The Morning News is an Open Thread
|From Yahoo News Top Stories|
1 Warren’s inauguration prayer could draw more ire
By RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion Writer
26 mins ago
|President-elect Barack Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation drew one kind of protest. Whether the evangelical pastor offers the prayer in the name of Jesus may draw another. At George W. Bush’s 2001 swearing-in, the Revs. Franklin Graham and Kirbyjon Caldwell were criticized for invoking Christ. The distinctly Christian reference at a national civic event offended some, and even prompted a lawsuit.
Warren did not answer directly when asked whether he would dedicate his prayer to Jesus. In a statement Tuesday to The Associated Press, Warren would say only that, “I’m a Christian pastor so I will pray the only kind of prayer I know how to pray.”
“Prayers are not to be sermons, speeches, position statements nor political posturing. They are humble, personal appeals to God,” Warren wrote. His spokesman would not elaborate.
2 Kennedy’s ‘you knows’ become political fodder
By JENNIFER PELTZ, Associated Press Writer
32 mins ago
|NEW YORK – If Caroline Kennedy had, you know, only known. Tracking the would-be New York senator’s verbal tics has become a political parlor game in the days since she gave her first round of in-depth interviews, even spawning a hip-hop-style mash-up online blending her “you knows” with President-elect Barack Obama’s “uhs.”
Such conversational fillers are, of course, as common as, like, speech itself. But the buzz about Kennedy’s “you knows” illustrates how problematic a few extraneous syllables can be for a public figure, especially in an era when today’s verbal foible is tomorrow’s viral video.
“It really did a huge disservice to her,” said communications training coach Matt Eventoff, a partner in Princeton Public Speaking in Princeton, N.J. Rather than focusing on Kennedy’s views, he said, “people are going to spend time deconstructing the ‘you knows.'”
3 Pakistan closes US supply route to hit militants
By RIAZ KHAN, Associated Press Writer
1 hr 38 mins ago
|PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Pakistan suspended truck shipments of U.S. military supplies through the famed Khyber Pass on Tuesday after launching an offensive against militants who are trying to cripple Washington’s war on a resurgent Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.
The U.S. military said a temporary closure of the key supply line was not a problem, and praised the campaign in the rugged hills of northwestern Pakistan where al-Qaida leaders – including Osama bin Laden – are believed hiding.
The operation came amid tensions between Pakistan and its eastern neighbor, India, triggered by last month’s terror attack in Mumbai, which the Indian government and Washington have blamed on Islamic extremists based in Pakistan.
4 Obama’s online backers key to pushing his agenda
By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 30, 2:59 pm ET
|HONOLULU – President-elect Barack Obama’s top asset in pushing his agenda will not be his Cabinet secretaries or aides, but rather his online network. Obama’s political e-mail list tops 13 million names, a digital force that the incoming White House can tap to push for his legislation, tamp down critics or bolster popular support. It’s also a way for Obama to reach into every state, every city, and every neighborhood.
A study released Tuesday found that a quarter of Obama voters said they would continue to work online to support the new administration. The nonpartisan Pew Internet and American Life Project also found 62 percent of Obama’s voters say they would ask others to support Obama’s policies.
Welcome to the Democrats’ new permanent campaign, one planned online and executed on Main Street.
5 ACLU of Arkansas sues over adoption restrictions
By ANDREW DeMILLO, Associated Press Writer
2 hrs 37 mins ago
|LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – More than a dozen families sued Tuesday to challenge a new Arkansas law banning unmarried couples living together from becoming foster or adoptive parents.
The Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of the families in Pulaski County Circuit Court seeking to overturn Act 1, which was approved by voters in last month’s general election.
“Act 1 violates the state’s legal duty to place the best interest of children above all else,” said Marie-Bernarde Miller, a Little Rock attorney in the lawsuit.
6 Dick Clark, 79, is still rockin’ New Year’s Eve
By JEFF WILSON, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 30, 3:45 pm ET
|LOS ANGELES – Four years after a stroke, Dick Clark is relishing the prospect of another New Year’s Eve, determined to help host his 36th celebration from Times Square. And he’s hardly surprised by the current state of the music industry he helped build – he predicted this, after all.
Clark, who turned 79 last month and has been in front of the cameras for 61 years, said in a recent interview by e-mail that his appearance on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2009,” diminished though it may be, is a labor of love and “not really a job.”
“Obviously, I’m not able to be as actively involved as I used to be out on the street, up on a platform and interacting with the crowds in Times Square” in New York, Clark wrote. “Thank goodness my friend Ryan Seacrest is able to handle that end of the activity on the show these days.
7 Children’s book based on Holocaust story is pulled
By HILLEL ITALIE, AP National Writer
Tue Dec 30, 12:48 pm ET
|NEW YORK – The fallout continues from Herman Rosenblat’s discredited Holocaust story.
Laurie Friedman’s “Angel Girl,” a children’s book inspired by Rosenblat, was pulled Tuesday by the Lerner Publishing Group. President and publisher Adam Lerner said in a statement that the Minneapolis-based company had been misled by Rosenblat and his wife, Roma.
