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    Sunday, March 23, 2008


    The test

    Corrine Bailey Rae's Husband found dead of an Apparent Drug Overdose.

    Sunday, March 23, 2008

    Husband of singer Corinne Bailey Rae found dead of suspected drug overdose

    Sunday, March 23rd 2008, 4:24 PM

    The husband of British singer Corinne Bailey Rae has been found dead of a suspected drug overdose, sources said today.

    Jason Rae, 31, was discovered dead in an apartment in the Hyde Park area of Leeds in northern England. Bailey Rae, 29, is said to have not been at the property at the time.

    A 32-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of supplying drugs and then released, police said Sunday.

    Jason Rae was a saxophonist with the Haggis Horns, who have performed with Bailey Rae as well as Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson and the band Nightmares on Wax.

    Bailey Rae is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who released her self-titled debut album two years ago. The record went to number one on the UK charts and sold over a million copies in the US, thanks to the hit single "Put Your Records On."

    Police are awaiting a toxicology report on Rae's body.

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    Where . I am

    It's been a while since. I hung out at. Starbucks. I bought the. Sunday. New. York. Times and a. Radiohead album. I'll listen to it on the way home.

    Bill. Richardson

    Dont tell me what to do?

    CNN - Richardson: 'I am very loyal to the Clintons'

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    Richardson: 'I am very loyal to the Clintons'

    Facing fire from some fellow Democrats for his decision to endorse Sen. Barack Obama, Gov. Bill Richardson said Sunday he still considers himself loyal to the family that helped make his political career.

    "I am very loyal to the Clintons. I served under President Clinton. But I served well. And I served the country well. And he gave me that opportunity," Richardson told "Fox News Sunday."

    Richardson was secretary of energy under the Clinton administration, a post that helped bring him to national prominence and win the governorship of New Mexico in 2002.

    Richardson, who abandoned his presidential bid January 10, endorsed Obama on Friday as the Democratic nominee. He called Sen. Hillary Clinton Thursday to tell her of his decision, Clinton's campaign said. Watch what was behind Richardson's decision

    The Clinton campaign shrugged off the endorsement. "Both candidates have many great endorsers, but the voters, not endorsers, will decide this election, and there are still millions of voters in upcoming contests who want to have their voices heard," Clinton spokesman Jay Carson said.

    Richardson was asked Sunday about James Carville's comment that Richardson's Obama endorsement "came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver." Carville is an adviser to Clinton's presidential campaign and a CNN political analyst.

    "Well, I'm not going to get in the gutter like that," Richardson said. "And you know, that's typical of many of the people around Sen. Clinton. They think they have a sense of entitlement to the presidency."

    Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, a prominent Clinton supporter, told Fox that he has no problem with Richardson's decision. He accused the Obama campaign of complaining about negativity while launching unfair attacks on Clinton.

    Discussing a spat over whether Bill Clinton had challenged Obama's patriotism, Rendell said Obama is trying "to have it both ways."

    The former president's remark last week that "it would be a great thing if we had an election where you had two people who love this country" sparked a dispute over whether he was questioning Obama's patriotism.

    The full quote: "I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country. And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics."

    The Clinton campaign denied any slight to Obama's patriotism. But retired Gen. Tony McPeak, an Obama surrogate compared Clinton to Joe McCarthy.

    McCarthy was a senator who was known for leveling accusations that people were Communists or spying for the Russians in the 1950s.

    Richardson said he does not think former President Clinton was implying that Obama is unpatriotic.

    Richardson added, "The campaign has gotten too negative -- too many personal attacks, too much negativity that is not resounding with the public."

    Rendell responded, "They say the campaign's too negative, and they go out and turn an innocent remark -- Bill Clinton was saying what a lot of us feel ... If they want to tone it down, don't accuse someone of McCarthyism."

    Richardson responded, "There's been negativity on both sides."

    Rendell also accused the Obama camp of contradicting itself in another way that Richardson's endorsement highlights.

    "First, they say the superdelegates should reflect the will of the people of their states. Well, we have Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Kerry saying they're going to vote for Obama even though Sen. Clinton won by 13 points in Massachusetts. ... The voters of New Mexico chose Sen. Clinton. If we follow the Obama line, Bill Richardson should be for Sen. Clinton."

    "Yes, but, Eddie, by half a percent -- come on," Richardson responded, in a reference to the slight margin by which Clinton won New Mexico.

    In a February interview with The New York Times, Richardson discussed how superdelegates should vote. "It should reflect the vote of my state, it should represent the vote of my constituency," he told the newspaper at the time.

    Speaking to the Fox news program Sunday, Richardson said he believes Obama, 46, represents "change" and "I feel that it's important that we bring a new generation of leadership."

    Before dropping out of the race, Richardson, 60 -- the same age as Clinton -- ran on his experience. His campaign called him "the only candidate with the foreign policy experience and vision to restore America's standing around the world."

    USA TODAY - Star explodes halfway across universe

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    By Seth Borenstein, Associated Press

    The explosion of a star halfway across the universe was so huge it set a record for the most distant object that could be seen on Earth by the naked eye.

    The aging star, in a previously unknown galaxy, exploded in a gamma ray burst 7.5 billion light years away, its light finally reaching Earth early Wednesday.

