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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday September 11 2008 - (813)

Thursday September 11 2008 edition
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Bush Said To Give Orders Allowing Raids In Pakistan
2008-09-11 03:34:57
President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials.

The classified orders signal a watershed for the Bush administration after nearly seven years of trying to work with Pakistan to combat the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and after months of high-level stalemate about how to challenge the militants’ increasingly secure base in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

American officials say that they will notify Pakistan when they conduct limited ground attacks like the Special Operations raid last Wednesday in a Pakistani village near the Afghanistan border, but that they will not ask for its permission.

“The situation in the tribal areas is not tolerable,” said a senior American official who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the missions. “We have to be more assertive. Orders have been issued.”

The new orders reflect concern about safe havens for al-Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan, as well as an American view that Pakistan lacks the will and ability to combat militants. They also illustrate lingering distrust of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies and a belief that some American operations had been compromised once Pakistanis were advised of the details.

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Palin's Pipeline Is Years From Being A Reality
2008-09-11 03:34:31
When Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska took center stage at the Republican convention last week, she sought to burnish her executive credentials by telling how she had engineered the deal that jump-started a long-delayed gas pipeline project.

Stretching more than 1,700 miles, it would deliver natural gas from the North Slope of Alaska to the lower 48 states and be the largest private-sector infrastructure project on the continent.

“And when that deal was struck, we began a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline to help lead America to energy independence,” said Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee. “That pipeline, when the last section is laid and its valves are opened, will lead America one step farther away from dependence on dangerous foreign powers that do not have our interests at heart.”

The reality, however, is far more ambiguous than the impression Palin has left at the convention and on the campaign trail.

Certainly she proved effective in attracting developers to a project that has eluded Alaska governors for three decades. But an examination of the pipeline project also found that Palin has overstated both the progress that has been made and the certainty of success.

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As Hurricane Ike Approaches, Thousands Flee Texas Coastal Areas
2008-09-11 03:32:46

Thousands of people fled coastal areas of Texas on Wednesday as Hurricane Ike, having spun away from Cuba  and roared into the Gulf of Mexico, moved toward the state with growing strength.

After pummeling Haiti, Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean, the storm refueled in the gulf and headed toward landfall somewhere from Corpus Christi northeastward to Galveston. It is expected to arrive early Saturday as a Category 4 hurricane, that is, one with maximum sustained winds of at least 131 miles per hour.

With memories of Hurricane Dolly in July still fresh, officials in Brazoria County, Galveston and other locations arranged for more than a thousand buses and began transporting residents to shelters and community centers farther inland. Some cities began evacuating medical patients with special needs, and school districts along the coast, including Corpus Christi’s, canceled classes through the rest of the week.

As the first evacuees arrived in San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth and elsewhere early Wednesday afternoon, President Bush declared an emergency in Texas and offered federal aid to state and local officials. Gov. Rick Perry  issued a disaster declaration and activated 7,500 National Guard troops.

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European Union Slashes Economic Growth Forecasts
2008-09-10 21:47:15
The European Commission has painted a gloomy picture of the European economy, predicting that the 15-euro zone countries will only experience 1.3 percent growth in 2008. The European Union (E.U.) executive says some economies, such as Germany and Spain, will even slide into recession for part of the year.

Many countries in the euro-zone are sliding toward recession - that at least is the forecast of the European Commission. The European Union's executive said Wednesday that it was slashing its economic growth prognosis for the 15 E.U. countries that have the euro as their currency. Europe is now braced for a slowdown amid high inflation, collapsing real estate markets in some countries and the ongoing turmoil in financial markets.

While the bloc as a whole was predicted to escape recession, Germany, Spain and non-euro zone member the United Kingdom, will not be so lucky, according to the Commission.

It cut the growth estimate for the zone for the whole of 2008 from 1.7 percent to 1.3 percent, a sharp drop from the solid 2.6 percent growth experienced last year. Growth for the entire 27-member bloc has been downgraded from 2 percent to 1.4 percent.

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Baton Rouge Still Digging Out 10 Days After Hurricane Gustav
2008-09-10 21:46:51
Debris piled across medians, drivers passed cautiously under dark traffic lights and at least a few residents camped in front yards to avoid the sweltering heat of houses where power hadn't been restored Wednesday.

