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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday December 16 2008 - (813)

Tuesday December 16 2008 edition
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Wall Street Slumps As News Remains Bleak
2008-12-15 20:42:25

Wall Street slumped on Monday as investors continued to favor the safety of government debt, pushing the yield on 30-year Treasury bonds to its lowest level in 30 years.

Investors, betting that the Federal Reserve would cut interest rates to new lows at its meeting this week, clamored to invest in Treasuries ahead of the rate announcement Tuesday afternoon. The yield on the 30-year bond, which moves inversely to its price, fell to 2.96 percent Monday.

Economists expect the Federal Reserve to lower its benchmark overnight rate, currently set at 1 percent, by a quarter or half of a percentage point as it tries to jump-start the flagging economy, but analysts said they doubted another rate cut would have much immediate impact on stock markets or the mentality of investors.

“People would like a silver bullet, but at this point there are no silver bullets,” said David Katz, chief investment officer of Matrix Asset Advisors. “The Fed or the Treasury aren’t going to be able to fix anything with one quick swipe.”

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Yahoo! mail problem update
2008-12-15 20:20:03
  This morning we received an email from "C" at Yahoo! Mail, who corrected the mail delivery problems.  With his permission, I am posting our email conversation here.  I have sanitized the email for personal information.  Thank you "C" for your assistance in this matter.  The following has been edited for continuity and privacy.

From: C <>
Subject: Delivery Issues to Yahoo!
Date: Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 2:19 PM -0800


My name is C and I work on Yahoo! Mail. I was alerted to this post on your site -- -- and I think we have figured out what may be causing the delivery issues your server is experiencing. Your delivery rates should look better soon. Can you confirm whether or not you see any improvement later today?

Thank you.


Yahoo! Mail

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Bush Administration Prepares For Detainee Transfers Per Court Order
2008-12-15 20:19:28

The Bush administration has decided to transfer three Algerian detainees to their adopted homeland of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a decision that partially complies with the order of a federal judge who said last month that five Algerians should be released "forthwith," rejecting government allegations that the men were dangerous enemy combatants.

But Lakhdar Boumediene, the Algerian whose name is associated with a landmark Supreme Court decision regarding the legal rights of those held at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base, remains in limbo despite the U.S. District Court ruling and the imminent release of his countrymen.

Administration officials and other sources, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said today that authorities at the base have begun to prepare for a transfer, a process that includes moving detainees to a pre-release facility at Guantanamo and their conducting exit interviews with the International Committee of the Red Cross. Three of the men have had exit interviews in recent days, sources said.

A Pentagon spokeswoman declined to comment, citing operational concerns. The ICRC also declined to comment.

The State Department has been negotiating with the Bosnian government over the transfer of the five men, administration officials said, but authorities in Sarajevo have agreed so far only to accept those detainees who hold Bosnian citizenship - Mohamed Nechle, Mustafa Ait Idir and Hadj Boudella. The governments continue to discuss the fate of two other Algerians, Saber Lahmar, a former legal resident of Bosnia, and Boumediene, who was stripped of his citizenship during a court proceeding in Sarajevo.

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Siemens To Pay $800 Million In Settlement With U.S.
2008-12-15 20:18:53
Europe's largest engineering company is expected to reach a deal Monday with U.S. officials that would see it pay $800 million in fines in a massive global bribery scandal. The Americans claim Siemens' ex-CEO knew about the corruption earlier than he claims.

German engineering giant Siemens is expected to accept a settlement with the United States in a corruption and bribery scandal that would see it paying fines of about €600 million ($800 million). Under the deal, the company would pay around $450 million to the U.S. Justice Department and $350 million to the stock market regulator Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The fines are far lower than those initially anticipated by the company, which has been embroiled in an international bribes-for-contracts scandal since 2006. The company is expected to accept the settlement during court negotiations in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

A Siemens spokesperson would not answer journalists' questions about the case, but said the SEC and Justice Department investigation of Siemens was "close to reaching a conclusion." The company's board was expected to meet on Monday to discuss the new developments.
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Illinois House Of Representatives Weighs Impeachment Of Blagojevich
2008-12-15 20:18:26
The Democratic leaders of the Illinois House on Monday announced the beginning of impeachment proceedings against Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), charged by federal prosecutors six days ago with influence peddling in connection with his official duties.

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D) said a "committee of inquiry" will begin Tuesday to investigate Blagojevich. The governor, who has made no public statement since his Dec. 9 arrest, will be offered a chance to address the committee or send an advocate on his behalf.

