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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday January 7 2009 - (813)

Wednesday January 7 2009 edition
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In The Globalized Economic Crisis, Everyone Shares The Pain
2009-01-06 16:41:17
The upheaval in the financial markets has sent shock waves around the globe. Economies in North America, Europe and Asia are closely connected - for better or worse. Now, the threat of new protectionism is taking shape.

Shortly before trading ended at noon on New Year's Eve, the brokers on Wall Street paused for a moment to gather on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and sing a song together - not unlike sailors singing together on a sinking ship.

"Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie," they sang fervently, a romantic ditty about waiting for the clouds to pass and the sun which will inevitably reappear. It has been the anthem of New York traders for the past 70 years or so, and singing it together on the last day of the year has become a tradition and means of mutual encouragement. Since the days of the Great Depression, its lyrics have never been as appropriate as they are today.

The Dow Jones industrial average has lost almost 34 percent of its value within the last 12 months. Within that time period, investors have lost more than $6 trillion (€4.4 trillion). "It was a horrible year," says trader Roger Volz. "No one was prepared for the pace of destruction." And yet the New York Stock Exchange got off relatively lightly.

Germany's DAX 30 index declined by more than 40 percent, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index fell 42 percent, and share prices in Shanghai plunged by 65 percent. Investors in Moscow saw the value of their shares decline by more than 70 percent. The Moscow stock exchange even had to be temporarily closed to prevent it from collapsing altogether.

No trading center has escaped the turbulence, and no one has been untouched by the financial crisis. It is spreading - from bank to bank, from company to company, from continent to continent - and fast growing into an event of epochal importance: the first global economic crisis since the Great Depression.

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Minutes Show Depth Of Federal Reserve Officials' Concerns
2009-01-06 16:40:48
Even as Federal Reserve officials slashed their key interest rate to a record low and pledged to use other unconventional tools to fight the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, they still feared the economy would be stuck in a painful rut for some time.

Documents released Tuesday provided insights into the Fed's historic decision to ratchet down its rate to near zero from 1 percent at its Dec. 15-16 meeting. In the first action of its kind in the Fed's 95-year history, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues created a target range for its rate, putting it at zero to 0.25 percent.

Despite the aggressive action, "the economic outlook would remain weak for a time and the downside risks to economic activity would be substantial," according to the Fed document.

In fact, Fed officials expected the economy would "contract sharply" in the final three months of 2008 and in "early 2009," the document said. Some participants suggested "the distinct possibility of a prolonged contraction, although that was not judged to be the most likely outcome."

Against that backdrop, Fed officials last month signaled rates would stay at record low levels for a while in an effort to cushion the blows from a recession that started in December 2007.

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Russian Natural Gas Supplies To Europe Dwindle
2009-01-06 16:40:12
The flow of natural gas from Russia to Europe plummeted Tuesday, with several countries reporting a complete halt in shipments and others experiencing major reductions as Russia deepened its gas embargo against neighboring Ukraine in the middle of a winter cold spell.

Russia and Ukraine blamed each other for the sudden drop in deliveries, which caused supply disruptions as far away as Italy and Germany, but the two sides appeared set to resume direct talks later this week after six days of finger-pointing in a fuel price standoff with political overtones.

Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Turkey and the Czech Republic said gas shipments coming through Ukraine had stopped or fallen sharply. Germany, Europe's largest consumer of Russian gas, said deliveries had been "massively reduced" and predicted shortages if they were not restored and temperatures remained low.

The Balkans appeared hardest hit, with Croatia saying it was reducing supplies to industrial customers and Slovakia preparing to declare a state of emergency. Bulgaria, which relies on Russia for almost all its gas, said it was preparing to restart a shuttered nuclear reactor because it had enough reserves to last only a few more days.

Two Bulgarian cities were left without gas, including one on the freezing Black Coast in which 12,000 households lost central heating, the Associated Press reported. "We are facing a serious natural gas crisis in which Bulgaria is a victim of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine," said Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev.

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California Supreme Court Rules Breakaway Parish Can't Take National Church's Property
2009-01-06 16:39:47
Rebellious congregations that part ways with their denominations may lose their church buildings and property as a result, the California Supreme Court said Monday in a unanimous ruling.

The state high court decision came in a case involving the Episcopal Church, but lawyers said it would apply to other denominations as well.

Several Protestant denominations, including United Methodists and Presbyterians, have faced upheaval over gay rights issues. Monday's ruling, along with similar victories that the church leadership has won in other states, is expected to dampen enthusiasm for such separations.

In a decision written by Justice Ming W. Chin, the court said the property of St. James Anglican Church in Newport Beach was owned by the national church, not the congregation. The congregation split away after the national church consecrated a gay man, V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

"When it disaffiliated from the general church, the local church did not have the right to take the church property with it," Chin wrote for the court.

