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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Thursday March 26 2009 - (813)

Thursday March 26 2009 edition
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Congress May Force Obama To Delay On Copenhagen Climate Change Deal
2009-03-25 20:17:25
U.S. President Obama may be forced to delay signing up to a new international agreement on climate change in Copenhagen at the end of the year because of the scale of opposition in the U.S. Congress, it emerged Wednesday.

Senior figures in the Obama administration have been warning Labor counterparts that the president may need at least another six months to win domestic support for any proposal.

Such a delay could derail the securing of a tough global agreement in time for countries and markets to adopt it before the Kyoto treaty runs out in 2012.

American officials would prefer to have the approval of Congress for any international agreement and fear that if the U.S. signed up without it there would be a serious domestic backlash.

Stephen Byers, co-chairman of the International Climate Change Taskforce, said: "The Copenhagen climate change talks in December will come at a difficult moment. The timing couldn't really be worse for the Obama administration. It is vital that this is recognized by the international community. If need be, we should be prepared to give them more time - not to let them off the hook and escape their responsibilities, but ensure they are politically able to sign up to effective international action which reflects the scale of the challenge we face."

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Israel Accused Of War Crimes Over Use Of Phosphorus Shells In Gaza
2009-03-25 20:17:00
Israel's military fired white phosphorus over crowded areas of Gaza repeatedly and indiscriminately in its three-week war, killing and injuring civilians and committing war crimes, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

In a 71-page report, the rights group said the repeated use of air-burst white phosphorus artillery shells in populated areas of Gaza was not incidental or accidental, but revealed "a pattern or policy of conduct".

It said the Israeli military used white phosphorus in a "deliberate or reckless" way. The report says:

-- Israel was aware of the dangers of white phosphorus.

-- It chose not to use alternative and less dangerous smoke shells.

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Markets See Moderate Gain After Erratic Session
2009-03-25 19:03:18
Wall Street managed a moderate gain Wednesday after an attack of nerves had investors giving back a big early advance and then barreling back into the market right before the close.

Trading was extremely erratic - the Dow Jones industrials rose as much as 203 points in early trading in response to upbeat economic data, then fell nearly 110 during the afternoon before closing up 90. Analysts said weak demand during an auction of government debt stirred up worries about how easily Washington will be able to raise money to fund its economic rescue program. The fear in the market is that the government might not be able to easily raise the hundreds of billions of dollars it needs.

The day shows how fragile Wall Street remains despite a two-week rally that saw the Dow regain more than 1,000 points. The market was pulled in different by opposing forces Wednesday that led to choppy trading - which may well be the pattern for stocks going forward.

"There was a mix of good and bad news and at the end of the day the good news won out," said Alan Skrainka, chief market strategist at Edward Jones. "It's a jumpy market."

Doug Roberts, chief investment strategist at, said, "Right now there is a lot of crosscurrents coming. People want to be flat going in to the following day. They really don't want to be holding a major position."
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Seeds Of Change In Washington On Agriculture
2009-03-25 15:42:35

Dave Murphy is the founder of a food advocacy group, but he wants you to know, "in no uncertain terms," that he is not a foodie. Foodies are people who obsess about the perfect apple tart. Not that there's anything wrong with that but, for Murphy, the fight for good food isn't about pleasure or aesthetics; it's about justice and survival.

Three years ago, he left a good job in Washington to return home to Iowa, where a Minnesota corporation was threatening to build a nearly 5,000-head hog farm near his sister's home. "This is not something abstract," he said. "This is about people I know. People I went to high school with. When you speak to people from Berkeley or Manhattan, people on the coasts, it's a really different ballgame."

Like famous Berkeley, California, activist Alice Waters, chef-owner of Chez Panisse, Murphy dreams big. Yet the tactics he employs are very different. Waters raises awareness through prime-time television appearances, star-studded charity dinners and the rustic meals she serves at her restaurant. Murphy uses grass-roots community organizing methods, such as petitions and action alerts.

