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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday May 15 2008 - (813)

Thursday May 15 2008 edition
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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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Massive Search Effort Continues In China
2008-05-14 17:38:48
The death toll from Monday's deadly earthquake in central China rose to almost 15,000 on Wednesday, with an estimated 40,000 more trapped under rubble or missing, the official New China News Agency reported.

The escalating casualty figures were released as soldiers, paramilitary police and civilian rescue workers continued a massive effort to clear debris from collapsed schools, hospitals and residences throughout Sichuan province, the area hardest hit by the 7.9 magnitude tremor.

The Associated Press reported that 2,000 Chinese soldiers rushed to repair a dam badly cracked by the earthquake, and damage was reported in hundreds of smaller dams as well.

In a news conference in the provincial capital of Chengdu, Sichuan Vice Governor Li Chengyun acknowledged that the latest figures of dead and missing were incomplete, the news agency reported. It is expected that the toll will rise as authorities continue clearing rubble in Mianyang and other towns and move deeper into Wenchuan county, the quake's epicenter. Roads into Wenchuan were severed by rocks and mudslides, according to the news agency, and efforts to airlift supplies by helicopter have been hampered by rain and fog.

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Aid Groups Say Myanmar Food Stolen By Military
2008-05-14 17:38:09
The directors of several relief organizations in Myanmar said Wednesday that some of the international aid arriving into the country for the victims of Cyclone Nargis was being stolen, diverted or warehoused by the country’s army.

The United States military’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center said there was a possibility that “a significant tropical cyclone” - a second big storm - would form within the next 24 hours and head across the Irrawaddy Delta, the region that suffered most from the first storm that struck on May 3.

In Yangon, the main commercial city, winds were already beginning to whip up Wednesday evening, but it was unclear how strong the storm would become.

Thailand’s prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, flew to Yangon on Wednesday to persuade Myanmar’s leaders to allow more foreign aid workers into the country. The members of the military junta told him they were in control of the relief operations and had no need for foreign experts, he told reporters after returning to Bangkok, the Associated Press reported.

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Freddie Mac Reports Loss, Plans To Raise $5.5 Billion
2008-05-14 17:37:19
Freddie Mac, the giant mortgage funding company, Wednesday reported that rising foreclosures and falling home prices contributed to $1.45 billion of credit-related expenses during the first quarter, up 58.8 percent from the previous quarter and 452.7 percent from the first three months of last year.

However, a variety of accounting changes and other factors helped Freddie Mac's bottom line. The McLean firm said it lost $151 million (66 cents per share) during the three month period that ended March 31, compared with losses of $2.45 billion during the previous quarter and $133 million (35 cents) during the first quarter of 2007.

By one widely followed measure, Freddie Mac's financial condition deteriorated sharply during the first quarter. The so-called fair value of its assets, a snapshot of their value based on current estimates, fell to a negative $5.2 billion on March 31 from a positive $12.6 billion on Dec. 31. That was despite changes in valuation methods that increased the fair value by $4.6 billion. Freddie Mac said it plans to raise $5.5 billion of capital in the near future by selling more common and preferred stock. Issuing more common stock dilutes the value of current investors' shares.

The company is required to maintain a minimum level of capital as a cushion against losses. Freddie Mac could hold onto the added capital or use it to expand its business.

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Rocket Hits As Bush Begins Israel Visit
2008-05-14 17:36:46
A rocket launched from Gaza struck a commercial center in southern Israel on Wednesday, hours before President Bush, on a visit to Israel to mark the 60th anniversary of its founding, was to address a major peace conference here called “Facing Tomorrow.”

The rocket, which the police said was Iranian-made, crashed through the roof of a health clinic in Ashkelon, about 10 miles north of the Gaza Strip. It badly injured a woman and her 2-year-old daughter, both in the head, as well as their doctor at the clinic. A fourth person was also injured.

Maj. General Uriel Bar-Lev, police commander of Israel’s southern district, said bomb experts determined the rocket’s Iranian origin.

“It has Iranian fingerprints on it,” he said in an interview outside the mall, crushed glass underfoot, after visiting the third-floor clinic that took the hit.

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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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Food Prices See Greatest Jump In Nearly 20 Years
2008-05-14 17:39:03
Rising global grain prices helped spark the largest increase in monthly food costs in nearly 20 years, as consumers paid more in April for cereals, baked goods, and the dairy, meat and other animal products that rely on feedstocks, the government reported Wednesday.

