The Morning News

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1 Paulson admits U.S. economy in sharp decline


Tue Mar 18, 10:10 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Tuesday described the economy as being in “sharp decline,” the closest he has come yet to conceding an election-year recession has set in.

Appearing tired after a weekend of helping to broker a fire sale takeover of Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns to keep it from outright collapse, Paulson pushed back against efforts to have him admit a recession was under way.

“There’s no doubt that the American people know that the economy has turned down sharply. So to me much less important is the label that’s placed on it today. Much more important is what we do about it,” he told NBC’s Today Show.

2 Dalai Lama offers to resign, Tibet exiles say 19 more dead in China

by Nicolas Revise, AFP

Tue Mar 18, 11:45 AM ET

DHARAMSHALA, India (AFP) – The Dalai Lama said Tuesday he would resign as leader of Tibet’s exiles if unrest in his Himalayan homeland worsened, as aides said a Chinese crackdown had claimed 19 more lives.

The Buddhist leader, speaking in the northern Indian town where his exiled government is based, stressed he was opposed to the violence that erupted in Tibet last week, which saw Chinese shops and banks torched and smashed.

The Nobel Peace laureate, 72, said Tibetans and Chinese needed to live “side by side,” urged his countrymen not to resort to violence and reiterated he was not trying to wrest the remote region from Beijing’s control.

3 ‘State secrets’ privilege fuels surveillance bill battle

By Gail Russell Chaddock, The Christian Science Monitor

Tue Mar 18, 4:00 AM ET

Washington – House Democrats are hunkering down for a long siege with President Bush over his administration’s terrorist surveillance program.

Democrats are aiming to rein in the White House’s power to wiretap without a warrant and assert “state secrecy” in key court battles.

As Congress broke for a two-week recess last Friday, President Bush warned that the latest House version of the surveillance bill would “undermine America’s security.”

4 As crisis deepens, Fed steps up role

By Ron Scherer, The Christian Science Monitor

Tue Mar 18, 4:00 AM ET

New York – In the wake of the collapse of Bear Stearns, a top investment bank, the Federal Reserve is struggling to reestablish confidence in America’s financial system.

The US central bank is guaranteeing loans, taking questionable loans off the books of banks, and dropping interest rates at a near-record pace. Despite the Fed’s efforts, the credit markets remain wary. Most economists agree that the Fed has now moved from crisis prevention to crisis management, trying to limit any cascading effect from problems on Wall Street.

“This is like nothing I have ever seen before in 50 years of looking at the economy,” says Lyle Gramley, a former Fed governor. “We are in a very serious situation.”

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5 Some Wall St banks seen riskier than poor countries

By Peter Apps, Reuters

Tue Mar 18, 1:15 PM ET

LONDON (Reuters) – Turmoil and uncertainty over some of Wall Street’s best-known investment banks has left some facing rougher market conditions that price them as riskier than developing countries or banks in volatile areas of the world.

Seen for decades as the power brokers in emerging market finance, Wall St firms’ sudden underdog status points to the magnitude of fear surrounding them — and perhaps a degree of confidence in the longer-term stability of developing countries.

Shortly before it received a Federal Reserve-backed rescue package late last week, the cost of insuring the debt of U.S. bank Bear Stearns (BSC.N) was higher than that for banks in Kazakhstan, one trader said.

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6 Thickest, oldest Arctic ice is melting

By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent, Reuters

20 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The thickest, oldest and toughest sea ice around the North Pole is melting, a bad sign for the future of the Arctic ice cap, NASA satellite data showed on Tuesday.

“Thickness is an indicator of long-term health of sea ice, and that’s not looking good at the moment,” Walt Meier of the National Snow and Ice Data Center told reporters in a telephone briefing.

This adds to the litany of disturbing news about Arctic sea ice, which has been retreating over the last three decades, especially last year, when it ebbed to its lowest level.

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7 Workers uncovering mummified dinosaur

By BLAKE NICHOLSON, Associated Press Writer

1 hour, 14 minutes ago

BISMARCK, N.D. – Using tiny brushes and chisels, workers picking at a big greenish-black rock in the basement of North Dakota’s state museum are meticulously uncovering something amazing: a nearly complete dinosaur, skin and all.

