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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday May 31 2008 - (813)

Saturday May 31 2008 edition
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White House Report Backs Global Warming Warnings
2008-05-30 14:49:52
After a court order and four years late, Bush administration scientist issue an assessment.

President Bush's top science advisors issued a comprehensive report Thursday that, for the first time, endorses what most scientific experts have long asserted: that greenhouse gases from fossil fuel combustion "are very likely the single largest cause" of Earth's warming.

The 271-page report could undercut opposition to the more aggressive provisions of climate legislation, which is to be debated in the Senate next week.

The Bush administration had long resisted a congressional mandate, the 1990 Global Change Research Act, requiring the White House to report every four years on the science and impact of global warming and other environmental forces.

A U.S. District Court in August ordered Bush to comply with a 2004 deadline for an updated report, after the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups filed suit.
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CIA Chief Cites Big Gains Against Al-Qaeda
2008-05-30 14:49:21

Less than a year after his agency warned of new threats from a resurgent al-Qaeda, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden now portrays the terrorist movement as essentially defeated in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and on the defensive throughout much of the rest of the world, including in its presumed haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In a strikingly upbeat assessment, the CIA chief cited major gains against al-Qaeda's allies in the Middle East and an increasingly successful campaign to destabilize the group's core leadership.

While cautioning that al-Qaeda remains a serious threat, Hayden said Osama bin Laden is losing the battle for hearts and minds in the Islamic world and has largely forfeited his ability to exploit the Iraq war to recruit adherents. Two years ago, a CIA study concluded that the U.S.-led war had become a propaganda and marketing bonanza for al-Qaeda, generating cash donations and legions of volunteers.

All that has changed, Hayden said in an interview with the Washington Post this week that coincided with the start of his third year at the helm of the CIA.

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Lose Homes, Pay More Tax
2008-05-30 03:45:06

Some of the biggest losers in the real estate slump are not purchasers of mansions they could not afford. They are buyers of second homes - or third ones, for that matter - who are sitting on a tax time bomb.

Many of these people will lose their properties in foreclosure and then stagger into bankruptcy under the weight of a sizable tax bill. While Congress has granted some tax relief to people who lose their primary homes, there is no such aid for those who fall behind on payments on a getaway condo in Las Vegas, Nevada, a retirement home on the Florida coast or an old house that they are renting out for income.

Bankruptcy lawyers say they are seeing a wave of foreclosures among owners of second homes in such a position, owners who thought they had found sound advice for financial security.

Two years ago, Lilia Garcia and her husband, Jesus, bought their dream house in Linden, California, for $535,000 and financed it in part by taking out a bigger loan backed by their previous house in nearby Stockton. They decided to hang onto the Stockton house and rent it out, believing that it would more than pay for itself and could be sold years in the future to help pay for college for their two children.

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Bear Stearns Shareholders OK $1.4 Billion Buyout By JP Morgan
2008-05-30 03:44:41

It took barely 10 minutes for a room full of sombre shareholders to deliver the last rites Thursday to Bear Stearns, the 85-year-old Wall Street brokerage once feared for its swashbuckling, high-risk culture of aggression.

At a special meeting convened at Bear's 45-floor octagonal midtown office tower, investors nodded through a sale of the cash-strapped company to its rival JP Morgan at a bargain price of about $1.4 billion (£700 million).

The meeting was closed to the media but those in the room said Bear's chairman, Jimmy Cayne, told investors he was "personally sorry" for the way the firm had collapsed.

"Words alone can't describe the pain that I feel," said Cayne, a former scrap-iron salesman who joined the bank in 1969 but whose hands-off management style came under criticism. He was described as looking "disheveled" by one shareholder.

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Abdul Qadeer Khan, "Father" Of Pakistan's Atomic Bomb, Disowns Confession
2008-05-30 03:44:01

For four years Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, has lived in the shadows, confined to his Islamabad home since a tearful televised confession in which he admitted selling nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya. Friday, however, the 76-year-old scientist returned to the spotlight with a bold new twist: that he had not meant a word of his earlier admission.

In his first western media interview since 2004, Khan said the confession had been forced upon him by President Pervez Musharraf. "It was not of my own free will. It was handed into my hand," he told the Guardian. More worryingly, he swore never to cooperate with investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency, despite persistent fears that nuclear technology traded by his accomplices could fall into terrorist hands.

"Why should I talk to them?" he said. "I am under no obligation. We are not a signatory to the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]. I have not violated international laws." He said details of his clandestine nuclear supply network were "my internal affair and my country's affair".

