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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday December 24 2008 - (813)

Wednesday December 24 2008 edition
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U.S. New Home Sales Hit 18-Year Low
2008-12-23 16:13:55

Home sales declined dramatically last month and housing prices posted their sharpest decline in four decades as a rapidly slowing economy discouraged many potential buyers from tip-toeing into the market.

Sales of existing homes declined 8.6 percent last month, to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.49 million, according to the National Association of Realtors,a trade association. The median price of a home fell 13 percent in November, to $181,300 from $208,000 a year ago. That was the lowest price since February 2004.

“They’re about as god-awful as they can get,” said Robert Barbera, chief economist at ITG. “This is pretty breathtaking stuff.”

The troubles plaguing the housing market, which is at the heart of America’s financial crisis, are only multiplying as the broader economy deteriorates. Even though mortgage rates dropped after the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to record lows near zero percent, economists said that housing would continue to lag as unemployment increases and the spiral of slumping consumer spending and waning industrial growth continues. The economy was shrinking over the summer and corporate profits were falling even before the financial crisis struck with full force. On Tuesday, the Commerce Department reported that the gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the economy, declined at an annual rate of 0.5 percent in the third quarter as corporate profit fell 1.2 percent.

Analysts are forecasting that those declines will be followed by much larger decreases this quarter as the longest recession in a quarter century gains intensity.

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Editorial: The World According To Cheney
2008-12-23 16:13:34
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Monday, December 22, 2008.

Vice President Dick Cheney has a parting message for Americans: They should quit whining about all the things he and President Bush did to undermine the rule of law, erode the balance of powers between the White House and Congress, abuse prisoners and spy illegally on Americans. After all, he said, Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln did worse than that.

So Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush managed to stop short of repeating two of the most outrageous abuses of power in American history - Roosevelt’s decision to force Japanese-Americans into camps and Lincoln’s declaration of martial law to silence his critics? That’s not exactly a lofty standard of behavior.

Then again, it must be exhausting to rewrite history as much as Mr. Cheney has done in a series of exit interviews where he has made those comments. It seems as if everything went just great in the Bush years.

The invasion of Iraq was exactly the right thing to do, not an unnecessary war that required misleading Americans. The postinvasion period was not bungled to the point where Americans got shot up by an insurgency that the Bush team failed to see building.

The horrors at Abu Ghraib were not the result of the Pentagon’s decision to authorize abusive and illegal interrogation techniques, which Mr. Cheney endorsed. And only three men were subjected to waterboarding. (Future truth commissions take note.)

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Iraqi Parliament Speaker Resigns
2008-12-23 16:13:10
The Iraqi Parliament accepted the resignation of the Parliament speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, on Tuesday and immediately authorized the government to approve a resolution to allow British, Australian and other foreign troops to stay in Iraq after the end of the year.

After a rowdy session of Parliament last week at which he was accused of hurling serious insults during a debate on the foreign troops bill, Mashhadani resigned but then later rescinded his resignation.  Mashhadani offered his resignation again in a special session of Parliament on Tuesday and lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to approve it. “We want to do good but sometimes we choose the wrong path,”  Mashhadani said in his resignation speech.

It was not immediately clear who would replace Mashhadani, a Sunni, although under Iraq’s sectarian quota system the next Speaker is likely to also be a Sunni.

Over the past week, Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers pressed for his resignation, threatening to boycott Parliament if he did not step down. They complained that Mashhadani was considered a histrionic man who was often brusque with those with whom he disagreed.

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Bush Grants 19 New Pardons
2008-12-23 16:13:45
Before leaving for the holidays, President Bush on Tuesday commuted the prison sentence of a drug offender and granted 19 pardons, including one to a man who helped the Jewish resistance in the 1940s.

With this latest batch, which includes forgiveness for convictions ranging from gun and drug violations to bank and mail fraud, Bush has granted a total of 191 pardons and nine commutations. That's fewer than half as many as Presidents Clinton or Reagan issued during their two terms.

Included in the latest list is Charles Winters, who is considered a hero in Israel.

Winters, who died in the 1980s in Florida, was in the airplane business after World War II. He bought up former military cargo planes and used them to transport fruit and other products. He later started helping his Jewish friends who were shipping arms to Jews trying to found their own state in the Middle East.

Winters, a Protestant from Boston, Massachusetts, could fly his planes in and out of the region without interference from authorities. In 1948, three of his planes left Miami, picked up weapons in Azores and Czechoslovakia and then left the planes and arms in Palestine.

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FBI Whistleblower In Stevens Case Faults Prosecution's Conduct
2008-12-23 16:13:24

Members of the Justice Department team that investigated and tried Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) withheld evidence and had inappropriate relationships with witnesses, according to an FBI agent who worked on the case.

The allegations are contained in a whistleblower complaint made public yesterday. It alleges that FBI agents met with witnesses in their homes and hotel rooms and even provided one source with a bureau-issued cellphone. An FBI agent apparently became so friendly with a key witness that the investigator wore a special outfit when the man testified. "It was a surprise/present for Allen," the complaint alleged, in a reference to former oil executive Bill Allen.

The whistleblowing agent, who joined the bureau in 2003, also wrote that members of the prosecution team "created a scheme" to send a witness home before trial and that they inappropriately altered a document later turned over to Stevens' attorneys.

The eight-page letter containing the allegations was filed with the Justice Department after Stevens was convicted in late October. U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who presided over Stevens' trial, reprimanded prosecutors several times for their handling of witnesses and evidence. Within an hour of the document becoming public, Stevens' attorneys asked Sullivan to throw out the conviction or grant the senator a new trial. Sullivan has not acted on the complaint.

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