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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday June 28 2008 - (813)

Saturday June 28 2008 edition
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Envisioning A World Of $200 A Barrel Oil
2008-06-28 01:37:16
As forecasters take the possibility of $200-a-barrel oil more seriously, they describe fundamental shifts in the way we work, where we live and how we spend our free time.

The more expensive oil gets, the more Katherine Carver's life shrinks. She's given up RV trips. She stays home most weekends. She's scrapped her twice-a-month volunteer stint at a Malibu wildlife refuge - the trek from her home in Palmdale just got too expensive.

How much higher would fuel prices have to go before she quit her job? Already, the 170-mile round-trip commute to her job with Los Angeles County Child Support Services in Commerce is costing her close to $1,000 a month - a fifth of her salary. It's got the 55-year-old thinking about retirement.

"It's definitely pushing me to that point," said Carver.

The point could be closer than anyone thinks.

Three months ago, when oil was around $108, a few Wall Street analysts began predicting that it could rise to $200 a barrel. Many observers scoffed at the forecasts as sensational, or motivated by a desire among energy companies and investors to drive prices higher.

Yet, with oil closing over $140 a barrel Friday, more experts are taking those predictions seriously - and shuddering at the inflation-fueled chaos that $200-a-barrel crude could bring. They foresee fundamental shifts in the way we work, where we live and how we spend our free time.

"You'd have massive changes going on throughout the economy," said Robert Wescott, president of Keybridge Research, a Washington, D.C., economic analysis firm. "Some activities are just plain going to be shut down."

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Salmonella-Tainted Tomatoes May Still Be In Markets
2008-06-28 01:34:16

Tomatoes carrying a rare form of salmonella that has sickened more than 800 people may still be on the market, federal officials said Friday, two weeks after they first warned consumers about the risk.

Investigators are considering the possibility that other produce may be spreading the bacteria.

"We continue to see a strong association with tomatoes, but we are keeping an open mind about other ingredients," said Patricia Griffin, a top epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The FDA has not changed its guidelines that it is safe to eat Roma, red plum and red round tomatoes not attached to a vine that were grown in certain areas. All cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and tomatoes attached to the vine are also okay. (For a list of safe areas, go to: .)

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As Flames Approach Big Sur Buddhist Monastery, Monks Prepared To Fight
2008-06-28 01:33:43
In this remote Zen enclave on Big Sur's forested backside, wildfires lurk on three sides. As flames edge closer and ash falls from a crimson sky, the Buddhist monks are readying for a final stand.

Priests and students alike at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center have been doffing their traditional black robes, hefting picks and shovels, and forging 10-foot-wide fire breaks. Atop the roofs of the monastery's old retreat cabins and meditation hall, they've jury-rigged plastic pipe sprinkler systems.

Perhaps more serene than some, they were among a multitude of Northern Californians coping Friday with more than 1,200 blazes from the Nevada border to the Pacific.

The fires, triggered by fierce lightning storms last weekend, have charred more than 193,000 acres and destroyed at least 20 homes - 16 of them just over the mountains along Big Sur's legendary 70-mile coastline.

The blazes prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday to ask that President Bush declare a state of emergency in the region. In a news conference, the governor suggested that fire-stricken counties consider banning Fourth of July fireworks.
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Traveler's In U.S. Face Deep Flight Cuts By Summer's End
2008-06-28 01:30:55
Traveler's In U.S. Face Deep Flight Cuts By Summer's End

With summer barely under way, it may seem too early for travelers to start thinking about Labor Day, but that is when significant cuts in the airlines’ fleets and schedules will begin taking effect, making for a particularly jarring end to summer.

Across the United States, airports from La Guardia in New York to Oakland in California will be affected by flight cuts, bringing the industry down to a size last seen in 2002, when travel fell sharply after the 9/11 attacks.

Over all, the cuts will reduce flights this year by American carriers by almost 10 percent, industry analysts estimate, with even deeper cuts in store for 2009.

If oil prices keep rising, airlines may have to keep paring their schedules, as they struggle to find ways to make money in light of rapidly rising jet fuel prices, which have climbed more than 80 percent in the last year.

This week, the country’s two biggest airlines, American and United, announced plans to lop cities like Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and San Luis Obispo, California, out of their networks. Cuts also are taking place on international routes to cities like London and Buenos Aires, and even to popular vacation destinations in the United States like Las Vegas, Nevada,  Honolulu, Hawaii, and Orlando, Florida.

