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Friday, August 29, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday August 29 2008 - (813)

Friday August 29 2008 edition
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Obama Takes Aim At Bush And McCain With A Forceful Call For Change
2008-08-29 00:12:07
Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party presidential nomination tonight, declaring that the “American promise has been threatened” by eight years under President Bush and that John McCain represented a continuation of policies that undermined the nation’s economy and imperiled its standing around the world.

The speech by Senator Obama, of Illinois - in front of an audience of nearly 80,000 people on a warm night in a football stadium refashioned into a vast political stage for television viewers - left little doubt of how he intended to press his campaign against McCain this fall. He linked McCain to what he described as the “failed presidency of George W. Bush” in cutting language that seemed intended to reassure nervous Democrats that he had the spine to take on what has proven this summer to be a scrappy Republican opponent.

“The record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time,” Obama said. “Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush was right more than 90 percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.”

“America, we are better than these last eight years,” he said. “We are a better country than this.”

The speech by Obama loomed as arguably the most important of his campaign to date. It was an opportunity to present himself to Americans who were just now beginning to tune in on this campaign, to make the case against McCain and to offer what many Democrat said he has failed to offer to date: a idea of what Obama stood for, beyond a promise of change.

With his speech, Obama closed out his party’s convention here and prepared for a quick shift of public attention to Republicans as McCain names his running-mate on Friday and his party begins its convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Monday.

He delivered it in a most unconventional setting, becoming the third nominee of a major party in the nation’s history to leave the site of his convention to give his acceptance speech at a stadium.

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Bassinet Sales Halted After Deaths Of Two Infants
2008-08-29 00:11:22

In the first test of its powers under a sweeping product-safety law, the Consumer Product Safety Commission Thursday  directed retailers to pull a bassinet linked to the deaths of two infants off store shelves and give customers a refund.

The directive came on the heels of a warning the CPSC issued to parents Wednesday night to stop using "close-sleeper/beside sleeper" bassinets made by Simplicity of Reading, Pennsylvania. The CPSC acted after a 6  1/2-month-old girl from Shawnee, Kansas, was strangled to death Aug. 21 when she got caught in the bassinet's metal bars. The agency said 900,000 of the bassinets are in circulation.

The CPSC said it issued the warning and turned to retailers to pull the bassinets because SFCA, the firm that bought Simplicity's assets in April, refused to cooperate and do a recall.

SFCA, which bought Simplicity's assets at auction, is an affiliate of Blackstreet Capital, a Bethesda, Maryland,  private-equity fund with $88 million dollars under management. SFCA is chaired by prominent Washington banker Robert Pincus and its board is studded with political luminaries such as James A. Baker IV, a son of the former secretary of State; uber-lobbyist Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr.; Ed Mathias, a partner and managing director of Carlyle Group; and Ed Rogers, a founder of the public affairs firm Barbour, Griffith & Rogers.

While the CPSC has the authority to mandate recalls, doing so takes time and as a result almost all recalls are voluntary.

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Bush Continues To Fight Congressional Authority
2008-08-29 00:10:54
The Bush administration is raising the stakes in a court fight that could change the balance of power between the White House and Congress.

Justice Department lawyers said Wednesday that they will soon ask a federal appeals court not to force the president's top advisers to comply with congressional subpoenas next month. President Bush argues Congress doesn't have the authority to demand information from his aides.

U.S. District Judge John Bates strongly rejected that stance last month, ordering former White House counsel Harriet Miers to testify and White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten to turn over documents related to the firing of federal prosecutors.

It was a historic loss for the Bush administration, a stinging ruling in the first such case ever to make it to the courts.

The House Judiciary Committee responded swiftly, demanding Miers appear Sept. 11 as it investigates whether federal prosecutors were inappropriately fired as part of a White House effort to politicize the Justice Department.

The Bush administration had already indicated it would appeal but Justice Department lawyers said Wednesday that they will ask the court to step in quickly and temporarily put Miers' appearance on hold while the appeal plays out. It's a risky move for an administration that has spent years trying to strengthen the power of the presidency.

If the appeals court refuses to temporarily block the testimony, it would essentially be endorsing Bates' ruling against the Bush administration. Miers likely would have to comply with the subpoena, setting a precedent that would give Congress new teeth in its investigations and weaken future presidents.

