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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday June 5 2008 - (813)

Thursday June 5 2008 edition
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Around The World, Excitement Over Obama
2008-06-05 03:13:03
For much of the world, Sen. Barack Obama's victory in the Democratic primaries was a moment to admire the United States at a time when the nation's image abroad has been seriously damaged.

From hundreds of supporters crowded around televisions in rural Kenya, Obama's ancestral homeland, to jubilant Britons writing "WE DID IT!" on the Brits for Barack discussion board on Facebook, people celebrated what they called an important racial and generational milestone for the United States.

"This is close to a miracle. I was certain that some things will not happen in my lifetime," said Sunila Patel, 62, a widow encountered on the streets of New Delhi. "A black president of the U.S. will mean that there will be more American tolerance for people around the world who are different."

The primary race generated unprecedented interest outside the United States, much of it a reflection of a desire for change from the policies of President Bush, who surveys show is deeply unpopular around the globe. At the same time, many people abroad seemed impressed - sometimes even shocked - by the wide-open nature of U.S. democracy, and the history-making race between a woman and a black man.

"The primaries showed that the U.S. is actually the nation we had believed it to be, a place that is open-minded enough to have a woman or an African American as its president," said Minoru Morita, a Tokyo political analyst.

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Satellite Photos Show Amazon Deforestation Exploding
2008-06-05 03:12:32
New satellite photographs show that the destruction of Brazil's fragile Amazon rainforest has exploded this year, fueling fears that the government's efforts to stop deforestation have been fruitless.

Brazil's DETER real-time monitoring system found that more than 430 square miles of forest, an area a bit smaller than the city of Los Angeles, vanished in the month of April, while about 2,300 square miles, larger than the state of Delaware, were destroyed between last August and April.

That nine-month total surpassed the entire acreage in the Amazon that was destroyed over the previous 12 months, according to DETER data. What's worse, the satellites couldn't see about half of the forest in April due to cloud cover, suggesting that actual deforestation likely was much greater.

That's raised red flags among environmentalists, who say that soybean farming, cattle production and illegal logging are destroying the world's largest rainforest despite the government's attempts to halt the deforestation.

Chopping down and burning the rainforest releases tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change. Brazil is the world's fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, largely because of deforestation, according to the U.S.-based World Resources Institute.

Worse is yet to come, said environmentalists.

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NASA: China Likely To Beat U.S. Back To The Moon
2008-06-05 03:11:37
Here's one Olympic-style event that China is likely to win: landing the next humans on the moon.

Chinese astronauts are on schedule to beat the United States back to the moon by two or three years, the head of NASA's lunar exploration program said Wednesday.

"If they keep on the path they're on, they can" land before Americans do, said Rick Gilbreth, NASA's associate administrator for exploration systems.

The goal of NASA's Constellation program is to return astronauts to the moon by 2020, as proposed in President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration. Gilbreth said the Chinese could accomplish that by 2017 or 2018.

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Gas Prices Are Draining Local Governments' Coffers
2008-06-05 03:10:53
Consumers aren't the only ones getting pinched at the pump.

With crude oil trading at record highs and gasoline prices jumping daily, keeping area fire trucks and police cars gassed and ready to go has become an expensive proposition.

At the beginning of the 2007 fiscal year, the town of Port Royal, South Carolina, budgeted $40,000 to keep the tanks of its 20 police cruisers full, said town manager Van Willis.

To date, the department has spent $77,500 on fuel with less than a month remaining in the fiscal year.

The new budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 calls for $84,000 to be spent on gasoline alone, said Willis.

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Art, Jewels And $28 Million Seized In Raids
2008-06-05 03:10:07
British police searching thousands of safe deposit boxes seized at three London centers on Monday have found up to £14 million ($28 million) in cash, Scotland Yard said Wednesday.

Officers have also uncovered several works of Renaissance art, a haul of valuable jewelery, a gun and counterfeit passports, checkbooks and credit cards.

The raids, backed by armed police, took place at centers in Park Lane, central London, and Hampstead and Edgware, north London, after intelligence identified them as being used by organized crime gangs. They remained cordoned off last night with armed police on the streets.

