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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday June 12 2008 - (813)

Thursday June 12 2008 edition
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Leader Of Obama's V.P. Search Team Quits
2008-06-11 23:13:05
James A Johnson, a consummate Washington insider and former Fannie Mae chief executive, resigned Wednesday from Sen. Barack Obama's vice presidential search committee, just four days after he was caught up in controversy over low-interest home loans and lucrative business deals.

Obama announced that Johnson would head the selection team shortly after the senator from Illinois claimed the delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination, but he had spent much of the week since then defending Johnson's role as leader of the vetting of potential running mates. Wednesday, Johnson became a casualty in the back-and-forth over ties to special interests in the presidential campaign as Obama cut him loose.

"Jim did not want to distract in any way from the very important task of gathering information about my vice presidential nominee, so he has made a decision to step aside that I accept," Obama said in a statement. "I remain grateful to Jim for his service and his efforts in this process."

The two other members of the search committee, former deputy attorney general Eric Holder and Caroline Kennedy,  the daughter of former president John F. Kennedy, will press forward with the process, said Obama's campaign.

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Commentary: Gas Prices Explode As The Dollar Falls - So Why Is This Happening?
2008-06-11 23:12:40
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by author Whitley Strieber and appeared on his Unknown Country Web site on June 9, 2008. I found Mr. Strieber's commentary very interesting and hope he doesn't mind that I posted it here so it could reach a few more readers. His commentary follows:

You're not going to see much, if anything about this in the dumbed-down U.S. media - not because they're trying to hide it, but because they can't understand. But there is a reason that the United States and the American Dollar are in the trouble that they are in. It isn't only that demand from Asia is putting pressure on supplies. Far from it, oil supplies are adequate worldwide, which is what OPEC keeps saying. So what's happening?

To understand, we need to go back a few years, to a fundamental and catastrophic decision that was made in 1988 by the President's Working Group on Financial Markets. While the record of its discussions remains - understandably - secret, the effect of its decision can be seen clearly all around us. No matter where you live in this country, it is likely that there is an abandoned manufacturing facility within a few miles from your home. It is also likely that, if you are able to find any U.S. manufactured shoes, clothing, soft goods or small appliances, they will be more expensive than similar items imported from abroad, and far less numerous. This is true not just of consumer goods, but of machine tools, equipment, parts - you name it. Manufacturing has gone abroad.

Absent the minutes of the Working Group, what its policy has been can only be inferred, but the inference must be accurate, given that the economic consequences are so obvious. What has happened is that a co-ordinated policy of financial mercantilization has been enacted in this country, and a conscious decision made to allow the abandonment of America's manufacturing base.

This was done to increase the profitability of corporations and enable them to compete by outsourcing rather than increasing efficiency and productivity here at home. Precisely the same process unfolded in Great Britain throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century, with the result that British power failed, just as American power will.

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Top Secret British Al-Qaeda Report Found On London Train
2008-06-11 23:11:55

Highly classified intelligence documents relating to two of the most sensitive issues involving Britain's security interests - al-Qaeda in Pakistan and the situation in Iraq - have been found on a train near London, it was disclosed last night.

The documents, including one marked Top Secret, are believed to be detailed and up-to-date assessments by Whitehall's Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).

They were found on Tuesday and handed to the BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, who reported the loss. The BBC said the documents were left on the train by a senior intelligence officer.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said last night that the documents' high security classification meant they would have had a limited circulation. "There has been a security breach, the Metropolitan police are carrying out an investigation."

A Scotland Yard spokesperson said its counter terrorism squad would be heading the investigation. "We can confirm that we are making inquiries in connection with the loss of the documents."

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U.S. House Fails To Extend Jobless Benefits
2008-06-11 23:10:24

The House Wednesday narrowly failed to approve a proposal to give jobless workers an extra three months of unemployment benefits, but Democratic leaders said they would bring back the bill for a second vote Thursday.

Despite a White House veto threat, 49 Republicans voted with a united Democratic caucus in favor of the measure, which would provide an extra 13 weeks of unemployment checks to all jobless workers and an extra 13 weeks on top of that to job seekers in high-unemployment states such as Michigan, California and Alaska.

