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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday February 18 2009 - (813)

Wednesday February 18 2009 edition
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Is The Earth Cooling?
2009-02-18 00:28:16
Editor:  I wanted to preface this article with my commentary, rather than our traditional comments at the end.  You should follow the links at the end of the quoted article, to read the full article and see the included graphics.  This is from Dr. Jeff Master's blog on Weather Underground.  A lot of stuff I read and realize, "oh this is just some guy blabbering about something he knows nothing about."  Dr. Masters actually has some significant credentials.  He may know a thing or two about the weather.

For the last few years, when it's been cold, I've read about how there is no global warming; how we're heading for a new Ice Age; how all the tree huggers are wrong.  When someone tells me in person about it, I try to explain that global warming isn't just warming.  It's a disruption of the natural cycles of the weather on the earth.  ! ; Summers get hotter.  Winters get colder.  Deserts get flooded.  Tropical areas dry out.  It's not a given for what areas will get what effects (yet), but it's not worth it for us to find out. 

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Deadly Bacteria Defy Drugs, Alarm Doctors
2009-02-17 17:47:52
A new category of bacteria becomes more resistant to treatment, and their toll - which already includes a Brazilian beauty queen - is expect to rise.

When Ruth Burns had surgery to relieve a pinched nerve in her back, the operation was supposed to be an "in-and-out thing," recalled her daughter, Kacia Warren.

But Burns developed pneumonia and was put on a ventilator. Five days later, she was discharged - only to be rushed by her daughter to the hospital hours later, disoriented and in alarming pain.

Seventeen days after the surgery, the 67-year-old nurse was dead.

Burns had developed meningitis - an infection of the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and brain. The culprit was  Acinetobacter baumannii, a bug that preys on the weak in hospitals. Worse, it was a multi-drug-resistant strain.

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Burris Admits Efforts To Raise Money For Blagojevich
2009-02-17 17:47:25
U.S. Sen. Roland Burris (D-Illinois) has acknowledged that he sought to raise campaign funds for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich at the request of the governor's brother at the same time he was making a pitch to be appointed to the Senate seat previously held by President Obama.

Burris' latest comments in Peoria, Illinois, Monday night were the first time he has publicly said he was actively trying to raise money for Blagojevich. Previously Burris has left the impression that he always balked at the issue of raising money for the governor because of his interest in the Senate appointment.

In comments to reporters after appearing at a Democratic dinner, the senator several times contradicted his latest under-oath affidavit that he quietly filed with the Illinois House impeachment panel earlier this month. That affidavit was itself an attempt to clean up his live, sworn testimony to the panel Jan. 8, when he omitted his contacts with several Blagojevich insiders.

Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan on Monday night joined a growing chorus of Democratic officials who want a deeper investigation of Burris' comments; but she did not go as far as some, including Republicans, who have said specifically that they want Burris investigated for possible perjury.

"This is a particularly frustrating revelation," Madigan said of Burris' recent disclosure that he had contact with five Blagojevich insiders. "I encourage the Sangamon County state's attorney to take a closer look at this in the interest of truth, integrity and transparency."

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U.S. EPA Considers Regulating Carbon Emissions From Coal Plants
2009-02-17 16:21:18

The Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday said it would reopen the possibility of regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, tossing aside a December 2008 Bush administration memorandum that said the agency would not limit those emissions.

The decision could mark the first step toward the regulation of greenhouse gases emitted by coal plants, an issue that has been hotly contested by the coal industry and environmentalists since April 2007, when the Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide should be considered a pollutant subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.

The industry has vigorously opposed efforts to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, asserting that this should be left to policy set by Congress. Moreover, current technology for capturing carbon dioxide emissions is expensive and virtually untested.

Environmental groups, however, say that building new coal plants with conventional technology locks in new greenhouse gas emissions for the entire 30- to 40-year lifetimes of the power plants, making it difficult to slow climate change. They have been urging the Obama administration and state governments to use the Supreme Court ruling to block air permits for new coal-fired power plants and rely on renewable energy and energy efficiency to meet power needs.

