Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 US-backed Iraqi troops quell Baghdad uprising

By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer

57 mins ago

BAGHDAD – U.S.-backed Iraqi forces swept through a central Baghdad slum Sunday, disarming Sunnis from a government-allied paramilitary group to quell a two-day uprising launched to protest the arrest of their leader.

At least four people were killed and 21 wounded in the two days of fighting between government troops and the Awakening Council in Fadhil, a ramshackle warren of narrow, fetid streets on the east side of the Tigris River where al-Qaida once held sway.

Members of the Fadhil council said Sunday they decided to give up the fight and hand over their weapons to spare the neighborhood, whose bullet-pocked buildings bore witness to intense combat there two years ago.

2 Sudan’s wanted president welcomed at Arab summit

By BRIAN MURPHY, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 54 mins ago

DOHA, Qatar – Qatar’s leader embraced Sudan’s president in a red-carpet welcome Sunday as he arrived to attend an Arab Summit in his most brazen act of defiance against an international arrest warrant on charges of war crimes in Darfur.

For host Qatar – a key U.S. ally that is home to American warplanes and more than 5,000 U.S. troops – the Arab League meeting beginning Monday also showcases its desire to stake out a prominent role in regional affairs even at the risk of angering the West.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir had promised to attend the 22-nation gathering after assurances from members they would not enforce the International Criminal Court’s arrest order issued March 4. But his lavish arrival sent an apparent message that al-Bashir will have a center stage role at the two-day meeting.

3 Thousands of toxic toads killed in Australian fest

By KRISTEN GELINEAU, Associated Press Writer

Sun Mar 29, 11:38 am ET

SYDNEY – Thousands of poisonous cane toads met their fate Sunday as gleeful Australians gathered for a celebratory mass killing of the hated amphibians, with many of the creatures’ corpses being turned into fertilizer for the very farmers they’ve plagued for years.

Hundreds of participants in five communities across northern Queensland snacked on sausages, sipped cold drinks and picked up prizes as the portly pests were weighed, measured and killed in the state’s inaugural “Toad Day Out” celebration.

“To see the look on the faces of the kids as we were handling and weighing the toads and then euthanizing them was just…,” Townsville City Councilman Vern Veitch said, breaking off to let out a contented sigh. “The children really got into the character of the event.”

4 Obama may find Europe reticent on some US goals

By JENNIFER LOVEN, AP White House Correspondent

Sun Mar 29, 11:24 am ET

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s first European trip could dampen his hopes that a new diplomatic style will convert once-reluctant allies into cooperative global partners.

From taking in Guantanamo Bay prisoners to sending more troops into Afghanistan’s most difficult regions and spending their way out of economic crisis, European nations remain reticent about some of the toughest U.S. priorities.

Obama jets across the Atlantic on Tuesday on an eight-day, five-country trip that will be dizzying even by the usual peripatetic standards of presidential foreign travel.

5 Researchers: Cyber spies break into govt computers (AP)

Associated Press

Posted on Sun Mar 29, 2009 6:52AM EDT

TORONTO – A cyber spy network based mainly in China hacked into classified documents from government and private organizations in 103 countries, including the computers of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan exiles, Canadian researchers said Saturday.

The work of the Information Warfare Monitor initially focused on allegations of Chinese cyber espionage against the Tibetan community in exile, and eventually led to a much wider network of compromised machines, the Internet-based research group said.

“We uncovered real-time evidence of malware that had penetrated Tibetan computer systems, extracting sensitive documents from the private office of the Dalai Lama,” investigator Greg Walton said.

6 For the White House, not so easy being greener

By NANCY BENAC, Associated Press Writer

39 mins ago

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will find out two things as he studies how to make the White House more environmentally friendly:

No. 1: It’s already been done.

No. 2: It needs to be done again.

It was Earth Day 1993 when President Bill Clinton launched his ambitious “greening the White House” project. That effort saved more than $1.4 million in its first six years, largely from improvements in lighting, heating, air conditioning, insulation, water sprinklers and other measures.

7 Smoke break gets more expensive with tax boost

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press Writer

39 mins ago

WASHINGTON – However they satisfy their nicotine cravings, tobacco users are facing a big hit as the single largest federal tobacco tax increase ever takes effect Wednesday.

Tobacco companies and public health advocates, longtime foes in the nicotine battles, are trying to turn the situation to their advantage. The major cigarette makers raised prices a couple of weeks ago, partly to offset any drop in profits once the per-pack tax climbs from 39 cents to $1.01.

Medical groups see a tax increase right in the middle of a recession as a great incentive to help persuade smokers to quit.

8 Environmentalists hail Earth Hour as a big success

By VANESSA GERA, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 21 mins ago

BONN, Germany – For environmental activists, the message was clear: Earth Hour was a huge success.

Now they say nations have a mandate to tackle climate change.

“The world said yes to climate action, now governments must follow,” the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said Sunday, a day after hundreds of millions of people worldwide followed its call to turn off lights for a full hour.

9 Tax havens eye uncertain future after concessions

By FRANK JORDANS, Associated Press Writer

Sun Mar 29, 6:20 am ET

VADUZ, Liechtenstein – “Who pays?” asks a neon artwork in wealthy Liechtenstein’s elegant black granite cube of a museum.

That question is of more than artistic interest to the family that rules the tiny principality and their 35,000 subjects. Prince Alois agreed earlier this month to start following the rules set down by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Europe aimed at curbing tax havens – like his scenic patch of mountain valley between Switzerland and Austria, which owes much of its prosperity to its role as a place to put money.

Liechtenstein is hardly alone.

