The Morning News is an Open Thread
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1 McCain backs off his no-new-tax pledge
By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 11 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON – Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s signal that he may be open to a higher payroll tax for Social Security, despite previous vows not to raise taxes of any kind, is drawing sharp rebukes from conservatives.
McCain’s shift has come in stages, catching some Republicans by surprise. Speaking with reporters on his campaign bus on July 9, he cited a need to shore up Social Security. “I cannot tell you what I would do, except to put everything on the table,” he said.
He went a step farther Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” in response to a question about payroll tax increases.
2 Ted Stevens indicted, longest-serving GOP senator
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer
34 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON – Sen. Ted Stevens, the nation’s longest-serving Republican senator and a major figure in Alaska politics since before statehood, was indicted Tuesday on seven felony counts of concealing more than a quarter of a million dollars in house renovations and gifts from a powerful oil contractor that lobbied him for government aid.
Stevens, 84, is the first sitting U.S. senator to face federal indictment since 1993. He declared, “I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that.”
He is accused of lying on his annual Senate financial disclosure reports between 1999 and 2006 – an indictment that caps a lengthy FBI investigation that has upended Alaska politics and brought unfavorable attention to both Stevens and his congressional colleague, GOP Rep. Don Young. Both are running for re-election this year.
3 Olympic panel ends ban, says Iraq can go to games
By FRANK JORDANS, Associated Press Writer
28 minutes ago
|LAUSANNE, Switzerland – The International Olympic Committee agreed Tuesday to allow Iraq to participate in the Beijing games, reversing itself after Baghdad pledged to ensure the independence of its national Olympics panel.
The decision followed last-minute talks between Iraqi officials and the IOC ahead of Wednesday’s deadline to submit competitors’ names for track and field events. The Olympics begin Aug. 8.
Iraq is now expected to send two athletes to Beijing to compete in track and field. The decision came too late for five other hopefuls in archery, judo, rowing and weightlifting. The deadline to submit names for those sports expired last week.
4 NBA scandal: Corrupt ref gets 15-month sentence
By TOM HAYS, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jul 29, 5:14 PM ET
|NEW YORK – Disgraced ex-NBA official Tim Donaghy admitted that he’d brought shame on his profession Tuesday as a federal judge sentenced him to 15 months behind bars for a gambling scandal that still has the league on the defensive.
U.S. District Judge Carol Amon sentenced Donaghy to prison time plus three years of supervised release, saying he’d let the sport down by taking thousands of dollars from a professional gambler in exchange for inside tips on games – including ones he refereed.
“The NBA, the players and the fans relied on him to perform his job in an honest manner,” Amon said. Donaghy listened with his arms folded but showed no emotion.
5 S&P: Home prices drop by record 15.8 pct. in May
By J.W. ELPHINSTONE, AP Business Writer
Tue Jul 29, 11:22 AM ET
|NEW YORK – Home prices tumbled by the steepest rate ever in May, according to a closely watched housing index released Tuesday, as the housing slump deepened nationwide.
The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city index dropped by 15.8 percent in May compared with a year ago, a record decline since its inception in 2000. The 10-city index plunged 16.9 percent, its biggest decline in its 21-year history.
No city in the Case-Shiller 20-city index saw price gains in May, the second straight month that’s happened. The monthly indices have not recorded an overall home price increase in any month since August 2006.
6 Bennigan’s files for bankruptcy protection
By LAUREN SHEPHERD, AP Business Writer
2 hours, 36 minutes ago
|NEW YORK – Restaurant chains Bennigan’s and Steak & Ale have filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and stores owned by its parent company will shut their doors.
The companies owned by privately held Metromedia Restaurant Group of Plano, Texas, filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday in the Eastern District of Texas, less than two months after Metromedia said it was not preparing to do so. Metromedia Restaurant Group is a part of Metromedia Co., owned by billionaire John Kluge, that has interests in entertainment, radio stations and medical equipment.
In a Chapter 7 filing, a company seeks to liquidate its assets and shut down.
7 Marathon WTO talks collapse in U.S.-India farm row
By Jonathan Lynn and Doug Palmer, Reuters
Tue Jul 29, 4:18 PM ET
|GENEVA (Reuters) – Marathon talks on a new global trade pact collapsed on Tuesday as the United States and India refused to compromise over a proposal to help poor farmers deal with floods of imports.
Ministers from other countries expressed incredulity that the trade liberalization talks could have foundered in their ninth day over a technical measure to restrict imports.
“Someone coming from another planet would not believe that after the progress made, we would not be able to conclude,” Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said.
