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Friday, November 07, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday November 7 2008 - (813)

Friday November 7 2008 edition
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Dow Drops More Than 440 Points On Recession Fears
2008-11-06 21:55:34

Stocks fell Thursday as recession fears continued to grip investors amid more signs businesses and their customers are struggling.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 4.85 percent, or 443 points, closing at 8,695.79. That follows a 5 percent, or nearly 500 point, loss Wednesday, and brings the Dow to its biggest two-day percentage drop since 1987. It is the Dow's largest two-day loss on a point basis.

The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was down 5 percent, or 48 points. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was down 4.3 percent, or 73 points.

This makes two days of losses following Tuesday's presidential election as investors distracted by the contest turned their attention back to poor economic reports and evidence that corporate balance sheets are being weighed down by the financial crisis. Although investors had hoped that stocks had seen their low and had closed out a period of extreme volatility, that no longer appears likely, analysts said. Earnings reports from Cisco and Toyota point to extended weakness in the technology and auto sectors, while many retailers saw sales plummet last month as consumers scaled back spending.

Traders "feel right now, regardless of who won, there is no quick-term solution to the global economic crisis. There is nothing that can happen that can save this holiday season," said Randy Cass, chief executive of First Coverage, a Boston firm that analyzes stock market recommendations made by brokerages and independent research firms.

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Federal Employees Say They've Been Thwarted From Doing Their Jobs Under Bush
2008-11-06 21:55:10

When President Obama takes over in January as manager-in-chief of nearly 2 million federal employees, he will need a plan to reinvigorate a frustrated and demoralized workforce, career employees warn.

In numerous agencies, federal civil servants complain that they have been thwarted for months or even years from doing the government jobs they were hired to do. Federal workers have told presidential transition leaders they feel rudderless, their morale impacted by the Bush administration's opposition to industry regulation, steep budget cuts or the departures many months ago of Bush political appointees. Though they fear publicly identifying themselves, numerous federal workers said in interviews that they are down, but also excited about new leadership.

"Many we talk to are weary, but cautiously optimistic that with this change in administrations they will get to do their job again," said Jeff Ruch, of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. "In the environmental agencies we deal with, they weren't allowed to do their jobs because the Bush White House operated on a very centralized basis. The rule was, that which the White House doesn't want to hear shall not be said."

Federal employees said that they are not a passionately partisan group, but some are hopeful about an Obama presidency, assuming that their lot will improve. Several took heart from Obama's campaign trail statements that he wanted to make federal government work "cool again."

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Optic Nerves Regrowth Offers Hope For Blind
2008-11-06 21:54:43

Scientists have found a way to regrow damaged optic nerves, raising hopes for people who have been left blind or partially sighted by injuries to the cells.

The technique, developed by a team under Zhigang He at Children's hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, prompts severed nerves to repair themselves within weeks. The procedure is being tested on spinal cord injuries.

The work, published in the journal Science, represents a step towards new therapies. Unlike nerves in limbs, nerves in the brain and spinal cord are blocked from regrowing by chemicals in the body, preventing them rewiring wrong.

Scientists showed it was possible to regenerate damaged optical nerves in mice by knocking out proteins that prevent nerve growth. Two weeks after their optic nerves were damaged half the nerves survived in mice given the treatment, against 20% in those which had not; and 10% of the treated mice showed significant regrowth.

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Archaeologists Find 12,000-Year-Old Grave Of Female Shaman
2008-11-06 21:54:14

The graves of people who died 12,000 ago rarely contain a woman’s skeleton pinned down in an unusual position by large stones, accompanied by a menagerie of animal remains and another person’s foot. Yet that’s what archaeologist Leore Grosman of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and her coworkers recently discovered in a small Israeli cave called Hilazon Tachtit.

Closer analysis shows that this grave holds a shaman, one of the earliest ever excavated, the researchers report in an upcoming Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In traditional societies, shamans are thought to communicate between the human and the spirit worlds. These specially designated individuals are considered to possess spiritual, magical and healing powers. Shamans are typically buried in elaborate ways that mark their privileged status and destination for a special afterlife.

“There is no doubt that this woman had a special social position, and the most viable interpretation of this burial is that it was for a shaman,” Grosman says. The grave offers some of the earliest physical evidence of religious and spiritual belief, she adds.

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Former New York Gov. Spitzer Will Not Be Charged
2008-11-06 21:53:22

Former New York Gov. Eliot M. Spitzer (D) will not face criminal charges for his role in the prostitution scandal that drove him from office this year, prosecutors announced Thursday afternoon.

