The Morning News

The Morning News is an Open Thread

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1 Children in Katrina trailers may face lifelong ailments

By JOHN MORENO GONZALES, Associated Press Writer

1 minute ago

BAY ST. LOUIS, MISS. – The anguish of Hurricane Katrina should have ended for Gina Bouffanie and her daughter when they left their FEMA trailer. But with each hospital visit and each labored breath her child takes, the young mother fears it has just begun.

“It’s just the sickness. I can’t get rid of it. It just keeps coming back,” said Bouffanie, 27, who was pregnant with her now 15-month-old daughter, Lexi, while living in the trailer. “I’m just like, `Oh God, I wish like this would stop.’ If I had known it would get her sick, I wouldn’t have stayed in the trailer for so long.”

The girl, diagnosed with severe asthma, must inhale medicine from a breathing device.

2 Wartime PTSD cases jumped roughly 50 pct. in 2007

By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer

54 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – The number of troops with new cases of post-traumatic stress disorder jumped by roughly 50 percent in 2007 amid the military buildup in Iraq and increased violence there and in Afghanistan.

Records show roughly 40,000 troops have been diagnosed with the illness, also known as PTSD, since 2003. Officials believe that many more are likely keeping their illness a secret.

“I don’t think right now we … have good numbers,” Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker said Tuesday.

3 China evacuates villagers after new flood threat

By AUDRA ANG, Associated Press Writer

1 minute ago

MIANYANG, China – About 80,000 people were evacuated Tuesday from downstream of an unstable earthquake-created dam that is threatening to collapse, and troops rushed to carve a trench to drain the water before it floods the valley.

The threat of flooding from dozens of lakes swelling behind walls of mud and rubble that have plugged narrow valleys in parts of the disaster zone is adding a new worry for millions of survivors.

More than 30 villages were emptied and the people were being sent to camps like the one outside Jiangyou, where an Associated Press reporter saw 12-15 people crammed into each of about 40 government-issued tents pitched on a hillside overlooking the river.

4 McCain campaigns with Bush, seeing pluses, minuses

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer 5 minutes ago

PHOENIX – John McCain’s complex relationship with President Bush can be summed up with a simple saying: can’t live with him, can’t live without him.

The president’s own popularity is bottom-of-the-barrel low. Even allies privately fret that he’s an albatross for the Republican looking to succeed him. Voters are crying out for change amid a prolonged Iraq war and a weakened economy.

But Bush also is beloved among GOP loyalists. He’s a proven campaigner who can raise serious money. Those are huge assets as Arizona Sen. McCain works to rally the Republican base and fill his coffers while facing the Democrats’ unrivaled enthusiasm and record-breaking fundraising.

5 Single-family home prices tumble in March

By Joanne Morrison, Reuters

2 hours, 40 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Prices of U.S. single-family homes plunged a record 14.4 percent in March from a year earlier, while consumer confidence slumped to its lowest in 16 years in May as gasoline prices surged.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas released on Tuesday showed prices of previously owned homes fell 2.2 percent in March, deepening their year-on-year decline.

Separately, the Conference Board said its consumer confidence index slumped to 57.2 this month from 62.8 in April as rising gasoline costs and falling home prices made Americans increasingly nervous both about current conditions and the future.

6 Myanmar extends Suu Kyi’s house arrest, detains activists

by Hla Hla Htay, AFP

Tue May 27, 2:16 PM ET

YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s ruling junta extended the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi by a year on Tuesday, triggering international condemnation of the Nobel Laureate’s detention.

Seven government officials went to the lakeside Yangon home that has been Aung San Suu Kyi’s prison for most of the last 18 years and delivered the news during a 10-minute afternoon meeting, a state official said.

“Her detention was extended by one year,” the official told AFP.

7 Foreigners enter cyclone-hit delta, testing Myanmar’s promise

by Hla Hla Htay, AFP

Tue May 27, 3:26 PM ET

YANGON (AFP) – Foreign aid workers Tuesday pressed into Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta, testing the junta’s pledge to open up areas where one million people have yet to receive aid three weeks after the cyclone.

Small groups of international experts, together with much larger teams of Myanmar workers, headed into the region to assess the scale of the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis, which left 133,000 dead or missing.

The vast majority of people still waiting for aid live in the delta, which the spokeswoman for the UN’s disaster response agency called a “logistic nightmare” where “some places are only reachable by inflatable boats.”

8 Radio glitch hinders Mars lander mission


1 hour, 43 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A communications glitch between the Phoenix Mars probe and Earth has delayed operations, two days after the spacecraft landed on the Red Planet in search of conditions to support life, NASA said Tuesday.

