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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday July 10 2008 - (813)

Thursday July 10 2008 edition
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In Britain, Warning Over Nuclear Power Sites
2008-07-10 03:59:01

The £73 billion ($146 billion) cost of decommissioning nuclear power sites in Britain could be increased "significantly", the head of an influential committee of Parliament members has warned.

Edward Leigh, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee said the cost of work over the next five years has already risen "steeply."

The committee said in a report that the Government was unable to provide a complete assurance that the cost of decommissioning new nuclear power stations would not fall back on future taxpayers. The Parliament members  recommended that before giving the go-ahead to new nuclear power stations, the Business Department should ensure that operators can meet future decommissioning costs.

The report said: "Uncertainty around costs far into the future is understandable, but uncertainty over the escalating costs of work due to be carried out imminently is difficult to justify."

Leigh said: "Decommissioning the U.K.'s first generation of civil nuclear sites and running the remaining sites still operating will cost an enormous amount of money. The latest estimate, prepared last year, puts the cost at £73 billion ($146 billion) over the coming decades.

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Iran Test Fires Missiles Capable Of Hitting Israel
2008-07-09 17:53:30
With U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf and the rhetoric between Iran and Israel growing heated, Tehran announced Wednesday that it had test-fired nine missiles, including at least one capable of striking Israel and other American interests in the Middle East.

The missiles were fired during military exercises staged by Iran's Revolutionary Guards near the strategic oil shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz. State television quoted one of Iran's top military leaders, Gen. Hossein Salami, as saying the war games in the Persian Gulf would "demonstrate our resolve and might against enemies who in recent weeks have threatened Iran with harsh language."

The launches were the latest drama in the standoff over Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran says will produce power for civilian use. The West and Israel, however, allege that Iran is intent on building a bomb.

The missiles streaked into the desert sky as U.S. and British ships were on military maneuvers in the gulf, and just days after disclosures that Israel had conducted long-range military exercises last month as a rehearsal for a possible strike on Iran.

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Funds Misappropriated At Two Non-Profit Groups
2008-07-09 17:52:55

Two prominent national non-profit groups are reeling from public disclosures that large sums of money were misappropriated in unrelated incidents by an employee and a former employee.

The groups, Acorn, one of the country’s largest community organizing groups, and the Points of Light Institute, which works to encourage civic activism and volunteering, have dealt with the problems in very different ways.

Acorn chose to treat the embezzlement of nearly $1 million eight years ago as an internal matter and did not even notify its board. After Points of Light noticed financial irregularities in early June, it took less than a month for management to alert federal prosecutors, although group officials say they have no clear idea yet what the financial impact may be.

A whistle-blower forced Acorn to disclose the embezzlement, which involved the brother of the organization’s founder, Wade Rathke.

The brother, Dale Rathke, embezzled nearly $1 million from Acorn and affiliated charitable organizations in 1999 and 2000, Acorn officials said, but a small group of executives decided to keep the information from almost all of the group’s board members and not to alert law enforcement.

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Northwest Airlines To Cut 2,500 Jobs To Save Costs
2008-07-09 17:52:08
Northwest Airlines Corp. said Wednesday it would cut its frontline and management staff by 8 percent as part of a sweeping capacity reduction aimed at offsetting the soaring cost of jet fuel.

Northwest, the latest carrier to announce job cuts, estimated the reduction and a variety of new fees would generate $250 million to $300 million annually.

The job cuts - about 2,500 in all - will affect all Northwest employee groups, the carrier said. Northwest has about 31,000 employees worldwide, according to its website.

"These reductions are the direct result of our extraordinary fuel costs and the necessary actions we must take to right-size our airline and eliminate unprofitable flying," Northwest Chief Executive Doug Steenland said in a statement.

The airline, which plans to merge with Delta Air Lines Inc., has said it would reduce its capacity systemwide by 8.5 percent to 9.5 percent in the fourth quarter.

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Seven Peacekeepers Killed In Darfur
2008-07-09 17:51:24
Seven peacekeepers were killed and 22 were wounded, seven critically, in a militia ambush on their convoy in Darfur, the largest hit on a struggling, joint United Nations-African Union force that took charge in January, officials said Wednesday.