Spitzer, a hard-driving scion of a Manhattan real estate family, was exposed in March as a customer of the Emperors Club VIP, a pricey call girl ring busted by federal authorities. He used the ring's services repeatedly, sometimes traveling to Washington's Mayflower Hotel and other locations for liaisons with women that cost as much as $4,000.

The uproar over the payments prompted a crisis in New York state government that ultimately chased Spitzer out of the governor's seat. While Spitzer retired from public life, joining his father's real estate investment company, the investigation by the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York continued.

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U.S. Stocks Open Lower As Economic Woes Mount
2008-11-06 16:01:22
Stocks slumped for a second consecutive day this morning as disappointing sales at retail firms aggravated fears about weakening consumer spending.

The Dow Jones industrial average sagged almost 300 points after dismal sales and profit numbers at companies such as Macy's Inc., Nordstrom Inc. and Gap Inc. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said sales rose modestly from a year ago, but that only cemented concern about the plight of higher-end retailers.

Technology stocks suffered after networking giant Cisco Systems Inc., which is considered a bellwether for overall industry demand, forecast late Wednesday that sales will decline as much as 10% in its fiscal second quarter.

As of 8:50 a.m. Pacific time, the Dow was off 283.39 points, or 3.1%, to 8,855.88. Combined with Wednesday's 486-point drubbing, the blue-chip indicator is down 8% in two days.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index slid 28.63 points, or 3%, to 924.14. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 39.91 points, or 2.4%, to 1,641.73.
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U.S. Retailers Report Steep Sales Declines For October
2008-11-06 16:00:56
The nation's retailers saw their sales plummet last month to what is likely the weakest October level in decades, as the financial crisis and mounting layoffs left shoppers too scared to shop.

The stunning drop-off from an already weak September performance is further darkening the outlook for the holiday season and dimming hopes for any industry recovery until at least the second half of next year.

As merchants reported their dismal sales figures today, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, proved to be among the few bright spots as it benefits from shoppers focusing on buying basics at discounters.

Most other stores, from luxury merchants to teen retailers, suffered steep sales declines as consumers were spooked by shrinking retirement funds, volatile markets and layoffs across many industries. The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits reached its highest level in more than 25 years, according to government figures released today.

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European Banks Slash Interest Rates
2008-11-06 16:00:29
The Bank of England, citing "a very marked deterioration in the outlook for economic activity at home and abroad," cut its benchmark interest rate on Thursday to 3 percent, the lowest level since 1955 -  part of a wave of European rate reductions announced this morning.

England's rate cut of 1.5 percentage points was the largest reduction since a 2-point drop in 1981, signaling growing jitters about the effects of a prolonged recession on the U.K. and world economies.

Shortly after the move in London, the European Central Bank slashed rates by one half of a percentage point, from 3.75 percent to 3.25 percent, for the 15 nations that use the euro as their currency.

The Swiss National Bank also cut its benchmark rate by one half of a percentage point, to 2 percent, and the Czech Republic's central bank cut its interest rate by three quarters of a percentage point, to 2.75 percent.

The moves came as governments across the continent confronted increasingly gloomy economic news in the midst of stagnant credit markets and an ongoing global financial crisis.

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Goldman Sachs Begins Cutting 10 Percent Of Employees' Jobs
2008-11-06 15:59:45
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has begun notifying about 3,200 employees globally that they have lost their jobs, as the world's biggest investment bank slashes expenses to ride out the financial crisis, a person familiar with the situation said Wednesday.

The job cuts, which were first reported last month, are a reflection of the ongoing downturn in the credit and lending markets that triggered massive losses for banks around the world. Goldman Sachs had been considered the strongest investment bank on Wall Street, and earlier this year had expected its payrolls to expand.

Positions will be cut across Goldman's offices globally and among various business lines, and will bring the company's staffing to 2006 and 2007 levels, the person said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the company hasn't publicly disclosed details of the plan.

According to CapitalIQ, Goldman has more than 37,000 employees across its operations.

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Gov. Schwarzenegger Calls For 'Temporary' Sales Tax Increase In California
2008-11-06 15:59:02
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a plan Thursday for a steep sales tax increase and deep cuts in services to wipe out a budget shortfall that is expected to swell to more than $24 billion by the middle of 2010.

The linchpin of the plan is the sales tax increase of 1 1/2 cents on the dollar, which could raise more than $10 billion through fiscal 2009-10. Such a tax is likely to face resistance from Republicans, who blocked a smaller increase proposed by the governor last summer and have vowed to continue to do so.