Democrats rushed to bring the bill to a vote in the wake of the May jobless report, which showed the largest one-month jump in unemployment filings in 22 years. The national unemployment rate climbed to 5.5 percent from 5 percent, as the number of laid-off workers rose to 8.5 million. More than 18 percent of them - or 1.6 million people - had been out of work for 27 weeks or more, and therefore were likely to have exhausted the benefits that pay, on average, about $300 a week.

House leaders brought the bill to the floor, needing two-thirds of the vote for approval - the same number that would be needed to override a presidential veto. They fell three votes short; the final vote was 279 to 144. But today's vote will require only a simple majority, Democrats said, and the measure is expected to pass easily.

"Given the strong bipartisan support expressed for this bill today on the House floor, we have every intention of bringing this legislation up for a vote tomorrow that simply requires a majority to prevail," said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Maryland).

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U.S. Justice System Strains To Keep Up With 7.2 Million Convictions
2008-06-11 23:09:28

The number of people under supervision in the nation's criminal justice system rose to 7.2 million in 2006, the highest ever, costing states tens of billions of dollars to house and monitor offenders as they go in and out of jails and prisons.

According to a recently released report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 2 million offenders were either in jail or prison in 2006, the most recent year studied in an annual survey. Another 4.2 million were on probation, and nearly 800,000 were on parole.

The cost to taxpayers, about $45 billion, is causing states such as California to reconsider harsh criminal penalties. In an attempt to relieve overcrowding, California is now exporting some of its 170,000 inmates to privately run corrections facilities as far away as Tennessee.

"There are a number of states that have talked about an early release of prisoners deemed non-threatening," said Rebecca Blank, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank. "The problem just keeps getting bigger and bigger. You're paying a lot of money here. You have to ask if some of these high mandatory minimum sentences make sense."

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Some Shark Populations Collapsing
2008-06-11 23:08:22
Some shark populations in the Mediterranean Sea have completely collapsed, according to a new study, with numbers of five species declining by more than 96 percent over the past two centuries.

“This loss of top predators could hold serious implications for the entire marine ecosystem, greatly affecting food webs throughout this region,” said the lead author of the study, Francesco Ferretti, a doctoral student in marine biology at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

Particularly troubling, the researchers said, were patterns indicating a lack of females of breeding age, which are essential if populations are to recover even with new conservation measures.

“Because sharks are long-lived and slow to mature, they need fully grown females to keep their populations reproductively healthy,” said Heike K. Lotze, a study author who is at Dalhousie.

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Stocks Dive As Oil Prices Rise $4 A Barrel To $136
2008-06-11 15:21:25
A resumption in the rising price of crude oil sent the stock market into its latest tailspin this morning, as investors dumped stocks amid mounting worries that the Federal Reserve may have to raise interest rates to stem inflationary pressures.

Financial shares were hit hard because of fears that major banks and brokerages could suffer another round of credit-related write-offs of the sort that Lehman Bros. announced this week.

As of 9 a.m. PDT, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 127.26 points, or 1%, to 12,162.50. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 12.23 points, or 0.9%, to 1,346.21. The Nasdaq composite slumped 28.75 points, or 1.2%, to 2,420.19.

Oil jumped more than $4 to nearly $136 a barrel after the government reported that oil inventories fell more than expected last week, raising concerns about the effect on gasoline prices during the peak summer driving season.
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Editorial: Another Failure On Climate Change
2008-06-11 15:20:49
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Wednesday, June 11, 2008.

The most obvious lesson to be learned from the Senate’s failure to mount any sort of grown-up debate on climate change last week is that the country needs a new occupant in the White House.

By that we mean a president who not only understands and cares deeply about the issue - which both Senators Barack Obama and John McCain say they do, and which President Bush clearly does not - but who is willing to invest the time and the political capital necessary to push good legislation through Congress.

The bill sought to reduce American emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by nearly 70 percent by 2050, short of what most climate scientists believe is necessary but an important first step.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, trumpeted climate change as “the most important issue facing the world today,” and all of the players insisted they understood the stakes. Yet after three-and-one-half days of unhelpful partisan sniping, the Democratic leadership pulled the bill from the floor when only 48 senators voted to prevent a threatened Republican filibuster.

