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Friday, August 15, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday August 15 2008 - (813)

Friday August 15 2008 edition
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U.S. Rules Out Military Role In Georgia
2008-08-15 03:50:41

Washington last night ruled out using military force in Georgia after putting the Pentagon in charge of the delivery of aid to the invaded Black Sea state and U.S. non-combat troops on the ground. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he saw no prospect of the U.S. engaging militarily in the Caucasus conflict, but warned that Russia's invasion of Georgia could set back its relations with the west for years.

He added that Washington wanted to avoid a return to cold war-style confrontation with Moscow.

The east-west climate, already chilly because of the Georgia conflict, plunged further last night when Washington and Warsaw put aside a year of dispute and agreed to station 10 interceptor rockets at missile silos in Poland as part of the US missile defence shield in the Baltic region.

As part of the deal, the Americans will reportedly supply Poland with Patriot missiles, build a permanent U.S. military base in the country, and provide mutual security guarantees.

The deal will enrage Moscow, which is vehemently opposed to the U.S facilities in Poland and a radar station in the neighboring Czech Republic.

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Eurozone Teeters On Brink Of Recession
2008-08-15 03:50:23

Europe's single currency zone suffered its first period of falling output during the spring as its three largest economies - Germany, France and Italy - shrank, according to figures released Thursday.

Eurostat, the European Union's statistics office, said gross domestic product in the 15 countries comprising the eurozone contracted by 0.2% in the second quarter of 2008, the first time growth has been negative since the launch of the euro in 1995.

A combination of spiraling commodity prices and the credit crunch meant Germany, Europe's biggest economy, contracted by 0.5% between April and June. GDP in France and Italy fell 0.1%, while a collapsing housing market meant Spain expanded by only 0.1%. The deteriorating state of the Spanish economy prompted an emergency meeting of the cabinet to approve a €7.8 billion (£6.24 billion or $12.48 billion) package of fiscal measures to boost growth.

After the meeting, Spain's prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, said: "The situation we face is a situation of stagnation and steep slowdown."

Germany's deputy economy minister, Walther Otremba, said he could not rule out the possibility that the economy would weaken again in the third quarter, thereby fulfilling one of the definitions of recession, but the country's central bank was relatively upbeat about Germany's prospects. "The German economy has got to get through a rough patch for growth in the coming months," it said. "But, overall, there's no reason for excessive pessimism based on the development of the first half of the year."

The eurozone's annual growth rate slipped from 2.1% in the first quarter to 1.5% in the second, with government officials and financial markets expecting a further slowdown in the third quarter after gloomy data for business and falling consumer confidence across the continent.

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U.S. Inflation Nearly Doubles Analysts' Expectations
2008-08-14 16:15:22
Consumer prices took another sharp jump last month with high energy prices fueling a 0.8% monthly increase - nearly double analysts' predictions - and chalked up a 12-month inflation rate of 5.6%, the highest since 1991, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Optimists pointed out that the July numbers were based on data collected in the first three weeks of the month, reducing the effect of declining oil and gas prices toward the end of last month.

"Energy prices do seem to be coming down a bit. So I'm hopeful that going forward we won't see as much of an increase," said UCLA economist Lee Ohanian. "That decline will translate into lower gasoline prices and lower prices across the board."

Pessimists noted that the core inflation rate - which excludes prices for fuel and food - still rose 0.3% for the month and that those increases were seen in many different sectors of the economy.

Ken Beauchemin, U.S. economist at Global Insight, an economic forecasting firm in Lexington, Mass., said that a broad-based increase in inflation would increase pressure on the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates despite the ongoing economic slowdown.

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Russians: Separatist Enclaves Will Not Revert To Georgia
2008-08-14 16:13:56
Russian officials said Thursday that the Georgian government will not regain control over two breakaway provinces that are at the center of a week-long military conflict, as the Kremlin issued an uncompromising response to U.S. and Western threats over its military incursion deep into the territory of its tiny neighbor.

Russian troops remained in control of the key Georgian city of Gori on Thursday, although a top U.S. military official said in Washington that the invading force appeared to be preparing for a withdrawal, consistent with the terms of a cease-fire signed on Tuesday.