“We are dismayed to learn about Herman and Roma Rosenblat’s recantation of part of their Holocaust survival story,” Lerner said. “While this tragic event in world history needs to be taught to children, it is imperative that it is done so in a factual way that doesn’t sacrifice veracity for emotional impact.”
8 Families in China’s milk scandal denounce payout
By GILLIAN WONG, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 30, 11:36 am ET
|BEIJING – Chinese families whose babies suffered painful kidney stones from drinking tainted infant formula said Tuesday that a planned payout by dairies is too low and their lawyers pledged to continue attempts to sue for more compensation.
The release of details of the 1.1 billion yuan ($160 million) compensation plan and the opening of trials for those blamed for the contamination signal that authorities hope to end what was widely seen as a national disgrace, highlighting widespread food safety problems and corporate and official malfeasance.
Contaminated milk powder has been blamed for the deaths of at least six children and the sickening of nearly 300,000 others.
9 Home prices post 18 percent annual drop in October
By J.W ELPHINSTONE, AP Real Estate Writer
Tue Dec 30, 11:24 am ET
|NEW YORK – Home prices dropped by the sharpest annual rate on record in October and there are no signs the housing pain is over, according to a closely watched index released Tuesday.
The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city housing index fell by a record 18 percent from October last year, the largest drop since its inception in 2000. The 10-city index tumbled 19.1 percent, its biggest decline in its 21-year history.
Both indices have recorded year-over-year declines for 22 straight months. Prices are at levels not seen since March 2004.
10 December consumer confidence drops to all-time low
By ELLEN SIMON, AP Business Writer
1 hr 51 mins ago
|NEW YORK – Consumer confidence hit an all-time low in December, dropping further in the face of rising layoffs, in yet another sign that consumer spending is unlikely to pull the U.S. out of a yearlong recession any time soon.
Consumers have been nervous about spending for months – putting off big-ticket purchases, forgoing new clothes and choosing store brands at the grocery store – all of which may make this the worst holiday season for retailers in decades.
The Consumer Confidence Index measured by the Conference Board, a private research group, fell to 38 in December from a revised 44.7 in November. That is its lowest point since the group began compiling the index in 1967, and below the previous low of 38.8 in October. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected the index to rise incrementally to 45.
11 GMAC receives $5B in bailout funds
By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
Tue Dec 30, 11:07 am ET
|WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department said that it will provide $5 billion to GMAC Financial Services LLC, the ailing financing arm of General Motors Corp., in a move that’s expected to stave off a bankruptcy protection filing at the company but also severely limit GM’s control over it.
In exchange for the slice of the $700 billion bank rescue package, the government will receive preferred shares that pay an 8 percent dividend and warrants to purchase additional shares in return for the money, the department said.
Treasury also said it will lend up to $1 billion to General Motors so that the company can purchase additional equity that GMAC is planning to offer as part of its effort to raise more capital.
12 GM, GMAC ease lending rules to entice car buyers
By Jonathan Stempel and Kevin Krolicki, Reuters
Tue Dec 30, 4:20 pm ET
|NEW YORK/DETROIT (Reuters) – General Motors Corp and its GMAC funding affiliate launched programs on Tuesday to lure U.S. car and truck buyers back into showrooms, as the nation’s largest automaker tries to revive its sagging fortunes.
GMAC modified its credit criteria so that it could lend to a wider range of potential customers, two-and-a-half months after significantly curbing lending.
Meanwhile, GM is offering zero-percent financing on several vehicles, and rates no higher than 5.9 percent on more than three dozen 2008 and 2009 models. The offer expires on January 5. Many eligible vehicles also carry cash discounts of $500 to $4,250.
13 World faces slowdown in 2009
By Claudia Parsons, Reuters
2 hrs 43 mins ago
|NEW YORK (Reuters) – Another day, another batch of warning signs indicating the world will enter 2009 in the throes of a sharp economic slowdown, with governments scrambling to find ways to boost lending and spur growth.
Oil and gold prices dipped on Tuesday, pressured by the gloomy global economic outlook which outweighed tensions in the Middle East due to Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip.
Tuesday brought more dismal economic news in the United States, with single-family home prices down 18 percent in October from a year earlier and consumer confidence plunging to a record low due to severe job cuts.
14 Madoff expected to disclose worth to regulators
By Grant McCool, Reuters
Tue Dec 30, 4:32 pm ET
|NEW YORK (Reuters) – Confessed swindler Bernard Madoff faces a Wednesday deadline to tell regulators how much he is worth and where his money and other assets are, but it will likely be a longer wait before his investors, seeking to recover billions of dollars, learn the tallies.
Investigators from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission — which is under fire for missing a purported decades-long $50 billion Ponzi scheme to fleece wealthy individuals and charities alike — will take weeks to pore over the assets, liabilities and property declared by Madoff, 70.
A spokesman for the SEC declined comment. In general, the regulator is not required to immediately publicly file such disclosures with the courts.
