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Friday, December 12, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday December 12 2008 - (813)

Friday December 12 2008 edition
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U.S. Senate Negotiations On Automakers' Bailout Collapse
2008-12-12 03:21:24

An eleventh-hour effort to salvage a proposed $14 billion rescue plan for the auto industry collapsed late Thursday night as Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on the timing of deep wage cuts for union workers, killing the legislative plan and threatening America's car makers with bankruptcy.

"We're not going to get to the finish line. That's just the way it is. There's too much difference between the two sides," Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nevada)announced after 10 p.m., concluding a marathon negotiating session that ended in gridlock. Reid warned that financial markets could plummet when trading opens Friday morning.

"I dread looking at Wall Street tomorrow. It's not going to be a pleasant sight," he said.

The legislation would have provided emergency loans to General Motors and Chrysler, which have said they face imminent collapse without federal help. The high-stakes talks broke down over when the wages of union workers would be slashed to the same level as those paid to nonunion workers at U.S. plants of foreign automakers such as Toyota and Honda.

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Russians See Savings Vanish
2008-12-12 03:20:57
Anatoly Sisoyev always considered himself a patriot. As a child, he lost his father to an accident in the Soviet space program. As an adult, he served 30 years in the military, retiring at the rank of major. His son followed him into the army and was killed in Chechnya at the age of 18.

Through it all, he said, his faith in the Russian government never waned.

So when he heard radio ads two years ago encouraging citizens to invest in the initial public offerings of state-owned companies, Sisoyev lined up to buy shares, first in the oil-and-gas giant Rosneft and a year later in the nation's second-largest bank, VTB.

Sisoyev had suffered in Russia's rocky transition to capitalism, but the "people's IPOs," as they were billed by the Kremlin, seemed different. Then-President Vladimir Putin endorsed the stock offerings, presenting them as a chance for ordinary Russians - and not just the wealthy - to own a piece of the booming economy.

Now, as Russia confronts its worst economic crisis in a decade, the value of Sisoyev's shares has plummeted, wiping out most of his life savings. At 65, he is working as a part-time security guard because food prices are climbing faster than his meager pension. In a recent interview, he buried his face in his hands and fought back tears as he explained how he is trying to treat his sick wife by reading old medical textbooks because he can't afford a good doctor.

"I believed in the state, especially under Putin, so I bought shares," said Sisoyev, a soft-spoken man with white hair and a soldier's posture. "Now I don't believe in anything."

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1950s Pinup Model Bettie Page Dies At 85
2008-12-12 03:20:27
Bettie Page, the 1950s secretary-turned-model whose controversial photographs in skimpy attire or none at all helped set the stage for the 1960s sexual revolution, died Thursday. She was 85.

Page was placed on life support last week after suffering a heart attack in Los Angeles and never regained consciousness, said her agent, Mark Roesler. He said he and Page's family agreed to remove life support. Before the heart attack, Page had been hospitalized for three weeks with pneumonia.

"She captured the imagination of a generation of men and women with her free spirit and unabashed sensuality," said  Roesler. "She is the embodiment of beauty."

Page, who was also known as Betty, attracted national attention with magazine photographs of her sensuous figure in bikinis and see-through lingerie that were quickly tacked up on walls in military barracks, garages and elsewhere, where they remained for years.

Her photos included a centerfold in the January 1955 issue of then-fledgling Playboy magazine, as well as controversial sadomasochistic poses.

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Bipartisan Senate Report Blames Rumsfeld, Top Officials For Interrogation Abuses
2008-12-11 16:51:53
A bipartisan Senate report released Thursday says that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials are directly responsible for abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and charges that decisions by those officials led to serious offenses against prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere.

The Senate Armed Services Committee report accuses Rumsfeld and his deputies of being the principal architects of the plan to use harsh interrogation techniques on captured fighters and terrorism suspects, rejecting the Bush administration's contention that the policies originated lower down the command chain.

"The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own," the panel concluded. "The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees."

The report, released by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and John McCain (R-Arizona) and based on a nearly two-year investigation, said that both the policies and resulting controversies tarnished the reputation of the United States and undermined national security. "Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority," it said.

