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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday April 9 2008 - (813)

Wednesday April 9 2008 edition
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IMF: Credit Crisis Will Inflict $1 Trillion In Losses
2008-04-08 23:52:29

The credit crunch could cost the world's banking system the best part of $1 trillion (£500 billion), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Tuesday, in the highest estimate yet of the damage that could be inflicted by the crisis.

The IMF's half-yearly Global Financial Stability Report said: "The events of the past six months have demonstrated the fragility of the global financial system and raised fundamental questions about the effectiveness of the response by private and public sector institutions."

The world's financial system has come under increasing strain and the risks remained "elevated", said the multinational institution.

The IMF estimated losses in mortgage markets in the U.S. resulting from the meltdown in sub-prime loans and related securities could mount up to $565 billion. Adding other categories of loans related to commercial property, the consumer credit market and corporations, increases aggregate potential losses to about $945 billion, the IMF said, adding it was worried about the fallout on the global economy.

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U.N.: Food Price Rises Threaten Global Security
2008-04-08 23:51:50
Hunger riots will destabilize weak governments, says senior U.N. official.

Rising food prices could spark worldwide unrest and threaten political stability, the United Nations' top humanitarian official warned Tuesday after two days of rioting in Egypt over the doubling of prices of basic foods in a year and protests in other parts of the world.

Sir John Holmes, undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and the U.N.'s emergency relief coordinator, told a conference in Dubai that escalating prices would trigger protests and riots in vulnerable nations. He said food scarcity and soaring fuel prices would compound the damaging effects of global warming. Prices have risen 40% on average globally since last summer.

"The security implications [of the food crisis] should also not be underestimated as food riots are already being reported across the globe," said Holmes. "Current food price trends are likely to increase sharply both the incidence and depth of food insecurity."

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Editorial: More Time For More Of The Same
2008-04-08 23:50:56
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Tuesday, April 8, 2008.

Americans this week get another chance to take stock of President Bush’s war-without-end in Iraq. Gen. David Petraeus, the military commander in Baghdad, has already signaled his bottom line: there should be a pause in the withdrawal of American troops.

We’re not sure which specific argument the general will make: there is too much progress for American troops to leave now - or not enough. Either way, it is clear that neither he nor Mr. Bush have a strategy for ending America’s disastrous involvement in Iraq.

Fifteen months ago, President Bush acknowledged that violence in Iraq had gotten so out of control that he needed to send 20,000 more troops into the war zone. Improved security, he argued, would allow Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds the space to reach political compromises and develop a shared vision of the future so they and their country could move forward.

Since then, violence has declined, the economy is showing signs of life and Parliament has adopted a budget and passed a law granting amnesty to thousands of Sunnis and others in Iraqi jails. This has produced ceaseless cheerleading from the White House - and Monday’s assertion from Senator John McCain that America “can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success.” Expect a lot more cheerleading over the next two days.

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U.K. Housing Market Slumps 2.5% In March
2008-04-08 23:50:16

U.K. housing prices tumbled by 2.5% in March, the biggest monthly fall since the depths of the last housing market slump in the 1990s, the Halifax reported Tuesday. Amid warnings that house prices could fall by 20% or more before they start to recover, the country's largest mortgage lender said the yearly rate of house price inflation had fallen to just 1.1%, from 4.2% in February. This week Halifax raised some of its lending rates in response to the credit crisis.

The monthly fall was the second consecutive drop and also the second worst figure in the 25-year history of the Halifax housing survey, one of the most important measures of house prices. Gordon Brown responded to growing signs of a slump in the housing market by proposing that ministers meet the Council of Mortgage Lenders in the next few days to ensure banks phase in higher rates and give mortgage payers clear warning of them. Ministers are concerned that as many as 4 million mortgage payers are facing a big rise in interest payments over the next year.

The other main housing index, from the Nationwide, showed prices fell 0.6% in March, the fifth monthly decline in a row. Nationwide, which released its data at the end of March, also put the annual rate of change at 1.1%, its lowest since 1996. On the back of its latest numbers, the Halifax cut its house price forecast to a small decline this year.

Halifax said prices fell 1% in the first quarter of this year, compared with the last quarter of 2007, and there had been a mixed regional picture in the first three months of the year. The biggest rises were in Greater London, where prices rose 1.6%, although that contradicted other surveys which have suggested asking prices are holding up but agents are reporting an absence of demand, particularly from first-time buyers.

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Newsblog: CO2 Map Zooms In On Emissions
2008-04-08 23:49:23
Scientists have high hopes for a new system of mapping carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.

U.S. scientists have unveiled a new, high-resolution interactive map which tracks patterns of CO2 emissions coming from fossil fuels burned daily across the country.

