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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday October 7 2008 - (813)

Tuesday October 7 2008 edition
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Stocks Plunge Globally On Financial Fears, Dow Sinks Below 10,000
2008-10-06 15:12:46

U.S. stocks plummeted in morning trading Monday as investors began to fear that a bailout of the financial sector would not be enough to prevent a global recession and Europe continued to grapple with a stabilization of its banking sector.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost as much 584 points Monday, falling below 10,000 for the first time since October 2004 before recovering some ground. It is trading off more than 5 percent, or 527 points just before 1 p.m. The technology-heavy Nasdaq fell more than 6 percent, or 120 points, and broader Standard & Poor's 500 stock index fell 5.7 percent, or 62 points.

Investors are being led by fear, said analysts. The $700 billion financial bailout plan enacted by the federal government last week has yet to loosen the credit markets and banks remain reluctant to lend to each other. The price of gold has skyrocketed as investors seek a safe haven. Oil fell below $90 a barrel Monday for the first time in months. Overseas, banks are increasingly facing problems of their own.

The day started with a negative momentum that has turned into a global panic, said Art Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Company. "It is just a realization that the global economy is going to be stagnate for the next 12 to 16 months" even with the rescue plan, said Hogan.

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One-Quarter Of World's Mammals Face Extinction
2008-10-06 15:12:21
A quarter of the world's wild mammal species are at risk of extinction, according to a comprehensive global survey released here this morning.

The new assessment - which took 1,700 experts in 130 countries five years to complete - paints "a bleak picture," leaders of the project wrote in a paper being published in the journal Science. The overview, made public at the quadrennial World Conservation Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), covers all 5,487 wild species identified since 1500. It is the most thorough tally of land and marine mammals since 1996.

"Mammals are definitely declining, and the driving factors are habitat destruction and over-harvesting," said Jan Schipper, the paper's lead author and the IUCN's global mammals assessment coordinator.

The researchers concluded that 25 percent of the mammal species for which they had sufficient data are threatened with extinction, but Schipper added the figure could be as high as 36 percent because information on some species is so scarce.

Land and marine mammals face different threats, the scientists said, and large mammals are more vulnerable than small ones. For land species, habitat loss and hunting represent the greatest danger, while marine mammals are more threatened by accidental killing through fishing bycatch, ship strikes and pollution.

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At Least 15 Killed In Bombing Of Pakistan Lawmaker's Home
2008-10-06 15:11:55
A suicide bomber attacked a lawmaker's house in eastern Pakistan on Monday, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than 50, said officials and a witness.

The blast was the latest in a string of bombings against government, military and Western targets in Pakistan, an important ally in the U.S. war on terror.

It came as Pakistan insisted Monday it has not made a deal allowing the U.S. to fire missiles at militant hide-outs in Pakistani territory after The Wall Street Journal quoted President Asif Ali Zardari as suggesting otherwise.

Zardari also told the Journal that "India has never been a threat" to his country, and called Islamist militant groups in the disputed Kashmir region "terrorists."

The reported comments could undermine Zardari just a month into his presidency, especially with Pakistan's powerful military. Pakistan's army traditionally views India as its No. 1 enemy and has denied making any agreement with the U.S. on cross-border operations.

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Voter Registration Gains Favor Democrats
2008-10-06 03:22:21

As the deadline for voter registration arrives Monday in many states, Sen. Barack Obama's campaign is poised to benefit from a wave of newcomers to the rolls in key states in numbers that far outweigh any gains made by Republicans.

In the past year, the rolls have expanded by about 4 million voters in a dozen key states - 11 Obama targets that were carried by George W. Bush in 2004 (Ohio, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico) plus Pennsylvania, the largest state carried by Sen. John F. Kerry that Sen. John McCain is targeting.

In Florida, Democratic registration gains this year are more than double those made by Republicans; in Colorado and Nevada the ratio is 4 to 1, and in North Carolina it is 6 to 1. Even in states with nonpartisan registration, the trend is clear - of the 310,000 new voters in Virginia, a disproportionate share live in Democratic strongholds.

Republicans acknowledge the challenge but say Obama still has to prove he can get the new voters to the polls.

"The machine that has been put in place by the Democrats is effective. They have a lot of people holding clipboards," said Brian K. Krolicki (R) , the lieutenant governor of Nevada; adding, "There's a difference between successful registration and a groundswell. It's mechanics versus momentum."

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Commentary: Whisper It - This Election Will Be Decided On The Issues
2008-10-06 03:21:44
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Michael Tomasky, editor of Guardian America, writing from Washington, D.C., and appeared in the Guardian edition for Monday, October 6, 2008.