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Auto Bailout Skidding Into Ditch In U.S. Senate
2008-12-11 16:51:32
The $14-billion auto industry bailout plan appeared to be skidding into a ditch Thursday as Republican opposition solidified in the Senate and the Bush administration appeared to lack the clout to change enough minds to avoid defeat on a procedural vote expected Friday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who has 50,000 jobs in his state related to the U.S. auto industry and was viewed as a potential supporter who could bring along more Republicans, said Thursday he would not support the bill negotiated by the White House and congressional Democratic leaders.

That bill, which passed the House on Wednesday night, would provide emergency loans to General Motors and Chrysler and try to force them to restructure under a new "car czar" appointed by the president. McConnell and most Senate Republicans believe the czar would not have enough power to force the dramatic changes needed to make the companies financially viable.

"We simply cannot ask the American taxpayer to subsidize failure," said McConnell.

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Suicide Bomber Kills At Least 50 At Iraq Restaurant
2008-12-11 16:51:00
A suicide bomber killed at least 50 people Thursday and injured scores when he detonated his explosives inside a restaurant filled with diners enjoying a holiday meal, said Iraqi police.

The bombing, representing the worst loss of life from a single attack in Iraq in months, occurred at the Abdullah restaurant a few miles north of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq. The oil-rich city is at the crossroads of conflict involving Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens, all of whom are vying for power in Kirkuk. Kurds want to make Kirkuk part of the self-governing Kurdistan region; Arabs and other ethnic groups oppose the idea, saying it would lead to their being driven out of the city.

A referendum on Kirkuk's autonomy was to have been held last year but has been delayed indefinitely.

Iraqi and U.S. security officials said the attacker struck about 2 p.m., the height of the lunch hour. The restaurant lies on the road between Kirkuk, about 150 miles north of Baghdad, and Irbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region.

The restaurant is a popular gathering spot for local officials, and initial reports indicated that a meeting was taking place there of Arab tribesmen and Kurdish leaders trying to iron out some of their differences.

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Cleaning Firm Used Illegal Workers At Chertoff's Home
2008-12-11 16:50:18

Every few weeks for nearly four years, the Secret Service screened the I.D.s of employees for a Maryland cleaning company before they entered the house of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the nation's top immigration official.

The company's owner says the workers sailed through the checks - although some of them turned out to be illegal immigrants.

Now, owner James D. Reid finds himself in a predicament that he considers especially confounding. In October, he was fined $22,880 after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators said he failed to check identification and work documents and fill out required I-9 verification forms for employees, five of whom he said were part of crews sent to Chertoff's home and whom ICE told him to fire because they were undocumented.

"Our people need to know," said the Montgomery County businessman. "Our Homeland Security can't police their own home. How can they police our borders?"

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Solidarity Protests Across Europe Turn Violent
2008-12-12 03:21:08
As Greece entered its sixth day of unrest sparked by the police shooting of a 15-year-old boy, violence spread to other parts of Europe on Thursday. Solidarity protests in cities including Rome, Madrid and Copenhagen turned into skirmishes between demonstrators and police.

The unrest that has gripped Greece for days has started to spill over into other European capitals, with arrests made in Rome, Copenhagen and Madrid on Wednesday night after solidarity demonstrations descended into violence.

The situation in Greece itself had calmed somewhat by mid-morning Thursday following pre-dawn violence which saw students clash with police. Youth threw stones and fire bombs at police in the early hours of the morning in the sixth day of protests since the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos ignited anger over police brutality. The events have also stoked public anger with the government - resentment that was already widespread following a series of financial scandals and unpopular reforms.

Much of the worst violence has been perpetrated by young anarchists, the so-called Black Bloc; but there is growing anger among the wider public about the inability of the government to control the situation and restore calm. On Wednesday a general strike across Greece halted flights and closed banks, schools and some hospital services.

Meanwhile, flourishes of violence spread to other parts of Europe. In Istanbul about a dozen Turkish left-wing protesters daubed red paint over the front of the Greek consulate, while the country's embassies in Rome and Moscow were attacked by fire bombers and stone throwers. In the Italian university town of Bologna, five police officers were reported injured after clashing with demonstrators outside the Greek consulate.

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Commentary: Why Merkel's Climate About-Face Is Bad For Business
2008-12-12 03:20:46
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Christian Schwagerl and appeared on the Spiegel Online website edition for Friday, December 12, 2008. Mr. Schwagerl's commentary follows:

The economy or the environment? That is the choice as German Cancellor Angela Merkel sees it - and she has chosen the former; but the dichotomy is no longer valid, and Merkel's choice is a grave mistake. These days, one can have both the economy and the environment.

