Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

1 Hayden: Pakistan border poses danger

By HOPE YEN, Associated Press Writer

34 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – The situation in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan where al-Qaida has established a safe haven presents a “clear and present danger” to the West, the CIA director said Sunday.

Michael Hayden cited the belief by intelligence agencies that Osama bin Laden is hiding there in arguing that the U.S. has an interest in targeting the border region. If there were another terrorist attack against Americans, Hayden said, it would most certainly originate from that region.

“It’s very clear to us that al-Qaida has been able for the past 18 months or so to establish a safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border area that they have not enjoyed before, and that they’re bringing in operatives into the region for training,” he said.

2 Uncertain economy awaits next president

By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer

24 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain have diagnosed the swooning U.S. economy and have come up with rival plans to revive it. If the downturn lasts as long as some economists predict, one of the three will get a chance to try to sell his or her proposal to Congress as president.

Or if the economy hits bottom before Inauguration Day and then turns up, the victor may be handed a rare gift: the chance to begin a presidency presiding over the early stages of a rebound.

Take your pick. Who knows where the economy will be in nine and a half months?

As economic clouds darkened last week, all three candidates delivered major speeches on the economy while the Bush administration prepared a plan to give the Federal Reserve new regulatory powers over the financial system.

3 al-Sadr pulls fighters off Iraq streets

By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer

1 hour, 52 minutes ago

BAGHDAD – Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said Sunday that he was pulling his fighters off the streets nationwide and called on the government to stop raids against his followers and free them from prison.

The Iraqi government quickly welcomed al-Sadr’s apparent move to resolve a widening conflict with his movement, sparked Tuesday by operations against his backers in the oil-rich southern city of Basra.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a statement calling it “a step in the right direction.”

Al-Sadr’s nine-point statement was issued by his headquarters in the holy city of Najaf and broadcast through loudspeakers on Shiite mosques. It said the first point was: “taking gunmen off the streets in Basra and elsewhere.”

4 Zimbabwe warns opposition over victory claims

By MacDonald Dzirutwe, Reuters

46 minutes ago

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s opposition said on Sunday it had won the most crucial election since independence, but President Robert Mugabe’s government warned it that premature victory claims would be seen as an attempted coup.

Tendai Biti, secretary general of the main MDC opposition party, told diplomats and observers that early results showed it was victorious. “We have won this election,” he said.

Projections from 12 percent of the vote showed MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai winning 67 percent nationally, Biti said.

5 al Qaeda recruiting “western” fighters: CIA boss

By Alister Bull, Reuters

2 hours, 28 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Al Qaeda is training fighters that “look western” and could easily cross U.S. borders without attracting attention, CIA Director Michael Hayden said on Sunday.

The militant Islamist group has turned Pakistan’s remote tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan into a safe haven, and is using it to plot further attacks against the United States, Hayden said.

“They are bringing operatives into that region for training — operatives that wouldn’t attract your attention if they were going through the customs line at Dulles (airport outside Washington) with you when you were coming back from overseas,” Hayden said during an interview on NBC’s television show Meet the Press.

6 Tibet tense as Olympic torch heads for Beijing

By Lindsay Beck, Reuters

Sun Mar 30, 11:06 AM ET

BEIJING (Reuters) – Tibet’s capital Lhasa was calm on Sunday following a brief burst of unrest weeks after a bloody uprising against Chinese rule, but in Greece and Nepal flurries of pro-Tibet protest continued.

A small group of activists tried to stop the Olympic flame reaching the Athens stadium where Greece handed it to China, but they were quickly removed by police.

Details of an incident on the streets of Lhasa on Saturday remained unclear. A mobile text message to residents from police said security checks carried out earlier in the day had “frightened citizens” and caused panic in the city centre.

From Yahoo News World

7 Sweden closes doors to fleeing Iraqis

By LOUISE NORDSTROM, Associated Press Writer

3 minutes ago

SOLLENTUNA, Sweden – The fear of being sent back to Baghdad has taken its toll on Mustafa Aziz Alwi.

He says he cannot sleep and has lost about 20 pounds since his claim for asylum in Sweden was rejected in January.

“They told me it’s because it’s calmer in Iraq now, that I can go back and be happy. But they don’t know that it’s death there,” said Aziz Alwi, 25, wiping away tears in an interview at his cousin’s apartment in the Stockholm suburb of Sollentuna.