Amid reports of scattered explosions and the continued destruction of Georgian military assets by Russian troops, Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman James Cartwright said at a Pentagon briefing that Russian forces appeared to be "consolidating" in apparent preparation for a pullback. The cease-fire calls for troops to return to positions held before fighting broke out last week and a large Russian force rolled into the disputed provinces of South Ossetia and Azbhakia.

"We see them generally complying and moving back to a position where they can make their exit," said Cartwright.  Russian air activity over Georgia, he said, had all but ceased.

The situation on the ground, however, remained in flux.

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Musharraf Expected To Resign Pakistan Presidency In Next Few Days
2008-08-14 16:13:25
Faced with desertions by his political supporters and the neutrality of the Pakistani military, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, an important ally of the United States, is expected to resign in the next few days rather than face impeachment charges, Pakistani politicians and Western diplomats said Thursday.

His departure from office would be likely to unleash new instability in the country as the two main parties in the civilian government jockeyed for the division of power.

The details of how Musharraf would exit, and whether he would be able to stay in Pakistan - apparently his strong preference - or would seek residency abroad were now under discussion, said the politicians.

Musharraf was expected to resign before the governing coalition presented charges for impeachment to the Parliament early next week, said Nisar Ali Khan, a senior official in the Pakistani Muslim League-N, the minority partner in the coalition government.

Similarly, Sheikh Mansoor Ahmed, a senior official of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the major party in the coalition, said Thursday that the president would probably leave in the “next 72 hours.”

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Largest Known Stone Age Graveyard Found In Sahara Desert
2008-08-14 16:05:41
When Paul C. Sereno went hunting dinosaur bones in the Sahara, his career took a sharp turn from paleontology to archaeology. The expedition found what has proved to be the largest known graveyard of Stone Age people who lived there when the region was green.

The first traces of pottery, stone tools and human skeletons were discovered eight years ago at a site in the southern Sahara, in Niger. After preliminary research, Dr. Sereno, a University of Chicago scientist who had previously uncovered remains of the dinosaur Nigersaurus there, organized an international team of archaeologists to investigate what had been a lakeside hunting and fishing settlement for the better part of 5,000 years, originating some 10,000 years ago.

In its first comprehensive report, published Thursday, the team described finding some 200 graves belonging to two successive populations. Some burials were accompanied by pottery and ivory ornaments. A girl was buried wearing a bracelet carved from a hippo tusk. A man was interred seated on the carapace of a turtle.

The most poignant scene was the triple burial of a petite woman lying on her side, facing two young children. The slender arms of the children reached out to the woman in an everlasting embrace. Pollen indicated that flowers had decorated the grave.

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U.S., Poland Agree To Missile Defense Deal
2008-08-14 16:04:10
Poland and the United States reached an agreement Thursday that will see a battery of American missiles established inside Poland, a plan that has infuriated Russia and raised the specter of an escalation of tension with the region's communist-era master.

The deal, which was to be signed later Thursday in Warsaw by Poland and the United States, includes what Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk called a ''mutual commitment'' between the two nations - beyond that of NATO - to come to each other's assistance in case of danger.

That was an obvious reference to the force and ferocity with which Russia rolled into Georgia in recent days, taking the key city of Gori and apparently burning and destroying Georgian military outposts and airfields.

Tusk said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would be too slow in coming to Poland's defense if Poland were threatened and that the bloc would take ''days, weeks to start that machinery.''

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U.S. Has Few Options After Warning To Moscow
2008-08-14 03:37:01

The Bush administration mixed strong rhetoric with modest action Wednesday in response to Russia's continued military incursion in Georgia, warning that Moscow's international aspirations are threatened if it does not honor a negotiated cease-fire in the conflict.

President Bush announced the start of a humanitarian aid program for Georgia using U.S. military airplanes and ships, although officials said the effort so far includes only two scheduled flights. One shipment arrived later Wednesday and another is to land Thursday. He also dispatched Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for a diplomatic trip that will take her to Paris and then to Georgia's capital of Tbilisi to show "America's unwavering support."

"The United States stands with the democratically elected government of Georgia," Bush said during an appearance at the White House. "We insist that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected."

Yet Bush's statement, along with the moderate measures that came with it, served to underscore the limited options available to the United States, which has neither the wherewithal nor the willingness to enter into a military conflict with Russia on its territorial border.

