Free Internet Press

Uncensored News For Real People This is a mirror site for our daily newsletter. You may visit our real site through the individual story links, or by visiting .

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday June 18 2008 - (813)

Wednesday June 18 2008 edition
Free Internet Press is operated on your donations.
Donate Today

Campaigns In A Skirmish Over Terrorism And Law
2008-06-18 02:39:58
A sharp debate over terrorism, security and the rule of law broke out on Tuesday as the campaigns of Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama exchanged pointed salvos over who could best keep the nation safe.

The latest exchange began when McCain’s top foreign policy and national security adviser, Randy Scheunemann, said in a conference call with reporters that Obama was displaying a “Sept. 10 mindset” about how best to fight terrorism - a comment that echoed President Bush’s attacks on Senator John Kerry during the 2004 election.

Obama brushed off the criticism aboard his campaign plane, and questioned the McCain campaign’s standing to debate antiterrorism policy. “These are the same guys who helped to engineer the distraction of the war in Iraq at a time when we could’ve pinned down the people who actually committed 9/11,” he said.

It was the most heated back-and-forth yet in a debate that began last week when the Supreme Court ruled that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to challenge their detention in federal court. Obama praised the court’s decision as a return to the rule of law, while McCain excoriated it, saying that it could make the nation less safe, although the Republican candidate’s comments were a reminder of the complexities of his own past positioning on Guantanamo detainees.

Read The Full Story

Editorial: Mr. Bush Vs. The Bill of Rights
2008-06-18 02:39:25
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Wednesday, June 18, 2008.

In the waning months of his tenure, President Bush and his allies are once again trying to scare Congress into expanding the president’s powers to spy on Americans without a court order.

This week, the White House and Democratic and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill hope to announce a “compromise” on a domestic spying bill. If they do, it will be presented as an indispensable tool for protecting the nation’s security that still safeguards our civil liberties. The White House will paint opponents as weak-kneed liberals who do not understand and cannot stand up to the threat of terrorism.

The bill is not a compromise. The final details are being worked out, but all indications are that many of its provisions are both unnecessary and a threat to the Bill of Rights. The White House and the Congressional Republicans who support the bill have two real aims. They want to undermine the power of the courts to review the legality of domestic spying programs. And they want to give a legal shield to the telecommunications companies that broke the law by helping Mr. Bush carry out his warrantless wiretapping operation.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, requires the government to get a warrant to intercept communications between anyone in this country and anyone outside it. The 1978 law created a special court that has approved all but a handful of the government’s many thousands of warrant requests.

Still, after Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush bypassed the FISA court and authorized the interception of international calls and e-mail messages without a warrant. Then, when the New York Times disclosed the operation in late 2005, Mr. Bush claimed that FISA did not allow the United States to act quickly enough to stop terrorists. That was nonsense. FISA always gave the government the power to start listening and then get a warrant - a grace period that has been extended since Sept. 11.

Read The Full Story

China Rushes To Fix Dams, 9,000 Square Miles Flooded
2008-06-18 02:38:56
China has posted hundreds of rescue personnel to shore up dams threatening to burst in southern mountainous areas under torrential rain that has already flooded 9,000 square miles of crops and homes.

The rain and floods, concentrated in the south and the industrial hub of Guangdong, have killed at least 171 people and left 52 missing since the start of the annual flood season and forecasters have warned of more downpours in coming days.

More than 750 government officials and police had been sent to conduct rescue work for six reservoirs in "danger of bursting" in southern Guangxi region, said Xinhua news agency.

Some 3,000 people had already been evacuated downstream from a reservoir with a capacity of 1.8 million cubic meters, said the agency.

Read The Full Story

Mexico Revises Its Justice System
2008-06-18 02:38:08
Mexico's President Felipe Calderon on Tuesday signed legislation designed to fundamentally change Mexico's  much-criticized justice system by allowing U.S.-style oral trials and establishing a presumption of innocence for criminal defendants.

The sweeping measures also require local and state police departments to "purify" their ranks of corrupt officers, and they grant those agencies power to investigate organized crime, an authority that had previously been the exclusive domain of federal authorities. Calderon has said the changes are crucial to his battle against the drug cartels blamed for thousands of deaths each year.

"What is at stake is not the liberty, security or integrity of the government, but above all the security and integrity of the governed," Calderon said in a ceremony at the presidential palace, Los Pinos, in Mexico City.

