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Friday, June 20, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday June 20 2008 - (813)

Friday June 20 2008 edition
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U.S.: Military Exercise By Israel Seemed Aimed At Iran
2008-06-20 03:53:12
Israel carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Several American officials said the Israeli exercise appeared to be an effort to develop the military’s capacity to carry out long-range strikes and to demonstrate the seriousness with which Israel views Iran’s nuclear program.

More than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters participated in the maneuvers, which were carried out over the eastern Mediterranean and over Greece during the first week of June, said American officials.

The exercise also included Israeli helicopters that could be used to rescue downed pilots. The helicopters and refueling tankers flew more than 900 miles, which is about the same distance between Israel and Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, said American officials.

Israeli officials declined to discuss the details of the exercise. A spokesman for the Israeli military would say only that the country’s air force “regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel.”

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Scientists: White Patches Found In Mars Trench Are Ice
2008-06-20 03:50:37

After a decade of shouting, “Follow the water!” in its exploration of Mars, NASA can finally say that one of its spacecraft has reached out, touched water ice and scooped it up.

Now, scientists will be able to tackle the main question they hope to answer: Did the ice ever melt and turn Mars into a habitable place?

In a photograph released Thursday evening of a trench that the Phoenix Mars lander has dug into the Martian soil, some white patches that were seen earlier in the week have shrunk, and eight small chunks have disappeared. Until now, scientists were not sure if the white material was ice or some kind of salt.

When exposed to air, water ice can change into water vapor, a process known as sublimation. Salt, on the other hand, is not capable of such a vanishing act.

“It must be ice,” said Dr. Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona, the mission’s principal investigator. “The whole science team thinks this. I think we feel this is definite proof that these are little chunks of icy material.”
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European Union Agrees To Life Sanctions On Cuba
2008-06-19 20:33:34
The European Union on Thursday agreed to lift its diplomatic sanctions against Cuba but imposed tough conditions on the communist island to maintain sanction-free relations, said officials.

E.U. External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the bloc felt it had to encourage changes in Cuba after Raul Castro took over as the head of the country's government from his ailing brother Fidel.

"There will be very clear language also on what the Cubans still have to do ... releasing prisoners, really working on human rights questions," she told reporters at an E.U. summit. "There will be a sort of review to see whether indeed something will have happened."

The decision does not affect the United States' trade embargo imposed on Cuba nearly 50 years ago. The Bush administration has shown no signs of lifting it.

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Cloned Immune Cells Cleared Patient's Cancer In Two Months
2008-06-19 20:33:10

A patient whose skin cancer had spread throughout his body has been given the all-clear after being injected with billions of his own immune cells.

Tests revealed that the 52-year-old man's tumors, which spread from his skin to his lung and groin, vanished within two months of having the treatment, and had not returned two years later.

Doctors attempted the experimental therapy as part of a clinical trial after the man's cancer failed to respond to conventional treatments.

The man is the first to benefit from the new technique, which uses cloning to produce billions of copies of a patient's immune cells. When they are injected into the body they attack the cancer and force it into remission.

Campaigners and scientists in the U.K. Wednesday welcomed the breakthrough. "It's very exciting to see a cancer patient being successfully treated using immune cells cloned from his own body. While it's always good news when anyone with cancer gets the all-clear, this treatment will need to be tested in large clinical trials to work out how widely it could be used," said Ed Yong at Cancer Research U.K.

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Zimbabwe's Neighboring Nations Turn Agains Mugabe
2008-06-19 20:32:23

Zimbabwe's neighboring nations turned against Robert Mugabe Thursday as pre-election violence against opposition supporters intensified and spread to new areas of the country.

Pro-government militias were reported to be hunting supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) through the densely-populated townships around Harare, which had hitherto escaped the worst of the violence.

The "heavily tortured" bodies of four opposition activists were found Thursday in the biggest Harare suburb, Chitungwiza, according to the MDC.

The wife of the mayor-elect of Harare, Abigail Chiroto, and her four-year-old son were abducted from another township, Hatcliffe, on Monday. Her body was found in nearby fields the next day and the boy was left at a police station.

The MDC say 70 of its supporters have been killed during the campaigning for next week's presidential run-off vote.

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Aussie Journalist Shot In Afghanistan
2008-06-19 20:31:55
An Australian journalist was shot and wounded in fighting between coalition forces and insurgents in southern Afghanistan.