    The gamma rays were detected by NASA's Swift satellite at 2:12 a.m. "We'd never seen one before so bright and at such a distance," NASA's Neil Gehrels said. It was bright enough to be seen with the naked eye.

    However, NASA has no reports that any skywatchers spotted the burst, which lasted less than an hour. Telescopic measurements show that the burst which occurred when the universe was about half its current age was bright enough to be seen without a telescope.

    "Someone would have had to run out and look at it with a naked eye, but didn't," said Gehrels, chief of NASA's astroparticles physics lab at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

    The starburst would have appeared as bright as some of the stars in the handle of the Little Dipper constellation, said Penn State University astronomer David Burrows. How it looked wasn't remarkable, but the distance traveled was.

    The 7.5 billion light years away far eclipses the previous naked eye record of 2.5 million light years. One light year is 5.9 trillion miles.

    "This is roughly halfway to the edge of the universe," Burrows said.

    Before it exploded, the star was about 40 times bigger than our sun. The explosion vaporized any planet nearby, Gehrels said.

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    USA TODAY - Air Force to Wall Street: Invest in coal conversion

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    By Matthew Brown, Associated Press

    On a wind-swept air base near the Missouri River, the Air Force has launched an ambitious plan to wean itself from foreign oil by turning to a new and unlikely source: coal.

    The Air Force wants to build at its Malmstrom base in central Montana the first piece of what it hopes will be a nationwide network of facilities that would convert domestic coal into cleaner-burning synthetic fuel.

    Air Force officials said the plants could help neutralize a national security threat by tapping into the country's abundant coal reserves. And by offering itself as a partner in the Malmstrom plant, the Air Force hopes to prod Wall Street investors nervous over coal's role in climate change to sink money into similar plants nationwide.

    "We're going to be burning fossil fuels for a long time, and there's three times as much coal in the ground as there are oil reserves," said Air Force Assistant Secretary William Anderson. "Guess what? We're going to burn coal."

    Tempering that vision, analysts say, is the astronomical cost of coal-to-liquids plants. Their high price tag, up to $5 billion apiece, would be hard to justify if oil prices were to drop. In addition, coal has drawn wide opposition on Capitol Hill, where some leading lawmakers reject claims it can be transformed into a clean fuel. Without emissions controls, experts say coal-to-liquids plants could churn out double the greenhouse gases as oil.

    "We don't want new sources of energy that are going to make the greenhouse gas problem even worse," House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said in a recent interview.

    The Air Force would not finance, construct or operate the coal plant. Instead, it has offered private developers a 700-acre site on the base and a promise that it would be a ready customer as the government's largest fuel consumer.

    Bids on the project are due in May. Construction is expected to take four years once the Air Force selects a developer.

    Anderson said the Air Force plans to fuel half its North American fleet with a synthetic-fuel blend by 2016. To do so, it would need 400 million gallons of coal-based fuel annually.

    With the Air Force paving the way, Anderson said the private sector would follow from commercial air fleets to long-haul trucking companies.

    "Because of our size, we can move the market along," he said. "Whether it's (coal-based) diesel that goes into Wal-Mart trucks or jet fuel that goes into our fighters, all that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, which is the endgame."

    Coal producers have been unsuccessful in prior efforts to cultivate such a market. Climate change worries prompted Congress last year to turn back an attempt to mandate the use of coal-based synthetic fuels.

    The Air Force's involvement comes at a critical time for the industry. Coal's biggest customers, electric utilities, have scrapped at least four dozen proposed coal-fired power plants over rising costs and the uncertainties of climate change.

    That would change quickly if coal-to-liquids plants gained political and economic traction under the Air Force's plan.

    "This is a change agent for the entire industry," said John Baardson, CEO of Baard Energy in Vancouver, Wash., which is awaiting permits on a proposed $5 billion coal-based synthetic fuels plant in Ohio. "There would be a number of plants that would be needed just to support (the Air Force's) needs alone."

    Only about 15% of the 25,000 barrels of synthetic fuel that would be produced daily at the Malmstrom plant would be suitable for jet fuel. The remainder would be lower-grade diesel for vehicles, trains or trucks and naphtha, a material used in the chemical industry.

    That means the Air Force would need at least seven plants of the same size to meet its 2016 goal, said Col. Bobbie "Griff" Griffin, senior assistant to Anderson.

    Coal producers have their sights set even higher.

    A 2006 report from the National Coal Council said a fully mature coal-to-liquids industry serving the commercial sector could produce 2.6 million barrels of fuel a day by 2025. Such an industry would more than double the nation's coal production, according to the industry-backed Coal-to-Liquids Coalition.

    On Wall Street, however, skepticism lingers.

    "Is it a viable technology? Certainly it is. The challenge seems to be getting the first couple (of plants) done," said industry analyst Gordon Howald with Calyon Securities. "For a company to commit to this and then five years later oil is back at $60 this becomes the worst idea that ever happened."

    Only two coal-to-liquids plants are now operating worldwide, all in South Africa. A third is scheduled to come online in China this year, said Corey Henry with the Coal-to-Liquids Coalition.

