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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday June 29 2008 - (813)

Sunday June 29 2008 edition
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U.S. Army Iraq Study Faults Pentagon
2008-06-29 03:15:12

A new Army history of the service's performance in Iraq immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein faults military and civilian leaders for their planning for the war's aftermath, and it suggests that the Pentagon's current way of using troops is breaking the Army National Guard and Army Reserve. 

The study, "On Point II: Transition to the New Campaign," is an unclassified and unhindered look at U.S. Army  operations in Iraq from May 2003 to January 2005. That critical era of the war has drawn widespread criticism because of a failure to anticipate the rise of an Iraqi insurgency and because policymakers provided too few U.S. troops and no strategy to maintain order after Iraq's decades-old regime was overthrown.

Donald P. Wright and Col. Timothy R. Reese, who authored the report along with the Army's Contemporary Operations Study Team, conclude that U.S. commanders and civilian leaders were too focused on only the military victory and lacked a realistic vision of what Iraq would look like following that triumph.

"The transition to a new campaign was not well thought out, planned for, and prepared for before it began," write Wright and Reese, historians at the Army's Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  "Additionally, the assumptions about the nature of post-Saddam Iraq on which the transition was planned proved to be largely incorrect."

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In Britain, Home-Grown Vegetables Ruined By Toxic Fertilizer
2008-06-29 03:14:51
Gardeners across Britain are reaping a bitter harvest of rotten potatoes, withered salads and deformed tomatoes after an industrial herbicide tainted their soil.

Gardeners have been warned not to eat home-grown vegetables contaminated by a powerful new herbicide that is destroying gardens and allotments across the U.K.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has been inundated with calls from concerned gardeners who have seen potatoes, beans, peas, carrots and salad vegetables wither or become grossly deformed. The society admitted that it had no idea of the extent of the problem, but said it appeared "significant". The affected gardens and allotments have been contaminated by manure originating from farms where the hormone-based herbicide aminopyralid has been sprayed on fields.

Dow AgroSciences, which manufactures aminopyralid, has posted advice to allotment holders and gardeners on its website. Colin Bowers, Dow's U.K. grassland marketing manager, told The Observer that links to their products had been proved in some of the cases, but it was not clear whether aminopyralid is responsible for all of them and tests were continuing. "It is undoubtedly a problem," he said, "and I have got full sympathy for everyone who is involved with this."

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Reported U.S. Raid In Iraq On al-Maliki Relatives Triggers Outrage
2008-06-29 03:14:22
Iraqi officials in the home town of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are calling for an investigation into a reported raid by the U.S. military  early Friday that resulted in the death of a man identified by some Iraqi officials as a relative of the prime minister.

The raid was carried out shortly after midnight in the town of Hindiyah, 50 miles southwest of Baghdad in Karbala province. According to Iraqi officials in Karbala, a team of about 60 U.S. soldiers traveling in four helicopters descended on a sparsely populated area a few miles from the town, where the prime minister owns a villa.

"We are shocked by the news of the raid," Karbala Gov. Aqeel al-Khazaly said at a news conference Friday afternoon. "The aerial landing and subsequent operations led to the death of an innocent civilian and the arrest of another."

Karbala is one of nine Iraqi provinces where the U.S. military has handed over responsibility for security to local officials. Khazaly, who has been a U.S. ally, said Iraqi officials were not notified about the operation and called it a violation of the handover agreement.

"Iraqi forces in Karbala had reached a level that qualified them to pursue criminal gangs and outlaw groups" on their own, he said.

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After Severe Storms, Omaha Residents Face Up To A Week Without Power
2008-06-29 03:13:36
Nebraska's largest city struggled Saturday to restore power to thousands of residents a day after a severe storm damaged homes, uprooted trees and killed two people in a neighboring community.

It could take a week to fully restore electricity after high winds from Friday's storm, officials said. The storm is one of the worst the Omaha Public Power District has dealt with, said CEO Gary Gates.

Nearly 50,000 customers remained without power Saturday afternoon, said utility spokesman Jeff Hanson. At the peak of the failures, 126,000 customers lacked electricity.

"We've made very good progress so far with our restoration efforts, but as the work proceeds we're going to see fewer repairs that restore power to large numbers of customers," said Gates.

Some customers might not have power restored until next Saturday, he said.

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Pakistan Ends Talks With Taliban, Shells Insurgents' Strongholds Outside Peshawar
2008-06-28 17:35:11
Pakistan government forces Saturday attacked the strongholds of Taliban fighters who for the first time had appeared poised to make at least a symbolic strike at a major Pakistani city.

The offensive in the Khyber tribal agency just outside Peshawar, the main city in the country's troubled northwest, marked an abrupt about-face for Pakistan's new government, made up of former opposition figures. Until Saturday's action, the governing coalition had sought to negotiate with the insurgents instead of taking them on militarily.

