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Monday, October 13, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday October 13 2008 - (813)

Monday October 13 2008 edition
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Insider's Projects Drained Millions From Missile-Defense Program
2008-10-12 15:41:03
They huddled in a quiet corner at the U.S. Airways lounge at Ronald Reagan National Airport, sipping bottomless cups of coffee as they plotted to turn America’s missile defense program into a personal cash machine.

Michael Cantrell, an engineer at the Army Space and Missile Defense Command headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama, along with his deputy, Doug Ennis, had lined up millions of dollars from Congress for defense companies. Now, Cantrell decided, it was time to take a cut.

“The contractors are making a killing,” Cantrell recalled thinking at the meeting, in 2000. “The lobbyists are getting their fees, and the contractors and lobbyists are writing out campaign checks to the politicians. Everybody is making money here - except us.”

Within months, Cantrell began getting personal checks from contractors and later returned to the airport with Ennis to pick up a briefcase stuffed with $75,000. The two men eventually collected more than $1.6 million in kickbacks, through 2007, prompting them to plead guilty this year to corruption charges.

Cantrell readily acknowledges concocting the crime, but what has drawn little scrutiny are his activities leading up to it. Thanks to important allies in Congress, he extracted nearly $350 million for projects the Pentagon did not want, wasting taxpayer money on what would become dead-end ventures.

Recent scandals involving former Representative Randy Cunningham, Republican of California, and the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, both now in prison, provided a glimpse into how special interests manipulate the federal government.

Cantrell’s story, by contrast, pieced together from federal documents and dozens of interviews, is a remarkable account of how a little-known, mid-level Defense Department insider who spent his entire career in Alabama skillfully gamed the system.

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Guantanamo Prosecutor Who Quit Has 'Grave Misgivings' About Fairness
2008-10-12 15:40:34
Convinced that key evidence was being withheld from the defense, Lt. Col. Darrel J. Vandeveld went from being a "true believer to someone who felt truly deceived" by the tribunals.

Darrel J. Vandeveld was in despair. The hard-nosed lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, a self-described conformist praised by his superiors for his bravery in Iraq, had lost faith in the Guantanamo Bay war crimes tribunals in which he was a prosecutor.

His work was top secret, making it impossible to talk to family or friends. So the devout Catholic - working away from home - contacted a priest online.

Even if he had no doubt about the guilt of the accused, he wrote in an August e-mail, "I am beginning to have grave misgivings about what I am doing, and what we are doing as a country. . . .

"I no longer want to participate in the system, but I lack the courage to quit. I am married, with children, and not only will they suffer, I'll lose a lot of friends."

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Bank Rescue Plan To Test Capitalism
2008-10-12 15:40:01
The Bush Administration's plans to take stakes in financial institutions could backfire, some analysts say. Proponents say it's an efficient solution.

Are we witnessing the erosion of capitalism, or its salvation?

That question is swirling around the federal government's latest proposed intervention in the private financial markets since Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson announced Friday a plan to take equity stakes in banks as a quick and efficient way to pump them with new capital.

Combined with the government's takeover last month of the mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and its huge ownership stake in the crippled insurance company American International Group, the bank plan represents perhaps the largest federal intervention in private enterprise since President Truman's attempt to nationalize the steel industry to avert a strike in 1952 - a move blocked by the Supreme Court.

The idea of taking direct stakes in financial institutions was adopted last week by Britain, which will in effect partly nationalize banks with as much as $87 billion in capital infusions and an additional $350 billion available for short-term loans. Some of the country's biggest banks have signed up, including Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The Italian government has also authorized a recapitalization package to be enacted if the need arises. Germany, with Europe's biggest economy, has resisted such plans, but there were reports Saturday that Chancellor Angela Merkel might unveil a recapitalization plan as early as Sunday.

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Iraqi Christians Flee Mosul
2008-10-12 15:38:17
The Iraqi government on Sunday ordered security forces to increase protection of Christians in northern Iraq, where hundreds have fled their homes in recent days after a wave of killings and threats.

At least a dozen Christians have been slain in the past few weeks in the city of Mosul, which has remained violent even as attacks have dropped in other parts of the country. Fighters from al-Qaeda in Iraq, a mostly homegrown extremist group, have resisted efforts by U.S. troops to oust them from the area.

"These attacks have never been seen in Mosul city. Centuries and centuries we were living together," a parliamentary deputy, Yonadam Kanna, said in an interview before he and other Christian politicians met Sunday with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Maliki's office said in a statement that he was ordering the Iraqi army and police in the Mosul area "to provide protection for members of this (Christian) community" and added that the security forces would "target the terrorist groups" behind the attacks.

Christians make up about 3 percent of Iraq's 27 million people, down from roughly twice that percentage before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, according to church leaders and human-rights organizations.

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Japanese Decry N.Korea's Removal From Terrorism List
2008-10-12 15:37:55
A day after the Bush administration removed North Korea from its terrorism blacklist, the country announced that it would resume tearing down its main nuclear plant and South Korea welcomed the move as a step toward ending its next-door neighbor's nuclear program.

In nearby Japan, however - where North Korea's kidnapping of Japanese citizens is a festering national sore that politicians dare not neglect - the decision to take the country off the blacklist was condemned by family members of the abductees. These relatives are well-known and much-honored in Japan, and their opinions have been a powerful force in crafting Japan's hard-nosed policy toward North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

"I think it is an act of betrayal," said Teruaki Masumoto, a brother of one of the eight Japanese who were stolen away by North Korean agents in the 1970s and '80s and who the government says are still alive in North Korea. Masumoto is secretary general of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea.

