Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Islamic group claims India blasts that killed 45

By MATTHEW ROSENBERG, Associated Press Writer

2 minutes ago

AHMADABAD, India – An obscure Islamic militant group warning of “the terror of Death” claimed responsibility for bombings that killed at least 45 people and authorities stepped up security Sunday after India’s second series of blasts in two days.

The city’s police commissioner, O.P. Mathur, said that 30 people had been detained for questioning, but there was scant information about the Indian Mujahideen, the little known group that took credit for the bombings in western India.

“In the name of Allah the Indian Mujahideen strike again! Do whatever you can, within 5 minutes from now, feel the terror of Death!” said an e-mail from the group sent to several Indian television stations minutes before the blasts began.

2 Gunmen in Iraq kill 7 Shiites en route to shrine

By SELCAN HACAOGLU, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 27, 9:57 AM ET

BAGHDAD – Gunmen hiding in reeds in a Sunni town south of Baghdad killed seven Shiite pilgrims Sunday as they were marching to a shrine in the capital for a major holiday, officials said.

The young men were ambushed when the attackers opened fire in Madain, about 14 miles southeast of Baghdad, as they were on their way to the shrine in the Baghdad neighborhood of Kazimiyah, a police officer said.

The slain men had begun their trek farther south in the Shiite town of Suwayrah, according to the officer, who is based in Baghdad and read the report about the attack. An official at the Baghdad hospital where the bodies were taken confirmed the killings, but both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

3 McCain calls Obama’s stance on Iraq war political

By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press Writer

40 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – Presidential challenger John McCain said Sunday that he supports a proposed ballot initiative in his home state that would prohibit affirmative action policies from state and local governments. A decade ago, he called a similar effort “divisive.”

Over the years, McCain has consistently voiced his opposition to hiring quotas based on race. He has supported affirmative action in limited cases. For example, he voted to maintain a program that encourages the awarding of 10 percent of spending on highway construction to women and minorities.

McCain was asked specifically Sunday whether he supported an effort to get a referendum on the ballot in Arizona that would “do away with affirmative action.”

“Yes, I do,” said McCain in an interview broadcast Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

4 "Dinosaur eel" points to body armour of the future

AFP

1 hour, 9 minutes ago

PARIS (AFP) – An extraordinary fish that inhabits muddy pools in West Africa and whose lineage can be traced back 96 million years could be the model for light, bomb-proof body armour for the soldiers of the future.

So say Pentagon-backed scientists who have pored over the scales of Polypterus senegalus, also called the Senegal bichir or the dinosaur eel.

Long and skinny and of ancient heritage, the 40-centimetre (16-inch) predator has multiple layers of scales that first dissipate the energy of a strike, then protect against any penetration to the soft tissues below and finally limit any damage to the shield to the immediate area surrounding the assault.

5 Turkish military says hit 12 PKK targets in N.Iraq

Reuters

Sun Jul 27, 8:33 AM ET

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s military said on Sunday its fighter jets hit 12 Kurdish separatist targets in northern Iraq’s Qandil region in an operation that started at midnight.

The army general staff said in a statement on its website that all the planes had returned safely to their bases and that it was working to confirm “terrorist casualties.”

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) uses north Iraq as a base from which to make attacks on Turkish territory. Turkey blames the PKK, which is fighting for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey, for the deaths of 40,000 people in the past 25 years.

From Yahoo News World

6 Myanmar farmers back at work, but outlook is bleak

Associated Press

1 hour, 44 minutes ago

THOME GWE, Myanmar – Ko Nyi Thaut lost six of his children and all his possessions when Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar three months ago. But the 53-year-old farmer still has his rice fields. The surprise, say aid workers, is how quickly he and others have gone back to work.

The broader food outlook, however, is bleak.

Like tens of thousands of farmers, Ko Nyi Thaut labors from dawn to dusk preparing his flood-ravaged Irrawaddy delta land for a crop that should have been planted a month ago.

7 Air pollution still an issue in Beijing

By ANITA CHANG, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 27, 11:05 AM ET

BEIJING – The Chinese capital was shrouded in thick gray smog on Sunday, just 12 days before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. One expert warned that drastic measures enacted to cut vehicle and factory emissions in the city were no guarantee skies would be clear during competitions.

The pollution was among the worst seen in Beijing in the past month, despite traffic restrictions enacted a week ago that removed half of the city’s vehicles from roadways.

Visibility was a half mile in some places. During the opening ceremony of the Athletes’ Village on Sunday, the housing complex was invisible from the nearby main Olympic Green.