Forget the polar bears. Ignore the ice melting in Greenland.

When French President Nicolas Sarkozy calls European Union leaders together in Brussels on Thursday to debate the European climate package, Chancellor Angela Merkel should be thinking about German car makers, German energy companies, and other industrial jobs in the country.

Then, to help them, she should push for strict climate protection targets.

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U.S. Markets Take A Beating As Auto Bailout Falters
2008-12-11 17:01:00

Stocks took a late-day tumble Thursday as a bailout of the auto industry appeared in limbo on Capitol Hill and investors digested more poor economic data.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 2.2 percent, or 196 points, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 2.85 percent, or 26 points. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was down 3.9 percent, or 58 points.

Weighing on the market was the future of U.S. automakers. General Motors and Chrysler have both said they need cash infusions before the end of the month to avoid collapse, but some in Congress have raised questions about the structure of any government aid to the industry.

The House passed an emergency loan package last night, but Senate Republicans are raising concerns about the measure. GM's stock fell more than 9 percent, while Ford was down 8.3 percent. Chrysler is privately held.

Meanwhile, crude oil surged back Thursday, up 10 percent to $47.98 a barrel. It comes as the International Energy Agency reports that the demand for crude oil will fall 0.2 percent this year, the first contraction in 25 years. Demand will begin to grow again in 2009, although at a slower pace, if the global economy begins to recover in the second half of the year as expected, said the report.

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Belgium, Fearing Terrorist Attack At E.U. Summit, Arrests 14 Terrorism Suspects
2008-12-11 16:51:43
In a major anti-terror sweep carried out as European leaders arrived in Brussels for a summit, Belgian police today arrested 14 suspects allegedly linked to al-Qaeda, including one believed to be on the verge of launching a suicide attack.

The arrests were made by 242 officers who carried out 16 searches in Brussels and the eastern city of Liege. French police arrested an additional suspect tied to the group, said anti-terror officials.

The raids culminated a yearlong investigation in which Belgian anti-terror police tracked militants, mainly Belgians and French of North African origin, as the suspects traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, trained with al-Qaeda and fought against Western troops, then returned to Europe, said investigators.

Authorities said they grew alarmed during the last week when surveillance showed that a Belgian suspect returned from South Asia on Dec. 4. He began making classic preparations for a suicide attack, they said, such as saying goodbye to family and discussing an apparent "martyrdom" video.

Investigators feared that an attack might target the 27 leaders of the European Union who began a two-day summit in Brussels Thursday.

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Obama Taps Nobel Physicist To Head Energy Dept.
2008-12-11 16:51:17
President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who heads the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be the next energy secretary, and he has picked veteran regulators from diverse backgrounds to fill three other key jobs on his environmental and climate-change team, Democratic sources said Wednesday.

Obama plans to name Carol M. Browner, Environmental Protection Agency administrator for eight years under President Bill Clinton, to fill a new White House post overseeing energy, environmental and climate policies, the sources said. Browner, a member of Obama's transition team, is a principal at the Albright Group.

Obama has also settled on Lisa P. Jackson, recently appointed chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D)  and former head of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, to head the EPA. Nancy Sutley, a deputy mayor of Los Angeles for energy and environment, will chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality. 

The appointments suggest that Obama plans to make a strong push for measures to combat global warming and programs to support energy innovation. "I think it's a great team," said Daniel A. Lashof, director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Cuncil. "On policy, it's a dramatic contrast based on what I know about the policy direction that all these folks will be bringing to these positions."

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New Unemployment Claims Sharply Increase
2008-12-11 16:50:38
New claims for jobless benefits in the U.S. rose more than expected last week, exceeding even gloomy expectations for an economy stuck in a recession that seems to be deepening.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial applications for jobless benefits in the week ending Dec. 6 rose to a seasonally adjusted 573,000 from an upwardly revised figure of 515,000 in the previous week. That was far more than the 525,000 claims Wall Street economists expected.

In a fresh example of the layoffs, tool maker Stanley Works said Thursday it plans to cut 2,000 jobs, or about 10 percent of its work force, and close three manufacturing facilities. The New Britain, Connecticut-based company cited weakness in its construction and industrial segments and the effect of a stronger dollar for the reductions.

New jobless claims last week reached their highest level since November 1982, though the labor force has grown by about half since then.

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