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Monday, March 23, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday March 23 2009 - (813)

Monday March 23 2009 edition
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17 Killed In Montana Plane Crash
2009-03-22 22:35:48

A private plane carrying children and adults from California to a skiing vacation in Montana diverted from its planned destination and crashed on Sunday as it attempted to land at an airport in Butte, and a Federal Aviation Administration official said that all on board - 17 people - were killed.

A mechanic at a California airport where the plane had stopped in the morning said that there were about a dozen children on board.

Witnesses at the scene of the crash said the aircraft was turning at a steep angle as it approached Bert Mooney Airport on the outskirts of Butte at mid-afternoon when it abruptly went into a nosedive, plunged into a wooded area in Holy Cross Cemetery and burst into flames upon impact.

“All of a sudden the pilot lost control and went into a nosedive,” Kenny Gulick, 14, a member of the Civil Air Patrol in Butte who lives near the airport, told the Montana Standard in Butte. “He couldn’t pull out in time and crashed into the trees of the cemetery.”

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Two Die In Cargo Plane Crash At Tokyo's Narita Airport
2009-03-22 22:35:15
Police say the pilot and co-pilot of a FedEx cargo plane that crashed at an airport in Japan are dead.

Police spokesmen Yoshino Ichihara says the two were confirmed dead Monday morning at a hospital near Tokyo's Narita Airport.

Ichihara says Federal Express informed police that pilot 54-year-old Kevin Kylemosley and his 49-year-old copilot Anthony Stephen-Pino died in the crash, but they have yet to officially confirm their identities.

The plane smashed into the longer of Narita's two runways, airport spokeswoman Misuho Fukuda said.

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Bank Of America's Insider Loans Zoomed In 2008, But No One Will Say Why
2009-03-22 19:03:40
Bank of America vaulted into the top 10 banks for insider lending last year with an increase of more than $358 million, much of it coming as credit markets froze and mounting financial calamity threatened the industry's survival.

For at least seven years, the bank's quarterly insider lending never exceeded $300 million and was often less than half that. By the end of 2008, it had jumped to $624 million.

The dollar gain was the biggest of any bank in the country, a 135 percent hike from a year earlier. The average for all banks with insider loans was 5.7 percent.

The bank wouldn't say what drove the doubling. The bank's lead director, Temple Sloan, did not respond to two calls for comment.

The bulk of the gain came in the third quarter, when the financial sector entered its meltdown. Wall Street titan Lehman Brothers toppled. Washington Mutual failed. Wachovia experienced a "silent run" on deposits as concerns grew about its stability. Merrill Lynch floundered, and Bank of America agreed to buy it.

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Some Guantanamo Inmates May Be Allowed To Settle In U.S.
2009-03-22 19:03:12

The White House is set to reverse a key Bush administration policy by allowing some of the 240 remaining Guantanamo Bay inmates to be resettled on American soil.

The U.S. is pushing for Europe to take a share of released inmates, but the Obama administration is reconciled to taking some of them, even though there will be noisy resistance from individual states.

Washington has told European officials that once a review of the Guantanamo cases is completed, the U.S. will almost certainly allow some inmates to resettle on the mainland.

George Bush's refusal to countenance a resettlement program on U.S. soil contributed to European reluctance to play host to freed prisoners.

Since Barack Obama's election victory, Portugal has offered to accept some of them as a means of hastening the camp's closure, and other governments have indicated they will consider it. Britain argues that it has already done enough by accepting both nationals and former residents.

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Officials: U.S. Missile Strikes Take Heavy Toll On Al-Qaeda
2009-03-22 14:50:07
An intense, six-month campaign of Predator strikes in Pakistan has taken such a toll on al-Qaeda that militants have begun turning violently on one another out of confusion and distrust, U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism officials say.

The pace of the Predator attacks has accelerated dramatically since August, when the Bush administration made a previously undisclosed decision to abandon the practice of obtaining permission from the Pakistani government before launching missiles from the unmanned aircraft.

Since Aug. 31, the CIA has carried out at least 38 Predator strikes in northwest Pakistan, compared with 10 reported attacks in 2006 and 2007 combined, in what has become the CIA's most expansive targeted killing program since the Vietnam War.

