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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday November 19 2008 - (813)

Wednesday November 19 2008 edition
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Mark Begich Leads Ted Stevens By 3,700 Votes In Alaska Senate Race
2008-11-18 21:05:10
Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich's lead over Sen. Ted Stevens is growing as ballot counting continues Tuesday in the race for U.S. Senate.

The latest numbers, issued just before 1 p.m., show Begich up by 3,724 votes.

The state has counted over 24,000 absentee and questioned ballots Tuesday from Southeast Alaska, Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak.

The only votes left to count are approximately 2,500 special absentees from people living outside the U.S. or in remote parts of Alaska with no polling place.

The state will count those final ballots on Nov. 25.

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Russia To Build Nuclear Reactor For Venezuela's Chavez
2008-11-18 20:18:00
Russia's deepening strategic partnership with Venezuela took a dramatic step forward Tuesday when it emerged that Moscow has agreed to build Venezuela's first nuclear reactor.

President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement with his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, during a visit to Latin America next week, part of a determined Russian push into the region.

The reactor is to be named after Humberto Fernandez Moran, a late Venezuelan research scientist and former science minister, announced Chavez. It is one of many accords he hopes to sign while hosting Medvedev in Caracas next week.

The prospect of a nuclear deal between Moscow and Caracas, following a surge in Russian economic, military, political and intelligence activity in Latin America, is likely to alarm the U.S. and present an early challenge to the Obama administration.

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Industrialized World Falling Short Of Climate Goals
2008-11-18 16:58:13
A new report released by the United Nations shows that climate-damaging C02 emissions in the industrialized world have rebounded in the 21st century after dropping to levels emitted in the 1990s.

After a sharp dip following the collapse of the Soviet Union, global greenhouse gas emissions in industrialized countries began rising again between 2000 and 2006, according to a disappointing new report released on Monday by the United Nations.

Although CO2 levels are still down almost 4.7 percent compared with the baseline year of 1999, they rose 2.3 percent in the first seven years of the new century, from 17.6 billion tons in 2000 to 18 billion tons in 2006.

The report, which gathered information about 40 industrialized economies, showed an especially sharp rise in emissions from former Soviet bloc countries, whose emissions shot up 7.4 percent since 2000. The spike was not unexpected given the rapid recovery many post-Soviet economies have made after floundering in the 1990s.

Significantly, the report includes no information about economies in the developing world. Under the Kyoto Protocol, non-industrialized countries are under no obligation to either reduce emissions or even gather data on them.

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Dow Rises 151 Points As Markets End Volatile Session
2008-11-18 16:57:42

Wall Street struggled to undo a day of losses late Tuesday, and the Dow moved higher in the last hour as the Big Three American automakers took their case for a bailout to Capitol Hill.

After bounding higher on a strong outlook from Hewlett Packard that offered a rare glimmer of economic good news, financial markets fell into negative territory around in the afternoon before fighting back.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed 151.17 points or 1.8 percent higher. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was up 0.98 percent or 8.37 points while the technology-heavy Nasdaq was flat despite comments from Hewlett Packard.

“High volatility is now the norm,” said Brian Belski, chief United States sector strategist at Merrill Lynch. “It wouldn’t be a regular day in the market unless you see these big swings.”

Shares of the home-improvement retailer Home Depot lost their early gains and were slightly higher after the company reported third-quarter earnings that beat Wall Street expectations. The home-supply chain reported earnings of 45 cents a share, compared with estimates of 38 cents.

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Czech Police Stop Rioters From Attacking Roma Camp
2008-11-18 16:57:14
Police in the Czech Republic battled 500 right-wing protesters on Monday who were trying to attack a Roma community with Molotov cocktails, machetes and pitch forks. The incident is part of a troubling pattern emerging in Europe.

Czech police battled hundreds of far-right rioters armed with an array of weapons north of Prague on Monday in a successful attempt to prevent them from entering a Roma neighborhood.

The riot took place in the northern town of Litvinov, which lies 110 kilometers (68 miles) northwest of Prague. The estimated 500 members of the far-right Workers' Party had gathered for a march in the town before suddenly turning off the approved route toward Janov, a section of the town with a large Roma community.

Their progress was blocked by an estimated 1,000 police officers, who were also seeking to contain an estimated 300 Roma men, who had gathered to defend their community, many armed with sticks and knives, according to the Web site of Radio Prague.

