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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday January 4 2009 - (813)

Sunday January 4 2009 edition
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Bush Administration Supports Change To Make Subdivisions In Forests Easier
2009-01-03 13:36:54
The Bush administration appears poised to push through a change in U.S. Forest Service agreements that would make it far easier for mountain forests to be converted to housing subdivisions.

Mark E. Rey, the former timber lobbyist who heads the Forest Service, last week signaled his intent to formalize the controversial change before the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. As a candidate, Obama campaigned against the measure in Montana, where local governments complained of being blindsided by Rey's negotiating the policy shift behind closed doors with the nation's largest private landowner.

The shift is technical but with large implications. It would allow Plum Creek Timber to pave roads passing through Forest Service land. For decades, such roads were little more than trails used by logging trucks to reach timber stands.

As Plum Creek has moved into the real estate business, paving those roads became a necessary prelude to opening vast tracts of the company's 8 million acres to the vacation homes that are transforming landscapes across the West.

Scenic western Montana, where Plum Creek owns 1.2 million acres, would be most affected, placing fresh burdens on county governments to provide services, and undoing efforts to cluster housing near towns.

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Editorial: Mr. Bush's Health Care Legacy
2009-01-03 13:36:29
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times online edition for Friday, January 2, 2009.

This page has criticized the Bush administration’s weak performance on many important health care matters: its failure to address the problem of millions of uninsured Americans or stem the rising costs of health care, its refusal to expand eligibility for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, its devious maneuvers to cut Medicaid spending, its support of unjustified subsidies for private health plans, to name a few.

It is only fair to note that President Bush can also lay claim to some signal achievements in health care - achievements that we urge President-elect Barack Obama to continue and develop further.

As we have argued in the past, Mr. Bush deserves high praise for significantly increasing American support for the global effort to control AIDS. We were pleased that Congress has now authorized even more money than Mr. Bush proposed: almost $50 billion to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis around the world over the next five years. But there is little doubt that the president has played a key role in providing drug treatments or supportive care to millions of patients who would otherwise have gone untended.

It is a remarkable record for the leader of a party that had been reluctant in the Reagan era to deal with a disease whose victims at the time in this country were primarily gay men and injection drug users.

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U.S. Debt May Soar By Up To $2 Trillion In 2009
2009-01-03 04:59:54

With President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats considering a massive spending package aimed at pulling the nation out of recession, the national debt is projected to jump by as much as $2 trillion this year, an unprecedented increase that could test the world's appetite for financing U.S. government spending.

For now, investors are frantically stuffing money into the relative safety of the U.S. Treasury, which has come to serve as the world's mattress in troubled times. Interest rates on Treasury bills have plummeted to historic lows, with some short-term investors literally giving the government money for free.

About 40 percent of the debt held by private investors will mature in a year or less, according to Treasury officials. When those loans come due, the Treasury will have to borrow more money to repay them, even as it launches perhaps the most aggressive expansion of U.S. debt in modern history.

With the government planning to roll over its short-term loans into more stable, long-term securities, experts say investors are likely to demand a greater return on their money, saddling taxpayers with huge new interest payments for years to come. Some analysts also worry that foreign investors, the largest U.S. creditors, may prove unable to absorb the skyrocketing debt, undermining confidence in the United States as the bedrock of the global financial system.

While the current market for Treasurys is booming, it's unclear whether demand for debt can be sustained, said Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP, which analyzes Treasury financing trends.

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Bush: Hamas Provoked Israeli Attacks
2009-01-03 04:59:11
President Bush issued a sharp condemnation of Hamas on Friday, accusing the Palestinian Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip of provoking Israeli military action with rocket attacks and then increasing the death toll by hiding among civilian populations.

In a recorded radio address that was released a day early, Bush avoided faulting Israel for civilian casualties and called for a monitoring system to curtail weapons smuggling into Gaza. Bush's remarks, released in Washington, D.C., were his first public comments on the conflict since Israel began an intensive campaign of air strikes against Hamas a week ago.

Bush has generally supported Israeli military actions during his eight years in office, while strongly condemning Hamas, the Lebanese Hezbollahmovement and other anti-Israel groups that are considered terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. At the same time, Bush vowed to finalize a Middle East peace plan by the time he left office - a pledge that was abandoned even before the latest violence.

Israel pressed its assault Friday, bombing a mosque it said was used to store weapons and the homes of at least half a dozen Hamas leaders, as Hamas continued to fire rockets into southern Israel. Israel also allowed more than 200 holders of foreign passports to leave Gaza, adding to concerns that a wider air assault or a ground operation was imminent.

Most of the homes of Hamas operatives targeted Friday were apparently empty, although wire services reported that one man was killed in the strikes. On Thursday, Israeli forces bombed the home of Nizar Rayyan, a Hamas cleric who had advocated suicide attacks against Israelis, killing him, his four wives and 11 of his children.

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Taliban Use Of Marksmen Worries U.S. Military
2009-01-03 04:58:44
Taliban fighters increasingly are deploying precision marksmen to fire on U.S. troops at greater distances throughout opium-producing southern Afghanistan, according to the top two commanders for the southern region.

The increased use of marksmen is the latest Taliban shift to asymmetrical warfare and away from confronting U.S. troops in conventional fights, the commanders told McClatchy Newspapers.

