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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday August 16 2008 - (813)

Saturday August 16 2008 edition
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U.S. Justice Dept. Proposal Would Allow State, Local Police To Collect Intelligence On Americans
2008-08-16 03:48:56

The Justice Department has proposed a new domestic spying measure that would make it easier for state and local police to collect intelligence about Americans, share the sensitive data with federal agencies and retain it for at least 10 years.

The proposed changes would revise the federal government's rules for police intelligence-gathering for the first time since 1993 and would apply to any of the nation's 18,000 state and local police agencies that receive roughly $1.6 billion each year in federal grants.

Quietly unveiled late last month, the proposal is part of a flurry of domestic intelligence changes issued and planned by the Bush administration in its waning months. They include a recent executive order that guides the reorganization of federal spy agencies and a pending Justice Department overhaul of FBI procedures for gathering intelligence and investigating terrorism cases within U.S. borders.

Taken together, critics in Congress and elsewhere say, the moves are intended to lock in policies for Bush's successor and to enshrine controversial post-Sept. 11 approaches that some say have fed the greatest expansion of executive authority since the Watergate era.

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Moscow Warns It Could Strike Poland Over U.S. Missile Shield
2008-08-16 03:48:30

The risk of a new era of east-west confrontation triggered by Russia's invasion of Georgia heightened Friday when Moscow reserved the right to launch a nuclear attack on Poland because it agreed to host U.S. rockets as part of the Pentagon's missile shield.

As Washington accused Russia of "bullying and intimidation" in Georgia and demanded an immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from the small Black Sea neighbor, Russia's deputy chief of staff turned on Warsaw and said it was vulnerable to a Russian rocket attack because of Thursday's pact with the U.S. on the missile defense project.

"By deploying, Poland is exposing itself to a strike - 100%," warned Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn. He added that Russia's security doctrine allowed it to use nuclear weapons against an active ally of a nuclear power such as America.

The warning worsened the already dismal mood in relations between Moscow and the west caused by the shock of post-Soviet Russia's first invasion of a foreign country.

There were scant signs of military activity on the ground in Georgia, nor were there any signs of the Russian withdrawal pledged on Tuesday under ceasefire terms mediated by the European Union.

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Georgian President Saakashvili Signs Cease-Fire Agreement
2008-08-15 17:25:11
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanded Friday that Russian troops withdraw from Georgian territory "immediately" now that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has signed a cease-fire agreement.

After arriving here in Tbilisi to discuss the deal with Saakashvili and to show U.S. support for Georgia's embattled government, Rice told reporters, "Our most urgent task today is the immediate and orderly withdrawal of Russian armed forces and the return of those forces to Russia." She said "all Russian troops and any irregular and paramilitary forces that entered with them must leave immediately." The only forces allowed to stay under the cease-fire agreement, which Russia's president has already signed, are Russian peacekeeping troops who were in two breakaway provinces of Georgia before Aug. 6, she said.

In a joint news conference with Saakashvili, Rice said international observers are needed on the scene to monitor the Russian withdrawal and that the United States is talking to European allies about getting such a force in place "in a matter of days." She said those observers should be followed eventually by "a more robust peacekeeping force."

An emotional Saakashvili stressed that the agreement he signed Friday "is not a final settlement" of the dispute over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two Georgian provinces controlled by Russian-backed separatists. "This is a cease-fire agreement between us and the Russians, facilitated by France and the United States," he said. "And we certainly should move from this temporary arrangement to ... an international peacekeeping force on the ground to replace the occupiers."

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Russian General: U.S., Poland Missile Defense Deal 'Cannot Go Unpunished'
2008-08-15 17:24:47
The United States and Poland reached a long-stalled deal on Thursday to place an American missile defense base on Polish territory, in the strongest reaction so far to Russia's military operation in Georgia.

Russia reacted angrily, saying that the move would worsen relations with the United States that have already been strained severely in the week since Russian troops entered separatist enclaves in Georgia, a close American ally. At a news conference on Friday, a senior Russian defense official, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, suggested that Poland was making itself a target by agreeing to host the anti-missile system. Such an action “cannot go unpunished,” he said.

