence Ministry spokesman, Major-General Mohammed al-Askari, said of Furaiji.

Police Major-General Abdul-Jalil Khalaf, who was replaced, and Furaiji, are among the country's most senior commanders and were widely respected by U.S. and British military leaders.

Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul-Karim Khalaf, no relation to the Basra commander, earlier said the two were recalled to senior positions in Baghdad as a "reward" for tackling criminals in Basra. Another senior general in Baghdad also said both had been replaced.

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Big Tax Breaks For Business In U.S. Senate Housing Bill
2008-04-16 01:48:32
The U.S. Senate proclaimed a fierce bipartisan resolve two weeks ago to help American homeowners in danger of foreclosure. While a bill that senators approved last week would take modest steps toward that goal, it would also provide billions of dollars in tax breaks - for automakers, airlines, alternative energy producers and other struggling industries, as well as home builders.

The tax provisions of the Foreclosure Prevention Act, which consumer groups and labor leaders say amount to government handouts to big business, show how the credit crisis, while rattling the housing and financial markets, has created beneficiaries in the power corridors of Washington, D.C.

It also shows how legislation with a populist imperative offers a chance for lobbyists to press their clients’ interests.

This has proved especially true on the housing legislation, which many lawmakers and lobbyists view as one of the last opportunities before Congress grinds to a halt amid election-year politics.

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Opposition Protest Falters As Zimbabwe Army Makes Show Of Force
2008-04-16 01:48:06
The call by Zimbabwe's political opposition for people nationwide to stay away from work on Tuesday to protest a 17-day delay in releasing the results of the presidential election largely failed to interrupt the normal flow of life in the cities.

The relative ineffectiveness of the one-day protest says much about the long odds the opposition faces in ousting the nation’s long-entrenched autocratic president, Robert Mugabe, despite reports from independent monitors that he badly trailed the opposition candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, in the March 29 election.

People lucky enough to have jobs in a country with 80 percent unemployment explained that they could not afford to lose a precious day’s pay by participating in the work stoppage.

“We have to eat,” said a man who guards people’s cars and identified himself as Michael. He gave only his first name for fear of retribution.

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A Drought In Australia, A Global Shortage Of Rice
2008-04-17 02:47:46
Lindsay Renwick, the mayor of Diniliquin, a dusty southern Australian town, remembers the constant whir of the rice mill. “It was our little heartbeat out there, tickety-tick-tickety,” he said, imitating the giant fans that dried the rice, “and now it has stopped.”

The Deniliquin mill, the largest rice mill in the Southern Hemisphere, once processed enough grain to meet the needs of 20 million people around the world; but six long years of drought have taken a toll, reducing Australia’s rice crop by 98 percent and leading to the mothballing of the mill last December.

Ten thousand miles separate the mill’s hushed rows of over sized silos and sheds - beige, gray and now empty - from the riotous streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but a widening global crisis unites them.

The collapse of Australia’s rice production is one of several factors contributing to a doubling of rice prices in the last three months - increases that have led the world’s largest exporters to restrict exports severely, spurred panicked hoarding in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and set off violent protests in countries including Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

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Clinton Uses Sharp Attacks In Tense Debate
2008-04-17 02:47:01
Intellpuke: This is the second article on this debate posted at Free Internet Press today. The other, by the Guardian newspaper's New York-based correspondent posted elsewhere on today's mainpage, had a different tone and focus than the following article which appeared in the New York Times edition for Thursday, April 17, 2008. The difference was enough that it seemed both articles should be posted.

Senator Barack Obama found himself consistently on the defensive as he and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton met Wednesday night in a tense debate that left him parrying questions and criticism on issues including values, patriotism and his association with onetime radicals from the 1960s.

It was the first time the two candidates had shared a debate stage in seven weeks, and it came six days before a primary in Pennsylvania that could determine whether Clinton can continue her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. It could also prove to be the last debate between them.

Accordingly, Clinton did not let an opportunity pass as she repeatedly challenged Obama on his record and views -  assisted, as it turned out, by vigorous questioning by the two moderators from ABC News, Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous.

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U.S. Offers Pakistan $7 Billion In Non-Military Aid To Fight Terrorism
2008-04-16 23:49:27

The U.S. has promised to curb air strikes by drones against suspected militants in Pakistan, as part of a joint counter-terrorism strategy agreed with the new civilian government in Islamabad, the Guardian newspaper reported. That strategy will be supported by an aid package potentially worth more than $7 billion (£3.55 billion), which is due to go before Congress for approval in the next few months.

The package would triple the amount of American non-military aid to Pakistan, and is aimed at "redefining" the bilateral relationship, said U.S. officials.

Pakistan will also be given a "democracy dividend" of up to $1 billion, a reward for holding peaceful elections and forming a coalition government. Of that, $200 million could be approved in the next few days.

