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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday June 14 2008 - (813)

Saturday June 14 2008 edition
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U.S. Foreclosure Filings Continue To Rise
2008-06-14 01:25:48

Soaring foreclosures continue to raise questions about the mortgage industry's claims that lenders are making a dent in the housing crisis.

Foreclosure filings last month were up nearly 50 percent compared with a year earlier, according to one company's count released yesterday. Nationwide, 261,255 homeowners received at least one foreclosure-related filing in May, up 48 percent from the same month last year, and up 7 percent from April, said foreclosure listing service RealtyTrac.

Those numbers come as criticism mounts that efforts by government and lenders to stem the tide of foreclosures aren't keeping up with the rising number of troubled homeowners. Critics say a Bush administration-backed mortgage industry coalition, called Hope Now, is falling short.

"It's clear that these voluntary efforts in and of themselves cannot really make a dent," said Allen Fishbein, director of credit and housing policy at the Consumer Federation of America. "Government intervention is going to be necessary."

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Unnamed Restaurant Chain Linked To 9 Cases Of Tomato-Borne Salmonella
2008-06-14 01:25:20
Nine people sickened by a salmonella outbreak linked to fresh tomatoes ate at two restaurants from the same chain, federal officials confirmed Friday.

The chain's name and restaurant location are confidential, said David Acheson, the associate commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration, during a conference call with reporters. A spokesman for the agency also declined to provide the time frame for the cases - or say whether the restaurants were in the same state.

The Chicago Department of Public Health identified nine people who ate at a restaurant in May and came down with salmonella, though Tim Hadac, a spokesman for the department, said he did not know whether the nine cases were the same ones Acheson referenced Friday.

None of the nine Chicago victims were hospitalized. Hadac said the department was withholding the name of the restaurant, which he said had several related restaurants in the city but was not part of a national chain.

FDA officials stressed that the locations where the illnesses were reported were not an indication of where the contaminated tomatoes originated.

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Sunken Ship From American Revolutionary War Found In Lake Ontario
2008-06-14 01:24:49
A team of underwater explorers has found the remains of the HMS Ontario, a 22-gun British warship that sank in a storm on the southern shore of Lake Ontario during the last years of the American Revolution.

The 80-foot-long brig-sloop is one of the oldest shipwrecks discovered in the Great Lakes and one of the best preserved, its finders said Friday.

The ship is sitting upright and leaning to one side in 500 feet of water between Niagara and Rochester, New York, with both of its masts still in place, announced explorers Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville.

The team located the wreck early this month after three years of searching with side-scan sonar, then explored and filmed the remains with a remotely operated vehicle designed and built by Scoville.
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2 Dead, Dozens Injured As 6.9 Earthquake Rattles Japan
2008-06-13 23:15:56
Two people were killed and at least eight others injured Saturday when a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck northeastern Japan, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura.

The national police agency said at least 32 people were injured.

Machimura said one man was killed when he was buried in a landslide in Fukushima Prefecture and the other was struck by a truck as he rushed out of his house in Iwate Prefecture.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda sent priority orders for rescue operations, said Machimura.

The quake, which struck at about 8:45 a.m. (11:45 p.m. GMT Friday), was centered 100 km (60 miles) north of Sendai in southern Iwate prefecture. Aftershocks of 5.0 and 4.4 magnitude followed, the Japanese Meteorological Agency said.

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Creators Of E-Mail Monster Now Try To Tame It
2008-06-13 23:15:22

Some of the biggest technology firms, including Microsoft, Intel, Google and I.B.M., are banding together to fight information overload. Last week they formed a nonprofit group to study the problem, publicize it and devise ways to help workers - theirs and others - cope with the digital deluge.

Their effort comes as statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.

The big chip maker Intel found in an eight-month internal study that some employees who were encouraged to limit digital interruptions said they were more productive and creative as a result.

Intel and other companies are already experimenting with solutions. Small units at some companies are encouraging workers to check e-mail messages less frequently, to send group messages more judiciously and to avoid letting the drumbeat of digital missives constantly shake up and reorder to-do lists.

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U.S. Inflation Rate Rises Due To Soaring Energy, Food Costs
2008-06-13 14:36:01

Americans faced sharply higher prices in May, the government said today, as soaring costs for energy drove overall prices up at the fastest rate since November.