8 Cambodian ruling party claims election victory

By Ed Cropley and Ek Madra, Reuters

Sun Jul 27, 8:51 AM ET

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) claimed an expected victory in Sunday’s general election, giving another five years in power to ex-Khmer Rouge guerrilla Hun Sen, prime minister for the last 23 years.

Party spokesman Khieu Kanharith told Reuters the one-time communist but now firmly free-market CPP was on course to win 80 of the 123 seats in parliament.

A member of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) said early results suggested it was on course for at least 40 seats, although party chief Sam Rainsy, a French-educated former finance minister, put his projected tally much higher.

9 Obama interview: U.S. goals in Afghanistan ‘should be relatively modest’

By Margaret Talev, McClatchy Newspapers

Sat Jul 26, 9:55 PM ET

In an interview with McClatchy Saturday night as he returned from his overseas trip, Sen. Barack Obama answered questions about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and other issues in his campaign against Republican Sen. John McCain .

Q: Afghanistan is something you’ve spoken a lot about…Take us to the next level, why, as you’ve said, and how, we need to put more U.S. forces into Afghanistan . To the Soviets it became a quagmire. How do you avoid that? How do you measure success? If you could give us a little more detail about what you think you’d like to do.

A: I’m not here to lay out a comprehensive military strategy. That’s the job of our commanders on the ground. I can tell you what our strategic goals should be. They should be relatively modest. We shouldn’t want to take over the country. We should want to get out of there as quickly as we can and help the Afghans govern themselves and provide for their own security. Our critical goal should be to make sure that the Taliban and al Qaida are routed and that they cannot project threats against us from that region. And to do that I think we need more troops. I also think that we need to deal with the situation in Pakistan and the fact that terrorists are able to operate with relative freedom of movement there right now.

10 Incident on Baghdad’s Airport Road

By ABIGAIL HAUSLOHNER/BAGHDAD, Time Magazine

1 hour, 21 minutes ago

Known affectionately to his friends and family as Abu Ziad (father of Ziad), Hafedh Aboud Mehdi, 58, woke up on the morning of June 25, packed a lunch for himself and his son as he often does, and left his home in Baghdad’s central Karrada district at 7:30 a.m. He was driving his 1996 maroon Opel Vita on route to Baghdad International Airport, where he has worked at the airport bank for the past 13 years.

11 India: The Terrorists Within

By MADHUR SINGH/NEW DELHI, Time Magazine

1 hour, 23 minutes ago

A day after major Indian cities were placed on high alert following blasts in the IT city of Bangalore, as many as 17 blasts ripped through Ahmedabad, capital of the affluent western Indian state of Gujarat. Some 30 people were killed, some at hospitals where bombs were timed to go off when the injured from other blasts were being brought in. (Later, in Surat, a center for the world’s diamond industry, a bomb was defused near a hospital and two cars packed with explosives were found in in the city’s outskirts.) Investigators pointed fingers at the usual Islamist suspects: Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul Jihadi Islami (HUJI) and the indigenous Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). But even as the police searched for clues, the Ahmedabad attacks were owned up by a group calling itself the “Indian Mujahideen.”
From Yahoo News U.S. News

12 Miami’s vice? City at bottom in volunteering

By MATT SEDENSKY and DAVID CRARY, Associated Press Writers

Sun Jul 27, 7:04 AM ET

MIAMI – Blame it on the traffic. Or the number of new immigrants. Or the allure of the beach. Whatever the reason, Miami has secured the bottom spot – No. 50 among major U.S. cities – in new rankings of the percentage of adults who volunteer.

Nationally, the volunteer rate fell in 2007 for the second year in a row, to 26.2 percent, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, which is releasing its report Sunday. It showed Miami with a volunteerism rate of 14.5 percent, replacing Las Vegas in last place among major metropolitan areas.

To be fair, the study found 620,000 volunteers were recruited in Miami last year, more than 60,000 over the previous year. And many local nonprofits say they have more volunteers than ever. But there’s no denying how far Miami lags behind other cities, particularly No. 1 Minneapolis-St. Paul, with a 39.3 percent rate.

13 Debate over black personal responsibility grows

By Matthew Bigg, Reuters

Sun Jul 27, 9:38 AM ET

MIAMI (Reuters) – When Paulette Richards’ kids grew up and left home she thought she was done parenting. Instead, she has joined the growing ranks of black U.S. grandparents raising grandchildren because their own children can’t — or won’t.

The Miami woman’s story illustrates a debate about whether black American parents take enough responsibility for raising their children that has spilled into the U.S. presidential campaign through comments by civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and Democratic candidate Barack Obama.

It also sheds light on how complex factors including home foreclosures, lack of health insurance and high incarceration rates combine to put pressure on many inner-city families.

