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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday January 9 2008 - (813)

Wednesday January 9 2008 edition
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Take That Pollsters - Clinton Edges Obama In New Hampshire
2008-01-09 01:30:30
Polls were wrong.

As early returns showed a neck-and-neck race in the Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton  prepared to proclaim herself the latest comeback candidate to emerge from New Hampshire after defying predictions that she would be swamped by Sen. Barack Obama. 

On a night that began with dire forecasts about how her campaign would move forward, advisers to Clinton (New Year) found themselves encouraged by the early returns coming out of the state. After Obama won the Iowa caucuses Thursday night, his advisers anticipated a second triumph in a row, but with the numbers extremely close, they were left to sort out why the momentum they sensed on the ground and in polls over the past five days did not translate into more votes.

While still nervously awaiting the outcome, Clinton advisers privately boasted that the Obama "wave has crested" after polling conducted right up to the primary showed the senator from Illinois leading by double digits.

Former senator John Edwards (North Carolina) was running a distant third, dashing his hopes of continuing an upward trajectory after placing second in Iowa. He has vowed to stay in the race until the Democratic National Convention. 

Whatever the outcome of the nomination battle, Democratic leaders have been wowed by the huge turnouts, the strong showing among independents and the sheer energy that Democrats are stirring, believing it all adds up to a very favorable landscape for November. It was a trend that started in the 2006 midterm elections, when Democrats surprised even themselves by winning control of the House and the Senate. But it appears to be reaching new heights in the battle for the White House, fueled in particular by Obama's rise.

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New York Urges Bioweapon Sensors
2008-01-08 22:55:43
City officials say effort to deploy indicators has run into surprising resistance from the White House.

New York City officials last month quietly activated some of the nation's newest generation of early warning sensors to detect a biological attack, turning on a limited number of filing-cabinet-size air filters in sensitive, high-volume areas of Manhattan.

But city officials say their effort to expand the program has run into surprising resistance from the White House, which is not widely deploying the machines.

Five years ago, officials here note, the Bush administration was prodding local authorities to move faster to detect the use of biological weapons and pouring billions into biosecurity-related initiatives. New York's leaders now say the administration's enthusiasm and sense of urgency has flagged in its final year in office.

The dispute is partly over whether the new sensors - each with a $100,000 price tag - are reliable and affordable enough for widespread deployment, and it is also about whether Washington's early support for such security enhancements has been undermined by distraction and competing budgetary demands.

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New Hampshire Voter Turnout At Record Pace
2008-01-08 19:02:05
New Hampshire voters were turning out in record numbers Tuesday, as Democratic Senator Barack Obama sought to record a victory to cement his position as the Democratic front-runner and Senator John McCain looked to revive his second White House bid in the state that gave him a resounding win eight years ago.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicted a record turnout and some polling places reported they were in danger of running out of ballots. Lines formed at some voting stations before they opened at 6 a.m., according to local news reports. One state election official described the turnout as “absolutely huge” and it was added to by a springlike day.

“Today, it is your turn to stand up and be counted,” Obama said at a morning rally at Dartmouth College. “Today, you have your turn to say that you are fed up with the petty politics of Washington.”

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged to fight on to the next round of early-voting states and said she planned to continue to aggressively question Obama’s credentials, declaring, “at some point the free ride ends.”

Even as voters cast their ballots here, Clinton advisers privately debated how to revitalize her candidacy and calm nervous contributors and supporters, five days after she finished third in Iowa’s caucuses.

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Stocks Tumble On New Signs Of Economic Woes
2008-01-08 19:01:26

Stocks tumbled Tuesday afternoon after the chief executive of the nation’s largest phone company, AT&T, suggested a weaker economy was forcing consumers to scale back spending.