Unlike almost every other dinosaur fossil ever found, the Edmontosaurus named Dakota, a duckbilled dinosaur unearthed in southwestern North Dakota in 2004, is covered by fossilized skin that is hard as iron. It’s among just a few mummified dinosaurs in the world, say the researchers who are slowly freeing it from a 65-million-year-old rock tomb.

“This is the closest many people will ever get to seeing what large parts of a dinosaur actually looked like, in the flesh,” said Phillip Manning, a paleontologist at Manchester University in England, a member of the international team researching Dakota.

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8 Mortar shells hit school near US Embassy

By AHMED AL-HAJ, Associated Press Writer

35 minutes ago

SAN’A, Yemen – Three mortar rounds targeting the U.S. Embassy crashed into a high school for girls next door Tuesday, killing a Yemeni security guard and wounding more than a dozen girls, officials said.

The State Department said U.S. Embassy officials in Yemen had concluded that the attack was “directed against our embassy.” U.S. officials refused to comment further, saying it was still under investigation.

The embassy issued a statement in Arabic saying none of its employees was wounded, adding that “we pray for the victims and their families.” The embassy closed for the rest of the day.

9 Artifact smuggling aids Iraq insurgents

By ELENA BECATOROS, Associated Press Writer

29 minutes ago

ATHENS, Greece – The smuggling of stolen antiquities from Iraq’s rich cultural heritage is helping finance Iraqi extremist groups, says the U.S. investigator who led the initial probe into the looting of Baghdad’s National Museum.

Marine Reserve Col. Matthew Bogdanos claimed both Sunni insurgents such as al-Qaida in Iraq and Shiite militias are receiving funding from the trafficking.

Bogdanos, a New York assistant district attorney, noted that kidnappings and extortion remain the insurgents’ main source of funds. But he said the link between extremist groups and antiquities smuggling in Iraq was “undeniable.”

10 China: Dalai Lama wants to sour Olympics

By AUDRA ANG, Associated Press Writers

Tue Mar 18, 4:14 PM ET

BEIJING – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao accused supporters of the Dalai Lama on Tuesday of organizing violent clashes in Tibet in hopes of sabotaging the Beijing Olympics and bolstering their campaign for independence in the Himalayan territory.

The Dalai Lama urged his followers to remain peaceful, saying he would resign as head of the Tibetan government-in-exile if violence got out of control. But he also suggested China may have fomented unrest in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa and nearby provinces to discredit him.

In striking an uncompromising line, Wen underscored the communist leadership’s determination to restore order in Tibet and Tibetan areas of neighboring provinces.

11 Calls mount for Olympic ceremony boycott

By JOHN LEICESTER, Associated Press Writer

1 hour, 15 minutes ago

PARIS – Moves to punish China over its handling of violence in Tibet gained momentum Tuesday, with a novel suggestion for a mini-boycott of the Beijing Olympics by VIPs at the opening ceremony.

Such a protest by world leaders would be a huge slap in the face for China’s Communist leadership.

France’s outspoken foreign minister, former humanitarian campaigner Bernard Kouchner, said the idea “is interesting.”

Kouchner said he wants to discuss it with other foreign ministers from the 27-nation European Union next week. His comments opened a crack in what until now had been solid opposition to a full boycott, a stance that Kouchner said remains the official government position.

12 Protests expose rifts among Tibetans

By GAVIN RABINOWITZ, Associated Press Writer

Tue Mar 18, 3:53 PM ET

DHARMSALA, India – Tibetan exiles saw a chance to put China on the spot ahead of the Beijing Olympics, but never expected their protests to spread to Tibet and turn violent. Now the Dalai Lama is threatening to quit if his people don’t return to peaceful resistance.

It’s a warning he has used before – telling Tibetans to return to peaceful protests during 1989 unrest – but this time it comes amid deep divisions within the Tibetan community between those who back his pacifist approach and an angry young generation that demands action.

While the situation inside Tibet remains unclear, much of the violence last week appears to have been committed by Tibetans against Han Chinese – a fact that troubles the 72-year-old Dalai Lama, who has long called for Tibetans to have significant autonomy within China.

13 NATO tightens grip on north Kosovo in police vacuum

By Matt Robinson and Branislav Krstic, Reuters

Tue Mar 18, 3:32 PM ET

MITROVICA, Kosovo (Reuters) – NATO troops in Kosovo patrolled the Serb stronghold of north Mitrovica alone on Tuesday after police withdrew following deadly Serb riots.