The first campaign by Murphy's nonprofit group, Food Democracy Now ( ), was a petition calling for more sustainable food policies and suggesting six progressive candidates for secretary of agriculture last November. After the secretary was appointed, he added a list of 12 candidates for key deputy and undersecretary positions. To date, two of the so-called sustainable dozen have received key appointments. Kathleen Merrigan, a professor at Tufts University who helped develop national organic standards, was appointed deputy secretary. Doug O'Brien, an assistant director at the Ohio Department of Agriculture, will be Merrigan's chief of staff.

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Geithner Clarifies His Remarks After Dollar Tumbles
2009-03-25 15:42:10
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner on Wednesday said that the dollar would remain the world’s dominant reserve currency for some time to come, clarifying earlier remarks that sent the dollar tumbling.

“The dollar remains the world’s dominant reserve currency,” Geithner said after a speech in Midtown Manhattan to the Council on Foreign Relations.“I think that’s likely to continue for a long period of time.

Geithner’s comments came in response to a question regarding a proposal by Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of the People’s Bank of China, that suggested a possible replacement for the dollar as a global reserve currency. The proposal called on the International Monetary Fund to increase the use of "Special Drawing Rights" - a basket of currencies made up of the euro, yen, pound and dollar that has served as a reserve asset.

The dollar plunged earlier in the morning after Geithner, in response to another question, said China’s suggestion “deserves some consideration,” though he added that he had not read the proposal.

The dollar rebounded later on Geithner’s clarification.

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Like It's Predecessor, New U.S. Justice Dept. Claiming Privilege
2009-03-25 15:41:40

Civil liberties advocates are accusing the Obama administration of forsaking campaign rhetoric and adopting the same expansive arguments that his predecessor used to cloak some of the most sensitive intelligence-gathering programs of the Bush White House.

The first signs have come just weeks into the new administration, in a case filed by an Oregon charity suspected of funding terrorism. President Obama's Justice Department not only sought to dismiss the lawsuit by arguing that it implicated "state secrets," but also escalated the standoff - proposing that government lawyers might take classified documents from the court's custody to keep the charity's representatives from reviewing them.

The suit by the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation has proceeded further than any other in challenging the use of warrantless wiretaps, threatening to expose the inner workings of that program. It is the second time the new Justice Department has followed its predecessors in claiming the state-secrets privilege, which would allow the government to exclude evidence in a civil case on grounds that it jeopardizes national security.

Attorneys for al-Haramain are seeking monetary damages from officials at the White House, the National Security Agency, the Treasury Department and the FBI, saying that the government's alleged illegal eavesdropping of the charity's board members and attorneys five years ago violated the charity's rights of due process and freedom of speech. Representatives of the charity, whose U.S. operations have gone out of business, say that its purpose was philanthropic and that authorities have no evidence that it funded terrorism.

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E.U. President Calls U.S. Stimulus The 'Way To Hell'
2009-03-25 15:40:50
Transatlantic tension over the handling of the global economic crisis intensified Wednesday when the prime minister of the Czech Republic, which holds the European Union presidency, described President Obama's stimulus measures as the “way to hell.”

Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek argued that the Obama administration’s fiscal package and financial bailout “will undermine the stability of the global financial market.”

Topolanek’s comments, only a day after he offered his government’s resignation following a no confidence vote, took European officials by surprise.

The rotating European Union presidency lasts for six months and the country that holds it is supposed to speak on behalf of the entire 27-nation bloc.

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Obama Confident 'We're Moving In The Right Direction'
2009-03-25 03:08:39

President Obama sought to reassure Americans Tuesday night that his administration has made progress in reviving the economy and said his $3.6 trillion budget is "inseparable from this recovery."

After sprinting through his first months in office, Obama is now facing heightened criticism from Republicans, who have called his blueprint irresponsible, and from skeptical Democrats who have already set about trimming back his top budget priorities.

