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Friday, June 06, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday June 6 2008 - (813)

Friday June 6 2008 edition
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Adviser Says McCain Backs Bush Wiretaps
2008-06-06 03:16:32
A top adviser to Senator John McCain says McCain believes that President Bush’s program of wiretapping without warrants is lawful, a position that appears to bring him into closer alignment with the sweeping theories of executive authority pushed by the Bush administration legal team.

In a letter posted online by National Review this week, the adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said McCain believed that the Constitution gave Bush the power to authorize the National Security Agency to monitor Americans’ international phone calls and e-mail without warrants, despite a 1978 federal statute that required court oversight of surveillance.

McCain believes that “neither the administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the A.C.L.U. and trial lawyers, understand were constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001,” wrote Holtz-Eakin.

If McCain is elected president, Holtz-Eakin added, he would do everything he could to prevent terrorist attacks, “including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.”

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Investors Use Of Trading Loophole Blamed For Oil Prices
2008-06-06 03:16:08

Hedge funds and big Wall Street banks are taking advantage of loopholes in federal trading limits to buy massive amounts of oil contracts, according to a growing number of lawmakers and prominent investors, who blame the practice for helping to push oil prices to record highs.

The federal agency that oversees oil trading, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, has exempted these firms from rules that limit speculative buying, a prerogative traditionally reserved for airlines and trucking companies that need to lock in future fuel costs.

The CFTC has also waived regulations over the past decade on U.S. investors who trade commodities on some overseas markets, freeing those investors to accumulate large quantities of the future oil supply by making purchases on lightly regulated foreign exchanges.

Over the past five years, investors have become such a force on commodity markets that their appetite for oil contracts has been equal to China's increase in demand over the same period, said Michael Masters, a hedge fund manager who testified before Congress on the subject last month. The commodity markets, he added, were never intended for such large financial players.

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Commentary: Secret Plan To Keep Iraq Under U.S. Control
2008-06-06 03:15:21
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Patrick Cockburn and appeared in The Independent newspaper's edition for Thursday, June 5, 2008.

A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in November.

The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which U.S. troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilize Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.

The accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the U.S. President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated; but by perpetuating the U.S. presence in Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw U.S. troops if he is elected president in November.

The timing of the agreement would also boost the Republican candidate, John McCain, who has claimed the United States is on the verge of victory in Iraq - a victory that he says Obama would throw away by a premature military withdrawal.

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U.S. Environmental Groups Warn of Oilsands 'Poison'
2008-06-06 03:12:55
Environmental activists are warning U.S. lawmakers and consumers that the Canadian oilsands sector is an environmental disaster that is poisoning U.S refineries.

"The environmental costs of tarsand development are staggering," says a report released Wednesday by the Environmental Integrity Project, a Washington-based group, in the latest salvo in a pitched public relations battle over Western Canada's resource riches.

The report, "Tar Sands: Feeding U.S. Refinery Expansions with Dirty Fuel", warned that much of the oil being processed in the United States would soon get dirtier since most refineries were being expanded to handle oil from Western Canada and meet Americans' growing appetite for fossil fuels.

"As the rising price of oil has made extraction from Canadian tarsands profitable, U.S. oil refinery expansions to process the extra heavy sour crude from tarsands have come to dominate the refinery landscape," says the analysis.

It notes that more than two-thirds of the expansion of U.S. refining capacity is being tailored to handle the dirtier crude oil from Alberta, as opposed to conventional oil. The analysis also estimates that tarsands capacity in the U.S. will increase by 1.9 million barrels per day, while the cleaner conventional oil refining will decrease by about 300,000 barrels per day.

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U.N. Food Crisis Meeting Ends With Call For 'Urgent Action'
2008-06-06 03:12:00
A three-day United Nations conference on spiraling food costs concluded late on Thursday with the delegates calling on countries and financial institutions to provide more food for the world’s poor and increase agriculture production to ensure adequate supplies in the future.

