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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday May 18 2008 - (813)

Sunday May 18 2008 edition
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World's Poor Pay Price As Crop Research Funding Is Cut
2008-05-18 02:22:42
The brown plant hopper, an insect no bigger than a gnat, is multiplying by the billions and chewing through rice paddies in East Asia, threatening the diets of many poor people.

The damage to rice crops, occurring at a time of scarcity and high prices, could have been prevented. Researchers at the International Rice Research Institute here say that they know how to create rice varieties resistant to the insects but that budget cuts have prevented them from doing so.

This is a stark example of the many problems that are coming to light in the world’s agricultural system. Experts say that during the food surpluses of recent decades, governments and development agencies lost focus on the importance of helping poor countries improve their agriculture.

The budgets of institutions that delivered the world from famine in the 1970s, including the rice institute, have stagnated or fallen, even as the problems they were trying to solve became harder.

“People felt that the world food crisis was solved, that food security was no longer an issue, and it really fell off the agenda,” said Robert S. Zeigler, the director general of the rice institute.

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Chinese Flee Flood Threat From Earthquake
2008-05-18 02:21:27
Thousands of earthquake survivors fled tent camps and villages across the ravaged landscape of southwestern China on Saturday after the government warned that several lakes and rivers were getting dangerously close to overflowing because landslides have blocked water flow.

The new threats came as government officials said that more than three million homes had been destroyed by Monday’s earthquake, and more than 12 million had been damaged. The government again raised the death toll, to nearly 29,000.

The resulting humanitarian crisis is the largest in China in decades, and in the process of covering the developments, Chinese news organizations have been testing strict government censorship in new ways - and even winning some concessions.

With the scale of the disaster becoming ever more apparent, the United Nations announced that it would provide a grant of $7 million from an emergency response fund “to help meet the most urgent humanitarian requirements.”

The danger of flooding on Saturday was so severe that some rescue workers had to abandon their efforts, at least temporarily, to find people buried beneath rubble in Beichuan, one of the hardest-hit counties. Such interruptions could doom the relatively few who could be expected to be alive under debris.

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Sen. Edward Kennedy Hospitalized After Seizure
2008-05-18 02:20:19
Edward M. Kennedy, a liberal Democratic icon of the Senate and the surviving patriarch of American political royalty, suffered a seizure at his home in Hyannis Port, Mass., yesterday and was rushed by helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said hospital officials.

The 76-year-old senior senator from Massachusetts was awake and joking with his family by late afternoon, according to a source close to the Kennedy family who spoke on the condition of anonymity. By early evening, he was watching a Boston Red Sox game and ordering dinner from Legal Seafood, said the source.

Larry Ronan, Kennedy's primary-care physician, released a statement saying Kennedy was "not in any immediate danger."

"Senator Kennedy will undergo further evaluation to determine the cause of the seizure, and a course of treatment will be determined at that time," said Ronan's statement.

Further information on his prognosis is not likely until Monday, said a spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter.

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International Pressure Is Building On Myanmar Junta
2008-05-18 02:19:37
International pressure on the ruling military junta in Myanmar continued to grow over the weekend as a senior United Nations envoy is due to arrive in Yangon on Sunday to talk with government officials about what the United Nations has called a slow response to international aid offers after Cyclone Nargis.

John Holmes, under secretary general for humanitarian affairs, has talks scheduled with top members of the government, although diplomats in Yangon said it was unlikely that Holmes would be allowed to meet with the junta’s leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe. The general has remained in the remote capital of Naypyidaw, far from the storm-damaged delta in the south.

In the two weeks since the cyclone hit, the junta has allowed in a modest amount of supplies from a number of nations, but relief workers say it is far short of what they need to fend off starvation and disease. The United Nations says only 20 percent of the survivors have received even “rudimentary aid.”

In some of the harshest comments, Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the BBC on Saturday that a natural disaster “is being made into a man-made catastrophe by the negligence, the neglect and the inhuman treatment of the Burmese people by a regime that is failing to act and to allow the international community to do what it wants to do.”

