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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday August 9 2008 - (813)

Saturday August 9 2008 edition
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Russian Air, Ground Forces Strike Georgia As Conflict Escalates
2008-08-09 02:57:44
Russia launched air strikes Friday deep inside Georgia and mobilized columns of tanks after Georgian forces embarked on a major offensive to reassert control over South Ossetia, a separatist province. Political leaders on both sides said that war had begun. The United States, an ally of Georgia, and other governments appealed for a cease-fire.

Georgian army units quickly seized Tskhinvali, capital of the mountainous province, said Georgian officials;  but large numbers of Russian tanks appeared to be moving against them there. Russian television showed what was described as a Georgian armored vehicle burning on the city's streets. Local officials reported large numbers of civilians killed. Russian officials said that more than 10 of their troops had died.

Georgia, a former Soviet republic, became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. South Ossetia then fought a war to break away from Georgia and has had de facto independence since 1992. The province is dominated by an overwhelmingly ethnic Ossetian population, many of whom have taken Russian citizenship. South Ossetia has received support from Russia, which is suspicious of Georgia's close links with the United States and its bid to join the NATO alliance.

Georgia's U.S.-educated president, Mikheil Saakashvili, has made recovery of South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, a top priority. "A full-scale aggression has been launched against Georgia," Saakashvili declared in a television statement. He announced a full military mobilization, with reservists being called into action. "Only thus shall we save our country," he said. Georgian officials said they would recall troops in Iraq to bolster forces against the Russians.

In an interview with CNN, Saakashvili called for unspecified U.S. support for Georgia, comparing the situation to Soviet crackdowns in places such as Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. "This is not about a tiny separatist area inside Georgia. ... This is not about Georgia anymore. It is about America, its values," he said.

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Editorial: The Right To Vote
2008-08-09 02:57:20
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Friday, August 8, 2008.

Much about the presidential election is up in the air, but one thing is certain: voters will have trouble casting ballots on Election Day. In a perfect world, states and localities would handle voting so well that the public could relax and worry about other things. But elections are so mismanaged - and so many eligible voters are disenfranchised - that ordinary citizens have to get involved.

Since the meltdown in Florida in 2000, a large, nonpartisan coalition called Election Protection - made up of civil rights groups, good-government organizations and major law firms - has been doing critical work in standing up for voters. It is an effort that anyone who cares about democracy should get behind.

The civic books say that any eligible voter who registers in time can cast a ballot on Election Day. The reality is not so simple. People file registration forms that are not properly processed, or their names are wrongly purged from the voter rolls. They are required to present photo I.D. even when the law does not require it. They arrive at polling places and find machines that do not work properly or lines that take hours to get through.

A major reason for these problems is that states and localities are stingy about paying for elections, so election officials do not have enough workers, training, computers and voting machines. Frequently, though, the driving force is partisanship. Some political interests benefit from low turnout, particularly among minorities, the poor, students and the elderly.

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Federal Prosecutors Clear Hatfill In Anthrax Case
2008-08-09 02:56:50

Federal prosecutors Friday officially "excluded" scientist Steven J. Hatfill from involvement in the deadly 2001 anthrax mailings, formally closing the door on a costly episode that sidetracked the FBI's search for the real culprit for nearly five years.

U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor sent a letter Friday to a lawyer for Hatfill, a onetime Fort Detrick, Maryland,  bioweapons researcher, that essentially cleared Hatfill of a crime in which he was declared "a person of interest" six years ago.

The decision to exonerate Hatfill amounts to an unambiguous acknowledgment by authorities that they misspent thousands of investigative hours fruitlessly trying to link him to the crime. It was only about 18 months ago that the government turned its attention to bacteriologist Bruce E. Ivins, who had become the leading suspect before his death by a drug overdose last week.

As late as a news conference Wednesday, prosecutors had shied away from mentioning Hatfill or characterizing their law enforcement interest in him, despite prodding from the news media. In June, the Justice Department agreed to pay $5.85 million to resolve a lawsuit Hatfill had filed over violations of his privacy rights; but the government did not admit wrongdoing or clear Hatfill at that time, stoking speculation that authorities were withholding information.

The doubt lifted Friday.

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Globalization Is Destroying The World's Oceans
2008-08-08 19:35:42
The oceans are a primary source of food for mankind, and fishing provides 200 million people with income, as meager as it may be, but a growing a demand and the industrial-scale exploitation of the seas are destroying global fish populations. The European Union's quota system is partly to blame.