The reforms were approved by Mexico's Congress and a majority of its state legislatures, marking a huge victory for Calderon, whose two predecessors had tried and failed to push through similar legislation.

Read The Full Story

Militants Found Recruits Among Guantanamo's Wrongly Detained
2008-06-17 19:36:10
Mohammed Narim Farouq was a thug in the lawless Zormat district of eastern Afghanistan. He ran a kidnapping and extortion racket, and he controlled his turf with a band of gunmen who rode around in trucks with AK-47 rifles.

U.S. troops detained him in 2002, although he had no clear ties to the Taliban or al-Qaeda. By the time Farouq was released from Guantanamo the next year, however - after more than 12 months of what he described as abuse and humiliation at the hands of American soldiers - he'd made connections to high-level militants.

In fact, he'd become a Taliban leader. When the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency released a stack of 20 "most wanted" playing cards in 2006 identifying militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan - with Osama bin Laden at the top -  Farouq was 16 cards into the deck.

A McClatchy Newspapers investigation found that instead of confining terrorists, Guantanamo often produced more of them by rounding up common criminals, conscripts, low-level foot soldiers and men with no allegiance to radical Islam -  thus inspiring a deep hatred of the United States in them - and then housing them in cells next to radical Islamists.

The radicals were quick to exploit the flaws in the U.S. detention system.

Read The Full Story

Halliburton Subsidiary KBR Faulted For Hurricane Work
2008-06-17 19:35:36
"Washington Watchdogs", a periodic feature of the Washington Post's Investigations blog, looks at the findings of the federal government's official investigators.

Reports of problems with defense contractor KBR Inc. just keep piling up.

The Houston, Texas-based company's efforts to repair Navy facilities following Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina were deemed shoddy and substandard, auditors say, prompting one technical adviser to claim that the federal government "certainly paid twice" for many KBR projects because of "design and workmanship deficiencies," according to a report released Tuesday by the Defense Department's inspector general.

The report, released following a Freedom of Information Act request, says the U.S. Navy hired KBR, Inc., then known as Kellogg, Brown and Root, in July 2004 to repair Defense Department facilities after Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. The federal government agreed to pay the company $500 million over five years.

At the time, the company was a subsidiary of Halliburton, the Texas oil  company, whose former chief executive is Vice President Dick Cheney.

Read The Full Story

Northwest Airlines Plans To Cut More Flights
2008-06-17 19:35:07
Northwest Airlines said Tuesday that it planned to eliminate more planes from its fleet, including Boeing, Airbus and McDonnell Douglas jets, by the end of December, its second cut in capacity this year.

The airline attributed the reductions, the latest by a major airline, to the record price of jet fuel, which has nearly doubled in the last year.

Northwest will ground 14 Boeing 757 and Airbus jets during the final three months of 2008. It also said that only 61 of its aging DC-9 jets would remain in its fleet by the end of December. It had 94 DC-9s at the beginning of 2008, and 103 a year ago.

Over all, Northwest is reducing its domestic and international flying by up to 9.5 percent, the airline said in the regulatory filing. In its previous round of cuts, announced in April, Northwest said it would reduce flying capacity by about 7 percent this year.

Read The Full Story

Dancer, Actress Cyd Charisse Dies At 86
2008-06-17 19:34:31
Cyd Charisse, the long-legged Texas beauty who danced with the Ballet Russe as a teenager and starred in MGM musicals with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly,died Tuesday. She was 86.

Charisse was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Monday after suffering an apparent heart attack, said her publicist, Gene Schwam.

She appeared in dramatic films, but her fame came from the Technicolor musicals of the 1940s and 1950s.

Classically trained, she could dance anything, from a pas de deux in 1946's ''Ziegfeld Follies'' to the lowdown Mickey Spillane satire of 1956's ''The Band Wagon'' (with Astaire).

Read The Full Story

U.S. Wholesale Price Post Biggest Jump In 6 Months
2008-06-17 14:15:06
Wholesale prices bolted ahead in May at the fastest pace in six months as energy and food costs marched higher.

The Labor Department reported Tuesday that its Producer Price Index, which measures the costs of goods before they reach store shelves, shot up 1.4 percent in May. That was up from a modest 0.2 percent rise in April and marked the biggest increase since November.

