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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday July 19 2008 - (813)

Saturday July 19 2008 edition
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Cubans Heading To U.S. -- Via Mexico
2008-07-19 00:31:33
In the face of a U.S. crackdown on illegal immigration in the waters between Cuba and Florida, Mexican authorities have reported a surge in detentions of Cubans as quick-moving smugglers shift their routes westward.

Under a 1995 proviso of U.S. immigration law known as the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, Cubans who reach U.S. territory are entitled to legal residency. With the Florida Straits under the gun, much of the traffic has been rerouted to bring migrants to Mexico's Yucatan peninsula and then guide them overland to the U.S. border - where they are detained on illegal entry charges for just a few days.

Even before summer's high season of human trafficking, more than 1,000 Cubans had been detained in Mexico by late June, compared with 1,359 in all of 2007. More than 11,500 made it to the U.S. border last year, 33% more than the previous year and almost double the number who arrived via Mexico in 2004.

The number of Cubans detained in Mexico has grown 500% over the last five years, a politician from Mexico's traditionally center-left Institutional Revolutionary Party told parliament last month. The lawmaker, Edmundo Ramirez, pointed to a recent bus hijacking as evidence that the smugglers have huge economic heft and firepower at their command.

In the June 11 incident in southern Mexico, armed men seized a bus carrying 33 Cubans who had been intercepted off the Yucatan peninsula and were being taken to a detention facility in Chiapas state. The Chiapas prosecutor, Amador Rodriguez, blamed the incident on Miami-based smugglers determined to retrieve their cargo for payment on delivery to U.S. soil.
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Fears That Fish Virus Will Spread To Mississippi River
2008-07-19 00:31:04
A deadly fish virus has been found for the first time in southern Lake Michigan and an inland Ohio reservoir, spurring fears of major fish kills and the virus's possible migration to the Mississippi River.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources invoked emergency fishing regulations June 30 to stop the spread of viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), often described as "fish Ebola," which was found in round gobies and rock bass tested at a marina near the Wisconsin border in early June.

A few days earlier, the virus was detected in round gobies and yellow perch just outside Milwaukee. And weeks earlier, muskellunge in the Clear Fork Reservoir north of Columbus, Ohio, tested positive for the virus. That was the first time the virus was found in a waterway outside of the Great Lakes basin.

The virus attacks saltwater fish off the coasts of Europe, Japan and North America. It was first found in the Great Lakes in 2005. Officials say it was probably transported in the ballast water of the oceangoing freighters that enter the lakes through the St. Lawrence Seaway.

In 2005 and 2006, VHS caused major fish kills in Lake Ontario, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair, and it was found in northern Lake Michigan. State and federal officials, however, took immediate steps - such as banning the transporting of fish and bait among lakes, and requiring the cleaning of boats and fishing equipment - that limited the spread of the virus in 2007.

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Politics Blog: Gramm Departs McCain Campaign
2008-07-19 00:30:20

Add former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm's name to an ignominious list - Samantha Power, Billy Shaheen, Geraldine Ferraro to name just a few - of campaign surrogates forced to step aside after making an impolitic comment.

John McCain's campaign just released the following statement from Gramm:

"It is clear to me that Democrats want to attack me rather than debate Senator McCain on important economic issues facing the country. That kind of distraction hurts not only Senator McCain's ability to present concrete programs to deal with the country's problems, it hurts the country. To end this distraction and get on with the real debate, I hereby step down as Co-Chair of the McCain Campaign and join the growing number of rank-and-file McCain supporters."

Gramm's resignation as co-chair comes nine days after Gramm told the Washington Times that the country was in a "mental recession" and went on to describe the United States as a "nation of whiners."

Democrats immediately seized on the comments as evidence that McCain and his campaign were out of touch with the average voter and weren't likely to let the issue go any time soon.

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4 In California Ill With West Nile Virus
2008-07-19 00:29:46
Two Orange County residents are sick with West Nile virus, the first illnesses known to have been caused by the virus in Southern California this year, health officials said Friday. Two other residents also have been infected by the virus but have not shown symptoms.

An 80-year-old Anaheim man who fell ill in early July and a 49-year-old central Orange County woman who became sick in late June remain hospitalized, said Orange County Health Care Agency spokesman Howard Sutter. The woman's infection may have been acquired outside the county, he said.

The announcement brings the number of Orange County residents infected with the virus to four.

On Thursday, Orange County health officials reported that two central Orange County men had tested positive for the virus. Those men, ages 23 and 41, recently donated blood and were identified through screening tests, said Sutter.  Neither man has symptoms, so they were not considered to have the disease, he said.