The consumer price index rose 0.6 percent for the month, the Labor Department said, and the prices Americans pay for the broad range of goods and services that they buy are now up 4.2 percent for the past year. When food are energy are excluded, prices rose a modest 0.2 percent.

The price of oil fell on world markets today, off $1.85 to about $135 at 11:20 a.m., as the Saudi Arabian state oil company signaled it may soon increase production. The fall in oil, coupled with the inflation report that was in line with expectations, were enough to drive the stock market up. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 138 points, or 1.1 percent, in late morning.

While the higher May prices in the Labor Department report were expected, they nonetheless showed the deep stresses affecting consumers and the challenges that the Federal Reserve faces in trying to rein in inflation.

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Iraqi Prime Minister Says Security Talks With U.S. Are Deadlocked
2008-06-13 14:35:18
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared Friday that talks with the U.S. on a new security agreement were deadlocked, as Sunni and Shiite preachers spoke out against the deal that would enable American troops to remain in Iraq after year's end.

Al-Maliki said negotiations will continue, but his tough talk reflects Iraqi determination to win greater control of U.S. military operations after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.

His comments, made during a visit to Amman, Jordan, echo those of other leading Iraqi politicians, who have complained that U.S. proposals would give the Americans too much power over political, economic and military affairs and infringe on Iraqi sovereignty.

"The first drafts presented left us at a dead end and deadlock," said al-Maliki. "So, we abandoned these first drafts. The negotiations will continue with new ideas until the sides reach a formula that preserves Iraq's sovereignty."

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Burma Junta Gives 'Cronies' Slice Of Storm Relief
2008-06-13 14:34:46

Just seven days after Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma last month, the ruling military junta parceled out key sections of the affected Irrawaddy Delta to favored tycoons and companies, including several facing sanctions from the U.S. Treasury, according to a Burmese magazine with close ties to the government.

Some of the most notorious business executives in Burma, including Tay Za and Steven Law, also known as Tun Myint Naing, were given control of "reconstruction and relief" in critical townships, under the leadership of top generals. Tay Za was identified by Treasury as a "regime henchman" this year when it slapped economic sanctions on hotel enterprises and other businesses he owns.

All told, more than 30 companies and 30 executives are to divide up the business in 11 townships in areas affected by Nargis, according to the report.

The document in the magazine is dated May 9, a time when the United Nations, aid groups and many countries were pleading with the Burmese government to allow access to affected areas in the aftermath of the storm, which killed as many as 130,000 people and left 2.5 million without homes. Despite promises of greater openness, the Burmese rulers have continued to impose restrictions on aid relief, including new and onerous identification requirements for aid workers, according to reports from the region.

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NASA: Metal Clip Fell Off Shuttle But Not A Problem
2008-06-13 14:34:14
A metal clip fell from Discovery's brakes on Friday but NASA said it won't delay the space shuttle's scheduled landing on Saturday.

The astronauts reported to Mission Control earlier Friday that they saw a rectangular object, about 1 to 1 1/2 feet long, floating away from the tail of the shuttle. It turned out to be one of three metal clips around thermal insulation.

The insulation is in the shuttle's rudder speed brake, which is used to slow the spacecraft as it comes in for a landing.

NASA says the missing clip isn't critical for landing. It's used to protect the speed brake from high temperatures during the shuttle's launch.

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Poll: Many In World Look To U.S. Election For Change
2008-06-13 01:00:40
People around the globe widely expect the next American president to improve the country's policies toward the rest of the world, especially if Barack Obama is elected, yet they retain a persistently poor image of the U.S., according to a poll released Thursday.

The survey of two dozen countries, conducted this spring by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, also found a growing despondency over the international economy, with majorities in 18 nations calling domestic economic conditions poor. In more bad news for the U.S., people shared a widespread sense the American economy was hurting their countries, including large majorities in U.S. allies Britain, Germany, Australia, Turkey, France and Japan.

Even six in 10 Americans agreed the U.S. economy was having a negative impact abroad.

Views of the U.S. improved or stayed the same as last year in 18 nations, the first positive signs the poll has found for the U.S. image worldwide this decade. Even so, many improvements were modest and the U.S. remains less popular in most countries than it was before it invaded Iraq in 2003, with majorities in only eight expressing favorable opinions.

Substantial numbers in most countries said they are closely following the U.S. presidential election, including 83 percent in Japan - about the same proportion who said so in the U.S. Of those following the campaign, optimism that the new president will reshape American foreign policy for the better is substantial, with the largest segment of people in 14 countries - including the U.S. - saying so.