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Northeast And Northwest Passages Both Free Of Ice
2008-08-28 15:07:59
For the first time, both the Northeast and Northwest Passages are free of ice. Shipping companies have been waiting for this moment for years, but they will have to wait a little while longer before they can make use of the Arctic shortcut.

Shippers in Bremen are getting impatient. The Beluga Group, a shipping company based in the northern German city, had planned to send a ship through the Northeast Passage - or the Northern Sea Route, as Russians call it - this summer, according to spokeswoman Verena Beckhausen. The route leads from the Russian island Novaya Zemlya, off the northern coast of Siberia, through the Bering Strait between far eastern Russia and Alaska.

This route is radically shorter than the normal trip through the Suez Canal. From Hamburg to the Japanese port city of Yokohama, for example, the trip using the northern route is just 7,400 nautical miles - just 40 percent of the 11,500 nautical mile haul through the Suez. Dangerous ice floes normally block the shorter route, but as of a few days ago the Northeast Passage is ice-free according to Christian Melsheimer of the University of Bremen. Scientists at the university use data from the NASA satellite "Aqua" to cobble together up-to-date maps of sea ice.

Still, it will likely be a while until the first ships sail through the passage. Russian authorities have still not issued the necessary permits allowing shipping companies like Beluga to take advantage of the Arctic shortcut this year. Nevertheless, Beckhusen emphasizes that the Northeast Passage is of strategic importance to her company.

At it likely is for a number of logistics firms. The ever-thawing Arctic represents a potentially major opportunity for the shipping industry. Currently, there are only between 20 and 30 days a year in which the Northeast Passage is 50 percent covered by ice or less, according to current statistics. But the Arctic Climate Assessment from the year 2005 estimates that such days will become increasingly frequent - with up to 120 largely ice-free days by the end of the century. And that is likely a conservative estimate.
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Democrats Try To Minimize Stadium's Political Risks
2008-08-28 15:07:25
When Senator Barack Obama announced in early July that he would give his nomination address in an outdoor stadium in front of 75,000 people, he wowed members of both parties who saw it as an inspired stroke of campaign image making.

Yet, as he landed here in Denver, Colorado, on Wednesday and prepared to become the first presidential candidate in nearly 50 years to accept his party’s nomination on such a big stage, the plan seemed as much risky as bold.

With daunting challenges of logistics, style and substance, the plan was hatched before the Republicans began a concerted drive to paint Obama as a media sensation lacking the resume to be president. Now Obama aides are feeling all the more pressure to bring a lofty candidacy to ground level, showing that Obama grasps the concerns of everyday Americans.

On Thursday afternoon, workers were still making changes to Invesco Field, home to the Denver Broncos, so it would feel more intimate, less like the boisterous rallies that served Obama so well early in the primaries, but also created the celebrity image that dogs him. (Wary of the field’s corporate-sounding name, Obama campaign spokespeople and surrogates were referring to it with the name of the stadium it replaced, Mile High.)

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Security Group Refuses To Back Russia's Actions
2008-08-28 15:07:00
Russia suffered a significant setback here on Thursday, as members of a regional security group in which the Kremlin plays an important role offered little support for Moscow’s military action in Georgia. 

Dmitri A. Medvedev, the Russian president, arrived in this sleepy Central Asian capital for the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with hopes that the six-member group would provide the strong international backing the Kremlin has so far lacked after its incursion into Georgia. Moscow has urged other nations to follow its lead and recognize Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

Instead, the organization, which also includes China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, took a neutral stance, urging Russia and Georgia to resolve their differences peacefully.

“The S.C.O. states express grave concern in connection with the recent tensions around the South Ossetia issue and urge the sides to solve existing problems peacefully, through dialogue, and to make efforts facilitating reconciliation and talks,” the summit’s final joint declaration said, using the initials of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Medvedev, attending his first major diplomatic event since the conflict in Georgia, put a positive spin on proceedings, saying that the organization had in fact supported Russia in its actions and sent a “strong signal.”

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Dalai Lama Admitted To Hospital
2008-08-28 15:06:19
The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, was admitted to a hospital in India with "abdominal discomfort" but there was no cause for concern, doctors said on Thursday.

The spiritual leader, who canceled two foreign trips after he complained of fatigue was "cheerful" after reaching the hospital in Mumbai, said a hospital spokesman. 