Dawn creeps across the horizon as the Pinkis brothers' cutter returns to the harbor at Kuhlungsborn. The Baltic is still calm, but wind from the northeast has already picked up sharply, a sign of the storms in the evening forecast. The Pinkis brothers and their crew have been out since 2 a.m., 10 nautical miles off the coast of northeast Germany's Mecklenburg region, in a spot where they had staked hundreds of nets into the sea floor the previous afternoon, hoping the fish would come.

The brothers' cutter is small, less than 10 meters (33 feet) long, with a tiny bridge on top and a large fish tank in the hold below. Two stake-net fishermen stand on the deck, wearing bright orange oilcloth clothing. The boat has hardly docked at the wharf before they begin shoveling the catch from the hold, mostly flounder and codfish, even a lone turbot. The catch amounts to 200 kilograms (440 lbs.), the fruits of a day's labor - a day that can sometimes last 20 hours. Six days a week.

They're the only fishermen docked in Kuhlungsborn harbor this morning, a lone cutter among sailboats and yachts. The fishing harbors along Germany's coast have been emptied. There are about 3,700 ocean fishermen left in Germany today, many of them getting on in years. The Pinkis brothers are among the youngest members of the Wismarbucht fishing cooperative. Uwe Pinkis is 45, and his brother Klaus is 42. Fishing, in Germany, is a dying profession.

When Klaus Pinkis is asked whether it's possible to make a living from 200 kilos of fish a day, he puts down his dip net, pushes his cap up from his forehead and takes a deep breath. He looks at his brother for a long moment and says: "We're doing well, but there are others, many, in fact, who are getting really nervous and are on the verge of qualifying for welfare."
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Recession In Europe? Weak German Numbers Worry Economists
2008-08-08 19:34:38
The Germany economy - still the engine of Europe - may have shrunk in the second quarter, according to early reports, and the outlook for industrial production isn't lively. After a good start to 2008, German could slide into recession.

New figures on German industrial and export orders released this week suggest the engine of the E.U. economy has started to sputter. Fears of recession also rose after government officials warned this week about bad news from an upcoming second-quarter report, saying the German economy may have shrunk by around one percent.

The overall picture shows a Europe in the doldrums. German factory orders were down by 2.9 percent in June from May, and orders from abroad for German goods plunged by 5.1 percent. Production at German factories rose by 0.2 percent in June - less than expected - encouraging talk of a Europe-wide recession. Germany accounts for about a third of euro-zone output.

"Demand from abroad is slowing more sharply than domestic demand, which is also on a downward trajectory," said the German Economics Ministry, in a statement. "As a result prospects for industrial production all in all have worsened."
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Ex-Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo Under SEC Investigation
2008-08-08 19:34:13
Securities regulators have stepped up their investigation of mortgage giant Countrywide Financial Corp. and its former chief executive, Angelo R. Mozilo.

Bank of America Corp., which acquired Calabasas-based Countrywide last month, said in a regulatory filing Thursday that the Securities and Exchange Commission was conducting a formal inquiry of the lender and that it had responded to subpoenas from the federal agency.

The filing doesn't say what the SEC is looking at, but people close to the probe say it represents an escalation of an informal investigation launched last year and is focused on whether Mozilo violated insider-trading law and whether Countrywide's financial disclosures misled investors.

Bank of America declined to elaborate on the filing.

Mozilo, reached at his home in Thousand Oaks, declined to comment, as did Sandor E. Samuels, Countrywide's in-house legal counsel, and Gregory Weingart, its outside counsel at law firm Munger, Tolles & Olsen in Los Angeles.

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Analysis: How The Caucasus Erupted
2008-08-08 19:33:42
Firefights in South Ossetia and the danger of a second front in Abkhazia are the latest flare-ups in an old conflict. First the people in the breakaway regions lost faith in the Georgian government, then they lost hope of any help from Europe.

"What you gain by violence can only be held by violence" is the quotation from Gandhi on one Abkhazian Web site. And the words of the Indian leader devoted to nonviolent resistance resonate with many residents of Georgia's breakaway provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. A peaceful society in a unified Georgia now seems like a utopian project, even to the most hardened optimists, and the tenor in the once-autonomous Georgian Republic is closer to: "Only war can heal what no longer belongs together."

