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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday August 7 2008 - (813)

Thursday August 7 2008 edition
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Freddie Mac's Big Loss Dims Hopes Of Mortgage Crisis Turnaround
2008-08-07 02:56:57

The gloom over the nation’s housing market deepened on Wednesday as Freddie Mac, the big mortgage finance company, reported a gaping quarterly loss and predicted that home prices would fall further than previously projected.

The announcement disappointed those hoping that the housing market might be bottoming out and heightened worries that the government could be forced to rescue Freddie Mac and the other mortgage finance giant, Fannie Mae. The news also signaled that mortgage rates are likely to rise.

In filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Freddie Mac said that “there is a significant possibility that continued adverse developments” could cause the company to fall below government-mandated capital levels. In an interview, the company’s chief financial officer, Anthony S. Piszel, said that warning did not imply the company believed that risk was likely or imminent.

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which lubricate the housing market by buying mortgages from banks and other lenders and touch nearly half of all the nation’s home loans, have been severely weakened by the slump in the housing market. The downturn has forced millions of Americans out of their homes, cost Wall Street hundreds of billions of dollars and helped depress the broader economy.

“Basically, things are still bad,” said Steven D. Persky, chief executive at Dalton Investments, a $1 billion fund in Los Angeles. “Freddie Mac is telling us that nobody really knows how much worse they will get.”

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Scientist: Prepare For Global Temperature Rise Of 4 Degrees Celsius
2008-08-07 02:56:25

The U.K. should take active steps to prepare for dangerous climate change of perhaps 4 degrees Celsius, according to one of the government's chief scientific advisers.

In policy areas such as flood protection, agriculture and coastal erosion Professor Bob Watson said the country should plan for the effects of a 4C global average rise on pre-industrial levels. The E.U. is committed to limiting emissions globally so that temperatures do not rise more than 2 degrees Celsius. (Intellpuke note: I did a quick check and 4 degrees Celsius equates to approximately 40 degrees Fahrenheit.)

"There is no doubt that we should aim to limit changes in the global mean surface temperature to 2C above pre-industrial," Watson, the chief scientific adviser to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), told the Guardian. "But given this is an ambitious target, and we don't know in detail how to limit greenhouse gas emissions to realize a 2 degree target, we should be prepared to adapt to 4C."

Globally, a 4C temperature rise would have a catastrophic impact.

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FBI: Hospitals Used Homeless In Medicare Fraud
2008-08-07 02:55:26
FBI agents served search warrants Wednesday morning on three California hospitals as part of an investigation into alleged Medicare fraud involving homeless patients who were recruited from skid row.

Dr. Rudra Sabaratnam, an owner and the chief executive of City of Angels Medical Center, and Estill Mitts, an alleged patient recruiter, were indicted by a federal grand jury last week on 21 counts of health care fraud, money laundering and income tax evasion.

The men were arrested Wednesday morning as part of the federal government's criminal investigation, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.

"It's a scheme that ranged from street operatives to the CEO of a hospital," said U.S. Atty. Thomas P. O'Brien, adding that he expects several more arrests in coming weeks.

At the same time, Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo announced civil litigation against the three hospitals and their operators in what officials said was a "scheme to defraud the Medi-Cal and Medicare programs out of millions of dollars."

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Tests Point To Beef In Boy Scout Camp E. Coli Outbreak
2008-08-07 02:54:44

E. Coli found in ground beef at a Boy Scout camp in Goshen, Virginia, matches bacteria found in samples taken from some sick campers, lab tests have confirmed, and a state health official called beef the "prime suspect" in the outbreak that shut down the camp this week.

State and federal officials are investigating how the meat was tainted and the illness was spread at the Goshen Scout Reservation near Lexington, Virginia, which has hosted Washington, D.C., area Scouts for four decades.

J. Michael McMahan, an environmental health supervisor with the Virginia Department of Health, put forth a theory Wednesday. He said there was a "huge" chance that the ground beef was contaminated before it reached Goshen and that it was passed out to some campers to cook over a fire, a camp tradition. However, because the meat was still partly frozen, it might not have cooked enough to kill harmful bacteria, he said.

McMahan said that interviews with sick campers seem to support the theory but that the investigation is continuing. Beef was "the prime suspect" from the beginning, he said.

