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Friday, March 13, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday March 13 2009 - (813)

Friday March 13 2009 edition
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16 Still Missing After Chopper Ditches Off Newfoundland
2009-03-13 02:12:00
The search will continue until at least Friday night for 16 people missing since Thursday morning when a helicopter carrying them to an offshore oil platform ditched in the Atlantic Ocean off Newfoundland, said Canadian officials.

One survivor, identified as Robert Decker, was found and taken to a hospital, but efforts to find more survivors had proven fruitless, said Maj. Denis McGuire of the Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The body of one person, who has not been identified publicly, also was pulled from the water. There were 18 people aboard the helicopter when it went down, about 30 nautical miles from St. John's.

"All we've got is the debris field," said McGuire. "There are no indications of any [more] survivors, but the search will continue."

The water is 400 feet deep at the site where the helicopter hit the water, he said.

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Stern Attacks Politicians Over Climate 'Devastation'
2009-03-12 22:36:17

Politicians have failed to take on board the severe consequences of failing to cut world carbon emissions, according to Nicholas Stern, the economist commissioned by Britain's Prime Minister to analyze the impact of climate change.

His stark warning about the potentially "devastating" consequences of global warming came as scientists issued a desperate plea Thursday night for world leaders to curb greenhouse gas emissions or face an ecological and social disaster.

More than 2,500 climate experts from 80 countries at an emergency summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, said there is now "no excuse" for failing to act on global warming. A failure to agree strong carbon reduction targets at political negotiations this year could bring "abrupt or irreversible" shifts in climate that "will be very difficult for contemporary societies to cope with".

In a significant break from the scientific tradition not to comment directly on policy, the experts insisted politicians must stand up to "vested interests that increase emissions" and "build on a growing public desire for governments to act". They called for a "shift from ineffective governance and weak institutions to innovative leadership in government, the private sector and civil society".

Katherine Richardson, a climate scientist at the University of Copenhagen, who organized the three-day summit, said: "We have to act and we have to act now. We need politicians to realize what a risk it is they are taking on behalf of their own constituents, the world's societies and, even more importantly, future generations. All of the signals from the Earth system and the climate system show us we are on a path that will have enormous and unacceptable consequences."

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Investors Send Shares Higher, Dow Closes Up 239 Points
2009-03-12 22:35:02

A few clues that the economy’s downward spiral might be slowing galvanized Wall Street on Thursday and sent the stock market soaring for the second time this week.

Investors searching for relief from a relentless march of bad economic news found wisps of hope in developments that, not many months ago, would have been regarded as alarming. The news, by and large, was bad - just not quite as bad as feared.

General Electric, the blue-chip corporation, was stripped of its triple-A credit rating, an emblem of business prowess it proudly held since 1956; but its rating fell just one notch, less than some analysts predicted. Shares of G.E. soared 13 percent.

The Commerce Department reported that retail sales fell slightly in February - again, less than forecast. The head of the beleaguered Bank of America said the lender probably would not need more government money, but other banks might.

Less-bad was good enough. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 239.66 points, or 3.46 percent, to 7,170.06. The Standard & Poor's500-stock index leaped 29.38 points, or 4.07 percent, to 750.74. The Nasdaq composite index rose 54.46 points, or 3.97 percent, to 1,426.10.

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Three Years Jail For Journalist Who Threw Shoe At Bush
2009-03-12 22:34:32

Dressed in an old beige suit, with dark rings under his eyes, and a five o'clock shadow, Muntazer al-Zaidi looked more hard-pressed journalist than Arab folk hero as he entered Baghdad's central criminal court Thursday morning to face charges of assaulting a foreign head of state, namely one George W. Bush.