For days there have been skirmishes in South Ossetia, the worst since the region declared independence from Georgia in the 1990s. Who made the first moves, who started the first gunfight - those arguments can be spun in various ways in Tbilisi and Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, but Georgia has officially started a military offensive to win back the breakaway regions. Russian warplanes are also bombing targets in Georgia, according to reports from Tbilisi. The U.N.  Security Council has still not agreed on how to react.

It's a standoff with little hope for an easy solution and it is one that, in the past, has repeatedly shone the spotlight on differences between Russia and the U.S. Russia does not want to lose its influence on the former Soviet Republic of Georgia whereas Washington - which sees the country as a vital regional bridgehead and as an important transit country for gas and oil - would like to see the country join NATO and has provided political and economic support.

Since the "Rose Revolution" in November 2003, the U.S. has become even more involved in the region. Washington provided Georgia with development assistance and is an important investor in Georgia. President Mikhail Saakashwili, who studied in the U.S., has made a number of state visits to Washington, D.C. The U.S. and NATO also assisted Georgia in modernizing its army.
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As Sprint Users Continue To Leave, Firm Posts $344 Million Loss
2008-08-08 19:32:35
Sprint Nextel swung to a loss during the second quarter but still exceeded Wall Street's expectations and said it had slowed the loss of monthly subscribers. The third-largest wireless carrier said it expected losses to increase in the third quarter.

Sprint lost $344 million (12 cents per share), compared with a $19 million profit (1 cent), during the corresponding period last year. Second-quarter revenue fell 11 percent, to $9.06 billion, falling short of the $9.17 billion analysts expected.

Shares were down 14 percent Wednesday, to close at $7.34.

The company, headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas, with operations in Reston, Virginia, saw revenue for its wireless business drop by a 12.5 percent, to $7.7 billion. Sprint said it lost 901,000 subscribers, including 776,000 of its most-valuable customers, who pay monthly bills. While the defection rate is nearly twice as high as those reported by rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless, it is an improvement from the first quarter, when the company lost 1.1 million subscribers.

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Russian Troops Enter South Ossetia, Escalating Conflict With Georgia
2008-08-08 17:30:58
Russian troops entered a breakaway region of Georgia on Friday after Georgian forces pushed into the capital of the pro-Russian enclave, in a sharp escalation of the longstanding conflict.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin declared that “war has started” and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili  accused Russia of a “well-planned invasion," saying he had mobilized Georgia’s military reserves.

Reports conflicted Friday about whether Georgian or Russian forces had won control of the capital of the rebel province, South Ossetia. It was unclear late Friday whether ground combat had taken place between the two sides in the capital, Tskhinvali.

Georgia accused Russia of unleashing an air bombing campaign and claimed that hundreds of civilians had been killed; Russia denied those accusations.

Georgia is a close American ally whose shift toward the West and pursuit of NATO membership has angered Russia. The United States said Friday that it would send an envoy to the region to try to broker an end to the fighting in South Ossetia, and the European Union, NATO and Germany all called on both sides to stand down.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a strongly worded statement Friday. “We call on Russia to cease attacks on Georgia by aircraft and missiles, respect Georgia’s territorial integrity, and withdraw its ground combat forces from Georgian soil,” Rice said in a statement released by the State Department.

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Stocks Surge As Oil Prices Tumble Again
2008-08-08 17:30:35
In what is quickly becoming a familiar and volatile pattern on Wall Street, shares surged on Friday afternoon one day after the market fell sharply.

The immediate impetus for the rally appeared to be a big drop in commodity prices including a 4 percent fall in crude oil, which closed below $116 a barrel for the first time since early May. Oil fell $4.82 a barrel to $115.20 in New York trading.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index was up about 30.25 points or 2.39 percent, its biggest one day gain since April; the Dow Jones industrial average was up about 302.89 points, or 2.65 percent. The Nasdaq composite was also up about 2.48 percent or 58.37 points.

In recent weeks, the stock market has bounced between strong rallies and steep drops. The S.& P. 500 has moved by at least 2 percentage points 6 of the last 25 trading days since July 4. By contrast, there were only two days with 2-percent changes from the end of 2003 to the end of 2006. Before Friday, the index was up just 0.2 percent; the most recent gain puts the index up 2.4 percent.

Some analysts say the volatility signals that investors are increasingly uncertain about the economy. While they are encouraged that oil prices have fallen more than 20 percent from a high of $145.29 in early July, data on the economy and the housing market are still showing significant weakness.