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Military Panel Convicts Bin Laden Driver In Split Verdict
2008-08-07 02:54:07
A panel of six military officers convicted a former driver for Osama bin Laden of one of two war crimes charges on Wednesday but acquitted him of the other, completing the first military commission trial here and the first conducted by the United States since the aftermath of World War II.

In a setback for the military prosecutors, the commission acquitted the former driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, of a conspiracy charge, arguably the more serious of the two charges he faced. At a trial that included references to the landmark Nuremberg war-crimes trials of Nazi leaders in the 1940s, Hamdan was convicted on a separate charge of providing material support for terrorism.

The split verdict gave both sides in the long debate over the procedures here grounds for their competing claims. Supporters said the system’s fairness was illustrated by the careful verdict, while critics said the trial, which featured secret evidence and closed proceedings, demonstrated the injustice of the Bush administration’s military commission system.

Hamdan, who has said he is about 40, could be sentenced by the panel to anything from no imprisonment to a life term. The sentence is to be determined after a separate proceeding before the same panel, which began Wednesday afternoon, after the announcement of the verdict. At that hearing, the defense worked to portray Hamdan sympathetically as a man with few choices who felt “betrayed by bin Laden” when he learned about terrorist attacks.

The sentence is expected to be announced as soon as Thursday. Its severity could provide an insight into the military panel’s view of the case, which has been criticized because Hamdan was a minor figure in al-Qaeda. 

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Paris Hilton Responds To McCain Ad
2008-08-06 15:04:52
ABC news clip about the McCain ad suggesting Obama is a celebrity like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears:

Click Here for full size video

The Paris Hilton resonse to McCain ad:
See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die
Click Here for the fullsize video

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Secret European Union Security Draft Risks Uproar
2008-08-07 02:56:46

Europe should consider sharing vast amounts of intelligence and information on its citizens with the U.S. to establish a "Euro-Atlantic area of cooperation" to combat terrorism, according to a high-level confidential report on future security.

The 27 members of the E.U. should also pool intelligence on terrorism, develop joint video-surveillance and unmanned drone aircraft, start networks of anti-terrorism centers, and boost the role and powers of an intelligence-coordinating body in Brussels, Belgium, said senior officials.

The 53-page report drafted by the Future Group of interior and justice ministers from six E.U. member states - Germany, France, Sweden, Portugal, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic -argues Europe will need to integrate much of its policing, intelligence-gathering, and policy-making if it is to tackle terrorism, organized crime, and legal and illegal immigration.

The report, seen by the Guardian, was submitted to E.U. governments last month following 18 months of work. The group, which also includes senior officials from the European Commission, was established by Germany last year and charged with drafting a blueprint for security and justice policy over the next five years.

Baroness Scotland, the U.K. attorney general, had observer status with the group to assess the implications for Britain, whose legal system, unlike continental Europe, is based on the common law.

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Commentary: Kafkaesque Rendition
2008-08-07 02:55:44
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Guardian national security editor Richard Norton-Taylor and appeared in the Guardian edition for Thursday, August 7, 2008. Mr. Norton-Taylor's commentary follows:

Lawyers acting for Binyam Mohamed, a British resident incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, are asking the high court to order the British government to disclose information that, they say, would show the evidence against him was obtained by torture.

The government is fighting the case. Of course, it does not want to reveal what Britain's security and intelligence agencies knew about the U.S. secretly transporting "enemy combatants" to places where they were likely to be tortured, the practice known as extraordinary rendition. To bolster its case, it has used its last resort, hoisting the flag of "national security". We have seen it before, most recently over the decision to stop the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) inquiry into allegations of bribery in the sale of warplanes to Saudi Arabia, and we will no doubt hear it again.

In this case, the government has told the high court that Britain is "hugely dependent in a number of areas on U.S.  intelligence". That intelligence relationship, it says, is grounded in the "fundamental principle" that no information passed between the two countries will be disclosed to a third party without the consent of the country that provided the information in the first place.

"Any disclosure, however limited, would seriously undermine this principle to the point that future cooperation between the U.K. and its most valuable intelligence partner, the U.S., would be severely jeopardized," the government argues. "This would pose a very serious risk to U.K. national security."