A “transient event” knocked out UHF radio transmissions between Phoenix and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which relays data and instructions between the Phoenix and Earth, said Fuk Li, the Mars Exploration Program manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The problem forced the mission to delay starting the deployment of the spacecraft’s 2.35-meter (7.7-foot) backhoe-like arm, to be used to dig into the icy soil of the Martian arctic to collect samples.

9 Atom-smashing lab says experiment to start end-June


Tue May 27, 2:29 PM ET

GENEVA (AFP) – European particle physics laboratory CERN is set to launch its gigantic experiment which hopes to throw light on the origins of the universe within a month, the laboratory’s head said Tuesday.

If things go according to plan, the greatest experiment in the history of particle physics could unveil a sub-atomic component, the Higgs Boson, known as “the God Particle.”

The “Higgs,” named after the eminent British physicist, Peter Higgs, who first proposed it in 1964, would fill a gaping hole in the benchmark theory for understanding the physical cosmos.

10 Fuel prices’ toll on U.S. economy

By Ron Scherer, The Christoan Science Monitor

Tue May 27, 4:00 AM ET

New York – Obviously, the sharp rise in the price of oil – $80 a barrel higher than a year ago – has major, negative consequences for the economy.

Every time the local gas station raises the price at the pump, consumers’ wallets are getting pinched – something that could affect impulse purchases this summer, such as for ice cream or jewelry. At the same time, businesses are trying to pass on their higher costs for everything from PVC tubing to steel bars. Such changes may go beyond the short term: Some Americans are now making lifestyle changes, most of them involving belt-tightening.

Economists are divided, however, over whether the price of oil has skyrocketed enough to push the economy into a recession. The optimists see Americans making adjustments, scrimping when they can to make up for the extra cost of gasoline.

11 Are FLDS sect’s beliefs sufficient grounds for taking the kids?

By Faye Bowers, The Christian Science Monitor

Tue May 27, 4:00 AM ET

Phoenix – Are the beliefs of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), the polygamous sect that the state of Texas has also accused of child abuse, sufficient grounds for removing all the children from the group’s compound in Eldorado, Texas?

The answer now lies in the hands of the Texas Supreme Court, and how it rules will help resolve a major church-state clash that began when Texas officials last month took some 460 minors from the sect’s Yearning for Zion ranch after receiving phone calls from an alleged underage spouse complaining of physical abuse. That complaint, it turns out, was almost certainly a hoax – the first in a series of bad news for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).

It also now appears that evidence about the sect’s belief system that the state collected during the raid – and presented to a district court to justify its temporary removal of the children – is probably flawed. In the DFPS’s biggest setback so far, a Texas appeals court on May 22 overturned the district court’s decision to keep the children in state custody temporarily.

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12 Report: Billions in defense spending unchecked

By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer

2 hours, 46 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – Pentagon auditors say billions of dollars in military spending is going unchecked because they are having trouble keeping pace with the ever-expanding defense budget and combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a recent report, the Defense Department inspector general estimates that nearly half of the military’s $316 billion weapons budget went unchecked last year because the IG’s office lacked the manpower. Whereas 10 years ago when a single auditor would have reviewed some $642 million in defense contracts, individual investigators are now charged with auditing more than $2 billion in spending.

The IG also has been stretching its staff to investigate corruption and fraud cases overseas, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan where the military is hiring contractors to help run operations.

13 Senators want detailed credit card fee info

By John Poirier, Reuters

2 hours, 54 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Several U.S. senators want Visa Inc and MasterCard Inc, the dominant electronic payment companies, to break down detailed costs associated with transactions called interchange fees, according to letters obtained by Reuters on Tuesday.

In letters to the two companies, the senators demanded information about methodologies and specific data used to establish interchange fees. The letters are dated May 23 and demand the information by June 3

The letters were signed by Democrats Richard Durbin of Illinois and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Republicans Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

14 Scouts sue after Philly demands rent or new policy

By MARYCLAIRE DALE, Associated Press Writer

2 hours, 44 minutes ago

PHILADELPHIA – A Boy Scouts chapter engaged in a long fight over gay rights has sued the city of Philadelphia to try to avoid paying $200,000 a year in rent to stay in the city-owned space that has been its headquarters for 80 years.

The Cradle of Liberty Council currently pays $1 annually for the space, but the city has given it until Saturday to open their membership to gays or start being charged fair-market rent.

The federal suit filed Friday accuses the city of censorship for targeting the Scouts but maintaining free or nominal leases with other groups that limit membership, such as Baptist and Roman Catholic church groups and The Colonial Dames of America.

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15 Red Cross warns of food riots over soaring prices

By BRADLEY S. KLAPPER, Associated Press Writer

2 hours, 45 minutes ago

GENEVA – The Red Cross warned Tuesday of a possible surge in “food-related violence” because of soaring prices that are increasing hunger around the world.

