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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday June 11 2008 - (813)

Wednesday June 11 2008 edition
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When Congress Had A Chance, Food Safety Wasn't Its Choice
2008-06-10 23:01:20
Tainted tomatoes highlight how Congress forfeited some food-safety opportunities in the new farm bill.

A nationwide salmonella outbreak attributed to tomatoes comes just as Congress and President Bush are finishing their farm bill tug-of-war. The bill about to become law omits some of the highest-profile food-safety proposals that lawmakers once offered.

"Food safety is never a key issue for any farm bill," Chris Waldrop, the food policy director for the Consumer Federation of America, said Tuesday.

The omission appears particularly poignant now, as at least 167 people in 17 states have fallen ill from salmonella poisoning since mid-April. The Food and Drug Administration is urging consumers to avoid raw Roma, plum or red round tomatoes. Restaurants including McDonald's have removed them from their menus temporarily.

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U.S. Security Agreement With Iraq In Trouble In Baghdad And In U.S. Congress
2008-06-10 23:00:54
A proposed U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that would set the conditions for a defense alliance and long-term U.S. troop presence appears increasingly in trouble, facing growing resistance from the Iraqi government, bipartisan opposition in Congress and strong questioning from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

President Bush is trying to finish the agreement before he leaves office, and senior U.S. officials insist publicly that the negotiations can be completed by a July 31 target date. The U.S. is apparently scaling back some of its demands, including backing off one that particularly incenses Iraqis, blanket immunity for private security contractors.

Meeting the July 31 deadline seems increasing doubtful, and in Baghdad and Washington, D.C., there is growing speculation that a United Nations mandate for U.S.-led military operations in Iraq may have to be renewed after it expires at the end of 2008.

On Capitol Hill, top Democrats and Republicans complain that Bush is rushing the negotiations to try to tie his successor's hands.

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Bank Of England Governor Warns 'Innocent Bystanders' May Lose Homes
2008-06-10 23:00:18

Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, Tuesday called for an improved system of financial stability for Britain as he admitted that prolonged turmoil in the markets had left the economy facing a period of rising inflation and weaker growth.

King warned that the crisis of the past year was not over and that he wanted his second five-year term in office - which starts next month - to establish a framework for financial stability similar to that created by Gordon Brown for setting interest rates in 1997.

Addressing the British Bankers' Association (BBA) in London Tuesday, King said he wanted financial institutions to hold more capital "as a shock absorber" to prevent excessive lending in economic upswings.

He also expressed concern about the way risks taken by financial institutions had been monitored by the authorities. "For reasons of historical accident we have created over many decades a financial system in which the incentives to monitor risk-taking have been sharply reduced."

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4th Texas Electric Company To Fold
2008-06-10 22:59:42
Yet another financial failure by a Texas electric company means thousands more ratepayers will likely get dumped into high-cost default service, according to a regulatory spokesman.

The company, Riverway Power of Houston, had earlier filed for bankruptcy, but continued operations.

However, a Houston bankruptcy court on Tuesday dismissed the bankruptcy case, meaning that as many as 6,500 Riverway customers will likely be shifted to high-cost default providers, according to a spokesman for the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC).

Customers going to those high-cost providers could see a substantial increase in their bills, typically must pay deposits to keep their lights on, and face extra charges if they want to quickly get off the default service to go with a company offering better rates.

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Report: Guantanamo Inmates Suffering Mental Health Damage
2008-06-10 22:58:36
Over two-thirds of the detainees in the Guantanamo Bay prison are suffering from or at risk of mental problems because they are kept isolated in small cells with little light or fresh air, according to Human Rights Watch.

In a report entitled "Locked Up Alone: Detention Conditions and Mental Health at Guantanamo", the group says 185 of the 270 detainees at the U.S. military prison for terrorism suspects are housed in facilities similar to "supermax" prisons.

They spend 22 hours alone in cramped cells, have very limited contact with other human beings and are given little more than the Koran to occupy themselves, said the report, which is based interviews with government officials and attorneys.

Detainees held in this manner include many that have not been charged with crimes and have already been cleared for release or transfer, according to the report.

"Guantanamo detainees who have not even been charged with a crime are being warehoused in conditions that are in many ways harsher than those reserved for the most dangerous, convicted criminals in the United States," said Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch.

