Free Internet Press

Uncensored News For Real People This is a mirror site for our daily newsletter. You may visit our real site through the individual story links, or by visiting .

Friday, March 06, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday March 6 2009 - (813)

Friday March 6 2009 edition
Free Internet Press is operated on your donations.
Food Contamination Problems Slip By Private Inspectors
2009-03-06 00:05:47

When food industry giants like Kellogg want to ensure that American consumers are being protected from contaminated products, they rely on private inspectors like Eugene A. Hatfield. So, last spring, Hatfield headed to the Peanut Corporation of America plant in southwest Georgia to make sure its chopped nuts, paste and peanut butter were safe to use in things as diverse as granola bars and ice cream.

The peanut company, though, knew in advance that Hatfield was coming. He had less than a day to check the entire plant, which processed several million pounds of peanuts a month.

Hatfield, 66, an expert in fresh produce, was not aware that peanuts were readily susceptible to salmonella - which he was not required to test for anyway. While Hatfield was inspecting the plant to reassure Kellogg and other food companies of its suitability as a supplier, the Peanut Corporation was paying for his efforts.

“The overall food safety level of this facility was considered to be: SUPERIOR,” he concluded in his March 27, 2008, report for his employer, the American Institute of Baking, which performs audits for major food companies. A copy of the audit was obtained by the New York Times.

Federal investigators later discovered that the dilapidated plant was ravaged by salmonella and had been shipping tainted peanuts and paste for at least nine months. Yet they were too late to prevent what has become one of the nation’s worst known outbreaks of food-borne disease in recent years, in which nine are believed to have died and an estimated 22,500 were sickened.

Read The Full Story

Dow Closes Down 281 Points, Battered Bank Shares, Grim GM News Trigger Major Sell-Off
2009-03-06 00:05:18

U.S. stock markets plunged 4 percent Thursday as bank shares faltered and auditors for General Motors, the biggest U.S. automaker, warned that the company might not be financially viable.

The sharp drop came one day after a rally broke a five-day losing streak.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 4 percent, or 281 points, to 6594.44, a new 12-year low. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index lost 4.3 percent, or 30.32 points, to close at 682.55, its lowest close since 1996. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index fell 4 percent, or 54.15 points, to close at 1299.59.

The sharp descent underscored the depth and breadth of the economy's problems. Every stock in the Dow other than Wal-Mart lost ground or closed flat. No sector in the S&P 500 was spared, either, with shares of financial companies leading the carnage, posting a 10 percent decline.

"This is distinctly unlike anything we have seen since World War II," said Philip J. Roth, chief market analyst at New York brokerage Firm Miller Tabak. "The last time the market had a long, straight-line decline was in 1937 and 1938."

Read The Full Story

U.S. Supply Chain To Afghanistan A Weakness
2009-03-06 00:04:50

The U.S. military is laboring to shore up a vulnerable supply chain through Pakistan and Central Asia as it seeks to expand the flow of supplies into Afghanistan by at least 50 percent to support an influx of tens of thousands of new troops, according to defense officials and experts.

One new link is now undergoing testing with the first shipment of U.S. military nonlethal cargo through Russia, said officials. That cargo has already crossed into Kazakhstan on its way to Afghanistan, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

Escalating attacks on supply convoys in Pakistan, the anticipated closure in less than six months of the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan - the last remaining U.S. air hub in Central Asia - and slow progress in opening up the northern supply route into Afghanistan have added urgency to the effort to strengthen the logistical backup for the troop increase, they said.

"If you ask me what I worry about at night, it is the fact that our supply chain is always under attack," said Gen. Duncan McNabb, commander of the U.S. military's transportation command, in testimony that focused on Afghanistan last week.

McNabb said that so far 130 contract drivers have been killed trucking U.S. supplies through Pakistan, for example. Once inside Afghanistan, he said, some roads are so dangerous that the U.S. military will have to fly over them to carry in supplies and personnel.

Read The Full Story

Undisclosed Losses At Merrill Lynch Prompt Trading Investigation
2009-03-06 00:03:51
One Merrill Lynch trader apparently gambled away more than $120 million in the currency markets. Others seemingly lost hundreds of millions on tricky credit derivatives. 

Somehow all this red ink did not spill into plain view until after Merrill earmarked billions for bonuses and staggered into the arms of Bank of America.

Inside Bank of America headquarters here, executives are asking why. The bank is investigating how Merrill accounted for wayward trades in the final, frantic months of 2008 - and why at least one big loss was slow to appear on Merrill’s books.