In response to a Sierra Club petition over an air permit for a coal plant in Bonanza, Utah, EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson said that the agency would take a new look at the issue and solicit public comments. Jackson added that the memorandum issued by Bush's EPA administrator Stephen Johnson two months ago should not limit states weighing air permits for new coal plants. She said that "permitting authorities should not assume that the memorandum is the final word on the appropriate interpretation of Clean Air Act requirements."

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Editorial: Dangerous Food
2009-02-17 16:20:49
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times online edition for Monday, February 16, 2009.

The more investigators look into the latest food-safety scandal involving the Peanut Corporation of America, the worse it gets. It now appears that as many as nine people have died and 19,000 have been sickened after eating cookies, crackers or institutional peanut butter tainted with salmonella from a plant in Georgia owned by the company.

At a charged Congressional hearing last week, company executives refused to answer questions on the advice of their attorneys, but the questions told much of the story. “The food poisoning of people - is that just a cost of doing business?” one congressman asked. When another angrily asked the company’s president if he would like to try some of the recalled products, he refused.

The company is facing a criminal inquiry and has now filed for bankruptcy court protection. But it would be a mistake to view this as “an unconscionable act by one manufacturer,” as an official from the American Peanut Council, the industry’s trade association, said.

While most successful food producers are far more diligent - big name-brand peanut butter is considered safe, for example - American consumers have faced far too many food-supply emergencies in the last few years. Congress and the Obama administration must finally make food safety a serious priority.

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Obama Gains Support From Republican Governors
2009-02-17 16:20:11
President Obama must wish governors could vote in Congress: While just three of the 219 Republican lawmakers backed the $787 billion economic recovery plan that he is signing into law on Tuesday, that trifling total would have been several times greater if support among the 22 Republican state executives counted.

The contrast reflects the two faces of the Republican Party these days.

Leaderless after losing the White House, the party is mostly defined by its Congressional wing, which flaunted its anti-spending ideology in opposing the stimulus package. That militancy drew the mockery of late-night television comics, but the praise of conservative talk-show stars and the party faithful.

In the states, meanwhile, many Republican governors are practicing a pragmatic - their Congressional counterparts would say less-principled - conservatism.

Governors, unlike members of Congress, have to balance their budgets each year. And that requires compromise with state legislators, including Democrats, as well as more openness to the occasional state tax increase and to deficit-spending from Washington.

Across the country, from California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger to Florida’s Charlie Crist and New England’s Jim Douglas in Vermont and M. Jodi Rell in Connecticut, Republican governors showed in the stimulus debate that they could be allies with Obama even as Congressional Republicans spurned him.

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Texas Financial Firm Accused By S.E.C. Of $8 Billion Fraud
2009-02-17 16:19:40
Stopping what it called a “massive ongoing fraud,” the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday accused Robert Allen Stanford, the chief of the Stanford Financial Group, of fraud in the sale of about $8 billion of high-yielding certificates of deposit (CDs) held in the firm’s bank in Antigua. Also named in the suit were two other executives and some affiliates of the financial group.

In the complaint, filed in Federal District Court in Dallas, the S.E.C. accused Stanford and two associates - James M. Davis, a director and chief financial officer of Stanford Group and the Antigua-based bank affiliate, and Laura Pendergest-Holt, the chief investment officer of both organizations - with misrepresenting the safety and liquidity of the uninsured CDs.

The CDs were sold by Stanford International Bank through the firm’s registered broker-dealer and investment adviser, which are in Houston. Both the bank, which claims $8.5 billion in assets and 30,000 clients in 131 countries, and the brokerage unit, which operates about 30 offices in the United States, were named in the S.E.C. suit. Stanford Financial asserts that it advises about $50 billion in assets.