    The Air Force is adamant it can advance the technology used in those plants to turn dirty coal into a "green fuel," by capturing the carbon dioxide and other, more toxic emissions produced during manufacturing.

    However, that would not address emissions from burning the fuel, said Robert Williams, a senior research scientist at Princeton University. To do more than simply break even, the industry must reduce the amount of coal used in the synthetic-fuel blend and supplement it with a fuel derived from plants, Williams said.

    Air force officials said they were investigating that possibility.

    In a recent letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Rep. Waxman wrote that a promise to control greenhouse gas emissions from synthetic fuels was not enough. Waxman and the committee's ranking Republican, Virginia's Tom Davis, cited a provision in the energy bill approved by Congress last year that bars federal agencies from entering contracts for synthetic fuels unless they emit the same or fewer greenhouse gases as petroleum.

    Anderson said the Air Force will meet the law's requirements.

    "They'd like to have (coal-to-liquids) because of security concerns a reliable source of power. They're not thinking beyond that one issue," Waxman said. "(Climate change) is also a national security concern."

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    USA TODAY - Treasury cuts minimum securities purchase to $100

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    The Treasury Department deals in billions and even trillions of dollars, but it can think small, too.

    Officials announced Friday that starting next month, individuals will be able to buy Treasury securities, including Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS), in amounts as small as $100, down from the current minimum of $1,000.

    GET MORE DETAILS: Treasury's press release

    The change will take effect for the weekly auction of three-month and six-month Treasury bills that will be held April 7.

    Treasury said the reduction in minimum bid amounts is being made possible by an improved processing system for government debt auctions. The hope is the reduction will attract smaller investors.

    "U.S. Treasury securities, the world's safest, most liquid investments, should be accessible to the broadest universe of investors large and small," said Anthony Ryan, assistant Treasury secretary for financial markets. "Being able to buy securities in $100 increments adds a new degree of flexibility for all market participants."

    The reduction in the minimum sales amount is the first since 1998, when the purchase amount was cut to $1,000. Before that time, the minimum purchase amount had been $10,000 for Treasury bills, which are securities with a maturity of one year or less, and $5,000 for Treasury notes with a maturity of up to four years.

    Individuals can learn more about buying Treasury securities and buy them directly from the Treasury Department by going to to open an online account.

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    USA TODAY - Iraq attacks claim more than 40; Green Zone shelled

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    A suicide car bomber struck an Iraqi military base in northern Iraq on Sunday in the deadliest of a series of attacks that killed at least 42 people nationwide. In Baghdad, the U.S.-protected Green Zone came under heavy fire by rockets or mortar rounds.

    Seven people also were killed and 14 wounded in a suicide car bombing in the Shiite neighborhood of Shula in the capital. The attacks underscored the fragility of Iraq's security, despite a decline in violence over the past year.

    In the northwestern city of Mosul, Iraqi security forces opened fire on the suicide bomber as he sped toward a military base but were unable to foil the attack because the truck's windshield had been made bullet-proof, according to an Iraqi army officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.

    The attacker blasted past an armored vehicle to reach the courtyard of the military headquarters, the officer said.

    Police said at least 13 Iraqi soldiers were killed and 42 people wounded 30 soldiers and 12 civilians in the attack. Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, has been described by the U.S. as the last urban stronghold of the Sunni-led al-Qaeda in Iraq.

    The U.S. military in northern Iraq said the suicide bombing occurred around 7 a.m. and gave a slightly lower casualty toll of 12 Iraqi soldiers killed and 35 wounded.

    Shiite extremists were suspected to be behind the barrages against the Green Zone, which houses the U.S. and British embassies and the Iraqi government headquarters.

    About 10 detonations were heard starting shortly before 6 a.m in the sprawling area in central Baghdad. Several other mortars or rockets slammed into the area throughout the day.

    The U.S. public address system in the Green Zone warned people to "duck and cover" and to stay away from windows following the attacks.

    No casualties were reported inside the Green Zone, a frequent target of rocket and mortar attacks, located on the west bank of the Tigris River. "Our assessment at this time is that the attack caused no deaths or major casualties," said Mirembe Nantongo, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

    At least one Iraqi civilian was killed and four wounded outside the area by rounds that fell short, police said.

    No group claimed responsibility, but it appeared the rounds were fired from areas of eastern Baghdad where the biggest Shiite militia, the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, operates.

    A mortar barrage also targeted a U.S. base in the Shiite city of Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, Iraqi police said. The American military said it was looking into the report.

    A cease-fire called by al-Sadr, along with an increase in U.S. troop levels and a move by American-backed Sunni fighters to turn against their former al-Qaeda in Iraq allies, have been credited with sharply reducing violence in Baghdad and surrounding areas.

    But there are fears that the cease-fire may unravel after a series of clashes between U.S.-Iraqi forces and Shiite militiamen in Baghdad, Kut and other areas south of the capital.

    Last month, the U.S. military blamed what it calls Iranian-backed Shiite militias for a series of deadly rocket attacks in Baghdad. One struck Camp Victory, the main U.S. military headquarters, and an Iraqi housing complex on the capital's southwestern outskirts on Feb. 18, killing at least five people and wounding 16, including two U.S. soldiers.

