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Friday, June 27, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday June 27 2008 - (813)

Friday June 27 2008 edition
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Dow Drops More Than 358 Points On Oil Prices, Bad Corporate News
2008-06-26 21:46:34

U.S. stocks fell sharply Thursday, closing at a low not seen since September 2006, after oil prices spiked and a round of negative corporate news undermined confidence in the technology sector and anticipated further trouble among U.S. banks and brokerage firms.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 358 points at 11,453, a 3 percent drop. The tech-heavy Nasdaq experienced an even steeper decline, losing 3.3 percent, or nearly 80 points, to close at 2,321. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was also down about 2.9 percent, with a 39-point decline to 1,283.

There was no single event that seemed to drive the sell-off. In fact, the two main pieces of economic news Thursday were positive.

The government reported that gross domestic product in the first three months of the year grew a bit faster than initially thought. GDP expanded by a full 1 percent in the first quarter - sluggish, but still in positive territory, and better than the 0.9 percent initially estimated.

Sales of existing homes also increased by 2 percent in May. Although prices continued falling, the increase in sales was a respite from months of recent declines.

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Tests Show Mars Soil 'Friendly' To Life
2008-06-26 21:46:08

Early results from the first-ever "wet" chemical analysis of the surface soil of Mars show the planet harbors many of the nutrients needed for life and none of the acidity that some feared would make life highly unlikely.

"There's nothing about it that would preclude life. In fact, it seems very friendly," said mission scientist Samuel P. Kounaves, of Tufts University. "We were flabbergasted."

Kounaves said the soil was similar to what people would find in their back yards on Earth and that, if organic material was added, "You could probably grow asparagus, but not strawberries."

Carbon-based organic material, however, has not been found and may be impossible to detect with the equipment now on Mars. The Viking missions to Mars in the 1970s failed to find evidence of carbon.

The new findings come from the suite of chemistry labs on the Phoenix lander, which has been digging up soil from the northern polar area of Mars since it touched down late last month.

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Le Telepresident: Sarkozy Tightens His Grip Over French State T.V.
2008-06-26 21:45:36

Nicolas Sarkozy's plans to increase government control over state TV Thursday sparked an outcry from his political opponents who accused him of tightening a Berlusconi-style grip on the airwaves and dragging France back into its dark age of postwar censorship and propaganda.

The French president's proposed "cultural revolution" for France's five state TV channels prompted an uproar when he announced that in future, he and his cabinet would appoint the head of French state TV, instead of an independent body.

Sarkozy, known as the Telepresident, prides himself on his numerous TV appearances, carefully studies his own ratings and has privately confided that he would have liked to have been a TV executive. So it was no surprise that he took direct control of the project to overhaul French state TV. He argued that a government appointment of the head of France Televisions was more "democratic". This has reopened the festering row over the president's influence over the media and closeness to his press and TV baron friends who are willing to lean on, censor or even sack journalists who displease him.

Last month, a fresh row erupted after Sarkozy was accused of influencing the appointment of a newsreader, Laurence Ferrari, to the leading private channel TF1, run by one of the his closest friends. Her ousted predecessor was rumoured to have upset the president, who is conscious of his height, by asking if he ever felt "like a little boy in a big boy's playground".

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U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Washington, D.C. Ban On Handguns
2008-06-26 15:48:51

The Supreme Court, splitting along ideological lines, Thursday declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to own guns for self-defense, striking down the District of Columbia's ban on handgun ownership as unconstitutional.

The 5 to 4 decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia represented a monumental change in federal jurisprudence and went beyond what the Bush administration had counseled. It said that the government may impose some restrictions on gun ownership, but that the District's strictest-in-the-nation ban went too far under any interpretation.

Scalia wrote that the Constitution leaves the District a number of options for combating the problem of handgun violence, "including some measures regulating handguns."

"But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table," he continued. "These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home."

The court also held unconstitutional the requirement that shotguns and rifles be kept disassembled or unloaded or outfitted with a trigger lock. The court called it a "prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense."

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Oil Prices Jump On OPEC Statement
2008-06-26 15:48:31
Oil futures shot up to nearly $139 a barrel Thursday after OPEC's president said oil prices could rise well above $150 a barrel this year and Libya said it may cut oil production.