The market was up modestly earlier in the day, but was rattled by the warning from AT&T and rumors that Countrywide Financial,the nation’s largest mortgage company, might seek bankruptcy protection. Countrywide issued a statement denying the reports.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index fell 1.8 percent, or 25.99 points, to 1,390.18, its lowest close since last March. The Dow Jones industrial average shed 238.42 points, or 1.9 percent, to 12,589.07. The Nasdaq composite closed down 58.95 points, or 2.4 percent, to 2,440.51.

With the exception of Monday, the S.& P. has fallen in all five sessions since the year started. It is down 5.3 percent for the year and 11.2 percent since hitting a new high on Oct. 9, meeting the technical definition of a correction.

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China's Media, Internet Users Erupt In Criticism Of Attempt To Arrest Reporter
2008-01-08 19:00:45
China's media and Internet users erupted in criticism Tuesday against some small-town officials and police officers who traveled nearly 500 miles to Beijing seeking to arrest a magazine reporter who wrote critically about their local Communist Party leader.

Editorials in the Beijing press said the officials, from Xinfeng county in northeastern China's Liaoning province, had abused their power. Even the party's official propaganda organ, People's Daily, ran a signed editorial suggesting the way to deal with libel accusations is to go to court rather than use heavy-handed "administrative power".

The attempt to arrest the reporter was an uncomfortable reminder of the degree to which local Communist Party officials and their police, in the absence of an independent judicial system, routinely exercise power without legal restraints.

The outcry from editorialists and online commentators also showed that the Chinese public's willingness to accept such untrammeled power may be diminishing. Public expectations in this regard have been heightened recently by repeated pledges from President Hu Jintao to make the party more honest and responsive to people's needs.

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Medicare Pushes Prescription Drug Purchases Up
2008-01-08 19:00:04

Spending on prescription drugs rose briskly in 2006 as the Medicare drug benefit kicked in and the government's share of expenditures for medicines surged, according to a federal study to be released today. Overall, health-care spending in the United States continued its climb, rising 6.7 percent in 2006 to reach $2.1 trillion, or $7,026 per person. The 6.5 percent increase in 2005 was the smallest jump since 1999.

Health-care spending accounted for 16 percent of the gross domestic product in 2006.

Prescription drug purchases in the United States rose to $216.7 billion, up 8.5 percent from 2005, federal economists from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services calculated in an annual report published in the journal Health Affairs.

Of that, more than a third, or 34 percent, was paid for by public-sector sources including Medicare and Medicaid, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and state and local hospital subsidies, the report found. In 2005, the year before the Medicare drug benefit took effect, the government accounted for 24 percent of drug purchases.

The primary driver of the higher drug spending was increased consumption, not price increases, the economists said. The $41 billion spent on Medicare's drug benefit, known as Part D, helped boost overall Medicare spending to $401.3 billion in 2006, up from $338 billion the year before.

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KB Home Share Prices Fall As Firm Posts Larger 4Q Loss
2008-01-08 18:59:30
KB Home, one of the nation's largest homebuilders, said Tuesday its fourth-quarter loss swelled as ongoing housing market woes led to fewer home sales and lower revenue, prompting the company to book charges to write down unsold inventory and for a tax allowance.

Its shares tumbled more than 9 percent.

For the quarter ended Nov. 30, the company posted a loss of $772.7 million, or $9.99 per share, compared with a loss of $49.6 million, or 64 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

The Los Angeles-based builder took a pretax charge of $403.4 million to write down the value of unsold inventory and book losses from joint ventures. The company also booked a $514.2 million tax valuation allowance that it can use to offset future profits.

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2 Pentagon Contractors, Baltimore Man Charged With Conspiring To Rig Bids
2008-01-08 18:58:02

Two Pentagon contractors and a Baltimore, Maryland, businessman have been indicted in a scheme to rig bids for supplying aircraft fuel to the military.

Authorities charged Christopher Cartwright and Paul Wilkinson, U.S. citizens living in Prague, Czech Republic, with conspiring to steal information to win contracts to supply fuel at up to 109 airports throughout Asia and Eastern Europe, said U.S. Justice Department officials.Another man, Matthew Bittenbender, of Baltimore, was also charged.