The convoy of 50 soldiers and police was attacked Tuesday afternoon along a stretch of desert road by a group in about 40 sport-utility vehicles, and a two-to-three-hour firefight ensued, according to Sherene Zorba, a spokeswoman for the force. It was the first time the peacekeepers returned fire.

The injured were airlifted from the scene, and those most critically injured were evacuated to the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on Wednesday evening, said Zorba, adding that six peacekeepers are still missing.

The conflict in the western Sudanese region has become increasingly complex, with more than a dozen rebel factions, former government militias, tribal militias and others engaging in a scramble for trucks and weapons. Their targets are mostly humanitarian groups and the nascent peacekeeping mission, which have brought fleets of trucks and supplies to the region.

While banditry now occurs almost daily in Darfur, it has been mostly small in scale - attackers arrive in two or three armed trucks, but Tuesday's attack was an apparently well-organized assault that has shaken the peacekeepers and aid workers who had been dreading precisely this scenario.

"It's not being taken as just another attack," said one aid worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the record. "This was much bigger than anything that's happened before. People are quite worried about what will happen next."

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Prosecutor: DNA Clears JonBenet Ramsey's Family
2008-07-09 17:49:29
Prosecutors say new DNA tests have cleared JonBenet Ramsey's family in the 1996 killing of the 6-year-old beauty queen.

Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy said Wednesday the tests point to an "unexplained third party".

She says prosecutors don't consider any member of the Ramsey family to be a suspect.

JonBenet's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, were long said to be under an "umbrella of suspicion" in the girl's slaying.

Lacy apologized to the family on Wednesday, saying, "To the extent that this office has added to the distress suffered by the Ramsey family at any time or to any degree, I offer my deepest apology."

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Fast-Moving Fire Destroys 40 Homes In Northern California
2008-07-09 02:28:05
Firefighters on Tuesday continued to gain ground against the stubborn fires burning in Goleta and Big Sur, but a fast-moving fire in Northern California destroyed 40 homes.

The 38,000-acre blaze in Butte County jumped a fire line, forcing the evacuation of at least 1,000 residents in Paradise, 90 miles north of Sacramento. Officials said the greatest damage was in the rural town of Concow but that nearby communities were also threatened.

"There's just no predicting how things will go," said Wes Cochran, a spokesman for the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

By late afternoon, firefighters were working in triple-digit temperatures. Five separate, lightning-triggered blazes had joined to form the massive Camp fire. It had crossed a containment line overnight, burned homes in Concow and headed toward the Feather River, outside Paradise.

"We're hoping to make a stand at the river," said Cochran. "And we're expecting wind changes that could be favorable."
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U.S. Senate Passes Spy Bill With Telecom Immunity
2008-07-09 17:53:43

The U.S. Senate Wednesday approved a sweeping overhaul of rules governing secret government surveillance in terrorism and espionage cases, voting to tighten oversight procedures while expanding federal eavesdropping capabilities.

The measure effectively grants immunity from lawsuits to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program.

The 69-28 vote on the overall bill came after senators rejected three amendments that proponents said were aimed at bringing "accountability" to the legislation. One of the amendments would have deleted provisions that retroactively shield the telecommunications companies from lawsuits potentially worth billions of dollars.

President Bush had threatened to veto the bill if it did not protect companies such as AT&T and Verizon Communications from about 40 lawsuits alleging they violated the privacy of their customers by helping the government conduct a secret surveillance program without court warrants after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The vote on the legislation amending the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) ended a year-long battle between the White House and Congress over what the administration calls its "terrorist surveillance program," an effort it says is aimed at preventing another attack. Critics charged that the program violated FISA by ignoring the law's requirement for warrants from a secret court for surveillance involving Americans.

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G-8 Leaders Divided On Global Warming
2008-07-09 17:53:11
Calling climate change “one of the great global challenges of our time,” the world’s richest nations and emerging powers joined together Wednesday for the first time to commit themselves to pursue long-range cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions, but were split on how to achieve that goal.

The declaration grew out of an unprecedented meeting that brought together 16 nations and the European Union - a  group dubbed the “major economies” - around the issue of global warning. The 16 are the Group of 8 industrialized nations: the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Britain and Russia; the Group of 5 emerging economies: China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa; and three other major trading nations: Australia, South Korea and Indonesia.