The journalist, who previously worked for SBS as a cameraman, was shot in the arm near Kandahar, scene of a jailbreak last week in which some 400 Taliban militants broke out of the Sarposa prison.

Canadian soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force have since conducted operations in the surrounding countryside to deal with entrenched Taliban forces.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the 36-year-old journalist, from the Australian state of New South Wales, was being treated at medical facilities inside Afghanistan.

“Australian government officials in Afghanistan are in contact with the man and are providing consular assistance,” said the spokeswoman.
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2 Former Bear Stearns Executives Arrested On Securities Fraud Charges
2008-06-19 14:56:49
Two former managers of hedge funds at Bear Stearns were arrested and charged with securities fraud on Thursday, a year after the collapse of the funds signaled the onset of a credit crunch that shows little sign of abating.

The indictments, which will be detailed this afternoon by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, are the first to be brought against senior Wall Street executives linked to a tight credit market that has rattled global markets, led to more than $350 billion in write-offs, cost numerous executives their jobs and culminated in the demise of Bear Stearns.

The two funds had names as abstruse as the complex subprime securities in their portfolios - High Grade Structured Credit Strategies Fund, and its riskier sister offering, the High Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leverage Fund.

On Thursday, the two fund managers, Ralph R. Cioffi, 52, and Matthew Tannin, 46, who just 18 months ago reveled in their status as top hedge managers in a firm at the vanguard of the mortgage boom, surrendered to federal agents.

Like Enron several years ago and the insider trading scandals two decades earlier, the prosecution of the Bear Stearns executives is expected to become a test of the government’s ability to make successful prosecutions of highly complex financial transactions.

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Editorial: The Big Pander To Big Oil
2008-06-19 14:56:22
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Thursday, June 19, 2008.

It was almost inevitable that a combination of $4-a-gallon gas, public anxiety and politicians eager to win votes or repair legacies would produce political pandering on an epic scale. So it has, the latest instance being President Bush’s decision to ask Congress to end the federal ban on offshore oil and gas drilling along much of America’s continental shelf.

This is worse than a dumb idea. It is cruelly misleading. It will make only a modest difference, at best, to prices at the pump, and even then the benefits will be years away. It greatly exaggerates America’s leverage over world oil prices. It is based on dubious statistics. It diverts the public from the tough decisions that need to be made about conservation.

There is no doubt that a lot of people have been discomfited and genuinely hurt by $4-a-gallon gas. But their suffering will not be relieved by drilling in restricted areas off the coasts of New Jersey or Virginia or California. The Energy Information Administration says that even if both coasts were opened, prices would not begin to drop until 2030. The only real beneficiaries will be the oil companies that are trying to lock up every last acre of public land before their friends in power - Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney - exit the political stage.

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Commentary: McCain's Terror Errors
2008-06-19 14:54:03
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Rosa Brooks, an op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Ms. Brooks writes, "McCain used to champion a common-sense, values-based approach to terrorism. Now he's criticizing Obama for doing the same thing." Her commentary appeared in the Los Angeles Times edition for Thursday, June 19, 2008.

No one wants to be the first candidate to invoke Sept. 11. As a campaign tactic, 9/11 chest-thumping has become both predictable and tacky. So this week, John McCain's campaign hit on a creative solution: Invoke Sept. 10.

Sept. 10? Yup. Barack Obama has "a Sept. 10 mind-set," McCain foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann informed reporters Tuesday. The idea, as Scheunemann explained for those too thick to grasp the implied insult, is that a "naive" Obama just doesn't get it about terrorism.

Obama's offense? He praised the U.S. Supreme Court's June 12 decision that Guantanamo prisoners, detained for years without charge or trial, should be able to ask federal courts to rule on their continued detention.

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Militant Attack Closes Shell Oil Facility In Nigeria
2008-06-19 14:53:21
Oil production was shut down at an offshore Nigerian facility after an armed attack Thursday by a powerful militant group from the Delta region, said Shell.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, said it conducted the attack and seized an American oil worker.

The Bonga oil facility is 65 miles offshore in the Gulf of Guinea and produces around 200,000 barrels of crude oil a day.

"The location for today's attack was deliberately chosen to remove any notion that off-shore oil exploration is far from our reach," MEND said in a statement. "The oil companies and their collaborators do not have any place to hide in conducting their nefarious activities."

It is the latest incident of oil-industry sabotage in petroleum-rich Nigeria, the fourth largest supplier of oil to the United States. Such incidents are one of the reasons for the record oil prices.