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Pakistan Military Blames U.S. For Deaths Of 11 Soldiers
2008-06-11 15:20:12
The Pakistani military Wednesday angrily blamed a U.S. air strike for the deaths of 11 of its soldiers during clashes between Western allied troops and Taliban militants along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In an unusually strong statement, the Pakistan army called the strike an "unprovoked and cowardly" attack that hit at the "very basis of cooperation" between the U.S. and Pakistan in combating terrorism. The army added that it reserved the right to protect Pakistani citizens from unwarranted aggression.

The statement said that 11 members of the Mohmand Rifles, including a major, were killed in the airstrike Tuesday night in the rugged tribal region bordering Afghanistan's Kunar province. The Mohmand Rifles are a Pakistani paramilitary force deployed to maintain security in the area, which is riddled with militant hide-outs.

Details surrounding the clashes were unclear, but a U.S. military spokesman at the Bagram air base outside Kabul, the Afghan capital, said Wednesday that soldiers of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan came under fire from militants just inside the border in Kunar and struck back using "air support". He said that the coalition's operation in the area had been "previously coordinated with Pakistan".

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Newsblog: Kucinich Forces Vote On Bush Impeachment
2008-06-11 15:19:12

The House is set to vote this afternoon on whether to refer articles of impeachment against President Bush to the Judiciary Committee, where they are unlikely to see any further action during this Congress.

The impeachment resolution - accusing Bush of manufacturing a case for war in Iraq, among other charges - was introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) on Monday. Kucinich himself read all 35 articles into the Congressional Record on the House floor that night, a process that took nearly five hours. The second reading, which is required under House rules, was performed by House reading clerks on Tuesday night. In both cases, the readings kept the chamber in session past midnight.

The office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) says this afternoon's vote to send the resolution to Judiciary is expected to occur around 4 p.m. EDT, though there is a small chance the vote could happen closer to 1 p.m., when the chamber will be voting on an Amtrak bill.

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Deadly Bird Flu Detected In Hong Kong
2008-06-11 15:18:37
Hong Kong authorities announced Wednesday that they planned to kill all chickens in the territory's retail markets because of fears of a dangerous bird flu outbreak.

Health officials said they detected the deadly H5N1 virus last week in chickens at a stall in the Kowloon area and slaughtered about 2,700 animals in that neighborhood to prevent its spread, but more cases were uncovered this week at four markets in the New Territories and Hong Kong island, leading to the order to get rid of all remaining live chickens in retail markets, stalls and stores.

The order does not affect sales of pre-slaughtered chickens sold packaged in supermarkets, as is common in much of the world. But Hong Kong residents have a long tradition of buying live chickens and readying them for the kitchen at home, and these are the ones to be targeted.

No humans are known to have been infected in the current outbreak, said the officials said, but Hong Kong, a densely populated city of 7 million, has been particularly sensitive about contagious diseases since the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, epidemic broke out in 2003.

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U.S. Corn Soars To Record Price Due To Crop Flooding
2008-06-11 23:12:54
U.S. corn futures soared more than 4 percent to a fresh record high for the fifth consecutive trading session on Wednesday as flooding expanded in the U.S. Midwest, harming the 2008 corn crop.

"There's still no indication that we're getting ready to change this pattern. Concerns continue from planting issues to emergence to crop development," said Mike Palmerino, forecaster for DTN Meteorlogix.

Corn prices on the Chicago Board of Trade have surged 80 percent over the past year, with nearly 17 percent of that tacked on just this month.

Soybeans surged 3 percent and wheat leaped nearly 5 percent as those markets followed corn, but the historic rainfall and flooding in the United States also were beginning to hurt soy and wheat crop prospects.

"There is definitely concern. There is way too much water and, even if it is drier next week, it won't matter now. It's too late to plant corn and even bean yields are being affected," said Vic Lespinasse, an analyst for

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In Europe, Truckers Fuel Strike Hits Food Supplies, Aviation, Industry
2008-06-11 23:12:11

Strike action by thousands of Spanish and Portuguese truckers produced ominous knock-on effects on food supplies, aviation and industry Wednesday, as Lisbon airport ran out of fuel, car factories shut down and petrol stations and supermarkets reported shortages.

