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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday November 8 2008 - (813)

Saturday November 8 2008 edition
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Obama Says Swift Action Needed On Economy
2008-11-07 18:07:33
President-elect Barack Obama called on Friday for the Bush administration and Congress to enact an economic-stimulus package, and he pledged to confront the country’s economic crisis “head on” the moment he is sworn in on Jan. 20.

“I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead,” Obama said at his first news conference since his victory over Senator John McCainon Tuesday. He said he was certain that “some difficult choices” will have to be made.

“It’s not going to be quick, and it’s not going to be easy to dig ourselves out of the hole that we’re in,” said Obama,  declaring that he wants to see “a rescue plan for the middle class” and a further extension of unemployment-insurance benefits.

The news conference here here came immedately after Obama, Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and his newly named chief of staff, Representative Rahm Emanuel, met with the transition’s economic advisory board - and as a fresh wave of news from Wall Street and Washington deepened the gloom hanging over the country’s financial situation.

The government reported that the American economy lost another 240,000 jobs in October as consumers and businesses pulled back sharply, sending the unemployment rate to 6.5 percent from 6.1 percent, the highest level since 1994. General Motors reported a larger-than-expected loss of $4.2 billion in the third quarter, a decline of 13 percent from the same period last year. The results came on the heels of similar dismal quarterly earnings from the Ford Motor Company.

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Editorial: Another Parting Gift
2008-11-07 18:07:07
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Thursday, November 6, 2008.

Gale Norton has to be happy. In 2003, Ms. Norton, then President Bush’s secretary of the interior (and now a senior oil executive at Royal Dutch Shell), struck a deal with the governor of Utah that would open about 3 million pristine acres of federal land to oil and gas drilling.

Environmental groups and the courts managed to keep the drillers at bay. No longer. In the last few days, the Bureau of Land Management has completed six long-range management plans for Utah that will expose these acres (and as many as 6 million more) to some form of commercial exploitation.

On Tuesday, the bureau announced that it would soon begin selling oil and gas leases - essentially the right to drill -  in some of the most beautiful and fragile areas.

Conservationists are aghast, and rightly so. Apparently without consulting the National Parks Service, one of its sister agencies at the Interior Department, the bureau plans to auction more than two dozen leases adjacent to Arches National Park and very close to Canyonlands National Park, risking the parks’ air and water.

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Hurricane Paloma Strengthens As It Heads Toward Cayman Islands
2008-11-07 18:06:39
Late-season Hurricane Paloma strengthened into a Category 2 storm as it lashed the Cayman Islands with wind and rain Friday, knocking down trees and signs.

Lights flickered across Grand Cayman, where tourists gathered on balconies and beaches to watch the storm whip up 10-foot (3-meter) waves.

The hurricane's center was expected to pass near Grand Cayman during the night or early Saturday, then gain strength and punch a Cuba already suffering from billions of dollars in damage from two previous hurricanes this season.

Cuban official newspaper Granma, recalling past late-season hurricanes such as a 1932 storm that killed about 3,000 people, said Paloma poses ''a potential danger for the island.'' The storm could grow into a Category 3 hurricane with winds of at least 111 mph (179 kph) as it heads toward Cuba's midsection, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The Cayman Islands government asked all hotels to remove guests from the ground and first floors. Nearly 40 people were already staying in the islands' seven shelters.

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GM, Ford Report BIG 3rd Quarter Losses
2008-11-07 15:31:48

The nation's top two car companies posted larger-than-expected losses in the most recent quarter and burned through substantial amounts of their available cash, as the U.S. auto industry struggled to weather a collapse in world auto sales on top of stiff competition from overseas companies.

General Motors said the results left it in a particularly tenuous position, adding urgency to the request by the Big Three automakers for an additional $25 billion in federal assistance.

The company said that the cash and credit available to fund its operations fell by $6.9 billion from July through the end of September, and that it only had about $16.2 billion left on hand.

In its earnings release, the company said that by the end of the year its cash position would be approaching "the minimum amount necessary to operate its business."

"The third quarter was especially challenging for the auto industry," G. Richard Wagoner, Jr., GM's chairman and chief executive, said in a news release. He called for "further strong action" from the government to bolster the economy.

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U.S. Expands Utah Oil And Gas Leasing
2008-11-07 18:07:22

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has expanded its oil and gas lease program in eastern Utah to include tens of thousands of acres on or near the boundaries of three national parks, according to revised maps published this week.

