Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread
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1 Former PM Sharif returns to Pakistan
By SLOBODAN LEKIC, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 15 minutes ago
|LAHORE, Pakistan – Exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned home to a hero’s welcome Sunday and called on President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to end emergency rule before elections, a fresh challenge to the U.S.-backed leader.
“These (emergency) conditions are not conducive to free and fair elections,” Sharif told reporters at the airport after arriving from Saudi Arabia. “I think the constitution of Pakistan should be restored, and there should be rule of law.”
Sharif, the head of one of the country’s main opposition parties, said he had not negotiated his return with Musharraf, who overthrew him in a 1999 coup. Musharraf expelled Sharif when he first tried come back to Pakistan this year.
2 Candidates, retailers vie for TV time
By DAVID PITT, Associated Press Writer
Sun Nov 25, 11:20 AM ET
|DES MOINES, Iowa – In Iowa, ’tis the season for TV pitches, political and commercial. By the time Iowans ring in the New Year, they may be sick of both.
An earlier date for Iowa’s caucuses probably means presidential candidates will run more television ads from mid-November through December, the height of the Christmas shopping season when retailers want to promote sales.
Moving the caucuses up 11 days to Jan. 3 also will force candidates to pay top dollar for TV ads over the holidays and soften their messages to avoid violating the serenity of the season. The same equation applies in New Hampshire, whose first-in-the-nation primary will follow the Iowa caucuses five days later.
3 Fire extinguished on evacuated North Sea oil platform
By Paul Majendie, Reuters
Sun Nov 25, 9:11 AM ET
|LONDON (Reuters) – A North Sea oil platform was briefly evacuated on Sunday and around 5,000 barrels per day of crude output shut down after a fire broke out on board.
Ninety of the 159 people on board the Thistle Alpha were evacuated. They were able to return to the rig after the blaze was extinguished. There were no casualties.
Rig operator Petrofac stopped output of Brent crude from the platform, a company spokesman said. Petrofac operates Thistle Alpha on behalf of Swedish company Lundin.
4 Australians wake up to new era after Rudd crushes Howard
by Marc Lavine, AFP
Sun Nov 25, 7:02 AM ET
|SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia’s new leader Kevin Rudd vowed Sunday to tackle climate change and Iraq war policy, a day after sweeping veteran prime minister John Howard from power in a stunning election landslide.
Rudd pledged to implement his campaign promises as a new era dawned for Australia after Saturday’s poll ended nearly 12 years of conservative rule by US President George W. Bush’s closest remaining ally in the war in Iraq.
Voters abandoned Howard, 68, who presided over a record economic boom and became Australia’s second longest-serving leader, in a humiliating drubbing in which he is also likely to suffer the indignity of losing his parliamentary seat of 33 years.
5 200 detained in new anti-Putin demo in Russia
by Marina Koreneva, AFP
Sun Nov 25, 11:18 AM ET
|SAINT PETERSBURG (AFP) – Russian riot police detained another key opposition figure among 200 demonstrators in Saint Petersburg Sunday, a day after a court jailed opposition leader Garry Kasparov for a similar protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
The disturbances, exactly a week ahead of December 2 parliamentary elections, came 24 hours after police dispersed a similar march of around 2,000 people in the Russian capital Moscow and arrested Kasparov.
A court late Saturday sentenced the former world chess champion to five days in jail and his lawyer told AFP Sunday he was being held at Moscow police headquarters.
6 On nanotechnology, experts see more risks than public
by Marlowe Hood, AFP
49 minutes ago
|PARIS (AFP) – In a surprising reversal of roles, nanotechnology scientists outrival the general public in seeing a cause for concern in some aspects of their work, according to a study published Sunday.
Nanotechnology — the science of making things measured in units 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair — holds spectacular promise in virtually every sector.
Hundreds of consumer products already contain nano materials, most of which are cosmetics, sunscreens and cleaning products with microscopic particles.
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7 Ukraine marks Soviet-era famine
By OLGA BONDARUK, Associated Press Writer
Sun Nov 25, 12:40 AM ET
|KIEV, Ukraine – Holding candles, thousands of people from all over Ukraine gathered Saturday on a square in Kiev to mourn the millions who died of starvation during a famine engineered by the Soviet authorities 75 years ago.
President Viktor Yushchenko, speaking to the crowd, once again called on the international community to recognize the Holodomor – or death by hunger – as an act of genocide.
“We neither overestimate nor underestimate the scale of this grief,” he said.
