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Friday, October 31, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday October 31 2008 - (813)

Friday October 31 2008 edition
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Interview With Eric Foner: 'Life Is Getting More Difficult For Americans'
2008-10-30 20:24:17
As Americans prepare to vote, historian Eric Foner spoke to Spiegel about the current crisis of confidence in the United States, the roots of U.S. exceptionalism and the country's ever-changing concept of freedom. Foner is professor of history at Columbia University in New York. His research focuses on American 19th-century history and his books include "The Story of American Freedom" and "Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution", among others. Mr. Foner was interviewed by Spiegel correspondents Karen Andresen and Cordula Meyer.

SPIEGEL: Professor Foner, almost 80 percent of Americans believe that the country under President George W. Bush is on the wrong track. Do you think that the “American spirit,” the conviction that the United States is exceptional in the world, is in danger?

Eric Foner: Well, temporarily perhaps. We never had such a large number of people, at least if you believe public opinion polls, saying that the country is on the wrong track. The reason is a combination of the war in Iraq, but even more the feeling of economic insecurity. Globalization, de-industrialization, declining real wages, even for people who have jobs, life is getting more difficult. Then I think a complete loss of confidence in government. Whoever becomes president, they are going to have to convince voters that they can actually make a difference. For all the crimes and mistakes of the Bush Administration, I think one of its greatest failings was just utter incompetence.

SPIEGEL: What parallels to today’s crisis do you see in American history?

Foner: Well, of course, the Great Depression and the 1890s before that was another period of tremendous social change and economic problems. Maybe the 1970s is the best example. You had this combination of various economic crises plus the Vietnam War. It is quite different from now because people had enormous confidence in the ability of the government to solve problems.

SPIEGEL: People need to be given back this confidence, but under conditions that are much more difficult.

Foner: The problems may be more deeply rooted now; the problems caused by globalization seem to be beyond the capacity of any one president. There are so many trends that are affecting everyday life that are supranational. We cannot stop jobs from going to China or India or Mexico. The nation itself is in some ways no longer the primary actor on the world stage. That is what you have to be discussing, even though nobody is really talking about it.
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Witnesses: Police Did NOT Warn DeMenzes Before Opening Fire
2008-10-30 20:23:45

Jean Charles de Menezes was not warned before he was shot dead by British police, three witnesses told an inquest Thursday. The claim contradicts the police account that the innocent Brazilian was warned before being shot.

Ralph Livock and his girlfriend Rachel Wilson were sitting in a tube carriage (subway car) opposite the 27-year-old Brazilian, the inquest heard.

Nicholas Hilliard Queens Counsel and counsel to the inquest, asked him if he heard the police shout a warning.

"Absolutely not," Livock replied.

"And I remember that specifically because one of the conversations that Rachel and I had afterwards was that we had no idea whether they were police, whether they were terrorists, whether they were somebody else. We just had no idea."

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An Era Ends With Closing Of Berlin's Tempelhof Airport
2008-10-30 20:22:13
The last passengers mill around the concourse, the baggage claim belt is at a standstill. After 85 years, Thursday is the last day flights will leave Germany's most famous airport: Tempelhof. It once hosted Marlene Dietrich and the Beatles, but it will now give up the stage to a massive new international airport.

The air still reeks of jet fuel. "Hold your breath for as long as you can," Dieter Nickel tells his former colleague as they reach the rooftop of Berlin's Tempelhof Airport. He gazes out over the brightly lit airfield, where a rescue helicopter is landing. The rotors hum. Amateur pilots taxi their planes onto the runway and slowly take off, one after the other.

Nickel has worked here for 41 years. He directed design and construction. For the last few years the 70-year-old has also led visitors through Tempelhof. These are goodbye tours. On Thursday, Oct. 30, Tempelhof will turn out its lights for good.

After 85 years of service, Germany's best-known airport will pass into the dustbin of history - despite protests by Berliners, despite prominent advocates like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, American billionaire Ronald S. Lauder and journalist Michael S. Cullen. A tortured farewell, partly played out in German courts, is drawing to a close.

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Wall Street Rises After Report On Economy
2008-10-30 16:51:21

The news Thursday morning seemed grim: the government reported that the economy shrank over the summer and is almost certainly in a recession.

But investors took the report as a re-statement of what they already knew and bought into the market, sending shares higher from the opening bell. While the market swung across a wide range during the session, the Dow Jones industrials finished 189.73 points or 2.1 percent higher.

