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Monday, February 02, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday February 2 2009 - (813)

Monday February 2 2009 edition
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Late Move On Drugs By Bush FDA Could Be Deadly For Patients
2009-02-01 15:36:55
In the waning days of the Bush administration, the Food and Drug Administration finalized new guidelines to make it easier for drug manufacturers to promote "off-label" prescription drug uses, which can be deadly for patients.

The move came despite criticism from Bush's Department of Veterans Affairs, which said the change "favors business interests over public safety" and could lead to a "decline in drug safety." It also was crafted despite efforts by state and federal law-enforcement experts to clamp down on off-label drug marketing.

The new guidelines were issued four years after Robin Briggs of Cornelius, North Carolina, buried her husband, Doug, who committed suicide on a chilly Christmas Day after taking a drug off-label.

Doug Briggs, himself a physician, had taken a drug that the FDA had approved to treat epilepsy to ease his persistent back pain. It didn't do much for his back, but Robin Briggs said the drug's risk of producing suicidal behavior led to his death.

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Gasoline Blaze In Kenya Leaves More Than 100 Dead
2009-02-01 15:36:28
There were not nearly enough hospital beds - or body bags - after one of Kenya's deadliest accidents in recent memory.

Burn victims lined the floors of overwhelmed hospitals Sunday, hooked up to drips and moaning in pain after an overturned gasoline tanker exploded as hundreds of people tried to scoop up free fuel. More than 100 people were killed and 200 injured in the inferno, which was likely sparked by a cigarette.

"Everybody was screaming and most of them were running with fire on their bodies, they were just running into the bush," said Charles Kamau, 22, who was driving through Molo on Saturday night when he saw the road blocked by hundreds of people with gerry cans, plastic bottles and buckets - anything to siphon some free fuel.

As he waited for the crowd to disperse, the gasoline ignited with a blast that was felt miles away. Prime Minister Raila Odinga said someone's cigarette might have caused the explosion, but police said the cause remained under investigation.

Similar blasts are common in Nigeria, where people tap gas pipelines to pilfer fuel for cooking or resale on the black market. In 2006, a gasoline blast killed 200 people in Nigeria. The accidents highlight the desperation of people living in the poorest continent in the world.

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Weight Of Combat Gear Taking Its Toll On U.S. Soldiers
2009-02-01 15:36:08

Carrying heavy combat loads is taking a quiet but serious toll on troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, contributing to injuries that are sidelining them in growing numbers, according to senior military and defense officials.

Rising concern over the muscle and bone injuries - as well as the hindrance caused by the cumbersome gear as troops maneuver in Afghanistan's mountains - prompted Army and Marine Corps leaders and commanders to launch initiatives last month that will introduce lighter equipment for some U.S. troops.

As the military prepares to significantly increase the number of troops in Afghanistan - including sending as many as 20,000 more Marines - fielding a new, lighter vest and helmet is a top priority, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway said recently. "We are going to have to lighten our load," he said, after inspecting possible designs during a visit to the Quantico Marine base.

Army leaders and experts say the injuries - linked to the stress of bearing heavy loads during repeated 12- or 15-month combat tours - have increased the number of soldiers categorized as "non-deployable." Army personnel reported 257,000 acute orthopedic injuries in 2007, up from 247,000 the previous year.

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Republican Governors Push Congress To Pass Stimulus Bill
2009-02-01 03:57:10
Most Republican governors have broken with their Republican colleagues in Congress and are pushing for passage of President Barack Obama's economic aid plan that would send billions to states for education, public works and health care.

Their state treasuries drained by the financial crisis, governors would welcome the money from Capitol Hill, where Republican lawmakers are more skeptical of Obama's spending priorities.

The 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, planned to meet in Washington, D.C., this weekend with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, and other senators to press for her state's share of the package.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist worked the phones last week with members of his state's congressional delegation, including House Republicans. Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, the Republican vice chairman of the National Governors Association, planned to be in Washington on Monday to urge the Senate to approve the plan.

"As the executive of a state experiencing budget challenges, Gov. Douglas has a different perspective on the situation than congressional Republicans," said Douglas' deputy chief of staff, Dennise Casey.

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Analysis: Out Of Economic Crisis, Gaps In Treaties Comes Trade Wars
2009-02-01 03:56:37

The world may be on the brink of a gentler kind of trade war.

In 1930, Congress fired the first shot in a protectionist battle that prolonged and deepened the Great Depression. After passing a bill aimed at saving American jobs by effectively barring 20,000 imported goods, including French dresses and Argentine butter, other nations retaliated by raising their own barriers on U.S. products, effectively bringing global commerce to a halt.

In the aftermath, organizations like the World Trade Organization sought to ensure that never happened again. Nations agreed to put on economic straitjackets permitting them to raise tariffs within hard-fought limits. That is likely to help prevent a repeat of the devastating and overt trade wars seen during the Great Depression, since it is now far harder for nations to increase tariffs on a wide array of imports at once.

Yet there remains a surprising amount of wiggle room in international trade and commerce treaties, and that, analysts say, is where the battle is now being fought as leaders worldwide face intense pressure at home to protect domestic jobs in the deepening financial crisis. They are engaging in a more subtle form of protectionism that often skirts those rules.

This weekend at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the annual event drawing the world's leaders, luminaries of industry, commerce and philanthropy, a host of dignitaries raised a crescendo of alarm over growing economic nationalism. "We will resolutely fight protectionism," Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso told reporters there, giving voice to the general sentiment.

Yet even as leaders call for nations to do the right thing on the international stage, actually doing it at home is proving far tougher.

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Editorial: The Nativists Are Restless
2009-02-01 15:36:39
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Saturday, January 31, 2009.

