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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday September 14 2008 - (813)

Sunday September 14 2008 edition
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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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McCain Barbs Decried As Distortions
2008-09-13 13:45:23
Harsh advertisements and negative attacks are a staple of presidential campaigns, but Senator John McCain has drawn an avalanche of criticism this week from Democrats, independent groups and even some Republicans for regularly stretching the truth in attacking Senator Barack Obama's record and positions.

Obama has also been accused of distortions, but this week McCain has found himself under particularly heavy fire for a pair of headline-grabbing attacks. First the McCain campaign twisted Obama’s words to suggest that he had compared Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, to a pig after Obama said, in questioning  McCain’s claim to be the change agent in the race, “You can put lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig.” (McCain once used the same expression to describe Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton'shealth plan.)

Then he falsely claimed that Obama supported “comprehensive sex education” for kindergartners (he supported teaching them to be alert for inappropriate advances from adults).

Those attacks followed weeks in which McCain repeatedly, and incorrectly, asserted that Obama would raise taxes on the middle class, even though analysts say he would cut taxes on the middle class more than McCain would, and misrepresented Obama’s positions on energy and health care.

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Hurricane Ike Rips Southeast Texas
2008-09-13 13:43:52
Howling ashore with 110 mph winds, Hurricane Ike ravaged the Texas coast Saturday, flooding thousands of homes and businesses, shattering windows in Houston's skyscrapers and knocking out power to millions of people.

At first light, it was unclear how many may have perished, and authorities mobilized for a huge search-and-rescue operation to reach the more than 100,000 people who ignored warnings that any attempt to ride the storm out could bring "certain death."

"The unfortunate truth is we're going to have to go in ... and put our people in the tough situation to save people who did not choose wisely. We'll probably do the largest search-and-rescue operation that's ever been conducted in the state of Texas," said Andrew Barlow, spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry.

With the winds still blowing, authorities in some places could not venture outside to get a full look at the damage, but they were encouraged that the storm surge topped out at only 13.5 feet - far lower than the catastrophic 20-to-25-foot wall of water forecasters had feared.

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Update: 18 Dead In Los Angeles Train Crash
2008-09-13 13:43:22
As the sun rose this morning on the scene of a train crash that killed at least 18 people, rescue workers used heavy machinery to untangle the twisted remains of a Metrolink passenger train in the hopes of finding more survivors.

"They are pulling things apart very carefully because, if there is a miracle, they don't want to undo it," said Lt. John Romero of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Hope for a miracle held out even though authorities said the last survivor had been pulled from the wreckage before sunset Friday, just hours after the train carrying 225 people collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train on a sharp curve in Chatsworth.

An 18th body - possibly that of the freight train conductor - was found as heavy machinery pulled apart the trains this morning. The body was pulled from the cab of the toppled Union Pacific engine about 8:45 a.m. Firefighters gathered around to shield the body from photographers, then shrouded it in a white sheet before carrying it gently to a coroner's trailer.

Rescue teams had worked frantically overnight. More than 135 people were injured in one of the worst train crashes in Southern California history, and Metrolink officials said they could not explain why warning systems failed to prevent such a catastrophic collision.

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Monstrous Hurricane Ike Lashes Texas Coast
2008-09-13 00:51:34
Intellpuke: There are 3 articles on Hurricane Ike here. The first is by the Associated Press, the second by  Washington Post, and the third by the Los Angeles Times. As you'll read, Texas' Gulf Coast is now in the beginning stages of a catastrophic hit by Hurricane Ike.

A monster-sized Hurricane Ike bore down on the Texas coast late Friday, threatening to rattle the sparkling skyscrapers of America's fourth-largest city, shut down the heart of the U.S oil industry for days and obliterate waterfront towns already flooded with waist-high water.

Though nearly 1 million people evacuated coastal communities in the days leading up to the storm, tens of thousands ignored calls to leave and decided to tough it out. But as wind-whipped floodwaters began crashing into coastal homes, many changed their minds. Galveston fire crews rescued more than 300 people who were walking through flooded streets, clutching clothes and other belongings as they tried to wade to safety.

“We were going street by street seeing people who were trying to escape the flood waters,” Fire Chief Michael Varela said. “I'm assuming these were people who made the mistake of staying.”

At 600 miles across, the storm was nearly as big as Texas itself, and threatened to give the state its worst pounding in a generation. It was on track to crash ashore early Saturday near Galveston, the same site that suffered the nation's worst natural disaster when a legendary storm struck without warning and killed 6,000 more than a century ago.

Officials were growing increasingly worried about the stalwarts, and many communities imposed curfews to discourage looters. Authorities in three counties alone said roughly 90,000 stayed behind, despite a warning from forecasters that many of those in one- or two-story homes on the coast faced “certain death.”