Because of its success, the Obama administration is set to continue the accelerated campaign despite civilian casualties that have fueled anti-U.S. sentiment and prompted protests from the Pakistani government.

"This last year has been a very hard year for them," a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said of al-Qaeda militants, whose operations he tracks in northwest Pakistan. "They're losing a bunch of their better leaders. But more importantly, at this point they're wondering who's next."

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Editorial: Mr. Obama And The Rule Of Law
2009-03-22 14:49:33
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Sunday, March 22, 2009.

As much as it needs to happen, we never expected President Obama to immediately reverse every one of President George W. Bush’s misguided and dangerous policies on terrorism, prisoners, the rule of law and government secrecy. Fixing this calamitous mess will take time and care - and Mr. Obama has taken important steps in that direction.

But we did not expect that Mr. Obama, who addressed these issues with such clarity during his campaign, would be sending such confused and mixed signals from the White House. Some of what the public has heard from the Obama administration on issues like state secrets and detainees sounds a bit too close for comfort to the Bush team’s benighted ideas.

There are times when the president seems to be making a clean and definitive break. On his second day in office, he ordered the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay and directed his cabinet to formulate new policies on detaining and interrogating people suspected of terrorist acts or of supporting terrorists.

Last week, the administration notified a federal court hearing appeals by Guantanamo inmates that it was dropping Mr. Bush’s absurd claim that he could declare anyone an “enemy combatant” and deprive that prisoner of judicial process. The administration affirmed its commitment to the laws of war, the Geneva Conventions and long-standing military doctrine.

But the break does not always seem complete enough. Even as they dropped the “enemy combatant” terminology, Mr. Obama’s lawyers did not seem to rule out indefinite military detentions for terrorism suspects and their allies. They drew a definition of association with al-Qaeda that is too broad (simply staying in a “safe house,” for example). Worse, they seemed to adopt Mr. Bush’s position that the “battlefield” against terrorism is the planet. That became the legal pretext for turning criminal defendants into lifelong military captives.

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Thousands Of Anti-War Protesters March On Pentagon
2009-03-22 14:48:27

Thousands of demonstrators marked the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq with an impassioned protest of the nation's military policies Saturday, demanding that President Obama bring U.S. troops home.

The demonstration was the first in Washington of the Obama presidency, replete with many of the same messages of protests during the Bush era. Placards read "War Is Not the Answer," "Troops Out Now" and "We Need Jobs and Schools, Not War."

As marchers made their way from the Mall toward the Pentagon and a hub of defense contractors in Crystal City, they chanted: "Hey, Obama, yes, we can. Troops out of Afghanistan." Activist Dave Cahill, 25, of New Jersey proclaimed from a megaphone, "Obama wants to continue the war."

Some protesters hoisted mock coffins draped with flags - about 100 in all - to represent casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries where U.S. actions have claimed lives in the war on terror.

"I came from Pittsburgh today because I think the war in Iraq was a disastrous mistake, and I really hope this administration doesn't make a similar mistake in Afghanistan," said Robin Alexander, 55, who works for a labor union.

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Deadly Brawl Closes Part Of Sydney Airport
2009-03-22 03:59:08
Sydney police are appeal for witnesses after a man died in a brawl that partially shut down the Qantas terminal at Sydney Airport Sunday afternoon.

Police were called to the departure check-in area at Terminal 3 after a fight involving about 20 men at 1:35 p.m.

A police spokesman said the man was treated at the scene, and taken to the Prince of Wales Hospital, after being hit by what was believed to be a portable bollard.

"A number items, including portable bollards, are being taken for forensic examination and a crime scene has been set up,'' he said,.

"Passengers are advised to allow extra time checking in as delays are anticipated.''

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Obama Administration Seeks Increase In Oversight Of Executive Pay
2009-03-22 03:56:15
The Obama administration will call for increased oversight of executive pay at all banks, Wall Street firms and possibly other companies as part of a sweeping plan to overhaul financial regulation, said government officials.

The outlines of the plan are expected to be unveiled this week in preparation for President Obama's first foreign summit meeting in early April.

Officials said the proposal would seek a broad new role for the Federal Reserve to oversee large companies, including major hedge funds, whose problems could pose risks to the entire financial system.

