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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday September 4 2008 - (813)

Thursday September 4 2008 edition
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Wall Street Falls On Economic Worries
2008-09-03 14:32:23
Wall Street declined Wednesday for the third straight session, with investors still unsettled about the economy and only somewhat relieved about falling commodities prices.

The Commerce Department gave the market just modest comfort when it said orders for manufactured products rose by 1.3 percent in July. The figure was higher than the 0.8 percent predicted by economists polled by Thomson Financial/IFR; the department also upwardly revised its June reading to an increase of 2.1 percent.

However, the report was shrugged off by many traders as old news, given that this is now early September. And with automakers expected to release sluggish August sales data later in the session and the Labor Department anticipated to report another drop in U.S. payrolls on Friday, trading was marked by caution.

A massive pullback in commodities since earlier in the summer has helped alleviate some of the market's inflation worries. Oil slid below $108 a barrel Wednesday as the dollar strengthened and Hurricane Gustav appeared to leave oil installations in the Gulf of Mexico largely undamaged.

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U.S. Troops Enter Pakistan, At Least 20 People Killed
2008-09-03 14:32:02
At least 20 people were killed in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday after U.S. and Afghan troops crossed from Afghanistan to pursue Taliban insurgents in an early morning attack that marked the first known instance in which U.S. forces conducted an operation on Pakistani soil since the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan began, according to witnesses and a Pakistani official.

The United States has conducted occasional air and artillery strikes against insurgents lodged across the border in Pakistani territory, and "hot pursuit" rules provide some room for U.S. troops to maneuver in the midst of battle; but the arrival of three U.S. helicopters in the village of Musa Nika, clearly inside the Pakistani border, drew a sharp response from Pakistani officials.

"We strongly object to the incursion of ISAF troops on Pakistani territory," said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, chief spokesman for the Pakistani military, referring to the International Security Assistance Force, the coalition of U.S. and other NATO troops that has been battling the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan since 2001.

A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan referred requests for comment on the incident to U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa. A CENTCOM spokesman reached by phone in Tampa, Florida, on Wednesday declined to comment.

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South Korea Says North Korea Is Rebuilding Nuclear Complex
2008-09-03 14:29:50
North Korea has begun reassembling its main nuclear complex, its only known source of bomb-making plutonium, the South Korean government said Wednesday.

The North announced last week that it had stopped disabling its nuclear facilities and threatened rebuild them, angry that it had not yet been removed from the United States list of state sponsors of terrorism. The United States maintains the North has not fulfilled the requirements for being removed from the list.

While North Korea has not yet threatened to expel American and international nuclear experts from its facilities in Yongbyon, the country’s action threatens to sabotage five years of on-and-off talks between North Korea and the five powers seeking to end its nuclear weapons programs.

The North has often delayed and backtracked on commitments as a negotiating tactic, but its latest move complicates President Bush’s hopes of cementing major gains in North Korean nuclear disarmament before he leaves office in January.

On Wednesday, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK and the Kyodo News agency reported that North Korea had started reassembling its nuclear facilities on Tuesday. The reports cited unidentified officials related to the disarmament talks.

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U.S. Military Kills 7 Iraqi Security Force Members In 'Friendly Fire' Incident
2008-09-03 14:29:13
A U.S. military unit on a river boat patrol shot dead seven Iraqi security force personnel early Wednesday after an Iraqi checkpoint failed to recognize the men and opened fire on them, according to Iraqi police and army officers.

The shoot out in Tarmiya, 37 miles north of Baghdad, claimed the lives of three Iraqi soldiers, two policemen, and two U.S.-backed Sunni paramilitary fighters, said the officers. At least two others went missing, while one Iraqi soldier was wounded. The U.S. military called the "friendly fire" incident regrettable. The episode comes at a sensitive time. A U.S. demand that its soldiers have immunity from Iraqi courts has proven an obstacle to reaching agreement on an American-Iraqi security agreement that would allow U.S. troops to stay in Iraq after this year.

The Iraqis are proposing the Americans retain immunity on their bases and on combat missions authorized by the Iraqi government. But they would be brought before an Iraqi court in other circumstances, according to Iraqi officials. "Iraq cannot be expected to undervalue the lives of the Iraqis to give immunity to American soldiers working here in Iraq," Sheik Jalaluddin Saghir, a senior Shiite lawmaker, told the Los Angeles Times in an interview last weekend.