15 Holiday weakest since 1970, more retail cuts seen
By Nicole Maestri, Reuters
Tue Dec 30, 3:15 pm ET
|NEW YORK (Reuters) – Not since at least 1970 has holiday shopping in the United States posted such dismal numbers, according to data released on Tuesday that was likely to prompt retailers to curtail their business even more in 2009.
The International Council of Shopping Centers said sales fell even in the week that included Christmas Day. It expects November and December sales to be down 1.5 percent to 2 percent, which would be the first decline since the ICSC began tracking holiday sales in 1969.
While there is still some time for retailers to capture holiday sales, “I don’t have a lot of hope that it gives you a surprise lift,” said ICSC Chief Economist Michael Niemira. “The discounts are so great and demand is so uncertain and uneven.”
16 On Saddam anniversary, Iraq readies macabre museum
By Waleed Ibrahim and Missy Ryan, Reuters
Tue Dec 30, 10:54 am ET
|BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The man putting together Iraq’s newest museum doesn’t like to be alone in his office, where he keeps bloodied nooses, a medieval-looking torture device and boxes of documents chronicling atrocities under Saddam Hussein.
“It’s uncomfortable. You feel as if there’s someone there with you,” said the soft-spoken court official, who asked to go unnamed. To escape the eeriness, he works alongside colleagues next door.
On the two-year anniversary of Saddam’s death by hanging, Iraq is preparing to open a new museum that will allow Iraqis to see up close such macabre mementos of mass executions, torture, and other atrocities committed in Saddam’s decades-long rule.
17 Congress to examine Madoff case next week
By Rachelle Younglai, Reuters
Tue Dec 30, 3:58 pm ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Lawmakers will take their first close look next Monday at financier Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50 billion fraud and why the Securities and Exchange Commission failed to discover the scandal.
Information gleaned from the hearing will help guide Congress as it attempts to reform laws regulating the U.S. financial system, said Rep. Paul Kanjorski, a Pennsylvania Democrat and chairman of the House capital markets subcommittee.
“Madoff’s actions have further weakened the already battered investor confidence in our securities markets,” Kanjorski said in a statement on Monday.
18 Pakistan urges India to stand down troops
By Kamran Haider, Reuters
Tue Dec 30, 8:26 am ET
|ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan urged India on Tuesday to reduce tension by deactivating its forward air bases and standing down troops, but New Delhi angrily rejected suggestions it was aggravating tension with its nuclear-armed rival.
A near-daily, frenzied exchange of words has added to bilateral tensions that touched the boiling point after last month’s attacks in Mumbai in which 179 people were killed. India says the attackers were trained in Pakistan.
“I believe if India deactivates its forward air bases and similarly, relocates its troops to peacetime positions, that will be a positive step,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a televised address.
19 Landslide win for ex-PM Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh poll
by Shafiq Alam, AFP
Tue Dec 30, 2:48 pm ET
|DHAKA (AFP) – Bangladesh’s former premier Sheikh Hasina Wajed won the country’s first election since 2001 in a landslide Tuesday, but her bitter rival rejected the result saying the polls had been “stage-managed”.
Khaleda Zia’s rejection of the outcome early Wednesday threatened to throw the impoverished South Asian nation into fresh political uncertainty after two years of rule by an army-backed caretaker government.
The election commission said Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party had won 231 of the 297 seats in parliament counted so far, giving her an overwhelming win in Monday’s vote with just a few results still to be tallied.
20 ECB chief Trichet does not exclude January rate cut: report
Tue Dec 30, 3:02 pm ET
|FRANKFURT (AFP) – European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet appeared on Tuesday to allow for a January interest rate cut by stressing that inflation should not fall much below two percent.
But as usual, the ECB chief responded prudently to questions in an interview with the German financial daily Boersen Zeitung, saying: “We are concentrating at present on the impact of our previous decisions.”
His comments were to appear on Wednesday but were released in advance.
21 Somali president quits as fighting rages between rival Islamists
by Yasin Mohamed, AFP
Mon Dec 29, 11:17 am ET
|BAIDOA, Somalia (AFP) – Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed quit Monday, plunging the war-torn country deeper into chaos as hardline Islamist fighters recaptured two central towns.
Former warlord Yusuf’s exit marks a new nadir for a lawless land where thousands have died in fighting over the last two years, millions have been left homeless or in dire need of aid and a security black hole has created a global problem with piracy off its shores.
The 74-year-old former warlord stepped down following a bitter power struggle, two weeks after his attempt to sack and replace the prime minister in defiance of lawmakers failed, and days from a planned Ethiopian troop pullout.
22 Lawyers charge Mugabe’s Zimbabwe with contempt
Mon Dec 29, 3:20 pm ET
|HARARE (AFP) – Lawyers for detained rights activists called Monday for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s government to be charged with contempt, as the country’s cholera death toll rose above 1,500.
The defence team for 18 activists was in court either to press for transfer to hospital in line with a Zimbabwe high court order, or to fight charges of plotting to overthrow the 84-year-old ruler for nearly three decades.