Instead of gathering in company-sized units to take on foreign troops, Taliban forces also are resorting increasingly to explosives and bombings, attacks that require fewer people and pose less risk to themselves, the commanders said. Explosives attacks rose by 33 percent last year, as did deaths of coalition troops, according to the International Security Assistance Force, which leads the coalition forces stationed here.

"They are reverting to tactics that tell us they are suffering heavy losses," said U.S. Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, the deputy commander for the southern regional command. "They are trying to minimize their exposure."

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Illinois Lawmakers Look To Impeachment Vote On Blagojevich
2009-01-03 13:36:44
Illinois lawmakers will be called back into session next week, which is earlier than expected, in an effort to expedite impeachment proceedings against Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, and, ultimately, some said, to prevent his appointee from becoming the state’s next United States senator.

In a letter to representatives, Michael J. Madigan, the powerful Democratic speaker of the Illinois House, said the chamber might be asked as early as next week to vote on an impeachment committee’s findings against Blagojevich, a Democrat who is charged with corruption and accused of trying to sell the United States Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama.

In Washington, D.C., meanwhile, senior Democratic officials say the party leadership remains determined to prevent Roland W. Burris,a Democrat and former Illinois attorney general, from joining the Senate because he was appointed by Blagojevich. Burris is expected to try to take a seat when the 111th Congress convenes Tuesday.

“This isn’t about Roland Burris,” said Joe Shoemaker, chief spokesman for Senator Richard J. Durbin, of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. “This is about whether the governor of the state, who has been accused of trying to sell the Senate seat, made the appointment in an honest, fair and legal way.”

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U.S. Governors Call For $1 Trillion In Stimulus Funds To Offset Budget Cuts
2009-01-03 05:00:11
To help offset state budget cuts, a group of Democratic governors urged the federal government Friday to pass a $1 trillion economic stimulus package, significantly larger than the one under discussion in Congress.

The package would help states compensate for cuts to education spending that could cause long-term economic decline, as well as bolster infrastructure projects and benefits programs for the poor, the governors from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio and Wisconsin said in a news conference.

Congress is reportedly considering $675 billion to $775 billion in stimulus spending, but the governors suggested the package must be larger to have psychological and economic impact.

"The scope of it needs to be substantial," and it must "include this education piece," said New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine. 

The governors recommended that the stimulus plan include $350 billion for infrastructure, including transportation, wastewater and broadband projects; $250 billion for anti-poverty programs such as Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps and child care; $250 billion in flexible education spending to maintain funding for programs from pre-kindergarten to higher education; and middle-class tax cuts.

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Commentary: Russian Predicts U.S. Will Divide Into Six Parts, Critics Have Conniption Fit
2009-01-03 04:59:32
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Washington Post staff writer and ... "ahem" ... author, Joel Garreu. It appeared in the Washington Post edition for Saturday, January 3, 2009.

For seriously predicting that the United States will break into six parts in June or July of 2010, Igor Panarin has suddenly become a Russian state-media celebrity. Hardly a day goes by without another interview or two for the KGB-trained, Kremlin-backed senior analyst. The clamor in Russia for his ideas is growing, he says.

Panarin's disintegration divination comes complete with a map. In it, Alaska goes to Russia. Hawaii goes to Japan or China. "The California Republic" - the West from Utah and Arizona to the Pacific - goes to China. "The Texas Republic" - the South from New Mexico to Florida - goes to Mexico. "Atlantic America" - the Northeast from Tennessee and South Carolina up to Maine - joins the European Union, and "The Central North-American Republic" - the Plains from Ohio to Montana - goes to Canada.

Few Americans paid any attention to his novel views until this week, when the Wall Street Journal trumpeted them on Page 1. Within hours, the U.S. media began the counterattack.

This is preposterous, Time magazine said in a blog.

"The man knows nothing at all about American regional differences," wrote Justin Fox, Time's business and economics columnist. South Carolina is like Massachusetts? Tennessee will join with France? Idaho will find something to love about California? Wyoming will snuggle up to Ottawa? Alabama will happily report to Mexico City? "Yeah, right!" Fox wrote. "Has this man ever been to the United States? Has he never even heard of 'The Nine Nations of North America'? ... Igor, do your homework!"

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British Banks Defy Prime Minister's Call To Free Up Credit
2009-01-03 04:58:57

Britain's banks are defying the government by starving businesses and households of loans and warning that credit will become even scarcer in the first three months of this year.

A Bank of England survey found that in spite of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's call for more loans, lenders had further reduced the amount of credit available in the last three months of 2008 and warned that they planned to continue to pare back. Banks and building societies are being deterred from lending by the worsening economic outlook and the fall in house prices and other assets against which loans are secured.

The dire picture painted by the quarterly survey was reinforced by separate data yesterday showing a record low for new mortgages being granted and figures from Halifax, the U.K.'s biggest mortgage lender, that showed house prices in December were down 16% on a year earlier.

Labor Party backbench Parliament members seized on the figures to put more pressure on Brown and Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling to take action to kick-start lending in the face of what economists warn could be a deep and painful recession. Interest rates are already at a 58-year low and are expected to fall even further from their current 2% after Thursday's meeting of the Bank's monetary policy committee.

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