It will propose that many kinds of derivatives and other exotic financial instruments that contributed to the crisis be traded on exchanges or through clearinghouses so they are more transparent and can be more tightly regulated. And to protect consumers, it will call for federal standards for mortgage lenders beyond what the Federal Reserve adopted last year, as well as more aggressive enforcement of the mortgage rules.

The administration has been considering increased oversight of executive pay for some time, but the issue was heightened in recent days as public fury over bonuses spilled into the regulatory effort.

The officials said that the administration was still debating the details of its plan, including how broadly it should be applied and how far it could go beyond simple reporting requirements. Depending on the outcome of the discussions, the administration could seek to put the changes into effect through regulations rather than through legislation.

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Obama Plans To Send Agents, Equipment To Mexico's Fight Against Drug Cartels
2009-03-22 03:55:47

President Obama is finalizing plans to move federal agents, equipment and other resources to the border with Mexico  to support Mexican President Felipe Calderon's campaign against violent drug cartels, according to U.S. security officials.

In Obama's first major domestic security initiative, administration officials are expected to announce as early as this week a crackdown on the supply of weapons and cash moving from the United States into Mexico that helps sustain that country's narco-traffickers, said officials.

The announcement sets the stage for Mexico City visits by three Cabinet members, beginning Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and followed next week by Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Napolitano, designated by Obama to convene a multi-agency security plan for the border, said the government is preparing plans to send more agents and intensify its investigation and prosecution of cartel-related activity in the United States. In addition, she said, the government may expand efforts to trace the sources of guns that move from the United States into Mexico.

To combat the southbound flow of guns, ammunition and grenades at border checkpoints, the government may deploy new equipment, such as scales to weigh vehicles and automated license-plate readers linked to databases, as well as other surveillance technology, she said.

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Sweden Says 'No' To Saving National Icon Saab
2009-03-22 22:35:30
Saab Automobile may be just another crisis-ridden car company in an industry full of them, but just as the fortunes of Flint, Michigan, are permanently entangled with General Motors, so it is impossible to find anyone in this city in southwest Sweden who is not somehow connected to Saab.

Which makes it all the more wrenching that the Swedish government has responded to Saab’s desperate financial situation by saying, essentially, tough luck. Or, as the enterprise minister, Maud Olofsson, put it recently, “The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories.”

Such a view might seem jarring, coming as it does from a country with a reputation for a paternalistic view of workers and companies. The “Swedish model” for dealing with a banking crisis - nationalizing the banks, recapitalizing them and selling them - has been much debated lately in the United States, with free-market defenders warning of a slippery slope of Nordic socialism.

Yet Sweden has a right-leaning government, elected in 2006 after a long period of Social Democratic rule, that prefers market forces to state intervention and ownership. That fact has made the workers of Trollhattan wish the old socialist model were more in evidence.

“I don’t think the government knows the situation in this town, how many people depend on Saab,” said Therese Doeij, 25, a clerk at a photo shop who has several friends who work at the company. “To them it’s just a factory. They don’t see the people behind it.”

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As Credit Markets Froze, Banks Loaned Millions To Insiders
2009-03-22 19:03:56
U.S. banks nationwide hold $41 billion in loans to directors, top executives and other insiders, a portfolio that experts say should be stripped of secrecy.

Insider lending to directors is particularly troublesome because it could cloud the judgment of people charged with protecting shareholders and overseeing bank management, say the experts.

At Charlotte-based Bank of America, those loans more than doubled last year, to $624.2 million - the biggest dollar jump in the country. The largest of them likely went to three directors or their companies. The surge came during the third quarter as credit markets froze, the government prepared to infuse banks with billions in tax dollars and the board approved the purchase of troubled Merrill Lynch.

Bank of America ranked fourth on the list of biggest insider lenders. At the top was JPMorgan of New York, which held $1.48 billion in insider loans, mostly by directors or their companies.

At No. 2, Charlotte-based Wachovia, which was sold to Wells Fargo of San Francisco at the end of 2008, finished the year with $747 million in insider loans. All of the loans were held by the bank's directors or their companies, with just five holding the largest.

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U.S. Will Appoint Afghanistan Prime Minister To Bypass Karzai
2009-03-22 19:03:27
The U.S. and its European allies are ­preparing to plant a high-profile figure in the heart of the Kabul government in a direct challenge to the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, according to a report in Sunday's Guardian newspaper.