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Australian Dinosaur Defies Gondwana Theory
2008-06-10 22:57:40
A dinosaur bone discovered in Australia has defied prevailing wisdom about how the world's continents were formed.

The 19 centimeter bone was found in southeastern Australia but it comes from a very close cousin to Megaraptor, a flesh-ripping monster that lorded over swathes of South American some 90 million years ago.

The extraordinary similarity between the two giant theropods adds weight to a dissident view about the breakup of a super-continent, known as Gondwana, that formed the continents of the southern hemisphere, say the authors.

Gondwana broke up during the Cretaceous period to form South America, Africa, Antarctica and Australia.

The standard theory is that the first continents to go were South America and Africa, which pulled away from Gondwana around 120 million years ago.
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Obama and McCain Trade Charges On Economy
2008-06-10 15:23:57

As grim financial reports continue to dominate the news, the presidential candidates have traded charges over economic policy in recent appearances and have offered sharply contrasting remedies for the country’s ailing economy.

Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has called for a more active government role in improving the economy and in providing more direct assistance to embattled Americans, while Senator John McCain,  the presumptive Republican nominee, has emphasized lower taxes and cutting government waste. Obama also has sought to tie McCain to the country’s current economic woes, charging that the Bush administration has been “the most fiscally irresponsible administration in history.”

“And now John McCain want to give us another,” he said.

McCain counterattacked during an appearance in Washington on Tuesday, telling an organization of small businesses meeting here that Senator Barack Obama would undo trade agreements that had benefited the United States and raise taxes for “Americans of every background.”

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U.S. Trade Deficit Jumps To Highest Level In Over A Year
2008-06-10 15:23:30
The trade deficit jumped to the highest level in 13 months in April as America's bill for foreign crude oil soared to an all-time high.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that the gap between what the nation imports and what it sells abroad rose by 7.8 percent to $60.9 billion, the largest imbalance since March 2007.

The growing deficit was driven by a $4.3 billion increase in crude oil imports, which jumped to a record $29.3 billion in April, as the average per barrel price rose to an all-time high.

The deficit for April would have been $11 billion lower if crude oil imports had averaged $60 per barrel instead of the record $96.81 per barrel.

The cost of oil imports are expected to climb further in coming months given that crude oil has continued its relentless rise.

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Credit Crisis Expands, Hitting All Kinds Of Consumer Loans
2008-06-10 15:22:49
The credit crisis triggered by bad home loans is spreading to other areas, forcing banks to tighten credit and probably extending the credit crisis that's dragging down the economy well into next year, and perhaps beyond.

That means consumers are going to have an increasingly difficult time getting bank loans for car purchases, credit cards, home equity credit lines, student loans and even commercial real estate, say experts.

When financial analyst Meredith Whitney wrote in a report last October that the nation's largest bank, Citigroup, lacked sufficient capital for the risks it had assumed, she was considered a heretic.

However, Whitney was proved correct: Citigroup pushed out its CEO, sought foreign investors and slashed its dividend. Her comments now carry added weight on Wall Street, and she has a new warning for ordinary Americans: The crisis in credit markets is far from over, and it increasingly will affect consumers.

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Salmonella-Tainted Tomatoes Linked To 145 Illnesses In 16 States, And Spreading
2008-06-10 15:20:52

Popular varieties of fresh tomatoes have been pulled from restaurant menus and produce aisles across Northern California as a nationwide salmonella outbreak now linked to 145 illnesses in 16 states continues to spread.

In Sacramento, California, supermarkets pulled field-grown red round, red Roma and red plum varieties from store shelves over the weekend. Chain restaurants from McDonald's to Noah's Bagels stopped serving tomatoes altogether.

Uncertainty about the source of tomatoes linked to the illnesses prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday to issue a nationwide food safety warning, urging people not to eat the three types of tomatoes.

In California, only two illnesses have been linked to the outbreak, and officials say at least one of the victims ate contaminated tomatoes on a recent trip out of state.

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Inflation Worries Unsettle Global Markets
2008-06-10 15:20:09
Fears of rising interest rates in Europe and the United States and their effect on already faltering consumption led to a mixed day on Wall Street on Tuesday, although American stocks avoided the fate of Asian stocks, which saw a sharp sell-off overnight.

The Dow Jones industrials gained 50 points by 2 p.m. as shares of financial companies rebounded from Monday’s losses. A Dow component, Coca-Cola, rose after receiving a favorable upgrade from an analyst.