Schwarzenegger also proposed extending the sales tax to appliance and furniture repair, vehicle repair, golf fees, veterinarian services, amusement parks and sporting events. He proposed a 9.9% tax on the extraction of oil from California ground, the expansion of sales tax to some services, and a 5-cent-per-drink tax on alcohol. His plan also includes a $12 increase in annual vehicle registration fees.

The governor also wants a number of significant spending reductions, including cuts of $2.5 billion from schools and community colleges. And he proposed eliminating dental insurance for poor adults on the state's MediCal program and lowering subsidies to the aged, blind and disabled. California's welfare subsidies would also be reduced.

Sales tax in Los Angeles would shoot up to 10.25% if the governor's newest plan were to be approved. That would include a half-cent sales tax hike that Los Angeles voters apparently passed on Tuesday to fund transit projects. The statewide sales tax rate is 7.25%.

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Mexico Plane Crash Kills Familiar Figure On Diplomatic Scene
2008-11-06 15:58:05

A plane crash that killed Mexico's interior minister Tuesday in the Mexican capital also killed his spokesman, Miguel Monterrubio, who had served in Washington as embassy spokesman and was a familiar face on the diplomatic scene.

The officials were returning from a ceremony in the city of San Luis Potosi when their government Learjet went down in the posh Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood, killing all nine people aboard and four on the ground.

Monterrubio, 43, had recently joined the staff of Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino, head of domestic security and the most powerful man in Mexico after the country's president.

Monterrubio "had the exceptional qualities you need for public office - commitment, talent and loyalty," the former Mexican ambassador, Juan Jose Bremer, said of his press attache.

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Democrats Win 18 More Seats In U.S. House
2008-11-06 03:30:07

House Democrats promised an agenda of improving the economy, ending the war in Iraq and expanding access to health care after gaining at least 18 additional seats in Tuesday's elections, ballooning the size of the party's congressional majority to its largest since 1994.

"Our increased numbers in the House will better enable us to work closely with our new president for a vision for America and for a plan to succeed," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. "With our added numbers, more numbers in the House, more in the Senate and a Democrat in the White House, we have an opportunity, we have a responsibility, and the American people should and will hold us accountable."

While some analysts had suggested that Democrats could gain more than 30 seats, the party appeared to have fallen short of that, but it will approach the total of 259 seats it held in 1994 before Republicans seized control of Congress that fall.

On Tuesday, four House Democrats were defeated, including Reps. Tim Mahoney (Florida), who was embroiled in a sex scandal, and Nick Lampson (Texas), who had claimed the seat of former House majority leader Tom DeLay two years ago.

Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pennsylvania), who described his constituents as "racist" and "redneck" in recent weeks, easily won reelection over William Russell, a retired Army lieutenant colonel.

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Bush Administration Moving Fast To Cut Environmental Protections
2008-11-06 21:55:23
In the next few weeks, the Bush administration is expected to relax environmental-protection rules on power plants near national parks, uranium mining near the Grand Canyon and more mountaintop-removal coal mining in Appalachia.

The administration is widely expected to try to get some of the rules into final form by the week before Thanksgiving because, in some cases, there's a 60-day delay before new regulations take effect. And once the rules are in place, undoing them generally would be a more time-consuming job for the next Congress and administration.

The regulations already have had periods of public comment, and no further comments are being taken. The Bush  administration has proposed the rules and final approval is considered likely.

It's common for administrations to issue a spate of regulations just before leaving office. The Bush administration's changes are in keeping with President Bush's overall support of deregulation.

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Democrats Now Have 57 Senate Seats As Oregon's Smith Loses Re-Election Bid
2008-11-06 21:54:56
Democrats added another Senate seat Thursday when they squeaked out a victory in Oregon, leaving only three contests undecided.

Democrat Jeff Merkley, a state legislator, defeated two-term Republican Sen. Gordon Smith by about 40,000 votes. Smith called Merkley to concede.

“This is the beginning of a transformational change for America,” Merkley told supporters.

"There was simply a tide too strong for us to stem," Smith said in his concession speech. "We understand that."

His win means Democrats will control 57 of the Senate’s 100 seats, still short of a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority, which would enable them to leap Republican hurdles to their agenda more easily.

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F.B.I. Looks Into A Threat To Reveal Patient Data
2008-11-06 21:54:33
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating an extortion letter threatening to expose millions of patient records stolen from Express Scripts, a medical benefits management company.

The company said Thursday that it had been investigating the threat since early October, when it received a letter that contained personal information on about 75 of its members including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and, in some cases, prescription information.