Light, sweet crude for August delivery rose as high as $138.95 a barrel shortly after the New York Mercantile Exchange opened before retreating to trade up $3.61 at $138.16 Thursday afternoon.

Chakib Khelil, president of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, said he believes oil prices could rise to between $150 and $170 a barrel this summer before declining later in the year. Khelil said he doesn't think prices will reach $200 a barrel.

The head of Libya's national oil company said the country may cut crude production because the oil market is well supplied, according to news reports.

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Commentary: More Phony Myths
2008-06-26 15:47:49
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by New York Time op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd and appeared in the New York Times edition for Wednesday, June 25, 2008.

Karl Rove was impressed with Barack Obama when he first met him. But now he sees him as a “coolly arrogant” elitist.

This was Rove’s take on Obama to Republicans at the Capitol Hill Club Monday, according to Christianne Klein of ABC News:

“Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He’s the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.”

Actually, that sounds more like W.

The cheap populism is really rich coming from Karl Rove. When was the last time he kicked back with a corncob pipe to watch professional wrestling?

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2 Suicide Bombers Kill At Least 30 In Iraq Attacks
2008-06-26 15:47:03
Two suicide bomb blasts struck at pro-American Iraqi targets just west of Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul on Thursday, killing at least 30 people and wounding nearly 80.

The bombings extended a pattern of multiple-casualty attacks in recent days that are clearly intended to kill local Iraqi leaders, in particular the Awakening Councils of Sunni tribal chieftains who have collaborated with American forces against Sunni insurgents.

The more significant of the two attacks on Thursday took place in the town of Garma in Anbar Province, where the Awakening Councils have achieved notable progress over the past few years in battling Sunni insurgents.

The American pacification of Anbar - once considered Iraq's most dangerous province at the height of the Iraq war a few years ago - has been so successful that American forces there are preparing to hand control of the province back to the Iraqi government.l

The Garma attack was clearly aimed at participants at a weekly meeting of the leaders of the local Awakening Council, the Iraq police said. Initial reports from the police were that the bomb killed 12 people and wounded 27.

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Delicate Talks For Democrats On Path To A Unified Party
2008-06-26 00:01:10
With the help of one of Washington’s best-connected lawyers, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton are negotiating a thicket of complicated issues, like how to repay Clinton’s campaign debt and her role at the Democratic convention. The talks come as they try to leave behind their intense rivalry and work out a plan to cooperate this fall.

At Clinton’s request, the lawyer, Robert B. Barnett, who has brokered multimillion-dollar book deals for clients including Obama, Clinton and Bill Clinton, is working to hash out questions large and small as the two camps work toward a political merger. Perhaps the thorniest question - what to do about Bill Clinton, who friends say continues to refight the bitter primary fight - has yet to be raised by either side, said advisers.

On some levels, the melding of the two operations is moving ahead relatively smoothly. Clinton will introduce some of her top donors to Obama on Thursday night in Washington, D.C., and on Friday the two of them will appear together at a rally in Unity, New Hampshire. Obama is in talks to hire one of Clinton’s most prominent advisers - Neera Tanden, her policy director - and has hired and dispatched a few of Clinton’s field operatives to work in Missouri and Ohio.

Yet, nearly three weeks after Clinton suspended her campaign and endorsed Obama, some loyalists, especially on the Clinton side, are having trouble moving on.

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Nissan And Others Add Factories In Emerging Markets
2008-06-26 00:00:32
On a dusty sun-baked field, in a ceremony presided over by a chanting Brahmin priest tossing water and rice, the Japanese car maker Nissan Motor made a bold step into the Indian auto market.

The traditional Hindu ritual this month, attended by a half-dozen sweating Japanese and European executives, blessed the site where Nissan will build its first passenger vehicle factory in India, a sprawling $1.1 billion complex where rice paddies once stood. The plant, built jointly with its French partner Renault an hour outside the southern city of Chennai, will turn out 400,000 cars a year when completed in two years.