Most of the debate surrounding the global food crisis has focused on boosting aid to poorer countries, but there is also concern about the potential for violence as people become desperate for food, said Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Kellenberger, whose agency serves as the guardian of the Geneva Conventions on the rules of war, said fallout from rising prices has already sparked violence, alluding to food riots that erupted in Haiti, Egypt and Somalia.

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16 As food prices spiral, farmers, others profit

By JOSHUA FREED and ASHLEY M. HEHER, AP Business Writers

Tue May 27, 2:24 PM ET

WILLMAR, Minn. – The steepest run-ups in food prices since 1990 are hurting grocery shoppers, restaurants and school cafeterias but they’re making others rich.

The winners in the new food economy include crop farmers selling corn and wheat for near-record highs after years of crushingly low prices. Ingredient makers like Cargill and ADM are rife with profits. Fertilizer and tractor companies are cashing in. Hedge funds who made big bets on rising wheat, soy and corn were spectacularly correct. Oil and gas companies, too – it takes natural gas to cook those Wheaties and diesel to haul them around the country.

Travel along the nation’s food chain and you’ll find some of the biggest profits closest to the land. The nation’s farmers, who raise everything from cows to cucumbers, saw their average household income climb about 7 percent last year to more than $83,000. But in grain-rich states, the results were dramatically higher. In Minnesota alone, the median income for crop farmers soared 80 percent to $95,000.

17 Ban promises UN probe of sex abuse by peacekeepers

By EDITH LEDERER, Associated Press Writer

Tue May 27, 4:24 PM ET

UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Tuesday the United Nations will investigate allegations by a leading children’s charity that U.N. peacekeepers are involved in widespread sexual abuse of children.

The report by Save the Children UK, based on field research in southern Sudan, Ivory Coast and Haiti, describes a litany of sexual crimes committed by peacekeepers and international relief workers against children as young as 6.

It said some children were denied food aid unless they granted sexual favors; others were forced to have sex or to take part in child pornography; many more were subjected to improper touching or kissing.

From Yahoo News World

18 American testifies he gave cash to Israel’s leader

By AMY TEIBEL, Associated Press Writer

2 hours, 25 minutes ago

JERUSALEM – A Jewish-American businessman testified Tuesday in a corruption probe that threatens to bring down Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, saying he handed cash-stuffed envelopes to the Israeli politician he described as a bon vivant with a penchant for fancy hotels, fine cigars and first-class travel.

Morris Talansky’s testimony offered an unflattering portrait of Olmert just as the already unpopular Israeli leader seeks to rally reluctant public support for peace talks with Syria and the Palestinians.

Police suspect Olmert illicitly took up to $500,000 from Talansky in illegal campaign contributions or bribes before becoming prime minister in 2006. Olmert, who denies wrongdoing, says the funds were legal contributions but has promised to step down if indicted.

19 Feud over sports could keep Iraq out of Olympics

By SINAN SALAHEDDIN, Associated Press Writer

Tue May 27, 4:19 PM ET

BAGHDAD – Sports has been one of the few things unifying Iraqis in recent years – with soccer victories bringing Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds alike into the streets cheering.

But a bitter fight between the government and the country’s Olympic committee and sports federations is putting Iraq at risk of being banned from World Cup qualifying matches and this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing.

The feud is mired in politics. The government accuses the National Olympic Committee of corruption, while supporters of the group charge that officials really want to control the independent sports groups so they can install their own people in lucrative and prestigious posts.

20 Iraq Sunni Arab bloc suspends government talks


44 minutes ago

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s main Sunni Arab political bloc said on Wednesday it had suspended talks to rejoin the Shi’ite-led government after a disagreement with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki over a cabinet post.

“We have suspended negotiations with the government and pulled out our candidates,” said Salim al-Jibouri, spokesman for The Accordance Front. He said the decision was taken after Maliki objected to one of their proposed candidates for a cabinet position.

The Accordance Front pulled out of the national unity government last August, demanding the release of mainly Sunni Arab detainees in Iraq’s jails and calling for a greater say in security matters.

21 Lebanon’s Siniora set to lead new government

By Nadim Ladki, Reuters

1 hour, 14 minutes ago

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s parliamentary majority coalition agreed on Tuesday to nominate Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to form the country’s first government under newly elected President Michel Suleiman.

The nomination, agreed at a late-night meeting of coalition leaders, means that U.S.-backed Siniora will be appointed to head the new cabinet in which the Hezbollah-led opposition is guaranteed effective veto power.

The ‘March 14’ coalition will officially inform Suleiman of its choice when he consults parliament on Wednesday. The president has to appoint the prime minister nominated by a majority of MPs.