The Dow climbed 250 points in the opening minutes, then moved in and out of positive territory before ending the day at 9,180.69. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index gained about 2.58 percent.

The G.D.P. report showed that consumer spending tumbled last quarter by the most in three decades, but many of the sharp swoons seen in the market in recent days have already been attributed to defensive plays by investors who are bracing for the impact of the downturn.

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U.S. Economy Contracts On Weak Spending
2008-10-30 16:06:55
The U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) - driven largely by consumer spending - shrank, but not as much as expected. Still, economists predict things will get worse before they get better.

Consumers cinched their belts sharply in the last few months, curbing spending and driving economic growth into negative territory, the deepest decline since 2001, the government reported Thursday.

Gross domestic product shrank by 0.3% in the third quarter, a sharp reversal from the 2.8% increase recorded in the second quarter, said the Commerce Department.

In total, personal consumption declined 3.1% in the three months ending Sept. 30. It was the first time since 1991 that consumer spending actually dropped, and the biggest decline since 1980.

The belt-tightening was led by a 14.1% drop in consumer spending on big-ticket items like cars and appliances and a 6.4% decline in smaller purchases. Roughly 70% of GDP is driven by spending at the consumer level.

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American Express To Cut 7,000 Jobs
2008-10-30 16:06:23
The American Express Company, a big credit card lender, said Thursday that it would cut 10 percent of its work force, or about 7,000 jobs, as the company braced for an economic slowdown.

Amex said it expected the reorganization to save $1.8 billion in 2009, when it anticipates a wave of new losses and a decline in the growth of consumer credit card spending.

“Card-member spending in such an environment is likely to be very slow. Loan growth will be restrained and some of that will reflect the steps we’re taking to lower credit risk” as the economy weakens, the chairman and chief executive, Kenneth I. Chenault, said in a conference call earlier this month. “To prepare for this difficult environment, we are moving ahead with plans” to reorganize the business.

American Express said Thursday that the reductions would occur across business units, markets and staff groups, primarily focusing on management and other positions that do not interact directly with customers. As part of the overhaul, American Express could take an after-tax charge of as much as $290 million in the fourth quarter.

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Bomb Attacks In India Kill At Least 67, Wound Hundreds More
2008-10-30 16:05:59
A series of apparently synchronized explosions tore through four towns in the troubled state of Assam in northeastern India on Thursday, killing at least 67 people and leaving more than 210 wounded, according to witnesses and police.

The bombs took aim at crowded markets and government buildings like courts and police stations, witnesses said. The attacks, among the bloodiest in recent months, left streets littered with bodies and the wreckage of cars and motorcycles, according to witnesses and photographers at the scene.

There were no immediate reports that any group had taken responsibility for the bombings.

For many years, Assam state has been riven by a separatist insurgency led by the United Liberation Front of Assam, which demands independence for the region of some 26 million people and is often blamed by the authorities for bombings. Last month, ethnic clashes left 57 people dead in the area when indigenous Bodos fought with Bengali-speaking Muslims.

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YAY! Hubble Up And Running, With Picture To Prove It
2008-10-30 16:05:27

After an electrical malfunction caused it to go dormant a month ago, the Hubble Space Telescope is back in business.

To show that the orbiting eye still has the same chops as ever, astronomers from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore used Hubble’s wide-field planetary camera 2 to record this image of a pair of smoke-rings galaxies known as Arp 147.

The galaxies, about 450 million light-years away in the constellation Cetus, apparently collided in the recent cosmic past. According to Mario Livio, of the space telescope institute, one of the galaxies passed through the other, causing a circular wave, like a pebble tossed into a pond, that has now coalesced into a ring of new blue stars. The center of the impacted galaxy can be seen as a reddish blur along the bottom of a blue ring.

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Political Blog: Al Gore Will Campaign For Obama In Florida
2008-10-30 16:04:28
Intellpuke: This political blog was written by New York Times writer Michael Falcone and appeared in that newspaper's edition for Thursday, October 30, 2008.

Returning to the state that became ground zero for the Election Day troubles that ended up costing him the presidency, former Vice President Al Gore plans to campaign in Florida on Friday for Senator Barack Obama.

And Mr. Gore, who will be joined by his wife, Tipper, is heading to Palm Beach and Broward counties, which played leading roles in the drama of the 2000 election. He will hold rallies in West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale.