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Western Democracy Loses Ground To Autocrats
2008-06-13 01:00:06
It's the best of all bad forms of government, but for many it's no longer good enough. Today democracy leaves lots of people cold, and in Asia and Africa, many prefer autocratic systems. Damaged by bush, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, few are interested in the model of democracy exported by the United States.

Once upon a time, there was a king who was called the "Precious Ruler of the Dragon People." The monarch loved his people and his people loved him in return. One day he announced that he was going to descend from the throne and voluntarily give up his position of absolute power. He said the time had come for his people to govern themselves and that this would make the country's people better able to realize their philosophy of "Gross National Happiness."

The people were unsure. They thought everything in their little kingdom had been just fine the way it was. On the other hand, they didn't want to go against the trend of the times or against the wishes of their king. So they went ahead and founded political parties. Despite their continued skepticism with regard to democracy, they obediently went to the polling stations to cast their ballots. Voter turnout was around 80 percent. An overwhelming majority of the electorate voted for the Peace and Prosperity Party. You see, it can be done, the king observed, delighted with the results. He said he was looking forward to his own disempowerment and to taking part in parliamentary debates.

This may sound like a fairy tale or a story based on a figure in ancient history, but it actually happened, and not all that long ago. On March 24, Bhutan - a small country high in the Himalayas, nestled between India, China, and Tibet - was transformed by order of its king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, from an absolute monarchy into a democratically legitimated constitutional monarchy. Nine years ago television was legalized in this remote kingdom with its majestic mountain peaks, Buddhist monasteries and population of 680,000. Now democracy has been introduced through what has been a carefully planned, top-down procedure - like almost everything here in the "Land of the Thunder Dragon," perched atop the world's tallest mountain range.

Chalk one up for Democracy. At Freedom House, a Washington-based organization that compiles and regularly updates surveys on the status of freedom in the world, staff members pinned a green flag indicating "free" to a map of the world. It was high time there was something positive to report.

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Unemployment Aid Extension Easily Passes U.S. House
2008-06-13 00:59:24
The U.S. House of Representatives took another step on Thursday in a running political fight over unemployment insurance by ignoring a veto threat from President Bush and easily approving an extension of benefits for idle workers whose aid is running out.

Less than a day after coming up just short in a vote on the same measure, the House approved granting an extra 13 weeks of unemployment benefits nationwide beyond the standard 26 weeks; the vote was 274 to 137, the minimum margin needed to override a veto.

Republicans said the result was misleading because a number of lawmakers were absent. They expressed confidence they could sustain a veto of the bill by Bush if it were to get to the White House.

In an illustration of the election-year unease among Republicans about the unemployment issue, 49 of them again broke with their party leadership and joined 225 Democrats in backing the proposal, which would also extend benefits even longer in states with unemployment above 6 percent. In those states, benefits would be extended for a total of 26 weeks.

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Thornburg Mortgage Posts $3.31 Billion 1st Quarter Loss
2008-06-13 00:58:52
Thornburg Mortgage said Thursday that it swung to a $3.31 billion loss in the first quarter and that it expected loan delinquencies would continue to increase for the rest of the year.

Before paying preferred dividends, Thornburg lost $3.31 billion, or $20.64 a share, in contrast to a profit of $75 million, or 62 cents a share, a year earlier.

Thornburg specializes in larger mortgages, known as jumbo loans, which total more than $417,000. The company said the value of securities it owns dropped sharply during the quarter amid a slowing economy and continued housing slump, forcing it to take market-value losses of $1.54 billion.

Thornburg also recorded $949.1 million worth of charges related to financing.

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Researchers Excavate Petrified Rainforest In German City
2008-06-13 00:58:07
Researchers in the decidedly un-tropical German city of Chemnitz are uncovering spectacular remains of a petrified rainforest. The forest was preserved under a thick layer of ash after a volcanic eruption 290 million years ago.

An unusual excavation is underway in the eastern German city of Chemnitz, one which conjures up hard-to-believe images of the time when the area was covered by tropical rainforest.

A team led by researchers from Chemnitz's Museum for Natural History has been excavating a 290-million-year-old petrified prehistoric forest in the city's Hilbersdorf district since April. Now they have found the first preserved trees. "We have found four vertically standing and two prone gymnosperm trunks to date," said excavation leader Ralph Kretzschmar in a statement released by the museum Tuesday. Gymnosperms are a group of plants whose seeds are not enclosed within plant tissue, such as modern-day conifers or cycads.

