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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday January 21 2009 - (813)

Wednesday January 21 2009 edition
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World Watched Inauguration With Hope, Questions
2009-01-20 23:05:20

From Jerusalem to Jakarta and from Nairobi to Moscow, tens of millions around the world watched Barack Obama become president of the United States on Tuesday, feeling a mix of hope that he'd bring peace to a war-torn world and doubts about what one man could accomplish.

In Kenya, where Obama's father was born, hundreds of people from all walks of life and ethnic communities sat in the great court of the University of Nairobi, counting the hours and minutes until the inauguration.

When he took the oath, the crowd leapt to its feet, erupting in cheers of "Yes we can!" and "Obama! Odinga!" Both Obama and Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga are descended from Kenya's Luo tribe.

"There are no words to describe how I'm feeling," said David Osienya, a 24-year-old literature student. Obama "has shown us it is time for us young people to change society after our old politicians here nearly took us to civil war.

A similar scene played out in Jakarta, Indonesia, where Obama lived as a child for four years with his mother. About a thousand excited people crowded into a hotel ballroom in the Indonesian capital to watch the ceremony.

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U.K., European Bankers Accused In Financial Crisis May Face Trials In U.S.
2009-01-20 23:04:48

Sanctions against bankers deemed responsible for the financial crisis could include more legal action abroad, as the U.K. authorities struggle to bring prosecutions, lawyers say.

The lack of activity by the FSA, which last year conducted its first prosecutions for insider dealing, could be mitigated by extraditions to the U.S. where prosecutors have been more active in investigating banks and senior executives.

"U.S. prosecutors regard non-U.S. participants in 'white collar' crime as fair game and have been clear in sending messages to foreign executives that they are not beyond U.S. law," said Luke Tolaini, a senior U.K. lawyer on financial crime.

"The response to market issues is much more likely to involve criminal proceedings in the U.S. than here ... they also have a very high conviction rate, largely because of their free use of plea agreements."

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French Government To 6 Billion Euros Into Ailing Car Industry
2009-01-20 23:04:14

The French government yesterday offered the country's car makers up to €6 billion (£5.5 billion) in aid after Carlos Ghosn, Renault's chief executive, warned that without rapid state intervention, Europe's entire auto industry faced collapse.

Ghosn, president of the pan-European car makers' body ACEA, pointed to a "brutal" collapse in sales and squeeze on credit. He said: "The industry faces a crisis that is brutal, global and exceptionally large. We can even talk of the Great Depression of 1929."

ACEA, demanding €40 billion in aid, fears sales could collapse by up to 20%, with as many as 200,000 jobs at risk. It says E.U. cash injections so far are paltry compared with the $13 billion (£9 billion) given to U.S. rivals.

Ghosn's comments, at a Paris summit with French ministers, came as the Sarkozy government said it would provide between €5 billion and €6 billion - provided companies preserved jobs, plants and component suppliers. Francois Fillon, France's prime minister, said: "There can be no question of the state coming to the aid of a manufacturer which would decide to close, purely and simply, one or more production sites in France. They can't say: 'We take [the cash]'  and jump ship elsewhere."

Ministers indicated they could force the car companies to suspend dividend payments in return for the aid, which will have to be cleared by the European commission's competition authorities. Paris is already in extensive talks with Brussels about its package, details of which are due in the next few days.

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Fresh Warning On China Bird Flu
2009-01-20 23:03:09
A Chinese health expert has said that the country is likely to experience an upsurge in the number of human bird-flu cases in the next month or two.  Shu Yuelong, from the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said China needed to work harder at preventing bird flu outbreaks.

The warning came after the health ministry said a 16-year-old boy had died in central Hunan province.

The human form of bird flu has now claimed three lives this year.

An earlier BBC report said Shu had suggested that China risked an epidemic in the next few months, but it later became clear that he was referring to an increased risk of an epidemic occurring.

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'The Challenges We Face Are Real'
2009-01-20 15:43:28

Barack Obama took the oath of office today as the 44th president of the United States and pledged to "begin again the work of remaking America."

Addressing a huge throng estimated at nearly 2 million people on the capital's Mall and millions of others watching on television, Obama somberly recognized the multiple crises now afflicting the nation at a time of war abroad and economic turmoil at home. But he sought to rally Americans to a "new era of responsibility" and the promise of a brighter future.

He cited a profound "sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights." He told Americans, "The challenges we face are real. They are serious, and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time."

"But know this, America -- they will be met," he declared to cheers from the crowd. "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics."

Obama continued: "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

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'He's For The Whole World'
2009-01-20 15:43:00

People around the world marked the American inaugural tradition with song and dance, and quieter reflection.


Crowds of students - future doctors, politicians, engineers and others - gathered hours early on the sprawling green lawn of Nairobi University, where three big screens were set up to broadcast the inauguration of Barack Obama, whose father was Kenyan.

The mood was celebratory. Homeboyz Entertainment, a group of deejays, would be on later. Red, white and blue ribbons were tied to big white canopies. Vendors sold postcards of Obama and the words, "I do solemnly swear." A young man walked around hoisting a homemade sign that read: "From Black Power to Barack Power."

Engineering students Ntabo Maranga and Wycliffe Ogega said they felt a sense of relief that the day had finally come. Like many young Kenyans, they said they identify more with Obama than with their own aging political class, which they hoped Obama would shake up by example.

"His election has already offered a great challenge to leaders here, through his values," said Maranga, 27.

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Wall Street Falls Amid Further Banking Worries
2009-01-20 15:42:38
The dawn of the Obama presidency could not shake Wall Street from its dejection over the banking industry's growing problems.