This is Baton Rouge, seat of Louisiana government, still hobbled by a blow from Hurricane Gustav 10 days earlier. It struck Louisiana as a Category 2 storm, surprising the capital with its extensive damage, uprooting trees and throwing them across roofs, roads and power lines.

By Wednesday, there was still plenty of cleanup to do. The city's streets were mainly cleared of trees, but the debris remained piled up in front yards and on some homes. A quarter of the parish lacked power, and schools were shuttered.

However, there were some bright spots. Lines for an emergency food stamp program that stretched for hours Tuesday had shrunk. Estelle Turner, 62, said it only took her 15 minutes to get her food stamp card worth $162.

"They were very pleasant people," she said after walking out of a state Department of Social Services office. "I was pleasantly surprised. It was a blessing."

In another sign of progress, LSU's football team planned a return to Tiger Stadium on Saturday for its game against North Texas. Meanwhile, Baton Rouge officials agreed to a Thursday lifting of the curfew that's been in place since Gustav struck, and worries about a looming Hurricane Ike lessened as forecasters predicted it was headed toward Texas.

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Bolivia's President Calls For Ouster Of U.S. Ambassador
2008-09-10 21:46:23
Bolivian President Evo Morales called Wednesday for the U.S. ambassador to be expelled for allegedly encouraging anti-government protesters.

"Without fear of anyone, without fear of the empire, today before you, before the Bolivian people, I declare the ambassador of the United States persona non grata," he said of Ambassador Philip Goldberg in a nationally televised speech from the presidential palace.

"I ask the foreign minister to find the legal and diplomatic framework to return him urgently to his country. We do not want separatists, divisionists, people who conspire against the unity. We do not want people who work against democracy."

A State Department spokesman called Morales' assertion that Goldberg had encouraged anti-government protests "baseless."

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Hurricane Ike Strengthens Over Gulf, Heads For Texas
2008-09-10 14:41:46
Hurricane Ike grew stronger as it barreled across the warm, energizing waters of the Gulf of Mexico today toward the Texas coast after crashing through Cuba's tobacco country and toppling aging Havana buildings.

Forecasters said the Category 1 storm could become major Category 3 storm before slamming into Texas or northern Mexico on Saturday.

Ike has already killed at least 80 people in the Caribbean, and Texas put 7,500 National Guard members on standby and urged coastal residents to stock up on supplies.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) still was uncertain about the timing of evacuations along the coast.

Cuban state television said some 2.6 million people - nearly a fourth of the island's population - sought refuge from Ike, which killed four people and shredded hundreds of homes as it swept across the country. Power was still spotty in Havana on this morning.

As it left Cuba, Hurricane Ike delivered a punishing blow to towns such as Los Palacios, which already suffered a direct hit from a Category-4 Hurricane Gustav on Aug. 30.
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No Questions, Please; Palin Sticks To Her Script
2008-09-10 14:41:04
John McCain took a risk in picking little-known Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running mate, but now the campaign's playing it safer. She's sticking to a greatest hits version of her convention speech on the campaign trail and steering clear of questions until she's comfortable enough for a hand-picked interviewer later this week.

More than 40 million people tuned in last week to listen to the speech from Palin, the 44-year-old, first-term governor whom McCain announced as his surprise vice presidential pick just days before. Since then, that basic script is all anyone has heard from her publicly, and her only interaction with the media was a brief conversation with a small group of reporters on her plane Monday - off the record at her handlers' insistence.

Associated Press reporters were not on the plane, but an aide told the journalists on board that all Palin flights would be off the record unless the media were told otherwise. At least one reporter objected. Two people on the flight said the Palins greeted the media and they chatted about who had been to Alaska, but little else was said.

By comparison, her Democratic counterpart, Joe Biden, has been campaigning on his own, at times taking questions from audiences. He split off to campaign separately from Barack Obama the day after Obama announced his selection. They reunited at their party's convention and spent the following weekend campaigning together.