Officials said that from February 2005 to July 2006, Bittenbender took confidential information from bids that his then-employer - Avcard, a division of Kropp Holdings, of Hunt Valley, Maryland - made on deals to supply fuel to the government. He allegedly sold that information to Wilkinson and Cartwright, who owned competing companies.

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2 Killed, Several Injured As Rare Winter Tornadoes Hit U.S. Midwest
2008-01-08 03:58:20
A rare January outbreak of tornadoes raked the Midwest on Monday, flattening houses in several states and killing at least two people in Missouri.

An elderly woman was killed near Strafford in Greene County, said officials, and a 53-year-old woman's body was found by rescuers in a wooded area north of Marshfield near her trailer, which was destroyed.

At least six people were taken to hospitals by ambulance, said Michael Taylor, fire chief in Marshfield in the southwestern part of the state.

Two other people were in critical condition, said Ed Gray, a spokesman for Missouri's emergency management agency.

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Gates Logs Out, Predicting New Digital Era
2008-01-08 03:57:06
Microsoft's retiring boss announces futuristic deals.

He may be preparing to relinquish his role as virtual ruler of the hi-tech world, but Bill Gates' vision on the future of the industry still carries weight. So when the soon-to-be-former chairman of Microsoft predicted voice-activated (Microsoft) programs in cars, smart phones that buy your movie tickets, and computerized furniture as he opened the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Sunday night it was worth taking notes.

Delivering the keynote address for the technology world's top trade show for the 11th and final time, Gates said the "first digital decade", centered on the keyboard and the mouse, was over.

"The second digital decade will be more focused on connecting people," he said, predicting it would also feature progress in training machines to react as people do, with "natural user interfaces" responsive to speech and touch.

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Chinese Officials Violating 'One-Child' Rule Are Being Forced Out
2008-01-08 03:56:23
Officials in Hubei province have expelled 500 people from the Communist Party for violating China's "one-child" family planning policy, state media reports said Monday.

Of the 93,084 people who had more children than allowed last year, 1,678 were officials or party members, the New China News Agencyreported. Among the violators were seven national or local legislators and political advisers, all of whom were stripped of their political status. Another 395 offenders lost their jobs.

China's family planning officials, worried about a baby boom that could further strain the country's resources, have been trying to crack down on parents who have more children than they are permitted under the law.

Under the current rules, city residents are limited to one child, while rural residents may have two children. In addition, parents who themselves are only children and members of ethnic minorities are granted exceptions.

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Newsblog: McCain Wins New Hampshire Republican Primary; Clinton, Obama Too Close To Call
2008-01-08 22:56:33
Newsblog: McCain Wins New Hampshire Republican Primary; Clinton, Obama Too Close To Call

In a remarkable political comeback, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) has won the New Hampshire Republican primary, while the Democratic race seems headed down to the wire with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York) clinging to a three-point lead over Sen. Barack Obama (Illinois) with nearly half of the Democratic primary vote counted.

For McCain, the win is a reaffirmation of the connection he enjoys with the voters of New Hampshire who first propelled him onto the national stage with an impressive win over then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 2000. McCain's campaign appeared dead in the water just a few months ago as laggardly fundraising and a series of staff departures left him with little hope of winning the GOP presidential nomination. Tonight, he roared back into the top-tier of the Republican presidential field, with Michigan - a state he carried in 2000 - looming on Jan. 15.

"Tonight we sure showed 'em what a comeback looks like," McCain said at a victory rally in Nashua

McCain's remarkable performance threatened to be overshadowed by Clinton's stunning reversal of fortune in the race. Just hours before polls closed, Clinton's campaign was being roiled by speculation that her campaign was in crisis and that she intended to shake up her staff at the most senior levels. Hours later, those rumored changes had been forgotten as Clinton's slim lead continued to hold up.

