The Morning News

The Morning News is an Open Thread

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1 Delaware River current halts crossing

By REBECCA SANTANA, Associated Press Writer

2 hours, 6 minutes ago

In Christmas 1776, some 2,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 18 cannons ferried across the cold Delaware River.

The Continental soldiers, many ill-prepared for the cold weather and poorly trained compared to the troops they were about to face, then marched eight miles down river in blizzard-like conditions.

They soundly beat the German mercenary soldiers based there, capturing 1,000 prisoners, killing 30 troops and only losing two Continental soldiers – and both of them froze to death.

2 Many Iowa conservatives still undecided

By LIBBY QUAID, Associated Press Writer

Tue Dec 25, 3:56 PM ET

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee would seem to be the answer to their prayers, yet for many Christian conservatives in Iowa, he has not closed the deal for the Republican caucuses.

Do they still like Mitt Romney? Are they intrigued by Fred Thompson? As always, voter uncertainty comes with the Jan. 3 caucuses, now just a week away.

Huckabee, the former Baptist minister, is leading in the Republican polls here, though his advantage has narrowed. Perhaps, that’s due in part to the negative TV commercials Romney is airing.

3 Boston’s Boston’s $14.8B Big Dig finally complete4.8B Big Dig finally complete

By STEVE LeBLANC, Associated Press Writer

25 minutes ago

BOSTON – When the clock runs out on 2007, Boston will quietly mark the end of one of the most tumultuous eras in the city’s history: The Big Dig, the nation’s most complex and costliest highway project, will officially come to an end.

After a history marked by engineering triumphs, tunnels leaks, epic traffic jams, last year’s death of a motorist crushed by falling concrete panels and a price tag that soared from $2.6 billion to a staggering $14.8 billion, there’s little appetite for celebration.

Civil and criminal cases stemming from the July 2006 tunnel ceiling collapse continue, though on Monday the family of Milena Del Valle announced a $6 million settlement with Powers Fasteners, the company that manufactured the epoxy blamed by investigators for the accident. Lawsuits are pending against other Big Dig contractors, and Powers Fasteners still faces a manslaughter indictment.

4 Turkish warplanes bomb northern Iraq

By Sherko Raouf, Reuters

Tue Dec 25, 3:29 PM ET

SULAIMANIYA, Iraq (Reuters) – Turkish planes bombed an area of Iraq near the border with Turkey on Tuesday to attack Kurdish separatists and the army said it had killed at least 150 guerrillas in its air offensive earlier this month.

A Turkish military source said warplanes launched the limited strike on Tuesday after spotting Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas during a reconnaissance flight. He said the strike was smaller than others in recent weeks.

Colonel Hussein Tamar, director of Iraq’s border guard command in the northern Kurdish province of Dahuk, said villages near the border were hit but nobody was hurt.

5 Suicide attacks kill 33 people north of Baghdad

By Bob Strong, Reuters

Tue Dec 25, 9:30 AM ET

BAIJI, Iraq (Reuters) – Two suicide bombings targeting U.S.-backed neighborhood patrols on Tuesday killed 33 people, highlighting the volatile situation north of Baghdad, where the U.S. military says al Qaeda gunmen are regrouping.

In the city of Baiji, Salahuddin province, a suicide bomber driving a vehicle rigged with explosives blew up at a checkpoint near a residential complex.

Iraqi army Major Shamil Mohammed and a senior provincial police official said 23 people were killed and 77 others wounded. The U.S. military and Interior Ministry in Baghdad earlier put the death toll at 20.

6 Afghans to expel two foreigners on security charges


Tue Dec 25, 12:47 PM ET

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan has ordered the expulsion of a Briton working for the EU and an Irishman working for the United Nations, accusing them of posing a threat to national security, officials and diplomats said on Tuesday.

Local news portals said the pair may have visited the Taliban insurgent stronghold of Helmand recently and might have met with senior tribal elders with close links to the Taliban — or even insurgent leaders themselves.

“Their activities were against the national security,” an Afghan official said, adding they would be expelled and some locals would also be investigated.

7 Fifteen dead after bridge collapses in Nepal


Tue Dec 25, 1:30 PM ET

KATHMANDU (AFP) – At least 15 people died and hundreds on a religious pilgrimage were missing after an overcrowded bridge collapsed in western Nepal on Tuesday, police and officials said.

Nearly 400 people were said to have been on the bridge across a gorge over the Bheri River, 380 kilometres (240 miles) west of the capital Kathmandu, when it collapsed, district officials and police said.