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Egyptian Mogul Arrested In Lebanon Singer's Murder
2008-09-03 14:28:21
A real estate mogul and member of the Egyptian parliament was arrested Tuesday in the slaying of a troubled Lebanese diva, a tale that has fascinated the Arab media with its plot twists, whiffs of revenge and lurid glimpses into the echelons of celebrity and power.

Hisham Talaat Mustafa, a member of President Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party, is accused of ordering the killing of his former lover Suzanne Tamim, according to the Egyptian prosecutor's office. The singer was found in her Dubai apartment in July with her throat slit and multiple stab wounds.

The investigation led to former Egyptian police officer Mohsen Sukkari, a security guard at the Four Seasons hotel in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik. Mustafa's real estate group built the hotel and Sukkari told police that the developer paid him $2 million to travel to the United Arab Emirates and kill Tamim, according to Egyptian prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud.

The arrest of such a high-profile politician was unusual in Egypt.

The 49-year-old Mustafa "took part through incitement, agreement and assistance with the first defendant [Sukkari] in killing the victim in revenge," said the prosecutor. "He provided him with special information and amounts of money."

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Official Motorcade Attacked Enroute To Pick Up Pakistan's Prime Minister
2008-09-03 14:27:23
Gunshots Wednesday struck a motorcade that was apparently en route to pick up Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gillani, but he was not in the procession at the time, said police and aides to the prime minister.

However, the incident, being treated by Pakistani authorities as an assassination attempt, was a worrying reminder of the instability gripping the nuclear-armed U.S. ally, which is in the midst of battling a growing Islamist insurgency.

Gillani, who took office less than six months ago, had flown from the capital to the eastern city of Lahore for a visit. The attack targeted an official motorcade that some aides to the prime minister said was on the way to pick him up, but his office refused to confirm that, citing security reasons.

Decoy motorcades, together with last-minute changes of route or mode of transport, are sometimes used when senior Pakistani officials are traveling, in order to deter potential attackers.

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Oil Prices Plunge To 5-Month Low
2008-09-03 00:07:44

Shares on Wall Street turned negative Tuesday afternoon after the Dow Jones industrial average soared more than 200 points in morning trading after a decline in oil prices.

The gains were erased by the afternoon after shares of energy companies fell sharply, as investors bet that falling oil prices could hurt refineries and oil giants like Exxon Mobil and Chevron. The Dow closed down 26.63 points, to 11,516.92, while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index dropped about 0.41 percent or 5.25 points to 1,277.58. The Nasdaq declined 18.28 points, or 0.77 percent, to 2,349.24

The drop in oil prices dragged down the entire commodities sector, and initially lifted the stock markets as investors hoped that cheaper energy could nudge up consumer spending.

Crude oil futures fell to just over $105 a barrel in early trading, a five-month low, on Tuesday morning before climbing back slightly. Some investors had been concerned that Hurricane Gustav would disrupt refinery activity and oil supply chains in the Gulf Coast, but the storm passed over much of the region’s energy infrastructure.

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McCain Raises Record $46 Million Thanks To Palin
2008-09-03 00:07:05
The campaign of Sen. John McCain has credited enthusiasm about his selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for its ability to raise over $47 million in August - a record amount for the Arizona senator's presidential bid.

The presumptive Republican nominee has raised $10 million since selecting Palin as his running mate, according to campaign spokesman Brian Rogers. Palin may have succeeded in reaching a large number of conservative donors who had been sitting out the 2008 campaign because they considered the candidate too soft on core issues - but that won't become clear until McCain releases his finance reports for August to the Federal Election Commission later this month.

The fundraising haul is more than double what McCain had been raising over the summer and for the first time it puts McCain in the same league as Democratic Sen. Barack Obama. Obama has collected more than $50 million in each of the past two months.

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Iraqi Army Readies For Showdown With Kurds
2008-09-03 00:06:38

Iraqi troops and Kurdish peshmerga forces are bracing for conflict in the disputed city of Khanaqin in the most serious threat of clashes between Arabs and Kurds since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

A delegation flew from Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish regional government, to Baghdad at the weekend to try to resolve the crisis. The two main Kurdish parties are allied and form part of Iraq's coalition government.

However, Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan region, and leader of the Kurdish Democratic party, said Iraq was still living under the influence of Saddam's regime and the central government was not serious about sharing power with Kurds. He claimed many military decisions were made without consultations with General Babakir Zebari, a Kurd who is the Iraqi army's chief of staff.

Gen Zebari, apparently torn between competing loyalties, visited Khanaqin on Monday and was quoted in the Baghdad media as saying Iraqi troops had the right to launch operations in the area.