However, stripping out energy and food prices, which can swing widely from month to month, the "core" rate of inflation rose 0.2 percent in May, an improvement from the prior month's 0.4 percent increase. That suggested that other prices were better behaved.

The overall inflation rate of 1.4 percent was higher than the 1 percent rise many economists were forecasting, but the increase in core prices matched their expectations.

Read The Full Story

Egypt: Israel And Hamas Agree To A Cease Fire
2008-06-17 14:14:23
Israel and the Islamist group Hamas have agreed on a mutual cease-fire to take effect Thursday following negotiations brokered by Egypt, Egyptian state media announced on Tuesday.

The official Egyptian state-owned news agency MENA and state-run television quoted an unidentified senior Egyptian official as saying that the truce would start at 6 a.m. Thursday. Israeli officials would not immediately confirm or deny that any agreement had been reached.

Talks, brokered by Egypt, have been proceeding intensively between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza. Both sides have appeared keen on achieving a cease-fire, but until the truce comes into effect neither side is likely to stop exchanges, and on Tuesday three Israeli airstrikes hit targets in the Gaza Strip, said the Israeli Army.

Palestinian medical officials in Gaza said that at least six militants were killed in the strikes and two others wounded.
However, a Palestinian official quoted by Reuters said that despite the deaths the negotiations for a truce were still on track.

Read The Full Story

Senate Report Questions Pentagon Accounts Of Interrogations
2008-06-17 03:48:57

A U.S. Senate investigation has concluded that top Pentagon officials began assembling lists of harsh interrogation techniques in the summer of 2002 for use on detainees at Guantanamo Bay and that those officials later cited memos from field commanders to suggest that the proposals originated far down the chain of command, according to congressional sources briefed on the findings.

The sources said that memos and other evidence obtained during the inquiry show that officials in the office of then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld started to research the use of waterboarding, stress positions, sensory deprivation and other practices in July 2002, months before memos from commanders at the detention facility in Cuba requested permission to use those measures on suspected terrorists.

The reported evidence - some of which is expected to be made public at a Senate hearing Tuesday - also shows that military lawyers raised strong concerns about the legality of the practices as early as November 2002, a month before Rumsfeld approved them. The findings contradict previous accounts by top Bush administration appointees, setting the stage for new clashes between the White Houseand Congress over the origins of interrogation methods that many lawmakers regard as torture and possibly illegal.

"Some have suggested that detainee abuses committed by U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and at Guantanamo were the result of a 'few bad apples' acting on their own. It would be a lot easier to accept if that were true," Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Michigan), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in a statement for delivery at a committee hearing Tuesday morning. "Senior officials in the United States government sought out information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees."

Read The Full Story

U.S. Army Overseer Tells Of Ouster Over KBR Stir
2008-06-17 03:48:21
The Army official who managed the Pentagon’s largest contract in Iraq says he was ousted from his job when he refused to approve paying more than $1 billion in questionable charges to KBR, the Houston, Texas-based company that has provided food, housing and other services to American troops.

The official, Charles M. Smith, was the senior civilian overseeing the multibillion-dollar contract with KBR during the first two years of the war. Speaking out for the first time, Smith said that he was forced from his job in 2004 after informing KBR officials that the Army would impose escalating financial penalties if they failed to improve their chaotic Iraqi operations.

Army auditors had determined that KBR lacked credible data or records for more than $1 billion in spending, so Smith refused to sign off on the payments to the company. “They had a gigantic amount of costs they couldn’t justify,” he said in an interview. “Ultimately, the money that was going to KBR was money being taken away from the troops, and I wasn’t going to do that.”

He was suddenly replaced, he said, and his successors - after taking the unusual step of hiring an outside contractor to consider KBR’s claims - approved most of the payments he had tried to block.

Read The Full Story

Editorial: The Genocide Continues
2008-06-17 03:47:13
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Tuesday, June 17, 2008.

Despite the dispatch of United Nations peacekeepers to Darfur and the issuing of international arrest warrants for leaders of the genocide, the killing goes on. So does the burning of villages, the bombing of schools and the systematic rape of women and girls. And it will continue until the Security Council shows the will to stop it.

The Council needs to get more peacekeepers, helicopters and reconnaissance planes in the field, enforce the arrest warrants and increase diplomatic and financial pressure to get Sudan to stop obstructing the work of the peacekeepers. But the Council has shown little urgency in doing any of that.