The administration has proposed relatively little in the way of concrete consequences for Moscow if it does not comply with U.S. demands, focusing instead on Russia's standing in the world and its perceived desire to be accepted as a major player in international organizations. "Russia is putting its aspirations at risk by taking actions in Georgia that are inconsistent with the principles of those institutions," said Bush.

The remarks came amid reports from local officials and eyewitnesses that Russian troops and armor had moved deeper into Georgian territory Wednesday in apparent violation of a new cease-fire agreement. Russian officials said the movement of troops was aimed only at "demilitarizing" areas near the border with South Ossetia, the breakaway pro-Russia province at the heart of the conflict.

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The Depleted Uranium Threat
2008-08-14 03:36:39
"The DoD, the nation's biggest polluter, is now cleaning up 29,500 currently or formerly contaminated sites in every state and territory. California alone has 3,912 contaminated sites on 441 current and former DoD installations. Many of DoD's facilities have already contaminated groundwater sources of drinking water.... The cost to clean up toxic munitions contamination and unexploded ordnance at active and former military installations around the country may reach $200 billion." - The National Resources Defense Council, April 21, 2004.

"The Defense Department is refusing to comply with orders or sign contracts to clean up 11 hazardous waste sites, including one in Hawaii, and has asked the White House and Justice Department to intervene on its behalf." - The Associated Press, July 1, 2008

While attempting to act as the planet's nuclear watchdogs, the United States and Great Britain have become two of the world's largest, cancer-causing radiated dust and rusty depleted uranium projectile polluters.

Using tanks and planes, the U.S. and British military have fired hundreds of tons of radioactive depleted uranium munitions (DU) while fighting the first Gulf War, the Balkans War, and the more recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For two decades, successive US and British government leadership has done little overall to clean up the hazardous war waste. And, when repeatedly asked questions about it, spokespersons for Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown and U.S. President George W. Bush, as well as the two presidential candidates, Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) and Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), didn't respond to a large number of e-mails and telephone calls over a month's time.

Ironically, while firing this nuclear by-product all over Iraq, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia, both Britain and the U.S. regularly criticized and put financial or political pressure on Iran, Syria, North Korea and Pakistan for developing nuclear weapons. Of those four countries, only Pakistan is said to possess depleted uranium munitions, but their military forces have not been notorious for using them.

Depleted uranium is a by-product of the enrichment of natural uranium for nuclear reactor-grade or nuclear weapons-grade uranium. It is additionally used as an armor to protect tanks. Its metallic density is ideal for manufacturing munitions that readily pierce tank and other armor by burning and burrowing through it but, while doing so, the munition creates large quantities of radioactive dust that the wind can carry for 20 to 30 miles. Sometimes the projectiles didn't explode. Instead, they buried themselves and degraded. Now they pollute or threaten water supplies, soil, plants, birds and animals in war-torn regions.

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Arkansas' Democratic Party Chairman Gunned Down
2008-08-14 03:36:08
The chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party was shot and killed Wednesday by a man who barged into his Little Rock office.

The suspect fled, apparently to the Arkansas Baptist State Convention about six blocks down the street, where he threatened a security guard. When he left there, sheriff's deputies gave chase and shot him after a 30-minute pursuit, said authorities. He later died.

Police identified the gunman as Timothy Dale Johnson, 50, of Searcy, the Associated Press reported. Johnson's motive remained a mystery.

The state Democratic chairman, Bill Gwatney, was in his office shortly before noon when a man walked into the party's Capitol Avenue headquarters and demanded to see him, said authorities. Gwatney's secretary refused to let him through, but he pushed past her.

He introduced himself to Gwatney, a well-known former state legislator and a superdelegate to the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Denver. Then he pulled out a handgun and shot Gwatney several times in the upper body, police said. Gwatney died about four hours later at a hospital.

"We do not have any indication that he knew Chairman Gwatney," Little Rock Police Lt. Terry Hastings said at a news conference. "There were no heated words."
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Hair Samples In Anthrax Case Don't Match Ivins
2008-08-14 03:35:03

Federal investigators probing the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks recovered samples of human hair from a mailbox in Princeton, New Jersey, but the strands did not match the lead suspect in the case, according to sources briefed on the probe.