The premises were all owned by Safe Deposit Centers, a company set up 20 years ago by two South Africans who have since become British citizens. Two directors of the company who were arrested on suspicion of money laundering offenses were released on police bail Wednesday and told to return in early September.

A third director, who was arrested at Heathrow airport, was still being questioned Wednesday night.

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Al-Qaeda's al-Zawahri Urges Holy War Over Gaza Strip
2008-06-05 03:09:27
Al-Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, called on Muslims to launch a holy war to break Israel's economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, in an audio recording posted Wednesday on an Islamic militant Internet site.

In the 11-minute tape, a voice purportedly belonging to al-Zawahri says in Arabic that the "salvation of the Muslim nation is through the march of its sons on the path of jihad".

An accompanying banner says the message was issued to mark the 41st anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, during which Egypt lost the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, Syria lost the Golan Heights and Jordan lost the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Trying to minimize the shock of the defeat, Arabs have long called the war the "naksa" - "setback" in Arabic - but it remains a deep wound.

In al-Zawahri's recording, titled "In Memory of the Naksa ... Break the Siege of Gaza", Osama bin Laden's deputy blames Arab regimes for the 1967 defeat. He says Arab governments were "impotent and unable to protect the Muslim nation, its sanctuaries and its wealth".

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Californians Vote To Protect Homes From Eminent Domain For Private Projects
2008-06-04 14:29:53
Californians on Tuesday rejected a state ballot measure that would have phased out rent control and barred government agencies from taking homes, businesses and farms for private development.

While Proposition 98 was falling short, voters approved Proposition 99, a more narrowly drawn competing measure that prohibits government agencies from using eminent domain powers to force the sale of owner-occupied residences for private projects.

The backers of Proposition 99 declared victory and the backers of Proposition 98 conceded defeat, but appealed to the governor and Legislature to expand homeowner protections.

"By placing a second eminent domain measure on the ballot, opponents of private property rights created enough confusion between the ballot measures to defeat Proposition 98," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. "Proposition 99's loopholes will allow eminent domain abuse to continue."
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Report: In U.S. Unemployment Among Latinos Is Soaring
2008-06-04 14:29:24
Unemployment among Latinos and particularly Latino immigrants jumped in the last year, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Amid an extended housing market slump, the Pew figures prompted concern among Latino leaders but offered indirect affirmation for immigration enforcement officials about new aggressive enforcement raids.

The report, based on the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, shows that unemployment among all Latinos is higher than the general population. Among Latino immigrants it is higher still, and within that group, Mexican immigrants and recent arrivals are suffering some of the largest increases in joblessness.

While general unemployment, not seasonally adjusted, rose to 5% in the first quarter of 2008, among Latinos, the figure hit 7.3%. Among Latino immigrants, the jobless rate jumped to 7.5%, while as many as 8.4% of Mexican immigrants are without work. Immigrants who arrived in 2000 or later were hardest hit, with 9.3% jobless in the first quarter of 2008.

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Tsvangirai Is Held By Police In Zimbabwe
2008-06-04 14:29:00
The Zimbabwean opposition presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai and other party officials were detained by police while campaigning on Wednesday and were taken into custody, said his party.

Tsvangirai, who faces President Robert Mugabe in a runoff election scheduled for June 27, had been addressing political supporters in Lupane, north of Bulawayo, and was driving to Tsholotsho when his convoy of four vehicles was stopped at a roadblock in the early afternoon.

He and several other party officials were taken to a police station in Lupane, according to the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. The party’s vice president, Thokozane Khupe, and chairman, Lovemore Moyop, were among those reported to be detained.

“This is bizarre,” said Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the M.D.C. “It’s outrageous. Who has heard of a candidate campaigning peacefully being detained?”

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United Airlines To Cut More Jobs And Planes
2008-06-04 14:28:20
United Airlines, one of the largest carriers at Los Angeles International Airport, said today it plans to eliminate its low-fare Ted service as it grounds additional 70 more planes and pares up to 1,100 more jobs in response to high fuel costs.

The nation's second-largest airline did not disclose when and which routes would be cut.

