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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday May 29 2008 - (813)

Thursday May 29 2008 edition
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While U.S. Natural Gas Prices Rise, Imported Natural Gas Is On Hold
2008-05-29 01:46:41
The cost of a gallon of gas gets all the headlines, but the natural gas that will heat many American homes next winter is going up in price as fast or faster.

That fact makes the scene in the languid, alligator-infested marshland here in coastal Louisiana all the more remarkable.

Only a month after Cheniere Energy inaugurated its $1.4 billion liquefied natural gas (L.N.G.) terminal Cameron Parish, an empty supertanker sat in its berth with no place to go while workers painted empty storage tanks.

The nearly idle terminal is a monument to a stalled experiment, one that was supposed to import so much L.N.G. from around the world that homes would be heated and factories humming at bargain prices.

Now L.N.G. shipments to the United States are slowing to a trickle, and Cheniere and other companies have dropped plans to build more terminals.

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111 Nations, Minus The U.S., Agree To Cluster-Bomb Ban
2008-05-29 01:46:08
More than 100 countries reached agreement Wednesday to ban cluster bombs, controversial weapons that human rights groups deplore but that the United States, which did not join the ban, calls an integral, legitimate part of its arsenal.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose personal intervention Wednesday led to final agreement among representatives of 111 countries gathered in Dublin, called the ban a "big step forward to make the world a safer place."

In addition to the United States, Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan - all of them major producers or users of the weapons - did not sign the agreement or participate in the talks.

The weapons consist of canisters packed with small bombs, or "bomblets," that spread over a large area when a canister is dropped from a plane or fired from the ground. While the bomblets are designed to explode on impact, they frequently do not. Civilians, particularly children, are often maimed or killed when they pick up unexploded bombs, sometimes years later.

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McCain's Rebuke Of Minister May Alienate Evangelicals
2008-05-29 01:45:25

The Rev. Rod Parsley paces the stage, wiping his forehead and shouting to his congregation in a taped sermon that marriage is under attack by "tortured and angry homosexuals."

During another of his nationally broadcast television shows, he compares Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan,  saying that its goal is to "eliminate" blacks. And at another service at his 12,000-member World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio, he punches the air and calls Islam a "false religion" that God has told America to destroy.

"We were built for battle! We were created for conflict! We get off on warfare!" he adds.

Images of one of the nation's rising stars of television evangelism are widely available on DVDs and Web sites, with sermons that are almost certain to inflame some segment of the voting public but, in its quest to secure support from evangelical Christians, the campaign of presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain did not note a long record of inflammatory statements by Parsley and the Rev. John Hagee, of Texas, another TV evangelist, until long after McCain had accepted their endorsements.

The move backfired last week when clips of the ministers' sermons gained national attention, prompting McCain to reject their support. The candidate's abrupt turnabout brought criticism not only from secular viewers, who questioned why he had aligned himself with controversial religious voices, but also from evangelicals, who said he may have alienated a powerful bloc of potential Republican voters.

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In Texas, 2 Voter Rights Cases Get Attention
2008-05-28 15:35:15
“Vote or Die,” exhorts the faded slogan on a roadway at Prairie View A&M University, where black students once marched for the right to vote here in the town where they attend school, on a former cotton plantation about 50 miles northwest of Houston, Texas.

The students won that battle in 2004, long after the United States Surpreme Court supposedly decided the issue in 1979. Yet disputes over minority voting rights - along with accusations of election fraud - continue to rouse Prairie View, home to one of the nation’s leading historically black colleges, and other Texas locales.

“The cold war’s not over - they just moved the fence from Berlin to the Texas border,” said DeWayne Charleston, Waller County justice of the peace, who maintains that local officials failed to record hundreds of students whom he registered to vote in 2006. The U.S. Department of Justice and the Texas attorney general’s office say investigations are under way here, but will not give details.

Meanwhile, the state's attorney general, Greg Abbott, is a defendant in a separate voting rights case that goes to federal trial on Wednesday in the East Texas city of Marshall, in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision last month upholding Indiana’s tough voter identification law.

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Editorial: The Senate's Chance On Global Warming
2008-05-28 15:34:25
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Wednesday, May 28, 2008.

For seven long years, President Bush has refused to confront the challenge of climate change and provide the leadership that this country and the world needs to reduce greenhouse gases and avoid the destructive consequences of global warming.

