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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday December 20 2008 - (813)

Saturday December 20 2008 edition
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Schwarzenegger Orders Mass Layoff, Unpaid Furloughs For State Employees
2008-12-20 03:28:24
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday ordered mass layoffs and unpaid furloughs for state workers starting in February to address California's growing fiscal crisis.

Under his executive order, 238,000 employees will be forced to take off two unpaid days per month through June 30, 2010. Managers will receive either the furlough or an equivalent salary reduction during the same period.

H.D. Palmer, spokesman for Schwarzenegger's finance department, said the mandatory time off is the equivalent of about a 9% pay cut for affected workers. He said the furloughs would save the state more than $1.2 billion.

It is unclear how many people will lose their jobs. Palmer said each department will have to cut its payroll by 10% and will make its own decisions on how many workers must go.
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Complaint Filed Over Sen. Stevens Trial
2008-12-20 03:28:00
A federal employee with extensive knowledge of the investigation and corruption trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has filed a whistle-blower complaint alleging that the government intentionally withheld evidence and committed other misconduct.

Among the accusations were that the government intentionally "schemed to relocate a witness" and that an employee working on the investigation accepted artwork and employment for a relative from a cooperating source, according to a legal ruling issued late last night by the federal judge who presided over Stevens'  trial.

The allegations echo long-running complaints raised by Stevens' defense team. U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan  chastised prosecutors several times for their handling of evidence and witnesses.

Stevens, who lost a reelection bid for a seventh full term, was convicted in October of seven counts of lying on financial disclosure forms to hide more than $250,000 in gifts and home renovations to his Alaska house, most of which were funded by a defunct oil services company and its chief executive.

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U.S. Markets Mixed On Auto Industry Bailout News
2008-12-19 19:41:46

U.S. stocks ended Friday's trading session mixed, with the Down Jones industrial average lower and the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index and Nasdaq higher.

Concern about the impact of plummeting oil prices weighed down shares of Exxon Mobil and Chevron, while S&P lowered credit ratings on a dozen U.S. and European financial institutions, hurting shares of big banks such as  Citigroup. The declines were enough to reverse earlier gains for the Dow, leaving the blue-chip index lower by 0.3 percent, or 26 points.

The broader S&P 500 rose 0.3 percent, or 3 points, while the technology-heavy Nasdaq climbed 0.8 percent, or 12 points.

Stocks had gotten off to a strong start after President Bush announced $17.4 billion in emergency loans to the auto industry, saying he wanted to avoid a "disorderly" collapse that could cause further harm to the economy.

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The 'Most Famous Anonymous Source In American History', Mark Felt, Dies At 95
2008-12-19 19:41:21

W. Mark Felt, Sr., 95, associate director of the FBI during the Watergate scandal who, better known as "Deep Throat," became the most famous anonymous source in American history, died Dec. 18 at his home in Santa Rosa, California, where he was under hospice care, said his daughter Joan Felt.

As the second-highest official in the FBI under longtime director J. Edgar Hoover and interim director L. Patrick Gray, Felt detested the Nixon administration's attempt to subvert the bureau's investigation into the complex of crimes and cover-ups known as the Watergate scandal that ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.

He secretly guided Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward as he and his colleague Carl Bernstein pursued the story of the 1972 break-in of the Democratic National Committee's headquarters at the Watergate office buildings and later revelations of the Nixon administration's campaign of spying and sabotage against its perceived political enemies.

Felt insisted on remaining completely anonymous, or on "deep background." A Post editor dubbed him "Deep Throat," a bit of wordplay based on the title of a pornographic movie of the time. The source's existence, but not his identity, became known in Woodward and Bernstein's 1974 book, "All the President's Men," and in the subsequent movie version, in which actor Hal Holbrook played the charismatic but shadowy source.

Felt, a dashing figure with a full head of silver hair, an authoritative bearing and a reputation as a tough taskmaster, adamantly denied over the years he was Deep Throat, even though Nixon suspected him from the start.

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Alaska Checking E-Mail Slurs About Obama
2008-12-19 19:40:49
Alaska officials are investigating e-mail messages that included racist jokes about President-elect Barack Obama and were circulated on state government accounts by state employees.

Officials say that the messages apparently originated in a private account but that about 10 state employees appear to have “taken action” on them, like forwarding them to others.

Bill McAllister, a spokesman for Gov. Sarah Palin, said Thursday that none of the 10 employees worked in the governor’s office and that to his knowledge no one in the office had received any of the messages, which, he said, Palin condemns.

“They violate state policy - at least that’s the prima facie view of things,” McAllister said in a telephone interview. “They’re not state business, and obviously they are offensive, and clearly she doesn’t support that. And she does not support racism, and she does not support attacks on the president-elect.”

