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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday July 26 2008 - (813)

Saturday July 26 2008 edition
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AIDS Funding Binds Health Of Millions To U.S.
2008-07-26 02:10:35
President Bush plans to sign a bill next week that commits the United States to spending about $40 billion over the next five years to fight AIDS overseas, a major expansion of what many consider his most successful foreign policy initiative.

The legislation also extends an implicit pledge that has little precedent in the history of U.S. foreign assistance: to continue purchasing lifesaving drugs for millions of individual people in developing countries for an indefinite period of time.

Foreign aid for health care has traditionally been used to put up buildings, buy equipment and train workers. Direct medical care of individuals was limited to one-time interventions such as vaccinations, emergency treatment after natural disasters, and curative treatments of limited duration for diseases such as tuberculosis or leprosy.

Bush's program is fundamentally different. So far, it has purchased vast quantities of anti-retroviral drugs and supported day-to-day medical care for more than 1.4 million people whose survival depends on continued treatment.

"It is the first time I can think of where we have foreign aid treating a chronic disease," said Michael H. Merson, director of Duke University's Global Health Institute and a former head of the World Health Organization's AIDS office. "It's a challenge to take this on. I think the questions it raises are going to be important ones for the future."

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Oil Exports From Northern Iraq Increase
2008-07-26 02:10:06
An American agency monitoring reconstruction in Iraq  said Friday that oil exports through Iraq’s northern pipeline rose more than tenfold over the past year, citing a sharp drop in attacks on the pipeline and new infrastructure built to protect it.

The agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, said in a report for release on Saturday that there had been no insurgent attacks on the pipeline, which exports crude oil from northern Iraq to Turkey, since the American infrastructure project began last July.

As a result, crude oil exports from Iraq’s north rose from an average of 1 million barrels a month to more than 13 million, the report said. Nearly all of the Iraqi government’s revenue comes from oil exports, so the increased flow has direct implications for people here. The increased exports were worth $8 billion, said the report.

To protect the pipeline, berms, fences and guardhouses were built, and American soldiers patrol its 60-mile length. Iraqi guards monitor its perimeter; Iraq’s government has promised to commit almost 800 Iraqi soldiers to take over for the American patrols.

Ginger M. Cruz, the deputy inspector general, said the overall decline in violence in Iraq had helped account for the $34 million project’s success. The rise in oil exports marked a sharp turnaround from earlier years, when Sunni Arab insurgents staged relentless attacks on the pipeline, often stopping the flow of oil.

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U.S. Regulators Seize Two More Banks
2008-07-26 02:09:38
U.S. regulators took over two banks on Friday and sold them to Mutual of Omaha Bank, the sixth and seventh bank failures this year as financial institutions struggle with a housing bust and credit crunch.

Two weeks after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. seized IndyMac Bancorp Inc., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said it closed First National Bank of Nevada and First Heritage Bank NA of California.

First National, characterized as under capitalized, had total assets of $3.4 billion and $3 billion in deposits. First Heritage, described as critically under capitalized, had assets of $254 million and $233 million in deposits, said regulators.

The FDIC said the cost of the transactions to its insurance fund is estimated to be $862 million, adding that the two failed banks represent just 0.3 percent of $13.4 trillion in total industry assets at about 8,500 FDIC-insured institutions.

The FDIC said the 28 offices of the two banks will reopen on Monday as Mutual of Omaha Bank. Over the weekend, customers can access their money by writing checks, using automatic teller machines or debit cards.

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In Surprise Move, EPA Bans Carbofuran From Food
2008-07-25 16:32:13
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Thursday that it will no longer allow residue of the toxic pesticide carbofuran on domestic or imported food, a decision that would effectively remove the chemical from the U.S. market.

EPA officials said they made the decision - which surprised environmentalists as well as the pesticide's sole U.S. manufacturer - on the grounds that the chemical residue poses an unacceptable safety risk to toddlers.

"This is a product that we don't believe meets our high standards for the general population, particularly for small children who are more sensitive," said James Gulliford, EPA associate administrator for the office of prevention, pesticides and toxic substances. "While there is little exposure today [to the pesticide], we don't think there's a need, a reason for any exposure."

A million pounds of carbofuran are applied each year in the United States, affecting less than 1 percent of the nation's farmed acres, according to the EPA, but it is used more heavily in developing countries on crops including rice, bananas, coffee and sugar cane. The EPA had indicated earlier this year that it would not apply the ban to imported food, but yesterday it said it will.

"This could have major ramifications around the world, as there are many countries that export rice, coffee and bananas to the U.S.," said Michael Fry, director of conservation advocacy for the American Bird Conservancy. "It's one of the most widely used pesticides in the world."

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U.S. Stocks Mixed After Spate Of Hopeful Economic Reports
2008-07-25 16:31:44

An unexpected spate of good news about the economy lifted stocks for a time on Friday, but was not enough to counter a decline in new-home sales.

Wall Street had hoped a rise in consumer confidence and better-than-expected business spending would buoy investors’ spirits after a bumpy week.

