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Friday, December 26, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday December 26 2008 - (813)

Friday December 26 2008 edition
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Analysis: Bush A Catalyst In America's Declining Influence
2008-12-25 16:46:31
The president oversaw a period of eroding economic and political power, in which the rise of China, India and others was a major factor, assisted by Bush and his policies.

As President Bush's term comes to a close, the United States has the world's largest economy and its most powerful military. Yet its global influence is in decline.

The United States emerged from the Cold War a solitary superpower whose political and economic leverage often enabled it to impose its will on others. Now, America usually needs to build alliances - and often finds that other powers aren't willing to go along.

In the 1990s, America exerted leadership in all the remote corners of the globe, from the southern cone of South America to Central Asia. Now, the United States has largely left the field in many regions, leaving others to step forward.

Bush has been blamed widely for the erosion of American prestige. And the decline in U.S. influence is partly the result of the reaction to his invasion of Iraq, his campaign against Islamic militants and his early disdain for treaties and international bodies.

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Millions Of Older Americans Use Risky Drug Combinations
2008-12-25 16:46:02
At least 2 million older Americans are taking a combination of drugs or supplements that can be a risky mix - from blood thinners and cholesterol pills to aspirin and ginkgo capsules - a new study warns.

Among older men, the numbers are particularly alarming - one in 10 are taking potentially harmful combinations, according to the study.

The results aren't always disastrous, but older people are more vulnerable to side effects and drug-to-drug interactions. And patients need to know that just because lots of medicines and supplements don't require prescriptions doesn't mean they're harmless. Nor are some of these safe to take when you're prescribed other medications.

Experts say the take-home advice is to ask about any side effects of prescription drugs, and tell your doctor before taking other medicines.

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Commentary: Shoe-Hurler Raises Up Iraq's Reputation Abroad
2008-12-25 16:45:21
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by New York Times correspondent Mohammed Hussein, reporting from the Times' bureau in Baghdad, Iraq. It appeared in the N.Y. Times edition for Thursday, December 25, 2008. Mr. Hussein's commentary follows:

When traveling outside Iraq, I would sometimes hide my nationality by refraining from speaking in an Iraqi dialect. When Arabs would find out where I was from, I would be lectured about how Iraqis are too willing to accept the presence of American troops in our country. But after an Iraqi television reporter threw his shoes at President Bush during a news conference, other Arabs seem to have raised their opinions of us.

Arabs interpret Muntader al-Zaidi’s hurling of his shoes as an act of revenge for both the Iraqis and Palestinians, who many people here feel have also been wronged by the Americans.

“The Iraqi people are courageous people,” a taxi driver in Amman, Jordan, told me a few days ago. It was strange to hear this praise after hearing years of verbal abuse from Arabs in Jordan and Syria. When my uncle was shopping in the market in Amman recently he heard a voice yell: “Are you Iraqi?” In the past this would be followed by a speech about the war and the Americans. Instead the man yelled to my uncle: “You made us proud.”

As an Iraqi journalist, I’ve had a hard time understanding why Arab people are treating us with dignity now after this type of behavior. Throwing a shoe, especially at a guest, is a deep insult in our culture.

But many other Arabs don’t feel this way. In Amman, people would stop me and ask to hear more about the shoe throwing. “We heard the good news from Iraq,” a neighbor said. My Iraqi friends living in Syria and Lebanon say they have also all been praised.

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U.S. Army: Many More Active Troops Are Needed
2008-12-25 16:44:09

The Army needs to add at least 30,000 active-duty soldiers to its ranks to fulfill its responsibilities around the world without becoming stretched dangerously thin, senior Army officials warn.

"You can't do what we've been tasked to do with the number of people we have," Undersecretary of the Army Nelson Ford said in an interview last week. "You can see a point where it's going to be very difficult to cope."

Already, the Army lacks a strategic reserve of brigades trained and ready for major combat, said officials, and units being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are receiving new soldiers at the last minute, meaning they have insufficient time to train together before crossing into the war zone.