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Obama, Clinton Set New Phase '08 Campaign
2008-06-28 01:29:44
Sen. Barack Obama wanted a symbolic beginning for his alliance with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and he achieved it Friday when the former rivals traveled here together for an afternoon rally designed to unite Democrats for the fall campaign.

Besides the message its name sent, the town of Unity also had the distinction of splitting its votes evenly in New Hampshire's presidential primary, with Clinton and Obama each picking up 107 votes, and it served as a carefully chosen backdrop for transitioning the senator from New York into a substantial role in the Obama campaign.

"I know what we start here in this field in Unity will end on the steps of the Capitol when Barack Obama takes the oath of office as our next president," said Clinton, speaking to a crowd of 4,000 outside Unity Elementary School on a steamy day.

"I don't think it's at all unknown among this audience that this was a hard-fought primary campaign," she continued. "But today and every day going forward, we stand shoulder to shoulder for the ideals we share, the values we cherish and the country we love."

Neither side expects major problems in melding the two operations, but after the party's closest nominating contest in modern history, there is no expectation that it will happen overnight. The emotions from the primary fight remain raw for some Clinton supporters, but Obama advisers were encouraged by Friday's first step.

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Scientist In Anthrax Lawsuit Is Paid Millions By U.S.
2008-06-28 01:28:40
The Justice Department announced Friday that it would pay $4.6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Steven J. Hatfill, a former Army biodefense researcher intensively investigated as a “person of interest” in the deadly anthrax letters of 2001.

The settlement, consisting of $2.825 million in cash and an annuity paying Dr. Hatfill $150,000 a year for 20 years, brings to an end a five-year legal battle that had recently threatened a reporter with large fines for declining to name sources she said she did not recall.

Dr. Hatfill, who worked at the Army’s laboratory at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, in the late 1990s, was the subject of a flood of news media coverage beginning in mid-2002, after television cameras showed Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents in biohazard suits searching his apartment near the Army base. He was later named a “person of interest” in the case by then Attorney General John Ashcroft, speaking on national television.

In a news conference in August 2002, Dr. Hatfill tearfully denied that he had anything to do with the anthrax letters and said irresponsible news media coverage based on government leaks had destroyed his reputation.

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Commentary: This Recession, It's Just Beginning
2008-06-27 13:05:00
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein. It appeared in the Washington Post edition for Friday, June 27, 2008.

So much for that second-half rebound.

Truth be told, that was always more of a wish than a serious forecast, happy talk from the Fed and Wall Street desperate to get things back to normal.

It ain't gonna happen. Not this summer. Not this fall. Not even next winter.

This thing's going down, fast and hard. Corporate bankruptcies, bond defaults, bank failures, hedge fund meltdowns and 6 percent unemployment. We're caught in one of those vicious, downward spirals that, once it gets going, is very hard to pull out of.

Only this will be a different kind of recession - a recession with an overlay of inflation. That combo puts the Federal Reserve in a Catch-22 - whatever it does to solve one problem only makes the other worse. Emerging from a two-day meeting this week, Fed officials signaled that further recession-fighting rate cuts are unlikely and that their next move will be to raise rates to contain inflationary expectations.

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Oil Jumps To $142 A Barrel
2008-06-27 13:04:31
Oil held near a record high of more than $142 a barrel on Friday, extending gains after surging nearly 4 percent in the previous session, as tumbling global stock markets helped to trigger a wider commodities rally.

U.S. light crude for August delivery was up 70 cents at $140.34 a barrel by 1514 GMT, off a record high of $142.26.

London Brent crude was up 33 cents at $140.16, off a record high of $142.13.

World stocks sank to three-months lows initially on Friday, pressured by a fast deteriorating global inflation picture which has intensified concerns over the outlook for corporate profits. This hastened the rush of investors' funds into commodities.

"It has a lot to do with asset allocations. The equity markets are under serious pressure, breaking support levels. When equities are going nowhere, the money is parked into commodities," said Olivier Jakob at Petromatrix.

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North Korea Destroys Cooling Tower At Nuclear Site
2008-06-27 13:03:33
In a gesture demonstrating its commitment to halt its nuclear weapons program, North Korea blew up the most prominent symbol of its plutonium production Friday.

The 60-foot cooling tower at the North’s main nuclear power plant collapsed in a heap of shattered concrete and twisted steel, filmed by international and regional television broadcasters invited to witness the event.

The tower is a technically insignificant structure, relatively easy to rebuild. North Korea also has been disabling - but not destroying - more sensitive parts of the nuclear complex, such as the 5-megawatt reactor, a plant that makes its fuel and a laboratory that extracts plutonium from its spent fuel.

