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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday May 27 2008 - (813)

Tuesday May 27 2008 edition
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World Leaders To Meet In Crisis Talks On Global Food Prices
2008-05-26 22:08:58

World leaders are to meet next week for urgent talks aimed at preventing tens of millions of the world's poor dying of hunger as a result of soaring food prices.

The summit in Rome, Italy, is expected to pledge immediate aid to poor countries threatened by malnutrition as well as charting longer-term strategies for improving food production.

Hosted by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it will hear calls for the establishment of a global food fund, as well as for new international guidelines on the cultivation of biofuels, which some have blamed for diverting land, crops and other resources away from food production.

The urgency of the meeting follows historic spikes in the price of some staple foods. The price of rice has doubled since January this year, while the cost of dairy products, soya beans, wheat and sugar have also seen large increases.

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Editorial: Mr. Bush And The G.I. Bill
2008-05-26 22:08:33
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Monday, May 26, 2008.

President Bush opposes a new G.I. Bill of Rights. He worries that if the traditional path to college for service members since World War II is improved and expanded for the post-9/11 generation, too many people will take it.

He is wrong, but at least he is consistent. Having saddled the military with a botched, unwinnable war, having squandered soldiers’ lives and failed them in so many ways, the commander in chief now resists giving the troops a chance at better futures out of uniform. He does this on the ground that the bill is too generous and may discourage re-enlistment, further weakening the military he has done so much to break.

So lavish with other people’s sacrifices, so reckless in pouring the national treasure into the sandy pit of Iraq, Mr. Bush remains as cheap as ever when it comes to helping people at home.

Thankfully, the new G.I. Bill has strong bipartisan support in Congress. The House passed it by a veto-proof margin this month, and last week the Senate followed suit, approving it as part of a military financing bill for Iraq and Afghanistan.

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IAEA Accuses Iran Of Refusing To Reveal Nuclear Aims
2008-05-26 22:08:04

Iran continues to withhold information needed to establish whether the country has attempted to build nuclear weapons, an allegation that remains a matter of "serious concern" the United Nation's nuclear watchdog reported Monday night.

In a sternly-phrased report, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that Iran had failed to provide the documentation and other evidence required to examine apparent anomalies in its nuclear activities that raise questions about a possible covert military program.

The report also said that Iran had not complied with U.N. Security Council demands for it to suspend the enrichment of uranium, but had instead expanded its enrichment efforts adding an extra 500 centrifuge machines to the 3,000 it has installed already and applying improved technology.

The tone of the report increases pressure on the Iranian government ahead of a scheduled visit to Tehran by the designated negotiator for the international community on Iran's nuclear program, Javier Solana.

"I hope that I will be going to Tehran soon. I cannot give you the date, but I hope that it will be within the month," Solana told reporters after a meeting of European Union foreign ministers.

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German Phone Giant Says It Spied On Staff, Journalists
2008-05-26 22:07:14

Europe's largest telecommunications operator was yesterday forced to issue words of assurance to its millions of customers that their personal data remained secure, after reports that the company hired a surveillance firm to spy on its employees' telephone conversations.

Deutsche Telekom acknowledged reports that its in-house security division had contracted a company in Berlin to monitor calls between its senior executives and journalists to identify the source of a series of leaks to the media.

Rene Obermann, Telekom's chief executive, said he was "deeply shattered" by the affair, insisting that senior executives had known nothing about it, and said he had launched an internal inquiry. Those found to have been involved faced "severe consequences", he said.

The spying operations, which are believed to have taken place between 2005 and 2006 under the code names Clipper and Rheingold, involved the tracking of several hundred thousand fixed-line and mobile telephone connections. The aim was to monitor phone calls made between journalists who reported on Deutsche Telekom and their contacts within the company.

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Obama Speaks At Wesleyan University Commencement
2008-05-26 02:53:09
Snipers crouched on roofs and Secret Service agents patrolled the field as Wesleyan University's class of 2008 participated Sunday in a commencement ceremony few attendees are likely to forget.