Obama came into office amid lofty expectations and the worst economic crisis in generations, and he succeeded in pushing through a $787 billion stimulus and launching expensive plans to revive the banking system.

Tuesday night, against a backdrop of a broad national anxiety that the economy may still be failing, he attempted to recalibrate the high hopes to more closely fit the challenges he said lie ahead.

Although he spoke sharply once in response to Republican criticism, Obama struck a tone of common purpose throughout his second prime-time news conference, urging the country to be patient as he works on issues as divergent as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the malign impact of lobbying in Washington, D.C.

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Britain's Prime Minister Tells Wall Street To Change Its Ways
2009-03-25 20:17:12
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown Wednesday told the cream of New York's financial community that they must change their ways if the world is to emerge unscathed from the global financial crisis.

At a breakfast meeting at New York's Plaza hotel, the prime minister offered strong support for Barack Obama, who used a White House press conference on Tuesday night to express his frustration at bonuses being paid to staff at bailed-out businesses.

"We have to clean up the banking system," the prime minister told financiers at the meeting hosted by the Wall Street Journal's managing editor, Robert Thomson.

"We must give people confidence that the principles that guide their daily lives are those that also guide the markets. I know people are angry at what they see in banking bonuses remuneration."

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China Using Contraceptive Pellets To Curb Rats In Tibet
2009-03-25 20:16:47
China's authorities have scattered 200 kilograms (440 lbs.) of rodent contraceptive pellets across the Tibetan plateau to control what they describe as a "plague of desert rats".

The growing number of rodents have been blamed for destroying fragile high-altitude grasslands and accelerating the spread of deserts.

Biodiversity experts warn, however, that the extermination campaign could worsen the problem of soil degradation and the poisons could damage other parts of the plateau ecosystem.

China's chemists custom-designed the drugs to induce abortions and prevent pregnancy in "gerbils", according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. It is possible they are referring to pika, a small cousin of the rabbit with rounded ears and long whiskers that has long been the target of government eradication campaigns.

Government workers began spreading the contraceptive in the Gurbantunggut desert last May, leaving it in pellet form near the entrance of burrows. Since then they have reportedly distributed 200 kilograms of the drug over 49,000 hectares in China's western region of Xinjiang. They say the drug will have a minimal impact on other animals.

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U.S. House Democrats Slash More Than $100 Billion From Obama's Plan
2009-03-25 15:42:47

House budget leaders today unveiled a $3.45 trillion budget blueprint for fiscal 2010 that slices more than $100 billion from the spending plan President Obama proposed last month.

Much of the difference comes from a decision by House leaders to jettison Obama's plan to seek more cash for the Treasury Department's financial-sector bailout, a decision that would reduce the projected deficit but not prevent the administration from requesting the money.

The result is a spending plan that would drive the annual deficit to $1.2 trillion next year, compared with $1.4 trillion under Obama's request. Over the next five years, the deficit would fall to just under $600 billion, requiring the nation to borrow $3.9 trillion, compared with $4.4 trillion under Obama's plan.

Like a competing proposal unveiled in the Senate, the House plan would permit lawmakers to pursue Obama's priorities on health care, education and energy only if those initiatives do not increase the deficit. Unlike the Senate, the House is proposing to use a procedural shortcut to push Obama's health-care and education proposals through the Senate without Republican votes.

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U.S. Sees Rise, Of Sorts, In Manufacturing Orders
2009-03-25 15:42:22

In a glimmer of surprisingly upbeat economic data, manufacturing orders for goods like metals, machines and military equipment rose last month for the first time after six months of declines, the government reported on Wednesday.

The Commerce Department reported that orders for durable goods rose 3.4 percent in February following a downwardly revised 7.3 percent drop in January. Orders for machinery, transportation equipment and computers and electronics rose.

The monthly gain was better than economists’ expectations of a 2.5 percent decline, and represented the latest in a series of less-than-terrible reports that have offered a break from months of relentlessly bad economic news.