"He has just been admitted for abdominal discomfort, investigation will commence tomorrow morning and there is no cause for concern," Mohan Rajan, the spokesman, said from Mumbai.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner returned to Dharamsala, the north Indian town where Tibet's self-proclaimed government-in-exile is based, on Sunday after a two-week visit to France.

The visit focused mainly on lectures on Buddhism, but during it he also criticized Chinese policies in Tibet.

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Judge Refuses To Delay Testimony Of Miers On Fired Prosecutors
2008-08-28 00:56:59

A federal judge Tuesday refused to delay his order requiring former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers to testify in Congress, another legal setback for the Bush administration's attempts to limit cooperation with Democratic lawmakers.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates rejected the administration's argument that Miers should not be required to cooperate with Congress while the government appeals an earlier ruling he issued.

In the previous decision, Bates rejected the administration's assertions that Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten were protected by executive privilege and could not be forced to testify or provide documents to Congress about the controversial firings of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006. The judge said that the government's position was excessively broad and that senior aides must be more specific about the information they say is protected.

The new ruling will make it more difficult for Miers to avoid testifying by running out the clock on the 110th Congress, which ends in early January. Without a stay, she could be compelled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee  as early as next month.

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Comstock's Defaults Darken Its Future
2008-08-28 00:56:37

Comstock Homebuilding, of Reston, Virginia, has defaulted on several development loans the company used to finance its projects during the years of the housing boom.

The company is hoping to renegotiate the terms of its loans with several banks, but some analysts warned that the company's future is cloudy.

"Comstock Homebuilding Company's ability to exist as a going concern is the primary risk to shareholders," Christopher R. Lucas, a senior real estate analyst in the Tysons Corner office of the investment firm Robert W. Baird, said in a July report, before Baird ceased covering the company. Lucas added that that the weak housing market and slumping economy "create a difficult operating environment for Comstock."

Several publicly traded home builders have filed for bankruptcy as slumping home values leave developers unable to pay their debts. Last year, two publicly traded builders, Levitt and Sons, of Florida, and Neumann Homes, of Chicago, filed for bankruptcy protection. This year the Florida-based luxury builder WCI Communities filed for bankruptcy protection.

Comstock has received notices of default or demands for repayment from five lenders over the past two months, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company owes the banks about $86.5 million, according to the filings.

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Bill Clinton: Obama Is Ready To Lead
2008-08-28 00:56:12
Former President Bill Clinton energetically threw his support behind Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama Wednesday night, making the case that the senator from Illinois is ready to be commander-in-chief and ratifying his choice of running mate, even if it was not his wife.

"Clearly, the job of the next president is to rebuild the American dream and to restore America's leadership in the world," Clinton told a welcoming crowd packed into the Pepsi Center for the Democratic National Convention. "Everything I learned in my eight years as president and in the work I've done since, in America and across the globe, has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job."

After months of distance and friction with the Obama campaign, Clinton took the stage to perhaps the longest, most sustained applause yet in the three-day-old convention. Delegates greeted him with a wave of American flags and chants of "Bill, Bill, Bill." The band blared Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop," the anthem of Clinton's 1992 campaign.

Lapping it up, Clinton declared, "I love this." But from the beginning, he made it clear he would not hold back on his embrace of the man who vanquished his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, to formally become the nominee of the the Democratic Party this evening.

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Transcript Of Sen. Barack Obama's Acceptance Speech
2008-08-29 00:11:50
Intellpuke: Following is the transcript of Senator Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, as recorded by CQ Transcriptions.

OBAMA: Thank you so much.


Thank you very much.


Thank you, everybody.

To -- to Chairman Dean and my great friend Dick Durbin, and to all my fellow citizens of this great nation, with profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for presidency of the United States.


Let me -- let me express -- let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest, a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours, Hillary Rodham Clinton.


To President Clinton, to President Bill Clinton, who made last night the case for change as only he can make it...


... to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service...


... and to the next vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you.


I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night.

To the love of my life, our next first lady, Michelle Obama...


... and to Malia and Sasha, I love you so much, and I am so proud of you.


Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story, of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren't well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

It is that promise that's always set this country apart, that through hard work and sacrifice each of us can pursue our individual dreams, but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams, as well. That's why I stand here tonight. Because for 232 years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women -- students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors -- found the courage to keep it alive.

We meet at one of those defining moments, a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can't afford to drive, credit cards, bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that's beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government's making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.