    The military said the extremists were among factions that have broken with al-Sadr and refused to follow his cease-fire order. Iran denies allegations that it is stoking the violence. Al-Sadr recently extended the cease-fire through mid-August.

    Weekend raids across Iraq also resulted in 17 insurgents killed and 30 detained, the U.S. military said. The deadliest was an operation Sunday targeting a suspected suicide bombing network east of Baqouba that killed 12 armed men, the military said.

    Iraqi police reported a dozen civilians killed in an airstrike in the same area. But the military insisted those killed in the raid were insurgents, including six who had shaved their bodies apparently in preparation for suicide operations.

    Five men with suspected ties to al-Qaeda leadership also were killed Saturday near the border with Iran in northeastern Iraq, the military said.

    In other violence Sunday, a mortar attack killed eight, including two women and two children, in southeastern Baghdad, police said.

    Gunmen opened fire on passengers waiting for buses in a predominantly Shiite area in southeastern Baghdad, killing at least seven men and wounding 16 other people, including women and children.

    A police commander was shot to death along with his driver in Balad Ruz, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad.

    A roadside bomb near the northern city of Tuz Khormato killed four Iraqi soldiers, including an officer.

    The violence was reported by police officials who declined to be identified because they weren't supposed to release the information.

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    End of. Treacherous. Quarter

    We lost everything

    Reuters - Finishing out a ferocious quarter

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    Finishing out a ferocious quarter

    Sunday, Mar 23, 2008 3:16PM UTC

    By Jeremy Gaunt, European Investment Correspondent

    LONDON (Reuters) - This is the last full week of the first quarter, when markets are normally driven at least in part by window dressing as professional investors seek to make their quarterly or annual performance look good to clients.

    Some window dressing, indeed, appeared to have started last week as investors improved the look of their portfolios by booking profits on assets such as gold that have been notably successful over the first three months of the year.

    Hedge funds, too, will be keen to lock in profits they have made -- a strategy that may add to pressures on various markets.

    But with a quarter as brutal at the latest one has been, traditional stock investors have little scope for beautification efforts.

    "I would sense for the moment that everyone knows this quarter has been dreadful and we are just grateful that it is over," said Neil Dwane, chief investment officer in Europe for investors RCM.

    He said some funds might sell a few losing shares that they do not want to hold when their portfolios are studied, but he questioned whether funds holding shares that were down 20 or 30 percent would bother dumping them now.

    "I don't think window dressing will be very important," he said.

    Not that there will be much to dress anyway.

    With a week to go, this has so far been the worst quarter for global stocks in general and the U.S. S&P 500 <.SPX> and pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> in particular since the third quarter of 2002, after the internet bubble burst.

    For Japan's Nikkei average <.N225> it is the worst since the third quarter of 2001.

    Moreover, global stock losses in this quarter and part of the last have been enough combined to wipe out all the gains of 2007 and some of 2006's as well, based on MSCI's benchmark world stock index <.MIWD00000PUS>.


    There is little expectation that any of this is likely to be eased either this week or well into the next quarter, despite efforts by the Federal Reserve and others to pump money into a stalling and liquidity-starved economy.

    The mood at the Reuters Fund Summit in Luxembourg last week, where executives met to discuss the current climate for professional investors, was not panicky, but it was decidedly gloomy. (For reports from the summit, see

    Expectations were that the current crisis -- a combination of dwindling confidence, frozen lending and U.S.-led economic worries -- could go on longer than first imagined.

    It was also seen as carrying with it real dangers that have not been seen for decades, even as far back as the Great Depression triggered by the 1929 Wall Street crash.

    "The consensus in the market is that some time in the summer will be the right time to buy ... I would prefer to be more cautious. This isn't going to be a short-lived economic downturn," Mark Kary, chief executive of hedge fund Polar Capital Partners told Reuters at the summit.

    "It will be something more significant ... Will it be like 1929? I don't think we know," he said.

    Such uncertainty, indeed, is one of the main drivers of current markets, with the focus particularly on the losses from subprime mortgages and related investments by large banks.

    There are fears that the distress at Bear Stearns <BSC.N>, with its Fed-supported bailout and fire sale, is only the tip of an iceberg. Many investors want to hear more from banks about how big their losses are, not totally trusting what they have heard so far.

    U.S. housing is the key, according to RCM's Dwane, with a stabilization needed before markets can regain equilibrium.

    So part of this week's focus will be on U.S. data on existing home sales on Monday and new home sales on Wednesday. House price data on Tuesday will also be a key gauge for consumer confidence, data on which is released the same day.


    One new wrinkle for investors this week, meanwhile, may come from commodity markets, where a sell off began last week after months of record rises.

    Gold and other precious metals, oil and base metals such as copper, came well off recent record highs. Spot gold, for example, ended the week some 10 percent lower at around $920 an ounce compared with a record high of $1,030.80 at the beginning.

    While some of this is profit taking -- window dressing -- as the quarter ends, risk aversion may be creeping in.

    "The commodity market has grown extremely volatile, and daily fluctuations of several percentage points are now commonplace," Cummerbund Corporate and Markets analyst Eugene Weinberg said in a note.