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U.S. Bounties A Bust In Hunt For Al-Qaeda Leaders
2008-05-17 03:23:30
Jaber Elbaneh is one of the world's most-wanted terrorism suspects. In 2003, the U.S. government indicted him, posted a $5 million reward for his capture and distributed posters bearing photos of him around the globe.

None of it worked. Elbaneh remains at large, as wanted as ever. The al-Qaeda operative, however, isn't very hard to find.

One day last month, he shuffled down a busy street here in the Yemeni capital, past several indifferent policemen. Then he disappeared inside a building, though not before accidentally stepping on a reporter's toes.

Elbaneh, 41, is one of two dozen al-Qaeda members listed under a U.S. program that offers enormous sums of cash for information leading to their capture. For years, the Bush administration has touted the bounties as a powerful tool in its fight against terrorism but, in the hunt for al-Qaeda, it has proved a bust.

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Famine Looms As Wars Rend Horn Of Africa
2008-05-17 03:20:53
The global food crisis has arrived at Safia Ali’s hut.

She cannot afford rice or wheat or powdered milk anymore.

At the same time, a drought has decimated her family’s herd of goats, turning their sole livelihood into a pile of bleached bones and papery skin.

The result is that Ms. Safia, a 25-year-old mother of five, has not eaten in a week. Her 1-year-old son is starving too, an adorable, listless boy who doesn’t even respond to a pinch.

Somalia - and much of the volatile Horn of Africa, for that matter - was about the last place on earth that needed a food crisis. Even before commodity prices started shooting up around the globe, civil war, displacement and imperiled aid operations had pushed many people here to the brink of famine.

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U.S. Planning Big New Prison In Afghanistan
2008-05-17 03:20:05
The Pentagon is moving forward with plans to build a new, 40-acre detention complex on the main American military base in Afghanistan, said officials, in a stark acknowledgment that the United States is likely to continue to hold prisoners overseas for years to come.

The proposed detention center would replace the cavernous, makeshift American prison on the Bagram military base  north of Kabul, which is now typically packed with about 630 prisoners, compared with the 270 held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Until now, the Bush administration had signaled that it intended to scale back American involvement in detention operations in Afghanistan. It had planned to transfer a large majority of the prisoners to Afghan custody, in an American-financed, high-security prison outside Kabul to be guarded by Afghan soldiers.

American officials now concede that the new Afghan-run prison cannot absorb all the Afghans now detained by the United States, much less the waves of new prisoners from the escalating fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. 

The proposal for a new American prison at Bagram underscores the daunting scope and persistence of the United States military’s detention problem, at a time when Bush administration officials continue to say they want to close down the facility at Guantanamo Bay.

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Commentary: Peak Oil And Politicians
2008-05-18 02:21:44
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by environment editor Kelpie Wilson and appeared on the's website edition for Saturday, May 17, 2008. Ms. Wilson's commentary follows:

In 1956, M. King Hubbert, a petroleum geologist with Shell Oil, presented a paper to the American Petroleum Institute that predicted U.S. oil production would peak in the early 1970s and then follow a declining curve, now known as Hubbert's curve, but Hubbert almost didn't get to give his paper. He got a call from his bosses at Shell, who asked him to "tone it down." His reply was that there was nothing to tone down. It was just straightforward analysis. He presented the paper, unedited. You can read the whole story here: .

Since that time, the oil industry and its political supporters have done everything they can to tone down the message that oil is a finite resource and that we will run out of it some day. Why would they do that? To further the short-sighted, short-term pursuit of profit. In 2004, Shell finally got caught in a lie about the size of its oil reserves. The company had inflated the stated size of its oil reserves to keep stock share prices high because who wants to invest in a company - or an industry - that is going the way of the dinosaurs?

Since 1956, the world economy has proceeded under a sort of oil company spell that has woven the illusion all around us that oil depletion is so far into the future that we don't need to worry about it. That belief was essential to support the aim of an endlessly growing economy.

There have been a few hitches in that strategy. In 1972, just as oil production in the United States reached its all-time peak, a group of computer modelers from MIT released a study called "The Limits to Growth." They predicted a steep decline in natural resources of all kinds. Because reserve numbers for many minerals, including oil, were not accurately known back then, they looked at different scenarios. Some showed us running out of oil before 2000 and some showed the peak occurring toward the middle of the 21st century.