Kosovo Serb police followed U.N. officers in suspending normal duties in the Serb north of the flashpoint town, under orders from the NATO-led peacekeeping force and U.N. mission still in charge of the newly-independent state.

French, Belgian and Spanish troops in armored personnel carriers secured the area, and 150 U.S. troops were deployed on the southern, Albanian side of Mitrovica.

14 Kenya’s parliament backs power-sharing deal

By C. Bryson Hull and Wangui Kanina, Reuters

Tue Mar 18, 2:07 PM ET

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s parliament on Tuesday unanimously approved a power-sharing deal designed to end the post-election crisis that killed at least 1,000 people in the east African country.

Legislators passed the legal changes needed for a coalition government in which President Mwai Kibaki can bring in rival Raila Odinga as prime minister following their agreement last month.

Investors in Kenya’s economy — knocked hard by the crisis but still seen as being among Africa’s most promising — are keenly watching whether the deal will go through smoothly.

15 Iraq reconciliation talks hit by walkouts

By Waleed Ibrahim and Mohammed Abbas, Reuters

Tue Mar 18, 1:25 PM ET

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A conference to reconcile Iraq’s rival political parties fell apart almost as soon as it began on Tuesday, with influential Sunni and Shi’ite blocs pulling out in protest.

Hundreds of politicians gathered for the conference a day after U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, on a visit marking the fifth anniversary of the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, hailed what he called “phenomenal” political and security improvements.

The war has cost the United States $500 billion since it began. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and millions displaced. Almost 4,000 U.S. soldiers have also been killed in the war, a major issue in November’s U.S. presidential election.

16 US-Russia fail to end missile defence dispute

by Lachlan Carmichael, AFP

Tue Mar 18, 2:16 PM ET

MOSCOW (AFP) – The United States and Russia failed in talks here Tuesday to bridge gaps over US missile defence plans and the fate of the main strategic arms treaty, but vowed to make a clean break with past tensions.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, flanked by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, told reporters that both sides had made “steady progress” on work to combat nuclear terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

“We also discussed some contentious issues where we haven’t reached agreement as of now,” Lavrov said after two days of talks that also involved US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov.

“I’m talking primarily about missile defence and about the strategic arms reduction regime,” Lavrov said in a four-way press conference where all the participants grew stern at each mention of missile defence.

17 Historic gun rights case goes to US Supreme Court

by Kerry Sheridan, AFP

2 hours, 46 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The right of Americans to keep and use guns, an issue that has divided the political landscape for centuries, was taken up by the Supreme Court Tuesday for the first time in nearly 70 years.

Lawyers challenged the US capital’s restrictions on gun ownership, which aim to clamp down on murders and street violence, saying those laws infringed on the right of citizens to use weapons at home for self-defense.

The nine justices argued during the hearing over whether the right to “keep and bear arms,” as described in the constitution, is an individual or a collective right, and whether the capital’s regulations on gun-carrying were “reasonable.”

18 Cheney again links Iraq invasion to 9/11 attacks as bombing victims are buried

By Hannah Allam and Laith Hammoudi, McClatchy Newspapers

2 hours, 18 minutes ago

BAGHDAD – Amid tears and wails, mourners in the southern city of Najaf on Tuesday began burying victims from a suicide bombing that killed nearly 50 worshipers and injured dozens of others just before evening prayers Monday in nearby Karbala .

In Baghdad , a long-anticipated Iraqi national reconciliation conference began with great fanfare, then quickly dissolved into the usual sectarian and political stalemates that have marred several similar gatherings in recent years.

But Vice President Dick Cheney gave an upbeat view of conditions in Iraq as he concluded his unannounced trip to mark the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion. Cheney also defended the toppling of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as part of the struggle against terrorism following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

19 Kenyan civic leaders organized ethnic violence, rights group says

By Shashank Bengali, McClatchy Newspapers

Mon Mar 17, 4:54 PM ET

NAIROBI, Kenya – A leading human rights group said Monday that Kenyan political and business leaders plotted much of the country’s recent ethnic violence, and it urged the new coalition government to bring the organizers to justice.

