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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday January 20 2009 - (813)

Tuesday January 20 2009 edition
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Banks Foreclose On Builders With Perfect Records
2009-01-20 01:30:25
Dave Brown, one of Tempe, Arizona’s best-known home builders, had kept his head above water through the housing downturn, not missing a single interest payment on his loans.

So he was confounded a few months back when one of his banks, spooked by the decline in his company’s revenue, suddenly demanded millions of dollars in additional collateral to continue carrying loans on his projects.

He was unable to come up with the money, and in October, JPMorgan Chase foreclosed on five of his developments. Shortly thereafter, Brown Family Communities, 33 years in the business, decided to shut its doors.

“They treated me like a deadbeat who missed his car payment,” said an embittered Brown, 76. “They wanted their money now.”

After riding high on one of the greatest housing booms in American history, the nation’s home builders today face a devastating reversal of fortune.

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Leading Russian Rights Lawyer And A Reporter Are Shot To Death In Moscow
2009-01-20 01:29:58
A prominent Russian lawyer who spent the better part of a decade pursuing contentious human rights and social justice cases was killed on Monday in a brazen daylight assassination in central Moscow, said officials.

The lawyer, Stanislav Markelov, had just left a news conference where he announced that he would continue to fight against the early release from jail of Yuri D. Budanov, a former Russian tank commander imprisoned for murdering a young Chechen woman.

Anastasia Baburova, a 25-year-old journalist who was with Mr. Markelov, was also killed, according to a spokeswoman for a newspaper where she worked as a freelancer, Novaya Gazeta, which is highly critical of the government. The two were shot.

Officials said they believed that Mr. Markelov, 34, was the primary target, having brought cases against the Russian military, Chechen warlords and murderous neo-fascists. With a laundry list of his potential enemies, authorities refrained from naming any suspects.

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Mexican Billionaire Invests In N.Y. Times Co.
2009-01-20 01:29:18
The New York Times Company said Monday it had reached an agreement with the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu for a $250 million loan intended to help the newspaper company finance its businesses.

Under the terms of the deal, Slim, who already owns 6.9 percent of the Times Company, would invest $250 million in the form of six-year notes with warrants that are convertible into common shares, the company said in a statement. The notes also carry a 14 percent interest rate, with 11 percent paid in cash and 3 percent in additional bonds.

The deal comes as the Times Company looks to raise money amid flagging advertising sales and approaching deadlines to pay back $1.1 billion in debt in the next few years.

The company will use the proceeds from the transaction to refinance its existing debt. One of its two $400 million revolving credit lines is set to expire in May. The $250 million investment should help free some of the company’s borrowing capacity.

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German Banks Have 300 Billion Euros In Toxic Securities
2009-01-19 21:30:19
Germany's top 20 banks still have around 300 billion euros in toxic securities on their books and have written off only a quarter of that, according to an official survey, Spiegel reports. That means they face further big losses.

German banks face further losses totaling billions of euros because they have only written off a fraction of their non-performing securities linked to American mortgages and student loans, according to a survey of 20 major German banks conducted by the German central bank and banking watchdog BaFin.

All the country's top commercial banks and the publicly owned regional banks known as Landesbanken took part in the survey which revealed that the banks hold so-called "toxic" securities totaling just under €300 billion ($398 billion), of which only a quarter has been written off.

They hold the remainder in their books at values that are now illusory. The government expects the banks to make further writedowns as a result, which should lead to further big losses for the banks. That in turn means that even more banks are likely to require government cash injections in the near future.

The Finance Ministry in Berlin estimates that the entire German banking sector is still holding risky securities totaling up to €1 trillion. Given that volume, Finance Minister Peer Steinbruck of the center-left Social Democrats, believes it would be irresponsible for the government to set up a so-called Bad Bank as a repository for toxic assets stemming largely from the devastated subprime mortgage market, as banks have suggested.

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Northern Europe Marvels At Mysterious Blue Light
2009-01-19 21:29:37
First there was a bluish glow, then a bang and shockwave. Residents across northern Europe marveled at the mysterious phenomenon, which is believed to have been meteorite crashing into the Baltic Sea off the coast of Rostock over the weekend.

