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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday July 31 2008 - (813)

Thursday July 31 2008 edition
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Republicans Giving Money They Got From Stevens To Charity
2008-07-31 01:35:45
Republican senators facing reelection challenges sought to insulate themselves from indicted Sen. Ted Stevens Wednesday by promising to donate to charity tens of thousands of dollars they received from the veteran Alaska lawmaker's political action committee (PAC).

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the Republican Conference, led the way, with each disclosing that he'd relinquish $10,000 in campaign donations from Stevens' Northern Lights PAC.

Minnesota freshman Sen. Norm Coleman, who's fighting to win reelection against comedian-turned-politician Al Franken, decided to give away $20,000 that his campaign and his own leadership PAC got from Stevens' PAC.

The Republican senators acted a day after Stevens was indicted on charges of lying to conceal more than $250,000 in gifts from VECO Corp., a former Alaska oil services company at the center of a public corruption scandal that already has netted seven criminal convictions.

North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole acted quickly on Tuesday, announcing that she'd give $10,000 from Stevens' PAC to a campaign to fight hunger, as did Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts.

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Trade Collapse A Blow For Tackling Global Warming
2008-07-31 01:35:21
Prospects for global co-operation to tackle climate change weakened Wednesday as the collapse of trade liberalization talks cast doubt on the international community's capacity to act in concert for a common good.

A downbeat Kevin Rudd, Australia's Prime Minister - who had personally stayed up to 2 a.m. calling world leaders - was Wednesday "deeply, deeply disappointed" that World Trade Organization talks, which would have reduced barriers to international trade, had been abandoned in the Swiss city of Geneva.

The Prime Minister suggested the failure of the talks augured poorly for the completion of international negotiations aimed at crafting a global agreement for carbon emissions reductions to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2012.

The climate talks, due to be finalized at a U.N. meeting late next year in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, are seen as crucial to creating a global approach to climate change by creating co-operation between developed and developing nations.

Rudd said the climate talks, which hope to include the big emitters who spurned the Kyoto pact, such as the U.S. and China, would be extremely difficult. The finalization of the talks is important to Rudd, whose proposal to begin an emissions trading scheme in 2010 will be attacked as meaningless without commitments by big carbon emitters.

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IOC Press Chief Says News Media Not Told Of Censorship Plan
2008-07-31 01:33:52
The international media should have been told they would not have completely free access to the internet before they arrived to report the Beijing Olympics, IOC press chief Kevan Gosper told Reuters on Thursday.

As the row over censorship continued to rumble, Gosper said that both he and the international media had been taken by surprise that some sensitive websites had been blocked despite many assurances from Beijing organizers that they would be able to work normally during the Games, which start on August 8.

Gosper said: "It's clear that I have been providing, on behalf of the IOC, incomplete information."

Gosper said he had never been told that some IOC officials had held discussions with local organizers BOCOG that some websites not directly connected to the Games could be blocked.

"Had I and the international media been informed earlier of this understanding that certain websites would be inaccessible, we would not now find ourselves in the position where they, as well as myself, have been taken by surprise," he said.

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U.S. House Judiciary Committee Cites Karl Rove For Contempt
2008-07-30 16:54:08
A House panel Wednesday voted to cite former top White House aide Karl Rove for contempt of Congress as its Senate counterpart explored punishment for alleged Bush administration misdeeds.

Voting 20-14 along party lines, the House Judiciary Committee said that Rove had broken the law by failing to appear at a July 10 hearing on allegations of White House influence over the Justice Department, including whether Rove encouraged prosecutions against Democrats such as former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.

The committee decision is only a recommendation, and a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said she would not decide until September whether to bring it to a final vote.

With little more than three months before Election Day, it wasn't clear whether majority Democrats could take any substantial action in a political environment in which time for the current Congress is running short and lawmakers face a host of daunting legislative problems and a cluttered calendar.

The House committee vote occurred as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee delved into allegations of wrongdoing ranging from discriminating against liberals at Justice to ignoring subpoenas and lying to Congress.

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Tech Blog: Exploit Prods Software Firms To Update Their Updates
2008-07-30 16:53:45
Intellpuke: This blog was written by Washington Post staff writer Brian Krebs, writing in his "Security Fix" column.

A security researcher has released a set of tools that make it simple for attackers to exploit weaknesses in the auto-update feature of many popular software titles.

By targeting widely deployed programs such as Jaba, OpenOffice, Winamp and Winzip, that don't use a digital signature on their product updates, attackers can impersonate those companies and trick users into believing they are updating their software, when in reality the users may be uploading a package designed to compromise the security of their computer.