The session, organized by President Bush, took place here on the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido, where leaders of the Group of 8 wrapped up three days of meetings on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, leaders of the Group of 8 pledged to “move toward a carbon-free society” by cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases in half by 2050, but Group of 5 poorer countries refused to sign onto that goal. They are holding out until rich nations like the United States take more aggressive steps to cut pollution over the next decade.

That fissure prevented the 16 countries from “reaching any meaningful understanding” in the special Wednesday session, said one expert, Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, but an environmental campaigner, Phillip Clapp, of the Pew Environmental Group, said the declaration helped set the stage for the next American president to grapple with climate change when the United Nations conducts negotiations on a binding treaty in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009.

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Pentagon To Re-Bid Air Tanker Contract
2008-07-09 17:52:35
The Pentagon will reopen the competition for a $35-billion contract to build aerial refueling tankers, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced Wednesday.

The decision throws into doubt plans by Century City-based Northrop Grumman Corp., which in February had won the contract along with Airbus parent EADS, to hire thousands of engineers in Southern California.

Gates said he had concluded the contract could not be awarded to Northrop based on problems in the Air Force acquisition program found by the Government Accountability Office.

Gates said the decision on the tanker would not be made by the Air Force, but now would be decided by John J. Young, Jr., the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition.

Pentagon officials have worried about significant delays in building a new tanker. A refueling aircraft, which would expand the range of fighters, bombers and cargo planes, is the Air Force's top priority.
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Six Dead In Attack On U.S. Consulate In Istanbul, Turkey
2008-07-09 17:51:35
Gunmen Wednesday attacked the U.S. consulate here in Istanbul, Turkey, sparking a gun battle that left three Turkish police officers and the three assailants dead, said authorities.

It was the most serious attack in several years on a foreign diplomatic mission in Turkey.

No consulate personnel were reported killed or injured in the shooting, which occurred at about 11 a.m. in the Istanbul suburb of Istinye. The consulate moved out of downtown Istanbul after al-Qaeda militants in 2003 attacked targets including the British consulate.

Police sealed off the area around the heavily fortified consulate complex, which is built on a hillside overlooking the Bosporus. The steep street approaching the consulate gates is lined with small apartment buildings and shops.

Officials at the scene, including Istanbul's governor, said a white car was seen dropping off the three gunmen, all appearing to be in their 20s, close to the entrance to the consulate's visa section. Turkish traffic police who happened to be nearby spotted them, and an exchange of gunfire broke out.

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Anheuser-Busch Urges Shareholders To Revoke Consent To InBev
2008-07-09 17:49:47
Brewer Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. on Wednesday urged its shareholders to withhold consent to InBev NV, which is trying to replace Anheuser's board of directors with its own slate, and to revoke any consent already given.

Anheuser, the maker of Budweiser and Michelob beers, filed a consent revocation statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, saying its board "unanimously opposes" the InBev consent solicitation, in which the Belgian-Brazilian brewer is asking Anheuser shareholders to vote to remove the current 13-member board and replace it with members chosen by InBev.

InBev's action, which is being challenged by Anheuser in a Delaware Chancery Court and a federal court in Missouri, follows its rejection of InBev's $46.3 billion takeover offer to create the world's largest brewer.

"We believe that the InBev consent proposals are solely designed to enable InBev to take control of your board in order to facilitate InBev's acquisition of Anheuser-Busch pursuant to a proposal that your board has determined is inadequate and not in the best interests of the company's stockholders," said Anheuser in its filing.

An InBev spokeswoman declined to comment.

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U.S. Dominance In Space Slips As Other Nations Explore
2008-07-09 02:28:20

China plans to conduct its first spacewalk in October. The European Space Agency (ESA) is building a roving robot to land on Mars. India recently launched a record 10 satellites into space on a single rocket.

Space, like Earth below, is globalizing, and as it does, America's long-held superiority in exploring, exploiting and commercializing "the final frontier" is slipping away, many experts believe.

Although the United States remains dominant in most space-related fields - and owns half the military satellites currently orbiting Earth - experts say the nation's superiority is diminishing, and many other nations are expanding their civilian and commercial space capabilities at a far faster pace.

"We spent many tens of billions of dollars during the Apollo era to purchase a commanding lead in space over all nations on Earth," said NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin, who said his agency's budget is down by 20 percent in inflation-adjusted terms since 1992.

"We've been living off the fruit of that purchase for 40 years and have not .. chosen to invest at a level that would preserve that commanding lead."

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