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Monday, January 05, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday January 5 2009 - (813)

Monday January 5 2009 edition
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University Degrees No Shield As More U.S. Jobs Are Eliminated
2009-01-04 17:30:49

When Nena Razmara was laid off in November from her $70,000-a-year job with a high-end residential building supplier, she thought she would be working again by Christmas.

Having worked in residential construction for 20 years, she was used to finding work by flipping through her Rolodex. 

"Usually it's three phone calls, three job offers, and off you go," she said.

The 45-year-old Woodbridge resident made her three phone calls. Then three more, but she still had no leads. For the first time since she graduated from college in the 1980s, she scoured help-wanted ads. She sent out more than 150 résumés and posted one on Craigslist under the heading, "I desperately need a job."

In ordinary times, a college degree goes a long way toward securing employment, even during a recession. It also offers some measure of job security: Workers with at least a college diploma are less likely to lose their jobs in down times; but college grads such as Razmara are now finding that a post-secondary education isn't necessarily enough.

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More Groups Than Thought Were Monitored By Maryland Police
2009-01-04 17:30:24

The Maryland State Police surveillance of advocacy groups was far more extensive than previously acknowledged, with records showing that troopers monitored - and labeled as terrorists - activists devoted to such wide-ranging causes as promoting human rights and establishing bike lanes.

Intelligence officers created a voluminous file on Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA),  calling the group a "security threat" because of concerns that members would disrupt the circus. Angry consumers fighting a 72 percent electricity rate increase in 2006 were targeted. The DC Anti-War Network, which opposes the Iraq war, was designated a white supremacist group, without explanation.

One of the possible "crimes" in the file police opened on Amnesty International, a world-renowned human rights group: "civil rights."

According to hundreds of pages of newly obtained police documents, the groups were swept into a broad surveillance operation that started in 2005 with routine preparations for the scheduled executions of two men on death row.

The operation has been called a "waste of resources" by the current police superintendent and "undemocratic" by the governor.

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Franken Widens Lead Over Coleman In Minnesota Senate Race
2009-01-04 17:29:53
Victory in Minnesota's drawn-out Senate race moved within Democrat Al Franken's grasp Saturday when he increased his lead over Republican Norm Coleman as the statewide recount drew to a close.

The state Canvassing Board will reconvene Monday to declare which candidate received the most overall votes in the election. Barring court intervention, it will be Franken.

Franken's lead now stands at 225 votes after he gained 176 votes more than Coleman in Saturday's review of the formerly sealed absentee ballots. Franken started the day with a 49-vote advantage.

The 933 absentee ballots were among those rejected by poll workers but later found to have been excluded in error. The campaigns agreed they should be added to the recount.

Unless Coleman wins a pending court petition that seeks to add hundreds more ballots to the recount, the counting is done and the Canvassing Board can sign off on the result Monday or Tuesday. The result cannot be certified for at least one more week under state law.

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7.6 Magnitude EarthQuake Kills At Least 2, Injures 35 In Indonesia
2009-01-04 17:29:18
A major earthquake struck Sunday near the north coast of West Papua, Indonesia, killing at least two people and injuring 35, said government officials.

The magnitude 7.6 quake occurred at about 4:43 a.m. (2:43 p.m. Saturday ET), about 95 miles (150 kilometers) west-northwest of Manokwari, Indonesia, and about 105 miles (170 kilometers) east-northeast of Sorong - two cities in the Indonesian province of West Papua.

Dozens of houses were damaged, with four buildings collapsing, according to a spokesman for the National Disaster Coordinating Agency.

Dozens of military personnel were called up for rescue operations, said Untung.

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New Bird Flu Cases Revive Fear Of Human Pandemic
2009-01-04 17:30:35
Just when you thought you could scratch bird flu off your list of things to worry about in 2009, the deadly H5N1 virus has resurfaced in poultry in Hong Kong for the first time in six years, reinforcing warnings that the threat of a human pandemic isn't over.

India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and mainland China also experienced new outbreaks in December. During the same period, four new human cases - in Egypt, Cambodia and Indonesia - were reported to the World Health Organization. A 16-year-old girl in Egypt and a 2-year-old girl in Indonesia have died.

The new cases come after a two-year decline in the number of confirmed human deaths from H5N1 bird flu and as fewer countries are reporting outbreaks among poultry. A United Nations report released in October credits improved surveillance and the rapid culling of potentially infected poultry for helping to contain and even prevent outbreaks in many countries.

Yet H5N1 has continued to "at the very least smolder, and many times flare up" since the chain of outbreaks began in 2003, said Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The year-end uptick is a reminder of how quickly the situation can turn as long as the H5N1 virus is still out there, said  Osterholm and other scientists. "What alarms me is that we have developed a sense of pandemic-preparedness fatigue," he said.

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New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson Withdraws As Obama Cabinet Nominee
2009-01-04 17:30:06
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has withdrawn his name from consideration as commerce secretary for President-elect Barack Obama, citing an ongoing investigation about business dealings in his state.

Richardson, 61, who competed unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination, was secretary of energy and U.N. ambassador during Bill Clinton's presidency, and also the first high-profile Latino named to Obama's Cabinet.

A grand jury in New Mexico is currently looking into charges of "pay-to-play" in the awarding of a state contract to a company that contributed to Richardson.

The importance of the inquiry was apparently dismissed when Richardson was first nominated, but it may have taken on more weight in light of the "pay-to-play" allegations involving Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"It is with deep regret that I accept Governor Bill Richardson's decision to withdraw his name for nomination as the next Secretary of Commerce," the president-elect said in a statement released early this afternoon. "Governor Richardson is an outstanding public servant and would have brought to the job of Commerce Secretary and our economic team great insights accumulated through an extraordinary career in federal and state office.

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Israeli Force Effectively Bisect Gaza Strip
2009-01-04 17:29:36
Israeli ground forces backed by air and naval power moved into the Gaza Strip on Sunday, bisecting the northern and southern sections and targeting areas from which Hamas fighters are launching rockets, according to witnesses and Israeli military officials.

One Israeli soldier was killed in "a heavy exchange of fire" involving mortars and guns during a battle close to the Jabalya refugee camp, a Hamas stronghold. Another Israeli soldier was severely wounded in the same incident, which unfolded around 1 p.m. Sunday, an Israeli military spokesman said.

It was Israel's first fatality in the ground invasion, which began Saturday night and followed a week-long air assault on Gaza. Five other Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded Sunday afternoon, and 30 other troops had been wounded overnight, including an officer and a soldier who received severe injuries. The Israeli military said "dozens of Hamas" fighters had been hit since the ground offensive began.

Israeli military officials said forces were taking over strategic areas in order to decrease attacks on southern Israel, where more than 500 rockets have landed over the nine days of fighting. A senior Israeli military officer, speaking to foreign journalists in a conference call, said Israel was prepared to control those areas as long as needed to stop the rocket launches.

"We are not speaking about recapturing the Gaza Strip," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "This is not our objective. If we have to hold those areas, to stop the rockets, we will do this."

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