Food prices have risen 6.1 percent in the past three months on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. The one-month rise between March and April of 0.9 percent was the biggest since January 1990, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The rise in prices covered all categories of food but was most severe among such staple goods as grains and oils - goods where inflation has touched off food riots in some less developed countries and led to concerns about supply shortages.

The costs of cereal and bakery products increased 1.4 percent from March to April and have risen nearly 20 percent in the past three months on a seasonally adjusted basis. Prices for fats and oils jumped more than 5 percent in April, on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, and have increased more than 26 percent in the past three months. Prices for sugars and sweets increased more than 10 percent during that same period.

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Mississippi Republicans Regroup After Loss
2008-05-14 17:38:27

House Republicans struggled to regroup Wednesday in the aftermath of a devastating election loss in Mississippi, acknowledging that their party faced a significant challenge in November after the loss of three Republican seats in special elections this year.

“It was another wake-up call that we have to show Americans that we can fix the problems here in Washington and fix the problems they deal with every day,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader.

Republicans said that the Democratic victor in Mississippi’s 1st District, Travis Childers, successfully co-opted a conservative Republican anti-tax, pro-gun, pro-life message.

“We know the message works,” said Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 2 Republican. “We’ve got to do a better job connecting that with Republicans. And I personally think there’s a substantial and adequate time to do that.”

Republicans were clearly demoralized by the loss and the prospect of sinking deeper into the minority in November. No immediate personnel shake-ups were announced even though Boehner hinted at “changes that may be necessary to adopt to the environment we are living in.”

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Burma (Myanmar) Rejects Large Scale Relief Effort
2008-05-14 17:37:54
A new storm is brewing off Burma coast.

The United States landed five more plane loads of relief supplies in Burma Wednesday to help survivors of Tropical Cyclone Nargis, and Burmese authorities agreed to let 160 Asian aid workers assist its struggling relief effort, but the country's reclusive military rulers continued to reject international appeals to send in large numbers of foreign relief personnel and appeared to discount warnings of a second wave of deaths from disease and starvation.

Thailand's Public Health Ministry confirmed that it is sending 30 doctors, along with medical supplies, on Friday to work in Burma for two weeks. U.N. officials said Burmese authorities also have asked India, China and Bangladesh to send teams of experienced disaster relief personnel.

Adding to the woes of the survivors, weather satellites spotted another powerful storm brewing in the waters off Burma. Meteorologists said its future path and strength are unclear, and there were conflicting accounts about whether it could become another cyclone.

The news came as five more U.S. military C-130 transport planes, carrying such desperately needed supplies as water, mosquito nets, plastic sheets, blankets and hygiene kits, flew into Burma's largest city, Rangoon, Wednesday in an acceleration of U.S. assistance.

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Finally, U.S. Lists Polar Bear As Threatened Species
2008-05-14 17:37:07
The Interior Department declared the polar bear a threatened species Wednesday, saying it must be protected because of the decline in Arctic sea ice from global warming.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne cited dramatic declines in sea ice over the last three decades and projections of continued losses. These declines, he told a news conference, mean the polar bear is a species likely to be in danger of extinction in the near future.

Kempthorne also said, though, that it would be "inappropriate" to use the protection of the bear to reduce greenhouse gases, or to broadly address climate change.

Reflecting views recently expressed by President Bush, Kempthorne said the Endangered Species Act was "never meant to regulate global climate change."

He said the decision to list the bear includes administrative actions aimed at limiting the impact of the decision on energy development and other climate related activities.

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Arson Arrest In Florida Wildfires
2008-05-14 17:36:06
Authorities along Florida's Atlantic coast, where wildfires have gutted dozens of homes and scorched thousands of acres, arrested a man Wednesday who they said threw a glass bottle containing an accelerant into the woods.

Authorities said Brian Crowder set a small blaze that was quickly extinguished. They also planned to question the 31-year-old about larger wildfires that have found ample fuel in developments in the region, where the state has not held controlled burns to cut back vegetation.

A resident alerted police after seeing Crowder throw an object from his car that sparked the fire, Palm Bay Detective Ernie Diebel said. The object was a bottle containing a flammable liquid, said Palm Bay Police Chief Bill Berger.

The resident described a dark car, and officers stopped Crowder's vehicle shortly afterward. Crowder got out of his car and fled, said Diebel.

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