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Monday, December 08, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday December 8 2008 - (813)

Monday December 8 2008 edition
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Debt-Ridden Tribune Co. Considers Bankruptcy
2008-12-08 03:46:38

Media giant Tribune Co., saddled with billions in debt since it became a privately held company last year, has hired bankruptcy advisers, according to its flagship newspaper, the Chicago Tribune.

The Chicago-based company owns a coast-to-coast empire with television stations and newspapers in most of the nation's largest cities. Its holdings include the Los Angeles Times; cable television super-station WGN in Chicago; the Baltimore Sun; and WDCW-50 in Washington, D.C., the CW affiliate. The company even owns the Chicago Cubs.

Tribune assumed some $13 billion in debt when real estate mogul Sam Zell engineered an employee-owned transition to private ownership one year ago this month. Hopes were high among employees that the company could be re-engineered to be a news company of the 21st century.

Sharply dropping advertising revenue, a decline that has hit almost all of the nation's newspapers in recent years, has put the company in danger of being unable to meet its debt covenants and may force it to seek the shelter of bankruptcy reorganization, according to a source close to the company who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Tribune is privately held.

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Pakistan Militant Group Builds Web Of Western Recruits
2008-12-08 03:46:15
The Pakistani extremist group suspected in the Mumbai rampage remains a distant shadow for most Americans, but the threat is much nearer than it seems.

For years, Lashkar-e-Taiba has actively recruited Westerners, especially Britons and Americans, serving as a kind of farm team for Islamic militants who have gone on to execute attacks for al-Qaeda, a close ally. The Pakistani network makes its training camps accessible to English speakers, providing crucial skills to an increasingly young and Western-born generation of extremists.

Briton Aabid Khan was one of them. When British police arrested him at Manchester International Airport on his return from Pakistan in June 2006, they found a trove of terrorist propaganda and manuals on his laptop that the trial judge later described as "amongst the largest and most extensive ever discovered." The haul included maps and videos of potential targets in New York City and Washington, D.C.

One video, shot deep in Pakistani extremist turf, shows the then-21-year-old Khan with a grinning young man who says he's from Los Angeles - a mysterious figure in a case that apparently illustrates Lashkar's dangerous reach.

In August, a court here sentenced Khan to 12 years in prison on charges of possession of articles for use in an act of terrorism and making records useful for terrorism.

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Global Warming: Point Of No Return For The Arctic?
2008-12-07 17:42:17
Temperatures in the Arctic are rising much faster than elsewhere in the world. Researchers now say it may be the result of a dramatic shift in global climate patters. If they are right, ice at the North Pole by soon a thing of the past.

For years, scientists have been watching the Arctic Ocean with a mounting sense of unease. Sea ice on the very northern tip of our planet is melting - and it has been doing so much more quickly than expected.

By September 2007, in fact, the area in the Arctic covered by sea ice was only half as big as Europe, a 40 percent reduction from the mid-1990s, as calculated by the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the US. Glaciers on Greenland are likewise disappearing at an alarming rate. And the Arctic Ocean itself has been warming up since 1995, a trend that has only accelerated since the beginning of this decade. In the summer of 2007, water temperatures in the Bering Sea between Alaska and eastern Siberia were 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average - warmer than ever before.

So much for the data. The question has long been: why is the Arctic heating up so fast? Climate models project what ought to be a much slower rise in temperature for the Arctic region. An increase in greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting warming of the Earth's atmosphere is not enough to explain the phenomenon.
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Berlin Left Out In The Cold? Brown's Summit To Meet Without Merkel
2008-12-07 17:41:49
On Monday British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and European Union Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso are meeting for talks on the economic crisis. Not on the guest list - German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

European political and business leaders are to meet on Monday to discuss ways to revive the continent's flagging economy, but the leader of the biggest European economy won't be there.

Germany has come in for fierce criticism in some European capitals for its reluctance to adopt more aggressive measures to deal with the looming economic crisis. Now three of the biggest advocates of Europe-wide anti-recession measures are to hold crisis talks in London with European business leaders and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is not invited.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is hosting the Global Europe Summit and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who unveiled an ambitious stimulus package for his country on Thursday, and European Union Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso are at the top of the guest list.

The economic pow-wow comes just days ahead of an important E.U. summit in Brussels, Belgium, on Dec. 11 and 12 when the 27 member states will study European Commission proposals to give the sagging economy a boost with a €200 billion ($252 billion) spending plan.

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Obama Taps Gen. Shinseki To Head Veterans Affairs Dept.
2008-12-07 17:41:09

President-elect Barack introduced retired Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki as his nominee to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, bringing to his Cabinet a career military officer best known for running afoul of the Bush administration by questioning the Pentagon's Iraq war strategy.

Shinseki, a four-star general and 38-year veteran who retired shortly after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, appeared with Obama in Chicago at a news conference today commemorating the 67th anniversary of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor. Obama said Shinseki agreed to join the incoming administration because "both he and I share a reverence for those who serve."