Shortly after 10 a.m. Central time, about 40 police officers and other law enforcement officials simultaneously entered Stanford Group’s two office buildings in Houston. Many of the law enforcement personnel carried large black briefcases. Stanford group’s headquarters are in two offices in Houston, one within a tower of the Houston Galleria shopping mall, and the other across the street.

A spokesman for Stanford Group declined to comment.

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U.S. Senators Seek Ethics Findings On Opinions Allowing Torture
2009-02-17 16:19:03

Two Senate Democrats urged the Justice Department Monday to quickly release its findings of an ethics investigation into legal opinions under President George W. Bush that paved the way for waterboarding prisoners and other harsh interrogation practices.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (Illinois) and Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island) are demanding an update on the probe by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility, which for more than a year has been examining whether the lawyers who prepared the memos followed professional standards.

At issue are opinions issued by John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee while they worked in Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, a once-obscure operation that advises the government's executive branch.

An August 2002 opinion they drafted narrowed the definition of torture, stating that U.S. law against torture "prohibits only the worst forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" and therefore permits many others.

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France Responsible In WWII Deportations Of Jews To Nazi Death Camps
2009-02-17 16:17:54
France's highest administrative tribunal ruled Monday that the French government was responsible for the deportation of thousands of Jews to Nazi death camps during World War II.

The ruling, by the Council of State, marked the clearest and most authoritative official admission of responsibility for the still-controversial role of the collaborationist Vichy government in the treatment of Jews during four years of German occupation. It said French authorities helped deport Jews even without being forced to by the occupying German army, rejecting an interpretation still clung to by some French people unwilling to confront the history of what happened.

The declaration's practical effect for French Jews seemed likely to be limited, however, as the council also ruled that reparations paid to deportees and their survivors by the French government since 1945 "have repaired, as much as this is possible, all the wrongs suffered." The reparations were decided in accordance with the norms of human rights, it added, and were similar to reparations paid by other European governments.

The council was responding to a request for a ruling from a lower administrative tribunal hearing a claim from the daughter of a Jew deported from France who perished at the notorious Auschwitz camp. She demanded about $250,000 in reparations for the death of her father and for the hardships she herself suffered during and after the war.

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Stocks Plunge 290 Points Over Concerns On International Banking System
2009-02-17 17:48:01
Stock markets around the world tumbled Tuesday amid deepening concern over the health of the banking industry and doubts about the ability of governments to spur a recovery.

The Dow Jones industrial average sank 297.81 points, closing less than a point above its late-November low.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index and Nasdaq composite index fell more sharply, but stayed well above their November troughs.

Banking stocks were pounded.

Earlier in the day, European markets closed down more than 3% on average.

There was no single trigger for the sell-off, but the widespread discarding of stocks underscored investor fears about the depth of the recession and the failure of government actions so far to arrest the decline, said analysts.
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California Gov. Schwarzenegger Ready To Layoff 10,000 State Workers
2009-02-17 17:47:40
In addition to shutting down public works projects, Schwarzenegger administration moves toward massive state layoffs as state legislators fail to garner the Republican votes needed to pass state budget.

With lawmakers still unable to deliver a budget after three days of intense negotiations, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger prepared to lay off 10,000 government workers and his administration said it would halt the last 275 state-funded public works projects still in operation.

The projects, which cost $3.8 billion and include upgrades to 18 bridges and roads in Los Angeles County to protect them from collapsing in earthquakes, had been allowed to continue as others were suspended because the state was running out of cash.

The projects to be suspended today had been exempted from a November stop order because of the significant financial cost of canceling contracts, the expense of resuming them or the public-health or public-safety ramifications. The list also includes work to eliminate arsenic in the Central Valley town of Live Oak and half-built highway construction projects.

