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Monday, May 26, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday May 26 2008 - (813)

Monday May 26 2008 edition
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Obama Speaks At Wesleyan University Commencement
2008-05-26 02:53:09
Snipers crouched on roofs and Secret Service agents patrolled the field as Wesleyan University's class of 2008 participated Sunday in a commencement ceremony few attendees are likely to forget.

Under a clear blue sky, Sen. Barack Obama stood before the 737 graduating seniors and 120 doctoral graduates. Thousands of visitors blanketing a hill overlooking the ceremony rose to their feet in applause. Many had no connection to the school, and no tickets, but they cheered along with Wesleyan families and friends.

"At a time of war, we need you to work for peace," Obama (D-Illinois) told the graduates. "At a time of inequality, we need you to work for opportunity. At a time of so much cynicism and so much doubt, we need you to make us believe again. That's your task, class of 2008."

Last week, no one here could have expected the graduation would turn into such a spectacle. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) had been the scheduled speaker, but when he was hospitalized last week - and was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor - Obama, the Democratic presidential front-runner, was tapped to take his place.
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Thunderstorms, Hail And Tornadoes Leave 8 Dead In Iowa, Minnesota
2008-05-26 02:52:47
Severe thunderstorms packing large hail and tornadoes rumbled across the nation's midsection on Sunday, killing at least eight people and damaging dozens of homes, authorities said.

Iowa Homeland Security administrator Dave Miller said seven of the dead were killed by a tornado in northeast Iowa - five from Parkersburg, 80 miles northeast of Des Moines, and two from nearby New Hartford. At least 50 injuries were reported.

"Occasionally we have a death but we have warning system. Seven deaths. It's been a long time since we've had those kinds of injuries and deaths reported," said Miller.

Witnesses reported parts of Parkersburg - particularly the town's south side - were reduced to rubble, including most of the town's high school and homes.

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Aftershock Hits China, At Least 2 Dead, 71,000 Homes Destroyed
2008-05-26 02:52:13
The strongest aftershock since a May 12 earthquake devastated parts of Sichuan province struck the area Sunday afternoon, killing two people, injuring more than 480 and spreading panic through a region just beginning to move from rescue operations to rebuilding.

The 5.8-magnitude aftershock was centered about 25 miles west of Guangyuan city, 155 miles northeast of the provincial capital of Chengdu, said the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

An estimated 71,000 homes were destroyed, according to the New China News Agency. 

"All the buildings shook violently. Drivers lost control of their cars and were driving in a crazy manner," said An Qiang, manager of a hotel in Guangyuan that was damaged in the initial temblor. "It wasn't as bad as the main earthquake ... but still, from the bottom of my heart, I feel a kind of panic."

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Lebanon's Parliament Elects General As Nation's President
2008-05-26 02:51:18
Lebanon's parliament elected the army commander, Gen. Michel Suleiman, as president Sunday, filling a post vacant for six months and bringing a symbolic if tenuous end to the country's worst crisis since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990.

The vote for Suleiman was virtually uncontested, already agreed to in a deal negotiated in Qatar last week that ended an 18-month confrontation between forces allied with the government and the opposition led by the Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah. Postponed 19 times, the election marked the first step in reconstituting what had looked more and more like a failed state in past months: an unfilled presidency, a cabinet deemed illegitimate by the opposition and a parliament that had not met since 2006.

After Suleiman's election, by 118 votes of 127 possible, a flag-waving crowd that had gathered in his home town of Amchit erupted in cheers. Fireworks detonated over Beirut, cars blared their horns and church bells tolled. Staccato bursts of celebratory gunfire rattled across a capital that, less than two weeks ago, witnessed pitched gun battles redolent of civil war.

"I call upon all of you, politicians and citizens, to begin a new stage that is called Lebanon and the Lebanese," Suleiman, who forewent his military uniform for the civilian suit of a politician, told parliament. To repeated rounds of applause, he said the country had paid dearly for what he called national unity. "Let us preserve it hand in hand."

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Growing Food Crisis Strain United Nations
2008-05-25 02:52:05
For four years, United Nations peacekeepers have protected Haiti's fragile government from attacks by street gangs, drug lords and political agitators, but they were no match for a bowl of rice that has doubled in price during the past year.