“So far 14 bodies have been recovered on the river banks and one succumbed to injuries while being rushed to hospital,” police officer Mithe Thapa Chettri told AFP by phone.

8 Kenyan opposition leader confident despite vote-rigging fears

by Bogonko Bosire, AFP

Tue Dec 25, 4:39 PM ET

NAIROBI (AFP) – Kenya’s main opposition candidate Tuesday expressed confidence of victory in a closely fought presidential election, despite fresh allegations of vote-rigging emerging two days ahead of the vote.

Raila Odinga, 62, a flamboyant former political prisoner who leads the incumbent, President Mwai Kibaki, in most opinion polls, said he was confident of a “vote for change” in Thursday’s ballot.

“We have done all that was humanly possible in these campaigns given the constraints that were there,” Odinga told reporters after attending Christmas mass in the capital Nairobi.

9 War strain in Iraq may speed troop cuts

By Gordon Lubold, The Christian Science Monitor

Mon Dec 24, 3:00 AM ET

Washington – The strain of the war in Iraq is increasingly forcing senior Pentagon leaders to be blunter about the military’s inability to sustain war operations indefinitely, a shift in tone that may mean more troops come home sooner.

The Pentagon is already taking steps to draw down forces. Currently, there are about 165,000 American troops in Iraq, which includes about 20 combat brigades. By next summer, the plan is to return five combat brigades, or about 20,000 troops.

But a push is under way to bring home even more by the end of next year. Last Friday, Secretary Gates reiterated his hope that five additional combat brigades could be sent home by December 2008.

10 In New Hampshire, independent voters turn to alternative media

By Ari Pinkus, The Christian Science Monitor

Mon Dec 24, 3:00 AM ET

Bedford, N.H. – Anyone who doubts that voters are often bypassing traditional media to learn about candidates should spend a little time with Russ Ouellette.

The New Hampshire independent estimates that he spends six to seven hours a week these days reviewing his options on which presidential contender to vote for. He keeps a list of all of them, crossing names out one by one as he eliminates them or they drop out of the race. Spirited discussions with his wife or his father are nearly as frequent as perusing websites such as The Hankster or getting Google News alerts pegged to key words he’s chosen, including “independent.”

As voters like Mr. Ouellette mull over their choices, they’re using old means of communication – like word-of-mouth and personal contact with candidates – as well as new ones like the Internet. What they’re relying on less is traditional media. Even here in New Hampshire, where voters make more of an effort to stay informed than the average citizen, many are paying less attention to TV news and newspapers than in past election cycles. Though these civically-minded voters can’t ignore it, especially with the myriad debates on cable news, they’re finding that it’s not all that helpful in their decisionmaking and sometimes serves as a mere distraction.

“People are deeply cynical about the media these days,” says Michael Krasner, a political scientist at Queens College in Flushing, N.Y. “They are relying more heavily on friends and family, and it may open up the Web as an alternative source of information.”

11 Amtrak Downeaster: Successful train faces uncertain future

By Colin Woodard, The Christian Science Monitor

Mon Dec 24, 3:00 AM ET

By almost every measure, the service is a resounding success. Ridership and revenue have each grown by 20 percent this fiscal year, some of the highest rates in the nation. Customer-satisfaction rates are regularly the highest in the Amtrak system, where the Downeaster is seen as a model for expanding rail service elsewhere in the country. Proposed extensions of service farther up the Maine coast have the backing of state lawmakers and Maine Gov. John Baldacci.

“We live in an environment where some people think the maximum public benefit is always to have minimum taxation,” says John Spychalski, a transportation expert at Pennsylvania State University. “Among elected officials, there’s enormous ignorance about the benefits of railroad transport and of the situations where it’s less costly in the longer run to develop a rail system than not to do so.”

And that’s as it should be, according to Charles Arlinghaus of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy in Concord, N.H., which opposes proposals to link Concord, Manchester, Nashua, and Boston by commuter and intercity rail to reduce worsening traffic congestion along the I-93 corridor. “In states where there are limited transportation dollars, why should we spend millions of dollars on a luxury used by a small number of people?” he asks.

Not so, says Patricia Quinn, head of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which runs the Downeaster in conjunction with Amtrak. “All modes of transportation are subsidized – the roads we drive on, the airports we land at,” she says. “A bus company doesn’t have to maintain the cost of the road network. But we carry on our balance sheets the costs of maintaining not just our vehicles, but the infrastructure.”

