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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday November 18 2008 - (813)

Tuesday November 18 2008 edition
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Newest U.S. Veterans Hit Hard By Economic Crisis
2008-11-17 22:29:49

After a mortar sent Andrew Spurlock hurtling off a roof in Iraq, ending his Army career in 2006, the seasoned infantryman set aside bitterness over his back injury and began to chart his life in storybook fashion: a new house, a job as a police officer and more children.

“We had a budget and a plan,” said Spurlock, 29, a father of three, who with his wife, Michelle, hoped to avoid the pitfalls of his transition from Ramadi, Iraq, to Apopka, Florida.

The move proved treacherous, as it often does for veterans. The job with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office fell through after officials there told Spurlock that he needed to “decompress” after two combat tours, a judgment that took him by surprise. Scrambling, he settled for a job delivering pizzas.

Spurlock’s disability claim for his back injury took 18 months to process, a year longer than expected. With little choice, the couple began putting mortgage payments on credit cards. The family debt climbed to $60,000, a chunk of it for medical bills, including for his wife and child. Foreclosure seemed certain.

While few Americans are sheltered from the jolt of the recent economic crisis, the nation’s newest veterans, particularly the wounded, are being hit especially hard. The triple-whammy of injury, unemployment and waiting for disability claims to be processed has forced many veterans into foreclosure, or sent them teetering on its edge, according to veterans’ organizations.

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Jerry Yang Plans To Step Down As Yahoo Chief
2008-11-17 22:29:27

Yahoo said Monday evening that Jerry Yang, its chief executive, would step down from that role after the company finds a replacement.

Yang, a co-founder of Yahoo, assumed control of the company a year and a half ago from Terry Semel, a Hollywood studio boss that he hand-picked for the job. His tenure has been a tumultuous period during which Yahoo rejected a $47.5 billion takeover offer from Microsoft and failed to cement an advertising partnership with Google.

The Microsoft offer was worth $33 a share - more than three times Yahoo’s closing price of $10.63 on Monday. The stock was up more than 4 percent in after-hours trading.

Yang, 40, helped turn Yahoo from an early directory of Web sites into a sprawling Internet giant that is used by nearly 500 million people; but shareholders have been asking whether Yang was the right man to run the company, which last month cut its sales forecast and announced plans to lay off workers. 

“It’s definitely a positive from a shareholder perspective,” Ross Sandler, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said of Yang’s departure. “Jerry has done less than a stellar job since taking the reins from Terry Semel last year, not just completely botching the Microsoft deal, but with poor execution and multiple company restructurings that have done little to restore confidence for any of Yahoo’s shareholders, employees or customers.”

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Obama, McCain Meet In Chicago
2008-11-17 22:28:55
President-elect Barack Obama and Senator John McCain agreed on Monday, in their first meeting since the election, to work together on some of the nation’s most pressing challenges, from the financial crisis to national security problems.

After a private meeting in the Obama transition offices on the 38th floor of the Kluczynski Federal Building in downtown Chicago, the two men issued a joint statement saying that they agreed “that Americans of all parties want and need their leaders to come together and change the bad habits of Washington so that we can solve the common and urgent challenges of our time.”

The statement continued: “We hope to work together in the days and months ahead on critical challenges like solving our financial crisis, creating a new energy economy, and protecting our nation’s security.”

There were few other clues to the dynamics between the two men, who until two weeks ago were vying for the presidency, and whose relations during the campaign were at times a bit frosty. When a reporter asked Senator McCain at the outset of the meeting on Monday whether he would help Obama with his administration, he replied, “Obviously.”

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Citigroup To Cut 50,000 Jobs After Posting $20 Billion Loss
2008-11-17 21:45:43

Citigroup will reduce its global workforce by about 50,000 jobs, or about 15 percent, as the financial services giant tries to steady itself after recording losses of more than $20 billion over the past year, executives said Monday.

The company plans to sell a number of subsidiaries, including a massive back-office operation in India, and will terminate thousands of employees in the financial centers of New York and London. The extent of the job cuts roughly doubles the total that Citigroup had set as a target in an announcement last month.

Despite the cuts, executives said the company is not planning to change its basic business model. Citigroup, the largest and most international U.S. bank, will continue to sell a wide range of financial products and services around the world, though dominate relatively few of its markets.

"We will be the long-term winner in the industry," chief executive Vikram Pandit wrote in an e-mail to employees Monday.

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Adm. Mullen: U.S. Needs More Than Two Years For Iraq Withdrawal
2008-11-17 21:45:13

The U.S. military would require two to three years to remove its roughly 150,000 troops and equipment from Iraq safely, and the timing of that withdrawal should be based on security conditions on the ground, the nation's top military officer said today.

"To remove the entire force would be, you know, two to three years," Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.

While Mullen said that he and the top commanders for Iraq and the region, Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Ray Odierno, were "comfortable" with the status of forces agreement signed with Iraq today, he described some logistical hurdles to a U.S. troop withdrawal along a fixed timeline.

"We have 150,000 troops in Iraq right now. We have lots of bases. We have an awful lot of equipment that's there. And so we would have to look at all of that tied to, obviously, the conditions that are there, literally the security conditions," he said.

"Clearly, we'd want to be able to do it safely."

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16th-Century Mapmaker's Amazing Knowledge
2008-11-17 21:44:40

How was it that a German priest writing in Latin and living in a French city far from the coast became the first person to tell the world that a vast ocean lay to the west of the American continents?

That is one of the bigger mysteries in the history of the Renaissance.

