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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday July 6 2008 - (813)

Sunday July 6 2008 edition
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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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Tablet Ignites Debate On Messiah, Resurrection
2008-07-05 15:52:48
A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.

If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.

The tablet, probably found near the Dead Sea in Jordan according to some scholars who have studied it, is a rare example of a stone with ink writings from that era - in essence, a Dead Sea Scroll on stone.

It is written, not engraved, across two neat columns, similar to columns in a Torah, but the stone is broken, and some of the text is faded, meaning that much of what it says is open to debate.

Still, its authenticity has so far faced no challenge, so its role in helping to understand the roots of Christianity in the devastating political crisis faced by the Jews of the time seems likely to increase.

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Refinancing Helped Spur Mortgage Meltdown
2008-07-05 15:33:23
Vicki Miller bought her childhood home in Altoona, Pennsylvania, from her mother's estate for $32,000, using a nice, traditional mortgage from the local savings and loan.

Seven years later, her debt has more than doubled, her once-significant equity has shrunk to zero and she's behind on her payments. The lender has begun to threaten foreclosure.

"I grew up here. My son grew up here. And I had hoped my grandchildren would grow up here," Miller said woefully.

Miller said she was persuaded to refinance her mortgage twice into sub-prime loans she didn't really understand, along with taking out a second mortgage. As such, she reflects what experts say is the true face of the sub-prime mortgage debacle.

Discussion of the problem often focuses on first-time home buyers who stretched to buy homes they couldn't afford, but experts who've crunched the numbers say 90% of people who took out sub-prime loans from 1998 to 2006 were already homeowners.

Many, like Miller, had conventional, prime loans that were well within their means. What often got them into trouble was that they refinanced their mortgages without really understanding the terms and without realizing that the sales pitches and loan documents were sometimes deliberately opaque to snare the unwary.
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U.S. Elderly Face Cuts In Aid As Fuel Prices Soar
2008-07-05 02:30:29
Early last month, Jeanne Fair, 62, got her first hot meals delivered to her home South Haven, Michigan, a lake town in the sparsely populated southwestern part of the state. Then after two deliveries the meals stopped because gas prices had made the delivery too expensive.

“They called and said I was outside of the delivery area,” said Mrs. Fair, who is homebound and has not been able to use her left arm since a stroke in 1997.

Faced with soaring gasoline prices, agencies around the country that provide services to the elderly say they are having to cut back on programs like Meals on Wheels, transportation assistance and home care, especially in rural areas that depend on volunteers who provide their own gas. In a recent survey by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, more than half said they had already cut back on programs because of gas costs, and 90 percent said they expected to make cuts in the 2009 fiscal year.

“I’ve never seen the increase in need at this level,” said Robert McFalls, chief executive of the Area Agency on Aging in Palm Beach, Florida, whose office has a waiting list of 1,500 people. Volunteers who deliver meals or drive the elderly to medical appointments have cut back their miles, said McFalls.

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Critics: Accounting Plan's Use Of Foreign Rules Would Make Corruption Easier
2008-07-05 02:30:01
Federal officials say they are preparing to propose a series of regulatory changes to enhance American competitiveness overseas, attract foreign investment and give American investors a broader selection of foreign stocks.

Yet critics say the changes appear to be a last-ditch push by appointees of President Bush to dilute securities rules passed after the collapse of Enron and other large companies - measures that were meant to forestall accounting gimmicks and corrupt practices that led to those corporate failures.

Legal experts, some regulators and Democratic lawmakers are concerned that the changes would put American investors at the mercy of overseas regulators who enforce weaker rules and may treat investment losses as a low priority.

Foreign regulators are beyond the reach of Congress, which oversees American securities regulation through confirmation proceedings, enforcement hearings and approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s budget.

The commission is preparing a timetable that will permit American companies to shift to the international rules, which are set by a foreign organization and give companies greater latitude in reporting earnings. Companies that have used both domestic and overseas rules have, on average, been able to report revenues and earnings that were 6 percent to 8 percent higher under the international standards, according to accounting experts.