"When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served - higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance-abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate - it breaks my heart, and I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home," Obama told NBC News' Tom Brokaw in a interview taped for broadcast today on "Meet the Press."

Shinseki was Army chief of staff when, during the run-up to the Iraq war, he publicly disputed the Bush administration's determination to invade with a relatively small force. To maintain the postwar peace in Iraq, Shinseki told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2003, "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" could be necessary. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld reacted by telling reporters that the estimate "will prove to be high," and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz called it "way off the mark."

When Shinseki retired that summer, neither Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz attended his farewell ceremony.

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Dozens Of NATO Supply Trucks Torched In Pakistan
2008-12-07 17:40:36
Suspected militants attacked a Pakistan transport terminal used to supply NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, killing a guard and burning 106 vehicles on Sunday.

The assault was the boldest yet on trucks carrying critical supplies to foreign troops in Afghanistan, feeding concern that Taliban militants could cut or seriously disrupt the route through the famed Khyber Pass.

Up to 75 percent of the supplies for Western forces in the landlocked country pass through Pakistan after being unloaded from ships at the Arabian sea port of Karachi.

About 30 assailants armed with guns and rockets attacked the Portward Logistic Terminal near the city of Peshawar before dawn Sunday, said police official Kashif Alam.

A guard at the terminal was killed in the attack and fire swept through the parked vehicles. Alam said 62 vehicles were destroyed.

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Millions Of Muslims Gather For Hajj
2008-12-07 17:39:34
Nearly 3 million pilgrims chanting prayers converged Saturday in a valley just outside the holy city of Mecca at the beginning of the 5-day hajj pilgrimage, a lifelong dream for many Muslims.

The pilgrims from about 100 countries left Mecca after completing the first ritual of the hajj by circling the sacred Kaaba stone structure seven times inside the Grand Mosque, which Muslims all over the world face during their five daily prayers.

Dressed in white robes, pilgrims piled into and on top of buses on their way to a ritual of prayer and reflection in Mina, 3 miles east of Mecca.

The journey caused massive traffic jams on roads to Mina, where pilgrims will spend the night in white, fireproof tents. Some pilgrims chose to walk the route.

The hajj, packed with symbolism and ritual, is one of the five pillars of Islam. Every able-bodied Muslim who can financially afford to must perform it at least once in his or her lifetime.

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Pakistan's Spies Aided Group Tied To Mumbai Seige
2008-12-08 03:46:29
Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based militant group suspected of conducting the Mumbai attacks, has quietly gained strength in recent years with the help of Pakistan’s main spy service, assistance that has allowed the group to train and raise money while other militants have been under siege, American intelligence and counterterrorism officials say.

American officials say there is no hard evidence to link the spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI,or ISI, to the Mumbai attacks; but the ISI has shared intelligence with Lashkar and provided protection for it, said the officials, and investigators are focusing on one Lashkar leader they believe is a main liaison with the spy service and a mastermind of the attacks.

As a result of the assault on Mumbai, India’s financial hub, American counterterrorism and military officials say they are reassessing their view of Lashkar and believe it to be more capable and a greater threat than they had previously recognized.

“People are having to go back and re-look at all the connections,” said one American counterterrorism official, who was among several officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still progressing.

Pakistani officials have denied any government connection to the siege on Nov. 26-29, in which nine gunmen and 163 other people were killed. A Pakistani official confirmed on Sunday that security forces had initiated an operation against at least one Lashkar camp.

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That Sinking Feeling - Global Economic Crisis Hits Shipping Industry Hard
2008-12-07 17:42:27
Shipping benefits from globalization almost more than any other sector, but this has also made it more vulnerable to the global economic crisis. Freight and and charter rates have plunged, jobs at shipping companies are being cut and many ships are being parked for months at a time.

The anxiety began in the summer, when the long lines disappeared: the kilometer-long lines of trucks waiting to get into the container terminals outside Los Angeles, California, one of the most critical bottlenecks of globalization in recent years, or the long queues container ships jostling for spots at the entrance to Hong Kong harbor, often waiting for days for a berth.

Instead, what is backed up today is the once hotly sought-after merchandise, as electronic goods and textiles pile up in Chinese factories, now that consumption has declined, first among Americans and now in Europe. Iron ore and other minerals are piling up in South American mines, because the Chinese no longer need as much of the natural resources to produce goods.

Many ships are now sailing half-empty, if they are sailing at all. In fact, shipping companies are pulling more and more ships out of circulation, due to a lack of demand, and placing them at anchor indefinitely. Experts estimate that one-fourth of all ships used to transport raw materials in the Pacific are now idle.
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Native Hunters: Climate Is Thinning Caribou Herds
2008-12-07 17:42:07
Chief Bill Erasmus of the Dene nation in northern Canada brought a stark warning about the climate crisis: The once abundant herds of caribou are dwindling, rivers are running lower and the ice is too thin to hunt on.