FBI agents and U.S. Postal Service inspectors analyzed the data in an effort to place Fort Detrick, Maryland, scientist Bruce E. Ivins at the mailbox from which bacteria-laden letters were sent to Senate offices and media organizations, the sources said.

The hair sample is one of many pieces of evidence over which researchers continue to puzzle in the case, which ended after Ivins committed suicide July 29 as prosecutors prepared to seek his indictment.

Authorities released sworn statements and search warrants last week at a news conference in which they asserted that Ivins was their sole suspect; but the materials have not dampened speculation about the merits of the investigative findings and the government's aggressive pursuit of Ivins, a 62-year-old anthrax vaccine researcher. Conspiracy theories have flourished since the 2001 attacks, which killed five people and sickened 17 others.

Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced it will call FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III to appear at an oversight hearing Sept. 17, when he is likely to be asked about the strength of the government's case against Ivins. A spokeswoman for Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), a vocal FBI critic, said he would demand more information about how authorities narrowed their search.

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Former Gov. Mark Warner To Give Keynote Speech At Democratic Convention
2008-08-14 03:34:13
Wednesday's announcement that former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner will deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention this month thrusts him and the battleground state of Virginia further into the national spotlight.

The high-profile speech broadcast to millions has in recent years been given by up-and-coming national figures, including this year's presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, in 2004, former U.S. representative Harold E. Ford, Jr., of Tennessee in 2000 and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, a possible vice presidential candidate this year, in 1996.

Warner, a popular former governor who flirted with running for president, is widely considered the front-runner to replace retiring Sen. John W. Warner (R) in a race that Democratic Party officials are hoping could help further solidify Virginia's gradual blue shift.

"Like Barack Obama, Mark Warner is not afraid to challenge the status quo to bring people together and get things moving," said Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe. "It's that kind of spirit and innovation that resulted in his selection as keynote speaker on a night when we will be discussing how to renew America's promise."

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Federal Overseer Asks Court To Seize $8 Billion In California Treasury For Prison Healthcare
2008-08-14 03:33:27
The court-appointed overseer for health care in state prisons moved Wednesday to seize $8 billion from the California treasury, asking a federal judge to hold Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California Controller John Chiang in contempt of court.

With the state mired in fiscal crisis, J. Clark Kelso, the federal receiver, asked U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson to force officials to turn over the money he says he needs to raise health care in the state's prisons to constitutional standards after years of neglect.

Henderson, who appointed Kelso as part of an inmate lawsuit, has previously ordered the state to cooperate with the receiver.

Kelso also seeks $2 million in daily fines against the state for refusing to fund thousands of needed medical beds. He told reporters Wednesday that he went to court "with great reluctance and yet a sense of firm conviction."

"We have fully explored and exhausted every avenue for securing this funding in a manner that least affects California's budget and immediate cash needs," said Kelso. "But the state's leaders have failed to act."

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Under U.S. Pressure: Turkey Pulls Out Of Iranian Natural Gas Deal
2008-08-15 03:50:32

Turkey delivered a humiliating snub to Iran's visiting president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Thursday by backing out of a lucrative energy deal under pressure from the U.S. government, which feared it would enhance Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Signing the £1.87 billion ($3.74 billion) agreement to provide Turkey with Iranian natural gas - on which memoranda of understanding had already been agreed - was to have been the crowning achievement of Ahmadinejad's two-day visit to Istanbul, which Turkish officials had agreed to after intense Iranian lobbying. Iran is Turkey's second-biggest energy supplier after Russia and has been seeking to woo Turkish investment in its South Pars gas fields.

As Ahmadinejad met his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, at Ciragan Palace in Istanbul, it emerged that U.S.  intervention had effectively torpedoed a deal.

Rather than unveiling the expected landmark agreement, a press conference by the two leaders last night merely yielded a joint statement in which the countries "reiterated their desire for on-going cooperation".

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Big Foot Found?
2008-08-14 23:11:53
Two Georgia men claim to have found in the northern woods of that state something that has been often reported but never proven to exist: a Bigfoot.

They say they have a body, photos of the body, and DNA evidence â€" some or all of which will be revealed this Friday, Aug. 15, at a press conference in Palo Alto, Calif.

