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Monday, September 01, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday September 1 2008 - (813)

Monday September 1 2008 edition
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5 Arrested, Dozens Detained In Pre-RNC Raids
2008-08-31 17:06:14
Activists planning protests around the Republican National Convention say they are being targeted in a heavy-handed attempt to chill dissent after police arrested five people, detained dozens of others, and seized computers and protest guides in raids Friday night and Saturday on private homes and the major meeting center.

The "RNC Welcoming Committee," an organization of dozens of activist groups and individuals from around the country, has been planning demonstrations for over a year at the convention. The largest, which activists said could draw up to 50,000 people, is scheduled for Monday, the opening day of the convention.

At around 9:15 p.m. Friday, Ramsey County sheriffs and St. Paul police officers kicked in the door of a former theater in St. Paul that the group had rented as a central planning office, said Lisa Fithian, a nonviolence coordinator working with the protesters. They ordered the 50 people inside onto the floor, where they were handcuffed, photographed and asked for identification, then had their possessions searched.

Police kept at least three laptops, plus schedules and 7,000 "welcoming guides" organizers planned to distribute to people coming to the Twin Cities for demonstrations, said Fithian. Those inside were released within two hours, she said.

On Saturday, police raided four other homes and arrested five people. They were being held at the Hennepin County jail in Minneapolis Saturday on suspicion of conspiracy to riot, conspiracy to commit civil disorder and conspiracy to damage property.

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Editorial: No One Lives There Anymore
2008-08-31 17:05:36
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Saturday, August 30, 2008.

Across the United States, neighborhoods are littered with an estimated 900,000 vacant homes, the result of foreclosures, bank repossessions and abandonment. And with defaults rising nationwide, the number is expected to grow well into next year.

Such blight is contagious. Empty houses pose fire and health hazards, attract crime and prolong the housing slump by depressing the value of nearby homes and adding to the nation’s already bloated unsold inventory. No one is immune. Even if your neighborhood looks fine - and you are financially secure - foreclosures in your metropolitan area mean less property tax revenue and, as the downturn deepens, less state sales tax revenue.

If the hardest-hit communities do not get help soon, the damage may be irreparable. Most foreclosed houses would sell eventually, but not in time to halt the decline in the quality of life that is already under way, or the fracturing of the areas’ tax base.

The federal government is only limping to the rescue. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is expected to release a plan next month for funneling nearly $4 billion to states and cities, mainly to buy and redevelop foreclosed homes.

The sum is far too small to have a broad impact. Properly targeted, it could stanch the decline in some of the neediest areas, and ideally, begin to revive them by attracting private investment. Success stories could serve as examples for other communities, when, as is likely, a future Congress has to provide more relief.
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Gustav On Track To Hit Gulf Coast On Monday
2008-08-31 17:04:54
With Hurricane Gustav bearing down on southeast Louisiana, officials in New Orleans and coastal parishes oversaw mandatory evacuations Sunday and prepared to batten down for the massive storm's expected landfall in about 24 hours, hoping to avoid a repeat of Katrina's catastrophic winds and floodwaters three years ago.

Gustav powered through the Gulf of Mexico, picking up speed and weakening slightly to a Category 3 storm after battering the western tip of Cuba, both giving forecasters hope that it might pack a lesser punch and drop less rain. But the storm was expected to regain some strength overnight that could bring it to the threshold of a Category 4 storm. The latest predictions suggest it could land around noon Monday with 130 mph winds within 50 miles of the city of Houma, Louisiana, which is southwest of New Orleans. The track of the storm, however, could change as it develops Sunday.

By late-morning Sunday, the storm was located about 270 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and was moving northwest through the central Gulf of Mexico at about 17 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning from Cameron, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border, including New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.

In New Orleans, Mayor C. Ray Nagin said the city had evacuated nearly 15,000 people on buses before anticipating a shutdown of service by mid-afternoon, and ordered residents of the city's West and East Bank neighborhoods to leave.

