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Monday, July 07, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday July 7 2008 - (813)

Monday July 7 2008 edition
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Conservatives To Battle McCain On Republican Convention Platform
2008-07-07 02:28:41

Conservative activists are preparing to do battle with allies of Sen. John McCain in advance of September's Republican National Convention, hoping to prevent his views on global warming, immigration, stem cell research and campaign finance from becoming enshrined in the party's official declaration of principles.

McCain has not yet signaled the changes he plans to make in the Republican platform, but many conservatives say they fear wholesale revisions could emerge as candidate McCain seeks to put his stamp on a document that currently reflects the policies and principles of President Bush.

"There is just no way that you can avoid anticipating what is going to come. Everyone is aware that McCain is different on these issues," said Jessica Echard, executive director of the conservative Eagle Forum. "We're all kind of waiting with anticipation because we just don't know how he's going to thread this needle."

McCain has spent the past year and a half trying to straddle the philosophical schism in the modern Republican Party. In primaries, he stressed his conservative credentials, but since clinching the nomination he has often reminded voters of his more moderate stances while professing his fealty to conservative positions.

A platform fight at the convention could disrupt that carefully choreographed effort by highlighting the stark differences in vision for the party separating McCain from some of the Republican Party's most dedicated activists.

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When Alaska's Rep. Young Needed Help, Lobbyists Ponied Up
2008-07-07 02:28:14

Facing bad publicity and a dwindling campaign account, U.S. Rep. Don Young last year turned to the "AK Wolfpack," a group of more than 20 lobbyists, including former Young staffers and retired former congressmen, with close ties to the Alaska Republican.

Young's chief of staff, Mike Anderson, sent the Wolfpack an e-mail to tell them that national Democrats planned aggressive fundraising and claims of misconduct by Young to topple the 35-year incumbent congressman and his fellow Alaska Republican, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

If they succeed, Anderson warned, "you and your clients will be impacted."

Anderson e-mailed the fundraising appeal on June 8, 2007. Since then, according to federal reports, Young has received more than $90,000 from the e-mail recipients, their lobbying firms or clients of their firms. That is nearly a quarter of the roughly $400,000 raised by Young and his Midnight Sun Political Action Committee over the same period through the first quarter of this year.

Of the 27 individuals to whom the e-mail was addressed, 23 are registered federal lobbyists, and some of them are prominent figures whose firms have long lists of well-heeled clients. Many of their clients have ties to Alaska or businesses elsewhere that operate under the jurisdiction of congressional committees that Young has chaired or on which he has been an influential member.

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At Least 7 Killed In Embassy Suicide Blast In Kabul
2008-07-07 02:27:42
A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-filled car into the gates of the Indian embassy in Kabul Monday, killing at least seven people.

The blast destroyed about four cars outside the embassy in the heart of the city, and flesh and broken limbs were scattered at the scene, an Afghan witness told Agence France-Presse.

The bomber hit the thick embassy gate, he said.

"It was a suicide car bomb in front of the Indian embassy,'' said Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary.

"There are casualties but at this time I don't have a figure.''

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U.S. Energy Policy, A Story Of Missed Opportunities
2008-07-06 14:34:43
Just three years ago, with oil trading at a seemingly frothy $66 a barrel, David J. O'Reilly made what many experts considered a risky bet. Outmaneuvering Chinese bidders and ignoring critics who said he overpaid, O’Reilly, the chief executive of Chevron,forked over $18 billion to buy Unocal, a giant whose riches date back to oil fields made famous in the film “There Will Be Blood.”

For Chevron, the deal proved to be a movie-worthy gusher, helping its profits to soar. While he has warned about tightening energy supplies for years and looks prescient for buying Unocal, even O’Reilly says that he still can’t get his head around current oil prices, which closed above $145 a barrel on Thursday, a record.

“We can see how you can get to $100,” he says. “At $140, I just don’t know how to explain it. We’re surprised.”