14 Workers struggle to clean up oil spill on Mississippi

AFP

Sat Jul 26, 5:38 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Coast Guard and clean-up crews were struggling Saturday to rid the Mississippi River of hundreds of thousands of gallons (liters) of spilled fuel oil and unclog a backup of commercial traffic.

Nearly 800 people in several oil removal operations were busy containing the spill with booms and removing what they could from the water, as a limited number of vessels were being allowed through the affected area in southern Louisiana.

The Coast Guard had closed off a 100-mile (160-kilometer) stretch of the river, from the port of New Orleans down to the Gulf of Mexico, after the oil tanker Tintomara collided Wednesday with an American Commercial Lines barge that was being pushed by a tug boat.

15 San Francisco’s Sanctuary Dilemma

By CLAIRE SUDDATH, Time Magazine

53 minutes ago

Edwin Ramos had been in trouble before. In 2003, when he was 17, he was found guilty of attempted robbery and assaulting a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority passenger. Last March, he was detained for several days after police found a gun used in a double homicide in the car he was driving. And then came June 22, when Anthony Bologna’s car prevented Ramos from turning left at an intersection. San Francisco police say Ramos opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle, killing Bologna and his two sons, Michael and Matthew, who were driving home from a family barbecue.
From Yahoo News Politics

16 Obama gives Bernanke vote of confidence

By Caren Bohan, Reuters

Sun Jul 27, 8:10 AM ET

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Presidential candidate Barack Obama gave a vote of confidence to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, saying he had made some good decisions in difficult circumstances.

“I think that Chairman Bernanke was handed a pretty tough hand and I think some of the decisions he’s made have been the right ones,” the presumptive Democratic nominee told Reuters in an interview on Saturday evening.

In a move that some criticized as a bailout, the Fed came to the rescue of investment bank Bear Stearns by helping to broker its takeover by J.P. Morgan Chase.

17 US, Pacific nations press Fiji on elections

by Lachlan Carmichael, AFP

1 hour, 46 minutes ago

APIA, Samoa (AFP) – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined her counterparts from Pacific island nations here Saturday to press Fiji’s coup leaders to revive plans for elections next year.

It was the first visit to Samoa by a US secretary of state in two decades.

Brigadier-General Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, Fiji’s interim foreign minister, attended the talks hosted by Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegao, who is also foreign minister, a US official said.

18 Putin taking Russia down ‘very harmful’ path: McCain

AFP

24 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Russia has become an autocracy under Vladimir Putin and the Russian president-turned-prime minister has taken the country down a “very harmful” path, Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Sunday.

“We need to improve their behavior,” McCain told ABC television when asked about his threat to exclude Russia from the Group of Eight if he wins the White House in November.

“His government — former president Putin, and now Prime Minister Putin — has taken his country down a path that I think is very harmful,” McCain said. “They’ve become an autocracy.”

From Yahoo News Business

19 Readings on economy, jobs could dominate trading

By JOE BEL BRUNO, AP Business Writer

59 minutes ago

NEW YORK – Investors head into the week with a bit more resolve that U.S. companies are doing a better-than-expected job managing their way through an economy stifled by unprecedented turmoil in the housing and credit markets.

Wall Street is about midway through second-quarter earnings season, and the overall results haven’t been as dreary as some analysts feared. About 61 percent of the Standard & Poor’s 500 index companies reporting results so far have surpassed projections, and 72 percent of them were able to top last year’s sales figures.

Expectations were low for the quarter and that helped some companies beat forecasts. But if you strip out the market’s problem child – the financial sector – S&P said companies are headed for a 10 percent growth rate from last year.

20 As costs rise, inflation’s next front is retailers

By ELLEN SIMON, AP Business Writer

2 hours, 7 minutes ago

NEW YORK – Coming to a store near you: Even higher prices. Most inflation this year has come from food and fuel, as retailers resisted passing along to strapped consumers the higher prices manufacturers charged them, but coming increases from companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Hasbro Inc. may leave them with no choice.

“While these increases have not for the most part been passed on at the retail level, it is inevitable that they will be at some point,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “Car dealers and other retailers cannot continue to absorb rising costs at the wholesale level and not pass some of these increases on to consumers.”

Sherwin Williams Co. on July 17 announced its third price increase in eight months. The company has been having “difficult discussions” with retailers, Chris Connor, chairman and CEO, said on its quarterly conference call.