In a worrying sign for other European countries that face rising discontent at the spiraling cost of diesel, a third day of strikes generated widespread mayhem and the mood turned ugly after the first casualties of the standoff: two strikers died in clashes on picket lines.

Tourists flying to Lisbon faced delays after the airport ran out of fuel. Some flights were diverted to Porto. Only emergency, military or state flights were allowed out of Portela airport, said a spokesman. Only emergency fuel stocks saved Spanish airlines from similar disruption.

Supermarkets, meanwhile, reported dwindling supplies. Authorities at Spain's two biggest wholesale markets, Mercamadrid, in Madrid, and Mercabarna in Barcelona, reported deliveries of meat, fish and fruit were almost at a standstill.

In Barcelona, at a branch of Caprabo supermarket, there was no fresh fish or meat on the shelves. Shopper Maria Luz Martinez, 38, said: "The lorry (truck) drivers are looking after themselves while we are all suffering. But the government doesn't appear to be that interested."

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4 Reported Dead, 40 Injured As Tornado Hits Boy Scout Camp
2008-06-11 23:10:56
A spokeswoman for Iowa Homeland Security says at least four people were killed and 40 injured when a tornado struck a western Iowa Boy Scout camp.

Iowa Homeland Security spokeswoman Julie Tack says a search and rescue team has been deployed to the camp near Little Sioux in Harrison County. She says the camp is covered with debris and downed trees after the tornado hit about 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Tack says there were 93 campers and 25 staff members at the camp. The campers were between 13 and 18 years old and were attending a leadership training camp.

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Canadian Prime Minister Apologizes For Abuse Of Indians
2008-06-11 23:09:52

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a long-anticipated apology Wednesday to tens of thousands of indigenous people who as children were ripped from their families and sent to boarding schools, where many were abused as part of official government policy to "kill the Indian in the child".

Harper rose on the floor of a packed House of Commons and condemned the decades-long federal effort to wipe out aboriginal culture and assimilate Native Canadians into European-dominated society. "The government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly," Harper declared. "We are sorry."

Investigations have established that thousands of Indian, Inuit and Metis children suffered mental, physical and sexual abuse in 132 boarding schools, most of them run by churches. The first opened in the late 1800s; the last - in Saskatchewan - continued operating until 1996.

"The treatment of children in Indian residential schools is a sad chapter in our history," said Harper, facing indigenous leaders who sat in a circle in the House chamber, some in traditional feathered dress. They variously listened silently or wept for what their people suffered and are still suffering.

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U.S. Rep. Wolf Warns Of Foreign Attacks On Computers
2008-06-11 23:09:08
U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Virginia) called Wednesday for better measures to protect government computers and cellphones from cyber-attacks after revealing that computers in his office and several others on Capitol Hill had been targeted in recent years by hackers thought to be based in China.

Wolf, a champion of human rights in China and elsewhere, said at a news conference that authorities investigated the attacks on four of his computers in August 2006 and traced them to a computer in China.

The hackers, he said, gained access to sensitive information about the identities and locations of many Chinese dissidents and refugees he has worked with during his years in Congress. He said he suspects that he was targeted because of his human rights work.

Wolf said he was urged by government agencies not to speak out about the breaches but decided to go public out of fear that most members of Congress and their staffs do not know of the threat they face from cyber-attacks by foreign governments or other groups.

"That kind of information as well as everything else on my office computer - e-mails, memos, correspondence, district case work - was open to outside [eyes]," he said.

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U.S. Energy Dept. Says Oil, Gas Prices To Stay High
2008-06-11 15:21:34
Motorists can expect gasoline prices around $4 gallon through next year, the Energy Department said Wednesday, with oil prices staying well above $100 a barrel.

Crude oil prices are likely to average $126 a barrel in 2009, $4 higher than this year, as oil supplies and demand are expected to remain tight, Guy Caruso, head of the department's Energy Information Administration, told a House hearing.

Gasoline prices are likely to peak at $4.15 a gallon in August and won't go down much after that, the agency projected in a report. Gasoline was forecast to average $3.92 a gallon through 2009.

The agency said that the high price of gasoline has reduced expected demand for this summer, but not enough to dampen prices.