Thwarted by Sudan and the United Nations’ own bureaucratic rules, far less than half of an anticipated force of 26,000 international soldiers and police officers is now in Darfur. That is too small to protect the population, or even the peacekeepers themselves. An additional 100,000 people have been forced from their homes since the peacekeepers began arriving in January.

Read The Full Story

Hundreds Of Taliban Seize Seven Afghan Villages
2008-06-17 03:46:39
Hundreds of Taliban fighters took control of seven villages in southern Afghanistan on Monday in what appeared to be a major offensive near the country's second-largest city, according to Afghan officials.

An estimated 500 Taliban fighters swept into several villages in the Arghandab district, about 15 miles northwest of Kandahar, said officials. Agha Lalai Wali, an official with the government-sponsored Peace and Reconciliation Commission in Kandahar, said the fighters surged into the area Sunday evening, setting up several checkpoints in the district. Wali said local residents had reported seeing dozens of fighters believed to be of Pakistani and Arab origin traveling in the area in pickup trucks shortly before the incursion.

The Taliban's seizure of the villages comes three days after an audacious prison break at a Kandahar jail, in which an estimated 1,000 to 1,200 prisoners, many of them Taliban fighters, escaped.

A spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, Brig. Gen. M. Zaher Azimi, said Monday evening that hundreds of Afghan army troops were being deployed to the south from the capital, Kabul, and elsewhere around the country to mount a counteroffensive following the attacks in Arghandab.

Read The Full Story

McCain Seeks To End Offshore Drilling Plan
2008-06-17 03:45:58
Sen. John McCain called Monday for an end to the federal ban on offshore oil drilling, offering an aggressive response to high gasoline prices and immediately drawing the ire of environmental groups that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has courted for months.

The move is aimed at easing voter anger over rising energy prices by freeing states to open vast stretches of the country's coastline to oil exploration. In a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, nearly 80 percent said soaring prices at the pump are causing them financial hardship, the highest in surveys this decade.

"We must embark on a national mission to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil," McCain told reporters yesterday. In a speech today, he plans to add that "we have untapped oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. ... It is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions."

McCain's announcement is a reversal of the position he took in his 2000 presidential campaign and a break with environmental activists, even as he attempts to win the support of independents and moderate Democrats. Since becoming the presumptive Republican nominee in March, McCain has presented himself as a friend of the environment by touting his plans to combat global warming and his opposition to drilling in Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and in the Everglades.

Read The Full Story

Zimbabweans Told: Choose Mugabe Or You Face A Bullet
2008-06-18 02:39:47

The soldiers and ruling party militiamen herded the people of Rusape, Zimbabwe, to an open field at the back of the local sports club and made their point crystal clear.

"Your vote is your bullet," a soldier told the terrified crowd.

Everyone knew what he meant.

"They are saying we will die if we don't vote for Robert Mugabe, that there will be war if we don't vote for Robert Mugabe," said a wary young woman holding a small child. Mugabe says it, too, in speeches across the land ahead of next week's run-off presidential election against the man who beat him in the first round, Morgan Tsvangirai.

The woman was not waiting around to discuss that. Darkness had fallen in Rusape, a small town in bloodied Manicaland, and she grew alarmed as she realized she might not make it home before the unofficial curfew put in place by the ruling party militia.

Already the Mitsubishi pick-up trucks filled with young men carrying sticks, spears and knives were out on the streets preparing to move door-to-door, beating, and sometimes killing, anyone associated with the opposition.

Read The Full Story

Afghan Villagers Flee Farms As Taliban Gear Up For Battle
2008-06-18 02:39:09
Thousands of frightened villagers fled a district in southern Afghanistan that was overrun by Taliban fighters, as Afghan and NATO forces on Tuesday flew in hundreds of reinforcements to confront the insurgents.

About 700 Afghan troops were airlifted to the main coalition base outside Kandahar after Taliban fighters moved into nearly a dozen villages in the strategic Arghandab district, a fertile swath of land 10 miles northwest of the southern city. Kandahar was once the spiritual home of the Taliban movement.

Canadian troops, who have main responsibility for securing Kandahar and its environs, also were being repositioned in response to the developments, said North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) spokesman Mark Laity. He declined to give details about their deployment, citing operational security.