22 Mbeki under fire as South Africa mob violence spreads

by Fran Blandy, AFP

Tue May 27, 1:37 PM ET

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South African President Thabo Mbeki came under fire Tuesday for travelling to Japan as anti-immigrant violence spread to a new province and aid groups struggled with thousands of displaced victims.

The petrol bombing of a Chinese-owned business in Eastern Cape province, which has largely escaped the xenophobic violence, undermined the confidence expressed by the government on Monday that the unrest had been contained.

Fifty-six people have been killed and tens of thousands left homeless, mainly around the economic capital Johannesburg, in two weeks of attacks.

23 Bush wants $600 million for Iraq police; but cuts aid to U.S. cops

By David Lightman, McClatchy Newspapers

2 hours, 23 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – At the same time the Bush administration has been pushing for deep cuts in a popular crime-fighting program for states and cities, the White House has been fighting for approval of $603 million for the Iraqi police.

The White House earlier this year proposed slashing the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program, which helps local law enforcement officials deal with violent crime and serious offenders, to $200 million in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1 .

In 2002, the year before the Iraq war, the program received $900 million .

24 Aid for Central America aimed to blunt food price hikes, possible unrest

By Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Newspapers

Tue May 27, 4:31 PM ET

WASHINGTON – Trying to get ahead of potential unrest because of rising food and energy prices, the Inter-American Development Bank on Tuesday announced a new $500 million line of credit for six Central American nations and the Dominican Republic .

The announcement came on the heels of several emergency measures taken by Mexico and other Latin American nations to ensure that anger over rising food prices does not spill onto streets and perhaps send a new wave of immigrants northward.

Pointing to what he said was a 68 percent rise in global food prices in the first three months of 2008, IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno said that the price of rice doubled, corn was up 128 percent and wheat jumped 163 percent.

25 Unraveling Raoul Wallenberg’s Secrets


Tue May 27, 12:40 PM ET

Raoul Wallenberg was the diplomat who would appear like a phantom in Budapest, handing out the Swedish passports that saved some 15,000 Hungarian Jews from being murdered by the Nazis. But Wallenberg had no such help himself on January 17, 1945, when he was taken into custody by the Soviet forces that had liberated Budapest. The Swedish diplomat was never heard from again, and Moscow would later report that Wallenberg had died in Lubyanka Prison in 1947.

26 What China Wants from the Russians


2 hours, 56 minutes ago

Russia’s newly inaugurated President, Dmitri Medvedev, just completed his first state visit over the weekend. His choice of locale was not a surprise: Beijing. During the visit, there were predictable headlines in the press about Medvedev and President Hu Jintao denouncing U.S. plans for missile shields in both Europe and east Asia. The U.S. says they are to help its allies defend against possible attacks from Iran and North Korea. Moscow and Beijing don’t really believe that, but the fact is, that train has left the station. Both countries, on their own, will have to decide how to respond should missile defenses go up.

27 Why Israel Is Talking to Its Enemies


2 hours, 57 minutes ago

When President George W. Bush appeared before the Israeli Knesset recently and denounced those who appease “terrorists and radicals,” it was seen back home as a swipe against Democratic contender Barack Obama for saying that the U.S. should talk to its enemies. But his audience of Israeli legislators, who interrupted Bush’s speech at least 14 times with thunderclaps of applause, interpreted it otherwise. They saw it as the American President’s unswerving support of the Jewish nation on its 60th anniversary. Nevertheless, under instructions from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israel envoys have been carrying out discreet talks with the very “radicals and terrorists” that Bush was warning against in his speech: Syria, the Lebanese militia Hizballah and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

28 When Peacekeepers Prey on Children


49 minutes ago

The charitable organization Save the Children UK effectively blew the whistle on itself and other aid organizations on Tuesday by publishing findings that a number of aid workers and United Nations peacekeepers engage in sexual abuse of some of the world’s most vulnerable children. Hundreds of cases of sexual misconduct with children ranging in age from six to 17 were reported in disaster and war-torn regions around the world. And according to the report, a far greater number of cases go unreported.
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29 Gun dealer takes on New York City in court

By Edith Honan, Reuters

Tue May 27, 11:29 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s crusade against illegal guns entered the courtroom on Tuesday in a battle against a Georgia gun dealer.

It is the first of two civil cases New York has brought against 27 gun dealers in five states — Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia — on the grounds that their sales practices allowed criminals to buy guns and then bring them into the city.

All but one dealer in the first lawsuit — Jay Wallace — has settled out of court. Wallace, 51, owner of a sporting goods store in the Atlanta, Georgia, suburb of Smyrna, vowed to fight on, likening his battle to David versus Goliath.

30 McCain wants nuclear talks with China, Russia


Tue May 27, 3:57 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Republican presidential candidate John McCain Tuesday pledged to launch a new dialogue with China and Russia to reduce nuclear weapons and proliferation, and backed a US-India civil nuclear pact.