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Meager Living Of Haitians Is Wiped Out By Storms
2008-09-10 14:40:22
Their cupboards were virtually bare before the winds started whipping, the skies opened up and this seaside city filled like a cauldron with thick, brown, smelly muck.

Suffering long ago became normal here, passed down through generations of children who learn that crying does no good.

Yet the enduring spirit of the people of Gonaives is being tested by a string of recent tropical storms and hurricanes  whose names Haitians spit out like curses - Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike.

After four fierce storms in less than a month, the little that many people had has turned to nothing at all. Their humble homes are under water, forcing them onto the roofs. Schools are canceled. Hunger is now intense. Difficult lives have become untenable ones and, if that was not enough, hurricane season has only just reached the traditional halfway mark.

One can see the misery in the eyes of Edith Pierre, who takes care of six children on her roof in the center of Gonaives. She has strung a sheet up to shield them, somewhat, from the piercing sun. The few scraps of clothing she could salvage sit in heaps off to a side. “Now I have nothing,” she said before pausing a minute, staring down from the roof at the river of floodwater around and then saying again in an even more forlorn way: “Nothing.”

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'200 Villages Destroyed' By Earthquake In Iran
2008-09-10 14:39:51
A strong earthquake measuring 6.1 in magnitude struck southern Iran on Wednesday, according to a report from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The quake demolished nearly 200 villages in Iran's Hormozgan Province, according to Iran's Press TV, citing the head of the provincial disaster management headquarters, Yasser Hazbavi.

At least three people were killed and 22 others were injured, Hazbavi told Press TV.

People panicked and fled buildings when the temblor struck in the quake-prone region around 3:30 p.m. Iranian time (7a ET/1100 UTC), Iran's state-run IRNA news agency reported. It also knocked out power to the region.

The epicenter was located 35 miles (55 km) west-southwest of Bandar e-Abbas, Iran - just across the narrow Strait of Hormuz from the United Arab Emirates - according to USGS. 

Mehdi Rezapoor, head of the Iranian Seismological Center, said it was "a medium-sized quake."

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OPEC Says It Will Cut Oil Production
2008-09-10 03:36:21
In an unexpected decision made after a six-hour meeting that lasted well into the night, the OPEC oil cartel said it would reduce its oil production by about half a million barrels a day in a bid to stem a rapid decline in oil prices in recent weeks.

The outcome of the meeting, which ended around 3 a.m. Wednesday, represented a significant loss for moderate OPEC producers like Saudi Arabia, which had argued for the group to keep producing at full tilt.

Fears that the market was currently oversupplied while demand for oil was slowing led the group to say it would “strictly comply” with production quotas set in September 2007. Since then, the group has been producing above those levels to drive prices down.

The outcome was presented as a technical adjustment to curb the group’s overproduction, but OPEC’s president, Chakib Khelil, said the decision meant that OPEC producers would effectively reduce their overall production by 520,000 barrels a day. Oil prices traded electronically in New York jumped $2 a barrel after the decision.In its final statement, the oil-producing group said it had noted “a shift in market sentiment causing downside risks to the global oil market outlook.”

Given OPEC members’ history of frequently pumping more than their quotas, it is not certain that they will abide by the new agreement.

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U.S. Considers New Tactics In Hunt For Bin Laden
2008-09-10 03:35:47
Frustrated by repeated dead ends in the search for Osama bin Laden, U.S. and Pakistani officials said they are questioning long-held assumptions about their strategy and are shifting tactics to intensify the use of the unmanned but lethal Predator drone spy plane in the mountains of western Pakistan.

The number of Hellfire missile attacks by Predators in Pakistan has more than tripled, with 11 strikes reported by Pakistani officials this year, compared with three in 2007. The attacks are part of a renewed effort to cripple al-Qaeda's  central command that began early last year and has picked up speed as President Bush's term in office winds down, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials involved in the operations.

There has been no confirmed trace of bin Laden since he narrowly escaped from the CIA and the U.S. military after the battle near Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in December 2001, according to U.S., Pakistani and European officials. They said they are now concentrating on a short list of other al-Qaeda leaders who have been sighted more recently, in hopes that their footprints could lead to bin Laden.