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Oopsie! Judge In Obscenity Case Put Sex Photos On Web
2008-06-11 15:21:11
One of the highest-ranking federal judges in the United States, who is currently presiding over an obscenity trial in Los Angeles, California, has maintained a publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos.

Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, acknowledged in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that he had posted the materials, which included a photo of naked women on all fours painted to look like cows and a video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal. Some of the material was inappropriate, he conceded, although he defended other sexually explicit content as "funny".

Kozinski, 57, said that he thought the site was for his private storage and that he was not aware the images could be seen by the public, although he also said he had shared some material on the site with friends. After the interview Tuesday evening, he blocked public access to the site.

Asked whether the contents of his site should force him to step aside from the pending obscenity trial, Kozinski declined to comment. Opening statements in the trial are scheduled for this morning. In the case, Ira Isaacs, a filmmaker based in Los Angeles, is accused of distributing criminally obscene sexual-fetish videos depicting bestiality and defecation.
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U.S. Midwest Braces More Flooding
2008-06-11 15:20:37

Sodden communities in the upper Midwest braced for more flooding on Wednesday as rising rivers threatened to overcome levees protecting many downtown areas.

Officials in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, ordered the evacuation of parts of the city as the Cedar River continued to rise. In nearby Waterloo, part of a railroad bridge collapsed into the river and officials decided to evacuate some neighborhoods because of the rising waters.

Emergency sandbags in Cedar Falls, another municipality along the Cedar River, succeeded in keeping the water at bay, but officials called for extra volunteers to man the defenses. Power in the town of Vinton, population 5,000, was turned off, and evacuations were ordered for parts of town where water was three feet deep.

In Wisconsin, a rising Rock River prompted authorities to close the westbound lanes of Interstate 94, which links Milwaukee and Madison. Down the Mississippi River in St. Louis, the floating President Casino was closed as its riverfront access road flooded.

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Canada Prime Minister To Apologize To Indians
2008-06-11 15:19:56
Michael Cachagee was 4 years old when he was taken from his parents and forced to attend a state-funded school aimed at stripping him of his aboriginal culture.

"The intent was to destroy the Indian," Cachagee said of the decades-long government policy.

On Wednesday, Cachagee and more than 80,000 surviving students will receive a public apology delivered in Parliament by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

At least 200 former students have been invited to Ottawa to witness what Native leaders call a pivotal moment for Canada's more than 1 million aboriginals, who today remain the country's poorest and most disadvantaged group.

From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 aboriginal children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools, where many suffered physical and sexual abuse, as part of a program to integrate them into Canadian society.

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Bush Won't Rule Out Military Strike In Iran
2008-06-11 15:18:59
President Bush Wednesday raised unprompted the possibility of a military strike against Tehran's presumed nuclear weapons ambitions, speaking bullishly on Iran even as he admitted having been unwise to do so previously about Iraq.

Bush's host in two days of meetings at a baroque castle, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, made clear her views on the saber-rattling - however subtle - without directly countering her guest. "I very clearly pin my hopes on diplomatic efforts," said Merkel, reflecting the deeply held European opinion that military action against Iran is nearly unthinkable.

Iran's leader weighed in, too. Speaking before thousands in the central Iranian city of Shahr-e-Kord, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Bush "won't be able to harm even one centimeter of the sacred land of Iran" and promised continued defiance over Iran's nuclear activities. Iran says it is enriching uranium to generate electricity, not build a bomb - a claim the West doubts is true.

"In the past two-three years, they employed all their might, resorted to propaganda ... and sanctions," said Ahmadinejad. "If the enemy thinks they can break the Iranian nation with pressure, they are wrong."
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Japan's Upper House Censures Prime Minister
2008-06-11 15:18:10
The opposition-controlled upper house of Parliament passed a non-binding censure motion against Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on Wednesday, the first against a prime minister in postwar Japan. 

The motion was largely symbolic because Fukuda’s governing Liberal Democratic Party enjoys an overwhelming majority in the more powerful lower house of Parliament, and Fukuda immediately said he would neither resign nor call an early general election.

The opposition wielded the censure because it said that the Fukuda administration had lost the public’s confidence over its handling of several issues, especially an unpopular plan that would require Japanese of 75 years and older to pay more for health care.

Anger over the plan has helped lower Fukuda’s approval ratings to about 20 percent.

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