8 Karadzic supporters clash with police in Belgrade
By Ivana Sekularac, Reuters
2 hours, 12 minutes ago
|BELGRADE (Reuters) – Police fired tear gas to break up scuffles with youths during a demonstration by hardline Serbian nationalists in support of war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic on Tuesday.
Karadzic’s legal team meanwhile worked on its campaign to block the former Bosnian Serb leader’s extradition to an international tribunal to answer charges of genocide for his actions in the 1992-95 Bosnia war.
He was arrested last week in Serbia after 11 years on the run, most recently living under an assumed name as a bearded, long-haired alternative healer.
9 Mixed ruling on controversial Florida gun law
By Michael Peltier, Reuters
2 hours, 5 minutes ago
|TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) – Florida employers cannot bar their employees from keeping guns locked in their cars at work but businesses can stop customers from keeping firearms in cars while shopping, a U.S. judge has ruled.
Both gun advocates and business groups claimed victory in a legal battle over guns and property rights following the ruling on Monday on a challenge to Florida’s so-called “take-your-guns-to-work” law, which took effect on July 1.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle upheld a provision of the controversial law that allows employees holding a state-issued concealed weapons permit to keep a gun locked in their vehicle in the parking lot.
10 Three senators call for EPA chief to resign
By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent, Reuters
1 hour, 37 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic senators called on Tuesday for the resignation of Stephen Johnson, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying he sided with polluters instead of fighting global warming and other ecological problems.
The three senators, all active in the climate change debate, also asked the U.S. attorney general to investigate whether Johnson has made false or misleading statements in sworn testimony before the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee.
“Mr. Johnson has consistently chosen special interests over the American people’s interests in protecting health and safety,” Sen. Barbara Boxer of California told reporters. “He has become a secretive and dangerous ally of polluters and we cannot stand by and allow more damage to be done.”
11 Wall Street analysts see bigger 2008 loss for Merrill
By Sweta Singh, Reuters
Tue Jul 29, 9:17 AM ET
|BANGALORE (Reuters) – Several analysts, including Oppenheimer’s Meredith Whitney, widened their loss view on Merrill Lynch (MER.N), after the Wall Street investment bank and brokerage said it will take a $5.7 billion third-quarter writedown as it unloads risky debt and raises $8.5 billion in capital.
The announcement follows Merrill’s second-quarter loss of $4.9 billion, hurt by more than $9 billion in write-downs. Merrill has already recorded billions of dollars of writedowns from subprime mortgages and risky debt.
The $8.5 billion fund-raising efforts will include Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings (TEM.UL) investing an additional $900 million into Merrill Lynch.
12 Bush nudges China on rights ahead of Olympics
Tue Jul 29, 3:56 PM ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President George W. Bush urged China’s leadership on Tuesday to use the Beijing Olympics to show a commitment to human rights, the White House said, as he nudged his Chinese hosts about U.S. concerns 10 days before attending the games’ opening ceremonies.
Under pressure from U.S. lawmakers and advocacy groups to take a stronger stand on China’s rights record, Bush — who has repeatedly said he is going to the Olympics for sports and not for politics — held separate meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Chinese democracy activists.
He used his talks with five activists to “discuss his concerns about human rights in China,” the White House said in a statement. “The president assured them that he will carry the message of freedom as he travels to Beijing for the games, just as he has regularly made this a priority in all of his meetings with Chinese officials.
13 Billionaire investor Pickens dumps Yahoo stock: report
30 minutes ago
|SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Influential US investor T. Boone Pickens told a major California newspaper that he has dumped millions of shares of Yahoo stock at a loss.
In a San Francisco Chronicle interview published Tuesday, the billionaire said Yahoo executives’ handling of failed takeover talks with Microsoft was “pathetic” and that he is tired of waiting for a deal to come together.
Pickens did not disclose how much money he lost speculating on a Yahoo-Microsoft tie-up but the price of Yahoo shares has slipped several dollars since May, the month Pickens says he acquired the shares.
14 BP profits jump on back of record high oil prices
by Ben Perry, AFP
Tue Jul 29, 1:48 PM ET
|LONDON (AFP) – British energy giant BP said Tuesday its net profit rallied by 28 percent to 9.47 billion dollars (6.02 billion euros) in the second quarter, when oil prices surged to record highs.
BP’s revenue soared by 49 percent to 111 billion dollars in the three months to June 30 compared with a year earlier as gas prices also surged, but production was flat at 3.83 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.
At a press conference to discuss the results, chief executive Tony Hayward also vowed to defend BP’s rights in the face of “intimidation” and “strong-arm tactics” from Moscow regarding the Anglo-Russian joint venture TNK-BP.