8 Wisconsin company recalls beef products
Sun Nov 25, 12:06 AM ET
|GREEN BAY, Wis. – A company voluntarily recalled nearly 96,000 pounds of ground beef products after two people were sickened, possibly by the E. coli bacteria, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said Saturday.
The beef products by American Foods Group include coarse and fine ground beef chuck, sirloin and chop beef. They were distributed to retailers and distributors in Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Virginia.
The problem surfaced after an investigation by the Illinois Department of Health, which was looking into two reports of illnesses.
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9 French president says China must revalue the yuan
by Nadege Puljak, AFP
1 hour, 51 minutes ago
|BEIJING (AFP) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged China on Sunday to revalue its currency and improve its record on the environment, hours after arriving in the country for a state visit.
Speaking to French business leaders following private talks with Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, Sarkozy also said China should play a more active role in resolving the Iran nuclear standoff and other international disputes.
Neither side disclosed details of discussions during an informal dinner between the two leaders on day one of the French president’s three-day visit.
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10 Panda super couple is super fertile
By ALLISON HOFFMAN, Associated Press Writer
Fri Nov 23, 1:44 PM ET
|SAN DIEGO – Giving each other space may not work in every relationship, but it’s what keeps the magic alive for the very fertile giant panda pair at the San Diego Zoo.
Since 2003, Bai Yun and her consort, Gao Gao, have produced three cubs, making them one of the most reproductively successful panda couples ever in captivity. Their youngest offspring, a chubby female, will be named Monday when she reaches 100 days old, following Chinese tradition.
For all but two days of the year, Bai Yun (White Cloud) and Gao Gao (Big Big) lead separate lives, gnawing on bamboo and taking long naps in pens far apart, much as wild pandas – naturally solitary creatures – would hide from each other in mountain forests.
11 Meat, poultry, vegetables feel heat from global warming
by Anil Penna, AFP
Sat Nov 24, 8:54 PM ET
|HYDERABAD, India (AFP) – From meat, poultry and milk to potatoes, onions and leafy greens, everything consumed on the world’s dining tables is feeling the heat from climate change, scientists say.
Researchers are trying to establish the extent to which global warming will affect livestock, plant life and staple crops such as rice to bolster their resistance to disease and breed stronger varieties.
The world’s billion poor, whether producers or consumers, will bear the brunt, warned scientists who ended a conference Saturday on agriculture and climate change in Hyderabad, southern India.
12 Scientists urge -3 billion study of ocean health
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent, Reuters
2 hours, 12 minutes ago
|OSLO (Reuters) – Marine scientists called on Sunday for a $2-3 billion study of threats such as overfishing and climate change to the oceans, saying they were as little understood as the Moon.
A better network of satellites, tsunami monitors, drifting robotic probes or electronic tags on fish within a decade could also help lessen the impact of natural disasters, pollution or damaging algal blooms, they said.
“This is not pie in the sky … it can be done,” said Tony Haymet, director of the U.S. Scripps Institution of Oceanography and chairman of the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO).
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13 Iraq Shiite pol defends Iran against US
By SAMEER N. YACOUB, Associated Press Writer
1 minute ago
|BAGHDAD – Iraq’s most influential Shiite politician said Sunday that the U.S had not backed up claims that Iran is fueling violence here, underscoring a wide gap on the issue between Washington and the Shiite-led Baghdad government.
A draft bill to ease curbs on ex-Saddam Hussein loyalists in government services also drew sharp criticism from Shiite lawmakers, opening old wounds at a time when the United States is pressing the Iraqis for compromise for the sake of national unity.
The Americans have long accused the Iranians of arming and training Shiite militias, including some linked to the U.S.-backed government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
14 Indian protest rocks Malaysia ahead of polls
By Mark Bendeich and Clarence Fernandez, Reuters
Sun Nov 25, 2:52 AM ET
|KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s ethnic Indian community staged its biggest anti-government street protest on Sunday when more than 10,000 protesters defied tear gas and water cannon to voice complaints of racial discrimination.
The sheer size of the protest, called by a Hindu rights group, represents a political challenge for the government as it heads toward possible early elections in the next few months.
Ethnic Indians from around the country swarmed into Kuala Lumpur for the rally, despite a virtual lock-down of the capital over the previous three days and warnings from police and the government that people should not take part.
15 Exit polls herald vote cliff-hanger in Croatia
By Igor Ilic, Reuters
1 hour, 7 minutes ago
|ZAGREB (Reuters) – Exit polls in Croatia’s tightly contested national election on Sunday gave no sizeable advantage to either of the two main parties.
The opposition Social Democrats (SDP) had 34.6 percent of the votes and the ruling conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) 33.2 percent, according to exit polls based on a sample of 35,000 voters broadcast by state television after voting ended.