The Arizona senator also took a fresh swipe at potential Democratic general election foe Barack Obama, over his offer to talk to the leaders of US foes like Iran, Syria and Cuba.

McCain has previously taken a tough line on Russia, even calling for Moscow to be thrown out of the Group of Eight industrialized nations club, over an erosion of democracy.

31 Trial opens for 35 anti-Guantanamo demonstrators


Tue May 27, 2:03 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Trial proceedings began Tuesday at a US local court for 35 people who were arrested in January during a demonstration calling for the closure of the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Protesters had gathered inside and outside the Supreme Court without prior authorization on January 11, the sixth anniversary of the “war on terror” prison, as part of the “Witness Against Torture” movement.

They face charges of either “unlawful free speech” or “causing a harangue,” or in some cases, both. The counts each carry a maximum of 60 days in jail.

32 Americans worry about sagging home prices, red hot oil prices

by Justin Cole, AFP

2 hours, 53 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Americans are becoming increasingly worried about the struggling US economy as home sales remain stuck in a rut and as red hot oil prices stoke inflation fears, a flurry of reports showed Tuesday.

The world’s largest economy has grown at a sluggish 0.6 percent pace, on an annualized basis, during the past two quarters and some economists believe a recession is on the cards.

Several new surveys on home sales and consumer confidence suggest economic concerns are becoming more pressing to Americans, who are concerned about their home values, job security and rising fuel bills.

From Yahoo News Politics

33 Pentagon inviting media to Guantanamo 9/11 hearings


Tue May 27, 1:05 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Pentagon said Tuesday it was sending invitations to news organizations to cover the arraignments of the five alleged September 11 co-conspirators in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said about “four or five dozen” journalists and technical personnel from domestic and international news organizations would be allowed onto the base for the June 5 arraignment.

The reading of the charges is expected to mark the first public appearance of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, since his capture in Pakistan March 1, 2003.

34 Senate votes show GOP power vacuum

David Rogers, John Bresnahan, Politico

Tue May 27, 5:41 AM ET

Two lopsided votes in the U.S. Senate last week reveal a power vacuum in the Republican Party.

President Bush’s influence is diminishing quickly, Sen. John McCain has not yet established himself as the party’s leader, and Senate Republicans are worried more about their own reelection prospects than they are about the need to stand by either man.

“The Senate has already basically decided to disregard Bush,” said one GOP Senate aide.

But in joining Democrats in voting to override Bush’s veto of the Farm Bill and to approve Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb’s expansive new GI Bill, a substantial number of Senate Republicans also disregarded McCain. The Arizona senator has said he would have vetoed the Farm Bill if he were president, and he opposes Webb’s GI Bill in favor of a less expensive version of his own.

35 On global warming, it’s McCain v. GOP

Martin Kady II, Politico

Tue May 27, 5:42 AM ET

John McCain’s tempestuous relationship with his own party will be on full display when the Senate dives into a major global warming debate next week.

The question facing Senate Republicans: Are they ready to embrace their presidential nominee’s more liberal ideas for climate change ideas like a cap-and-trade system, or will they stick to the conservative, hands-off approach to global warming backed by President Bush?

It’s a debate that may very well divide Senate Republicans and show voters yet another fissure in an already beleaguered party. Democrats don’t seem eager to offer a smooth path toward any bipartisan compromise that would give McCain political cover on the issue, and a key procedural vote has already been scheduled for June 2.

36 Exclusive: McClellan whacks Bush, White House

Mike Allen, Politico

49 minutes ago

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan writes in a surprisingly scathing memoir to be published next week that President Bush “veered terribly off course,” was not “open and forthright on Iraq,” and took a “permanent campaign approach” to governing at the expense of candor and competence.

Among the most explosive revelations in the 341-page book, titled “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception” (Public Affairs, $27.95):

  • McClellan charges that Bush relied on “propaganda” to sell the war.
  • He says the White House press corps was too easy on the administration during the run-up to the war.
  • He admits that some of his own assertions from the briefing room podium turned out to be “badly misguided.”
  • The longtime Bush loyalist also suggests that two top aides held a secret West Wing meeting to get their story straight about the CIA leak case at a time when federal prosecutors were after them – and McClellan was continuing to defend them despite mounting evidence they had not given him all the facts.
  • McClellan asserts that the aides – Karl Rove, the president’s senior adviser, and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff – “had at best misled” him about their role in the disclosure of former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity.
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37 New reports give bleak outlook on housing, economy

By J.W. ELPHINSTONE, AP Business Writer

Tue May 27, 5:06 PM ET

NEW YORK – Not since George H.W. Bush ran the White House have consumers felt so downbeat about the economy. And the catalyst for much of the gloom – the housing slump – shows no signs of abating, new data Tuesday showed.