“The state is approaching this court with dirty hands. The state did not comply with the order of (high court ) justice Yunus Omerjee,” one of the lawyers, Charlel Kwaramba, told a magistrates’ court.
23 US-Japanese study finds genes for 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ pandemic
Mon Dec 29, 6:20 pm ET
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – A US-Japanese research team announced Monday it had isolated three genes that explain why the 1918 Spanish flu, believed to be the deadliest infectious disease in history, was so lethal.
The pandemic killed between 20 and 50 million people, more than all of World War I, which ended in November 1918, and spread around the world.
The genes allowed the virus to reproduce in lung tissue, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
24 Bailout may cost trillions … or not
By Mark Trumbull, The Christian Science Monitor
Tue Dec 30, 3:00 am ET
|A trillion dollars here and there, and soon the US government’s financial rescue programs start adding up to big money.
But how high is the cost, really?
One tally, which puts the Great Bailout somewhere north of $8 trillion, has been making the rounds in news reports, on websites, and on Capitol Hill. At that rate, some people ask if we could just use the money to cut every American a $26,000 check and kiss the recession goodbye.
25 China projects naval power in pirate fight
By Jonathan Adams, The Christian Science Monitor
Tue Dec 30, 3:00 am ET
|BEIJING – China’s dispatch of two warships to help battle Somalian pirates has drawn an ambivalent global reaction – a sign of the decidedly mixed feelings toward its bid for big-power status.
Two destroyers and a supply ship steamed out of a southern Chinese port Friday, on China’s first patrol and potential combat mission beyond Chinese waters. The ships are due to reach the Gulf of Aden by Jan. 6 and carry 870 crew members, including 70 elite Navy special forces trained in close combat and helicopter-borne raids, according to the China Daily newspaper.
Two days earlier, a Chinese defense official, at a rare press conference, gave one of the clearest indications yet that China plans to build an aircraft carrier.
26 Israeli strikes in Gaza risk political win for Hamas
By Joshua Mitnick, The Christian Science Monitor
Tue Dec 30, 3:00 am ET
|Ashkelon, Israel – After Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Shiite militants emerged claiming victory and exalted across the Arab world. Even its harshest critics praised the group’s endurance against overwhelming Israeli force. Today Hezbollah is more powerful – politically and militarily – than ever before.
As its assault on Gaza militants continues, Israel runs the risk of seeing Hamas emerge in much the same way as Hezbollah did two years ago. Already the deadly strikes have led to a burst of criticism aimed at pro-Western Middle East governments and sparked rallies supporting Hamas in the region and in Europe.
“Although very costly in terms of material and human damage, politically speaking it is strengthening Hamas because of the huge sympathy from it being targeted,” says Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian Authority labor minister. “This is being used by political Islamic parties all over the region.”
27 At overcrowded Florida prisons, some inmates may just camp out
By Richard Luscombe, The Christian Science Monitor
Tue Dec 30, 3:00 am ET
|Miami – Florida’s balmy winter temperatures have long been a draw for visitors eager to spend some time under canvas, sleeping on cots and enjoying the great outdoors. But a new plan to expose some of the state’s inmates to the delights of year-round ‘camping’ has failed to evoke the same enthusiasm.
Faced with a budget deficit of $2.3 billion, Florida is saving money by buying giant tents to house prisoners at nine of its 137 facilities. With its prison population having passed 100,000 for the first time this month, corrections officials say that the hundreds of extra beds will also help address potential overcrowding problems.
The state isn’t the first to try the idea. Michigan, Colorado, Arizona, and Hawaii are among those that have considered or used tents to better manage prison populations.
|From Yahoo News World|
28 Thrice-built house embodies Haiti aid shortfalls
By JONATHAN M. KATZ, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 30, 11:57 am ET
|GONAIVES, Haiti – The farmer camps in a crude tent of broken sandbags as he guards the foundation of his destroyed home and his last possessions: a pickax, a hoe and some charcoal.
This is the third time Olisten Elerius is preparing to build his tiny cinderblock house. Four years ago, Tropical Storm Jeanne flooded it and drowned his father, sister and nephew. Then, late this summer, Tropical Storm Hanna swallowed it along with his daughter and another sister. It could happen again.
After Jeanne struck in 2004, more than $70 million in aid went to immediate relief such as food, medical aid and jobs, but little went to flood control, according to an Associated Press review of relief spending. Despite pledges to prevent such devastation in the future, few projects to build drains, fix roads and stop erosion were even attempted.
29 Trial of Iraqi shoe thrower is postponed
By PATRICK QUINN, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 30, 1:16 pm ET
|BAGHDAD – A court Tuesday postponed the trial of a journalist who hurled his shoes at President George W. Bush in anger over the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, an act of protest that made him an international celebrity.
The court’s decision to review the charges against Muntadhar al-Zeidi comes as Iraq prepares after nearly six years to end America’s costly grip over the country and give U.S. troops three years to pack up and leave.