Nonetheless, the destruction of the tower, the most visible element of the nuclear complex at Yongbyon, 60 miles north of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, affirmed the incremental progress that has been made in American-led multilateral efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs.

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Taliban Imperil Peshawar, One Of Pakistan's Largest Cities
2008-06-28 01:34:41
In the last two months,  Taliban militants have suddenly tightened the noose on Peshawar, a city of three million people and one of Pakistan’s biggest, establishing bases in surrounding towns and, in daylight, abducting residents for high ransoms.

The militants move unchallenged out of the lawless tribal region, just 10 miles away, in convoys of heavily armed, long haired and bearded men. They have turned up at courthouses in nearby towns, ordering judges to stay away. On Thursday they stormed a women’s voting station on the city outskirts, and they are now regularly kidnapping people from the city’s bazaars and homes. There is a feeling that the city gates could crumble at any moment.

The threat to Peshawar is a sign of the Taliban’s deepening penetration of Pakistan and of the expanding danger that the militants present to the entire region, including nearby supply lines for NATO and American forces in Afghanistan.

For the United States, the major supply route for weapons for NATO troops runs from the port of Karachi to the outskirts of Peshawar and through the Khyber Pass to the battlefields of Afghanistan. Maintaining that route would be extremely difficult if the city were significantly infiltrated by the very militants who want to defeat the NATO war effort across the border.

NATO and American commanders have complained for months that the government’s policy of negotiating with the militants has led to more cross-border attacks in Afghanistan by Taliban fighters based in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

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Battered By Oil Prices, Dow Touches Bear 'Territory
2008-06-28 01:34:02

After eight brutal months on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average finally made it official: Blue-chip stocks have stumbled into bear territory.

A brief 155-point slide on Friday afternoon brought the decline in the Dow to 20 percent from its October peak, an ignominious figure that is generally regarded as marking the start of a bear market. The index ended down 107 points, a mere 0.1 percent above the threshold. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index has not fallen quite as much.

The eight-month journey has roughly followed the twists of the subprime mortgage crisis, with a significant drop after the Bear Stearnscollapse and a tantalizing rally when the economy appeared to recover slightly last month.

In June, as the price of oil kept rising and the pain in the financial industry showed no signs of easing, the losses gained momentum. Many investors concluded that the economy was in worse shape than they had initially feared. This month, as the price of crude has gained about $13, the Dow has shed more than 1,000 points. The index closed at 11,346.51.

Few of the 30 companies in the Dow industrial index were spared Friday, reflecting growing concern among investors that the ongoing credit squeeze and record energy prices are taking a severe toll on industries throughout the economy. Proicter & Gamble fell 2.2 percent. Boeing sank almost 1.9 percent. General Motors, which had plunged to its lowest level in decades on Thursday, eked out a small gain.

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Cost Of Radiation Monitors Jumps From $500,000 To $778,000 - Each!
2008-06-28 01:33:19

The cost to put a new kind of radiation monitor in place at borders and ports across the country would be far more than the Department of Homeland Securityinitially told Congress, according to budget documents and interviews with officials.

The department's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office said in a report two years ago that the monitors would cost more than $500,000 each to buy and deploy. On the basis of that report, Congress allowed the office to move ahead with a $1.2 billion plan to begin deploying the devices.

Now the nuclear detection office estimates that the total cost for each machine will work out to at least $778,000. The office said it needs almost $68 million "for the procurement and deployment" of 87 machines for one portion of the project, according to budget documents.

A spokesman for the nuclear detection office said the new cost estimates appear higher because they include current expenses to deploy the machines, such as infrastructure construction, calibration of the machines' software and labor. Spokesman Russ Knocke said Capitol Hill was advised from the beginning that there would be additional costs for deployment of the machines, known as advanced spectroscopic portal monitors, or ASPs.

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Residents Of Missouri Community Evacuated As Levee Breaks
2008-06-28 01:30:06

Floodwaters surging down the Mississippi River broke through an earthen levee near the eastern Missouri town of Winfield Friday, overwhelming a massive sandbagging effort and forcing die-hard residents to evacuate their homes.

The Pin Oak agricultural levee gave way shortly before 5:30 a.m. Central time, the latest of dozens of such structures to be breached or overtopped by floodwaters that have poured into the Mississippi after heavy rains in May and June. Officials said muskrat burrows weakened the levee, contributing to the breach.

The National Weather Service subsequently issued a flash-flood warning for eastern Lincoln County, Missouri, saying that "water is expected to ultimately inundate the eastern portion of the town of Winfield." The flooding threatened to swamp about 100 homes and 3,000 acres of farmland.