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Bush Moves To Protect Key Appointees
2008-11-18 14:02:34

Just weeks before leaving office, the Interior Department's top lawyer has shifted half a dozen key deputies - including two former political appointees who have been involved in controversial environmental decisions - into senior civil service posts.

The transfer of political appointees into permanent federal positions, called "burrowing" by career officials, creates security for those employees, and at least initially will deprive the incoming Obama administration of the chance to install its preferred appointees in some key jobs.

Similar efforts are taking place at other agencies. Two political hires at the Labor Department have already secured career posts there, and one at the Department of Housing and Urban Development  is trying to make the switch.

Between March 1 and Nov. 3, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Bush administration allowed 20 political appointees to become career civil servants. Six political appointees to the Senior Executive Service, the government's most prestigious and highly paid employees, have received approval to take career jobs at the same level. Fourteen other political, or "Schedule C," appointees have also been approved to take career jobs. One candidate was turned down by OPM and two were withdrawn by the submitting agency.

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Automakers' Clout Plunges - Union, Too
2008-11-18 14:02:10
When the leaders of the three Detroit auto companies and the United Automobile Workers union travel to Washington to make their case for a federal bailout, they will be flying into stiff headwinds of public opinion.

Thus far, much of the commentary in Washington, D.C., in the pages of major newspapers and on the Web, has been against providing financial support for the companies, which they will say they desperately need in hearings that began Tuesday.

The waves of criticism have been so strong that Susan Tompor, a columnist for The Detroit Free Press, was moved to write on Sunday’s front page: “I never knew Detroit was a dirty word.”

It is a remarkable shift for an industry that has long wielded considerable clout in Washington, D.C.

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California Firefighters Have Wildfires In Hand As Residents Return To Survey Damage
2008-11-18 14:00:59
Winds remained calm Tusday and the air started to clear, allowing firefighters to make more headway against wildfires that have burned through Southern California.

Residents who fled the flames steeled themselves for the worst as authorities prepared to escort more people back into the Oakridge Mobile Home Park in Sylmar - the "Beverly Hills of mobile home parks" - now a devastated neighborhood that looks more like a war zone than a country club.

The Orange County Fire Authority planned to lift final evacuation orders at 10 a.m. today for the Chino Hills area, where the Freeway Complex fire charred 28,889 acres in Corona, Chino, Yorba Linda, Brea and Anaheim.

"The firefight is over," said Marlene Heisey, an information officer with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Still, firefighters are keeping a watchful eye on wind and weather.
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2,000 Riot In Northwestern China Over Plan To Raze City Center
2008-11-18 14:00:20
An angry crowd of 2,000 rioted in northwest China's Gansu province over a government plan to demolish a downtown area, torching cars and attacking a local Communist Party office, injuring 60 officials, state-run media reported Tuesday.

At one point, rioters met a surging wall of armed police officers with a hail of rocks, bricks, bottles and flowerpots. The crowd later confronted police with iron bars, axes and hoes as they tried to hijack a fire truck and smashed windows and office equipment in two government buildings.

The violence, one of the most marked instances of social unrest to grip China in recent months, was sparked by government plans to relocate the city of Longnan's administrative center after May's devastating earthquake, according to the Xinhua news agency.

State-run press has reported on numerous pickets and demonstrations that have broken out across China in recent weeks, including a two-day strike by disgruntled taxi drivers in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing.

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Obama Vows 'New Chapter' On Global Warming At Meeting With Schwarzenegger
2008-11-18 20:18:14
Barack Obama Tuesday renewed his promise to make a decisive break with George Bush on the environment, using a summit convened by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to promise a "new chapter in America's leadership on climate change".

The video appearance by Obama confirmed Schwarzenegger's role as a global leader on climate change, a position shored up only hours before when the California governor set a bold new target for his state to get a third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

In his address, the president-elect accused Bush of failing to show leadership on the issue of climate change. "That will change when I take office," he said.

He went on to lay out an ambitious agenda, beginning with targets aimed at reducing greenhouse gas ambitions to 1990 levels by 2020. He also reiterated a campaign pledge to invest $15 billion each year in development of clean technology - including coal and nuclear power.

"This investment will not only help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, making the United States more secure. And it will not only help us bring about a clean energy future, saving our planet. It will also help us transform our industries and steer our country out of this economic crisis by generating five million new green jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced."