Thursday will also see the official handover of the most potent symbol of U.S. occupation, when Iraq takes formal control of the Green Zone – a heavily fortified enclave surrounded by cement walls that extends over 4 square miles of downtown Baghdad and encompasses the U.S. Embassy and the seat of the Iraqi government.
30 Thai PM dodges protesters for first key speech
By MICHAEL CASEY, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 30, 1:12 pm ET
|BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand’s new prime minister evaded thousands of protesters blocking Parliament on Tuesday and delivered his first key policy speech in the Foreign Ministry instead, promising to heal the turmoil that has ripped at the country and its tourism-based economy.
“The government has come into office at a time of conflict. This conflict has become the weakness of the country,” Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thailand’s third prime minister in four months, told lawmakers that included only his coalition members. Opposition members boycotted the session, but enough lawmakers showed up for a quorum.
Abhisit was forced to move and delay the speech by a day because of the anti-government protesters outside Parliament – the same street-swamping demonstration tactics that his own supporters had used just before he came to power two weeks ago.
31 Guinea coup leader names civilian prime minister
By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 30, 10:49 am ET
|CONAKRY, Guinea – Coup leaders in Guinea named a civilian banker as prime minister Tuesday, making good on a key promise a week after seizing power upon the death of the country’s long-time dictator.
Their choice, Kabine Komara, is a director of the African Export-Import Bank in Cairo, a 14-year-old institution that promotes trade between African states. His selection raises hopes the military junta may also honor other commitments, including holding elections and cracking down on corruption.
This West African nation has an abundance of gold, diamonds, iron, timber and half the world’s reserves of bauxite, the raw material used to make aluminum. But for the past 24 years, Guinea’s treasury has been pillaged by officials loyal to the late President Lansana Conte and its people have fallen deeper and deeper into poverty.
32 Loser rejects results in Bangladesh’s election
By FARID HOSSAIN, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 30, 4:11 pm ET
|DHAKA, Bangladesh – Bangladesh’s first election in seven years was called largely free, fair and the most peaceful in decades Tuesday, but the bitter feelings between the two women who have dominated politics re-emerged as the loser rejected her archrival’s win.
The vote returned former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to power in a landslide. But her rival’s accusation of vote fraud indicated Hasina will find it difficult to escape paralyzing power struggles in a country long plagued by corruption and misrule. Both women faced recent corruption charges.
“It is a farcical election,” Khaleda Zia, also a former prime minister, said in a televised news conference early Wednesday, claiming the results did not reflect the people’s opinion.
33 Pro-India parties to take power in Indian Kashmir
By ASHOK SHARMA, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 30, 7:11 am ET
|NEW DELHI – A pro-India coalition will head the Kashmir state government, ending nearly six months of federal administration that saw deadly protests against New Delhi’s rule, leaving more than 50 people dead.
No single party managed to win a majority in the election, which took place in several phases and ended last week, and so the major parties scrambled to form an alliance to take power.
The National Conference, which with 28 seats won more than any other party, and the Congress party, which won 17, struck an agreement Tuesday to form a new coalition, giving them a majority in the state parliament, officials said.
34 Iraq and UK agree to let troops stay until July
Tue Dec 30, 4:49 pm ET
|BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq signed agreements with Britain and Australia on Tuesday for their troops to stay in Iraq for seven months after a U.N. mandate authorizing their presence expires on January 1, Iraq’s Defense Ministry said.
Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said the agreements would take effect on New Year’s Day and would require the two countries’ combat troops to leave Iraq by the end of July.
Britain has 4,100 troops stationed in Iraq, near the southern oil center of Basra. Australia has 300 troops.
35 U.S. backs plan for engaging Afghan tribes
By Sayed Salahuddin, Reuters
Tue Dec 30, 7:50 am ET
|KABUL (Reuters) – The United States backs a proposed Afghan government plan to engage tribal elders in the war against the resurgent Taliban, a move seen by critics as reviving militias, its top envoy said on Tuesday.
Although, seven years on from the Taliban’s ouster, there are nearly 70,000 NATO-led troops in Afghanistan — to be boosted by up to 30,000 extra U.S. soldiers by the summer — alongside tens of thousands of Afghan forces, William Wood said this was not enough to protect all Afghan villages from the militants.
Called the “Community Guard Programme,” the pilot project will cover southern and eastern areas where the al Qaeda-backed Taliban are most active, said Wood.
36 Builders unearth 18th century galleon in Argentina
Tue Dec 30, 5:10 pm ET
|BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentine builders stumbled across the wreck of an 18th century Spanish galleon while digging the foundations for a riverside high-rise building in Buenos Aires, archeologists said on Tuesday.
Experts combing the remains of the ship said they did not expect it to contain treasure, but so far they have discovered several canons and well-preserved earthenware jars that were probably used to store olive oil.
The remains of the galleon were found on a building site close to the shores of the River Plate and archeologists from Buenos Aires city government think the boat was probably shipwrecked some 300 years ago.