The crisis has grown since July when the Iraqi government ordered peshmerga forces to withdraw to Kurdistan from Diyala. It also told the two main Kurdish parties to move out of the numerous government buildings in Diyala which they had taken over when Saddam's regime fell.

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Recession Alert Piles Misery On Britain's Prime Minister
2008-09-03 00:05:58
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's drive to save the housing market from collapse was undermined Tuesday when the gamble to axe stamp duty for almost half of all property sales was quickly followed by dire predictions that the U.K. would be the only major economy to slip into recession this year.

The prime minister's economic fight-back plan, the start of a month-long battle to save his premiership, began with the surprise announcement of a year-long stamp duty holiday on any house sale under £175,000 ($350,000), starting Wednesday. But the scheme - which the Treasury claimed will cost an estimated £600 million ($1.2 billion) - was dismissed as a sticking plaster by the housing industry.

Within hours, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicted recession for Britain, while the other G7 countries will all see modest growth or a standstill.

The British economy will contract in this quarter and the next, it said, striking at Brown's repeated claim that Britain is well placed to withstand the world downturn, described by the chancellor of the exchequer, Alistair Darling, Tuesday as one of the worst since the 1930s.

In the gloomiest official forecast so far, the OECD said the U.K. economy will shrink 0.3% in the third quarter, and 0.4% in the fourth. It believes the U.K. economy will grow by 1.2% for the whole of 2008, well down on the 1.8% forecast in June.

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2.5 Million In India Stranded By Floods
2008-09-03 00:05:10
Close to 2.5 million Indians remained stranded, homeless and hungry in flood-ravaged villages in the eastern part of the country Tuesday, 17 days after a river burst a dam in neighboring Nepal and changed course.

Heavy rains and the swelling waters of the Kosi, known as the "river of sorrow" and worshipped by local people, caused havoc in almost 1,000 villages in Bihar state. Panic-stricken people fled to higher ground, tree tops and cramped makeshift camps.

About 117 people are reported dead, but officials in Bihar said the death toll could rise sharply as receding waters reveal more bodies.

Monsoon floods are an annual feature of Indian life, but some officials say the damage has been catastrophic this year.

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Editorial: Candidate McCain's Big Decision
2008-09-03 14:32:13
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2008.

More often than not, the role of a vice president is a minor one, unless some tragedy occurs. But a presidential nominee’s choice of a running mate is vitally important. It is his first executive decision and offers an important insight into how that nominee would lead the nation.

If John McCain wants voters to conclude, as he argues, that he has more independence and experience and better judgment than Barack Obama, he made a bad start by choosing Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

Mr. McCain’s supporters are valiantly trying to argue that the selection was a bold stroke that shows their candidate is a risk-taking maverick who - we can believe - will change Washington. (Mr. Obama’s call for change - now “the change we need” - has become all the rage in St. Paul.)

To us, it says the opposite. Mr. McCain’s snap choice of Ms. Palin reflects his impulsive streak: a wild play that he made after conservative activists warned him that he would face an all-out revolt in the party if he chose who he really wanted - Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.

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Commentary: 'The Most Problematic Nuclear Facility In Europe'
2008-09-03 14:30:09
Intellpuke: This commentary appeared in the Spiegel Online edition for Wednesday, September 3, 2008, under Spiegel's "The World From Berlin" column, written by Michael Scott Moore.

Leaking nuclear waste in a storage facility in Lower Saxony has raised the temperature of the conversation over nuclear power in Germany. Conservative say nuclear power is safe and clean, but the Left is saying, "I told you so." But no one knows what to do about the radioactive water leaking from the mine.

The trouble with nuclear waste is that it never goes away, German politicians are (re-)learning this week, after a status report on barrels of leaking nuclear waste in a storage facility based at a former salt rock and potash mine called Asse II in Lower Saxony. Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a Social Democrat, called the Asse mine "the most problematic nuclear facility in Europe."

Gabriel has sworn to work with rival politicians to secure the mine, but the interim report was dire enough for the Green Party's leader in the German parliament, Renate Kunast, to lodge criminal complaints against the two government bureaus responsible - the Helmholtz Center for Health and Environment and Lower Saxony's state mining office.

The Asse-II mine was closed in 1964 and converted to an "experimental" nuclear facility in 1967. Now it officially holds up to 130,000 metal drums of low- and mid-level radioactive waste. But the report said highly radioactive plutonium had also been dumped in the mine, along with a number of nuclear fuel rods. Radioactivity readings there are at eight times the "safe" level, some barrels have tipped over and rusted through, and the worry is that saltwater leaking from the mine is not just radioactive but might contaminate public water supplies. The mine has been known to leak brine since 1988. Some experts fear it may collapse altogether by 2014.