The maps and system, called Vulcan, show CO2 emissions in more than 100 times greater detail than was previously available. Until now, scientists say, data on carbon dioxide emissions was reported monthly at a statewide level.

The new Vulcan model, however, can map CO2 emissions at local levels on an hourly basis. It can drill down to individual factories, power plants, roads, commercial districts and neighborhoods, and identify the level of fuel type, economic sector and country/state.

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Iran Installing 6,000 Centrifuges At Nuclear Facility
2008-04-08 16:17:24
Iran announced Tuesday a significant expansion of its plans to enrich uranium despite the United Nations Security Council's demand that it halt the program. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a visit to Iran’s main enrichment complex at Natanz that the country had started installing 6,000 centrifuges at the facility, in addition to the existing 3,000 centrifuges already at the facility.

Western experts cautioned that Tehran’s technical claims often exceed its grasp and in the past they have greeted such pronouncements by Iran with skepticism. While they have confirmed that Iran currently has 3,000 operating centrifuges, there was no confirmation on Iran’s latest claims.

If it is successful, Iran’s actions would triple the size of its industrial base and mark a major expansion in Iran’s program to enrich uranium. Enrichment can make fuel for civilian nuclear reactors or, if taken to higher levels, nuclear warheads.

The United States and some Western countries accuse Iran of having a clandestine nuclear weapons program but Iran contends that its program is peaceful and for civilian purposes only.

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Washington Mutual Gets $7 Billion Infusion, Sees Big Loss
2008-04-08 16:16:55
Washington Mutual Inc, the largest U.S. savings and loan, said Tuesday it received a $7 billion capital injection from private equity firm TPG Inc and other investors.

The thrift also said it expects to report a first-quarter loss of $1.1 billion, or $1.40 per share. It expects to set aside $3.5 billion in the quarter for loan losses, nearly twice as much as it previously projected, and said net charge-offs will total $1.4 billion.

Separately, the Seattle, Washington-based thrift set plans to reduce its mortgage operations by closing all its freestanding home loan offices, and to stop offering home loans through brokers.

WaMu, as the thrift is known, also said it will reduce its quarterly dividend per share to 1 cent from 15 cents, saving $490 million a year. The cut is the second in four months.
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Petraeus Says Iraq Security 'Fragile And Reversible'
2008-04-08 16:16:01

The top U.S. military commander in Iraq told a Senate committee today that improved security in Iraq is "fragile and reversible" and recommended a pause in the withdrawal of U.S. forces after mid-July.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he has recommended to his superiors that the military continue rolling back a "surge" of U.S. forces that President Bush ordered last year in response to deteriorating security in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq. After U.S. forces are reduced to their pre-buildup level by mid-July, said Petraeus, the military should suspend the withdrawals and begin a 45-day period of "consolidation and evaluation."

At the end of that period, he said, he has recommended starting "a process of assessment to examine the conditions on the ground and, over time, determine when we can make recommendations for further reductions." He strongly counseled against setting any deadlines for withdrawal.

"This approach does not allow establishment of a set withdrawal timetable," he said in his prepared statement. Instead, he said, it provides "the flexibility those of us on the ground need to preserve the still fragile security gains our troopers have fought so hard and sacrificed so much to achieve."

The committee chairman, Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Michigan), disputed Petraeus' generally optimistic assessment of the situation in Iraq and challenged him on his recommendation for a suspension of U.S. withdrawals.

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Violence Spreads In Zimbabwe
2008-04-08 16:14:56
Opposition officials accused Zimbabwe’s ruling party on Tuesday of orchestrating a campaign of violence in remote rural areas in an effort to intimidate opponents of President Robert G. Mugabe ahead of a likely runoff election.

The accusations came amid growing reports that ruling party loyalists were escalating their invasions of white-owned farms and driving the farmers off their land.

Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe for 28 years, has virtually conceded that he did not win the March 29 presidential elections. Though results of the poll remain secret 10 days after the election, he already is campaigning for an expected runoff against the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, by intimidating his foes and exploiting racial tensions.

“There has been massive violence inside the country since the 29th,” said Tendai Biti, secretary general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

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Shark Attack Kills 16-Year-Old Off Australian Coast
2008-04-08 16:14:07
A shark attacked and killed a teenage boy Tuesday while he and a friend were bodyboarding off Australia's eastern coast, said officials.

The 16-year-old was about 50 meters (yards) from shore when the shark attacked around 8 a.m., said lifeguard spokesman Stephen Leahy. Police said the boy's friend was already out of the water when he looked back and saw his friend "in distress" and swam back to bring his friend to the beach.

The victim suffered two large bites, one to the leg and one to the body. He died of extreme blood loss while lifeguards and paramedics tried to save him.

