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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday November 20 2008 - (813)

Thursday November 20 2008 edition
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The Arab World Looks To A New America
2008-11-19 19:58:49
The U.S. has long been a model for many parts of the Arab world, but the Bush Administration's foreign policy led to rifts. Now, the region has high hopes from America, but they aren't sure what to expect from President-elect Barack Obama.

It's about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, which is roughly the distance from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara. One hundred years ago, California was the El Dorado for the Americans, a land on the horizon, far off near the edge of their map and yet at the center of their fantasies. Today, the Gulf Emirates occupy a similar place in the imaginations of the Arabs. Rich. Modern. Bold. The Emirates are enlightened where much of the Arab world is repressed and held back by its self-imposed restrictions. Many a young man in the slums of Cairo, in the prisons of Baghdad or behind the walls of Palestine has dreamed of speeding, wild and free, along the road from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in an SUV or in a convertible earned through his own hard work.

The coastal road, known as highway 11, recently received new signs similar to those in the US, including emblems like those used in the Interstate highway system, indicating whether a driver is going "northbound" or "southbound." The step was not an arbitrary one. Even though the British controlled this part of the world for centuries, modern Gulf Arabs have always looked to their protective power, the United States, emulating its capitalism and megalomania. The skyscrapers of Dubai and the checkerboard urban landscapes of Doha and Kuwait are concrete acknowledgements of their role model.

"I love everything about America," Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, said two years ago. His words reflected the sentiments of a growing class of ambitious Arabs who are tired of being seen as the eternal losers in world history. He spoke on behalf of those who are simply interested in doing business and have long felt alienated by the leftist and nationalist ideologies of pan-Arabism, by Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia and by the Palestinians' obsession with victimhood. But despite the rapid pace of progress in this futuristic region during the last eight years, the current administration in Washington has made things difficult for these modern Arabs. This explains why the sheikh of Dubai followed his words of adoration with a much-quoted caveat: "I love everything about America, except for its foreign policy."

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Chemicals Giant BASF To Cut Production In 180 Plants
2008-11-19 19:58:20
Chemicals giant BASF has not escaped the global economic slump. It has suffered massive decline in demand for its product, particularly from the automotive industry. On Wednesday, it said it was closing down 80 plants worldwide temporarily and cutting production in 100 others.

The chemicals giant abandoned any plans to match last year's profit, saying that it has seen a "massive decline" in demand for its products. Company CEO Jürgen Hambrecht said that the company was suffering from a slump in consumer demand in the key markets forcing the company to cut its profit forecast for the second time in two months. "In particular, customers in the automotive industry have canceled orders at short notice," he said.

Last year BASF's pretax profit was €7.6 billion ($9.5 billion) on sales of €57.9 billion ($73 billion.) The company saw its third-quarter earnings slump 38 percent from €1.2 billion in 2007 to €758 million in 2008.

The shutdowns will affect plants providing chemical products for the automotive, construction and textile industries in Europe, Asia and North America. In Ludwigshafen, where 5,000 of the company's 20,000 employees work, BASF has come to an agreement with the works council to take advantage of flexi time and vacations.
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Rep. Waxman To Head House Energy And Commerce Committee - Maybe
2008-11-19 19:57:56
In a major win for environmentalists, a committee of Democratic leaders in the House of Representative voted Wednesday to put Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, of California, in charge of a key panel that will have oversight over global warming issues in the new Congress.

The House Steering Committee voted 25-22 to make Waxman the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, replacing Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell, the most senior member in the House.

The House Democratic caucus will vote Thursday.

The Waxman-Dingell battle has been watched closely on Capitol Hill. Waxman is regarded as an ally of environmentalists, while Dingell has ties to the auto industry. He's resisted higher fuel standards and tighter limits on greenhouse gases. It will be the first major test of whether the party's liberal wing has more clout than its moderate wing.

Dingell had called Waxman an "anti-manufacturing left-wing Democrat" and said that it would be a mistake to have him in charge of the committee, particularly with the auto industry struggling.