The Senate, and all three presidential candidates, have a chance to provide that leadership. Next week, the Senate is scheduled to take up a bill sponsored by John Warner, the Virginia Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut independent, that seeks aggressively to reduce emissions from all sectors of the economy.

Mr. Bush, predictably, opposes the bill. Add that to the slim Democratic majority and the complexity of the bill itself, and the chances of getting 60 filibuster-proof votes are modest at best. Even so, a majority vote would create positive momentum for the next Congress and send a strong signal to the country and the world that help on this issue is on the way.

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Sen. Levin Questions U.S. Aid To Pakistan
2008-05-28 15:33:56
The U.S. should rethink a multimillion-dollar program aimed at training and equipping a paramilitary force in Pakistan unless the country does more to keep terrorists from crossing the Afghan border, a Democratic senator said Tuesday.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters after a three-day trip to the region that U.S. officials have little confidence that segments of the Pakistan government,  particularly its army, are working actively to stop the flow of Taliban fighters and weapons into  Afghanistan. In some cases, these groups might even be providing support to terrorists, he said.

"If that's our intelligence assessment, then there's a real question as to whether or not we should be putting money into strengthening the Frontier Corps on the Pakistan side," Levin, D-Michigan, said in a conference call from Qatar.

Levin is among a growing chorus of Democrats questioning the more than $10 billion in U.S. military and economic aid given to Pakistan to fight terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. Last month, a report by the Government Accountability Office found that despite the money, terrorists are still operating freely along the Afghan border.

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Ahmadinejad Rival Elected Speaker Of Iranian Parliament
2008-05-28 15:32:57
A powerful rival to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became speaker of Iran's parliament today, clearing the way for a potential challenge against the hard-line head of state ahead of 2009 presidential elections.

Ali Larijani, Iran's former chief nuclear negotiator and a prominent conservative, won 232 out of 263 votes cast to attain the powerful and high-profile speaker's seat. His victory over former speaker Gholam-Hossein Hadad-Adel, who rarely challenged Ahmadinejad, suggests hostility to the president among the new batch of mostly conservative lawmakers voted into office in the March parliamentary elections.

Enmity between Larijani and Ahmadinejad runs deep. Larijani ran and lost against Ahmadinejad for the presidency in 2005. As Iran's nuclear negotiator he chafed against Ahmadinejad's belligerent international tone, which he complained undermined his talks with European leaders and international arms inspectors.

Iran's nuclear program has come under intense international scrutiny. U.S. and European officials suspect that oil- and gas-rich Iran's drive to master the enrichment of uranium is the cornerstone for a future nuclear weapons program.
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White House Reacts Angrily To McClellan's Book
2008-05-28 15:32:23
The White House reacted angrily Wednesday to scathing criticisms of President Bush and members of his inner circle that appear in a new memoir written by Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary who was forced out in 2006 after three tumultuous years.

In excerpts from the book, set to be published next week, McClellan writes that President Bush “convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment,” and has engaged in “self-deception” to justify his political ends. He calls the decision to invade Iraq a “serious strategic blunder,” and says that the biggest mistake the Bush White House made was “a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed.”

Dana Perino, the current White House press secretary, had harsh words for McClellan, calling him “sad” and suggesting that he mischaracterized his years in the West Wing to sell books.

“Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House,” she said. “For those of us who fully supported him, before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled. It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew.”

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Bin Laden's Brother Wants To Build Bridge Across Red Sea
2008-05-28 01:26:58
Nobody has walked across the Red Sea since Moses parted the waters, but it could happen again under an audacious plan to build the world's longest suspension bridge between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

If built, the bridge would cross the Red Sea at an 18-mile-wide strait known as the Bab al-Mandeb, or Gate of Tears, connecting the southern tip of Yemen with the tiny East African country of Djibouti. Estimated price tag: $10 billion to $20 billion.

The proposal is turning heads in the Middle East, and not just because it would make engineering history. The developer of the project is a Dubai-based firm headed by Tarek bin Laden, an elder brother of the world's most famous terrorist.

The bin Laden family, from Saudi Arabia, has operated a construction empire for decades. In the mid-1990s, the clan cut its financial ties with Osama bin Laden, founder of al-Qaeda, around the time he declared war on the United States and called for the overthrow of the Saudi ruling family.

