Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread
|From Yahoo News Top Stories|
1 Lie, cheat and steal: high school ethics surveyed
By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer
51 mins ago
|NEW YORK – In the past year, 30 percent of U.S. high school students have stolen from a store and 64 percent have cheated on a test, according to a new, large-scale survey suggesting that Americans are too apathetic about ethical standards.
Educators reacting to the findings questioned any suggestion that today’s young people are less honest than previous generations, but several agreed that intensified pressures are prompting many students to cut corners.
“The competition is greater, the pressures on kids have increased dramatically,” said Mel Riddle of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “They have opportunities their predecessors didn’t have (to cheat). The temptation is greater.”
2 Thai political crisis heightens with new rallies
By AMBIKA AHUJA, Associated Press Writers
25 mins ago
|BANGKOK, Thailand – Government supporters from the Thai countryside converged on the capital on Sunday, in a counter to rival protesters who seized control of Bangkok’s two airports and forced the prime minister to run the country from afar.
Neither the army nor Thailand’s revered king have stepped in to resolve the crisis – or offered the firm backing that Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat needs to resolve the leadership vacuum.
The problem runs deeper than the airport closures, which have stranded up to 100,000 travelers, strangled the key tourism industry and affected plane schedules worldwide. Political violence has added to the sense of drift bordering on anarchy that pervades the country’s administration.
3 Swiss approve pioneering legal heroin program
By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS, Associated Press Writer
23 mins ago
|GENEVA – Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved Sunday a move to make permanent the country’s pioneering program to give addicts government-authorized heroin.
At the same time, voters rejected a proposal to decriminalize marijuana.
Sixty-eight percent of the 2,264,968 voters casting ballots approved making the heroin program permanent. It has been credited with reducing crime and improving the health and daily lives of addicts since it began in 1994.
4 Food crunch opens doors to bioengineered crops
By ELAINE KURTENBACH, Associated Press Writer
Sun Nov 30, 11:48 am ET
|KUNMING, China – Zeng Yawen’s outdoor laboratory in the terraced hills of southern China is a trove of genetic potential – rice that thrives in unusually cool temperatures, high altitudes or in dry soil; rice rich in calcium, vitamins or iron.
“See these plants? They can tolerate the cold,” Zeng says as he walks through a checkerboard of test fields sown with different rice varieties on the outskirts of Kunming, capital of southwestern China’s Yunnan province.
“We can extract the cold-tolerant gene from this plant and use it in a genetically manipulated variety to improve its cold tolerance,” Zeng says.
5 Is gay the new black? Marriage ban spurs debate
By JESSE WASHINGTON, AP National Writer
2 hrs 37 mins ago
|NEW YORK – Gay is the new black, say the protest signs and magazine covers, casting the gay marriage battle as the last frontier of equal rights for all.
Gay marriage is not a civil right, opponents counter, insisting that minority status comes from who you are rather than what you do.
The gay rights movement entered a new era when Barack Obama was elected the first black president the same day that voters in California and Florida passed referendums to prevent gays and lesbians from marrying, while Arizonans turned down civil unions and Arkansans said no to adoptions by same-sex couples.
6 Holiday sales view still weak after weekend rush
By Martinne Geller, Reuters
1 hr 17 mins ago
|NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. consumers sought bargains on toys, clothes and electronics as holiday shopping kicked off this weekend, but an early rush to stores was slower this year and was not likely to change a weak outlook for the season, analysts said on Sunday.
Early results from the Black Friday weekend, which begins one day after U.S. Thanksgiving, showed that sales grew both in stores and online.
Sales on Black Friday, which once marked the day retailers would turn a profit for the year, rose 3 percent to $10.6 billion, according to tracking firm ShopperTrak. That was slower than an 8.3 percent rise in 2007.
7 Iraqi court orders U.S. to free journalist
Sun Nov 30, 11:48 am ET
|BAGHDAD (Reuters) – An Iraqi court on Sunday ordered the release of a freelance photographer working for Reuters news agency who has been held by U.S. forces since early September.
The Iraqi Central Criminal Court ruled there was no evidence against Ibrahim Jassam Mohammed, and ordered that the U.S. military release him from Camp Cropper prison near Baghdad airport.