If the group does have a Bigfoot carcass (and if they actually show the body, instead merely displaying photographs of a supposed body), then perhaps scientists will take note. Still, it's not clear how, exactly, the group will prove that what they have is a Bigfoot. Because there is no comparison specimen, there is no DNA analysis that can definitively identify Bigfoot tissue.

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Ocean 'Dead Zones' On The Rise
2008-08-14 16:15:13
Coastal oceans are being starved of oxygen at an alarming rate, researchers are reporting, with vast stretches of water along the sea floor depleted of oxygen to the point that they can barely sustain marine life.

The main culprit, scientists say, is nitrogen-rich nutrients from crop fertilizers that spill into coastal waters by way of rivers and streams.

In a study to be published Friday in the journal Science, researchers say the number of marine “dead zones” around the world has doubled about every 10 years since the 1960s. At the same time, the zones along many coastlines have been growing in size and intensity. About 400 coastal areas now have periodically or permanently oxygen-starved bottom waters. Combined, they constitute an area larger than the state of Oregon.

“What’s happened in the last 40, 50 years is that human activity has made the water quality conditions worse,” Robert J. Diaz, the study’s lead author and a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary, said in an interview. “Dead zones tend to occur in areas that are historically prime fishing grounds.”

While the size of dead zones is small relative to the total surface of the earth covered by oceans, scientists say they represent a significant portion of the ocean waters that support commercial fish and shellfish species.

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Gannett To Cut 1,000 Newspaper Jobs
2008-08-14 16:13:38
Gannett Co. Inc. plans to eliminate 1,000 positions from its local newspapers around the U.S. because of declining advertising and circulation revenue, and may cut more if those conditions persist.

The largest U.S. newspaper publisher said the cuts equal about 3 percent of the positions in its Community Publishing unit, according to a memo obtained by Reuters on Thursday. The unit accounts for the vast majority of the company's newspapers, except for USA Today.

About 600 people probably will be laid off as part of the cuts, the memo said. The remaining cuts will come from retirements, resignations and other vacancies that will go unfilled.

Gannett, which is based in McLean, Virginia, sent the undated memo to publishers of its more than 80 community newspapers, asking them to notify employees by August 15.

The company, which publishes USA Today, is the latest U.S. newspaper publisher to slash headcount because of falling advertising and circulation revenue.

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Hillary Clinton Will Be Placed In Nomination At Democratic Convention
2008-08-14 16:12:37
Hillary Rodham Clinton's name will be placed into nomination at the Democratic National Convention later this month, ending months of speculation about how her candidacy - and supporters - would be represented there.

"I am convinced that honoring Sen. Clinton's historic campaign in this way will help us celebrate this defining moment in our history and bring the party together in a strong, united fashion," Barack Obama said in a statement issued jointly by their two press offices.

The announcement ended months of speculation about the convention role for Clinton, who ran a spirited and competitive primary challenge to Obama. She had wanted a roll call vote at the convention as a way to acknowledge her historic achievement as the first female candidate to come close to winning her party's nomination for the presidency.

In her part of the statement, Clinton blessed the arrangement, saying, "With every voice heard and the party strongly united, we will elect Sen. Obama president of the United States and put our nation on the path to peace and prosperity once again."

In the statement, both sides said that they want to ensure "that the voices of all 35 million people who participated in this historic primary election are respected and heard in Denver, Colorado, site of the convention. To honor and celebrate these voices and votes, both Sen. Obama's and Sen. Clinton's names will be placed in nomination."

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OSS 'Secret Recipe': Julia Child Was A Spy
2008-08-14 16:04:23
Before Julia Child became known to the world as a leading chef, she admitted at least one failing when applying for a job as a spy: impulsiveness.

At 28 as an advertising manager at W&J Sloane furniture store in Beverly Hills, California, Child clashed with new store managers and left her job abruptly.

"I made a tactical error and was out," she explained in a handwritten note attached to her application to join the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a World War II-era spy agency. "However, I learned a lot about advertising and wish I had been older and more experienced so that I could have handled the situation, as it was a most interesting position."