In a message to employees, United officials said only that the cuts would be achieved over time by "principally" culling flight schedules with "modest reductions in routes and destinations." Flight schedule changes associated with the additional fleet cuts will be "completed in the near future," said the airline.

LAX officials said it had not yet received any information on which routes from LAX and Ontario International Airport would be affected. United, a subsidiary of UAL Corp., accounts for about 15% of all passenger traffic at LAX. Last year, it flew more than 9 million passengers at LAX for domestic and international travel.
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U.S. Aid Mission To Burma Aborted
2008-06-04 14:26:41
Cyclone survivors in Burma's devastated Irrawaddy Delta could require food aid for as long as a year, U.N. officials said Wednesday, even as the U.S. military aborted a mission to use helicopters and small boats to deliver aid because Burma's government ignored repeated offers of assistance.

The United States had planned to use the helicopters and small boats aboard the USS Essex to deliver much-needed aid to cyclone survivors, but Burma's ruling military junta rebuffed repeated offers to help with the disaster relief effort, despite the severity of the damage to the region's rice production.

International aid agencies are still struggling to increase their food delivery capacity in the delta, a complex network of rivers and islands, many of which are only accessible by small boats. Doctors Without Borders (Medicins San Frontiers), the aid agency, said the flow of supplies into the stricken region is still inadequate, and survivors in many remote villages have yet to receive any outside assistance.

However, the Burmese junta has refused to permit any foreign military helicopters - either from Western countries or Burma's southeast Asian neighbors - to join the relief effort.

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Obama Wins Historic Presidential Nomination
2008-06-04 03:26:17

With a split decision in the final two primaries and a flurry of superdelegate endorsements, Sen. Barack Obama sealed the Democratic presidential nomination last night after a grueling and history-making campaign against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton that will make him the first African American to head a major-party ticket.

Before a chanting and cheering audience in St. Paul, Minnesota, the first-term senator from Illinois savored what once seemed an unlikely outcome to the Democratic race with a nod to the marathon that was ending and to what will be another hard-fought battle, against Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.

"Tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another - a journey that will bring a new and better day to America," he said, as the emotion of the moment showed on his face. "Because of you, tonight I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States of America."

Obama's success marked a major milestone for the nation - a sign of the racial progress that has taken place during the span of the senator's lifetime. But the nomination battle also revealed a racial schism within the Democratic Party,  and potential resistance to a black candidate in some parts of the country that will play out in the general-election campaign.

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Rising Prices, Falling Dollar Stoke Inflation Fears
2008-06-04 03:25:52

Prices have been soaring long enough and fast enough, economists say, that the nation is at risk of a self-reinforcing cycle of inflation like that experienced in the 1970s.

It is a risk Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke highlighted in a speech yesterday, saying that the falling value of the dollar can feed into inflation expectations, and that rapid price escalation, if sustained, "might lead the public to expect higher long-term inflation rates, an expectation that ultimately could become self-confirming."

For some businesses that already is the reality. Many companies making long-term investments are assuming that prices will rise at a pace well above that of the past 20 years, as they pencil in larger price increases for the supplies they buy and the prices they charge. Consumers are coming to take rapidly escalating food and energy prices for granted. And labor unions are starting to push harder for across-the-board wage increases, though overall wages are still climbing slowly.

U.S. consumers expect prices to rise 7.7 percent in the coming year, according to the Conference Board, a research company. Investors expect inflation over the coming decade to average 3.4 percent based on bond market data analyzed by the Cleveland Fed. That is well above the Fed's unofficial target of about 2 percent.

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Bush Administration Files Nuclear Dump Application
2008-06-04 03:24:58
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said Tuesday he's confident the government's license application to build a nuclear waste dump in Nevada will "stand up to any challenge anywhere."

Bodman spoke at a news conference hours after the Bush administration submitted the formal application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a license to build the underground storage facility at Yucca Mountain more than 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Nevada officials, who have fought the waste dump for years, vowed to launch hundreds of specific challenges to the proposed design of the facility, arguing the Energy Department has not proven it will protect public health, safety and the environment from radiation up to a million years.