Thousands of demonstrators last month rampaged through the streets of Haiti's main cities, protesting the high cost of living in a spree of violence that toppled the prime minister and set the stage for the country's worst political crisis in more than a year.

"If people are hungry, they have no stake in stability," said Hedi Annabi, the U.N. special representative in Haiti, in a telephone interview from Port-au-Prince. "They will be ready for anything - for anarchy - because they have nothing to safeguard or to fight for."

The Haitian experience has been playing out around the world. Food protests and riots have erupted in more than 30 countries, bringing unrest in places as diverse as Bolivia, Burma, Cameroon, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan and Senegal. The unrest has placed strains on U.N. peacekeepers and relief workers, who provide security and lifesaving assistance where the crisis has hit most severely. Some U.N. relief planners have raised concern about the organization's capacity to cope with an increase in the world's chronically hungry, to more than 850 million.

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Upset At Gas Prices? Don't Blame The Dealer
2008-05-25 02:50:03
Awash in profit, Exxon fights for pennies while raising the rent.

Every time Sohaila Rezazadeh rings up a sale at her Exxon station on Chain Bridge Road in Oakton, her cash register sends the information to Exxon Mobil's central computers. If she raises the price of gasoline a couple of pennies, chances are that Exxon will raise the wholesale price she pays by the same amount.

Through a password-protected Web portal, Exxon notifies Rezazadeh of wholesale price changes daily. That way the oil giant, which is earning about $3.3 billion a month, fine-tunes the pump prices at the franchise Rezazadeh has owned for 12 years.

Now, however, Rezazadeh says she cannot stay in business. Credit-card fees are eating her profit margins. Exxon, which owns the station land, last week handed Rezazadeh a new lease raising her rent about 30 percent over the next three years. She stuck a copy on the window of her station to show customers who are angry about soaring pump prices. Rezazadeh has told Exxon that she cannot make money with the rent that high. Her territory manager's reply, she said, was simple: When you go, leave us the keys.

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Britain's Defense Ministry Denies Compensation To Soldiers Injured By 'Wrong Bomb'?
2008-05-25 02:46:55

British soldiers seriously injured in Iraq and Afghanistan are being denied government compensation because they were wounded by the "wrong type of bomb". Britain's Ministry of Defense (MoD) has refused payouts for injuries under its criminal injuries scheme that may have been caused by landmines left by the Soviet army in Afghanistan or other discarded ordnance.

Under the MoD's criminal injuries compensation overseas scheme, frontline troops can claim for an injury or death not caused by military operations against the Taliban or Iraqi militia.

Alternatively, troops injured after April 2005 can also apply for financial support under the armed forces compensation scheme, which offers payouts for soldiers injured or killed on duty.

However, troops rejected from the criminal injuries scheme are no longer eligible for the other scheme, with soldiers' lawyers claiming that a number of injured frontline troops are being denied their rightful compensation.

Manchester-based Hilary Meredith Solicitors, which has more than 20 years experience in pursuing claims against the military, said: "The government's logic is bizarre and they are clearly wriggling out of paying men injured in war zones by suggesting they have been injured by the wrong type of bomb."

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Mars Spacecraft Faces Riskiest Part Of Mission
2008-05-25 02:41:54
After a nearly 10-month journey, a NASA spacecraft will land softly Sunday on the northern polar region of Mars, if all goes as planned.

The Phoenix Mars Lander is set to touch down in a broad, shallow valley in the Martian arctic plains believed to hold a vast supply of underground ice. Phoenix's job during the 90-day mission is to excavate the soil and ice to study whether the site could have supported microbial life.

The stakes are especially high: Fewer than half of the world's attempts to land on the Red Planet have succeeded.

"I'm getting a real case of heebie-jeebies," Joe Guinn, mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said on the eve of the landing.

In keeping with tradition, JPL project manager Barry Goldstein plans to hand out bags of peanuts _ both salted and unsalted - to his team members on landing day. Over the years, JPL found that missions with the lucky charms have better success than those without.

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Warren Buffett Says U.S. Recession 'Will Be Deeper And Longer' Than Many Think
2008-05-26 02:52:58
Warren Buffett, whose business and investment acumen has made him one of the world's wealthiest men, was quoted in an interview published today as saying the U.S. economy is already in a recession.

Asked by Germany's Der Spiegel weekly whether he thinks the U.S. could still avoid a recession, he said that as far as the average person is concerned, it is already here.