Indeed, the major stock indexes shot up more than 70 points at 10 a.m., moments after a report showed that confidence about the economy rebounded in July. Americans surveyed by the University of Michigan and Reuters said they felt better about the economy than any time since April, although the numbers remained far below those at the beginning of the year.

By early afternoon, as investors absorbed the home sales results, those gains were gone and the Dow Jones industrial average were mixed. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was struggling to stay positive.

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Energy Speculation Bill Fails Key U.S. Senate Vote
2008-07-25 16:29:53
Legislation to rein in excessive energy speculation failed a key procedural vote on Friday to move forward in the Senate, and now lawmakers will set aside the bill to consider other legislation.

The House of Representatives may take up its own anti-speculation bill next week, and then lawmakers will get ready to leave for their month-long recess in August.

Sixty "yes" votes were required in the 100-member Senate for the bill to move forward, but the measure received only 50 "yes" votes, while 43 lawmakers opposed.

Senate Democrats said the legislation was needed to give the government new powers to curb speculators, whom many lawmakers accused of being behind the run-up in crude oil and gasoline prices.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said "we'll come back and visit" the legislation, though he did not specify when.
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Bush Expands Sanctions Against Zimbabwe
2008-07-25 16:28:55

President Bush Friday signed an executive order that expands sanctions against people and groups associated with the regime of Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, who has attracted international condemnation for orchestrating waves of electoral violence to remain in power.

"This action is a direct result of the Mugabe regime's continued politically-motivated violence, disregarding calls from the Southern African Development Community, the African Union, and the United Nations to halt the attacks," Bush said in a statement.

"No regime should ignore the will of its own people and calls from the international community without consequences," he added.

The move follows an earlier promise to enact tougher economic penalties against Mugabe and his supporters, and comes after similar sanctions were announced earlier this week by the European Union.

Earlier this week, Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to begin talks aimed at solving the nation's deepening political and economic crisis, including a rate of inflation that now ranks as the worst in the world. The pact was seen as a major victory for Tsvangirai, who pulled out of a runoff election in June amid state-sponsored killings of his supporters.

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China Now Has More Internet Users Than U.S.
2008-07-26 02:10:17
China said the number of Internet users in the country reached about 253 million last month, putting it ahead of the United States as the world’s biggest Internet market.

The estimate, based on a national phone survey and released on Thursday by the China Internet Network Information Center in Beijing, showed a powerful surge in Internet adoption in this country over the last few years, particularly among teenagers.

The number of Internet users jumped more than 50 percent, or by about 90 million people, during the last year, said the center, which operates under the government-controlled Chinese Academy of Sciences. The new estimate represents only about 19 percent of China’s population, underscoring the potential for growth.

By contrast, about 220 million Americans are online, or 70 percent of the population, according to the Nielsen Company. Japan and South Korea have similarly high percentages.

Political content on Web sites inside China is heavily censored, and foreign sites operating here have faced restrictions. But online gaming, blogs, and social networking and entertainment sites are extremely popular among young people in China.

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MailScanner has detected a possible fraud attempt from "" claiming to be 4,000 U.S. Combat Deaths And Just A Handful Of Images
2008-07-26 02:09:52
The case of a freelance photographer in Iraq who was barred from covering the Marines after he posted photos on the Internet of several of them dead has underscored what some journalists say is a growing effort by the American military to control graphic images from the war.

Zoriah Miller, the photographer who took images of marines killed in a June 26 suicide attack and posted them on his Web site, was subsequently forbidden to work in Marine Corps-controlled areas of the country. Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the Marine commander in Iraq, is now seeking to have Miller barred from all United States military facilities throughout the world. Miller has since left Iraq.

If the conflict in Vietnam was notable for open access given to journalists - too much, many critics said, as the war played out nightly in bloody newscasts - the Iraq war may mark an opposite extreme: after five years and more than 4,000 American combat deaths, searches and interviews turned up fewer than a half-dozen graphic photographs of dead American soldiers.

It is a complex issue, with competing claims often difficult to weigh in an age of instant communication around the globe via the Internet, in which such images can add to the immediate grief of families and the anger of comrades still in the field.

While the Bush administration faced criticism for overt political manipulation in not permitting photos of flag-draped coffins, the issue is more emotional on the battlefield: local military commanders worry about security in publishing images of the American dead as well as an affront to the dignity of fallen comrades. Most newspapers refuse to publish such pictures as a matter of policy.

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U.S. Congressman Pledges To Block 'Secret Rule' On Workplace Toxins
2008-07-25 16:32:24

A congressional leader pledged Friday morning to introduce legislation that would block an eleventh-hour effort by the Labor Department to make it more difficult to limit workers' exposure to chemicals on the job.

Rep. George Miller (D-California), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said he was determined to stop a "secret rule" that he described as a Bush administration effort to block the next president from trying to reduce worker deaths and illness caused by workplace toxins.