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California Attorney General Asks State Supreme Court To Strike Down Gay Marriage Ban
2008-12-20 03:28:13
California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown asked the state Supreme Court Friday to invalidate the voter-approved ban on gay marriage, declaring that "the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification."

Brown's argument on Proposition 8, contained in an 111-page brief filed at the last possible moment before the court's deadline, surprised many legal experts. The attorney general has a legal duty to uphold the state's laws as long as there are reasonable grounds to do so. Last month, Brown said he planned to "defend the proposition as enacted by the people of California."

In his filing, Brown, who personally supports same-sex marriage, offered a novel legal theory to back his argument that the measure should be invalidated.

The California Constitution protects certain rights as "inalienable," Brown wrote. Those include a right to liberty and to privacy, which the courts have said includes a person's right to marry.

The issue before the court "presents a conflict between the constitutional power of the voters to amend the Constitution, on the one hand, and the Constitution's Declaration of Rights, on the other," Brown wrote.
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Bush Plans Emergency Loans For Automakers
2008-12-19 19:41:59

The troubled U.S. auto industry will receive emergency loans of up to $17.4 billion from the federal government in return for an extensive restructuring of its outstanding debt and labor costs over the coming year, President Bush said Friday.

He said the move was necessary to avoid a "disorderly" collapse of an industry that directly or indirectly supports hundreds of thousands of jobs. The federal loans will give the companies "a brief window" to restructure "outside of bankruptcy" and prove they are financially viable, he said.

If that is not done by March 31, Bush said, the federal government will call its loans and let individual companies declare bankruptcy or fail.

The deadline and other restrictions attached to the loans "send a clear signal to everyone involved," said Bush. "The time to make the hard decisions to become viable is now - or the only option will be bankruptcy."

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Pentagon Drawing Up Plans To Close Guantanamo Prison
2008-12-19 19:41:33
The Pentagon is drawing up plans to shut the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be prepared for any order from President-elect Barack Obama, who has promised to close the controversial facility after he assumes office Jan. 20, a defense official said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates instructed his staff to have a blueprint in place by the time of the inauguration in case Obama decides the closure of the facility is one of his "first orders of business," said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

Gates "has asked his team for a proposal on how to shut it down - what would be required specifically to close it and move the detainees from that facility while at the same time, of course, ensuring that we protect the American people from some dangerous characters," Morrell said at a news briefing.

Any plan will probably address whether to also abolish the military commission system and, if so, what kind of legal framework can be substituted to put detainees on trial. The U.S. government will have to negotiate homes in third countries for as many as 60 detainees who have been cleared for release but cannot be returned to countries such as Uzbekistan and Libya because of fears they will be tortured. And the next administration will have to find or build appropriate detention facilities in the United States, as well as negotiate with local and state authorities who may not want terrorist suspects housed in prisons in their areas.

Gates has also said recently that legislation may be required to prevent detainees from seeking asylum in the United States.

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Safavian Convicted In Abramoff Scandal - For Second Time
2008-12-19 19:41:01

A former top White House official was convicted this afternoon of obstructing justice and lying to investigators about a lavish golf trip to Scotland and trying to cover-up his efforts to assist disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff acquire government property.

It was the second time that David H. Safavian, the former chief of staff at the General Services Administration, has been convicted on the federal charges stemming from the government's wide-ranging probe of Abramoff. His 2006 conviction was overturned by a federal appeals court in June.

The jury convicted Safavian of obstructing a GSA investigation into the 2002 golf trip, which was largely financed by Abramoff, and of lying on a financial disclosure form about its costs. He also was convicted of making false statements to an FBI agent and a GSA ethics officer. He was acquitted of giving a false statement to a Senate committee.

No sentencing date was set by U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman. After his first trial, Safavian was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.

Safavian, who sighed and slumped his shoulders when Friedman read the verdict, did not testify in his own defense, unlike the first trial.

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Political Blog: In Minnesota Senate Race Franken Erases Coleman's Lead ... For Now
2008-12-19 19:40:38

The protracted Senate race in Minnesota took another twist Friday morning as Democratic challenger Al Franken moved ahead of Republican Senator Norm Coleman on day four of the state canvassing board’s review of challenged ballots

The vote count was expected to remain in flux throughout the day as the board, which is headed by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, continues its deliberations. Board members were working to complete the review of challenges before the weekend. (The Minneapolis Star Tribune is keeping track of all the challenges and the current ballot count.) 

Franken’s lead, which reached the high double-digits this morning, came as the board examined ballots challenged by Coleman’s team, but a spokesman for the Coleman campaign urged caution in putting too much stock in the temporary standings.

“While varying headlines and a flurry of different numbers will continue, we encourage everyone to just hang on until the process is finished,” said Coleman communications director Mark Drake. “When it is finished, Norm Coleman will still lead, and we believe, be re-elected to the United States Senate.”

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