A mysterious bluish-green flash of light followed by a loud bang alarmed residents across northern Germany, Denmark and southern Sweden on Saturday night and prompted dozens of people to call the police.

"There was a dull thunder and I felt pressure in my chest," said one eyewitness in the northern German city of Rostock.

Authorities made checks and quickly ruled out the possibility the fireball had been a plane crash. A spokesman for the German Aerospace Center said: "It was probably a meteorite. That at least would explain the shockwave and the bang."

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European Union Says Recession Will Be Deep, Long Lasting
2009-01-19 16:02:09
The European Union said Monday it is facing a "deep and protracted recession" and slashed growth forecasts, while Britain announced its second massive bank bailout in just over three months in another wave of bad economic news in Europe.

The economy in the 16 nations that use the euro will shrink by 1.9 percent in 2009, with the entire E.U.  contracting 1.8 percent, said the European Commission. That is a drastic cut from its earlier forecasts of 0.1 percent for the euro zone and 0.2 percent for the E.U.

The 27-member bloc said 3.5 million jobs will disappear in the E.U. in the year ahead as business and household spending falls and banks tighten lending.

Government demand and investment will be the only source of growth - but that carries a heavy price tag. Government deficits will hit the highest level in 15 years as they borrow heavily to stoke growth to combat the world economic crisis that began with bank losses on securities backed by shaky U.S. mortgages.

The E.U. executive raised warning flags about credit conditions, saying European states may need to inject more than the euro300 billion ($398 billion) they have already put into banks "to avoid a sustained drag on bank lending."

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Kellogg: FDA Confirms Salmonella In Crackers
2009-01-19 16:01:44
Kellogg Co. said Monday federal authorities have confirmed that salmonella was found in a single package of its peanut butter crackers, as a Midwestern grocer recalled some of its products because of the scare.

Kellogg had recalled 16 products last week because of the possibility of salmonella contamination.

On Monday, the company based in Battle Creek said that contamination was confirmed by the Food and Drug Administration in a single package of Austin Quality Foods Toasty Crackers with Peanut Butter.

Food companies and retailers have been recalling products with peanut butter in them because of suspicion of contamination amid a salmonella outbreak that has killed at least six people and sickened more than 470 others in 43 states. At least 90 people have been hospitalized.

Also Monday, Midwestern grocer and retailer Meijer Inc. said it was recalling two types of crackers and two varieties of ice cream because of the possibility of salmonella contamination: Meijer brand Cheese and Peanut Butter and Toasty Peanut Butter sandwich crackers, and Peanut Butter and Jelly and Peanut Butter Cup ice cream.

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On Last Full Day, Bush Commutes Sentences Of Border Agents
2009-01-19 16:01:02

Acting on his last full day in office, President Bush commuted the sentences of two former U.S. Border Patrol agents who were convicted of shooting a Mexican drug runner three years ago.

The convictions of Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos had become a cause celebre among many conservatives, who argued the pair were just doing their jobs. Compean had been sentenced to 12 years in prison, while Ramos had received 11 years.

Bush's commutation means the pair will walk out of federal prison March 20.

The pair were sentenced in connection with the shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, who was shot in the buttocks while trying to flee along the border in Texas. He admitted smuggling several hundred pounds of marijuana on the day he was shot and pleaded guilty last year to drug charges related to two other cases.

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Mayor: Sullenberger Family Going To Obama Inauguration
2009-01-19 16:00:33
US Airways pilot Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger and his family are going to the presidential inauguration, the mayor of his California hometown said Sunday.

Mayor Newell Arnerich said the town of Danville is also planning a welcome home for the pilot who landed his crippled aircraft safely in the Hudson River last Thursday.

An aide to President-elect Barack Obama said Sunday evening that all five members of the Flight 1549 crew have been invited to the inauguration Tuesday. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because details are still being worked out.

The Danville mayor said Lorraine Sullenberger told city officials that the family would leave for the East Coast on Sunday. The pilot's wife and daughters haven't seen Sullenberger since he's been hailed as a hero for saving the lives of all 155 on board.

