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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday January 14 2009 - (813)

Wednesday January 14 2009 edition
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Analysis: U.S. Banks In Need Of Even More Bailout Money
2009-01-14 03:36:46
Even before word came on Tuesday that Citigroup might split into pieces to shore up its finances, an unpleasant message was moving through Congress and President-elect Barack Obama's transition team: the banks need more taxpayer money.

In all likelihood, a lot more money.

Obama seems to know it; a week before his swearing-in, he is lobbying Congress to release the other half of the financial industry bailout fund. Democratic leaders in Congress seem to know it, too; they are urging their rank and file to act quickly to release the rescue money. Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, certainly knows it.

On Tuesday, Bernanke publicly made the case that one of the most unpopular and most scorned programs in Washington, D.C. - the $700 billion bailoutprogram - needs to pour hundreds of billions more into the very banks and financial institutions that already received federal money and caused much of the credit crisis in the first place.

The most glaring example that the banking system needs even more help is Citigroup. Though it already has received $45 billion from the Treasury, it is in such dire straits that it is breaking itself into parts.

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Authorities Say Missing Pilot Is In Custody
2009-01-14 03:36:21
With his world crumbling around him, investment adviser Marcus Schrenker opted for a bailout. However, his plan to escape personal turmoil was short-lived.

In a feat reminiscent of a James Bond movie, the 38-year-old businessman and amateur daredevil pilot apparently tried to fake his death in a plane crash, secretly parachuting to the ground and speeding away on a motorcycle he had stashed away in the pine barrens of central Alabama.

The captivating three-day saga came to an end when authorities finally caught up to Schrenker at a North Florida campground where he had apparently tried to take his own life, said Alabama-based U.S. Marshals spokesman Michael Richards.

Schrenker was taken into custody around 10 p.m. EST after officers from the U.S. Marshal's office in Tallahassee, Florida, found him inside a tent at a campground in nearby Quincy, said Richards.

''He had cut one of his wrists, but he is still alive,'' said Richards.

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Russia Blames U.S. As European Gas Supplies Halt Again
2009-01-13 20:06:39
Russia accused the U.S. Tuesday night of "orchestrating" Europe's gas crisis as gas deliveries to the European Union  were halted hours after they resumed, amid venomous exchanges of accusations between Moscow and Kiev.

Gazprom, Russia's gas company, said its pumping stations began sending gas through Ukraine early Tuesday, following a monitoring deal signed in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday. Hours later, however, Gazprom said Ukraine was blocking the flow of natural gas - adding that the U.S. was to blame.

The E.U. said "little or no gas" flowed Tuesday to countries in central and southern Europe suffering acute energy shortages. Gazprom said Ukraine had stopped shipments and prevented Russian observers from entering its gas stations. Ukraine said Russia had "provocatively" sent the gas the wrong way, and compared Moscow's actions to the Nazi siege of Leningrad.

"We believed yesterday that the door for Russian gas was open but again it's been blocked by the Ukrainians," said Gazprom's deputy chairman, Alexander Medvedev. "It looks like ... they are dancing to the music which is being orchestrated not in Kiev but outside the country."

The state department dismissed the accusation.

Medvedev later explained he was referring to Ukraine's strategic partnership deal with the U.S., which was signed in Washington, D.C., last month by the U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. That pact enhances co-operation on defense, energy and trade, including the delivery of gas. The agreement will also see the U.S. set up a diplomatic mission in the Crimean regional capital of Simferopol - a move likely to infuriate the Kremlin. The ethnic Russian region has been at the center of claims that Moscow is trying to fuel separatist sentiments in order to undermine Ukraine's pro-western leadership.

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Japanese Businessman Linked To 1979 Los Angeles Murder
2009-01-13 16:27:42

Three months after a Japanese businessman hanged himself in an L.A. jail after being accused of killing his wife, Los Angeles police detectives are saying Kazuyoshi Miura killed another woman 30 years ago.

In the late 1970s, Tokyo resident Chizuko Shiraishi, 34, was romantically involved with Miura, said authorities. She came to Los Angeles, California, on a trip in March 1979 without telling friends or family of her whereabouts. Then she apparently vanished. Her corpse was found in a field in May 1979 in Lake View Terrace near the Foothill Freeway but remained unidentified until five years later when a Japanese reporter provided her dental charts to the LAPD.

