Tuesday, Oct 25th

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U.S. contracts meant for small businesses in Florida often go to huge companies

What do Dell Computer, General Electric and Boeing have in common? These massive corporations were all counted as ``small businesses'' doing work in Florida last year.

The three firms -- along with a dozen other billion-dollar companies -- soaked up at least $76 million in federal contracts that were recorded as going to small businesses during fiscal year 2008, according to government data. While the federal government is obliged to put 23 percent of all direct, or prime, contracts in the hands of small firms, it has missed that mark for the past three years.


Banned at Guantanamo library: Noam Chomsky (no surprise)

Professor Noam Chomsky may be among America's most enduring anti-war activists. But the leftist intellectual's anthology of post 9/11 commentary is taboo at Guantanamo's prison camp library, which offers books and videos on Harry Potter, World Cup soccer and Islam.

U.S. military censors recently rejected a Pentagon lawyer's donation of an Arabic-language copy of the political activist and linguistic professor's 2007 anthology "Interventions" for the library, which has more than 16,000 items.


Weapons failed US troops during Afghan firefight

In the chaos of an early morning assault on a remote U.S. outpost in eastern Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Erich Phillips' M4 carbine quit firing as militant forces surrounded the base. The machine gun he grabbed after tossing the rifle aside didn't work either.

When the battle in the small village of Wanat ended, nine U.S. soldiers lay dead and 27 more were wounded. A detailed study of the attack by a military historian found that weapons failed repeatedly at a "critical moment" during the firefight on July 13, 2008, putting the outnumbered American troops at risk of being overrun by nearly 200 insurgents.


Justice Dept. to Review Bush Policy on DNA Test Waivers

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has ordered a review of a little-known Bush administration policy requiring some defendants to waive their right to DNA testing even though that right is guaranteed in a landmark federal law, officials said.


Steep Losses Pose Crisis for Pensions

The financial crisis has blown a hole in the rosy forecasts of pension funds that cover teachers, police officers and other government employees, casting into doubt as never before whether these public systems will be able to keep their promises to future generations of retirees.

The upheaval on Wall Street has deluged public pension systems with losses that government officials and consultants increasingly say are insurmountable unless pension managers fundamentally rethink how they pay out benefits or make money or both.


Israeli Nobel Laureate calls for release of all Hamas prisoners

Israeli Nobel Prize for chemistry laureate Professor Ada Yonath on Saturday said all Hamas prisoners held in Israel should be released in order to bring Gilad Shalit home.

"I don't understand why we incarcerate them in Israel in the first place," the professor told Army Radio Saturday. She added that "all prisoners should be returned to Palestine regardless of a deal for Gilad Shalit's release."  She said that holding Palestinians captive encourages and perpetuates their motivation to harm Israel and its citizens.


New Way to Tap Gas May Expand Global Supplies

A new technique that tapped previously inaccessible supplies of natural gas in the United States is spreading to the rest of the world, raising hopes of a huge expansion in global reserves of the cleanest fossil fuel.

Italian and Norwegian oil engineers and geologists have arrived in Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania to learn how to extract gas from layers of a black rock called shale. Companies are leasing huge tracts of land across Europe for exploration.


You have blood on your hands, Blair told

The former Prime Minister Tony Blair was told today he had "blood on his hands" by a bereaved father at a reception following a memorial service for those killed in Iraq.

Peter Brierley, whose son Lance Corporal Shaun Brierley, 28, was killed in March 2003, refused to shake Mr Blair's proffered hand and said: "I'm not shaking your hand, you've got blood on it."  The former prime minister was ushered away and afterwards Mr Brierley, from Batley, West Yorkshire, said: "I understand soldiers go to war and die but they have to go to war for a good reason and be properly equipped to fight."


Has science found the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome?

Scientists say they have made a dramatic breakthrough in understanding the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome – a debilitating condition affecting 250,000 people in Britain which for decades has defied a rational medical explanation.

The researchers have discovered a strong link between chronic fatigue syndrome, which is sometimes known as ME or myalgic encephalomyelitis, and an obscure retrovirus related to a group of viruses found to infect mice.


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