Under a clear blue sky, Sen. Barack Obama stood before the 737 graduating seniors and 120 doctoral graduates. Thousands of visitors blanketing a hill overlooking the ceremony rose to their feet in applause. Many had no connection to the school, and no tickets, but they cheered along with Wesleyan families and friends.

"At a time of war, we need you to work for peace," Obama (D-Illinois) told the graduates. "At a time of inequality, we need you to work for opportunity. At a time of so much cynicism and so much doubt, we need you to make us believe again. That's your task, class of 2008."

Last week, no one here could have expected the graduation would turn into such a spectacle. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) had been the scheduled speaker, but when he was hospitalized last week - and was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor - Obama, the Democratic presidential front-runner, was tapped to take his place.
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Thunderstorms, Hail And Tornadoes Leave 8 Dead In Iowa, Minnesota
2008-05-26 02:52:47
Severe thunderstorms packing large hail and tornadoes rumbled across the nation's midsection on Sunday, killing at least eight people and damaging dozens of homes, authorities said.

Iowa Homeland Security administrator Dave Miller said seven of the dead were killed by a tornado in northeast Iowa - five from Parkersburg, 80 miles northeast of Des Moines, and two from nearby New Hartford. At least 50 injuries were reported.

"Occasionally we have a death but we have warning system. Seven deaths. It's been a long time since we've had those kinds of injuries and deaths reported," said Miller.

Witnesses reported parts of Parkersburg - particularly the town's south side - were reduced to rubble, including most of the town's high school and homes.

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Aftershock Hits China, At Least 2 Dead, 71,000 Homes Destroyed
2008-05-26 02:52:13
The strongest aftershock since a May 12 earthquake devastated parts of Sichuan province struck the area Sunday afternoon, killing two people, injuring more than 480 and spreading panic through a region just beginning to move from rescue operations to rebuilding.

The 5.8-magnitude aftershock was centered about 25 miles west of Guangyuan city, 155 miles northeast of the provincial capital of Chengdu, said the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

An estimated 71,000 homes were destroyed, according to the New China News Agency. 

"All the buildings shook violently. Drivers lost control of their cars and were driving in a crazy manner," said An Qiang, manager of a hotel in Guangyuan that was damaged in the initial temblor. "It wasn't as bad as the main earthquake ... but still, from the bottom of my heart, I feel a kind of panic."

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Lebanon's Parliament Elects General As Nation's President
2008-05-26 02:51:18
Lebanon's parliament elected the army commander, Gen. Michel Suleiman, as president Sunday, filling a post vacant for six months and bringing a symbolic if tenuous end to the country's worst crisis since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990.

The vote for Suleiman was virtually uncontested, already agreed to in a deal negotiated in Qatar last week that ended an 18-month confrontation between forces allied with the government and the opposition led by the Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah. Postponed 19 times, the election marked the first step in reconstituting what had looked more and more like a failed state in past months: an unfilled presidency, a cabinet deemed illegitimate by the opposition and a parliament that had not met since 2006.

After Suleiman's election, by 118 votes of 127 possible, a flag-waving crowd that had gathered in his home town of Amchit erupted in cheers. Fireworks detonated over Beirut, cars blared their horns and church bells tolled. Staccato bursts of celebratory gunfire rattled across a capital that, less than two weeks ago, witnessed pitched gun battles redolent of civil war.

"I call upon all of you, politicians and citizens, to begin a new stage that is called Lebanon and the Lebanese," Suleiman, who forewent his military uniform for the civilian suit of a politician, told parliament. To repeated rounds of applause, he said the country had paid dearly for what he called national unity. "Let us preserve it hand in hand."

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Fuel Costs Kill Off One Airline A Week In The U.S.
2008-05-26 22:08:49

Airlines in America are closing down or going bankrupt at a rate of one a week as the rocketing price of oil forces the industry to its knees and calls into question the very viability of commercial air travel.