The aid package, being put together by the Democratic senator Joseph Biden, will mark a decisive break in U.S.  policy on Pakistan, which for much of the past nine years focused on President Pervez Musharraf and the Pakistani military as Washington's primary partners in the "war on terror". Officials in Washington said Wednesday that the shift had already been made.

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British Prime Minister Tells U.N. Mugabe Has Stolen Election Win
2008-04-16 23:48:57
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown Wednesday directly accused Robert Mugabe of stealing the Zimbabwe presidential election, as Britain abandoned its softly, softly approach to Zimbabwe.

In a hardening of British rhetoric, the prime minister used an address to the United Nations Security  Council to say Mugabe was thwarting the will of the Zimbabwean people. "No one thinks, having seen the results at the polling stations, that President Mugabe has won this election," Brown told a special U.N.  debate on Africa. "A stolen election would not be a democratic election at all.

"So let a single clear message go out from here that we are and will be vigilant for democratic rights, that we stand solidly behind democracy and human rights for Zimbabwe, and we stand ready to support Zimbabweans build a better future."

Brown's remarks, to a meeting chaired by South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki and attended by other African leaders, were stronger than Britain's recent interventions.

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China Agrees To Pay More Than Triple For Canadian Fertilizer
2008-04-16 23:48:23

Desperate for fertilizer to increase crop yields amid a looming global food crisis, China agreed to pay more than three times as much for potash as it did last year, launching Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan to a record stock price and within spitting distance of becoming Canada's largest publicly traded company.

The unprecedented contract with China spurred a 5.5-per-cent increase in Potash Corp. shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange, increasing the Saskatoon-based company's market capitalization to nearly $63-billion.

The rise bolstered the dominance of resource stocks on the Canadian market, pushing Potash Corp.'s worth above financial services stalwarts Royal Bank of Canada and Manulife Financial and into second place behind oil and gas giant EnCana Corp., which boasts a market value of $63.8-billion.

“We've moved up the TSX quite quietly,” said Potash Corp. spokeswoman Rhonda Speiss.

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U.S. Supreme Court Considers Death Penalty For Child Rapists
2008-04-16 16:09:55
Proponents and opponents of imposing the death penalty for rape of a child underwent intense questioning Wednesday from a seemingly divided Supreme Court.

The hour-long argument came in the case of inmate Patrick Kennedy, sentenced to death for raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter.

Kennedy's lawyer, Jeffrey L. Fisher, told the court the death penalty for child rape under Louisiana law violates the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia challenged Fisher's position that the Louisiana law is too broad and that not enough states have enacted the death penalty for child rape to justify the Supreme Court's support for it.

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Poll: Hillary Clinton Loses Traction Over Barack Obama In Pennsylvania, Indiana
2008-04-16 16:09:23
Clinton's formerly double-digit lead is now just a 5-point margin in Pennsylvania, a survey finds. The reduced margin makes a win for her there less significant. She trails Obama among Hoosiers.

With three crucial Democratic primaries looming, Hillary Rodham Clinton may not be headed toward the blockbuster victories she needs to jump-start her presidential bid - even in Pennsylvania, the state that was supposed to be her ace in the hole, a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found.

The survey found the New York senator leading Barack Obama by 5 percentage points in Pennsylvania, which votes next Tuesday. Such a margin would not give her much of a boost in the battle for the party's nomination.

What is more, the poll found Clinton trailed Obama by 5 percentage points in Indiana, another Rust Belt state that should play to her strengths among blue-collar voters.

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Pope Benedict XVI Calls For Sacrifice, Help For Less Fortunate
2008-04-16 16:08:49

Pope Benedict XVI, greeted warmly by President Bush and thousands of adoring guests at the White House this morning, summoned Americans to use their freedom to cultivate virtue, sacrifice for the common good and help the less fortunate.

"Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility," the 81-year-old pontiff said from a podium on the South Lawn, where he was flanked by President Bush.

On the first full day of his visit to the United States, the first papal trip to Washington since 1979, Benedict largely steered clear of controversial issues such as the Iraq war, on which he has taken issue with the administration. He used his brief remarks to consider the role of religion and faith in "this vast pluralistic society."

In the one gentle exception, the pope offered fulsome support for strengthening the United Nations, an institution that has often frustrated Bush, while making clear his preference for negotiations to solve disputes.

Noting the United States' generous role in offering relief to victims of natural catastrophes, Benedict said, "I am confident that this concern for the greater human family will continue to find expression in support for the patient efforts of international diplomacy to resolve conflicts and promote progress."

