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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday April 8 2008 - (813)

Tuesday April 8 2008 edition
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FBI Data Transfers Via Telecoms Questioned
2008-04-08 03:10:40

When FBI investigators probing New York prostitution rings, Boston organized crime or potential terrorist plots anywhere want access to a suspect's telephone contacts, technicians at a telecommunications carrier served with a government order can, with the click of a mouse, instantly transfer key data along a computer circuit to an FBI technology office in Quantico, Virginia. 

The circuits - little-known electronic connections between telecom firms and FBI monitoring personnel around the country - are used to tell the government who is calling whom, along with the time and duration of a conversation and even the locations of those involved.

Recently, three Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including Chairman John D. Dingell (Michigan), sent a letter to colleagues citing privacy concerns over one of the Quantico circuits and demanding more information about it. Anxieties about whether such electronic links are too intrusive form a backdrop to the continuing congressional debate over modifications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which governs federal surveillance.

Since a 1994 law required telecoms to build electronic interception capabilities into their systems, the FBI has created a network of links between the nation's largest telephone and Internet firms and about 40 FBI offices and Quantico, according to interviews and documents describing the agency's Digital Collection System. The documents were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group in San Francisco, California, that specializes in digital-rights issues.

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Environment: Germany Drops 'Roadmap To Biofuels' For Cars
2008-04-08 03:10:13

The German government has been forced into an embarrassing turnaround over its plans to lead a worldwide biofuels revolution on the roads after the discovery that too many cars would be unable to run on the proposed ethanol-petrol mix.

The environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, had planned to introduce the new fuel to motorists next year. It is known as E-10, and 90% of it would consist of petrol and the rest of ethanol.

The proposal was seen as central to Germany's ability to achieve its ambitious climate-protection goals under which it wants 20% of all fuel it uses to be made up of biofuels by 2020.

Experts said that target was now likely to be in jeopardy after the country's powerful car lobby headed by the German Automobile Club, the ADAC, and a group representing car importers, said that around 3.7m cars, approximately 200,000 of which are German-made, would not be able to process the mix.

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Secret U.S. Plan For Military Future In Iraq
2008-04-08 03:09:37
Document outlines powers but set no time limit on U.S. troop presence.

A confidential draft agreement covering the future of U.S. forces in Iraq, passed to the Guardian, shows that provision is being made for an open-ended military presence in the country.

The draft strategic framework agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments, dated March 7 and marked "secret" and "sensitive", is intended to replace the existing United Nations mandate and authorizes the U.S. to "conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security" without time limit.

The authorization is described as "temporary" and the agreement says the U.S. "does not desire permanent bases or a permanent military presence in Iraq", but the absence of a time limit or restrictions on the U.S. and other coalition forces - including the British - in the country means it is likely to be strongly opposed in Iraq and the U.S.

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International Monetary Fund May Sell 400 Tons Of Gold
2008-04-08 03:08:59
The International Monetary Fund's executive board has approved a broad financial overhaul plan that could lead to the eventual sale of a little over 400 tons of its substantial gold supplies.

The sale cannot occur without congressional approval as well as legislative action in many of the 184 other nations that are members of the Washington-based lending institution.

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn welcomed the board's decision Monday to propose a new framework for the fund, designed to close a projected $400 million budget deficit over the next few years.

It is "a landmark agreement that will put the institution on a solid financial footing and modernize the IMF's structure and operations," he said in a statement.

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Anxiety Increases Over Vulnerable Housing In Baghdad's Green Zone
2008-04-08 03:07:57
A little after sunrise on Easter Sunday, a mortar shell or rocket crashed into Paul Converse's trailer inside the Green Zone, the rigorously defended seat of U.S. power in Iraq. Converse, who once told his brother he felt safer in Iraq than on American freeways, died the next day.

Converse's death has underscored the vulnerability of housing facilities in the Green Zone to artillery and missile attack, spreading fear among thousands of security contractors, interpreters, American soldiers and embassy personnel.

A 56-year-old government auditor, Converse was the first of four Americans to die in Green Zone shelling in the past two weeks. Four days after Converse's death, Mazin Zwayne, a 62-year-old American civilian working for the Defense Department, was killed in a shelling attack. On Monday, shells killed two American soldiers and wounded 17 others. It is so far unclear whether the others were also killed in trailers, in part because the U.S. Embassy, citing security concerns, generally refuses to give details of where shells and rockets hit.

The embassy, in a memo obtained by The Post on Monday, has forbidden employees from sleeping in trailers or from spending long periods of time in them this Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, the anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose followers are blamed for Green Zone attacks, has planned a million-strong march in Baghdad to protest the U.S. presence in Iraq.

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Editorial: Another Test For Habeas Corpus
2008-04-07 16:01:37
Intellpuke: The following editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Monday, April 7, 2008.

One of the dismal hallmarks of the Bush administration’s conduct of the war on terror has been its obsession with avoiding outside scrutiny of its actions, including by the federal courts. In particular, it has attacked habeas corpus, the guarantee that prisoners can challenge their confinement before a judge. The administration is doing so again in an important Supreme Court case concerning the habeas rights of American citizens held abroad. The justices should rule that the detainees have a right to review by a United States court.