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Conservative Ire Pushed McCain From Choosing Lieberman As Running Mate
2008-08-31 17:04:12
In the end, the choice of his running mate said more about Senator John McCain and his image of himself than it did about Sarah Palin,the little-known governor of Alaska whose selection has shaken up the presidential race.

For weeks, said advisers close to the campaign, McCain had wanted to name as his running mate his good friend Senator Joseph I. Lieberman,of Connecticut, the Democrat turned independent. By the end of last weekend, the outrage from Christian conservatives over the possibility that McCain would fill out the Republican ticket with  Lieberman, a supporter of abortion rights, had become too intense to be ignored.

With time running out, and after a long meeting with his inner circle in Phoenix, Arizona, McCain finally picked up the phone last Sunday and reached Ms. Palin at the Alaska State Fair. Although the campaign’s polling on McCain’s potential running mates was inconclusive on the selection of Ms. Palin - virtually no one had heard of her, said a McCain adviser - the governor, who opposes abortion, had glowing reviews from influential social conservatives.

McCain was comfortable with two others on his short list, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, of Minnesota and former Gov. Mitt Romney, of Massachusetts but neither was the transformative, attention-grabbing choice McCain felt he needed, said top campaign advisers, to help him pivot from his image as the custodian of the status quo to a change agent like his Democratic rival, Senator Barack Obama.

Not least, Obama’s decision to pass over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as his running mate opened the possibility for Republicans to put a woman on the ticket and pick off some of Clinton’s supporters.

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Afghans Dispute U.S. Probe On Civilian Deaths
2008-08-31 17:03:14
An Afghan army commander said that U.S. and Afghan troops were fired on first from a village where a government investigative commission says scores of civilians were killed, according to a report released Sunday.

The chief of staff for the army's Herat corps told the head of the government's investigative commission that shots were fired early Aug. 22 from Azizabad at U.S. and Afghan troops. The troops had gone to the village on a raid.

The report, released by the office of President Hamid Karzai, did not specify who fired the shots.

"When the ANA (Afghan army) and coalition troops got close to the village, firing started after the ANA unit stopped, and the coalition forces conducted the operation in the village," said the report.

There were no "foreign or internal Taliban" among the victims, said the report.

The commission found that 15 men, 15 women and 60 children were killed. That finding was backed by a preliminary U.N. report. The commission said eight houses were destroyed and seven damaged.

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Agreement On U.S. Withdrawal From Iraq Said To Be In Peril
2008-08-31 03:38:08
At the "make-or-break" stage of talks with the U.S. on the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has swept aside his negotiating team and replaced it with three of his closest aides, a reshuffle that some Iraqi officials warn risks sabotaging the agreement.

The decision on the team negotiating the pact, which the Americans have described as the basis of a long-term strategic alliance between the United States and Iraq, remains so sensitive that it has not been announced. In disclosing the switch to the Los Angeles Times this weekend, a senior Iraqi official close to Maliki also suggested that the two sides remained deadlocked on key issues.

The shake-up comes just four months before the expiration of the United Nations mandate that authorizes the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the country recently, expectations rose that an agreement was imminent, but Iraq and the United States remain far apart on the matter of immunity for U.S. forces in Iraqi courts, said the official.

"People gave the impression we were close when Rice was here, but it's not over. We would have a serious problem if we took it to the parliament right now," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue.

The official insisted that if U.S. troops remained exempt from Iraqi rule of law, the pact would never get passed by the lawmakers.

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American Petroleum Institute Joins Alaska In Lawsuit To Overturn Polar Bear Protection
2008-08-31 03:37:15
The American Petroleum Institute and four other business groups filed suit Thursday against Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall, joining Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's administration in trying to reverse the listing of the polar bear as a threatened species.

On Aug. 4, the state of Alaska filed a lawsuit opposing the polar bear's listing, arguing that populations as a whole are stable and that melting sea ice does not pose an imminent threat to their survival. The suit says polar bears have survived warming periods in the past. The federal government has 60 days from the filing date to respond.