Erasmus raised his concerns in recent days on the sidelines of a U.N. climate conference, seeking to ensure that North America's indigenous peoples are not left out in the cold when it comes to any global warming negotiations.

Erasmus, the 54-year-old elected leader of 30,000 native Americans in Canada, and representatives of other indigenous peoples met with the U.N.'s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, and have lobbied national delegations to recognize them as an "expert group" that can participate in the talks like other non-government organizations.

"We bring our traditional knowledge to the table that other people don't have," he said.

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Tangible Sound: A Table Of Light, Playing Music Of The Future
2008-12-07 17:41:33
Scientists in Barcelona, Spain, have created a new musical instrument that will produce remarkable sounds, even for an untrained novice. But the "Reactable" is more than a digitial synthesizer. It might also point to a new way to use computers.

Rarely have men been seen playing with blocks with such devout intensity. Four stand around a circular table, placing colorful disks and cubes onto the surface, occasionally moving, rotating or plucking them off again.

Each of these seemingly minor changes produces an effect - noise ranging from gurgles, taps or booming to a loud drumbeat. When the objects on the table are moved a new and unexpected sound results. Suddenly there's a buzzing, followed by a heavy stomping bass. The sky-blue glow of the tabletop reflects in the faces of these peculiar musicians.

The audience might be witnessing an advanced form of witchcraft. But they're hearing a musical instrument unlike anything they have ever heard or seen.
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Sen. Dodd Calls For GM Chairman Wagoner To Resign
2008-12-07 17:40:52

One of the chief architects of a plan to bail out the Detroit auto companies said Sunday that General Motors Chairman G. Richard Wagoner should be forced to give up his post as a condition of receiving emergency loans from the federal government.

"I think you have got to consider new leadership. If you're going to really restructure this, you have got to bring in a new team to do this, in my view," Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (D-Connecticut) said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Asked specifically about Wagoner, Dodd said: "I think he has to move on."

Dodd's comments came as aides from his committee continued to meet with staffers from the House Financial Services Committee in an attempt to work out a proposal to speed at least $15 billion to the teetering car companies. Democrats hope to send a counterproposal later today to the White House.

The Bush administration is calling for a car czar within the Commerce Department who would be empowered to force the automakers to restructure or force them into bankruptcy. Democrats want to give the companies the money first, permitting them to survive through the end of March, and name an administrator later, "during the next 60 to 90 days," Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) said on Fox News Sunday.

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NBC's David Gregory To Moderate "Meet The Press"
2008-12-07 17:40:25

Barack Obama made news on "Meet the Press" this morning, but the NBC program made some news as well in the final moments.

Tom Brokaw, the interim moderator, confirmed what had already leaked out in recent days: the new host of the 60-year-old program will be David Gregory.

The network's senior White House correspondent, now host of MSNBC's "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue," had been considered the front-runner for the post, which became vacant when longtime moderator Tim Russert died in June, but NBC executives were still negotiating the final terms of the deal this past week.

Gregory will take the helm of the top-rated Sunday talk show, but his rivals at ABC's "This Week," CBS's "Face the Nation," CNN's "Late Edition" and "Fox News Sunday" all see an opportunity to move up now that Brokaw, the veteran NBC anchor, is relinquishing the reins.

On the broadcast this morning, Gregory called the appointment "an incredible honor," adding: "I'm not Tim. But along with this team, I can just work real hard to make him proud." He said Russert had taught him that one of the secrets of the job is "it's all about preparation."

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Tensions Continue To Build Between India, Pakistan
2008-12-07 17:39:21
India's foreign minister accused Pakistan on Sunday of trying to deflect attention from the role of its citizens in last month's terror attack in Mumbai by leaking word of a hoax phone call to the Pakistani president's office that forced its air force to go on high alert.

The episode underscored the high level of tension that remains between the two nuclear-armed nations nearly two weeks after the attack, as India continues to charge that a Pakistani terror group with past ties to the government was responsible and Pakistan insists that it was not involved.

During the call, which came on Nov. 28 as the attack was still unfolding, the caller allegedly identified himself as Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee and threatened that India would mount military action unless Pakistan took action against the attackers. Pakistani information minister Sherry Rehman said in a statement that the call came from "a verified official phone number of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs." The call prompted President Asif Ali Zardari to put the air force on high alert.

News of the call was first reported in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn over the weekend, and was subsequently picked up by other Pakistani media. On Sunday, Mukherjee released a statement saying he had first learned of the call from "third countries," and that the call was a hoax.

"We immediately clarified to those friends, and we also made it clear to the Pakistan authorities, that I had made no such telephone call," said Mukherjee. He added that it is "worrying that a neighboring state might even consider acting on the basis of such a hoax call, try to give it credibility with other states, and confuse the public by releasing the story in part."

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