Despite numerous requests from the IAEA and the U.S. government, Pakistan has refused access to Khan, who is still considered a national hero. A spokesman at the United Nations watchdog's headquarters in Vienna, Austria, declined to respond to his comments.

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Climate Enters Debate Over Nuclear Power
2008-05-30 03:43:07
After part of a cooling tower collapsed last August at Vermont's only nuclear power plant, the company that runs it blamed rotting wooden timbers that it had failed to inspect properly. The uproar that followed rekindled environmental groups’ hopes of shutting down the aging plant.

The proposed closing, albeit a long shot, has gained some support this year among Vermont politicians. The discussion is bringing into sharp relief a conflict between two objectives long held by environmental advocates: combating nuclear power and stopping global warming. 

Nuclear plants supply nearly 20 percent of the nation’s electricity, and they do so without emitting the carbon dioxide that is the principal cause of global warming.

Vermont’s 36-year-old plant, which feeds into the regional power grid, represents a third of the state’s electrical generation.

Antinuclear groups that are arguing for closing the plant hope to replace the lost electricity with renewable generation from wind turbines, solar power and the combustion of plant material. Additionally, they cite the potential for cutting electrical demand by making homes and business more efficient.

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World's Largest Mud Volcano On Brink Of 'Catastrophic Collapse'
2008-05-30 03:42:24

The world's largest mud volcano that has been erupting continuously since 2006 is beginning to show signs of "catastrophic collapse", according to geologists who have been monitoring it and the surrounding area.

The volcano - named Lusi - has already devastated homes and businesses in Sidoarjo, East Java, Indonesia, displacing around 10,000 people and killing 14.

Now scientists say that the land near the central vent could sag by up to 146 meters in the next decade. In March, the scientists observed drops of up to 3 meters in one night. Most of the subsidence in the area around the volcano is more gradual, at around 0.1 centimeter per day.

"It is starting to show signs that the central part is undergoing a more catastrophic collapse," said Prof. Richard Davies, a geologist at Britain's Durham University.

"The fact that the whole area is collapsing means there are probably new faults forming. These faults are new pathways for fluids to seep up to the surface. We've never really seen a mud volcano develop so quickly."

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Texas Supreme Court Back Polygamist Sect's Parents
2008-05-30 03:41:48

The Texas Supreme Court affirmed Thursday that state officials should not have seized scores of children from the ranch compound of a polygamist sect, agreeing with an appellate court that the group's beliefs were not, by themselves, proof of abuse.

The decision, issued Thursday afternoon in Austin, Texas, did not immediately bring the release of the more than 460 children of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints  compound near Eldorado, Texas. But it did seem to make that outcome very likely. Child-protection authorities said Thursday evening that they would comply if the trial court judge ordered the children returned.

"We are disappointed, but we understand and respect the court's decision and will take immediate steps to comply," a statement from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services read in part. It added: "We will continue to prepare for the prompt and orderly reunification of these children with their families."

Because the case involves state law, not federal statutes, legal experts said the Texas Supreme Court was as high as an appeal could go. That court agreed with a decision last week by the state Court of Appeals for the Third District, which rejected arguments at the heart of the state's case.

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McCain's Web Gap Is Showing
2008-05-30 14:49:37
The video lasts just more than three minutes. But that's long enough to raise some nasty doubts about John McCain's reputation as a straight talker.

There's the Arizona senator arguing both sides of President Bush's tax cuts. Here's the supposed foreign policy wizard flubbing the simple facts about which terrorists are being trained in Iran. He's even ducking his own admission that he needs to learn more about economics.

The newsreel of McCain lowlights has zoomed up the YouTube charts in the last week, with more than 1.5 million views. "John McCain's YouTube Problem Just Became a Nightmare" ( is the video's title, which might be dismissed as partisan hype but for one thing: It's true.

The presumed Republican presidential nominee is taking a serious drubbing on YouTube, the most popular video-sharing service on the Internet and the virtual town square for millions of new young voters.
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Thousands Of Iraqis Rally Against U.S. Security Agreement
2008-05-30 14:48:58
Thousands of people heeded a call from anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to protest talks between Washington and Baghdad on keeping U.S. troops in Iraq beyond 2008, but turnout on Friday was lower than past marches.

Explaining the relatively low numbers, spokesmen for Sadr's movement said the protests were widely spread through the country but security forces prevented marches in some areas.

In one of the largest demonstrations, several thousand people took to the streets in the Baghdad district of Sadr City, a bastion of Sadr's Mehdi Army militia. They held up pictures of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki dressed as Saddam Hussein.