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Britain Experiencing Biggest House Price Fall On Record
2008-08-08 03:01:11

Britain's biggest mortgage lender Thursday heightened growing recession fears when it revealed that the year-long credit crunch had wiped £20,000 ($40,000) off the cost of a home in the biggest annual fall in property prices on record.

On the day that rising inflation forced the Bank of England to leave interest rates unchanged at 5%, the Halifax said house prices last month were 11% down on a year earlier - the first double-digit decline since its monthly health check of the market was first published 25 years ago. Prices in the past six months have been falling at an annual rate of 20%, but the Treasury sought Thursday night to downplay the prospect of a stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers, saying it was only one of a number of options being considered for an autumn economic package.

Business groups and City (Intellpuke: City in London is the equivalent of Wall Street in the U.S.) analysts warned that deep and rapid cuts in the cost of borrowing would be needed next year to pull Britain out of its first recession in more than 15 years. House prices are falling more rapidly than they were in the property crash of the late 1980s and early 1990s, while official figures released Thursday showed orders for housebuilding 33% down on a year ago and orders for commercial property down 38%.

Fresh evidence of the impact of the global financial turmoil will emerge Friday when the Royal Bank of Scotland is expected to unveil losses of £1.2 billion ($2.4 billion) - the biggest in British banking history. Barclays Thursday announced profits down by a third, warning that it saw no end to the tough conditions of the past 12 months.

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Commentary: The Death Of A Nation
2008-08-08 03:00:49
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Ian Buruma, professor of human rights at Bard College, New York, and author of several books, including "The Limits of Tolerance". This commentary appeared in the Guardian edition for  Thursday, August 7, 2008. Prof. Buruma's commentary follows:

Belgium is in danger of falling apart. For more than six months, the country has been unable to form a government that is able to unite the French-speaking Walloons (32%) and Dutch-speaking Flemish (58%). The Belgian monarch, Albert II, is desperately trying to stop his subjects from breaking up the state. 

Apart from the king (who might be out of a job), who cares? First of all, the Walloons do. Although the French-speaking Belgians started the European industrial revolution in the 19th century, they are now living in a deprived rustbelt in need of federal subsidies, a substantial amount of which comes from taxes paid by the more prosperous, hi-tech Flemish. A handful of rightwing Dutch dreamers care, too, for they have visions of uniting Belgian Flanders with the Dutch motherland.

Alas for them, however, the Flemish have no such desire. Belgium, after all, became an independent state in 1830, precisely in order to liberate the Catholic Flemish, as well as the Walloons, from being second-class subjects in a Protestant Dutch monarchy.

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Study Cautions Against Strike On Iran's Nuclear Facilities
2008-08-08 02:57:00

A military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities would probably only delay the country's progress toward nuclear-weapons capability, according to a study that concludes that such an attack could backfire by strengthening Tehran's resolve to acquire the bomb.

The analysis by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) found that Iran's uranium facilities are too widely dispersed and protected - and, in some cases, concealed too well - to be effectively destroyed by warplanes. And any damage to the country's nuclear program could be quickly repaired.

"Following an attack, Iran could quickly rebuild its centrifuge program in small, easily hidden facilities focused on making weapon-grade uranium for nuclear weapons," said principal author David Albright, ISIS president and a former U.N. weapons inspector.

The study, scheduled for release today, is based in part on a comparison of Iran's known nuclear facilities with Iraq's  Osirak reactor, which Israeli jets destroyed in a 1981 strike intended to curb Baghdad's nuclear ambitions. Although Israel struck a devastating blow against Iraq's program, a strike against Iran would be harder by several orders of magnitude, according to Albright and co-authors Paul Brannan and Jacqueline Shire.

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Patch For Web Security Hole Has Leaks Of Its Own
2008-08-09 02:57:33
Faced with the discovery of a serious flaw in the Internet’s workings, computer network administrators around the world have been rushing to fix their systems with a cobbled-together patch. Now it appears that the patch has some gaping holes.

On Friday, a Russian physicist demonstrated that the emergency fix to the basic Internet address system, known as the Domain Name System, is vulnerable and will almost certainly be exploited by criminals.

The flaw could allow Internet traffic to be secretly redirected so thieves could, for example, hijack a bank’s Web address and collect customer passwords.

In a posting on his blog, the physicist, Evgeniy Polyakov, wrote that he had fooled the software that serves as the Internet’s telephone book into returning an incorrect address in just 10 hours, using two standard desktop computers and a high-speed network link. Internet experts who reviewed the posting said the approach appeared to be effective.