The deal reflected growing alarm in a range of countries that had been part of the Soviet sphere about a newly rich and powerful Russia’s intentions in its former cold war sphere of power. In fact, negotiations dragged on for 18 months - but were completed only as old memories and new fears surfaced in recent days.

Those fears were codified to some degree in what Polish and American officials characterized as unusual aspects of the final deal: that at least temporarily American soldiers would staff air defense sites in Poland oriented toward Russia, and that the United States would be obliged to defend Poland in case of an attack with greater speed than required under NATO, of which Poland is a member.

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Oil Declines Along With Dollar's Rebound
2008-08-15 17:24:18

The rapid rebound of the dollar has led to an across-the-board plunge in commodity prices, with gold falling to a 10-month low and oil extending a decline.

The cooling off in the raw materials market helped Wall Street stocks advance on Friday, as shares rose modestly among businesses that depend on consumer spending. The Dow Jones industrial average was up about 40 points and the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index gained 0.39 percent.

Investors may be hoping that lower prices for energy, wheat, corn and precious metals will ease some of the cost pressures facing Americans, who are struggling to cope with the fastest inflation rate in 17 years.

Oil finished on Friday at $113.77 a barrel, slipping $1.24. Earlier in the day, crude futures traded as low as $111 a barrel.

Lower commodity prices have been a result of the run-up in the dollar, which started a comeback against foreign currencies last week. Investors like to use raw materials as a hedge against the American currency, so commodity prices tend to move in the opposite direction of the dollar.

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NASA Terminates Space Suit Contract With Texas Firm
2008-08-15 17:23:35
NASA says it has terminated its contract with a Houston company selected in June to supply the agency's next-generation space suit.

NASA said Friday it determined that a compliance issue required that it halt its contract with Oceaneering International Inc. The agency offered no reason except to say the decision is for the convenience of the government.

The $745 million contract has three phases and calls for a total of 109 suits, 24 of which will be the lunar suits.

Hamilton Sundstrand, a subsidiary of Hartford-based United Technologies Inc., supplied the space suit since the 1960s. It protested its loss of the contract.

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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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Court Filings Reveal Evidence Against Sen. Ted Stevens
2008-08-16 03:48:44
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) quickly turned a $5,000 Florida condo investment into a profit of more than $100,000 in a questionable transaction that federal prosecutors would like to introduce as evidence at his trial next month on charges that he lied on financial disclosure forms.

The investment and other details of investigators' case were disclosed late Thursday in a flurry of court papers filed by prosecutors and defense lawyers gearing up for the first trial of a sitting U.S. senator in more than two decades. The trial is tentatively scheduled to start Sept. 22.

Stevens was indicted last month by a federal grand jury on charges of not reporting on Senate financial disclosure forms that he accepted more than $250,000 in gifts and home renovations from executives of Veco, a now defunct oil services company in Alaska. Prosecutors allege that Stevens helped Veco and its executives on a variety of federal and state issues.

Veco's former chief executive, Bill Allen, pleaded guilty last year to bribing public officials and is expected to testify at Stevens' trial.

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Turkey's President: U.S. Must Share Power In New World Order
2008-08-16 03:48:17

Days after Russia scored a stunning geopolitical victory in the Caucasus, Turkey's President Abdullah Gul said he saw a new multi-polar world emerging from the wreckage of war.

The conflict in Georgia, Gul asserted, showed that the United States could no longer shape global politics on its own, and should begin sharing power with other countries.

"I don't think you can control all the world from one center," Gul told the Guardian. "There are big nations. There are huge populations. There is unbelievable economic development in some parts of the world. So what we have to do is, instead of unilateral actions, act all together, make common decisions and have consultations with the world. A new world order, if I can say it, should emerge."

Gul, relaxing in a hotel suite with a spectacular view of the glistening Bosphorus, spoke just hours before meeting with the visiting president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He rejected the idea, promoted by the United States and Israel, that the best way to deal with Iran was to isolate, sanction and punish it. "There are so many important issues, like the nuclear issue, Iraq, the Caucasus, Afghanistan," he said. "Iran is definitely having some influence of these issues, so we are talking."