In the Kadhimiya district in northwest Baghdad, hundreds of demonstrators with raised fists marched behind a banner asking the United Nations to "stand with the Iraqi people against this security deal between the government and the occupation."

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Crude Oil Trading Being Investigated
2008-05-30 03:44:53

During continued volatility in oil prices, federal regulators said Thursday that they had been investigating crude oil trading, storage and transportation for the past six months with a focus on possible "futures market manipulation".

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which normally keeps investigations confidential, said in a statement that it was "taking the extraordinary step of disclosing this investigation because of today's unprecedented market conditions."

Those conditions have sent oil prices to record heights, adding to the U.S. trade deficit, hurting consumers and companies, and weighing heavily on the nation's economy.

Gregory Mocek, director of enforcement at the CFTC, said five senior trial lawyers, "some of the most experienced prosecutors that we have," and other investigators were engaged in the inquiry. "The scope is quite broad," Mocek said, adding that the commission was looking at the "national crude market," including trades on regulated exchanges, cash trades, storage, pipeline operations and shipping.

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Chemical Fire, Rain Hamper China Earthquake Recovery
2008-05-30 03:44:18
A stockpile of chemicals being used to disinfect an earthquake-shattered Chinese town ignited Thursday and injured scores of soldiers doing relief work, adding to a day of problems for urgent recovery efforts.

Heavy rain also added to the misery of crowds of homeless survivors living in tents or lean-tos, and hampered troops rushing to drain a quake-spawned lake before it floods a valley filled with villages.

The chemical fire took place in the town of Leigu, in devastated Beichuan county. The official Xinhua News Agency reported that more than 800 people were evacuated to avoid a cloud of dense chlorine gas caused by the blaze.

As in many destroyed towns, officials have been spraying disinfecting bleach on streets and rubble in an effort to prevent disease breakouts. Thousands of people are still missing and their bodies could be buried in the rubble, while rats and other scavengers have been reported in some places.

One expert said the spraying of bleach on rubble has little effect except perhaps a psychological one for victims.

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Storm Derails Train, Damages Buildings In Nebraska
2008-05-30 03:43:33
A storm bearing hail and possible tornadoes struck central Nebraska Thursday night, damaging businesses, derailing train cars, tearing down trees and disrupting power to thousands.

A possible tornado touched down near Aurora, about 70 miles west of Lincoln, damaging a few businesses and damaging at least one house on the outskirts of town.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

Tornadoes were also reported in Kearney, about 60 miles west of Aurora, where 90 rail cars were blown off the tracks outside the city limits. There were reports of downed trees and power lines throughout Kearney, and reports of damage on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus and at a county fairgrounds.

Initial reports from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency indicated several dozen homes were damaged in both Aurora and Kearney.

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Plunging RBS Share Prices Raise Questions Over Take-Up For Cash Calls
2008-05-30 03:42:39

There was further pressure on the shares of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Bradford & Bingley Thursday amid concern that investors would shun their rights issues.

The share prices have fallen sharply since the cash calls were announced and are getting ever closer to the discounted offer price.

RBS fell as much as 6% Thursday before closing 6.25 pounds lower at 231.75 pounds. The shares on offer have been priced at 200 pounds. At the time of the rights issue announcement, they were at a discount of 46% but the differential is now only 16%.

Bradford & Bingley is even closer to the rights issue price of 82 pounds a share, dropping 6.75 pounds Thursday to 90.5 pounds.

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Confidence In The U.K. Economy Evaporates
2008-05-30 03:42:13
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown's hopes of recovering from this month's hat-trick of electoral setbacks received a fresh blow Friday as falling house prices and rising food and energy bills prompted the biggest slump in consumer confidence since the onset of the last U.K. recession in autumn 1990.

A report by GfK NOP showed that the government's efforts to bounce back from the Labour Party's third place in the local elections, defeat in the London mayoral election and the loss of the Crewe and Nantwich seat are being hampered by a mood of deep gloom that has engulfed voters in the year since Brown became prime minister.

Friday morning's survey of public opinion followed a report by the Nationwide building society showing that house prices dropped by 2.5% last month, the biggest one-month drop since the property crash of the early 1990s. Meanwhile, the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) reported a second month of declining spending on the high street.

Adding to the prime minister's woes, an opinion poll published Thursday night showed that support for Labour has fallen to its lowest level for more half a century. The YouGov survey for the Daily Telegraph shows Labour at 23 points and the Conservatives at 47 - a Tory lead of 24 points.

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