The last time the man universally known as "the shoe thrower" appeared in court, three weeks ago, he sported a scarf in the colors of the Iraqi flag and put on a bravura performance, telling of his outrage and uncontrollable emotions when Bush spoke at a news conference on his farewell trip to Iraq. Thursday, he was mostly subdued. It wasn't until the judge handed down the sentence - three years in a prison - that he burst into life, though his shoes stayed firmly on his feet. "Long live Iraq!" he shouted before being led away by a heavy security detail.

Throughout the brief proceedings Zaidi seemed all too aware that he could face up to 15 years in jail. Standing in the wooden pen, sweating, before a panel of three judges he glanced nervously into the packed observers' gallery, apparently seeking out family and friends.

Kicking off proceedings, the presiding judge Abdulemir Hassan al-Rubaie asked Zaidi whether he was innocent or guilty. "I am innocent," came the reply from the 30-year-old reporter. "What I did was a natural response to the occupation." This electrified the court. Relatives began to protest his innocence and urge the judge to show clemency. Twice, Rubaie called for calm, before threatening any miscreants with expulsion.

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German School Shooter Warned Of Attack In Online Chatroom
2009-03-12 18:00:44
"You will hear from me tomorrow, remember the name of a place called Winnenden."

Authorities say a 17-year-old left that message in an Internet chat room six hours before he went on a rampage in his former high school and killed 15 people in this southwest German town.

Tim Kretschmer wrote that he was "sick of this life" and planned to storm the school the next day "and really toast them," Baden Wuerttemburg state Interior Minister Heribert Rech told reporters Thursday.

The transcript released by authorities gave the first indication of what might have driven Kretschmer, described by his peers as withdrawn and shy, to carry out a bloodbath on Wednesday before turning a 9 mm Beretta pistol on himself after a shootout with police.

"Everyone laughs at me, nobody recognizes my potential," Kretschmer wrote in the German-language chat with a teen in the neighboring state of Bavaria. The Bavarian teen told his father and then police about the chat when he realized the threat had been real.

Prosecutors said they had taken steps to contact the U.S.-based provider of the site and were further checking the veracity of the posting, although a message on the site Thursday said that "No killing spree was announced here."

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G.M. Says It Won't Need $2 Billion Stimulus In March
2009-03-12 18:00:12
General Motors, which has borrowed $13.4 billion from the federal government since December to keep itself out of bankruptcy, said on Thursday that it had withdrawn a request for an additional $2 billion that it thought was needed to stay alive through the end of this month.

G.M., the nation’s largest automaker, issued a statement saying that it had told President Obama's auto industry task force, which is reviewing the restructuring plan that the company submitted last month, that its March financing request “would not be needed at this time” because it is making more progress than expected in reducing costs.

The statement did not specify whether G.M. still expected to need the full $30 billion that it had requested.

“This development reflects the acceleration of G.M.’s companywide cost reduction efforts as well as proactive deferrals of spending previously anticipated in January and February,” said the statement. “G.M. will remain in regular contact with the presidential task force on the auto industry on the status of G.M.’s restructuring actions, its liquidity position, timing of future funding requests, and other relevant topics of mutual concern.”

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Pakistani Police Block Opposition Protest
2009-03-12 17:59:43
Club-swinging police blocked the way out of Pakistan's biggest city Thursday, scattering hundreds of demonstrators as the government sought to contain a protest movement that is emerging as a major challenge to its shaky one-year rule.

With anti-government activists vowing to press ahead, the U.S. stepped up efforts to mediate a solution to the crisis, which threatens to undermine its goal of getting nuclear-armed Pakistan to do more in fighting al-Qaeda and Taliban militants along the border with Afghanistan. 

Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration's envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, spoke by phone to President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. The U.S. ambassador met with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif in a bid "to get things resolved," said Sharif spokesman Sadiqul Farooq.

Officials on both sides declined to give any details of the discussions, and there were no signs of any breakthrough to calm political squabbling that is looking a lot like the unrest that preceded the removal of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf last year.