“Nobody knows better that every single vote counts - especially in Florida - than Vice President Al Gore, who will be encouraging Florida voters to early vote in record numbers so no amount of chads, butterflies or undervotes can stand between Floridians and the change we need,” the Obama campaign’s Florida state director, Steve Schale, said in a statement.

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Data Mining You To Death: Does Google Know Too Much?
2008-10-30 20:24:01
Google gathers so much detailed information about its users that one critic says some state intelligence bureaus look "like child protection services" in comparison. A few German government bodies have mounted a resistance.

The little town of Molfsee, near Kiel in northern Germany, has three lakes, an idyllic open-air museum and a population just under 5,000. It’s not the likeliest place to declare war against a global power. Yet Molfsee has won the first round of a battle against a powerful digital age opponent.

The source of friction is a fleet of dark-colored Opel Astras. The cars caused a stir when they started cruising the streets of German cities over the last few months, sporting roof-mounted cameras that record 360-degree images from 11 lenses. Some of the vehicles bear the name of the company that sent them on this massive photographic mission: Google.

"Street View" is the name of the service offered by Google. The California-based Internet company is photographing city streets all over the world, linking the images to digital maps and making the whole package available on the Web. Anyone with an Internet connection will then be able to call up not just a "Google Map" but pictures of the area as well. The company also plans a feature to let users take a virtual stroll through a city.

The camera-wielding Astras haven't come to Molfsee yet, and local Google opponents want to keep it that way. Some of them have resorted to local law. According to a road traffic act passed in the town, Google would need a special permit to drive and photograph in Molfsee. Local politicians have refused to issue the permit.

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Britain's Attorney General Asked To Investigate MI5, CIA Over Briton's Rendition
2008-10-30 20:22:50
Britain's Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has asked the country's attorney general to investigate possible "criminal wrongdoing" by the MI5 and the CIA over its treatment of a British resident held in Guantanamo Bay, it was revealed Thursday night.

The dramatic development over allegations of collusion in torture and inhuman treatment follows a high court judgment which found that an MI5 officer participated in the unlawful interrogation of Binyam Mohamed. The MI5 officer interrogated Mohamed while he was being held in Pakistan in 2002.

It emerged Thursday night that lawyers acting for Smith have sent the attorney general, Baroness Scotland, evidence about MI5 and CIA involvement in the case, which was heard behind closed doors in high court hearings. In a letter seen by the Guardian newspaper, they have asked Scotland - as an independent law officer - to investigate "possible criminal wrongdoing". The move could lead to a criminal prosecution.

The evidence was suppressed following gagging orders demanded by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and the U.S. authorities. The action by Smith, the minister responsible for MI5 activities, is believed to be unprecedented.

A Home Office spokesman confirmed Thursday night that the letter and closed evidence had been sent to the attorney. It had no further comment.

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European Union Holds Emergency Talks As Congo Teeters On The Brink
2008-10-30 20:21:56

The European Union announced emergency talks Thursday on the destabilizing situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo after nine people were reported dead following overnight fighting and looting in a border town.

E.U. officials will meet in Brussels, Belgium, before the weekend to discuss sending a humanitarian force to help peacekeepers in the country, said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

Oxfam was among the British agencies that announced it was pulling back its staff from Goma, which was besieged Wednesday by a rebel army.

U.N. radio said nine people were shot amid gunfire and looting in the town on the eastern border with Rwanda.

Rebels loyal to the Tutsi warlord Laurent Nkunda closed in on Goma Wednesday before declaring a ceasefire near its outskirts.

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Data Pins Global Warming Blame On Humans
2008-10-30 16:51:09
Scientists think they have uncovered conclusive proof that human activity is responsible for rising temperatures in both polar regions.

Research carried out at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the United Kingdom  demonstrates for the first time that anthropogenic climate change is responsible for warming at the Arctic and Antarctic.

Previous studies have observed rises in temperature at both poles, but none, until now, have formally attributed the cause to human activity.

Using up-to-date gridded data sets, scientists led by the UEA observed mean land surface temperatures in the Arctic over a 100 year period. For the Antarctic the observation period was shorter - 50 years - as there is no station data available before 1945.

They then applied an average simulated response using two models. The first examined natural forcings - events like solar cycles and volcanic activity which can affect temperatures.