21 Blackwater mixes business glitz with military grit

By MIKE BAKER, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 27, 11:38 AM ET

MOYOCK, N.C. – Erik Prince gets his guests to the runway seconds before the turboprop’s approach. The financiers hop out of his black Chevy Suburban and gawk as the pilots drop a pair of packages that float to within feet of their target – just as they might on a mission for Blackwater Worldwide in the Afghan backcountry.

His audience is captivated by the show, but the Blackwater founder and CEO focuses on a seemingly minor detail: the parachutes.

“They’re made out of the same stuff sandbags are made out of,” Prince tells the group in hurried, staccato sentences. “They are truly disposable. The normal parachutes you put a human out under are much more expensive. With these, you can use them, repack them. It’s very cheap.”

22 FDA faulted over unapproved uses of medications

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 27, 11:16 AM ET

WASHINGTON – When a state trooper pulls over a speeding motorist, the officer usually writes out a ticket on the spot.

When federal regulators catch a drug company peddling prescription medications for an unapproved use, it takes them an average of seven months to issue a warning, according to a draft report by congressional investigators. It typically takes four more months for the company to fix the problem. During that time, a lot prescriptions can be written.

The report from the Government Accountability Office delves into a gray area of medical practice and federal oversight: the use of medications to treat conditions other than the ones the drugs were approved for, a practice known as “off-label” prescribing.

23 Professionals find jobs back in rural hometowns

By SUE LINDSEY, Associated Press Writer

15 minutes ago

LEBANON, Va. – Software engineer Keith Brown was conducting a meeting by teleconference at home when he had to call an abrupt halt. Dido, one of the family’s two dogs, had just brought in a dead opossum.

Welcome to the professional life in this slice of rural southwest Virginia.

Like many before him, the 42-year-old Brown left this region of rolling hills and verdant valleys after high school because he saw no future outside farming and mining.

24 Clashes between emerging economies dim trade talks hopes

by Hui Min Neo, AFP

2 hours, 16 minutes ago

GENEVA (AFP) – Optimism over WTO negotiations waned on Sunday as clashes between emerging economies threatened to shatter fragile progress towards a long-sought global trade pact.

Europe’s trade chief Peter Mandelson underlined the precarious situation, saying the road to a deal was strewn with “potholes” that threaten to derail the delicate process as it looked set to drag on into a second week.

“There is no guarantee that the fragile package that began to emerge on Friday night will survive,” he wrote in his daily blog on the trade talks, as ministers prepared to reconvene in a bid to fine-tune the World Trade Organization’s latest proposals.

25 Malaysia to try to stabilise falling palm oil prices: report

AFP

27 minutes ago

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Malaysia will put in place a series of measures to stabilise plummeting global palm oil prices including selling off crude stocks, a report said Sunday.

Peter Chin, minister of plantation industries and commodities, told the Sunday Star newspaper the government wanted to make sure that the almost 25-percent drop in prices in recent months did not become a long-term trend.

“The ministry expects palm oil to contribute up to 60 billion ringgit (19 billion dollars) in revenue to the country’s coffers this year, but the substantial drop in the global price may upset this target,” he said.

26 Finnish paper makers flounder as wood shortage looms

by Terhi Kinnunen, AFP

40 minutes ago

HELSINKI (AFP) – Finland’s already struggling paper makers are bracing for a new crunch as soaring Russian export duties on wood threaten to laden one of the Nordic country’s most important sectors with a paralysing raw material shortage.

Finnish paper makers Stora Enso and UPM-Kymmene, which rank among the leaders worldwide, both reported disastrous second quarter results this week as due to continued shrinking demand and sky-rocketing costs linked in part to neighbouring Russia’s ever climbing tax on wood exports.

With their quarterly reports bathed in red as a backdrop, the companies that have already laid off nearly 10,000 people in Finland since 2004 hinted another round of job-cuts and factory closures could be on the horizon.

From Yahoo News Science

27 New space race heats up with unveiling of aircraft

By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer

Sun Jul 27, 6:36 AM ET

LOS ANGELES – Aerospace engineers have been holed up in a Mojave Desert hangar for four years, fashioning a commercial spaceship to loft rich tourists some 62 miles above Earth. Now the wraps come partially off the top-secret project.

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson and American aerospace designer Burt Rutan are due Monday to show off their mothership, which is designed to air launch a passenger-toting spaceship out of the atmosphere.

The rollout – a year after a deadly accident at Rutan’s test site – marks the start of a rigorous flight test program that space tourism advocates hope will climax with the first suborbital joy rides by the end of the decade. More than 250 wannabe astronauts have paid $200,000 or put down deposits for a chance to float weightless for a mere five minutes.

28 Mars lander has trouble getting sample in oven

Associated Press

Sun Jul 27, 1:53 AM ET

PASADENA, Calif. – A sample of icy soil collected by the robotic arm of NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander is apparently stuck in its scoop, foiling efforts to analyze it.