Iraqi prosecutors acknowledged in remarks included in the court ruling that there was a lack of evidence, and said they were closing the case against Jassam. A copy of the court order was supplied to a lawyer working for Reuters.
8 Iraq says critics can wait to judge U.S. over pact
By Mohammed Abbas, Reuters
Sun Nov 30, 5:27 am ET
|BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s government tried to quell criticism on Sunday of a security pact which sets deadlines for U.S. military withdrawals, saying opponents could wait to judge how Washington honors commitments to pull back its troops.
The comments came after Iraq’s influential top Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani expressed reservations about the pact which paves the way for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraqi towns by mid-2009, and leave the country by end-2011.
Iraq’s parliament approved pact last week but said it should be put to a national referendum by the end of July.
9 Somali pirates to release Ukraine ship with arms
By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura, Reuters
Sun Nov 30, 9:00 am ET
|NAIROBI (Reuters) – Somali pirates and owners of a Ukrainian ship carrying 33 tanks and other military hardware have reached a deal to release the vessel, a Kenyan maritime official said Sunday.
Gunmen captured the MV Faina on September 24, with its cargo of T-72 tanks, grenade launchers and ammunition, and demanded $20 million in ransom.
“They have reached a deal but are still discussing the modalities of releasing the ship, crew and cargo,” said Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Program.
10 Suicide bomber hits German embassy vehicle in Kabul
By Sayed Salahuddin, Reuters
Sun Nov 30, 9:47 am ET
|KABUL (Reuters) – A suicide bomber hit a German embassy vehicle in Kabul on Sunday, killing three Afghan civilians, said the government, an attack claimed by the Taliban which left six wounded.
Violence has escalated this year in Afghanistan, the bloodiest period since Taliban’s ouster in 2001, raising doubts about the prospects for stability despite increasing numbers of foreign troops in the country.
“It was a suicide attack on the German embassy car,” Ali Shah Paktiawal, a senior Kabul police official told reporters near the scene.
11 Death toll in Nigeria clashes rises to around 400
By Randy Fabi, Reuters
Sun Nov 30, 9:30 am ET
|JOS, Nigeria (Reuters) – Residents delivered more bodies to the main mosque in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Sunday, bringing the death toll from two days of clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs to around 400 people.
Rival ethnic and religious mobs have burned homes, shops, mosques and churches in fighting triggered by a disputed local election in a city at the crossroads of Nigeria’s Muslim north and Christian south. It is the country’s worst unrest for years.
Murtala Sani Hashim, who has been registering the dead as they are brought to the city’s main mosque, told Reuters he had listed 367 bodies and more were arriving. Ten corpses wrapped in blankets, two of them infants, lay behind him.
12 Officials quit over India attacks, tensions mount with Pakistan
by Salil Panchal, AFP
1 hr 46 mins ago
|MUMBAI (AFP) – India’s interior minister resigned Sunday as anger grew over intelligence failures leading up to the devastating attacks on Mumbai and the government mulled suspending a peace process with Pakistan.
Home Minister Shivraj Patil said he took “moral responsibility” for the assault by heavily-armed Islamic militants, which left at least 172 people dead and transformed parts of Mumbai into a war zone for three days.
India’s powerful national security adviser M.K. Narayanan also submitted his resignation, officials said, but it was not clear if it had been accepted.
13 Poland adopts 24-bln-euro economic aid package
Sun Nov 30, 11:02 am ET
|WARSAW (AFP) – Poland on Sunday adopted an economic package for 2009-2010 valued at 24 billion euros (30 billion dollars) to help weather the global financial crisis, as it revised downwards its growth forecast.
“It is a stabilisation and development programme, because Poland is a country that is still developing,” Prime Minister Donald Tusk told reporters
At the same time, Polish Finance Minister Jan Rostowski said his department was lowering its economic growth forecast for 2009 to 3.7 percent, compared with the previous outlook of 4.8 percent.
14 WTO: Lamy awaiting fresh texts ahead of any summit decision
1 hr 15 mins ago
|GENEVA (AFP) – World Trade Organisation head Pascal Lamy is awaiting fresh proposals on the thorny issues of agriculture and industrial products before deciding on any ministerial meeting, trade sources said Sunday.