For the rest of the country, the feeling is more like shock. As gasoline prices climb beyond $4 a gallon, Americans are rethinking what they drive and how and where they live. Entire industries are reeling - airlines and automakers most prominent among them - and gas prices have emerged as an important issue in the presidential campaign.

Ninety percent of Americans, meanwhile, expect the pain at the pump to pose a financial hardship in the next six months, according to a recent Associated Press-Yahoo News poll. Stocks now trade inversely to crude prices, and the Dow Jones industrials are in bear-market territory. Old icons have been written off, with Starbucks boasting nearly twice the market value of General Motors, which some on Wall Street say faces the possibility of bankruptcy.

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Small Rocket Passes Near Airplane
2008-07-06 13:57:25

A Continental airliner might have been only a minute away from colliding with what the pilot described as a model rocket that shot past his cockpit window, Federal Aviation Administration records obtained by the Houston Chronicle show.

On Memorial Day, the Continental pilot reported being startled by his encounter with this object that "went straight up" and left a long white vapor trail.

Yet the trail to identifying this object has appeared to run cold since the FAA and the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force launched their investigation into the episode.

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Tough Immigration Measures Take Toll On Employers, Cause Rift In Republican Party
2008-07-06 03:52:04

Under pressure from the toughest crackdown on illegal immigration in two decades, employers across the country are fighting back in state legislatures, the federal courts and city halls.

Business groups have resisted measures that would revoke the licenses of employers of illegal immigrants. They are proposing alternatives that would revise federal rules for verifying the identity documents of new hires and would expand programs to bring legal immigrant laborers.

Though the push-back is coming from both Democrats and Republicans, in many places it is reopening the rift over immigration that troubled the Republican Party last year. Businesses, generally Republican stalwarts, are standing up to others within the party who accuse them of undercutting border enforcement and jeopardizing American jobs by hiring illegal immigrants as cheap labor.

Employers in Arizona were stung by a law passed last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature that revokes the licenses of businesses caught twice with illegal immigrants. They won approval in this year’s session of a narrowing of that law making clear that it did not apply to workers hired before this year.

Last week, an Arizona employers’ group submitted more than 284,000 signatures - far more than needed - for a November ballot initiative that would make the 2007 law even friendlier to employers.

Also in recent months, immigration bills were defeated in Indiana and Kentucky - states where control of the legislatures is split between Democrats and Republicans - due in part to warnings from business groups that the measures could hurt the economy.

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Editorial: Man-Made Hunger
2008-07-06 03:51:30
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Sunday, July 6, 2008.

Thirty countries have already seen food riots this year. The ever higher cost of food could push tens of millions of people into abject poverty and starvation.

To a large degree, this crisis is man-made - the result of misguided energy and farm policies. When President Bush and other heads of state of the Group of 8 leading industrial nations meet in Japan this week, they must accept their full share of responsibility and lay out clearly what they will do to address this crisis.

To start, they must live up to their 2005 commitment to vastly increase aid to the poorest countries. And they must push other wealthy countries, like those in the Middle East, to help too. That will not be enough. They must also commit to reduce, or even better, do away with their most egregious agricultural and energy subsidies, which contribute to the spread of hunger throughout the world.

In the last year, the price of corn has risen 70 percent; wheat 55 percent; rice 160 percent. The World Bank estimates that for a group of 41 poor countries the combined shock of rising prices of food, oil and other raw materials over the past 18 months will cost them between 3 and 10 percent of their annual economic output.

Some of the causes are out of governments’ control, including the rising cost of energy and fertilizer, and drought in food exporters like Australia. Higher consumption of animal protein in China and India has also driven demand for feed grains. Wrongheaded policies among rich and poor nations are also playing a big role.

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Biometrics Link Foreign Detainees To Arrests In U.S.
2008-07-06 03:50:49

In the six-and-a-half years that the U.S. government has been fingerprinting insurgents, detainees and ordinary people in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa, hundreds have turned out to share an unexpected background, said FBI and military officials. They have criminal arrest records in the United States.