Software companies should include these signatures in all of their updates, so that a user's computer can validate that the update was indeed sent by the vendor. For example, Microsoft signs all of its updates with an encryption key that only it knows, and Windows machines are configured to ignore any incoming software update alerts that are not signed with that key.

For whatever reason, Java, Winamp, Winzip (and no doubt dozens of other software titles with auto-update capabilities who haven't been named yet) have chosen not to sign their updates.

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Editorial: Low-Road Express
2008-07-30 16:53:20
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Wednesday, July 30, 2008.

Well, that certainly didn’t take long. On July 3, news reports said Senator John McCain, worried that he might lose the election before it truly started, opened his doors to disciples of Karl Rove from the 2004 campaign and the Bush White House. Less than a month later, the results are on full display. The candidate who started out talking about high-minded, civil debate has wholeheartedly adopted Mr. Rove’s low-minded and uncivil playbook.

In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has been waving the flag of fear (Senator Barack Obama wants to “lose” in Iraq), and issuing attacks that are sophomoric (suggesting that Mr. Obama is a socialist) and false (the presumptive Democratic nominee turned his back on wounded soldiers).

Mr. McCain used to pride himself on being above this ugly brand of politics, which killed his own 2000 presidential bid. But he clearly tossed his inhibitions aside earlier this month when he put day-to-day management of his campaign in the hands of one acolyte of Mr. Rove and gave top positions to two others. The resumes of the new team’s members included stints in Mr. Bush’s White House and in his 2004 re-election campaign, one of the most negative and divisive in memory.

Almost immediately, the McCain campaign was using Mr. Rove’s well-honed tactics, starting with an attempt to widen this nation’s damaging ideological divide by painting Mr. Obama as a far-left kook. On July 18, Mr. McCain even suggested that Mr. Obama is a socialist to the left of the Senate’s only avowed socialist: Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

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U.N.: Millions Of North Koreans Going Hungry
2008-07-30 16:52:43
With shriveled harvests and a cutback in imports, North Korea has slipped back into a serious food shortage that is causing millions of people to go hungry, the United Nations announced Wednesday.

The main U.N. aid agency in North Korea, the World Food Program, will resume emergency operations there in the next two weeks to help feed more than 5 million people over the next 15 months at a cost of $500 million, said Jean-Pierre de Margerie, the agency's country director in Pyongyang.

"The situation is, indeed, very serious," de Margerie said at a news conference in Beijing.

The resumption of emergency operations, which were scaled back in 2005 on a request from the North Korean government, was decided after a U.N. survey last month showed the most severe and widespread hunger among North Koreans in a decade. The survey was taken after the Pyongyang government, in an unusual gesture, officially acknowledged a growing hunger crisis and appealed for international aid.

Ending North Korea's isolation from its neighbors and encouraging it to cooperate with international organizations have been major goals of the ongoing six-party negotiations aimed at dismantling the country's nuclear weapons program. In return for destroying its nuclear research installations and weaponry, North Korea has been promised large amounts of economic aid and better relations with the United States and its Asian neighbors.

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Clashes Escalate In Third Day Of Pakistan Violence
2008-07-30 16:52:08
Violent clashes between extremist insurgents and Pakistani troops escalated Wednesday in the country's fractious northwest as Taliban leaders threatened to withdraw their support for peace deals brokered earlier this year with Pakistan's new government.

Accounts of casualties from the skirmishes in Pakistan's Swat Valley, near the Afghan border, varied widely, and could not be independently verified. A local military spokesman said five Pakistani soldiers and at least 38 militants were killed, but a spokesman for the pro-Taliban group disputed that tally, saying that only three of its fighters had been slain.

It was the third consecutive day of violence between pro-Taliban extremists and government troops in the formerly serene Swat Valley. After skirmishes erupted near the town of Matta, Pakistani security forces began enforcing a 24-hour curfew on the area, said a military spokesman.

At least 70 insurgents from the group - known as Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi, or the Movement for Enforcement of Islamic Law - attacked a security post near the Ucharai Sar area of Matta district Wednesday morning, according to a statement issued by the Pakistani military. Troops backed by helicopter gunships repelled the attack, which occurred about 12 miles from the once-popular resort town of Mingora. The bodies of about 20 insurgents were left behind after the skirmish ended, said the military spokesman.

Nearby, about 50 to 60 insurgents tried to overtake the Matta market, threatening to close shops and harm residents, according to Pakistani military officials. The pro-Taliban fighters retreated after military reinforcements arrived at the police station.