The final declaration, completed Thursday, sought “urgent and coordinated action” to address the problems associated with higher food prices, to raise food production, to lower trade barriers and to increase research in agriculture.

The draft declaration largely sidestepped the issue of biofuels, which had emerged as the most contentious matter at the conference.

Some developing countries argued that food crops should not be used for fuel, but the declaration simply urged more research on the subject.

The draft also made no mention of biotechnology, despite arguments by United States officials that genetically modified crops were crucial to improving yields worldwide. Instead, it suggested more investment in “science and technology for food and agriculture.”

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Archaeologists Find 'Missing Pyramid'
2008-06-06 03:10:45
Egyptian archaeologists have uncovered the "missing pyramid" of a pharaoh and a ceremonial procession road where high priests carried mummified remains of sacred bulls, Egypt's antiquities chief said Thursday.

Zahi Hawass said the pyramid, of which only the base remains, is believed to be that of King Menkauhor, an obscure pharaoh who ruled for only eight years more than 4,000 years ago.

In 1842, German archaeologist Karl Richard Lepsius mentioned Menkauhor's pyramid among his finds at Saqqara, calling it the "Headless Pyramid" because its top was missing, said Hawass.

The desert sands covered Lepsius' discovery, and no archaeologist since was able to find it.

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Russia President Medvedev Makes Energy Offers On 1st European Visit
2008-06-05 14:55:07
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made energy a key focus of his first trip to western Europe on Thursday, promising Germany closer energy cooperation and offering Europe more say in Russian oil and gas deliveries.

Medvedev, sworn in last month, said transit pipelines for its oil and gas running through third states could be managed by international consortiums including European states.

Russia holds the world's biggest gas reserves and is the biggest gas exporter but fractious relations with the states through which it ships supplies have alarmed many customers.

The new consortiums would involve firms from Russia, the European Union and transit states, Medvedev said during a speech in Berlin.

"That would represent the mutual dependence we are talking about in Europe," he said, giving no further details.

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U.S., British Diplomats Attacked In Zimbabwe
2008-06-05 14:54:26
U.S. and British diplomats were attacked Thursday as they tried to investigate political violence in Zimbabwe and a U.S. Embassy staffer was beaten, said an embassy spokesman.

U.S. officials in Washington and British officials in London said the diplomats were released after being held for hours at a road block on the outskirts of Harare, the capital, following a trip to northern Zimbabwe.

The opposition and rights groups have accused President Robert Mugabe of orchestrating violence and intimidation in the run-up to a June 27 presidential runoff.

Attackers beat a Zimbabwean U.S. Embassy staffer and slashed the tires of some cars in the convoy, U.S. Embassy spokesman Paul Engelstad told the Associated Press.

U.S. Ambassador James McGee, who was not with the convoy, told CNN that Zimbabwean police and military officers and so-called war veterans, a group of often violent Mugabe supporters, were responsible for what he called an "illegal action."

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U.S. Air Force Leadership To Resign
2008-06-05 14:53:01
The military and civilian chiefs of the Air Force are resigning, U.S. officials said Thursday.

Defense officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said that Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne to step down.

A public announcement was expected later in the day.

There was no immediate word on who would be nominated to replace Moseley and Wynne.

Press secretary Dana Perino said President Bush knew about the resignations but that the White House "has not played any role" in the shake-up.

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Myanmar Junta Detains Activist Comedian
2008-06-05 14:51:54
A popular Myanmar comedian who had been carrying out a private campaign to help the victims of Cyclone Nargis  has been detained by police, his friends said Thursday.

The comedian, Maung Thura, 47, better known by his stage name Zarganar, or “The Tweezers,” was taken from his home in Yangon Wednesday evening, said the friends.

The police ransacked the house and seized his computer files, they said. The files contained photos and videos the military government would prefer that the world not see - victims of the May 3 cyclone and the 2006 “champagne and diamonds” wedding of the daughter of the junta leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, according to a friend of Thura. The friend spoke on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns.