Now, LAPD investigators say they have reclassified Shiraishi's death as a homicide and produced a report claiming the killer was Miura, who hung himself in an LAPD Parker Center jail cell while awaiting trial on conspiracy charges related to his wife's murder.

In that killing, detectives allege the ocean-hopping importer enlisted another man to shoot his wife to death near a downtown Los Angeles Freeway in 1981 to collect a $650,000 life insurance policy.

To cover up his involvement, authorities said he sought to blame the crime on America's "culture of violence."

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Yahoo Expected To Name Carol Bartz As New CEO
2009-01-13 16:27:16
Yahoo is close to naming Silicon Valley software veteran Carol A. Bartz as its new CEO, according to people familiar with the matter. The company hopes to announce her hire after the stock market closes Tuesday.

Bartz, former chief executive of design-software-maker Autodesk, appears to have beaten a host of internal and outside candidates to land one of Silicon Valley's most high-profile and challenging jobs. If the deal is finalized as expected, she will take over for Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, who will remain on the Sunnyvale, California, company's board.

Yahoo and Autodesk declined to comment. The agreement was reported Tuesday morning by the Wall Street Journal and 

The hire would cap a two-month search for Yang's replacement. In Bartz, 60, Yahoo has found a seasoned executive from the software industry; from 1992 to 2006, she served as CEO of Autodesk, which makes design programs used by architects and engineers (she is currently executive chairwoman of the San Rafael, California, company). Her resumè also includes hard-core tech companies Sun Microsystems and Digital Equipment Corp.

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Clinton Challenged On Foreign Donations To Library
2009-01-13 15:58:00

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the nominee of President-elect Barack Obama to become the new secretary of state, appeared before a confirmation hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today and ran into a challenge over foreign donations to her husband's presidential library.

Clinton, 61, was greeted with bipartisan support for her nomination. But the top Republican on the panel, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Indiana) raised concerns that foreign governments could perceive donations to former president Bill Clinton's library as a way to curry favor with the new secretary of state. He said in opening remarks that he did not expect the issue to be a barrier to Hillary Clinton's confirmation, but he called on the William J. Clinton Foundation to stop accepting foreign donations.

Lugar said donations to the library represent a "complication that will have to be managed with great care and transparency."

In her own opening remarks, Clinton told the committee that, if confirmed, she would take a more practical approach to foreign policy. In a veiled swipe at the outgoing Bush administration, she said she and Obama "believe that foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology."

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Israel: Hamas Damaged, Not Destroyed
2009-01-13 15:57:28
Diplomatic efforts to halt the war in Gaza picked up momentum on Tuesday, as Egyptian negotiators met in Cairo with Hamas members representing leaders in both Gaza and Damascus, Syria, and the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia discussed the cease-fire talks in Riyadh, even as Israeli forces tightened their circle around Gaza.

The talks in Cairo were glacial in pace, largely because of internal divisions between Hamas officials in Gaza and their leaders in Damascus and sponsors in Iran, according to an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid compromising future negotiations. The official said that the representatives of the Gaza faction are eager to negotiate a cease-fire, but are being blocked because all political decisions are being made by the group’s leadership in Damascus. The two factions, the official said, openly disagree.

“Hamas is in a very difficult position,” the official said. “On the ground their militants are not doing as good a job, not matching their rhetoric. But politically, they have been totally taken over by their sponsors.”

Senior Israeli intelligence officials, briefing reporters with customary anonymity, agreed that Hamas’ military forces had been damaged, but said they remained substantially intact. On Sunday, a senior Israeli security official indicated that Hamas’ leadership was in some disarray, saying that Hamas units were making mistakes and fighting without clear direction.

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Pfizer Plans To Lay Off Researchers
2009-01-13 15:56:11
Pfizer, the world’s biggest drug company, is laying off up to 800 scientists this year in its latest effort to refocus disappointing research efforts and cut its overhead, anticipating a drop in revenue.

Pfizer plans to reduce its global research staff - currently about 10,000 people - by 5 to 8 percent this year, a company spokeswoman, Kristen Neese, said Tuesday.

“This is in line with our refocused research areas,” said Neese.