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Commentary: Hamas on the Spot
2009-01-19 15:58:52

Intellpuke: The following commentary was submitted by Free Internet Press reader Incoherent. I found it interesting and decided it merited a broader readership. Incoherent's commentary follows:


Israel's unilateral declaration of a ceasefire in Gaza this weekend brings an immediate end to the bloodletting in Gaza but may provide at best a tenuous building block for a more durable silencing of the guns. It leaves Israel unrestricted in its political, economic and military policy towards Gaza, but allows Hamas to claim that Israel blinked first. It also enables Israel to bolster its justification of the war as designed to stop Palestinian rockets from being fired at Israel if Hamas refuses to adhere to the Israeli dictate to halt the violence.

The aftermath of the ceasefire will determine who lost and won what in the Gaza bloodletting. By unilaterally declaring a halt to the carnage, Israel has deprived Hamas of what it appeared to be achieving in the Cairo-mediated ceasefire talks: de facto recognition by Israel that it has to come to grips with the Islamists to ensure its security.

Israel needs to show that its offensive ended Islamist rocket attacks on southern Israel. Interviewed on Al Jazeera Hamas' Beirut spokesman Osama Hamdan suggested the Islamists would hold their rocket fire only if all Israeli forces are withdrawn from Gaza - a demand Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack indicated Israel was not about to meet immediately. Israel continued presence in Gaza  to see whether Hamas still has the stomach for resistance and to put  in place arrangements to prevent Hamas from replenishing its military stocks puts the Islamists on the spot. Failing to live up to their assertion that they will resist the Israelis in Gaza until Israeli troops have been withdrawn, will open Hamas to charges that it has succumbed under the weight of the Israeli bombardment.

Hamdan said Israel could only guarantee a stop of Palestinian attacks on Israel through talks with the Islamists. "If those troops stay on Gaza soil, people will resist that. Nobody can guarantee anything unless we see something on the ground. If they left Gaza, the situation will be evaluated and then we can talk about new decisions maybe... Unless there is a ceasefire agreed no one can guarantee anything. … They have to understand they have to talk to the resistance. Its useless to talk to (Palestine Authority President Mahmoud) Abbas," said Hamdan.

Israel hopes the aftermath of its offensive will accelerate a pre-war decline in Hamas' popularity among Palestinians. Israeli military analysts say they have shattered Hamas' political cohesion and ability to govern Gaza. If true, that could produce a result that complicates rather ensures Israeli security: the rise of more militant Jihadi groups as well as chaos and anarchy in Gaza.

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Obama Stesses Optimism, Responsibility In Remarks
2009-01-19 02:06:16

As a growing celebratory spirit began to consume the nation's capital, President-elect Barack Obama stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Sunday and declared a "celebration of American renewal" two days ahead of his swearing-in.

"Behind me, watching over the union he saved, sits the man who in so many ways made this day possible," Obama said, in front of the marble statue of President Abraham Lincoln.

Obama's advisers also began to give a taste of the inaugural address that he will deliver at the other end of the Mall, located between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monumen -Monday, saying it will emphasize the themes of responsibility and restoring public confidence.

Obama touched on that subject yesterday, saying that what gave him great optimism was the "Americans of every race and region and station who came here because you believe in what this country can be and because you want to help us get there."

In a series of appearances that culminated in the concert at the Lincoln Memorial, Obama ventured across a city transformed into a miles-long block party, with banners strung across storefronts and tourists covered in Obama gear.

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Bush White House Directive Guides Actic Policy
2009-01-19 02:05:54

The White House last week issued a new policy directive to guide government decisions involving the Arctic, a document that outlines an array of challenges the incoming administration will face as rising temperatures spark a surge in economic and military activity there - along with new environmental concerns.

The 10-page directive signed by President Bush, which took two years to write and is meant to guide 10 Cabinet departments along with the Environmental Protection Agency, updates a policy first established 14 years ago. While fairly general, the document highlights the need for the United States to assert its interests in a region that has become increasingly desirable to countries that hope to exploit its natural resources and strategic possibilities.

"The United States has broad and fundamental national security interests in the Arctic region and is prepared to operate either independently or in conjunction with other states to safeguard these interests," the directive says.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the administration wanted to update the Arctic policy in order to reflect the creation of new federal agencies such as the Departent of Homeland Security and because the changing climate in northern latitudes has spurred new military and commercial activity there.

