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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday July 27 2008 - (813)

Sunday July 27 2008 edition
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Rising Feed Costs Hit Poultry Giants
2008-07-26 14:59:25
Soaring corn and soybean feed costs are squeezing some of the big poultry companies that employ thousands of farmers and workers in Virginia and on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Harvest shortfalls, global demand, the recent Midwest floods and the government's mandate for ethanol production have more than doubled the price of corn and soybeans over the past two years.

This has created a boon for the farmers of those crops but is hitting the bottom lines of the livestock, poultry and fish industries, which depend on the feed to fatten their animals. Some poultry operations in Virginia and Delmarva and in other parts of the United States have cut production, a move that could push food prices higher. The cuts are also hurting contract farmers who depend on these companies for their livelihoods.

"This is probably the worst I've seen it ever," said Gary Lohr, who at 64 has been growing chickens on Valley Pike Farm in Rockingham County for nearly 50 years. "Everything across the board has gone up."

The pinch has led the meat industry to urge Congress to help lessen the demand for the crops by easing a renewable fuel standard passed by congressional Democrats and signed by President Bush late last year. The legislation mandates that 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol, or about 10 percent of motor fuel, be used by 2015.

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Commentary: Impeachment Is The Next Appropriate And Necessary Step
2008-07-26 14:58:52
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by John Nichols and appeared on The Nation's website edition for Friday, July 25, 2008.

As the House Judiciary Committee took up the question of how best to address what its chairman described as "the Imperial Presidency of George W. Bush," it was one of the ranking Republicans in the room, Iowa Congressman Steve King, who observed that, "We are here having impeachment hearings before the Judiciary Committee."

"These are impeachment hearings before the United States Congress," King continued. "I never imagined I would ever be sitting on this side when something like this happened."

King was not happy about the circumstance.

A resolute defender of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, the congressman was objecting to the very mention of the "I" word.

As it happened, impeachment was mentioned dozens of times during the hearing, often in significant detail and frequently as a necessary response to lawless actions of the president and vice president.

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Analysis: Obama's Popularity As Anti-Bush Is Telling
2008-07-26 14:57:52
Barack Obama's electoral rival is John McCain, but Obama's overseas trip this week has given heartburn to another Republican - President Bush.

In stop after stop across the Middle East and Europe, Obama was embraced as the man whose promise of change meant a change from Bush: on Iraq, Mideast peace, the treatment of terrorism suspects, climate change, alliance relations and more.

The tour has brought into focus how world leaders already are positioning themselves for a new American president.

Obama's debut appearance on the international stage was the most vivid demonstration yet that the world is moving beyond the Bush era, even while the White House works frantically in its last six months to salvage what it can of its foreign policy agenda.

The trip had to come as a jolt for administration officials, said Wayne White, a senior State Department intelligence official in Bush's first term. "I'm sure it was a bit rattling for the administration to see someone treated with such deference," he said.

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Germany's Economic Minister: 'A Recession Can't Be Ruled Out Entirely'
2008-07-26 14:57:08
Germany's economics minister wants to introduce tax breaks to put more money in consumer pockets and spur spending. The economy is cooling, say experts.

Germany Economics Minister Michael Glos wants to launch a €10 billion ($15.6 billion) spending program to help cushion the country from the effects of a slowing economy, Spiegel has learned.

"If the economic climate cools off, then we need to discuss measures this autumn that could reinforce growth," Walther Otremba, a deputy minister in the Economics Ministry told Spiegel.

The Economics Ministry is preparing a program worth at least €10 billion aimed at increasing consumer spending. The measures would include tax cuts for private households and the reintroduction of a tax break for commuters.

However, Glos - who is a member of the Christian Social Union party, the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union - faces formidable opposition to his plan from Finance Minister Peer Steinbruck, who has promised to balance the federal budget by 2011. Steinbruck has enjoyed the chancellor's support, and her spokesman told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the government had no plan to approve Glos' program. "Such considerations are not being discussed at this time," he told the paper, according to Reuters.

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Lebanese Army Rolls Into Tripoli To Tamp Down Sunni, Shiite Violence
2008-07-26 14:56:05
The Lebanese army Saturday flooded the streets of the northern city of Tripoli with troops, restoring a precarious calm after fierce sectarian fighting left nine people dead in the last two days, a military official said.

Local television showed men firing machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Hundreds of families reportedly took refuge at nearby schools. The street clashes raged between armed toughs loyal to Sunni Muslim leader Saad Hariri, backed by the West, and members of the Alawite Muslim sect close to Syria and the Iranian-backed Shiite militia Hezbollah.

"A political decision, supported by the president, was taken to stop all those who try to destabilize the security of the country," said a high-ranking army officer who requested anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the media. "Our soldiers will shoot at any source of fire."

The latest fighting erupted amid renewed political tensions between the country's U.S.-backed and Iranian-backed political camps, despite a recent agreement that prevented Lebanon from descending into large-scale civil violence in May. The rival political groups accused each other of arming their supporters and instigating clashes in Tripoli to score political gains.

