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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday September 3 2008 - (813)

Wednesday September 3 2008 edition
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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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Question Of Usefulness Lingers For Cholesterol Drug Vytorin
2008-09-02 03:21:10

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) approved a new type of cholesterol-lowering medicine in 2002, it did so on the basis of a handful of clinical trials covering a total of 3,900 patients. None of the patients took the medicine for more than 12 weeks, and the trials offered no evidence that it had reduced heart attacks or cardiovascular disease, the goal of any cholesterol drug.

The lack of evidence has not stopped doctors from heavily prescribing that drug, whether in a stand-alone form sold as Zetia or as a combination medicine called Vytorin. Aided by extensive consumer advertising, sales of the medicines reached $5.2 billion last year, making them among the best-selling drugs in the world. More than three million people worldwide take either drug every day.

Yet there is still no proof that the drugs help patients live longer or avoid heart attacks. This year Vytorin has failed two clinical trials meant to show its benefits. Worse, scientists are debating whether there is a link between the drugs and cancer. 

Researchers reported last month that patients in three clinical trials had a 40 percent higher chance of dying from cancer if they took Vytorin instead of a sugar pill or another medicine, although the leader of that study says the finding might be due to chance.

Now some prominent cardiologists say that the evidence has swung so decisively against the drugs that they should not be sold. “The only place people should be taking it is in a clinical trial,” Dr. Allen J. Taylor of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center said of Zetia. (Vytorin is a single pill that combines Zetia with a statin, an older form of cholesterol-lowering medicine whose effectiveness and safety are not in question.)

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Private Lawyer Hired To Represent Palin In Monegan Inquiry
2008-09-02 03:20:41

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin - Republican John McCain's pick for vice president - now has a private lawyer representing her and others in the governor's office in an investigation into the firing of her public safety commissioner

It wasn't immediately clear who hired and who is paying for Thomas Van Flein, who is with a large Alaska law firm.

The Alaska Legislature approved spending up to $100,000 to investigate the circumstances surrounding the firing of the commissioner, Walt Monegan. He has said he believes he was pushed out at least in part because he had refused to fire a state trooper who is Palin's ex-brother-in-law and who the family considered dangerous and a "loose cannon."

"We have been retained to represent the Governor and the Governor's Office relative to the Legislative Council's investigation into the termination of Mr. Monegan ...," Van Flein wrote in a Friday letter to Steve Branchflower, the special counsel hired by the Legislature.

Van Flein said he wants the investigation handled by the state's three-member Personnel Board, not the Legislature. He also asked for all witness statements, documents and other materials collected in the course of the investigation.

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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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Al-Qaeda Has Free Movement In Pakistan, Top Official Concedes
2008-09-02 03:21:20
Pakistan's top security official Monday admitted that al-Qaeda's leadership moved freely in and out of the country and vowed that "no mercy" would be shown to extremists based in its tribal territory that borders Afghanistan.

In the past, Pakistan has been heavily criticized for rejecting evidence that al-Qaeda was largely based in the country and for denying that the tribal territory was used as a safe haven for Afghan insurgents.

Rehman Malik, the interior ministry chief, revealed that al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al Zawahiri and his wife had been in Mohmand, part of the tribal area. Most of time, Malik said Zawahiri was mainly in Afghanistan's Kunar and Paktia provinces.

"We certainly had traced him (Zawahiri) at one place, but we missed the chance. So he's moving in Mohmand and, of course, sometimes in Kunar, mostly in Kunar and Paktia," Malik told reporters in Islamabad.

Malik, a politician who was put in charge of the interior ministry after his Pakistan People's Party emerged as the largest group in a coalition government that formed after elections in February, gave no further details on Zawahiri's movements. In the past, Islamabad has refuted suggestions that Zawahiri and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden were hiding in Pakistan.

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Palin's Small Alaska Town Secured Big Federal Funds
2008-09-02 03:20:55
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin employed a lobbying firm to secure almost $27 million in federal earmarks for a town of 6,700 residents while she was its mayor, according to an analysis by an independent government watchdog group.

There was $500,000 for a youth shelter, $1.9 million for a transportation hub, $900,000 for sewer repairs, and $15 million for a rail project - all intended to benefit Palin's town, Wasilla, located about 45 miles north of Anchorage.

In introducing Palin as his running mate on Friday, Sen. John McCain cast her as a compatriot in his battle against wasteful federal spending. McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, hailed Palin as a politician "with an outstanding reputation for standing up to special interests and entrenched bureaucracies - someone who has fought against corruption and the failed policies of the past, someone who's stopped government from wasting taxpayers' money."

McCain's crusade against earmarks - federal spending sought by members of Congress to benefit specific projects - has been a hallmark of his campaign. He has said earmarks are wasteful and are often inserted into bills with little oversight, sometimes by a single powerful lawmaker.

Palin has also railed against earmarks, touting her opposition to a $223 million bridge in the state as a prime credential for the vice presidential nomination. "As governor, I've stood up to the old politics-as-usual, to the special interests, to the lobbyists, the big oil companies, and the good-ol'-boy network," she said Friday.

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Editorial: Mr. McCain And Iraq
2008-09-02 03:20:20
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Monday, Sept. 1, 2008.

Senator John McCain’s rival, Senator Barack Obama, once was a lonely voice demanding the withdrawal of all combat forces by mid-2010.

But now, Iraq’s leaders are pushing a timetable that would have American troops out in 2011.

Even President Bush - who had long scorned the notion of a withdrawal deadline as defeatist - looks set to go along. Iraq’s leaders are demanding that Mr. Bush accept that deadline in exchange for legalizing the continued American military presence in the country.

That leaves Mr. McCain as the stubborn man out.

While the war is no longer front-page news, thousands of Americans are still fighting and dying there. The war is costing American taxpayers $10 billion a month - that is $10 billion that cannot be spent on health care, education and many other urgent priorities.

Mr. McCain told veterans on Aug. 11 that he would end the war, but intended to “win it first” and assured them that “victory in Iraq is finally in sight.”

He needs to explain what he means by victory. A free and democratic Iraq, as Mr. Bush originally promised? That would take generations. Even after spending nearly $700 billion, the United States will be lucky to leave behind a marginally functioning central government in a very fragile country.
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