One of the plaintiffs in Thursday's lawsuit, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), lauded the choice of Palin as the Republican vice presidential nominee for reasons including her advocacy of Alaskan oil and gas exploration, which many fear could be affected by the bear's protected status.

NAM and the petroleum institute were joined in the lawsuit by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Mining Association and the American Iron and Steel Institute. They object to what they call the "Alaska Gap" in relation to the special rule the federal government issued in May in conjunction with the polar bear's protected status. The rule, meant to prevent the polar bear's status from being used as a tool for imposing greenhouse gas limits, exempts projects in all states except Alaska from undergoing review in relation to emissions.

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Residents Of Palin's Home Town Surprised, Shocked At Selection
2008-08-31 03:35:44
Sarah Palin grew up, played basketball, wore a tiara and first stood for office in this town that is really an incorporated cluster of strip malls and lumber yards, 45 miles up the broad valley leading north from Anchorage. The newest and least-known figure in national politics has been known all along in Wasilla, where the governor lives with her husband and five children on Lake Lucille.

And yet, Sen. John McCain's announcement that Palin was his choice for vice president astonished Wasilla as nowhere else.

"It's kind of a shock. I think she's in a little over her head," Eric Thaler, 34, said over breakfast at the Mat-Su Family Restaurant. "But I think, of anybody, she's the kind of person who can rise to an occasion."

"She handles things with such grace," said his wife, Kelly Thaler, whose father employed the future governor 25 years ago to do office work for his land surveying business. "She handles tough questions well. It's hard to get elected - to be a woman and get elected - in Alaska.

"It's big, but it's small. Everybody knows everybody."

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Bacteria In Water At Oklahoma E. Coli Site
2008-08-31 03:35:10
Bacterial contamination has been found in well water at a northeast Oklahoma restaurant linked to an E. coli outbreak that killed a man and sickened dozens of others, state health officials said Friday.

Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Skylar McElhaney said that more tests are needed to see if the bacteria found in the water includes the strain of E. coli implicated in the outbreak.

"While we cannot say this is the source of the outbreak, we also cannot rule it out," McElhaney said in an e-mail.

The outbreak connected to the Country Cottage restaurant in the town of Locust Grove sickened 116 people, and about 50 of those required hospitalization, health officials said.

Chad Ingle, 26, died Sunday, a week after eating at the restaurant. Several children sickened have needed dialysis treatment due to kidney failure.

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Indians' Water Rights Give Hope For Better Health
2008-08-31 17:05:59
More than a hundred years ago, the Gila River, siphoned off by farmers upstream, all but dried up here in the parched flats south of Phoenix, plunging an Indian community that had depended on it for centuries of farming into starvation and poverty.

If that was not bad enough, food rations sent by the federal government - white flour, lard, canned meats and other sugary, processed foods - conspired with the genetic anomalies of the Indians to sow an obesity epidemic that has left the reservation with among the highest rates of diabetes in the world.

Now, after decades of litigation that produced the largest water-rights settlement ever in Indian country, the Indians here in the Gila River community are getting some of their water back. And with it has come the question: Can a healthier lifestyle lost generations ago be restored?

Reviving the farming tradition will prove difficult, many tribal members say, because the tribes, who number 20,000, including about 12,000 on the reservation, have not farmed on a big scale for generations. Fast food is a powerful lure particularly for the young, and the trend of late has been to move off the reservation, to work or live.

“Nobody wants to get out and get dirt under their fingernails,” said Pancratious Harvey, one of a handful of tribal members who began a community garden a couple of years ago.

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Commentary: The Hollow Man
2008-08-31 17:05:18
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by columnist William Rivers Pitt and appeared in's online edition for Sunday, August 31, 2008. Mr. Pitt's commentary follows:

"Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking."  - H. L. Mencken

 In this election, it is the character of the candidate that will matter the most.