From Yahoo News Most Popular, Most Recommended

12 Dead tiger cubs found in fridge at Chinese zoo: report


Mon Dec 24, 11:22 PM ET

BEIJING (AFP) – Two tiger cubs have been found dead in a fridge at the same zoo in central China where a rare Siberian tiger was illegally slaughtered, state press reported Tuesday.

Zoo keepers at the Three Gorges Forest Wild Animal World claimed the cubs had died at birth, and they were placed in the fridge of the venue’s ticket office for preservation, Xinhua news agency said, citing local officials.

The cubs, from a Bengal tiger, were allegedly stillborn in late November but were not discovered by authorities until they began investigating the death of a six-year-old female Siberian tiger there a few days ago, Xinhua said.

From Yahoo News Most Popular, Most Emailed

13 Egypt to copyright pyramids

by Rayad Abou Awad, AFP

Tue Dec 25, 1:58 PM ET

CAIRO (AFP) – In a potential blow to themed resorts from Vegas to Tokyo, Egypt is to pass a law requiring payment of royalties whenever its ancient monuments, from the pyramids to the sphinx, are reproduced.

Zahi Hawass, the charismatic and controversial head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, told AFP on Tuesday that the move was necessary to pay for the upkeep of the country’s thousands of pharaonic sites.

“The new law will completely prohibit the duplication of historic Egyptian monuments which the Supreme Council of Antiquities considers 100-percent copies,” he said.

From Yahoo News World

14 Thaksin to return as Thai political mess churns on

By Nopporn Wong-Anan, Reuters

Tue Dec 25, 6:18 AM ET

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Tuesday he was confident the party he backed in weekend elections could form a coalition government, unless prevented unfairly, allowing him to return from exile.

“If nobody interferes in the normal democratic process of forming a coalition government, everything will be completed accordingly,” Thaksin told Reuters by telephone from Hong Kong in a clear reference to the military that ousted him in 2006.

“That will be the first step toward national reconciliation,” he said.

15 Spain’s Holiday Cry: Down With Santa!


Tue Dec 25, 3:05 AM ET  

What’s the beef with Santa? In Spain, where manger scenes are still the Christmas holidays’ major decoration, few feel the need to “put the Christ back in Christmas.” But while Jesus’s place remains secure, the three kings – the wise men who followed the Star of Bethlehem to his manger – may need some help. In Spain it is these three, who, upholding the tradition they began when delivering gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus’s bedside, bring presents to children on the Epiphany, January 6. The fat guy in the red suit who visits on Christmas Eve (Papa Noel as he is called here) is a foreign import, promoted by Hollywood and international companies eager to expand the gift season. And for many Spaniards, Santa – and the cultural imperialism he represents – must be stopped.
From Yahoo News U.S. News

16 Help for immigrants divides congregations

By Andrea Hopkins, Reuters

Tue Dec 25, 12:22 AM ET

CINCINNATI (Reuters) – He doesn’t speak Spanish and has no idea what America should do about illegal immigration, but Rev. Larry Kreps knows he’s now on a list somewhere of people willing to help illegal immigrants in a time of crisis.

It started out small enough. Months ago, a member of Kreps’ suburban Ohio congregation was looking for a place where local Hispanics could meet, and Kreps offered some space at John Wesley United Methodist Church. A Sunday school lesson on immigration followed in August.

Days later, with just a phone call for warning, dozens of desperate immigrants fleeing a massive raid on a nearby poultry plant turned up on the church’s doorstep, seeking sanctuary.

17 Student break makes Christmas tough for U.S. campaigns

By Jeremy Pelofsky, Reuters

Tue Dec 25, 12:04 PM ET

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – A clash between Christmas vacations and the U.S. election calendar has left presidential campaigns in Iowa struggling with a shortage of student volunteers to call voters, distribute pamphlets and drive people to the polls.

The first-in-the-nation nominating caucuses are on January 3, the earliest ever, meaning that many students have gone home for the holidays just as candidates seek to ramp up their vote drive in the final days before the crucial contest.

That hasn’t stopped campaigns, which rely heavily on students’ enthusiasm and free labor, from trying to persuade many to drop their holiday plans for the cause of winning over undecided voters.

18 Helping the Air Force Win WWII


Mon Dec 24, 11:30 AM ET

But the F-22 suffers from the same overbuilding as the F-15. Sold as a way to guarantee “air dominance” for the U.S. Air Force against a Soviet air force that no longer exists, the F-22 morphed into the F/A-22 in 2002. That “A” – for “attack” – meant that the F-22 wasn’t only a fighter, but could attack ground targets as well. After three years, though, it lost the “A” and was renamed simply the F-22 once again by a new crop of Air Force officials smarting that the Navy had used the “F/A” label to make its F-18 seem more relevant several years earlier. The Air Force’s next challenge will be to convince those who hold the purse-strings to build more of a plane designed for an enemy, and a kind of war, that no longer exists.

