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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday December 6 2008 - (813)

Saturday December 6 2008 edition
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533,000 U.S. Workers Laid Off In November - The Most In More Than 30 Years
2008-12-05 15:33:52
The bottom fell out of the job market last month, with businesses laying off a staggering 533,000 workers - many more than even gloomy economists predicted. It was the worst one-month decline in more than 30 years, the government reported Friday.

And the bad news didn't stop there. The Labor Department also revised upward its previous estimates of jobs losses in the last two months to 403,000 in September and 320,000 in October.

Altogether, the economy has bled more than 1.2 million jobs in the last three months alone, and nearly 2 million since the start of the year. Normally, the economy has to create 100,000 jobs a month, or about 1.2 million a year, just to keep pace with population growth.

"This was much worse than was expected and represents wholesale capitulation," said Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland. "The threat of a widespread depression is now real and present."

The unemployment rate also rose in November, although not as dramatically - from 6.5% to 6.7%. Economists say that's because the Labor Department doesn't count "discouraged" workers, only those who are actively applying for new jobs.

Jared Bernstein, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute, said that when discouraged workers are added into the rate, along with people involuntarily working part-time, the unemployment rate rises to 12.5%.
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DOH! Iraq War Longer, More Costly Than Expected, Says Bush
2008-12-05 15:33:15
President Bush said Fiday that the fight in Iraq has been longer and more costly than expected, but he defended the U.S.-led invasion, saying the world could not risk leaving Saddam Hussein's power unchecked.

In a speech he was delivering later Friday, Bush defended his Middle East policies, claimed some progress and outlined his view of what President-elect Barack Obama will inherit there. Bush said state-sponsored terrorism continues to destabilize the region, people still live under oppression, political and economic reforms are advancing "in fits and starts," and Iran's uranium enrichment remains a threat to peace.

The president said that while it's true that Iraq's Saddam Hussein was not connected to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the decision to oust him cannot be viewed in isolation.

"In a world where terrorists armed with boxcutters had just killed nearly 3,000 people, America had to decide whether we could tolerate a sworn enemy that acted belligerently, that supported terror and that intelligence agencies around the world believed had weapons of mass destruction," Bush said, referring to intelligence reports that later proved false.

"It was clear to me, to members of both political parties, and to many leaders around the world that after Sept. 11, this was a risk we could not afford to take," the president said about the Iraq war, which has claimed the lives of more than 4,200 U.S. military personnel.

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O.J. Simpson Sentenced To 16 Years In Prison
2008-12-05 15:32:47
Despite a tearful plea for leniency from O.J. Simpson, a Las Vegas judge today sentenced him to 16 years in prison for the kidnapping and robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers.

Simpson would be eligible for parole in nine years under the sentence handed down by Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass.

Before he was sentenced, Simpson apologized to Glass for his conduct.

"In no way did I mean to hurt anybody, to steal anything from anybody," the former NFL star said. "I just wanted my personal things."

Earlier, Glass rejected a request by his lawyers to free him pending appeals. Glass also sentenced co-defendant Clarence Stewart to 15 years in prison; he is eligible for parole after 7 1/2 years.
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Strategic Command Chief Urges Swift Nuclear Weapons Modernization
2008-12-05 02:20:21

The leader of the U.S. Strategic Command said Thursday that "time is not on our side" to modernize the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile, particularly as China and Russia upgrade their nuclear warheads and delivery systems.

"The path of inaction is a path leading toward nuclear disarmament. ... The time to act is now," Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton told an audience of government, military and civilian arms experts attending the Nuclear Deterrence Summit in Washington.

Rep. Ellen O. tauscher (D-California), chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic weapons, told the same audience that the nation's nuclear modernization program was in a "holding pattern" until the Obama  administration could review studies that are to be completed next year.

Chilton said he was concerned that Congress had effectively killed the Bush administration's Reliable Replacement Warhead program, which is designed to provide a modern, safer warhead with no new capabilities before the end of this decade. Expressing concern that the nation's Cold War stockpile is aging, Chilton said that "a reliable [nuclear] inventory supports nonproliferation goals."

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Colombia Reels After Investment Scandal Shakes Economy
2008-12-05 02:19:58
The pied piper was a gangly, long-haired entrepreneur whose remarkable success story seemed to augur well for those who invested in his get-rich scheme. David Murcia, 28, had gone from being a traveling salesman making $130 a month to living in a luxury high-rise, driving a Ferrari and forging ties with government officials.

Investigators now say Murcia ran a secretive, hydra-headed enterprise - part pyramid scheme, part money-laundering business - that provided investors with returns of up to 300 percent in just a few months. His company, DMG Group Holdings, along with 250 other pyramid schemes nationwide, attracted hundreds of thousands of working-class people starry-eyed with promises of an easy payday.

DMG and the others - including the now-infamous DRFE, whose initials stood for "Fast Money, Easy Cash" - soon collapsed, and Murcia and his associates are in jail. The attorney general's office said that perhaps as many as 4 million people in a country of 44 million lost money, an estimated $1 billion in four hard-hit southern states alone.

The ensuing scandal has riveted this country, shaken the economy and damaged the so-called Teflon president - Alvaro Uribe - like nothing before. A weekend poll on Uribe's governance showed that 77 percent of Colombians surveyed in the country's south believe that things are going badly, and support for his reelection bid is wavering.

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Veterans' Long-Term Problems Linked To Traumatic Brain Injury
2008-12-05 02:19:09
Traumatic brain injuries, one of the signature injuries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, can be linked to such long-term problems as seizures, aggression and dementia reminiscent of Alzheimer's disease, according to an Institute of Medicine report released Thursday.