With Americans losing sleep over rising inflation and tight credit, the housing market is unlikely to rebound soon, spelling more pain for the economy.

“The consumer has no more money to spend,” said Dan Alpert, managing director at the investment bank Westwood Capital. “The only way the economy is not going to recede is if someone cooks the books.”

38 GM, Ford stock extend slide on dimming outlook

By Soyoung Kim, Reuters

Tue May 27, 4:14 PM ET

DETROIT (Reuters) – Shares of General Motors Corp (GM.N) slumped to a 27-year low, while smaller rival Ford Motor Co (F.N) hit a new six-week low on Tuesday as analysts warned the U.S. auto market could remain weak well into 2009.

Citigroup cut GM shares to “hold” from “buy” and lowered its outlook for industrywide sales in the United States, the world’s largest vehicle market, for both 2008 and 2009. The bank also cut its target price for GM shares to $21 from $32 and lowered Ford’s stock price target to $7 from $8.50.

Citigroup analyst Itay Michaeli said the surge in gas prices, credit constraints and the costly shift by consumers away from higher-margin trucks, a segment that Detroit automakers have dominated, made it a “new world” for the carmakers and their suppliers.

39 Yellen vows Fed will prevent inflation spiral

By Ros Krasny, Reuters

2 hours, 46 minutes ago

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve is intent on not letting inflation spiral out of control, even as the economy teeters on the brink of recession, a top Fed policy-maker said on Tuesday, indicating that more interest rate cuts are not in the offing.

“This is not the 1970s, but we can’t let it get to be the 1970s. Our behavior is critical to that. We have to be the barrier” to high inflation, Janet Yellen, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, told reporters after a speech.

Although data showing more economic weakness almost certainly lies ahead, that would not make an automatic case for more rate cuts — though rate increases could be some ways off, she said.

40 InBev weighs Anheuser bid but no talks yet

By Julien Ponthus and Jessica Hall, Reuters

Tue May 27, 4:22 PM ET

BRUSSELS/PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – InBev (INTB.BR) has not yet begun merger talks with Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc (BUD.N) but is still weighing an acquisition of the U.S. brewer, a source familiar with the situation said on Tuesday.

The source also said the board of directors for Belgian brewer InBev has not yet voted on whether it will proceed with an overture to Anheuser, the No. 1 brewer in the United States with brands like Budweiser and Michelob.

InBev has not yet decided, the source said, whether it would look at acquiring other companies in the event an Anheuser deal falls through, as was reported over the weekend by the Financial Times.

41 Hollywood actors’ labor talks reach key juncture

By Steve Gorman, Reuters

23 minutes ago

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The smaller of Hollywood’s two performers unions entered a final day of contract talks with studios on Tuesday before the larger, more militant Screen Actors Guild was due to renew its own labor negotiations.

The 70,000-member American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or AFTRA, opened talks with the studios on May 7, a day after separate negotiations between the studios and SAG, which represents 120,000 actors, hit a stalemate.

The contracts for both unions expire June 30, and Hollywood is nervous that the actors might go on strike, paralyzing the entertainment industry much as a 100-day walkout by screenwriters did earlier this year.

42 Sarkozy calls for fuel tax cut as protests spread across Europe


Tue May 27, 4:44 PM ET

PARIS (AFP) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday called for a Europe-wide cut in oil taxes to help consumers, as fuel price strikes by fishermen and truck drivers spread across the continent.

As French riot police cleared blockading fishermen from an oil depot, in London hundreds of angry haulage truckers drove their lorries in a rolling protest through the centre of the capital, horns blaring, before handing in a petition to Downing Street demanding a rebate in fuel tax.

In Spain lorry drivers joined striking fishermen in calling for the government help to cover soaring fuel costs, before road transport firm bosses meet transport ministry officials to air their grievances.

43 Shareholders heckle SocGen chiefs over losses at AGM

by Antoine Agasse, AFP

Tue May 27, 4:26 PM ET

PARIS (AFP) – Shareholders heckled and jeered management of French bank Societe Generale at its annual general meeting on Tuesday, taking them to task for the loss of billions blamed on a rogue trader.

Chairman Daniel Bouton, who has resisted heavy pressure to resign over the scandal, was booed down when he insisted that rogue trader Jerome Kerviel’s multi-billion euro (dollars) trades were “concealed” from management.

“The employee was jailed but it is the bosses who should have gone,” said one man to loud applause, charging that management had turned the bank into a “casino.”

