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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday January 11 2009 - (813)

Sunday January 11 2009 edition
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Bush Prepares Request For Rest Of Bailout Funds
2009-01-10 12:11:56

Senior Bush administration officials, consulting with the Obama transition team, have prepared a plan to ask lawmakers for the second half of the $700 billion financial rescue package despite intense opposition in Congress, said sources familiar with the discussions.

The initiative could create an unusual political scenario straddling the Bush and Obama administrations. If Congress were to vote down the measure, either President Bush or Obama would have to exercise a veto to get the money.

Obama officials would prefer that Bush exercise any veto rather than leave the new president with the unsavory task of rebuffing his fellow Democrats in Congress to advance a widely unpopular program, said sources. The White House  has declined to say publicly whether Bush would be willing to issue the veto.

"There have been discussions between the administration and the transition team on how to proceed should the president-elect determine that he would like President Bush to notify Congress on his behalf of the intent to use the remaining $350 billion so that it will be available early in the new administration," White House press secretary said  Dana Perino. "No final decisions have been made."

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I.G.: U.S. State Dept. May Have Violated Rules On Security Contractor
2009-01-10 12:11:28

The U.S. State Department may have violated federal regulations in turning over management aspects of its multibillion-dollar private security contract in Iraq to other contractors, the department's inspector general concludes in a report released Friday.

The report, produced by a regional Inspector General's office established last year to keep closer watch on expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan, says the State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security had been "highly effective in ensuring the safety" of diplomatic personnel in Iraq. There have been no casualties among U.S. diplomatic and civilian officials protected by contractors under the bureau's supervision.

"However," it says, "the rapid rise in use and scale of private security contractors has strained the Department's ability to effectively manage them." Department efforts, the I.G. found, were "undermined by frequent staff turnover, under staffing, increased workload, and the lack of standardized operating policies and procedures."

Contracts require security companies to submit "muster sheets" verifying personnel are present and available for work. But the report says contracting and government security officers did not effectively review the sheets. Although contractors had "recurring difficulties" maintaining their staffs of marksmen, emergency services technicians and interpreters, the department "never invoked the financial deduct penalty clause for this violation."

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U.S. Job Losses At Highest Level Since 1945
2009-01-10 12:11:41
With U.S.  jobs disappearing in numbers not seen since the end of World War II, pressure mounted on Congress and President-elect Barack Obama on Friday to overcome their differences and reach agreement on a massive recovery program to stave off economic catastrophe.

The nation's unemployment rate rose to an eye-popping 7.2% in December and brought the total jobs lost for the year to the largest number since 1945, the Labor Department said. More alarming than the bare numbers was the trend line: The economy has lost 2.6 million jobs in the last 12 months, but 75% of them vanished in the last four months, with 524,000 jobs lost in December alone.

Economists expect the employment picture to deteriorate further in the months ahead.

"No one is expecting it to turn around any time soon," said Harry Holzer, a labor economist with Georgetown University and the Urban Institute. "The labor market lags behind the rest of the economy. Absent any signs of stabilization, we can expect this to continue for some time."

Obama moved quickly to tell Democrats and Republicans alike that he was willing to compromise and make adjustments in his proposed $775-billion stimulus package. But he warned that ideological differences must not stand in the way of quick action.

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2008 Saw Increase In Southern California Earthquakes
2009-01-10 12:11:10
There were 267 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater in Southern California in 2008, up from 125 in 2007. Seismologists say such clusters could indicate a bigger temblor to come - but, then again, maybe not.

Do you think the ground feels a little shakier these days? It's not your imagination.

Last year saw a significant increase in the number of temblors of magnitude 3.0 or greater in Southern California and the northern portion of Baja California, according to data from Caltech and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The region recorded 267 shakers with magnitudes of 3.0 and above last year, compared with 125 in 2007. Seismologists said 2008 had the highest number of such quakes of any year since 1999.

What experts don't know is whether the quake cluster is a harbinger of bigger quakes to come. The 1990s was considered a seismically active decade in Southern California, producing the magnitude 7.3 Landers earthquake in 1992 and the destructive Northridge temblor in 1994. During the quake cluster of 1999, the region was hit by the magnitude 7.1 Hector Mine temblor in the desert and several sizable aftershocks. There were 828 quakes with magnitudes of 3.0 and above that year.

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