"The overarching purpose of doing the directive is because of the significant changes that have taken place in the Arctic ... and realigning policy to deal with it," he said.

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As Jobs Dwindle, More Joining U.S. Military
2009-01-19 02:05:28

As the number of jobs across the nation dwindles, more Americans are joining the military, lured by a steady paycheck, benefits and training.

The last fiscal year was a banner one for the military, with all active-duty and reserve forces meeting or exceeding their recruitment goals for the first time since 2004, the year that violence in Iraq intensified drastically, said Pentagon officials.

The trend seems to be accelerating. The Army exceeded its targets each month for October, November and December - the first quarter of the new fiscal year - bringing in 21,443 new soldiers on active duty and in the reserves. December figures were released last week.

Recruiters also report that more people are inquiring about joining the military, a trend that could further bolster the ranks. Of the four armed services, the Army has faced the toughest recruiting challenge in recent years because of high casualty rates in Iraq and long deployments overseas. Recruitment is also strong for the Army National Guard, according to Pentagon figures. The Guard tends to draw older people.

“When the economy slackens and unemployment rises and jobs become more scarce in civilian society, recruiting is less challenging,” said Curtis Gilroy, the director of accession policy for the Department of Defense.

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From Books, A New President Found His Voice
2009-01-19 02:04:42
In college, as he was getting involved in protests against the apartheid government in South Africa, Barack Obama  noticed, he has written, “that people had begun to listen to my opinions.” Words, the young Obama realized, had the power “to transform”: “with the right words everything could change - South Africa, the lives of ghetto kids just a few miles away, my own tenuous place in the world.”

Much has been made of Obama’s eloquence - his ability to use words in his speeches to persuade and uplift and inspire. But his appreciation of the magic of language and his ardent love of reading have not only endowed him with a rare ability to communicate his ideas to millions of Americans while contextualizing complex ideas about race and religion, they have also shaped his sense of who he is and his apprehension of the world.

Obama’s first book, “Dreams From My Father” (which surely stands as the most evocative, lyrical and candid autobiography written by a future president), suggests that throughout his life he has turned to books as a way of acquiring insights and information from others - as a means of breaking out of the bubble of self-hood and, more recently, the bubble of power and fame. He recalls that he read James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes,  Richard Wright and W. E. B. Du Bois when he was an adolescent in an effort to come to terms with his racial identity and that later, during an ascetic phase in college, he immersed himself in the works of thinkers like Nietzsche and St. Augustine in a spiritual-intellectual search to figure out what he truly believed.

As a boy growing up in Indonesia, Obama learned about the American civil rights movement through books his mother gave him. Later, as a fledgling community organizer in Chicago, he found inspiration in “Parting the Waters,” the first installment of Taylor Branch’s multivolume biography of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

More recently, books have supplied Obama with some concrete ideas about governance: it’s been widely reported that “Team of Rivals,” Doris Kearns Goodwin's book about Abraham Lincoln's decision to include former opponents in his cabinet, informed Obama’s decision to name his chief Democratic rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, as Secretary of State. In other cases, books about F. D. R.’s first hundred days in office and Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars,“ about Afghanistan and the C.I.A., have provided useful background material on some of the myriad challenges Obama will face upon taking office.

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Massive Crowd To Test Traffic, Security In Washington, D.C.
2009-01-20 01:30:13

Tens of thousands of festive visitors crowded the Mall and Washington, D.C., Monday, counting down the hours to Tuesday's historic inauguration, while authorities prepared to welcome - and control - what could be the largest crowd in Washington's history.

Tuesday's the day. The swearing-in of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president on the west steps of the Capitol at noon is expected to draw between 1 million and 3 million spectators. They'll bundle themselves against below-freezing temperatures, ride crowded Metro trains and buses, and wait at security checkpoints for a chance to witness the inauguration of the nation's first African American chief executive.

After the oath, they will crane for views of the new president and his family as he rides in an inaugural parade along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House between 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. They will then celebrate into the night at 10 official inaugural balls.

As final preparations went forward yesterday, temperatures hovered in the low 30s and a light snow swirled from time to time, yet the atmosphere on the Mall felt warm. Thousands upon thousands of people, smiling and snapping photos, were aglow in the moment in their heavy coats and gloves, thrilled to be in Washington for the big event.