But the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index stayed nearly flat, a day after Ben S. Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, implied that rates may move higher this year to combat a tide of rising prices.

Investors in the bond market appeared to take Bernanke’s words to heart. The yield on the 2-year Treasury bill was up sharply again on Tuesday, adding its biggest gain in more than a decade. The jump suggests that investors are betting rates will rise in the coming months.

The same impulse sent the value of the dollar rising, as the American currency gained against the yen and the euro.

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U.S. Seeking 58 Bases In Iraq Say Shiite Lawmakers
2008-06-10 15:18:54
Iraqi lawmakers say the United States is demanding 58 bases as part of a proposed "status of forces" agreement that will allow U.S. troops to remain in the country indefinitely.

Leading members of the two ruling Shiite parties said in a series of interviews the Iraqi government rejected this proposal along with another U.S. demand that would have effectively handed over to the United States the power to determine if a hostile act from another country is aggression against Iraq. Lawmakers said they fear this power would drag Iraq into a war between the United States and Iran.

"The points that were put forth by the Americans were more abominable than the occupation," said Jalal al Din al Saghir, a leading lawmaker from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. "We were occupied by order of the Security Council," he said, referring to the 2004 Resolution mandating a U.S. military occupation in Iraq at the head of an international coalition. "But now we are being asked to sign for our own occupation. That is why we have absolutely refused all that we have seen so far."

Other conditions sought by the United States include control over Iraqi air space up to 30,000 feet and immunity from prosecution for U.S. troops and private military contractors. The agreement would run indefinitely but be subject to cancellation with two years notice from either side, said lawmakers.

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Bush, European Union Threaten Iran With Sanctions
2008-06-10 15:18:12
President Bush and European Union leaders threatened Iran on Tuesday with new financial sanctions unless the country curbs its nuclear ambitions and opens facilities to international inspection.

Following a two-hour meeting that touched on Iran and a host of issues including climate change and trade, Bush and his European counterparts indicated they were prepared to go beyond current United Nations sanctions to try to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon.

The Islamic republic insists its nuclear research and facilities are solely for peaceful purposes. At the same time, Tehran has stymied international inspectors from verifying the extent and nature of its program.

"Now is the time for there to be strong diplomacy," Bush said after the meeting, appearing with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

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HUD's Mortgage Policy Fueled Sub-Prime Crisis
2008-06-10 02:38:30

In 2004, as regulators warned that subprime lenders were saddling borrowers with mortgages they could not afford, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) helped fuel more of that risky lending.

Eager to put more low-income and minority families into their own homes, the agency required that two government-chartered mortgage finance firms purchase far more "affordable" loans made to these borrowers. HUD stuck with an outdated policy that allowed Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to count billions of dollars they invested in subprime loans as a public good that would foster affordable housing.

Housing experts and some congressional leaders now view those decisions as mistakes that contributed to an escalation of subprime lending that is roiling the U.S. economy.

The agency neglected to examine whether borrowers could make the payments on the loans that Freddie and Fannie classified as affordable. From 2004 to 2006, the two purchased $434 billion in securities backed by subprime loans, creating a market for more such lending. Subprime loans are targeted toward borrowers with poor credit, and they generally carry higher interest rates than conventional loans.

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After 100 Years, Tribe's Ancestors Head Home To Canada
2008-06-10 02:37:57
A hushed group of people, nearly four dozen strong, slipped into the American Museum of Natural History early Monday, ahead of the crowds. Their cheeks were smeared with rust-colored dye, red and white woven bands encircled their heads, the men wore ceremonial vests and the women were wrapped in shawls, fringed with red.

They were at the end of a roughly 3,000-mile journey that has, in its way, taken years. Unlike the thousands of fidgety schoolchildren and harried parents that filled the museum’s halls to view its storied exhibits on Monday, these 46 visitors were there for an altogether different purpose: to take their ancestors home.

“Our people are humans; we aren’t tokens,” said Chief Vern Jacks, who heads the Tseycum First Nation, a tiny Native tribe from northern Vancouver Island, in British Columbia.

With the museum’s full consent, the Tseycum tribe will be repatriating the remains of 55 of their ancestors to Canada  this week. On Monday morning, in a quiet first-floor auditorium away from the museum’s crowds, tribe members performed an emotionally charged private ceremony over the 15 sturdy plastic boxes that contained the remains. The ceremony lasted two-and-a-half hours, and the tribe members and elders from related tribes prayed, spoke, wept and sang, saying they wanted to soothe their ancestors’ spirits and prepare them for a return trip from a journey that, the tribe leaders say, should never have happened at all.