Speculation is growing in Geneva that Lamy will call ministers before the end of the year in yet another attempt to finally clinch a deal on global trade liberalisation after seven years of impasse, false starts and disagreements.
The target is to get texts by the end of the coming week, trade sources told journalists.
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15 Slovakia, EU’s Detroit, maneuvers around meltdown
By WILLIAM J. KOLE, Associated Press Writer
Sun Nov 30, 8:49 am ET
|ZILINA, Slovakia – Every 60 seconds, to a robotic burst of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, a new Kia sedan or SUV emerges from beneath a cascade of sparks at the South Korean carmaker’s gleaming assembly plant in this northwestern town.
Ex-communist Slovakia is fast becoming Europe’s Detroit: a humming automotive haven where – for now, at least – there’s no sign of the crisis gripping America’s Big Three.
“We’re talking about adding jobs, not eliminating them,” says Jun-Bum Park, general manager of Kia Motors Slovakia, which opened the sprawling euro1 billion ($1.36 billion) complex in Zilina in December 2006.
16 Exit polls: Social Dems get most votes in Romania
1 hr 4 mins ago
|BUCHAREST, Romania – Two exit polls in Romania are projecting the leftist Social Democrats have won the most votes in parliamentary elections in the former communist country.
The polls have been reliable in past elections, and both show the leftist bloc with roughly 36 percent. But the party, which includes former communist leaders, does not appear to have enough support to take power outright.
Anxiety over the global financial crisis was a major issue, and the Social Democrats promised to spread the wealth around.
17 150 whales die in stranding in Australia
Sun Nov 30, 2:18 am ET
|HOBART, Australia – A group of 150 whales that became stranded on a remote coastline in southern Australia were battered to death on rocks before rescuers could save them.
Officials from Tasmania state’s Parks and Wildlife Service rushed Sunday in four-wheel-drive vehicles to the remote site at Sandy Cape after the long-finned pilot whales were spotted by air a day earlier.
A helicopter crew that arrived late Saturday found about a dozen of the whales injured but alive, said Warwick Brennan, a spokesman for the service.
18 Georgia and Ukraine to get NATO advice
By David Brunnstrom, Reuters
1 hr 5 mins ago
|BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO is expected to encourage Georgia and Ukraine to pursue reforms needed to eventually join the alliance but stop short of offering formal roadmaps at a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers on Tuesday.
At an April NATO summit held in Bucharest, France and Germany, worried about the reaction of key energy supplier Russia, blocked Membership Action Plans (MAP) — also called roadmaps — for the former Soviet states.
However, under U.S. pressure, NATO leaders promised them eventual NATO membership and to review their cases in December, though Germany’s foreign minister said in an interview published on Sunday his position had not changed since Bucharest.
19 China’s richest man thrown into spotlight amid probe
By Nerilyn Tenorio and Joseph Chaney, Reuters
Sun Nov 30, 1:52 am ET
|HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s richest man, Huang Guangyu, who is being investigated for suspected economic crimes, is no stranger to controversy.
Two years ago, local authorities investigated the self-made 39-year-old billionaire in connection with a loan deal involving his investment company, Eagle Property Group. Huang was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
The current probe of Huang, the chairman and controlling shareholder of China’s top electronics retailer GOME — known as China’s Best Buy, the top U.S. electronics chain — throws the spotlight on another Chinese tale of rags-to-riches fame.
20 Congo rebel chief says "war" if no talks with government
By Hereward Holland, Reuters
Sat Nov 29, 4:48 pm ET
|JOMBA, Congo (Reuters) – Congolese Tutsi rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda threatened war Saturday unless Congo’s government entered a new round of talks with him.
Nkunda, whose forces have routed government troops and gained swathes of territory in North Kivu province in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo since launching a new offensive in August, has repeatedly demanded negotiations.
Nkunda said he had been told by the U.N. special envoy, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, that Kinshasa had accepted the principle of talks.