The demand for soldiers extends beyond those countries, with the Pentagon creating new missions that require troops trained in cyber-warfare, homeland defense, intelligence-gathering and other areas, said Ford. "We have five to 10 new missions, and we are already stretched now."

The Army is currently on track to grow to 547,000 active-duty soldiers next year, up from 482,000 before the war. Ford and other Army officials say that, with rising demand for ground troops for Afghanistan and other contingencies, the increase is insufficient.

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Russia Predicts First Budget Deficit In A Decade
2008-12-25 16:43:32
Russia will run a budget deficit in 2009 for the first time in a decade as low oil prices take their toll on government revenue, a Kremlin official said Wednesday, the state RIA-Novosti news agency reported.

Arkady Dvorkovich, the president's economic adviser, said the size of the deficit was not yet clear but it would be covered by the reserve fund - money put away for a rainy day when oil prices were soaring.

The business newspaper Vedomosti reported Wednesday that next year's budget deficit could be 5 percent or more of gross domestic product. The report cited unidentified officials in the Finance Ministry and other government agencies.

The 2009 budget was based on an average oil price of $95 per barrel. A revised macroeconomic prognosis completed last week brought the expected oil price down to $50, but oil is currently trading for less than $40.

"The deficit has been caused mainly by falling oil prices and therefore it is completely logical to use the reserve fund to cover the budget deficit," Dvorkovich told reporters in the Kremlin, said the news agency.

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Bush Withdraws Fast-Track Pardon For Developer Who Defrauded Home-Buyers
2008-12-25 16:41:57
In an apparently unprecedented move, President Bush on Wednesday revoked a pardon he had issued 24 hours earlier for a politically connected real estate developer who defrauded hundreds of low- income home buyers - acknowledging that White House aides had not fully described the scope of the crimes and the context of the clemency application.

The Christmas Eve reversal came after it was discovered that the pardon of Isaac Toussie had not met Justice Department guidelines, and that Toussie's father had donated $28,500 to the Republican National Committee, prompting some of Toussie's victims to complain that he got his record cleared thanks to his political ties.

The pardon also threatened to embarrass Bush because Toussie bypassed normal procedures and took his case directly to the West Wing, hiring a former top lawyer in the White House counsel's office, Bradford Berenson, who had access to the president's most senior advisers.

It is not clear that Bush is legally allowed to revoke the pardon, according to some analysts.

The issue of presidential pardons has been especially sensitive since President Clinton granted a series of last-minute pardons for well-connected criminals - most notably fugitive financier Marc Rich, who had been indicted on tax evasion and other charges.

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Report: U.S., World Face Much More Rapid Climate Change
2008-12-25 16:46:18

The United States faces the possibility of much more rapid climate change by the end of the century than previous studies have suggested, according to a new report led by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The survey - which was commissioned by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and issued this month - expands on the 2007 findings of the United Nations Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Looking at factors such as rapid sea ice loss in the Arctic and prolonged drought in the Southwest, the new assessment suggests that earlier projections may have underestimated the climatic shifts that could take place by 2100.

However, the assessment also suggests that some other feared effects of global warming are not likely to occur by the end of the century, such as an abrupt release of methane from the seabed and permafrost or a shutdown of the Atlantic Ocean circulation system that brings warm water north and colder water south; but the report projects an amount of potential sea level rise during that period that may be greater than what other researchers have anticipated, as well as a shift to a more arid climate pattern in the Southwest by mid-century.

Thirty-two scientists from federal and non-federal institutions contributed to the report, which took nearly two years to complete. The Climate Change Science Program, which was established in 1990, coordinates the climate research of 13 different federal agencies.

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Federal Officials Bring Fewer Stock Fraud Prosecutions Than 8 Years Ago
2008-12-25 16:45:45
Federal officials are bringing far fewer prosecutions as a result of fraudulent stock schemes than they did eight years ago, according to new data, raising further questions about whether the Bush administration has been too lax in policing Wall Street.

Legal and financial experts say that a loosening of enforcement measures, cutbacks in staffing at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and a shift in resources toward terrorism at the F.B.I. have combined to make the federal government something of a paper tiger in investigating securities crimes.