"I believe that we are already in a recession," Buffet was quoted as saying. "Perhaps not in the sense as defined by economists. ... But people are already feeling the effects of a recession."

"It will be deeper and longer than what many think," he added.
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Mars Craft "Phoenix" Succeeds In Soft Landing On Mars
2008-05-26 02:52:30

The spacecraft Phoenix landed safely on Mars Sunday, making a hazardous soft landing on the planet's far north with all its scientific systems apparently intact and ready to begin an intensive new search for life beyond Earth.

After counting down the last stage of the descent by hundreds and then tens of nerve-racking meters, officials at Mission Control in Pasadena, California, announced that "Phoenix has landed," setting off a joyous celebration by the mission team.

"It could not have gone better, not in my dreams," said Barry Goldstein, NASA's project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

The touchdown, at about 8 p.m. Eastern time, was the first successful soft landing on the Red Planet - using a parachute and thrusters rather than protective air bags - since the twin Viking missions in 1976. In all, six of 11 similar attempts by the United States, Russia and England ended in failure, so the Phoenix team awaited with enormous apprehension the outcome of the spacecraft's approach and landing.

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In Colorado River Delta, Waters - And Prospects - Are Drying Up
2008-05-26 02:51:51
Fighting a fierce north wind and cresting waves, a dozen Cucapa Indian fishermen were in trouble before they were halfway home, their small boats and balky outboard motors over matched by the roiling estuary of the Colorado River Delta.

"Malo viento," muttered Julio Figueroa, as he nosed his boat slowly through the wind-whipped waves, his feet submerged in 10 inches of standing water. Boats have capsized and men have drowned in these waters, where river and sea collide. Many others have drifted out to sea after waterlogged motors stalled.

The Cucapa say that every year they must venture farther downstream, braving some of the highest spring tides in the world. Rough seas aren't the only hazard. It is illegal to fish here. The waters are part of a federal sanctuary created to protect several imperiled marine species. Although getting caught could cost them their boats, the Cucapa say they have little choice. Upstream, where the current is slower and the fishing legal, there is not enough water anymore and, consequently, not enough fish.

As U.S. scientists warn of a semi-permanent drought along the taxed river by midcentury, Mexico today offers a glimpse of what dry times can be like. Rationing is in effect in some areas. Farmers have abandoned crops they can no longer irrigate. Experts fear that the desert will reclaim some of the region's most fertile land.
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Analysis: Oil - Power Has Changed Sides
2008-05-25 02:52:15
In the beginning of the 1970s, when a barrel of black gold cost less than $2, no one imagined that one day an American president would be reduced to begging the king of Saudi Arabia for an increase in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' (OPEC's) production to bring down prices. Yet the West has reached that point. After an initial rebuff in mid-January, George W. Bush was at it again on Friday, May 16, during his meeting with King Abdullah in Riyadh. With no more success than the first time, unless one counts a limited and temporary increase.

The time is long gone when Standard Oil of New Jersey, Anglo-Persian, Gulf Oil and their four other "sisters" dominated the world market. When President Roosevelt got King Ibn Saud to open Saudi wells to foreign companies in exchange for American military protection (1945). When Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh - guilty of nationalizing hydrocarbons - could be overthrown with impunity (1953). When one could pretend to believe that oil is an inexhaustible cornucopia.

Market power has changed sides. It has slipped away from consuming countries and from Big Oil (Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP ...). The development of the price per barrel ($128), is being determined behind the scenes in the Kremlin and in the meanders of the Iranian government, in Nigerian mangroves and on the banks of the Venezuelan Orinoco, in OPEC's Viennese corridors and in the halls of the New York Mercantile Exchange. And, above all, in Saudi palaces.

The world is experiencing a third oil shock - slower than those of 1973 and 1980. The barrel, the price of which has increased six times in as many years, is more expensive in constant dollars than it was in the beginning of 1981. Its price may ebb by some $10 or $20 in coming months, but nothing is less certain. Analysts as respected as those of investment bank Goldman Sachs see the price going to an average of $141 in the second half of 2008 and to $148 in 2009. OPEC no longer rules out $200.

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IEA Investigates Fears That Oil Is Running Out
2008-05-25 02:51:44

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has ordered an inquiry into whether the world could run out of oil, The Observer reported. It will consider whether fears about global shortages are real.