Local officials and villagers said the Taliban, who pushed into the area Sunday night, were laying mines, blocking roads and culverts and destroying footbridges, apparently preparing to do battle with arriving Afghan and Western troops.
Read The Full Story

Donna Edwards Wins Election To U.S. House
2008-06-18 02:38:27

Democrat Donna F. Edwards was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives by voters in Montgomery and Prince George's counties Tuesday, becoming the first black woman selected to serve Maryland in the U.S. Congress.

Edwards, 49, a lawyer and nonprofit executive from Fort Washington, defeated Republican Peter James and Libertarian Thibeaux Lincecum in a contest marked by exceptionally low turnout at the polls. Edwards will replace eight-term Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D), whom she defeated in a primary election in February.

"We're going to go in and just get to work," she told a crowd of about 100 supporters last night at a victory party in Lanham, including House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Maryland). "I'm going to move in quickly, as soon as they give me the keys."

She told the crowd she will be sworn in Thursday. The voter turnout appeared to be less than 5 percent, but Edwards'  most ardent supporters made sure she had their support.

Read The Full Story

Rise In Food Prices Sends U.K. Inflation To 18-Year High
2008-06-18 02:37:41

Rising global food prices last month pushed the United Kingdom's inflation rate up to its highest for nearly 18 years, according to figures released Tuesday.

Milk, cheese and eggs have increased in price by nearly a fifth since May last year along with cooking oils and fats. Meat and bread were up by 9% with fish and vegetables rising by 7%, but fruit increased by a more modest 2.4%.

The jump in food prices of 9% on average from May last year pushed consumer price inflation to 3.3% last month from 3% in April, according to the Office for National Statistics. The cost of living is now the highest since 1990 with half of the increase accounted for by food prices.

The prices of most food products around the world have risen after basic commodities such as wheat, rice and corn hit record highs in recent months.

Read The Full Story

CIA Advised U.S. Military On Interrogations At Guantanamo
2008-06-17 19:35:52
The CIA, which had authority to use harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorist detainees, advised U.S. military officials at Guantanamo in 2002 on how far they could go in extracting information from captives there, documents released at a Senate hearing Tuesday show.

"If the detainee dies you're doing it wrong," Jonathan Fredman, chief counsel to the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, told a meeting of officials on Oct. 2, 2002, according to minutes from the meeting.

That meeting came a week after a delegation of senior Bush administration officials visited the Guantanamo Naval base, where the Bush administration has set up a prison camp for suspected terrorists. In addition to Fredman, attendees at the meeting included Lt. Col. Jerald Phifer, who was in charge of Guantanamo's Joint Task Force 170, and Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, who was Task Force 170's legal officer.

The officials who had visited Guantanamo the week before were David Addington, counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney; William Haynes, the Pentagon’s top lawyer; acting CIA counsel John Rizzo; and Michael Chertoff, head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, and now President Bush's Homeland Security secretary.

Read The Full Story

51 Killed In Baghdad Marketplace Vehicle Bombing
2008-06-17 19:35:22
A vehicle packed with explosives detonated in a crowded Baghdad marketplace Tuesday, killing 51 people and wounding another 75 in the deadliest bombing in the capital in months, said Iraqi security officials.

The explosion in the mostly Shiite Muslim district of Hurriyah occurred just before 6 p.m., when the area was bustling with shoppers as well as commuters who'd gathered at a nearby bus station to head home after the workday. Witnesses said several women and children were among the dead.

The bombing disrupted a period of relative calm during which U.S. and Iraqi forces had made significant gains in the twin battles against Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias. Displaced families had begun trickling home, and politicians were gearing up for elections this fall. Then, in an instant, the blast Tuesday restored the ambulance sirens, puddles of blood and smoldering wreckage that had become emblematic of life in the car-bombing capital of the world.

"People were screaming. A taxi driver pulled over and got out, with his face covered with black from the smoke. He asked me to check whether he was injured or not," said Muhannad Mahmoud, 31, who survived the bombing. "One of the people told me he was hit by something really hard. He looked to see what had hit him and it was a man's arm."

Read The Full Story

Military Judge Dismisses Charges Against Marine Lt. Col. In Haditha Case
2008-06-17 19:34:55
A military judge dismissed charges Tuesday against a Marine officer accused of failing to investigate the killings of 24 Iraqis.