The basic vulnerability of the network has become a heated controversy since Dan Kaminsky, a Seattle-based researcher at the security firm IOActive, quietly notified a number of companies that distribute Internet addressing software earlier this year.

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FBI Apologizes To Wash. Post, N.Y. Times For Records Breach
2008-08-09 02:57:08

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III apologized to two newspaper editors Friday for what he said was a recently uncovered breach of their reporters' phone records in the course of a national security investigation nearly four years ago.

Mueller called the top editors at the Washington Post and the New York Times to express regret that agents had not followed proper procedures when they sought telephone records under a process that allowed them to bypass grand jury review in emergency cases.

The Justice Department's inspector general, who is reviewing the bureau's procedures in such cases, uncovered lapses that allowed FBI agents in 2004 to obtain telephone records of Washington Post staff writer Ellen Nakashima, who was based in Jakarta, Indonesia, at the time. The FBI also obtained telephone records of an Indonesian researcher in the paper's Jakarta bureau, Natasha Tampubolon.

Records of New York Times reporters Raymond Bonner and Jane Perlez, who worked in Jakarta in 2004, also were compromised, the New York Times confirmed Friday.

The FBI refused to disclose the nature or subject of the investigation that prompted the request for the phone records. At the time, the reporters were writing articles about Islamic terrorism in Southeast Asia.

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Economic Slowdown Reflected In U.S. Retail Sales Data
2008-08-08 19:35:55

Consumers scaled back on discretionary spending and hunted for values on necessities last month, according to retail sales figures released Thursday, as the boost from economic stimulus checks began to wear off.

Wholesale clubs such as Costco and BJ's posted strong double-digit increases, driven in part by shoppers paying more for gas and food at the stores. Wal-Mart posted moderate gains but cautioned that August sales may slump. Meanwhile, many department stores and apparel retailers, including Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle Outfitters, had declines.

"It's really kind of a tale of two industries at present," said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist for the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group. "Value and convenience retailing is doing better than the rest of the industry."

Nearly 40 retailers yesterday reported July sales results at stores open at least a year, a key measure known as same-store sales. The ICSC calculated that same-store sales across the industry grew 2.6 percent in July compared with the same month last year. Without the boost from Wal-Mart, retailers would have reported a 1.4 percent gain.

On Wall Street, stocks fell for the first time in three days, partly in response to the lackluster retail numbers and reflecting continuing weakness in the economy. The market was also dragged down by persistent concerns over the health of financial firms and rising unemployment.

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McCain Campaign Returns $50,000 To Florida Oil Exec
2008-08-08 19:34:50
Sen. John McCain's campaign is returning about $50,000 raised by a Florida oil executive because some of the funds were collected by a foreign national and came from donors who may not support the candidate, aides said yesterday.

"We thought it was an issue that there were people giving to the campaign who had no intention of supporting or voting for John McCain," said Brian Rogers, a campaign spokesman. "So we thought it was an appropriate measure at this point."

The decision to return the money follows a report in the Washington Post that found that Harry Sargeant III submitted a bundle of checks for $2,300 and $4,600 on a single day in March, all of them from donors in Southern California who had never given before this year's campaign and did not appear to be likely candidates to contribute as much as $18,400 per household.

Although the contributions were credited to Sargeant, whose company has Defense Department contracts worth as much as $1.4 billion, the checks came from Americans of seemingly modest means.

Donors included the manager of Riverside-area Taco Bell restaurants, a couple who at one time ran a liquor store in Colton and a Whittier auto mechanic. Sargeant, who runs the International Oil Trading Co., in Boca Raton, Florida, said he asked several friends and colleagues to gather the funds for McCain. He had done the same for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) and for former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) during the primaries.

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Witnesses Say Firefighting Helicopter Was Struggling From Liftoff
2008-08-08 19:34:24
Witnesses to the deadly helicopter crash in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest said the aircraft appeared to be struggling from the moment it took off with 13 passengers aboard, a federal official said Friday.

"The liftoff was slower than normal," said Kitty Higgins, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board. "The forward motion of the helicopter was slower than normal. The nose of the helicopter struck a tree and there were several rotor strikes of trees that followed."

The Sikorsky S-61 only rose about 45 or 50 feet, Higgins said at a media briefing here three days after the accident, which killed nine. It ended up on its left side about 150 feet from the remote takeoff site and "quickly filled with very dense, thick black smoke."