National Park Service officials say that the decision to open lands close to Arches National Park and Dinosaur National Monument and within eyeshot of Canyonlands National Park was made without the kind of consultation that had previously been routine.

The inclusion of the new lease tracts angered environmental groups, which were already critical of the bureau’s original lease proposal, made public this fall, because they said it could lead to industrial activity in empty areas of the state, some prized for their sweeping vistas, like Desolation Canyon, and others for their ancient petroglyphs, like Nine Mile Canyon.

The bureau’s new maps, made public on Election Day, show not just those empty areas but 40 to 45 new areas where leasing will also be allowed.

The tracts will be sold at auction on Dec. 19, the last lease sale before President Bush leaves office a month later. The new leases were added after a map of the proposed tracts was given to the National Park Service for comment this fall. The proximity of industrial activity concerns park managers, who worry about the impact on the air, water and wildlife within the park, as well as the potential for noise, said Michael D. Snyder, a regional director of the park service who is based in Denver, Colorado.

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Editorial: The Court Confronts A Grievous Injury
2008-11-07 18:06:58
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Friday, November 7, 2008.

For years, the Bush administration has worked with industry to try to water down the public’s protections by preventing states from enforcing rules and regulations tougher than those required by the federal government.

It has tried to apply this policy of pre-emption to rules issued by a slew of federal agencies and is now asking the Supreme Court to approve its improper ideological stand when it comes to drug safety.

On Monday, the court heard arguments in the case of a Vermont musician who lost her arm after being injected with an anti-nausea drug. There is no doubt that Diana Levine was badly injured by a drug made by Wyeth. The only question is whether the Supreme Court will uphold her right to sue the company over its failure to adequately warn of a drug’s dangers. Or will it buy the arguments of the industry and the Bush administration that companies like Wyeth should be protected from such lawsuits in state courts if the products that caused the injury met federal regulatory standards?

The administration wants approval by the Food and Drug Administration to be the final word in these cases, not state laws like Vermont’s that often require the manufacturer to meet a higher standard in warning doctors and patients about potential dangers. The court should rule in favor of Ms. Levine.

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Obama Meets With Economic Advisers As U.S. Job Losses Soar
2008-11-07 15:31:56

The U.S. economy shed 240,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate jumped sharply to 6.5 percent, a worse-than-expected showing that highlights one of the top issues President-elect Barack Obama faces when he meets with his economic advisers later Friday.

Businesses have been trimming payrolls since the start of the year, with 1.2 million positions lost over the past 10 months. The 6.5 percent unemployment rate - up from 6.1 percent in September - is the highest since early 1994, when the economy was pulling out of recession.

More than 10 million people are now jobless, actively seeking work but unable to find it, a number that has spiked by 2.8 million over the past year.

President Bush said in a statement that the numbers "reflect the difficult challenges confronting our economy," and urged Americans to allow time for federal efforts to address the global economic crisis to bear fruit.

Economists were expecting a poor reading, as an ongoing downturn in the housing industry continued to undercut construction jobs, a financial crisis led to job losses in that sector and weak consumer spending undercut retailers.

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U.S. Treasury Is Working To Expand Bailout Beyond Banking
2008-11-07 15:31:37

The federal government is preparing to take tens of billions of dollars in ownership stakes in an array of companies outside the banking sector, dramatically widening the scope of the Treasury Department's rescue effort beyond the $250 billion set aside for traditional financial firms, government and industry officials said.

Treasury officials are finalizing the new program, which could ultimately involve hundreds of billions of the $700 billion rescue package, though the initiative is unlikely to be announced until the end of next week at the earliest.

Two industry sources familiar with the planning said the Treasury is holding off because it wants to make sure President-elect Barack Obama is on board and will not reverse the course once he takes office in January. But an administration official contested that explanation, saying the Treasury simply wants to give its initial bank plan a chance before injecting more money into the financial system.

Since the announcement of the program to inject capital into banks, a number of industries, including automakers, insurers and specialty lenders for small businesses have approached the Treasury with hat in hand. Some have been turned away because they are not banks and thus not eligible for capital.

The new initiative would make it easier for the Treasury to aid a wider variety of firms if their troubles put the wider financial system at risk, government and industry officials said. These companies would still have to be financial firms that fall under federal regulators.

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