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Friday, July 11, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday July 11 2008 - (813)

Friday July 11 2008 edition
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Rove Ignores Subpoena, Refuses To Testify Before Congressional Committee
2008-07-10 19:38:22
Former White House advisor Karl Rove defied a congressional subpoena and refused to testify Thursday about allegations of political pressure at the Justice Department, including whether he influenced the prosecution of a former Democratic governor of Alabama.

Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-Lakewood), chairwoman of a House subcommittee, ruled with backing from fellow Democrats on the panel that Rove was breaking the law by refusing to cooperate - perhaps the first step toward holding him in contempt of Congress.

The White House has cited executive privilege as a reason he and other administration staffers should not testify, arguing that internal administration communications are confidential and that Congress cannot compel officials to testify. Rove says he is bound to follow the White House's guidance, although he has offered to answer questions about the case of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman - but only with no transcript taken and not under oath.

Lawmakers subpoenaed Rove in May in an effort to force him to talk about whether he played a role in prosecutors' decisions to pursue cases against Democrats, such Siegelman, or in firing federal prosecutors considered disloyal to the Bush administration.

Rove had been scheduled to appear at the House Judiciary subcommittee hearing this morning. A placard with his name sat in front of an empty chair at the witness table, with a handful of protesters behind it calling for Rove to be arrested.
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U.S. Health Officials Add Jalapenos To Salmonella Warning
2008-07-10 19:37:38

U.S. Federal health officials now blame raw jalapenos for some of the illnesses in the three-month-old salmonella outbreak and Wednesday advised the elderly, infants and people with compromised immune systems to avoid them.

Investigators still think tomatoes - the original suspect in the outbreak - have made people sick and are considering the possibility that the same rare strain of salmonella has contaminated both tomatoes and peppers.

The number of people who have gotten sick has reached 1,017, making it the largest outbreak of food-borne illness in 10 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One death, of a Texas man in his 80s, has been linked to the outbreak. Another Texas man, in his 60s, who died of cancer, was infected with the outbreak strain.

The new warning also applies to raw serrano peppers, which are often confused with jalapenos.

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French Oil Giant Total Cancels Gas Field Project in Iran
2008-07-10 19:37:05
Total, the French oil giant, has decided to back away from planned investments in Iran because of political uncertainty, a company official said Thursday.

Total’s withdrawal from the country, including a planned huge gas project in the South Pars gas field, makes it the last major Western oil company to give up on Iran amid pressure from Washington to stop doing business with the Tehran government.

The United States, Israel and other Western countries say Iran is seeking to developing nuclear weapons, but Iran says the program is for civilian purposes.

“We think that under current conditions it is not possible in Iran just now,” said Patricia Marie, a spokeswoman for Total. But she said Total took a long-term view of the country’s strategic importance to its business. “We are still interested in Iran.”

The news was first reported Thursday in The Financial Times, which quoted the Total chief executive, Christophe de Margerie, as saying: “Today we would be taking too much political risk to invest in Iran because people will say: “Total will do anything for money.”

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Political Blog: Obama's Accidental 'Sister Souljah' Moment
2008-07-10 19:36:04
Barack Obama leads a charmed life. He finally had his Sister Souljah moment and didn't even have to show up. Jesse Jackson did it for him solo.

Sixteen years ago, Bill Clinton used a Jackson-sponsored forum to rebuke the rap singer for suggesting that black people "have a week and kill white people" rather than each other. Jackson fumed as Clinton made the comments and denounced them later. Politically, Clinton came out such a winner that "Sister Souljah moment" now has its own entry in Wikipedia.

Roll forward to this week and the controversy that is attracting so much attention. Obama did not have to rebuke an important constituency himself to define himself as different from the Jackson-Sharpton wing of the Democratic Party. Being attacked by Jackson was more than enough to get across the point. Whatever people may know or think they know about Obama, they can no longer mistake him as a direct descendant of old-style black politics.

Jackson's multiple apologies attest to the harm the civil rights leader knows he did to himself. His crude comment, captured on an open microphone on Fox News, was so out of bounds that even Jackson's son, a national co-chair of Obama's campaign, leaped to condemn "the ugly rhetoric" and urged his father to keep his mouth shut. Jackson has certainly diminished himself and, given the fact that he attacked the first African American to lead a major party into a general election, likely hurt himself in particular within the black community.

The full extent of Jackson's grievances with Obama may never be known. The direct reference that led to the raw remark came over Obama's embrace of faith-based programs to help deliver social welfare assistance, although there was also a suggestion that Jackson was troubled by other ways he believed Obama was talking down to black audiences.

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California Wildfire Forces 10,000 To Evacuate Paradise
2008-07-10 04:28:44
Authorities ordered more than 10,000 residents of Paradise, California, to leave their homes on Wednesday as a stubborn wildfire threatened to jump a river and spread into town where a blaze destroyed 74 homes in June.

A message on Paradise's Web site by the town manager urged a speedy exit: "Citizens need to immediately evacuate by gathering personal belongings that will fit in your vehicle."

The so-called Butte Lightning Complex fire near Paradise, 86 miles north of Sacramento, is one of more than 300 wildfires burning across California after lightning storms swept across the state last month sparking blazes in wilderness areas thick with bone-dry brush and trees.

The Butte fire has burned 49,000 acres since starting June 21, destroyed at least 50 structures including 40 homes and now threatens an estimated 3,800 more residences, according to firefighting agency Cal Fire.

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In Britain, Warning Over Nuclear Power Sites
2008-07-10 03:59:01

The £73 billion ($146 billion) cost of decommissioning nuclear power sites in Britain could be increased "significantly", the head of an influential committee of Parliament members has warned.

Edward Leigh, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee said the cost of work over the next five years has already risen "steeply."

