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Monday, September 15, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday September 15 2008 - (813)

Monday September 15 2008 edition
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Lehman Bros. Heads Toward Brink As Barclay's Withdraws From Talks
2008-09-14 15:40:32

Unable to find a savior, the troubled investment bank Lehamn Brothers appeared headed toward liquidation on Sunday, in what would be one of the biggest failures in Wall Street history.

The fate of Lehman hung in the balance as Federal Reserve officials and the leaders of major financial institutions continued to gather in emergency meetings on Sunday trying to complete a plan to rescue the stricken bank.

Barclays, considered the leading contender to buy all or part of Lehman, said Sunday that it could not reach a deal without financial support from the federal government or other banks, making a liquidation more likely.

The leading proposal had been to divide Lehman into two entities, a “good bank” and a “bad bank.” Under that scenario, Barclays would have bought the parts of Lehman that have been performing well, while a group of 10 to 15 Wall Street companies would agree to absorb losses from the bank’s troubled assets, according to two people briefed on the proposal. Taxpayer money would not be included in such a deal, they said.

That plan fell apart on Sunday, making it likely that Lehman would be forced to liquidate.

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Health Officials Fear Spread Of Lung-Destroying Pneumonia
2008-09-14 15:40:04
U.S. health authorities have detected the emergence of a rare but deadly lung-destroying form of pneumonia, sparked by the combination of a skin infection and the common flu.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 22 deaths among children last year from the dual infection.

Numbers from the 2007-2008 flu season won't be released until next month, but officials say deaths have increased. The CDC has just begun tracking cases among all age groups.

The number of fatalities, though low, is a sharp increase from previous years, and infectious disease experts worry that an ongoing epidemic of skin infections could drive the numbers higher.

The double infection has appeared before: It was the leading cause of bacterial pneumonia deaths during the 1957-1958 flu pandemic, which killed 2 million people worldwide, including about 70,000 in the U.S.

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Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends And Lashed At Foes
2008-09-14 15:39:06
Gov. Sarah Palin lives by the maxim that all politics is local, not to mention personal.

So when there was a vacancy at the top of the State Division of Agriculture, she appointed a high school classmate, Franci Havemeister, to the $95,000-a-year directorship. A former real estate agent, Havemeister cited her childhood love of cows as a qualification for running the roughly $2 million agency.

Havemeister was one of at least five schoolmates Palin hired, often at salaries far exceeding their private sector wages.

When Ms. Palin had to cut her first state budget, she avoided the legion of frustrated legislators and mayors. Instead, she huddled with her budget director and her husband, Todd, an oil field worker who is not a state employee, and vetoed millions of dollars of legislative projects.

And four months ago, a Wasilla blogger, Sherry Whitstine, who chronicles the governor’s career with an astringent eye, answered her phone to hear an assistant to the governor on the line, she said.

“You should be ashamed!” Ivy Frye, the assistant, told her. “Stop blogging. Stop blogging right now!”

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Texas Rescue Crews Search For Residents Stranded By Ike
2008-09-14 15:37:56
Rescue crews fanned out across the flooded Gulf Coast on Saturday, searching for tens of thousands of Texans who ignored mandatory evacuation orders just before Hurricane Ike crashed ashore in the night with howling winds and a powerful tidal surge.

Ike made landfall with 110-mph winds about 2 a.m. near the barrier island of Galveston, then blew through Houston, flooding streets, downing power lines and smashing the windows of downtown skyscrapers. Later in the day, it weakened to a tropical storm as it moved northeast toward Arkansas.

More than 3 million people were left without power by the 500-mile-wide storm, and utilities warned that it could be days or weeks before electricity is restored. Thousands more residents were feared stranded by swirling floodwaters. Authorities said they could not provide an accurate tally of the storm's damage because many roads were impassable and entire neighborhoods were cut off.

At least three deaths were listed as storm-related. Officials feared that the toll could mount, depending on the fates of people caught in areas that were supposed to be evacuated.

The storm's top tidal surge was 15 feet, well below the 20 to 25 feet predicted. But damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure was widespread, and the economic toll was considerable because the region's huge oil, natural gas and petrochemical industries were shut down.
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Ike's Toll At The Gas Pump: Oil Production Curbed For At Least Two Weeks
2008-09-14 03:49:09

It didn't take long for consumers to feel the impact of Hurricane Ike at the gas pumps.