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Abramoff Used White House To Oust Foe
2008-06-19 03:52:25

If lobbyists find the path to their clients' riches obstructed by an implacably hostile federal official, they might achieve success by an end run or an appeal to more senior authorities; but a more extreme solution - if the foe has high-level support - is to pull strings at the White House and orchestrate the official's removal.

That option was chosen by Jack Abramoff and his colleagues at the Washington office of Greenberg Traurig in the Bush administration's early days, to oust Alan Stayman from a State Department negotiating job. Stayman had earned their ire by advocating labor reforms in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. protectorate where Abramoff's clients wanted to keep paying immigrants less than the federal minimum wage to work in textile factories.

Stayman was supported by James A. Kelly, who was a White House aide to President Ronald Reagan and served as the State Department's assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific from 2001 to 2005. Kelly, citing ongoing negotiations with Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, told his department's personnel office on May 1, 2001, that he wanted Stayman to remain for two more years.

Abramoff's path to success in what an aide called "the Stayman project" is spelled out in a set of internal White House, State Department and Greenberg Traurig e-mails provided to the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and made public last week.

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Experts: Iowa Flooding Could Be Result Of Human Activity
2008-06-19 03:51:40

As the Cedar River rose higher and higher, and as he stacked sandbags along the levee protecting downtown Cedar Falls, Kamyar Enshayan, a college professor and City Council member, kept asking himself the same question: "What is going on?"

The river would eventually rise six feet higher than any flood on record. Farther downstream, in Cedar Rapids, the river would break the record by more than 11 feet.

Enshayan, director of an environmental center at the University of Northern Iowa, suspects that this natural disaster wasn't really all that natural. He points out that the heavy rains fell on a landscape radically reengineered by humans. Plowed fields have replaced tallgrass prairies. Fields have been meticulously drained with underground pipes. Streams and creeks have been straightened. Most of the wetlands are gone. Flood plains have been filled and developed.

"We've done numerous things to the landscape that took away these water-absorbing functions," he said. "Agriculture must respect the limits of nature."

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Mercenary Accuses Mark Thatcher Of Key Involvement In Africa Coup Attempt
2008-06-19 03:51:01

In evidence to a court in Equatorial Guinea Wednesday, the British mercenary Simon Mann said Mark Thatcher, the son of the former prime minister, was a committed member of the group that organized the attempted coup in the oil-rich west African state in 2004.

Giving his first detailed account, he said Thatcher "was not just an investor, he came completely on board and became a part of the management team". Thatcher had provided $350,000 (£178,000).

Mann also claimed that Spain and South Africa, including President Thabo Mbeki, had supported the plot. By January 2004, two months before the action, he said "it was like an official operation. The governments of Spain and South Africa were giving the green light: 'You've got to do it'."

Spain, he said, was prepared to recognize the new government the day after the coup and send in lots of military police. Outside the court the Spanish ambassador, Javier Sangro, said he had no comment.

Senior members of the Equatorial Guinea army, police and cabinet were also implicated, said Mann.

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CDC Counts 383 Salmonella Cases From Tomatoes
2008-06-19 03:50:26
Federal health officials have learned of 106 more cases of salmonella linked to tainted tomatoes, putting the outbreak's toll at 383 on Wednesday and counting.

"We do not think the outbreak is over," said Dr. Robert Tauxe, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most of this newest influx of cases were people who got sick weeks ago but hadn't been counted yet. Some states began doing a better job of checking for salmonella as the outbreak has dragged on, while part of the surge comes from test results that had been backlogged in jammed laboratories.

What hasn't changed is that the earliest known victim got sick on April 10, and the latest on June 5.

New Hampshire and Pennsylvania reported their first cases, bringing to 30 the number of states - plus Washington, D.C. - that have reported sick residents, although some may have been infected while traveling. At least 48 people have been hospitalized.

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Big Oil Ready To Sign Agreements With Iraq
2008-06-20 03:52:54
Iraq is preparing to award contracts to several Western energy companies to help develop its vast oil resources, allowing them to consolidate their positions in a country that has seemed less threatening in recent months as security has improved.

The two-year, no-bid contracts will be awarded to companies that have been advising the Iraqi Oil Ministry in recent years, said Asim Jihad, a spokesman for the ministry. He said officials expect that U.S.-based Exxon Mobil and Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, France's Total and British oil company BP will secure the biggest contracts.

"We have had discussions since last year" regarding deals that would formalize the advisory role some of them are already playing, said Jihad. "The discussions have now ended."