There was the suspected militant fleeing Somalia who had been arrested on a drug charge in New Jersey. And the man stopped at a checkpoint in Tikrit who claimed to be a dirt farmer but had 11 felony charges in the United States, including assault with a deadly weapon.

The records suggest that potential enemies abroad know a great deal about the United States because many of them have lived here, said officials. The matches also reflect the power of sharing data across agencies and even countries, data that links an identity to a distinguishing human characteristic such as a fingerprint.

"I found the number stunning," said Frances Fragos Townsend, a security consultant and former assistant to the president for homeland security. "It suggested to me that this was going to give us far greater insight into the relationships between individuals fighting against U.S. forces in the theater and potential U.S. cells or support networks here in the United States."

The fingerprinting of detainees overseas began as ad-hoc FBI and U.S. military efforts shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It has since grown into a government-wide push to build the world's largest database of known or suspected terrorist fingerprints. The effort is being boosted by a presidential directive signed June 5, which gave the U.S. attorney general and other cabinet officials 90 days to come up with a plan to expand the use of biometrics by, among other things, recommending categories of people to be screened beyond "known or suspected" terrorists.

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Thieves Targeting Gas Tanks
2008-07-06 03:49:51

Salim Bhabhrawala figured it out when he saw that his garden hose, in an alley near his Northeast Washington, D.C.,  home, had been cut a few feet short.

When he parked his car the night before, he had about half a tank of gas. Now, when he started up the Mercury Mariner, the low-fuel light glowed on the dashboard. He looked in the rearview mirror. The gas tank cover was wide open.

"Putting two and two together, I realized someone used my garden hose to siphon my tank," said Bhabhrawala, who parks the sport-utility vehicle behind his home, a few blocks from Union Station.

Rising prices have triggered an increase in gasoline thefts, according to police departments in the Washington, D.C., region. With average prices of more than $4 a gallon for unleaded and $5 for diesel fuel, siphoning has become an easy and profitable crime of opportunity, said officials.

One business has benefited from the crime spike: Lock-equipped gas caps have been flying out of auto parts stores.

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German Chancellor Merkel Warns Food Crisis Could 'Destabilize Nations'
2008-07-07 02:28:29
The G-8 summit in Tokyo, which opens Monday, faces a number of alarming problems, and Germany's chancellor has sent a letter to other leaders of the world's industrialized nations arguing that the sudden rise in the price of food needs urgent attention.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has set a tone ahead of this week's G-8 summit in Japan by sending a starkly-worded warning to her colleagues about the consequences of rising food prices. The crisis, she wrote in a six-page letter to other G-8 leaders last Monday, might "endanger democracy, destabilize nations and lead to international security problems."

Merkel organized a working group last April to analyze the recent rise in world food prices and to recommend solutions. Her government experts have found that "speculative trading in futures markets … have a significant influence on the level and volatility of staple food prices." To answer the "dramatic nature" of the crisis, the commission recommends "heightened agricultural productivity" in developing nations, a "quick supply of seeds, fertilizer and farm equipment to selected regions" as well as "the instant abolition of export restrictions."

These measures should guarantee that financial and food help will reach the people most affected by the crisis, according to the commission.

The chancellor also mentioned that Germany has made available $750 million (477 million euros) to ease the food shortage in poor nations. Her commission found that 30 of the world's poorest countries needed about $20 billion to import needed food. At the G-8 meeting in Tokyo, Merkel wants to organize a U.N. task force to address the problem, and help plan the way ahead.
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Australia: Welcome To A Drought-Stricken Future
2008-07-07 02:27:57
Australia's agricultural regions face a hotter, drier, more drought-stricken future as a result of climate change, with major implications for both the price and supply of food.

The prediction has been delivered in a major report by the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization (CSIRO), described Sunday by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as "very disturbing" and "a serious revision of the impact of climate change on drought".