Undaunted by the breach, residents and National Guardsmen used sandbags to build another levee about four feet high in an effort to protect the threatened homes.

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A Candidate Runs Despite Republican Chorus Of 'Don't'
2008-06-28 01:29:12
He has been called a spoiler. A would-be Ralph Nader. A thorn in the side of Senator John McCain and the Republican establishment.

None of it bothers Bob Barr, the former Republican congressman from Georgia turned Libertarian Party candidate for president, who gleefully recounted what he says a group of Republicans told him at a recent meeting in Washington: Don’t run.

“ â€˜Well, gee, you might take votes from Senator McCain’,” Barr said this week, mimicking one of the complainers, as he sat sipping Coca-Cola in his plush corner office, 12 stories above Atlanta. “They all said, ‘Look, we understand why you’re doing this. We agree with why you’re doing it. But please don’t do it’.”

With the Libertarian nomination in hand, Barr hopes to follow in the footsteps of Ross Perot and Nader, whose third-party presidential bids wreaked general-election havoc.

For one, he is hoping to hitch his wagon to the enormous grass-roots movement behind Representative Ron Paul, the libertarian-minded Republican from Texas who recently abandoned his own presidential bid; and, with presidential elections increasingly boiling down to state-by-state battles for Electoral College votes, many political analysts think a Barr candidacy, no matter how marginal, could have some impact.

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U.S. Car Maker Are Flat-Out Hurting
2008-06-27 13:05:13
America's Big Three automakers are looking awfully small these days.

Speculation about asset sales, takeovers and even bankruptcy for the former titans of Detroit raged Thursday as a stock market rout after a downgrade by Goldman Sachs brought shares of General Motors Corp. to their lowest level since December 1974.

When the selling was over, the stock price of GM, the nation's largest automaker, stood at $11.43 - a decline of $1.38, or 11%. With a market capitalization of $6.47 billion, it would take 23 GMs to equal the $148.8-billion valuation of Japanese rival Toyota Motor Co.

Ford Motor Co.'s stock, meanwhile, fell 17 cents to $5.07, near its 52-week low and more than a third below its value of one year ago. Ford's market cap stood at $11.37 billion at day's end.

Chrysler is privately held.
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Honeybee Collapse Claims Record Number Of Hives This Year
2008-06-27 13:04:47
A record 36 percent of U.S. commercial bee colonies have been lost to mysterious causes so far this year and worse may be yet to come, experts told a congressional panel Thursday.

The year's bee colony losses are about twice the usual seen following a typical winter, scientists warn. Despite ambitious new research efforts, the causes remain a mystery.

"We need results," pleaded California beekeeper Steve Godlin. "We need a unified effort by all."

The escalating campaign against what's generically called colony collapse disorder includes more state, federal and private funding for research. Publicity efforts are getting louder - a costumed Mr. Bee was seen wandering around Capitol Hill this week - and lawmakers are becoming mobilized.

On Thursday, Congress heard from farmers with troubled crops, from beekeepers struggling with lost hives, from frustrated researchers and even from corporate leaders worried about their own economic futures.

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American Airlines Will Layoff 8 Percent Of Employees In September
2008-06-27 13:04:08

A long-expected wave of layoffs at American Airlines began to materialize Thursday, when employees were informed that about 8 percent of management and support staff will be cut in September.

The cutbacks accompany plans to shrink the airline’s schedule by about 12 percent later this year. American executives have said they expect thousands of jobs to be eliminated as the carrier downsizes. Pilots, flight attendants and ground workers will likely face furloughs as well in the near future.

"Our frontline staffing is very closely tied with flying," said Tim Wagner, a spokesman. "We’re still working to determine our staffing needs based on the new schedule."

He added, "We don’t have the numbers yet but should have some estimates soon."

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California Judge Removed From Bench
2008-06-27 13:03:08
An Orange County, California, judge was ordered removed from office Thursday by state officials who said the former county prosecutor filed false and misleading expense claims for a legal conference in San Diego and then lied when questioned about them.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Kelly MacEachern is the first judge in the county and the 24th in California ordered removed from office since 1960.

The jurist's attorney said MacEachern intended to appeal the split decision by the state Commission on Judicial Performance.

In a 7-3 ruling made public Thursday, the commission concluded that MacEachern "engaged in willful misconduct" in misrepresenting her attendance at the Continuing Judicial Studies Program in summer 2006. The decision was based on findings by three masters appointed by the state Supreme Court to investigate the allegations.
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