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Monday, August 11, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday August 11 2008 - (813)

Monday August 11 2008 edition
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U.S. Guns Arm Mexican Drug Cartels
2008-08-10 17:28:39
High-powered automatic weapons and ammunition are flowing virtually unchecked from border states into Mexico, fueling a war among drug traffickers, the army and police that has left thousands dead, according to U.S. and Mexican officials.

The munitions are hidden under trucks and stashed in the trunks of cars, or concealed under the clothing of people who brazenly walk across the international bridges. They are showing up in seizures and in the aftermath of shootouts between the cartels and police in Mexico.

More than 90% of guns seized at the border or after raids and shootings in Mexico have been traced to the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Last year, 2,455 weapons traces requested by Mexico showed that guns had been purchased in the United States, according to the ATF. Texas, Arizona and California accounted for 1,805 of those traced weapons.

No one is sure how many U.S.-purchased guns have made their way into Mexico, but U.S. authorities estimate the number in the thousands.

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Editorial: Energy Fictions
2008-08-10 17:28:14
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Sunday, August 9, 2008.

A toxic combination of $4 gasoline, voter anxiety and presidential ambition is making it impossible for this country to have the grown-up conversation it needs about energy.

The latest evidence comes from Senator Barack Obama, who in less than a week has reversed his stance on tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, softened his opposition to offshore drilling and unveiled an out-of-nowhere proposal to impose a windfall profits tax on the oil companies and funnel the money to consumers in the form of a $1,000 tax rebate.

Compared with his slightly hysterical opponent, Mr. Obama had been making good sense on energy questions, and his recent speeches had included a menu of proposals for energy efficiency, conservation, alternative fuels and new technologies.

Yet public opinion polls showing deep voter discontent with fuel prices - and Senator John McCain’s steady pounding on the issue, including television ads blaming Mr. Obama personally for the rise in gasoline prices - have caused high anxiety among Democrats. They also seem to have persuaded Mr. Obama, who earlier had resisted gimmicky proposals like a gas tax holiday, to strike back.

The Democrats’ presumptive nominee has made a poor choice of weapons, beginning with his proposal to tap the petroleum reserve, an idea that Mr. McCain has wisely resisted. True, some usually responsible Democrats have been urging the release of as much as 70 million barrels of oil from the 700-million-barrel strategic reserve. And tapping the reserve on several earlier occasions - including the home heating oil crisis in 2000 and after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 - did in fact cause oil prices to drop.

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Iraq Demands 'Clear Timeline' For U.S. Withdrawal
2008-08-10 17:27:48
Iraq's foreign minister insisted Sunday that any security deal with the United States must contain a "very clear timeline" for the departure of U.S. troops. A suicide bomber struck north of Baghdad, killing at least five people including an American soldier.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters that American and Iraqi negotiators were "very close" to reaching a long-term security agreement that will set the rules for U.S. troops in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.

Zebari said the Iraqis were insisting that the agreement include a "very clear timeline" for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces, but he refused to talk about specific dates.

"We have said that this is a condition-driven process," he added, suggesting that the departure schedule could be modified if the security situation changed.

Zebari made clear that the Iraqis would not accept a deal that lacks a timeline for the end of the U.S. military presence.

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Iconic Stone Arch Collapses In National Park In Utah
2008-08-10 17:27:12
One of the largest and most photographed arches in Arches National Park has collapsed.

Paul Henderson, the park's chief of interpretation, said Wall Arch collapsed sometime late Monday or early Tuesday.

The arch is along Devils Garden Trail, one of the most popular in the park. For years, the arch has been a favorite stopping point for photographers.

Henderson said the arch was claimed by forces that will eventually destroy others in the park: gravity and erosion.

"They all let go after a while," he said Friday.

He said it's the first collapse of a major arch in the park since nearby Landscape Arch fell in 1991. No one has reported seeing it fall.

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Whole Foods Recalls Beef Processed At Plant Long At Odds With USDA
2008-08-10 02:49:49

Whole Foods Market pulled fresh ground beef from all of its stores Friday, becoming the latest retailer affected by an E. coli outbreak traced to Nebraska Beef, one of the nation's largest meatpackers. It's the second outbreak linked to the processor in as many months.