It was unclear whether the operation marked a long-term change in the Pakistani government's approach to dealing with the Taliban. Western nations, including the United States, have expressed deep misgivings about Pakistan striking truces with local Taliban commanders.

In a sign of the central government's ambivalence about fighting the militants, only paramilitary soldiers, who are lightly equipped and poorly trained in comparison with regular army troops, took part in the Khyber operation.
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Commentary: All Too Human
2008-06-28 17:34:41
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Bob Herbert, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times and appeared in that newspaper's edition for Saturday, June 28, 2008. Mr. Herbert's commentary follows:

Thursday was the 21st anniversary of the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

It was also the same day that two Bush administration lawyers appeared before a House subcommittee to answer questions about their roles in providing the legal framework for harsh interrogation techniques that inevitably rose to the level of torture and shamed the U.S. before the rest of the world.

The lawyers, both former Justice Department officials, were David Addington, who is now Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, and John Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. There is no danger of either being enshrined as heroes in the history books of the future.

For most Americans, torture is something remote, abstract, reprehensible, but in the eyes of some, perhaps necessary -  when the bomb is ticking, for example, or when interrogators are trying to get information from terrorists willing to kill Americans in huge numbers.

Reality offers something much different. We saw the hideous photos from Abu Ghraib. And now the Nobel Prize-winning organization Physicians for Human Rights has released a report, called “Broken Laws, Broken Lives,” that puts an appropriately horrifying face on a practice that is so fundamentally evil that it cannot co-exist with the idea of a just and humane society.

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Obama To Visit Middle East, Europe
2008-06-28 17:33:56
Senator Barack Obama will make his first international trip as a presidential candidate this summer, his campaign announced Saturday, traveling to the Middle East and Europe in an effort to bolster his foreign policy experience in his fall campaign against Senator John McCain. 

Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, will visit Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and Britain. On a separate trip, he also is planning to tour Iraq and Afghanistan, although aides declined to disclose details or the dates of his travel for security reasons.

While the domestic economy is a resounding issue in the presidential campaign, several major distinctions between  Obama and McCain revolve around their foreign policy, particularly the United States’ military strategy in Iraq. McCain has criticized Obama for not visiting Iraq in more than two years, saying he has not seen the progress achieved in the country.

In the middle of a presidential campaign, candidates often have shied away from taking foreign trips, investing their time instead in battleground states. But this week, McCain heads to Colombia and Mexico, following a European tour in March and a visit to Canada this month.

“This trip will be an important opportunity for me to assess the situation in countries that are critical to American national security and to consult with some of our closest friends and allies about the common challenges we face,” said Obama.  “France, Germany and the United Kingdom are key anchors of the transatlantic alliance and have contributed to the mission in Afghanistan, and I look forward to discussing how we can strengthen our partnership in the years to come.”

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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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Shadow Of War Looms As Israel Flexes Its Muscle
2008-06-29 03:15:04
Israeli fighter jets flew 1,500 kilometers across the Mediterranean this month, in a dry run for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Tehran has threatened to treat such a declaration of war. As the Middle East braces itself for a standoff of epic proportions, how close is the region to that nightmare scenario?

The meeting at the home of Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was not supposed to be public. The man invited into Olmert's official residence in Jerusalem was Aviam Sela, architect of Operation Opera in 1981, when Israel launched a long-range strike against Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor. Regarded as a brilliant aviation tactician, in particular in the field of in-flight refueling, Olmert's office tried to play down the meeting, but the rumors in Israel's defense establishment were already flying.

Sela, according to sources close to the meeting, had been called in so that Olmert could ask his opinion on the likely effectiveness of a similar raid to Opera on the nuclear installations of Iran.

Peace in the Middle East depends on Sela's and Israel's answer. Saturday, responding to the Israel's increasingly bellicose language, Iran's top Revolutionary Guards Commander, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, warned that it would respond to any attack by hitting Israel with missiles and threatened to control the oil shipping passage through the Straits of Hormuz.

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Tax Scandal Leaves Swiss Bank Reeling, Could Lose License To Bank In U.S.
2008-06-29 03:14:39

It was an offer the Californian real-estate billionaire Igor Olenicoff couldn't refuse. For several years, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service had been on his tail. Suspecting serial tax evasion running into tens of millions of dollars, the IRS painstakingly amassed enough information to jail the Russian immigrant for decades.

In 2006, tax investigators offered Olenicoff, a man who has strong connections with Boris Yeltsin, a deal. In return for the identity of those who helped him evade taxes, his sentence would be slashed. It took Olenicoff, who owned 11,000 houses and a large collection of high-grade offices, less than 30 seconds to make up his mind.