Meanwhile, President-elect Barack Obama and his transition team have finished documenting their contacts with Blagojevich and his staff, according to a spokesman. The report, which Obama promised to make public, will not be released until next week at the request of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

Prosecutors made the request "in order not to impede their investigation of the governor," Obama transition spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said in an e-mail statement. "The transition has agreed to this revised timetable for release."

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Ice-Storm Ravaged U.S. Northeast Faces More Power Outages
2008-12-15 20:18:00
Joined by people seeking shelter from the bitter cold, parishioners at the Jaffrey Bible Church on Sunday thanked God for a warm place to sleep and for the utility crews struggling to repair power lines snapped by New England's devastating ice storm.

"Your fellow Jaffrey residents have stepped up and made this a more bearable situation," Walt Pryor, recreation department director for the town of 5,700, told the congregation Sunday morning.

Church administrator Rick Needham noted the "terrible devastation in our lives and homes," recognizing two families whose homes were damaged by falling trees. About 150 people attended Sunday's service in Jaffrey, about 15 miles from the Massachusetts state line.

The church had been turned into a shelter, with cots and mattresses set up in offices and hallways, and televisions and 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles for children in the basement. Donated food was plentiful, including lobster casserole, pot roast, and barbecued chicken.

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Caroline Kennedy To Seek Clinton's Senate Seat
2008-12-15 17:00:49
Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of an American political dynasty, has decided to pursue the United States Senate seat being vacated by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, of New York, a person told of her decision said on Monday.

The decision came after a series of deeply personal and political conversations, in which Kennedy, whom friends describe as unflashy but determined, wrestled with whether to give up what has been a lifetime of avoiding the spotlight.

Kennedy will ask New York Gov. David A. Paterson to consider her for the appointment, according to the person told of her decision. The governor was traveling to Utica Monday and could not immediately be reached for comment.

If appointed, Kennedy would fill the seat once held by her uncle, Robert F. Kennedy. 

Kennedy has been making calls this morning to alert political figures to her interest.

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OPEC Looks To Halt Falling Oil Prices
2008-12-15 17:00:28

With the economy in the throes of a global recession, oil producers are facing their toughest business prospects in 25 years.

Oil demand is expected to decline this year and next, the first drop since the energy shocks of the early 1980s. As economic growth slows down sharply, oil prices have collapsed from their summer peaks in record time.

The stunning speed of the downturn has made for a sudden nightmare for producers, who face shrinking revenue next year. Oil has lost $100 a barrel, or 70 percent of its value, since July and many analysts forecast further declines as the global economy worsens.

OPEC is meeting Wednesday in the coastal city of Oran, Algeria, to discuss ways to stem the drop in prices. Chakib Khelil, the organization’s president and the Algerian oil minister, suggested last week that producers would approve “a severe production cut to stabilize the oil market.”

Many analysts expect the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s oil, to cut its production by about 1.5 million barrels a day, or 5 percent. In recent days, calls for a sizable cut have been mounting. Iran, which has been a vocal supporter of aggressive action by the cartel, would like OPEC to reduce its output by an additional two million barrels a day, according to the country’s oil minister.

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Suit Over 'Light' Cigarettes
2008-12-15 16:58:38
The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to the tobacco industry Monday, ruling that the makers of popular "light" and "low tar" cigarettes can be sued for billions of dollars by smokers who say they were deceived into thinking these were safer cigarettes.

The surprising ruling clears the way for several class-action suits to move forward. The suits could endanger the tobacco industry since the best-selling cigarettes in the United States are labeled light or low tar. The most popular brand is Marlboro Lights, made by Philip Morris and its corporate owner the Altria Group, which was on the losing end of Monday's decision.

In the past, the court had shielded cigarette makers from being sued by smokers who said they were not warned about the dangers of their smoking habit. The court in 1992 ruled that the warning labels on cigarette packs blocked such legal claims. Since 1965, federal law has required that cigarette makers put a health warning on each pack of cigarettes

In a 5-4 ruling Monday, the high court said cigarette makers could be sued under state consumer-protection laws which forbid deceptive advertising. Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the court, said the makers of consumer products have a "duty not to deceive" the public in advertising or marketing their products, and the federal warning law does not shield the tobacco industry from being sued under these state laws for "making fraudulent statements."

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Major Oil Project Come Undone With Price Collapse
2008-12-15 20:42:14

From the plains of North Dakota to the deep waters of Brazil, dozens of major oil and gas projects have been suspended or canceled in recent weeks as companies scramble to adjust to the collapse in energy markets.