At a time when the financial news is being dominated by the $50 billion Ponzi scheme that Bernard L. Madoff is accused of running, federal officials are on pace this year to bring the fewest prosecutions for securities fraud since at least 1991, according to the data, compiled by a Syracuse University research group using Justice Department figures.

There were 133 prosecutions for securities fraud in the first 11 months of this fiscal year. That is down from 437 cases in 2000 and from a high of 513 cases in 2002, when Wall Street scandals from Enron to WorldCom led to a crackdown on corporate crime, the data showed.

At the S.E.C., agency investigations that led to Justice Department prosecutions for securities fraud dropped from 69 in 2000 to just 9 in 2007, a decline of 87 percent, the data showed.

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Obama Honors Troops In Holiday Message
2008-12-25 16:44:21
President-elect Barack Obama released a sobering message for the nation on Christmas Eve, recognizing the sacrifice of the country's service men and women while calling on Americans to find inspiration in a founding father to overcome current economic struggles.

In a holiday radio address posted online Wednesday, Obama cited Gen. George Washington's improbable crossing of the icy Delaware River on Dec. 25, 1776, when Washington's troops won victories against the British that "gave new momentum to a beleaguered army and new hope to the cause of independence."

"Many ages have passed since that first American Christmas," said Obama. "We have crossed many rivers as a people. But the lessons that have carried us through are the same lessons that we celebrate every Christmas season - the same lessons that guide us to this very day: that hope endures, and that a new birth of peace is always possible."

On a day when the nation's unemployment filings reached a 26-year high, Obama turned to Washington to stoke hope in the battered American workforce.

"If the American people come together and put their shoulder to the wheel of history, then I know that we can put our people back to work and point our country in a new direction," Obama said in the weekly address, which is scheduled for radio broadcast on Saturday. "That is how we will see ourselves through this time of crisis and reach the promise of a brighter day."

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Maryland Files Claim Again Texas Firm Over Voting Machines
2008-12-25 16:43:50
Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler filed a claim against Premier Election Solutions to recover $8.5 million spent by the state to fix problems with the company's touch-screen voting machines.

The claim against Texas-based Premier, formerly Diebold, alleges that state elections officials were forced to spend millions of dollars to address a host of security flaws in the machines from 2003 through the November election.

Many of the problems could have compromised the integrity of the election had they not been fixed, said officials. Now the state wants its money back.

"The Board of Elections took the position that they should fix the system first and worry about the payments later," said Austin Schlick, the attorney general's chief of litigation. "In Maryland, we did things over and above what any other state has done" to ensure a smooth election, he said.

Maryland plans to withhold payment of approximately $3.5 million it owes Premier for preparations for the 2008 election until the matter is resolved, Schlick said.

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Man In Santa Suit Kills At Least 5 At Holiday Party
2008-12-25 16:43:08
In a bizarre Christmas Eve rampage, a 45-year-old man in a Santa Claus outfit showed up at a party in a Los Angeles, California, suburb and opened fire at a group of revelers, killing at least five people and injuring several others, including two children, the authorities said on Thursday.

The suspect, identified by witnesses as Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, later killed himself, said police.

The shooting, which may have been prompted by a marital dispute, occurred just before midnight Wednesday at a two-story home on a cul de sac in Covina, a suburban town about 22 miles east of Los Angeles.

At least three bodies were initially discovered inside the home - which went up in flames moments after the shooting -  and coroners found “several” more bodies as they sifted through the rubble at the scene on Thursday morning, according to the Associated Press.

Investigators said that about 30 people were inside the home celebrating on Christmas Eve when the costumed man knocked on the door. When a guest opened it, the man stepped inside the house, pulled out a handgun, and immediately started shooting, Lieut. Pat Buchanan of the Covina Police Department said in a telephone interview.

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Happy Holidays!
2008-12-25 01:32:38
Sincere wishes that you and yours enjoy warm, happy and ... ahem ... filling holidays!

May the New Year bring you success, happiness and peace. ... And maybe some more of that filling!
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