Responding to the filing, Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons reiterated his promise to fight the waste dump which he said "threatens the life and safety of the people of Nevada."

"As long as I am governor, the state will continue to do everything it can to stop Yucca Mountain from becoming reality," he said in a statement. Bodman called the application submission "a big day" for moving the stalled project forward and said he's confident the scientific assessments demonstrate the 77,000 tons of highly radioactive waste from the country's nuclear power plants can be stored there safely.

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Commentary: Only Stiff Rules Will Drive Car Makers To See Past The Petrol
2008-06-04 03:24:22
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Iain Carson, a business writer for the Economist and author of "Zoom: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future". His commentary, which appeared in the Guardian edition for Wednesday, June 3, 2008, follows:

The British government is in a deep hole over cars and carbon emissions. The doubling of the oil price in the past year has seen petrol prices soar to around £1.20 a liter (about $2.40 a quart). Ministers are fretting about a planned 2 pound increase in fuel duty this autumn and about their earlier decision to impose big increases in car tax for gas guzzlers. The scope of the latter is so draconian that humble family cars will be caught in the net. Applying it to older vehicles seems clumsy - punishing past acts rather than trying to influence future behavior. On one hand, environmentalists are rightly calling for no let-up on taxes designed to cut emissions by making people drive less. On the other, road hauliers, motorists and sundry other interest groups are up in arms about the costs imposed on them. But it's only by piling on tax pressure that more efficient alternatives come about.

This is the right time to be taxing to encourage cleaner fuels, because the industry is at last bringing out cleaner cars, after a century addicted to gasoline. One hundred years ago this October Henry Ford's Model T launched the mass motor industry. Simple and rugged enough for country tracks, it was also the world's first flex-fuel vehicle. Its engine could run on petrol or ethanol; Ford thought that farmers might prefer to make their own fuel from corn. In fact it was already as economical with either fuel as the average American car today. Although engines have become more efficient, cars have become heavier and made to go faster - wasting the improvements solely on speed.

Until the Model T, nine out of 10 cars were electric. Gasoline-powered vehicles came to dominate as oil was found in Texas, and the battery-powered starter motor made internal combustion cars easier and safer to start, without dangerous backfires. Now the car industry looks set for another revolution.

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Parts Of Jakarta Swamped By Tidal Wave
2008-06-04 03:23:17
A 2.2-meter (7-feet) high tidal wave inundated parts of Jakarta overnight as the city government and citizens tried to hold the water back with emergency embankments, a government official said on Wednesday.

The height of the water was far greater than earlier predictions. The World Bank, which has been monitoring flooding and tidal waves in Jakarta, warned last week of a 1.2 meter tidal surge in parts of the city.

Authorities in the capital, home to more than 10 million people, had been bracing for high tides with sand bags and wire netting filled with stones.

The tidal wave swamped areas near the coast for a few hours, leaving hundreds of people stranded in their homes, but the main highway leading to the airport was not affected.

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Food Is Gold, And Investors Are Pouring Billions Into Farming
2008-06-05 03:12:49

Huge investment funds have already poured hundreds of billions of dollars into booming financial markets for commodities like wheat, corn and soybeans.

Yet a few big private investors are starting to make bolder and longer-term bets that the world’s need for food will greatly increase - by buying farmland, fertilizer, grain elevators and shipping equipment.

One has bought several ethanol plants, Canadian farmland and enough storage space in the Midwest to hold millions of bushels of grain.

Another is buying more than five dozen grain elevators, nearly that many fertilizer distribution outlets and a fleet of barges and ships.

Three institutional investors, including the giant BlackRock fund group in New York, are separately planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in agriculture, chiefly farmland, from sub-Saharan Africa to the English countryside.

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Clinton Pullout Likely On Saturday
2008-06-05 03:12:11
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is likely to suspend her presidential campaign on Saturday and endorse Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, according to informed sources, after a day in which many of her key supporters and party leaders encouraged the senator from New York to make a quick decision in the interest of party unity.

The Clinton campaign issued a statement late Wednesday that did not officially confirm her decision but said Clinton would hold an event in Washington, D.C., "to thank her supporters and express her support for Senator Obama and party unity". The event was originally scheduled for Friday, but in a subsequent release her campaign announced that it would be moved to Saturday "to accommodate more of Senator Clinton's supporters who want to attend".