15 Bomb attacks in Iraq kill at least 56
by Salam Faraj, AFP
Mon Jul 28, 3:20 PM ET
|BAGHDAD (AFP) – Three women bombers blew themselves up on Monday in a crowd of Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad, one of a string of attacks in Iraq that killed at least 56 people, undermining hopes of a drop in violence.
Scores of people were also wounded in the attacks, which came after a relative lull in the sectarian violence that has ravaged Iraq since February 2006, when insurgents blew up a Shiite mosque in the central city of Samarra.
The triple attack in Baghdad killed at least 25 pilgrims as they headed to a holy shrine for a major religious ceremony on the Shiite Muslim calendar that has been marred by bloodshed in the past, security officials said.
16 Kurdish rebels condemned at funeral of Istanbul bomb victims
Mon Jul 28, 3:34 PM ET
|ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday joined thousands at the funerals of victims of two Istanbul bomb attacks which killed 17 people amid accusations they were planted by Kurdish separatists.
The attack Sunday night, in which more than 150 people were wounded, heightened tensions as the Constitutional Court met to decide whether Erdogan’s ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) should be banned on charges that it sought to undermine Turkey’s secular system.
Erdogan did not name the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) but called the two explosions “the cost” of an intensified crackdown against the outlawed rebels in Turkey and neighbouring northern Iraq.
17 Citizen journalists make new inroads into political reporting
By Uri Friedman, The Christian Science Monitor
Mon Jul 28, 5:00 AM ET
|If you click onto MSNBC.com for political updates, a month from now you may get some of your news from a fresh-faced, accordion-playing college sophomore named Nathan Robinson.
One of five finalists in a contest sponsored by MSNBC.com, NBC News, and MySpace, Mr. Robinson finds out Tuesday if he’ll be one of two citizen journalists covering either the Democratic or Republican convention for MSNBC.com. For him, it’s a chance to liven up mainstream journalism. For MSNBC, it’s an attempt to bring a new perspective to the news.
Stuck with rising competition from Internet-mediated news, traditional media have been reaching out to Web-savvy citizen journalists to expand their online audiences. But only this year have major television networks and their web affiliates begun carving out reporting slots for nonprofessionals on one of their marquee topics: the presidential election.
18 POW! ZOWIE! Scholars discover the comic book.
By Randy Dotinga, The Christian Science Monitor
Tue Jul 29, 4:00 AM ET
|San Diego – Amid the spectacle of the world’s largest comics convention, tens of thousands of attendees had Batman on the brain.
But only graduate student Kate McClancy came armed with an analysis of how an asylum in the Caped Crusader’s world reflects the American debate over treatment of the mentally ill.
It’s an obscure topic, to be sure. But Ms. McClancy’s treatise was right at home at Comic-Con International, which was held here this past weekend.
19 Russia’s plan to avert second cold war
By Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor
Tue Jul 29, 4:00 AM ET
|Moscow – The dark clouds gathering this summer between Moscow and the West have some experts concerned that the world is on the brink of a new cold war. They point to two flash points. One, the ex-Soviet state of Georgia, is largely driven by Moscow’s fear of NATO expanding into its traditional sphere of influence. The other is a proposed US missile-defense shield in Eastern Europe. Russia has promised to retaliate – possibly by basing nuclear-capable bombers in Cuba, according to an unofficial news report quoting unnamed top security officials last week.
“It’s no longer just rhetoric, it could start to get quite serious,” says Dmitri Trenin, an analyst with the Carnegie Center in Moscow. “The message being put out by Moscow is that the West needs to realize that it’s approaching a line, beyond which there could be a real showdown.”
But Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, has a plan to arrest the slide by creating an alternative to NATO. Though it has yet to gain traction in the West, Mr. Medvedev’s plan, announced in Berlin last month, has been much discussed in the Russian media. In short, it would redesign Europe’s security system from the bottom up – but this time, Russian would participate as an equal partner and founder of the new bloc. Russian experts are dubbing the concept “EATO” – Euro-Atlantic Treaty Organization – a big-tent security grouping that would replace NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – and say it is likely to become the signature foreign policy theme of Medvedev’s presidency. It would also, say supporters, remove the main irritant in Russia’s relations with the West today.
20 Tourism rises globally, but not to U.S.
By Howard LaFranchi, The Christian Science Monitor
Tue Jul 29, 4:00 AM ET
|Washington – A recent headline in The Guardian of London – “America – more hassle than it’s worth?” – underscores a stubborn global view that the United States is not an easy or a desirable place to visit.
It’s a perception reflected in the numbers. The world’s long-haul international travelers have jumped by 35 million since 2000, yet America has been largely overlooked by those new travelers, despite favorable exchange rates resulting from a weak dollar and attractions like Disney World and the Grand Canyon. In fact, the annual number of foreign visitors to the US is about 2 million lower than in 2000, leading travel-industry experts to figure that from 2000 to 2007, the US economy took a hit of about $150 billion.
