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Monday, June 09, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday June 9 2008 - (813)

Monday June 9 2008 edition
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Officials: U.S., Allies Squandered Chance To Curb Al-Qaeda's Resurgence
2008-06-08 13:38:58
The U.S. and its allies squandered an opportunity to cement alliances with tribal elders they regard as key to driving Islamic extremists out of havens along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and now face a long and costly effort to regain influence there, counter-terrorism officials and diplomats say.

The Pashtun maliks, or elders, wield enormous political and social power, especially in Pakistan's largely ungoverned tribal areas bordering Afghanistan; but Washington and its allies in Islamabad and Kabul have not made it a priority to forge alliances with them, despite evidence that al-Qaeda and the Taliban are growing stronger in their territories, these officials say.

Once established, the militants have slain or threatened hundreds of these tribal leaders in a campaign that U.S. officials say has seriously undermined counter-terrorism efforts.

That missed opportunity underscores a fundamental U.S. policy failure: Of the billions of dollars spent, little has gone toward counter-insurgency efforts such as working with tribal leaders to determine how to help their constituents, according to U.S., Pakistani and Afghan officials.

As a result, they say, al-Qaeda and the Taliban are doing a far better job of expanding their insurgency than the United States and its allies are of trying to stop it.
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Russia President Medvedev Takes Critical Tone On Global Economy
2008-06-08 13:38:25
In his first major economic speech since becoming president, Dmitri A. Medvedev said Saturday that the world might be in the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and that a newly revived Russia could offer solutions to a systemic crisis that has underscored America’s shortcomings.

Medvedev, who was inaugurated on May 7, spoke at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, an annual event since the 1990s that was thrust into the spotlight last year as Russia’s answer to rival forums held in Europe.

It was also a showcase for the former imperial capital of St. Petersburg, hometown of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin and Medvedev. The forum opened Friday evening with a free concert for city residents.

In a keynote address that underscored his knowledge of corporate terminology, Medvedev spoke of “economic egoism” and “economic nationalism,” and he made specific reference to the United States overreaching its economic capabilities.

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Mexico's Crystal Skulls, From Reel To Real Life
2008-06-08 13:37:48
There is a legend that the ancient Maya possessed 13 crystal skulls which, when united, have the power to save the Earth - a tale so strange and fantastic that it inspired the latest Indiana Jones movie.

Experts dismiss the hundreds of crystal skulls around as fakes that were probably made by unscrupulous antiquities traders in the 19th century, but even today Mayan priests worship the skulls and real-life treasure hunters still search for them.

The story of the skulls stretches over continents and hundreds of years, and may be even more extraordinary than the tale portrayed in the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise.

Few of today's crystal skulls can be documented any further back than the 1860s, when Europe was swept by a rage for pre-Hispanic "relics." Frenchman Eugene Boban, a colorful antiques dealer with a checkered past and murky political ties, set up a store here to supply the trade after the French invaded Mexico.
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Despite Concerns, Minnesota Democrats Back Franken
2008-06-08 13:36:47
Al Franken won a resounding endorsement for the United States Senate on Saturday from Minnesota Democrats, quickly dispatching concerns about jokes that offended some people and promising a tough challenge to Senator Norm Coleman,the Republican incumbent.

"To the people of Minnesota, let me say this: I’m not a perfect person," said Franken, a former "Saturday Night Live" writer and performer. "I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers. But I’ll tell the truth, I will keep my spine, and I will work for you."

Franken's only competitor, a college professor and peace activist, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, withdrew after Franken passed the necessary 60 percent threshold on the first ballot at the party’s state convention.

Franken's show of strength came as something of a surprise after a rocky few weeks in which some Democrats, led by Representative Betty McCollum, criticized a column he wrote for Playboy magazine in 2000 and, earlier in the week, joking comments he was reported to have made about rape that were included in a 1995 New York magazine article about"Saturday Night Live".

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Japan's Energy Chief Warns G8 That Oil Prices Could Spur Global Recession
2008-06-08 03:09:55
Japan's energy chief launched a meeting of ministers from the world's top industrialized nations Sunday by warning that soaring oil prices could trigger a global recession if they're not checked.

The Group of Eight rich nations met in northern Japan with representatives from China, India and South Korea to discuss oil and gas markets, energy investment, energy security and climate change amid deepening concerns about the world economy.