So far this year, the state Department of Public Health has reported six human cases of the virus in California. The first was reported last month when a Tulare County woman was hospitalized.
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Citigroup Posts $2.5 Billion Loss, But Beats Expectations
2008-07-19 00:31:19
Citigroup has become the latest big bank to quell Wall Street's worries about a financial sector implosion, posting a $2.5 billion second-quarter loss that was smaller than expected.

Citi rose nearly 9 percent Friday and helped lift other financial stocks, having joined JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. in convincing investors that the prognosis for the sector, while gloomy, may not be as dire as the market feared.

It's hard to get too enthusiastic about clearing a low bar. It was Citi's third straight quarterly loss and neither JPMorgan nor Wells Fargo managed to notch a profit gain compared to last year. Meanwhile, the brokerage Merrill Lynch & Co. reported a wider-than-expected quarterly loss and, next week, Wachovia Corp. and Washington Mutual Inc. are anticipated to reveal losses, too, with Bank of America Corp. expected to report a steep profit decline.

"I don't think anyone's breathing too easily right now," said Prakash Shimpi, who works in the risk management practice at Towers Perrin. Determining the dollar value of certain assets backed by debt is still a tricky process, he said, even a year after the crisis began.

Citigroup, the nation's largest banking company by assets, lost the equivalent of 54 cents per share in the April-June period. In the same timeframe last year, the bank earned $6.23 billion, or $1.24 per share.
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California's Jobless Rate Hits 6.9 Percent
2008-07-19 00:30:40
California's jobless rate crept ahead Friday as experts saw weakness spreading into new areas of the economy.

For months, job losses were concentrated in the state's housing industry. But with June's increase of one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.9%, it was evident that a broader downturn is underway.

In all, the state lost 12,800 jobs in June compared with May
. The number of government workers fell 6%,while professional and business positions declined 5.2%, manufacturing 4.4% and the information sector, which includes television and film production, 2.6%. Retail trade dropped 2.5%, according to an analysis of state figures by Beacon Economics, a Los Angeles consulting firm.

Construction, which led the decline in previous months, dropped 2.1% in June.

"The June data give the first indication that job losses are now more and more being caused by consumers slowing down their spending and not just the sharp housing losses," said Stephen Levy, director and senior economist at the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto.
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U.S., Iraq Agree To Set Withdrawal Timeframe
2008-07-19 00:30:05
President Bush and Iraq's prime minister have agreed to set a "time horizon" for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq as part of a long-term security accord they are trying to negotiate by the end of the month, White House  officials said Friday.

The decision, reached during a video conference Thursday between Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, marks the culmination of a gradual but significant shift for the president, who has adamantly fought - and even ridiculed - efforts by congressional Democrats to impose what he described as artificial timetables for withdrawing U.S. forces.

In recent weeks, Bush and senior officials have hinted that they would be open to "aspirational" goals for removing U.S. troops, as Maliki and other Iraqi politicians have voiced increasing discontent with the idea of an open-ended U.S. troop presence in their country.

The White House has also been under pressure from top military officers to make more U.S. forces available for the war in Afghanistan, and that would be possible only by reducing the number of troops in Iraq, said administration officials.  U.S. troop levels there have been decreasing in recent months, as they return to the 15 combat brigades present before Bush ordered a troop increase last year.

Senior military officials have made clear that they expect troop levels in Iraq to drop even further this fall, following a 45-day period of assessment by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. In a statement issued yesterday, after the conversation between Bush and Maliki, the White House went further than it has in previous official statements to indicate that it shares that expectation.

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4 Killed In Crane Collapse At Houston Refinery
2008-07-19 00:28:10
One of the nation's largest mobile cranes collapsed at a Houston, Texas, oil refinery Friday, killing four workers and injuring seven others in the latest of several fatal accidents that have raised concerns about the safety of construction cranes.

The 30-story-tall crane, capable of lifting 1 million pounds, fell over at a LyondellBasell refinery in southeast Houston about 2 p.m., said Jim Roecker, the company's vice president for refining.

The massive, deep red crane lay on top of a smaller, bright yellow crane on the grounds of the refinery. Ambulances and fire trucks were lined up outside.

The casualties were in the area of the crane, but officials still aren't certain whether they were on the crane or under it, said Roecker.

Three of the injured were treated and released at the scene, said Houston Fire Department Assistant Chief Omero Longoria. Two severely injured workers were taken by helicopter to Memorial Hermann- Texas Medical Center hospital and the other two injured workers was taken to a hospital by ambulance.
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