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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday January 31 2009 - (813)

Saturday January 31 2009 edition
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Stocks Slump, Dow Drops 150 Points, Finishes Week Lower Than It Began
2009-01-30 16:42:17
Stocks slumped for a second day on Friday as investors took a milder-than-expected reading on the economy as a sign that the worst is yet to come. The Dow Jones industrials sank about 150 points, while the broader indexes fell more than 2.2 percent. The Dow closed just above 8,000 but ended the week below where it began, 8,077.56.

The U.s. Commerce Department said Friday that gross domestic product, the widely followed measure of the economy, shrank at a 3.8 percent pace in the final three months of 2008. That compared with a 0.5 percent decline the previous quarter.

Friday’s reading was much better than the 5.4 percent drop economists expected. Still, the figure could be revised lower in the months ahead - and many analysts believe the economy has been contracting in early 2009 at an even faster pace.

“We expected fourth quarter to be the worst of the recession,” said Randy Frederick, director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. “From an investor’s perspective, they may see this stronger-than-expected report setting us up for the first quarter to be worse.”

“Each time you get a report that indicates that maybe we hadn’t bottomed out yet, it prolongs the recovery,” said  Frederick.

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U.S. Economy Shrinks As Unsold Goods Pile Up
2009-01-30 15:39:37

The United States economy shrank at its fastest pace in a quarter-century from October through December, the government reported on Friday, as consumer spending and business investment collapsed, signaling more economic contraction in the months ahead.

In the broadest official accounting of the toll of the credit crisis, the government reported that gross domestic product shrank at an annual rate of 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. While that was less than economists’ expectations of a 5.5 percent drop, the decline would have been much steeper - more than 5 percent - if shipments of goods had fallen as sharply as orders.

President Obama seized on the figures Friday morning, calling the contraction a “continuing disaster” for working families, and again urged Congress to pass a package of tax cuts and spending. The House, divided on party lines, passed an $819 billion stimulus plan on Wednesday, and Senate is expected to take up the measure next week.

“What we can’t do is drag our feet or delay much longer,” said Obama. “The American people expect us to act.”

The president also announced the first meeting of a Task Force on Middle-Class Working Families, which will seek to raise living standards of working families. .

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Exxon Mobil Shatters U.S. Shatters U.S. Annual Profit Record: $45.2 Billion
2009-01-30 15:39:15
Exxon Mobil Corp. on Friday reported a profit of $45.2 billion for 2008, breaking its own record for a U.S. company, even as its fourth-quarter earnings fell 33 percent from a year ago.

The previous record for annual profit was $40.6 billion, which the world's largest publicly traded oil company set in 2007.

The extraordinary full-year profit wasn't a surprise given crude's triple-digit price for much of 2008, peaking near an unheard of $150 a barrel in July. Since then, however, prices have fallen roughly 70 percent amid a deepening global economic crisis.

In the fourth quarter alone crude tumbled 60 percent, prompting spending and job cuts in an industry that was reporting robust, often record, profits as recently as last summer.

With piles of cash and diversified operations, the majors like Exxon Mobil have fared better than many smaller oil and gas companies, but Friday's results show no one is completely insulated from the ongoing malaise.

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Biden To Chair Task Force On Middle Class
2009-01-30 15:38:36
For anyone expecting Vice President Biden to disappear in a sea of strong-willed Cabinet heavyweights, an event at the White House on Friday morning was a signal: President Obama is really interested in giving Biden a higher profile.

At a crowded ceremony in the East Wing of the White House, Obama launched a task force on the middle class - and put Biden in charge of it. Obama acknowledged that the task force comes at a moment of crisis - just as the economy is experiencing, he said, the "worst contraction in close to three decades" with the release of new data showing the economy had shrunk 3.8 percent last quarter.

"This isn't just an economic concept. This is a continuing disaster for America's working families. As worrying as these numbers are, it's what they mean to the American people that really matters," Obama said. He said that Biden will be especially suited to the task of studying the middle class and coming up with solutions, given his working-class, Scranton roots.

Biden announced that his chief economic adviser, Jared Bernstein, will be the executive director of the task force - a welcome announcement to more liberal economists and the labor movement, who regard Bernstein as one of their greatest allies within the administration. The task force also has its own web site - - that will not only post information but also solicit ideas, said Biden .

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Economic Signs Turn From Shinola To ... Well, You Get The Idea
2009-01-30 03:48:46

On the eve of what is expected to be the clearest evidence yet of the nation's deepening recession, bad news rolled in from across the economy and the world. Sales of new homes in December plummeted, corporations announced plans to cut 13,000 more U.S. jobs, unemployment claims jumped, and a troubled icon of U.S. manufacturing, Ford Motor, Thursday announced a massive loss.

Early Friday morning, the Japanese government announced that factory output had fallen 9.6 percent and that joblessness in the world's second-largest economy jumped to 4.4 percent, in the largest increase in 41 years.

The accelerating pattern of grim indicators has led up to a report scheduled for release Friday morning on U.S. economic performance in the final three months of last year. Many economists think the economy shrank by as much as a 6 percent annual rate - that would be the worst quarter for the economy since 1982 - and they see little potential for growth until later this year.

Capturing the sentiment of a nation caught in an economic tailspin, President Obama said Thursday that it was "shameful" that Wall Street firms doled out nearly $20 billion in executive bonuses even as the government was spending billions of dollars to rescue financial firms.

