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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday January 22 2009 - (813)

Thursday January 22 2009 edition
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President Obama Gets To Work
2009-01-21 23:16:25

President Barack Obama Wednesday devoted his first full day in office to ditching one discredited Bush administration policy after another - proposing the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison and offering a new relationship to Iran.

Sitting behind the desk at the Oval Office at 8:35 a.m. after a late night of inauguration balls, he set about trying to live up to the daunting expectations for his presidency both at home and abroad.

He gathered his military commanders to set new missions for Iraq and Afghanistan, and met his economics team to discuss a proposed $800 billion spending package to combat recession. He also phoned world leaders to emphasize that a new president is in charge, with a completely different agenda and world outlook.

Although Obama's team is reluctant to be compared with Franklin Roosevelt's famous 100 days that brought in the New Deal - the measurement for all subsequent presidencies - it wants his 100 days to be just as historically significant.

Addressing assembled White House staff, he said he had been inspired by the estimated two million who gathered to watch him being sworn in. He told staff he expected a higher ethical code at the White House than had existed under his predecessor, and issued executive orders imposing strict rules governing dealings with Washington's lobbyists. "Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency," he said.

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Newsblog: N.Y. Police Divers Find Left Engine Of US Airways Flight
2009-01-21 23:16:04
Intellpuke: The following is from the New York Times' "City Room" newsblog, by staff writers Matthew L. Wald and Christine Hauser, and was posted on that newspaper's Web site edition for Wednesday, January 21, 2009.

Two important developments occurred Wednesday in the investigation into the cause of the crash-landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River last week. Police divers found the left engine of the plane, an Airbus A320, in the river, while the National Transportation Safety Board announced that the right engine, which stayed attached to the plane, showed “evidence of soft body impact damage.”

Some blades were cracked and others missing, the board said. Investigators found “what appears to be organic material,’’ which they sent to the Department of Agriculture for DNA analysis and a single feather, which they sent to the Smithsonian Institution for identification.

The right engine “experienced a surge” on a flight two days before the crash, after which maintenance personnel replaced an internal part, a temperature probe, the board said. It did not specify whether there was likely to be any connection to the bird encounter two days later, but other experts said that such a surge could have many causes. The investigators said they would examine the maintenance records.

And, they said, they were removing carry-on and checked bags, and would work with USAirways to return them. Investigators usually weigh such items as they calculate whether the plane’s weight and balance were within specifications.

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Newsblog: Meanwhile, Back In Minnesota ...
2009-01-21 23:15:33
Intellpuke: This newblog was written by New York Times staff writer Michael Falcone and appeared in that newspaper's edition for Wednesday, January 21, 2009.

Outside the nation's Capitol on Tuesday, Al Franken sported a thick Russian-style winter hat as he settled in to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama. Inside the Capitol, there is still no office with his name on it.

That didn’t stop Franken, the Democrat and entertainer, from circulating a statement that hinted at the prospect of “working together” with the newly sworn-in president.

“Like so many others, I have been inspired by our new president to look towards the future with optimism, and with the knowledge that there is nothing we can’t accomplish together,” he said.

Franken’s own future, however, is in the hands of a three-judge panel in Minnesota that will hear arguments on Wednesday from both sides in the election contest filed by former Senator Norm Coleman, a Republican, who trailed at the conclusion of a statewide recount. Their first order of business will be to consider the Franken campaign’s argument that the contest should be thrown out before a trial begins.

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In Southern Afghanistan, Taliban Fill NATO's Big Gaps
2009-01-21 23:15:10
The Taliban are everywhere the soldiers are not, the saying goes in the southern part of the Afghanistan.

And that is a lot of places.

For starters, there is the 550 miles of border with Pakistan, where the Taliban’s busiest infiltration routes lie.

“We’re not there,” said Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson, the deputy commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. “The borders are wide open.”

Then there is the 100-mile stretch of Helmand River running south from the town of Garmser, where the Taliban and their money crop, poppy, bloom in isolation.

“No one,” General Nicholson said, pointing to the area on the map.

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President Obama Starts Tackling Economic, Military Issues
2009-01-21 14:47:26
With a nod to the last of the inaugural celebrations, Barack Obama Wednesday kicked off his first full day as the 44th president of the United States by focusing on the pressing domestic and foreign issues that he inherited.

Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and a host of dignitaries continued tradition by attending a multi-denominational prayer service at Washington's National Cathedral this morning, a day after he formally took office. The Obamas will then host an open house at the White House.

Later today, Obama is scheduled to meet with his economic and foreign policy teams to tackle the most pressing issues: what to do about the flagging economy and how to wind down the war in Iraq while stepping up efforts to pacify Afghanistan. Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command with responsibility for Iraq and Afghanistan, was scheduled to meet with Obama.