The committee said in a report that the Government was unable to provide a complete assurance that the cost of decommissioning new nuclear power stations would not fall back on future taxpayers. The Parliament members  recommended that before giving the go-ahead to new nuclear power stations, the Business Department should ensure that operators can meet future decommissioning costs.

The report said: "Uncertainty around costs far into the future is understandable, but uncertainty over the escalating costs of work due to be carried out imminently is difficult to justify."

Leigh said: "Decommissioning the U.K.'s first generation of civil nuclear sites and running the remaining sites still operating will cost an enormous amount of money. The latest estimate, prepared last year, puts the cost at £73 billion ($146 billion) over the coming decades.

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Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Stocks Continue Their Slide
2008-07-10 19:38:01

Shares of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plummeted for the third day this week, following comments by a former Federal Reserve governor that the two companies are nearing insolvency and reports of White House discussion about the need for a possible bailout.

The regulator who oversees the companies has insisted that they are sound, a point reiterated by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr., in testimony this morning on Capitol Hill.

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are also working through this challenging period," said Paulson. "Their regulator has made clear that they are adequately capitalized."

Still, stock in Northern Virginia-based Freddie Mac had lost about 28 percent of its value after the first hour-and-a-half of trading, falling to around $7.30 a share. District-based Fannie Mae dropped by as much as 18 percent, and was trading at about $13 a share.

It is the third brutal day on Wall Street this week for the two companies, as a combination of concerns about accounting rules and the broader state of the housing market combined to shake confidence in two pillars of the U.S. mortgage industry.

Fannie and Freddie are responsible for ensuring that banks and other institutions have adequate cash to make home loans.

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Rice To Iran: U.S. Will Defend Its Allies
2008-07-10 19:37:19
The confrontation between Tehran and Washington seemed to sharpen on Thursday as Iran said it tested missiles for a second day and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States would defend its allies and protect its interests against an attack.

Rice was speaking in the former Soviet republic of Georgia at the end of a three-day tour of Eastern Europe. Shortly after she spoke, state-run media in Iran began reporting the new missile tests, which it said included a relatively new torpedo.

Iranian state television showed a missile blasting off in darkness, trailed by a fiery exhaust plume. The television said the new tests took place during the night into Thursday. A commander in the Revolutionary Guards had said earlier that night missile maneuvers would take place but did not give details.

“Deep in the Persian Gulf waters, the launch of different types of ground-to-sea, surface-to-surface, sea-to-air and the powerful launch of the Hoot missile successfully took place,” state radio said, referring to the torpedo, whose name means Whale in Iranian. The latest tests came a day after Iran said it test-fired nine missiles, including one with the range to strike Israel.

At a news conference in Georgia with President Micheil Saakashvili, Rice declared, “We will defend our interests and defend our allies.”

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Political Blog: McCain Distances Himself From Gramm's Comments
2008-07-10 19:36:16
Sen. John McCain said flatly Thursday that he does not agree with one of his top economic advisers, saying that former senator Phil Gramm "does not speak for me. I speak for me. I strongly disagree."

Gramm had said the nation's economic problems amount to a "mental recession," and added that, "We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline."

To that, McCain, who is campaigning in the struggling communities of Detroit, said that "the person here in Michigan who just lost his job isn't suffering from a mental recession."

Asked whether Gramm would play a significant role in shaping economic policy in a McCain administration, the senator joked that "I think Senator Gramm would be in serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus, although I'm not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that."

McCain also responded to criticism from Sen. Barack Obama, calling the Democratic nominee "Dr. No" for opposing efforts to drill for more oil offshore and build new nuclear plants.

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Dow Chemical To Buy Rival Rohm And Hass Co. For $15 Billion
2008-07-10 19:35:46
Dow Chemical Co. has agreed to buy rival Rohm and Hass Co. for more than $15 billion in cash in a deal that Dow hopes will fuel its growth in a more lucrative wing of the chemical-making business.

"The addition of Rohm and Haas' portfolio is game-changing for Dow," Chairman and Chief Executive Andrew Liveris said Thursday in a statement announcing the deal.

The $78 per-share deal includes money from a Kuwaiti sovereign wealth fund and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. The price represents a 74 percent premium to Philadelphia-based Rohm and Haas' closing share price of $44.83 on Wednesday. The Haas family, descendants of one of the company's founders, holds about 65 million shares, a 33 percent stake worth nearly $5.1 billion based on the purchase price.

Chief Financial Officer Geoffery Merszei said the quality and reputation of Rohm and Haas' businesses, brands, products and technologies - as well as its work force - make the premium worth paying.

"While it's hard to put a price on a company's culture and people, this premium recognizes the fact that Rohm and Haas is a highly-coveted asset," Merszei said Thursday morning in a conference call with industry analysts and investors.

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U.S. Troops In Iraq Face Powerful New Weapon
2008-07-10 04:28:28
Suspected Shiite militiamen have begun using powerful rocket-propelled bombs to attack U.S. military outposts in recent months, broadening the array of weapons used against American troops.

U.S. military officials call the devices Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions, or IRAMs. They are propane tanks packed with hundreds of pounds of explosives and powered by 107mm rockets. They are often fired by remote control from the backs of trucks, sometimes in close succession. Rocket-propelled bombs have killed at least 21 people, including at least three U.S. soldiers, this year.

The latest reported rocket-propelled bomb attack occurred Tuesday at Joint Security Station Ur, a base in northeastern Baghdad shared by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers. One U.S. soldier and an interpreter were wounded in the attack.

U.S. military officials say IRAM attacks, unlike roadside bombings and conventional mortar or rocket attacks, have the potential to kill scores of soldiers at once. IRAMs are fired at close range, unlike most rockets, and create much larger explosions. Most such attacks have occurred in the capital, Baghdad.

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