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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday February 1 2009 - (813)

Sunday February 1 2009 edition
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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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U.S. Supreme Court Justices Closer To Repeal Of Exclusionary Evidence Rule
2009-01-31 16:12:20
In 1983, a young lawyer in the Reagan White House was hard at work on what he called in a memorandum “the campaign to amend or abolish the exclusionary rule” - the principle that evidence obtained by police misconduct cannot be used against a defendant.

The Reagan administration’s attacks on the exclusionary rule - a barrage of speeches, opinion articles, litigation and proposed legislation - never gained much traction. Now that young lawyer, John G. Roberts, Jr., is chief justice of the United States.

This month, Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority in Herring v. United States, a 5-to-4 decision, took a big step toward the goal he had discussed a quarter-century before. Taking aim at one of the towering legacies of the Warren Court, its landmark 1961 decision applying the exclusionary rule to the states, the chief justice’s majority opinion established for the first time that unlawful police conduct should not require the suppression of evidence if all that was involved was isolated carelessness. That was a significant step in itself. More important yet, it suggested that the exclusionary rule itself might be at risk.

The Herring decision “jumped a firewall,” said Kent Scheidegger, the general counsel of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a victims’ rights group. “I think Herring may be setting the stage for the Holy Grail,” he wrote on the group’s blog, referring to the overruling of Mapp v. Ohio, the 1961 Warren Court decision.

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., joined the Herring decision and has been a reliable vote for narrowing the protections afforded criminal defendants since he joined the court in 2006. In applying for a job in the Reagan Justice Department in 1985, he wrote that his interest in the law had been “motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure,” religious freedom and voting rights.

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U.S. Pulls Back As Iraqis Vote
2009-01-31 16:11:49
Iraqis across the country voted Saturday in provincial elections that will help shape their future, but regardless of the outcome it is clear that the Americans are already drifting offstage - and that most Iraqis are ready to see them go.

The signs of mutual disengagement are everywhere. In the days leading up to the elections, it was possible to drive safely from near the Turkish border in the north to Baghdad and on south to Basra, just a few miles from the Persian Gulf - without seeing an American convoy. In the Green Zone - once host to the American occupation government, and now the seat of the Iraqi government - the primary PX is set to close, and the Americans have retreated to their vast, garrisoned new embassy compound. Iraqi soldiers now handle all Green Zone checkpoints.

American helicopters and drones may be in the sky, but Iraqi boots are on the ground. The Americans are already worried about securing the road to Kuwait because soon they will have to start hauling out much of the infrastructure they have built on bases across Iraq. 

The end of an era comes not in a single moment, but looking back it has become evident that the mood has changed, power has shifted, the world is not the same.

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Arizona Tour Bus Crash Kills 7 Passengers, Injures 10
2009-01-31 16:11:15
A trip to the Grand Canyon turned deadly when a bus carrying Chinese tourists overturned on a highway near the Hoover Dam, killing seven people and injuring 10 others, several critically.

Investigators are trying to determine why the bus crashed on U.S. 93 on Friday, ejecting several people. Six were pronounced dead at the scene and a seventh died at a hospital, said Cmdr. Dean Nyhart of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The driver was among those in serious condition, he said.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) planned to search the bus for clues and to help public safety inspectors already at the site, said NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson.

The passengers were Chinese nationals who had flown from Shanghai to San Francisco and had most recently been in Las Vegas, according to DPS. They left Las Vegas early Friday for a trip to the Grand Canyon and were returning when the accident occurred.

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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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Protesters Hold Demonstrations Throughout Russia As Economy Sinks
2009-01-31 16:12:02
Protesters held demonstrations throughout Russia on Saturday, offering largely subdued, but pointed criticism of the government’s economic policies as the country continues to sink deeper into an economic morass.

Anti-government protests are rare in Russia, and the latest come amid growing public anger with a government not used to widespread criticism after years of economic growth. Officials had initially hesitated to publicly acknowledge Russia’s economic troubles brought on by a steep drop in oil prices and the worldwide financial downturn.

The government has allocated billions of dollars to bail out troubled banks and companies but has yet to put forward a clear long-term strategy for dealing with mounting unemployment and a rapidly devaluing ruble.

Other demonstrations against the government, as well as some in support, were held in several cities throughout the country, Russian news agencies reported.

About 1,000 people attended a rally organized by the Russian Communist Party in Moscow, calling for a return of the centralized economic policies of the Soviet Union, according to news agencies. The authorities approved the rally, and cordons of riot police officers watched over the march but did not interfere.

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Delay On State Tax Refunds Leaves 2.7 Million Californians Waiting
2009-01-31 16:11:34
As California withholds $3.5 billion, people and businesses scramble to fill gaps. Vendors, Cal Grants, child care services and programs for the developmentally disabled are among those affected.

Wendy Hansen, a 52-year-old single mom in Monrovia, says she cannot afford a delay in her anticipated state income tax refund of $1,800.

Without the check, Hansen said, she will have to put off debt payments, long-needed repairs on her house and treatment for a back problem that she believes has been aggravated by stress over finances.

An estimated 2.7 million Californians expecting income tax refunds in February won't receive them then, because the state's prolonged budget impasse has emptied its treasury.

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Somalis Cheer Moderate Islamist President
2009-01-31 16:10:45
Pumped-up mobs poured into the scarred streets of Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, once again on Saturday, but this time, they were demonstrating in support of the government, not against it.

Thousands of cheerful Somalis sang, whistled and hoisted up posters of Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, the moderate Islamist cleric who was just selected as the beleaguered country’s new president. There was even a pro-government rally at a Mogadishu soccer stadium.

“It’s good to give a chance to the Islamists,” said Mohamed Wehlie, a teacher in Mogadishu. Sheik Sharif, he said, “is the sort of man who can make a change, and we really need a change.”

To many Somalis who have survived relentless cycles of rebellion, displacement, famine and war, Sheik Sharif’s victory was the best news they had heard in years. Although the government he leads is locked in a battle against hard-line Islamist militias, which still control large parts of the country, many Somalis seized on the news as a window of hope, a possible path out of the violence.

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