The detention of Thura, who has been jailed at least three times in the last two decades for his outspokenness, comes as the government has been growing increasingly sensitive to criticism of its handling of the cyclone as inefficient and callous. By the government’s count, at least 134,000 dead or missing. Aid groups believe there are about 2.4 million survivors in need of aid.

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Around The World, Excitement Over Obama
2008-06-05 03:13:03
For much of the world, Sen. Barack Obama's victory in the Democratic primaries was a moment to admire the United States at a time when the nation's image abroad has been seriously damaged.

From hundreds of supporters crowded around televisions in rural Kenya, Obama's ancestral homeland, to jubilant Britons writing "WE DID IT!" on the Brits for Barack discussion board on Facebook, people celebrated what they called an important racial and generational milestone for the United States.

"This is close to a miracle. I was certain that some things will not happen in my lifetime," said Sunila Patel, 62, a widow encountered on the streets of New Delhi. "A black president of the U.S. will mean that there will be more American tolerance for people around the world who are different."

The primary race generated unprecedented interest outside the United States, much of it a reflection of a desire for change from the policies of President Bush, who surveys show is deeply unpopular around the globe. At the same time, many people abroad seemed impressed - sometimes even shocked - by the wide-open nature of U.S. democracy, and the history-making race between a woman and a black man.

"The primaries showed that the U.S. is actually the nation we had believed it to be, a place that is open-minded enough to have a woman or an African American as its president," said Minoru Morita, a Tokyo political analyst.

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Satellite Photos Show Amazon Deforestation Exploding
2008-06-05 03:12:32
New satellite photographs show that the destruction of Brazil's fragile Amazon rainforest has exploded this year, fueling fears that the government's efforts to stop deforestation have been fruitless.

Brazil's DETER real-time monitoring system found that more than 430 square miles of forest, an area a bit smaller than the city of Los Angeles, vanished in the month of April, while about 2,300 square miles, larger than the state of Delaware, were destroyed between last August and April.

That nine-month total surpassed the entire acreage in the Amazon that was destroyed over the previous 12 months, according to DETER data. What's worse, the satellites couldn't see about half of the forest in April due to cloud cover, suggesting that actual deforestation likely was much greater.

That's raised red flags among environmentalists, who say that soybean farming, cattle production and illegal logging are destroying the world's largest rainforest despite the government's attempts to halt the deforestation.

Chopping down and burning the rainforest releases tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change. Brazil is the world's fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, largely because of deforestation, according to the U.S.-based World Resources Institute.

Worse is yet to come, said environmentalists.

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NASA: China Likely To Beat U.S. Back To The Moon
2008-06-05 03:11:37
Here's one Olympic-style event that China is likely to win: landing the next humans on the moon.

Chinese astronauts are on schedule to beat the United States back to the moon by two or three years, the head of NASA's lunar exploration program said Wednesday.

"If they keep on the path they're on, they can" land before Americans do, said Rick Gilbreth, NASA's associate administrator for exploration systems.

The goal of NASA's Constellation program is to return astronauts to the moon by 2020, as proposed in President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration. Gilbreth said the Chinese could accomplish that by 2017 or 2018.

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Gas Prices Are Draining Local Governments' Coffers
2008-06-05 03:10:53
Consumers aren't the only ones getting pinched at the pump.

With crude oil trading at record highs and gasoline prices jumping daily, keeping area fire trucks and police cars gassed and ready to go has become an expensive proposition.

At the beginning of the 2007 fiscal year, the town of Port Royal, South Carolina, budgeted $40,000 to keep the tanks of its 20 police cruisers full, said town manager Van Willis.

To date, the department has spent $77,500 on fuel with less than a month remaining in the fiscal year.

The new budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 calls for $84,000 to be spent on gasoline alone, said Willis.