After two years of further investigations, Olenicoff's evidence resulted this month in a dramatic development. UBS, the most powerful bank in Switzerland, is now on the edge of a steep cliff. Ten days ago, Bradley Birkenfeld, who between 2001 and 2006 was a senior UBS banker, signed a U.S. court statement detailing how he smuggled diamonds in toothpaste tubes, deliberately destroyed offshore bank records on behalf of clients and helped Olenicoff evade taxes of $200 million on offshore assets worth $7.26 billion.

In an explosive seven-page deposition, Birkenfeld claims he was encouraged to win clients at UBS-sponsored tennis tournaments and major art events. UBS bankers, he said, assisted wealthy Americans to conceal ownership of their assets by creating "sham" offshore trusts. Misleading and false documentation was routinely prepared to facilitate this, and the motivation, he concluded, was to ensure that UBS continued to manage a staggering $20 billion of assets owned by wealthy U.S. individuals, which generated the bank $200 million in fees each year.

"By concealing U.S. clients' ownership and control in the assets held offshore, [UBS] managers and bankers... defrauded the IRS and evaded U.S. income tax," reads the statement. The U.S. Department of Justice has scented blood and is moving in for the kill. UBS denies authorizing or encouraging any breaches of applicable laws and regulations and has put out a statement saying it will fully cooperate with all authorities and address any issues raised by the investigation (see below). It is now faced with having to hand over details of its 20,000 U.S. clients to the authorities.

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Mugabe Rush To Be Sworn In After Election 'Landslide"
2008-06-29 03:13:52

Robert Mugabe is expected to be sworn in as President of Zimbabwe again Sunday after one of the bloodiest and most controversial elections in African history. Zimbabwean officials said that Mugabe had won a landslide victory with most of the count completed in Friday's widely derided presidential run-off.

Officials were reported as saying that, with two-thirds of the count completed, there had been a dramatic reversal of Morgan Tsvangirai's lead in the first round of elections three months ago, giving Mugabe a resounding victory before he heads to an African Union summit to confront growing criticism from the continent's other leaders.

The ruling Zanu-PF party's claims that voters have deserted the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in droves to support Mugabe's claim that the vote is part of a struggle to maintain Zimbabwe's independence have met with incredulity and anger.

Washington called the vote a sham and said it will seek a United Nations Security Council resolution this week to send a "strong message of deterrence" to Zimbabwe's leader. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington "will use everything in our power for appropriate sanctions". The U.S. is also expected to press for an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and a travel ban on its officials.

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Saturday that Zimbabwe had reached a new low point with the election. "We will work with international partners to find a way to close this sickening chapter that has cost so many lives,"said  the prime minister.

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As Legislation Evolves, Mortgage Debt Is Snowballing
2008-06-28 17:35:23

When Congress started fashioning a sweeping rescue package for struggling homeowners earlier this year, 2.6 million loans were in trouble, yet the problem has grown considerably in just six months and is continuing to worsen.

More than three million borrowers are in distress, and analysts are forecasting a couple of million more will fall behind on their payments in the coming year as home prices fall further and the economy weakens.

Those stark numbers not only illustrate the challenges for the lawmakers trying to provide some relief to their constituents but also hint at what the next administration will be facing after the election. While the proposed program would help some homeowners, analysts say it would touch only a small fraction of those in trouble - the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates it would be used by 400,000 borrowers - and would do little to bolster the housing market.

“It’s not enough, even in the best of circumstances,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's . The number of people who will be helped “is going to be overwhelmed by the three million that are headed toward default.”

Last week, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to advance the bill, and the House passed a version last month. Because of procedural delays in ironing out differences between the two houses, the Senate is not expected to pass the bill until after the Fourth of July recess.

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Commentary: It Was Oil, All Along
2008-06-28 17:34:57
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, managing editor and senior writer, respectively, for the weekly public affairs program "Bill Moyers' Journal", which airs Friday nights on PBS. Their commentary follows:

Oh, no, they told us, Iraq isn't a war about oil. That's cynical and simplistic, they said. It's about terror and al-Qaeda and toppling a dictator and spreading democracy and protecting ourselves from weapons of mass destruction. But one by one, these concocted rationales went up in smoke, fire and ashes. And now the bottom line turns out to be ... the bottom line. It is about oil.

Alan Greenspan said so last fall. The former chairman of the Federal Reserve, safely out of office, confessed in his memoir, "Everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." He elaborated in an interview with the Washington Post's Bob Woodward, "If Saddam Hussein had been head of Iraq and there was no oil under those sands, our response to him would not have been as strong as it was in the first Gulf War. "Remember, also, that soon after the invasion, Donald Rumsfeld's deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, told the press that war was our only strategic choice. "We had virtually no economic options with Iraq," he explained, "because the country floats on a sea of oil."

