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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday December 21 2008 - (813)

Sunday December 21 2008 edition
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U.S. Plans To Send Up To 30,000 Extra Troops To Afghanistan By Summer
2008-12-20 13:37:14
The United States is looking to send 20,000 to 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan by the beginning of next summer, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Saturday.

Washington is already sending some 3,000 extra troops in January and another 2,800 by spring, but officials previously have said the number would be made up to 20,000 in the next 12 to 18 months, once approved by the U.S. administration.

"Some 20 to 30,000 is the window of overall increase from where we are right now. I don't have an exact number," Admiral Mike Mullentold reporters in Kabul.

"We've agreed on the requirement and so it's really clear to me we're going to fill that requirement so it's not a matter of if, but when," he said.

"We're looking to get them here in the spring, but certainly by the beginning of summer at the latest."

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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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Analysis: After Lifeline, Big 3 Automakers Still In Deep
2008-12-20 13:37:05
With a lifeline from the White House, General Motors and Chrysler will survive for the next few months while they revamp.

But will they thrive again?

The plans from the car companies offer little in terms of fresh ideas. Instead, they are focused more on slow-selling models, persuading G.M's debt holders to accept stock and getting union wages more in line with those paid by foreign brands in the United States.

Such moves are certainly necessary in the short term, but no company can keep cutting its way to prosperity. Even President-elect Barack Obama said Friday that Detroit automakers should not “squander the chance” to change their management practices.

To be sure, it takes years and enormous investments to develop new vehicles, and much of Detroit’s focus throughout this decade has been on shedding workers and closing plants in response to its shrinking market share.

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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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