The company said that it had immediately notified the F.B.I. and that it had retained outside experts in data security and computer forensics to aid in the company’s internal investigation.

“We have been conducting a thorough investigation since we received this threat and we are taking it very seriously,” said George Paz, chairman and chief executive, in a statement. “We are cooperating with the F.B.I. and are committed to doing what we can to protect our members’ personal information and to track down the person or persons responsible for this criminal act.”

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Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Eyed To Head Environmental Protection Agency
2008-11-06 21:53:48
President-elect Barack Obama is looking at possibly appointing Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to head the Environmental Protection Agency, according to sources familiar with the process, though he is eying several other prominent environmentalists as well.

Kennedy founded and now chairs the Waterkeeper Alliance, which promotes water quality in the U.S. and abroad, while simultaneously serving as an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council and a professor at Pace University School of Law. He backed New York Sen. Hillary Clinton in this year's Democratic presidential primary, but his cousin Caroline co-chaired Obama's vice presidential search committee.

Several sources familiar with the transition process, however, noted the new administration will be looking to appoint several women and people of color to high-profile positions and EPA would be a natural slot for such an appointment.

Other names under consideration for the administrator slot include: former Sierra Club president and environmental activist Lisa Renstrom; California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols; Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty; and Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles.

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Iraqis Worry About Obama, While Many G.I.s Celebrate
2008-11-06 21:53:00
Iraqis didn't dance in the streets or hold late-night viewing parties to herald the election of a new president of the United States. Many didn't have electricity to follow the television coverage of Barack Obama's ascent to president-elect.

Their fate, however, is intertwined with that of the United States, which has occupied Iraq for more than five years, and U.S. decisions will help determine their future. For the first time since President Bush sent troops to topple Saddam Hussein, disband the Iraqi army, help install a new government and then confront the daily violence that these actions unleashed, a new leader and a different party will take power in the United States.

"It gives us hope that this will open a door for us as a people, a door towards relief," said Faisal al Khazraji, 69, as he sat in a cafe on Rasheed Street. The local council member in Baghdad, who'd recently survived a magnetic bomb attached to his car, received a flurry of text messages and phone calls of congratulations on Wednesday morning. "The elected American president is the president of Iraq, and I hope he will make his promises true about withdrawing from Iraq," said Khazraji.

Around him were the ornate balconies of one of the oldest places in the capital, a street where towering concrete blast walls today line the perimeter to protect people from car bombs.

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Laura Bush Invites Michelle Obama To Visit New Home
2008-11-06 16:01:10
First Lady Laura Bush invited Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia to the White House in the coming weeks to get a feel for their new abode. Obama accepted, and a trip will be scheduled soon.

In a telephone conversation Wednesday afternoon, Bush congratulated Obama and the two discussed life as a president's wife, according an account provided by the Obama campaign. Obama thanked Bush for her offer of help through the transition.

In interviews during the campaign, Obama has cited Bush as a role model for how she has handled a potentially perilous job with grace and a sense of purpose. Bush came to Obama's defense at a crucial moment, while she was being lambasted for the comment, "For the first time in my adult life, I'm proud of my country."

In an interview on "Good Morning America," Bush said, "I think she probably meant 'I'm more proud'" and warned Obama, "you have to be very careful in what you say" on the campaign trail.

"That's one of the things you learn and that's one of the really difficult parts both of running for president and for being the spouse of the president, and that is everything you say is looked at and in many cases misconstrued," Bush said in the interview.

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Iraqi Officials Continue To Demand U.S. Withdrawal Date
2008-11-06 16:00:43
Two days after Barack Obama's election as president, Iraqi officials are insisting on a withdrawal date for U.S. troops regardless of conditions on the ground and maintaining their demand that American forces be subject to Iraqi legal jurisdiction in some instances.

In an interview Thursday, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said an effort to reach a so-called status-of-forces agreement that would sanction the U.S. military presence in Iraq beyond 2008 would collapse if no deal is reached by the end of this month. But a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said the same day that U.S. officials had already presented Iraq's government with a "final text."

American soldiers should be prosecuted in the Iraqi court system if they commit grave offenses outside their bases, unless they are on a joint mission with Iraqi troops, said Dabbagh. American combat troops should cease operating unilaterally by June, Dabbagh said, and the status-of-forces agreement should say that the vast majority of U.S. troops must leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

"Iraqis would like to know and see a fixed date," he said. "U.S. troops should be secluded to known camps. The Americans would be called whenever there is a need. Their movement would be limited."

The Bush administration has long resisted firm withdrawal timelines and said any pullout should be subject to security conditions at the time.