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Art, Jewels And $28 Million Seized In Raids
2008-06-05 03:10:07
British police searching thousands of safe deposit boxes seized at three London centers on Monday have found up to £14 million ($28 million) in cash, Scotland Yard said Wednesday.

Officers have also uncovered several works of Renaissance art, a haul of valuable jewelery, a gun and counterfeit passports, checkbooks and credit cards.

The raids, backed by armed police, took place at centers in Park Lane, central London, and Hampstead and Edgware, north London, after intelligence identified them as being used by organized crime gangs. They remained cordoned off last night with armed police on the streets.

The premises were all owned by Safe Deposit Centers, a company set up 20 years ago by two South Africans who have since become British citizens. Two directors of the company who were arrested on suspicion of money laundering offenses were released on police bail Wednesday and told to return in early September.

A third director, who was arrested at Heathrow airport, was still being questioned Wednesday night.

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Al-Qaeda's al-Zawahri Urges Holy War Over Gaza Strip
2008-06-05 03:09:27
Al-Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, called on Muslims to launch a holy war to break Israel's economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, in an audio recording posted Wednesday on an Islamic militant Internet site.

In the 11-minute tape, a voice purportedly belonging to al-Zawahri says in Arabic that the "salvation of the Muslim nation is through the march of its sons on the path of jihad".

An accompanying banner says the message was issued to mark the 41st anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, during which Egypt lost the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, Syria lost the Golan Heights and Jordan lost the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Trying to minimize the shock of the defeat, Arabs have long called the war the "naksa" - "setback" in Arabic - but it remains a deep wound.

In al-Zawahri's recording, titled "In Memory of the Naksa ... Break the Siege of Gaza", Osama bin Laden's deputy blames Arab regimes for the 1967 defeat. He says Arab governments were "impotent and unable to protect the Muslim nation, its sanctuaries and its wealth".

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Thousands Of Darfur Child Refugees Being Sold To Militants
2008-06-06 03:16:19

Thousands of child refugees from Darfur, some as young as nine, are being abducted and sold to warring militias as child soldiers, a British human rights group reported Friday.

The organization, Waging Peace, has filmed testimony in refugee camps in eastern Chad, describing how children, mostly boys between nine and 15, have been forcibly taken from their families by camp leaders, who are then trafficking them to militias.

The report singles out the Darfur rebel group fighting the Khartoum government, the Justice and Equality Movement, as the main offender; but it says a variety of groups, including the Chadian army and opposing rebels, are also involved.

"This recruitment is taking place every day, in full view of the CNAR [Chadian government body in charge of refugees] and Chadian armed forces, who turn a blind eye to what is going on, and despite the presence of European Union troops," the report says.

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Editorial: The Truth About The War
2008-06-06 03:15:39
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Friday, June 6, 2008.

It took just a few months after the United States’ invasion of Iraq for the world to find out that Saddam Hussein had long abandoned his nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs. He was not training terrorists or colluding with al-Qaeda. The only real threat he posed was to his own countrymen.

It has taken five years to finally come to a reckoning over how much the Bush administration knowingly twisted and hyped intelligence to justify that invasion. On Thursday - after years of Republican stonewalling - a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee gave us as good a set of answers as we’re likely to get.

The report shows clearly that President Bush should have known that important claims he made about Iraq did not conform with intelligence reports. In other cases, he could have learned the truth if he had asked better questions or encouraged more honest answers.

The report confirms one serious intelligence failure: President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials were told that Iraq still had chemical and biological weapons and did not learn that these reports were wrong until after the invasion. But Mr. Bush and his team made even that intelligence seem more solid, more recent and more dangerous than it was.

The report shows that there was no intelligence to support the two most frightening claims Mr. Bush and his vice president used to sell the war: that Iraq was actively developing nuclear weapons and had longstanding ties to terrorist groups. It seems clear that the president and his team knew that that was not true, or should have known it - if they had not ignored dissenting views and telegraphed what answers they were looking for.