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Obama Wants Journalist Sanjay Gupta For Surgeon General
2009-01-06 16:38:42
President-elect Barack Obama has offered the job of surgeon general to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the neurosurgeon and correspondent for CNN and CBS, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.

Gupta has told administration officials that he wants the job, and the final vetting process is under way. He has asked for a few days to figure out the financial and logistical details of moving his family from Atlanta to Washington but is expected to accept the offer.

When reached for comment Tuesday, Gupta did not deny the account but declined to comment.

The offer followed a two-hour Chicago meeting in November with Obama, who said that Gupta could be the highest-profile surgeon general in history and would have an expanded role in providing health policy advice, the sources said. Gupta later spoke with Tom Daschle, Obama's White House health czar and nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, and other advisers to the president-elect.

The Michigan-born son of Indian and Pakistani parents, Gupta has always been drawn to health policy. He was a White House fellow in the late 1990s, writing speeches and crafting policy for Hillary Clinton. His appointment would give the administration a prominent official of Southwest Asian descent and a skilled television spokesman.
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Update: Seizure Killed Jett Travolta
2009-01-06 01:31:21

This is an update to our January 2nd, 2008 story.

Jett Travolta's body shows no sign of head trauma and his death certificate says he was killed by a "seizure," an undertaker said Monday, as the 16-year-old's celebrity parents prepared for a Florida funeral.

Glen Campbell, assistant director of the Bahamian funeral home handling the remains of John Travolta's son, told The Associated Press that the body is in "great condition," despite police officials who had said the teen hit his head on a bathtub.

Authorities didn't release the results of an autopsy performed Monday, but Campbell saw the body and the death certificate, which was based on its findings.

"The only cause of death that was listed was 'seizure'," he said.

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Editor:  I've been really annoyed with the sensationalized stories surrounding the death of young Mr. Travolta.   Now that the official cause of death has been confirmed, and more real details have come out, I can honestly say that I know what John Travolta is going through, as I've been through exactly this myself.   Although the autopsy report hasn't been released to anyone but family (if it has been yet), from my own loss,I can tell you that it doesn't say much of anything.  We had to wait several weeks for the report.  It will be a long document of the tests they ! performed, measurements and statistics, and if I had to summarize it, it would say "He was a perfectly healthy boy." 

  For the Travolta family, extended family, and friends, they will find themselves asking "if he was healthy, why did it happen."  It's the nature of seizures. Other than a little problem with neurons firing wrong occasionally, the victims are perfectly normal.  Then one day, a seizure happens, and instead of (or in addition to) the outward muscular spasms, it can affect the heart or diaphragm, causing one or both to stop.  Knowing that doesn't make it any easier on the family who just suffered the loss.   

  I had talked with Nathan about his seizures, trying to get an insight into what was happening with him.  He had no memory from several minutes before a seizure happened, until about 30 minutes after.  From what I understand, this is typical, so most likely Jett didn't suffer at all. ! ; He wasn't even aware that his body was failing him.

  Now we know everything we need to about what happened, I sincerely hope the media will drop their sensationalized stories,  and even coverage of this.  It's done.  Let them mourn peacefully.  We know all the facts now, and hopefully some of us will learn a little bit from it.   Maybe someday a good treatment will be made to help others, so no other families have to suffer from this.

  Rest in peace, Jett.  I'm sure you will be remembered, just as we remember Nathan every day.

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At Least 30 Killed As U.N. School Hit In Gaza Attack
2009-01-06 16:40:59
Shells fired by Israeli forces exploded at a United Nations school Tuesday, reportedly killing at least 30 Palestinians who had sought shelter there during a day when Israeli forces pounded deeper into the Gaza Strip and a Hamas rocket struck a town about 20 miles south of Tel Aviv.

Street battles continued across the Palestinian enclave and showed no signs of ebbing, despite renewed calls by Arab and European leaders for the United Nations Security Council to demand a cease-fire.

John Ging, the senior U.N. official in Gaza, said 30 Palestinians were killed and 50 injured when three artillery shells sprayed shrapnel through the school building in the Jabaliya refugee camp. The casualty figures could not be immediately confirmed, but media reports quoted Palestinian doctors as saying as many as 42 people had died, many of them children.

Hours earlier, the United Nations said another one of its schools, which had been closed, in northern Gaza was hit by an Israeli missile, killing three Palestinians who had taken shelter inside. Hundreds of Gazans have been using the U.N. buildings as shelter against fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants.

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Israel Puts Media Clamp On Gaza
2009-01-06 16:40:27
Three times in recent days, a small group of foreign correspondents was told to appear at the border crossing to Gaza.  The reporters were to be permitted in to cover first-hand the Israeli war on Hamas in keeping with a Supreme Court ruling against the two-month-old Israeli ban on foreign journalists entering Gaza.