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2008-01-08 22:53:19

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U.S. Existing Home Sales Drop 2.6%, Analysts Warn Of Continued Calamity In Housing Market
2008-01-08 19:01:39
Pending U.S. home sales dipped in November, a trade group for real estate agents said Tuesday, but it expects the sales pace to pick up significantly in the second half of 2008.

In another indication that the housing market's struggles aren't finished, the National Association of Realtors said its seasonally adjusted index of pending sales for existing homes fell 2.6 percent to a reading of 87.6 from an upwardly revised October index of 89.9.

Analysts warned of continued calamity in the ailing U.S. housing market.

"The best thing you can say about pending home sales is that they aren't getting much worse," Mike Larson, a real estate analyst at Weiss Research in Jupiter, Florida, said in a statement but, with the labor market weakening, "you have the recipe for ongoing trouble in housing," said Larson.

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Bhutto's Son Asks For U.N. Investigation Into His Mother's Assassination
2008-01-08 19:01:03
The son of slain Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto on Tuesday called for a U.N.-backed investigation of his mother's death, saying that Pakistani authorities failed to provide her with adequate security and he did not trust them to solve her murder.

"We do not believe that an investigation under the authority of the Pakistani government has the necessary transparency; already so much forensic evidence has been destroyed," Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, a 19-year-old Oxford University student, told a London news conference in his first extensive public comments since the Dec. 27 assassination.

"It is our belief that had she been provided with adequate protection she would be alive today," said Zardari, who was chosen to succeed his mother as leader of the Pakistan People's Party, although his father, Asif Ali Zardari, will run the party while his son finishes his studies.

Zardari said he was "a bit nervous" at the packed news conference and asked for privacy while he returns to Oxford to work on his undergraduate degree. He said he had been "distressed" by media attention, particularly through the Internet networking site, Facebook.

He calmly defended his party's controversial decision to pass its leadership on in a family succession to a teenager who has spent little time in his native country.

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U.S. Army Major's 'Final Post' Online After His Death In Iraq
2008-01-08 19:00:22
U.S. Maj. Andrew Olmsted's "Final Post" was published online - after Colorado's Rocky Mountain News blogger was killed in Iraq.

Olmsted died Thursday with another soldier, Capt. Thomas J. Casey, 32, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, when rebels attacked with small arms near Sadiyah, said the military.

Olmsted, who began writing for the News on May 21 and described himself as a libertarian, had written what he called "Final Post" about his death. He asked a friend to post it on his Web site,, if he died in Iraq.

In it, Olmsted, 38, warned against making his death an argument for or against the war.

"My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side," he wrote. "I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support."

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McGraw-Hill To Cut Over 600 Jobs, Take Quarterly Charge
2008-01-08 18:59:39
McGraw-Hill Cos., which publishes educational books and magazines and owns the Standard & Poor's credit rating agency, on Tuesday said it is eliminating 611 jobs, or 3 percent of its workforce, to reduce costs and boost shareholder returns.

The cuts will result in a $43.7 million pretax restructuring charge, reducing fourth-quarter earnings by $27.3 million after taxes, or 8 cents per share, said McGraw-Hill.

McGraw-Hill announced its cuts one day after Moody's Corp., the parent of S&P's main rival Moody's Investors Service, announced 275 job cuts to cope with falling demand for credit ratings as capital markets worldwide tighten. Both companies are based in New York.

In a statement, McGraw-Hill Chief Executive Harold McGraw said "reducing staff is never an easy decision, but we believe the steps we have taken will strengthen our organization, enhance our ability to serve our customers and maximize shareholder value."

McGraw-Hill said its financial services unit, which includes S&P, accounts for $18.8 million of the charge and 172 of the job cuts.