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Citizens' Groups Get Supplies To China Quake Victims
2008-05-29 01:46:27
Grass-roots organizations and informal networks of private citizens are playing a vital role in getting supplies to rescue workers and survivors of this month's devastating earthquake in China. The government, in a notable shift, appears content to let them do so.

Officially, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in China must register with the government; the larger groups are as rigid and controlled as their official sponsors. Authorities remain deeply suspicious of smaller, independent groups.

Now, however, aided by the proliferation of online bulletin boards, blogs and on-the-ground coordination centers, unregistered grass-roots organizations are essentially functioning as legitimate earthquake-relief NGOs, operating for the first time without having to look over their shoulders and helping to manage a crisis whose death toll could surpass 80,000.

Here in the ruined town of Yingxiu, about 40 miles from the epicenter of the May 12 earthquake, a ragtag group of citizens - a shopkeeper from Guizhou province, his friends and a volunteer worker who knew the way - emerged the other day after a four-hour trip.

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Ruling Of Democratic National Committee Lawyers A Setback For Clinton
2008-05-29 01:45:52
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's prospects of persuading Democratic officials to override party rules and recognize all delegates selected in the Florida and Michigan primaries suffered a setback yesterday after lawyers for the party ruled that no more than half of those delegations could be legally recognized.

Democratic National Committee lawyers wrote in a memo that the two states must forfeit at least half of their delegates as punishment for holding primaries earlier than DNC rules allowed. Clinton (New York) prevailed in both contests, although the Democratic candidates had agreed not to campaign in Florida and Michigan, and Sen. Barack Obama removed his name from the Michigan ballot.

The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee is scheduled to meet Saturday to make a final determination on Florida and Michigan, which would have collectively awarded 368 convention delegates. In the memo, party lawyers determined that full restoration, as sought by Clinton, would violate DNC rules, although it did note a loophole that would allow her to carry the challenge to the first day of the Democratic National Convention in late August.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters that the senator from Illinois is prepared to forfeit a portion of his delegate lead, as part of a compromise to resolve the Florida and Michigan flap. "We don't think it's fair to seat them fully," Plouffe said of the two delegations, adding, "We're willing to give some delegates here" in order to put the matter to rest.

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Obama's Cautious Policy Stand
2008-05-29 01:45:10

Already famous for his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama entered the Senate with more than the usual aspirations about the impact he could have.

So in 2005, he had his office arrange informal seminars so that experts on health care, the economy, energy and education could brief him. "I'm not running for president," he told a group of experts at his Capitol Hill office in the spring of 2006, but he said he had a "national voice" and wanted to use it.

When Obama changed his mind and decided to run for president after only two years in the Senate, however, he effectively dismissed the importance of policy proposals, declaring in one speech in early 2007, "We've had plenty of plans, Democrats," and in another: "Every four years, somebody trots out a white paper, they post it on the Web." He cast his "new kind of politics" in terms of his ability to transcend divisions and his unique biography and offered few differences on issues from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and the other Democratic presidential candidates.

Now this approach faces a new test from Sen. John McCain. The Republican candidate is making an aggressive appeal to independents by emphasizing his past and present stances against party orthodoxy, particularly his proposals to combat global warming.

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In U.K. And France Traffic Stops Over Gas Prices
2008-05-28 15:35:00
Hundreds of truckers shut down a central London highway Tuesday, French fishermen blockaded ports and French President Nicolas Sarkozyproposed cutting European fuel taxes as already high gasoline prices soared even higher.

"It's hard to find words to describe the severity of the problem. It's not even a problem really; it's a meltdown," said Peter Carroll, a trucking industry spokesman who, like hundreds of other drivers, parked his rig on London's A40 highway Tuesday morning, shutting that key commuter artery for most of the day.

The truckers, who eventually delivered a petition to Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office at 10 Downing Street,  were protesting as Britain's national average pump price for diesel hit the equivalent of $9.56 a gallon and regular unleaded hit $8.61 a gallon, according to the Automobile Association.

The protests spreading across Europe signal a growing agitation at skyrocketing fuel prices in nations already accustomed to paying dearly at the pump.

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U.S. Set To Break Tornado Record
2008-05-28 15:34:13
Another week, another rumbling train of tornadoes that obliterates entire city blocks, smashing homes to their foundations and killing people even as they cower in their basements.

With the year not even half done, 2008 is already the deadliest tornado year in the United States since 1998 and seems on track to break the U.S. record for the number of twisters in a year, according to the National Weather Service. Also, this year's storms seem to be unusually powerful.