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Lawmakers Grill V.A. Officials Over Veterans' Mental Health Care
2008-06-06 03:13:45
U.S. senators on Wednesday grilled Veterans Affairs Administration (V.A.) officials over an email that urged staff to make fewer diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and branded troubled soldiers seeking help as "compensation-seekers".

"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," read the electronic message, signed by mental health specialist Norma Perez.

The e-mail, was sent in March to staff at the V.A. medical center in Texas, where Perez was a coordinator of the PTSD clinical team.

Agence France-Presse was shown a copy of the e-mail.

"Additionally, we really don't have the time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD," read the message.

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Climate Plan Heads For Make Or Break U.S. Senate Vote
2008-06-06 03:12:26

A landmark plan to fight climate change will face a make-or-break vote in the U.S. Senate this week, with John McCain poised to oppose moving forward even as he touts his green credentials on the campaign trail.

Democratic leaders have moved to end debate on the climate change bill by Friday, angered by Republican delaying tactics that forced congressional clerks to mount an eight-hour reading of the entire 492-page plan to cut carbon emissions.

McCain, unlike many in his party, backs emissions limits and acknowledges the reality of climate change. As recently as 2005, he served as the chief sponsor of congressional global warming proposals.

Yet the Republican presidential nominee has signaled he would oppose this year's bill because it does too little promote nuclear power. McCain's sponsorship role is now filled by Virginia Republican senator John Warner.

Although the motion to end debate is considered unlikely to succeed, failure would heighten the political pressure on McCain and allow Democrats to accuse him of double-talk on climate change. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both support the measure, though they may not show up for the vote unless the outcome is in doubt.

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From Across Washington, D.C., Region, 10,000 Rally For Obama
2008-06-06 03:11:43

Sen. Barack Obama launched his general election campaign for president in Virginia Thursday, rolling up his sleeves and rallying families, college students and people playing hooky from work to help him "win this election and change the course of history."

The presumptive Democratic nominee drew more than 10,000 people to a late afternoon rally at Nissan Pavilion and spent the morning courting voters in coal country at a town hall meeting in southwest Virginia. Thursday night, Obama delayed a trip home to Chicago in order to meet with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. 

In Virginia, Obama delivered his standard stump speech at both campaign stops, but the events were weighted with significance, a reminder of one of his biggest primary wins and his determination to compete in Virginia and other traditional Republican strongholds in November.

The senator from Illinois noted the symbolism of the first African American presidential nominee appealing for support in a former Confederate state.

"This crowd reflects what was done 40 years ago to perfect this union," Obama told the Nissan crowd, referring to achievements of the civil rights movement. "And now, 40 years later, that same sense of urgency is demanded."

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U.S. Senate: Bush Misused Intelligence
2008-06-05 14:55:16

President Bush and his top aides repeatedly exaggerated what they knew about the threat from Iraqi nuclear, biological and chemical weapons as the administration pressed its case for war against Iraq, the Senate intelligence committee said Thursday in a long-awaited report.

While most of the administration's pre-war claims about Iraq reflected now-discredited U.S. intelligence reports, the White House crossed a line by conveying certainty about Saddam Hussein's ability to threaten the United States with weapons of mass destruction, according to the report approved by the committee's Democratic leaders and a handful of Republicans.

"In making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when it was unsubstantiated, contradicted or even non-existent," committee chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) said at a news conference. "As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed."

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Khalid Sheik Mohammed Seeks Death Penalty, Martyrdom
2008-06-05 14:54:53
Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, calmly told a U.S. military court Thursday that he wishes for a death sentence so that he can become "a martyr."

Sitting at the front of a line of white-clad detainees who allegedly carried out the most devastating terrorist attack in U.S. history, Mohammed stroked his long, bushy, gray beard and spoke in confident English of his contempt for the American Constitution and the military commissions designed to try him.