The relentlessly harsh Republican campaign against immigrants has always hidden a streak of racialist extremism. Now after several high-water years, the Republican tide has gone out, leaving exposed the nativism of fringe right-wingers clinging to what they hope will be a wedge issue.

Last week at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., a group seeking to speak for the future of the Republican Party declared that its November defeats in Congressional races stemmed not from having been too hard on foreigners, but too soft.

The group, the American Cause, released a report arguing that anti-immigration absolutism was still the solution for the party’s deep electoral woes, actual voting results notwithstanding. Rather than “pander to pro-amnesty Hispanics and swing voters,” as President Bush and Karl Rove once tried to do, the report’s author, Marcus Epstein, urged Republicans to double down on their efforts to run on schemes to seal the border and drive immigrants out.

This is nonsense, of course. For years Americans have rejected the cruelty of enforcement-only regimes and Latino-bashing, in opinion surveys and at the polls. In House and Senate races in 2008 and 2006, “anti- amnesty” hard-liners consistently lost to candidates who proposed comprehensive reform solutions. The wedge did not work for single-issue xenophobes like Lou Barletta, the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, or the former Arizona Congressman J. D. Hayworth. Nor did it help any of the Republican presidential candidates trying to defeat the party’s best-known voice of immigration moderation, John McCain, for the nomination.

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Israel Vows Retaliation For Rockets
2009-02-01 15:36:18
Israeli's prime minister threatened ''harsh and disproportionate'' retaliation after Gaza militants fired at least 10 rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel on Sunday, wounding three and raising the risk of fresh violence days ahead of elections.

All three candidates to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Feb. 10 vote leveled their own threats against Gaza's Hamas rulers.

Since an unwritten truce ended Israel's offensive in Gaza two weeks ago, rocket and mortar fire from the Palestinian  territory has increased steadily. Israeli retaliation, including brief ground incursions and bombing runs aimed at rocket launchers and smuggling tunnels, is intensifying.

A late afternoon mortar barrage on the village of Nahal Oz, next to the Gaza border fence, wounded two soldiers and a civilian, the military and rescue services said. Earlier, a rocket landed near a kindergarten near Gaza, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

Even before the mortars hit Nahal Oz, Olmert told his Cabinet that ''if there is shooting at residents of the south, there will be an Israeli response that will be harsh and disproportionate by its nature.''

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U.S. Air Force Drops Plan To Make Fuel From Coal In Montana
2009-02-01 15:35:52
The U.S. Air Force on Thursday dropped plans to build a coal-to-liquid plant to produce fuel for its aircraft, a plan that would've reduced dependence on oil but increased the emissions of the heat-trapping gases that cause global warming.

The Air Force has a goal to certify that all aircraft could fly on a 50-50 blend of fuel by 2011. It's been purchasing fuel made from coal from Sasol of South Africa, most recently 300,000 gallons, said Air Force spokesman Gary Strasburg.

The B1, B52 and C-17 already have been certified to run on the coal-mix blend, and the F-15, F-22, C-5 and KC-135 all have also used the blend, Strasburg said.

The Air Force is looking for alternatives to oil to make sure that it can continue to operate its aircraft when supplies are tight. The coal-to-liquid conversion process, however, is expensive to set up and there are no full-scale plants in the U.S.

Liquid fuel from coal produces more than twice the greenhouse gas emissions as conventional petroleum-based fuel.

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Can Countries Really Go Bankrupt?
2009-02-01 03:56:57
The bailout packages aimed at shoring up financial markets in Europe are getting increasingly expensive. A creeping depreciation of currency is inevitable and state bankruptcies can no longer be ruled out. Could the euro zone also fall victim to the global financial crisis?

"There's a rumor going around that states cannot go bankrupt," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said recently at a private bank event in Frankfurt. "This rumor is not true."

Of course she's right. Countries can go bankrupt if they allow their deficit spending to spin out of control and are no longer able to service their interest payments. Merkel's comments can be read as a warning that countries need to keep their deficit spending in check. The message is: If governments go too far in trying to bail out companies and the economy, they could face insolvency themselves.

And so far, national governments have gone very far. Be it in the United States or in Europe, the sums governments are having to cough up to prevent the financial system from collapse are staggering.

Germany alone has already provided credit guarantees of €42 billion ($52.28 billion) to prevent the collapse of Munich's Hypo Real Estate, a bottomless pit that most now believe will have to be fully nationalized. The only thing holding up such a move is a legal provision in Germany that limits state holdings in banks to 33 percent. Meanwhile, Germany's second-largest consumer bank, Commerzbank, has been bailed out, with the state taking a one-quarter stake in the company. And the recent fourth-quarter loss of €4.8 billion at Germany's leading financial institution, Deutsche Bank, suggests that it too may ultimately require state assistance.

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Kentucky Deploys Full National Guard In Wake Of Ice Storm
2009-02-01 03:56:24
As hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians lingered in the dark nearly a week after an ice storm wrecked the state's power grid, National Guard troops prepared to go door-to-door to check on residents.

Utility crews worked feverishly to restore electricity amid the largest state power outage on record. Guardsmen cleared roads with chain saws and some residents bundled up for another night around a wood-burning stove, looking for any way possible to stay warm.

With more than 700,000 Kentucky homes and businesses still without electricity Saturday, the state was a long way from recovering after an ice storm left a swath of destruction throughout the nation's midsection.

Kentucky was the hardest-hit. Monday's icy wallop encrusted a large part of the state in a mantle so thick it shattered utility poles, toppled trees and drove thousands from frigid homes to shelters. Officials had previously reported that 607,000 Kentucky customers were without power, but later said that figure didn't include municipal utilities or rural electric cooperatives within the Tennessee Valley Authority system.

Meanwhile, officials told those still shivering in dark, unheated homes to seek safe refuge in motels and places with power or generators.

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