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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday August 27 2008 - (813)

Wednesday August 27 2008 edition
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'Barack Obama Is My Candidate' - Clinton Calls For Unity
2008-08-27 03:39:46
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton roused the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night with sharp criticism of Sen. John McCain and a full-throated endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama, her former rival for the party's nomination, urging Democrats to put the long and bitter battle behind them and unite to take back the White Housein November.

"You haven't worked so hard over the last 18 months, or endured the last eight years, to suffer through more failed leadership," Clinton told an audience packed to overflowing at Denver's Pepsi Center. "No way. No how. No McCain. Barack Obama is my candidate. And he must be our president."

With some Clinton supporters still voicing reluctance to back the senator from Illinois, the former first lady's address was the most highly anticipated of the convention, short of Obama's acceptance speech on Thursday night. Her appearance was designed to signal the final transition from leader of her own historic campaign, which drew 18 million votes and pushed Obama to the limit, to unabashed supporter of the party's presumptive nominee.

Introduced as "my hero" by her daughter, Chelsea, Clinton received a thunderous welcome when she walked onstage to a sea of white placards with her familiar "Hillary" signature in blue. Before her entrance, delegates watched a video, narrated by her daughter, that not only paid tribute to her campaign but also gently mocked her well-known laugh and her inability to carry a tune.

Clinton described the passions that drove her to seek the presidency, including a desire to rebuild the economy, enact universal health care, end the war in Iraq and stand up for what she called "invisible" Americans. "Those are the reasons I ran for president. These are the reasons I support Barack Obama. And those are the reasons you should, too," she told an audience that included her husband, former president Bill Clinton, and Obama's running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (Delaware).

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U.S. Soldiers Executed Iraqis, Say 2 Of The Soldiers' Statements
2008-08-27 03:39:26

In March or April 2007, three noncommissioned United States Army enlisted men, including a first sergeant, a platoon sergeant and a senior medic, killed four Iraqi prisoners with pistol shots to the head as the men stood handcuffed and blindfolded beside a Baghdad canal, two of the soldiers said in sworn statements.

After the killings, the first sergeant - the senior noncommissioned officer of his Army company - told the other two to remove the men’s bloody blindfolds and plastic handcuffs, according to the statements made to Army investigators, which were obtained by the New York Times.

The statements and other court documents were provided by a person close to one of the soldiers in the unit who insisted on anonymity and who has an interest in the outcome of the legal proceedings.

After removing the blindfolds and handcuffs, the three soldiers shoved the four bodies into the canal, rejoined other members of their unit waiting in nearby vehicles and drove back to their combat outpost in southwest Baghdad, said the statements.

The soldiers, all from Company D, First Battalion, Second Infantry, 172nd Infantry Brigade, have not been charged with a crime. However, lawyers representing other members of the platoon who said they witnessed or heard the shootings, which were said to have occurred on a combat patrol west of Baghdad, said all three would probably be charged with murder.

The accounts of, and confessions to the killings, by Sgt. First Class Joseph P. Mayo, the platoon sergeant, and Sgt. Michael P. Leahy, Jr., Company D’s senior medic and an acting squad leader, were made in January in signed statements to Army investigators in Schweinfurt, Germany.

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Japan's Modec Wins Petrobras Contract
2008-08-26 21:08:16
The Japanese firm Modec said Tuesday that it won a contract with Petrobras to build a floating production and storage facility that will drill for oil off the coast of Brazil in the nation's giant Tupi field.

Mitsui Ocean Development & Engineering Co., or Modec, a Tokyo-based provider of floating production systems said it will deliver the vessel at the end of 2010 as part of a 15-year contract. The company did not say how much the deal was worth, and officials from Brazil's state-run Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, did not comment.

Modec said it plans to convert a used crude tanker ship into a production and storage facility capable of processing 100,000 barrels of oil per day.

Petrobras discovered the ultra-deep Tupi field last year, saying it could contain 8 billion barrels of recoverable light crude, and since then several other deep-water finds raise the possibility of recovering more than 55 billion barrels of oil, analysts said. The company has refused to forecast how big the finds might be.

The Tupi field lies under 2,140 meters (7,020 feet) of water, more than 3,000 meters (almost 10,000 feet) of sand and rocks, and a 2,000-meter (6,600-foot) layer of salt in what is known as the Santos basin.

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U.S. Home Prices Continue Record Decline
2008-08-26 17:33:49
U.S. home prices continued to fall at a record pace through the first half of 2008, according to a major indicator released Tuesday.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller U.S. national home price index fell 15.4% in the second quarter, compared with the same period a year earlier. The decline was the largest in 20 years for the index, which covers the entire U.S.

In addition to the quarterly national index, Standard and Poor's released its monthly index of 20 major metropolitan areas, which also posted record declines. June home prices were down 15.9% from a year ago in the 20-city index.

Los Angeles and Orange County home prices in California were down 25.3% in June from the previous year, the index showed. The L.A.-area decline was the fourth-worst among the 20 cities.