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Federal Drug Experts Criticize Using Antipsychotics On Children
2008-11-19 16:45:57
Powerful antipsychotic medicines are being used far too cavalierly in children, and federal drug regulators must do more to warn doctors of their substantial risks, a panel of federal drug experts said Tuesday.

More than 389,000 children and teenagers were treated last year with Risperdal, one of five popular medicines known as atypical antipsychotics. Of those patients, 240,000 were 12 or younger, according to data presented to the committee. In many cases, the drug was prescribed to treat attention deficit disorders.

Risperdal is not approved for attention deficit problems, and its risks - which include substantial weight gain, metabolic disorders and muscular tics that can be permanent - are too profound to justify its use in treating such disorders, said  panel members.

“This committee is frustrated,” said Dr. Leon Dure, a pediatric neurologist from the University of Alabama School of Medicine who was on the panel. “And we need to find a way to accommodate this concern of ours.”

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Arts Patron Guilty In Securities Fraud Case
2008-11-19 16:45:34

A federal jury convicted Alberto W. Vilar of all 12 counts in his securities fraud trial on Wednesday, a final fall from grace for a man who gave millions of dollars to musical and other causes but was ostracized for falling short on his pledges.

Vilar, 67, blinked when the first guilty verdict was pronounced by the foreman in a United States District courtroom but remain stone-faced. His former partner and co-defendant, Gary A. Tanaka, 65, was convicted of three of the counts.

The verdict came after three-and-a-half days of often heated deliberations. Raised voices were heard inside the jury room, and at one point the panel asked for a half-hour cooling-off period. One woman on the jury was sniffling as she left the courtroom.

The two men, former partners in Amerindo Investment Advisors Inc., were charged in a 12-count indictment alleging conspiracy and securities fraud, investment adviser fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Tanaka was found guilty of conspiracy, securities fraud and investment advisor fraud.

Vilar’s lawyer, Herald Price Fahringer, said his client would appeal. “We’re deeply disappointed in the jury’s verdict,” he said. “We expect to be fully vindicated on appeal.” When Vilar was asked what went wrong, he said softly, “I don’t know.”

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Cheney, Gonzales Indicted In Texas Over Federal Prisons
2008-11-19 14:24:22
Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have been indicted on state charges involving federal prisons in a South Texas county that has been a source of bizarre legal and political battles under the outgoing prosecutor.

The indictment returned Monday has not yet been signed by the presiding judge, and no action can be taken until that happens.

The seven indictments made public in Willacy County on Tuesday included one naming state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., and some targeting public officials connected to District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra's own legal battles.

Regarding the indictments targeting the public officials, Guerra said, "the grand jury is the one that made those decisions, not me."

Guerra himself was under indictment for more than a year-and-a-half until a judge dismissed the indictments last month. Guerra's tenure ends this year after nearly two decades in office. He lost convincingly in a Democratic primary in March.

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FBI Agent Killed In Drug Raid Near Pittsburgh
2008-11-19 14:23:51

An FBI agent was shot and killed Wednesday morning near Pittsburgh while executing a search warrant in a drug raid, said law enforcement officials.

The agent, who was not immediately identified, was shot about 6 a.m. at a house in Indiana Township, about 10 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, a spokesman for the FBI's office for western Pennsylvania told reporters.

An FBI news release on the incident said the FBI was working with the Drug Enforcement Administration and local police in executing a federal search warrant when the shooting occurred. It said initial reports that the incident was associated with a home invasion were false.

"We are in the process of notifying the agent's family and will provide more details later today," said the news release.

The agent had been on the job for about three years, said a law enforcement official.

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Al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri Blasts Obama In Video Tape
2008-11-19 14:23:23
Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda's second-in-command, used a racially demeaning term to refer to President-elect Barack Obama in a videotape released Wednesday, and said Obama's election represented "the American people's admission of defeat in Iraq."

In the 11-minute video, posted on the Internet, al-Zawahiri repeatedly and unfavorably compared the first black U.S. president-elect to Malcolm X, the black Muslim leader and activist who was assassinated 43 years ago.

