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Friday, July 18, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday July 18 2008 - (813)

Friday July 18 2008 edition
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U.S. Stock Markets Rise, But Clouds Fill The Horizon
2008-07-17 20:47:01
J.P. Morgan Chase's stronger-than-expected results Thursday rallied Wall Street - sending the Dow Jone industrial average up dramatically for the second straight day - even as chief executive Jamie Dimon, warned that losses related to the housing and credit markets could grow dramatically in coming months.

It didn't take long for that to sink in after the markets closed. Merrill Lynch late this afternoon reported a $4.6 billion loss during the second quarter, missing earnings expectations by a wide margin. The company reported a loss of $4.95 a share during the quarter, while analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected $1.91 a share.

The firm reported it was taking $9.4 billion of charges and write-downs, coming after it has already taken $29 billion in earlier write-downs.

It was the brokerage's fourth straight quarterly loss, and it said it would bolster its capital by selling its stake in Bloomberg LP and Financial Data Services.

J.P. Morgan's $2 billion profit from April through June represented a 53 percent drop from a year ago, but the morning announcement was still a strong enough showing to further bolster confidence in the battered financial sector. Stocks jumped Wednesday based on strong results from Wells Fargo and continued Thursday.

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U.S. Summers To Get Hotter From Global Warming
2008-07-17 20:46:22

Climate change will have a "substantial" impact on human health in the coming decades, making wildfires and hurricanes more likely, cooking up more smog, and making summer heat waves longer, hotter and deadlier, according to a new report Thursday from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The report details how rising temperatures could slowly but significantly shift the rhythms of nature that Americans are used to - with disruptive, sometimes even deadly, consequences. In the West, it found, changing weather patterns could thin the snowpacks that feed rivers, with repercussions for both hydroelectric dams and water supplies.

In Washington and other Eastern cities, it found that a warmer climate will likely mean summers that start earlier, last longer and produce more periods of sustained heat.

"It's going to be hotter, it's going to be hotter sooner in the year than it was in the past," said Kristie L. Ebi, an adjunct professor at George Washington University and one of the report's lead authors. She said that young people living in the D.C. area now will notice a difference before they reach middle age.

"They're going to look back and think about how nice the summers used to be," Ebi said. "Within 20, 30 years, on average, the [public] should notice that it's warmer."

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Obama Raised $52 Million In June
2008-07-17 20:45:19
U.S. Senator Barack Obama raised $52 million in June, his campaign announced Thursday, recording his second-best fund-raising month of the year through an aggressive mix of small and large contributions that produced more than twice the amount raised by Senator John McCain. 

After becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee last month, Obama also helped the Democratic National Committee markedly increase its fund-raising to $22.4 million in June. Together, the Obama campaign and the party have about $92.3 million in the bank, which is slightly less than Republicans, who began July with about $95 million.

Yet the magnitude of the fund-raising challenge - amassing about $300 million - was underscored by his pitch for donors to give another $25. Democrats also hope to collect about $180 million for the Democratic National Committee.

“I know this isn’t the first time we’ve asked you for money, and it won’t be the last,” David Plouffe the campaign manager for Obama, announced in an e-mail message to supporters. “We have developed a strategy - a very aggressive strategy - that will only work if our millions of supporters continue to contribute their time and their money.”

While the $52 million figure came close to setting another record for Obama, it is actually slightly below projections that campaign strategists have laid out to party fund raisers.

Last week, Senator McCain, the likely Republican candidate, reported raising more than $22 million in June, his best month of the year. Because McCain is participating in the public financing system - he will receive about $84 million to spend on the general election campaign - his fund-raising burden is less than Obama’s, and he is more reliant on the Republican National Committee.

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UBS Stops Offshore Banking For U.S. Clients
2008-07-17 20:44:13
Faced with a federal investigation into its private banking practices, the Swiss bank giant, UBS, said on Thursday that it would stop offering offshore-banking services to clients in the United States.

“We have decided to exit entirely the business in question,” Mark Branson, chief financial officer of UBS’ global wealth-management unit, said in his opening statement before a Senate subcommittee.

In his testimony, Branson apologized for any compliance failures that may have happened and said the decision to close its Switzerland-based cross-border business was intended to ensure that such failures did not happen again.

Clients in the United States will continue to be able to access UBS’ services through wealth management units that are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, he said, but advisers based in Switzerland will not be allowed to come to the United States to meet with American clients.

UBS’ decision came as a surprise even to Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat and subcommittee chairman, who said in his opening statement that UBS operated “behind a wall of secrecy” that needed to be torn down.

“I thought we were prepared for any possibility,” Levin said after the hearing. “It turns out we weren’t.”

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White House Blocks Release Of FBI Files
2008-07-17 20:42:37
The White House Wednesday blocked a House committee's attempt to obtain internal FBI reports about the leak of a  CIA officer's identity, asserting that notes from interviews of Vice President Cheney and other administration officials are protected by executive privilege.

The move further escalates the conflict between President Bush and the House Government Reform Committee, which had issued a subpoena to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey in an attempt to get the records.

Cheney and other officials were interviewed as part of a probe by Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald into the leak of the identity of former CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. The investigation eventually resulted in the conviction of Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, for perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI.

U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-California), the panel's chairman, said Wednesday that Bush's claim of executive privilege in the case is "ludicrous" and vowed to move ahead with a contempt citation against Mukasey.

