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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday August 23 2008 - (813)

Saturday August 23 2008 edition
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Bernanke Urges Oversight Of Financial Firms
2008-08-22 17:39:05

The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben S. Bernanke, warned Friday that the economy would “fall short of potential for a time” and urged regulators to develop a broader approach to policing the financial industry.

Speaking at a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Bernanke offered an economic outlook that was not significantly different from the comments released by Fed officials after their policy-setting meeting in early August. He did acknowledge that the effects of the recent financial crisis “are becoming apparent in the form of softening economic activity and rising unemployment.”

Bernanke still expected inflation to slow toward the end of the year, and he found the recent decline in oil prices “encouraging.” Echoing the Fed’s policy statement from Aug. 8, he said the outlook for inflation “remains highly uncertain,” and the central bank “will act as necessary” to keep prices stable.

The remarks, delivered at an annual retreat for Fed bankers and economists, came amid an extremely difficult environment for financial policymakers. Inflation has accelerated to levels not seen for decades, even as the housing slump and weak job market take a toll on household spending.

Indeed, Bernanke opened his speech by describing the financial crisis as a “gale force” and said the nation faced “one of the most challenging economic and policy environments in memory.”

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Russian Forces Withdraw From Gori, Remain In Region
2008-08-22 17:38:37
Russian troops pulled out of the Georgian city of Gori Friday in what Moscow said was compliance with a cease-fire agreement, but they blew up Georgian military installations on their way out and set up checkpoints north of the city.

U.S., French and Georgian officials later disputed Russia's assertion that it had complied with the pullout provisions of the cease-fire accord.

The Russian withdrawal from Gori made good on assurances from Moscow that the troops would be out of the city by 8 p.m. local time but, around that deadline, a loud blast shook a Georgian military installation, and Georgian sources said the Russians had blown up a major arms depot. Other explosions followed, and thick clouds of black smoke could be seen billowing up from at least two locations in the city.

Georgian police arrived on the heels of the Russian departure and began setting up their own checkpoints. They were followed by nearly two dozen Georgian police cars that headed into the city from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, shortly after the pullout. The road between Gori and Tbilisi, a main east-west artery, appeared to be clear of Russian checkpoints, and Russian tanks were moving out of their positions in fields off the road.

The Russians, however, did not immediately withdraw from undisputed Georgian territory, instead setting up a checkpoint about two miles north of Gori and several others on the road to Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

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Marines Refuse To Testify On Squad Leader Accused Of Killing Iraqis
2008-08-22 17:38:08
A federal judge declined to put two Marines in jail Friday for refusing to testify in the trial of a former Marine accused of killing Iraqi detainees, but he set a hearing to determine what penalty to impose against the men for contempt of court.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Larson, who is presiding over the trial in Riverside, California, of former Sgt. Jose Nazario, could still decide to sentence Sgt. Ryan Weemer and Sgt. Jermaine Nelson to jail at the Sept. 29 hearing. But he acknowledged the move has not worked in the past.

"My suspicion is, given what the men have been through, there is not a lot they're afraid of," said Larson.

The federal trial is the first in which a civilian jury will decide whether the alleged actions of a former service member in combat violated rules of engagement. Nazario is accused of killing unarmed Iraqi detainees in Fallouja in 2004. Other Marines who had been at the scene are scheduled to testify, but none were witnesses to the alleged killings, unlike Weemer and Nelson.

In court Friday, Assistant U.S. Atty. Jerry Behnke told Larson he wanted the pair to be jailed for at least six months, saying their refusal to testify in the trial of Nazario "is doing grave harm to the case."

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Britain's High Court Critical Of MI5 Role In Case Of Torture, Rendition And Secrecy
2008-08-22 03:23:33
Britain's MI5 participated in the unlawful interrogation of a British resident now held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the country's high court found Thursday in a judgment raising serious questions about the conduct of Britain's security and intelligence agencies.

One MI5 officer was so concerned about incriminating himself that he initially declined to answer questions from the judges even in private, the judgment reveals. Though the judges say "no adverse conclusions" should be drawn by the MI5 officer's plea against self-incrimination, they disclose that the officer, Witness B, was questioned about alleged war crimes under the international criminal court act, including torture. The full evidence surrounding Witness B's evidence, and the judges' findings, remain secret.

The MI5 officer interrogated the British resident, Binyam Mohamed, while he was being held in Pakistan in 2002. Mohamed, 30, an Ethiopian national, was later secretly rendered to Morocco, where he says was tortured by having his penis cut with a razor blade. The U.S. subsequently flew him to Afghanistan and he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in September 2004 where he remains.

In a passage which appears to contradict previous assurances by MI5, Lord Justice Thomas and Justice Lloyd Jones concluded: "The conduct of the security service facilitated interviews by or on behalf of the United States when [Mohamed] was being detained by the United States incommunicado and without access to a lawyer." They added: "Under the law of Pakistan, that detention was unlawful."

Asked last month about unrelated allegations involving detainees held in Pakistan, the Home Office said on behalf of MI5: "All security service staff have an awareness of the Human Rights Act 1998, and are fully committed to complying with the requirements of the law when working in the U.K. and overseas."

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Driving Is Down, But Insurance Rates Are Rising
2008-08-22 17:38:52

Gasoline prices are well above last year’s levels, and people are driving less. That would suggest fewer crashes, and a little relief for the struggling American consumer, in the form of lower auto insurance premiums.

Instead, many insurers are raising their rates, sometimes by large amounts.

“On average, they have been asking for a 7 percent increase” in New York, said Michael Moriarty, the state’s deputy insurance superintendent for property and capital markets.

In North Carolina, the state is pondering an industrywide request for a 13 percent increase. In Illinois, increases have been anywhere from 3 percent at State Farm to 13 percent at the United Services Automobile Association, which insures military families.

For several years, auto rates had been flat and even declining slightly, thanks to new safety features on cars and, in some places, campaigns against drunken driving and insurance fraud. Officials in states flirting with deregulation said increased competition had also kept rates down.

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Bhutto Widower Zardari Proposed For Pakistan President
2008-08-22 17:38:24
Pakistan's main ruling party on Friday proposed the widower of assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto as Pakistan's next president, making Asif Ali Zardari the clear front-runner.

The move could hasten the collapse of a ruling coalition that has struggled to tackle the growing strength of Taliban militants. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings Thursday that left 67 people dead.

On Friday, Pakistan's election commission announced that federal and provincial lawmakers will elect U.S. ally Pervez Musharraf's successor in simultaneous votes on Sept. 6. Candidates must file their nomination papers on Aug. 26.

Sherry Rehman, a spokeswoman for the Pakistan People's Party, said the group's top decision-making body unanimously backed Zardari for president.

"If the major political party believes that he is the most talented person, then he is the most eligible person for this post," said Nabeel Gabol, another party leader.

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Internet Exploit For Google's Gmail To Be Released. Security Fix Made Public.
2008-08-22 10:40:57

A tool that automatically steals IDs of non-encrypted sessions and breaks into Google Mail accounts  has been  presented  at the Defcon hackers’  onference  in Las Vegas.

Last week Google introduced a new  feature  in Gmail that allows users to permanently switch on SSL and use it for every action involving Gmail, and not only, authentication. Users who did not turn it on now have a serious reason to do so as Mike Perry, the reverse engineer from San Francisco who developed the tool is planning to release it in two weeks.

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