Las Vegas, Nevada, posted the sharpest year-over-year decline, with June prices down 28.6% from a year ago. Miami, Florida, with a 28.3% June annual decline was next, followed by Phoenix, which saw prices fall 27.9% from the previous June.
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FAA Communication Breakdown Delaying Flights Throughout U.S.
2008-08-26 17:33:24
The Federal Aviation Administration says a communication failure at a Georgia facility that processes flight plans for the eastern half of the U.S. is causing flight delays around the country.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen says there are no safety issues and officials are still able to speak to pilots on planes on the ground and in the air.

She said she didn't know how many flights are being affected.

Bergen says the problem that occurred Tuesday afternoon involves an FAA facility in Hampton, Georgia, south of Atlanta, that processes flight plans. She says there has been a failure in a communication link that transmits the data to a similar facility in Salt Lake City.

As a result, the Salt Lake City facility has to process those flight plans, causing delays in planes taking off. She said there are no problems with planes landing.

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Hundreds Of Workers In Mississippi Held In Immigration Raid
2008-08-26 17:32:29
In another large-scale workplace immigration crackdown, federal officials raided a factory here on Monday, detaining at least 350 workers they said were in the country illegally.

Numerous agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) descended on a factory belonging to Howard Industries Inc., which manufactures electrical transformers, among other products.

As of late Monday afternoon, no criminal charges had been filed, said Barbara Gonzalez, an agency spokeswoman, but she said that dozens of workers had been “identified, fingerprinted, interviewed, photographed and processed for removal from the U.S.”

The raid follows a similar large-scale immigration operation at a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, in May when nearly 400 workers were detained. That raid was a significant escalation of the Bush administration’s enforcement practices because those detained were not simply deported, as in previous raids, but were imprisoned for months on criminal charges of using false documents.

The mass rapid-fire hearings after the Postville raid took place in a temporary court facility on the grounds of the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo, Iowa. An interpreter was later sharply critical of the proceedings, saying the immigrants did not understand the charges against them.

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North Korea Makes Plutonium Threat
2008-08-26 17:31:43
North Korea said on Tuesday that it had stopped disabling its main nuclear complex, and threatened to restore facilities there that the North has used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

For months, United States experts and North Korean engineers have been disabling key facilities at the complex at Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, in a move that temporarily shut down the North’s only known source of plutonium.

If the North rebuilds the facilities in defiance of the United States and a coalition of major powers that have sought to disarm North Korea, it would nullify a major foreign policy achievement of the Bush administration.

North Korea often issues strident warnings as a negotiating tactic but nonetheless the latest declaration dimmed the Bush administration’s hopes of achieving a breakthrough in the North’s nuclear disarmament before President Bush leaves office in January.

The State Department described the announcement as a “step backward.”

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Huge Protest Against Government In Thailand
2008-08-26 17:31:01
Thousands of anti-government demonstrators besieged government offices on Tuesday and briefly shut down a television station in some of the most aggressive actions in months of street protests.

Organizers called it their final war in an effort to oust the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, whom they accuse of corruption and of being a proxy for the former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. 

An estimated 30,000 protesters gathered outside several government ministries and entered the grounds of the prime minister’s office. To avoid them, he moved a scheduled cabinet meeting to the military headquarters.

Protesters often gather outside the building, called Government House, but rarely enter the grounds. The crowd, which did not attempt to enter the building, appeared peaceful, television footage showed.

Samak said he would not be provoked and would continue to take a soft line with the protesters.

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NASA Images Show Gamma Ray Bursts Across The Milky Way
2008-08-27 03:39:35
NASA researchers Tuesday released images collected by a new telescope studying high-energy gamma rays. A combined image from 95 hours of the telescope's initial observations showed bursts of gamma rays glowing across the plane of the Milky Way.

The Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope, renamed Fermi, was launched in June and is off to a promising start, said NASA scientists.

"I like to call it our extreme machine," said Jon Morse, the director of astrophysics for NASA. "It will help us crack the mysteries of these enormously powerful emissions."

Gamma rays are powerful light rays invisible to the naked eye. Because Earth's atmosphere absorbs gamma rays, they can be studied only from the edges of the visible universe.

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U.S. Power Grid Limits Potential Of Renewable Energy
2008-08-26 21:08:27

When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.

That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore's hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.

The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads.

“We need an interstate transmission superhighway system,” said Suedeen G. Kelly, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). 

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FDIC: More Weakness Expected Among U.S. Banks
2008-08-26 17:33:57
The U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (F.D.I.C.) warned Tuesday that the nation’s ailing banking industry was likely to weaken further.

In its latest quarterly report on the industry, the F.D.I.C., which guarantees savings and checking deposits, said earnings at banks and thrifts declined 86 percent from April to June, to $4.96 billion, from $36.8 billion a year earlier. The agency raised the number of banks on its list of “problem” lenders to 117, up from 90 at the end of March.