New York -based Human Rights Watch found evidence that hundreds of people were killed in planned ethnic attacks following the disputed presidential election in December. In many cases, the group said, the attacks were planned and financed by prominent civic leaders, although the group didn’t directly implicate any top national politicians.

In a report titled “Ballots to Bullets,” the group also charged that Kenyan police used excessive force to break up demonstrations in opposition strongholds, fatally shooting hundreds of people, including children.

20 Could longtime Zimbabwean leader be defeated?

By Shashank Bengali, McClatchy Newspapers

Tue Mar 18, 4:16 PM ET

MASVINGO, Zimbabwe – Few people in this long-suffering nation can recall political life before Robert Mugabe , the liberation hero who moved into the presidential mansion 28 years ago and has never left.

Despite presiding over one of the most stunning economic collapses in modern African history, Mugabe has held on to power through fear, bullying and a series of less-than-fair elections. But with the next vote just days away, many weary Zimbabweans are asking: Could Mugabe finally be defeated?

The 84-year-old president faces his toughest election challenge ever March 29 , including, for the first time, a contender from within his all-powerful ruling party. The entry of Simba Makoni , a polished former finance minister, into the race last month prompted a flood of people to register to vote. Many Zimbabweans think that the end is nigh for one of Africa’s longest-running dictatorships.

21 Pakistan’s new leaders declare ‘last day of dictatorship’

By Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers

Mon Mar 17, 6:00 PM ET

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan’s newly elected National Assembly met for the first time Monday and delivered an immediate rebuff to Pervez Musharraf , setting up a head-on clash between the elected assembly and the unpopular U.S.-backed president.

With the incoming government committed to restoring the judges who were fired by Musharraf and stripping the powers of the presidency, a battle seems inevitable in which Washington may find itself on the losing side. Critics said Musharraf is unwilling to retreat to the figurehead role prescribed for the president in Pakistan’s original constitution.

“The conspiracies of the (presidential) palace will be fought with the strength of parliament,” said Ahmed Mukhtar , a possible candidate for the post of prime minister from the Pakistan People’s Party , just before the assembly met. “We have the numbers to do whatever we want.”

22 Foreboding rises on Tibetan plateau as China gathers forces

By Tim Johnson, McClatchy Newspapers

Tue Mar 18, 2:44 PM ET

LITANG, China ? High on the Tibetan Plateau , an eerie quiet has settled on the usually bustling city of Litang. Few shops open their doors. Only police vehicles and packs of dogs roam the streets.

The city is under police lockdown. Convoys of troops whirr by, some with flashing lights. Most residents stay indoors. A massive paramilitary buildup appears under way in the region, but no one knows where or when it might unleash its force.

As in many Chinese cities with heavy ethnic Tibetan populations, authorities in Litang are racing to prevent new racial riots after a week of bloody clashes in Tibet and several neighboring provinces. Since early Monday, they’ve banned private vehicles from the streets and ordered store owners to close up.

23 Mexico Braces for an Oil War


2 hours, 20 minutes ago

Angelic children stare at rolling waves as a deep voice booms out the wonders of petroleum. “Mexico has a great treasure, a treasure hidden below the bottom of the sea,” the narrator says soothingly above joyous music. “But the world now confronts a new reality.” Suddenly, the watcher is bombarded with graphics explaining deep sea drilling in terms fifth graders might understand; the oil is at a depth 30 times greater than Mexico’s highest building; the pressure is like 60 trucks weighing on a can of soda. As the music reaches a dramatic finale, the narrator hits the punch line as if in a preview for a blockbuster movie: “Reaching our oil is one of the biggest challenges of our time,” he says. “And Mexico has to take the necessary actions to achieve it.”

That five-minute spot being beamed out night after night on prime time TV is part of a campaign by President Felipe Calderon to sell foreigners a piece of Mexico’s most sacred cow: the state-owned oil monopoly. Tuesday marks 70 years since the country nationalized its oil fields that were drilled by U.S. and British companies, but Calderon wants to bring back foreign oil companies by allowing some private investment in the industry. And his proposal has sparked a debate whose pitch nears hysteria on all sides of the political spectrum: Conservatives scream that Mexico’s economy will collapse unless it takes action; while rabble-rousing leftists warn that a corrupt government wants to sell the nation’s patrimony to the gringos.