In Britain, analysts say low-cost carriers such as EasyJet and Ryanair could be hammered. Andrew Fitchie, analyst at Collins Stewart, said: "The no-frills airlines are in the eye of the storm. They will have to slash capacity, stay on the tarmac or look at merging. There will be casualties."

According to the U.S. Air Transport Association (ATA), six airlines have been forced to close down since the beginning of April, while another has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

"There has certainly been an acceleration of shutdowns in the past month or so," said a spokesman for ATA, adding that 10 carriers had been forced to close since December 25, 2007. "This is all to do with the cost of jet fuel. Carriers simply cannot afford it."

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'Quake Lake' Flood Fears For 1.3 million Chinese
2008-05-26 22:08:19

Chinese authorities are preparing to evacuate as many as 1.3 million survivors of the Sichuan earthquake who are now threatened by flooding, the state media reported yesterday.

The Tangjiashan "quake lake" is the largest of the 34 bodies of water formed by landslides that have dammed rivers. Tens of thousands of those closest to the lake have been moved to higher ground, and the authorities have begun briefing residents across a far wider swath of land on plans for dealing with a dam burst.

Two weeks after the magnitude 7.9 earthquake hit Sichuan, Beijing said that the death toll had risen to 65,080, with 23,150 people still missing. The government has said the final number of dead is expected to exceed 80,000. But with heavy rains forecast the authorities are working to avert a secondary disaster due to flooding.

State television said the Tangjiashan lake, now holding an estimated 128 million cubic meters of water, should be safe for the next 10 days, the time it is expected to take the army to clear debris. But experts have also warned that it is difficult to predict when the landslide dams will burst.

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Commentary: McCain's Mini-League Of Nations Would Only Cause Divisions
2008-05-26 22:07:40
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by former United Nations undersecretary Shashi Tharoor, and appeared in the Guardian edition for Tuesday, May 27, 2008. Thoor writes: "John McCain wants to create a new alliance to circumvent the U.N. We mustn't let this idea gain consensus in Washington." Tharoor's commentary follows:

Amid the continuing brouhaha about issues of race and gender in the U.S. presidential campaign, we may be in danger of losing sight of the most important question that has arisen in the candidates' skirmishing over international affairs. That relates to John McCain's advocacy of the establishment of a "league of democracies", and the mounting clamor for Barack Obama to espouse the same idea as his own.

McCain says he'd establish the league in his first year in office: a close-knit grouping of like-minded nations that could respond to humanitarian crises and compensate for the U.N. Security Council's tendency to be hamstrung by the likes of Russia and China when it needs to take decisive action against the world's evil-doers. Neocon guru Robert Kagan, an avid proponent, says: "The world's democracies could make common cause to act in humanitarian crises when the U.N. Security Council cannot reach unanimity." The league's strength would be that it "would not be limited to Europeans and Americans but would include the world's other great democracies, such as India, Brazil, Japan and Australia, and would [therefore] have even greater legitimacy".

The idea has also been embraced by many Obama supporters, notably Ivo Daalder, a foreign policy adviser to the Illinois senator, and Anthony Lake, his senior international affairs adviser. "Crises in Iran, North Korea, Iraq and Darfur," Lake writes, "not to mention the pressing need for more efficient peacekeeping operations, the rising temperatures of our seas and multiple other transnational threats, demonstrate not only the limits of American unilateral power but also the inability of international institutions designed in the middle of the 20th century to cope with the problems of the 21st." In other words, the institutions so painstakingly built up out of the ashes of the second world war have passed their use-by date, and it's time to move on.

One doesn't have to be a starry-eyed devotee of the U.N. to ask everyone to take a deep breath before the runaway popularity of this idea becomes consensual in Washington. No one disagrees that our international institutions need reform to make them reflect the realities of a post-American world, but that's not where the advocates of an alternative are coming from.