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Commentary: Big Oil's Iraq Deals Are The Greatest Stick-Up In History
2008-07-05 02:27:54
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Naomi Klein and appeared in the Guardian edition for Friday, July 4, 2008. Ms. Klein is the award-winning author of the international bestseller, "No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies". She writes an internationally syndicated column for The Nation magazine and the Guardian newspaper. Her articles have appeared in Harper's Magazine, The Globe and Mail, and the New York Times. In her commentary, she writes: "The country's invaders should be paying billions in reparations not using the war as a reason to pillage its richest resource." Ms. Klein's commentary follows:

Once oil passed $140 a barrel, even the most rabidly rightwing media hosts had to prove their populist credibility by devoting a portion of every show to bashing Big Oil. Some have gone so far as to invite me on for a friendly chat about an insidious new phenomenon: "disaster capitalism." It usually goes well - until it doesn't.

For instance, "independent conservative" radio host Jerry Doyle and I were having a perfectly amiable conversation about sleazy insurance companies and inept politicians when this happened: "I think I have a quick way to bring the prices down," Doyle announced. "We've invested $650bn to liberate a nation of 25 million people, shouldn't we just demand that they give us oil? There should be tankers after tankers backed up like a traffic jam getting into the Lincoln Tunnel, the stinkin' Lincoln, at rush-hour with thank-you notes from the Iraqi government ... Why don't we just take the oil? We've invested it liberating a country. I can have the problem solved of gas prices coming down in 10 days, not 10 years."

There were a couple of problems with Doyle's plan, of course. The first was that he was describing the biggest stick-up in world history. The second that he was too late. "We" are already heisting Iraq's oil, or at least are on the brink of doing so.

It started with no-bid service contracts announced for Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, BP and Total (they have yet to be signed but are still on course). Paying multinationals for their technical expertise is not unusual in itself. What is odd is that such contracts almost invariably go to oil service companies - not to the oil majors, whose work is exploring, producing and owning carbon wealth. The contracts only make sense in the context of reports that the oil majors have insisted on the right of first refusal on subsequent contracts handed out to manage and produce Iraq's oilfields. In other words, other companies will be free to bid on those future contracts, but these companies will win.
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Britain's Prime Minister: West Must Not Give Up On Aid, Global Warming
2008-07-05 02:27:09

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown Saturday warned Britain's G8 partners against a retreat into isolationism, and insisted that the looming threat to the global economy instead required a speeding up of the fight to tackle climate change and poverty.

Amid fears the credit crunch will cause the G8 to backpedal on pledges to cut carbon emissions and increase aid to poor countries by $50 billion a year, the prime minister used an interview with the Guardian ahead of the G8 summit to stress the need for united action in the west to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and boost food production in developing countries.

"The world is suffering a triple challenge: of higher fuel prices, higher food prices and a credit crunch. My message to the G8 will be that instead of sidelining climate change and the development agenda, the present economic crisis means that instead of relaxing our efforts we have got to accelerate them.

"This agenda is not just the key to the environment and reducing poverty, but the key to our economic future as well," said Brown.

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Commentary: A Familiar Face Atop McCain's Campaign
2008-07-05 02:26:14
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Guardian American editor Michael Tomasky, and appeared in the Guardian edition for Thursday, July 3, 2008.

You're running for president. Your opponent's main line of attack against you is to try to link you to a deeply unpopular incumbent. So what do you do?

You hire a man with close ties to that incumbent!

I don't know Steve Schmidt, and maybe he's the most brilliant political adviser since Rasputin. But honestly, are his ties to Dick Cheney and Karl Rove really what John McCain needs? For Cheney, Schmidt served as a spokesman - the easiest job in Washington in the past eight years, since the only thing Cheney's office ever said about anything was "no comment". As the Washington journalist Robert Dreyfuss explained here a year ago, Cheney's office wouldn't even answer basic questions about who worked in the office of the vice-president - all of them, of course, employees of the American people, whose salaries are paid by our taxes.

As for being a Rove insider, that hasn't looked like a brilliant thing to be at least since election day 2006, when the Republicans got trounced in spite of Rove's sanguine prediction to the contrary. This year, Rove has been spouting increasingly peculiar opinions, sounding less like a political analyst than a Mad Men character (conjuring Barack Obama as some Dick van Dyke-era country club rake). He has also been accused (yet again, yawn) of lying through his teeth about Valerie Plame and Joe Wilsonby Scott McClellan and he continues to waltz through life ignoring a congressional subpoena. Lovely guy.