The contracts will be presented to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet for approval in coming days and could be announced by the end of the month, said Jihad, adding that more than 30 contracts will be signed but declined to describe their scope or provide other details.

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In Darfur: A Free-For-All Battle For Power
2008-06-20 03:50:07
Five years after the Darfur conflict began, the nature of violence across this vast desert region has changed dramatically, from a mostly one-sided government campaign against civilians to a complex free-for-all that is jeopardizing an effective relief mission to more than 2.5 million displaced and vulnerable people.

While the government and militia attacks on straw-hut villages that defined the earlier years of the conflict continue, Darfur is now home to semi-organized crime and warlordism, with marijuana-smoking rebels, disaffected government militias and anyone else with an AK-47 taking part, according to United Nations officials.

The situation is a symptom of how fragmented the conflict has become. There were two rebel groups, but now there are dozens, some of which include Arab militiamen who once sided with the government. The founding father of the rebellion lives in Paris. And the struggle in the desert these days is less about liberating oppressed Darfurians than about acquiring the means to power: money, land, trucks.

Though there are some swaths of calm in Darfur, fighting among rebels and among Arab tribes has uprooted more than 70,000 people this year, compared with about 60,000 displaced by government attacks on villages, according to U.N. figures.

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Report On Climate Predicts Extreme Weather As Earth Warms
2008-06-19 20:33:24

As greenhouse-gas emissions rise, North America is likely to experience more droughts and excessive heat in some regions even as intense downpours and hurricanes pound others more often, according to a report issued yesterday by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program.

The 162-page study, which was led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, provides the most comprehensive assessment yet of how global warming has helped to transform the climate of the United States and Canada over the past 50 years - and how it may do so in the future.

Coming at a time when record flooding is ravaging the Midwest, the new report paints a grim scenario in which severe weather will exact a heavy toll. The report warned that extreme weather events "are among the most serious challenges to society in coping with a changing climate."

While the Southwest is likely to face even more intense droughts, the scientists wrote, heavy downpours will become more frequent in some other parts of the country because of increased water vapor in the air.

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Democrats, Republicans Agree To Telecom Immunity Deal On Surveillance
2008-06-19 20:32:53
U.S. House and Senate leaders have agreed to a compromise surveillance bill that would effectively shield from civil lawsuits the telecommunications companies that helped the government wiretap phone and computer lines after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks without court permission.

The House is expected to pass the bill Friday, potentially ending a months-long standoff about the rules for government wiretapping inside the United States.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said the bill "balances the needs of our intelligence community with Americans' civil liberties and provides critical new oversight and accountability requirements."

The issue of legal protection for telecommunications companies that participated in warrantless wiretapping has been the largest sticking point. The Senate passed a bill that immunized them from lawsuits, but the House bill was silent on the matter.

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U.S. V.A. To Warn Veterans On Anti-Smoking Drug
2008-06-19 20:32:07
The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department is sending letters to about 33,000 veterans who are taking the anti-smoking drug Chantix, warning them about possible side effects, including thoughts of suicide.

V.A. Secretary James Peake told reporters in a conference call Thursday that agency doctors will continue to prescribe the drug because they are seeing no serious problems or trends with its use.

He defended the V.A.'s use of the drug to treat some of the veterans with stress disorders who were participating in a study to stop smoking. Of the 143 veterans with post traumatic stress disorder who took Chantix in the study, he said that three - or 2 percent - experienced thoughts of suicide. Of the roughly 800 veterans in the study who did not take Chantix, 35 had suicidal thoughts - or about 4.4 percent, he said.

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Mississippi River Surges Over Nearly A Dozen Levees
2008-06-19 14:57:01
The swollen Mississippi River continued to spread destruction on Thursday, surging over nearly a dozen levees in the St. Louis area and flooding vast areas of farmland, as the region’s growing crisis pushed corn and soy prices toward record levels.

The runaway river claimed its latest Missouri town late Wednesday night when it broke a levee in Winfield, just outside of St. Louis, leaving a 150-foot hole, deluging the small community and sending a surge of water downstream toward the next levee. Crews of firefighters spent the night evacuating residents, in some cases by boat, as workers fought to contain the river further south.

With weather forecasters calling for as many as two inches of rain in some parts of Missouri on Thursday, crews of emergency responders, sandbags in hand, were preparing for the worst.