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European Union Points At U.S. For WTO Trade Talks Collapse
2008-07-30 16:51:20
The European Union's trade chief Peter Mandelson said on Wednesday the United States helped to bring down global trade talks this week when its negotiators shunned a compromise proposal at a key juncture in the talks.

The United States hit back and accused the E.U. of having tried to undo a carefully crafted set of compromises because it was under fire from European governments including France.

The proposal in question was drawn up by the E.U. on Tuesday in a last-gasp bid to unblock an impasse over an agricultural trade issue being discussed by seven powers at the center of the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks. 

Mandelson initially declined to point fingers, calling the collapse of the talks a collective failure, but his frustration at Washington was clear in a weblog he wrote on Wednesday, describing the events of the previous day when the talks failed.

"...when WTO chief (Pascal) Lamy reconvenes the Group of Seven negotiators at midday, the Indians and the Chinese express reservations and the U.S. rejects the proposal outright, much to Lamy's understandable frustration," said  Mandelson.

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Bush Signs Housing Relief Bill
2008-07-30 16:50:36

President Bush this morning signed into law the most sweeping housing legislation in decades, aimed at calming rocky financial markets and giving mortgage relief to up to 400,000 homeowners.

In an unannounced White House ceremony attended by senior administration aides shortly after 7 a.m., Bush gave his imprimatur to a law he had long vowed to veto because of objections to some aspects of the legislation.

"We look forward to put in place new authorities to improve confidence and stability in markets" and to provide tougher oversight of teetering mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.

"The Federal Housing Administration will begin to implement new policies intended to keep more deserving American families in their homes," he added.

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International Olympic Committee Admits Internet Censorship Deal With China
2008-07-30 13:34:48
Some International Olympic Committee officials cut a deal to let China block sensitive websites despite promises of unrestricted access, a senior IOC official admitted on Wednesday.

Persistent pollution fears and China's concerns about security in Tibet also remained problems for organizers nine days before the Games begin.

China had committed to providing media with the same freedom to report on the Games as they enjoyed at previous Olympics, but journalists have this week complained of finding access to sites deemed sensitive to its communist leadership blocked.

"I regret that it now appears BOCOG has announced that there will be limitations on website access during Games time," IOC press chief Kevan Gosper said, referring to Beijing's Olympic organizers.

"I also now understand that some IOC officials negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered Games related," he said.

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'Dead Zone' In The Gulf Of Mexico Is Near Record Size
2008-07-31 01:35:32

The "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico, an area on the seabed with too little oxygen to support fish, shrimp, crabs and other forms of marine life, is nearly the largest on record this year, about 8,000 square miles, researchers said this week.

Only the churning effects of Hurricane Dolly last week, they said, prevented the dead zone from being the largest ever.

The problem of hypoxia - very low levels of dissolved oxygen - is a downstream effect of fertilizers used for agriculture in the Mississippi River watershed. Nitrogen is the major culprit, flowing into the Gulf and spurring the growth of algae. Animals called zooplankton eat the algae, excreting pellets that sink to the bottom like tiny stones. This organic matter decays in a process that depletes the water of oxygen.

Researchers expected the dead zone to set a record - even more than the 8,500 square miles observed in 2002 - after the Mississippi, swollen with floodwaters, carried an extraordinary amount of nitrates into the Gulf, about 37 percent more than last year and the most since measuring these factors was begun in 1970.

The researchers set out July 20 aboard the Pelican, a 115-foot academic research vessel, and braved 12-foot waves and 35-mph winds from the outer bands of Dolly to take samples. The hypoxia began to appear about halfway to the bottom in waters ranging from 10 to 130 feet deep, said Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, which conducted the study. Some water samples from the bottom of the water column showed no oxygen at all, and instead bore the signature odor of hydrogen sulfide emerging from underlying sediments.

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Canada's Defense Minister: Not In Afghanistan To Guard Pipelines
2008-07-31 01:34:53
Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay insisted Wednesday that Canadian troops are not in Afghanistan to guard a new natural gas pipeline being built through the southern part of the country.

MacKay told a Halifax radio talk show that Canada has to let Afghanistan map its own future.

He said fears that Canadian troops may end up paying a hefty price to protect the U.S.-backed project from insurgents are unfounded.

“We have to decide what role, if any, we'll play,” said MacKay. “We are not there specifically to protect a pipeline across Afghanistan.”