The decision came hours after the launch of an aggressive campaign by some of Clinton's supporters to encourage Obama to pick her as his running mate had further stoked tensions with backers of the senator from Illinois. Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television and a prominent Clinton confidant, said in an interview that she was "absolutely ready" to talk to Obama about the No. 2 slot and would take it if offered.

The vice presidential talk and pressure on Clinton to quit the race created an awkward ending to the Democratic race at a time when Obama is eager to turn his attention to the general-election campaign against Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee.

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U.S. Pushes To Rely More On Remotely Piloted Craft
2008-06-05 03:11:11
Early last year, the Air Force was able to keep no more than 11 of the remotely piloted, armed Predator surveillance aircraft flying over Iraq and Afghanistan at any one time.

By this past Sunday, that number had more than doubled to 25, and Air Force officials now say they can guarantee at least that many of the hunter-killer aircraft will be aloft around the clock, a new element of the buildup in American forces for the two wars.

The push to increase missions by the Predator, and its larger and more deadly variant, the Reaper, has been an issue of serious contention between Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the armed services, in particular the Air Force.

Gates has complained that it has been “like pulling teeth” to get more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance vehicles into the war zones. He sensed a lack of support for this new generation of unmanned - and therefore unglamorous - aircraft.

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India Raises Fuel Prices As State-Run Oil Firms Suffer Heavy Losses
2008-06-05 03:10:35
With inflation soaring, the Indian government Wednesday announced the highest ever increase in retail fuel prices, triggering bitter political criticism and angry street protests.

After weeks of nervous caution, the petroleum minister said at a news conference that gasoline prices would rise by the equivalent of 55 cents per gallon, about 11 percent, and diesel by 32 cents, almost 10 percent, effective at midnight. The price of cooking gas cylinders is to rise by a little over a dollar, or about 16 percent. Fuel has traditionally been heavily subsidized by the government, which regulates prices to ease the impact on India's millions of poor.

In a televised address, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the decision was inevitable and that Indians must "learn to adjust" to international economic conditions.

"There are limits to which we can keep consumer prices unaffected by rising import prices," Singh said somberly. "I know that the price increases we have had to announce today will not be popular, even though they are only modest. We remain dependent on imports. We are, therefore, vulnerable to global trends in oil prices."

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U.S. Subpoenas BAE Director In Bribery Investigation
2008-06-05 03:09:52

The former head of Britain's arms export agency has been issued with a subpoena by U.S. officials investigating allegations of bribery and corruption over a £43 billion ($86 billion) arms deal between BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia.

Alan Garwood, who is now BAE's business development director, was served with a subpoena in late May - the third executive to have been targeted by the U.S. Department of Justice investigation. It is understood he was approached by Justice Dept. officials as he changed planes in Miami, Florida.

Several days earlier, BAE chief executive, Mike Turner, and Sir Nigel Rudd, a non-executive director, were issued with subpoenas as they landed in the U.S.

Until last year, Garwood led a team of 600 civil servants at the Defense Export Service Organization at Britain's Ministry of Defense (MoD), where he worked on projects including last year's deal to sell Eurofighter Typhoons to Saudi Arabia. He was seconded to the MoD from BAE in 2002.

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Obama Seeks To Reassure Jewish Americans, Clinton Supporters
2008-06-04 14:30:03
One day after clinching his party's presidential nomination, Democrat Barack Obama reached out to two groups that have concerns about his candidacy: Jewish Americans and supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Obama won applause with a promise to "do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." He also assailed his Republican opponent, John McCain, for "willful mis-characterization" of his call for diplomatic outreach to the Iranian regime and said he "has no interest in sitting down with our adversaries just for the sake of talking."

As president, Obama said, "I would be willing to lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place and my choosing - if and only if it can advance the interests of the United States."