St. Louis is the next major town in the path of the surging river, which is expected to crest at 40 feet there on Saturday. Because the river widens in St. Louis and connects with several tributaries, the damage is expected to be minimal. Still, the threat was great enough to prompt the city to relocate its annual Independence Day fair and festival for the first time.

President Bush was expected on Thursday to visit several communities, including Cedar Rapids, where the waters have receded but 25,000 people are homeless, according to the White House.

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Hundreds Swept Up In Mortgage Fraud Arrests
2008-06-19 14:56:35
More than 400 real estate industry players have been indicted since March - including dozens over the last two days - in a U.S. Justice Department crackdown on incidents of mortgage fraud nationwide that have contributed to the country's housing crisis.

The FBI put the losses to homeowners and other borrowers who were victims in the schemes at over $1 billion.

"Mortgage fraud and related securities fraud pose a significant threat to our economy, to the stability of our nation's housing market and to the peace of mind to millions of Americans," Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip said in a statement Thursday. The Justice Department and FBI planed to announce the cases at an afternoon news conference in Washington.

Since March 1, 406 people have been arrested in the sting dubbed "Operation Malicious Mortgage" that saw 144 cases across the country. Sixty people were arrested on Wednesday alone, including in Chicago, Illinois, Miami, Florida,  Houston, Texas, and a dozen other regions policed by the FBI.

In a separate sweep, two former Bear Stearns managers in New York were indicted Thursday, becoming the first executives to face criminal charges related to the collapse of the subprime mortgage market.
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Wall Street Lobbies To Protect Speculative Oil Trades
2008-06-19 14:56:08

Wall Street banks and other large financial institutions have begun putting intense pressure on Congress to hold off on legislation that would curtail their highly profitable trading in oil contracts - an activity increasingly blamed by lawmakers for driving up prices to record levels.

Representatives of Godlman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, along with the trade associations for hedge funds and other financial groups, have lobbied the offices of key legislators, briefed senior staffers on committees that oversee pivotal parts of the energy markets and distributed research materials explaining their view about oil and how it's traded.

In a pair of lengthy and sometimes testy closed-door sessions in the Senate last week, executives from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, two of Wall Street'slargest investment banks, made the case that their multibillion-dollar investments in energy contracts have not led to higher oil prices. Rather, they told Democratic staff members of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee that the trades allow international markets to operate efficiently and that the run-up in oil prices results not from speculation but from actual imbalances of supply and demand.

The executives were met with skepticism and occasional hostility. "Spare us your lecture about supply and demand," one of the Democratic aides said, abruptly cutting off one of the executives, according to a staff member in the room.

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Obama Forgoes Public Funds
2008-06-19 14:53:50
Senator Barack Obama announced on Thursday that he would not participate in the public financing system for presidential campaigns. He argued that the system had collapsed, and would put him at a disadvantage running against Senator John McCain, his likely Republican opponent.

With his decision, Obama became the first candidate of a major party to decline public financing - and the spending limits that go with it - since the system was created in 1976, after the Watergate scandals.

Obama made his announcement in a video message sent to supporters and posted on the Internet. While it was not a surprise - his aides have been hinting that he would take this step for two months - it represented a turnabout from his strong earlier suggestion that he would join the system. McCain has been a champion of public financing of campaign throughout his career.

“The public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system,” he said. “John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations.”

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Taliban Routed From Arghandab Area Say Officials
2008-06-19 14:53:04
After a day of air strikes and ground operations against Taliban fighters, Afghan and NATO officials claimed broad success on Thursday, saying they had largely expelled the insurgents from the strategic Arghandab region near Kandahar, killing more than 50 of them

Military officials acknowledged that an unspecified number of Taliban insurgents had escaped and a hunt was under way for fighters in hiding.

Hundreds of Afghan and NATO troops, supported by armored vehicles and helicopter gunships, poured into the area Wednesday after the insurgents infiltrated 18 villages. The influx of fighters came less than a week after a jailbreak in Kandahar freed hundreds of Taliban prisoners. Thousands of villagers fled the area and the government’s control seemed threatened amid news reports that the insurgents planned to attack Kandahar city itself.

However, Asadullah Khaled, the governor of Kandahar Province, told a news conference in the Arghandab district compound on Thursday: “Hundreds of militants have been killed and wounded, their dead bodies have been left on the ground, with numbers of light and heavy weapons.” The details of the military situation seemed uncertain.

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New Study Forces British, European Officials To Review Global Warming Plan
2008-06-19 03:52:14

Britain and Europe will be forced to fundamentally rethink a central part of their environment strategy after a government report found that the rush to develop biofuels has played a "significant" role in the dramatic rise in global food prices, which has left 100 million more people without enough to eat.