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Arthur C. Clarke's Last Vision
2008-07-31 01:33:36
Arthur C. Clarke's health was failing fast, but he still had a story to tell. So he turned to fellow science fiction writer Frederik Pohl, and together the longtime friends wrote what turned out to be Clarke's last novel.

"The Last Theorem," which grew from 100 pages of notes scribbled by Clarke, is more than a futuristic tale about a mathematician who discovers a proof to a centuries-old mathematical puzzle.

The novel, due in bookstores August 5, represents a historic collaboration between two of the genre's most influential writers in the twilight of their careers. Clarke, best known for his 1968 work, "2001: A Space Odyssey," died in March at age 90; Pohl is 89.

"As much as anything, it'll be a historic artifact," says Robin Wayne Bailey, a former president of Science Fiction Writers of America and a writer. "This is a book between two of the last remaining giants in the field."

Clarke originally intended "The Last Theorem" to be his last solo project, and he began writing it in 2002.

Progress was slow because of his poor health, and he missed the book's original 2005 publication deadline. Worried the book wouldn't be published at all, he began to search for a co-author.

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For Republicans, Stevens Indictment Is Latest In String Of Indictments
2008-07-30 16:53:58
Ted Stevens' indictment Tuesday could not have occurred at a more politically inopportune time for the senator from Alaska or for his fellow Republicans.

In less than a month, on Aug. 26, he has a primary contest against five opponents, including a wealthy businessman who is attacking the incumbent's ethics in television ads. Should he survive, the six-term senator probably will face his stiffest general-election challenge yet, from Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, who was leading in polls before the indictment.

Although a spokesman said yesterday that the senator's reelection campaign "is continuing to move full steam ahead," some Republican strategists in Washington expressed concern that his legal troubles - and resulting political vulnerability - could move the Democrats closer to achieving a 60-seat majority in the Senate.

"We've had nothing but challenges all the way through, so what else is new?" said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), who was tapped earlier this year as a lead fundraiser for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. 

Republicans entered this election at a numerical disadvantage - 23 seats to defend, compared with 12 for Democrats - and have caught almost no breaks. Five Republican senators opted to retire and one resigned office last December, including incumbents in Virginia and New Mexico, where Democrats are strongly favored in the fall. Senate Republicans have fallen far behind their Democratic counterparts in fundraising.

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McCain Charge Against Obama Lacks Evidence
2008-07-30 16:53:32
For four days, Sen. John McCain and his allies have accused Sen. Barack Obama of snubbing wounded soldiers by canceling a visit to a military hospital because he could not take reporters with him, despite no evidence that the charge is true.

The attacks are part of a newly aggressive McCain operation whose aim is to portray the Democratic presidential candidate as a craven politician more interested in his image than in ailing soldiers, said a senior McCain adviser. They come despite repeated pledges by the Republican that he will never question his rival's patriotism.

The essence of McCain's allegation is that Obama planned to take a media entourage, including television cameras, to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany during his week-long foreign trip, and that he canceled the visit when he learned he could not do so. "I know that, according to reports, that he wanted to bring media people and cameras and his campaign staffers," McCain said Monday night on CNN's "Larry King Live."

The Obama campaign has denied that was the reason he called off the visit. In fact, there is no evidence that he planned to take anyone to the American hospital other than a military adviser, whose status as a campaign staff member sparked last-minute concern among Pentagon officials that the visit would be an improper political event.

"Absolutely, unequivocally wrong," Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said in an e-mail after McCain's comments to Larry King.

Despite serious and repeated queries about the charge over several days, McCain and his allies continued Tuesday to question Obama's patriotism by focusing attention on the canceled hospital visit.

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Israeli Prime Minister Olmert To Resign In September
2008-07-30 16:53:03
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Wednesday he will resign in September, throwing his country into political turmoil and raising doubts about progress for U.S.-backed Mideast peace efforts.

Olmert's brief address, given at his official Jerusalem residence, included harsh criticism of corruption investigations against him. He said he was choosing the public good over his personal justice. He has consistently denied wrongdoing but pledged to resign if indicted.

Appearing angry and reading from a prepared text, Olmert said, "I was forced to defend myself against relentless attacks from self-appointed 'fighters for justice' who sought to depose me from my position, when the ends sanctified all the means."

Olmert, whose term was to end in 2010, said he would not run in his party's primary election, set for Sept. 17, and would step down afterward "in order to allow the chairman to be elected and form a different government quickly and efficiently." He did not answer questions from reporters.