    "We do not expect all this to mean the end of the commodity high, but some more cautious investors will no doubt be wondering whether the commodity sector really is such a safe haven after all," it said.

    Yet more pressure on battered investors struggling through a quarter many would like to forget.

    (Editing by Ruth Pitchfork)

    U. B. S.

    We need help

    Reuters - UBS investors to consider new capital hike: report

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    UBS investors to consider new capital hike: report

    Sunday, Mar 23, 2008 1:5PM UTC

    ZURICH (Reuters) - UBS <UBSN.VX> shareholders will consider a proposal for a fresh capital hike of 10 billion Swiss francs ($9.88 billion) next month, according to a Swiss newspaper report on Sunday.

    The SonntagsBlick newspaper quoted Herbert Braendli, head of Swiss pension fund Profond, as saying UBS had confirmed that a Profond proposal to raise 10 billion francs would be on the agenda at the bank's general meeting on April 23.

    UBS said it had received a request from Profond to put an item on the agenda, which will be sent to shareholders with the official invitation at the end of March, but declined to give further details.

    "We received a request from Profond to put an item on the agenda," spokesman Serge Steiner said. "UBS is currently considering all requests for the agenda."

    UBS is the European bank hardest hit by the credit crisis and booked $18 billion in subprime writedowns last year.

    Analysts expect it to write down an additional 10-20 billion francs in 2008 and some expect it to need to raise more money to shore up its capital.

    The bank has already raised 13 billion francs through a convertible bond sold to investors in Singapore and Saudi Arabia and aims to raise around 6 billion francs more through various measures including issuing a stock dividend.

    (Reporting by Sam Cage; editing by Rory Channing)

    Visa to make public offering

    Come get some

    Reuters - Visa offering not seen as elixir for U.S. IPO market

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    Visa offering not seen as elixir for U.S. IPO market

    Sunday, Mar 23, 2008 2:37PM UTC

    By Jui Chakravorty Das

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - The blockbuster initial public offering of Visa Inc <V.N> -- the largest ever in the United States -- will do little to revive the slowing IPO market, which has been dampened by investors spooked by the credit crisis.

    With its $17.9 billion offering, the world's largest credit-card network's IPO is the first bright spot in the U.S. IPO sector this year, but that market is likely to return to gloomy skies in the coming months.

    "Visa is in a league of its own," Francis Gaskins, president of research firm, said.

    "For anyone else to make it in this market, you have to be profitable, you have to have a growth plan that doesn't require accessing the debt markets and your proceeds should not be used to pay off debt," Gaskins said.

    "There are few, if any, companies like that in the pipeline."

    Visa raised $17.9 billion in an offering late Tuesday as investors seized on its growth potential and lack of direct exposure to the global credit crisis. The San Francisco-based company sold 406 million shares for $44 each -- above the forecast range of $37 to $42.

    Except for Visa, none of the U.S. offerings have priced above their range so far this year, compared with 16 deals that priced above range in the same time period last year, according to data tracker Dealogic.

    More than 60 IPOs were withdrawn or postponed in the past two months, with at least 30 of those in the United States alone.

    In another bleak statistic, the volume of IPOs so far in 2008 is about half what it was a year earlier, according to Dealogic.

    "There just isn't an appetite for IPOs right now and Visa is definitely a stand-alone event," David Menlow, president of said. "It will have no bearing on IPOs yet to come into the marketplace."

    Case in point: While Visa launched its stronger-than-expected offering, CardioNet, a small health-care company, was also making its debut.

    CardioNet, however, priced at $18, below the initial range of $20 to $22 apiece, and its shares fell subsequently.

    Visa and rival MasterCard <MA.N> are seen as good bets to avoid the market turmoil as neither is directly exposed to rising defaults and late payments because they do not issue cards, unlike American Express <AXP.N>.

    "There are no more credit-card companies like that which aren't public. This was the last of them," Menlow said.

    In January and February, the global credit crisis forced IPO hopefuls to shelve offerings totaling $21.4 billion, almost double the value of new equity issuance, Thomson Financial Data showed.

    Globally, 92 issuers raised just $12.2 billion in IPOs in the first two months, the lowest level since 1993.

    "The IPO market is in a self-preservation mode right now. Underwriters are not interested in bringing IPOs to the marketplace that aren't reflecting the most current valuation consensus models," Sal Morreale, who tracks IPOs at Cantor Fitzgerald, said.

    He also said he expects to see more planned IPOs withdrawn or postponed.

    "Visa is a singular situation," Morreale said. "It's a short-term shot in the arm. It could get things rolling again, but if the general market environment remains choppy, it won't help in the long run."

    (Editing by Maureen Bavdek)

    Reuters - OPEC chief sees oil at $80-$110 for rest of 2008

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    OPEC chief sees oil at $80-$110 for rest of 2008

    Saturday, Mar 22, 2008 10:57PM UTC

    ALGIERS (Reuters) - Petroleum prices will range between $80 and $110 per barrel for the rest of 2008, OPEC President Chakib Khelil said on Saturday.

    Khelil, who is also Algerian energy and mines minister, told Algerian television OPEC was under "big pressures" from consuming nations who liked to portray the group as responsible for high oil prices, when in fact the market was responding to U.S. economic problems and the falling dollar.