24 Tibet and the Ghosts of Tiananmen


1 hour, 1 minute ago

It is still nearly five months before the Olympic torch is to be lit in Beijing, officially starting the 29th summer Olympics. But diplomats in the Chinese capital believe that a high-level game of chicken has already begun, one that has now turned deadly – first, in Lhasa, the capital of what China calls the Tibet Autonomous Region, and now elsewhere, according to Tibetan exiles and human rights groups.

Yesterday, in China’s Sichuan province, at least eight bodies were brought to a Buddhist monastery in Aba prefecture, allegedly shot dead by Chinese riot control police, according to an eyewitness account quoted by Radio Free Asia. The escalating confrontation in and around Tibet is a nightmare for China’s top leadership, but one, some diplomats believe, that could not have taken anyone in the central government completely by surprise. It pits the leadership in Beijing against its domestic opponents – who include not only Tibetan dissidents, but also separatist groups in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang, as well as human rights and political activists throughout the country.

25 The Dalai Lama’s Dilemma


1 hour, 7 minutes ago

Who’d want to be the Dalai Lama? Bearing the burden of an entire people’s frustration, anger and despair over half a century can’t be easy at the best of times for their exiled spiritual leader. But since the anti-Chinese demonstrations began in and outside Tibet on March 10, the Dalai Lama has found himself confronting a swelling tide of opposition and defiance from within his community. So, on the one hand, he has to contend with Beijing calling him the mastermind of the violent protests in Lhasa, and to walk a diplomatic tightrope with the Indian authorities that host his government-in-exile but value their relationship with China; on the other hand he has to try and rein in the more violent and provocative elements among Tibetans whose actions, he fears, will damage his people’s cause.
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26 Toxic mud is being removed in Montana

By SUSAN GALLAGHER, Associated Press Writer

Tue Mar 18, 3:45 PM ET

MILLTOWN, Mont. – Every evening, a 45-car train rumbles away from the Clark Fork River, loaded not with copper, gold or silver ore, but with the toxic legacy of more than a century of mining: tons of contaminated mud from behind an old dam.

Workers are removing 2.2 million cubic yards of the muck – and dismantling the 101-year-old Milltown Dam – in a breathtakingly scenic part of Montana trout-fishing country celebrated in Norman Maclean’s novel “A River Runs Through It.”

For decades, metals released into the river by mining and ore-processing in the Butte area collected downstream in the sediment behind the hydroelectric dam, where the toxins are now threatening fish and polluting drinking water in the ground below.

27 Ranger’s trial in comrade’s death begins

By BEN NUCKOLS, Associated Press Writer

2 hours, 15 minutes ago

ROCKVILLE, Md. – A soldier accused of murdering his roommate – a fellow Ranger who served with him in Afghanistan – went to trial Tuesday in a case that will touch on how combat affected both men psychologically.

Spc. Michael A. McQueen II died of a single gunshot to the right temple in September 2006, in the apartment he began sharing with Sgt. Gary Smith just 20 days earlier.

Smith threw the weapon, a .38-caliber revolver, into a nearby lake before calling 911. He was covered in McQueen’s blood and had gunshot residue on his hands when he was arrested, and prosecutor John Maloney said he repeatedly changed his story to investigators.

28 US pharmacy chain CVS fined for dispensing pricier drug


Tue Mar 18, 3:39 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US pharmacy group, CVS Caremark Corporation, has agreed to pay 36.7 million dollars to settle a government probe that it improperly dispensed a pricier drug to patients, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

The Justice Department said that CVS switched patients from a tablet version of the prescription drug ranitidine, the generic version of Zantac, to a more expensive capsule version.

Officials claimed CVS did this, between 2000 and 2006, to gain bigger government reimbursements related to patients who receive government assistance to pay for their drugs.

29 Bush Faces New Economic Legacy


Tue Mar 18, 3:45 PM ET

Less than a year ago, when business was booming and Iraq was in free fall, George W. Bush could only dream that the economy would be the most important issue to Americans. At speeches and in interviews, he seized any chance to change the subject to the record economic expansion and job growth on his watch. When asked by Fox’s Neil Cavuto in late January 2007 about his father’s public outburst against the media’s focus on Iraq in the face of good economic numbers, the President said, “What I’m more concerned about than anything is, is whether or not people are putting more money in their pocket… I really don’t worry about what people are saying about me.”