Olmert's popularity dropped below 20 percent at one point after his bloody but inconclusive war in Lebanon in 2006, and a string of corruption allegations and police interrogations have battered him in recent months. Political analysts here have predicted his resignation for weeks.

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CIA Outlines Pakistan Links With Militants
2008-07-30 16:52:21
A top Central Intelligence Agency official traveled secretly to Islamabad this month to confront Pakistan's most senior officials with new information about ties between the country’s powerful spy service and militants operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas, according to American military and intelligence officials.

The C.I.A. emissary presented evidence showing that members of the spy service had deepened their ties with some militant groups that were responsible for a surge of violence in Afghanistan, possibly including the suicide bombing this month of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, said the officials.

The decision to confront Pakistan with what the officials described as a new C.I.A. assessment of the spy service’s activities seemed to be the bluntest American warning to Pakistan since shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks about the ties between the spy service and Islamic militants.

The C.I.A. assessment specifically points to links between members of the spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence,or ISI, and the militant network led by Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, which American officials believe maintains close ties to senior figures of al-Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The C.I.A. has depended heavily on the ISI for information about militants in Pakistan, despite longstanding concerns about divided loyalties within the Pakistani spy service, which had close relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan before the Sept. 11 attacks.

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China Shifted On Food In Trade Talks
2008-07-30 16:51:51
China and India have seldom shared the same views on free trade in recent years, but they ended up on the same side at the collapse of world trade talks in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday because China made an abrupt about-face.

Growing worries in China about food security now appear to have overridden the country’s previous commitment to free trade - a commitment that has served it well until now as China’s exports have skyrocketed in recent years, giving it the world’s second-largest trade surplus after Germany’s.

Since joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in November 2001, China has been a strong and outspoken defender of free-trade principles. It has been especially critical of the United States, for example, for invoking so-called “safeguard” rules to prevent an increase of Chinese textile imports that threatened to put American manufacturers out of business.

This week, China allied itself with Indian negotiators in insisting on safeguard rules for agriculture. China and India insisted that developing countries be allowed to impose prohibitively high tariffs on food imports from affluent countries to halt increases in imports that might put farmers in poor countries out of business.

The United States and other food exporters refused to accept the Chinese and Indian position on food safeguards, and talks broke down.

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Workings Of Ancient 'Computer' Deciphered
2008-07-30 16:51:02
After a closer examination of the Antikythera Mechanism, a surviving marvel of ancient Greek technology, scientists have found that the device not only predicted solar eclipses but also organized the calendar in the four-year cycles of the Olympiad, forerunner of the modern Olympic Games.

The new findings, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, also suggested that the mechanism’s concept originated in the colonies of Corinth, possibly Syracuse, in Sicily. The scientists said this implied a likely connection with the great Archimedes.

Archimedes, who lived in Syracuse and died in 212 B.C., invented a planetarium calculating motions of the Moon and the known planets and wrote a lost manuscript on astronomical mechanisms. Some evidence had previously linked the complex device of gears and dials to the island of Rhodes and the astronomer Hipparchos, who had made a study of irregularities in the Moon’s orbital course.

The Antikythera Mechanism, sometimes called the first analog computer, was recovered more than a century ago in the wreckage of a ship that sank off the tiny island of Antikythera, north of Crete. Earlier research showed that the device was probably built between 140 and 100 B.C.

Only now, applying high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography, have experts been able to decipher inscriptions and reconstruct functions of the bronze gears on the mechanism. The latest research has revealed details of dials on the instrument’s back side, including the names of all 12 months of an ancient calendar.

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Riverside County Sheriff Calls For Closure Of Tribe's Casino
2008-07-30 16:50:20
Riverside County, California, Sheriff Stanley Sniff on Tuesday called on federal authorities to shut down the Soboba Casino, saying that the tribal council had ordered security officers to block or delay his deputies from entering the troubled reservation, where five members have been shot to death during confrontations with his department.

Sniff told the Riverside County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that he sent a letter to the National Indian Gaming Commission on Monday, asking authorities to suspend the casino's operating license.

He added that tribal leaders and security officers could face arrest if they interfere with law enforcement on the reservation.

"The tribal council has directed tribal officers to block officers coming onto the reservation," Sniff told the supervisors. "This is a violation of the law. Allowing an isolated pocket of lawlessness to exist is simply not an option. The residents deserve better than this."

The announcement comes two weeks after Sniff and Soboba Tribal Chairman Robert Salgado signed an agreement designed to ease tensions on the San Jacinto-area reservation.

Salgado denied blocking any deputies.

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