    "Prices will continue to be high, and the prices for the rest of the year will be between $80 and $110," he said.

    The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) left its output steady at a meeting earlier this month despite calls from consuming countries for more oil to halt the record rally.

    Oil and other commodities have struck a series of record highs since the beginning of the year as investors fled stock markets and took refuge in dollar-denominated assets.

    But U.S. oil prices have eased since hitting a record $111.80 a barrel on Monday as signs of an economic slowdown mount, raising the possibility of a slowdown in world demand for commodities.

    Khelil has long said OPEC has played no role in oil's rise in recent months.

    "There are big pressures on OPEC and some consuming nations would like to present OPEC as being behind current high prices," Khelil said.

    "But the truth is that the current prices are linked to the U.S. economic problems as well as to the value of the dollar."

    He added Algeria's oil and gas sector would continue to do business in the U.S. dollar.

    "We will continue to work with the currency of the international market," he said, referring to the dollar.

    (Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by William Maclean; Editing by Caroline Drees)

    Cheney attempts the. Impossible

    I can do all things

    Reuters - Cheney calls for painful concessions for Mideast peace

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    Cheney calls for painful concessions for Mideast peace

    Sunday, Mar 23, 2008 5:4PM UTC

    By Tabassum Zakaria

    RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney said on Sunday that achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace would require painful concessions from both sides.

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who met Cheney at the Palestinian Authority's Muqata headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, said Israeli settlement expansion, military checkpoints and raids were blocking progress towards peace.

    The two convened shortly after the Palestinian leader's Fatah faction and its Hamas Islamist rival signed a Yemeni-sponsored reconciliation deal vowing to revive direct talks.

    Neither Cheney nor Abbas commented publicly on the agreement.

    Hamas, which opposes Abbas's peace efforts, seized the Gaza Strip from Fatah in fighting last June. Differences remained over the future of the territory of 1.5 million Palestinians despite the factions' willingness to try to mend fences.

    Speaking to reporters, Cheney said achieving U.S. President George W. Bush's vision of a Palestinian state living alongside a secure Israel, "will require tremendous efforts at the negotiating table and painful concessions on both sides".

    "It will also require a determination to defeat those who are committed to violence and who refuse to accept the basic right of the other side to exist," said Cheney, on his first visit as vice president to the Palestinian territories.

    The United States and other Western countries have said there could no contacts with Hamas until it recognized Israel, renounced violence and accepted existing interim peace deals.

    "We also repeat our rejection and condemnation of the launching of rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip," Abbas said. "We believe that a real peace can put an end to this conflict."

    Cheney said "terror" and the cross-border rocket attacks, which militant groups call a response to Israeli assaults, "do not merely kill innocent civilians, they also kill legitimate hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people".

    Earlier, after talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, Cheney said the United States was doing its utmost "to try to move the peace process forward".

    Cheney kicked off a day of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders by attending an Easter service in a small stone chapel at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.

    He then met Israeli President Shimon Peres, who told him "time is of the essence" in U.S.-brokered negotiations with the Palestinians that Washington hopes can lead to a peace deal by the time George W. Bush leaves office in January.

    Bush made his first presidential visit to Israel and the West Bank in January. He is expected to make another trip soon.

    (Additional reporting by Wafa Amr in Ramallah; Writing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Giles Elgood)

    Tensions. Escalate in. Iraq

    I know how to kill

    CNN - U.S. military: Troops kill shaved would-be suicide bombers

    Sent from's mobile device from

    U.S. military: Troops kill shaved would-be suicide bombers

    U.S. troops raided a suspected suicide bomber cell Sunday, killing a dozen militants, half of whom had shaved their bodies -- which the U.S. military says indicates they were in the final stage of preparation for a suicide attack.

    Troops came under fire while approaching a building in the volatile Diyala province, military spokesman Maj. Winfield Danielson said in an e-mail.

    The troops returned fire, killing five men, before demanding that the remaining occupants exit the building. Some complied; others remained in the building, Danielson said.

    The militants inside opened fire when U.S. troops stormed the building. Seven more militants were killed in the gunfight, Danielson said.

    "Six of the terrorists killed had shaved their bodies, which is consistent with final preparation for suicide operations," he said.

    Inside, troops found assault weapons, ammunition, grenades and vests like the ones suicide bombers use to conceal explosives.

    Diyala province stretches north and east of Baghdad and has been a major front for U.S. troops fighting militants.

    Also Sunday, several mortars landed in Baghdad's International Zone, according to the Interior Ministry. A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said there were no major casualties. Watch the aftermath of the mortar attack

    The U.S. and British embassies and Iraqi government offices are in the zone, known as the Green Zone.

    Although the embassy could not confirm what kind of weapon was used, the Interior Ministry said eight mortars were fired into the Green Zone.

    It is not unusual for insurgents to target the Green Zone. The U.S. government is reluctant to give details of damage from the attacks because the information might help the insurgents improve their accuracy.

    Other developments:

    ? A suicide car bomb exploded at a fuel station Sunday in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in northwest Baghdad, killing seven people and wounding 12 others, the Interior Ministry said.

