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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday November 29 2008 - (813)

Saturday November 29 2008 edition
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Mumbai Siege Ends As Last Gunman Killed, Hostages Freed
2008-11-29 02:56:22
Security forces brought a three-day assault on India's financial and cultural capital to an end Saturday morning, killing the last remaining gunmen holed up in one of the city's luxury hotels after freeing hostages and recovering bodies from two hotels and a Jewish center Friday.

Pakistani officials, responding to charges by Indian leaders that the attack was carried out by an organization with ties to Pakistan, said a senior intelligence officer would travel to India, in an apparent attempt to ease tensions between the two nuclear-armed states.

Indian officials said they now believe that at least 15 gunmen carried out the operation after reaching Mumbai by sea. After an interrogation of one of the attackers, Indian intelligence officials said they suspected that a Pakistani Islamist group, Lashkar-i-Taiba, was responsible. An Indian intelligence document from 2006 obtained by the Washington Post said members of the group had been trained in maritime assault.

Authorities said that the death toll had risen to 195 as more bodies were discovered and that 295 people were wounded, the Associated Press reported, in attacks on the hotels, the Jewish center and several other sites in Mumbai. Among the dead were two Americans from Virginia; the American rabbi who ran the city's Chabad-Lubavitch center and his Israeli wife; and three of their visitors, including an American man, an Israeli woman and a man with U.S. and Israeli citizenship. In all, 16 non-Indians have been reported killed.

Explosions from fighting at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel could be heard outside the hotel early Saturday morning, and flames and thick, inky-black smoke were seen pouring from the first floor.

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E.U. Accuses Pharmaceutical Companies Of Padding Health Care Costs
2008-11-29 02:55:59
The European Union accused drug companies on Friday of adding billions of dollars to health care costs by delaying or blocking the sale of less expensive generic medicines.

One common tactic, said Neelie Kroes, the European competition commissioner, was for drug companies to amass patents to protect active ingredients in the medicines - in one case, 1,300 patents for a single drug. Another tactic, she said, was for pharmaceutical companies to sue the makers of generic drugs for ostensible patent violations, which tended to delay the availability of the lower-cost products for years.

Kroes made her comments Friday while presenting the preliminary findings of a broad investigation into accusations of anticompetitive practices in the drug sector. She also turned her sights on the generics companies, which she said had received $200 million from pharmaceutical companies over seven years in exchange for holding their products off the market.

Patients and health care systems in Europe would have saved at least 3 billion euros, or $3.8 billion, from 2000 to 2007 - or shaved 5 percent off the medical bills - if companies had let generics into the market sooner, she said.

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Pakistani Militants At Center Of Investigation On Mumbai Attacks
2008-11-29 02:55:35
Pakistani militant groups on Friday became the focus of the investigation into the attacks in Mumbai as India and its archrival Pakistan jousted over who was responsible. Both sides pledged to cooperate in the probe, but tensions remained high amid fears the conflict could escalate.

Pakistan initially said Friday that it had agreed to send its spy chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, on an unprecedented visit to India to share and obtain information from investigators there. Later Friday, however, Pakistani officials changed their minds and decided to send a less senior intelligence official in Pasha's place, according to a Pakistani source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

It is unclear what prompted the reversal, but the Pakistani source said the Islamabad government was "already bending over backwards" to be cooperative and did not "want to create more opportunities for Pakistan-bashing." Pakistan's defense minister, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, told reporters in Islamabad, "I will say in very categoric terms that Pakistan is not involved in these gory incidents."

Meanwhile, Indian authorities ramped up their accusations that the plot had Pakistani connections. "Preliminary evidence, prima facie evidence, indicates elements with links to Pakistan are involved," Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said at a news conference in New Delhi. Other Indian officials echoed the statement, but none provided details.

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2 Gunmen Kill Each Other In Shootout At California Toys 'R Us
2008-11-29 02:54:27
Most shoppers headed to the Toys "R" Us in Palm Desert on Friday morning clutching their "door buster" ads and their shopping lists. At least two men walked into the busy store armed with their guns.

Instead of the usual frantic chaos on Black Friday, the year's busiest shopping day, mayhem erupted in the electronics department about 11:30 a.m., leaving two men dead in a gunfight and crowds of shoppers ducking for cover.

Joan Barrick, 40, of Desert Hot Springs, said she was buying a Barbie Jeep for her daughter when two women started brawling. As the women swung at each other, the men they were with also started arguing.

The younger of the two lifted up his shirt and flashed his handgun, pulling the handle from his baggy pants pocket. The other man yanked out his own handgun and started chasing him down the aisle and firing, said witnesses.

Barrick hid behind a stack of DVDs and recited the Lord's Prayer. "If I'm going to die, I need to make peace," she said. "A lot of people were crying. I was crying. We were all very, very scared."

As the two men ran shooting through the aisles, shoppers dumped their purchases. LaToya Jenkins, 20, had already bought a remote control bike. She dropped it and ran. Others left behind shopping carts full of the bargain-priced toys they had come in search of.
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Mexican President Defends War On Drug Cartels
2008-11-29 02:53:55
President Felipe Calderon and his government defended their fight against public corruption and drug trafficking Friday, asking for greater powers to go after organized crime. They conceded that most Mexicans feel unsafe and that many police are unqualified to do their jobs.

One hundred days after calling for a sweeping overhaul of security forces, including a reorganization of the federal police into a single agency, Calderon and his cabinet cited some successes, such as the recent arrest of several drug captains and corrupt officials. But they acknowledged that the extreme violence unleashed in Mexico was daunting.