Activist lawyers are demanding Zardari fulfill a pledge to reinstate judges fired by Musharraf, a general who ousted Sharif as prime minister in a 1999 coup. The protest movement heated up last month when the Supreme Court banned Sharif and his brother from elected office.

After the ruling, the federal government dismissed the Punjab provincial administration led by Sharif's brother, stoking anger in Pakistan's most populous region and putting the pair and their supporters on a collision course with Zardari.

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NTSB Warns Of Fault On Boeing 777 Engines
2009-03-13 02:11:49

Air accident investigators in the U.S. have warned there is a "high probability" that a fault leading to the crash landing of a British Airways jet at Heathrow will strike other Boeing 777s.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued an urgent safety recommendation calling for a redesign of a Rolls-Royce engine component in the plane, following two engine rollbacks - sudden power losses - last year.

It came as a U.K. accident report showed how a build-up of ice on the fuel/oil heat exchanger (FOHE) could have caused the incident at Heathrow in January last year that left one person seriously injured among the 150 people on board.

The BA flight from Beijing just cleared a perimeter fence at Heathrow before crash landing short of the runway.

The plane's captain Peter Burkill and co-pilot John Coward were hailed as heroes for their skillful handling of the  aircraft.

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Expert: Severe Global Warming Will Render Half Of World's Inhabited Areas Unliveable
2009-03-12 22:36:05

Severe global warming could make half the world's inhabited areas literally too hot to live in, a U.S. scientist warned Thursday.

Steven Sherwood, a climate expert at Yale University, told a global warming conference in Copenhagen that people will not be able to adapt to a much warmer climate as well as previously thought. Parts of China, India and the eastern U.S. could all become too warm in summer for people to lose heat by sweating - rendering such areas effectively uninhabitable.

The physiological limits of the human body will begin to render places impossible to support human life if the average global temperature rises by 7 degrees Celsius on pre-industrial levels, he said.

"There will be some places on Earth where it would simply be impossible to lose heat," said Sherwood. "This is quite imaginable if we continue burning fossil fuels. I don't see any reason why we wouldn't end up there."

The 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that average temperatures could rise by 6 degrees Celsius this century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at current rates. Scientists at the Copenhagen Climate Congress this week said the IPCC may have underestimated the scale of the problem, and that emissions since 2000 have risen much faster than expected.

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Space Station Has Close Call With Space Debris
2009-03-12 22:34:43
The near-hit of space junk Thursday was a warning shot fired across the bow of the international space station, experts said. There's likely more to come in the future. With less than an hour's notice, the three astronauts were told they'd have to seek shelter in a Russian capsule parked at the space station in case a speeding piece of space junk hit Thursday.

If it hit and they were in the main part of the station, they'd have only 10 minutes of safety, Mission Control told them. A hole in the space station could mean loss of air, loss of pressure and eventual loss of life.

The crew moved so fast that they may have left their instruction manual on the other side of a closed hatch. Inside the Soyuz, they waited for 10 minutes, ready to flee to Earth if the worst happened. On the ground, space debris experts fretted.

"We were watching it with bated breath," said NASA space debris scientist Mark Matney. "We didn't know what was going to happen."

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Congresswoman With Ties To Bank For Which She Helped Seek Bailout Funds
2009-03-12 18:00:54
Top banking regulators were taken aback late last year when a California congresswoman helped set up a meeting in which the chief executive of a bank with financial ties to her family asked them for up to $50 million in special bailout funds, said Treasury Department officials.

Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, requested the September meeting on behalf of executives at OneUnited, one of the nation’s largest black-owned banks. Water’s husband, Sidney Williams, had served on the bank’s board of directors until early last year and has owned at least $250,000 in stock in the institution. Treasury officials said the session with nearly a dozen senior banking regulators had been intended to allow minority-owned banks and their trade association to discuss the losses they had incurred from the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but Kevin Cohee, OneUnited’s chief executive, instead seized the opportunity to plead for special assistance for his bank, said federal officials.