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Predicting The Impact Of Global Warming On Germany
2008-09-03 14:29:31
More heat waves, far less snow: Using a new, more precise climate model, the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology has calculated the impact of global warming on weather patterns in Germany stretching up to the year 2100.

For "Remo," Germany is nothing more than an array of boxes, each of them 10 by 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) in area and 100 meters (328 feet) tall; but these are no ordinary boxes. Brimming with data, they are designed to forecast changes to Germany's climate between now and the year 2100. This makes "Remo," a climate model developed by the Hamburg-based Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M), more than 20 times more precise, from a spatial standpoint, than the global models used by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

A more precise calculation of the consequences of climate change does not exist anywhere in the world. It is intended to serve as a basis for political planning, as well as to enable disaster relief agencies, farmers, vintners, power plant operators and the tourism industry to adjust to the new environment in a timely way.

To complete the calculations, commissioned by the German Federal Environment Agency, the MPI-M researchers assumed only a gradual decline in worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases from cars, power plants and factories. At the intersections of the grid made up of virtual cubes, the MPI-M's mainframe computer has calculated various weather variables, such as temperature, humidity and wind speed.

To calculate such values for every 30-second period over the next 92 years, the computer had to perform hundreds of quadrillions of calculations. Processes occurring in the air, in the oceans and on earth were expressed in mathematical formulas. In addition, about two dozen influencing variables on the ground were incorporated into the calculations, including vegetation, the composition of the top layer of soil and the water coating leaves.

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Ford Motor Co. Sales Down 26 Percent, More Cuts Planned
2008-09-03 14:28:37
The Ford Motor Company said Wednesday that its August sales dropped more than 26 percent as economic woes and high gasoline prices continued to batter the industry.

The company said that it did not expect sales to rebound this year. It said Wednesday that it plans to cut 50,000 more vehicles from its production in the second half of the year.

Ford's sales decline was expected by industry analysts who predicted continued bad times for the auto industry. Other automakers report their sales figures later Wednesday.

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U.S. To Announce $1 Billion Aid Package To Repair Georgia
2008-09-03 14:27:56
The Bush administration plans to announce a $1 billion package of aid to help rebuild Georgia after its rout by Russian forces last month, administration officials said on Wednesday, as Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in the region to signal support for Georgia and other countries neighboring Russia.

The aid - along with Cheney’s visit - is sure to increase tensions with Russia, whose leaders have accused the United States of stoking the conflict with Georgia over its two separatist regions, by providing weapons and training to the Georgians. President Dmitri A. Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin have also complained that humanitarian supplies delivered by the American Navy and Air Force since Russian forces routed Georgian forces and occupied parts of the country were a disguise for delivering new weapons.

Administration officials have dismissed those accusations as baseless.

The aid package, which is expected to include money for rebuilding Georgia’s infrastructure and its economy, is scheduled to be detailed in Washington, D.C., later Wednesday by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said the official.  President Bush is also expected to release a statement.

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Bush Praises McCain As Republican Convention Gets Back On Track
2008-09-03 00:07:57
The Republican National Convention got back on track tonight with a procession of high-profile speeches designed to illuminate Sen. John McCain's life and record of service, after getting knocked off schedule by Hurricane Gustav and off message by controversies surrounding the Republican's vice presidential pick.

In the most anticipated speech of the evening session, President Bush addressed the Xcel Energy Center crowd live via satellite from the White House, delivering a strong endorsement of the McCain-Palin ticket. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Connecticut), the Democrat-turned-Independent who has endorsed McCain, and former Republican Senator and presidential candidate Fred Thompson are also on the speaking roster.

"I know what it takes to be president, and these past eight years, I've sat at the resolute desk," said Bush, describing the difficult decisions he's faced in his White House tenure. "John McCain's life has prepared him to make those choices. He is ready to be president."

"John McCain's life is a story of service above self," Bush said, recounting McCain's time as a POW in Vietnam and predicting that "if the Hanoi Hilton could not break his resolve to do what is right... you can be sure the angry left never will."

Bush stressed a number of areas on which he and McCain agree, including Iraq policy, taxes, combating wasteful spending and opening up more offshore territory to oil drilling. "He's not afraid to tell you when he disagrees," Bush added. "Believe me, I know."