In interviews, the officials attributed their failure to find bin Laden to an over-reliance on military force, disruptions posed by the war in Iraq and a pattern of underestimating the enemy. Above all, they said, the search has been handicapped by an inability to develop informantsin Pakistan's isolated tribal regions, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

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Fogging Up Those Old-Time Forecasts
2008-09-10 03:34:32
Traditional almanacs ponder meaning of global warming.

They call themselves "prognosticators," people who study the phases of the moon and the height of wasp nests, then declare there will be showers on Oct. 18, 2009.

Prognosticators create long-range weather charts for the handful of surviving farmer's almanacs - an old job, done an old way. They eschew Doppler radar and weather satellites and look for clues in the timeless rhythms of nature.

Now, the world and the weather don't look as timeless as they used to. Scientists say the planet is warming, threatening to make droughts more widespread, heat waves more punishing and hurricanes more severe.

So one of the country's most fervently unmodern subcultures has had to confront climate change. Prognosticators are deciding how - or if - they should factor greenhouse gases into weather-predicting formulas that are two centuries old.

Traditional methods "worked really well for hundreds of years," said Bill O'Toole, prognosticator for the Washington area's local almanac, J. Gruber's Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack, founded in 1797. "Global warming has kind of messed it up," said O'Toole, who has started predicting shorter winters and less snow than in the past.

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Rep. Rangel Says He Will Pay Back Taxes
2008-09-10 03:33:19

As House Republican leaders called for his removal from the powerful chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-New York) announced Tuesday that he will repay an unspecified amount in back federal, state and local taxes on unreported income from a Dominican Republic vacation property.

The Harlem Democrat will file amended federal, state and local tax returns to reflect $75,000 in income from the beachfront villa that he previously failed to list on tax and congressional financial disclosure forms, said his attorney Lanny Davis.

At a news conference today, Rangel planned to release a letter he sent to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) explaining the Punta Cana resort deal and another asking the House Ethics Committee to add the matter to a burgeoning inquiry. The committee is examining the congressman's rental of several New York apartments at below-market rates and his fundraising entreaties to corporations and foundations on behalf of an academic center that bears his name, his attorney said.

Pelosi also heard Tuesday from nine House Republican leaders, who demanded that she remove Rangel from the chairmanship.

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Iraq Cancels Six No-Bid Oil Contracts
2008-09-11 03:34:44
An Iraqi plan to award six no-bid contracts to Western oil companies, which came under sharp criticism from several United States senators this summer, has been withdrawn, participants in the negotiations said on Wednesday.

Iraq's oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, told reporters at an OPEC summit meeting in Vienna, Austria, on Tuesday that talks with Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, Total, BP and several smaller companies for one-year deals, which were announced in June and subsequently delayed, had dragged on for so long that the companies could not now fulfill the work within that time frame. The companies confirmed on Wednesday that the deals had been canceled.

While not particularly lucrative by industry standards, the contracts were valued for providing a foothold in Iraq at a time when oil companies are being shut out of energy-rich countries around the world. The companies will still be eligible to compete in open bidding in Iraq.

The six no-bid deals were for work to increase Iraqi oil production from existing oil fields by half a million barrels a day - the same amount by which OPEC countries agreed Tuesday to reduce output. After its cancellation of the deals, Iraq reduced by 200,000 barrels per day its goal of producing 2.9 million barrels per day by the end of the year.

The deals would have been the first major oil contracts with the central government since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, though the Kurdistan region has separately signed more than 20 contracts.

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Editorial: Mississippi's Ballot Trick
2008-09-11 03:33:07
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Wednesday, September 10, 2008.

Mississippi’s governor, Haley Barbour, and its secretary of state have come up with a particularly cynical dirty trick for the November election. Let’s call it: “Where’s the Senate race?”

Defying state law, they have decided to hide a hard-fought race for the United States Senate at the bottom of the ballot, where they clearly are hoping some voters will overlook it. Their proposed design is not only illegal. It shows a deep contempt for Mississippi’s voters.

Republicans have long had a lock on the state’s two Senate seats. But this year, former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, has been running close to Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican, in the polls. Mr. Wicker was appointed to the seat by Governor Barbour in late December after Trent Lott stepped down.