On Monday, an industry group reported that sales of previously owned homes rose 5 percent in February, and the government reported on Tuesday that its barometer of home prices rose in January after 10 months of declines. Earlier this month, the government reported that consumer prices were stabilizing slightly, cooling fears of deflation and that retail sales in February had fallen by less than expectations.

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FBI Director Asks Lawmakers To Renew Patriot Act Provisions
2009-03-25 15:41:56

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III Wednesday urged lawmakers to move swiftly to renew intelligence-gathering measures set to expire in December, calling them "exceptional" tools to help protect national security.

Mueller told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he hoped that the reauthorization of two provisions contained in the Patriot Act would be far less "controversial" than in previous years. During the Bush administration, the law drove a wedge between investigators seeking to detect terrorist threats and advocates warning that it trampled on Americans' civil liberties.

In response to a question from Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), Mueller said that his agents had used a provision that helped authorities secure access to business records about 220 times between 2004 and 2007. Data for last year was not yet available, said Mueller.

The measure, known as section 215 after its location in the Patriot Act, has been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union as allegedly violating the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens. It allows investigators probing terrorism to seek a suspect's records from third parties such as financial services, travel and telephone companies without notifying the suspect.

"It has been exceptionally helpful in our national security investigations," said the FBI director.

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Clinton Visits Mexico At A Time When Relationship Is Strained
2009-03-25 15:41:14
Mexico's economy is being dragged down by the recession to the north. American addicts have turned Mexico into a drug superhighway, and its police and soldiers are under assault from American guns. NAFTA promised 15 years ago that Mexican trucks would be allowed on American roads, but Congress said they were unsafe.

United States-Mexican relations are in the midst of what can be described as a neighborly feud, one that stretches along a lengthy shared fence. That border fence, which has become a wall in some places, is another irritant.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Mexico on Wednesday for what will be the first in a parade of visits by top administration officials, including President Obamahimself next month, to try to head off a major foreign policy crisis close to home. They will find a country mired in a deepening slump, miffed by signs of protectionism in its largest trading partner, and torn apart by a drug war for which many in Mexico blame customers in the United States.

Hours before Clinton’s arrival, Mexican authorities announced that they had captured one of the nation’s 37 worst drug traffickers, a man included on “most wanted” list police issued two days ago.

The suspect, Hector Huerta Rios, was detained Tuesday in a suburb of the northern industrial city of Monterrey, said Gen. Luis Arturo Oliver, at a news conference, according to the Associated Press. On Monday, Mexican authorities published a list of their most-wanted drug traffickers with an offer of up to $2 million for information leading to the arrest of any of the top 24 and up to $1 million for any of the 13 lieutenants, including Huerta Rios. It was unclear if any reward was paid in the arrest on Tuesday.

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Vandals Hit Home Of Ex RBS Chief
2009-03-25 15:40:21
The house of Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the ailing Royal Bank of Scotland, was vandalized early Wednesday and windows of his car were smashed.

Goodwin attracted criticism for keeping his £703,000, or $1 million, pension despite a string of ill-timed acquisitions under his tenure that brought the bank under government control and calls from Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown to surrender the payment.

At least three windows on the ground-floor level of his house in an affluent suburb of Edinburgh, Scotland, were smashed and a black Mercedes S600 parked in the driveway was vandalized. It is unclear if Goodwin was in the house at the time.

“We can confirm we attended at an address in Oswald Road at 4:35 a.m. on March 25 and inquiries are ongoing,” a spokeswoman for the Lothian and Borders Police said in a statement. No one has been arrested or charged and the police have asked anyone with information about the incident to step forward, she said.

Royal Bank of Scotland paid £290 a month for security arrangements at Goodwin’s house, the bank said earlier, adding that such arrangements were normal practice for any departing chief executive. Linda Harper, a spokeswoman for the bank, declined to comment on the incident and said it was a matter for the police.

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