37 Sudan opposition leader questioned over ICC: media
Tue Dec 30, 10:03 am ET
|KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudanese security forces questioned a veteran opposition leader over comments he made supporting a war crimes case against the country’s president, but then released him, state media reported Tuesday.
The incident was part of a crackdown on Sudanese seen as backing the International Criminal Court and its chief prosecutor, who has asked for an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, accusing him of orchestrating genocide in Darfur.
The vice president of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Ali Mahmoud Hassanein, was questioned about “negative remarks he made supporting the ICC allegations against the president of the republic,” said the Sudanese Media Center, a news outlet with links to Sudan’s security service.
38 Czechs take EU helm from fringe as crises rage
By Jan Lopatka, Reuters
Tue Dec 30, 9:16 am ET
|PRAGUE (Reuters) -The Czechs have a tough act to follow when they take the helm of the European Union on January 1 after French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s energetic stint.
Facing the worst economic crisis in generations, a stalled process to streamline decision-making, thorny ties with Russia, and June European Parliament elections, many EU leaders say strong leadership now is not a luxury but a necessity.
But unlike France, which under Sarkozy launched a string of initiatives, albeit with mixed results, on issues such as the economic crisis and climate change, the Czechs have been far from the forefront of the drive for deeper integration.
39 Belgium’s Van Rompuy named PM after coalition deal
By Anne Jolis, Reuters
Tue Dec 30, 12:37 pm ET
|BRUSSELS (Reuters) – King Albert named Flemish Christian Democrat Herman Van Rompuy as Belgian prime minister on Tuesday to head a revived five-party coalition in a country facing recession and a bank crisis.
Van Rompuy replaces his party colleague Yves Leterme, who resigned on December 19 over allegations of political meddling in the bailout of stricken bank Fortis.
“The king received Mr. Herman Van Rompuy this afternoon at the Chateau de Laeken and named him prime minister,” the palace said in a statement.
40 U.S. pull-back from Iraq will hit private contractors
By Missy Ryan, Reuters
Tue Dec 30, 7:28 am ET
|BAGHDAD (Reuters) – In Iraq, tens of thousands of private contractors from poor countries like Nepal, Pakistan or Peru keep the U.S. military on its feet, driving trucks, scrubbing floors, and ladling out food at sprawling U.S. bases.
But the role of Iraq’s multi-billion-dollar contracting business will change next year as Washington draws down troop levels and Iraq assumes control for maintaining a fragile calm.
Change may mean fewer jobs for workers from the developing world who have been willing to risk their lives to join the 200,000 private contractors who outnumber U.S. troops in Iraq.
41 China now probes melamine tableware scare
1 hr 13 mins ago
|BEIJING (Reuters) – China, fighting a health scandal over melamine found in milk and other food products, now says it is investigating melamine tableware, following reports it might be harmful to health when hot.
Quality inspectors told Xinhua news agency they were organizing tests of melamine tableware “following reports that some products contained poisonous ingredients.”
Melamine is an industrial compound used in making plastic chairs, countertops, tableware, flame retardants and even concrete. It was added by unscrupulous manufacturers to food to cheat nutrition tests due to its high in nitrogen content.
42 No Ghana election result until at least Friday: electoral body
Tue Dec 30, 3:32 pm ET
|ACCRA (AFP) – Election officials on Tuesday told Ghana’s opposition, which has claimed victory in a presidential run-off poll, it will have to wait until at least Friday for definitive results to be announced.
The country’s election commission said the result of the ballot could be affected by voting on Friday in the country’s 230th constituency Tain which was unable to complete polling on Sunday.
“As of now Professor (John) Atta-Mills is in the lead,” commission head Kwado Afari-Gyan told reporters, referring to the opposition party candidate.
43 Ugandan rebels kill 400 in DR Congo: charity
2 hrs 44 mins ago
|KINSHASA (AFP) – Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army rebels killed more than 400 people in Christmas massacres in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the Caritas aid charity said Tuesday.
The rebels denied any responsibility and accused troops from DR Congo, Uganda and South Sudan of “bombing” the victims, but a statement from the United Nations Secretary General condemned the alleged LRA atrocities Tuesday.
The LRA targeted a town where a Christmas Day concert was being held and a Roman Catholic church, and attacks were going on along the Sudanese border, the Catholic charity said in a statement.
44 Russian leader signs presidential term extension: Kremlin
Tue Dec 30, 3:07 pm ET
|MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday signed into law constitutional amendments extending presidential terms from four years to six, the Kremlin said, following a high-speed approval process.
A Kremlin spokeswoman confirmed to AFP that Medvedev had approved the amendments, after they were announced in early November and pushed through the national parliament and all 83 regional assemblies in less than two months.
Analysts have speculated the changes could be designed to pave the way for a return to the presidency by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who left the Kremlin in May but is often viewed as continuing to wield true power in Russia.
45 500,000 New Citizens for Spain?