Japan’s Big Three - Toyota, Honda and Nissan - led the world in factory automation and eco-friendly technology, but until now they have been cautious about venturing far from the roads they know: the mature markets of North America and developing markets closest to home, particularly China and Thailand. Now, in a radical shift, Japan’s staid Big Three are plowing into exotic terrain, from Saharan Africa to the former Soviet Union to the scorching plains of southern India.

They are determined not to repeat the mistakes of a decade ago, when they were late to the party in China, and where they have since trailed rivals like Volkswagen and General Motors. They have been particularly quick to expand in India, a nation of 1.1 billion that is just beginning its automotive revolution, and that many call the world’s next megamarket after China.

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U.S. Appeals Court Says No Deadline For EPA On Global Warming
2008-06-26 21:46:20
A U.S. federal appeals court refused Thursday to make a resistant Bush administration speed up a decision on whether greenhouse gases and global warming threaten public health and welfare.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied a petition by 17 states and several environmental groups asking it to order the Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA) to make that determination within 60 days.

Such a finding is a necessary first step to regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from motor vehicle tailpipes and the smokestacks of refineries, power plants and factories. The Supreme Court more than a year ago ruled that the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, a step President Bush has repeatedly refused to take.

Instead, EPA is expected to issue a proposal in coming weeks that seeks public comment on a range of options the agency could take to control greenhouse gases under current law. It will take no position on whether carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases should be regulated, according to a draft obtained by the Associated Press.

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FCC Opens Inquiry Into Stealthy Advertising
2008-06-26 21:45:58
A stealthy form of advertising in which products are featured on television shows as props and even woven into story lines has drawn the government's attention.

The Federal Communications Commission said Thursday it will consider new rules to make it clear to viewers when brand-name products appear in shows in exchange for money.

Spending on so-called "embedded advertising" has grown as advertisers look for new ways to reach viewers who flip channels during commercials or use digital video recorders like TiVo to fast-forward past them.

In an order released Thursday, the agency is considering whether sponsorship identification notices should be in larger type, appear for a lengthier period of time on the screen and whether they should appear at both the beginning and the end of programs.

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Russia President Medvedev In Siberia For Tough Negotiations On E.U. Pact
2008-06-26 21:45:25

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president, flew into Siberia last night for his international debut - a summit with European Union leaders .

The E.U. wants to reach a deal with the Kremlin on legally binding strategic pact, but negotiations, which start formally Friday in the booming oil town of Khanty-Mansiisk, could drag on for years, analysts predict. Russia favors a concise format, but the E.U. wants a comprehensive pact to lay out details of cooperation in areas such as energy, justice and security.

Brussels (where the E.U. headquarters is located) will hope that Medvedev adopts a more conciliatory tone than his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, now prime minister, who Russian officials said will not attend.

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs, said Putin's absence is likely to make negotiations easier. "Medvedev won't use the same ugly metaphors that Putin did. This isn't insignificant," he said. But Russia was less enthusiastic about rebuilding its troubled relations with the E.U., he suggested.

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Markets Drop On Worries About Banks, Oil Prices, Dwindling Dollar
2008-06-26 15:48:41

Stocks on Wall Street took a sharp plunge on Thursday after a discouraging report on the prospects of the nation’s biggest brokerage firms. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 250 points to its lowest level of the year.

A report from Goldman Sachs predicted a new round of write-downs at Citigroup and Merrill Lynch, and downgraded Citi to a strong “sell” rating.

Shares of Citi slipped 6 percent; Merrill Lynch shares were down 5.3 percent.

The sell-off in brokerage firms helped push the Dow down 2.2 percent, past its intraday low for the year. The blue-chip index is now lower than it was at the height of the Bear Stearns debacle.

A downgrade of General Motors also put pressure on stocks. Shares of G.M. were off by 11 percent in midday trading. Shares of Ford were down 4.5 percent

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U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Campaign Finance Provision
2008-06-26 15:48:13

The Supreme Court Thursday narrowly overturned a controversial provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation, ruling that it is unconstitutional to allow candidates to accept larger-than-normal contributions if their opponents use their own fortunes to finance election bids.

Writing for the majority in the 5 to 4 decision, Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., said the provision - known as the "Millionaire's Amendment" - imposes "an unprecedented penalty on any candidate who robustly exercises" his or her First Amendment right to self-finance a campaign.