Calling the process an "inquisition," Mohammed told Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, the presiding judge, that he wants to represent himself at trial and looks forward to the death penalty.

"Yes, this is what I wish," Mohammed said. "I have looking to be a martyr from long time. I will, God willing, have this, by you. I understand very well."

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Saudi King Opens Conference On Interfaith Dialogue
2008-06-05 14:54:13
Saudi Arabia's king urged a gathering of Muslim scholars Wednesday to open religious dialogue with Christians and Jews. But politics intruded as a senior Iranian figure said the Islamic world should stand up to the U.S. and its "international arrogance."

King Abdullah spoke at the start of a three-day conference of Islamic scholars, clerics and other figures in the holy city of Mecca called to get Muslims on the same page before the kingdom launches a landmark initiative for talks with adherents of other monotheistic faiths.

The tone was one of reconciliation between Islam's two main branches, Sunni and Shiite. Abdullah, one of Sunni Islam's most prominent figures, entered the hall with Shiite Iranian politician Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who later sat at the king's left in a gesture of unity.

While Rafsanjani spoke warmly of his host, he also highlighted the political divide between their nations by delivering pointed criticism of America, a Saudi ally. He accused the U.S. of greedily trying to control the region's oil and said Muslims should resist it.

Saudi Arabia has presented its dialogue proposal as a strictly religious initiative - an opportunity to ease tensions within Islam and between it and Christianity and Judaism.

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Continental Airlines Cuts 3,000 Jobs, Grounds 67 Planes
2008-06-05 14:52:27
Continental Airlines said Thursday that it would cut 3,000 jobs and retire 67 Boeing aircraft, becoming the latest airline to announce capacity reductions in the face of high prices for jet fuel.

Continental’s announcement came a day after United Airlines said it is discontinuing Ted, its low-fare airline, cutting 1,100 more jobs on top of previously announced cuts and retiring a total of 100 aircraft. Delta Air Lines and American Airlines have announced similar steps.

Continental’s move, which equals a 16 percent reduction in its capacity, had been rumored in industry circles on Wednesday. The details came in a message to employees from Continental’s chief executive Lawrence W. Kellner and its president, Jeffery A. Smisek.

The airline, based in Houston, Texas, said Kellner and Smisek would not accept their salaries for the rest of 2008. Continental’s shares were up 5.9 percent in afternoon trading.

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U.S. Home Foreclosures Set New Record In 1st Quarter
2008-06-05 14:51:37

The number of U.S. homeowners falling into foreclosure continued to rise during the first quarter, setting a new record and pointing to continued troubles in the housing market, according to industry data released Thursday.

The level of home loans in foreclosure during the quarter reached 2.47 percent, the highest point since the Mortgage Bankers Association began collecting data in 1979. The percentage of mortgages that were delinquent, but not in foreclosure, stood at 6.35 percent. A mortgage is considered delinquent if payments are more than 30 days past due.

California and Florida continued to lead the country with the highest foreclosure and delinquency rates. Meanwhile, two states hard hit by the mortgage crisis, Michigan and Ohio, reported decreases in the number of new foreclosures. The Mortgage Bankers Association attributed the improvement in those states to lender efforts to reach out to homeowners in trouble.

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Food Is Gold, And Investors Are Pouring Billions Into Farming
2008-06-05 03:12:49

Huge investment funds have already poured hundreds of billions of dollars into booming financial markets for commodities like wheat, corn and soybeans.

Yet a few big private investors are starting to make bolder and longer-term bets that the world’s need for food will greatly increase - by buying farmland, fertilizer, grain elevators and shipping equipment.

One has bought several ethanol plants, Canadian farmland and enough storage space in the Midwest to hold millions of bushels of grain.

Another is buying more than five dozen grain elevators, nearly that many fertilizer distribution outlets and a fleet of barges and ships.