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Christian Leaders Meet Privately With Obama
2008-06-10 23:01:08
Barack Obama discussed Darfur, the Iraq war, gay rights, abortion and other issues Tuesday with Christian leaders, including a conservative who has been criticized for praising the Democratic presidential candidate.

Bishop T.D. Jakes, a prominent black clergyman who heads a Dallas, Texas, megachurch, said Obama took questions, listened to participants and discussed his "personal journey of faith".

The discussion "went absolutely everywhere", Jakes told the Associated Press, and "just about every Christian stripe was represented in that room".

Jakes, who does not endorse candidates and said he also hopes to meet with Republican presidential candidate John McCain, said some participants clearly have political differences with Obama. His support for abortion rights and gay rights, among other issues, draws opposition from religious conservatives. Some conservatives have criticized Jakes for praising Obama.

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Editorial: Threatening Iran
2008-06-10 23:00:30
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Tuesday, June 10, 2008.

Israeli leaders spent last week talking tough about Iran and threatening possible military action. The United States and the other major powers need to address Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but with more assertive diplomacy - including greater financial pressures - not more threats or war planning.

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who is bedeviled by a corruption scandal that could drive him from office, led the charge. “The Iranian threat must be stopped by all possible means,” he said in Washington, a day before meeting President Bush at the White House.

Then Israel’s transportation minister, Shaul Mofaz, who is jockeying to replace Mr. Olmert as head of the ruling Kadima Party if the prime minister is forced to resign, declared that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites looks “unavoidable.”

We don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors in Washington - or what Mr. Olmert heard from Mr. Bush. But saber-rattling is not a strategy. And an attack on Iran by either country would be disastrous.

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Bank Of Canada Move Sounds Inflation Alarm
2008-06-10 23:00:05
The Bank of Canada has abruptly shifted its focus away from the slowing economy to target an emerging inflationary threat.

After months of aggressively slashing interest rates to protect the Canadian economy from a U.S. recession, Canada's central bank has now switched paths by deciding Tuesday to keep interest rates on hold.

The move signals that the bank has been swept up in the global effort to steer economies through a toxic mix of weak growth and rising inflation. Central bankers have to tackle one or the other - slow growth or rising inflation - and with commodity prices soaring, the bank is coming down on inflation.

“Although the composition of U.S. growth has not been favorable for demand for Canadian goods and services, over all, global growth has been stronger and commodity prices have been sharply higher than expected,” the central bank explained. “If current levels of energy prices persist, total [consumer price] inflation will rise above 3 per cent later this year.”

The swift change puts the Bank of Canada on the same wavelength as the European Central Bank and the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, which have heightened their anti-inflation rhetoric in recent days.

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Low Vitamin D Levels Doubles Risk Of Heart Attack In Men
2008-06-10 22:59:09

Having low levels of vitamin D is associated with a doubling of the risk of heart attacks in men and an even greater risk of dying from the cardiac condition, according to a new study.

The findings, published Monday in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, may help shed light on why many people with no known risk factors - such as high blood pressure or smoking - inexplicably develop heart attacks. It also suggests it may be possible to reduce the incidence of the often fatal condition by popping an inexpensive pill that is widely available in pharmacies and supplement stores.

"It's an important finding," says Edward Giovannucci, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, one of the researchers.

"It does indicate that even individuals without the standard risk factors for heart disease may be at somewhat higher risk if they have lower vitamin D levels," he said.

Dr. Giovannucci said vitamin D may be beneficial by reducing the buildup of plaque in arteries, one of the causes of heart attacks.

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Flash Flood Inundates Wisconsin Town For 2nd Time
2008-06-10 22:58:16
Engineers kept watch over rain-deluged Wisconsin's dams Tuesday after a major collapse nearly emptied Lake Delton in a torrent that washed away houses and a highway.

The Lake Delton breach was caused by violent, drenching weekend thunderstorms that threatened the survival of the tiny Wisconsin town of Gays Mills and displaced thousands of Indiana residents. The stormy weather was blamed for 15 deaths in the Midwest and elsewhere.