Even mild brain injuries, the report found, appear associated with some long-term problems.

The report is a wake-up call, said Dr. Michael Yochelson, who specializes in traumatic brain injury at National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington and used to work at the National Naval Medical Center.

"We need to be prepared to take care of these people, and we need to be observant," said Yochelson, who was not involved in the institute's report.

A recent Rand Corp. report on which Yochelson worked estimated that 300,000 troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan - 19% - had suffered traumatic brain injuries. Such injuries have cost the nation $554 million in treatment and lost productivity, that report estimated.

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1 In 10 Americans Behind On Mortgage Payments Or In Foreclosure
2008-12-05 15:33:38
A record one in 10 American homeowners with a mortgage were either at least a month behind on their payments or in foreclosure at the end of September as the source of housing market pressure shifted to the crumbling U.S. economy.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said Friday the percentage of loans at least a month overdue or in foreclosure was up from 9.2 percent in the April-June quarter, and up from 7.3 percent a year earlier.

Distress in the home loan market started about two years ago as increasing numbers of adjustable-rate loans reset to higher interest rates. But the latest wave of delinquencies is coming from the surge in unemployment.

Employers slashed 533,000 jobs in November, the most in 34 years, catapulting the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent, the Labor Department said Friday.

"Now it's a case of job losses hitting more across the board," Jay Brinkmann, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

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Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II, 79, Dies In Moscow
2008-12-05 15:33:00
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II, the iconic religious leader who restored the church from a post-Soviet shell to an institution of privilege and power, died at his Moscow home today. He was 79.

The imposing, white-bearded Alexei had reigned in the Russian Orthodox Church's top seat for the last 18 years, an era that witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rebirth of Russia as a powerful, centralized state under the steely leadership of Prime Minister and former President Vladimir Putin.

Alexei was celebrated for healing a painful rift with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, a splinter faction established by White Guard Russians who fled the Soviet Union for the West. The Russian patriarch signed a pact with Metropolitan Laurus in 2007, putting an end to the bitter, 80-year schism.

Alexei had been a fervent supporter of Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, whose public observance of Orthodox rites helped restore the church's image in Russian popular culture. Under the dual reigns of Putin and Alexei, Russia moved back toward its former imperial system of a powerful, centralized authority supported by - and supporting - a national church.

"Not only was he a prominent figure in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, but also a great statesman," Putin said Friday. "He did a great deal to help establish a new governance system in Russia."

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Automakers Take Plea For Bailout To House Committee
2008-12-05 15:32:30

U.S. auto executives seeking billions of dollars in federal aid ran into further skepticism - and fresh proposals - on Capitol Hill Friday, as members of a House committee considered the automakers' plans for surviving the nation's economic crisis and returning to profitability.

Appearing for a second consecutive day of hearings, executives of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler went before the House Financial Services Committee to make their case for at least $34 billion - and possibly as much as $38 billion - in government bridge loans and lines of credit to avert one or more bankruptcies that could further devastate the economy. Yesterday, the executives testified before the Senate Banking Committee. 

House committee members reluctant to approve a large infusion of taxpayer money floated alternatives Friday, including a much smaller emergency transitional amount or a "protected restructuring" under government auspices.

At the White House, meanwhile, President Bush said Friday he was concerned about the financial health of automakers and warned that some "may not survive" without massive reorganization.

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At Least 18 Killed In Fallouja, Mosul Blasts, Including 2 U.S. Soldiers
2008-12-05 02:20:11
Explosions tore through two police stations Thursday in the western Iraqi city of Fallouja, leaving at least 16 people dead, and a blast in a northern city killed two U.S. soldiers in the latest reminders of this country's fragile security situation.

The attacks came on the heels of other large blasts this week that targeted Iraqi and U.S. security forces and left dozens of people dead.

With U.S. combat troops scheduled to begin pulling out of Iraqi cities and towns early next year, the bombings were an ominous sign of what Iraqi security forces may face on their own after the drawdown.

Iraq's three-member Presidency Council on Thursday formally ratified a Status of Forces Agreement that mandates the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from population centers by June 30 and from the country by the end of 2011. Iraq's parliament approved the pact Nov. 27. Ratification by Iraq's president and two vice presidents was necessary for it to take effect Jan. 1, after the United Nations mandate governing the U.S. troop presence expires.

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Israeli Riot Police Evict Settlers In Hebron
2008-12-05 02:19:41

Riot police forcibly evacuated a house filled with dozens of Jewish settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron Thursday in the most public showdown between the government and the increasingly violent settler movement for more than two years.

Hundreds of police mounted a surprise raid on the three-story house, which had become the latest symbol of defiance for Israeli settlers. Troops fired teargas into the crowds and dragged settlers from the house one by one. Around 30 people were injured, including one policeman who had acid thrown in his eyes.

Although the house was emptied within an hour, the operation triggered broad settler protests across the occupied West Bank and in Jerusalem that continued into the night. In Hebron, masked settlers set Palestinian trees ablaze and attacked buildings. The Israeli military declared the southern West Bank a closed military zone, setting up roadblocks to prevent more settlers descending on the city.

The building, dubbed the House of Peace by the settlers and the House of Contention by the Israeli press, was home to 15 settler families, but their numbers had swelled as supporters poured in. Earlier this week there were riots between the settlers and Palestinians which left several people hurt on both sides. Settlers daubed a black Star of David on several graves in a nearby Palestinian cemetery as well as the word "revenge" on a Palestinian house.

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