21 UN chief backs EU force for DR Congo: Belgium
1 hr 59 mins ago
|BRUSSELS (AFP) – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon favours sending an interim European force to Democratic Republic of Congo awaiting peacekeeping reinforcements, Belgium’s foreign minister said Sunday.
The UN Security Council has approved an additional 3,000 peacekeepers for the Congo mission, but the deployment “is going to take some time,” Karel De Gucht told Belgium’s VRT television.
“For that reason, the United Nations hopes that a European military force could come and fill in the gap during this period,” De Gucht said.
22 Key clerics criticize new U.S.-Iraq security deal
By Adam Ashton, McClatchy Newspapers
Sat Nov 29, 3:51 pm ET
|BAGHDAD – Influential religious leaders across Iraq are voicing reservations about a U.S.- Iraq security agreement that allows Americans to remain in the country for another three years.
Some are cautious in their criticisms. Others – ones who generally are tied to political parties that fought the pact – forcefully condemn the treaty.
Their comments filtered in Sunday as Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki met with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. Ray Odierno , commander of multinational forces in Iraq , to plan for the treaty’s implementation.
23 Redemption for the Polish Leader Who Crushed Solidarity?
By BEATA PASEK/WARSAW, Time Magazine
Sun Nov 30, 12:40 am ET
|In December of 1981, General Wojciech Jaruzelski imposed martial law on Poland, orchestrating a brutal crackdown on the pro-democracy Solidarity trade union movement that eventually saw some 90 people killed, and around 10,000 detained in internment camps. But as Jaruzelski and six other former top officials set out their defense in a criminal trial over their coup and crackdown, many of the former leaders of Solidarity have emerged among the general’s staunchest defenders. In a bizarre twist of history, the leaders of the very movement Jaruzelski sought to crush 27 years ago now say he was right, at the time, to curb Solidarity’s growing appetite for power.|
24 Thailand Crisis Deepens Amidst New Violence
By ROBERT HORN / BANGKOK, Time Magazine
Sun Nov 30, 5:50 am ET
|Nearly 50 anti-government demonstrators were rushed to hospital early Sunday morning after a grenade attack on one of their protest sites in Bangkok. The attack comes on the sixth day of the anti-government occupation of Bangkok’s two main airports, where demonstrators have been involved in minor clashes with the some 2000 police officers deployed there. Meanwhile, in the old quarter of the Thai capital, tens of thousands of government supporters were preparing to rally, raising concerns about a confrontation between the two opposing groups.|
25 India Faces Questions Over Mumbai Siege
By MADHUR SINGH AND JYOTI THOTTAM, Time Magazine
Sun Nov 30, 5:55 am ET
|The siege has ended, but the full picture of Mumbai’s three days of terror has yet to emerge. Some of the most basic questions about the mayhem that began at 9.30 p.m. on Wednesday and ended at around 10 a.m. Saturday remain unanswered by the authorities. How many terrorists were there, and where did they come from? How was it possible for so few people to inflict so much damage, and how were they able to sustain their assault over such a lengthy period? Although the investigation is just getting underway, some details emerging on Saturday provide some clues.|
26 Mumbai: The Perils of Blaming Pakistan
By ARYN BAKER, Time Mgazine
Sun Nov 30, 5:55 am ET
|Indian accusations of a Pakistani hand in last week’s Mumbai massacre couldn’t have come at a worse time for the government in Islamabad: As a Taliban insurgency continues to simmer in the tribal areas along the Afghan border, clashes on Sunday between rival political groups in the southern metropolis of Karachi killed 13 people and wounded 70. The country is on the verge of economic collapse, its desperate pleas for financial assistance from China and Saudi Arabia last month having been rebuffed, forcing Pakistan to accept loans from the International Monetary Fund – but those loans come with stern conditions limiting government spending, the implementation of which will risk inflaming further unrest. A suspected U.S. predator drone attack in the tribal areas on Saturday – one of dozens in recent months – has further alienated a population already suspicious of U.S. interference. Hardly surprising, then, that Pakistani leaders have reacted with alarm to politicians and the media in India pointing a finger at Pakistan-based terror groups over the Mumbai attack. Some foreign investigators have made similar claims, although not in any official capacity.|