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Days Before The Election, Stark Signs Of An Economic Slowdown
2008-10-30 16:06:40

Less than a week before Americans go to the polls to select a president, a government report released Thursday showed that the economy contracted in the third quarter as consumer spending dipped for the first time in 17 years.

Economists said the drop in economic activity - with the gross domestic product (GDP) shrinking at a 0.3 percent annual rate - presages more bad news in the months ahead. The impacts of a now-global financial crisis are continuing to squeeze companies and impede investment, prompting more layoffs and another wave of austerity.

“The economy has taken a turn for the worse, big time,” said Allen Sinai, chief global economist for Decision Economics, a consulting and forecasting group. “Consumption literally caved in. It is a prelude to much worse news on the economy over the next couple of quarters. The fundamentals around the consumer are all negative, and there are no signs of any help anytime soon, from anywhere.”

In an election likely to be decided by the economy, the latest batch of dismal data offered no comfort to the Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, of Arizona, who has been running behind the Democratic standard-bearer, Senator Barack Obama, of Illinois, according to polls.

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Exxon Mobil Posts Largest Quarterly Profit Ever
2008-10-30 16:06:13
Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, reported income Thursday that shattered its own record for the biggest profit from operations by a U.S. corporation, earning $14.83 billion in the third quarter.

Bolstered by this summer's record crude prices, the Irving, Texas-based company said net income jumped nearly 58 percent to $2.86 a share in the July-September period. That compares with $9.41 billion, or $1.70 a share, a year ago.

The previous record for U.S. corporate profit was set in the last quarter, when Exxon Mobil earned $11.68 billion.

Revenue rose 35 percent to $137.7 billion.

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Archaeologist Finds 3,000-Year-Old Hebrew Text
2008-10-30 16:05:37
An Israeli archaeologist has discovered what he says is the earliest-known Hebrew text, found on a shard of pottery that dates to the time of King David from the Old Testament, about 3,000 years ago.

Professor Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem says the inscribed pottery shard - known as an ostracon - was found during excavations of a fortress from the 10th century B.C.

Carbon dating of the ostracon, along with pottery analysis, dates the inscription to time of King David, about a millennium earlier than the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, said the university.

The shard contains five lines of text divided by black lines and measures 15 by 15 centimeters, or about 6 inches square.

Archaeologists have yet to decipher the text, but initial interpretation indicates it formed part of a letter and contains the roots of the words "judge," "slave," and "king," according to the university. That may indicate it was a legal text, which archaeologists say would provide insights into Hebrew law, society, and beliefs.

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End Of Daylight Savings Time Is Good For The Heart
2008-10-30 16:04:51
Turning your clock back one hour for the end of daylight saving time could do your own ticker some good.

Researchers have found a 5% drop in heart attack deaths and hospitalizations the day after clocks are reset each year to standard time, according to a study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

(In the U.S. this year, daylight saving time ends Sunday.)

Unfortunately, the Swedish researchers also found that the onset of daylight saving time in the spring appears to increase the risk of heart attacks.

Physicians can now add daylight saving time to the list of seemingly mundane events that have an effect on the heart, said Dr. Ralph Brindis, a vice president of the American College of Cardiology who practices in Oakland, California. The risk also rises on holidays and anniversaries, though no one knows why, he said.

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Oy! Officials Warn College Tuitions Could Rise Sharply
2008-10-30 16:03:56
A report released Wednesday by the College Board showed that the average price of attending college rose nearly 6% this fall, but education officials warned that the widening economic crisis might push tuition bills sharply higher next year.

Annual tuition, fees, and room and board for in-state students at four-year public colleges and universities nationwide grew 5.7% for the current academic year to $14,333, according to the College Board's annual college pricing survey. For four-year private schools, the price of attending rose 5.6% to $34,132. Financial aid reduced schooling expenses for eligible students.

The increases closely matched the 5.6% overall inflation rate for the fiscal year ending July 2008 and were relatively moderate compared with a run-up of college costs a decade ago.

"This is certainly not high by historical standards," said Sandy Baum, a College Board policy analyst and economics professor at Skidmore College in New York.

Yet trouble might be looming. State budget cuts, college endowments hit hard by the tumbling stock market and an expected slide in donations could lead to higher charges for students and parents next year, some officials warn. However, some experts speculate that schools may be loath to raise prices at a time when many American families face layoffs, home foreclosures and shrinking investments.

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