The two plaintiffs in the case, which was argued in March, are American civilians in Iraq. Shawqi Ahmad Omar and Mohammad Munaf are being held at an Army-run detention center in Baghdad, for transfer to the Iraqis on criminal charges. Mr. Munaf’s conviction on kidnapping charges was overturned, but he may face further charges. Mr. Omar was captured by the American military at his home in Baghdad, and was accused of harboring insurgent fighters. Both men claim to be innocent. Human rights groups warn that they could face torture if they are transferred to Iraqi custody.

Mr. Omar and Mr. Munaf are asking a federal court to review their confinement. Just four years ago, the Supreme Court upheld the habeas rights of an American citizen, Yaser Hamdi, who was captured by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in 2001, and then imprisoned in Navy brigs in the United States.

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Olympic Torch Extinguished 3 Times In Paris
2008-04-07 16:00:51
Protesters halted the Olympic torch relay in Paris Monday, forcing officials to extinguish the flame at least three times and carry the torch inside a bus for safety, despite a massive deployment of 3,000 police across the heart of the city.

The heavy security presence transformed the torch relay from a joyous celebration of the Olympics into a tense confrontation between police and demonstrators protesting China's crackdown on Tibet last month and its human rights record.

By late afternoon Paris time, with the relay hours behind schedule and facing continuous stops by protesters, officials gave up on finding a way to restart the procession. They said the torch would be carried by bus for the rest of the route, from the National Assembly building to the Stade de France sports complex, a distance of about 3.5 miles.

The decision was made by Olympic organizers and the Chinese Embassy, said police in Paris.

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Washington Post Wins 6 Pulitzer Prizes
2008-04-07 16:00:24
The Washington Post won six Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, the second-most any newspaper has won in a single year, including awards for reporting that helped define much of the national political dialogue last year.

The Post’s Dana Priest and Anne Hull won the prestigious public service award for revealing the neglect of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.Pulitzers also went to Jo Becker and Barton Gellman, who won the national reporting award for documenting the power and secrecy wielded by Vice President Dick Cheney,  and to Steve Fainaru, who won the international reporting prize for his examination of private security contractors in Iraq.

A Post economics columnist, Steve Pearlstein, won the prize for commentary, Gene Weingarten won the feature writing award for a long article on a world-famous violinist playing incognito for subway riders, and the paper’s staff won in the breaking news category for its coverage of the mass killing at Virginia Tech.

The New York Times won two awards. Walt Bogdanich and Jake Hooker won the investigative reporting prize for his articles about counterfeit and toxic drugs from China. The award was shared with the Chicago Tribune staff. The Times’s Amy Harmon won the explanatory journalism award for her reporting of the new world of genetic testing.

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Environment: Climate Target Is Not Radical Enough
2008-04-08 03:10:28
NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen warns the world must urgently make huge CO2 reductions.

One of the world's leading climate scientists warned Monday that the European Union and its international partners must urgently rethink targets for cutting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because of fears they have grossly underestimated the scale of the problem.

In a startling reappraisal of the threat, James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, calls for a sharp reduction in C02 limits.

Hansen says the E.U. target of 550 parts per million of C02 - the most stringent in the world - should be slashed to 350 parts per million. He argues the cut is needed if "humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed". A final version of the paper Hansen co-authored with eight other climate scientists, is posted Monday on the Archive website. Instead of using theoretical models to estimate the sensitivity of the climate, his team turned to evidence from the Earth's history, which they say gives a much more accurate picture.

The team studied core samples taken from the bottom of the ocean, which allow C02 levels to be tracked millions of years ago. They show that when the world began to glaciate at the start of the Ice age about 35 million years ago, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere stood at about 450 parts per million.

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Asian Inflation Begins To Sting U.S. Shoppers
2008-04-08 03:10:03
The free ride for American consumers is ending. For two generations, Americans have imported goods produced ever more cheaply from a succession of low-wage countries - first Japan and Korea, then China, and now increasingly places like Vietnam and India.

Yet mounting inflation in the developing world, especially Asia, is threatening that arrangement, and not just in China, where rising energy and labor costs have already made exports to the United States more expensive, but in the lower-cost alternatives to China, too.

“Inflation is the major threat to Asian countries,” said Jong-Wha Lee, the head of the Asian Development Bank’s office of regional economic integration.

It is also a threat to Western consumers because Asian exporters, even in very poor countries, are passing their rising costs on to customers.

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Petraeus, Crocker To Face Impatient Congress
2008-04-08 03:09:19

In a reprise of their testimony last September, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker  plan to tell Congress Tuesday and Wednesday that security has improved in Iraq and that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has taken steps toward political reconciliation and economic stability.

Unlike in September, when that news was fresh and the administration said a corner had been turned, even some of the war's strongest supporters in Congress have grown impatient and frustrated. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and Crocker will face many lawmakers who had expected more by now and who are wondering whether any real change will occur before the clock runs out on the Bush administration.

