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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday May 11 2008 - (813)

Sunday May 11 2008 edition
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Obama And McCain Map Fall Strategies
2008-05-11 03:58:24

Senators John McCain and Barack Obama are already drawing up strategies for taking each other on in the general election, focusing on the same groups - including independent voters and Latinos - and about a dozen states where they think the contest is likely to be decided this fall, said campaign aides.

In a sign of what could be an extremely unusual fall campaign, the two sides said Saturday that they would be open to holding joint forums or unmoderated debates across the country in front of voters through the summer. Obama, campaigning in Oregon, said that the proposal, floated by McCain’s advisers, was “a great idea.”

Even before Obama fully wraps up the Democratic presidential nomination, he and McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, are starting to assemble teams in the key battlegrounds, develop negative advertising and engage each other in earnest on the issues and a combustible mix of other topics, including age and patriotism.

McCain, of Arizona, will spend the next week delivering a series of speeches on global warming, evidence of his intention to battle Obama for independent voters, a group the two men have laid claim to. Those voters tend to recoil from hard-edged partisan politics, and presumably would be receptive to the kind of bipartisan forum that  McCain and Obama seemed open to on Saturday.

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'What Is Normal And What Is Perfect?'
2008-05-11 03:57:46
The results of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's prenatal testing were in, and the doctor's tone was ominous: "You need to come to the office so we can talk about it."

Palin responded, "No, go ahead and tell me over the phone."

The physician replied, "Down syndrome," stunning the Republican governor who had just completed what many political analysts regarded as a startling first year in office. Now, said Palin, she is trying to balance caring for her son with special needs and running the nation's largest state.

Palin had reached the Alaska statehouse after riding an ethics reform platform to victory over an incumbent Republican in the primary and a former two-term Democratic governor in the general election. Her growing reputation as a maverick, for bucking her party's establishment and Alaska's powerful oil industry, quickly gained her a national reputation.

All that seemed put into question after the doctor's call in December, when Palin was four months pregnant.

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Hezbollah Starts Withdrawing Gunmen From Beirut Streets
2008-05-10 14:38:58
Hezbollah on Saturday began withdrawing gunmen from Beirut and handed control of the streets to the Lebanese army, after seizing much of the city in gun battles with supporters of the U.S.-backed government.

Hezbollah, a political group backed by Iran and Syria with a guerrilla army, said it was ending its armed presence in Beirut after the army overturned government measures against the group.

Hezbollah took over much of Beirut on Friday after fighters loyal to the group routed gunmen loyal to the anti-Damascus governing coalition.

Four days of fighting which killed 37 people erupted after the government said it was taking action against Hezbollah's military communications network and sacked the head of security at Beirut airport, who is close to the group.

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Obama Picks Up Nine Superdelegates, Union Endorsement
2008-05-10 14:38:19
Barack Obama all but erased Hillary Rodham Clinton's once-imposing lead among national convention superdelegates on Friday and won fresh labor backing as elements of the Democratic Party began coalescing around the Illinois senator for the fall campaign.

Obama picked up the backing of nine superdelegates, including Rep. Donald Payne, of New Jersey, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who had been a Clinton supporter.

In addition, the American Federation of Government Employees announced its support for Obama. The union claims about 600,000 members who work in the federal and Washington, D.C., governments.

Obama, who won a convincing victory in the North Carolina primary and lost Indiana narrowly on Tuesday, has been steadily gaining strength in the days since.

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Peregrine Falcons In California Urban Areas Are Contaminated With Toxic Chemicals
2008-05-10 14:37:07
California's peregrine falcons, once driven to the edge of extinction by the pesticide DDT, now are contaminated with record-high levels of other toxic chemicals that may threaten them again.

State scientists have found that peregrines in Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Francisco contain the highest levels of flame retardants found in any living organism worldwide.

The findings parallel studies that have detected high concentrations of the chemicals, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, in human breast milk, particularly in California women.

The compounds, which mimic thyroid hormones and can damage developing nervous systems, have spread to wildlife and people worldwide, working their way up food webs.
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New Mexico Moves Ahead On Spaceport
2008-05-10 14:36:31

Undaunted by widespread skepticism, New Mexico's effort to build the world's first commercial spaceport is nearly on schedule to open in late 2010.

Its intended prime tenant, Virgin Galactic, says the startup will also be ready for business by then, with more than 275 customers who have already paid $35 million total to book seats on spaceships that would launch from the high desert site and fly to the edge of space.

Many hurdles remain - including environmental approvals and certifying the space-worthiness of Virgin Galactic's radical White Knight Two and SpaceShipTwo - but the project got a major boost last month when voters in a second New Mexico county approved a sales tax increase to help pay for the spaceport. New Mexico officials are gleeful that they were able to persuade residents of Sierra County, a large and sparsely populated area with an average age of 55, to vote 2 to 1 for the tax increase.

"The space business is a very, very difficult one, and you never know what lies ahead," said Kelly O'Donnell, chair of New Mexico's Spaceport Authority, which was conceived in 1990. "But we're moving ahead just as we hoped."

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In U.S., Growing Deficits Threaten Pensions
2008-05-11 03:58:08

The funds that pay pension and health benefits to police officers, teachers and millions of other public employees across the country are facing a shortfall that could soon run into trillions of dollars.

But the accounting techniques used by state and local governments to balance their pension books disguise the extent of the crisis facing these retirees and the taxpayers who may ultimately be called on to pay the freight, according to a growing number of leading financial analysts.

