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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday December 23 2008 - (813)

Tuesday December 23 2008 edition
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No Holiday Rally On Wall Street Monday
2008-12-22 17:15:07

Investors hoping for a holiday rally did not get it on Monday.

Wall Street markets finished lower after the Japanese automaker Toyota said it expected to post its first operating loss in more than 70 years, an announcement that capped a year of record-breaking corporate losses and sheer drops in global stock markets.

After losing as much as 170 points, the Dow Jones industrial average recovered partially to close down 59.42 points or .69 percent at 8519.69 while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index finished 1.83 percent or 16.25 points lower at 871.63. The Nasdaq composite index finished down 2.5 percent at 1,532.35, pulled down by falling prices of technology companies like Apple, Cisco Systems and Google.

Mining operations, energy producers and companies that manufacture products like chemicals, plastic and metals fell the farthest on Monday, weighed down by sliding commodities prices and weakening industrial output across the world.

“I would not take my eyes off this thing,” said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at Standard & Poor’s. “You never know what’s going to fall here. People are still pessimistic. They’re still uncertain.”

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Economic Crunch Hits U.S. Judicial System
2008-12-22 17:14:38
Come February, the red-brick Rockingham County Courthouse, one of New Hampshire's busiest, will arraign criminal suspects, process legal motions and otherwise deal with murders, mayhem and contract disputes. What it won't do is hold jury trials.

The economic storm has come to this: Justice is being delayed or disrupted in state courtrooms across the country.

Financially strapped New Hampshire has become a poster child for the problem. Among other cost-cutting measures, state courts will halt for a month all civil and criminal jury trials early next year to save $73,000 in jurors' per diems. Officials warn they may add another four-week suspension.

"It brings our system almost to a screeching halt," said county prosecutor James M. Reams. His aides are scrambling to reschedule 77 criminal trials that were on the February docket.

"All the effort to subpoena witnesses and prepare for those trials is right out the window," Reams said, frustration in his voice. "Internally, it's a monumental waste of time. We'll have to redo everything."

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Interview: 'Germany Is Failing As A Leading Power In Europe'
2008-12-22 17:14:04
Intellpuke: Germany's former foreign minister Joschka Fischer, 60, talks with Spiegel about the global financial crisis, the lack of German leadership in Europe and what Barack Obama is doing right.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Fischer, France and the U.K. held the last European Union summit without the German chancellor, and many European countries are mocking the Germans' hesitant economic policies. Is Germany headed toward isolation?

Fischer: Things have not gotten that bad. But Germany is staring at its own navel, too much so for my taste. I have made quite a few trips these past few weeks - to Paris, Lisbon and Copenhagen. Everywhere the first question was: Can you explain why the chancellor, in this crisis, where everyone is looking to Berlin, is leaving Europe in the lurch? Why doesn't Germany see tackling the crisis as a joint project? Why does Germany always say no, instead of assuming a leadership role?

SPIEGEL: What reasons do you see for this?

Fischer: I have noticed a disastrous shift in focus in Germany's foreign and European policy. Until now Europe itself has been the key project in German foreign policy - what was good for Europe was also good for Germany, and vice versa. The country's current leaders, however, increasingly see Europe as a tool to push through Germany's own political agenda. This entails a significant risk for Europe, but also primarily for Germany.

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Key Figure In Blagojevich Case Seeks Immunity
2008-12-22 17:13:22
A key figure in Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich's alleged scheme to sell a U.S. Senate seat has sought immunity from federal authorities in return for his cooperation.

Businessman and political fundraiser Raghuveer P. Nayak is Individual D in the federal complaint, said  sources. Individual D was being squeezed by the governor for campaign cash, according to prosecutors, in order to appoint Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Illinois), to the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Investigators appeared at Nayak's home in Oak Brook, a Chicago suburb, the morning the FBI arrested Blagojevich, the sources said. Federal agents that day contacted a number of people connected to the case.

Nayak has not been accused of wrongdoing.

He declined to comment for this article.

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Senior U.S. Federal Banking Regulator Removed
2008-12-22 17:12:53

A senior federal banking regulator has been removed from his job after government investigators concluded that he knowingly permitted IndyMac Bancorp to present a misleading picture of its financial health in a federal filing only months before the California thrift was seized by regulators.

The Office of Thrift Supervision removed Darrel Dochow as director of its western region, where he was responsible for regulating several of the largest banks that failed or were sold in the past year, including Washington Mutual, Countrywide Financial, IndyMac and Downey Savings and Loan.

Dochow allowed IndyMac to count money it got in May in a report describing its financial condition at the end of March, according to an investigation by the Treasury Department's inspector general, Eric Thorson, which was described in a letter from Thorson.

Thorson wrote that OTS, one of four federal agencies that regulates banks, allowed other companies that it oversees to perform a similar legerdemain, though he did not name those companies.