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Obama Praises McCain In Bipartisan Appeal
2009-01-20 01:29:45

In a major bipartisan appeal on the eve of his inauguration, Barack Obama held dinners Monday evening for Republicans Colin Powell and John McCain, praising both to the skies and perhaps making a down payment on future political success.

In an unusual effort to create political opportunity out of what is usually a dead period in the days leading up to an inauguration. Obama reached across the aisle and across the battle lines of the last election, calling his former opponent a man who sought common ground and attaching superlatives to Powell.

He did not mention that McCain evinced little of his bipartisan side during the presidential campaign.

“There are few Americans who understand this need for common purpose and common effort better than John McCain,” Obama said at the dinner he held for McCain at the Washington Hilton. “It is what he has strived for and achieved throughout his life. It is built into the very content of his character.”

Obama then hurried by motorcade to the National Building Museum to honor Powell, who backed Obama in October in one of the most effusive, full-throated endorsements he received from a member of the opposing party.

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Full Nationalization Of Royal Bank of Scotland Feared As Stock Crashes
2009-01-19 21:30:29
A plunge in the share price of the Royal Bank of Scotland prompted City and Westminster speculation Monday night of imminent full-scale nationalization for the bank as the financial markets issued a vote of no confidence in the government's latest bail-out.

Amid growing concern from the government that the credit crunch is intensifying an already severe recession, Gordon Brown served notice that Labor's patience with the banks was rapidly running out as the Treasury unveiled a second emergency package in three months.

Britain's banks will be forced to sign binding contracts with the Treasury to take part in an insurance scheme to indemnify them from future losses, while in a U-turn on the position adopted since last February's nationalization, Northern Rock will be used to increase lending for home loans. Although the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair  Darling, said ministers had no desire to take banks into public ownership, the prime minister's tough language did ­little to quell the belief that RBS will be the third U.K. bank to be nationalized since the financial crisis broke 18 months ago.

Brown said the public had a right to be angry as he condemned the "irresponsible losses" caused by the "wrong investments" at RBS, which today left the bank nursing the biggest loss - up to £28 billion (about $50 billion) - in Britain's corporate history.

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Interview: 'Peace Without Syria Is Unthinkable'
2009-01-19 21:29:57
Intellpuke: In the following interview with Spiegel news magazine, Syrian President Bashar Assad discussed the war between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb, and his expectations for incoming United States President Barack Obama. The interview was conducted Thursday, January 15, 2009.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, the world community is protesting Israel's aggression in Gaza, but they have also called upon Hamas to relent. No one in the Arab world has as much influence on Hamas as you do. Couldn't you have tempered the fighters?

Assad: It always depends on how one uses one's influence. Our most urgent objective is to stop the attack. The fighting must come to an end, and this applies to both sides. In addition, the Israeli embargo against Gaza must end, because sealing the borders is strangling the population. The blockade is a slow death. People don't just die as a result of bombs, but also because their supplies of medications and food are cut off.

SPIEGEL: Israel will only lift the blockade once the rockets are no longer being fired at its cities.

Assad: If the people in Gaza have only the choice between a slow death caused by the blockade or death in battle, they will choose to fight. This is why lifting the embargo is an indispensable part of an agreement. We agree with Hamas on this point. Basically, Hamas is not the problem in this conflict, but Israel.

SPIEGEL: Much of the world considers Israel's military action to be disproportionate. But Hamas provoked it by shelling southern Israel. Each additional rocket results in more violent retribution and increases human suffering.

Assad: That sounds logical. But politics is about realities, not logic. The fact is that for six months Hamas complied with the cease-fire that had been agreed upon. The Israeli government, on the other hand, continued to constrict the Gaza Strip during that time. One has to be aware of this background information.

SPIEGEL: The United States and the European Union see this background differently. They consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization that wants to destroy Israel.
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Analysis: U.S. Economy Could Stall For Years
2009-01-19 16:02:23
Transfixed by the daily spectacle of dismal economic news and wild Wall Street swings, few Americans have looked up to see what a wide array of economists say lies beyond the immediate crisis.