Pfizer’s research and development headquarters are in Connecticut, in New London and Groton.

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FIP Update :: Anonymous Commenting Re-enabled - Nag Screen Disabled
2009-01-13 12:21:53

  We have a couple site updates for you today.

  First and most dramatic is, you can now comment anonymously.   We removed this quite a while ago, due to abuses of the comments.  By abuses, I mean spam for various gray market products.  We've never intentionally removed a comment because the person had a different view than us.  Advertising your gray market wares are never appropriate, and will be removed.  If this becomes a problem again, we will disable anonymous comments. 

  Voice your opinion, post a comment!

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Michigan Bank Lends Little Of Its Bailout Funds
2009-01-14 03:36:35
The bad bets made by executives at Independent Bank of Michigan are on display in spots across the state: a defunct bowling alley, a new but never occupied shopping center and the luxurious Whispering Woods Estates, which offers prime lots for never-constructed dream homes.

Now it is the federal government making the big bet here in Troy, Michigan.

The Treasury Department has invested $72 million out of the $700 billion in federal bailout funds to help prop up this community bank, which traces its roots back 144 years in Michigan. It is a small chunk of the giant rescue fund being wagered by Washington to encourage banks like Independent to resume lending and jump-start the frozen economy.

Independent, hard put to find good borrowers in a suffering economy, and fearful of making the kind of mistakes that got it into trouble in the first place, is not doing much lending these days. So far it is using all of the government’s money to shore up its own weak finances by repaying short-term loans from the Federal Reserve. “It is like if you are in an airplane and the oxygen mask comes down,” said Stefanie Kimball, the bank’s chief lending officer. “First thing you do is put your own mask on, stabilize yourself.”

This is not what the Treasury Department had in mind when it started this program, saying it would give the nation’s “healthy banks” enough money to start lending again, so that people could buy homes and businesses could invest and create jobs, thereby invigorating a disintegrating economy.

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Israel Faces Prospect Of U.N. Court Intervention Over Attacks On Gaza
2009-01-13 20:06:53

Israel faces the prospect of intervention by international courts amid growing calls that its actions in Gaza  are a violation of world humanitarian and criminal law.

The U.N. General Assembly, which is meeting this week to discuss the issue, will consider requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Guardian newspaper reported.

"There is a well-grounded view that both the initial attacks on Gaza and the tactics being used by Israel are serious violations of the U.N. charter, the Geneva conventions, international law and international humanitarian law," said Richard Falk, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories and professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University.

"There is a consensus among independent legal experts that Israel is an occupying power and is therefore bound by the duties set out in the fourth Geneva convention," added Falk. "The arguments that Israel's blockade is a form of prohibited collective punishment, and that it is in breach of its duty to ensure the population has sufficient food and health care as the occupying power, are very strong."

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Global Poll: U.K. Least Likely To Trust Politicians, Banks Or Markets
2009-01-13 20:06:21

British economic confidence has been shattered by the financial crisis, according to a unique international poll published Tuesday. It shows that people in the U.K. are now less likely to trust banks, the stock market or the government's economic management than people in comparable nations.

The research, carried out by WIN, an international network of pollsters including ICM in Britain, used professional polling techniques to assess public opinion in 17 countries, including the major G8 economies as well as China and India.

On most measures, British people emerged as among the most pessimistic of the 14,555 people questioned around the world.

Remarkably, confidence in the banking system appears lower in Britain - 4.2 out of 10 - than in bankrupt Iceland, which polled 4.6.

While around a third of citizens in developing economies such as India and China say the economic situation in their countries could improve in coming months, more than three-quarters of people in Britain expect it to worsen.

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Indiana Businessman May Have Faked Death, Fled On Motorbike
2009-01-13 16:27:29
Authorities searching for an Indiana businessman who may have tried to fake his own death in a plane crash say that he apparently escaped on a red motorcycle - and could be anywhere.

Harpersville, Alabama, Police Chief David Latimer says there's no reason to believe 38-year-old Marcus Schrenker is still in Alabama.

Latimer says he doesn't believe that Schrenker is in the United States anymore. Investigators discovered that Schrenker stashed a red motorcycle at a storage unit, and now, the bike is gone and his clothes were left behind in a storage bin.

