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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday March 15 2009 - (813)

Sunday March 15 2009 edition
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President Obama Plans To Overhaul Food Safety
2009-03-14 14:13:03
Describing the government’s failure to inspect 95 percent of food processing plants as “a hazard to the public health,” President Obama promised Saturday to bolster and reorganize the nation’s fractured food-safety system.

“In the end, food safety is something I take seriously, not just as your president, but as a parent,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

Obama announced the creation of a Food Safety Working Group, which will include the secretaries of health and agriculture, to advise him on which laws and regulations need to be changed, to foster coordination across federal agencies, and to ensure that laws are enforced.

A bipartisan chorus of powerful lawmakers in Congress has promised to enact fundamental changes in the nation’s food-protection system. On Saturday, Obama made clear that he not only supported that legislative effort but that he also might push to expand it.

A dozen federal agencies share responsibility for ensuring the safety of the nation’s food supply, an oversight system that critics and government investigators have for years said needed major revisions.

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Frenzy Of Drilling Ends As Oil, Gas Prices Plunge
2009-03-14 14:12:39
The great American drilling boom is over.

The number of oil and gas rigs deployed to tap new energy supplies across the country has plunged to less than 1,200 from 2,400 last summer, and energy executives say the drop is accelerating further.

Lower prices are bringing to an end an ambitious effort to squeeze more oil from aging fields and to tap new sources of natural gas.For the last four years, companies here drilled below airports, golf courses, churches and playgrounds in a frantic search for energy. They scoured the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, the Gulf of Mexico and Appalachia.

But the economic downturn has cut into demand. Global oil prices and American natural gas prices have plummeted two-thirds since last summer. Not even an unseasonably cold winter drove down unusually high inventories of natural gas.

The drop has been good news for American consumers, with gasoline now selling for $1.92 a gallon, on average, down from a high of $4.11 in July; but the result for companies is that it is becoming unprofitable to drill.

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U.S. Begins To Rethink Old Doctrine
2009-03-14 14:12:53
The protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing the Obama administration to rethink what for more than two decades has been a central premise of American strategy: That the nation need only prepare to fight two major wars at a time.

For more than six years now, the United States has in fact been fighting two wars, with more than 170,000 troops now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The military has openly acknowledged that the wars have left troops and equipment severely strained, and has said that it would be difficult to carry out any kind of significant operation elsewhere.

To some extent, fears have faded that the United States may actually have to fight, say, Russia and North Korea, or China and Iran, at the same time. Yet if Iraq and Afghanistan were never formidable foes in conventional terms, they have already tied up the American military for a period longer than World War II.

A senior Defense Department official involved in a strategy review now under way said the Pentagon was absorbing the lesson that the kinds of counterinsurgency campaigns likely to be part of some future wars would require more staying power than in past conflicts, like the first Iraq war in 1991 or the invasions of Grenada and Panama.

In an interview with National Public Radio last week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made it clear that the Pentagon was beginning to reconsider whether the old two-wars assumption “makes any sense in the 21st century” as a guide to planning, budgeting and weapons-buying.

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Obama Administration Drops 'Enemy Combatant'
2009-03-14 14:12:24

The Obama administration Friday jettisoned the Bush-era term "enemy combatant" but maintained a broad right to detain those who provide "substantial" assistance to al-Qaeda and its associates around the globe.

The disclosure came in a court filing by the Justice Department in response to orders by federal judges, who sought clarity on the government's legal justification for holding about 241 detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Though dropping the term "enemy combatant" was a symbolic break from the Bush administration, the practical effects of Friday's action will not be known for months.

Bush administration officials had long argued they had a broad constitutional power to detain almost any terrorism suspect for an indefinite period. For those at Guantanamo, the government had said it needed to prove only that the detainees were supporting the Taliban, al-Qaeda or associated forces to justify their confinements.

The Justice Department said yesterday that it would seek to hold only terrorism suspects who "substantially supported" those groups and not those who "provide unwitting or insignificant support" to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

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