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Taliban Attack Frees Hundreds From Afghanistan Jail
2008-06-14 01:25:36
Hundreds of prisoners escaped from a jail in southern Afghanistan on Friday after Taliban fighters blew off the gates in a suicide attack that killed several police officers, according to a U.S. military official.Many of those freed were apparently Taliban suspects.

The attack occurred in the evening in the southern city of Kandahar, a longtime stronghold of the Taliban insurgency, when attackers drove an explosives-laden vehicle toward the city jail, according to a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Prisoners breached the walls of the prison when a barrage of rocket and gunfire followed the initial attack.

A prison official at the scene said the bloody skirmish at the jail had left it nearly empty. Soldiers with NATO forces in the region were working with members of the Afghan national police to cordon off the area.

Government officials declared a state of emergency in Kandahar early Saturday.

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Judge Declares Mistrial In L.A. Obscenity Case
2008-06-14 01:25:06
A federal appeals court judge today recused himself from a closely-watched obscenity trial in Los Angeles, three days after acknowledging that he had posted sexually explicit material on a publicly accessible personal website.

"In light of the public controversy surrounding my involvement in this case, I have concluded that there is a manifest necessity to declare a mistrial," said Alex Kozinski, chief judge for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. "I will recuse myself from further participation in the case and will ask the chief judge of the district court to reassign it to another judge."

The obscenity trial in Los Angeles federal court was suspended Wednesday after the Los Angeles Times reported about the images on his website.

Kozinski, one of the nation's highest-ranking judges, granted a 48-hour stay in the obscenity trial of a Hollywood adult filmmaker after the prosecutor requested time to explore "a potential conflict of interest concerning the court having a ...  sexually explicit website with similar material to what is on trial here."
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Plan Would Raise Saudi Oil Ouput To Highest Ever
2008-06-13 23:16:08

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is planning to increase its output next month by about a half-million barrels a day, according to analysts and oil traders who have been briefed by Saudi officials.

The increase could bring Saudi output to a production level of 10 million barrels a day, which, if sustained, would be the kingdom’s highest ever. The move was seen as a sign that the Saudis are becoming increasingly nervous about both the political and economic effect of high oil prices. In recent weeks, soaring fuel costs have incited demonstrations and protests from Italy to Indonesia.

Saudi Arabia is currently pumping 9.45 million barrels a day, which is an increase of about 300,000 barrels from last month.

While they are reaping record profits, the Saudis are concerned that today’s record prices might eventually damp economic growth and lead to lower oil demand, as is already happening in the United States and other developed countries. The current prices are also making alternative fuels more viable, threatening the long-term prospects of the oil-based economy.

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Tim Russert, 'Meet The Press' Host, Dead At 58
2008-06-13 23:15:44
Tim Russert, a fixture in American homes on Sunday mornings and election nights since becoming moderator of “Meet the Press” nearly 17 years ago, died Friday after collapsing at the Washington bureau of NBC News. He was 58 and lived in Northwest Washington.

His death was announced by Tom Brokaw, former anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” who broke into the network’s programming just after 3:30 p.m.

An NBC spokeswoman, Allison Gollust, said in an e-mail message Friday night that Mr. Russert had died of a “sudden heart attack.” His internist, Dr. Michael A. Newman, said on MSNBC that an autopsy had found that Mr. Russert had an enlarged heart and significant coronary artery disease.

When stricken, Mr. Russert had been recording voice-overs for this Sunday’s program. Mr. Russert, who was also the Washington bureau chief and a senior vice president of NBC News, had returned in the last couple of days from a trip to Italy to celebrate the recent graduation of his son, Luke, from Boston College.

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Upper U.S. Midwest Flooding Forces Evacuations, Floods Roads
2008-06-13 14:36:13
Rising water from the Cedar River forced the evacuation of a downtown hospital in Cedar Rapis, Iowa, Friday after residents of more than 3,000 homes fled for higher ground. A railroad bridge collapsed, and 400 city blocks were under water.

Cedar Rapids was the hardest-hit city in Iowa, where Gov. Chet Culver declared 83 of the state's 99 counties as state disaster areas and nine rivers were at or above historic flood levels. Elsewhere in the upper Midwest, rivers and streams tipping their banks forced evacuations, closed roads, and even threatened drinking water.