Col. Steven Folsom dismissed charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani after finding that a four-star general overseeing the case was improperly influenced by an investigator probing the November 2005 shootings by a Marine squad in Haditha.

"Unlawful command influence is the mortal enemy of military justice," said Folsom, reading aloud from previous case law. Then, turning to the courtroom, he said: "In order to restore the public confidence, we need to take it back. We need to turn the clock back."

Chessani, of Rangely, Colorado, was the highest-ranking officer to face a combat-related court-martial since the Vietnam War.

Read The Full Story

T. Boone Pickens: World Crude Oil Production Has Peaked
2008-06-17 14:15:29
World crude oil production has topped out at 85 million barrels per day even as demand keeps climbing, helping to drive a stunning surge in prices, billionaire oil investor T. Boone Pickens said on Tuesday.

"I do believe you have peaked out at 85 million barrels a day globally," Pickens, who heads BP Capital hedge fund with more than $4 billion under management, said during testimony to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The United States alone has been using "21 million barrels of the 85 million and producing about 7 of the 21, so if I could take just a minute on this point, the demand is about 86.4 million barrels a day, and when the demand is greater than the supply, the price has to go up until it kills demand," Pickens told lawmakers.

U.S. crude futures have risen by a third since the start of the year and more than six-fold since 2002 as surging demand from China and other developing nations outpaces new production.

Read The Full Story

Towns Along Mississippi River Shore Up Levees
2008-06-17 14:14:51
Residents and emergency workers in dozens of towns threatened with flooding in three states along the Mississippi River were working furiously on Tuesday to shore up nearly 30 levees, said federal officials.

Floodwaters that deluged towns throughout Iowa have begun to recede. But continued rain throughout the week is expected to raise the swollen waters of the Mississippi River further, placing towns downstream in Illinois and Missouri at risk of flooding, said Eddie Brooks, the chief of the watershed division for the Mississippi Valley Division of the U.s. Army Corps of Engineers.

At least 26 levees in Illinois, Missouri and southern Iowa could overflow unless workers quickly secure them with millions of sandbags, said officials.

Read The Full Story

U.S. Appeals Court Throws Out Safavian Conviction In Abramoff Case
2008-06-17 14:13:54

A U.S. appeals court Tuesday ordered a new trial for a former White House aide who was convicted on charges of lying and obstructing justice in the investigation of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

A three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit this morning threw out David H. Safavian's conviction on charges of lying to an ethics officer at the General Services Administration, where he had been chief of staff, and an investigator for the GSA's inspector general.

Safavian was convicted in June 2006 of covering up his efforts to assist Abramoff in acquiring two properties controlled by the GSA, including the historic Old Post Office in the District. He also was convicted of concealing information about a lavish golfing excursion to Scotland and London with Abramoff in the summer of 2002. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison but has been free while he appealed.

Writing for the unanimous panel, Circuit Judge A. Raymond Randolph ruled that Safavian was under no legal obligation to disclose details of his dealings with Abramoff when he asked for an opinion from the GSA's ethics officer about accepting free air fare on a chartered jet for the golf vacation. He told the ethics official he was paying for his hotels, meals and greens fees.

Read The Full Story

The Aftermath Of The Credit Crisis
2008-06-17 03:48:44

Jackie Pons, the affable superintendent of the Leon County school district in Tallahassee, Florida, was worried about his $30 million.

One Wednesday last November, he got on a conference call with Florida officials and financial advisers representing cities, towns and school boards throughout the state. The officials hoped to calm nerves. Localities had started to pull huge sums of money - billions of dollars - out of their accounts in a state-run investment pool, panicking that the fund was vulnerable to the financial alarm sweeping the nation over the collapse of the housing market.

After years of giving out mortgages to millions of people with less-than-stellar credit histories, lenders were imploding as subprime borrowers defaulted on their loans. The contagion spread quickly to Wall Street, which had packaged those risky loans and sold the securities to big investors in the United States and around the world.

Investors, in turn, wondered whether the problems in the financial system would extend beyond subprime-backed securities to investments backed by conventional mortgages - or even other assets.

In Florida, the crisis was about to filter down to the lives of people who had no obvious connection to the financial world. Officials in charge of the state-run investment pool had for months maintained that the money was safe. "I want you to know I have no serious concerns at this time about any of our exposures," the then-head of the fund wrote in an e-mail to the office of Florida's chief financial officer.