This all comes at a time when the economy could use a little boost from free-spending foreigners.
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21 Audit questions millions in Blackwater contracts
By MIKE BAKER, Associated Press Writer
Mon Jul 28, 7:29 PM ET
|RALEIGH, N.C. – Private security contractor Blackwater Worldwide and its affiliates may have misrepresented their size to win more than $100 million in government contracts set aside for small businesses, federal auditors said Monday.
A report by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General questioned the agency’s decision to approve Blackwater as a small business even though there were signs the company could be much larger than executives claimed.
In fiscal 2005 through 2007, Blackwater and affiliates won 32 small business contracts worth more than $2.1 million even though the work was restricted to companies with revenue of $6.5 million or less, according to the audit. One contract had a revenue ceiling of $750,000. Meanwhile, Blackwater’s airline affiliate Presidential Airways won more than $107 million in contracts set aside for companies with revenues of less than $25.5 million or fewer than 1,500 employees.
22 Judge ruling on Sprint fees is blow to industry
By PAUL ELIAS, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jul 29, 4:22 PM ET
|SAN FRANCISCO – The fees that cell phone carriers charge customers who break service contracts took a big hit in a California courtroom when a judge said such charges by Sprint Nextel Corp. likely violate state law.
The judge, in a tentative ruling issued late Monday, said Sprint will have to pay $18.3 million to customers who sued over the fees and credit $54.8 million to those who were charged but did not pay the fees.
The same judge is considering other lawsuits against telecommunications companies over their so-called early termination fees, which can range from $150 to $225. This month Verizon Wireless agreed to pay $21 million to settle an identical lawsuit just as trial was starting.
23 Former JPMorgan executive accused of embezzlement
By Martha Graybow, Reuters
Tue Jul 29, 11:26 AM ET
|NEW YORK (Reuters) – A former JPMorgan Chase & Co private banking executive has been indicted on charges of embezzling about $5.4 million, according to federal court papers.
The indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, accuses former executive Hernan Arbizu of 15 criminal counts. Arbizu was arrested on Monday in Argentina, according to a person close to the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The indictment contends Arbizu engaged in a scheme to withdraw funds from bank customers without their knowledge through the use of unauthorized wire transfers. The U.S. government is also seeking the forfeiture of the roughly $5.4 million it contends was embezzled.
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24 Giant chunks break off Canadian ice shelf
By David Ljunggren, Reuters
Tue Jul 29, 1:30 PM ET
|OTTAWA (Reuters) – Giant sheets of ice totaling almost eight square miles broke off an ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic last week and more could follow later this year, scientists said on Tuesday.
Temperatures in large parts of the Arctic have risen far faster than the global average in recent decades, a development that experts say is linked to global warming.
The ice broke away from the shelf on Ward Hunt Island, an small island just off giant Ellesmere Island in one of the northernmost parts of Canada.
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25 Militants capture 25 Pakistani security personnel
By STEPHEN GRAHAM, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jul 29, 2:20 PM ET
|ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Islamic militants seized a security post in Pakistan’s troubled northwest Tuesday, capturing at least 25 police and troops in a raid that underscored the government’s weak grip on territory near the Afghan border.
Extremists also killed two security officers elsewhere in the Swat Valley, a day after three intelligence agents died in an ambush in the same area in further blows to the hopes of Pakistani leaders that they can tame Islamic hard-liners through peace negotiations.
Tuesday’s incidents came a day after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani won praise from President Bush, whose administration is pressing Pakistan for tougher action against militants, as a reliable ally against terrorism.
26 7 Bosnian Serbs guilty of genocide in Srebrenica
By AIDA CERKEZ-ROBINSON, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jul 29, 1:42 PM ET
|SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina – The Bosnian war crimes court convicted seven Bosnian Serbs of genocide Tuesday in the 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica and handed down prison sentences ranging from 38 to 42 years. Four others were acquitted.
Issuing their first sentence related to Europe’s worst massacre since World War II, judges at the war crimes court sent three of the former policemen to jail for 42 years, another three away for 40 years and one for 38 years.
The verdict comes as Serbia prepares to extradite former Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic – also indicted for genocide in Srebrenica – to the separate U.N. war crimes tribunal in Netherlands. Karadzic was arrested last week in Belgrade after hiding for over a decade.
27 Turkish planes attack rebel Kurds in Iraq
By C. ONUR ANT, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jul 29, 1:59 PM ET
|ISTANBUL, Turkey – Turkish warplanes attacked Kurdish rebels in Iraq’s north on Tuesday, killing a group of guerrillas gathered at a mountain cave, the military said.