If the results are borne out, the SDP would have 62 seats in parliament, and the HDZ 57. However, the HDZ can count on traditional support from Croatians living abroad for few extra seats.
16 Can Rice save her legacy with ‘Hail Mary’ pass?
By Warren P. Strobel, McClatchy Newspapers
1 hour, 55 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON – Condoleezza Rice became secretary of state almost three years ago with strong support from President Bush , glamorous reviews in the news media and high hopes from America’s diplomats.
Since then, Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf has ignored her pleas and imposed emergency rule, throwing a key counterterrorism ally into turmoil. In Russia , the country Rice prides herself on knowing best, she and Bush appear to have badly misread President Vladimir Putin , who’s restored autocratic rule and his country’s rivalry with America. Her drive for Middle East democracy has stalled in Lebanon and elsewhere, and other big issues, including the environment and relations with East Asia , have been relegated to the back burner.
In her own State Department , Rice’s concept of “transformational diplomacy” is largely forgotten, a fanfare about better public diplomacy has faded and morale is sinking. Rice is under fire for her handling of staffing in Iraq , and the $740 million U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is riddled with problems and has yet to open.
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17 Broadway producers, striking stagehands to resume talks
Sat Nov 24, 6:55 PM ET
|NEW YORK (AFP) – Broadway producers are to hold talks with striking stagehands on Sunday in a bid to break a two-week-long stoppage that has brought the lights down across New York’s theater district.
In a brief statement late Saturday, Charlotte St. Martin, the head of the League of American Theatres and Producers, said simply that talks would resume on Sunday, without specifying exactly when or where.
Stagehands walked out exactly two weeks ago, bringing down the curtain at some 27 Broadway theaters, with disappointed ticket holders arriving to find doors closed and picket lines manned outside.
From Yahoo News Politics
18 Giuliani keeps up spat with Romney
By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer
9 minutes ago
|HUDSON, N.H. – The back-and-forth backbiting between Republican presidential rivals Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney spilled over into Sunday as Giuliani contended that the former Massachusetts governor has fumbled on health care and economic matters.
Asked by a diner patron about Romney’s health care program while governor, Giuliani said Romney “made a mistake” by mandating coverage for all Massachusetts residents. “When you mandate it, it ends up costing you much more money,” said Giuliani, a former New York mayor.
“He sort of did Hillary’s plan in Massachusetts,” Giuliani said during the second day of a bus tour of New Hampshire.
19 Thompson proposes tax choice
2 hours, 59 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON – Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson proposed an income tax plan Sunday that would allow Americans to choose a simplified system with only two rates: 10 percent and 25 percent.
Thompson’s proposal, announced on “Fox News Sunday,” would allow filers to remain under the current, complex tax code or use the flat tax rates.
Asked whether the plan would cut too deeply into federal revenues, the former Tennessee senator and actor said experts “always overestimate the losses to the government” when taxes are cut.
20 Turkish, US generals discuss Kurd rebels; PM sees ‘critical’ stage
by Sibel Utku Bila AFP
Sat Nov 24, 3:25 PM ET
|ANKARA (AFP) – Turkish and US commanders on Saturday discussed measures against Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq, while Turkey’s prime minister said the struggle against the separatists was at a “critical stage.”
Turkish army chief General Yasar Buyukanit and the head of US forces in Europe, General Bantz Craddock, discussed “cooperation issues in the joint struggle against the PKK terrorist organisation, including intelligence sharing,” a Turkish army statement said.
It was the second meeting between top Turkish and US generals this week following US pledges to provide Turkey with real-time intelligence on the movement of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels.
21 Then there was one: US now alone as Kyoto holdout
by Richard Ingham AFP
Sat Nov 24, 3:35 PM ET
|PARIS (AFP) – Supporters of the Kyoto Protocol were gleeful on Saturday after Australian elections left the United States in the wilderness as the only major economy to boycott the UN’s climate pact.
The ouster of Prime Minister John Howard stripped President George W. Bush of a key ally barely a week before a conference in Bali, Indonesia, on the world’s response to climate change beyond 2012, they said.
“It’s great news for the Kyoto Protocol,” Shane Rattenburg, Greenpeace’s political director, told AFP.
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22 Idled Broadway electrician talks shop
By MICHAEL KUCHWARA, AP Drama Writer
57 minutes ago
|NEW YORK – Seventeen years ago, it was John Kelly’s job as a “followspot” operator to illuminate Cathy Rigby as she flew around the stage in “Peter Pan,” the musical about the boy who refused to grow up.