    ? A suicide bomber detonated a truck full of explosives outside the main gate of an Iraqi military base in Mosul, killing at least 10 Iraqi soldiers and wounding 35 people, including 20 soldiers, Mosul police said.

    ? A mortar round landed in a Shiite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, killing seven people and injuring nine others, a ministry official said.

    ? In southeastern Baghdad, gunmen riding in at least two cars opened fire on a crowded outdoor market, killing at least three people and wounding 17 others, the Interior Ministry said.

    ? A suicide bomber detonated a small truck rigged with explosives outside a local Awakening Council leader's house just east of Samarra on Saturday, killing at least five people and wounding 13 others, a Samarra police official said. Awakening Councils are largely Sunni security groups that have been recruited by the U.S. military.

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    Serendipity, chance, and irony has a wicked sense of humor


    Trouble in. Iraq

    Reuters - Barrages hit Green Zone, gunmen kill seven

    This article was sent to you from, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:

    Barrages hit Green Zone, gunmen kill seven

    Sunday, Mar 23, 2008 2:24PM UTC

    By Paul Tait

    BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Baghdad's heavily fortified "Green Zone" came under heavy rocket or mortar attack on Sunday, and police said up to eight people had been killed by rockets falling short outside the government and diplomatic compound.

    The missile attack on the Green Zone came amid an increase in violence in the capital and in the northern city of Mosul, underlining warnings by U.S. military commanders that recent security gains in Iraq are both fragile and reversible.

    In Mosul, a suicide truck bomber killed 13 Iraqi soldiers and wounded 42, including civilians, in an attack on an Iraqi army base, the Interior Ministry said. U.S. commanders describe Mosul as al Qaeda's last urban stronghold in Iraq.

    Much of Sunday's violence took place in Baghdad, the epicenter of sectarian bloodletting between Iraq's majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Muslims in 2006 and 2007 in which tens of thousands died. A security crackdown by U.S. and Iraqi forces has since sharply reduced levels of violence.

    Gunmen in three cars opened fire on pedestrians in the capital's religiously mixed southern district of Zaafariniya, killing at least seven and wounding 16, police said.

    Blood and bullet casings littered the street in front of a clinic, market and a housing compound.

    "I heard that my brother was killed. I just want to know how the terrorists got through all the checkpoints to reach here," said Zaafaraniya resident Abu Mohammed.

    In northwestern Baghdad's Shula district, a predominantly Shi'ite neighborhood, a suicide car bomber killed six people waiting in a petrol queue, police said.

    The U.S.-protected Green Zone in central Baghdad area was often hit at the height of sectarian violence a year ago, but attacks have become rarer with improved security across Iraq.

    Baghdad police said nine people were killed when Katyusha rockets, either randomly aimed or which misfired, hit two Baghdad neighborhoods during the attack on the Green Zone. Interior Ministry sources said five were killed.

    The U.S. military meanwhile said it killed 12 insurgents in a raid on a house east of Baquba in volatile Diyala province.

    "Six of the terrorists killed had shaved their bodies, which is consistent with final preparation for suicide operations," spokesman Major Winfield Danielson said.

    Mosul and Baquba are the capitals of two of four northern provinces where offensives were launched this year against Sunni Islamist al Qaeda fighters who regrouped there after being driven out of strongholds around Baghdad and western Anbar.


    While there was no immediate indication of who was responsible for the Green Zone attacks, the U.S. military has blamed past missile strikes on rogue elements of anti-U.S. Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia.

    Sadr last month renewed a seven-month-old ceasefire for his militia, which the U.S. military has credited for contributing to sharp falls in violence across Iraq.

    However, there are fears the ceasefire may be unraveling after Mehdi Army fighters clashed with Iraqi and U.S. forces in the southern city of Kut and southern Baghdad last week.

    The Iraq war last week moved into its sixth year, U.S. President George W. Bush marking the anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein with an upbeat speech in which he said the United States was on track to victory.

    The first barrage of about a dozen blasts aimed at the Green Zone started just before 6 a.m. (11 p.m. EDT Saturday). Unusually, a second barrage of about eight more followed about four hours later.

    U.S. embassy officials confirmed "indirect fire" attacks on the Green Zone, a term used to describe rocket or mortar fire.

    "The assessment at this time is that it caused no deaths or major casualties," U.S. embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo said.

    A large plume of thick black smoke could be seen rising from one part of the Green Zone, which houses many government ministries and diplomatic missions, including the U.S. embassy. Sirens could be heard warning people to take cover.

    (Additional reporting by Aws Qusay)

    (Editing by Richard Balmforth)

    Micheal. Stipe

    I. Can. Sing. Real. Well

    Reuters - Q&A: Stipe, R.E.M. take rougher-edged approach

    This article was sent to you from, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:

    Q&A: Stipe, R.E.M. take rougher-edged approach

    Saturday, Mar 22, 2008 12:4AM UTC

    By Jessica Letkemann

    NEW YORK (Billboard) - Think fast. R.E.M. has banished the quiet, dream-like mood of their last two records and is about to unleash the hard, sharp-eyed "Accelerate," their first album in four years.