America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.


This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.

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China, Iraq Sign $3 Billion Oil Contract
2008-08-29 00:11:10
Iraq and China signed a $3 billion deal this week to develop a large Iraqi oil field, the first major commercial oil contract here with a foreign company since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The 20-year agreement calls for the state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. to begin producing 25,000 barrels of oil a day and gradually increase the output to 125,000 a day, said Asim Jihad, a spokesman for the Iraqi Oil Ministry. 

The contract revamps a deal the Chinese company had reached with Saddam Hussein in 1997 to develop the Ahdab oil field in Wasit province, south of Baghdad near the border with Iran. Unlike that deal, which called for China to share in the revenue, the current contract is based on a fixed-fee structure.

Western oil companies came close this summer to reaching agreements with the ministry to return to Iraq. Those smaller technical service contracts involved giving advice on how to boost production. The China deal is a service contract, which is more lucrative and involves large-scale development of the field.

Jihad said the technical service contracts, which were to be finalized June 30, have been delayed as negotiations continue with the Western concerns, including Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil. Most of the major oil contracts are to be awarded in the next 1 1/2 years through a process involving 35 companies identified by the Oil Ministry, he said.

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Gustav Makes GOP Consider Delaying Convention
2008-08-29 00:10:15

Republican officials said Thursday that they are considering delaying the start of the Republican Party convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul because of Tropical Storm Gustav, which is on track to hit the Gulf Coast, and possibly New Orleans, as a full-force hurricane early next week.

The threat is serious enough that White House officials are also debating whether President Bush should cancel his scheduled convention appearance on Monday, the first day of the convention, according to administration officials and others familiar with the discussion.

For Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Gustav threatens to provide an untimely reminder of Hurricane Katrina. A new major storm along the Gulf Coast would renew memories of one of the low points of the Bush administration, while pulling public attention away from McCain's formal coronation as the GOP presidential nominee.

Senior Republicans said images of political celebration in the Twin Cities while thousands of Americans flee a hurricane could be disastrous. "Senator McCain has always been sensitive to national crisis," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds, noting that the senator postponed announcing his presidential candidacy in 2000 because of the war in the Balkans. "We are monitoring the situation very closely."

Staging a convention during a major natural disaster would be a public relations challenge for either political party, but Republican officials say the damage could be especially heavy for their party, whose reputation was tarred by the Bush administration's bungling of Katrina and its aftermath in 2005.

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Tourists Evacuate As Gustav Strengthens Near Jamaica
2008-08-28 15:07:50
Tropical Storm Gustav surged toward hurricane force Thursday as it drove toward Jamaica and aimed for the Cayman islands, prompting evacuations of tourists and offshore oil workers. In its wake, impoverished Haitians scrambled for food. Meanwhile, New Orleans kept nervous watch, three years after Katrina's destruction.

Gustav - the cause of flooding and mudslides that killed 23 in Haiti and the Dominican Republic - was nearly stationary about 80 miles east of Jamaica's low-lying capital, but it was expected to run west-southwest later in the day, very close to the shore.

Its top sustained winds were just below hurricane strength at about 70 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.

Also Thursday, Tropical Storm Hanna formed in the Atlantic, northeast of the northern Leeward Islands.

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E.U. Considers Sanctions As Russia Looks For Friends
2008-08-28 15:07:14
With European Union leaders set to gather on Monday to discuss Russia and the crisis in Georgia, France Thursday said announced that sanctions will be considered. Russia responded by saying the E.U. has a "sick imagination".

The cartoon published in the editorial pages of Germany's Suddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday is telling. Sitting high up in the branches of a tree is a soldier, labelled "NATO" and a woman, labeled "Europe." The man says to the woman, "one thing is clear, he is completely isolated." "He," in this case, is at the bottom of the image - a gigantic bear leaning against the tree, preventing NATO and Europe from climbing down. The bear is labelled "Russia."

It is a drawing that goes a long way toward explaining the last few days of maneuvering in the Caucasus crisis. On Tuesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recognized the independence of the two breakaway Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Prior to that, it had become clear that Russia is in no hurry to withdraw its last troops from Georgia proper despite repeated assurances that it would do so. And throughout the week, the West has been trying to formulate an appropriate response that goes beyond merely telling Moscow that it's not playing fair.