Calling the threat posed by Iran "grave," Obama said that "as president I will never compromise when it comes to Israel's security." He pledged $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade to "ensure that Israel can defend itself from any threat - from Gaza to Tehran." To a standing ovation, he said, "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon - everything."
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Editorial: The Science Of Denial
2008-06-04 14:29:38
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Wednesday, June 4, 2008.

The Bush administration has worked overtime to manipulate or conceal scientific evidence - and muzzled at least one prominent scientist - to justify its failure to address climate change.

Its motives were transparent: the less people understood about the causes and consequences of global warming, the less they were likely to demand action from their leaders. And its strategy has been far too successful. Seven years later, Congress is only beginning to confront the challenge of global warming.

The last week has brought further confirmation of the administration’s cynicism. An internal investigation by NASA’s inspector general concluded that political appointees in the agency’s public affairs office had tried to restrict reporters’ access to its leading climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen. He has warned about climate change for 20 years and has openly criticized the administration’s refusal to tackle the issue head-on.

More broadly, the investigation said that politics played a heavy role in the office and that it had presented information about global warming “in a manner that reduced, marginalized or mis-characterized climate-change science made available to the general public.”

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18 Killed, 75 Wounded In Baghdad Truck Explosion
2008-06-04 14:29:12
A tractor-trailer loaded with Shiite militia rockets accidentally exploded Wednesday in a densely populated area of northeast Baghdad, killing 18 people and wounding 75, said the U.S. military. It was the deadliest explosion in Baghdad in more than two months.

Iraqi police said the blast was a suicide truck bomb that struck near the home of an Iraqi police general, killing his nephew and wounding his elderly parents.

The U.S. military said Shiite extremists were positioning a large truck of loaded with rockets and mortars, aiming the weapons at a U.S. combat outpost 700 yards away, when it mistakenly exploded.

"They were trying to attack us at that FOB (forwarding operating base), and it went off (accidentally). They wouldn't waste rockets like that," said Lt. Col. Steve Stover, a U.S. military spokesman.

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OECD Cuts Its Economic Growth Forecast
2008-06-04 14:28:32
Growth among the leading industrialized countries will slip this year and next, with activity flat in the United States, but a serious recession or inflation spiral should be avoided, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (O.E.C.D.) said Wednesday.

Economic growth in the organization’s 30 members will slow to 1.8 percent this year and 1.7 percent next year, the group said in its twice-yearly outlook. That compares with its previous forecast of 2.3 percent in 2008 and 2.4 percent in 2009.

“With the strength of the headwinds facing O.E.C.D. economies, the projected outcome is actually not that bad,” the acting chief economist of the organization, Jorgen Elmeskov, said at a news conference in Paris, France. “O.E.C.D. economies have probably become more resilient, both as a result of structural reforms and reflecting a healthy macroeconomic policy framework.”

The United States economy will grow just 1.2 percent this year and 1.1 percent in 2009, the O.E.C.D. predicted in the report, ascribing the downturn largely to the troubled housing markets.

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U.S. Senate Approves $3.1 Trillion Budget
2008-06-04 14:27:07
The U.S. Senate Wednesday approved a $3.1 trillion election-year Democratic budget blueprint that leaves to the next president the task of sorting out a host of fiscal problems.

The House-Senate compromise, adopted by a narrow 48-45 margin, would allow large near-term increases in defense and domestic programs funded by Congress each year, but also stacks wrenching Medicare and other federal benefit decisions upon the shoulders of future policymakers.

It also manages to predict small budget surpluses by 2012, but only by permitting several of President Bush's tax cuts to expire as scheduled at the end of 2010 and by allowing more than 20 million middle-class taxpayers to be hit by the alternative minimum tax, or AMT, after next year.

The immediate impact of the non-binding measure is to provide a $24 billion increase for domestic agency budgets for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, an almost 5 percent increase. It also endorses Bush's $36 billion increase for the Pentagon's core budget, more than 7 percent.

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Ed McMahon Faces Foreclosure
2008-06-04 14:26:12
Ed McMahon, the longtime sidekick to Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show," is fighting to avoid foreclosure on his multimillion-dollar Beverly Hills estate.

McMahon defaulted on $4.8 million in mortgage loans with a unit of Countrywide Financial Corp., which filed a notice of default in March, according to ForeclosureRadar, a company that sells default data pulled from public records.