"We had multiple paramedics en route to the scene as well as the rescue helicopter," New South Wales Ambulance spokeswoman Penelope Little told Sky News television. "But, tragically, the young boy has died at the scene."
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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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Corporate Deals Replace Trials At U.S. Justice Dept.
2008-04-08 23:52:08
In 2005, federal authorities concluded that a Monsanto consultant had visited the home of an Indonesian official and, with the approval of a senior company executive, handed over an envelope stuffed with hundred-dollar bills. The money was meant as a bribe to win looser environmental regulations for Monsanto’s cotton crops, according to a court document. Monsanto was also caught concealing the bribe with fake invoices.

A few years earlier, in the age of Enron, these kinds of charges would probably have resulted in a criminal indictment. Instead, Monsanto was allowed to pay $1 million and avoid criminal prosecution by entering into a monitoring agreement with the Justice Department.

In a major shift of policy, the Justice Department, once known for taking down giant corporations, including the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, has put off prosecuting more than 50 companies suspected of wrongdoing over the last three years.

Instead, many companies, from boutique outfits to immense corporations like American Express, have avoided the cost and stigma of defending themselves against criminal charges with a so-called deferred prosecution agreement, which allows the government to collect fines and appoint an outside monitor to impose internal reforms without going through a trial. In many cases, the name of the monitor and the details of the agreement are kept secret.

Deferred prosecutions have become a favorite tool of the Bush administration, but some legal experts now wonder if the policy shift has led companies, in particular financial institutions now under investigation for their roles in the subprime mortgage debacle, to test the limits of corporate anti-fraud laws.

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Environment: As Prices Rise, Farmers Spurn Conservation
2008-04-08 23:51:37

Out on the farm, the ducks and pheasants are losing ground.

Thousands of farmers are taking their fields out of the government’s biggest conservation program, which pays them not to cultivate. They are spurning guaranteed annual payments for a chance to cash in on the boom in wheat, soybeans, corn and other crops. Last fall, they took back as many acres as are in Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Environmental and hunting groups are warning that years of progress could soon be lost, particularly with the native prairie in the Upper Midwest. But a broad coalition of baking, poultry, snack food, ethanol and livestock groups say bigger harvests are a more important priority than habitats for waterfowl and other wildlife. They want the government to ease restrictions on the preserved land, which would encourage many more farmers to think beyond conservation.

Kerry Dockter, a rancher in Denhoff, North Dakota, has about 450 acres of grassland in the program. “When this program first came about, it was a pretty good thing,” he said. “But times have definitely changed.”

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Africa Must Stop Zimbabwe Violence, Bloodshed
2008-04-08 23:50:28

African states must intervene in Zimbabwe to prevent bloodshed, the opposition said Tuesday, accusing President Robert Mugabe of trying to provoke violence as a pretext for a state of emergency.

"I say to my brothers and sisters across the continent - don't wait for dead bodies in the streets of Harare. There is a constitutional and legal crisis in Zimbabwe," Movement for Democratic Change Secretary-General Tendai Biti told a news conference.

He said the ruling Zanu-PF party had launched a violent campaign against opposition supporters following a stalemate over March 29 elections.

The MDC's leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, says he won the presidential vote and should be declared president immediately, ending the 28-year rule of Mugabe, whose critics accuse him of reducing a once prosperous nation to misery.

Zimbabwe has inflation of more than 100,000%, an unemployment rate above 80% and chronic shortages of food and fuel. Millions have fled abroad, most of them to South Africa.

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Commentary: The Occupation Has Frozen Iraq. All Else Is Tinkering.
2008-04-08 23:49:50
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by journalist and author Simon Jenkins, a frequent contributor to Britain's Guardian newspaper and the Sunday Times. It appeared in the Guardian edition for Wednesday, April 9, 2008.

The British troops encamped outside Basra resemble Davy Crockett's colleagues in the Alamo. Nobody will come to their rescue. Their position is hopeless. They cannot win. They cannot escape. Their boss, the defense secretary Des Browne, has emphasized their political entombment by reneging on [Prime Minister] Gordon Brown's pledge to reduce their numbers by a half this spring. The American general, David Petraeus, Tuesday said the same of his troops. He wants 140,000 of them to remain at the end of the current surge, dashing hopes that their numbers might come down. The occupation of Iraq is now officially indefinite. Too many politicians have too much to lose by contemplating retreat.

Reports from Iraq indicate that the military operations of the past two weeks in Basra and Baghdad were treated by the Americans (or at least by the vice-president, Dick Cheney, who visited Baghdad last month) as a milestone in the occupation of Iraq. Coalition spokesmen were to declare themselves in the dark, indicating Iraq's ability to look after itself and thus vindicating the 2006 surge policy.