The Turkish strikes, which a pro-Kurdish news agency said were followed by shelling from Iran, came two days after bombs planted in an Istanbul neighborhood killed 17 people. The government blamed Kurdish rebels, who denied involvement in the deadliest attack on civilians in five years.
The military said in a statement Tuesday that warplanes attacked rebel targets in northern Iraq, where the leadership of the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, is based. The statement said many of a 40-strong rebel group outside a cave at Mount Qandil were killed.
28 Mbeki: Zimbabwe power-sharing talks ‘going well’
By ANGUS SHAW, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jul 29, 11:56 AM ET
|HARARE, Zimbabwe – South African President Thabo Mbeki insisted Tuesday that talks in Pretoria aimed at building a power-sharing government to resolve Zimbabwe’s deadly political crisis were going well, despite reports of disagreements.
The negotiations broke off Monday. Opposition negotiators were unhappy with the government’s insistence that Robert Mugabe remain president with rival Morgan Tsvangirai serving as one of several vice presidents, two officials close to the talks told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of a media blackout on coverage of the talks.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai had agreed last week to embark on the power-sharing talks as a way out of a political impasse four months after Zimbabwe’s presidential election. Dozens have been killed and thousands forced from their homes in the violence that followed the disputed polls.
29 Police defuse 18 bombs near another Indian market
By R.K. MISRA, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jul 29, 11:59 AM ET
|AHMADABAD, India – Police defused 18 bombs found Tuesday near the main diamond markets in the city of Surat and issued a sketch of a young man believed to be linked to one of two explosives-filled cars discovered there.
The announcement came as authorities in a Mumbai suburb probed ties to a series of blasts over the weekend that killed 42 people and wounded 183 in Ahmadabad, about 175 miles north of Surat. An obscure Islamic militant group claimed responsibility for the Ahmadabad attack.
“I request you not to go to crowded places unnecessarily,” Surat Police Commissioner R.M.S. Brar told the public during a news conference, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.
30 Cambodian, Thai wait for other to redeploy first
By KER MUNTHIT, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jul 29, 1:53 AM ET
|PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – An agreement to end a tense border standoff between Cambodian and Thai troops near an ancient temple stalled Tuesday as both sides waited for the other to make the first move and redeploy their forces.
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen said he was ready to pull troops back, but was leaving the timing up to Thailand.
A Thai army commander said his troops had made no immediate plan to leave.
31 Mistrust risks violence, interfaith meet told
By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor, Reuters
1 hour, 13 minutes ago
|NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (Reuters) – Christians and Muslims mistrust each other so much that a few terrorist attacks could trigger dramatic and violent religious tensions, a Jordanian prince told an interfaith conference on Tuesday.
Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, sponsor of a Muslim appeal to Christian leaders to work together for peace, said the two religions must work together or face possible violence that risks turning into genocide.
The warning was a stark reminder to the 150 participants, theologians and faith leaders who came to discuss common views on love of God and neighbor, of the dangerous potential religion can have when intertwined with political conflicts.
32 Haitian ex-soldiers occupy former army buildings
By Joseph Guyler Delva, Reuters
55 minutes ago
|PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – About 200 ex-soldiers occupied former military buildings in northern Haiti on Tuesday to demand the reinstatement of the disbanded army and 14 years of back pay, the group’s leader and witnesses said.
The men took over the buildings in Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city, and in Ouaminthes, a town on the border with the Dominican Republic.
A bloody rebellion of former soldiers and street gangs in 2004 led to the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who fled Haiti for exile in Africa.
33 Iran tells developing states to fight U.N. "bias"
By Fredrik Dahl, Reuters
Tue Jul 29, 10:51 AM ET
|TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s president called on Tuesday for developing nations to unite against what he said was bias by the U.N. Security Council, which the Islamic Republic accuses of siding with the West in a nuclear row.
Iran wants to broaden international support for what it says is a peaceful drive to use nuclear technology but which the United States and the West says is a bid to make atomic bombs.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told ministers from the Non- Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran that the Security Council and other world bodies were being manipulated by some world powers.
34 South Africa tells ICC: "Give peace a chance" in Darfur
By Louis Charbonneau, Reuters
Tue Jul 29, 5:21 PM ET
|UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – South Africa said on Tuesday that an increasing number of countries want the International Criminal Court, in the interest of peace in Darfur, to halt any genocide indictment of Sudan’s president.
The U.N. Security Council is split on a South African and Libyan proposal that it call on the ICC’s judges to refrain from taking any action on a request by their chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, for an arrest warrant against Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur.
Moreno-Ocampo accused Bashir of orchestrating a campaign of genocide during the 5-year-old conflict that has killed 35,000 people outright and at least 100,000 through starvation and disease, and forced 2.5 million from their homes.