Nationwide, the average price per gallon of regular unleaded gas jumped to $3.73 yesterday from $3.68 the day before, as about a quarter of U.S. energy production remained out of commission.

In the District, the price climbed from $3.68 to $3.74. In Maryland, it was $3.57, compared with $3.52 the day before. And in Virginia, it soared from $3.54 to $3.63.

Across the country, particularly near the storm's path, there were reports of price gouging as retailers wondered when their next shipments would arrive. John B. Townsend II, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said some areas saw gas prices climb by as much as $1 because of the shutdown of offshore platforms and drilling rigs along the Gulf of Mexico and oil refineries. There were reports of prices topping $4 in the Carolinas, he said.

Along the Gulf Coast, "prices have jumped in some cases to $5, and that's unconscionable," he said.

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As Mayor Of Wasilla, Palin Cut Down Duties, Left Trail Of Bad Blood
2008-09-14 03:48:36
On Sept. 24, 2001, Mayor Sarah Palin and the City Council held their first meeting after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.The council condemned the attacks and approved a $5,000 gift to a disaster relief fund. Palin said she would try to obtain materials from both attack sites to include in the town's "Honor Garden."

Then the council and mayor returned to their normal business: approving funds to upgrade the public well, issuing a restaurant permit and taking up a measure forbidding residents from operating bed-and-breakfasts in their homes. After a lively debate, the bed-and-breakfast measure lost, 4 to 1.

Since joining the Republican ticket, Palin has faced questions about whether she is qualified to be vice president or, if necessary, president. In response, the first-term Alaska governor and Sen. John McCain point to the executive qualifications she acquired as Wasilla mayor, a six-year stint from 1996 to 2002 that represents the bulk of her political experience.

Palin says her time as mayor taught her how to be a leader and grounded her in the real needs of voters, and her tenure revealed some of the qualities she would later display as governor: a striving ambition, a willingness to cut loose those perceived as disloyal and a populist brand of social and pro-growth conservatism.

A visit to this former mining supply post 40 miles north of Anchorage shows the extent to which Palin's mayoralty was also defined by what it did not include. The universe of the mayor of Wasilla is sharply circumscribed even by the standards of small towns, which limited Palin's exposure to issues such as health care, social services, the environment and education.

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Official Say Engineer Killed In L.A. Train Crash Drove Through Red Light
2008-09-14 15:40:23
Metrolink officials in Los Angeles, California, said Saturday that a train engineer's failure to heed a red light signal apparently caused the catastrophic head-on crash in Chatsworth on Friday afternoon that claimed at least 25 lives.

As rescuers continued the emotionally grueling work of extracting bodies from a tangled mountain of steel and dozens of families maintained vigils for the injured in hospital waiting rooms, Metrolink officials accepted responsibility for the worst Southern California train wreck in more than 50 years.

"We want to be honest in our appraisal," Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell somberly told reporters at the scene.

The unusually swift announcement came as the National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies were still gearing up their investigations. Saturday afternoon, the NTSB said it was reserving judgment on the cause of the collision, and a union representing 125,000 rail workers - though not those who work for Metrolink - called the assignment of blame "terribly premature."

"The signals might not have been working" properly, said Frank N. Wilner, of the United Transportation Union, noting that officials had not yet examined the "black box" and other crash-site evidence. "We don't know if there was glare, or if he succumbed to a heart attack or a stroke."
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Newslbog: Obama Raised $66 Million In August
2008-09-14 15:39:47
Senator Barack Obama raised $66 million during August, aides said Sunday, recording the most prolific fund-raising month of his presidential candidacy.

David Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager, said a half-million new donors signed up to give money to Obama. He said the campaign’s bank account had $77 million at the end of last month.

“The 500,000 new donors to the Obama campaign demonstrate just how strongly the American people are looking to kick the special interests out and change Washington,” Plouffe said in a statement, adding that more than 2.5 million people have now made contributions to the campaign in the last 19 months.