"Why did the United States remove North Korea from the list when it is clear to anyone's eyes that the North is a terrorism-assisting country?" asked Sakie Yokota, 72, whose daughter, Megumi Yokota, was 13 when she was kidnapped nearly 31 years ago and is by far the most famous of the abductees.

Struggling to explain the emotional resonance of the abductee issue for the Japanese people, a Foreign Ministry official in Tokyo earlier this year compared Megumi Yokota to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the late Nobel Prize-winning novelist who made the world aware of the network of Soviet prisons known as the gulag.

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Failing Economy Boosts Obama
2008-10-12 15:40:47
For months, Mark Wagner stuck by John McCain, even as the economy stalled and other Americans came to blame Republican leadership. Then, about three weeks ago, the deepening economic downturn pushed him to reconsider.

Now, the Florida salesman and staunch Republican has abandoned the Republican ticket. Sarah Palin, he thinks, looks under-equipped to be vice president. And McCain, he says, displayed an unsteady response to what may be a global economic depression.

The financial crisis has turned the last three weeks into a crucial and possibly decisive period in the presidential contest - a time when many Americans have taken a new look at each candidate and then moved toward Democrat Barack Obama.

Like a wave, the crisis has washed over other factors in a contest that had seemed to be a dead heat, moving enough voters to give the senator from Illinois a consistent lead in polls nationwide and in key battleground states, including Florida, Virginia and Ohio, where President Bush secured his reelection four years ago.

Republican officials in several states say they fear voters have judged McCain and Palin harshly in how they reacted to the financial downturn. Obama, meanwhile, now looks like an acceptable alternative to many voters who had been hesitant to pull the lever for him because of concerns about his untraditional background and relatively recent appearance in national affairs.

"If you looked at some of the decisions that Obama's made, and the consistency and levelness that he's had in these trying times over the past few weeks, in my opinion he's blown McCain away," said Wagner, 47, of suburban Tampa.
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World Leaders Offer Unity, But No Steps To Ease Financial Crisis
2008-10-12 15:40:15

Officials from 20 major countries Saturday endorsed a coordinated approach to the financial crisis, but they failed to announce any concrete steps, underscoring the difficulty of crafting a global plan to halt the contagion as it spread to the broader economy.

The announcement, made in Washington, D.C., by finance ministers from major developed countries as well as emerging giants such as China and Brazil, echoed a broad set of principles outlined Friday by the world's richest nations. But critics have described such responses as too bland and vague to calm panicked investors following the record rout on stock markets last week.

Advocates for a coordinated global response say that the scope of the financial crisis requires enormous resources and that a piecemeal approach by individual countries leaves the global system exposed to weaknesses. Lack of faith in any one country's response could spark investor unease, and that unease could quickly spread across borders.

"You need specific, concrete steps, not a list of principles that are obvious and everyone can easily agree to," said Simon Johnson, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Peterson Institute for International Economics. "It's not what the markets are looking for before trading starts in Asia."

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Sarah Palin's Husband, Todd, Was A Fixture At Governor's Office
2008-10-12 15:38:53
The "first gentleman" also read official correspondence and went to closed cabinet meetings, records and an investigation indicate.

Barely two weeks after Sarah Palin had been sworn in as Alaska's governor, in December 2006, then-Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan's executive secretary got a confusing phone call from Palin's office: The first gentleman would like to schedule a meeting with her boss.

"I was not familiar with the term 'first gentleman,' or didn't hear her correctly, so I kept asking her, 'Who?' " the secretary, Cassandra Byrne, testified recently. "And she eventually said, 'Todd Palin.' "

The appointment was fixed, and Monegan arrived in the governor's office to find himself alone with the brawny, popular fisherman and snowmobile champion, who was sitting at a 12-foot-long conference table, surrounded by stacks of documents. One of the documents had the logo and letterhead of Monegan's own Department of Public Safety.

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Bush Administration Removes N. Korea From Terrorism List
2008-10-12 15:38:07
The Bush administration Saturday removed North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism after Pyongyang agreed to allow inspectors access to declared nuclear sites, in a deal that drew quick criticism from conservatives.

After weeks of rancorous negotiations, North Korea agreed to resume the disabling of its Yongbyon plutonium plant and permit international inspectors to return.

Although U.S. officials hailed the deal as an important accomplishment, the agreement left unresolved what happens if inspectors seek access to suspicious sites that the regime has not declared. Though they demanded access to other areas, U.S. officials settled for language saying that entry to undeclared sites would be granted based on "mutual consent."

The ambiguities of the deal concerned some Republicans, including presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, who said he still needed to be convinced that the deal was a good one.

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Petrolia, Pennsylvania, Residents Get OK To Return After Chemical Leak
2008-10-12 15:37:37
About 2,500 people who fled when a corrosive liquid overflowed from a tank at a chemical plant and evaporated were allowed to return home Sunday after authorities determined that no toxins remained in the air.

A material called oleum, similar to sulfuric acid, leaked from a tank at the Indspec Chemical Corp. plant on Saturday and evaporated into a toxic cloud, said plant manager Dave Dorko. All 30 employees of the plant in Petrolia, about 40 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, were evacuated and no injuries were reported, he said.

Authorities went door to door to warn the 2,500 people living within 3 miles to evacuate. About 250 went to shelters in nearby Karns City, North Washington and Bruin.

Authorities were concerned about the potential for respiratory damage and skin burns, said Freda Tarbell, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. She said residents were cleared to return home after officials from the federal Environmental Protection Agency monitored the air and determined that no acid remained.

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