35 Pakistanis urge tougher IAEA stance on India deal
By Mark Heinrich, Reuters
Tue Jul 29, 3:34 PM ET
|VIENNA (Reuters) – Senior Pakistani figures have accused the Islamabad government of buckling to U.S. pressure not to hold up a nuclear trade deal between Washington and Pakistan’s arch-rival India.
The deal would give India access to the world market in nuclear fuel and technology for first time after a decades-long ban due to India having tested atom bombs and staying out of the international Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Pakistanis are unhappy because of their history of three wars and enduring tensions with neighboring India. Pakistan feels it should get a similar deal from the United States.
36 Afghans must command foreign troops: state newspaper
Tue Jul 29, 8:59 AM ET
|KABUL (Reuters) – To defeat Taliban militants, foreign troops led by NATO and the U.S. military in Afghanistan should come under the command of the Afghan government, otherwise the war will drag on, a government-owned newspaper said on Tuesday.
More than 71,000 foreign troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan fighting Taliban militants who have made a come back in the past two years, the bloodiest period since the militants’ removal from power in 2001.
The lack of a unified command amongst the troops and failure to coordinate operations with the government has been a factor in the escalation of violence and the rebirth of the insurgents, the English-language Kabul Times newspaper said.
37 US Congress acts to suspend bid to upgrade Pakistan fighter fleet
10 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Congress moved Tuesday to suspend a bid by President George W. Bush’s administration to shift millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan from counter-terrorism programs to upgrading Islamabad’s F-16 fighter jets.
“We have requested a hold on the administration’s planned reprogramming pending additional information,” said a joint statement by Democratic lawmakers Howard Berman and Nita Lowey, who head key panels in the House of Representatives.
“We are concerned that the administration’s proposal to use military assistance to pay for the F-16 upgrades will divert funds from more effective counterterrorism tools like helicopters, TOW missiles, and night-vision goggles,” said Berman, chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, and Lowey, chairwoman of the appropriations subcommittee on foreign programs.
38 Myanmar aid losses ‘unacceptable:’ UN aid coordinator
Mon Jul 28, 7:23 PM ET
|UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – The UN aid operation in cyclone-hit Myanmar has lost around 10 million dollars due to distortions in the country’s official exchange rate, the world body’s humanitarian chief said Monday.
John Holmes, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, called the losses “a significant problem,” and said about 15 per cent of the aid delivered to Myanmar in the past three months had been lost.
The UN has spent 200 million dollars (125 million euros) on aid to Myanmar since Cyclone Nargis struck in May, leaving an estimated 140,000 people dead or missing.
39 Sabotage forces Shell to cut output in Nigeria: company
by Joel Olatunde Agoi, AFP
Mon Jul 28, 3:13 PM ET
|LAGOS (AFP) – Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell cut output in southern Nigeria Monday after militants sabotaged at least one of its pipelines supplying crude, officials said.
Shell declined to say by how much production was being reduced, stressing that the amount should not be exaggerated because of the possible effect on oil prices.
Oil prices had already risen on news of the attack, with Brent North Sea crude for September delivery climbing 1.58 dollars to 126.10 dollars a barrel, while New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for September, rose by 1.50 dollars to 124.76 dollars a barrel.
40 Chile faces its dark history by tracking down torture centers
By Jack Chang, McClatchy Newspapers
Tue Jul 29, 3:26 PM ET
|LONQUEN, Chile – This quiet town nestled in the hills of central Chile has a horrifying history.
In 1978, in a stone oven on the town’s outskirts, the Roman Catholic Church found the bodies of 11 poor farmers and four youths who were executed by Chile’s military dictatorship. Police had accused the victims of being leftist subversives and arrested them five years earlier, but no charges were ever filed.
After the 15 bodies were discovered, government agents buried them in a common grave, and the site’s landlord blew up the oven. However, the oven’s ruins, which now are next door to a gated community, have become a memorial for hundreds of people who come every year to honor the victims.
41 Chile proposes turning torture house into museum
By Jack Chang, McClatchy Newspapers
Tue Jul 29, 3:25 PM ET
|SANTIAGO, Chile – An innocuous two-story house on a cobblestone street in downtown Santiago has become a symbol of human-rights activists’ fight for Chile’s history.
Known by its former street address, Londres 38, the house was the headquarters of Chile’s Socialist Party until Sept. 11, 1973 , when Augusto Pinochet ousted Socialist President Salvador Allende and Pinochet’s forces took over the building.
Nearly 100 dissidents, many of them young members of the Revolutionary Left Movement political party, died after they were taken to the house and tortured during interrogations.