The hospital's 176 patients, including about 30 patients in a nursing home facility at the hospital, were being evacuated to other hospitals in the region. The evacuation started late Thursday night and continued Friday morning in the city of 124,000 residents.

"Some are frail and so it's a very delicate process with them," said Karen Vander Sanden, a hospital spokeswoman.

Water was seeping into the hospital's lower levels, where the emergency generator is located, said Dustin Hinrichs, of the Linn County emergency operations center.

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Analysis: Bush Administration Strategy For Detention Now In Disarray
2008-06-13 14:35:38

In the days following the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush and his advisers sought to create an unprecedented parallel system to detain suspected terrorists far from the normal scrutiny of the U.S. judiciary. The naval base at Guantanamo Bay offered a way to indefinitely hold those individuals the administration considered among the most dangerous in the world.

The Supreme Court's decision Thursday to grant habeas corpus rights to the detainees struck at the very core of the administration's approach, as a narrow majority ruled that even hardened suspects are due the basic right to challenge their custody in federal court. The ruling throws into disarray the administration's detention strategy, almost certainly leaving to Bush's successor and the next Congress the dilemma of what to do with the Guantanamo Bay detainees.

More than six years after the administration began flying suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban members to Cuba, confusion and uncertainty now cloud the operations at Guantanamo Bay: Only one detainee has received a verdict, hundreds have had no opportunity to challenge their detention and the government is facing a flood of new litigation invited by the court.

Even administration officials are uncertain about their next steps, and their surrogates were bitterly blaming the Supreme Court for seizing policy that they say the White House and Congress should set. They noted that the White House had done as the court previously demanded, working with Congress to put lawmakers' imprimatur on detainee policy.

"It leaves the government and the next administration with a serious problem," said Bradford A. Berenson, a former Bush White House lawyer. "Every detainee now at Guantanamo, and maybe detainees held elsewhere, are now going to come into court and demand a trial-type proceeding where they can force our military to justify their detentions under standards normally applicable only under the routine civilian context. This is undoubtedly going to produce an avalanche of burdensome litigation and, more seriously, erroneous releases of very dangerous people."

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Protesters Demand Reinstatement Of Pakistani Judges
2008-06-13 14:34:58
Tens of thousands of people marched on Pakistan's capital Friday to demand the reinstatement of some 60 judges ousted by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf last year.

In an unprecedented show of force, lawyers, merchants, textile workers, teachers and even a sprinkling of housewives traveled from every corner of the country to Islamabad to register their discontent with Musharraf's nearly nine-year-old military administration. Dubbed the "Long March" by its organizers, the four-day nationwide protest kicked off in the southern urban hub of Karachi Tuesday, gathered strength as it hit the central city of Lahore late Thursday and burgeoned as it pushed toward the capital.

The march is a culmination of a 15-month-long push to reinstate Pakistan's tattered judiciary. Public pressure to restore the deposed judges to office began mounting last March after Musharraf suspended the chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, in a move that set off widespread and continuing protests.

The Supreme Court reinstated the chief justice in July but, in a move viewed as a preemptive strike aimed at quashing challenges to his presidency, Musharraf fired Chaudhry and placed him and several other judges under house arrest after declaring emergency rule in November.

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G8 Financial Chiefs Talk Global Warming, Oil Prices At Japan Meeting
2008-06-13 14:34:28
Helping developing nations fight global warming and sharing views on towering oil and food prices were among the topics on hand at a Group of Eight finance ministers' meeting opening Friday.

The two-day meeting also will address other global worries, including help for Africa and possibly worries about gyrating currency rates, according to Japanese Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga, the host of the meeting.

Nukaga was scheduled to meet U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn on the sidelines of the G-8 meeting Friday.

Later in the day, he was expected to appear with a U.S. official to outline an initiative for Climate Investment Funds being administered by the World Bank to help developing nations battle global warming, according to the Japanese government.

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Iowa Mourns The Deaths Of 4 Boy Scouts
2008-06-13 01:00:53

Iowa struggled with large-scale flooding for the sixth day yesterday, even as state officials and residents mourned the death of four Boy Scouts killed by a tornado Wednesday night at a scout camp in western Iowa.

The state has been ravaged by one weather disaster after another since a May 25 tornado that killed seven and injured 50 in northeastern Parkersburg. Wednesday's twister, which also injured several dozen, brings to 14 the number of dead in Iowa tornadoes in the past three weeks.