Child was not yet married and was applying for the job under her maiden name, McWilliams, according to previously top-secret records released by the National Archives on Thursday. She was hired in the summer of 1942 for clerical work with the intelligence agency and later worked directly for OSS Director William Donovan, the personnel records show.

Details about Child's background and nearly 24,000 other OSS employees are revealed in the newly released documents, withheld from public view as classified records for decades by the CIA.

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Arkansas Suspect Quit Job On Day Of Killing
2008-08-14 16:03:53

Timothy Dale Johnson, the suspect in the slaying of the chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party in Little Rock on Wednesday, quit his job as a night-shift worker at a Target store in Conway, Arkansas, early that morning after an irate outburst, according to a police report and a statement from Target.

Johnson quit after he scrawled graffiti on the walls at work. KTHV-TV reported that the graffiti was rife with expletives and was critical of Target, raging that the store was run by “dumb jocks”. A police report about the incident said that a store official characterized Johnson as “extremely irate”.

Police officials said Johnson, 51, killed Bill Gwatney, the state's Democratic chairman, in the party headquarters Wednesday morning with several gunshots. After a long car chase, Johnson was fatally wounded in a shootout with the police, said the authorities.

Target released a statement saying that Johnson had worked at the store without incident since November 2006. “He had no history of behavioral or performance problems,” said the statement. Police have not found any record of previous criminal acts by Johnson, said Lt. Terry Hastings, of the Little Rock Police Department.

The police were called to the store, about 30 miles from Little Rock, at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. The shooting at the party headquarters occurred just before noon.

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Analysis: Peace Plan Offers Russia A Rationale To Advance
2008-08-14 03:36:51
It was nearly 2 a.m. on Wednesday when France's President Nicolas Sarkozy announced he had accomplished what seemed virtually impossible: Persuading the leaders of Georgia and Russia to agree to a set of principles that would stop the war.

Handshakes and congratulations were offered all around. Yet, by the time the sun was up, Russian tanks were advancing again, this time taking positions around the strategically important city of Gori, in central Georgia.

It soon became clear that the six-point deal not only failed to slow the Russian advance, but it also allowed Russia to claim that it could push deeper into Georgia as part of so-called additional security measures it was granted in the agreement. Sarkozy, according to a senior Georgian official who witnessed the negotiations, also failed to persuade the Russians to agree to any time limit on their military action.

By mid-morning, European officials were warning of the risks of appeasing Russian aggression, while Georgian officials lamented the West’s weak leverage.

“I’m talking about the impotence and inability of both Europe and the United States to be unified and to exert leverage, and to comprehend the level of the threat,” said the senior Georgian official, who had sat in on the talks between  Sarkozy and Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili.

The senior Georgian official later made a copy of the deal available to the New York Times with what he said were notes marking changes the Georgians had asked for but failed to attain.

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Commentary: Our Own Worst Bioenemy
2008-08-14 03:36:25
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Wendy Orent and appeared in the Los Angles Times edition for Wednesday, August 13, 2008. Ms. Orent is the author of "Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrrify Future of the World's Most Dangerous Disease". Her commentary follows:

"Whatever you can say about the Soviet bioweapons scientists," a Bush administration official once told me, "they never killed anyone."

We can't say the same about our bioweapons scientists. Someone, most likely Bruce Ivins, at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, turned powdered anthrax spores into a deadly weapon. It's ironic that the Soviet scientists were making offensive weapons. Our people, since 1969, have worked strictly to defend us.

One of those defenders killed five people, sickened 17 others and plunged the nation into hysteria for weeks in the fall of 2001. After a seven-year investigation by the FBI, the source of the deadly anthrax strain has been identified - our own biodefense program at Ft. Detrick. That is the real legacy of the FBI investigation.

Since the anthrax-laced letters were mailed in September and October of 2001, U.S. biodefense has blown up out of all proportion to any rational assessment of the bioweapons threat. Earlier this year, an article in the journal Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, analyzing government biodefense spending from 2001 to 2008, stated that $49.66 billion has been allocated for civilian biodefense. According to microbiologist and longtime biodefense critic Richard Ebright of Rutgers University, actual spending is even higher, amounting to $57 billion.