The creation of a new chief executive or prime ministerial role is aimed at bypassing Karzai. In a further dilution of his power, it is proposed that money be diverted from the Kabul government to the provinces. Many U.S. and European officials have become disillusioned with the extent of the corruption and incompetence in the Karzai government, but most now believe there are no credible alternatives, and predict the Afghan president will win re-election in August.

A revised role for Karzai has emerged from the White House review of Afghanistan and Pakistan ordered by Barack Obama when he became president. It ist o be unveiled at a special conference on Afghanistan at The Hague on March 31.

As well as watering down Karzai's personal authority by installing a senior official at the president's side capable of playing a more efficient executive role, the U.S. and Europeans are seeking to channel resources to the provinces rather than to central government in Kabul.

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U.S. Treasury To Absorb 'Toxic Assets'
2009-03-22 14:50:23

The U.S. Treasury Department will unveil the next step in its financial rescue efforts tomorrow, announcing that it intends to create a government body, called the Public Investment Corp., to finance the purchase of as much as $1 trillion in soured loans and toxic assets from ailing banks, according to sources.

The plan calls for the new entity to combine its resources with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Federal Reserve and private investors to buy those loans and other assets; but the government will put far more money into the deals and take on more risk than the investors, which could include hedge funds, private-equity firms, pension funds and foreign investors with U.S. headquarters, the sources said. The corporation will be funded with $75 billion to $100 billion from the $700 billion financial rescue package.

Key details of the toxic asset purchasing program are not yet finalized, said officials in contact with the Treasury. Some expressed concern that the markets would expect too much out of Monday's announcement. When Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner first sketched out the administration's rescue plan last month, he was criticized on Wall Street and on Capitol Hill for being too vague and creating uncertainty in the markets.

The Obama administration also risks a backlash from lawmakers and ordinary Americans who expressed outrage over $165 million in bonus payments by American International Group to employees of its most troubled unit - despite the firm receiving more than $170 billion in federal aid.

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California Mourns Three Slain Police Officers
2009-03-22 14:49:53
In one of the deadliest police shootings in California history, three Oakland officers were killed and a fourth gravely wounded in two incidents Saturday that began with a routine traffic stop, said police officials.

The violence began at 1:08 p.m. when two motorcycle officers pulled over a 1995 Buick on MacArthur Boulevard in east Oakland. At 1:16 p.m., a call came into the department saying two officers were down and needed medical attention. The driver had stepped out of the car and fired at the officers before fleeing into the neighborhood, said authorities.

Police launched a "very extensive manhunt," said department spokesman Jeff Thomason. Several streets were blocked off and a helicopter flew overhead. Police then received a tip that a possible suspect was barricaded inside a nearby apartment building.

About 3:20 p.m., SWAT officers entered the multi-unit building on 74th Avenue, down the street from the first shootings. Authorities said the suspect immediately fired at officers with an assault weapon, hitting three of them. SWAT officers "returned fire in defense of their lives," said Jordan.

Killed were Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40; Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43; and Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35. Officer John Hege, 41, was in grave condition at Highland Hospital late Saturday. The fifth officer, who was not identified Saturday, was treated and released.

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Saudis Crackdown On Terrorists Shows Signs Of Progress
2009-03-22 14:48:47
Near the guard tower outside Saudi Arabia’s main counterterrorism training center, some of the concrete barriers are still scarred with shrapnel. They are kept as a reminder: in December 2004, a suicide bomber detonated his car there, in one of a series of deadly attacks by Islamists insurgents that shook this kingdom.

“It was a wake-up call,” said the commander of the training center, a tall, wiry officer in fatigues and a black beret who cannot publicly give his name for security reasons. “The situation was bad.” A plaque just inside the commander’s office bears the names of 57 Saudi officers who died fighting terrorists from 2003 to 2005.

Those deaths forced a decisive shift here. Many Saudis had refused to recognize the country’s growing reputation as an incubator of terrorism, even after the international outcry that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Since then, much has changed. When Saudi Arabia released its latest list of wanted terrorism suspects in January, all 85 of them were said to be outside the kingdom.