"This unfounded assertion of executive privilege does not protect a principle; it protects a person," said Waxman. "If the vice president did nothing wrong, what is there to hide?"

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In U.S., As Price Of Corn Rises, Catfish Farms Dry Up
2008-07-17 20:46:40
The catfish industry is in free fall, unable to cope with the soaring cost of corn and soybean feed. Producers across the South are draining their ponds and wondering what comes next.

“It’s a dead business,” said John Dillard, who pioneered the commercial farming of catfish in the late 1960s. Last year Dillard & Company raised 11 million fish. Next year it will raise none. People can eat imported fish, Mr. Dillard said, just as they use imported oil.

As for his 55 employees? “Those jobs are gone.”

Corn and soybeans have nearly tripled in price in the last two years, for many reasons: harvest shortfalls, increasing demand by the Asian middle class, government mandates for corn to produce ethanol and, most recently, the flooding in the Midwest.

This is creating a bonanza for corn and soybean farmers but is wreaking havoc on consumers, who are seeing price spikes in the grocery store and in restaurants. Hog and chicken producers as well as cattle ranchers, all of whom depend on grain for feed, are being severely squeezed.

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Gore Calls For Carbon-Free Electric Power
2008-07-17 20:45:35
Former Vice President Al Gore said on Thursday that Americans must abandon electricity generated by fossil fuels within a decade and rely on the sun, the winds and other environmentally friendly sources of power, or risk losing their national security as well as their creature comforts.

“The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk,” Gore said in a speech to an energy conference here in Washington, D.C. “The future of human civilization is at stake.”

Gore called for the kind of concerted national effort that enabled Americans to walk on the moon 39 years ago this month, just eight years after President John F. Kennedy famously embraced that goal. He said the goal of producing all of the nation’s electricity from “renewable energy and truly clean, carbon-free sources” within 10 years is not some farfetched vision, although he said it would require fundamental changes in political thinking and personal expectations.

“This goal is achievable, affordable and transformative,” Gore said in his remarks at the conference. “It represents a challenge to all Americans, in every walk of life - to our political leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and to every citizen.”

Although Gore has made global warming and energy conservation his signature issues, winning a Nobel Prize for his  efforts, his speech on Thursday argued that the reasons for renouncing fossil fuels go far beyond concern for the climate.

In it, he cited military-intelligence studies warning of “dangerous national security implications” tied to climate change, including the possibility of “hundreds of millions of climate refugees” causing instability around the world, and said the United States is dangerously vulnerable because of its reliance on foreign oil.

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Google Shares Drop 8 Percent On Disappointing Earnings
2008-07-17 20:44:46
Google Inc. reported a weaker-than-expected 35 percent rise in net profit as the company blamed lower returns from managing its huge cash pile rather than softening sales of online advertising.

Shares of the company tumbled 8 percent to below $500, as Wall Street has come to count on Google to deliver revenue and earnings surprises over and above expectations each quarter.

"It's hard to love the numbers," said Colin Gillis, analyst at Canaccord Adams. "There's the initial shock of this being the best company in the space and it just fell short."

The disappointing profit came as Google said second-quarter online ad revenue held up well across sectors and world regions despite a weaker global economy that has tripped up rivals.

Officials pointed to problems managing its cash - now totaling $12.7 billion - in the face of volatile interest rates, the cash drain of recent acquisitions and higher costs to hedge foreign currency risk as operations expand overseas.

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Ashcroft: 'Not Hard' To Reject Interrogation Memos
2008-07-17 20:42:59
Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft on Thursday disavowed the now-defunct legal reasoning used to justify harshly questioning terrorism suspects, but dug in his heels to defend White House officials who pressured him while he was hospitalized four years ago to approve terror surveillance programs.

For a House Judiciary Committee hearing focused on a somber subject - whether methods used to interrogate al-Qaeda plotters amount to torture - the four hours of testimony included moments of humor and repeated problems pronouncing the names of terror suspects.

At one point, Ashcroft said he was so moved by the give-and-take with Bush administration colleagues he was near "standing up and singing the national anthem."

At the heart of the hearing was whether U.S. interrogators acted legally in using harsh tactics on captured terror suspects  pouring water over his or her cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning. Critics call it torture.

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Rep. Rangel Defends Use Of Letterhead On Solcitations
2008-07-17 20:42:21
U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-New York), dealing with dual controversies, called Thursday for an ethics committee probe of his fundraising for an academic center that bears his name but said the panel should not investigate his rental of four New York apartments at below market rates.

The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee said he did nothing wrong in using congressional stationery to seek meetings to ask for corporate and foundation contributions for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York. Some of those he has approached, including insurance giant American International Group, have business interests before his committee, which has broad jurisdiction over tax and trade matters.

House ethics rules allow lawmakers to solicit money for certain kinds of charities but bar the use of official resources, such as office equipment and supplies. They specifically ban the implied endorsement that accompanies the use of congressional letterhead.

In a 50-minute news conference at the Capitol, Rangel said he did not ask for money in the letters, which he said were intended to encourage the recipients "to meet with City College to learn more about the program."

"I wouldn't have done it if I thought the rules were unclear, but to make certain that even reporters can understand it, I want to go back to the ethics committee and make it even more clear for those that can't find anything else to write about so that they can move on and find something else," said Rangel.

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