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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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'Critical Day' For Growing Goleta, California, Wildfire - Big Sur Fire Only 5 Percent Contained
2008-07-05 15:33:32
Driven overnight by "sundowner" winds that gusted to 50 mph, the Gap fire grew to more than 8,300 acres, but by morning was 24% contained, said fire officials. The blaze destroyed four outbuildings and led to the evacuations of at least 2,663 homes. About 850 other homes remain on standby for evacuation, said fire officials.

The fire is one of more than 330 burning in the state, down from a peak of 1,783 that have ignited since June 20, many caused by lightning strikes. So far, fire officials said more than 510,000 acres from Nevada to the Pacific Ocean have burned, destroying 34 homes and 32 outbuildings.

Federal and state authorities, who have more than 20,000 firefighters and other personnel on the lines, said Saturday morning that nearly 11,000 homes are threatened.

In addition to evacuations in Santa Barbara County due to the Gap fire, some residents of Monterey and Shasta  counties remain under evacuation orders. In Butte, Kern, Mendocino and Plumas counties, as well as additional areas of Monterey County, residents have been warned that they may need to evacuate if fires there grow worse.

Near Big Sur, a stubborn fire that started June 21 remained only 5% contained this morning, said fire officials. The fire has burned nearly 69,000 acres, shutting down premier tourist destinations and portions of Highway 1. This morning, thick smoke continued to fill the air and fire officials said they are concerned that the high heat forecast for midweek could worsen conditions for a fire that has proved hard to fight in the difficult terrain.
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Closed-Door Deal Could Open Montana U.S. Forest Service Land To Subdivisions
2008-07-05 02:30:40
The Bush administration is preparing to ease the way for the nation's largest private landowner to convert hundreds of thousands of acres of mountain forestland to residential subdivisions.

The deal was struck behind closed doors between Mark E. Rey, the former timber lobbyist who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, and Plum Creek Timber Co., a former logging company turned real estate investment trust that is building homes. Plum Creek owns more than 8 million acres nationwide, including 1.2 million acres in the mountains of western Montana, where local officials were stunned and outraged at the deal.

"We have 40 years of Forest Service history that has been reversed in the last three months," said Pat O'Herren, an official in Missoula County,which is threatening to sue the Forest Service for forgoing environmental assessments and other procedures that would have given the public a voice in the matter.

The deal, which Rey said he expects to formalize next month, threatens to dramatically accelerate trends already transforming the region. Plum Creek's shift from logging to real estate reflects a broader shift in the Western economy, from one long grounded in the industrial-scale extraction of natural resources to one based on accommodating the new residents who have made the region the fastest-growing in the nation.

Environmentalists, to their surprise, found that timber and mining were easier on the countryside.

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Two Wildfires Rage Along California's Central Coast
2008-07-05 02:30:16
A pair of out-of-control wildfires roared along California's central coast Friday, chewing through opposite ends of a parched forest and threatening a total of more than 4,500 homes.

While flames from the stubborn fire in the northern flank of the Los Padres National Forest inched closer to Big Sur's historic vacation retreats, firefighters farther south braced for the return of evening winds that a day earlier caused a wildfire in Santa Barbara County to double in size and race dangerously close to hundreds of homes.

Residents of more than 1,700 homes in and around the city of Goleta were ordered to evacuate, joining an equal number of people who were told to leave Big Sur days earlier.

Driven by wind gusts as high as 40 mph, the Santa Barbara County fire was so fierce early Friday that firefighters at one point took shelter in about 70 homes they were trying to defend, said Capt. Eli Iskow of the county fire department.

"Hundreds of firefighters were in place around hundreds of structures," said Iskow. "I think we saved every one of those structures in that area."

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Director Tries To Repair CIA As Scrutiny By Congress Grows
2008-07-05 02:28:24

Soon after accepting the post of CIA director two years ago, Michael V. Hayden set an unusual goal for his scandal-beset agency: virtual invisibility.

"CIA needs to get out of the news as source or subject," he said in an internal memo to his staff in 2006.