In the short run, falling oil prices are leading to welcome relief at the pump for American families ahead of the holidays, with gasoline down from its summer record of just over $4 to an average of $1.66 a gallon, and still falling.

The project delays are likely to reduce future energy supplies - and analysts believe they may set the stage for another surge in oil prices once the global economy recovers.

Oil markets have had their sharpest-ever spikes and their steepest drops this year, all within a few months. Now, with a global recession at hand and oil consumption falling, the market’s extreme volatility is making it harder for energy executives to plan ahead. As a result, exploration spending, which had risen to a record this year, is being slashed.

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Poll: U.S. Public Generally Supports Obama On Wars
2008-12-15 20:19:38

Americans are more upbeat about U.S. prospects in Iraq than at any time in the past five years, but nearly two thirds continue to believe the war is not worth fighting and 70 percent say President-elect Barack Obama should fulfill his campaign promise to withdraw U.S. forces from the country within 16 months, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Meanwhile, most Americans support the war in Afghanistan and a slim majority say the conflict there is essential to battling global terrorism, the poll found. Yet, a majority of Americans also believe that the U.S. military action there has been unsuccessful.

Public perceptions of the two wars appear to largely dovetail with the views expressed by Obama, who has promised to begin withdrawing most combat troops from Iraq shortly after he takes office on Jan. 20. Obama has advocated shifting more U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, where the U.S.-led coalition has been struggling to quell resurgent Taliban and al-Qaeda forces.

Over the weekend, President Bush made a surprise visit to Baghdad, where he met with Iraqi leaders about the recently completed security agreement, which calls for the withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of 2011. Bush's visit was aimed in part at highlighting vastly improved security conditions in Iraq since he ordered additional U.S. troops there nearly two years ago; but that symbolic moment was largely overshadowed by an incident where an Iraqi television journalist, angry about the U.S. invasion, threw two shoes at Bush during a news conference.

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Greece's Maelstrom Of Violence - The Revolt Of A Disappointed Generation
2008-12-15 20:19:17
The violent unrest that followed the shooting of a 15-year-old boy has driven Greece to the brink of a political crisis. The rioting marks an explosion of rage by the country's young people who have few prospects of carving out a place in a society where all initiative is stifled.

The mood in the jam-packed auditorium was reminiscent of the student protest movements of 1968. Hundreds of young people thronged their way into the dark room, sat on the steps or stood on tables. They shouted "murderers" and "pigs" - and thunderously applauded calls for revenge. Cigarette smoke and the smell of sweat hung heavily in the air.

Jorgos Barutas, 29, had to struggle to make himself heard. The computer engineer, sporting a five-day beard and steel-rimmed glasses, stood at the foot of the steep rows of seats and shouted up to the audience with a throaty voice. "We have to hold out until the government steps down." Applause. "We have to transform the protests into a political movement." Applause. "We have to formulate political objectives." Followed again by thunderous applause. Barutas stepped down from the stage, feeling satisfied, and the students poured out of the hall.

Outside on the campus of the Athens Polytechnic University such lofty political statements are quickly forgotten. Fires blaze and the smoldering remains of hastily erected barricades block the paths between lecture halls. Figures dressed in black and wearing ski masks use threatening gestures or engage in pushing matches to keep strangers from entering.

Dumpsters are burning in front of the entrance to the university, and in the side streets young people are building roadblocks between burned-out cars and kiosks or piling up stones that are just the right size for throwing.

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E.U. Authorized To Sink Pirate Ships
2008-12-15 20:18:43
According to information obtained by German news organization Spiegel, the European Union's anti-pirate mission off the coat of Somalia will be allowed to sink pirate ships should the need arise. Still, some say more drastic action is necessary.

Those involved in the European Union's anti-pirate operation "Atalanta" have said that the mission would have a "robust" mandate. Just what that means, though, has thus far remained classified. But according to information obtained  by Spiegel, E.U. ships operating off the coast of Somalia have not only been given the green light to ward off or capture pirates - they can also sink their ships.

The mission, involving half a dozen ships, up to three reconnaissance aircraft as well as unmanned drones, began a week ago and has not yet reached full strength. The German government has already agreed to contribute a frigate and 1,400 troops. The Karlsruhe is already in the region and is waiting for final approval from the German parliament, the Bundestag. Approval is expected to come on Friday.

The exact combat rules governing the E.U. mission - which is backed by a United Nations mandate - have been kept secret. German parliamentarians were allowed to see them last week, but only in a special room in parliament set aside for viewing top secret documents.
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Russian Warships To Visit Cuba
2008-12-15 20:18:14
Russian warships will visit U.S. foe Cuba for the first time since the Soviet era, the Russian navy said Monday.

The destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and two support ships from a squadron that has been on a lengthy visit to Latin America will put in at Havana on Friday for a five-day stay, said navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo.

It will be the first visit by Russian warships to the Communist-led island just 90 miles (145 kilometers) from the United States since the 1991 Soviet collapse, said Dygalo.

The Admiral Chabanenko, the nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great and support ships arrived in the Caribbean last month in a deployment also unprecedented since Soviet times. The voyage is widely seen as a show of force close to U.S. shores and a response to the U.S. use of warships to deliver humanitarian aid to Russia's neighbor Georgia after their war in August.

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Former Defense Contractor Sentenced To Prison
2008-12-15 20:17:42

A former defense contractor who showered more than $1 million in cash, cars, an antique commode and a yacht on former representative Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-California) to boost the prospects of his company was sentenced Monday to 2 1/2 years in federal prison.

Mitchell J. Wade pleaded guilty in February 2006 to bribing Cunningham, giving nearly $80,000 in illegal campaign contributions to two House members and seeking to illegally influence Defense Department contractor officials.

Cunningham, who pleaded guilty in 2005, was sentenced to just over eight years in federal prison for accepting $2.4 million in bribes from Wade and another defense contractor in a scheme that included a "bribe menu" that spelled out the prices for official favors.

Federal prosecutors and defense lawyers said that Wade cooperated with the government - help that was acknowledged by U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina during a sentencing hearing today in federal court in Washington, D.C.

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Shoe-Hurling Iraqi Becomes A Folk Hero
2008-12-15 17:00:39
An Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President Bush and called him a dog became a huge celebrity in the Arab world and beyond on Monday, with many supporters exalting him for what they called a courageous act in the face of American arrogance about the war.

Barely 24 hours after the journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi, was tackled and arrested for his actions at a Baghdad news conference, the shoe-throwing incident was generating front-page headlines and continuing television news coverage. A thinly veiled glee could be discerned in much of the reporting, especially in the places where anti-American sentiment runs deepest.

In Sadr City, the sprawling Baghdad suburb that has seen some of the most intense fighting between insurgents and American soldiers since the 2003 invasion, thousands of people marched in his defense. In Syria, he was hailed as a hero. In Libya, he was given an award for courage.

Zaidi, a correspondent for an independent Iraqi television station, Al-Baghdadia, remained in Iraqi custody on Monday. While he has not been formally charged, Iraqi officials said he faced up to seven years in prison if convicted of committing an act of aggression against a visiting head of state.

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Settlement Opens Amnesty For Tens Of Thousands Of Illegal Immigrants
2008-12-15 16:59:11
For two decades, Anaheim businessman Erkan Aydin has taken on a task unimaginable for most immigrants like himself: trying to convince the U.S. government that he was here illegally.

Aydin, 50, arrived in the United States from his native Turkey with a valid student visa in 1981, but fell out of legal status when he failed to enroll in school, he said.

The customer service representative has a powerful reason why he wants to be considered an illegal immigrant. It would make him eligible for the amnesty offered to 2.7 million illegal immigrants under the 1986 immigration reform law.

Thanks to a recent legal settlement, the chance to apply for amnesty is finally open to Aydin and tens of thousands of others who entered the country on a valid visa but fell out of legal status between 1982 and 1988. The settlement, approved this fall by a U.S. district court in Washington state, stems from a class-action lawsuit filed by attorney Peter Schey originally on behalf of an immigrant assistance program of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

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Arrest Made In Oregon Bank Bombing
2008-12-15 16:57:06
Police arrested a suspect Sunday in the Oregon bank bombing that killed two officers and critically wounded a police chief. Authorities declined to release the identity of the suspect or the circumstances of the arrest until Monday, saying only that the suspect was detained Sunday evening in the area of Salem, the capital of Oregon.

"Due to the need to protect the integrity of the investigation and the safety of officers continuing to investigate this crime, the Marion County district attorney's office has directed the suspect's name, investigative and arrest details withheld at this time," the Marion County Sheriff's Department said in a statement.

No motive for the Friday bombing in Woodburn, about 30 miles south of Portland, has been revealed but, shortly before authorities announced the arrest, they released photos of a 30- to 40-year-old bearded man "believed associated with key events" in the case.

Authorities said at least one subject of the investigation was in Bend, in central Oregon, and had purchased cellphones and other items last month thought to have been used in manufacturing the explosive device.

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