On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner indicated how that response might ultimately look. When asked during a Paris press conference how the European Union intends to respond to Moscow's continued refusal to completely withdraw its troops from Georgia, Kouchner said that "sanctions are being considered and many other means as well."

France is the current holder of the European Union's rotating presidency and will be hosting a meeting of E.U. heads of state next Monday to talk about the Georgian crisis. "We are trying to elaborate a strong text that will show our determination not to accept (Russia's actions in the Caucasus)," he said. "Of course, there are also sanctions."

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Putin Suggests U.S. Role In Georgia Crisis
2008-08-28 15:06:46
Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian prime minister, mused in a televised interview on Thursday that the United States might have helped provoke the war between Russia and Georgia to benefit one of the candidates in the American presidential election.

He did not specify which candidate; but officials here in Moscow have increasingly bristled at the criticism of the Kremlin by Sen. John McCain, who has repeatedly said he wants to kick Russia out of the Group of Eight industrialized nations and generally advocates a harder line with Russia.

In an interview with CNN in the Black Sea beach resort town of Sochi, Putin said he suspected that United States citizens were in the conflict area supporting Georgia’s military action in South Ossetia, which prompted a Russian offensive. The United States denies such support.

Putin went on to say he was contemplating another possibility.

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6.1 Earthquake Hits Near Vancouver Island, Off British Columbia Coast
2008-08-28 15:06:10
A strong earthquake struck off Canada's west coast early Thursday near Vancouver Island. There were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries.

The magnitude-6.1 quake hit at 5:37 a.m. Its epicenter was 97 miles west of Port Hardy and 293 miles west northwest of Vancouver, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It struck at a depth of 6.2 miles.

Geological Survey of Canada scientist Garry Rogers said there are no reports of injuries or damages and said it occurred too far off land for there to be any.

The quake was the latest in a series of coastal tremors since Monday. Two quakes rattled the area Wednesday, both with magnitudes of around 5. There have been 18 quakes with a magnitude greater than 4 in the region this week.
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Britain: Europe Must Stand Up To Russia
2008-08-28 00:56:49

Britain Wednesday raised the stakes in the scramble to contain Russia, pledging support for Moscow's regional rival, Ukraine, and calling on the international community to stand up to Russia's campaign to redraw the map of Europe and make it pay a higher price for its actions in Georgia.

David Miliband, Britain's foreign secretary, tipped as a future Labor party leader and potential prime minister, went to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, to deliver a speech aimed at flying the flag of western democracy on Russia's doorstep, while seeking to avert a new crisis boiling over on the Crimean peninsula, home to an ethnic Russian population and Moscow's Black Sea fleet.

The speech represented the strongest criticism of the Kremlin from a leading European government official in years, delivered in a country that is Russia's neighbor and which Russians view as the cradle of their civilization.

Miliband declared a turning point had been reached in Europe's relations with Russia, ending a nearly two decade period of relative tranquility. He said Tuesday's decision by the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, to recognize Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia represented a radical break and a moment of truth for the rest of Europe.

"[Medvedev's] unilateral attempt to redraw the map marks a moment of real significance," said the foreign secretary. "It is not just the end of the post cold war period of growing geopolitical calm in and around Europe. It is also the moment when countries are required to set out where they stand on the significant issues of nationhood and international law."

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World Bank Counts More Poor People
2008-08-28 00:56:24

Far more people around the world live in severe poverty than previously thought, with the global underclass now numbering an estimated 1.4 billion, up from around 1 billion, according to a landmark World Bank report released Tuesday.

The report does not suggest that the world has suddenly gotten poorer. In fact, it shows remarkable reductions in poverty levels since the 1980s. Rather, the report represents a revised snapshot of global development using more recent household surveys, demographic figures, price data and purchasing power analyses.

The bank has also altered its definition of global poverty, moving the benchmark up from $1 to $1.25 per day.

The report, the World Bank's most ambitious attempt ever to update its poverty estimates, suggests that while huge economic progress has been made around the world, many nations, including emerging juggernauts such as China, are not as rich as many had thought. Previously, the bank had estimated that 6 percent of Chinese were living in severe poverty; it now estimates the figure to be almost 16 percent.

The figures, which incorporate data from 2005, do not factor in the impact of soaring food and energy prices over the past year. But they amount "to a quantum leap forward in our understanding of poverty in the developing world," said co-author Martin Ravallion, director of the bank's Development Research Group.

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