America is a country in decline. And that means substance really matters to voters, which is very bad news for Republicans.

Pssst. Don't spread it around too much, because there's still a month to go and I don't want to jinx things - but substance is in this year. You, I know, think U.S. presidential elections are always decided by silly or superficial or out-and-out false representations and aspersions. Al Gore sighed too much in a debate and wasn't the sort of fellow you'd like to have a beer with. George W. Bush never sighed once, as far as anyone could tell, and was the sort you'd like to have a beer with (even though he didn't drink beer - I never quite sorted that one out). John Kerry seemed so French and effete. He windsurfed. And he didn't save all those men during the Vietnam war. How could he have, really, being so ... French and effete and windsurfy?

Little glimmers of substance have usually shown through. In 2004, for instance, a still-significant percentage of American voters remained jittery about a second large-scale terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Bush ran as the man who had prevented that from happening and argued that he was more trustworthy on this matter than Kerry. And Bill Clinton withstood an intensive barrage of over-the-top attacks and stayed focused on the economy (he was helped along by third-party candidate Ross Perot's hefty 19% of the vote).

Superficialities and attacks, though, usually dominate. We understand this. In fact, more than a few liberals have spent the last four years trying to persuade Democrats to be every bit as superficial and nasty as the Republicans are at election time. But this year, something feels different. Voters are actually paying closer attention to issues.

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British Treasury Under Pressure To Guarantee Bank Depositors' Savings
2008-10-06 03:21:03

The British Treasury was under pressure Sunday night to guarantee the savings of all depositors in British banks after Germany announced it was following the lead of Ireland and Greece and offering a blanket guarantee on all savings - currently worth 568 billion euros (£440 billion or $880 billion). Late Sunday night Denmark followed suit.

Britain had just agreed to raise its maximum level from £35,000 to £50,000 ($70,000 - $100,000), but may now need to take more radical steps to avoid a flight of savings.

British officials were furious with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. They said she gave no indication of the move at a summit in Paris on Saturday designed to coordinate a European response to the economic crisis. Britain's  Treasury was Sunday night trying to establish the implications of the German move.

Speaking of the decision by the Greek and Irish governments to offer blanket guarantees, Britain's new business secretary, Peter Mandelson, said Sunday: "It would be better while operating on a country by country basis, we did so in a coordinated way and we brought a collective European view. We are all interlocked. We are in this together."

Denmark later guaranteed all bank deposits as part of a deal with banks to set up a £3.6 billion ($7.2 billion)  liquidation fund.

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Treasury Secretary Paulson Taps Aide To Oversee Rescue
2008-10-06 03:19:50
The U.S. Treasury Department plans to tap Neel Kashkari, an assistant secretary of international affairs and a former Goldman Sachs banker, to oversee the government's $700 billion financial rescue program, sources familiar with the situation said Sunday.

Kashkari has been a close adviser to Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr., on the credit crisis and helped draft the legislation for the massive rescue plan. He is expected to run the program on an interim basis until the Treasury finds a permanent head, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment. Kashkari's replacement would stay on after the next administration takes office in January.

Treasury Monday will begin the hiring process for five to 10 asset managers and release guidelines for how it will manage conflicts of interests for contractors who work for the program, the sources said. Officials, however, do not expect the purchase of assets to start until at least the middle of November.

Under the program, the Treasury will buy troubled assets from financial institutions, many of which have large holdings in mortgage-related securities.

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U.S. Implements Financial Bailout As Global Markets Plunge
2008-10-06 15:12:36

U.S. officials began putting the newly approved financial bailout plan into effect Monday morning, even as global stock markets plummeted on new concerns about the health of the European banking system and the likelihood of a global recession.

The Federal Reserve announced steps to funnel more money into the banking system while the U.S. Treasury said it would increase its bond sales to pay for the $700 billion rescue package signed Friday by President Bush.

The Fed Monday used its newly granted authority to begin paying interest on the reserves that banks must keep with it - a step meant to encourage banks to keep more funds on hand with the Fed, and in turn give the Fed more leeway in putting cash back into the banking system. At the same time, the Fed said that during the next two months it would double, to $900 billion, the short-term loans it would make available to financial institutions.

In a statement, the President's Working Group on Financial Markets, a consortium of such key agencies as the Fed and the Treasury, said that U.S. agencies in coming days would be "moving with substantial force on a number of fronts" to try to shore up confidence in global markets.

On the first day of trading since the bailout package was signed into law, the focus instead seemed to rest on developing problems among European banks, as well as worry in Asia that a global recession will undercut that continent's export-dependent economies.