From Yahoo News Politics

19 Romney lashes out at McCain in N.H.

By GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer

Tue Dec 25, 5:51 AM ET

PETERBOROUGH, N.H. – With John McCain on vacation and Rudy Giuliani occupied elsewhere in the state, Mitt Romney sought this weekend to close the deal with New Hampshire Republicans who remain undecided about his presidential candidacy.

Romney fired away at McCain, repeatedly accusing the Arizona senator of failing “Reagan 101” by voting twice against Bush administration tax cuts. Romney also said McCain’s past support for allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the United States and work toward legal status amounted to amnesty.

“You know, right now Sen. McCain and I are both battling for your support and your vote. He’s a good man, but we have differing views on this,” Romney told a capacity crowd at the Peterborough Town House.

McCain senior adviser Mark Salter shot back: “Welcome to Mitt Romney’s bizarro world, in which everyone is guilty of his sins. He didn’t support Ronald Reagan. He didn’t support President Bush’s tax cuts. … New Hampshire is onto you, Mitt.”

20 Romney facing challenges in presidential bid

By David Alexander, Reuters

Mon Dec 24, 1:16 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In a topsy-turvy Republican race for the 2008 presidential nomination, conservative favorite Mitt Romney suddenly found himself under threat in the key states of Iowa and New Hampshire on Monday, less than two weeks before voting begins.

Shifting opinion poll numbers showed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee within 1 percentage point of Romney in Iowa and Arizona Sen. John McCain within 3 percentage points of Romney in New Hampshire.

The changing fortunes provoked a slew of headlines focusing on difficulties for Romney, 60, and coincided with an editorial in a leading New Hampshire newspaper, The Concord Monitor, rejecting his candidacy and accusing the former Massachusetts governor of flip-flopping on the issues.

21 US aid to Pakistan diverted, squandered: report


Mon Dec 24, 2:53 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – More than five billion dollars in US aid to Pakistan has often never reached the military units it was intended for to fight Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and was instead diverted to other programs, the New York Times reported Monday.

Much of the money meant to reimburse frontline Pakistani units was channeled to weapons systems aimed at India and to pay inflated Pakistani reimbursement claims for fuel, ammunition and other costs, unnamed US government and military officials told the daily.

Pakistanis critical of President Pervez Musharraf said he used the reimbursements to prop up his government, and one European diplomat said the United States should have been more careful with its money.

22 US ignored warnings on security firms in Iraq: report


Mon Dec 24, 3:30 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US government ignored numerous warnings over the past two years that private security firms in Iraq were operating with little supervision and instead expanded their role, a media report said Monday.

Warnings about the risks posed by tens of thousands of US-funded private security guards in Iraq were relayed in writing from defense and legal experts and by senior Iraqi officials, the Washington Post reported, citing US officials, security firms and documents.

But the State Department and the Pentagon took no major action to regulate the security companies until guards from Blackwater Worldwide were involved in a shoot-out in September that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead, sparking an international uproar.

23 Bush backs Turkish strikes on Kurdish rebels: Anatolia


Mon Dec 24, 2:19 PM ET

ANKARA (AFP) – US President George W. Bush Monday spoke to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and stressed their common fight against Kurdish rebels operating out of Iraq, officials said.

White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the two leaders spoke by telephone, while Turkish news agency Anatolia said Bush gave his backing for military strikes on bases of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“The president and the prime minister exchanged greetings and best wishes for the New Year,” Johndroe said.

According to Anatolia, the two men hailed the cooperation in Ankara’s battle against the outlawed PKK, which has seen Turkey launch air raids and a limited ground incursion into northern Iraq.

From Yahoo News Business

24 Target says Dec. sales may decline

By ELLEN SIMON, AP Business Writer

Tue Dec 25, 2:59 PM ET

NEW YORK – Early holiday sales reports are weak, with Target Corp., the nation’s No.2 retailer, warning that its sales may have fallen in December.

A broad gauge of consumer spending released by MasterCard Inc., which includes estimates for spending by cash and checks, showed a modest 2.4 percent increase in holiday spending, excluding gasoline and auto sales.

Women’s apparel suffered especially, with spending down 2.4 percent, said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis at MasterCard Advisors. The category had been doing even worse, down 5.7 percent at the middle of the season, before a boost in sales over the past three weeks.