“By any yardstick, it was another rough quarter for bank earnings, but the results were not unexpected as the industry coped with financial market disruptions, the housing slump, worsening economic conditions and the overall downturn in the credit cycle,” the agency chairman Sheila Bair said in a statement.

Federal banking regulators are concerned banks’ credit losses will worsen as problems spread from the housing sector to other areas of the economy. Borrowers are now falling behind on payments on auto, credit card and other types of consumer debt.

Home prices, meantime, continue to decline. They fell sharply again in June, according to a closely watched index released on Tuesday, the latest sign of the continuing struggles in the housing market.

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Deadly Pathogen Harms Florida Citrus Groves
2008-08-26 17:33:36
On a recent sultry morning, Peter McClure, who manages 8,000 acres of citrus in the prime Indian River region here, surveyed an orange grove riddled with gaps. He pointed to a tangled brown pile of dead trees and said, “Scientists have 10 years at the most to find a solution, or there’s not going to be a citrus industry in Florida.”

The world’s most destructive citrus disease is threatening the groves of Florida, the largest domestic producer of these fruits. The disease, which obstructs the flow of nutrients in citrus trees, originated more than a century ago in southern China, where it was named huanglongbing, or “yellow shoot disease,” after a typical symptom.

It also goes under the common name of greening, because many fruits remain green and are lopsided and bitter. Infected trees die within several years.

The form in Florida is associated with a bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, that is transmitted by a tiny insect, the Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri), which thrives on young citrus leaves.

Since it was first recognized in the United States - near Miami in 2005 - the disease has spread across Florida. Timothy R. Gottwald, an epidemiologist with the federal Department of Agriculture, has projected that virtually all the state’s citrus trees will be infected in 7 to 12 years.

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U.N. Report: U.S. Air Strikes Kill 90 Civilians, Mostly Children, In Afghanistan
2008-08-26 17:32:56
The United Nations reported "convincing evidence" Tuesday that about 90 civilians - two-thirds of them children - were killed last week in airstrikes by U.S.-led coalition forces on a village in western Afghanistan.

Kai Eide, a U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan, said in a statement that the findings were reported by a human rights team of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, which visited Nawabad village in the Shindand district of western Herat province and interviewed local officials and residents.

"Investigations by UNAMA found convincing evidence, based on the testimony of eyewitnesses, and others, that some 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children, 15 women and 15 men," said Eide, adding that 15 other villagers were injured.

The casualties occurred after "foreign and Afghan military personnel" entered Nawabad around midnight Aug. 21, said Eide. "Military operations lasted several hours during which air strikes were called in. The destruction from aerial bombardment was clearly evident with some 7-8 houses having been totally destroyed and serious damage to many others. Local residents were able to confirm the number of casualties, including names, age and gender of the victims."

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Sen. Clinton Prepares For Center Stage At Democrat Convention
2008-08-26 17:32:16
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton prepared to take center stage at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday in one of the most anticipated moments of the week, even as Republicans intensified their efforts to crash the Democratic Party's party.

Though it is not the speaking slot Mrs. Clinton would have preferred, her 20-minute address will be closely watched to see how strongly she embraces the nomination of her former rival, Senator Barack Obama, and what message she sends supporters who have remained angry over her failure to win the nomination.

Two Clinton advisers working on the speech said it would seek to balance strong statements of support for Obama, who continued to make his way to Denver, along with personal expressions of gratitude to the supporters who allowed her to become the first woman to seriously challenge for a major party presidential nomination.

Former President Bill Clinton, who will give his own speech Wednesday, and their daughter, Chelsea, are scheduled to be in the audience at the Pepsi Center. Shortly after noon Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton and Chelsea, who will introduce her mother, turned up at the podium in the convention hall to get a feel for the conventional hall. Mrs. Clinton is scheduled to speak at 10:30 Eastern time.

One of the Clinton advisers, who did not want to be identified discussing the speech preparations, said Mrs. Clinton was well aware there would be delegates on hand who remain angry over her loss and ambivalent about Obama and that she would try to reach those Democrats.

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Bush Proposes Protections For Pacific Islands, Atolls And Reefs
2008-08-26 17:31:18
President Bush on Monday signaled his intention to protect some of the Pacific Ocean's most remote and unspoiled islands, atolls and coral reefs from fishing and deep-sea mining.

In a memo to three Cabinet secretaries, the president asked for a plan that would protect parts of the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on the planet, as well as waters around Rose Atoll in American Samoa and various islands and reefs in the central Pacific that are under U.S. jurisdiction.

The proposal, expected to be finalized before Bush leaves office, could establish marine sanctuaries or national monuments extending as far as 200 miles from each island or emergent reef that breaks the surface of the water.

Bush wrote in the memo that James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, has advised him that these waters contain "objects of historic and scientific interest ... that may be appropriate for recognition, protection or improved conservation and management" under various existing laws.

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