42 Afghanistan more deadly for U.S. troops than Iraq so far in July
By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers
Tue Jul 29, 4:44 PM ET
|BAGHDAD – Nearly twice as many U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan than in Iraq so far this month, marking the lowest death toll of the Iraq war and the first time that the American military has suffered more casualties in Afghanistan than it has in Iraq .
As of Tuesday, 11 U.S. service members had been killed in Iraq and 20 in Afghanistan in July, according to icasualties.org, which tracks coalition casualties in both wars.
If the July statistics hold for the next two days, they’ll mark the lowest American military death toll in Iraq since February 2004 , when 20 service members were killed, and the second highest toll in Afghanistan , after June, when 27 U.S. troops were killed there and 29 Americans were killed in Iraq .
43 Who Was Behind the Turkish Blasts?
By PELIN TURGUT / ISTANBUL, Time Magazine
Tue Jul 29, 1:30 PM ET
|Who did it? In smoky cafes and on street stoops, that’s what Turks are asking after Sunday’s devastating bomb attack on a quiet Istanbul street. The attack’s timing has fueled the conjecture, since it occurred on the eve of a politically charged court case to ban the governing party. No one has yet claimed responsibility, so the answer – like so much else in a country divided between secularists and Islamists, nationalists and liberal pro-Europeans – depends very much on who’s doing the talking.
44 Fatal Bombings in an Edgy Turkey
By PELIN TURGUT / ISTANBUL, Time Magazine
Tue Jul 29, 4:40 PM ET
|Temperatures in Turkey are rising, but it’s not just a matter of the fierce July sun. A verdict in a landmark case to shut down the government for alleged Islamism is expected by next week, and a prosecutor recently alleged that a powerful cabal of nationalist hit men has plotted to bring the country’s institutions to a fall. So when two fatal bombs ripped through a working-class Istanbul neighborhood on Sunday night, killing 17 and injuring another 150, the already palpable tension in Turkey went up another few notches.
45 Thousands of UK Passports Stolen
By PATRICE POLTZER / LONDON, Time Magazine
Tue Jul 29, 4:25 PM ET
|Anyone in search of a new identity in coming years might find it easiest to opt for becoming British. Robbers hijacked a security van on its way from Manchester to London Monday morning and made off with about 3,000 blank British passports and visas that were destined for embassies overseas. The Foreign Office said the heist amounted to a “serious breach of security,” but insisted the blank documents are unusable because of their high-tech chip security features. “A blank isn’t able to be used for crossing a border,” said a Foreign Office spokesperson.
46 Why Karadzic Wants No Lawyer
By KRISTINA DELL, Time Magazine
2 hours, 36 minutes ago
|It should have come as no surprise that accused war criminal Radovan Karadzic had no use for a lawyer once he was apprehended for trial in the Hague. Choosing to represent themselves is a time-honored tactic in trials where the accused reject the authority of the court and the legitimacy of the proceedings, seeing the trial instead as a platform for political protest. Gandhi did it; Fidel Castro did it; Nelson Mandela did it; and, more recently, so did former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic and accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
|From Yahoo News U.S. News
47 Mass. House votes to let out-of-state gays marry
By GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jul 29, 6:22 PM ET
|BOSTON – The Massachusetts House voted Tuesday to repeal a 1913 law that had been used to block gay marriages involving out-of-state couples, all but assuring that the state will allow same-sex couples to wed regardless of where they live.
The 119-36 vote came after the state Senate approved the repeal earlier this month, and Gov. Deval Patrick has said he will sign the bill. The measure requires one more procedural vote in each chamber before it is to the governor.
“Sometimes what you hope and pray for actually happens, which is kind of overwhelming,” Michael Thorne, 55, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, said after telling his 6-year-old son his parents could soon get married. Thorne and his partner of 25 years, James Theberge, have an Aug. 18 wedding planned in Provincetown, although the repeal will not take effect until 90 days after Patrick’s signature.
48 After Dallas DA’s death, 19 convictions are undone
By MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jul 29, 1:54 PM ET
|DALLAS – As district attorney of Dallas for an unprecedented 36 years, Henry Wade was the embodiment of Texas justice.
Nineteen convictions – three for murder and the rest involving rape or burglary – won by Wade and two successors who trained under him have been overturned after DNA evidence exonerated the defendants. About 250 more cases are under review.
No other county in America – and almost no state, for that matter – has freed more innocent people from prison in recent years than Dallas County, where Wade was DA from 1951 through 1986.
49 Colorado experts find Salmonella in jalapeno
2 hours, 14 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Colorado health officials said they had found a Salmonella-tainted jalapeno in the home of someone sickened in a recent outbreak of the food poisoning — a vital clue in tracking down the source of the illness.