The meat Whole Foods recalled came from Coleman Natural Foods which, unbeknown to Whole Foods had processed it at Nebraska Beef, an Omaha meatpacker with a history of food-safety and other violations. Nebraska Beef last month recalled more than 5 million pounds of beef produced in May and June after its meat was blamed for another E. coli outbreak in seven states. On Friday it recalled an additional 1.2 million pounds of beef produced on June 17, June 24 and July 8, which included products eventually sold to Whole Foods. The recall is not related to the recent spate of E. coli illnesses among Boy Scouts at a gathering in Goshen, Virginia.

Whole Foods officials are investigating why they were not aware that Coleman was using Nebraska Beef as a processor, said spokeswoman Libba Letton.

The chain's managers took action after Massachusetts health officials informed them Aug. 1 that seven people who had gotten sick from E. coli O157:H7 had all bought ground beef from Whole Foods. The same strain has sickened 31 people in 12 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.

So far, tests have not found contaminated Whole Foods beef, said Letton.

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Edwards Booster Admits Making Payments To Woman
2008-08-10 02:49:25

One of John Edwards' largest fundraisers says he made payments to Rielle Hunter, the women with whom Edwards acknowledged he had an affair, but maintains that the former presidential candidate wasn't aware of his involvement.

Fred Baron, a prominent Texas trial lawyer who served as finance chairman of Edwards' two presidential campaigns, told the Dallas Morning News he paid money to Hunter to move from North Carolina to another location.

He told the Dallas newspaper that Hunter and Andrew Young, a former campaign aide who has claimed paternity of Hunter's child, were being followed by tabloid reporters who believed Edwards had fathered her child.

The National Enquirer this month reported that a wealthy supporter of Edwards' was funneling at least $15,000 a month to Hunter, the woman with whom the former presidential candidate now acknowledges he was having an affair.

Baron issued a statement Friday saying he "decided independently to help two friends and former colleagues rebuild their lives."

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In Loose Style, McCain Leads A Camp Divided
2008-08-10 17:28:27
Senator John McCain is so quick to pick up his gold-colored cellphone to solicit advice - from senators, campaign consultants, even the stray former deputy press secretary - that aides, concerned about his tendency to adopt the last opinion he has heard, have tried to cut back on the time he has to make calls.

McCain is known to sign off on big campaign decisions and then to march off his own reservation. Two weeks ago, he publicly disagreed with his own spokeswoman, Jill Hazelbaker, after she used a line of attack against Senator Barack Obama that he had approved after careful strategizing within his campaign. Hazelbaker raced out of the Virginia campaign headquarters and refused to take McCain’s calls of apology, said aides, and a plan to have Republican members of Congress use the same critical line about Obama’s foreign trip fell apart.

Out of his hearing, McCain is called the White Tornado by some people who have worked for him over the years. Throughout his presidential campaign, he has been the overseer of a kingdom of dissenting camps, unclear lines of command and an unsettled atmosphere that keeps aides constantly on edge.

Even now, after a shake-up that aides said had brought an unusual degree of order to McCain’s disorderly world in the last month, two of his pollsters are at odds over parts of the campaign’s message, while past and current aides have been trading snippy exchanges debating the wisdom of attack advertisements he has aimed at Obama.

In an interview, McCain said he believed an organization consisting of sometimes colliding centers of power made sure that a candidate, or a president, reached fully informed decisions. “You’ve got to have competing opinions,” he said.

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Russian Troops Assault Vital Georgian City Of Gori
2008-08-10 17:28:04
Russian tanks and troops moved through the separatist enclave of South Ossetia and advanced on the city of Gori in central Georgia on Sunday night, for the first time directly assaulting a Georgian city with ground forces after three days of heavy fighting, said Georgian officials.

Georgian tanks were dug into positions outside Gori and planning to defend the city, said Shota Utiashvili, an official in Georgia’s interior ministry. He said the city of Gori was coming under artillery and tank fire. There was no immediate comment from Russia. 

A senior Western diplomat said it was unclear whether Russia intended a full invasion of Georgia. “They seem to have gone beyond the logical stopping point” to retake the separatist regions, he said.