By LISA ABEND, Time Magazine
Tue Dec 30, 2:30 am ET
|Ludivina GarcÍa’s father fought on the side of the Republic in the Spanish Civil War, and was imprisoned in one of Franco’s concentration camps before he escaped to Mexico. Now, thanks to a change in Spanish law, the Mexican-born GarcÍa, 63, is busy compiling the paperwork to obtain the citizenship she feels she has been unfairly denied all these years. GarcÍa is already recognized as a Spanish citizen through marriage. But having her nationality acknowledged as her birthright is a matter of honor. “It’s not redundant,” she says. “I’ve always had an identity conflict, and now I have the chance to resolve it.”|
46 ‘Old Europe’ Wary as Czechs Take Over E.U. Presidency
By LEO CENDROWICZ / BRUSSELS, Time Magazine
Tue Dec 30, 5:10 am ET
The flag spat underlines the anxiety surrounding the Czech presidency. Many of Europe’s leaders question how Prague can helm the E.U. over the next six months when the Czech president is so unenthusiastic about the group. Klaus has been an outspoken critic of the E.U. for years and says the Czech presidency is an insignificant event. He regularly criticizes major E.U. policies, has refused to sign the Lisbon Treaty and dismisses E.U. climate change legislation as “a silly luxury” that will exacerbate the international financial crisis. A 67-year-old economist who helped build the Czechs’ post-communist democracy, Klaus likens bank bailouts to “old socialism.”
47 Australia Loses, a Cricket Era Passes
By MICHAEL ELLIOTT, Time Magazine
Tue Dec 30, 2:40 pm ET
|In Australia, it is being mourned as the passing of an era of global dominance: On Dec. 30, the South African national cricket team beat the Aussies in a five-day “test match” at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three game contest, and handing Australia its first series defeat on home ground in 16 years. During that time, the Australian team had redefined the five-day version of the game – the only one that purists believe merits the devotion that they bestow on it – incorporating the sort of devil-may-care style of play that had hitherto been confined to the one-day game (in which each side has one, restricted innings, and therefore has to score more rapidly). The Australians made test cricket (which even its lovers will concede can be deadly dull) thrilling.|
48 A Secular Victory in Bangladesh Election
By JYOTI THOTTAM / NEW DELHI AND HAROON HABIB / DHAKA, Time Magazine
1 hr 47 mins ago
|A few months ago, Bangladeshis were worried that their fragile democracy was heading the way of Pakistan, where much of the political power resides with the military or the mullahs. By turning out in massive numbers on Dec. 29 to hand a decisive victory to the Awami League, which campaigned on its secular, reformist credentials, Bangladeshis hope they have steered their nation past those twin shoals.|
49 In Somalia, a Transitional President Is Out
By NICK WADHAMS / NAIROBI, Time Magazine
1 hr 50 mins ago
|The U.N. refugee agency released a small news item last week that went largely unnoticed: Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, destination for tens of thousands of fleeing Somalis since 1991, was full. “All [newly arriving] refugees have to find a place with relatives or friends, we no longer have any land to provide them,” a UNHCR field officer said. The three camps that comprise Dadaab were built with 60,000 refugees in mind. They now house 230,000, and tens of thousands more are expected in the coming months.|
|From Yahoo News U.S. News|
50 Landowners sue TVA for $165M over coal ash spill
By BETH RUCKER, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 30, 5:53 pm ET
|KINGSTON, Tenn. – A group of land owners sued the Tennessee Valley Authority for $165 million on Tuesday over a dike burst that spilled more than a billion gallons of coal ash sludge.
The six-page lawsuit was filed in state court by Jot and Brenda Raymond, owners and developers of North Lake Estates in eastern Tennessee’s Roane County.
It claims a creek running through the development has been damaged and is backed up as a result of the Dec. 22 spill from a power plant.
51 Ex-Army engineer pleads guilty in NY to spy charge
By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press Writer
57 mins ago
|NEW YORK – An 85-year-old former Army mechanical engineer pleaded guilty to conspiracy Tuesday and admitted he passed classified documents to the Israelis in the 1970s and ’80s.
Ben-ami Kadish told U.S. Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz he believed the government promised it would not seek a prison term when he is sentenced Feb. 13. Assistant U.S. Attorney Iris Lan said prosecutors promised only that they would not oppose or challenge a sentence that included no prison time.
Kadish was accused of taking home classified documents from 1979 to 1985 when he worked at the Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, N.J. The government said he let an Israeli agent photograph documents, including information about nuclear weapons, a modified version of an F-15 fighter jet and the U.S. Patriot missile air defense system.
52 Influx of black renters raises tension in Bay Area
By PAUL ELIAS, Associated Press Writer
1 hr 50 mins ago
|ANTIOCH, Calif. – As more and more black renters began moving into this mostly white San Francisco Bay Area suburb a few years ago, neighbors started complaining about loud parties, mean pit bulls, blaring car radios, prostitution, drug dealing and muggings of schoolchildren.
In 2006, as the influx reached its peak, the police department formed a special crime-fighting unit to deal with the complaints, and authorities began cracking down on tenants in federally subsidized housing.
Now that police unit is the focus of lawsuits by black families who allege the city of 100,000 is orchestrating a campaign to drive them out.