And with good reason: The picture isn't pretty.

The sleek racing machine that was the U.S. economy is unlikely to return any time soon despite the huge repair efforts now underway. Instead, it probably will continue to sputter and threaten to stall for years to come.

The prospects are so gloomy, according to a recent study, that unemployment may be slightly higher by the time President-elect Barack Obama's first term ends.

The damage done by plunging house and stock prices, the failure of other major economies to be independent sources of growth and hidden weaknesses in America's past performance have crippled nearly every actor in the nation's economic drama.

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Southern California Home Prices Down 35% At End Of '08
2009-01-19 16:01:53
Southern California home prices continued their decline at the end of 2008, closing the year at 2003 price levels, a real estate research firm reported Monday.

The December median sales price for all Southern California homes fell to $278,000, a 35% drop from the same month a year prior, according to San Diego-based MDA DataQuick.

The falling prices were again driven by sales of foreclosed properties, which comprised 56% of all homes sold in the region. Consequently, the lowest median sales prices were reported in San Bernardino County ($180,000) and Riverside County ($209,000), where foreclosures have been rampant.

Los Angeles County's median sales price of $320,000 was down 32% from December 2007, while Orange County's median price fell 30% to $397,000. San Diego's median price dropped 30% from December 2007, to $300,000. Ventura County's $338,000 median December sales price was down 36% from the prior year.

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Israel Hopes To Complete Gaza Pullout By Tuesday
2009-01-19 16:01:15
Israel accelerated its troop withdrawal from Gaza on Monday with the aim of finishing by the inauguration of Barack Obama as Hamas reasserted control over the rubble-filled streets, and tens of thousands of Palestinians sought to cope with destroyed homes and traumatized lives.

Decomposing bodies continued to be uncovered in the worst-hit areas, with the death toll for the 22-day war that ended on Sunday passing 1,300, according to health officials here, as the fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas held. Uniformed policemen took up positions directing traffic and a few bulldozers began the enormous task of clearing the ruins. Garbage was everywhere, devastation rampant.

Hamas, the militant Islamist group that governs Gaza, held its first news conference since the war with two government spokesmen standing in front of the destroyed ministries compound and asserting that their movement had been victorious and their followers across Gaza steadfast in the face of the war.

“Israel has succeeded in killing everything except the will of the people,” said Taher al Nunu, the main government spokesman. “They said they were going to dismantle the resistance and demolish the rockets but after this historic victory, the government is steadfast, we are working and they were not able to stop the rockets.”

He said 5,000 homes had been completely destroyed and 20,000 more partially so.

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Obama Observes Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, With Call To Service
2009-01-19 16:00:43
On the eve of his inauguration as the nation's first African American commander in chief, President-elect Barack Obama observed the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday by participating in a day of service.

Obama painted a wall at an emergency shelter for homeless and runaway teens in Washington, D.C., one of the several public events on the day before his swearing-in.

His interactions with the young people at the center were duly chronicled by a media contingent, but Obama's visit to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he met with wounded troops and their families, was off-limits.

Obama, wearing a white open-collar, long-sleeve shirt and jeans, said his visit to the Sasha Bruce House was meant to demonstrate the need for everyone to be engaged in public service.

"Everybody's going to have to pitch in," said Obama.
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British Government Adds $147 Billion To Banks' Bailout
2009-01-19 15:59:41
The government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced on Monday a new bailout for the British financial system that increases its control over lenders, saying it would offer banks insurance on troubled assets and take other measures to restore credit and support the foundering economy.

The government also said it was revising the terms of its bailout of Royal Bank of Scotland, raising its shareholding in the institution from about 58 percent to about 70 percent.

Speaking at the prime minister’s 10 Downing Street residence in London, Brown placed the blame for the financial crisis on “irresponsible lending” by the banks and said institutions that took advantage of the new measures would have to sign a legally binding agreement with the government to provide more credit to consumers and businesses.

The British Treasury said the latest steps would cost taxpayers another £100 billion, or $147 billion, on top of the £37 billion plan announced in October and a £20 billion stimulus plan announced in November.

