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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday December 14 2008 - (813)

Sunday December 14 2008 edition
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Why Didn't You Receive Your Newsletter At Yahoo! ?
2008-12-14 00:44:31

  A few of our regular newsletter readers have been asking if there are problems with our newsletters going out?  Myself, I get 6 copies of it at my various email addresses, just so I can see that it is working properly.  The complaints range from they never get their newsletter, to they are delayed by days sometimes.

  I've been reviewing our logs, and have found a trend.  For several hundred of our users, your mail is being delayed by Yahoo! for several days.  When Yahoo!'s mail service refuses an email from our mail servers, it sits in a queue on our side.  Every 15 minutes it will attempt to redeliver.  This is standard behavior on the Internet, because we all know things can break, but you don't want to lose a very important piece of email. 

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Intervie! w: 'Americans Currently Don't Care About The Iranian Bomb'
2008-12-14 00:44:11
The American left is criticizing Barack Obama's cabinet choices by saying his administration will continue many Bush policies. In the following interview with Spiegel Online, prominent intellectual Norman Birnbaum defends Obama's choices. Obama, he says, needs people with experience.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Professor Birnbaum, please remind us: What was Barack Obama's campaign slogan?

Norman Birnbaum: Change. Why?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Because looking at his cabinet choices, that change seems a distant memory. Obama is retaining Republican Robert Gates as Defense Secretary, he wants to appoint Jim Jones, a friend of John McCain, as his National Security Adviser and Hillary Clinton is going to be in charge of the State Department.

Birnbaum: Sure, some cynics even argue that we are seeing a continuation of the Bush course, just with a human face in the White House. They refer not just to the cabinet members but also to some of the policy statements made by Obama so far. He seems inclined to continue the hawkish U.S. strategy in Afghanistan or Pakistan, for instance. I, and many people on the left, believe the idea to impose women's rights in Afghanistan by military force is like sending NATO to Alabama to eradicate protestant fundamentalism. On the other hand, Obama has proven with his promise of a large infrastructure program and his focus on environmental issues that he pursues a very progressive agenda. He seems to plan a great deal of intervention and state activity for which the left has been calling for a long time, even under Bill Clinton.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But why does Obama surround himself with so many Washington insiders?

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Commentary: Hype Won't Solve Climate Problem
2008-12-14 00:43:43
Intellpuke: This commentary is written by Louis O. Fresco, a cross-disciplinary professor with a focus on international sustainable development at the University of Amsterdam. She sat on the Delta Commission which advised the Dutch government on how the Netherlands can best prepare for global warming She is also an NRC Hadelsblad columnist. Her commentary follows:

I confess that I am increasingly uncomfortable with what is being called the traveling climate circus: this incessant and expensive series of conferences about the climate. Last year in Bali, next year in Copenhagen, now in the Polish city of Poznan, where over 11,000 people from 190 countries are gathered to make agreements about the follow-up to the Kyoto protocol.

There are no less than 700 pages of proposals which are supposed to lead to a new treaty on reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the end of 2009. As the current round of talks is again threatening to end in a fiasco, the organization in Proznan is keeping its options open (they are now talking only about a "political understanding on the most important elements" rather than a binding treaty, which was the original plan).

Almost without exception, such conferences end in disappointment. Few people wonder why the climate negotiations are so difficult compared to other international agreements. It can't just be because of the considerable conflict of interests between countries - these also exist in negotiations about world trade, which are now close to completion.

There are, I believe, two reasons for the dark clouds surrounding the climate summits: There is still no undisputed package of steps that need to be taken and the problem is clearly not considered urgent enough, despite all the testimonies, to bridge the opposing interests and mobilize funding.

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Report Focuses On Iraq Rebuilding Blunders
2008-12-14 00:43:16
An unpublished federal history of the U.S.-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts the effort as crippled by poor planning, waste and deception, leading to a $100 billion failure.

An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.

The history, the first official account of its kind, is circulating in draft form here and in Washington among a tight circle of technical reviewers, policy experts and senior officials. It also concludes that when the reconstruction began to lag -  particularly in the critical area of rebuilding the Iraqi police and army - the Pentagon simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up the failures.

In one passage, for example, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is quoted as saying that in the months after the 2003 invasion, the Defense Department “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces - the number would jump 20,000 a week! ‘We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000’.”

Powell’s assertion that the Pentagon inflated the number of competent Iraqi security forces is backed up by Lt. Gen. Recardo S. Sanches,the former commander of ground troops in Iraq, and L. Paul Bremer III, the top civilian administrator until an Iraqi government took over in June 2004.

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British Government Faces Backlash As Pound Slips Below Euro
2008-12-14 00:42:18

The British government is facing a growing backlash over its rescue package for the economy after the pound slumped to below parity with the euro on British high streets and at airports for the first time since the single European currency was launched a decade ago.

Sterling's decline to a value of less than a euro, after commission charges, is seen by economists and opposition politicians as a pivotal "psychological moment" - and evidence of declining faith in the British economy on global currency markets.

Saturday night, as skiing operators and other holiday companies across the U.K. reported customers shunning expensive trips in favor of cut-price deals, Currency Exchange on London's Oxford Street was selling euros for as little as €1.0532 to the pound. After commission and a handling fee, however, €18 cost The Observer £19.61, an exchange rate of €0.918 to the pound.

Tourists at Birmingham, Liverpool and Luton airports were also getting less than €1 to the pound after sterling tumbled in value every day last week.