The dead included a child caught in the crossfire, according to the state-run national news agency.
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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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Cleanup Of Unused Mines In U.S. Urged In Report By Inspector General
2008-07-26 14:59:12

The federal government is "putting the public's health and safety at risk" by not cleaning up safety and contamination hazards at abandoned mines on public land in the West, the Interior Department's inspector general said in a report issued Friday.

The unusually harsh report by Inspector General Earl E. Devaney, based on visits to 45 areas with abandoned mines and interviews with more than 75 employees of the Bureau of Land Management and the national Park Service,warns that "dangerous levels of environmental contaminants, such as arsenic, lead and mercury" are present on BLM lands that are readily accessible to visitors and local residents. Most of the mines are in California, Nevada and Arizona.

Twelve adults and children died in accidents at abandoned mines between 2004 and 2007, the report said, and "the potential for more deaths and injuries is ominous." In September 2007, 13-year-old Rikki Howard died and her 10-year-old sister was seriously injured when the all-terrain vehicle Rikki was driving plunged more than 120 feet to the bottom of the abandoned Brighter Days Mine near Chloride, Arizona.

The report, which calls on both BLM and the Park Service to overhaul their programs for securing abandoned mines, also suggested that BLM supervisors have tried to cover up the problem. "One employee stated that adding sites to the inventory list and declaring them unsafe was more detrimental to BLM because doing so acknowledged a hazard and a potential liability," said the report.

BLM Director James L. Caswell responded in a July 2 letter to Devaney, challenging the report's assertion that the agency's mine program "has been undermined, neglected and marginalized." Caswell wrote that "I do not believe this finding to be true, or to be substantiated by the report."

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Commentary: Let Them Eat Free Markets
2008-07-26 14:58:33
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by David Moberg, a senior editor of "In These Times" magazine, and appeared on's website edition for Wednesday, July 23, 2008. Dr. Moberg's commentary follows:

How deregulation fuels the global food crisis.

In April, crowds of angry Haitians - reduced to eating mud cakes to staunch hunger - erupted in deadly protests against high food prices, forcing the prime minister to resign. The price of rice, a staple of the Haitian diet, had risen 16 percent on the world market last year, then shot up 141 percent from January to April.

Around the world, similar riots - or fears of them - have pushed governments to restrict exports, reduce tariffs, attack hoarding and take other desperate measures as prices of virtually all major food commodities have spiked - and often fluctuated wildly.

But in the months since Haitians hit the streets, leaders of the major international financial organizations - the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO) - as well as the Bush administration and European Union (EU) have responded weakly to the crisis. Mainly, they've issued underfunded appeals for emergency aid and for speedy conclusion of the latest round of WTO free-trade negotiations. For the world's poor, that's like lifting a drowning man out of the water, only to tie weights around his ankles and shove him back in.

When world leaders met in June for a U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization summit, says Steve Suppan, senior policy analyst for the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a research and advocacy group, "there was an urgent recognition of the food crisis but a more urgent sense of the need to salvage neoliberalism."

And Raj Patel, author of the recent book, "Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World's Food System", adds, "It's preposterous that the Bush administration and E.U. are pushing us toward precisely the policies that got us into this mess."

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Housing Bill Clears Senate, Heads To Bush For Signature
2008-07-26 14:57:29
Congress passed the most significant housing legislation in decades Sunday, offering help to struggling homeowners and seeking to stabilize a troubled housing market that has dragged down the economy.

President Bush will sign it quickly, the White House said, despite reservations over $3.9 billion in the bill that would aid neighborhoods devastated by the housing crisis buy and fix up foreclosed properties.

The bill, approved 72-13 in a rare weekend session in the Senate, would give the government power to throw a financial lifeline to the ailing mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They back or own $5 trillion in mortgages, or nearly half the nation's total. The rescue plan is intended to prevent the two pillars of the home loan market from failing and causing broader market turmoil, while strengthening oversight of their operations.

An estimated 400,000 homeowners would escape foreclosure by getting the chance to refinance into more affordable loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration. There would be higher limits on loans that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can buy and the FHA can insure. The loans would be capped at $625,000.

The Senate on Friday removed the last hurdle to passage on a 80-13 test vote that showed broad support for the election-year help. The House passed the bill Wednesday.
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15 Dead, 100 Wounded As Blasts Hit Western India
2008-07-26 14:56:42
At least 15 people were killed and another 100 wounded when a series of small explosions hit the western Indian city of Ahmadabad on Saturday, a day after seven similar blasts struck a southern city.

Nitin Patel, the urban development minister of Gujarat state where Ahmadabad is located, confirmed the casualties and said the blasts went off in several neighborhoods on Saturday evening.

Federal Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta told reporters that reports so far indicated there were 13 or 14 blasts. He did not comment on their intensity but Indian media said the explosions appeared to be caused by small bombs.

Most of the explosions went off in the crowded areas of the older part of the congested city.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either set of bombings, and it was not clear if they were connected.

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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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