Stocks stumbled Thursday on the dire economic data, with the Dow Jones industrial averagte dropping 2.7 percent, or 226.44 points, to close at 8149.01.

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American Indian Museum Will Put Entire Collection Online
2009-01-30 03:48:23

Even with three locations in its empire, the National Museum of the American Indian can display barely 1 percent of its 800,000 objects. To help close that gap, the museum has decided to set up a digital showcase.

On Monday, the museum plans to launch its "Fourth Museum" to give scholars, students, teachers, cultural historians and those far away from the museum's homes in Washington, D.C., and New York City, N.Y., the opportunity to look into its archives.

The move has been in the works for nearly three years, as staff reexamined each item and its scholarship. The online project, part of the museum's regular Web site, will begin with 5,500 items and photographs. The goal is to have all 800,000 objects on the Web site, but it will take at least four years to achieve that.

"Most Americans will never see the Smithsonian, and Native Americans aren't any different," said Kevin Gover, the museum's director. "This Web site has always been part of our long-term strategic plan. Quite simply, given we know most native people will never visit any of our three museums ... we wanted to provide this experience." Money to travel isn't plentiful in native communities, said Gover, but most reservations and schools have been equipped with the latest Internet and satellite technology.

So now the historian or descendant of the Kalaallitt can study a harpoon head resembling a polar bear, made around 1880 by a member of those Greenland Inuit. It was probably collected during Robert E. Peary's Arctic expedition in 1891-92 and since 1929 has been in the archives that preceded the museum. "We started with objects where we were sure the information was accurate," said Ann McMullen, chief curator of the project.

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U.S. Will Not Renew Blackwater Contract In Iraq
2009-01-30 16:42:08
The U.S. State Department will not renew the contract of security contractor Blackwater Worldwide when it expires in May, a senior State Department official said Friday.

The decision was made after the Iraqi government refused last week to renew the firm's operating license because of a 2007 incident in which the Iraqi government says security guards - then employed by Blackwater - fired on and killed 17 Iraqis.

Blackwater's latest "task order" expires in May, and the senior official said that "one of the conditions is that you have to have a license" to continue working in the country.

"No license, no renewal," the official said. "If they don't have a license to operate, we would certainly not renew the task order."

The official said the decision would not affect other the contracts Blackwater has with the State Department to protect American diplomats around the world.

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Rising Acidity Threatens Oceans
2009-01-30 15:39:24

The oceans have long buffered the effects of climate change by absorbing a substantial portion of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Yet this benefit has a catch: as the gas dissolves, it makes seawater more acidic. Now an international panel of marine scientists says this acidity is accelerating so fast it threatens the survival of coral reefs, shellfish and the marine food web generally.

The panel, comprising 155 scientists from 26 countries and organized by the United Nations and other international groups, is not the first to point to growing ocean acidity as an environmental threat. For example, a group of eminent scientists convened by The Nature Conservancy issued a similar assessment in August; but its blunt language and international credentials give its assessment unusual force. It called for “urgent action” to sharply reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.

“Severe damages are imminent,” the group said Friday in a statement summing up its deliberations at a symposium in Monaco last October.

The statement, called the Monaco Declaration, said increasing acidity is interfering with the growth and health of shellfish and eating away at coral reefs, processes that would eventually affect marine food webs generally.

Already, the group said, there have been detectable decreases in shellfish, shell weights and interference with the growth of coral skeletons.

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N. Korea Vows To Abandon Peace Pact With S. Korea
2009-01-30 15:39:01
North Korea's vow to abandon all peace agreements with Seoul drew a mild response Friday from South Korea's president, who continued to express optimism that the rivals could hold negotiations soon.

President Lee Myung-bak dismissed the North's claim that his government's tougher policies were pushing the divided peninsula toward armed conflict.

"I hope North Korea understands that (South Korea) has affection toward the North, and I think that the two Koreas can hold negotiations before long," Lee said, without elaborating. Still, he was skeptical about sending an envoy to North Korea to help break the deadlock.

Lee's comments came hours after the North vowed to abandon a nonaggression pact and all other peace agreements with South Korea. The communist country also said it would not respect a disputed sea border with the South.

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Zombies In Austin Texas! Run!
2009-01-30 13:19:23
Austin, Texas drivers making their morning commute were in for a surprise when two road signs on a busy stretch of road were taken over by hackers. The signs near the intersection of Lamar and Martin Luther King boulevards usually warn drivers about upcoming construction, but Monday morning they warned of  "zombies ahead."
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U.S. Senate Passes Children's Health Insurance Bill
2009-01-30 03:48:34

The Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation Thursday to provide health insurance to 11 million low-income children, a bill that would for the first time spend federal money to cover children and pregnant women who are legal immigrants.

The State Children's Health Insurance Program, which is aimed at families earning too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance, currently covers close to 7 million youngsters at a cost of $25 billion.

Lawmakers voted 66 to 32, largely along party lines, to renew the joint state-federal program and spend an additional $32.8 billion to expand coverage to 4 million more children. The expansion would be paid for by raising the cigarette tax from 39 cents a pack to $1.

The House approved similar legislation on Jan. 14, and President Obama is expected to sign a final version as early as next week.

During the presidential campaign, Obama pledged to provide coverage to every American child. Experts estimate that once the program is fully implemented about 5 million youngsters will remain uninsured.

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