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J.P. Morgan Chase Income Falls 50 Percent, But Beats Forecast
2008-04-16 16:07:56
JPMorgan Chase, fresh from scooping up a rival investment bank, Bear Stearns, saw earnings drop 50 percent in the first quarter as it was hurt badly by market turmoil and heavy credit losses. The bank also set aside $5.1 billion to strengthen its reserves by $2.5 billion and to account for $2.6 billion in losses in its loan portfolio.

The drop in earnings comes after a record first quarter in 2007 and is an indication of how the housing slowdown and the tight credit markets have battered all banks.

Even an unusual $1.5 billion gain from the initial public offering of Visa, the credit and debit card processor, was not enough to offset losses from home equity loans and a sharp drop in values on complex mortgage investments and leveraged loans.

Net income fell to $2.4 billion, or 68 cents a share, compared with $4.8 billion, or $1.34 a share, for the same time last year. Revenue fell 9 percent, to $17.9 billion. Still, that profit beat expectations. The average estimate of analysts surveyed by Reuters was 65 cents a share.

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U.N. Predicts North Korea Food Crisis
2008-04-16 16:06:39
Food-starved North Korea  is facing a humanitarian crisis this year and will likely need large food donations from the international community, the United Naitions World Food Program (WFP) said Wednesday.

"Major sources of food for North Korea are all going down and there is no very good prospect that any will go up soon," said Tony Banbury, the regional director in Asia for the WFP.

This year's food shortfall is projected to be 1.66 million metric tons, about double the need of last year and the highest since 2001, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

The fast-worsening food situation in the closed-off Communist country - where staple food prices have doubled in the past year - is the result of what U.N. officials describe as a pernicious confluence of flood-damaged local harvests, soaring world food prices and an unexpectedly sharp drop in aid from neighboring South Korea and China. 

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Pakistan Forces Thousands Of Afghans To Leave
2008-04-16 16:05:47
About the only thing Aziz ur-Rehman remembers about his life in Afghanistan is his month-long walk through the mountains to Pakistanafter the 1979 Soviet invasion.

He was 5 years old then - too young to remember much about the events that drove his family out of Afghanistan. Most of his memories were born here among the sprawling mass of mud-brick homes, tin-roofed shops and rutted dirt roads that make up the oldest Afghan refugee settlement in Pakistan. And when the Pakistani government closes the camp this week, most of his memories will be buried here.

Three decades after thousands of Afghan refugees fled to this United Nations-backed settlement in northwestern Pakistan, the Pakistani government has begun to demolish homes and other buildings here. Citing concerns about extremist influences in Jalozai and the economic burden of hosting 80,000 refugees, officials set a Tuesday deadline for closing the camp, located about 20 miles southwest of the city of Peshawar. 

Pakistan had pressed for an earlier closure but was persuaded to wait until after the winter by U.N. officials, the Afghan government and tribal elders.

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Sen. Arlen Specter Again Diagnosed With Cancer
2008-04-16 16:05:05
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter's cancer has returned. The five-term Republican said in a statement released by his office Tuesday that he was diagnosed with an early recurrence of Hodgkin's disease, which is a cancer of the lymph system.

Specter, 78, underwent treatment for the same type of cancer in 2005 and was later given a clean bill of health. The statement said that the cancer was revealed in a medical scan but that he has no symptoms.

"I was surprised by the PET scan findings because I have been feeling so good," Specter said in the statement. "I consider this just another bump on the road to a successful recovery from Hodgkin's, from which I've been symptom free for three years."

In his recent book, "Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate," Specter credited hard work with getting him through the cancer treatments.

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Wall Street Winners Get Billion Dollar Paydays
2008-04-16 01:48:20
Hedge fund managers, those masters of a secretive, sometimes volatile financial universe, are making money on a scale that once seemed unimaginable, even in Wall Street’s rarefied realms.

One manager, John Paulson, made $3.7 billion last year. He reaped that bounty, probably the richest in Wall Street history, by betting against certain mortgages and complex financial products that held them.

Paulson, the founder of Paulson & Company, was not the only big winner. The hedge fund managers James H. Simons and George Soroseach earned almost $3 billion last year, according to an annual ranking of top hedge fund earners by Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, which comes out Wednesday.

Hedge fund managers have redefined notions of wealth in recent years. And the richest among them are redefining those notions once again.

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Indonesian Volcano Spills Ash, Residents Evacuated
2008-04-16 01:47:51
About 600 people have been evacuated in eastern Indonesia after a volcano began spewing ash, a vulcanologist said on Wednesday.

Mount Egon on Flores island started to erupt late on Tuesday, emitting grey ash up to 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) above the crater, said Muhammad Hendrasto, head of monitoring at the volcanology office in Bandung on Java island.

Authorities immediately raised the alert to orange, one notch below the highest level, and evacuated people living about 1.8 kilometers (1 mile) from the peak of the volcano, he said.

"It is not particularly dangerous but residents nearby need to wear a mask," Hendrasto told Reuters.

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