Had his case been decided a year earlier, he would probably already hold a residence permit. Sweden has given shelter to about 100,000 Iraqis, 40,000 of them since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. That’s far more than any other Western country including the U.S., which admitted just over 1,600 Iraqi refugees in the 2007 fiscal year, nearly 400 short of the annual goal of 2,000, and a big reduction from an initial target of 7,000.

8 Iraq fighting underscores power struggle

By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer 4 minutes ago

BAGHDAD – The Iraqi capital locked down by curfew. U.S. diplomats holed up their workplaces, fearing rocket attacks. Nearly every major southern city racked by turmoil. Hundreds killed in less than a week.

A declaration Sunday by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to pull his Mahdi Army fighters off the streets may help bring an end to the wave of violence that swept Baghdad and Shiite areas after the government launched a crackdown against militias in Basra.

That will ease the violence which has claimed more than 300 lives. But it won’t bring an end to the power struggle between Shiite parties that triggered the confrontation.

Nor will it ensure government control of Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city and headquarters of the vital oil industry.

9 Summit’s big question: Whither NATO?

By WILLIAM J. KOLE, Associated Press Writer

1 hour, 4 minutes ago

In Afghanistan, it is battling al-Qaida and Taliban. In newly independent Kosovo, it’s up against Serbian protesters armed with firebombs and grenades. And behind the scenes, it is helping to quell the violence in Iraq and to track down suspected war criminals in Bosnia.

NATO, its chief insists, has no ambitions to become a “global policeman.” But the military alliance born of the Cold War continues to grow and face new challenges.

At a summit Wednesday through Friday in Romania, President Bush and the leaders of NATO’s other 25 countries will discuss how to mobilize more troops to turn the tide in Afghanistan, and whether to get bigger and tougher at the risk of alienating Russia.

From Yahoo News U.S. News

10 Ballot shortages a continuing problem

By DEBORAH HASTINGS, AP National Writer

2 hours, 11 minutes ago

It’s a simple question with no simple answer: Why do polling places across America keep running out of ballots when it’s no secret that this contentious primary season keeps breaking voter turnout records?

For one, even the best-made plans have gone awry; officials in state after state have ordered more ballots, only to see turnouts exceed their most ambitious estimates.

Some states – California, for example – extended registration deadlines, in part to give would-be voters more time to sign up for the first Democratic presidential nomination race between a black man and a woman.

But some election officials say those extensions have necessitated a form of fortune telling when it comes to deciding how many ballots to order.

11 U.S. car companies go back to black

By David Bailey, Reuters

Sat Mar 29, 10:03 PM ET

DETROIT (Reuters) – Henry Ford, who created the automotive industry’s first mass-market hit with the Model T a century ago, was a proponent of radical simplicity.

In fact, Ford became famous for saying his customers could have the $825 Model T in any color — so long as it was black.

In the century since the first Model T in 1908, Ford’s vision of top-down efficiency has been swamped by thousands of feature and color combinations on new cars, trucks and SUVs.

The result, executives say, has been higher production and inventory costs and headaches for customers and dealers in sorting through a complex matrix of choices.

12 U.S. lawmakers willing rescuers in mortgage crisis

By Richard Cowan, Reuters

Sun Mar 30, 8:01 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The home mortgage crisis that has Wall Street and consumers worried about an economic meltdown is prompting many in the U.S. Congress to come to the rescue of hard-hit states that just happen to be crucial to their own election-year success.

Florida, Ohio, Michigan and California have some of the highest concentrations of home foreclosures. They also are vote-rich states that congressional and presidential candidates need to win in November’s elections.

“We’re waiting to see what kind of an impact this latest news is having on members (of Congress) from Ohio to Pennsylvania to Florida and elsewhere around the country,” said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. His state’s largest city, Las Vegas, claims the highest rate of home foreclosures in the country.

13 In 2008 race, US religious vote fragmenting

by Jitendra Joshi, AFP

1 hour, 10 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Republican Party and the religious right have been brothers-in-arms for nearly three decades, but values voters are fragmenting and Democrats are now refusing to cede the spiritual vote.

The alliance between the evangelical movement’s muscular Christianity and the God-fearing tub-thumping of the Republican right reached its apogee in President George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004.