An engineering assessment team from the Wisconsin National Guard headed to Lake Delton to determine what was needed to repair the gaping hole that let water from the 267-acre lake carve a new channel to the Wisconsin River on Monday.

Other crews were going to dams throughout the southern and western part of the state to assess damage. They also were monitoring several dams that were seeping or in danger of failing, said state Emergency Management spokeswoman Jessica Iverson.

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Officials: Dozens Killed In Sudanese Plane Crash
2008-06-10 22:57:10
A Sudanese Airbus carrying 214 people veered off the runway in a thunderstorm and burst into flames late Tuesday, killing dozens unable to escape the inferno. Officials said more than 100 people fled the plane before it was engulfed by towering orange flames.

The Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that 103 passengers and all 11 crew members survived, but it said some other passengers may have gone home directly from the crash on the rain-soaked runway after crew members helped them through the emergency doors.

The death toll wasn't immediately clear. Reports right after the crash said about 100 were killed, but officials later put the toll at dozens without being more precise. Deputy parliament speaker Mohammed al-Hassan al-Ameen said "about 30 people" died, while police spokesman Mohammed Abdel Majid al-Tayeb said 23 bodies were brought to the morgue.

The fire's roaring flames dwarfed the Airbus A310's shattered fuselage as firefighters sprayed water with little apparent effect, Sudanese TV footage showed. Media were kept away but an Associated Press reporter heard several explosions after flames engulfed the aircraft.

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Three Steps Could Lower Oil Prices, But No One Will Take Them
2008-06-10 15:23:43
As gasoline prices soar to new records, America's president - and the two men who hope to succeed him - are offering only partial or long-term solutions and ignoring three steps that many experts say could bring some relief now.

Americans began this workweek by crossing a dismal threshold, paying a once-unthinkable nationwide record average of $4.02 per gallon Monday for unleaded gasoline, with the prospect of even higher prices in months ahead.

On Monday, President Bush said one answer is to increase oil drilling in Alaska and offshore. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain's chief economic adviser renewed McCain's call to suspend the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gasoline tax. Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama called for a windfall profits tax on oil companies.

Independent experts said that government could take at least three other steps that could force oil and gasoline prices down immediately. Neither Bush nor McCain nor Obama endorse any of them.

Perhaps the quickest action, said the experts, would be ordering curbs on financial speculation. Financial industry heavyweights have acknowledged in recent testimony before Congress that such speculation is driving oil prices higher.

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Senate Republicans Block Windfall Profits Tax On Oil Industry
2008-06-10 15:23:16
Senate Republicans blocked a proposal Tuesday to tax the windfall profits of the largest oil companies, despite pleas by Democratic leaders to use the measure to address America's anger over $4 a gallon gasoline.

The Democratic energy package would have imposed a tax on any "unreasonable" profits of the five largest U.S. oil companies and given the federal government more power to address oil market speculation that the bill's supporters argue has added to the crude oil price surge.

"Americans are furious about what's going on," declared Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota, and want Congress to do something about oil company profits and "an orgy of speculation" on oil markets.

Republicans argued the Democratic proposal focusing on new oil industry taxes is not the answer to the country's energy problems.

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ISPs To Block Child Pornography Web Sites
2008-06-10 15:21:43

Some of the nation's largest Internet service providers (ISPs) have agreed to block connections to newsgroups and Web-sites that offer child pornography, according to an announcement Tuesday by the New York Attorney General's Office.

The move follows an eight-month child pornography investigation. The probe turned up 88 newsgroups involving 11,390 sexually lewd photos featuring prepubescent children. Among them were photos of children being raped and sexual activity involving animals, according to the Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

The agreements with Sprint, Verizon and Time Warner Cable are expected to hold nationwide. It is not immediately known why the nation's other large Internet service providers were not party to the agreement.

"We seek to continue the investigation with other providers," said Cuomo.

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Federal Reserve Chairman's Inflation Concerns Intensify
2008-06-10 15:20:23
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke signaled deepening concern over inflation Monday night and said that the central bank will "strongly resist" any tendency for Americans' expectations of price increases to become unhinged.

Earlier in the day, New York Federal Reserve President Timothy F. Geithner called for stronger regulation of financial institutions, in the central bank's most extensive effort yet to propose changes that might prevent future financial crises like that of the past 10 months.

Their remarks reflect the challenges the Fed is facing as the economy and the financial system continue to struggle and the activist role the central bank is playing on multiple fronts.