"You represent the direct opposite of honorable black Americans like Malik al-Shabazz, or Malcolm X," Zawahiri said, according to English subtitles of his Arabic remarks provided by al-Qaeda's propaganda arm. "You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America."

Zawahiri said Obama, Colin Powell and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "confirmed" Malcolm X's definition of a "house negro," a term the militant black leader often used to describe black leaders who were subservient to white interests.

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European Union Planning Giant Stimulus Package
2008-11-19 19:58:30
With European Union economies in freefall, the E.U. is planning a major stimulus package. A source has told Spiegel Online that it will amount to a massive €130 billion. Germany, though, isn't likely to approve.

With a number of European Union economies in freefall as a result of the global financial crisis, the E.U. is now planning an enormous stimulus package. A source familiar with efforts to develop the plan told Spiegel Online that the European Commission under Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is considering making the package worth up to 1 percent of the 27-member bloc's output.

The Commission's plan calls for E.U. money to be pumped into the package. But to reach the targeted total of €130 billion, member-states will also have to cough up additional funds. According to the source, the European Commission would like to finalize the plan on Nov. 26 before the European Council considers the package on Dec. 10. Economic stimulus in the European Union has become necessary as a number of major economies in the bloc have either slid into recession or slowed drastically. Germany last Thursday announced a third quarter slide of 0.5 percent following 0.4 percent shrinkage in the second quarter. The British economy has likewise been suffering as has the French. The economy of the euro common currency zone - made up of the 15 E.U. countries that use the euro - officially entered recession last Friday.

Nevertheless, the scale of the Commission's stimulus package idea is likely to meet with some skepticism in Berlin. So far, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has been resistant to the idea of Europe-wide stimulus measures. Even Berlin's plan to boost the German economy was modest relative to those passed elsewhere.
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Researchers: Stress Warps Brains And Behavior
2008-11-19 19:58:08
Scientists have discovered how stress - in the form of emotional, mental or physical tension - physically reshapes the brain and causes long-lasting harm to humans and animals.

"Stress causes neurons (brain cells) to shrink or grow," said Bruce McEwen, a neuroscientist at Rockefeller University in New York. "The wear and tear on the body from lots of stress changes the nervous system.''

He said that stress is "particularly worrying in the developing brain, which appears to be programmed by early stressful experience."

Stress in early life, even in the womb, can later lead to undesirable changes in behavior and the ability to learn and remember. Other consequences may be substance abuse and psychiatric disorders, researchers said at a conference of neuroscientists in Washington this week.

"Pre-natal stress can change the brain forever," said Tallie Baram, a neurologist at the University of California, Irvine. "Stress changes how genes are expressed throughout life."

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Wall Street Falls Sharply On Latest Economic Data - Dow Drops 427 Points
2008-11-19 16:46:15

Shares on Wall Street closed at their lowest levels in five years on Wednesday as hope dimmed in Washington for an emergency bailout of the auto industry.

The late-day sell-off came in frenzy amid growing fears of deflation.

The Dow Jones settled below 8,000 for the first time since 2003, dropping 427.47 points or 5 percent to 7,990. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was 6.1 percent lower. The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index was down 6.5 percent.

“It’s painful,” said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at Standard & Poor’s. “A lot of people have pulled a lot of cash out. They’re sitting on the side. It’s all I hear all day: ‘Where can I hide?’ ”

All corners of the market were down, but the financial, transportation and consumer sectors took the heaviest blows. Financial stocks were down an average of 9 percent over the day, and the banking giant Citigroup dropped 22 percent.

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Iraq Parliament In Chaos As Lawmakers Brawl Over U.S. Security Agreement
2008-11-19 16:45:48
A session of Iraq’s Parliament collapsed in chaos on Wednesday, as a discussion among lawmakers about a three-year security agreement with the Americans boiled over into shouting and physical confrontation.

The session was dedicated to a second public reading of the agreement, which governs the presence of American troops in Iraq through 2011 and which the Parliament is scheduled to vote on Monday. Even before the session began, legislators were apprehensive.

“There is much tension inside the parliament,” said Iman al-Asadi, a Shiite lawmaker, shortly before the session was scheduled to start. “We worry that they will fight each other inside the room.”

