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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday August 10 2008 - (813)

Sunday August 10 2008 edition
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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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Georgia, Russia Nearing All-Out War
2008-08-09 17:06:52
The conflict between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia moved toward all-out war on Saturday as Russia prepared to land ground troops on Georgia’s coast and broadened its bombing campaign both within Georgia and in the disputed territory of Abkhazia.

The fighting that began when Georgian forces tried to retake the capital of South Ossetia, a pro-Russian region that won de facto autonomy from Georgia in the early 1990s, appeared to be developing into the worst clashes between Russia and a foreign military since the 1980s war in Afghanistan.

Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, declared that Georgia was in a state of war, ordering government offices to work around the clock, and said that Russia is planning a full-scale invasion of his country.

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, eclipsing the authority of President Dmitri A. Medvedev, left the Olympics in China and arrived Saturday evening in Vladikavkaz, a city in southern Russia just over the border that is a military staging area. State-controlled news broadcasts showed Putin meeting generals, suggesting that he was in charge of the operations on Georgian soil.

Putin made clear that Russia now viewed Georgian claims over the breakaway regions within its borders to be invalid, and that Russia had no intention of withdrawing. “There is almost no way we can imagine a return to the status quo,” he said, according to Interfax.

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Fear And Uncertainty In Volcano's Shadow
2008-08-09 17:06:22
In the desolate silence of the once-vibrant town of Chaiten, Chile, now abandoned like a lunar landscape, the volcano still roars.

Three months after erupting, for what scientists say they believe was the first time in 9,370 years, the Chaiten volcano continues to threaten to coat this once-picturesque town with volcanic ash.

The aftereffects of the eruption in May destroyed half of the town of 5,000 residents. Uncertainty about when and if they will ever be able to return to the tranquil seaside life they cherished is tearing many of them apart.

What to do with the displaced has become a problem for Chilean officials, and Chaiten, tiny though it may be, has alerted them to the need to better understand the threats posed by hundreds of potentially active volcanoes in the country.

On May 2, the volcano that bears this town’s name burst into activity, spewing hot gases and ash some 12 miles into the sky. Most residents left, as some scientists warned that the volcano could be heading toward an eruption on the scale of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that in A.D. 79 wiped out the Roman city of Pompeii in less than a day.

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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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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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Darfur Withers As Sudan Sells A Food Bonanza
2008-08-09 17:06:40
Even as it receives a billion pounds of free food from international donors, Sudan is growing and selling vast quantities of its own crops to other countries, capitalizing on high global food prices at a time when millions of people in its war-riddled region of Darfur barely have enough to eat.

Here in the bone-dry desert community of Ed Damer, where desiccated donkey carcasses line the road, huge green fields suddenly materialize. Beans. Wheat. Sorghum. Melons. Peanuts. Pumpkins. Eggplant. It is all grown here, part of an ambitious government plan for Sudanese self-sufficiency, creating giant mechanized farms that rise out of the sand like mirages.

How much of this bonanza is getting back to the hungry Sudanese, like the 2.5 million driven into camps in Darfur? And why is a country that exports so many of its own crops receiving more free food than anywhere else in the world, especially when the Sudanese government is blamed for creating the crisis in the first place?

African countries that rely on donated food usually cannot produce enough on their own. Somalia, Ethiopia, Niger and Zimbabwe are all recent examples of how war, natural disasters or gross mismanagement can cut deep into food production, pushing millions of people to the brink of starvation.

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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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