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U.S. Mortgage Insurers' Losses Mount
2008-08-14 03:35:54

Large mortgage insurers have reported $2.6 billion in losses so far this year, sparking concerns that rising foreclosure rates could force the industry into a money crunch and ultimately make the home-buying process even more difficult.

These insurers make up a critical part of the mortgage industry, taking on the risk when borrowers make small down payments. They are facing record delinquency rates that have sent them scrambling to stem losses and to improve their capital reserves. Those losses have also dinged their relationships with mortgage-financing giants Fannie Mae and  Freddie Mac, which the insurers depend on for business.

"What they're battling is a lack of public confidence," said Guy Cecala, publisher of trade journal Inside Mortgage Finance. "They feel like they have enough capital, but nobody really knows."

The mortgage insurance industry is dominated by a half-dozen large firms that insure loans when a buyer makes a down payment of less than 20 percent of a home's purchase price. If the borrower defaults, the insurers pay the lender a portion of the loss. The industry has already paid more than $6 billion to cover claims on foreclosed homes this year, including $3.8 billion during the second quarter, said Cecala. This year's $2.6 billion in losses includes $1.7 billion during the past three months, he said.

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Downtowns Across The U.S. See Streetcars In Their Future
2008-08-14 03:34:41
From his months-old French bistro, Jean-Robert de Cavel sees restored Italianate row houses against a backdrop of rundown tenements in Cincinnati, Ohio's, long-struggling Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

He also sees a turnaround for the district, thanks to plans to revive a transit system that was dismantled in the 1950s: the humble streetcar line.

“Human beings can be silly because we move away from things too quickly in this country,” said de Cavel. “Streetcar is definitely going to create a reason for young people to come downtown.”

Cincinnati officials are assembling financing for a $132 million system that would connect the city’s riverfront stadiums, downtown business district and Uptown neighborhoods, which include six hospitals and the University of Cincinnati, in a six- to eight-mile loop. Depending on the final financing package, fares may be free, 50 cents or $1.

The city plans to pay for the system with existing tax revenue and $30 million in private investment. The plan requires the approval of Mayor Mark Mallory, a proponent, and the City Council.

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Bigger, Tougher Wildfires Bring California To Budget Brink
2008-08-14 03:33:42
Faced with hundreds of big, hard-to-control blazes, California is struggling with what could be its most expensive firefighting season ever, burning through $285 million in the last six weeks alone and up to $13 million a day.

With the worst of the fire season still ahead, lawmakers are scrambling to find a way to pay for it all and are considering slapping homeowners with a disaster surcharge that asks those in fire-prone areas to pay the most.

On Wednesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked President Bush to amend a June disaster declaration and declare the state a disaster area, in part because of firefighting costs. Since mid-May, 2,096 wildfires have burned more than 1.3 million acres and destroyed 306 homes, said Schwarzenegger.

"The response to these fires has severely taxed California's resources," Schwarzenegger wrote.

The crisis comes as California deals with a $15.2 billion budget deficit, and Schwarzenegger cited firefighting costs as a major factor when he ordered wages deferred for state workers and laid off others recently to cut costs.

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New Books Aim To Unweave Obama Narrative
2008-08-14 03:33:05
In two autobiographies and dozens of speeches, Barack Obama has weaved the narrative that defines his campaign: An introspective boy gradually comes to terms with his mixed-race heritage and emerges with an "unprejudiced" worldview. He enters politics because of his "love of country" and succeeds by staying faithful to his morals and "transcending the partisan divide."

Two weeks before Obama accepts the Democratic nomination for president, conservative author Jerome R. Corsi has attacked his story with a narrative of his own: The son of an "alcoholic polygamist," Obama deals with his abandonment issues and "black rage" by experimenting with drugs and radical thought. He makes a calculated entrance into politics despite having accomplished little and having developed some "anti-American" sentiments. Once in office, he regularly manipulates the political machine and becomes a liberal who will "divide America."

Corsi's "The Obama Nation" lacks major revelations and has been dismissed by Obama's campaign as a series of lies from a serial liar. Parts of the book have also been disproved by the mainstream media. In 2004, Corsi co-wrote "Unfit for Command," in which Swift boat veterans criticized Sen. John F. Kerry's Vietnam War record. That book was also widely disproved.

Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, has started a Web site to help discredit these tactics on Obama's behalf.

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