Bernanke's comments were a response to events on Friday, when the price of oil and the nation's unemployment rate both soared. Using more forceful language about inflation than he did in a speech just a week earlier, Bernanke made clear that higher energy costs worried him most.

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U.S. House Panel Confirms Bush Met Abramoff At Least 6 Times
2008-06-10 15:19:29
Convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff influenced White House actions while his firm wooed administration officials over expensive meals and plied them with box tickets to sporting events, according to a House of Representatives committee report released Monday.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said Monday that it had received new White House documents and testimony that confirmed 80 White House contacts with Abramoff and uncovered 70 others despite White House assertions that Abramoff had vastly overblown his administration connections. Abramoff, who's cooperating with federal prosecutors after pleading guilty in an expanding corruption investigation, previously reported that his former firm had more than 400 contacts with White House officials.

The House report obtained photos of Abramoff meeting President Bush on six occasions, including political receptions. Bush has said he doesn't remember Abramoff, and the White House has refused to release the photos. The committee posted low-quality versions of them on its Web site Monday after receiving them from the White House.

"The new documents and testimony show that Mr. Abramoff had personal contact with President Bush, that high-level White House officials held Mr. Abramoff and his associates in high regard and solicited recommendations from Mr. Abramoff on policy matters," said the committee.

The committee added, however, that it had "obtained no evidence" that Abramoff lobbied the president directly.

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Pakistan Lawyers In Huge Protest March
2008-06-10 15:18:25
Hundreds of Pakistani lawyers began a two-day march from the southern city of Karachi to the capital on Tuesday to demand the reinstatement of 60 judges removed by the previous military regime of President Pervez Musharraf. 

The march represents the first large-scale protest against the new democratically elected government and its first test in handling a highly emotional public issue that fatally wounded Musharraf’s government.

Organized by Aitzaz Ahsan, a prominent politician and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, the march is a response to the failure of the new government to meet its promises to reinstate the judges.

The marchers include the suspended former chief justice, Iftihkar Muhammad Chaudhry, who is considered a national hero for his resistance to President Musharraf’s autocratic decrees.

Relying on the enormous public support for the suspended chief justice, the “long march,” as it has been dubbed, is now pitted against the new government. Thousands of lawyers, chanting “We are out to save the country: Come join us!,” were joining the march as it moved from Karachi on to the city of Lahore before moving on the capital on Thursday.

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FHA Faces $4.6 Billion In Losses
2008-06-10 02:38:41
The U.S. Federal Housing Administration (F.H.A.) expects to lose $4.6 billion because of unexpectedly high default rates on home loans, officials said Monday.

Brian D. Montgomery, the F.H.A. commissioner, attributed the unanticipated losses primarily to the agency’s seller-financed down payment mortgage program, which has suffered from high delinquency and foreclosure rates in recent years.

Housing officials said the agency was also hurt by poor performance in its traditional mortgage portfolio. Deteriorating economic conditions led some of its core clients - first-time buyers, minorities and lower-income owners - to default, they said.

The projected loss is the highest in the home loan program since 2004, and officials said the F.H.A. had to withdraw $4.6 billion from its $21 billion capital reserve fund in May to cover the costs. They said the agency, which is self-sustaining, would not need appropriations from Congress to remain solvent.

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S. Korean Cabinet Offers To Resign After U.S. Beef Protests
2008-06-10 02:38:14
South Korea’s entire cabinet offered to resign on Tuesday as President Lee Myung-bak struggled to find a breakthrough in the biggest political crisis to face his young government, one set off by fears that an agreement to reopen markets to American beef could expose the public to mad cow disease. 

Prime Minister Han Seung-soo and other cabinet members submitted their resignations to Lee hours before tens of thousands of South Koreans were scheduled to rally in downtown Seoul in what organizers said would be the largest demonstration to be held against the president and his 107-day-old government.

For the past 40 days, downtown Seoul has been rocked daily by demonstrations. What had started as a rally by hundreds of teenage students holding candles to protest the importing of American beef has evolved into a broad demonstration against government policies, with students, homemakers and workers chanting “Out with Lee Myung-bak!”

On Tuesday Cho Hang-nam, a spokesman for Han, said, “The prime minister offered the resignations on behalf of cabinet members when he met President Lee this morning.”

Comment from Lee’s office was not immediately available.

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