Now state officials were trying to stave off a run on the fund by officials like Pons. His district was considering withdrawing the approximately $30 million it kept in the pool, which served as a kind of money-market account for localities to cover their payrolls and other operating costs. On the conference call, state officials assured the gathering that the fund had lost only a fraction in value and that everything was fine. "I believed them," said Pons. "I took them for their word."

Read The Full Story

Poll: Independent Voters Split Between Obama, McCain
2008-06-17 03:47:45

Buoyed by a public mood favoring Democrats, Sen. Barack Obama begins the general-election campaign holding a narrow advantage over Sen. John McCain, with independent voters emerging as a constituency critical to the Republican's hopes of winning the presidency in November.

In the first Washington Post-ABC News poll since the Democratic nomination contest ended, Obama and McCain are even among political independents, a shift toward the presumptive Republican nominee over the past month. On the issues, independents see McCain as more credible on fighting terrorism and are split evenly on who is the stronger leader and better on the Iraq war. But on other key attributes and issues - including the economy - Obama has advantages among independents.

The presumptive Democratic nominee emerged from his primary-season battle against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton  with improved personal ratings overall, but with no appreciable gain in the head-to-head competition with McCain. Majorities view both men favorably, but about twice as many said they have a "strongly favorable" impression of Obama as said so of McCain.

Obama still has some work to do to unite the Democratic Party. Almost nine in 10 Republicans now support McCain, while not quite eight in 10 Democrats said they support Obama. Nearly a quarter of those who said they favored Clinton over Obama for the nomination currently prefer McCain for the general election, virtually unchanged from polls taken before Clinton suspended her campaign.

As Obama considers possible vice presidential running mates, Clinton remains atop the list: Unprompted, 46 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents pick her as their top choice, and no other Democrat breaks out of single digits. But it is unclear from the poll whether Clinton would help or hurt Obama's chances. About two in 10 said her placement on the ticket would make them more apt to support the Democrats, but about the same proportion said it would push them toward the Republican. Most said it would not make much of a difference either way.

Read The Full Story

American Red Cross Disaster Fund Is Depleted
2008-06-17 03:47:01

The American Red Cross said Monday that it has depleted its national disaster relief fund and is taking out loans to pay for shelters, food and other relief services across seven Midwestern states battered by floods.

Officials at the charity estimated that efforts in the Midwest will cost more than $15 million and warned that the total could surpass $40 million if the Mississippi River creates floods in St. Louis, Missouri, later this week.

On the cusp of hurricane season, Red Cross executives said the charity has raised just $3.2 million for the Midwest floods and painted a dire picture of its overall disaster relief finances. They said many donors are giving less because of rising gasoline and food prices and the collapse of the housing market. Also, the absence of a major U.S. catastrophe since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 has made it difficult to galvanize donors.

"The disaster relief fund today is completely depleted. The balance is zero," Jeffrey Towers, chief development officer, said in a conference call with reporters.

Read The Full Story

China Faults U.S. Policy On The Economy
2008-06-17 03:46:16
Not long ago, Chinese officials sat across conference tables from American officials and got an earful.

The Americans scolded the Chinese on mismanaging their economy, from state subsidies to foreign investment regulations to the valuation of their currency. Your economic system, the Americans strongly implied, should look a lot more like ours.

In recent weeks, the fingers have been wagging in the other direction. Senior Chinese officials are publicly and loudly rebuking the Americans on their handling of the economy and defending their own more assertive style of regulation.

Chinese officials seem to be galled by the apparent hypocrisy of Americans telling them what to do while the American economy is at best stagnant. China, on the other hand, has maintained its feverish growth.

Some officials are promoting a Chinese style of economic management that they suggest serves developing countries better than the American model, in much the same way they argue that they are in no hurry to copy American-style multiparty democracy.

Read The Full Story
Original materials on this site © Free Internet Press.

Any mirrored or quoted materials © their respective authors, publications, or outlets, as shown on their publication, indicated by the link in the news story.

Original Free Internet Press materials may be copied and/or republished without modification, provided a link to is given in the story, or proper credit is given.

Newsletter options may be changed in your preferences on

Please email there are any questions.

XML/RSS/RDF Newsfeed Syndication:


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home