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Commentary: John McCain's Fantasyland
2008-05-18 02:20:40
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert and appeared in the N.Y. Times edition for Saturday, May 17, 2008. Mr. Herbert's commentary follows:

Walt Disney would have been proud of John McCain’s presentation on Thursday of what the world might look like at the end of a first McCain term as president.

Listening to the speech was like walking through the gates of Fantasyland, which Disney always said was the happiest kingdom of them all. The war in Iraq will have been won. Crack intelligence work will have led to the capture or death of Osama bin Laden. Taxes will be lower and the U.S. economy will be swell. And maybe best of all (I’m not sure for whom), work will have begun on 20 brand-new nuclear reactors.

Senator McCain never bothered to mention how we were to reach this wondrous state, and he bristled when a reporter suggested he was offering a “magic carpet ride.”

Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times had the best line when she wrote in Friday’s paper that “there were no real checkable facts in Mr. McCain’s divination.”

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Hezbollah's Actions Ignite Sectarian Fuse In Lebanon
2008-05-18 02:20:07
For two-and-a-half days, Hussein al-Haj Obaid lay on the floor of a darkened warehouse in west Beirut, blindfolded and terrified. Militiamen loyal to Hezbolloah had kidnapped him at a checkpoint after killing his nephew right in front of him.

Throughout those awful days, as his kidnappers kicked and punched him, applied electrical shocks to his genitals and insulted him with sectarian taunts, he could hear the chatter of gunfire and the crash of rocket-propelled grenades outside, where Hezbollah and its allies were taking control of the capital.

He returned to this northern village only after family members won his release just over a week ago by threatening the kidnappers with retaliation. By that time Obaid, a Sunni Muslim, had gained a whole new way of seeing his Shiite countrymen and his native land.

“We cannot go back to how we lived with them before,” he said as he sat with relatives and friends at home here. “The blood is boiling here. Every boy here, his blood is boiling. They push us, they push us, they push us.”

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Saudi Arabia Snubs Bush's Request To Pump More Oil
2008-05-17 03:23:44
Saudi Arabia Friday rebuffed President Bush's request to immediately pump more oil to lower record prices, saying it does not see enough demand to increase production.

The Saudis said they would increase production if customers demanded it, said Steven Hadley, Bush's national security adviser.

Ali al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, on Friday said the country had increased its production by 300,000 barrels a day on May 10 in response to customer requests.

Al-Naimi said the increased production would bring Saudi Arabia's daily production to 9.45 million barrels per day by June.

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V.A. Official Urged Fewer Diagnoses Of PTSD
2008-05-17 03:23:08

A psychologist who helps lead the post-traumatic stress disorder program at a medical facility for veterans in Texas told staff members to refrain from diagnosing PTSD because so many veterans were seeking government disability payments for the condition.

"Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out," Norma Perez wrote in a March 20 e-mail to mental-health specialists and social workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs' Olin E. Teague Veterans' Center in Temple, Texas. Instead, she recommended that they "consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder."

V.A. staff members "really don't ... have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD," Perez wrote.

Adjustment disorder is a less severe reaction to stress than PTSD and has a shorter duration, usually no longer than six months, said Anthony T. Ng, a psychiatrist and member of Mental Health America, a nonprofit professional association.

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U.K. Demands Repayment Of Climate Aid To Poor Nations
2008-05-17 03:20:35

Britain's £800 million ($1.6 billion) international project to help the poorest countries in the world adapt to climate change was under fire last night after it emerged that almost all the money offered by Prime Minister Gordon Brown will have to be repaid with interest.

The U.K. environmental transformation fund was announced by the prime minister to international acclaim in November 2007, and was widely expected to be made in direct grants to countries experiencing extreme droughts, storms and sea level rise associated with climate change.

The Guardian newspaper has learned that the money is not additional British aid and will be administered by the World Bank mainly in the form of concessionary loans which poor countries will have to pay back to Britain with interest.

A letter signed by two government ministers and seen by the Guardian shows that Britain has been pressing other G8 countries to also give money to the new fund, which will be launched in July in Japan at the G8's annual meeting.

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