After hearing the new president's inaugural address Tuesday, investors continued selling, sending the major indexes down more than 2 percent. Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange paused at times to watch the inauguration ceremony and Obama's remarks, but the transition of power didn't erase investors' concerns about the struggling economy. Obama said the economic recovery would be difficult and that the nation must chose "hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord" to overcome the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Investors are expecting Washington will be a central part of the economic recovery, but the first few minutes of Obama's term did little to ease their concerns.

"At this stage, markets in general and bank investors specifically are really looking to government as the way out," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank. "Certainly, of just about all of inaugurations that I can recall today's event probably has the not only the symbolic importance but really tangible importance to the stock market."

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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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In Britain, Calls To Nationalize RBS, Lloyds As Markets Lose Faith In Bail-Outs
2009-01-20 23:05:00
John McFall, confidant of Gordon Brown and chairman of the Treasury select committee, called for the complete nationalization of Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland Tuesday night after shares in both banks crumbled, the pound skidded to a seven-year low against the dollar and government bonds were sold off sharply.

As markets took fright at the state of Britain's banking sector and the wider economy the day after the government's latest bail-out plan, shares in the loss-making RBS slumped to 10.3p, continuing Monday's 66% slide, while the new Lloyds Banking Group continued to fall rapidly as it looked likely that many UK banks would not be paying any dividends for years.

McFall, an influential Labor Party member of Parliament, called for the complete nationalization of Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland "for the sake of financial stability". In an article in the Financial Times co-authored by the veteran private equity expert Jon Moulton, McFall said: "Let us get it over with - nationalize the pair of them."

The pound fell to $1.386, hitting the lowest point since June 2001. It also slumped below €1.07. Sterling was not helped by a surge of confidence in the dollar, as Barack Obama was sworn in as U.S. president.

Jim Rogers, a veteran U.S. investor, said the U.K. economy was "finished". He told Bloomberg: "I would urge you to sell any sterling. It's finished. I hate to say it, but I would not put any money in the U.K."

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Obama Halts New Or Pending Bush Administration Regulations
2009-01-20 23:04:32

Acting only hours after his inauguration, President Barack Obama has ordered a freeze on new or proposed regulations at all government agencies and departments.

In a memo issued by new White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, the president tells agency and department heads that:

" proposed or final regulation should be sent to the Office of Federal Register for publication unless and until it has been reviewed and approved by a department or agency head appointed or designated by the President after noon on January 20, 2009, or in the case of the Department of Defense, the Secretary of Defense."

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Arab Americans Hopeful 'Obama Will Bring Peace To The Middle East'
2009-01-20 23:03:55
Intellpuke: This article appeared in the Arab News edition for Wednesday, January 21, 2009. The Arab News is based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Inaugural balls have been a key part of U.S. presidential inaugurations since George Washington took the oath of office in 1789. President Barack Hussein Obama will host 10 official inaugural balls whose tickets were sought by prospective revelers like gold nuggets.

Hundreds of unofficial galas also marked the historic inauguration. Traffic filled downtown streets as millions of people descended on Washington, D.C., for Tuesday’s inauguration, while many were trying to get to the pre-inaugural balls hosted by states all over town.

The Arab American Institute (AAI), a Washington, D.C.-based organization which serves as the political and policy research arm of the Arab American community, hosted its ball at the Fairmont Hotel. The gala included a bevy of star-studded celebrities in the Arab-American circle as guests dined and spent the evening celebrating this historic moment in American history.

The AAI crowd was a bi-partisan group from the area as well as from other parts of the country. It was a who’s who of Arab society in the United States, and all of them had something to share about Tuesday’s historic swearing-in ceremony.

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Standard Life Cash Fund Was Invested In Toxic Mortgages
2009-01-20 23:02:53

Nearly 100,000 Standard Life investors have been told that a cash fund which many regarded as an ultra-safe alternative to the stock market was in reality invested in toxic mortgage debt that has plummeted in value.

The £2.4 billion Standard Life Pension Sterling fund was the company's sole offering to pension investors who wanted to shelter their savings from market turmoil; but the company is writing to the fund's 97,000 investors warning them their average £19,100 ($35,000) deposit will be cut to £18,200 as a result of losses on mortgage-backed securities held in the fund.

The news will dismay many investors who thought they were protected from stock market falls. Many were close to retirement and had parked their pension savings into the cash fund before turning it into an annuity.

Savers at other pension companies will also be shocked to discover that what they thought were deposit-style funds have fallen in value. Worst hit is Threadneedle's £450 million money market fund, which has fallen 16.6% over the past year.

Threadneedle blames the unprecedented fall on the fund's holdings of floating rate notes (FRNs) which have fallen in value, with many unable to be converted into cash.

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Transcript Of President Obama's Inaugural Address
2009-01-20 15:43:15


[*] OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you.

CROWD: Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!

My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.

I thank President Bush for his service to our nation...


... as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.

OBAMA: The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

OBAMA: So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.

Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

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Sen. Ted Kennedy Falls Ill At Inaugural Luncheon
2009-01-20 15:42:48
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) collapsed at the inaugural luncheon and was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Details on the condition of the senator, who has brain cancer, were not immediately available. Television reports at the scene and other guests at the luncheon said Kennedy had convulsions. President Obama, in later remarks, confirmed that Kennedy required medical aid.

"I know while I was out of the room, concern was expressed about Teddy," said Obama.

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Welcome President Obama
2009-01-20 12:56:05

Editor: Welcome, President Obama. We all wish you the best of luck. We all have high hopes for what you will do for the United States and the world.
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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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