Of particular concern are the activities of a Merrill currency trader in London, Alexis Stenfors, whose trading has come under scrutiny by British regulators, according to people briefed on the investigation. The loss Stenfors is believed to have incurred so alarmed Bank of America that this week the bank examined the books of other traders who were on vacation.

Bank of America’s embattled chief executive, Kenneth D. Lewis, is trying to bridle Merrill’s traders, whose rush into risky investments nearly brought down the brokerage firm; but questions over the Merrill losses - in particular, who knew about them, and when - keep swirling. Merrill hemorrhaged $13.8 billion during the final three months of 2008 alone.

Read The Full Story

U.K. Spy Agencies' Multimillion-Pound Computer Project In The Scrapper
2009-03-06 00:03:10

A multimillion-pound computer project designed to improve Britain's security by giving key government officials speedy access to secret intelligence on terrorism and other threats has been scrapped in a move described as "appalling" Thursday by a watchdog of senior Parliament members and peers.

The damning criticism is contained in the annual report of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is studded with asterisks hiding facts and figures needed for the public and parliament to know what MI5, MI6, and GCHQ are up to. The committee says it is appalled that a significant phase of the project, called Scope, on which "tens of millions of pounds have been spent" has been abandoned because of technical problems. Serious failures with the computer system were revealed by the Guardian newspaper last year, but the committee says it had not yet investigated the reasons.

Scope was previously described as marking the "beginning of the end" of the distribution of paper copies of intelligence reports around Whitehall and as "fundamentally changing the way the U.K. intelligence community interacts".

A limited version of the project, called Scope 1, is up and running after a two-year delay. It enables MI5, MI6, and GCHQ to communicate with each other more quickly and securely than before. They can call up the latest intelligence within 15 minutes rather than waiting 12 hours.

Read The Full Story

U.S. Charges 2 British Men In KBR Bribery Case
2009-03-06 00:01:52
U.S. authorities charged two British men Thursday with helping a former Halliburton Co. subsidiary steer massive bribes to Nigerian officials to win construction contracts.

Federal prosecutors in Houston say Jeffrey Tesler, 60, and Wojciech Chodan, 71, conspired to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The two men are charged with helping steer bribe money from Kellogg, Brown & Root LLC to officials of the Nigerian government to win contracts valued at more than $6 billion.

Authorities say Chodan discussed using Tesler and other agents to pay tens of millions of dollars worth of bribes.

Tesler was arrested by the London Metropolitan Police, and an arrest warrant has been issued for Chodan.

Read The Full Story

Wall Street Falls To New Lows On Retail Data, G.M. Audit
2009-03-05 15:36:57

A day after breaking a five-day losing streak, Wall Street fell to new lows on Thursday as investors reacted to more concerns about the fate of General Motors, dreary retail sales and news that China did not appear poised to increase its stimulus spending.

A broad sell-off dragged all sectors of the market lower, hitting financial stocks and transportation companies particularly hard. Producers of basic materials like metals and chemicals, whose shares rose Wednesday on speculation about China’s stimulus spending, fell back.

At 2 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average was down 222 points, or 3.4 percent, while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was down 3.5 percent. The technology-heavy Nasdaq index was off 3 percent.

Stocks in Europe also closed sharply lower.

Read The Full Story

Obama: Fixing Health Care Is A Fiscal Priority
2009-03-05 15:36:35

President Obama launched a campaign Thursday to reform health care in the United States by the end of this year, telling a White House summit on the issue that that fixing the troubled system is "no longer a moral imperative, it is a fiscal imperative."

Joined by lawmakers, health industry executives and a handful of "average Americans," Obama vowed to press for legislation this year that dramatically expands insurance coverage, improves health care quality and reins in skyrocketing medical costs.

"The same soaring costs that are straining our families' budgets are sinking our businesses and eating up our government's budget, too," Obama said in an East Room appearance.

"At the fiscal summit that we held here last week, the one thing on which everyone agreed was that the greatest threat to America's fiscal health is not Social Security, though that's a significant challenge," he said. "It's not the investments we've made to rescue our economy. By a wide margin, the biggest threat to our nation's balance sheet is the skyrocketing cost of health care. It's not even close."

Read The Full Story

Regulators Under Fire At U.S. Senate Banking Hearing
2009-03-05 15:36:15

State and federal regulators came under fire on Capitol Hill on Thursday as a Senate panel pressed them to explain their roles in the liquidity crisis that led the American International Group (A.I.G.) to the brink of collapse.