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Investigators Hunting Clues In Denver Jet Accident
2008-12-22 17:12:09
Investigators took photos and measurements at the charred wreckage of a Continental Airlines jet Monday, searching for clues about why the plane veered off a runway and skidded into a shallow ravine. The twin-engine Boeing 737-500 still sat in a shallow, snow-covered ravine where it came to rest after its aborted takeoff Saturday at Denver International Airport.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators made preliminary reviews of the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder on Sunday, agency spokesman Peter Knudson said.

No information has been released, but Knudson said "we do have good data" from the recorders.

Investigators planned to interview the captain and the first officer later Monday. Both had clean safety records with the Federal Aviation Administration, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. He wouldn't release their names.

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Toyota Projects First Operating Loss Since 1941
2008-12-22 17:14:49
Toyota Motor Corp. projected its first-ever operating loss since it began such reports, acknowledging Monday that its nine-year stretch of global vehicle-sales growth had stalled.

Crashing auto demand, especially in its key U.S. market, and the profit erosion from a surging yen proved too much for Japan's top automaker, which had been booming on the success of its fuel-efficient models, including the Camry sedan and Prius gas-electric hybrid.

Gloom dominated the annual news conference by Toyota's president, who in recent years had outlined ambitious expansion plans. This year, Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe even refused to give a worldwide vehicle sales goal for 2009.

"The tough times are hitting us far faster, wider and deeper than expected," he told reporters at Toyota's Nagoya office. "This is an unprecedented crisis requiring urgent action."
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Deep Chill Grips Much Of U.S.
2008-12-22 17:14:19

Roads in much of the northern half of the country remained treacherous on Monday, as bitter cold and fierce winds led to multiple-car pile-ups and icy, slick conditions; but holiday travelers boarding flights began to get a break, a day after snowstorms caused delays and cancellations at many of the nation’s largest airports.

Freezing temperatures chilled much of the country. Temperatures in Chicago, Illinois, were not expected to rise above 8 degrees, said the National Weather Service. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, residents awoke to minus 12 degree temperatures, with an expected high of 4 degrees.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported less than 15 minute arrival and departure delays at almost all of the nation’s largest airports on Monday morning. It was a vast improvement over Sunday, when scores of flights were canceled at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington - in part because maintenance crews ran out of de-icing fluid - and Houston, Texas, reported delays averaging five hours.

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, however, announced they would only resume limited operations out of Seattle, where thousands of passengers remained stranded in the terminal after three days of weather-related cancellations.

“It’s been very frustrating for people. We have some who have been waiting here for a day or more,” said Perry Cooper, an airport spokesman.

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Brazil Citrus Industry Threatened By Disease
2008-12-22 17:13:51
By the time orange grower Gabriel Simoes noticed symptoms of the incurable "greening" disease last year, it was too late to do anything about it. Now four of every five trees in his 1,000-acre orchard are dead or dying.

Industry officials say it's only a matter of time before California's $1.2-billion citrus industry is threatened by the "mother of all citrus diseases," which has invaded thousands of acres here in Brazil's citrus belt with sickening speed.

"For a family business like ours that truly loves oranges and grew along with citrus culture in Brazil, it's been very tragic," said Simoes, 26, who studied business at the University of Oklahoma. "But there are forces greater than us."

Coming on top of climate change and a depressed commodities market, greening has become a nightmare for the world's largest citrus industry in the four years since it was first detected here in Sao Paulo state.

Twenty-five percent or more of the state's groves could disappear in coming years if a cure isn't found, according to Markestrat, a market research firm in Ribeirao Preto, the center of the state's citrus industry. Others say the toll could be far worse.

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Five Men Convicted In Plot To Kill U.S. Soldiers At Fort Dix
2008-12-22 17:13:06

A federal jury in New Jersey Monday convicted five foreign-born Muslim men of conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers at the Fort Dix Army post as part of what prosecutors charged was a plot to launch an Islamic "holy war" against the United States.

The jury acquitted the five on charges of attempted murder. A sixth conspirator in the case pleaded guilty to weapons charges in October 2007 and was sentenced earlier this year to 20 months in federal prison.

The five convicted men, including three ethnic Albanian brothers who were born in the former Yugoslavia and were residing illegally in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, face possible life sentences for conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel.

The jury, deliberating for about 38 hours over six days, handed down the verdict after an eight-week trial.

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NRC: Nuclear Plant Safety Battery Was Broken For Four Years
2008-12-22 17:12:31
Inspections are being ramped up at a California nuclear plant where a battery that powered safety systems didn't work for four years.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday that the problem at the San Onofre (oh-NOH'-fray) plant stemmed from poor maintenance.

Regional administrator Elmo Collins says the lapse is troubling because it persisted for so long. It was inoperable from 2004 to 2008. The problem was discovered in March.

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