Authorities were trying to figure out if it was all an attempt by Marcus Schrenker, 38, to fake his own death after his wife filed for divorce, his companies were targeted by investigators and he lost a half-million dollars in a court case.

The only sign of life from Schrenker came in an ominous e-mail he apparently sent to a neighbor, Tom Britt, that said the situation was a misunderstanding and added: "By the time you get this, I'll be gone."

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I.G. Report: Ideology Fueled U.S. Civil Rights Division Hirings
2009-01-13 15:58:15

Ideological considerations permeated the hiring process at the Justice Department's civil rights division, where a politically appointed official sought to hire "real Americans" and Republicans for career posts and prominent case assignments, according to a long awaited report released this morning by the department's inspector general.

The extensive study of hiring practices between 2001 and 2007 concluded that a former department official improperly weeded out candidates based on their perceived ties to liberal organizations. Two other senior managers failed to oversee the process, said authorities.

The key official, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bradley Schlozman, favored employees who shared his political views and derided others as "libs" and "pinkos," said the report.

Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and Office of Professional Responsibility chief H. Marshall Jarrett said they would refer their findings to legal disciplinary authorities.

"The Department must be vigilant to ensure that such egregious misconduct does not occur in the future," Fine said in a statement.

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Wall Street Starts To Turn Lower
2009-01-13 15:57:45

After searching for a direction for much of the Tuesday morning, markets started to turn lower in the afternoon.

Crude oil futures moved higher, settling at $37.96 a barrel, up 37 cents on reports that Saudi Arabia had removed 1.7 million barrels a day from the market since summer.

In the New York equities markets, the Dow Jones industrial average and the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index spent much of the day trading within a narrow range. Shortly after 3 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average was down about 70 points or 0.8 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and the Nasdaq were both slightly lower.

The market’s gyrations between early gains and later losses mimicked the motions of stock markets over the past weeks, when traders bid up depressed shares through the holidays and then retreated, sending stocks into a steady slide. A barrage of negative economic news has only increased pessimism, said analysts.

“The data that we have available shows it’s negative and it’s getting worse,” said David Kovacs, chief investment officer of quantitative strategies at Turner Investment partners. “The present wins, and the present data is negative.”

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Failing Economy Causes U.S. Medical Debts To Pile Up
2009-01-13 15:56:45
Pummeled by a deepening recession that is demolishing jobs and family finances, more Americans are struggling to pay their medical bills.

For years a booming economy camouflaged the burden of medical debt. Patients borrowed against their homes or whipped out credit cards, including some specially designed to pay medical or dental bills. But falling house prices and tightening credit have eliminated those options for many.

As a result, the problem of medical debt is climbing the income scale, affecting not just the poor or the uninsured. Millions of Americans covered by health insurance are paying more for less - fewer benefits, higher co-pays and additional deductibles - and are at risk for large out-of-pocket bills when serious illness or injury strike.

"People who are under insured end up facing almost identical problems as the uninsured," said Karen L. Pollitz, director of the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University. "The difference is, they paid for the privilege."

Medical debt is likely to figure prominently in the looming national debate over reforming health care.

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Britain's Prime Minister Struggles Amid Economic Gloom
2009-01-13 15:55:57
It wasn't long ago that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was celebrated as the savior of the British economy. Now, with bad news mounting, his popularity is quickly falling.

The photos were planned with meticulous care. Gordon Brown at the harbor; Gordon Brown at the factory; Gordon Brown spending time with the common folk. The British prime minister used the first working days of the new year to present himself as a decisive leader in times of crisis. For three days last week he toured through parts of Great Britain that are particularly threatened by recession: from London via Derby to Liverpool and onwards to Wales. The point was to listen and learn, as Brown said every chance he got.

"We want to hear what you are saying, find out what's happening on the ground, find out from your experience what needs to change," Brown said in Liverpool.

In Derby, Brown visited the Rolls Royce jet engine factory, a company with a much-praised apprenticeship program. While there, Brown promised that he wanted to create 35,000 similar new trainee programs throughout the country in 2009. In Liverpool, European Capital of Culture in 2008, Brown inspected the newly refurbished docks and a museum that is currently under construction. Tourism, Brown intoned, is important for the future of the economy and could help the country out of the recession.

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