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Mexico Accuses U.S. Candidates Of Worsening Climate For Migrants
2008-01-08 18:58:29
Mexico's foreign minister accused U.S. presidential candidates Monday of worsening an already "adverse climate" for Mexican migrants and vowed to redouble efforts to protect the rights of her country's citizens living and working in the United States.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of a conference for Mexican diplomats in Mexico City, Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa Cantellano said, "Being effective in the defense and support of the migrants implies treating them the same way whether they are in Mexico or outside of the country." She did not specify what steps would be taken.

Mexican officials have said they are concerned that migrants are being treated unfairly in workplaces and, in some cases, being denied public services. The presidential campaign has frequently inflamed tensions on issues related to immigration.

"Given the adverse climate that prevails for the Mexican community in the United States, aggravated by the electoral debate in that country, we also have to give particular attention to the problems confronted by our migrants," Espinosa Cantellano told an audience of hundreds of Mexican diplomats.

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As New Hampshire Votes Tuesday, Campaign Focus On The Next Primaries
2008-01-08 03:58:55
A buoyant Sen. Barack Obama, anticipating a victory in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, told voters Monday that he is "riding a wave, and you're the wave," as presidential candidates in both parties started to look beyond the campaign here to extended nomination fights through at least the beginning of February.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York) braced for a second jarring defeat to Obama (Illinois), her voice breaking as she told a questioner in Portsmouthof her experience here, "It's not easy." Her campaign, its air of inevitability gone, is now setting its sights on the large block of Feb. 5 primary contests to salvage her hopes of winning the Democratic nomination.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has seen his front-runner status in the Republican race left in tatters after a second-place finish in Iowa, is making similar calculations in the face of Sen. John McCain's revival here.

In the closing hours of the campaign, McCain (Arizona) sought to win over independents, who under the New Hampshire rules can vote in either the Republican or the Democratic primary. That cross-party campaigning only added to the sense of urgency across the state, where political ads dominated the airwaves, campaign signs cluttered snow banks, and buses ferrying the candidates rolled down the highways.

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As Iran's Regime Cracks Down, Life Goes On Behind The Curtains
2008-01-08 03:57:56
Intellpuke: Last week, Iran expelled Guardian correspondent Robert Tait, who wrote the following article. It is his last dispatch from Tehran, in which he talks about the country he grew to love and which he found to be at odds with its image as an austere Islamic nation. Mr. Tait's article follows:

The scenes of boisterous revelry would not have been out of place in a crowded nightclub. In time to a throbbing beat, men and women of varying ages danced with a sensuality and abandon at odds with their surroundings.

For this frivolity was taking place not on a dance floor, but in the passageway of an Iranian bus on a seemingly humdrum cultural excursion from Tehran to the western city of Hamedan.

Denied a more appropriate venue by rigid Islamic regulations which forbid dancing in public, the passengers turned the coach into a traveling disco.

Drawing the curtains to keep their illicit activities hidden from onlookers, women discarded their obligatory overcoats and hijabs before letting their hair down for an uninhibited knees-up.

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Did Insects Kill Off The Dinosaurs?
2008-01-08 03:56:39

They were the most imposing and terrifying creatures that have ever walked on the surface of the Earth, but according to a new theory the dinosaurs may have been pushed towards extinction 65 million years ago by humble insects.

During the later part of the dinosaurs' dominion over the land, insects underwent an explosion in diversity and in the process dealt a double whammy to the lumbering giants - they spread disease and contributed to a transformation of vegetation which the plant-eating reptiles failed to adapt to.

The hypothesis is laid out in a new book by entomologists George and Roberta Poinar. George Poinar is a professor of zoology at Oregon State University.

"We can't say for certain that insects are the smoking gun, but we believe they were an extremely significant force in the decline of the dinosaurs," said Poinar. "Our research with amber shows that there were evolving, disease-carrying vectors in the Cretaceous [period], and that at least some of the pathogens they carried infected reptiles. This clearly fills in some gaps regarding dinosaur extinctions."

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