Like someone who has lost all his worldly possessions to a whirlwind, meteorologists cannot explain exactly why this is happening.

"There are active years and we don't particularly understand why," said research meteorologist Harold Brooks at the National Severe Storms Lab in Norman, Oklahoma.

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Israeli Defense Minister Calls For Olmert To Step Aside
2008-05-28 15:33:10
Israel's defense minister called on Wednesday for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to remove himself from his post pending the outcome of a high-profile corruption investigation in which Olmert is embroiled.

The defense minister, Ehud Barak, a former prime minister, was the first senior member of Israel’s coalition government to insist Olmert relinquish his office over the corruption case.

“The prime minister must disconnect himself from the daily running of the government,” Barak said at a lunchtime news conference broadcast live from the Parliament building.

Barak convened the news conference to explain his party’s position a day after a Long Island businessman at the center of the corruption investigation testified in court here that he gave about $150,000, mostly in cash stuffed into envelopes, to Olmert over the course of 13 years. He said the money was for campaign financing and personal expenses.

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Human Rights Report Assails U.S.
2008-05-28 15:32:38
Sixty years after the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, governments in scores of countries still torture or mistreat their people, Amnesty International said Wednesday in a report that again urged the United States to close down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.

In its annual report, the London-based human rights watchdog said “flashpoints” in Darfur, Zimbabwe, Gaza, Iraq and Myanmar (Burma) “demand immediate action”.

“World leaders are in a state of denial but their failure to act has a high cost,” Irene Khan, the secretary general of Amnesty International, said in a statement accompanying the report. “As Iraq and Afghanistan show, human rights problems are not isolated tragedies, but are like viruses than can infect and spread rapidly, endangering all of us.”

The report singled out for criticism China, the United States, and Russia and accused the European Union of complicity in the rendition of terrorism suspects. The European Union, it said, must “set the same bar on human rights for its own members as it does for other countries.”

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Former White House Spokesman Writes That Bush Misled Public On Iraq
2008-05-28 01:27:12

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes in a new memoir that the Iraq war was sold to the American people with a sophisticated "political propaganda campaign" led by President Bush and aimed at "manipulating sources of public opinion" and "downplaying the major reason for going to war".

McClellan includes the charges in a 341-page book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," that delivers a harsh look at the White House and the man he served for close to a decade. He describes Bush as demonstrating a "lack of inquisitiveness," says the White House operated in "permanent campaign" mode, and admits to having been deceived by some in the president's inner circle about the leak of a CIA covert operative's name.

The book, coming from a man who was a tight-lipped defender of administration aides and policy, is certain to give fuel to critics of the administration, and McClellan has harsh words for many of his past colleagues. He accuses former White House adviser Karl Rove of misleading him about his role in the CIA case. He describes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as being deft at deflecting blame, and he calls Vice President Cheney "the magic man" who steered policy behind the scenes while leaving no fingerprints.

McClellan stops short of saying that Bush purposely lied about his reasons for invading Iraq, writing that he and his subordinates were not "employing out-and-out deception" to make their case for war in 2002.

In a chapter titled "Selling the War," he alleges that the administration repeatedly shaded the truth and that Bush "managed the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option."

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Commentary: The Fading Of The Mirage Economy
2008-05-28 01:26:43
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Washington Post Business Columnist Steven Pearlstein, writing from Washington, D.C. Mr. Pearlstein's commentary follows:

Suddenly, it seems, we're getting hit from all directions.

Energy and food prices are soaring. The housing market continues to collapse. Government revenue is falling, and taxes are rising. Airlines are jacking up fares and fees while reducing service. Banks are pulling credit lines. Auto companies are cutting production once again. Even investment bankers are losing their jobs.

The tendency is to see these as separate developments, each with its own causes and dynamic. Fundamentally, however, they are all part of the same story - the story of the global economy purging itself of large and unsustainable imbalances that for a time allowed many Americans to think they were richer than they really were.

Most of us understand that an overabundance of cheap, easy credit created a housing bubble that artificially inflated the price of land and housing, produced too many homes and homeowners, and persuaded too many Americans to dip into their home equity to support a lifestyle their income could not sustain. Now that the bubble has burst, we are coming to accept the reality of lower prices, reduced production, declining homeownership rates and the wisdom that a house is not an ATM or a substitute for a retirement fund.

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