At dark Friday, the Coast Guard suspended a search for a 19-year-old man who was lost in 6- to 8-foot waves off North Padre Island, about 10 miles east of Corpus Christi. Michael Moxly was with three other people on the southside of the Packery Channel Jetty when he was swept away.

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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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U.S. Gives Banks Urgent Warning To Solve Crisis
2008-09-13 13:45:32

As Lehman Brothers teetered Friday evening, Federal Reserve officials summoned the heads of major Wall Street firms to a meeting in Lower Manhattan and insisted they rescue the stricken investment bank and develop plans to stabilize the financial markets.

Timothy F. Geithner, the president of the New York Federal Reserve, called a 6 p.m. meeting so that bank officials could review their financial exposures to Lehman Brothers and work out contingency plans over the possibility that the government would need to orchestrate an orderly liquidation of the firm on Monday, according to people briefed on the meeting.

Flanked by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr., and Christopher Cox, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, he gathered the executives in person to impress on them the need to work together to resolve the current crisis.

Geithner told the participants that an industry solution was needed, no matter what, and that it was not about any individual bank, according to two people briefed on the meeting but who did not attend. They said he told them that if the industry failed to solve the problem their individual banks might be next.

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Editorial: Gov. Palin's Worldview
2008-09-13 13:45:09
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Friday, September 12, 2008.

As we watched Sarah Palin on TV the last couple of days, we kept wondering what on earth John McCain was thinking.

If he seriously thought this first-term governor - with less than two years in office - was qualified to be president, if necessary, at such a dangerous time, it raises profound questions about his judgment. If the choice was, as we suspect, a tactical move, then it was shockingly irresponsible.

It was bad enough that Ms. Palin’s performance in the first televised interviews she has done since she joined the Republican ticket was so visibly scripted and lacking in awareness.

What made it so much worse is the strategy for which the Republicans have made Ms. Palin the frontwoman: win the White House not on ideas, but by denigrating experience, judgment and qualifications.

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FBI Would Get More Power Under Terror Plan
2008-09-13 13:43:40
The U.S. Justice Department made public on Friday a plan to expand the tools the Federal Bureau of Investigaton  can use to investigate suspicions of terrorism inside the United States, even without any direct evidence of wrongdoing.

Justice Department officials said the plan, which is likely to be completed by the end of the month despite criticism from civil rights advocates, is intended to allow F.B.I. agents to be more aggressive and pre-emptive in assessing possible threats to national security.

It would allow an agent, for instance, to pursue an anonymous tip about terrorism by conducting an undercover interview or watching someone in a public place. Such steps are now prohibited unless there is more specific evidence of wrongdoing.

The plan is the latest in a series of steps by the Bush administration to extend key aspects of its counterterrorism strategy beyond the end of President Bush’s tenure. An executive order from Mr. Bush in August rewrote the rules for the nation’s 16 spy agencies, and an administration legislative proposal before Congress would reaffirm that the country “remains engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda.”

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Countless Federal Records Being Lost
2008-09-13 13:41:36
Countless federal records are being lost to posterity because federal employees, grappling with a staggering growth in electronic records, do not regularly preserve the documents they create on government computers, send by e-mail and post on the Web.

Federal agencies have rushed to embrace the Internet and new information technology, but their record-keeping efforts lag far behind. Moreover, federal investigators have found widespread violations of federal record-keeping requirements.

Many federal officials admit to a haphazard approach to preserving e-mail and other electronic records of their work. Indeed, many say they are unsure what materials they are supposed to preserve.

This confusion is causing alarm among historians, archivists, librarians, Congressional investigators and watchdog groups that want to trace the decision-making process and hold federal officials accountable. With the imminent change in administrations, the concern about lost records has become more acute.

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At Least 15 Dead, 70 Injured In Los Angeles Train Crash
2008-09-13 00:51:16
A Metrolink train and a Union Pacific freight train collided head-on in Chatsworth Friday afternoon, killing at least 15 people and injuring at least 70 others. Dozens of people were believed to be trapped in the wreckage despite the efforts of more than 250 firefighters, police officers and paramedics.

The number of fatalities makes this the deadliest Metrolink crash in the history of the Los Angeles area's commuter railroad.

One of the fatalities is believed to be the Metrolink engineer. Another is a Los Angeles Police Department officer, according to authorities.

Several cars derailed and the two trains collided with such force that the lead passenger car was wrapped around the Metrolink locomotive.

Firefighters initially battled a ferocious blaze in part of the wreckage. Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrell estimated that 350 to 400 people were on the train.
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