“Here you had a tiny community bank that comes in and they are not proposing a broader policy - they were asking for help for themselves,” said Steve Lineberry, a former Treasury aide who attended the meeting. “I don’t remember that ever happening before.”

Rep. Waters declined on Tuesday to comment on the meeting, or to say if her husband still owns OneUnited shares. Her staff released two letters that showed the meeting was initially called to discuss industry concerns broadly, not matters related just to OneUnited.

The congresswoman, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, did not disclose her ties to OneUnited to Treasury officials, who said they learned of them only later.

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Intelligence Pick Freeman Blames 'Israel Lobby' For His Withdrawal
2009-03-12 18:00:31

The withdrawal of a senior intelligence adviser after an online campaign to prevent him from taking office has ignited a debate over whether powerful pro-Israel lobbying interests are exercising outsize influence over who serves in the Obama administration.

When Charles W. Freeman, Jr., stepped away Tuesday from an appointment to chair the National Intelligence Council - which oversees the production of reports that represent the view of the nation's 16 intelligence agencies - he decried in an e-mail "the barrage of libelous distortions of my record [that] would not cease upon my entry into office," and he was blunt about whom he considers responsible.

"The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East," wrote Freeman.

Referring to what he called "the Israel Lobby," he added: "The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views." One result of this, he said, is "the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for U.S. policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics."

Freeman's angry rhetoric notwithstanding, the controversy surrounding the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia was broader than just Middle East politics. Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair's choice of Freeman prompted a storm of complaints about his recent commercial connections to China and questions about whether he was too forgiving of that nation's leaders.

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Roche Agrees To Buy Genentech For $46.8 Billion
2009-03-12 18:00:01
After eight months of resistance, Genentech  agreed Thursday to be acquired by Roche for $95 a share, ending the independence of what is widely considered the world’s first and most successful biotechnology company.

For Genentech, the deal comes a few days after Roche, a Swiss pharmaceutical giant, raised its offer to $93 a share to buy the 44 percent of the company that it does not already own. At the new, higher price of $95, the companies said the deal would be valued at $46.8 billion.

Now attention will turn to whether Roche can retain the top managers and scientists who have made Genentech so successful in developing drugs like the cancer medicines Avastin and Herceptin, which had combined global sales of nearly $9 billion last year. If not, Roche could end up ruining the operation that has been providing it with its biggest-selling products.

That the deal was finally accepted on friendly terms could increase the chances that Genentech’s people will stay. Moreover, the job market is not good right now.

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Judge Orders Madoff Jailed After Guilty Plea
2009-03-12 17:59:34
Bernard L. Madoff was handcuffed and taken to jail Thursday morning after pleading guilty to a vast Ponzi scheme that bilked families, pension funds, charity organizations and sophisticated hedge fund investors of billions of dollars.

Standing before a packed federal courtroom, Madoff said in a prepared statement that lasted about 10 minutes that he was "deeply sorry and ashamed" for what he had done. When he began the fraud, Madoff said, he believed he could extricate himself and his clients and end the scheme before long. But as the years went by, he began to realize that "this day would inevitably come," said Madoff.

"I am actually grateful for this opportunity to publicly comment about my crimes, for which I am deeply sorry and ashamed," said Madoff, 70. "I cannot adequately express how sorry I am."

After U.S. District Judge Denny Chin accepted the guilty plea, Madoff's attorney, Ira Sorkin, argued that his client should be allowed await his sentencing in his Upper East Side penthouse. Chin refused, saying Madoff posed a flight risk, and ordered him jailed immediately. Chin set the sentencing date for June 16.

"I don't need to hear from the government," said Chin, referring to prosecutors. "It is my intention to remand Mr. Madoff."

With that, some members of the audience, which included victims, erupted into applause. At 11:13 a.m., a little over an hour after the proceedings began, an expressionless Madoff was led away in handcuffs.

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