Two years later, that goal is far from met, as Hayden has tacitly acknowledged. In a retirement ceremony last month marking the end of his military career, the Air Force general stressed the need for the agency to "stay in the shadows" while ignoring what he called the "sometimes shrill and uninformed voices of criticism."

The comment reflected the difficulties that Hayden's CIA faces in trying to turn the corner on six years of controversy at the same time that it attempts sweeping internal changes. While the agency's leadership has sought a return to normal and has launched initiatives intended to improve ties with lawmakers and foreign allies, it finds itself in the cross hairs of a Congress determined to force a reckoning over the agency's past intelligence failures and its conduct in the fight against terrorism.

In recent weeks, both the House and the Senate have intensified their scrutiny of the CIA's treatment of detainees, with Senate investigators launching new inquiries into whether agency lawyers influenced the U.S. Defense Department's decision to use harsh interrogation techniques in the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Both Congress and the U.S. Justice Department are examining whether top CIA officers broke the law in ordering the destruction of videotapes that recorded the waterboarding of al-Qaeda suspects.

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Secret Film Reveals How Mugabe Stole Zimbabwe Election
2008-07-05 02:27:30

A film that graphically shows how Robert Mugabe's supporters rigged Zimbabwe's election has been smuggled out of the country by a prison officer. It is believed to be the first footage of actual ballot-rigging and comes as Zimbabwe's president faces growing international pressure.

Shepherd Yuda, 36, fled the country this week with his wife and children. He said that he hoped the film, which was made for the Guardian, would help draw further attention to the violence and corruption in Zimbabwe.

Much of the footage was shot inside the country's notorious jail system. Yuda, who has worked in the prison service for 13 years, was motivated by the intensifying violence directed towards the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and the murder, two months ago, of his uncle, a MDC activist.

Initially he intended to chronicle secretly what life was like inside Zimbabwe's jails but he found himself present when a war veteran and Mugabe supporter organised the vote-rigging by getting prison officers to fill in their postal ballots in his presence.

Using a hidden camera, Yuda filmed for six days prior to last Friday's run-off election in which Mugabe claimed victory with 90% of the vote. Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, had earlier said his party would not be participating in the run-off because of intimidation.

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Merrill Lynch In Talks To Share Its Stake In Bloomberg
2008-07-05 02:26:28
Merrill Lynch is in negotiations to sell its 20 percent stake in Bloomberg L.P., the financial data and news company founded by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, as Merrill Lynch seeks to raise still more capital, people involved in the talks said Friday.

The discussions remained in the early stages and the talks could fall apart, these people warned.

No agreement has been reached over the valuation of Merrill’s stake, which it acquired in the mid-1980s as one of Bloomberg’s original customers. Under the terms of its shareholder agreement, Bloomberg has the right of first refusal to buy the stake, said these people.

A sale of Merrill’s stake would also give an official value to Bloomberg, which has jealously guarded information about its profitability, and to the wealth of the man who founded the company and who remains its principal owner. Bloomberg is a fixture on listings of the wealthiest people in the world, but much of his wealth is tied to his 72 percent stake in the company.

Analysts have speculated that Bloomberg, which is privately held, could be worth $20 billion or more. News reports have estimated the company’s annual operating profit at about $1.5 billion.

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Deputy London Mayor Resigns Amid Allegations Of Financial Misconduct
2008-07-05 02:25:59

When Boris Johnson unveiled his first appointment in the afterglow of his victory over Ken Livingstone, the arrival of Ray Lewis on London's political scene was widely acclaimed as a shrewd and farsighted move.

The youth worker, who advocated tough love and strict discipline for the capital's wayward teenagers, seemed the perfect foil for the Etonian desperate to improve his reputation among London's ethnic minority communities.

When Lewis resigned last night amid allegations of financial misconduct and inappropriate behavior following a Guardian investigation, the heady days of early May were a distant memory.

It was the culmination of a series of exchanges that began on Wednesday when the Guardian approached the mayor's office with a list of questions about Lewis' past.On Thursday, Johnson declared he had "every confidence" in his "tremendous deputy".

Twenty-four hours later, following a day of frantic talks between Tory central office and City Hall, Johnson changed his mind, accepting Lewis's resignation "with regret".

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