While the figure is a considerable sum of money, it is a baseline for what Obama has to raise every month to meet his campaign’s goals. He is not taking public financing - an $84 million cash infusion from the United States Treasury -  so his fund-raising burden is considerably higher than his Republican rivals.

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With White House Push Behind Surge In U.S. Arms Sales To Foreign Governments
2008-09-14 15:38:42
The Bush administration is pushing through a broad array of foreign weapons deals as it seeks to rearm Iraq and Afghanistan, contain North Korea and Iran,and solidify ties with onetime Russian allies.

From tanks, helicopters and fighter jets to missiles, remotely piloted aircraft and even warships, the Department of Defense has agreed so far this fiscal year to sell or transfer more than $32 billion in weapons and other military equipment to foreign governments, compared with $12 billion in 2005.

The trend, which started in 2006, is most pronounced in the Middle East, but it reaches into northern Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and even Canada, through dozens of deals that senior Bush administration officials say they are confident will both tighten military alliances and combat terrorism.

“This is not about being gunrunners,” said Bruce S. Lemkin, the Air Force deputy under secretary who is helping to coordinate many of the biggest sales. “This is about building a more secure world.”

The surging American arms sales reflect the foreign policy tides, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the broader campaign against international terrorism, that have dominated the Bush administration. Deliveries on orders now being placed will continue for several years, perhaps as one of President Bush’s most lasting legacies.

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Conflict Over Spying Led White House To The Brink
2008-09-14 03:49:26
This is the first of two stories adapted from "Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency," to be published Tuesday by Penguin Press.

A burst of ferocity stunned the room into silence. No other word for it: The vice president's attorney was shouting.

"The president doesn't want this! You are not going to see the opinions. You are out ... of ... your ... lane!"

Five government lawyers had gathered around a small conference table in the Justice Department command center. Four were expected. David S. Addington, counsel to Vice President Cheney, got wind of the meeting and invited himself.

If Addington smelled revolt, he was not far wrong. Unwelcome questions about warrantless domestic surveillance had begun to find their voice.

Cheney and his counsel would struggle for months to quash the legal insurgency. By the time President Bush  became aware of it, his No. 2 had stoked dissent into flat-out rebellion. The president would face a dilemma, and the presidency itself a historic test. Cheney would come close to leading them off a cliff, man and office both.

On this second Monday in December 2003, Addington's targets were a pair of would-be auditors from the National Security Agency. He had displeasure to spare for their Justice Department hosts.

Perfect example, right here. A couple of NSA bureaucrats breeze in and ask for the most sensitive documents in the building. And Justice wants to tell them, Help yourselves? This was going to be a very short meeting.

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Fannie, Freddy Used Their Power To Mask Financial Peril
2008-09-14 03:48:59

Gary Gensler, an undersecretary of the Treasury, went to Capitol Hill in March 2000 to testify in favor of a bill everyone knew would fail.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were ascendant, giants of the mortgage finance business and key players in the Clinton administration's drive to expand home ownership. Gensler and other Treasury officials feared the companies had grown so large that, if they stumbled, the damage to the U.S. economy could be staggering. Few officials had ever publicly criticized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but Gensler concluded it was time to urge Congress to rein them in.

"We thought this was a hand-on-the Bible moment," he recalled.

The bill failed.

The companies kept growing, the dangers posed by their scale and financial practices kept mounting, critics kept warning of the consequences. Yet across official Washington, those who might have acted repeatedly failed to do so until it was too late. Last weekend, the federal government seized control of the two companies to protect the very mortgage market they were created to lubricate. The cost to taxpayers could run into the tens of billions of dollars.

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88 Killed As Russian Plane Crashes
2008-09-14 03:48:14
A plane carrying 88 people crashed in central Russia early Sunday, killing all aboard, said an emergency official.

The plane, a Boeing 737 traveling to Perm from Moscow, went down about 3:40 a.m. Sunday, said Irina Andrianova, an Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman.

The plane, operated by a division of Aeroflot, was on its approach to land in Perm when it crashed into an unpopulated area of the city, she said. Eighty-two passengers, including seven children, and six crew members were on board, she said.

She said that there was no damage or deaths on the ground and that investigators were working to determine what caused the crash.

There was no indication of a terrorist attack, she added.

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