The Bush administration said Sunday that it would seek a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Russian military actions in Georgia. And in a heated exchange with his Russian counterpart at the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador, accused the Kremlin of seeking to oust Georgia’s pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili. 

A column of Russian forces was also seeking Sunday night to enter Georgian territory from Abkhazia, another separatist enclave to the west, and Abkhaz fighters were massed at the boundary line, an Abkhaz official said in an interview.

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100 Reported Killed As Pakistan Forces Bomb Tribal Region
2008-08-10 17:27:29
Pakistani forces bombed dozens of houses in a tribal region near the Afghan border Sunday, officials and witnesses said, in a military offensive that comes amid U.S. pressure for Pakistan to crack down on militants.

Days of clashes have reportedly killed at least 100 insurgents and nine paramilitary troops in the area, an insurgent stronghold considered a possible hiding place for al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri. 

Details have been scarce about the military offensive in Bajur.

Sardar Khan, a local police official, said two spells of aerial bombing destroyed about 40 houses in several villages. He said bombs also struck a school occupied by Taliban fighters in Loi Sam, a village that has been a key focus of the fighting.

Two area residents, Sher Zamin and Attaullah Khan, said army planes and helicopters dropped bombs and shells, apparently on suspected Taliban positions.

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Isaac Hayes, Pioneering Singer, Dead At 65
2008-08-10 17:26:57
Isaac Hayes, the pioneering singer, songwriter and musician whose relentless ''Theme From Shaft'' won Academy and Grammy awards, has been found dead at home. He was 65.

The Shelby County Sheriff's Office says a family member found Hayes unresponsive near a treadmill on Sunday. He was pronounced dead about an hour later at Baptist East Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. The cause of death was not immediately known.

In the early 1970s, Hayes laid the groundwork for disco, for what became known as urban-contemporary music and for romantic crooners like Barry White. And he was rapping before there was rap.

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Meltdown In Arctic Is Speeding Up
2008-08-10 02:49:37

Ice at the North Pole melted at an unprecedented rate last week, with leading scientists warning that the Arctic could be ice-free in summer by 2013.

Satellite images show that ice caps started to disintegrate dramatically several days ago as storms over Alaska's Beaufort Sea began sucking streams of warm air into the Arctic.

As a result, scientists say that the disappearance of sea ice at the North Pole could exceed last year's record loss. More than a million square kilometers melted over the summer of 2007 as global warming tightened its grip on the Arctic. Such destruction could now be matched, or even topped, this year.

"It is a neck-and-neck race between 2007 and this year over the issue of ice loss," said Mark Serreze, of the U.S.  National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. "We thought Arctic ice cover might recover after last year's unprecedented melting - and indeed the picture didn't look too bad last month. Cover was significantly below normal, but at least it was up on last year.

"But the Beaufort Sea storms triggered steep ice losses and it now looks as if it will be a very close call indeed whether 2007 or 2008 is the worst year on record for ice cover over the Arctic. We will only find out when the cover reaches its minimum in mid-September."

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Judge: Sen. Stevens' Trial Will Be 'Fast But Fair'
2008-08-10 02:49:13
The judge overseeing Sen. Ted Stevens' case laid out the ground rules for the Alaska Republican's Sept. 24 trial, when he'll face felony charges he knowingly took gifts from an oil services company and failed to report them.

Stevens has asked to have the trial moved to Alaska and will have a hearing next week to make that request to U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan. The judge held a short hearing today to outline how the lawyers will pick a jury next month and handle motions in the case.

Stevens, 84, pleaded not guilty last week to seven counts of failing to disclose more than $250,000 in home repairs and gifts that investigators say he received from Bill Allen, the former chief of oil services company Veco Corp.

The trial has an accelerated timetable at Stevens' request. Stevens, who is up for re-election, asked for a speedy trial so he would have the opportunity to clear his name before the Nov. 4 general election.

Stevens also would like to see the trial moved to Alaska. In a motion filed Monday, Stevens argued it would be nearly impossible for him to campaign if the trial isn't moved. Sullivan said he hasn't prejudged the change-of-venue request but said that logistics and the time crunch require he move forward as though the case will be heard in Washington.

"It's going to be fair," Sullivan said. "Let me emphasize that. It's going to be fast but it's going to be fair."

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