Oil prices made their biggest single-day surge on Friday, soaring $11 to $138.54 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, an 8 percent increase. On the same day, the United States announced a rise in unemployment.

"The situation regarding energy prices is becoming extremely challenging," Akira Amari, Japan's trade and energy minister, warned his colleagues Sunday. "If left unaddressed, it may well cause a recession in the global economy."

Five top energy consumers - the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and India - urged oil producers on Saturday to boost output to meet growing demand, while pledging to develop clean energy alternatives and increase efficiency.

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Britons' Natural Gas Bills To Rise $720 Per Home
2008-06-08 03:09:28

Gas bills will rise by 43 per cent in the next 12 months and electricity by 21 per cent, an average £360 ($720) per home, because of a sudden surge in market prices, industry experts are warning.

Wholesale gas prices, the prices energy companies buy at, soared to a record high on Friday, taking the increase since the beginning of the year to 76 per cent.

To restore the balance between wholesale prices and those that householders pay, the average gas and electricity bills a year will have to increase to £1,410 ($2,820), almost £500 ($1,000) more than a year ago.

"The last time wholesale gas prices broke above retail gas prices was three years ago, in June 2005," said Joe Malinowski of"In the following 18 months energy bills rose by a record 47 per cent. A very similar thing is going to happen this time around, except that the money value of the increase is going to be even higher."

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Running In Circles Over Carbon
2008-06-08 03:08:15
Cutting carbon dioxide emissions is a fine idea, and a lot of companies would be proud to do it. But they would prefer to be second, if not third or fourth.

This is not a good way to get started in fighting global warming.

As efforts to pass a global warming bill collapsed in the Senate last week, companies that burn coal to make electricity were looking for a way to build a plant that would capture its emissions. There is a will and a way - several ways, in fact - to do just that.

Capturing carbon from these plants may become a lot more important soon. Emissions from coal-fired power plants already account for about 27 percent of American greenhouse emissions, but as prices for other fuels rise, along with power demand, utilities will burn more coal. And if cars someday run on batteries, a trend that $4-a-gallon gasoline will accelerate, then the utilities will burn even more fuel to generate the electricity to recharge those batteries.

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New Forces Hurting U.S., Saudi Oil Ties
2008-06-08 13:38:42
For decades, Saudi Arabia worked with its dominant customer, the United States, to keep world oil markets stable and advance common political goals.

Now, the surging price of oil, which soared more than $10 a barrel Friday to a record-high $138.54, has made it plain that those days are over. New forces, including a weak dollar and an oil-thirsty Asia, have blunted the United States' leverage and helped sour the two countries' relationship.

As gasoline prices have risen, the White House has unsuccessfully exhorted the Saudis to step up production, and Congress has threatened retaliation - but the situation now is a far cry from the days when the U.S. economy dominated the direction of the petroleum market.

"That gave us leverage," said Greg Priddy, an oil analyst at the Eurasia Group, a New York-based risk assessment firm. "There's certainly a perception that the power equation has changed."

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Oglala Sioux Could Regain Badlands National Park Land
2008-06-08 13:38:11
The southern half of this swath of grasslands and chiseled pink spires looks untouched from a distance. Closer up, the scars of history are easy to see.

Unexploded bombs lie in ravines, a reminder of when the military confiscated the land from the Oglala Sioux tribe during World War II and turned it into an artillery range. Poachers who have stolen thousands of fossils over the years have left gouges in the landscape. On a plateau, a solitary makeshift hut sits ringed by empty Coke cans and shaving cream canisters. It is the only remnant of a three-year occupation by militant tribal activists who had demanded that the land be returned.

Now the National Park Service is contemplating doing just that: giving the 133,000-acre southern half of Badlands National Park back to the tribe. The northern half, which has a paved road and a visitor center, would remain with the park system.

The park service has dissolved 23 parks and historic sites since 1930, but none has been returned to tribes. "It's really exciting for us to think about walking down this road," said Sandra J. Washington, head of planning for the service's Omaha office, which oversees Badlands. "The intention is to be as honorable as possible."

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Iran Promises To Help Establish Security In Iraq
2008-06-08 13:37:25
Iran pledged on Sunday to help establish security in Iraq and visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed his country would not be used to harm Iran.