But in this year’s history-making presidential election, the powerful coalition that propelled president Ronald Reagan and the “Moral Majority” to Washington in 1981 could be breaking up.

From Yahoo News Politics

14 Bush will not demand Germany send troops to Afghan south: report

AFP

Sat Mar 29, 4:17 PM ET

BERLIN (AFP) – US President George W. Bush will not demand Germany boost its NATO troop numbers in Afghanistan with deployments in the south, he said in a German newspaper interview partly released Saturday.

The interview with Die Welt comes ahead of a NATO summit in Bucharest next week where Germany is expected to come under pressure from other NATO allies to increase its commitments in Afghanistan.

In it Bush is asked if Washington expects Berlin to boost its presence in Afghanistan by deploying troops to the south, which has seen more fighting than the more peaceful north.

15 US jittery over Pakistan terror efforts: analysts

by Rana Jawad, AFP

1 hour, 6 minutes ago

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan’s new premier has vowed to tackle Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but the United States will remain nervous about the commitment of this frontline state in the “war on terror”, analysts say.

With the power of stalwart US ally President Pervez Musharraf eroding fast, Washington sent two special envoys to Islamabad last week in a bid to woo new Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his government.

Gilani, who is from the party of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, set out his policies to parliament on Saturday and said that rising Islamic militancy was the biggest threat to the nuclear-armed nation.

From Yahoo News Business

16 Fierce financial oversight debate on tap

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer

43 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – In proposing the broadest overhaul of financial oversight since the Great Depression, the Bush administration has kicked off a fierce debate. It pits those eager to revamp an antiquated system against an industry opposed to excessive regulation.

The administration is aware of the hardening lines. The 200-page plan set for release Monday comes with the financial system in the midst of the most severe credit crisis in two generations.

That crunch has meant billions of dollars of losses for big banks and investment houses. It has caused the near-collapse of the country’s fifth largest investment bank, made it harder for consumers and businesses to get loans and pushed the country to the brink of a recession.

17 Another jobs loss may sink stocks again

By MADLEN READ, AP Business Writer

1 hour, 1 minute ago

NEW YORK – Stocks may already be pricing in a recession, but they haven’t priced in a very deep one. If this week’s data on the job market and manufacturing are worse than Wall Street is anticipating, investors should not be surprised to see another tumble.

To be sure, the stock market is usually pretty adept at sizing up the economy. And many market experts are saying stocks may have already hit bottom. But considering how much mystery still surrounds the mortgage crisis – not to mention the fact that many analysts are starting to pare back their estimates for 2008 corporate profits – calling the stock market’s decline over is a bit premature.

Last week began with a rally and ended with a sell-off after a batch of economic readings gave investors little to cheer about. The Dow Jones industrial average finished the week down 1.17 percent, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index ended up 0.14 percent, and the Nasdaq composite index ended down 1.07 percent.

18 Lehman hit by $355 mln fraud, blames Marubeni-source

Reuters

Sun Mar 30, 2:50 AM ET

NEW YORK/TOKYO (Reuters) – Lehman Brothers (LEH.N) was fleeced out of more than $355 million in a fraud the U.S. investment bank believes was perpetrated by two employees at Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp. (8002.T), according to a person briefed on the matter.

The fraud may have hit other financial institutions as well, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

If Lehman’s arguments are true, the scamsters perpetrated one of the more sophisticated corporate con jobs since Enron set up a fake trading floor to impress analysts. Lehman believes the scam included forged documents and an imposter.

19 Stocks may trip on jobs, earnings view

By Kristina Cooke, Reuters

Sun Mar 30, 10:24 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Stocks may struggle to make headway this week, with jobs data expected to provide more evidence of recession and more companies likely to revise their guidance as the earnings reporting season approaches.

Investors will also keep a close eye on the credit markets to determine if the Federal Reserve’s actions to provide liquidity are taking effect, said John Praveen, chief investment strategist at Prudential International Investments Advisers LLC in Newark, New Jersey.

But, he said, after the near collapse of Bear Stearns Cos Inc (BSC.N), any evidence of similar issues at another bank could lead to a sharp sell-off.

20 Northern Rock results to reveal plunging profits: report

AFP

29 minutes ago

LONDON (AFP) – Nationalised British bank Northern Rock, which will post its annual results on Monday, was widely forecast to swing into the red because of the global credit crunch, the Sunday Times reported.

