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Monday, March 02, 2009

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

Monday March 2 2009 edition
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War Crimes Defendant Finds Allies At The CIA
2009-03-01 13:37:16
As Milosevic's intelligence chief, Jovica Stanisic is accused of setting up genocidal death squads. But as a valuable source for the CIA, an agency veteran says, he also "did a whole lot of good."

At night, when the lawns are empty and the lamps along the walking paths are the only source of light, Topcider Park on the outskirts of Belgrade is a perfect meeting place for spies.

It was here in 1992, as the former Yugoslavia was erupting in ethnic violence, that a wary CIA agent made his way toward the park's gazebo and shook hands with a Serbian intelligence officer.

Jovica Stanisic had a cold gaze and a sinister reputation. He was the intelligence chief for Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, and regarded by many as the brains of a regime that gave the world a chilling new term: "ethnic cleansing."

The CIA officer, William Lofgren, needed help. The agency was all but blind after Yugoslavia shattered into civil war. Fighting had broken out in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Milosevic was seen as a menace to European security, and the CIA was desperate to get intelligence from inside the turmoil.

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Cold Medicines 'No Use For Children'
2009-03-01 13:35:24

Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines do not work on children under 12 and can even cause side effects such as hallucinations, according to a British government agency.

A review of popular remedies including Lemsip, Day Nurse and Sudafed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency found "no robust evidence" that they are effective for children.

The MHRA added that the possible side effects, although not dangerous, could include sleep disturbance, allergic reactions and hallucinations.

With no evidence of efficacy, the executive agency of Britain's Department of Health has decided that many of these medicines can no longer be sold for use by children under six.

New advice will now be published on packets for dosage of children aged between six and 12, and more research is being done to see what benefits, if any, the medicines have.

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Peanut Scandal Affects Companies Big And Small
2009-03-01 02:17:32

Candymaker Tom Hurst didn't even recognize the name Peanut Corporation of America when he first read about the company at the heart of the salmonella outbreak but, within days, the president of Heavenly Candy was calling Whole Foods stores across the country, telling them to pull his Peanut Bliss bars off the shelves, filling out unending paperwork for the Food and Drug Administration, and staring at a loss of a month's worth of products with a value of about $6,000.

"Peanut Bliss had been selling really well, and then this happened," said Hurst, who runs the company out of his Oregon home and has one employee - his wife, Susan. "This was half my sales."

Hurst's supplier, which had purchased roasted salted jumbo Virginia peanuts from Peanut Corporation, is reimbursing Hurst for the cost of his recalled candy but not the lost profits. That makes Hurst luckier than some.

After government officials closed two of Peanut Corporation's three peanut plants, few were surprised when the company filed for bankruptcy protection on Feb. 13. But hundreds of companies that unknowingly bought its tainted products now face serious financial troubles of their own, and the fallout is affecting businesses as tiny as Heavenly Candy and as large as Kellogg.

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Kansas Gov. Sebelius Tapped To Head Health And Social Services
2009-03-01 02:16:56

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius Saturday accepted President Obama's request to become his secretary of health and human services, stepping into a central role in the new administration's ambitious effort to overhaul the nation's health-care system.

Sebelius's nomination comes just days before the White House is scheduled to convene a summit on health reform, an early step in the president's bold plan to vastly expand the reach of the health-care system. A formal announcement of her nomination is scheduled for Monday.

The summit, which is expected to be the first in a series of open meetings across the country, is intended to spotlight the challenges presented by the nation's balkanized health-care system - including soaring costs and gaping holes in coverage. It is also aimed at rallying public support for an overhaul certain to draw ideological and industry opposition. The health session, similar to last week's "fiscal responsibility" summit, will open with remarks by Obama. Participants will then split into working groups led by administration officials.

In his budget proposal unveiled last week, Obama set aside $634 billion for a new reserve fund that over the next decade would serve as a substantial down payment on the cost of moving the country closer to universal health-care coverage. About 46 million Americans lack coverage, a number likely to grow as the economic downturn puts more people out of work.