44 Germany teases EU Commission with new draft VW law

by Lenaig Bredoux, AFP

Tue May 27, 3:19 PM ET

FRANKFURT (AFP) – Germany has decided to back a new bill that would retain state influence over Europe’s biggest car maker, Volkswagen, despite staunch opposition from the European Commission.

Several months of talks that raised tension within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition ended in support for the state of Lower Saxony, which is also backed by the trade union IG Metall.

A draft law approved by the government Tuesday would preserve Lower Saxony’s minority blocking position within VW since strategic decisions would require approval by a majority of 80 percent or more, and the state where it is based owns 20 percent.

From Yahoo News Science

45 Space station crew to NASA: Send plumber soon


1 hour, 48 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – The international space station’s lone toilet is broken, leaving the crew with almost nowhere to go. So NASA may order an in-orbit plumbing service call when space shuttle Discovery visits next week.

Until then, the three-man crew will have to make do with a jury-rigged system when they need to urinate.

While one of the crew was using the Russian-made toilet last week, the toilet motor fan stopped working, according to NASA. Since then, the liquid waste gathering part of the toilet has been working on-and-off. Fortunately, the solid waste collecting part is functioning normally. Russian officials don’t know the cause of the problem and the crew has been unable to fix it.

46 Groups sue government over new smog rules

By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer

2 hours, 54 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – Health and environmental organizations filed a lawsuit Tuesday arguing that the Bush administration failed to protect public health and the environment when it issued new smog requirements.

The lawsuit maintains that the Environmental Protection Agency ignored the recommendation of a key advisory panel of scientists who had recommended more stringent smog standards.

The suit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by Earthjustice on behalf of a number of environmental and conservation groups and the American Lung Association.

47 Researchers studying better insect repellants

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer

2 hours, 55 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – Researchers have identified seven possibilities for the next generation of mosquito repellant, some of which may work several times longer than the current standard-bearer, DEET. The next step: safety testing to make sure they’re not harmful.

While the new repellants aren’t likely to be available commercially for a few years, early tests on cloth were promising, with some chemicals repelling mosquitoes for as long as 73 days and many working for 40 to 50 days, compared to an average of 17.5 days with DEET, according to a study in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Biting insects such as mosquitoes and ticks can spread diseases such as encephalitis, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, malaria and dengue Fever.

48 East coast horseshoe crabs poised for recovery

By Jon Hurdle, Reuters

Tue May 27, 4:31 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Restrictions by U.S. east coast states on harvesting horseshoe crabs, whose eggs provide food for endangered migrating shore birds, have boosted the animal’s population after years of over-fishing, experts say.

Some experts have linked a decline in migratory shore birds to the over-fishing of horseshoe crabs, which come ashore every spring to lay their eggs, so Delaware, New Jersey and other nearby states turned their attention to boosting crab numbers.

Until the last few years, the crabs were harvested in their millions by commercial fishermen who used them as bait for conch and eel. But with ornithologists warning that the red knot, a robin-sized shore bird, was in imminent danger of extinction because of the lack of crab eggs, the states where the crabs spawn have banned or restricted the harvest.

49 Migraine and left-handedness do not appear linked


Tue May 27, 5:06 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Contrary to earlier findings, there is no apparent link between migraine and left-handedness, German researchers have shown.

Some 26 years ago, a group of investigators reported finding more left-handers among migraine patients than other people. Now, Dr. Katrin Biehl and colleagues, at the University of Munster, report in the medical journal Cephalalgia that they found no significant difference in the frequency or grade of left-handedness between people who have migraine and those who do not.

The researchers assessed handedness — whether one favors the left- or right-hand — in 100 migraine patients and another 100 people without migraine who were of similar age and gender.

50 Heavy pollution warning issued in Beijing


Tue May 27, 7:42 AM ET

BEIJING (Reuters) – Pollution levels rose sharply in Beijing on Tuesday, just 2- months before the Olympic Games in the city, prompting authorities to warn residents with respiratory problems to stay inside.

Air quality in the capital was rated as “heavily polluted” due to a sandstorm from Mongolia, the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau said on its website (

Beijing’s pollution has already proved a major concern for athletes, with twice Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie, who suffers from asthma, pulling out of the men’s marathon out of concern for his health.

51 Brazil’s new environment minister to tackle fears over Amazon

by Aldo Gamboa, AFP

2 hours, 5 minutes ago

BRASILIA (AFP) – Brazil’s new environment minister, Carlos Minc, took up his functions Tuesday in a government increasingly split over how to balance preservation and development in the Amazon rainforest.

Minc, the 56-year-old former environment secretary for the state of Rio de Janeiro, replaces a greatly respected minister, Marina Silva, who unexpectedly stepped down early this month after losing a series of inter-ministry fights over the future of the Amazon.

His nomination was seen as part of an effort by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to restore confidence in Brazil’s ecological credentials generally and its management of the Amazon specifically.