The Gallagher report, due to be published next week, will trigger a review of British and E.U. targets for the use of plant-derived fuels in place of petrol and diesel, the Guardian newspaper reported. 

The study marks a dramatic reversal in the role of biofuels in the fight against global warming. As recently as last year, corn ethanol and biodiesel derived from vegetable oil were widely seen as important weapons in that fight - and a central plank of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's green strategy. Now even their environmental benefits are in question.

A panel of government experts, chaired by Professor Ed Gallagher, head of the Renewable Fuels Agency, has said that far more research is needed into the indirect impact of biofuels on land use and food production before the government sets targets for their use in transport.

The first such target is already in place. Since April, all petrol and diesel in Britain has had to contain 2.5% of biofuels, a stepping stone towards a 2010 target of 5%. The European Union is contemplating a 10% target by 2010. The new report means all those goals will have to be reconsidered.

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Treasury Secretary Paulson To Urge New Fed Reserve Powers
2008-06-19 03:51:22

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr., plans to call Thursday for the Federal Reserve to be given new, explicit powers to intervene in the workings of Wall Street firms to protect the financial system, adapting his vision of how the financial world should be regulated to reflect the lessons of the collapse of Bear Stearns.

"Our nation has come to expect the Federal Reserve to step in to avert events that pose unacceptable systemic risk," Paulson plans to say in a speech Thursday, according to prepared remarks obtained by the Washington Post; but the central bank "has neither the clear statutory authority nor the mandate to anticipate and deal with risks across our entire financial system."

"We should quickly consider how to appropriately give the Fed the authority to access necessary information from highly complex financial institutions and the responsibility to intervene in order to protect the system," Paulson plans to say, "so they can carry out the role our nation has come to expect."

Over the course of a few days in March, the central bank took unprecedented steps, with Paulson's support, to keep the rapid dissolution of Bear Stearns from causing an international financial catastrophe. The Fed provided financial backing for the acquisition of the investment bank by J.P. Morgan Chase and made emergency loans available to all major investment firms.

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U.N. Warns 5 Million Zimbabweans Will Face Hunger By Next Year
2008-06-19 03:50:46

The United Nations warned Wednesday that more than 5 million Zimbabweans are facing hunger as the country staggers towards next week's presidential elections under the burden of increasing violence and economic collapse.

At the same time, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed "profound alarm" at the level of violence and intimidation, and the arrest of opposition leaders. "Should these conditions continue to prevail, the legitimacy of the election outcomes would be in question," Ban told an informal session of the U.N. General Assembly.

Two U.N. relief agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program, issued a joint report saying 2 million Zimbabweans would face hunger before September, and projected the figure would rise to 3.8 million by the end of the year, and 5.1 million by next March.

The report blamed a combination of plummeting food production and the world's highest rate of inflation.

"Poverty has increased for the 10th year in a row and there is an annual inflation estimated at 355,000%," said Kisan Gunjal, an FAO food emergency officer who worked on the report.

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Russia Charges 4 Men In Killing Of Journalist Anna Politkovskaya
2008-06-19 03:50:04

Russian investigators Wednesday charged four men in connection with the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, adding that the preliminary inquiry into her death was now over.

They said they had charged three men with involvement in the killing of Politkovskaya, who was shot dead outside her Moscow apartment in October 2006, and an officer from the Federal Security Service (FSB) - Russia's post-KGB spy agency - with extortion and abuse of office. All four have been in prison since August.

The investigators have apparently been unable to identify who ordered Politkovskaya's killing. Officials have publicly accused a Chechen, Rustam Makhmudov, 34, as being the hit man. He has eluded arrest, with investigators saying he may have fled abroad. Two of those charged Wednesday are Makhmudov's brothers - Dzhabrail and Ibragim, also from Chechnya. The third suspect, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, is a police officer.

The fourth man, Pavel Ryaguzov, a lieutenant colonel in the FSB, was charged in relation to other crimes. Officials have previously accused him of supplying the killers with Politkovskaya's address and other details. Wednesday Politkovskaya's colleagues at Novaya Gazeta, the small liberal newspaper where she worked, said they were skeptical that the investigation had got to the bottom of her murder.

"Only part of the case is over," the paper's chief editor, Sergei Sokolov, said. "We need to wait for a court case until we can judge anyone's guilt."

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