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U.S. Troops In Iraq Too Busy For Vote Returns
2008-11-06 16:00:01
As Americans flocked to polling stations on Election Day, Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan West and his men walked out of a small outpost in western Baghdad shortly after sunset, each carrying 40 pounds of gear on his back, for yet another foot patrol.

The infantrymen walked in silence on poorly lighted streets, rifles at the ready, scanning through night-vision goggles. There had been chatter all day inside their small outpost in the Dora neighborhood about the election of their next commander in chief. Most of the several dozen soldiers said they wanted a Republican in the White House. They were rooting for Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, the guy who has served in uniform, the guy with a son serving overseas.

The soldiers wondered: Would a Barack Obama presidency mean a speedy withdrawal from Iraq? Would an Obama White House cut defense spending? Would Americans elect a black man to the highest office? Was the focus about to shift to Afghanistan, where many in the company have served?

"A lot of the guys are still young and have a long time left in the Army," said West, 35, a platoon leader who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. "This election is going to define what they're going to do in the next few years."

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Tensions Between McCain, Palin Come To Light
2008-11-06 15:59:21
Sarah Palin left the national stage Wednesday, but the controversy over her role on the ticket flared as aides to John McCain disclosed new details about her expensive wardrobe purchases and revealed that a Republican Party lawyer would be dispatched to Alaska to inventory and retrieve the clothes still in her possession.

Tensions have simmered for much of the last month between aides loyal to McCain and those loyal to Palin, but they boiled over after the Republican nominee's defeat, as both sides spoke freely - though anonymously - about the wardrobe controversy and other conflicts.

Two aides to McCain and two to Palin discussed the tensions but asked that their names not be revealed, saying they were not comfortable speaking openly about internal operations.

The miscommunication and quarrels between the two camps lasted into Tuesday night, said McCain aides familiar with the situation. Palin arrived at the Arizona Biltmore planning to deliver a speech before McCain's concession speech, they said, but was told by senior McCain aides Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter that it would not be appropriate.

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Bush Immigration Chief Julie Myers Is Out
2008-11-06 15:58:35
Wasting little time after the election before jumping ship, Julie L. Myers, head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will leave the Bush administration on Nov. 15, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announcement Thursday.

Myers, 39, did not say if she planned to re-enter private practice after 12 years in government, but ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said, "She is very passionate about these [immigration] issues and will carry that passion into future endeavors."

Myers, a niece of former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Richard B. Myers, served as Chertoff's chief of staff when he headed the Justice Department's criminal division. She rejoined Chertoff in 2006 and helped oversee ICE during the Bush administration's failed immigration overhaul push. Her tenure began rockily, as concerns about her youth and lack of previous executive and immigration experience led senators to delay her confirmation, forcing Bush to use a recess appointment to install her. She was finally confirmed by the Senate last December.

More recently, Myers was accused by Democrats of misleading Congress after photographs emerged of Myers at a 2007 Halloween office party honoring a white employee dressed as an escaped prisoner with dreadlocks and makeup that made him look African American or Hispanic. ICE runs the nation's 33,000-bed immigration detention system. Myers subsequently apologized for leaving "a negative impression" of ICE's respect for the people it detains.

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Michael Crichton, author of 'Jurassic Park', Dies At 66
2008-11-06 15:57:44
When Michael Crichton was attending Harvard Medical School in the late 1960s, he had a secret life that he kept hidden from his fellow students: To pay his tuition bills, he began writing paperback thrillers in his spare time under two pseudonyms.

He became so adept at cranking out his thrillers that he wrote one in nine days. And before long, as he later put it, "the writing became more interesting to me than the medicine."

Crichton, the doctor-turned-author of bestselling thrillers such as "The Terminal Man" and "Jurassic Park" and a Hollywood writer and director whose credits include "Westworld" and "Coma," died in Los Angeles on Tuesday "after a courageous and private battle against cancer," his family said in a statement. He was 66.

For nearly four decades, the 6-foot-9 writer was a towering presence in the worlds of publishing and filmmaking.

"There was no one like Crichton, because he could both entertain and educate," Lynn Nesbit, his agent since the late '60s, told The Times on Wednesday. "His brilliance was indisputable, and he had a grasp of so many subjects - from art to science to technology.

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Blogger gillberk said...

This makes two days of losses following Tuesday's presidential election as investors distracted by the contest turned their attention back to poor economic reports and evidence that corporate balance sheets are being weighed down by the financial crisis.The newsletter email can be opened as a normal message, or in a Web browser, and instantly I have access to links to the latest issues of many library and information journals.


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