52 ‘Eco-driving’ can cut petrol bills: EU commission


Tue May 27, 11:29 AM ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – European motorists, facing soaring petrol prices, could cut their fuel consumption by almost a third if they employ 10 simple “eco-driving” tips, the EU commission said Tuesday.

“This campaign provides a set of simple tips to reduce CO2 emissions and save money, simply by driving more intelligently,” said EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, launching the industry backed “Save more than Fuel” campaign.

“Learning a few tricks will help EU citizens to keep more fuel in their tanks, more money in their pockets and more CO2 out of the atmosphere”, he added.

53 Group asks Canada to halt sale of Arctic gas and oil rights


1 hour, 29 minutes ago

OTTAWA (AFP) – The World Wildlife Fund on Tuesday urged Canada to postpone the sale of oil and gas rights in the Beaufort Sea, worried the drilling areas would overlap with key Arctic habitat for polar bears and whales.

“This sale is premature due to the absence of a completed Beaufort Sea management plan that would protect sensitive habitats, which polar bears, beluga and bowhead whales need for their survival,” Peter Ewins, director of species conservation at WWF-Canada, said in a statement.

“In addition, there is no proven technique for recovering oil spills in such dangerous iced waters.”

54 The Milky Way Is Weighed Staff

Tue May 27, 4:32 PM ET

The Milky Way galaxy weighs about 1 trillion times as much as our sun, according to a new estimate.

Previous estimates had ranged from 750 billion solar masses to up to 2 trillion. Lately, researchers have been leaning toward the higher figure. But now astronomers have used a more refined method to conclude that our galaxy’s mass is slightly less than 1 trillion solar masses.

The new estimate is based on a large sample of stars in the galactic halo, a relatively sparse sphere of stars that surrounds our galaxy’s main disk. The speeds of stars in the halo reveal the mass of the galaxy by allowing astrophysicists to infer the amount of gravity required to keep those stars in orbit.

55 Study: Public Schools Just As Good as Private Schools

LiveScience Staff

Tue May 27, 1:32 PM ET

Students in public schools have math scores that are just as good if not better than those of students in private schools, according to a new national study.

“These data provide strong, longitudinal evidence that public schools are at least as effective as private schools in boosting student achievement,” said researcher Christopher Lubienski of the University of Illinois.

Combined with other, yet-unpublished studies of the same data, which produced similar findings, “we think this effectively ends the debate about whether private schools are more effective than publics,” said Lubienski, whose research has dealt with all aspects of alternative education.

56 Frogs Pack Concealed Claws

Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience

1 hour, 29 minutes ago

When in danger, certain African frogs have a bizarre defense – claws hidden entirely within their toes can burst through their skin.

With powerful thrashes and kicks, these concealed weapons can readily draw blood, scientists now reveal.

Do these claws bring the X-Men’s Wolverine to mind – a comic-book superhero armed with claws that pop out from his limbs?

57 Huge Flying Reptiles Ate Dinosaurs

Jeanna Bryner, Senior Writer,

30 minutes ago

With a name like T. rex, you’d expect to be safe from even the fiercest paleo-bullies. Turns out, ancient, flying reptiles could have snacked on Tyrannosaurus Rex babies and other landlubbing runts of the dinosaur world.

A new study reveals a group of flying reptiles that lived during the Age of Dinosaurs some 230 million to 65 million years ago did not catch prey in flight, but rather stalked them on land.

Until now, paleontologists pictured the so-called “winged lizards” or pterosaurs as skim-feeders. In this vision, the creatures would have flown over lakes and oceans grabbing fish from the water’s surface, much as gulls do today.

58 Environmentally Friendly Bombs Planned

Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience

Tue May 27, 8:41 AM ET

New explosives could be more powerful and safer to handle than TNT and other conventional explosives and would also be more environmentally friendly.

TNT, RDX and other explosives commonly used in military and industrial applications often generate toxic gases upon detonation that pollute the environment. Moreover, the explosives themselves are toxic and can find their way into the environment due to incomplete detonation and as unexploded ordnance. They are also extremely dangerous to handle, as they are highly sensitive to physical shock, such as hard impacts and electric sparks.

To make safer, more environmentally friendly explosives, scientists in Germany turned to a recently explored class of materials called tetrazoles. These derive most of their explosive energy from nitrogen instead of carbon as TNT and others do.

1 comment

  1. Thanks for the news round up.

    Cheery news about public schools vs private schools, well possibly. It means that either public schools do not lag as much as well have been led to believe which reinforces my own view that we need to spend more money on them and not get diverted by voucher alternatives, or that both the public and private school systems are struggling with mediocrity.

    I miss Stars…. is it on hiatus while you immerse yourself in other projects?

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