Observers say that the IEA, which provides authoritative research to OECD countries, is concerned that the supply of oil could fail to keep up with demand driven by the fast-industrializing economies of China and India. The investigation comes at a time of mounting concern that the sky-high price of oil could derail the global economy and plunge the world into recession. Oil hit $135 a barrel last week, the highest price on record, forcing airlines to cut back on flights to save fuel and pushing up the cost of living around the globe.

Lawrence Eagles, head of oil markets research at the IEA, said the situation was complex but added: "Our findings will form part of short- and long-term forecasts that we intend to publish in July and November. Up to now we have believed that supply can cope with demand. One caveat is that we don't know for certain whether estimates of reserves in countries such as Saudi Arabia are entirely accurate."

John Waterlow, analyst at oil research consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said: "Many oil-producing countries are closed, secretive societies where it can be difficult to pinpoint the level of provable reserves."

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Afghanistan Adds Hunger To Its Worries
2008-05-25 02:49:02
By 7 a.m., the bakers of Sang Tarashi Street have been hard at work for hours, shaping globs of dough, slapping them into a hot clay oven and flipping them out at just the right second. A stack of fresh flat bread called naan sits invitingly by the window, and the familiar morning smell wafts into the street.

Yet the scene outside the window has a desperate feel. Customers ask for half their normal breakfast purchases. A carpenter counts out the equivalent of 40 cents and buys two naans, far too little to feed his family of seven. A gaunt man in a threadbare tunic hovers nearby, looking ashamed, until the bakery owner notices him and tosses him a piece.

"When the price goes up, your stomach has to shrink," said the man, a handcart hauler named Abdul Karim. "I used to be able to buy a sack of flour, and my wife could bake for us, but now it is far too expensive. I have to rely on this baker's kindness so my children can eat. I do my best for them and work hard all day, but it is not enough anymore."

As the global food crisis deepens, bringing inflation and shortages to many countries, Afghanistan - already facing a protracted drought, entrenched rural poverty and an ongoing conflict with Islamist insurgents - finds itself battling the added threat of hunger.

For generations, Afghans have depended on cheap, plentiful bread as their main staple. The country's principal crop is wheat, and its farmers produce more than 5 million tons in a good year. Although that is not enough to feed the entire population, wheat can usually be trucked in from neighboring Pakistan. 

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Argentina Turns Against President After Farmers' Strike
2008-05-25 02:46:31

Argentina's first female President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, is fighting to restore her tattered reputation after a 70-day rural strike saw her public image plummet to its lowest level.

Only one in four Argentinians has a positive image of her, according to figures released last week by a leading polling group. Three months ago, her approval rating was more than 50 per cent. Elected last October with 45 per cent of the popular vote, Fernandez's popularity has sunk in recent months as a lock-out by farmers threatened food shortages and frozen farm exports.

Argentina's powerful farm lobby initially went on strike in mid-March after the introduction of controversial new taxes on soya, wheat and other key agricultural products. Fernandez won a brief reprieve after the main farming associations agreed to re-enter negotiations but angry farmers are still planning to go ahead with a huge demonstration today in the port town of Rosario.

Fernandez will be heading a rally of her own today to mark Argentina's National Day. Behind the customary flag-waving and confetti, she must be asking herself where it all went wrong. The economy, the usual weather vane of public content, is growing at more than 6 per cent a year thanks to rocketing commodity prices, but there are some worrying economic and political trends, including inflation. Government figures put price rises at 9 per cent a year, but private sector analysts say the government is massaging the numbers. Independent data suggests inflation could be three times higher.

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TV's 'Laugh-In' Comic Dick Martin Dies at 86
2008-05-25 02:41:09
Dick Martin, the zany half of the comedy team whose "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" took television by storm in the 1960s, making stars of Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin and creating such national catch-phrases as "Sock it to me!" has died. He was 86.

Martin, who went on to become one of television's busiest directors after splitting with Dan Rowan in the late 1970s, died Saturday night of respiratory complications at a hospital in Santa Monica, said family spokesman Barry Greenberg.

"He had had some pretty severe respiratory problems for many years, and he had pretty much stopped breathing a week ago," said Greenberg.

Martin had lost the use of one of his lungs as a teenager, and needed supplemental oxygen for most of the day in his later years.

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