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Monday, January 12, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday January 12 2009 - (813)

Monday January 12 2009 edition
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U.S.Thwarted Israeli Plan To Bomb Iran Nuclear Facility
2009-01-11 16:24:13
President Bush last year rejected an Israeli request to provide sophisticated, deep-penetration bombs to attack Iran's underground nuclear enrichment facilities, Pentagon officials said Saturday.

The administration also rebuffed Israel's plan to fly through U.S.-controlled Iraqi airspace to reach the Iranian site, said  officials. The Israelis had not proposed a specific date for an attack, and it was not clear how far along the planning was when the requests were made, said officials.

The Israeli requests were first reported on the New York Times Web site Saturday; the newspaper also said that President Bush, seeking to deflect the Israelis and to soften his refusal, told the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he had authorized a new covert action program to sabotage Iran's uranium enrichment program. The report quoted U.S. officials as saying that some actions had been taken as part of what it described as an ongoing covert program, but that they had not seriously affected Iranian operations. Israel and the United States and principal European allies have charged that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program, a charge Tehran has denied.

Officials with the Israeli Embassy and the CIA declined to comment last night. A White House spokesman could not be reached for comment.

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U.S.' Largest Utility Grapples With Two Spills
2009-01-11 16:23:45
Standing on a porch near the Widows Creek power plant Saturday, Charlie Cookston took a drag off a cigarette and ticked off the reasons he distrusts the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

Dead mussels in the mighty, meandering Tennessee River. Dwindling numbers of fish. Big, black piles of coal ash that seem to get larger every day.

As nearby residents await lab tests on the safety of drinking water, tempers are unsettled. Electric rates at the nation's largest utility have soared. A dike burst in Tennessee destroyed several homes, and on Friday, as much as 10,000 gallons of waste spilled into Widows Creek in northeastern Alabama.

The nation's largest utility, once was viewed as a savior to the region, bringing lights, thousands of jobs and progress since its creation as a New Deal program in 1933, has had a rocky few months.

"We ain't trusted TVA around here since back in the '50s," said Cookston, 59, who runs bulldozers and other heavy equipment for a living.

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Fighting Escalates As Israel Pushes Farther Into Gaza
2009-01-11 16:23:00
Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen battled Sunday morning on the outskirts of Gaza City in some of the most intense fighting of the week-old ground offensive as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared that Israel is "close" to achieving its goals, but is not there yet.

On the sixteenth day of war since Israel launched a surprise air assault on Gaza, Israeli tanks backed by helicopter gunships pushed further toward the narrow strip's main population center, Gaza City. Ambushed by fighters from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the two sides battled for five hours Sunday morning, witnesses said. The fighting left at least 27 Palestinians dead, according to medical officials in Gaza. There was no immediate report of Israeli casualties.

The tank movement was seen in Gaza as a possible precursor to a new phase of the war, one in which Israeli forces move into the territory's most densely packed urban centers and refugee camps.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not directly address where the campaign would go next. But he did indicate that the war will go on.

"Israel is getting close to achieving the goals it set for itself," he told his cabinet during their weekly meeting. "But patience, determination and effort are still needed to realize these goals in a manner that will change the security situation in the south."

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250 Feared Dead As Storm Sinks Indonesian Ferry
2009-01-11 16:22:08
A ferry capsized in a severe storm and crashing waves in central Indonesia on Sunday and officials said around 250 people were feared dead.

Eighteen survivors were rescued by fishing boats, but the fate of the others remained unclear, said Taufik, a port official at Parepare on the island of Sulawesi, where the ferry began its journey. Taufik uses one name, as is common in Indonesia.

About 250 passengers and 17 crew are believed to have been on board the ferry when it went down 30 miles (50 kilometers) off the coast off western Sulawesi. Indonesians generally don't know how to swim and it was feared that most on board would have drowned.

Transport Minister Jusman Syafi'i Djamal said the captain - who was among those pulled alive from the sea - reported that 150 people jumped off the boat before it sank, but he did not know what happened to them.

"We have prepared a search and rescue operation, but now there are high waves hampering the process," said Djamal.