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Justice Dept. Describes Gonzales' Careless Handling Of U.S. Secrets
2008-09-03 00:07:35

Former U.S. attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales told investigators that he could not recall whether he took home notes regarding the government's most sensitive national security program and that he did not know they contained classified information, despite his own markings that they were "top secret - eyes only," according to a Justice Department report released Tuesday.

Gonzales improperly carried notes about the warrantless wiretapping program in an unlocked briefcase and failed to keep them in a safe at his Northern Virginia home three years ago because he "could not remember the combination," the department's inspector general reported.

A National Security Agency official who reviewed the notes said they contained references to operational aspects of the wiretapping initiative, including a top-secret code word for the program, information that had been "zealously protected" by the agency and was "not a close call" in terms of its sensitivity, said the report.

Gonzales brought the notes home with him on Feb. 3, 2005, the day he moved from his post as White House counsel to his new job as the nation's chief law enforcement officer, according to the report. They were at his home or in his briefcase for an "indeterminate" amount of time, investigators said. Ultimately, Gonzales stored them in a safe outside his Justice Department office that was accessible by people who lacked the requisite security clearances to see them.

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Controversy Snarls Upgrade Of Terrorist Data
2008-09-03 00:06:54

A major effort to upgrade intelligence computers that hold the government's master list of terrorist identities is embroiled in controversy about the project's management and the work of contractors hired for the job, documents and interviews show.

The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, serves as the central repository of information about more than 400,000 suspected terrorists around the world. Operating at the National Counterterrorism Center, TIDE and other systems each day deliver files of information to watchlist programs that screen people traveling into the United States, or they make data available online to intelligence analysts across the government.

Authorities said TIDE has revolutionized many national security tasks, but because it was built quickly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, it is limited and lacks many features needed by the intelligence community, documents show. Those limitations in TIDE and related systems hamper the ability of intelligence analysts to discover patterns and make connections among the growing pools of data they amass from around the world. TIDE also has suffered periodic outages of up to two hours, according to interviews with government officials and contractors involved with the project.

In 2006, authorities quietly launched Railhead, a project worth as much as $500 million over five years, to improve TIDE and eventually replace it and some related systems with technology that would significantly expand their capabilities.

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New Orleans Says Residents Can Return Thursday
2008-09-03 00:06:18
A mostly smooth evacuation from Hurricane Gustav turned sour on Tuesday as many New Orleans residents trying to return home were refused entry at roadblocks into the city or stranded in parking lots across the region.

Mayor C. Ray Nagin said Tuesday night that most residents would have to wait until just after midnight on Thursday morning to come back because power and medical care were not back to normal. A curfew will remain in effect at night.

The delay left many people sweltering and frustrated at the city’s edges, out of gas, money and food after several days on the run.

A dozen or so waited it out in the parking lot of a closed Circle K gas station in LaPlace, 30 miles from New Orleans, while dozens of others were in the same situation across Lake Pontchartrain, in St. Tammany Parish, according to officials and local radio reports.

Many of those who could not get in said that a house without power was preferable to another night sleeping in a car in a hot parking lot.

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Britain's Unemployment Soars To 16-Year High
2008-09-03 00:05:47

Britain's jobs market is suffering from the slowdown in the economy as a new report out Wednesday shows the number of permanent jobs available has plunged to its lowest level since 2001.

Unemployment had been falling for 15 years to its lowest level for three decades, but has risen by about 70,000 this year. Economists say tumbling house prices and stagnant economic growth are likely to push unemployment up sharply over the next year or more.

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation's latest survey Tuesday says permanent placements contracted for the fifth consecutive month in August while temporary jobs fell for the first time since May 2003.

"The slide in the U.K. economy continues to hit the jobs market hard - with yet another sharp drop in recruitment," said Alan Nolan, director at KPMG, which sponsors the report. "U.K. employers are continuing to control payroll costs through redundancies - and by refusing to take advantage of a growing (but increasingly unused) pool of skilled labor."

He warned that skilled workers are starting to move abroad in search of employment, which could result in a labor shortage when the market picks up again.

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Hundreds Protest Poverty, Homelessness As Republicans Meet
2008-09-03 00:04:52
At least three people were arrested Tuesday during a tense anti-poverty march that ended near the Republican convention arena. Police used tear gas and grenades to scatter protesters they said were trying to get past security fences.

Police spokesman Tom Walsh said a group appeared to try to breach the Xcel Center, where the convention is underway, but that officers successfully moved them away from the arena.

Police estimated that 2,000 people participated in the march, which lasted about three hours.

Additional arrests were expected.

After nearly 300 arrests and outbreaks of violence during an anti-war March on Monday, police were on alert Tuesday.

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