    As Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills follow the first single's edit-it-yourself video with the album's launch on iLike and a worldwide tour, frontman Stipe spoke to about the set's "really fast, really raw" take on politics, teenage geekdom and the media; and how he and his bandmates "worked really hard to try to upset the things we had gotten bogged down in."

    Q: Your decision to premiere "Accelerate" on iLike follows neatly from the decision to pretty much open-source the video for "Supernatural Superserious."

    Michael Stipe: Good term there. I think that was my idea but it was based on stuff that (director) Vincent Moon had done that I really admired. I thought, "Well, we can take this and expand on the idea and offer something that's a little bit of fun," which I think is in keeping not only with the footage that he was able to get of the band kind of stumbling around New York, but with the song itself, which has a little bit of a sense of humor.

    Q: A sense of humor, and a fun guitar riff. You've said the song was about teenage humiliation and the kinds of things that follow you through your life. I thought that was interesting because I wondered what inspired you to write that now, long after adolescence?

    Stipe: We all have our geek moments that we kind of carry with us or that have some impact on us throughout our lives (laughs). I hate to use the term 'geek anthem' but it's a little bit, for me, like that. I have friends -- who are adults -- who move with such grace and poise through life and in fact completely embrace the incredibly stupid aspects of growing up and the humiliating teenage moments. They can totally laugh about and make fun of themselves and allow themselves to be, I think, more of a complete adult because of it. So that was really kind of the inspiration for the song.

    Q: I think we have all harbored things like that years and decades later, and then we think, "Why am I thinking about this now?"

    Stipe: Yeah, it's like that one horrifying school picture where you either knew or didn't know that that was the day they were taking the school picture. Okay, so now anyone in the world can now pull that up online if they want to look at you when you were in sixth grade and had, whatever, really stupid glasses. But the song inhabits an almost more internal humiliation, something that happens to all of us because we were all kids and we all have insecurities on some level or the other. This one, I kind of particularly wrote it around a seance gone horribly wrong at a summer camp that then manifested itself later in life as kind of a sexual deviance, but a fun one.

    Q: Most of the songs on the record, like "Supernatural," sound like the band re-exploring rock and a harder sound. Did you set out to do that?

    Stipe: No, I think more than anything we wanted to stay on point. We wanted to do a record really fast so there was no way for us to overthink it. In terms of the material, we kind of went to the most obvious place. We wrote really fast songs and we tried to keep them really raw and in-your-face, and that's what we wound up with.

    Q: This record is also out in an election year. Is the character in "Mr. Richards" a politician? Are you talking about the state of the country there, like Dylan's "Mr. Jones"? Is "Living Well Is the Best Revenge" a call to action?

    Stipe: "Living Well Is the Best Revenge," to me, is more aimed at a figure in the media. "Mr. Richards" is definitely a political figure. It's really about the injustices that we face under a system where somebody can, can ... can disregard ... Let me pull my thoughts together. I always stammer when I get really upset (laughs). It's about injustices and one of those great injustices -- and you'll find plenty of examples of it in the current U.S. administration -- is people that get away with something that is almost inhuman. Rather than that being shameful, they wear it like a badge of honor. The fact that they did something so corrupt and actually got away with it, rather than just dropping it into the bottom drawer of their desk, it's like, "I'm even more Teflon than you think I am." Like, "Look at what I can do."

    Q: Mission accomplished?

    Stipe: Yeah, exactly. And that's so insulting to me. I don't know if it comes from a Christian upbringing or what, but one of the core foundations of my ideas of morality and ethics is about justice, and when injustice happens and it can be traced back to a person or a group of people, how very upset that makes me.

    Q: Did you write the lyrics for the album while Mike and Peter were writing the music?

    Stipe: My promise to them was that I would show up on the first day of recording with finished lyrics. So, the first stint that we did was in Vancouver, and the first day I showed up, I had seven songs. We were recording every day, probably eight or nine hours a day. I finished another song while we were there and started another half of a song. By the time we got to Dublin, (where) we did these live shows, these kind of live rehearsals before we went into the studio, I finished the song that I had started in Vancouver and had written another one.

    My part of it was to not have to have Peter sitting on the couch for four weeks waiting for me to finish lyrics; (to not) have Mike not knowing how to sing a background vocal or where to take the bass part or the keyboard part because he didn't know where the vocal melody was going to go.

    It was kind of like there was an agreement between the three of us that we were all going to try to work really hard to try to upset the things that we had gotten bogged down in the past. And to try to make a record really fast and really in-your-face and really raw and make our decisions quickly and then live with them rather than picking apart every single thing and overworking it, which is what had happened on the last record.

    Q: Who picked the opening bands, the National and Modest Mouse, for the summer leg of your upcoming tour?

    Stipe: All three of us. I had seen the National and met the guys really briefly at the Oxygen Festival. Peter knew the band and I took Mike to see a show they played in London. Mike was completely blown away by them live. Peter is friends with Johnny (Marr, Modest Mouse's guitarist) and we all like the band a real lot (laughs). We thought, "Well, this is going to be a really great bill." I've never seen Modest Mouse perform before, (so) for me it's going to be super exciting to have that kind of daily inspiration. That's really what having great opening bands can provide.


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