The arm picked up 3 cubic centimeters of material Friday night and lifted it over an oven designed to heat samples for analysis, mission officials said Saturday. The arm tilted its scoop, ran a tool motor to try to sprinkle the sample into the oven, and finally inverted the scoop directly over the oven’s open doors.

But the science instrument, called the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, detected that not enough material fell inside and so the oven doors did not close.

29 Experts try to block flu virus replication

Reuters

1 hour, 59 minutes ago

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Scientists in Japan have gained a better understanding how influenza viruses replicate, possibly opening the way for the development of drugs to hamper their reproduction.

In the latest issue of Nature, the researchers described how they zeroed in on an enzyme that flu viruses need to replicate, and managed to capture a snapshot of the enzyme.

Enzymes in influenza viruses are made up of three proteins bound tightly together.

“Scientists have been trying to study its (enzyme’s) structure and no one has yet got a detailed picture of the whole thing,” said Yokohama City University’s Jeremy Tame, a member of the research team.

30 Kenya energy goes green to meet electricity boom

by Francois Ausseill, AFP

1 hour, 25 minutes ago

NAIVASHA, Kenya (AFP) – Facing soaring electricity demands, Kenya is opting to go full steam ahead with geothermal energy to boost its production while preserving its rich environmental heritage.

The 37-million-strong nation’s electricity supply capacity is dangerously close to its limit at 1,080 megawatts when peak hour demand almost reaches 1,000 megawatts.

With a fast-growing economy and demography, demand is climbing by eight percent each year and the country’s hydro-electric capacity is peaking and being strained by chronic droughts and the impact of deforestation on rivers.

31 Japanese sushi rage threatens iconic Mediterranean tuna

by Isabelle Wesselingh, AFP

1 hour, 52 minutes ago

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (AFP) – The rage for sushi and sashimi, Japan’s raw fish dishes that overtook the West and have now spread to increasingly prosperous China, risks wiping out one of the Mediterranean’s most emblematic residents: the bluefin tuna.

Experts say too many of these majestic fish prized since Greek and Roman times — each one of which can weigh up to 900 kilos (nearly 2,000 pounds) — are ending up on the platters of restaurants around the globe.

“Japanese consumption was already a threat to bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean. The European craze for sushi bars has added to that,” said Roberto Mielgo Bregazzi, a Spanish expert and author of several reports for Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund.

32 Worms Do Calculus to Find Food

Greg Soltis, LiveScience Staff

Sun Jul 27, 10:21 AM ET

Like humans with a nose for the best restaurants, roundworms also use their senses of taste and smell to navigate. And now, researchers may have found how a worm’s brain does this: It performs calculus.

Worms calculate how much the strength of different tastes is changing – equivalent to the process of taking a derivative in calculus – to figure out if they are on their way toward food or should change direction and look elsewhere, says University of Oregon biologist Shawn Lockery, who thinks humans and other animals do the same thing.

This research could one day benefit some of the more than 200,000 Americans who detect a foul smell or taste that is actually pleasant or have a weakened or depleted ability to appreciate the scent of a lilac or savor the flavor of a juicy burger.

33 Night Lights Turned Off to Save Migrating Birds

Inside Science News Service, LiveScience.com

Sun Jul 27, 1:21 AM ET

Birds, like moths, are attracted to light at night and if they become disoriented, will fly in circles around the lights in a tall building, often hitting the building, or dropping exhausted to the ground.

The phenomenon is not understood by scientists, but a researcher at the Bell Museum in Minneapolis, along with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, is spearheading a program to turn off the lights to protect migrating birds.

Participants in the programs, including the owners, tenants, and management companies from 32 buildings Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington, and Rochester, will dim their building lights during the spring and fall bird migration seasons. Similar programs are in place in Toronto, New York, and Chicago.

4 comments

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  1. Oh and Carlos Sastre won the Tour de France.

  2. this is. When you string these stories together they all take on a other world effect. Perhaps I am now too well informed and the news was always this absurd. Or maybe ek some how via the order and subject makes you see what strange days we live in. I wish we were as smart as the worms.

     

    • Viet71 on July 28, 2008 at 12:13 am

    You do a great job, IMO, laying out today’s stories.

    FWIW, I am much more into themes than stories.

    For example, I see GWB as the result of criminal seizure of government over almost 50 years, not as a cause.

    • Robyn on July 28, 2008 at 12:18 am

    My opinion is that they are using finite difference methods rather than calculus.  Try as I might, I cannot conceive of a worm taking a limit.

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