53 Lawyer in Alamo case: Bible no defense for abuse
By JON GAMBRELL, Associated Press Writer
1 hr 41 mins ago
|LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Jailed evangelist Tony Alamo’s right to religious freedom doesn’t allow him to beat children, a lawyer suing the preacher over alleged abuse says.
In federal court filings this week, W. David Carter wrote that protecting the public trumps constitutional protections afforded to religion. Alamo’s lawyer said in a court filing last week that the Bible requires spanking unruly children, and he suggested that Alamo had permission from church parents to discipline their children.
“Alamo’s religious ‘belief’ that he can beat, sexually abuse and otherwise mistreat children is guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Carter wrote. “Acting on that belief, however, is not.”
54 Judge halts closure of 11 Philadelphia libraries
By KATHY MATHESON, Associated Press Writer
2 hrs 12 mins ago
|PHILADELPHIA – A judge ruled Tuesday that Philadelphia’s mayor cannot close 11 public library branches to save money because an ordinance requires City Council approve such actions.
Common Pleas Judge Idee Fox heard more than a day of testimony before finding that the mayor is bound by a 1988 ordinance that prohibits him from closing any city-owned building without City Council’s approval.
“If they tried to pull a fast one on us, they got caught,” said Councilman Frank Rizzo.
55 Banned words list offers no ‘bailout’ to offenders
By JEFF KAROUB, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 30, 4:14 pm ET
|DETROIT – A movie about a “maverick,” his journey “from Wall Street to Main Street,” his “desperate search” for a “monkey” and a “game-changing” revelation about his “carbon footprint” probably would make the nation’s word-watchers physically ill.
Especially if it were the “winner of five nominations.”
All those words and phrases are on Lake Superior State University’s annual List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. The 34th version of the list was released Tuesday, which means, “It’s that time of year again.”
56 Ohio anti-bias worker sent racist, sexist e-mails
By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 30, 5:54 pm ET
|COLUMBUS, Ohio – An Ohio state employee whose job is to prevent discrimination repeatedly sent racist and sexist e-mails from his government account, an investigation found, but kept his job.
The same man was reprimanded a year ago for sending an e-mail joking about giving jobs to women with large breasts.
Jokes about men kissing and a woman’s genitalia, as well as a racial joke and a caricature of President-elect Barack Obama, were in the latest e-mails sent by the Transportation Department worker, according to an agency report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.
57 Judge rejects release of two Guantanamo inmates
By Randall Mikkelsen, Reuters
1 hr 24 mins ago
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge refused to release two Guantanamo terrorism suspects on Tuesday and upheld the government’s authority to keep them, after ordering freedom last month for five prisoners whose case led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling.
Federal District Court Judge Richard Leon said in two separate rulings the government had shown enough evidence to justify holding Yemeni citizen Moath Hamza Amhed Al Alwi and Tunisian Hisham Sliti as “enemy combatants” linked to al Qaeda or Taliban forces.
The Bush administration welcomed the rulings, but the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern over potential precedents. “This decision raises serious concerns given the reliance on classified evidence and the very broad definition of detention authority that it contains,” American Civil Liberties Union attorney Jonathan Hafetz said.
58 Bratz dolls to get reprieve: manufacturer
By Gina Keating, Reuters
1 hr 23 mins ago
|LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Bratz dolls and products, which had been ordered off the shelves for infringing on patents held by Barbie maker Mattel Inc, will receive an 11th-hour reprieve, their manufacturer said on Tuesday.
A judge indicated at a hearing that he will modify an injunction to allow stores to sell Bratz products through the end of 2009, MGA Entertainment Inc officials said.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson “indicated he will be modifying his December 3 stay … to allow purchases and sales (of Bratz items)” beyond a previously set deadline of February 11, MGA attorney Tom Nolan said.
59 Two potential bidders shun Boston Globe, Red Sox
By Robert MacMillan and Ben Klayman, Reuters
Mon Dec 29, 7:21 pm ET
|NEW YORK/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Two Boston businessmen have denied they were interested in buying The Boston Globe newspaper and a stake in the Red Sox baseball team, which are owned by the New York Times Co.
Monday’s denials came from two of a handful of names mentioned in media reports as likely bidders for the properties, whose sale would be important for the Times to pay off looming debt that threatens its financial health.
Shares, which were already down Monday morning, fell 8 percent in after hours trade to $6.47 from their close on the New York Stock Exchange at $7.02.
60 Facebook facing protest over removal of nursing photos (AFP)
Posted on Tue Dec 30, 2008 2:11PM EST
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – Facebook is facing an online protest after removing pictures of breastfeeding mothers found to be overly revealing from the pages of members of the social network.
A Facebook group entitled “Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!” has attracted nearly 85,000 members as of Tuesday and a handful of activists held a rally outside its California headquarters over the weekend.
The organizers of the page, which is hosting a lively debate, receiving more than 10,000 comments, said they launched their “Official Petition to Facebook” after Facebook pulled profile pictures showing women nursing their babies.