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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Saturday March 28 2009 - (813)

Saturday March 28 2009 edition
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Obama Say Afghanistan-Pakistan Strategy Requires More Money, Troops
2009-03-27 14:14:53

President Obama this morning announced a new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy that will require significantly higher levels of U.S. funding and thousands more military and civilian personnel to reverse what he called an "increasingly perilous" situation.

"I do not ask for this support lightly," Obama said in a White House speech before regional ambassadors, aid officials and his senior national security team. "These are challenging times, and resources are stretched. But the American people must understand that this is a down payment on our own future."

Among the resources required, he said, are an additional 4,000 troops, beyond the 17,000 he authorized last month, that will bring total U.S. deployments to more than 60,000. U.S. military expenses for Afghan operations this year, White House aides said, will increase about 60 percent from the current toll of $2 billion a month. The newly announced forces, from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, will serve as trainers and advisers to an Afghan army expected to double to 134,000 by 2011.

Obama called on Congress to pass legislation to provide $1.5 billion a year for five years in economic assistance to Pakistan, along with a bill creating "opportunity zones" for exports. Additional development aid is also planned for Afghanistan, and Obama said he would launch a "dramatic increase," expected to number in the hundreds, of U.S. civilian officials on the ground there. The United States also plans to provide additional equipment, including transport helicopters, to the Pakistani military.

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Alaska's Mt. Redoubt Erupts Twice, Sends Ash Cloud 12 Miles High
2009-03-27 14:14:24
Alaska's Mount Redoubt erupted several times Thursday, spewing a more than 12-mile-high cloud that could drop ash on Anchorage for the first time since the volcano began erupting Sunday night.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory said the first eruption around 8:30 a.m. shot an ash cloud about 30,000 feet in the air, and a second eruption about an hour later sent ash 65,000 feet high - the highest cloud since the eruptions began. Five to 10 smaller eruptions followed, with none of their plumes surpassing 20,000 feet.

The largest eruption caused a mud flow into the Drift River near the base of the volcano.

Before Thursday's eruptions, the volcano had been relatively quiet for more than a day.

"We can have these large explosions pretty much any time," said Stephanie Prejean, an observatory seismologist. "We don't know how long this will continue."

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Oil Prices Tumble In Friday's Markets
2009-03-27 14:13:49
Oil prices sank Friday as investors digested a week's worth of grim economic news and sold off with the price of crude still close to the peak for 2009.

Benchmark crude for May delivery dropped $2.31 to $52.05 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent prices fell $2.10 to $51.36 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Crude stocks surged all week as traders and brokers started to sense the return of a bull market. Prices have steadily increased for a month.

Oil prices set new 2009 highs on both Tuesday and Thursday and there is a growing consensus that there will be a supply shortage as oil companies slash spending on exploration and production.

Most analysts agree that will not occur for some time because demand for energy has fallen so fast.

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U.N. Atomic Agency Fails To Elect Chief
2009-03-27 14:13:09
Officials from 35 nations failed to agree on a successor to Mohamed ElBaradei as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.)in a second day of voting on Friday, the agency said, opening the field to new candidates.

The officials, grouped in the agency’s board of governors, deadlocked after the leading candidate, Yukiya Amano, a Japanese official who is his country’s ambassador to the organization, fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority required for election at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

Amano out-polled his South African counterpart, Abdul Samad Minty, in three rounds of voting on Thursday and an additional three rounds on Friday, but never obtained the necessary margin for victory. With 24 votes required, Amano took 23 “yes” votes in the initial Friday poll on his candidacy, and in a later round received 22 affirmative votes with one abstention. In the final round, Minty garnered 15 “yes” votes with one abstention.

Taous Feroukhi, chairwoman of the board of governors, told reporters that the field was now open to new contenders in the race to succeed ElBaradei, whose third four-year term expires in November. ElBaradei, 66, has held the post since 1997, when he took over from Hans Blix,of Sweden. The I.A.E.A. is the United Nations nuclear watchdog. The agency plays a central role in monitoring and investigating charges of illicit nuclear proliferation and promoting atomic energy for peaceful purposes.

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Fargo Neighborhood Evacuated As River Waters Rise
2009-03-27 14:14:36
Along the banks of Fargo, North Dakota, the Red River surpassed its highest level in history Friday morning, forcing the emergency evacuation of one neighborhood before dawn and leading city leaders here, once cheerfully upbeat, to sound far more dire.

“We do not want to give up yet,” Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said late Thursday night after receiving yet another piece of gruesome news. Forecasters now believe the Red River will go right on rising, and by Saturday overtake the record set here more than a century ago by two feet or even more, much higher than anyone here had earlier believed possible.

“We want to go down swinging - if we go down,” said the mayor, as he urged his city to summon the energy to build the dikes that protect it yet another foot higher by Friday night.

“I’m going to be devastated if we lose,” said Walaker, who had, only a few days ago, expressed optimism, even certainty, that Fargo, a city of 90,000 and North Dakota’s most populous, would be fine.

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Dozens Dead In Pakistan Bombing
2009-03-27 14:14:08
A suicide bomber brought the roof of a crowded mosque crashing down on worshipers in northwest Pakistan Friday, setting off explosives as a cleric intoned the holy prayers, killing scores of people in what was the bloodiest attack this year.

The attack was unleashed in an area that has seen intense activity by Pakistani security forces aimed at protecting the critical Khyber Pass supply route for American forces in Afghanistan. Occurring only hours before President Obama  unveiled a new strategy against militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it raised questions about Pakistan’s ability to counter the threat from al-Qaeda and the Taliban. 

Estimates of the death toll swung wildly as survivors in long robes and white skull-caps scrabbled frantically in the debris to recover the dead and rescue the wounded. A minaret with a loudspeaker poked from the rubble. One local official said 37 people had died but most accounts put the death toll at around 50. Hours after the attacks, Pakistan television stations reported that up to 70 people might have died.

The bomber mingled with worshipers, according to survivors and residents, as the Friday prayer session reached its climax with a communal prayer. Residents said that about 250 to 300 people had been praying in the mosque at the time.

One survivor named Arman said that a cleric had begun to intone “God is great” just as the blast occurred. “There were blood and limbs all around,” he said. “I had never seen such a horrendous scene in my whole life.”

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Indonesia Continues Search After Dam Burst Kills 52
2009-03-27 14:13:32
Rescue works searched desperately into the night Friday for dozens of missing people after a dam burst just outside the Indonesian capital and a wall of mud and water killed at least 52 victims as they slept.

"My prediction is we still have many people trapped in there, so the death toll will rise," said Rustam Pakaya, the Health Ministry's crisis center chief.
"I think the death toll can reach a hundred," he added, as scores of body bags were delivered to the disaster area.

Torrential rain Thursday raised the level of a reservoir behind the dam to almost 55 yards above capacity and "the dam could not hold the water. It was overloaded. And the dam burst around 2 a.m."

At least 31 survivors dragged from the thick muck and floodwaters in Cirendeu were rushed to two hospitals in south Jakarta.

Aerial photos showed an enormous hole, hundreds of feet across the earthen dam, as if a giant claw had torn through it. Subandrio Pitoyo, a public works official, said that due to heavy rain, the water level in the reservoir behind Situ Gintung Dam rose so high that it overflowed the dam, collapsing the earthen wall.
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