30 Foreclosed Homes: A Local Blight


Tue Mar 18, 3:45 PM ET

The peach-colored house in a modest subdivision near downtown Modesto, Calif., used to be someone’s dream home. But it stands out in a row of similarly hued homes where many have a “For Sale” sign planted in their front yards. The two-story appears battered: its address has been scratched on a front panel and weeds choke what may once have been a manicured lawn. And then there is the overwhelming stench of human waste and stale beer. There has been no electricity and no running water since the bank repossessed it months ago. Still, at least three young men have been squatting here since January. The dream home has become a nightmare.
From Yahoo News Politics

31 McCain mistaken on Iran and al-Qaida

By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU, Associated Press Writer

Tue Mar 18, 4:53 PM ET

AMMAN, Jordan – Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting, mistakenly said Tuesday that Iran was allowing al-Qaida fighters into the country to be trained and returned to Iraq.

McCain, expressing concern about Iran’s rising sway in the Mideast, said, “Al-Qaida is going back into Iran and is receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran.” He made the comments Tuesday at a news conference in Jordan; he made similar comments earlier to radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt.

Iran is a predominantly Shiite Muslim country and has been at pains to close its borders to al-Qaida fighters of the rival Sunni sect.

32 Bush says confident of economy’s long-term health


Tue Mar 18, 3:04 PM ET

JACKSONVILLE, Florida (Reuters) – President George W. Bush on Tuesday said he remains confident in the long-term health of the U.S. economy despite facing what he called a “challenging time” of stresses and strains.

Bush spoke at the Jacksonville port at the same time the Federal Reserve was slashing a key interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point as part of an effort to hold off a deep recession and avert financial meltdown.

He said the Fed and the U.S. Treasury Department were closely monitoring the situation in the financial markets that if further action were needed it would be done “in a way that does not damage the long-term health of our economy.”

33 Divided Fed delivers rate cut of three-quarters of a point

by Rob Lever, AFP

Tue Mar 18, 4:22 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Federal Reserve slashed key interest rates three-quarters of a point Tuesday, lowering the federal funds rate to 2.25 percent, the latest move in an all-out effort to fight a mushrooming credit crisis.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) was divided, voting 8-2 in favor of the rate cut and issuing a statement that highlighted inflation risks. Still, many analysts said the Fed left the door open to further cuts if needed.

Stock markets rallied strongly amid hopes the Fed action would revive a sputtering US economy and ease a global credit crunch. The Dow Jones industrials surged 3.5 percent or 420 points.

34 After Iraq, Cheney in Oman for Iran-focused talks

by Olivier Knox, AFP

Tue Mar 18, 2:47 PM ET

MUSCAT, Oman (AFP) – Fresh from a two-day surprise visit to Iraq, US Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in Oman late Tuesday for talks set to focus on containing Iran’s influence and curbing its suspect nuclear program.

Cheney was to hold talks with Sultan Qaboos after working to rally top Iraqi political leaders behind plans for a US-Iraq long-term security pact and push them on legislation seen as key to quelling sectarian strife.

In the city of Arbil on the eve of the Iraq war’s fifth anniversary, Cheney pushed a key Iraqi Kurd leader to back the long-range strategic partnership and work to pass laws to govern oil revenue sharing and upcoming elections.

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35 NYC to probe if Bear Stearns deceived investors

By Joan Gralla, Reuters

2 hours, 30 minutes ago

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City’s comptroller, who helps oversee the city’s pension funds, on Tuesday said he will investigate whether the failure of Bear Stearns & Co was due to miscalculation or deception, which could trigger a lawsuit to recover losses.

The drop in Bear Stearns’ share price has resulted in a loss for the city’s public pension funds of about $10 million, City Comptroller William Thompson told Reuters in a phone interview.

“I think a lot of people are going to be taking a look. … Was there some deception in there or was this just a miscalculation?” Thompson, a Democrat, said when asked about a possible lawsuit against Bear Stearns.

36 AFP and Dow Jones announce news supply deal


1 hour, 28 minutes ago

PARIS (AFP) – Agence France-Presse on Tuesday announced a major deal to supply international news to Dow Jones and Company, the global financial news provider.