Schwarzenegger had delayed sending out pink slips since Friday, hoping that lawmakers would soon approve a budget; but they failed Monday to find a third Republican vote in the state Senate to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to pass a budget - a requirement that essentially gives the minority Republicans veto power. A spokesman for Schwarzenegger said layoff notices would go out Tuesday.

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Dow Drops More Than 270 Points, Nears Lowest Level In A Decade
2009-02-17 16:21:28

Financial gloom was everywhere on Tuesday.

Markets from Hong Kong to Stockholm to London staggered lower. On Wall Street, the Dow came within sight of its lowest levels in more than a decade. Financial shares were battered. And rattled investors clamored to buy rainy-day investments like gold and Treasury debt.

It was a global wave of selling spurred by rising worries about how banks, automakers - entire countries - would fare in a deepening recession.

At 12:50 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 270 points, skidding below 7,600 as losses in General Motors, Bank of America and American Express dragged the blue chips lower. The only Dow stock in positive territory was Wal-Mart, which rose after reporting better-than-expected profits. 

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index slid 4 percent to drop below 800, which analysts said was an important trading threshold.

“If we get substantially below 800 then look out below,” said Marc Groz, chief investment officer at Topos, a hedge fund in Greenwich, Connecticut.

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Taliban Threats Reach Pakistanis Living In New York
2009-02-17 16:21:07

Last June, Bakht Bilind Khan, who was living in the Bronx, N.Y., and working at a fast-food restaurant, returned to his village in the volatile Swat Valley of northern Pakistan to visit his wife and seven children for the first time in three years.

At a dinner celebration with his family, his homecoming suddenly turned dark: several heavily armed Taliban fighters wearing masks appeared at the door of their house, accused Khan of being an American spy and kidnapped him.

During two weeks of captivity in a nearby mountain range, Khan says, he was interrogated repeatedly about his wealth, property and “mission” in the United States. He was released in exchange for an $8,000 ransom. His family, threatened with death if they did not leave the region, is now hiding elsewhere in Pakistan.

“Our Swat, our paradise, is burning now,” said Khan, 55, who returned to the United States and is working at a fast-food restaurant in Albany, N.Y., trying to reimburse the friends and relatives who paid his ransom.

Pakistani immigrants from the Swat Valley, where the Taliban have been battling Pakistani security forces since 2007, say some of their families are being singled out for threats, kidnapping and even murder by Taliban forces, who view them as potential American collaborators and lucrative sources of ransom. Some immigrants also say they, too, have been threatened in the United States by the Taliban or its sympathizers, and some immigrants say they have been attacked or kidnapped when they have returned home.

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International Judges Panel Warns That Torture, Abuses Undermine Values In U.S., U.K.
2009-02-17 16:20:40
An international group of judges and lawyers is warning that systemic torture and other abuses in the global "war on terror" have "undermined cherished values" of civil rights in the United States, Britain and other nations.

"We have been shocked by the damage done over the past seven years by excessive or abusive counterterrorism measures in a wide range of countries around the world," said Arthur Chaskalson, a member of the International Commission of Jurists, in a statement announcing results of a three-year study of counterterrorism measures since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"Many governments, ignoring the lessons of history, have allowed themselves to be rushed into hasty responses to terrorism that have undermined cherished values and violated human rights,'' said Chaskalson, a former chief justice of South Africa. 

The Geneva-Switzerland-based panels' conclusions, released Monday, were echoed by those of a former British domestic intelligence chief who said that people in Britain felt as if they were living in a "police state" because of the government's counterterrorism actions.

"It would be better that the government recognized that there are risks - rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism - that we live in fear and under a police state," said Stella Rimington, former head of MI5, the domestic intelligence-gathering agency.
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U.S. Dollar Surges On Eastern European Bank Warning
2009-02-17 16:19:55
The dollar jumped against major currencies Tuesday and the euro fell to a three-month low after a leading credit ratings agency warned about the potentially massive bad debt exposure of Europe's leading banks, and as President Barack Obama is poised to sign a sweeping economic package into law.