From Yahoo News Science

25 Loss of sea ice could harm walrus

By DAN JOLING, Associated Press Writer

Mon Dec 24, 9:23 AM ET

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Federal marine mammal experts in Alaska studying the effects of global warming on walrus, polar bears and ice seals warn there are limit to the protections they can provide.

“Ultimately it’s beyond my scope,” said Joel Garlich-Miller, a walrus expert for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage. “I can’t make ice cubes out there.”

Garlich-Miller said 3,000 to 4,000 mostly young walrus died this year in stampedes on land on the Russian side of the Chukchi Sea, the body of water touching Alaska and Russia just north of the Bering Strait. Instead of spending the summer spread over sea ice, thousands of walruses were stranded on land in unprecedented numbers for up to three months.

26 Thailand could host 2,000 wild tigers

By MICHAEL CASEY, AP Environmental Writer

Mon Dec 24, 8:12 AM ET

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand’s parks and wildlife reserves could hold up to 2,000 wild tigers, about three times their current level, but only if the government steps up efforts to control poaching, researchers said Monday.

The country’s Western Forest Complex, 6,900 square miles of protected jungle habitat, currently holds 720 tigers, according to a study by Thailand’s Department of National Park, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation and the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

The area could support nearly three times as many tigers, as long as the government keeps its remaining forests intact and strengthens its anti-poaching efforts.

27 Mexico planted 250 million trees in 2007: Calderon


Mon Dec 24, 2:33 PM ET

MEXICO CITY (AFP) – President Felipe Calderon on Sunday said Mexico in 2007 planted nearly 250 million trees, one fourth of the world total the UN Environment Program (UNEP) had set to combat climate change.

“We’re reaching the goal we set for ourselves that seemed so difficult to reach, of planting 250 million trees in Mexico,” Calderon told reporters as he planted a pine tree in the grounds of his official Los Pinos home in Mexico City.

Calderon, who in February joined the UNEP’s tree-planting initiative, said his government invested 540 million dollars in the reforestation program.

28 Child Care in First Two Years Greatly Affects IQ

LiveScience Staff

Mon Dec 24, 12:55 PM ET

How well children are cared for in their first two years directly affects brain development and IQ later in life, a new study finds.

Researchers studied abandoned young children in Romanian orphanages over time and found that those placed in foster care at younger ages had significantly higher IQ’s than those placed in foster care after the age of 2.

“Our findings suggest that there may be a sensitive period in the first two years of life in which experiences are especially important in shaping cognitive development,” said principal investigator Charles Zeanah, professor and chief of child psychiatry at Tulane University School of Medicine. “This work adds to a growing body of scientific evidence about the importance of early relationship experiences.”

29 Ancient Tsunami Lore Could Save Lives

Andrea Thompson, LiveScience Staff Writer

Mon Dec 24, 8:00 AM ET

The tsunami that struck the coasts of Thailand, India and Indonesia on December 26, 2004 caused very high mortality in the affected regions, with anywhere from 10 to 90 percent of local populations being killed depending on the location.

But a similarly intense tsunami that struck northern Papua New Guinea in 1930 caused a fraction of the deaths compared to the 2004 disaster, with only 0.1 percent to 1 percent of the coastal population being killed.

The key to this lower death toll were stories of tsunamis that had been passed down across the generations to the area residents, said tsunami researcher Simon Day, a visiting professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has been researching evidence of ancient tsunamis in Papua New Guinea.

From Yahoo News Technology

30 New Orleans gets a boost from NASA

By ALAN SAYRE, AP Business Writer

Mon Dec 24, 11:29 AM ET

NEW ORLEANS – The route to the moon and perhaps to Mars now goes through New Orleans – and the detour couldn’t come at a better time in the city’s struggle to rebuild its shattered economy after Hurricane Katrina.

With thousands of houses still in ruins and its population reduced by almost 170,000, a boost is on the way for New Orleans in the form of high-wage jobs and contracts for next-generation space systems at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility.

Before the storm, New Orleans’ economy thrived on low-wage tourism. But the $156 million payroll at Michoud – some salaries are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars – generates paychecks significantly above the city’s median annual income of about $27,000.


Skip to comment form

    • RiaD on December 26, 2007 at 15:06

    happy day after!

    hope santa was good to you & yours

    • nocatz on December 26, 2007 at 17:08

    coppers.  Bwahahahahha


  1. This guy decides who will be able to film documentaries at ancient sites in Egypt–And he shows up in all the documentaries filmed at ancient sites Egypt.  Coincidence?

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