The pepper carried bacteria with the same unusual strain of Salmonella saintpaul that has made 1,307 people sick in the United States, the state health department said.
“The pepper was purchased at a local Wal-Mart, likely on June 24, and the individual became ill on July 4. This is the first pepper linked directly to an ill person in this outbreak,” the health department said in a statement posted on its Web site this week.
50 Court revives case against Whole Foods
By Peter Kaplan, Reuters
Tue Jul 29, 3:34 PM ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday revived a government antitrust case against Whole Foods Market Inc’s (WFMI.O) purchase of rival Wild Oats Markets Inc, reversing a lower court decision that allowed the deal to proceed.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said a district court judge erred when he turned down a Federal Trade Commission request for an injunction to block the deal.
U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman “underestimated the FTC’s likelihood of success on the merits” when he denied the agency’s request, the three-judge appeals court panel said in its ruling. One of the judges dissented from the opinion.
51 More road privatization, fewer gas taxes: Bush official
Tue Jul 29, 1:35 PM ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government should begin weaning itself from gasoline taxes and unwind other programs to make way for more state involvement and private investment in road construction and transit, the Bush administration proposed on Tuesday.
The plan unveiled by Transportation Secretary Mary Peters would streamline bureaucracy and make federal requirements more flexible to accelerate the time it takes to design, build or improve highways, bridges, rail and other transportation projects.
“Our plan creates an easier and more sustainable way to pay for and build roads and transit systems,” Peters said in a speech in Atlanta.
52 Firms owe billions in unpaid payroll taxes
By Donna Smith, Reuters
Tue Jul 29, 11:59 AM ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – More than 1.6 million U.S. businesses owe the Internal Revenue Service more than $58 billion in unpaid taxes for Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance, a government watchdog agency said on Tuesday.
In a report to the Senate Homeland Security investigations subcommittee, the Government Accountability Office said the IRS fails to take full advantage of tools available to collect unpaid taxes and to prevent further cheating on payroll taxes.
“When businesses do not remit payroll taxes, they are using employees’ money to fund business operations or the personal lifestyle of the businesses’ owners,” GAO Director of Financial Management and Assurance Steven Sebastian said in testimony to the committee.
53 Guantanamo trial views graphic 9/11 video
By Randall Mikkelsen, Reuters
Tue Jul 29, 12:05 PM ET
|GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) – Prosecutors in the trial of Osama bin Laden’s driver unveiled a graphic video on Monday of the September 11 attacks and other al Qaeda operations that is likely to play a repeated role in pending war crimes cases.
The video is entitled “The Al Qaida Plan,” an echo of “The Nazi Plan” made by Oscar-winning director George Stevens as evidence in the Nuremberg war crimes trials of German leaders after World War II.
“Oh my God” was heard repeatedly as crowds watched the twin towers of the World Trade center collapse on September 11, 2001, in a vivid highlight of the movie shown over defense objections at the terrorism conspiracy trial of Salim Hamdan.
54 US high court urged to revisit death penalty for child rape
Tue Jul 29, 5:45 PM ET
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Justice Department has appealed to nation’s highest court to re-hear a major death penalty case involving sentencing for child rapists, saying the ruling was made without all the facts.
The Supreme Court last month ruled 5-4 against the death sentence for child rapists, but did so without considering a 2007 executive order that makes child rape a crime punishable by death according to military law, the Justice Department said in a rare motion filed this week.
In the high court’s ruling in Kennedy v. Louisiana on June 25, Justice Anthony Kennedy said “there is a national consensus against capital punishment for the crime of child rape,” due to the lack of recent executions and the low number of states that permit the death penalty for such crimes.
55 Los Angeles passes ban on new fast-food outlets
1 hour, 6 minutes ago
|LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Los Angeles officials on Tuesday approved a one-year ban on fast-food chains opening in a poor neighborhood of the city battling higher-than-average obesity, officials said.
The moratorium covers the 500,000 people living in the 32-square mile area of South Los Angeles, which is predominantly Hispanic and African-American.
Designed to encourage healthier eating habits, the move is believed to be the first time fast-food outlets have been restricted from opening on health grounds.
56 Soy reduces sperm count: study
Tue Jul 29, 6:35 PM ET
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – Eating or drinking a lot of products containing soy and isoflavones can result in reduced sperm count among men, a Harvard School of Public Health study has shown.
“There has been a lot of interest on whether soy affects fertility because many studies in animals suggest that this is the case, but there are very few studies in humans,” said researcher and lead study author Jorge Chavarro.
“This only the third study to look at whether soy food has a relationship with fertility in humans and the first one to find an association in agreement to the animal studies,” he told AFP.