A spokesman for Northern Rock confirmed that the 2007 results would be published on Monday morning, months later than originally planned.

Northern Rock, which is based in the northeastern English city of Newcastle, faced the first run on a bank in living memory last September after the global credit squeeze forced it to request emergency loans from the Bank of England.

21 Markets brace for slump in Japanese business confidence

AFP

Sun Mar 30, 6:24 AM ET

TOKYO (AFP) – A key survey of corporate Japan is expected to show that business confidence has plunged to a four-year low on worries about high oil prices, a stronger yen and a weak US economy, analysts predict.

The Bank of Japan’s closely watched “Tankan” report, due out Tuesday, is likely to show companies are scaling back their profit forecasts and investment plans as a result of the tougher operating environment, they said.

“The deterioration of the profit environment, stemming from a slowdown in overseas economies and surging crude oil prices, as well as the appreciation of the yen, have dealt a huge blow to corporate sentiment,” Mitsubishi UFJ Securities senior economist Tatsushi Shikano said.

22 Extended strike at key supplier weighs on GM

by Joe Szczesny, AFP

Sun Mar 30, 6:51 AM ET

DETROIT, Michigan (AFP) – A month-long strike at a key General Motors’ supplier is hurting the automaker’s bottom line and may erode its US market share at the same time an economic slowdown is putting the skids on its restructuring program.

GM has been forced to close seven truck and sport utility assembly plants and 21 other facilities have been affected by the strike at former subsidiary American Axle and Manufacturing Holding Inc. which began February 26.

Hundreds of other workers employed by suppliers such as Lear Corp, Canada’s Magna International and Delphi Corp. also have been idled by the strike, which economists at Merrill Lynch have estimated could cut US economic growth by as much 0.2 percentage points.

From Yahoo News Science

23 Humane Society seeks sea lion injunction

By JOSEPH B. FRAZIER, Associated Press Writer

Sun Mar 30, 12:50 AM ET

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Humane Society of the United States wants a federal judge to prevent the capturing or killing of sea lions feasting on salmon a Columbia River dam.

The group said in a motion filed in U.S. District Court on Friday that agents could begin taking the sea lions as soon as next weekend, and asked for a permanent injunction. If the request is denied, the group said it would likely would seek a temporary restraining order to be effective before Friday.

In January, the National Marine Fisheries Service authorized the taking of up to 85 sea lions a year for five years from the Bonneville Dam, although it recommended a lower number.

24 New protest planned against rail tunnel through Italian Alps

AFP

Sat Mar 29, 9:40 PM ET

CHIOMONTE, Italy (AFP) – A multi-billion-euro project to bore a tunnel through the Italian Alps to create a high-speed rail link between Turin, Italy, and Lyon, France, will face a new protest on Sunday.

In Chiomonte, in northwestern Italy’s Susa Valley, diehard opponents of the project will line up to buy a symbolic square metre of land each along the route of the planned rail line.

More than 1,250 activists including ecologists, artists and intellectuals are involved in the initiative to oppose the tunnel, which has an estimated pricetag of 7.6 billion euros (12 billion dollars).

25 Negotiators gather to push new UN climate treaty

by Charlie McDonald-Gibson, AFP

Sun Mar 30, 2:47 AM ET

BANGKOK (AFP) – Negotiators from up to 180 countries began gathering here on Sunday for talks aimed at reaching the most ambitious treaty yet for sparing the Earth from the worst ravages of global warming.

The five-day talks, starting Monday, follow marathon negotiations in December on the Indonesian island of Bali where the world set a 2009 deadline for thrashing out a landmark pact to battle climate change.

The Bangkok meeting is the first step toward reaching that new agreement, which should take effect when commitments on cutting harmful greenhouse gas emissions under the existing Kyoto Protocol expire in 2012.

26 Thai temple fights off encroaching tide as world sea levels rise

by Charlie McDonald-Gibson, AFP

2 hours, 12 minutes ago

KHUN SAMUT CHIN, Thailand (AFP) – Crabs scuttle across the wet floor of the near-deserted Khun Samut temple, the only building left in a Thai village that has disappeared beneath the rising and advancing sea.