Some Iraqi officials and the United States have accused Iran of trying to destabilize Iraq by financing, training and equipping Iraqi militias. Iran blames the instability on the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq.

During Maliki's three-day visit to the Islamic state, Iranian officials have insisted Tehran supports peace and security in the neighboring country.

"Iran will always be on the side of the popular government of Iraq," the state news agency IRNA quoted First Vice-President Parviz Davoudi as saying in talks with Maliki on Sunday.

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1 Killed, 11 People Trapped As Earthquake Hits Greece
2008-06-08 13:36:32
A strong earthquake jolted western Greece on Sunday, killing one person and triggering landslides that have reportedly trapped at least 11 people, according to officials and state-run news media.

Another 15 have been injured as a result of the quake, many trying to flee their homes, according to Greece's NET television. It struck around 3:30 p.m. local time and measured 6.1 in magnitude, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Athens' Geodynamic Institute registered the quake at 6.5 on the Richter scale - which is no longer used by the USGS.

Greek Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos has called on assessment and rescue teams to head to the region.

The quake's epicenter was located about 35 kilometers (20 miles) southwest of the Greek port city of Patras in the Peloponnese region. It was "no surprise" that a strong quake hit the region, where earthquakes are common, according to Geodynamic Institute director Gerasimos Papadopoulos.

A family of 10 is believed to be trapped in their collapsed home near the epicenter, NET reported. Also, the network reported that an elderly woman was trapped inside her collapsed home.

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Psychiatrists Fail To Reveal Full Pay From Pharmaceutical Industry
2008-06-08 03:09:43

A world-renowned Harvard University child psychiatrist whose work has helped fuel an explosion in the use of powerful anti-psychotic medicines in children earned at least $1.6 million in consulting fees from drug makers from 2000 to 2007 but for years did not report much of this income to university officials, according to information given Congressional investigators.

By failing to report income, the psychiatrist, Dr. Joseph Biederman, and a colleague in the psychiatry department at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Timothy E. Wilens, may have violated federal and university research rules designed to police potential conflicts of interest, according to Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa. Some of their research is financed by government grants.

Like Dr. Biederman, Dr. Wilens belatedly reported earning at least $1.6 million from 2000 to 2007, and another Harvard colleague, Dr. Thomas Spencer, reported earning at least $1 million after being pressed by Grassley’s investigators. Even these amended disclosures may understate the researchers’ outside income because some entries contradict payment information from drug makers, Grassley found.

In one example, Dr. Biederman reported no income from Johnson & Johnson for 2001 in a disclosure report filed with the university. When asked to check again, he said he received $3,500, but Johnson & Johnson told Grassley that it paid him $58,169 in 2001, Grassley found.

The Harvard group’s consulting arrangements with drug makers were already controversial because of the researchers’ advocacy of unapproved uses of psychiatric medicines in children.

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Severe Storms Bring Tornadoes, Floods To U.S. Midwest
2008-06-08 03:08:35
Severe storms crippled central Indiana with as much as 10 inches of rain Saturday and spawned tornadoes that ripped up roofs and flipped tractor-trailers in Wisconsin and the Chicago, Illinois, suburbs.

The floods in Indiana threatened dams, inundated highways and forced the Coast Guard to rescue residents from swamped homes. Rising waters forced the evacuation of more than 100 patients and doctors from a hospital south of Indianapolis.

To the northwest, Chicago-area residents ran for cover as tornadoes touched down throughout the region. About 25,000 customers in Chicago's southern suburbs were without power late Saturday, said ComEd spokeswoman Judy Rader.

Wisconsin had a few tornado injuries, and at least one injury was reported near Chicago. Indiana had been spared any reported deaths or injuries due to flooding.

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Five Feared Dead In Tokyo Stabbing Rampage
2008-06-08 03:06:13
As many as five people might have died and at least 10 more were wounded after a man went on a knife rampage through Tokyo's popular electronics district on Sunday, said a fire department official.

The man, identified as a 25-year-old member of one of Japan's yakuza crime syndicates, began shouting and stabbing passers-by in the Akihabara area, NHK television reported, showing footage of several ambulances stopped in the district's crowded streets.

At least 15 people were stabbed and as many as five might have died, said an official for the Tokyo Fire Department.

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