But it is not the only one involving Martin Waldseemueller, a map-making cleric whose own story is sufficiently obscure that his birth and death dates aren't known for certain.

Waldseemueller appears to have also known something about the contours of South America's west coast years before Vasco Nunez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama and Ferdinand Magellan sailed around the bottom of the continent. History books record them as the first Europeans to bring back knowledge of the Pacific Ocean.

The evidence of this knowledge is in Waldseemueller's world map of 1507, perhaps the most valuable of the 5 million maps owned by the Library of Congress. It was acquired for $10 million in 2003 and went on permanent display last year.

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Editorial: The Bailout's Next 60 Days
2008-11-17 22:29:35
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Monday, November 17, 2008.

A month into the Bush administration’s $700 billion bank bailout, the effort has become as fractured as the ad hoc rescues that it was supposed to replace. As a result, the modest easing the bailout initially brought about in the credit markets is now being reversed over doubts about the Treasury’s stewardship of the plan.

The rates for loans between banks have begun edging up again, and consumer borrowing costs are also up - that is, assuming consumers can find a bank willing to lend.

President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team is reportedly planning how the new administration will better manage the bailout. But two months is a long time to wait while the Bush Treasury burns through the bailout billions, with little to show in terms of enhanced stability and even less in terms of enhanced confidence.

Last week Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson outlined a complex new bailout strategy intended to promote consumer borrowing. Mr. Paulson defended this latest iteration, saying he would never apologize for changing his approach as the facts change. But it is not surprising that everyone else is feeling whiplashed.

Before the bailout even got under way in October, Mr. Paulson had to sideline his original strategy - to buy up banks’ bad assets - because, he soon came to realize, it was too complex and indirect to deliver the swift jolt the financial markets needed.

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Iraq's Anti-Corruption Officials Quietly Dismissed
2008-11-17 22:29:12
The government of Iraq Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is systematically dismissing Iraqi oversight officials, who were installed to fight corruption in Iraqi ministries by order of the American occupation administration, which had hoped to bring Western standards of accountability to the notoriously opaque and graft-ridden bureaucracy here.

The dismissals, which were confirmed by senior Iraqi and American government officials on Sunday and Monday, came as estimates of official Iraqi corruption soared. One Iraqi former chief investigator recently testified before Congress that $13 billion in reconstruction funds from the United States had been lost to fraud, embezzlement, theft and waste by Iraqi government officials.

The moves have not been publicly announced by Maliki’s government, but word of them has begun to circulate through the layers of Iraqi bureaucracy as Parliament prepares to vote on a long-awaited security agreement.

That pact sets the terms for continued American presence here after the United Nations mandate expires Dec. 31, but also amounts to a framework for a steady reduction in that presence. Such a change will undoubtedly lessen American oversight of Iraqi institutions.

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Dow Drops 224 Points After Citigroup Announces Job Cuts
2008-11-17 21:45:51

Stocks fell sharply Monday as Citigroup announced plans to eliminate more than 50,000 positions and retailers' woes appeared to deepen.

Citigroup's jobs cuts are in addition to the 23,000 the company already announced this year and will bring its workforce to about 300,000. The struggling New York bank also said it would also cut expenses by 20 percent after posting four straight quarters of losses.

The company's stock was down 6.6 percent, making it one of the biggest losers on the Dow Jones industrial average. It has lost nearly two-thirds of its value this year.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 2.6 percent, or 224 points, and the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index also was down 2.6 percent, or 23 points. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was down 2.3 percent, or 35 points. Stocks spent a short part of the day in positive territory but for the most part were down.

One of the Dow's few bright spots was General Motors, which was up 5.7 percent. The company has said it could run out of money next year, but investors appear optimistic about a $25 billion emergency bill Democrats are expected to unveil on Capitol Hill Monday to help the struggling auto industry. President Bush and congressional Republicans have opposed the legislation because it would use cash from the $700 billion financial rescue program Congress created to shore up the U.S. banking system.

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Toxic Chemicals Blamed For Gulf War Syndrome
2008-11-17 21:45:34
Gulf War illness, dismissed by some as a psychosomatic disorder, is a very real illness that affects at least 25 percent of the 700,000 U.S. veterans who took part in the 1991 Gulf War.

It's likely cause was exposure to toxic chemicals that included pesticides that were often overused during the war, as well as a drug given to U.S. troops to protect them from nerve gas, a frequent weapon of choice of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

And no effective treatments have been devised for the disorder.

Those are three key conclusions of a Congressionally mandated landmark report released Monday by a federal panel of scientific experts and veterans.

"It is very clear that Gulf War illness is a real condition that was not caused by combat stress or other psychological factors," said Lea Steele, scientific director of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, which issued the report, and an associate professor at Kansas State University.

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Pirates Take Saudi 'Super Tanker' Toward Somalia
2008-11-17 21:44:53
Pirates who hijacked a crude oil tanker off the coast of Kenya are approaching a Somali port, the U.S. Navy said Monday.

The Sirius Star - a crude "super tanker" flagged in Liberia and owned by the Saudi Arabian-based Saudi Aramco company - was attacked on Saturday more than 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya.

The crew of 25, including British, Croatian, Polish, Filippino and Saudi nationals, are reported to be safe

U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet Cmdr. Jane Campbell said the super tanker weighs more than 300,000 metric tons and "is more than three times the size of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier."

Oil industry insiders say a tanker of this size can carry up to 2 million barrels of oil, and the ship's operator, Dubai-based Vela International Marine Ltd, says it is fully laden.

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