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Russia's Conflict Worries Wall Street
2008-08-15 17:24:59
When Prime Minister Vladmir V. Putin of Russia wiped $6 billion in shareholder value from a Russian steel company last month with a few choice words, even risk-taking investors in Russia took notice.

Now, as a military conflict between Russia and Georgia ends its first week, a number of big Wall Street banks are beginning to reassess the stability of their businesses in the oil-rich nation.

While they are not planning to reverse their investments soon, they are increasingly nervous that Russia’s high-risk, high-reward environment is becoming too much about the risk.

Some investment banks had already begun to pause new debt and stock offerings in recent weeks, unnerved by Putin’s effect on Mechel, a coal mining and steel company whose shares plunged after he criticized its chief executive, and by the departure of the American chief executive of BP's joint venture in Russia, which is under pressure from the government and BP’s Russian partners.

Financial executives at several Wall Street investment firms, who spoke anonymously because they did not want to antagonize the Russian government, said they were starting to ask whether Russia had become riskier than they had expected.

“We expect some things to be controlled in a directed economy - the question is the unpredictability,” said a senior executive at a United States investment bank. “Russia has become the largest risk in the financial markets.”

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Jerry Wexler, Legendary Record Producer, Dies At 91
2008-08-15 17:24:31

Jerry Wexler, 91, the legendary producer and partner in Atlantic Records who coined the term "rhythm and blues," helped Aretha Franklin find her groove and freed Ray Charles from his early easy-listening style, died Aug. 15 at his home in Siesta Key, Florida. He had heart disease.

Mr. Wexler introduced black and Southern musicians to mainstream music listeners, when few whites paid attention to "race music." Searching for a new term to describe the powerful blend of gospel, blues, jazz and popular music largely created by black Americans, he came up with "rhythm and blues" in 1949. Within five years, he joined Ahmet Ertegun at the modestly successful Atlantic Records and, through a frenetic work ethic, recruited and shaped such storied artists as Wilson Pickett, Ruth Brown, the Drifters, Solomon Burke, Betty Carter, the Drifters, Etta James and many others.

While it lasted, the Wexler-Ertegun partnership did more to promote rhythm and blues from the rural lanes and urban back streets than any other record label in the nation. Atlantic Records jump-started the rock-and-roll revolution when Big Joe Turner's raucous "Shake, Rattle and Roll" electrified white teenagers in 1954 while Ray Charles' fusion of gospel, jazz and blues energized American popular music. Atlantic's deal with songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller gave birth to the Coasters, a savvy black vocal group whose hit singles, such as "Yakety Yak" and "Poison Ivy," used jaunty saxophones and street-smart humor to mask biting racial satire.

Mr. Wexler's scrupulous attention to detail, from meticulous arrangements to extensive rehearsals, brought both professionalism and sophistication to a genre that rarely had seen either from neglectful recording labels.

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Russian Armored Column Moves Closer To Tbilisi
2008-08-15 17:23:53
There were no reports of hostilities in the eastern part of Georgia on Friday, but a column of at least a dozen armored vehicles moved Friday night from Gori toward Tbilisi, the closest the Russians have come to the Georgian capital.

The company sized unit took up a position in the village of Egoeti, about 15 miles from Tbilisi.

Georgian troops in the western city of Kutaisi, some 50 miles from the Black Sea coast, said they were bracing as a Russian armored patrol advanced from the west. The patrol traveled inland to a town called Abasha, which is some 23 miles from the Black Sea Coast, then later returned to a temporary base at Senaki. Refugees emerging from the conflict zone in the separatist territory of South Ossetia told of looters roaming through villages. Russians retained control of the central Georgian city of Gori on Friday. Aid was coming in to Georgia, but helping the people of the South Ossetia area was another matter.

Reuters reported that the United Nations and Red Cross said they cannot safely take aid into South Ossetia under the current security conditions.

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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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