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Friday, May 16, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday May 16 2008 - (813)

Friday May 16 2008 edition
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California Supreme Court Overturns Gay Marriage Ban
2008-05-15 14:58:34
The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that same-sex couples should be permitted to marry, rejecting state marriage laws as discriminatory.

The state high court's 4-3 ruling was unlikely to end the debate over gay matrimony in California. A group has circulated petitions for a November ballot initiative that would amend the state Constitution to block same-sex marriage, while the Legislature has twice passed bills to authorize gay marriage. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both.

The long-awaited court opinion, written by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, stemmed from San Francisco's highly publicized same-sex weddings, which in 2004 helped spur a conservative backlash in a presidential election year and a national dialogue over gay rights.

Several states have since passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Today, 27 states have such amendments.

The reaction to Thursday's ruling outside the courthouse in San Francisco was one of jubilation as couples, once denied marriage, hugged, kissed, shouted and shook their fists at the sky. Holding up a sign that says, "Life feels different when you're married," Helen Pontac said she was beyond words.
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Bush's 'Appeasement' Remark Hits Nerve
2008-05-15 14:58:02
Addressing the Israeli parliament, President Bush set off a political firestorm today with an apparent criticism of Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential hopeful, over his position on negotiating with some dictatorships.

Obama, who has pledged to talk to regimes in Iran, Cuba and North Korea, promptly accused the Bush White House of launching "a false political attack" for suggesting such outreach amounts to appeasing dictators.

In a speech to Israel's Knesset marking the 60th anniversary of that country's independence, Bush said, "Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along."

Comparing "this foolish delusion" to the reaction of an American senator to Adolf Hitler's rise in 1939, Bush said, "We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

Obama issued a statement calling it "sad" that Bush used the speech to take a partisan shot. "George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president's extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel," he said in a statement.
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Chinese Soldiers Rush To Bolster Dams Weakened By Earthquake
2008-05-15 03:52:58
China mobilized 30,000 additional soldiers to the earthquake-shattered expanses of the nation’s southwestern regions on Wednesday - not just to help victims, but also to shore up weakened dams and other elements of the infrastructure whose failure could compound the disaster.

Experts said that these dams were built around the well-recognized Longmen Shan fault. They warned that such dams might have sustained damage that could cause them to fail even weeks later.

Much depends on efforts to reduce the menacing pressure of water behind the dam walls. Two thousand soldiers were sent to a dam just three miles upriver from the devastated town of Dujiangyan, northwest of the provincial capital of Chengdu, to inspect a structure that has shown some cracks and is “in great danger,” according to state-controlled China National Radio.

Dams and their electric generators are only the most visible aspects of the infrastructure battered by the earthquake: The region also is the site of the cities of Guangyuan and Mianyang, which are home to plants that build Chinese nuclear arms and process plutonium for the weapons. It is not clear whether the plants suffered damage.

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Major Study: World's Wildlife And Environment Already Hit By Global Warming
2008-05-15 03:52:10

Global warming is disrupting wildlife and the environment on every continent, according to an unprecedented study that reveals the extent to which climate change is already affecting the world's ecosystems.

Scientists examined published reports dating back to 1970 and found that at least 90% of environmental damage and disruption around the world could be explained by rising temperatures driven by human activity.

Big falls in Antarctic penguin populations, fewer fish in African lakes, shifts in American river flows and earlier flowering and bird migrations in Europe are all likely to be driven by global warming, the study found.

The team of experts, including members of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from America, Europe, Australia and China, is the first to formally link some of the most dramatic changes to the world's wildlife and habitats with human-induced climate change.

In the study, which appears in the journal Nature, researchers analyzed reports highlighting changes in populations or behavior of 28,800 animal and plant species. They examined a further 829 reports that focused on different environmental effects, including surging rivers, retreating glaciers and shifting forests, across the seven continents.

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Study: Sites In U.S. National Forests At Grave Risk
2008-05-15 03:50:30

Millions of historic sites, crumbling and collapsing in national forests around the country, are in danger of being lost forever, according to a study set to be released today by a prominent preservation group.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation estimates that only a small slice of about 2 million "cultural resources" that sit on 193 million acres managed by the U.S. Forest Service have been properly preserved.

Their deterioration has been accelerated by vandalism, theft, fire, damage from off-road vehicles and other recreation, as well as oil and gas extraction, mining, timber harvesting and grazing, the study found.

The resources include Native American archaeological sites, Civil War battlefields, ranger stations, fire lookout towers, cabins and camps built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

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John Edwards Throws Support To Obama
2008-05-15 03:48:36
Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards gave his long-sought endorsement to Sen. Barack Obama  Wednesday night, calling on Democrats to unite behind him and turn their attention to the fall campaign.

"The reason I am here tonight," Edwards declared, "is the voters have made their choice, and so have I."

Edwards had been heavily courted by Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton since he quit the race three months ago. His decision to climb off the fence with just five contests remaining is likely to yield limited benefits, but it sends a strong signal that Edwards, at least, thinks the nomination battle is over.

Appearing with Obama at a rally here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the former senator from North Carolina and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee gave what sounded in places like a eulogy for Clinton's candidacy, praising her tenacity and describing her as "made of steel." But he emphasized that the party must now get behind Obama.

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China Warns Earthquake Death Toll May Reach 50,000
2008-05-15 14:58:16
China warned the death toll from this week's earthquake could soar to 50,000, while the government issued a public appeal today for rescue equipment as it struggled to cope with the disaster.