That, and pretty much that alone, has been the core campaign message Republican candidate John McCain has been peddling to all and sundry for nearly two years. His devotion to this particular talking point has come to resemble the kind of passionate zeal rarely seen beyond the compound walls of survivalist militia groups; and the slavish dedication he has displayed in tolerating the mindless monotony of such endless repetition is matched only by the muddy mooing of sacred cows along the shores of the Ganges River in India.

Clearly, Mr. McCain has become deeply invested in trying to keep the entire presidential campaign conversation focused only on this mantra regarding "Character." To be sure, he has definitely put in the work. He began his second, and presumably final presidential campaign on the second Friday in November of 2006; in the six hundred and sixty one days that have passed since he became a candidate again, his maximum efforts have been focused on flogging the "Character" theme every step of the way.

Presidential races being what they are, it was simply impossible for McCain to remain totally focused on this one-liner sloganeering project. Every rare now and infrequent then, something would come along with enough juice to merit the creation and release of a new statement. The campaign message machine would suddenly swerve out of the "Character counts" slow lane and merge itself into the heavier traffic, passenger-side turn signal blinking away for no good reason as usual, but only for a few miles.

Sooner or later, the bus always veered back into that slow lane, those newer messages eventually died of neglect, and would go floating up to whatever Heaven there may be for topics that were either too hot for a compromised candidate to handle, or were too detailed for a stupid candidate to comprehend. Mr. McCain has evinced both facets of this particular phenomenon on more than a few occasions, most notably during the recent Russia-Georgia crisis. Beyond that, almost every single time some reporter posited queries about Iraq, or Afghanistan, or the entire African continent, or basically anything else pertaining to issues of national security, McCain wound up dropping the informational ball.

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Bush, Cheney To Skip Republican Convention Due To Gustav
2008-08-31 17:04:40
President Bush and Vice President Cheney will skip the Republican National Convention, the presidential nominating conclave that will likely undergo dramatic changes, officials said Sunday.

The White House announced Sunday morning that Bush and Cheney would miss the Republican convention in Minnesota to concentrate on emergency preparations for Hurricane Gustav, nearing landfall in the Gulf Coast.

Hours later, Sen. John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, told reporters that the convention, which begins Monday, would be refocused.

"We must redirect our efforts from the really celebratory event of the nomination of president and vice president of our party to acting as all Americans," he said.

"We'll change our program and I'll be announcing details of it in the next few hours. But there's very little doubt that we have to go from a party event to a call to the nation for action, action to help our fellow citizens in this time of tragedy and disaster, action in the form of volunteering, donations, reaching out our hands and our hearts and our wallets to the people who are under such great threat from this great natural disaster."

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Commentary: McCain's Baked Alaska
2008-08-31 17:03:53
Intellpuke: This commentary was written from Denver, Colorado, by New York Times op-ed columnist Gail Collins and appeared in the N. Y. Times edition for Saturday, August 30, 2008. Ms. Collins' commentary follows:

It is conceivable that some people will think John McCain picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate because she is a woman. I know you find this shocking, but I swear I have heard it mentioned.

McCain does not believe in pandering to identity politics. He was looking for someone who was well prepared to fight against international Islamic extremism, the transcendent issue of our time. And in the end he decided that in good conscience, he was not going to settle for anyone who had not been commander of a state national guard for at least a year and a half. He put down his foot!

The obvious choice was Palin, the governor of Alaska, whose guard stands as our last best defense against possible attack by the resurgent Russian menace across the Bering Strait.

Also a woman, but that’s totally beside the point.

True, the only nonfamily members other than McCain that Palin really mentioned in her introductory speech were Democrats Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Whatever happened to Ronald Reagan? Isn’t there a rule that you have to mention Ronald Reagan?

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New Orleans Orders Manadatory Evacuation As Gustav Grows
2008-08-31 03:38:21
Residents were ordered to flee an only partially rebuilt New Orleans Sunday as another monster storm bore down on Louisiana nearly three years to the day after Hurricane Katrina wiped out entire swaths of the city.