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Western Secrets For Russia - Estonian Spy Scandal Shakes NATO And E.U.
2008-11-18 16:58:23
For years an Estonian government official has apparently been collecting the most intimate secrets of NATO and the European Union, passing them on to the Russians. The case is a disaster for Brussels, Belgium, where the E.U. is headquartered.

Communications between the suspected top spy and his commanding officer seemed like a throwback to the Cold War. Investigators allege that in order to send messages to his Russian contact, Herman Simm, 61, used a converted radio which looked like a relic from yesteryear's world of consumer electronics. But there was nothing old-fashioned about what Simm, a high-ranking official in the Estonian Defense Ministry in Tallinn, reportedly transmitted to Moscow over the years. It was the very latest intelligence information.

Although Simm was arrested with his wife Heete in the Estonian capital Tallinn on Sept. 21, this spy story - which has been largely kept under wraps until now - primarily concerns the European Union and NATO based in faraway Brussels. Since Simm was responsible for dealing with classified information in Tallinn, he had access to nearly all documents exchanged within the E.U. and NATO. Officials who are familiar with the case assume that "virtually everything" that circulates between E.U. member states was passed on to the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR - including confidential analyses by NATO on the Kosovo crisis, the war in Georgia and even the missile defense program. Investigators believe that Simm is a "big fish."

Meanwhile, a number of investigative teams from the E.U. and NATO have flown to Tallinn to probe the extent of the intelligence disaster. The investigation is being led by the NATO Office for Security, which is headed by an American official. As investigators pursue their work, they continue to unearth mounting evidence pointing to the enormity of the betrayal. A German government official has called the situation a "catastrophe," and Jaanus Rahumagi, a member of Estonia's national parliament who heads the parliamentary oversight committee for the government security agency, fears "historic damage."
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Interview: 'The Finance Crisis Will Effect Climate Policies'
2008-11-18 16:58:03
Intellpuke: In an interview with Spiegel Online, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, discusses how the current financial crisis will dampen national initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions and why he still has hopes Kyoto targets can be reached. The interview follows:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. de Boer, since 2000, the industrialized nations have continued to increase their greenhouse gas emissions. Has the world failed in moving to protect the climate?

de Boer: I don't think so. We have released data from 2006 - in other words, just one year after the Kyoto Protocol went into effect. Emissions keep rising, but they will start going down. The countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol are still in a position to reach their goals.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But it still seems like many of these countries, such as Japan, aren't paying much attention to their climate-protection obligations.

de Boer: Japan certainly does have a long way to go before it reaches its goals. But the country is changing its policies, and it is also planning on purchasing international emissions rights. That's why I'm certain that Japan will reach its Kyoto goal.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And how do things look with Canada?

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Congressmen Renew Call For Homeowner Help
2008-11-18 16:57:29

Financial officials faced new calls on Tuesday from House lawmakers to aim more of the government’s financial relief package at programs that would directly help homeowners avoid foreclosure, as the lame-duck Congress began considering how to most effectively stem the credit crisis facing financial institutions, the auto industry and the economy as a whole.

At a hearing on Tuesday morning of the House Committee on Financial Services, several members expressed dismay at the prospect of a continuing or even accelerating avalanche of foreclosures, despite the commitment of hundreds of billions of dollars to the broad bailout program being put into effect by the Bush administration. Later in the day, the Senate Banking Committee was scheduled to hear from the auto industry.

Representative Barney Frank, the committee chairman and an architect of the compromise that produced the bailout bill, read from several pages of the legislation that he said authorized more direct steps on behalf of homeowners. And one member after another, especially among the Democrats, urged Treasury Secretary Henrry M. Paulson, Jr., who runs the main program aimed at troubled loans and the lenders who issued them, to do more to encourage renegotiation of loans on houses that have plummeted in value.

Paulson, testifying along with the heads of the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation,  two other crucial players in the economic rescue efforts, said they were focusing on economic stabilization, but Frank complained that the underlying problem of foreclosures was not being effectively addressed.

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Before Congress, Paulson Defends Changes To Bailout Plan
2008-11-18 14:02:41

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr., defended his decisions on using the $700 billion financial rescue package, arguing that worsening conditions forced him to repeatedly change direction on how to use the money and that the actions taken would be no "panacea" for the economy.