Mississippi election law clearly states that federal elections must go at the top of ballots. And the secretary of state, Delbert Hosemann, plans to list the state’s other Senate race - incumbent Thad Cochran is running far ahead of his Democratic challenger, Erik Fleming - where it belongs, right below the presidential contest.

But Mr. Hosemann argues that because the Wicker-Musgrove race is a special election to fill the remainder of Mr. Lott’s term, he is free to place it at the bottom, below state and county races.

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U.S. Interior Dept. Employees Accused In Sex, Gift Scandal
2008-09-10 21:47:27
Government brokers responsible for collecting billions of dollars in federal oil royalties operated in a "culture of substance abuse and promiscuity" that included having sex with energy company employees, accepting lavish gifts and rigging contracts to favored firms, investigators said Wednesday.

The alleged transgressions involve 13 former and current Interior Department employees in Denver, Colorado, and Washington, D.C. Their alleged improprieties include influencing contracts, working part-time as private oil consultants and having sexual relationships with - and accepting golf and ski trips, snowboarding lessons and concert tickets from - oil company employees, according to three reports released Wednesday by the Interior Department's inspector general.

The investigations expose a small group of individuals "wholly lacking in acceptance of or adherence to government ethical standards," wrote Inspector General Earl E. Devaney, whose office spent more than two years and $5.3 million on the investigation.

"Sexual relationships with prohibited sources cannot, by definition, be arms-length," said Devaney.

The reports describe a fraternity house atmosphere inside the Denver Minerals Management Service (MMS) office responsible for marketing oil and natural gas that energy companies barter to the government in lieu of cash royalty payments for drilling on federal lands. The government received $4.3 billion in such royalty-in-kind payments last year. The oil and gas is then resold to energy companies or put in the nation's emergency stockpile.

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Magnitude 6.9 Earthquake Hits Northern Japan, Minutes After 6.6 Quake Hits Indonesia
2008-09-10 21:47:04
A magnitude 6.9 earthquake rattled Japan on Thursday, within minutes of a magnitude 6.6 earthquake in Indonesia, said the U.S. Geological Survey.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries from either quake, but both prompted tsunami warnings, although Japan's Meteorological Agency predicted it would be small, about 50 centimeter (20 inches).

The Indonesian quake occurred at exactly 9 a.m. (0000 GMT), said the USGS. Its epicenter was offshore, about 75 miles (120 km) north of Ternate in the province of Moluccas in eastern Indonesia. The quake was strongly felt in Ternate.

The Indonesian Meteorological and Geophysical Department issued a tsunami warning shortly afterward - standard procedure for a quake of magnitude 6.6 or higher with an epicenter offshore.

The Japanese quake occurred at 9:21 a.m. (0021 GMT). The USGS initially classified its magnitude as a 7.2, but later reduced it.

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Volkeswagen Power Struggle Escalates As E.U. Threatens Legal Action
2008-09-10 21:46:39
The European Union Commission has threatened to take Germany to court for not fully complying with its demand to revise a law protecting the Volkswagen, Europe's largest car maker, from hostile takeovers.

The European Court of Justice last year ruled that the so-called VW law breaches E.U. rules on the free flow of capital. The German government responded by amending the law, but the E.U. believes those revisions don't go far enough.

A spokesman for E.U. Internal Markets Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said on Tuesday the Commission had no choice but to take renewed legal action against Germany because Berlin evidently did not plan to take any further action in response to its objections.

The VW law, introduced in the 1960s, was aimed at preserving government influence in the former state-owned VW. Following the 2007 court ruling the German government watered down the law but still retained a provision guaranteeing a blocking minority for shareholders holding 20 percent.

That ensures a veto right for the state of Lower Saxony, which owns just over 20 percent of VW. Under German law, it's standard for shareholders to get a blocking minority only if they own at least 25 percent of voting rights.

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Study Links Oil Prices To Investor Speculation
2008-09-10 14:41:57
Speculation by large investors - and not supply and demand for oil - were a primary reason for the surge in oil prices during the first half of the year and the more recent price declines, an independent study concluded Wednesday.