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Sovereign Wealth Funds Taste Bitter Losses
2008-12-14 00:44:22
So far this year, the funds have seen declines of an estimated 18 percent to 25 percent of their assets, which could lead to closer scrutiny in the future.

Not long ago the Western world was obsessed with sovereign wealth funds, those fast-growing pools of nationally owned assets fueled by oil money and trade surpluses. The fear was that they and their sometimes controversial owners would gobble up vast troves of trophy assets in the U.S. and elsewhere. But, after a brutal fall in the markets, that threat suddenly looks a lot less real. While the funds are cagey about saying what they actually own - and what they have lost - it's certain that they, like many other investors, have suffered big hits to their portfolios. They also have clearly lost firepower - and possibly some of their appetite for acquisitions.

One fund that does disclose its performance, Norway's $300 billion Government Pension Fund-Global, reported a negative 7.7 percent return against an international currency basket in the third quarter through September. That was the worst performance in the 18-year history of the fund, which invests Norway's oil revenues. And it doesn't include the likely further drubbings in October and November.

Stephen Jen, an economist at Morgan Stanley in London, estimates that the world's sovereign wealth funds have seen declines in their holdings of 18 percent to 25 percent for this year. He thinks the total losses are somewhere between $500 billion and $700 billion, bringing the funds' total value down to between $2.3 trillion and $2.5 trillion. Jen thinks these losses will make waves. "You don't lose 25 percent of your assets without consequences," he says.

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Editorial: Hollow Reserves
2008-12-14 00:43:55
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Saturday, December 13, 2008.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have put enormous strains on all of the men and women of the United States military. The last seven years have been especially hard on those serving in the National Guard and other reserve forces, who too often have had to shortchange their families, finances and careers to accommodate lengthy, repeated and unexpected tours of active duty overseas. Many are tired and demoralized.

American communities that depend on the National Guard to provide the first line of domestic defense are also being shortchanged. The years of prolonged overseas deployments have stretched Guard units dangerously thin and left the Guard with barely 60 percent of the equipment it needs to carry out its basic missions. That raises serious doubts about the Guard’s readiness to respond to either a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

These problems arose because the Bush administration badly underestimated the number of ground troops needed to simultaneously wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has had to rely far too heavily on the National Guard and the Reserves to make up the differences.

More than 450,000 men and women serve in the Army and Air National Guard, and somewhat less than 400,000 in the Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force Reserves. Roughly half a million of these part-time soldiers have fought in Iraq or Afghanistan - many for more than one tour. At one point in 2005, nearly half the United States front-line fighting forces in Iraq, and more than half in Afghanistan, came from the Guard and the Reserves.

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Gen. Odierno: U.S. Troops To Stay Longer In Iraq
2008-12-14 00:43:31
The top American commander in Iraq said Saturday that some soldiers would remain in a support role in cities beyond summer 2009, when a new security agreement calls for the removal of American combat troops from urban areas.

The commander, Gen. Ray Odierno, said American troops would remain at numerous security outposts in order to help support and train Iraqi forces. “We believe that’s part of our transition teams,” he told reporters in Balad while accompanying Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who arrived on an unannounced trip Saturday.

General Odierno declined to say how many American troops might remain in Iraqi cities past the summer and said the number still remained to be negotiated with the Iraqi government under the terms of the so-called status of forces agreement. “But what I would say is we’ll maintain our very close partnership with the Iraqi security forces throughout Iraq even after the summer.”

Later on Saturday, a spokesman for General Odierno, Lt. Col. James Hutton, reiterated that the soldiers staying in cities would not be combat forces but rather “enablers,” who would provide services like medical care, air traffic control and helicopter support that the Iraqis cannot perform themselves. He said that all their actions would be closely coordinated with the Iraqi government and that all tenets of the security agreement would be followed.

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Obama Aide Had Contact With Governor's Office On Senate Seat
2008-12-14 00:42:31
President-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, communicated with the office of Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich about potential candidates for Obama’s Senate seat and provided a list of names, according to two Obama associates briefed on the matter.

The Obama associates said the interactions concerned several people who might fill the seat. Such contacts are common among party officials when a political vacancy is to be filled. It was not clear whether the communication was via direct telephone calls.

The Chicago Tribune reported that communications between Emanuel and the governor, both Democrats, had been captured on court-approved wiretaps, but Obama associates gave conflicting accounts of the interactions.

Obama aides have said privately that Emanuel did not engage in any deal-making with Blagojevich, whom federal prosecutors charged last week with conspiring to turn a profit from the appointment.

The federal inquiry is looking into the exact nature of Emanuel’s contacts with the governor’s office. Emanuel has not been accused of wrongdoing by federal prosecutors.

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Oklahoma's Sam Bradford Wins The Heisman Trophy
2008-12-14 00:41:40
Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford arrived in Norman three years ago with modest hype and low expectations. The Sooners' staff acknowledged that they had recruited him for depth behind Rhett Bomar, who had been the country’s top quarterback recruit.

Bradford’s rise from relative obscurity to national pre-eminence was sealed Saturday night when he won the Heisman Trophy, which is given annually to the country’s most outstanding college football player.

Bradford, a redshirt sophomore, seemed giddy and overwhelmed as he hugged his parents and his coach, Bob Stoops, and shook hands with a row of former Heisman winners.

“I was definitely surprised,” said Bradford. “I think it was everything I imagined. It’s going to take a few weeks for it to sink in.”

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