The Labor Department has refused to discuss or release the proposal, a coy of which was obtained Thursday by the  Washington Post. The proposed rulemaking would require that the department allow a new round of challenges to the risk assessments used to determine how much exposure to certain chemicals is unsafe, adding another step to the process of setting regulations for workplace chemicals.

Published reports about the effort have spurred anger and condemnation from unions, congressional Democrats and public health scientists. Critics claim the rule is a "midnight regulation" that political appointees quietly drafted without public disclosure and after overriding the objections of the agency's worker safety experts.

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Editorial: Wounded Warriors, Empty Promises
2008-07-25 16:31:56
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Friday, July 25, 2008.

The bad news about the Army’s treatment of wounded soldiers keeps coming. The generals keep apologizing and insisting that things are getting better, but they are not.

The latest low moment for Army brass came on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., where a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing to examine the sorry state of the Army Medical Action Plan. That’s the plan to prevent the kind of systematic neglect and mistreatment exposed by the Washington Post last year at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

After a flurry of apologies, firings, investigations and reports, the Army resolved to streamline and improve case management for wounded soldiers. Under the plan, “warrior transition units” would swiftly deliver excellent care to troops so they could return to duty or be discharged into the veterans’ medical system. Each soldier would be assigned a team to look over his or her care: a physician, a nurse and a squad leader. It all sounded sensible and comprehensive.

It has not worked out so well. Staff members of the House subcommittee who visited numerous warrior transition units June 2007 to February found a significant gap between the Army leadership’s optimistic promises and reality.

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U.S. Justice Dept. Advised CIA In '02 About 'Legal' Waterboarding
2008-07-25 16:30:23

Lawyers for the Bush administration told the CIA in 2002 that its officers could legally use waterboarding and other harsh measures while interrogating al-Qaeda suspects, as long as they acted "in good faith" and did not deliberately seek to inflict severe pain, according to a Justice Department memo made public Thursday.

The memo, apparently intended to assuage CIA concerns that its officers could someday face torture charges, said interrogators needed only to possess an "honest belief" that their actions did not cause severe suffering. And the honest belief did not have to be based on reality.

"Although an honest belief need not be reasonable, such a belief is easier to establish where there is a reasonable basis for it," stated the Aug. 1, 2002, memo signed by Jay S. Bybee, then an assistant attorney general with the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. 

The memo was one of three released by the Justice Department under a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).The heavily redacted memos offer insight into the administration's legal maneuvering as it sought to justify the CIA's program of aggressively interrogating high-level al-Qaeda operatives held in secret prisons overseas. The program included waterboarding, or simulated drowning, as well as sleep deprivation and other measures intended to weaken resistance and coerce confessions.

While human rights groups and many legal experts have condemned such tactics as tantamount to torture, the Justice memo argued that no action could be considered torture unless it was intended as torture.

"The absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture," it said. Bybee, the author, also drafted a previously released 2002 memo that sought to define torture as an act that inflicted suffering so severe as to result in death or permanent damage to bodily organs.

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California Adopts Tough Pollution Rules For Ships
2008-07-25 16:29:35
California regulators adopted the world's toughest pollution rules for oceangoing vessels Thursday, vowing to improve the health of coastal residents and opening a new front in a long battle with the international shipping industry.

The rules, which take effect in 2009, would require ships within 24 nautical miles of California to burn low-sulfur diesel instead of the tar-like sludge known as bunker fuel. About 2,000 vessels would be affected, including container ships, oil tankers and cruise ships.

International negotiators have struggled for decades to reduce pollution from oceangoing vessels but have been stymied by opposition from shipping conglomerates.

Federal legislation to control vessel emissions in U.S. ports, sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both California Democrats, has been opposed by the Bush administration, which favors deferring to future international regulations.

California's new regulation will have a global effect: 43% of all marine freight imported into the United States, much of it from Asia, moves through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

California "needs to act now," said Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols. "We've known for years that a large percentage of onshore pollution comes from activities in the water. Our ports need to expand and modernize, but the adjacent communities are not willing to tolerate the health risks."
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Qantas 747 Forced To Land With Gaping Hole In Fuselage
2008-07-25 16:28:34
A hole the size of a small car in the underside of a Qantas jumbo jet carrying 346 passengers forced the pilot to make an emergency landing today after a rapid descent over the South China Sea.

The Boeing 747-400 was cruising at 29,000 feet when a loud bang rattled the plane. Video shot by a passenger shows people sitting with their oxygen masks on as the jet descended quickly to 10,000 feet. Applause erupted as the plane touched down safely.

There were no injuries, but some passengers vomited after disembarking, said Octavio Lina, Manila International Airport Authority deputy manager for operations.

An official at the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the incident was not domestic, said initial reports show it was not related to terrorism.

"From the pictures coming in from Manila it's quite evident that a section of the fuselage gave way in flight," Jane's Aviation Expert Chris Yates said in a statement. "As a consequence of this the aircraft experienced rapid decompression. Fast action from the pilot and co-pilot ensured that all those aboard remained safe."
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