The Senate Banking Committee hearing at times amounted to a game of cat and mouse, as lawmakers pushed the regulators to concede that they were at least in part to blame for failing to foresee or prevent the crisis. The regulators told the committee that they were slow to step in at A.I.G. because they had failed to understand the enormous risks involved with the insurer’s credit-default swaps.

In prepared testimony, one official, Eric R. Dinallo, superintendent of the New York State Insurance Department, denied that his agency was the primary regulator of the insurance giant and maintained that he oversaw only a small portion of A.I.G.’s business - a handful of its insurance companies that are based in New York. The primary source of the crisis at A.I.G., he said, was its financial products division, which handled credit-default swaps, derivatives and futures totaling an estimated $2.7 trillion.

“A.I.G. Financial Products is not a licensed insurance company,” he said. “It was not regulated by New York State or any other state.”

“We were not responsible for the whole securities lending program,” added Dinallo.

Read The Full Story

Poland Embraces New Effort To Fight Anti-Semitism
2009-03-05 15:34:57
A human rights group and Poland's Education Ministry introduced new teaching materials for Poland's middle schools on Thursday in an effort to combat anti-Semitism.

Poland is the fifth in a group of 12 countries adopting such workbooks, after Germany, Ukraine, Denmark and the Netherlands. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe guided the project as part of an overall effort to fight anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.

Each country's texts cover similar topics, such as the history of anti-Semitism in Europe from the Middle Ages to World War II, but the books are written in the local language and focus on local issues.

Poland's books, for example, attempt to undermine a long-held assumption in Poland that a person cannot be Jewish and Polish at the same time. The notion has led to the exclusion of Jews from mainstream society and furthered the notion that they are foreign even though Jews first arrived 1,000 years ago.

Read The Full Story

GM Auditors Talk About Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection
2009-03-05 14:17:50
General Motors Corp.'s auditors have raised "substantial doubt" about the troubled auto maker's ability to continue operations, and the company said it may have to seek bankruptcy protection if it can't execute a huge restructuring plan.

The automaker revealed the concerns Thursday in an annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

"The corporation's recurring losses from operations, stockholders' deficit, and inability to generate sufficient cash flow to meet its obligations and sustain its operations raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern," auditors for the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche LLP wrote in the report.

GM also disclosed Thursday that Chief Executive Rick Wagoner received a pay package worth $14.9 million in 2008, although $11.9 million of his compensation was in stock and options whose value plummeted to $682,000 as GM's share price sank.

GM shares, which lost 87 percent of their value in 2008, fell 38 cents or 17.2 percent to $1.82 in afternoon trading Thursday.

Read The Full Story

MailScanner has detected a possible fraud attempt from "" claiming to be FIP Interview With
2009-03-05 09:15:22
  As we all know, the employment situation in the US and world wide is not good.  I recently found the site which has been doing an excellent job of reporting the state of our economy from the standpoint of the job market.   Most news sources, including ourselves, carry the occasional story and statistics relating to the unemployment rates.   By using a very simple format (company and layoff number, with links to the related news story), they bring a clear picture to what is happening around us.  

  In contrast to the doom and gloom which is already apparent, they also list links to companies that are hiring.  For the time being the layoff column is much longer than the hiring column.

  The "Cranky Editor" of Lay Off Daily was kind enough to answer a few questions from us, so we could get a better idea of what he is trying to show.
Read The Full Story

More Than 11 Percent Of Mortgages Delinquent Or In Foreclosure
2009-03-06 00:05:31

The number of homeowners falling behind on their mortgages or already in foreclosure surged to record highs during the fourth quarter, according to industry data released Thursday.

About 7.88 percent of mortgage loans were delinquent during the quarter, according to the survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association, an industry group. It is up from 5.82 percent during the same period a year earlier. Another 3.3 percent were in the foreclosure process, up from 2.04 percent a year ago. Both figures set records. Taken together, they mean that more than 11 percent of home mortgages are now in some form of distress. The association began keeping records in 1972.

The trend highlights the challenge facing the Obama administration as it launches a foreclosure prevention program that will pay incentives to lenders to encourage them to lower homeowners' payments to affordable levels. The administration aims to help up to 9 million homeowners either refinance their mortgages or attain a loan modification that keeps them out of foreclosure.

The House is also expected to vote today on legislation to allow bankruptcy judges to modify the mortgages of struggling borrowers. The financial services industry has fought the legislation for years, but after the foreclosure crisis deepened and Democrats gained greater control in Congress, the legislation gained traction.

Increasingly, homeowners are becoming delinquent after losing a job rather than because they are struggling with a risky loan, the Mortgage Bankers Association and analysts said. Falling home prices are exacerbating the problem, they said.