Separately, Dow Jones said it would not renew an existing news accord with the Associated Press news agency.

Neither company gave the terms of the deal, under which AFP said it will provide worldwide political and general news services to Dow Jones Newswires in English, French and German.

37 Yahoo paints profitable future to back Microsoft rejection


Tue Mar 18, 4:01 PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Yahoo on Tuesday assured investors the firm’s revenues will soar to 8.8 billion dollars by 2010 and that it is smart to resist Microsoft’s 44.6-billion-dollar takeover offer.

Yahoo predicts boom times ahead for the struggling Internet company in a three-year financial and strategic plan that its board of directors factored into its decision to reject Microsoft’s cash-and-stock bid in February.

From Yahoo News Science

38 Group: Humpback whale calves make sounds

Associated Press

2 hours, 29 minutes ago

HONOLULU – Researchers say they have shown for the first time that humpback whale calves make sounds. The nonprofit Cetos Research Organization, which studied humpbacks off Maui and Kauai, say the grunts and squeals emitted by the young whales are messages for their mothers.

Ann Zoidis, director of the research project, said the sounds may be expressions of curiosity or warnings of potential danger.

The sounds are not as complex as the continuous, repetitive and highly structured phrases and themes of older males, the researchers found.

39 Sea lions at Ore. dam sentenced to death

By JOSEPH B. FRAZIER, Associated Press Writer

2 hours, 20 minutes ago

PORTLAND, Ore. – Traps, pyrotechnics and beanbags shot at sea lions have failed to deter the annual springtime feast of threatened salmon at a Columbia River dam, so federal authorities gave some of them a death sentence on Tuesday.

The National Marine Fisheries Service authorized Oregon and Washington officials to first attempt to catch the sea lions that arrive at the base of the Bonneville Dam and hold them 48 hours to see whether an aquarium, zoo or similar facility will take them. Otherwise, they could be euthanized, along with those that avoid trapping.

About 60 of the California sea lions, identified by branding, scars or other markings, were deemed the worst offenders and qualify for “immediate removal.”

40 Tiny Mexican porpoise near extinct from fish nets

By Tomas Sarmiento, Reuters

Tue Mar 18, 1:28 PM ET

SAN FELIPE, Mexico (Reuters) – The vaquita, a tiny stubby-nosed porpoise found only in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, is on the brink of extinction as more die each year in fishing nets than are being born, biologists say.

A drop in vaquita numbers to as few as 150 from around 600 at the start of the decade could see the famously shy animal go the same way as the Chinese river dolphin, which was declared all but extinct in 2006.

“The urgency now is to prevent the vaquita becoming extinct,” Omar Vidal, the WWF conservation group’s director in Mexico, told Reuters in San Felipe, a fishing town in the upper Gulf of California, or Sea of Cortez, where the vaquitas live.

41 Beijing shrouded in dust as sandstorm besieges capital


Tue Mar 18, 1:08 PM ET

BEIJING (AFP) – Air pollution in Beijing reached its highest level on Tuesday as a sandstorm from the north shrouded the capital in dust, choking pedestrians and delaying flights, the government and reports said.

Air pollution measured between levels four and five at monitoring stations throughout the capital, according to the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau’s website.

Level five represents the worst air quality under the bureau’s monitoring system and automatically triggers warnings for people to stay indoors and refrain from outdoor activities.

42 Park manager arrested over gorilla deaths: govt

Tue Mar 18, 4:03 PM ET

GOMA, DRCongo (AFP) – A senior manager at a world heritage African wildlife park was arrested Tuesday as an investigation into the killing of 10 rare mountain gorillas gathered pace, a government minister said.

Honore Mashagiro, a member of the Congolese nature conservation institute, was arrested in Goma, Nord-Kivu, Environment Minister Felicite Kalume told AFP.

He is accused of “orchestrating” the killing of the animals, in the Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2007. Another two of them are missing.

43 Life becomes more and more complex, evolution study finds


Tue Mar 18, 12:21 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Life, as it evolves, becomes increasingly complex and rarely less so, a study of evolution by British and Canadian researchers has found.

In the study out Monday researchers looked back 550 million years in the fossil catalogue from today, checking several evolutionary branches of the crustacean family tree to see where animals evolved that became simpler than their ancestors.