Agriculture Minister Tony Burke warned the cycle of drought would be "more regular and deeper than ever". He described the higher-level projections in the assessment as "more like a disaster novel than a scientific report". He said the report found extreme temperatures that used to occur once every 20 to 25 years "are now likely to occur one in every one to two years as we move towards the year 2030". The area experiencing exceptionally low rainfall is forecast to double, as is the likelihood of drought.

The findings may have major implications for the cost of food and food security.

"Food prices will probably go up," warned Australian Dairy Farmers president Allan Burgess. "Food pricing is already on a new plane and the sorts of things in the report add to that.

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NBC Universal To Buy Weather Channel For $3.5 Billion
2008-07-07 02:26:43
NBC Universal and two partners said Sunday they have reached a deal to buy The Weather Channel from Landmark Communications Inc., ending a drawn-out process that had attracted interest from several major media companies.

Financial terms weren't disclosed, but a person familiar with the matter who insisted on anonymity said the purchase price was $3.5 billion in cash. NBC was joined in the deal by the private equity firms The Blackstone Group LP and Bain Capital LLC.

In addition to The Weather Channel, which can be seen by 97 percent of U.S. cable subscribers, the deal also includes several related assets such as weather services for newspapers and radio stations and the widely used Web site

NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co., became the sole bidder for The Weather Channel last month after Time Warner Inc. dropped out. CBS Corp. and cable industry leader Comcast Corp. had also expressed interest earlier.

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Pakistan - Suicide Blast Kills At Least 10 Police Officers
2008-07-06 14:34:29
A powerful suicide explosion killed at least 10 police officers and injured dozens of others here this evening, shortly after a large protest rally marking the one-year anniversary of government forces' raid on a radical mosque.

The blast, which appeared to have targeted the security forces, poses a sharp new challenge to Pakistan's coalition government, which has been struggling in its efforts to formulate a policy for dealing with Islamic militants.

The explosion occurred at a police post close to a popular market and not far from the Red Mosque, which last summer became a hotbed of militant activity in the heart of the capital. President Pervez Musharraf, who then was also the leader of Pakistan's military, sent in elite commandos to capture the mosque, a confrontation that left more than 100 people dead.

The capital had been tense in anticipation of the anniversary of the mosque raid. Preachers at the Red Mosque had employed fiery anti-government rhetoric in recent days, and its supporters, including women students in black burkas, had staged rallies adjacent to the site for the last several weeks.

Much of the fury was directed at Musharraf, who, though still president, wields much less authority now that he has given up his military post and his political opponents control the government.
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With Severe Heat On The Way, Firefighters Race To Get Upper Hand On Goleta, Big Sur Wildfires
2008-07-06 03:52:19
With extreme heat in the offing, more than 4,000 firefighters held the line Saturday against a massive wildfire threatening thousands of homes in Santa Barbara County, but made little progress in controlling a larger, out-of-control blaze ringing the Northern California coastal town of Big Sur.

Firefighters who have converged on California from throughout the nation face an ominous weather forecast as a large swath of the state is expected to be enveloped in severe heat beginning Monday. Forecasters predict erratic winds and the possibility of more fire-igniting lightning strikes.

Sunday's weather may offer a brief opportunity to gain an advantage.

"That just gives us a day of lull ... the calm before the storm," said James Smith of the U.S. Forest Service, incident commander for the five-day-old Gap fire near Goleta.

In Big Sur, fire commanders are bracing for the heat by asking for more firefighters, especially because some crews have been on the fire lines virtually nonstop for weeks.

"Everyone here is showing a lot of concern," said Jeremy Hamilton, a spokesman for state and federal fire crews at Big Sur, where the 71,000-acre blaze is only 5% contained.

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Spring's Stock Rally Fades, And Dark Clouds Settle In
2008-07-06 03:51:44
Once again, it was a disappointing quarter for U.S. stocks, as a spring rally fueled by investors' optimism that the worst of the financial crisis was over gave way to concerns about inflation, soaring oil prices and renewed fears about the ongoing credit crunch.