"We know the challenges are many and that the road that we have to travel is long and difficult. But we cannot and will not back down," said Calderon, who appeared with his government ministers at a day-long National Security Council  meeting in which they reported on their fight against organized crime and the drug cartels.

More than 4,500 people have been killed in drug-related violence since Calderon declared war against the cartels in early 2007. The campaign has transformed border cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez into war zones, complete with 20,000 occupying troops.

Calderon touted the recent arrest of Noe Ramirez Mandujano, a former chief of the anti-organized-crime unit at Mexico's attorney general's office, who is accused of taking at least $450,000 from drug traffickers in exchange for information about police investigations. Other top law enforcement officials have also been detained in recent weeks in "Operation Clean House," including Mexico's former liaison to Interpol, the international police organization.

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Bush Administration Moves Ahead On Oil, Gas Leases On Public Lands
2008-11-29 02:56:10

A decision by federal officials this week to press ahead with a controversial sale of oil and gas leases in eastern Utah is stoking the debate over how to balance the nation's needs for fossil fuels against concerns over the environmental impact on iconic national parks and other sensitive areas.

The Bush administration, which has sought to reduce American dependence on imports to meet the continuing demand for oil and gas, has aggressively pushed to open up energy exploration across broad swaths of the West, off both coasts, and in Alaska. But those initiatives regularly stir opposition from both environmentalists and advocates of faster development of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Over the last four fiscal years, a Washington Post analysis of Bureau of Land Mangement records shows, the government has dramatically accelerated the pace of awarding oil and gas drilling permits on federal land. The total for the period is nearly triple the number issued in the corresponding years under former President Clinton, and the number of new wells sunk on federal land is more than double Clinton's record over the comparable period.

In the latest skirmish, the bureau announced Tuesday that it will proceed with most of a proposed sale of oil and gas leases on nearly 500 square miles of public land in eastern Utah, which had sparked protests from environmental advocates and National Park Service officials. Opponents fear the drilling activity will damage air quality in several nearby popular national parks.

The lease sales, due to take place next month, could pose a challenge for the incoming Obama administration, which will have to decide shortly after taking office whether to honor the contracts, seek to undo the leases or pay millions in taxpayer dollars to buy them back.

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U.S. Sends FBI Agents To Investigate Mumbai Attacks
2008-11-29 02:55:47
The government ordered FBI agents Friday to fly to India to investigate the bloody Mumbai attacks that killed at least five Americans. U.S. citizens still in the city were warned their lives remain at risk.

Intelligence officials looked urgently for clues about the identity of the attackers, a crucial unknown as Indian officials charged, without giving details, that "elements in Pakistan" were involved. A tentative rapprochement between the two nuclear-armed rivals could hang in the balance, and a U.S. counterintelligence official cautioned against rushing to judgment on the origins of the militants.

President George W. Bush pledged cooperation with Indian authorities and mourned the deaths of more than 150 people at the hands of gunmen who attacked targets across India's financial capital starting Wednesday night.

"My administration has been working with the Indian government and the international community as Indian authorities work to ensure the safety of those still under threat," Bush said in a statement from the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland. "We will continue to cooperate against these extremists who offer nothing but violence and hopelessness."

Bush was receiving regular updates, White House press secretary Dana Perino said Friday night. Senior administration officials were focused on ensuring that Americans were being helped in every way possible, she said.

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In Bid To Jump-Start Global Economy, Nations Embark On Massive Public Programs
2008-11-29 02:55:00

In a bid to jump-start the beleaguered global economy, countries around the world are introducing massive public spending programs aimed at creating millions of jobs, boosting the use of green energy and modernizing infrastructure in a way that could transform urban and rural landscapes.

The viability of some of the plans remains unclear, but observers say the number of countries moving in tandem underscores the perceived severity of the coming global recession and the view that governments must at least temporarily pick up the slack as the hard-hit private sector sheds jobs and cuts spending.

It is time "to invest massively in infrastructure, in research, in innovation, in education, in training people, because it is now or never," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a recent public address.

World leaders are pursuing a variety of strategies to tame the economic crisis, including moves to unclog credit markets, strengthen financial institutions and ease monetary policy. Fiscal stimulus packages, in particular, have emerged as a favorite tool of policymakers. Some countries' plans are particularly bold: China is accelerating projects to build more nuclear power plants and a vast natural gas pipeline; Italy may erect the first bridge connecting Sicily to mainland Europe.

This past week, the European Union called for member countries to spend $258 billion to spur growth; France, one of the bloc's largest economies, is expected to announce a huge package next week. Britain has already unveiled a $30 billion proposal, and Spain a $14 billion plan.

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Wal-Mart Worker Dies In Shoppers Stampede
2008-11-29 02:54:12
Friday morning's two shootings in Palm Desert weren't the only violent deaths on Black Friday: Across the country hours earlier, shoppers straining to get into a Wal-Mart in a New York City suburb trampled an employee, said police.

The three fatalities struck a somber note on the day after Thanksgiving, which is traditionally a day of leftovers, football and bargains at the mall.

At 5:03 a.m. Friday, customers surged toward a Long Island Wal-Mart store's entrance.

A 34-year-old temporary employee was killed when a "throng of shoppers .. physically broke down the doors, knocking him to the ground," according to a statement from Nassau County officials.

He was declared dead at a hospital at 6:03 a.m. The exact cause of death has not been determined.

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