More than 72 hours after the quake rattled central China, rescuers appeared to shift from poring through downed buildings for survivors to the grim duty of searching for bodies - with 10 million directly affected by Monday's temblor.

At least 12,300 people remained buried and another 102,100 were injured in Sichuan province, where the quake was centered, the vice governor told reporters.

In Luoshui town - on the road to an industrial zone in Shifang city where two chemical plants collapsed, burying hundreds of people - troops used a mechanical shovel to dig a pit on a hilltop to bury the dead.
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Bank Of England: Britain Heading Toward Recession
2008-05-15 03:53:11

Britain Prime Minister Gordon Brown's drive to recapture the political agenda with a program of new laws to create "an opportunity-rich Britain" was badly shaken Wednesday by a warning from the governor of the Bank of England that the British economy is heading towards a recession.

"The nice decade is behind us," Mervyn King declared in funereal tones, warning that the economy was "traveling along a bumpy road" as he predicted rising prices would put a squeeze on take-home pay for millions of workers.

"As those price increases feed through to household bills, they will lead to a squeeze on real take-home pay, which will slow consumer spending and output growth, perhaps sharply," said the governor.

Unveiling his draft legislative program of 18 bills offering people a greater say over schools, policing and health services in their area, the prime minister said Britain could avoid a recession. He even asked the public to "judge and test" him on the basis of his stewardship of the economy.

Brown promised: "We will see Britain through this difficult time. In the past we were first in and last out of a recession. In the last 11 years we have avoided recession and we will emerge from this world slowdown stronger and better, both as a country and a government."

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U.S. House Passes Farm Bill By A Veto-Proof Margin
2008-05-15 03:52:36
Ignoring a veto threat from President Bush, who says he wants to sharply limit government subsidies to farmers at a time of near-record commodity prices and soaring global demand for grain, the House on Wednesday approved a five-year, $307 billion farm bill with a solid bipartisan majority.

The House voted 318 to 106 - well above the two-thirds needed to hand Bush the second veto override of his presidency - with 100 Republicans joining the Democratic majority in favor.

The Senate is expected to follow suit with wide bipartisan support on Thursday, sending Bush a bill that he described this week as bloated and expensive and said “resorts to a variety of gimmicks.”

The bill includes a $10.3 billion increase in spending on nutrition programs, including food stamps, that supporters called “historic,” as well as increases for rural development and land conservation programs.

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Republican Election Losses Stir Fall Fears
2008-05-15 03:51:49
The Republican defeat in a special Congressional contest in Mississippi sent waves of apprehension across an already troubled party Wednesday, with some senior Republicans urging Congressional candidates to distance themselves from President Bush to head off what could be heavy losses in the fall.

The victory by Travis Childers, a conservative Democrat elected in a once-steadfast Republican district on Tuesday, was the third defeat of a Republican in a special Congressional race this year. In addition to foreshadowing more losses for the party in November, the outcome appeared to call into question the belief that Senator Barack Obama,  of Illinois, could be a heavy liability for his party’s down-ticket candidates in conservative regions.

Republicans had sought to link Childers to Obama in an advertising campaign there. Republican leaders said they were looking to Senator John McCain, of Arizona, the likely Republican nominee, as a model whose independent reputation appears to allow him to rise above party in a year when the Republican label seems tarnished.

McCain’s advisers said the Mississippi race underlined his intention to distance himself as much as possible from Congressional Republicans. McCain has already been openly critical of some of President Bush’s strategies.

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Fears For Brazil Rainforest As Environment Minister Quits
2008-05-15 03:49:32

Fears for the future of the world's biggest tropical rainforest grew Wednesday, after the sudden resignation of Brazil's environment minister, Marina Silva.

Environmentalists had seen Silva, 50, who was born in the Brazilian Amazon, as an important ally in the fight against the destruction of the country's rainforest, 20% of which they believe has been destroyed.

In her resignation letter to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the president, on Tuesday, Silva said her decision was the result of difficulties she was facing in "pursuing the federal environmental agenda". She said her efforts to protect the environment had faced "growing resistance ... [from] important sectors of the government and society". Two other top environmental officials, including Bazileu Margarido, the president of Brazil's environmental agency, Ibama, also resigned.

Sergio Leitao, the director of public policy for Greenpeace in Brazil, said Silva had taken her decision because of pressure from within the government to relax laws outlawing bank loans to those who destroyed the rainforest.

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Astronomers Announce Discovery Of Youngest Supernova
2008-05-15 03:48:06

Scientists Wednesday reported the discovery of the youngest supernova in the Milky Way, ending a 50-year search for the exploded stars that remain mysteriously difficult to spot in our galaxy.

The supernova, given the obscure name of G1.9+0.3, was detected via remnants from the powerful, element-rich blast it set off an estimated 140 years ago. The youngest previously known supernova, called Cassiopeia A, was 330 years old.

Astronomers have scoured the skies for supernovae since Cassiopeia surfaced in the 1950s. Only a half-dozen of the stellar explosions have been noted in the last millennium, but somewhere between 20 and 30 should be occurring in the Milky Way based on galactic evidence.

"It's clear that we've not been getting our share [of supernovae] … this lack is a significant puzzle," said North Carolina state university scientist Stephen Reynolds, who aided in the search.

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