That fact was a measure of the ambitious counterterrorism program created here in the past few years. The government has cracked down ruthlessly on terrorist cells and financing, rooting out officers with extremist sympathies and building a much larger and more effective network of SWAT teams. Even regular police officers now get a full month of counterterrorism training every year.

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Pope Urges 'Change Of Heart' In Africa
2009-03-22 14:46:57
Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass for the largest gathering of his African pilgrimage Sunday, telling a crowd on the outskirts of this seaside capital that reconciliation on the war-ravaged continent would come only with a ''change of heart, a new way of thinking.''

The Vatican said as many as 1 million people turned out on the dusty field near a cement factory to hear the pope at the last major event of his seven-day trip, which began Tuesday in Cameroon.

Speaking from a tented pink altar, the pope said evils in Africa had ''reduced the poor to slavery and deprived future generations of the resources needed to create a more solid and just society.''

''How true it is that war can destroy everything of value,'' said Benedict, wearing a pink cape and mopping his sweaty brow with a white handkerchief kept inside his sleeve.

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British Government Ministers Briefed Over UFO Sightings
2009-03-22 03:58:59
Britain's Defense Ministry was so alarmed by reports of a UFO sighting 20 years ago, it took the unusual step of briefing government ministers, according to secret files released Sunday.

Other incidents in the files, released by Britain's National Archives, include a woman who claimed she was approached by an alien with a "Scandanavian-type accent.''

The group of seven files, released by Britain's National Archives, were recorded between November 1987 and April 1993 by the Defense Intelligence Staff in the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and include details of around 1,200 different UFO (unidentified flying object) sightings.

The MoD was handed negatives of photographs - showing a large diamond-shaped object hanging in mid-air for around 10 minutes before ascending upwards at high speed - taken on August 4, 1990, by two members of the public.

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As U.S. Prison Closes, Chaos Feared In Iraq
2009-03-22 03:56:02
The release of hundreds of prisoners from Camp Bucca, a U.S.-run prison in southern Iraq, has facilitated the revival of Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents in Basra, Baghdad and the borderless expanse here along the Euphrates, according to police chiefs, intelligence officials in the Interior Ministry and residents.

Although none of them predicted a return to the anarchy and sectarian carnage of 2006-2007, when scores of bodies might show up in the street on any day, officials suggested that the groups were preparing for the onset of a U.S. military withdrawal.

Their warnings make for an irony at the beginning of the end of the American presence here. As the United States dismantles Bucca, viewed by many as an appalling miscarriage of justice where prisoners were not charged or permitted to see evidence against them, freed detainees may end up swelling the ranks of a subdued insurgency.

In hardscrabble Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad, some former inmates of Bucca speak of revenge. Others talk of their own conversion there: as prisoners, giving their support to militiamen loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, an anti-American cleric whose forces were routed in Baghdad and Basra last year. A sense of uncertainty reigns in the forlorn stretches around Garma, a wind-swept town as parched as it is lawless, as Sunni residents brace for the return of dozens of fighters and such men as Col. Saad Abbas Mahmoud, the police chief here, openly admit to being overwhelmed by their influx.

"These men weren't planting flowers in a garden. They weren't strolling down the street," said Mahmoud, known as Abu Quteiba to his lieutenants, who snap their heels as they enter. "This problem is both big and dangerous. And regrettably, the Iraqi government and the authorities don't know how big the problem has become."

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A Sturdier Russia Beckons Its Children Home
2009-03-22 03:55:28
Vasily Reutov had never set foot in Russia until a few months ago, but the moment he did, he knew he had finally made it home.

His ancestors, members of an ascetic offshoot of Russian Orthodoxy known as Old Believers, fled this region in the 1920s after the Communist Party violently suppressed religion. They settled in cloistered villages in South America that they turned into Little Russias, as if by preserving the ways of the past, they would somehow, someday, be able to return.

Now, with Russia itself beckoning and sturdier than before, that time has come.

The government is trying to head off the country’s severe population decline by luring back Russians who live abroad as well as their descendants. Reutov and several dozen other members of his religious community from Uruguay have become among the most striking examples of this policy.

Moscow has spent $300 million in the past two years to get the repatriation program started, and officials estimated that more than 25 million people were eligible, many of them ethnic Russians who found themselves living in former Soviet republics after the Soviet collapse in 1991.

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