The report by Masters Capital Management said investors poured $60 billion into oil futures markets during the first five months of the year as oil prices soared from $95 a barrel in January to $145 a barrel by July.

Since then, these investors have withdrawn $39 billion from those markets as prices have retreated dramatically, the report said. Oil traded at about $102 a barrel Wednesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

"We have clear evidence the fund flow pushed prices up and the fund flow pushed prices down," said Michael Masters of Masters Capital Management, calling the amount of money moving into oil futures markets by large institutional investors in the early part of the year "way off the scale."

Masters said its analysis shows investors "began a massive stampede for the exits" on July 15 and that this caused the price decline.

"These large financial players have become the primary source of the dramatic and damaging volatility seen in oil prices," concluded the report.

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U.S. Defense Contracting Audit Agency Under Investigation
2008-09-10 14:41:33

In 2005 and 2006, the Defense Contract Audit Agency helped enable Boeing to recover about $270 million in losses from a failed commercial satellite business, approving unorthodox accounting methods that allowed the company to receive the payments through an Air Force contract, according to testimony to be presented to a congressional panel Wednesday.

When veteran auditors at the DCAA pointed out potential violations of federal acquisition regulations, they were repeatedly told by supervisors to ignore them, according to the testimony from whistle-blowers and a recent investigation by the Government Accountability Office.

"My office was directed by DCAA upper management to basically play along with this outrageous government bailout," Paul Hackler, a supervising auditor at DCAA, said in prepared testimony obtained by the Washington Post. "Boeing seized this opportunity to recover past losses by developing proposals that violated numerous procurement regulations."

Boeing spokesman Dan Beck said the company had not seen the testimony, and that the GAO's July report on the DCAA faulted the agency, not the company. "Boeing absolutely did nothing improper," he said. "Boeing will not comment on one agency reporting on another."

An Air Force spokesman declined to comment.

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Controversial Competition To Build Air Force Tankers Is Canceled
2008-09-10 14:40:39
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced Wednesday he was canceling the increasingly heated competition to build the Air Force a fleet of 179 refueling tankers, saying the contest had become so controversial that he would not be able to pick a winner before President Bush left office in January.

The surprise announcement is the latest in a series of setbacks for the star-crossed $35 billion program, whose selection process has now been started and stopped three times during the last five years.

The decision to scrap the competition, which will leave a decision on how to move forward to a new presidential administration, is a particularly tough blow for Century City's Northrop Grumman Corp., which had beat Boeing Co. in the most recent competition to build the tankers. Northrop was widely viewed as likely to have the victory confirmed in the follow-up competition Gates canceled.

"We are extremely disappointed at the decision to terminate the current tanker competition, especially on behalf of our men and women in uniform who will now be denied a critically needed new tanker for years," said Northrop spokesman Brandon R. Belote.

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Lehman Brothers Announced $4 Billion Loss
2008-09-10 14:40:10

Historic Wall Street investment firm Lehman Brothers said Wednesday it lost nearly $4 billion during the past three months and announced plans to sell some of its assets to raise cash and decrease its involvement in riskier real estate investments.

In a series of steps meant to demonstrate its ability to survive, Lehman said it would all but dispose of its real estate-related investments; slash its shareholder dividend by more than 90 percent, to 5 cents a share; and sell a majority stake in parts of its core investment management division. Negotiations were underway with several possible investors in the investment division, Lehman executives said in a conference call Wednesday morning.

Lehman's ability to survive has been a topic of speculation for months, and its stock has fallen from more than $60 a share in February to less than $8 yesterday. As with many other banks and financial firms, the company's involvement in mortgage-related securities has raised doubts about its ability to weather a sharp downturn in the housing and credit markets.

Wall Street - at least initially - welcomed the news. Major indexes opened higher, with the Dow Jones industrial average adding 50 points in the first minutes of trading. Lehman stock, battered Tuesday, was up by about 6 percent.

The steps announced today include spinning off the company's roughly $30 billion commercial real estate portfolio into a separate company and selling about $4 billion worth of mortgages in Britain to BlackRock Financial Management. The company was also writing down the estimated value of some of its mortgage-related assets by about $5.6 billion, to reflect the rising default rates and falling values that have plagued the real estate industry for more than a year.