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Siemens Had 'Slush Fund For Orders'
2008-05-26 22:06:54

A former senior manager at Siemens Monday admitted building up an elaborate system of slush funds and shell firms at the request of his superiors to help Europe's biggest technology group win overseas contracts through bribes.

Reinhard Siekaczek told a court in Munich, Germany, that he had informed his entire divisional board about the system and assumed that the whole group executive board knew about it from at least 2004.

On the opening day of Germany's biggest post-war corporate corruption trial, Siekaczek described how managers signed off "commissions" on yellow Post-It notes which could be easily removed in case of raids or investigations.

His damning testimony included allegations that his efforts to stop the widespread bribery at Siemens' fixed-line telecommunications equipment division (Com), where he was a sales manager, had fallen foul of his superiors who "didn't want to hear".

Siekaczek, aged 57, is the first of up to 300 accused among Siemens' current and former staff to stand trial in a corruption scandal that the group itself admits involves at least €1.3 billion (£1 billion or US$2 billion) in siphoned-off money.

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Warren Buffett Says U.S. Recession 'Will Be Deeper And Longer' Than Many Think
2008-05-26 02:52:58
Warren Buffett, whose business and investment acumen has made him one of the world's wealthiest men, was quoted in an interview published today as saying the U.S. economy is already in a recession.

Asked by Germany's Der Spiegel weekly whether he thinks the U.S. could still avoid a recession, he said that as far as the average person is concerned, it is already here.

"I believe that we are already in a recession," Buffet was quoted as saying. "Perhaps not in the sense as defined by economists. ... But people are already feeling the effects of a recession."

"It will be deeper and longer than what many think," he added.
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Mars Craft "Phoenix" Succeeds In Soft Landing On Mars
2008-05-26 02:52:30

The spacecraft Phoenix landed safely on Mars Sunday, making a hazardous soft landing on the planet's far north with all its scientific systems apparently intact and ready to begin an intensive new search for life beyond Earth.

After counting down the last stage of the descent by hundreds and then tens of nerve-racking meters, officials at Mission Control in Pasadena, California, announced that "Phoenix has landed," setting off a joyous celebration by the mission team.

"It could not have gone better, not in my dreams," said Barry Goldstein, NASA's project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

The touchdown, at about 8 p.m. Eastern time, was the first successful soft landing on the Red Planet - using a parachute and thrusters rather than protective air bags - since the twin Viking missions in 1976. In all, six of 11 similar attempts by the United States, Russia and England ended in failure, so the Phoenix team awaited with enormous apprehension the outcome of the spacecraft's approach and landing.

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In Colorado River Delta, Waters - And Prospects - Are Drying Up
2008-05-26 02:51:51
Fighting a fierce north wind and cresting waves, a dozen Cucapa Indian fishermen were in trouble before they were halfway home, their small boats and balky outboard motors over matched by the roiling estuary of the Colorado River Delta.

"Malo viento," muttered Julio Figueroa, as he nosed his boat slowly through the wind-whipped waves, his feet submerged in 10 inches of standing water. Boats have capsized and men have drowned in these waters, where river and sea collide. Many others have drifted out to sea after waterlogged motors stalled.

The Cucapa say that every year they must venture farther downstream, braving some of the highest spring tides in the world. Rough seas aren't the only hazard. It is illegal to fish here. The waters are part of a federal sanctuary created to protect several imperiled marine species. Although getting caught could cost them their boats, the Cucapa say they have little choice. Upstream, where the current is slower and the fishing legal, there is not enough water anymore and, consequently, not enough fish.

As U.S. scientists warn of a semi-permanent drought along the taxed river by midcentury, Mexico today offers a glimpse of what dry times can be like. Rationing is in effect in some areas. Farmers have abandoned crops they can no longer irrigate. Experts fear that the desert will reclaim some of the region's most fertile land.
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