Obama has already begun a series of official acts. His administration has asked for a suspension of Guantanamo trials for detainees so it could review the cases and the procedures. A federal court approved the request this morning.

Obama also ordered federal agencies to freeze any action on federal regulations promulgated in the Bush administration's waning days so that they could be reviewed as well.

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Iraq Accuses Iranian Exiles Of Plotting Attack
2009-01-21 14:46:47
The Iraqi government this week accused an Iranian opposition group of planning a suicide attack against Iraqi troops, a possible prelude to decisive government action to close the group's camp in Iraq and expel its members.

The Mujaheddin-e Khalq, or MEK, on Tuesday denied Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie's  allegation that it was planning an attack. Rubaie, who made the charge Monday during a visit to Tehran, offered no evidence to back up his assertion.

The fate of the MEK has long been an irritant in relations between the government of Iraq, which has built close ties with Iran, and the U.S. government. The MEK received support from Saddam Hussein's government and has been designated a terrorist organization by the State Department, but the U.S. military has protected the group's base in Iraq, known as Camp Ashraf, since the 2003 invasion. U.S. officials credit the MEK with providing information about Iran's nuclear program.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wants to expel the MEK, despite the group's protestations that its members would be executed or harshly treated if returned to Iran. Iraqi officials have said the group's continued presence has a destabilizing effect and hinders relations between Iran and Iraq.

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Toyota Outsells GM Globally For First Time
2009-01-21 14:46:21
Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. sold more cars and trucks last year than General Motors Corp., stripping the Detroit, Michigan, automaker of the No. 1 global sales crown for the first time in 78 years.

GM said Wednesday it sold 8,355,947 cars and trucks around the world in 2008, falling about 616,000 vehicles short of the 8.972 million Toyota announced Tuesday.

GM, which posted an 11 percent drop in global sales for the year, blamed the decline on the steep drop in vehicle demand in its key North American and European markets.

North American sales dropped 21 percent for the year. GM Europe sales fell 6.5 percent, including a 21 percent plunge in the fourth quarter.

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Now That Senate Hearing Is Over, Geithner Expected To Be Confirmed
2009-01-21 23:16:14
U.S. Senators of both parties interrogated Timothy F. Geithner, President Obama’s nominee to be Treasury secretary, on Wednesday about his personal tax delinquencies and his role in the run-up and response to the financial crisis, but publicly asserted that he would be confirmed soon.

For his part, Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for the last five years, told the Senate Finance Committee that the Obama administration would propose as soon as possible ways to overhaul both the nation’s porous system for regulating financial institutions and the $700 billion financial bailout program, including using that fund to address the housing foreclosure crisis.

He also apologized for late payment of more than $34,000 in income taxes earlier in the decade, lapses that might have doomed the nomination of a candidate less experienced and less respected among Republicans than Geithner.

To buttress that reputation, the Obama team had the widely esteemed former Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker introduce Geithner as the Finance Committee opened its hearing on Wednesday morning. Volcker said the younger man had “hands-on experience,” the respect of global financial market leaders “and the confidence of the president.”

Geithner, departing from prepared remarks, said the nonpayment of payroll taxes in the three years he was at the International Monetary Fundfrom 2001 to 2004 “were careless mistakes, they were avoidable mistakes. But they were unintentional. I should have been more careful.”

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Financial Stocks Push Markets Higher
2009-01-21 23:15:55

Wall Street bounded back on Wednesday as investors hunted for bargains among battered financial stocks and cheered the prospect that Timothy F. Geithner would be confirmed as President Obama’s Treasury secretary.

A day after the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted 330 points and financial stocks posted their worst single-day drop in years, the banking sector pulled the broader indexes back up. Despite continuing concerns, big banks including Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase recouped some of their losses.

The Dow sustained a rally most of the day and ended up 279.01 points, or 3.5 percent, to 8,228.10. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was 4.3 percent, or 35.02 points, higher at 840.24. The Nasdaq finished up 4.6 percent, at 1,507.07.

“The markets are searching for any kind of solace,” said Tim Smalls, head of trading at Execution in Greenwich, Conn. “The key to getting everything moving again was the Geithner hearing.”

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Iceland's Biggest Protest Demonstration Since 1949, Prime Minister's Car Pelted With Eggs
2009-01-21 23:15:22
Iceland's government was last night scrambling to avoid becoming the first administration to be ousted by the global financial crisis, as ministers huddled to try and hold together a coalition in the face of some of the biggest protests the country has seen for 60 years. 

Protesters who have mounted vocal demonstrations in recent weeks against the collapse of the economy squared up to police, spattered parliament with eggs and paint, and at one point surrounded the prime minister's car as he tried to leave his office.

They pelted Geir Haarde's car with eggs and banged on the windows, shouting "resign", in a sign of mounting exasperation at the government's failure to prevent the economy from imploding under a mountain of billions of dollars of debt.