The 16-nation euro bought $1.2606 in early New York trading after falling to $1.2600, its lowest point since late November. U.S. markets were closed Monday for Presidents' Day; in late trading Friday, the euro bought $1.2902.

The British pound dropped to $1.4265 from $1.4404 late Friday.

Moody's said faltering economic conditions in Eastern Europe will continue to hit the asset quality and liquidity positions of local subsidiaries of major Western banks, which could spill over to their corporate parents, primarily in Austria, Italy, France, Belgium, Germany and Sweden.

''Many anticipate that European banks and companies are experiencing the worst of the economic downturn and are rapidly becoming insolvent,'' said David Gilmore of Foreign Exchange Analytics in Essex, Conn. ''We're seeing a whole other side of their balance sheets come into question. These banks could be on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars, and that's weighing on the euro.''

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Oil Falls Below $37 A Barrel As Demand For Crude Wanes
2009-02-17 16:19:23
Oil prices fell below $37 a barrel Tuesday in Asia as a deepening global slowdown weighed on expectations for crude demand.

Light, sweet crude for March delivery fell 76 cents to $36.75 a barrel by midday in Singapore on the New York Mercantile Exchange after settling at $37.51 on Friday. The contract rose 11 cents Monday in Asian and European trading while U.S. markets were closed for the Presidents Day holiday.

Prices have fallen 75 percent since peaking at $147.27 in July as a credit crisis in the U.S. sub-prime mortgage sector has mushroomed into the worst global economic downturn in decades.

So far this year, U.S. companies have shed hundred of thousands of jobs, dragging down consumer confidence. U.S. crude inventories have soared in recent weeks, reflecting a pull back in spending despite a drop in gasoline prices.

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Clinton, In Tokyo, Warns N. Korea On Missile Launch
2009-02-17 16:18:14
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned North Korea on Tuesday not to conduct a missile launch, saying that it "would be very unhelpful" to any opportunity to improve relations with the United States.

Near-daily news reports in Asia have suggested that North Korea is preparing to test a long-range missile, and on Monday, the 67th birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Pyongyang said that it has the right to "space development" - a euphemism to disguise a missile test as a satellite launch.

At a news conference, Clinton said North Korea's actions will determine whether the Obama administration reaches out in turn.

"If North Korea abides by the obligations it has already entered into and verifiably and completely eliminates its nuclear program, then there will be a reciprocal response, certainly from the United States," Clinton said. "But the decision as to whether North Korea will cooperate in [negotiations], end provocative language and actions, is up to them - and we are watching very closely."

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Daimler Reports $1.93 Billion 4th-Quarter Loss
2009-02-17 16:17:34
The German automaker Daimler reported on Tuesday a net loss of 1.53 billion euros, or $1.93 billion, for the fourth quarter as the economic slowdown intensified and the company continued to feel the fallout from its foray into the American auto market.

The carmaker, which makes the Mercedes-Benz, Smart and Maybach brands, also warned that sales would continue to slip through 2009.

The net loss compared with a profit of 1.7 billion euros in the quarter a year earlier. Revenue in the quarter fell 12 percent, to 23.2 billion euros. For the year, Daimler, which is based in Stuttgart, Germany, reported a profit of 1.4 billion euros, down from 4 billion euros in 2007. Revenue in 2008 was 95.9 billion euros, down from 99.4 billion euros in the quarter in 2007.

The drop in earnings was “mainly the result of expenses” totaling 3.2 billion euros related to its investment in the Detroit automaker Chrysler and the lower earnings at Mercedes-Benz, said Daimler.

The quarterly loss was Daimler’s first since the third quarter of 2007, when earnings were erased by 2.6 billion euros in costs tied to the sale of 80.1 percent of Chrysler to the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management for $7.4 billion. Daimler had paid about $37 billion for Chrysler nine years earlier.

Analysts expressed concern about the results.

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