Congressional leaders expressed deep skepticism of Paulson's use of the emergency package, passed in early October. After selling the plan as a tool to take troubled assets off the books of banks, the Treasury Department is now using the money to make investments in banks and other financial firms, and many of those firms are using that money to acquire weaker competitors rather than to make loans to customers.

Paulson has been reluctant to use the rescue package to directly aid homeowners at risk of foreclosure, to the frustration of congressional Democrats. Moreover, many in Congress are frustrated that the deployment of billions of dollars has not brought stability to financial markets.

"There is no playbook for responding to turmoil we have never faced," Paulson told the House Financial Services Committee Tuesday morning. "We adjusted our strategy to reflect the facts of a severe market crisis."

"The purpose of the financial rescue legislation was to stabilize our financial system and to strengthen it. It is not a panacea for all our economic difficulties," Paulson said in prepared testimony. "The crisis in our financial system had already spilled over into our economy and hurt it."

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Editorial: U.S. - The Wrong Place To Be Critically Ill
2008-11-18 14:02:19
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Monday, November 17, 2008.

Chronically ill Americans suffer far worse care than their counterparts in seven other industrial nations, according to a new study by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based foundation that has pioneered in international comparisons. It is the latest telling evidence that the dysfunctional American health care system badly needs reform.

The results of the study, published by the respected journal Health Affairs, belie the notion held by many American politicians that health care in this country is the best in the world. That may be true at a handful of pre-eminent medical centers, but it is hardly true for the care provided to a huge portion of the population.

The Commonwealth Fund’s survey of 7,500 patients in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Britain and the United States focused on patients who suffered from at least one of seven chronic conditions: hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, lung problems, cancer or depression.

The care they received in this country - or more often did not receive - ought to be a cause for shame. More than half of the American patients went without care because of high out-of-pocket costs. They did not visit a doctor when sick, skipped a recommended test or treatment or failed to fill a prescription. The uninsured suffered most, but even 43 percent of those who had insurance all year skipped care because of costs.

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Web Sites That Dig For News Rise As Watchdogs
2008-11-18 14:01:16
Over the last two years, some of this city’s darkest secrets have been dragged into the light - city officials with conflicts of interest and hidden pay raises, affordable housing that was not affordable, misleading crime statistics.

Investigations ensued. The chiefs of two redevelopment agencies were forced out. One of them faces criminal charges. Yet the main revelations came not from any of San Diego’s television and radio stations or its dominant newspaper, The San Diego Union-Tribune, but from a handful of young journalists at a nonprofit Web site run out of a converted military base far from downtown’s glass towers - a site that did not exist four years ago.

As America’s newspapers shrink and shed staff, and broadcast news outlets sink in the ratings, a new kind of Web-based news operation has arisen in several cities, forcing the papers to follow the stories they uncover.

Here it is, offering a brand of serious, original reporting by professional journalists - the province of the traditional media, but at a much lower cost of doing business. Since it began in 2005, similar operations have cropped up in New Haven, the Twin Cities, Seattle, St. Louis and Chicago. More are on the way.

Their news coverage and hard-digging investigative reporting stand out in an Internet landscape long dominated by partisan commentary, gossip, vitriol and citizen journalism posted by unpaid amateurs.

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Archaeologists Find Ancient Monument To The Soul
2008-11-18 14:00:38

In a mountainous kingdom in what is now southeastern Turkey, there lived in the eighth century B.C. a royal official, Kuttamuwa, who oversaw the completion of an inscribed stone monument, or stele, to be erected upon his death. The words instructed mourners to commemorate his life and afterlife with feasts “for my soul that is in this stele.”

University of Chicago archaeologists who made the discovery last summer in ruins of a walled city near the Syrian border said the stele provided the first written evidence that the people in this region held to the religious concept of the soul apart from the body. By contrast, Semitic contemporaries, including the Israelites, believed that the body and soul were inseparable, which for them made cremation unthinkable, as noted in the Bible.

Circumstantial evidence, archaeologists said, indicated that the people at Sam’al, the ancient city, practiced cremation. The site is known today as Zincirli (pronounced ZIN-jeer-lee).

Other scholars said the find could lead to important insights into the dynamics of cultural contact and exchange in the borderlands of antiquity where Indo-European and Semitic people interacted in the Iron Age.

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