"I think all of us realize we're disappointed at where we are," Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) said at a hearing last week. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minnesota) asked, "How do we get out of this mess?" While the cost in U.S. lives and money increases, said another senior Republicansenator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity: "We cannot ... just say we're coasting through and waiting for the next president."

Among the questions these and other lawmakers said they plan to ask Petraeus and Crocker is why the United States is still paying for Iraqi domestic needs ranging from military training to garbage pickup when the Maliki government has $30 billion in reserves - held in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland - as well as $10 billion in a development fund, significant budgetary surpluses from previous years and a projected 7 percent economic growth rate for 2008.

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Carlyle Fund To Invest In Distressed Companies
2008-04-08 03:08:24
The Carlyle Group has formed a $1.35 billion fund to troll for bruised companies and securities less than a month after the failure of one of its own investments.

The Washington, D.C.-based private-equity firm closed the new fund, Carlyle Strategic Partners II, last week, Carlyle said Monday. The fund will look for solid companies and investments whose value has been beaten down by the current economic malaise.

"We are a deep-value investor that is investing in everything from the top of the capital structure in distressed bank debt and bonds to buying a distressed company," said Raymond A. Whiteman, co-head of Carlyle's distressed investing activities.

Whiteman said that Carlyle planned to accept $500 million for the fund but that hungry investors piled $1.35 billion into CSP II.

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Newsblog: McCain Makes His Case For Staying In Iraq
2008-04-07 16:01:54
Speaking just a day before Gen. David Petraeus will testify before Congress about progress in the war in Iraq, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) said this morning his Democratic rivals' promise to withdraw amounts to "the height of irresponsibility" and "a failure of leadership."

In a 27-minute address at the National World War I Museum here in Kansas City, Missouri, McCain laid out his most detailed argument for continuing the Iraq occupation in several months. Although he emphasized that he was eager to minimize America's presence there, saying, "Our goal is an Iraq that no longer needs American troops," he argued the U.S. must stay for now in order to capitalize on the military gains it has made over the past year.

"The job of bringing security to Iraq is not finished," the senator said at the event, hosted by Veterans of Foreign Wars. "But there is no doubt about the basic reality in Iraq: We are no longer staring into the abyss of defeat, and we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success. ... The fact is, we now have a great opportunity, not only to bring stability and freedom to Iraq, but to make Iraq a pillar of our future strategy for the entire region of the greater Middle East."

Although McCain has planned a series of events in the coming weeks to spotlight the economy, today's speech highlights the extent to which he still sees his political fortunes tied to the war in Iraq. Rather than dwelling on the recent spike in violence there, he pointed to the fact that sectarian violence has declined there since the surge began. Conceding that "four years of a badly conceived military strategy had brought us almost to the point of no return" and that "much more needs to be done" in terms of political progress, McCain said Democratic Sens. Barack Obama (Illinois) and Hillary Clinton (New York) and their colleagues were pushing for "a hasty withdrawal from Iraq" that could destabilize the Middle East. That line, along with his comments, "We must put the nation's interests above our own ambitions" and "I do not believe anyone should make promises they cannot keep if elected," drew sustained applause from the friendly audience of nearly 200.
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Moqtada Al-Sadr Calls For Dialogue In Iraq
2008-04-07 16:01:24
Aides to Moqtada al-Sadr called Monday for dialogue to resolve a violent standoff with the Iraqi government, saying that the radical Shiite cleric would disband his militia if senior religious leaders ordered it.

The overture came as Baghdad's main Shiite district of Sadr City faced continued clashes between al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia fighters and Iraqi troops backed by U.S. forces.

Also Monday, a U.S. soldier was killed by small-arms fire after a roadside bombing in Baghdad, the military said, pushing the two-day American death toll to at least eight. The attack occurred in an eastern section of the capital which has been the site of the fiercest clashes since al-Sadr ordered a cease-fire a week ago Sunday.

At least nine civilians were killed in fighting Monday in Sadr City, including five children and two women, pushing the two-day death toll to at least 25. Dozens were wounded.

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Yahoo Reject Microsoft Bid - Again
2008-04-07 16:00:39
Yahoo on Monday reiterated its rejection of a takeover offer from Microsoft, again calling it too low.

The company was responding to a letter from Microsoft that threatened to lower the price of its buyout offer and take it directly to Yahoo shareholders.

Although Microsoft’s offer was initially valued at $31 a share, a drop in the price of Microsoft shares has reduced the offer to just more than $29 a share.

Microsoft’s chief executive, Steven A. Ballmer, raised the pressure on Yahoo’s directors on Saturday in a letter warning that Microsoft would begin a proxy fight seeking to oust them if the two companies did not reach a negotiated deal in the next three weeks.

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Diana Unlawfully Killed Rules Coroner's Jury
2008-04-07 16:00:09
A coroner's jury ruled Monday that Princess Diana and boyfriend Dodi Fayed were unlawfully killed through the reckless actions of their driver and the paparazzi in 1997.

The jury had been told that a verdict of unlawful killing would mean that they believed the reckless behavior of the driver and paparazzi amounted to manslaughter. It was the most serious verdict available to them.

New criminal charges are unlikely because the incident happened in France outside the British authorities' jurisdiction, said a court spokesman.

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