Three institutional investors, including the giant BlackRock fund group in New York, are separately planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in agriculture, chiefly farmland, from sub-Saharan Africa to the English countryside.

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Clinton Pullout Likely On Saturday
2008-06-05 03:12:11
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is likely to suspend her presidential campaign on Saturday and endorse Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, according to informed sources, after a day in which many of her key supporters and party leaders encouraged the senator from New York to make a quick decision in the interest of party unity.

The Clinton campaign issued a statement late Wednesday that did not officially confirm her decision but said Clinton would hold an event in Washington, D.C., "to thank her supporters and express her support for Senator Obama and party unity". The event was originally scheduled for Friday, but in a subsequent release her campaign announced that it would be moved to Saturday "to accommodate more of Senator Clinton's supporters who want to attend".

The decision came hours after the launch of an aggressive campaign by some of Clinton's supporters to encourage Obama to pick her as his running mate had further stoked tensions with backers of the senator from Illinois. Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television and a prominent Clinton confidant, said in an interview that she was "absolutely ready" to talk to Obama about the No. 2 slot and would take it if offered.

The vice presidential talk and pressure on Clinton to quit the race created an awkward ending to the Democratic race at a time when Obama is eager to turn his attention to the general-election campaign against Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee.

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U.S. Pushes To Rely More On Remotely Piloted Craft
2008-06-05 03:11:11
Early last year, the Air Force was able to keep no more than 11 of the remotely piloted, armed Predator surveillance aircraft flying over Iraq and Afghanistan at any one time.

By this past Sunday, that number had more than doubled to 25, and Air Force officials now say they can guarantee at least that many of the hunter-killer aircraft will be aloft around the clock, a new element of the buildup in American forces for the two wars.

The push to increase missions by the Predator, and its larger and more deadly variant, the Reaper, has been an issue of serious contention between Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the armed services, in particular the Air Force.

Gates has complained that it has been “like pulling teeth” to get more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance vehicles into the war zones. He sensed a lack of support for this new generation of unmanned - and therefore unglamorous - aircraft.

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India Raises Fuel Prices As State-Run Oil Firms Suffer Heavy Losses
2008-06-05 03:10:35
With inflation soaring, the Indian government Wednesday announced the highest ever increase in retail fuel prices, triggering bitter political criticism and angry street protests.

After weeks of nervous caution, the petroleum minister said at a news conference that gasoline prices would rise by the equivalent of 55 cents per gallon, about 11 percent, and diesel by 32 cents, almost 10 percent, effective at midnight. The price of cooking gas cylinders is to rise by a little over a dollar, or about 16 percent. Fuel has traditionally been heavily subsidized by the government, which regulates prices to ease the impact on India's millions of poor.

In a televised address, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the decision was inevitable and that Indians must "learn to adjust" to international economic conditions.

"There are limits to which we can keep consumer prices unaffected by rising import prices," Singh said somberly. "I know that the price increases we have had to announce today will not be popular, even though they are only modest. We remain dependent on imports. We are, therefore, vulnerable to global trends in oil prices."

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U.S. Subpoenas BAE Director In Bribery Investigation
2008-06-05 03:09:52

The former head of Britain's arms export agency has been issued with a subpoena by U.S. officials investigating allegations of bribery and corruption over a £43 billion ($86 billion) arms deal between BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia.

Alan Garwood, who is now BAE's business development director, was served with a subpoena in late May - the third executive to have been targeted by the U.S. Department of Justice investigation. It is understood he was approached by Justice Dept. officials as he changed planes in Miami, Florida.

Several days earlier, BAE chief executive, Mike Turner, and Sir Nigel Rudd, a non-executive director, were issued with subpoenas as they landed in the U.S.

Until last year, Garwood led a team of 600 civil servants at the Defense Export Service Organization at Britain's Ministry of Defense (MoD), where he worked on projects including last year's deal to sell Eurofighter Typhoons to Saudi Arabia. He was seconded to the MoD from BAE in 2002.

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