Eighty-nine scouts survived the tragedy, some cowering in shelters as debris and bricks flew around them; others, who were on a hike, were out in the open. Survivors told of using their scout training to provide emergency first aid to those who were injured.

The tornado destroyed the 1,800-acre camp's four cabins and ripped up tents. Many parents gathering in a community center and local hospitals could not locate their sons until six hours after the disaster.

One of the dead, Aaron Eilerts, 14, of Eagle Grove, Iowa, was an only child who liked playing flute and sewing and hoped to become an Eagle Scout. Three boys from Omaha also were killed: 13-year-olds Josh Fennen and Sam Thomsen; and Ben Petrzilka, 14.

The tornado that hit the Little Sioux Scout Camp was one of 57 twisters reported Wednesday in Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota, according to the federal Storm Prediction Center.

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Medical Fraud A Growing Problem For Medicare
2008-06-13 01:00:25
All it took to bilk the federal government out of $105 million was a laptop computer.

From her Mediterranean-style townhouse, a high school dropout named Rita Campos Ramirez orchestrated what prosecutors call the largest health-care fraud by one person. Over nearly four years, she electronically submitted more than 140,000 Medicare claims for unnecessary equipment and services. She used the proceeds to finance big-ticket purchases, including two condominiums and a Mercedes-Benz.

Health-care experts say the simplicity of Campos Ramirez's scheme underscores the scope of the growing fraud problem and the need to devote more resources to theft prevention. Law enforcement authorities estimate that health-care fraud costs taxpayers more than $60 billion each year.

A critical aspect of the problem is that Medicare, the health program for the elderly and the disabled, automatically pays the vast majority of the bills it receives from companies that possess federally issued supplier numbers. Computer and audit systems now in place to detect problems generally focus on over billing and unorthodox medical treatment rather than fraud, scholars say.

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Satellite Images Show Glaciers, Lakes And Forests Disappearing From Africa At Alarming Rate
2008-06-13 00:59:36

The changing face of the continent was brought home to African ministers Wednesday when they were presented with an atlas charting the speed of environmental destruction.

The loss of ice on Mount Kilimanjaro and the vanishing waters of Lake Chad were among the best-known problems, but deforestation, urbanization and the spread of agriculture have all taken a heavy toll.

Other major damage includes tree loss and land degradation caused by refugees in the Sudan, the virtual disappearance of Lake Ngami in Botswana, the expansion of the city of Bujumbura in Burundi, and the loss of Cameroon's rainforest to rubber and palm plantations. Hundreds of before-and-after satellite images offered a sobering assessment of the enormous damage done in less than four decades.

The images form part of "Africa - Atlas of Our Changing Environment", launched Wednesday after a two-year project by the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP).

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Exxon Mobil Plans To Sell 2,220 Gas Stations
2008-06-13 00:59:01
Exxon Mobil said on Thursday that it is withdrawing from the retail gas business in the United States, citing the “very challenging” business conditions for its service stations.

Exxon, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, said it would sell the roughly 2,220 service stations it owned across the United States, including about 820 that it also operated.

The company will maintain the Exxon and Mobil brands, said an Exxon spokeswoman, Prem Nair.

Of the 12,000 or so Exxon Mobil-branded stations in the United States, about 75 percent are already owned by others.

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Zimbabwe Detains Opposition Leaders
2008-06-13 00:58:24
The standard-bearer for Zimbabwe's opposition was twice detained by the police on Thursday, and one of his most important deputies was arrested to face treason charges. The events underscored the daunting obstacles to campaigning against President Robert Mugabe in the two weeks before a presidential runoff.

The opposition presidential candidate, Morgan Tzvangirai, who was detained twice last week, was held up by the police twice more on Thursday in what was supposed to have been a day of rallies and campaigning, said his party.

The arrest of the deputy, Tendai Biti, was even more chilling for the party, the Movement for Democratic Change. Biti, the party’s secretary general, was swiftly apprehended at Harare’s airport on Thursday as he returned from South Africa after a self-imposed absence of two months. He will be charged with treason, said a police spokesman.

Even before his passport could be stamped, “10 men in plain clothes whisked him away,” said his party. “His whereabouts are unknown.”

Senior officials in Mugabe’s governing party, in power for 28 years, have accused Biti, a lawyer who is often the opposition’s public face, of violating the law by announcing the outcome of the initial round of voting in March before the official results were released.

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