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Defense Secretary Gates Cites Caution On Troop Pullout From Iraq
2008-09-10 14:39:39
Improved security in Iraq will give the U.S. military flexibility to do more in Afghanistan in coming months, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Congress Wednesday, after years of setting a lower priority for the Afghan fight.

Even as Gates hinted at possible further troop cuts in Iraq, he said a go-slow approach is justified by several worrisome circumstances, including slow progress on the political front.

"I worry that the great progress our troops and the Iraqis have made has the potential to override a measure of caution born of uncertainty," Gates told the House Armed Services Committee. "Our military commanders do not yet believe our gains are necessarily enduring - and they believe that there are still many challenges and the potential for reversals in the future."

Gates also warned that "we should expect to be involved in Iraq for years to come, although in changing and increasingly limited ways."

The Defense secretary said sectarian tensions still exist in Iraq and have the potential to undo recent security progress.

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When Campaign Lies Become Facts
2008-09-10 03:36:08

From the moment Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin declared that she had opposed the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere," critics, the news media and nonpartisan fact checkers have called it a fabrication or, at best, a half-truth; but Tuesday, in Lebanon, Ohio, and again in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, she crossed that bridge again.

"I told Congress: 'Thanks but no thanks for that Bridge to Nowhere up in Alaska'," Palin told the crowds at the "McCain Street USA" rallies. "If we wanted a bridge, we'll build it ourselves."

Palin's position on the bridge that would have linked Ketchikan to Gravina Island is one example of a candidate staying on message even when that message has been publicly discredited. Palin has continued to say she opposed a project she once campaigned for - then killed later, only after support for it had collapsed in Congress.

As the presidential campaign moves into a final, heated stretch, untrue accusations and rumors have started to swirl at a pace so quick that they become regarded as fact before they can be disproved. A number of fabrications about Palin's policies and personal life, for instance, have circulated on the Internet since she joined the Republican ticket.

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Editorial: Still No Exit
2008-09-10 03:34:59
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Tuesday, September 9, 2008.

President Bush is nothing if not consistent. In a speech on Tuesday, he made it clear that he has no plan at all for ending the war in Iraq and no serious plan for winning the war in Afghanistan.

Mr. Bush wants to have it both ways - claiming success in tamping down violence in Iraq and yet refusing to make the hard choices that would flow from that.

Speaking at the National Defense University, he said he would withdraw only 8,000 more troops from Iraq by the time he leaves office. That would leave 138,000 troops behind - more than were deployed in Iraq before his January 2007 “surge.”

All of this seems to be driven more by what is happening in American battleground states than any battleground in Iraq.

While Mr. Bush and his party’s nominee, John McCain, both want to stay the course until some undefined “victory” is achieved, American voters have run out of patience. Mr. Bush and his advisers are clearly hoping that this token withdrawal will be enough to keep Iraq out of the news and out of the election debate. (Ironically, Mr. McCain who doesn’t want to withdraw any troops at all, had no choice but to declare his support for the president’s plan.)

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Four Al-Qaeda Operatives Killed, Say Pakistan Intelligence Officials
2008-09-10 03:33:34
Two top al-Qaeda operatives were among four foreign militants killed in a suspected U.S. missile strike in Pakistan's volatile northwest, Pakistani intelligence officials said Wednesday.

The officials said one was in charge of the terror network's activities in Pakistan's tribal regions, semi-autonomous areas that the U.S. fears have become a haven for al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters involved in attacks on American and NATO  forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

The suspected missile strike occurred Monday in North Waziristan, destroying a seminary and houses associated with a Taliban commander. It was one of a series of such strikes in recent days in Pakistan, indicating the U.S. may be escalating its efforts to crack down on militants along the lengthy, porous Afghan-Pakistan border.

Three Pakistani intelligence officials identified four foreign militants killed in the strike as Abu Qasim, Abu Musa, Abu Hamza and Abu Haris. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of their jobs.

Abu Haris led al-Qaeda efforts in the tribal areas, while Abu Hamza led activities in Peshawar, the main northwest city, said the intelligence officials, who said they got the details from informants and agents in the field.

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