The new measures have become urgent as British home prices slide and measures of economic activity grow increasingly dire. The British economy is expected to have shown a sharp contraction in the fourth quarter, and a major slowdown is forecast for 2009.

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Ahem ... About the past two days...
2009-01-19 02:06:30
Intellpuke: As you probably noticed, there was a two-day gap in posting fresh articles here at Free Internet Press. There is a simple explanation for this: Some cretin went googling and came across an unfamiliar website. Curious, the cretin explored it. Two clicks and 27 pop-ups later he departed the website hastily ... along with about a dozen viruses and an equal amount of malware.

Thanks to this cretin's bumbling, incomprehesible stupidity this, of course, led to a lot of techincal problems which would have defeated many a tech shut down many a website, but thanks J.W., our resident cyber wizard, we're all fixed and up and running.

I apologize to all of you for the inconvenience. Why am I the one apologizing? Because I was the bumbling, incomprehensibly stupid cretin whose carefree googling caused all the problems.

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Cockpit Tape Verifies Pilot's Account Of Hudson River Landing
2009-01-19 02:06:06

The cockpit voice recording from the plane that landed in the Hudson River on Thursday captured both the sound of an impact on the US Airways jet, presumably by birds, and the efforts of a crew that was going through what a senior investigator called a “very calm, collected exercise,” even though they were gliding lower and had no way to reach a runway.

The plane lost thrust in both engines soon after takeoff, and never reached an altitude above 3,200 feet, officials of the National Transportation Safety Boardsaid on Sunday.

“About 90 seconds after takeoff, the captain remarks about birds,” said Kathryn O. Higgins, one of the agency’s five board members, in characterizing what could be heard on the cockpit voice recording. The recording was played in the board’s laboratory in Washington, D.C., on Sunday and described to Higgins, who has been assigned to the scene. “One second later, the cockpit voice recorder recorded the sound of thumps and a rapid decrease in engine sounds,” she said.

The recorder helped illustrate how the crew departed from the usual script once they realized their dire circumstances.

Usually, one pilot flies the plane and the other works the radios, but in this case, it was Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III doing both, while the first officer, Jeffrey B. Skiles, rushed to try to accomplish a “restart” checklist. Even if the engines could have been restarted, he had very little time: Flight 1549 ditched into the river three and a half minutes after the engines lost power.

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Rulings Of Improper Detentions At Guantanamo Bay As Bush Era Closes
2009-01-19 02:05:41

For nearly six years, Haji Bismullah, an Afghan detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has insisted that he was no terrorist, but had actually fought the Taliban and had later been part of the pro-American Afghan government.

Over the weekend, the Bush administration flew him home after a military panel concluded that he “should no longer be deemed an enemy combatant.”

Asked about the panel’s decision, which was not publicly announced and seemed to acknowledge a mistake of grand proportions, a Pentagon spokeswoman said, “Mr. Bismullah was lawfully detained as an enemy combatant based on the information that was available at the time.”

The decision was part of a pattern that has emerged in the closing chapter of the administration. In the last three months, at least 24 detainees have been declared improperly held by courts or a tribunal â€" or nearly 10 percent of the population at the detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where about 245 men remain.

The Bush administration has maintained that the detention camp holds “the worst of the worst.” In a radio interview Tuesday, Vice President Dick Cheney said that “now what’s left, that is the hardcore.”

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As Israel Begins Pullout, Gazans Survey Debris
2009-01-19 02:05:02
Israeli soldiers flashed the victory sign Sunday as they began withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. Shellshocked Palestinians emerged from shelters and counted their dead. As a tenuous cease-fire took hold, few people on either side predicted an end to the cycle of violence that has endured for generations.

The 22-day war ended without surrender. Neither Israel nor Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, made any concessions, except to stop fighting temporarily.

"The essence of this is you have two completely separate cease-fires, with no underpinnings in them of agreement or understanding, and no resolution of the original causes of the conflict," said Alistair Crooke, a former British intelligence officer and former European Union adviser on Palestinian issues. "On one level, it's back to square one, and all of the elements of the situation are back to where they were before the war."

Although Hamas sustained the heavier losses, by a lopsided margin, Israeli officials acknowledged that the movement could quickly rebuild its political and military wings and that it still posed a potent long-term threat to Israel.

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