Read The Full Story

Bank Of England Begins 'Printing Money' To Fight Slump
2009-03-06 00:05:04

The Bank of England Thursday announced unprecedented steps to prevent Britain's deepest slump since the 1930s when it unveiled plans to inject up to £75 billion (about $130 billion) into the economy over the next three months.

Alarmed by signs Britain's malfunctioning banking system is starving consumers and businesses of credit, Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling Thursday gave Threadneedle Street clearance to begin printing money - the last-gasp measure used by Japan to end a decade of recession and deflation.

The Bank of England said it would embark on quantitative easing next week, after its monetary policy committee cut the bank rate for the sixth time since the global financial system came close to collapse last October. The rate is now 0.5% - a level not seen before in the Bank's 315-year history.

Mervyn King, the Bank's governor, said it was unlikely that the bank rate could go any lower and policymakers would shift focus to creating money instead. "We are very close to zero. What we are doing now is switching to injecting money into the economy directly."

The move came as one of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's closest allies came closer to admitting that Labor had to bear some responsibility for the crisis. Ed Balls, the schools minister, said the government had failed to take enough action to rein in the City (London's financial district) during the boom years. "In retrospect we all underestimated the risks and we were nowhere near tough enough," Balls told Sky News. "We need to learn from that and do it better in the future."

Read The Full Story

Homeowner Rescue - U.S. House OKs Bill Allowing Judges To Alter Mortgages
2009-03-06 00:04:35

The U.S. House of Representatives Thursday passed legislation that would allow bankruptcy judges to modify the terms of troubled home mortgages, overcoming fierce financial industry opposition.

The bill, a package of housing-related initiatives, passed 234 to 191, largely along party lines. It now heads to the Senate, where it will face a tougher fight but has the backing of some powerful members.

Under the legislation, bankruptcy judges could cut the principal on a home owner's mortgage as well as reduce the interest rate and extend the terms - provisions known as cramdowns.

"I wish we had done this a year and a half ago," said Rep. Brad Miller (D-North Carolina), who had sponsored a version of the bill. "If we had it, we would be much further along in getting a handle on the foreclosure crisis."

Read The Full Story

Obama Administration Wants To Bring Russia In From The NATO Cold
2009-03-06 00:03:29
The Obama administration moved Thursday to resume high-level relations with Moscow when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led a western push to revive contacts between Russia and NATO.

Making her European debut as secretary of state, Clinton told a meeting of NATO foreign ministers that Washington wanted "a fresh start" in relations with Moscow. She will have her first official negotiations with her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday.

"I don't think you punish Russia by stopping conversation with them," she said, adding that there could be benefits to the better relationship. "We not only can but must co-operate with Russia," adding, "We pursue it with our eyes wide open."

The meeting in Brussels agreed to reinstate the work of the NATO-Russia Council, a consultative body that was frozen last year in protest at Moscow's invasion and partition of Georgia.

The allies agreed that Russian and NATO defense and foreign ministers should resume meetings as soon as possible after NATO's 60th birthday summit in France and Germany next month.

Read The Full Story

Layoffs Without Notice Sting Workers
2009-03-06 00:02:32

With the economy weakening, chief executives want Wall Street to see them as tough cost-cutters who are not afraid to lay off workers - but plenty of job cuts are not trumpeted in news releases.

Big companies also routinely carry out scattered layoffs that are small enough to stay under the radar, contributing to an unemployment rate that keeps climbing, as Friday’s monthly jobs report is likely to show.

I.B.M. is one such company. It reported surprisingly strong quarterly profits in January, and in an e-mail message to employees, Samuel J. Palmisano,the chief executive, said that while other companies were cutting back, his would not. “Most importantly, we will invest in our people,” he wrote.

Yet the next day, more than 1,400 employees in I.B.M.’s sales and distribution division in the United States and Canada were told their jobs would be eliminated in a month. More cuts followed, and over all, I.B.M. has told about 4,600 North American employees in recent weeks that their jobs are vanishing.

J. Randall MacDonald, I.B.M.’s senior vice president for human resources, said it was routine for the company to lay off some employees while hiring elsewhere. “This business is in a constant state of transformation,” he said. “I think of this as business as usual for us.”

Read The Full Story

Robin Williams Taking Time-out for Tune-up
2009-03-05 23:19:51

  On Tuesday (March 3, 2009), famous comedian Robin Williams postponed several stops on his current 80 city tour due to complains of shortness of breath.  At the time, doctors suggested that he take it easy for a few days, cancel a few show dates, and then continue on.