Shades of Daniel Plainview, the monstrous petroleum tycoon in the movie, "There Will Be Blood." Half-mad, he exclaims, "There's a whole ocean of oil under our feet!" then adds, "No one can get at it except for me!"

No wonder American troops only guarded the Ministries of Oil and the Interior in Baghdad, even as looters pillaged museums of their priceless antiquities. They were making sure no one could get at the oil except ... guess who?

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Scholar Looks For First Link In E-Mail Chain About Obama
2008-06-28 17:34:17
The e-mail landed in Danielle Allen's queue one winter morning as she was studying in her office at the Institute for Advanced Study, the renowned haven for some of the nation's most brilliant minds. The missive began: "THIS DEFINITELY WARRANTS LOOKING INTO."

Laid out before Allen, a razor-sharp, 36-year-old political theorist, was what purported to be a biographical sketch of Barack Obamathat has become one of the most effective - and baseless - Internet attacks of the 2008 presidential season. The anonymous chain e-mail makes the false claim that Obama is concealing a radical Islamic background. By the time it reached Allen on Jan. 11, 2008, it had spread with viral efficiency for more than a year.

During that time, polls show the number of voters who mistakenly believe Obama is a Muslim rose - from 8 percent to 13 percent between November 2007 and March 2008. And some cited this religious mis-affiliation when explaining their primary votes against him.

As the general-election campaign against Sen. John McCain has gotten underway, Obama's aides have made the smears a top target. They recently launched to "aggressively push back with the truth," said Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor, and go viral with it. The Web site urges supporters to upload their address books and send e-mails to all of their friends. "

Long before this, Allen had been obsessing about the origins of her e-mail at the institute, which is most famous for having been the research home of Albert Einstein. Allen studies the way voters in a democracy gather their information and act on what they learn. She was familiar, of course, with the false rumors of a secret love child that helped sink McCain's White House bid in 2000, and the Swift boat attacks that did the same to Democrat John Kerry in 2004; but the Obama e-mail was on another plane: The use of the Internet made it possible to launch anonymous attacks that could reach millions of voters in weeks or even days.

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Commentary: The Nuclear Expert Who Never Was
2008-06-28 17:33:31
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Scott Ritter, who was a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 19991 to 1998. This commentary was first posted on's website on Thursday, June 26, 2008. Mr. Ritter's commentary follows:

I am a former U.N. weapons inspector. I started my work with the United Nations in September 1991, and between that date and my resignation in August 1998, I participated in over 30 inspections, 14 as chief inspector. The United Nations Special Commission, or UNSCOM, was the organization mandated by the Security Council with the implementation of its resolutions requiring Iraq to be disarmed of its weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities. While UNSCOM oversaw the areas of chemical and biological weapons, and ballistic missiles, it shared the nuclear file with the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA. As such, UNSCOM, through a small cell of nuclear experts on loan from the various national weapons laboratories, would coordinate with the nuclear safeguards inspectors from the IAEA, organized into an "Action Team" dedicated to the Iraq nuclear disarmament problem. UNSCOM maintained political control of the process, insofar as its executive chairman was the only one authorized to approve a given inspection mission. At first, the IAEA and UNSCOM shared the technical oversight of the inspection process, but soon this was transferred completely to the IAEA's Action Team, and UNSCOM's nuclear staff assumed more of an advisory and liaison function.

In August 1992 I began cooperating closely with IAEA's Action Team, traveling to Vienna, where the IAEA maintained its headquarters. The IAEA had in its possession a huge cache of documents seized from Iraq during a series of inspections in the summer of 1991 and, together with other U.N. inspectors, I was able to gain access to these documents for the purpose of extracting any information which might relate to UNSCOM's non-nuclear mission. These documents proved to be very valuable in that regard, and a strong working relationship was developed. Over the coming years I frequently traveled to Vienna, where I came to know the members of the IAEA Action Team as friends and dedicated professionals. Whether poring over documents, examining bits and pieces of equipment (the IAEA kept a sample of an Iraqi nuclear centrifuge in its office) or ruminating about the difficult political situation that was Iraq over wine and cheese on a Friday afternoon, I became familiar with the core team of experts who composed the IAEA Action Team.

I bring up this history because during the entire time of my intense, somewhat intimate cooperation with the IAEA Action Team, one name that never entered into the mix was David Albright. Albright is the president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS, an institute which he himself founded), and has for some time now dominated the news as the "go-to" guy for the U.S. mainstream media when they need "expert opinion" on news pertaining to nuclear issues. Most recently, Albright could be seen commenting on a report he authored, released by ISIS on June 16, in which he discusses the alleged existence of a computer owned by Swiss-based businessmen who were involved in the A.Q. Khan nuclear black market ring. According to Albright, this computer contained sensitive design drawings of a small, sophisticated nuclear warhead which, he speculates, could fit on a missile delivery system such as that possessed by Iran.

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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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