State governments alone have reported they are already confronting a deficit of at least $750 billion to cover the cost of the retirement benefits they have promised, but that figure likely underestimates the actual shortfall because of the range of methods they use to make their calculations, including practices that have been barred in the private sector for decades.

Local governments use these same techniques for their pension funds and face deficits that further contribute to what some investors and analysts say may be shaping up to be a massive breach of faith with a generation of public employees.

This gap is growing more yawning with the years. It has already presented taxpayers with a whopping bill that is eating up a vast portion of government budgets at the cost of other services. In Montgomery County, for instance, pension and retiree health care costs are already higher than the combined budgets for the departments of transportation and health and human services. Eventually, officials responsible for the funds will have to choose whether to continue paying out or renege on benefits promised to retirees.

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18 Dead In Missouri, Oklahoma After New Round Of Tornadoes
2008-05-11 03:57:31
Tornadoes that spun across the Oklahoma-Missouri border killed at least 18 people as severe storms raked the nation's heart Saturday, injuring many and mangling buildings in the storm-weary region.

At least 12 people were killed after severe storms spawned tornadoes and high winds across sections of southwestern Missouri, the State Emergency Management Agency said. Ten of the dead were killed when a twister struck near Seneca, near the Oklahoma border.

"There may be more - I hope not," said SEMA spokeswoman Susie Stonner late Saturday night.

At least six people were killed earlier in the day as the tornado flattened the northeastern Oklahoma town of Picher, said authorities.

"They're going over the hard-hit area and turning over everything and looking," Stonner said of emergency workers' search for victims and assessment of damage. "It's hard to do in the dark."

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Myanmar Regime Exports Rice As Cyclone Victims Suffer
2008-05-10 14:38:43
While Myanmar's military regime Friday restricted the rush of international aid offered to help hungry and homeless cyclone survivors, the government was exporting tons of rice through its main port.

Four of the five berths at the port of Thilawa for oceangoing container vessels were empty, but a crane was loading large white sacks into the hold of a freighter. The sacks were filled with rice destined for Bangladesh, said the drivers of at least 10 transport trucks waiting to deliver several tons more of rice to the docks.

The regime has a monopoly on rice exports and said this week that it planned to meet commitments to sell rice, whose price has reached record highs on the world market, to countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, even though Myanmar's main rice-producing region suffered the worst damage from the cyclone, which hit a week ago.

The storm caused massive destruction in the Irrawaddy River delta, where farmers are now desperate for food.

As rice was loaded onto the freighter, people in nearby villages said authorities had handed out rations of rotting rice, apparently from ruined stocks in the port's massive warehouse. The storm soaked about 40% of the stored rice, worth millions of dollars, said the chief driver, who requested anonymity to avoid problems with government officials.
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Adult Concerns On Child Care Buyout Deal
2008-05-10 14:37:57

There's a fight brewing around sandboxes nationwide. But the combatants don't wear Pull-Ups. Instead, they sport BlackBerrys and picket signs and talk of portfolios and payouts.

The subject of the dispute is Bain Capital Partners' buyout of Bright Horizons Family Solutions, the largest provider of employer-sponsored child care in the nation and the Washington, D.C., region. Bright Horizons shareholders approved Bain's bid Wednesday.

Parents wondering how the deal may affect them are getting two answers.

The Service Employees International Union, which also protested the Carlyle Group's buyout of the Manor Care  nursing home chain, suspects Bain's acquisition of Bright Horizons will have a negative impact on the quality of the care the chain provides for more than 70,000 children.

Recent buyouts in some industries have resulted in layoffs as the new owners streamlined operations. The union says Bright Horizons will be under pressure to cut costs because as part of the $1.3 billion deal, it will take on $850 million of debt.

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Zimbabwe's Opposition Leader Agrees To Participate In Runoff Election
2008-05-10 14:36:52
Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai announced Saturday that he would soon return to his country to participate in a presidential runoff election despite a surge in political violence against his supporters.

Tsvangirai called on southern African regional leaders to ensure that the campaign for the runoff, which has not yet been scheduled, be free of violence and overseen by a reformed electoral commission and international observers. He stopped short of saying that his participation depended on these conditions.

"We will contest the runoff, and the people will finally prevail," Tsvangirai said at a news conference in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, where he has been based for the past month. "The people have spoken before, and the people will speak again. I am ready, and the people are ready for the final round."

The announcement reversed weeks of vows by the opposition to boycott any new election against President Robert Mugabe amid the worst state-sponsored political violence in Zimbabwe in many years.

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As U.S. Outsources Legal Work, India's Law Grads Prosper
2008-05-10 14:36:14
When Aashish Sharma graduated from law school two years ago, his father had visions of seeing him argue in an Indian court and eventually become an honorable judge.

Instead, Sharma, 25, now sits all day in front of a computer in a plush, air-conditioned suburban office doing litigation research and drafting legal contracts for U.S. companies and law firms. He is part of a booming, new outsourcing industry in India that employs thousands of English-speaking lawyers such as him to do legal work at a small fraction of the cost of hiring American lawyers.

"It is much better than going to court in India and dealing with all kinds of rough people. Working in legal outsourcing is a happy career move for me, although my father does not fully understand what I am doing here after my education in Indian law," said Sharma, who began working in February for an outsourcing company called Quatrro. "I am getting valuable exposure to the American judicial system, corporate law and their way of working."

Legal process outsourcing is being called the next big thing in Indian business. It marks India's climb up the chain of outsourcing jobs - from low-end, back-office service functions in call centers to high-value, skilled legal work.

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