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Helicopter Carrying Firefighters Crashes Near Shasta - Nine Feared Dead
2008-08-07 02:55:04
A helicopter carrying a firefighting crew back to base for the night crashed in the remote reaches of northern California's  Shasta-Trinity National Forest on Tuesday evening, and nine of those on board are missing and feared dead, authorities said Wednesday.

The four others on board were critically burned, according to Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. Authorities have not yet identified all of the passengers.

The Sikorksy helicopter crashed about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday while taking off from a remote site about 35 miles northwest of Redding, in Northern California, officials said.

The chopper was shuttling a hand-crew back to its base in Junction City for the night, said Jennifer Rabuk, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service. She said the crash site - Helispot 44 - was a "rough opening cut by chain saws" in steep rugged terrain with a tree canopy and underbrush.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are sending investigators to the scene to determine why the helicopter failed to lift off.

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Schwarzenegger Refusing To Sign Bills Without Legislature's Budget Plan
2008-08-07 02:54:27
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Wednesday that he would not sign any bills lawmakers send him until they pass a budget and would veto measures already on his desk before they can become law.

"There is no excuse for the Legislature's failure to reach a compromise and to send me a budget," Schwarzenegger said at a news conference, more than a month into the new fiscal year. "Until the Legislature passes a budget that I can sign, I will not sign any bills that reach my desk."

Under state law, bills sitting on the governor's desk for more than 12 days would automatically become law. Schwarzenegger said he would keep that from happening by exercising his veto if necessary: "I will veto anything on my desk."

"Some good bills will fail," he said. "But we do not have the luxury of stretching out this process any longer."

There are 13 bills on the governor's desk now, all of which originated in the Senate. Senate leaders said they would withdraw them before they could be vetoed. The bills could be resubmitted before the Aug. 31 end of the legislative session.

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FBI: Documents Tie Scientist To Anthrax Attack
2008-08-07 02:53:54
The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday outlined a pattern of bizarre and deceptive conduct by Bruce E. Ivins, an Army microbiologist who killed himself last week, presenting a sweeping but circumstantial case that he was solely responsible for mailing the deadly anthrax letters that killed five people in 2001.

After nearly seven years of a troubled investigation, officials of the F.B.I. and the Justice Department declared that the case had been solved. Jeffrey A. Taylor, the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, said the authorities believed “that based on the evidence we had collected, we could prove his guilt to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Some survivors of the attacks and members of Congress said they were persuaded by the evidence against Dr. Ivins, laid out in hundreds of pages of applications for search warrants unsealed for the first time; but some independent scientists, friends and colleagues of Dr. Ivins remained skeptical, noting that officials admitted that more than 100 people had access to the supply of anthrax that matched the powder in the letters.

Lawyers for Dr. Ivins reasserted their late client’s innocence and criticized the government for presenting what they called “heaps of innuendo” that failed to link him directly to the crime and would never have to be tested in court. “It was an explanation of why Bruce Ivins was a suspect,” said Paul F. Kemp, who represented the scientist for more than a year before his death on July 29 at age 62. “But there’s a total absence of proof that he committed this crime.”

The conflicting views of Dr. Ivins emerged in a day of emotional crosscurrents. At a morning memorial service at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, weeping Army scientists praised Dr. Ivins as a beloved colleague “known for his patience and enthusiasm for science,” as a written program put it. At the same time, at F.B.I. headquarters in Washington, D.C., the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, and bureau officials were explaining to survivors of the anthrax attacks and relatives of the five people who died why they believe Dr. Ivins was a mass murderer.

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McCain Security Kicks Out Black Reporter
2008-08-06 00:34:45
Tallahassee Democrat senior writer Stephen Price on Friday was singled out and asked to leave a media area at the Panama City rally of presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.

Price was among at least three other reporters, and the only black reporter, surrounding McCain's campaign bus -- Gov. Charlie Crist and his fiancee, Carole Rome, were already aboard -- when a member of the Arizona senator's security detail asked the reporter to identify himself. Price had shown his media credentials to enter the area.

Price showed his employee identification as well as his credentials for the Friday event.

"I explained I was with the state press, but the Secret Service man said that didn't matter and that I would have to go," Price said.

When another reporter asked why Price was being removed, she too was led out of the area. Other state reporters remained.

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