Each time, they were turned back on security grounds, even as relief workers and foreign nationals were permitted to cross the border. On Tuesday the reporters were told not even to bother coming.

So, for an 11th day of Israel's war in Gaza, the several hundred journalists here to cover it wait in clusters away from direct contact with any fighting or Palestinian suffering but with full access to Israeli political and military commentators eager to show them around southern Israel, where Hamas rockets have been terrorizing civilians. A slew of private groups financed mostly by Americans are helping guide the press around Israel.

Like all wars, this one is partly about public relations but, unlike any war in Israel’s history, in this one, the government is seeking to control entirely the message and narrative for reasons both of politics and military strategy.

“This is the result of what happened in the 2006 Lebanon War against Hezbollah," noted Nachman Shai, a former army spokesman who is writing a doctoral dissertation on Israel’s public diplomacy. “Then, the media were everywhere. Their cameras and tapes picked up discussions between commanders. People talked on live television. It helped the enemy and confused and destabilized the home front. Today Israel is trying to control the information much more closely.”

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Turkey, Bulgaria And Austria Suffering Major Disruptions In Natural Gas Supplies
2009-01-06 16:40:02
The row between Gazprom and Kiev, Ukraine, over the price of Russian natural gas has started to have a knock-on effect in Europe. Many countries, including Turkey, Bulgaria and Austria, are suffering major disruptions to their gas supplies.

Just as temperatures plummet across much of Europe, several countries are facing a sharp reduction in energy supplies. On Tuesday a number of countries reported major disruptions to gas supplies as a direct result of the dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas prices. Turkey, Greece, Romania, Austria and Bulgaria have all been affected by Russian energy giant Gazprom's decision to cut gas exports through Ukrainian pipelines.

Turkey's supplies through a western pipeline have been completely cut, according to Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler. "Gas from the western line was completely stopped this morning," Guler told reporters on Tuesday. "Initially it fell to 32 million cubic meters, then we were informed that it would drop to 17 million cubic meters and then it was completely stopped." Ankara intends to raise supplies from another pipeline that passes under the Black Sea and, according to Reuters, Iran is mulling increasing its gas flows to Turkey.

Earlier on Tuesday, Bulgaria's Economy Ministry announced that all Russian gas supplies via Ukraine to Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece and Macedonia had been halted on Tuesday morning as a result of the dispute between Moscow and Kiev. "We are in a crisis situation," the ministry said in a statement. Bulgaria relies almost entirely on Russian gas for its needs and has no access to alternative pipeline routes and with temperatures in the country dropping to minus 15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) overnight, the government is asking businesses and households to use other fuels.

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Burris Is Blocked From Taking Illinois Seat In U.S. Senate
2009-01-06 16:39:19
Roland W. Burris, the would-be junior senator from Illinois, arrived at the Capitol on Tuesday morning for the start of the 111th Congress and was greeted like a celebrity, even though he remains a private citizen, at least for the moment.

Burris, who shortly before his arrival had insisted he was “certainly not looking for drama,” found himself caught up in a comedy of sorts. Looking unsettled and with rain glistening on his topcoat, he entered the building to encounter a mob of reporters and photographers in a spectacle that briefly overshadowed the convening of the new House and Senate that will soon take up the ambitious program of President-elect Barack Obama.

Capitol police officers tried to clear a path for Burris. “You can’t keep a regular citizen from walking into the Capitol,” one officer shouted.

Somehow, Citizen Burris made his way to the office of Nancy Erickson, the secretary of the Senate, to whom he presented his credentials, only to have her reject them. Afterward, the aspiring legislator stood in the rain outside and declared, “Members of the media, my name is Roland Burris, the junior senator from the State of Illinois.”

Not yet, he isn’t. The problem for Burris, of course, is that he was named to the seat by the embattled Illinois governor, Rod R. Blagojevich. Erickson had already said that the appointment letter forwarded by the governor’s office did not comply with Rule II of the Senate’s standing rules, which requires signatures of both the governor and the secretary of state.

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German Industrial Tycoon Commits Suicide
2009-01-06 16:38:23
German billionaire industrialist Adolf Merckle committed suicide by lying down in front of a train near his home on Monday evening. His family said the impact of the financial crisis on his conglomerate "broke the passionate family entrepreneur".

German industrial mogul Adolf Merckle, 74, committed suicide on Monday after his group of companies got into trouble as a result of the financial crisis, his family said on Tuesday.

Merckle was run over by a train near his home in southern Germany, close to the city of Ulm, said police.

He left his family a farewell letter in which he apologized for his suicide but gave no reason for it, according to information obtained by Spiegel Online.

Merckle headed a business group with about 100,000 employees and €30 billion ($40.2 billion) in annual turnover.

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