Kelly ran a second followspot, too, creating the character of Tinkerbell, portrayed by only a beam of light. So what happened when, in the story, the incorrigible Tink almost dies and nearly blinks away? “That was me flashing the light,” Kelly said, explaining one of the other duties of his first job on Broadway.
These days, Kelly is not operating any lights at all – blinking or otherwise.
23 Foxwoods casino dealers to join union
By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 4 minutes ago
|HARTFORD, Conn. – Dealers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino have voted to unionize, a move Connecticut’s attorney general says could have a “seismic” impact at Indian casinos across the nation.
The dealers at the tribal casino in southeastern Connecticut voted 1,289 to 852 in favor of joining the United Auto Workers, which represents about 6,000 gambling workers in Detroit, Atlantic City, N.J., and Newport, R.I.
“It’s a significant step forward for gaming employees who work on tribal lands,” said Elizabeth Bunn, the secretary-treasurer of the UAW. “I think it will embolden workers at other tribal casinos.”
24 Flowers and Virgin front-runners for Northern Rock
By Steve Slater, Reuters
Sun Nov 25, 6:45 AM ET
|LONDON (Reuters) – Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and U.S. buyout firm J.C. Flowers are the two front-runners to buy ailing British bank Northern Rock (NRK.L), people familiar with situation said on Sunday, but shareholders are unlikely to get much from either.
A consortium led by Virgin would launch a deeply discounted share placing for Northern Rock that would value its shares at between 20 pence and 40 pence each, according to the Sunday Times newspaper. The shares closed at 85.9p on Friday.
The J.C. Flowers proposal includes a “nominal” offer for the shares, Reuters reported earlier this week.
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25 Natural disasters have quadrupled in two decades: study
Sun Nov 25, 9:39 AM ET
|LONDON (AFP) – More than four times the number of natural disasters are occurring now than did two decades ago, British charity Oxfam said in a study Sunday that largely blamed global warming.
“Oxfam… says that rising green house gas emissions are the major cause of weather-related disasters and must be tackled,” the organisation said, adding that the world’s poorest people were being hit the hardest.
The world suffered about 120 natural disasters per year in the early 1980s, which compared with the current figure of about 500 per year, according to the report.
From Yahoo News Technology
26 Software piracy fight makes enemies
By BRIAN BERGSTEIN, AP Technology Writer
57 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON – Michael Gaertner worried he could lose his company. A group called the Business Software Alliance had written him to claim that his 10-person architectural firm in Galveston, Texas, was using unlicensed software.
The letter demanded $67,000 – most of one year’s profit – or else the BSA would seek more in court.
An analysis by The Associated Press reveals that targeting small businesses is a lucrative strategy for the Business Software Alliance, the main global copyright-enforcement watchdog for such companies as Microsoft Corp., Adobe Systems Inc. and Symantec Corp.
Of the $13 million that the BSA reaped in software violation settlements with North American companies last year, almost 90 percent came from small businesses, the AP found.
27 How the BSA nets piracy suspects
By BRIAN BERGSTEIN, AP Technology Writer
1 hour, 16 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON – The Business Software Alliance collects tens of millions of dollars in settlements from companies it accuses of software piracy, but it doesn’t have to file lawsuits to do it. Instead the BSA usually gets companies to convict themselves through a “self audit.”
The BSA generally begins investigating businesses after a tip from an employee. Software vendors can also initiate or lend credence to a complaint if they tell the BSA that an organization has, for example, bought suspiciously fewer software licenses than it has employees.
Next, a law firm representing the alliance will send a company a letter informing its management that it is suspected of violating software copyrights, a crime that carries penalties of up to $150,000 per infringed work.
The letters will then state that the BSA is willing to avoid court and settle amicably – if the company audits its computers to see whether they contain unlicensed copies of software made by the group’s members.
28 Anti-copying programs may slow piracy
By BRIAN BERGSTEIN, AP Technology Writer
1 hour, 18 minutes ago
|If the experience of the world’s largest software vendor is any guide, the industry’s best hope for reducing piracy rests with anti-copying technologies rather than in policing the legalistic user agreements that restrict how software can be used.
While a copyright crackdown by the Business Software Alliance and other industry players has been in force for years, piracy rates – as measured by BSA-commissioned studies – have stopped falling. So a few years ago, Microsoft Corp. began concentrating harder on locking software down through a program it calls its Genuine Software Initiative.
The technology has provoked some hostility, because it enables Microsoft to remotely examine user computers. After analyzing such information as the computer’s manufacturer, hard drive serial number and Windows product identification, Microsoft can block access to certain software functions if it suspects the product was illegally copied.