Three of those aboard were able to flee the helicopter and a fourth was dragged from the wreckage before it burst into flames. Photos of the crash site show not much more than a blackened outline of the craft with some of the tail remaining.

Higgins said investigators had recovered the cockpit voice recorder, which was in "better condition than we hoped, given the conditions at the crash site."

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Caucuses Violence Took Europe By Surprise
2008-08-08 19:33:54
European diplomats have been trying to maintain peace in Georgia with financial incentives and promises of partnership. But, now that bombs have started to fall, no one in Bussels, Berlin or Paris knows what to do.

At 6 p.m. on Thursday, the mood in Brussels was still positive: The crisis in the Caucasus appeared to be under control.

For days Georgian troops and fighters in South Ossetia had been exchanging fire. And on Thursday morning, Russia - which backs the Ossetians and is present in the region with a 1,000-man "peacekeeping" force - openly warned that Georgia was preparing to wage war.

Yet, when chief European Union diplomat Javier Solana telephoned with Mikhail Saakashvili on Thursday afternoon, the Georgian president sought to calm him down, saying he had just called a unilateral cease-fire. And, Saakashvili reportedly said, of course he shared Solana's opinion that every possible step to stop the violence should be taken, and that the problem could only be solved at the negotiating table.

Of course.

A few hours later, though, heavy fighting broke out. Bombs fell on civilians. A Georgian general spoke of "retaking" South Ossetia. The developments caught Europe by surprise.
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Instability Mounts In Pakistan Following Moves To Impeach Musharraf
2008-08-08 19:33:07
Tension in the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad, was high on Friday as uncertainty about the country's stability mounted in the wake of a decision by Pakistan's ruling coalition parties to impeach President Pervez Musharraf.

A day after leaders of the Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N party said they would move to oust Musharraf from office, politicians across the country appeared to begin repositioning themselves as the crisis over the beleaguered country's leadership continued to unfold. On Friday, leaders of Pakistan's Muslim League-N said four of its top members would return to their cabinet posts in the government after a three month hiatus that threatened to permanently fracture the ruling coalition elected in February.

Iqbal Jhagra, secretary-general of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, said party leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif decided to rejoin the government as part of a deal brokered recently with Pakistan People's Party co-chair Asif Ali Zardari. The move appeared to mend - at least temporarily - fissures within the coalition that erupted in May after Sharif withdrew his party members from key ministries in protest over Zardari's failure to deliver on a promise to restore Pakistan's broken judiciary.

With several of the cabinet positions now reinstated Jhagra said he expects impeachment proceedings against Musharraf to begin late next week. He expressed doubts that Musharraf had enough support from the country's military leadership to parry the coalition's impeachment thrust by dissolving the parliament and declaring a state of emergency.

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Sadr Plans To Focus Mahdi Army Mission On Religion, Social Issues
2008-08-08 19:32:08
Anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Friday announced new details of plans to transform his Mahdi Army militia into a religious and social organization, a step that U.S. officials hope will further tamp down violence in Iraq. 

At Friday prayers across the country, Sadr's aides said the new movement will be called al-Mumahidoon, meaning "those who pave the way." The name refers to the belief of Sadr's followers that they are preparing for the return of Imam Mahdi, a messianic figure who Shiites believe was hidden by God more than 11 centuries ago.

The naming of the new movement follows Sadr's declaration in June that he would permanently disarm the Mahdi Army, once the most feared militia in the country, and restrict fighting to members of specialized paramilitary cells assigned to attack U.S. troops. His decision to order a cease-fire last year is widely considered to be one of the main reasons security has improved in Iraq.

Salah al-Obaidi, the chief spokesman for Sadr, said the decision on whether the special cells would attack the U.S. military would be tied to whether the American government decides to set a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. American and Iraqi officials are discussing such dates in the context of an agreement to authorize U.S. troops to remain in the country.

It remains unclear whether all of Sadr's supporters will abide by the permanent cease-fire, but his supporters are working widely to publicize the announcement. Across Baghdad, posters have appeared explaining the orders to disarm.

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Political Blog: Edwards Admits To Extramarital Affair
2008-08-08 17:30:47
ABC News is reporting that John Edwards, the former Senator from North Carolina and presidential candidate, “repeatedly lied during his Presidential campaign about an extramarital affair with a novice film-maker.”