The Dow Jones industrial average, hurt by recent analyst downgrades of key companies such as General Motors and City Group, was down 7.4 percent for the quarter, after skirting bear market territory late last month. For the year, the Dow is off 14.4 percent, due in part to a first quarter in which the stock market had its worst performance in six years. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index ended the quarter down 3.2 percent and is off 12.8 percent in the first six months of the year. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index was up 0.6 percent for the quarter but is down 13.6 percent for the year.

Mutual funds that invest in stocks recovered slightly, ending the quarter up 0.13 percent, but the year-to-date picture is much bleaker, with diversified U.S. stock funds off 10.1 percent.

"The first half of the quarter ... [was] fairly optimistic. It looked like the economy was firming up a bit and consumers were coming back," said Christopher Low, chief economist at FTN Financial. "Now, we've ended the quarter with a fairly tremendous burst of pessimism."

With oil prices escalating, home values dropping, foreclosures rising, and major financial institutions continuing to take write-downs, it is unclear when a wave of optimism will once again be warranted. "Certainly not in the third quarter, and not anytime soon," said Charles McMillion, president and chief economist of MBG Information Services, a Washington, D.C.-based business forecasting firm.

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Prospects Dim For G8 To Fight Global Warming
2008-07-06 03:51:16
Prospects that the G8 would reach a meaningful agreement to how best to fight global warming at their annual summit dimmed on Sunday as leaders began arriving in northern Japan with a raft of global problems on their minds.

Climate change is high on the agenda of the July 7-9 summit of rich nations at a luxury hotel in Toyako, Hokkaido, and of a Major Economies Meeting on July 9 that brings the G8 together with eight other countries including China, India and Brazil.

Global inflation driven by soaring food and fuel prices and African poverty will also be discussed, along with issues as wide-ranging as Zimbabwe's election crisis and North Korea's nuclear program.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who arrived in Hokkaido needing a successful summit to bolster limp ratings, wants to add to momentum for United Nations-led talks on a new framework beyond limits agreed under the Kyoto Protocol, which expire in 2012.

Those negotiations are due to conclude in Copenhagen in December next year.

Yet wide gaps among Group of Eight members and between advanced and developing countries have raised doubts about the chances for progress beyond last year's summit in Germany, where G8 leaders agreed to "seriously consider" a global goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

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Obama Addresses His Faith
2008-07-06 03:50:28
Sen. Barack Obama ended a week's focus on values by giving a conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church a highly personal account of his spiritual journey and a promise that he will make "faith-based" social service "a moral center of my administration."

The address, to one of the oldest and largest African American denominations, brought the senator from Illinois back to friendlier ground after a week's tour through Appalachian Ohio, conservative Missouri, the conservative stronghold of Colorado Springs, North Dakota and hardscrabble Montana. But in its religious tones, the address had a far wider intended audience.

"In my own life, " he said, "it's been a journey that began decades ago on the South Side of Chicago, when, working as a community organizer, helping to build struggling neighborhoods, I let Jesus Christ into my life. I learned that my sins could be redeemed and that if I placed my trust in Christ, that he could set me on the path to eternal life when I submitted myself to his will and I dedicated myself to discovering his truth and carrying out his works."

He suggested that he would apply the lessons of his faith to the problems he would face if he became president. "The challenges we face today - war and poverty, joblessness and homelessness, violent streets and crumbling schools - are not simply technical problems in search of a 10-point plan," he said. "They are moral problems, rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness, in the imperfections of man. And so the values we believe in - empathy and justice and responsibility to ourselves and our neighbors - these cannot only be expressed in our churches and our synagogues, but in our policies and in our laws."

Of the two presumptive nominees for president, Obama has been far more outspoken about his religious beliefs than Sen. John McCain.Evangelical Christian leaders have remained skeptical, however, that Obama's faith comports with their own, especially given his support for gay and abortion rights.

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