Hurricane Gustav, which already killed more than 80 people in the Caribbean, strengthened quickly into a Category 4 and was poised to become a Category 5 storm, packing winds in excess of 156 mph. It slammed Cuba's tobacco-growing western tip before moving away from the island country into the Gulf of Mexico.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin used stark language to urge residents to get out of the city, calling Gustav the ''storm of the century.''

''This is the real deal, not a test,'' Nagin said as he issued the evacuation order Saturday night. ''For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life.''

Forecasters were slightly less dire in their predictions, saying the storm should make landfall Monday afternoon somewhere between western Mississippi and East Texas, where evacuations were also under way. It's too early to know whether New Orleans will take another direct hit, they said, but city officials weren't taking any chances.

Gustav's center was about 485 miles southeast of the Mississippi River's mouth at 2 a.m. EDT, with top winds of near 135 mph expected to strengthen as it crosses the central Gulf. It was moving northwest near 15 mph.

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Britain's Prime Minister: Russia Will Not Hold Us To Ransom
2008-08-31 03:37:56
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown warns today that the West will not be held to ransom by Russia, threatening a "root and branch" review of relations with the Kremlin and urgently moving to stop Britain's reliance on Russian oil and gas.

His defiant words in an article in today's Observer, following a "frank" conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Saturday, will heighten tensions ahead of Monday's meeting of European heads of state called to discuss the crisis in Georgia. The Prime Minister's intervention reflects fears that the territorial conflict over South Ossetia risks spilling into an energy war, with Russia using its vast supplies of oil and gas - on which many European countries depend - to blackmail the West into submission.

"No nation can be allowed to exert an energy stranglehold over Europe," says Brown. He promises urgent action to prevent Britain "sleepwalking into an energy dependence on less stable or reliable partners", including seeking out alternative suppliers of gas and oil, as well as pushing ahead with plans for new nuclear plants and alternative fuels.

Brown argues for more funding to build a pipeline from the Caspian Sea carrying gas through Turkey to the West, avoiding the traditional route through Russia and its satellites. Analysts had speculated that the Nabucco pipeline project would be jeopardized by the invasion of Georgia.

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Lots Of No-Shows Expected At Republican Convention
2008-08-31 03:37:02
As Sen. John McCain prepares to accept the Republican presidential nomination this week, his party's four-day convention will be notable in part for who isn't attending.

Compared with past Republican conventions, a surprising number of prominent lawmakers and candidates will stay away from the festivities Sept. 1 to 4 in St. Paul, Minnesota - chiefly citing tough reelection battles, previous commitments or other scheduling conflicts.

At least 10 incumbent senators, plus several Senate candidates, have sent their regrets. Only three incumbents in hotly contested races, including Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, will join the partygoers.

"It's probably easier to say who is attending," said Rebecca Fisher, spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. But the list is "a moving target," she added.

Republican officials have encouraged candidates to focus first on winning their own elections. But an aide to a Republican senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, offered another reason for the no-shows.

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Hundreds Of Thousands Of Mexicans Protest Killings
2008-08-31 03:35:27
Hundreds of thousands of frustrated Mexicans, many carrying pictures of kidnapped loved ones, marched across the country Saturday to demand government action against a relentless tide of killings, abductions and shootouts.

The mass candlelight protests were a challenge to the government of President Felipe Calderon, who has made fighting crime a priority and deployed more than 25,000 soldiers and federal police to wrest territory from powerful drug cartels.

Cries of "enough" and "long live Mexico" rose up from sea of white-clad demonstrators filling Mexico City's enormous Zocalo square. The protesters held candles twinkling in the darkness as they sang the national anthem before dispersing.

"I've had enough. Kidnapping, corrupt police, a rotten judicial system," said Ricardo Robledo, a 43-year-old music producer who said he had been robbed numerous times. "This may begin a change."

City officials refused to give a crowd estimate, but the Zocalo can hold nearly 100,000 people. Tens of thousands overflowed into the surrounding streets, unable to squeeze into the square. Thousands more protested in cities across the country.

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