  Today (March 5, 2009), it was announced that a followup checkup found that Mr. Williams is much more serious, and he requires an aortic valve replacement.


Read The Full Story

U.S. Retail Sales Slide Further
2009-03-05 15:36:48

February was another terrible month for the nation’s retailers, but the numbers they reported on Thursday were slightly less awful than in previous months.

Wal-Mart Stores, the nation’s largest retailer, exceeded analysts’ expectations, once again underscoring that consumers are opening their wallets only to buy necessities. At stores open at least a year, a barometer of retail health known as same-store sales, Wal-Mart had a 5.1 percent sales increase, compared with a 2.7 percent increase for the period a year ago.

The company said its strong sales were driven by its grocery and health-and-wellness categories, and noted that more customers were streaming through its doors.

“We believe falling gas prices significantly boosted household disposable income in February and therefore allowed for both more trips and more spending towards discretionary categories,” Wal-Mart said in announcing its results.

Read The Full Story

Editorial: The Crisis At Home And Abroad
2009-03-05 15:36:25
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Thursday, March 5, 2009.

The economic news is so frighteningly bad here, it has all but squeezed out reports of the turmoil wrecking the developing world. The news there, if possible, is even more frightening. And in a globalized economy there is no insulation for anyone.

The emergency spreading through Eastern Europe has sent currencies plunging in financially stretched nations like Hungary and solid economies like Poland. The crisis threatens political stability along the European Union’s eastern border. The government in Latvia fell last week following protests. Ukraine is on the brink.

Over the weekend, the European Union’s wealthy members rejected calls for a bailout of its poorer members. Collapsing economies in Eastern Europe - including inside the European Union - could bring down the banks in the West that lent to the East.

Such turmoil should serve as a warning about the perils of ignoring the disasters unfolding across the developing world - and the need for a global response.

Poor countries remain the world’s only hope for economic growth this year, but that’s dimming as they are walloped by collapsing exports and the shutdown of foreign finance. Currencies are plunging from Mexico to Malaysia as lenders and investors pull money out to park it in United States Treasury bonds. Pakistan, Iceland, Turkey and El Salvador, along with several Eastern European countries, have already asked the International Monetary Fund for help to pay foreign creditors.

Read The Full Story

Secretary of State Clinton Wants To Include Iran In Afghanistan Talks
2009-03-05 15:35:25
Setting up the possibility of its first face-to-face encounter with Iran, the Obama administration proposed a conference on Afghanistan at the end of this month that is likely to include Iran among the invited countries, American officials said on Thursday.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the proposal at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers here. “Any long-term solution will require the participation of all of Afghanistan’s neighbors,” she said, in her first speech to ministers from the other 26 North Atlantic Treaty Organization members.

“I would expect that Iran would be invited,” said the acting State Department spokesman, Robert A. Wood.

The conference, which would be convened by the United Nations, is to be held on March 31; it was not immediately clear if Iran planned to attend.

Read The Full Story

14 Killed, 38 Injured In Carbombing At Iraq Market
2009-03-05 15:34:44
A bomb in a parked car exploded Thursday in a livestock market in a Shiite area of Babil Province south of Baghdad, killing at least 14 people and injuring 38, six of them seriously, according to police and health officials.

The explosion showed that militants are still able to stage dramatic and bloody attacks, despite a general decline in violence in Iraq as American troops hand over security responsibilities to Iraqi forces.

Jabir Khalef Jabar, 36, a customer at the market, said he saw a crowd gathered around a parked vehicle when he went to buy a sheep. “People were looking for the driver of that vehicle,” he said. “Then I walked away from the vehicle, the explosion happened and the ground was shaking.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Read The Full Story

Chicago Sheriff's Dept. To Sue Craigslist over Sex Ads
2009-03-05 14:17:40
The sheriff's department for Chicago's Cook County says it's suing Craigslist, calling the popular online classifieds site the largest source of prostitution in the United States.

Sheriff Tom Dart plans a news conference later Thursday.

A call for comment before business hours to Craigslist's public relations firm was not immediately returned.

Read The Full Story
Original materials on this site © Free Internet Press.

Any mirrored or quoted materials © their respective authors, publications, or outlets, as shown on their publication, indicated by the link in the news story.

Original Free Internet Press materials may be copied and/or republished without modification, provided a link to is given in the story, or proper credit is given.

Newsletter options may be changed in your preferences on

Please email there are any questions.

XML/RSS/RDF Newsfeed Syndication:


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home