"These men bankrupted Iceland. It's ridiculous that they continue as if nothing happened," said the writer Hallgrimur Helgason. "I want the government to resign and an emergency government to be proclaimed, preferably made up of women. They can't do worse than men."

Haarde's press secretary said some demonstrators "came quite close to him and they didn't look all that peaceful".

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Edmund de Rothschild, Banker, Dead At 93
2009-01-21 23:14:01
Edmund de Rothschild, a merchant banker from the renowned banking family’s British branch who led the development of a major hydroelectric project in Labrador while helping his firm expand globally and opening it to people outside his family, died Saturday at his home. He was 93.

His family announced the death in a notice in The Times of London, but specified only that he died at home. His most famous home was Exbury House near Southampton, England, where he developed 800 rhododendron hybrids in his family’s garden

Mr. de Rothschild helped put together what in the early 1950s was the largest project ever undertaken by private enterprise, the giant hydroelectric development. The story began when Joseph R. Smallwood, premier of Newfoundland, which governs Labrador, personally asked Winston Churchill to help arrange for British investment in the project in 1953. Smallwood said he hoped the British would develop something like the East India Company or the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Smallwood next met with Anthony de Rothschild, who then headed the British Rothschilds’ business, and with Edmund, Anthony’s nephew. As a result, Edmund put together a consortium of seven Canadian and American companies to develop mineral, timber and hydroelectric power resources in an area bigger than England and Wales combined.

After many years of political and economic twists and turns, the project, at Churchill Falls (originally named Hamilton Falls), began operating in 1971 as the second-largest hydroelectric plant in North America. Edmund de Rothschild made more than 400 trips to Canada in pushing the project to completion.

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Judge Suspends Guantanamo Cases At President Obama's Request
2009-01-21 14:47:14
A U.S. military judge Wednesday suspended the trial of five detainees accused of involvement in plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, acceding to a request from military prosecutors in accordance with a directive from the new Obama administration late Tuesday.

The suspension halts until late May the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the avowed mastermind of the Sept. 11 plot, and four other accused al-Qaeda members, even though Mohammed and three of the four objected to the delay.

In Washington, meanwhile, aides to President Obama were preparing an executive order that would begin the process of shutting down a detention facility at the Guantanamo Bay naval base for captured terrorist suspects. According to the Associated Press, the draft executive order calls for closing the detention center within a year. It was not immediately known when Obama would issue such an order.

In a hearing here, Mohammed told the judge in his case that if the proceeding went forward and all outstanding issues were resolved, including the mental competency of two of the defendants, then all five would be ready to confess to the charges together. The judge considered the government's suspension request for an hour, then issued an order accepting it.

The development came after the administration of the newly inaugurated president, in one of its first actions, instructed military prosecutors late Tuesday to seek a 120-day suspension of legal proceedings involving detainees at Guantanamo - a clear break with the approach of the Bush administration, whose term ended at noon Tuesday.

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U.S. Supreme Court Lets Internet Porn Law Die
2009-01-21 14:46:31
A 13-year legal drive to shield children from pornography on the Internet ended in defeat today when the Supreme Court let the Child Online Protection Act die quietly.

The measure, which never went into effect, made it a crime to put sexually explicit material on a website for commercial gain unless the sponsor used some means, such as requiring a credit card, to keep out minors.

It was repeatedly blocked from taking effect on free-speech grounds by judges, including by the Supreme Court in 2004. The justices had also voided an earlier, even broader law passed in 1996 that prohibited "indecency" on the Web.

The outcome preserves the Web as a wide-open forum for free expression. It also leaves to parents the duty to install software filters if they wish to block pornography on their home computers.

The judges in Philadelphia who struck down the law last year called these filters an "equally effective" means of protecting children from pornography on the Web.

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Switch To Digital TV May Not Be As Smooth As Advertised
2009-01-21 14:46:11

Joyce Powell can get a dozen analog channels with her seven-year-old television set, but when she hooked up a converter box to prepare for next month's transition to digital broadcasts, she discovered that she couldn't receive any local channels, even though the stations' transmission towers are a few miles from her Wisconsin Avenue apartment building in Washington, D.C.

"I thought all I had to do was buy a box and hook it up," said Powell, 72. "That's what you're led to believe by all the ads."

In less than a month, on Feb. 17, all full-power stations plan to shut off analog signals and air digital-only broadcasts. Viewers with older analog TV sets will need to hook up a converter box to receive over-the-air programs. Digital TV sets will automatically receive the new signals. Cable and satellite subscribers should not be affected by the switch.

But many consumers are discovering that upgrading to a digital set or adding a converter box may not be enough to get a reliable digital signal. Some will also have to buy more powerful antennas to install in living rooms or on roofs, adding expense and frustration for the nearly 14 million households who rely on over-the-air signals.

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