ABC says that in an interview for broadcast tonight on Nightline, Edwards told ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff he did have an affair with the woman, Rielle Hunter, but did not father her child, as has been reported by the National Enquirer.Edwards said in the ABC interview, however, that he had not taken a paternity test.

A former Edwards campaign staffer, Andrew Young, claims he is the father of Frances Quinn Hunter, who was born on Feb. 27, 2008. The Charlotte Observer reported last week that a copy of the infant’s birth certificate did not list the name of the father.

Edwards, who ended his bid for the Democratic nomination in late January, told ABC that his wife, Elizabeth, and others in his family became aware of the affair in 2006. The network said that Edwards “made a point of telling Woodruff that his wife's cancer was in remission when he began the affair with Hunter.”

Ms. Hunter had filmed a series of Webisodes early on for Edwards before his Democratic primary campaign became official. Reports indicate a PAC paid her a little more than $100,00 for them.

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13 Reported Dead In Texas Bus Crash
2008-08-08 17:30:24
A bus carrying a group of Vietnamese Catholics on their way to a pilgrimage plunged off a Texas highway early Friday morning, leaving at least 13 people dead and scores more injured.

The accident occurred just after midnight near Sherman, Texas, about 60 miles north of Dallas, and may have been a result of a blown tire, although local police and federal regulators are still investigating the cause.

The bus had been chartered by members of two Houston churches who were traveling to Carthage, Missouri, the site of an annual gathering of Vietnamese Catholics known as Marian Days.

The police who arrived at the scene of the crash found the smashed vehicle lying on its side just off a stretch of U.S. Highway 75. Baggage and bodies - some dead, some injured - were strewn amid the wreckage of glass and metal shards.

“You’ve got 50-something people laying everywhere,” Tony Walden, a Sherman police officer, told the Dallas Morning News. “I don’t even know how to describe it.”

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Russia Claims Georgia Is Preparing For War
2008-08-08 03:01:00

The capital of South Ossetia came under heavy fire last night, hours after the Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, denied Russian accusations that Tbilisi was preparing for war against the breakaway region.

"The assault is coming from all directions," said a brief statement on the separatist government's website.

Tbilisi said it was trying to "neutralize" rebel forces which it said were attacking Georgian villages, a senior official told Reuters. Casualty figures were unclear, but the escalating violence has raised fears of an all-out regional war, drawing in Russia, which has close ties with South Ossetia's separatist leadership.

Earlier last night, Saakashvili had offered a unilateral ceasefire and called for talks with the South Ossetian separatist leaders, but South Ossetian president Eduard Kokoity blamed Georgia for the renewed fighting and called Saakashvili's ceasefire call a "despicable and treacherous" ruse, Interfax reported.

The Russian foreign ministry joined in the criticism, saying "the actions by Georgia in South Ossetia bear witness to the fact that the leadership of that country can no longer be trusted," said the agency.

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Bolten, Miers Continue To Resist Congressional Subpoenas
2008-08-08 02:57:11

White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers Thursday asked a federal judge to delay an order to cooperate with Congress while they appeal the ruling.

The court filings indicate that Bolten and Miers will continue to resist subpoenas from the House Judiciary Committee as the Bush administration heads into its final months.

The plans for an appeal come in response to a ruling last week by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates. He rejected the administration's broad claims of executive privilege and ordered Bolten and Miers to comply with congressional subpoenas.

Lawmakers are seeking testimony from Miers and documents from Bolten related to the firings of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006. After Bates' ruling, Democrats announced they would schedule hearings on the issue in September - less than two months before the presidential elections.

Obtaining a delay could head off such hearings until after the elections. The subpoenas also expire at the end of the year.

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Incumbent Tennessee Congressman Loses Primary Election
2008-08-08 02:56:48
A freshman U.S. representative on Thursday became the first Tennessee congressman to lose a primary since 1966 after a bruising campaign in which he was accused of selling out to "Big Oil".

Johnson City Mayor Phil Roe beat freshman U.S. Rep. David Davis by a 500-vote margin in the solidly Republican 1st District in the northeastern corner of the state.

Davis left his campaign party Thursday night without conceding the race, but Roe declared victory in a speech to supporters.

"I will try to serve you with dignity and honesty, just like we ran this campaign," said Roe. "Ain't it fun to win one?" 

With all precincts reporting, Roe had 25,916 votes, or 50 percent of the vote, to Davis' 25,416 votes, or 49 percent.

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