But instead they found organisms that developed increasingly complicated structures and characteristics.

44 Space Shuttle to Return Pallet Full of History

Robert Z. Pearlman,

Tue Mar 18, 1:45 PM ET

Its purpose now served, the shipping pallet used to launch and then configure a Canadian two-armed robot for the International Space Station (ISS) will be reinstalled into space shuttle Endeavour’s payload bay on Tuesday, in preparation for returning it to Earth.

Modified to support the Canadian Space Agency’s Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM), or Dextre robot, this Spacelab Logistics Pallet (SLP) was making its fourth and final flight to space, concluding a long history that can be traced back before the first shuttle left the launch pad.

The pallet is not the only item making the roundtrip from the Earth to the space station and back. Stowed on-board Endeavour’s middeck is a collection of soon-to-be space artifacts, ranging from a few hundred mission patches to a celebrity’s playbill title page.

45 New Clues to the Most Amazing Shapes in Space

Andrea Thompson, Staff Writer,

Tue Mar 18, 7:15 AM ET

The term “planetary nebula” has always been a misnomer, but these spectacular clouds of dust and gas may actually have something to do with planets after all, astronomers have found.

When astronomers discovered these celestial objects 300 years ago, they couldn’t tell what they were and so named them for the resemblance they had to the planet Uranus as seen through early, relatively crude telescopes. But by the mid-19th century, it was realized that they were actually great clouds of dust emitted by dying stars.

Now, researchers at the University of Rochester have found that low-mass stars or possibly even giant gas planets orbiting these aged stars could be pivotal in creating some of the nebulae’s unusual shapes.

46 Arctic Ice Returns, Thin and Tentative

Andrea Thompson, LiveScience Staff Writer

Tue Mar 18, 1:40 PM ET

Arctic ice has reformed rapidly this winter after a record summer low, but it still covers less of the Arctic Ocean than it did in previous decades, NASA scientists announced today in an update of the states of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice.

March is the month where Arctic sea ice traditionally hits its highest extent after the Northern Hemisphere winter and Antarctic sea ice reaches its lowest extent. NASA satellites have monitored sea ice coverage over both poles for nearly 40 years.

Arctic sea ice reached a record low this past summer, with 23 percent less sea ice cover than the previous record low and 39 percent less than the average amount that has previously spanned the Arctic Ocean in the summer months.

47 Ethanol Production Will Worsen ‘Dead Zone’

Andrea Thompson, LiveScience Staff Writer

Tue Mar 18, 12:21 PM ET

Increasing production of corn-based ethanol to meet alternative fuel goals will worsen the “dead zone” that plagues the Gulf of Mexico, according to a new study that adds to the growing list of concerns over the fuel.

Each year, spring runoff washes nitrogen-rich fertilizers from farms in the Mississippi River basin and carries them into the river and the streams that feed it. The nitrogen eventually empties out of the mouth of the Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico, where tiny phytoplankton feed off of it and spread into an enormous bloom.

When these creatures die, they sink to the ocean floor, and their decomposition strips the water of oxygen. This condition, called hypoxia, prevents animals that depend on oxygen, such as fish or shrimp, from living in those waters. In recent years, this so-called “dead zone” has grown to the size of New Jersey-about 20,000 square kilometers (7,700 square miles)-each summer.

48 Ancient Greek Outpost Discovered, Spectacularly Preserved

Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Staff Writer

Tue Mar 18, 10:31 AM ET

Long before Homer wrote the Iliad, the real-life progenitors of the epic poem’s characters might have visited a small outpost on the Greek coast.

Archaeologists have discovered a spectacularly preserved ancient harbor town of the Mycenaeans, the civilization on which many ancient Greek legends were based. Though the settlement was built 3,500 years ago, hundreds of walls are still standing.

The site, which is partially underwater, lies along a rocky, isolated stretch of shoreline. Scientists suspect it may have been built as a military outpost.


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    • RiaD on March 19, 2008 at 14:18

    thanks for doing this!

    I gen’ly only read the last few articles, so that my day doesn’t start out being infuriated at the world…

    Thank you for always having a couple of interesting articles i can read AND maintain my thin layer of calm…at least for a little while, before the whole world comes crshing in.

    • on March 19, 2008 at 14:31
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