The 85-year-old pitchman for various products, including American Family Publishers, is the highest-profile person to be caught up in the nationwide real estate downturn and mortgage crunch.

"He's not alone. There are plenty of people affected by the weak economy, bad housing market or bad health," McMahon's spokesman, Howard Bragman, said late Tuesday.

Bragman said McMahon fell and broke his neck about 18 months ago and has been unable to work since.
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McCain Immediately Attacks Obama's Record
2008-06-04 03:26:05
Republican Sen. John McCain wasted no time Tuesday night in launching his first general-election broadside against Sen. Barack Obama, casting the Democrat as an out-of-touch liberal who offers a false promise of change.

In a prime-time speech designed to upstage Obama on the night he claimed the Democratic nomination, McCain began what top aides and other Republicans promise will be an aggressive effort to claim the mantles of reform, experience and mainstream values. Obama, he said, is an "impressive man" but one with a thin record.

"For all his fine words and all his promise, he has never taken the hard but right course of risking his own interests for yours, of standing against the partisan rancor on his side to stand up for our country," McCain said less than two hours before Obama spoke in the same arena in St. Paul, Minnesota, where McCain will claim the Republican nomination in September.

McCain began his speech by praising Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who in the Democratic primary race won over many rural and working-class voters that McCain hopes to capture in November. "As the father of three daughters, I owe her a debt for inspiring millions of women to believe there is no opportunity in this great country beyond their reach," said McCain. "I am proud to call her my friend."

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In South Florida, Eviction Spares Few
2008-06-04 03:25:39
In a decade handling evictions for the Miami-Dade County Police Department, Albert Fernandez has run across a middle-class father bankrupted by his daughter’s cancer treatment; an old woman scammed by a gambling husband; and countless families perpetually on the edge of poverty.

But he has never turned out as many people as he does now.

It used to take a day or two for officers to get to an address after tenants received a notice to leave. Now, with evictions up by roughly a third over last year, Miami-Dade’s backlog is around two weeks, sometimes longer.

“It is what it is,” said Officer Fernandez, looking at a list of addresses about to be emptied. “People of all walks of life are getting evicted.”

If South Florida is a barometer for the housing crisis and the economy, the forecast does not look good. Like other areas nationwide, evictions are rising throughout the state, clogging county courts and spawning a boom in companies that specialize in “eviction services” like moving furniture to the curb.

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U.N. Says Food Plan Could Cost $30 Billion A Year
2008-06-04 03:24:42
Faced with an immediate hunger crisis and the need to double food production in the next 30 years, world leaders meeting Tuesday to discuss soaring food prices were mostly in agreement on how the problem could be resolved. The questions were how to get there and who was going to pay for it.

The steps needed? Immediately deliver more food aid to the world’s hungry. Provide small farmers with seeds and fertilizer. Scrap export bans and restrictions. And vastly increase agriculture research and outreach programs to improve crop production.

The cost? Jacques Diouf, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the host of the meeting, estimated it could run to $30 billion a year.

“The problem of food insecurity is a political one,” he said. “It is a question of priorities in the face of the most fundamental of human needs. And it is those choices made by governments that determine the allocation of resources.”

As expected, biofuels emerged as the most contentious issue of the conference, and several speakers criticized government policies that diverted food crops to energy use, particularly at a time of increasing hunger.

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Extension Of Benefits For U.S. Jobless At Risk
2008-06-04 03:23:52

House Democrats are likely to drop a 13-week extension of unemployment insurance benefits from a major spending package that includes continued funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that would create a new education benefit for military veterans returning from the battlefields.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Maryland) said Tuesday that the unemployment insurance provision would "probably not" be part of the final package of war and domestic spending, which has become the most important legislative battle this spring between congressional Democrats and President Bush. 

After huddling in the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) for more than two hours Tuesday, House Democrats emerged to say they were still undecided about how to pare down the overall cost of the supplemental spending bill.

"I'll do what I do when I do it, but I don't telegraph it ahead of time," said House Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wisonsin),after a meeting of the Democratic leadership of both chambers.

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