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Jury Hears Phone Tapes In Stevens Corruption Trial
2008-10-06 15:12:06

Jurors Monday morning heard secretly recorded phone conversations in which U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) told a chief prosecution witness that he didn't believe they had done anything wrong but could expect a fine and possibly some jail time if convicted.

Stevens (R) is charged with lying on financial disclosure forms to hide receiving more than $250,000 in gifts and renovations to his home in Girdwood, Alaska. Federal prosecutors allege that many of the gifts and renovations were financed by Bill Allen, the former chief executive of Veco, a now defunct oil services company, who is the government's star witness against the veteran senator.

Allen, a close friend of Stevens, has pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges in a wide-ranging federal investigation of Alaska state politics. His testimony has helped lead to convictions of two state legislators on bribery charges.

The former executive revealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Washington that FBI agents approached him Aug. 30, 2006, about their investigation and asked for his cooperation. The next day, he recorded the first of what appears to be several telephone conversations he had with Stevens.

In that conversation, Stevens, 84, urged Allen to take care of his health and encouraged him to work out on gym equipment at his Girdwood home. Allen testified earlier Sunday that he bought that equipment, including a boxing speed bag, and an "expensive" gas grill he installed on the home's deck.

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Earthquake Kills At Least 72 People In Kyrgzstan
2008-10-06 15:11:46
A powerful earthquake killed at least 72 people in Kyrgyzstan and leveled a village in the remote mountains of the Central Asian state, the health ministry said on Monday.

The earthquake, measuring 6.3 according to the U.S. Geological Survey, jolted an area between Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - Central Asia's most densely populated corner.

Worst affected were the high-altitude villages of south Kyrgyzstan where one settlement was destroyed completely and the fate of a scattering of others remained unclear.

"The total number of dead is now 72," Deputy Health Minister Madamin Karatayev said through the ministry's press service.

This included 30 children who were not yet of school age, 11 students, 12 pensioners and 19 adults, he said.

Three helicopters had transported 110 wounded children and adults to a hospital in the regional center of Osh.

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Bank Of America Settles Lawsuit Over Bad Mortgages
2008-10-06 03:22:08
Facing a lawsuit over deceptive mortgage practices, a Bank of America Corp. subsidiary has agreed to modify tens of thousands of loans to keep people in 11 states from losing their homes, the Illinois attorney general's office said Sunday.

Borrowers stuck with Countrywide Financial mortgages that they can't afford could see their interest rates reduced or have the loan principal cut. Some might qualify for having to pay nothing but interest for a decade. Even people who can't afford to keep their homes with such changes will be able to get help moving to a new home.

"This is going to provide a tremendous amount of relief," said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Her office and officials from California negotiated the settlement. Nine other states have also joined the settlement, and other states could sign on, said Deborah Hagan, chief of Madigan's Consumer Protection Division.

If all 50 states were to join, the settlement could provide $8.7 billion in relief to 400,000 borrowers, said Hagan.

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Unilever Comes Out Against Worldwide Rush To Biofuels
2008-10-06 03:21:25

Unilever, the food and consumer goods group, has thrown its weight behind moves to scrap mandatory biofuel targets and subsidies. It is backing recommendations being made Monday to Commonwealth finance ministers at their annual meeting in St. Lucia to improve food security and prevent famine.

Unilever is concerned that subsidies for biofuels are driving up food prices and the cost of its products. The group is a member of the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC), which is presenting the recommendations to the ministers. The CBC is chaired by Paul Skinner, chairman of the mining group Rio Tinto; other members include the Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and John Studzinski, of the private equity firm Blackstone.

If ministers adopt the recommendations, the CBC hopes that they will lobby their counterparts for curbs on biofuels at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank summits in Washington later in the week.

Mohan Kaul, director general of the CBC, said: "This would be the first major world signal to stop the current rush to produce energy from biofuels that has impacted on food, security and prices."

It is also the first time that a major conglomerate such as Unilever has voiced its opposition.

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Palin Pulls Terrorist Card On Obama
2008-10-06 03:20:06
Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin accused Democratic candidate Barack Obama over the weekend of “palling around with terrorists,” in the latest sign the U.S. election campaign is turning increasingly nasty.

The comment by Palin refers to Bill Ayers, a founding member of the radical leftist terrorist group Weather Underground, which was involved in a string of mostly nonfatal bombings in the late 60s and early 70s, mainly in protest of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Obama was eight years old at the time of Ayers’ radicalism, but the paths of the two men - who both have become prominent figures in the Chicago area - have crossed on a few occasions in recent years.

The Obama campaign quickly dismissed Palin’s comment as “gutter politics.”

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