Waging a battle against an encroaching tide that has sent all the villagers fleeing inland, a monk in orange robes and faded tattoos meant to ward off evil spirits stalks the newly-built sea wall, planting mangrove shoots.

Somnuek Atipanya points 20 metres (65 feet) out to sea, where electricity pylons poke out of the water, now useful only for resting marine birds.

From Yahoo News Entertainment

27 TV, film actors’ unions sever ties

By ANDREW DALTON, Associated Press Writer

Sun Mar 30, 7:33 AM ET

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Unions representing film and television actors will negotiate separately with producers in upcoming contract talks after board members of the TV actors union voted Saturday to sever a long-standing agreement between the two guilds.

The vote by the board of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists came hours before a meeting with the Screen Actors Guild and just three months before the expiration of the contract covering movies and prime-time shows.

Despite a sometimes rocky 27-year relationship the unions had shown recent signs of peace as they prepared for the upcoming talks.

Some Loose Stuff From Yahoo News

Here are a couple of items that turned up after I completed my initial search-

28 Doctors wary after cholesterol drug flop

By MARILYNN MARCHIONE, AP Medical Writer

1 hour, 53 minutes ago

CHICAGO – Full results of a failed trial on Vytorin, a medicine taken by millions of Americans to lower cholesterol, left doctors stunned that the drug did not improve heart disease even though it worked as intended to lower three key risk factors.

Use of Vytorin and a related drug, Zetia, seemed sure to continue to fall after the findings reported Sunday and fresh questions about why drugmakers took nearly two years after the study ended to give results.

“A lot of us thought that there would be some glimmer of benefit,” said Dr. Roger Blumenthal, a Johns Hopkins University cardiologist and spokesman for the American Heart Association.

Many doctors were prescribing Vytorin without trying older, proven medications first, as guidelines advise. The key message from the study is “don’t do that,” Blumenthal said.

29 Zimbabwe opposition claims victory as results delayed

by Susan Njanji, AFP

55 minutes ago

HARARE (AFP) – The opposition claimed victory on Sunday in Zimbabwe’s general election as concerns mounted over a delay to the results of a contest which could see veteran President Robert Mugabe turfed out of office.

Despite warnings from Mugabe’s camp that pre-emptive declarations were to tantamount to a coup, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it had secured nearly all parliamentary seats in the two main cities.

However more than 24 hours after polls had closed, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had yet to release a single result from any of the 9,000 stations where votes were cast on Saturday for the president, lawmakers and councillors.

7 comments

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  1. The problem with finishing early is you are tempted to fuss.

  2. much faster…..

    pakistans nukes make it the ultimate faustian bargian……

    it is amusing to watch us bring about our own instability through the britleness of our approach to security…..

    • nocatz on March 30, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    guess where all the flooding in the Midwest is headed-

    hope the levees hold.

    http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis

  3. It has rained for two days, I am sneezing  and coughing because of allergies, and the dogs keep flopping and sighing dramatically.

    But my team is in the Final Four.

    • RUKind on March 31, 2008 at 4:23 am

    North and South Waziristan have already fallen to the Taliban/al Qaeda coalition. South Waziristan went first. Upon leaving Tora Bora the  thoroughly unified group moved into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. Follow the Wiki links to get an idea of the layout. No one, repeat no one, has ever conquered the area. That holds true from Alexander the Great to the British and Pakistanis.

    Check out the Khyber Pass on Google Earth for a look at how impossible the region is. From altitude you can see Kabul off to the west and Peshawar off to the east. Peshawar is  the administrative seat for the FATA provinces. Peshawar is in the process of falling. It is immediately to the west of Rawalpindi, home of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. But don’t worry. Bush has a Plan to secure those weapons. It was drafted by the same guy who gave us The Surge plan. So you can all just kick back. BushCo has it covered. Not to worry.

    On a serious note, it’d be a good idea to get familiar with the territory and history of the area. It’ll have a lot more to do with our future than Anbar Province, Fallujah or Basra. The Iraq War will become the good old days when the Pakistani nukes get loose.

    For some more resources try The Long War Journal. It appears to be run by a pretty gung-ho group but the data seems to be accurate. You can back check it against English-language Pakistan news outlets.

    Take a little time to do some research on this. It’d be nice to have an informed discussion about it on this site.

    Salaam.

    Peace.

    Shanti.

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