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Commentary: These Bankers Are Lucky That They Are Not Going To Jail
2009-03-01 13:35:51
ntellpuke: This commentary was written by The Observer political columnist Andrew Rawnsley. Mr. Rawnsley writes: "The [British] government has been too timid about confronting these failed financiers. It's time that it showed some teeth." His commentary follows:

Assuming it is out of the question to hang, draw and quarter Sir Fred Goodwin, pluck out his intestines while they are still warm and wriggling, stuff them into his greedy mouth and then display his severed head on a spike at the Tower of London, could we settle for shooting him instead? Yes, I know, I'm going soft.

Not as soft, mind you, as the politicians who merely condemn him. Gordon Brown calls it "unjustifiable and unacceptable" that the man who led RBS to ruin should refuse to give up a pension worth in excess of £650,000 (over $1 million) a year. Peter Mandelson today escalates the government's outrage. In my interview with the business secretary for the Observer, he calls Sir Fred "obscene". Trouble is that I doubt being told that he is an obscenity, even when the name-caller is such a grandee as Lord Mandelson, will cause Fred the Shred to lose much sleep. If Sir Fred had a pound for every time he has been called something rude, he'd be ... well, he'd be as ludicrously rich as he already is.

Politicians can use whatever adjectives they like to deplore this banker and his wretched ilk for demanding gargantuan rewards for abject failures. The issue is, what is to be done about it? Bankers are hated by the voters, universally pilloried in the media and their excesses have been condemned by every political party from the SWP to the BNP and all points between. And yet still they don't give a damn.

Exhortation and condemnation is wasted breath unless it is accompanied by action. Even though the bankers are now supplicants to the taxpayer, the government is still showing them far too much reverence. Having been in thrall to the erstwhile masters of the universe for a generation, the political class has still not entirely shed its deference to the fallen money changers. Some of the dilemmas faced by ministers when grappling with these characters are real and tricky. They worry that attacking the bankers too viciously will further undermine confidence in the financial system. They fret over the extent to which politicians and civil servants are equipped to interfere in the detailed running of these failed institutions. Even though the banking system is now effectively nationalized, Gordon Brown wants to keep his distance from managing it. That leaves the government with responsibility while still being highly hesitant about exercising control.

One minister who is grappling with the toxic issue of Fred the Shred and his pension groans that it is "a legal nightmare". They say the same about the bankers' enthusiasm for continuing to pay themselves whopping bonuses. Ministers mutter that contractual obligations make it all very difficult. Yet it should not be beyond the capacity of the politicians to cut through the legal thicket. This is one of the advantages of being the government: if the law is an ass, you can change it. Had RBS been any other sort of business, it would now be bust. But for the billions poured in by the taxpayer, this bank would be kaput. There would be no pension honey pot for Sir Fred to stick his paw in. If the law is the problem with stopping him, then the law can be changed.

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Obama's Backing Raises Hope For Global Warming Pact
2009-03-01 02:17:45

Until recently, the idea that the world’s most powerful nations might come together to tackle global warming seemed an environmentalist’s pipe dream.

The Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997, was widely viewed as badly flawed. Many countries that signed the accord lagged far behind their targets in curbing carbon dioxide emissions. The United States refused even to ratify it. And the treaty gave a pass to major emitters in the developing world like China and India.

Yet, within weeks of taking office, President Obama has radically shifted the global equation, placing the United States at the forefront of the international climate effort and raising hopes that an effective international accord might be possible. Obama’s chief climate negotiator, Todd Stern, said last week that the United States would be involved in the negotiation of a new treaty - to be signed in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December - “in a robust way.”

That treaty, officials and climate experts involved in the negotiations say, will significantly differ from the agreement of a decade ago, reaching beyond reducing greenhouse gas emissions and including financial mechanisms and making good on longstanding promises to provide money and technical assistance to help developing countries cope with climate change.

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Battle Lines Quickly Set Over Obama's Policy Shift
2009-03-01 02:17:16

Battle lines are rapidly hardening over the broad policy shifts, massive deficits and tax increases President Obama unveiled last week in his first budget request, a 10-year spending plan thick with political friction points.

Saturday, the president used his weekly radio and Internet address to declare his budget plan a fundamental reordering of federal priorities that would deliver "the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November."

The budget proposal "reflects the stark reality of what we've inherited: a trillion-dollar deficit, a financial crisis and a costly recession," said Obama. He warned off lobbyists and other critics, who, he said, "are gearing up for a fight as we speak."

"My message to them is this: So am I," he said. "The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long, but I don't."

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