Alito was joined in his opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer - the more liberal wing of the court - broke with the majority on most of the key points of the case.

The law, Alito wrote, forces candidates who spend their own money to "shoulder a special and potentially significant burden" for making that choice, and they become subject to a "scheme of discriminatory contribution limits."

The burden imposed by allowing one candidate to receive outside contributions triple the amount others may receive "is not justified by any governmental interest in eliminating corruption or the perception of corruption," wrote Alito.

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Political Blog: Obama Leads McCain In 4 Key States
2008-06-26 15:47:36

Democrat Barack Obama holds narrow leads over Republican rival John McCain in Colorado and Michigan, two of the most competitive states in two of the most competitive regions of the country heading into the general-election campaign, according to surveys conducted by Quinnipiac University for and the Wall Street Journal.

In two other states that were closely contested in the 2004 presidential election - Wisconsin and Minnesota - Obama holds double-digit edges among likely voters, an indication that these states may not be in the swing category this election. The Democratic Party's presidential nominee carried both Wisconsin and Minnesota in each of the last four elections, although Sen. John Kerry (Massachusetts) won each by slim margins in 2004.

The four surveys are the kickoff of a four-month effort to measure voter sentiment in key battleground states. They echo several recent national polls - including surveys conducted for Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg - showing Obama with a double-digit lead over McCain, the GOP candidate. However, other national surveys - including the Gallup daily tracking poll - show the race to be much closer.

The path to the presidency runs through a handful of battleground states, as both Obama and McCain seek the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. Thus, the four states surveyed in this project provide a snapshot of where things stand less than five months before Election Day.

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Feds Raid Blackwater's Armory In Firearms Probe
2008-06-26 15:46:45
Federal agents have raided an armory owned by security contractor Blackwater Worldwide.

The North Carolina-based company said the raid was part of an investigation into a deal that allowed a local sheriff's office to store high-powered assault rifles at the company's armory at its headquarters in Moyock, North Carolina.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell says that investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched Blackwater's armory Tuesday.

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Why Is Moscow Risking A New Cold War?
2008-06-26 00:00:53
Strategic bombers off the American coast, battleships in the Mediterranean - the Russian military is displaying its might once again with Moscow pumping billions into new weapons, but where does the Kremlin see its enemies today and why is it risking another nuclear arms race with Washington?

At eleven o'clock at night, when the moon is reflected in the slow-moving waters of the Volga River, when the steppes are exhaling the heat of the day, and when the last bars are closing in Yekaterinburg and Pokrovsk - old provincial cities on the river's left bank that are now called Marx and Engels - Gennady Stekachov is on his way into world politics. And everyone can hear it.

The shutters shake in the crooked old wooden houses German settlers built 250 years ago, and the windowpanes rattle in the prefabricated high-rise apartment buildings from Soviet days.

The cause of the commotion is Stekachov guiding his 150-ton, long-range bomber down a runway outside the city and, together with his crew of seven other men, taking off into the night sky.

He follows his usual route north, up to the Arctic Sea and the Barents Sea, and then turns sharply to the West to circle the polar ice cap. The first NATO fighters, now on high alert, have appeared by the time Stekachov reaches the Norwegian coast. From there on the jets - French Mirages, British Tornados or Norwegian F-16s - escort the Tupolev Tu-95 past the Shetland and Faeroe Islands to a point off the American coast.

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Oxfam Warns Poor Nations Against Biofuels
2008-06-26 00:00:13
Biofuels have pushed up world food prices and won't ease global warming, a new Oxfam report warns. Developing nations, the charity organization argues, should "move with extreme caution" before switching from staple food crops.

The backlash against biofuels gained momentum on Tuesday when Oxfam International, the anti-poverty group, claimed in a new report that 30 percent of the recent rise in global food prices could be traced to the shift in world agriculture toward energy crops.

The report criticized biofuel policies in Europe and the United States, and warned developing nations to "move with extreme caution" before raising lucrative biofuel crops at the expense of staple foods.

"Rich countries' demands for more biofuels in their transport fuels are causing spiraling production and food inflation," said Oxfam biofuel policy adviser Rob Bailey, the report's author, at a news conference. "Grain reserves are now at an all-time low."

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