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Behind The Lines With The Taliban
2009-01-11 16:24:04
A Los Angeles Times writer joins Taliban fighters in an especially dangerous part of Afghanistan. The men appear to have no fear of troops, and prove to be gracious hosts.

The main highway is "enemy territory" for the Taliban, a busy two-lane road where U.S. troops race down the middle, trying to steer clear of suicide bombers. The guerrillas drive it like they own it.

Grinning with contempt at a convoy of Polish troops trying to plow its way through traffic the other day, three Taliban fighters with guns and long knives concealed under their heavy woolen cloaks calmly eased into the other lane and beat the jam.

When they reached the edge of this provincial capital just an hour and a half south of Kabul, the driver pulled onto a dirt track into the desert, coaxing the creaking old van over a speed bump and past a nervous-looking Afghan army sentry. The fighters flashed him a dirty look.

Just 30 yards from the American-built highway, we were entering Taliban country.

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Iran Using Fronts To Get U.S. Bomb Parts
2009-01-11 16:23:32

The Iranian businessman was looking for high-quality American electronics, but he had to act stealthily: The special parts he coveted were denied to Iranians, especially those seeking to make roadside bombs to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. 

With a few e-mails, the problem was solved. A friendly Malaysian importer would buy the parts from a company in Linden, New Jersey, and forward them to Iran. All that was left was coming up with a fake name for the invoice. Perhaps a Malaysian engineering school? "Of course, you can use any other company as end-user that you think is better than this," the Iranian businessman, Ahmad Rahzad, wrote in an e-mail dated March 8, 2007.

The ruse succeeded in delivering nine sensors called inclinometers to Iran, the first of several such shipments that year and the latest example of what U.S. officials and weapons experts describe as Iran's skillful flouting of export laws intended to stop lethal technology from reaching the Islamic republic.

Despite multiple attempts by the Bush administration to halt illegal imports - including sanctions against several Dubai-based Iranian front companies in 2006 - the technology pipeline to Tehran is flowing at an even faster pace. In some cases, Iran simply opened new front companies and shifted its operations from Dubai to farther east in Asia, said  the officials.

Iran in the past two years has acquired numerous banned items - including circuit boards, software and Global Positioning System devices - that are used to make sophisticated versions of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that continue to kill U.S. troops in Iraq, according to documents released by the Justice Department and a new study by a Washington, D.C., research institute. The deadly trade was briefly disrupted after the moves against Dubai companies in 2006, but it quickly resumed with a few changes in shipping routes and company names, said the officials.

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Protest Against Israel Targets U.S. Consulate In Pakistan
2009-01-11 16:22:40
Security forces used tear gas and batons to repel anti-Israel protesters who tried to attack a U.S. consulate in Pakistan on Sunday, as tens of thousands in cities across Europe, the Middle East and Asia demonstrated against Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip.

A protest in the Belgian capital, Brussels, that drew 30,000 turned violent as well, with demonstrators overturning cars and smashing shop windows; and, in Manila, Philippines, policemen used shields to disperse students protesting outside the U.S. Embassy.

Israel launched its campaign in Gaza on Dec. 27 to stop rocket fire from the militant Palestinian group Hamas. Gaza health officials say nearly 870 Palestinians have been killed, roughly half of them civilians. Thirteen Israelis have also died.

Some 2,000 protesters in the Pakistani port city of Karachi burned U.S. flags and chanted anti-Israel slogans, and several hundred of them marched on the U.S. Consulate, said senior police official Ameer Sheikh.

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European Union: Russia, Ukraine Agree Restart Gas Flow
2009-01-11 16:21:59
The European Union said it brokered an agreement between Russia and Ukraine early Sunday to resume shipments of natural gas to the continent under the watch of international observers. But analysts warned that the key disputes that caused the shutdown were left unresolved and could lead to further disruptions.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who holds the E.U. presidency, announced the deal after meeting with Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Saturday and flying to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, where talks with Ukraine's Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko stretched past midnight.

"Nothing prevents Russia now from resuming gas supplies," Topolanek told reporters, according to the Associated Press. 

Tymoshenko said the agreement would allow independent observers to confirm that Ukraine is an "honest transit country," the A.P. reported.

There was no immediate confirmation of a deal from the Kremlin, which signed an accord on a monitoring arrangement with Topolanek on Saturday.

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