The military objective of the policy was clear. The "awakening" movement divided the Sunnis into good guys and bad guys and has largely worked, backing to the hilt any gunmen likely to hold al-Qaeda influence in check. A policy of ghetto-ization in Baghdad has kept Sunnis and Shias apart and reduced the body count.

Phase two was aimed at the Shias. The prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was told to show his ability to end the emerging civil war within the Shia community. On the one side were the trained Mahdist irregulars of Moqtada al-Sadr, on the other a ramshackle alliance of an unreliable army, a corrupt police and various Badr militias loyal to the moderate Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. If Maliki could not put an end to Sadr's chaotic insurrection, progress in Iraq would be inconceivable.

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Fed Reserve Officials Worried About Deep Recession
2008-04-08 16:17:36
Worries about a deep recession - not a shallow one - drove Federal Reserve policymakers to slash a key interest rate last month, meeting minutes show.

Even as the Fed battled in almost unprecedented fashion to stem a widening credit and housing slump, some members fretted over the possibility of a "prolonged and severe" economic downturn. It was in that environment that they voted - with two dissents - to cut its most important interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point to 2.25 percent. That action capped the most aggressive Fed intervention in a quarter-century.

Some Fed policymakers thought that such a widening recession could not be ruled out given the "further restriction of credit availability and ongoing weakness in the housing market," according to the meeting minutes that were made public Tuesday.

Two Fed members - Charles Plosser, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, and Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas - opposed such a big rate reduction, however. They favored a smaller cut because of concerns about a potential inflation flare-up. It was a crack in the mostly unified front that the fed often has projected to the public.

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Existing Home Sales Index Nose Dives To Lowest Level On Record
2008-04-08 16:17:12
Pending sales of previously owned homes fell a bigger-than-expected 1.9% in February to the lowest level on record, according to a report from a real estate trade group today that pointed to more troubles in the beleaguered housing market.

The National Association of Realtors' (NAR) Pending Home Sales Index, based on sales contracts signed in February and seen as a key barometer of future housing sales activity, fell to 84.6 in February from 86.2. That was the lowest reading since the trade group began tracking this data in 2001.

Compared to a year ago, pending sales were down 21.4%, according to the group.

Economists polled ahead of the report were expecting a monthly decline of 0.7%. January's reading was revised up to a 0.3% gain after an initial flat reading.
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U.S. Army's Weapons Upgrade Faces Big Hurdles
2008-04-08 16:16:31

The U.S. Army is in the early stages of developing the most expensive weapons program in its history, but the project could already be in jeopardy because it largely depends on three separate military programs that have been plagued by cost overruns, immature technologies and timetable delays.

At stake is what the Army calls its most ambitious modernization since World War II - Future Combat Systems, a new generation of weapons, combat vehicles, robots and sensors connected to a wireless network. Imagine, for instance, a battlefield on which soldiers use remote-control devices to position hovering drones over an enemy encampment, then send those coordinates to a box of rockets that can launch and strike a moving target.

It's a costly vision: In the complicated math of the military, the Army said the program will cost $124 billion, or $162 billion including inflation. Independent estimates from the office of the Secretary of Defense price the project at $203 billion to $234 billion.

None of those figures takes into account the expense of three complementary military programs that are supposed to serve as a critical communications network for Future Combat Systems. The three projects - the development of high-speed radios, a wireless network and satellites - are expected to be used by different parts of the military and cost about $80 billion combined, a figure that has risen by about $29 billion in recent years.

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Riots Erupt In Kenya As Peace Talks Falter
2008-04-08 16:15:22
Riots erupted in Kenya on Tuesday as opposition leaders announced that they were suspending talks with the government over a stalled power sharing agreement.

According to witnesses, dozens of young men stormed into the streets of Kibera, a sprawling slum in the capital, Nairobi, lighting bonfires, ripping up railroad tracks and throwing rocks at police officers in a scene reminiscent of the violence that convulsed Kenya in the wake of the Dec. 27 election.

“No cabinet, no peace!” the protesters yelled, referring to the stillborn cabinet that has yet to be formed because of bitter divisions between the government and the opposition.

This is the first major riot since Feb. 28, when rival politicians signed a power sharing agreement that was billed as the only way to end weeks of bloodshed after the disputed presidential election.

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Officials Confirm 2 Arrests At West Texas Polygamist Compound
2008-04-08 16:14:22
Two men have been arrested at a West Texas polygamist compound since raids there began last week, Department of Public Safety officials said Tuesday.

Levi Barlow Jeffs was charged with a misdemeanor for interfering with a law enforcement officer on the compound over the weekend. Leroy Johnson Steed was arrested on Monday night and charged with a third degree felony for tampering with evidence. DPS spokeswoman Lisa Block said she couldn't provide more details.

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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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