Lawmakers who support the pact said they were worried in particular about the followers of the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who make up a bloc of 32 legislators in the 275 member Parliament. While there are those in Parliament, like many Sunnis, who have objections to elements of the pact, the Sadrists reject any agreement with the Americans in principle.

In a departure from protocol, security guards were present in the room, both because of the tension and because several Iraqi government officials, including the ministers of foreign affairs and finance, were in attendance to answer questions about the agreement. Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign affairs minister, said the guards were unarmed.

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U.S. Housing Starts, Consumer Prices Fall At Record Pace
2008-11-19 14:24:33

U.S. consumer prices and housing starts fell in October to levels not seen since the 1940s and 1950s, signs of a collapse in household spending that threatens to deepen and lengthen any economic downturn.

Although the decline in prices was led by a steep drop in the price of crude oil, it marked the first time in more than a quarter-century that so-called "core inflation" - which excludes the cost of energy and food - has fallen into negative territory.

The Labor Department reported this morning that overall consumer prices declined by 1 percent in October on a seasonally adjusted basis - the largest one-month price drop since the agency began compiling the statistic in 1947.

With the cost of crude oil plummeting, overall energy prices fell 8.6 percent in October compared with the month before, and by 43 percent over the past three months.

Excluding energy and food prices, which are particularly volatile, the price decline was a more modest 0.1 percent.

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U.S. Senate Greets Automakers' Plea For Aid With Skepticism
2008-11-19 14:24:12

The chieftains of Detroit's Big Three automakers made a desperate appeal to skeptical lawmakers Tuesday for $25 billion in emergency loans to forestall the possible collapse of the domestic auto industry, offering to cut their own salaries in exchange for government aid.

Yet the chances were looking increasingly bleak that Congress would quickly approve a lifeline to help the firms survive some of the most devastating economic conditions since Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Co. in 1903.

In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, the chief executives of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler blamed the failure of the global credit system for driving down auto sales and plunging their firms into crisis. Chrysler chief executive Robert L. Nardelli revealed that his company had considered filing for bankruptcy protection, but decided it would take too long to reach an accord with suppliers, lenders and labor.

"We're in a very fragile position," said Nardelli.

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Obama Taps Eric Holder As America's First Black Attorney General
2008-11-19 14:23:39
Eric H. Holder, Jr., a former Justice Department official who was President-elect Barack Obama's campaign co-chairman, is the leading candidate to serve as the next U.S. attorney general, according to Democratic sources familiar with the choice.

Holder, 57, was offered the job late last week and tentatively accepted it, sources said. The Obama team intends to make the nomination official if he receives at least moderate support from Republican lawmakers and completes the vetting process, the sources said. Intermediaries began to reach out to Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee  last week, and the vetting pace accelerated Tuesday.

Sources close to the process said Holder was a "near-certainty" to become the first African American nominated to head the Justice Department, which plays a leading role in enforcing civil rights laws. Officials in the Obama transition office said no final decision has been reached.

The nation's next top law enforcement officer will inherit significant challenges, including a workforce demoralized by allegations of political interference in the Bush years; the vexing issue of how to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and the question of whether to open criminal investigations of administration officials who approved harsh interrogation tactics and warrantless wiretapping.

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The Dead Tell A Tale China Would Prefer To Ignore
2008-11-19 13:30:47
An exhibit on the first floor of the museum here gives the government’s unambiguous take on the history of this border region: “Xinjiang has been an inalienable part of the territory of China,” says one prominent sign.

But walk upstairs to the second floor, and the ancient corpses on display seem to tell a different story.

One called the Loulan Beauty lies on her back with her shoulder-length hair matted down, her lips pursed in death, her high cheekbones and long nose the most obvious signs that she is not what one thinks of as Chinese.

The Loulan Beauty is one of more than 200 remarkably well-preserved mummies discovered in the western deserts here over the last few decades. The ancient bodies have become protagonists in a very contemporary political dispute over who should control the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

The Chinese authorities here face an intermittent separatist movement of nationalist Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people who number nine million in Xinjiang.

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