10 Spanish court considers trying former US officials

By PAUL HAVEN, Associated Press Writer

Sat Mar 28, 11:41 pm ET

MADRID, – A Spanish court has agreed to consider opening a criminal case against six former Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, over allegations they gave legal cover for torture at Guantanamo Bay, a lawyer in the case said Saturday.

Human rights lawyers brought the case before leading anti-terror judge Baltasar Garzon, who agreed to send it on to prosecutors to decide whether it had merit, Gonzalo Boye, one of the lawyers who brought the charges, told The Associated Press.

The ex-Bush officials are Gonzales; former undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith; former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington; Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee; and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes.

11 Huffington Post launches journalism venture

By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer

1 hr 1 min ago

NEW YORK – The Huffington Post said Sunday that it will bankroll a group of investigative journalists, directing them at first to look at stories about the nation’s economy.

The popular blog is collaborating with The Atlantic Philanthropies and other donors to launch the Huffington Post Investigative Fund with an initial budget of $1.75 million. That should be enough for 10 staff journalists who will primarily coordinate stories with freelancers, said Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post.

Work that the journalists produce will be available for any publication or Web site to use at the same time it is posted on The Huffington Post, she said.

12 Geithner won’t say if more bailout money needed

By Glenn Somerville, Reuters

1 hr 51 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Sunday the government will have about $135 billion left after banks give back some bailout money and declined to say whether he will ask Congress for more.

Treasury expects the banks this year to return about $25 billion of money that they received from the government, because they were able to replace it with private capital or decided that they do not want money with strings attached.

“We have roughly $135 billion left of uncommitted resources. The rest is out the door,” Geithner said on ABC-TV’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” program. That means some $565 billion out of $700 billion approved by lawmakers last October already has been deployed and Geithner said banks still need help.

13 Britain says G20 summit won’t demand spending pledges

By Peter Griffiths, Reuters

Sun Mar 29, 8:08 am ET

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain and the United States will not push G20 leaders to announce specific spending pledges to help fix the worst economic crisis in decades when they meet in London next week, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Sunday.

Speaking to the BBC, he played down talk of a deep rift between countries that support further stimulus, such as Britain and the United States, and those that have urged caution, including Germany and France.

Countries will not be asked to reveal their public spending plans at the summit, but they should realize that boosting demand will play a key role in any recovery, he said.

14 Obama says GM, Chrysler "not there yet"


2 hrs 45 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that struggling U.S. automakers had not done enough yet to become “lean, mean and competitive” under federal oversight.

Obama is expected to announce additional aid for General Motors Corp and Chrysler LLC on Monday as both automakers run down cash reserves that had been bolstered by $17.4 billion in emergency loans from the U.S. government.

Obama, who appeared in a taped interview on the CBS-TV news program “Face the Nation,” did not specify what steps he would announce, but said the automakers had more work to do to reduce costs in the face of slumping demand.

15 U.S. seeks support on Afghan plans at Hague forum

By Reed Stevenson, Reuters

1 hr 23 mins ago

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The United States is expected to seek international support for its renewed commitment to defeat Islamist militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan at a U.N. conference in the Netherlands on Tuesday.

Washington is hoping to enlist support from Iran, Russia, China and India amongst others for a new strategy to end a stalemate in Afghanistan and undercut an Islamist insurgency spilling increasingly into neighboring Pakistan.

“We need first, to ensure that there is a regional approach, and second, that neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan are involved in creating a stable situation in Afghanistan,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, who will co-chair the conference with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

16 U.S. to push for UN climate deal but no "magic wand"

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

46 mins ago

BONN, Germany (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration promised to push for a new United Nations climate treaty on Sunday but said Washington had no magic wand and that all countries had to help.

“The United States is going to be powerfully and fully engaged,” U.S. special envoy for climate change Todd Stern said at the opening of 175-nation U.N. talks in Bonn, the first since Obama took office in January speaking of a “planet in peril.”

“But we are all going to have to do this together, we don’t have a magic wand,” Stern told a news conference. The March 29-April 8 meeting is working on a U.N. climate deal meant to be agreed in Copenhagen in December 2009.

17 Turkey’s AK Party heading for clear poll win: TV

By Selcuk Gokoluk and Ibon Villelabeitia, Reuters

35 mins ago

ANKARA, Turkey (Reuters) – Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party was heading for a clear victory in Sunday’s local elections after nearly a quarter of the vote had been counted, according to private broadcasters.

The AK Party won 40.6 percent of the vote in provincial assemblies, CNN Turk and NTV said, a result that would hand Erdogan a fresh mandate to press on with political and economic reforms in the European Union candidate country.

The vote for mayors and municipal and provincial assemblies was marred by violence after five people were killed in the mainly Kurdish southeast as rival supporters for non-party village chief posts clashed, security and hospital sources told Reuters. Nearly 100 people were wounded in the violence.

18 Vexing computer worm to evolve on April Fool’s Day (AFP)


Posted on Sun Mar 29, 2009 4:14AM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – A tenacious computer worm which has wriggled its way onto machines worldwide is set to evolve on April Fool’s Day, becoming harder to exterminate but not expected to wreak havoc.

A task force assembled by Microsoft has been working to stamp out the worm, referred to as Conficker or DownAdUP, and the US software colossus has placed a bounty of 250,000 dollars on the heads of those responsible for the threat.

The worm is programmed to modify itself on Wednesday to become harder to stop, according to Trend Micro threat researcher Paul Ferguson, who is part of the Conficker task force.

19 Tens of thousands march in G20 protests

by Guy Jackson, AFP

Sun Mar 29, 7:25 am ET

LONDON (AFP) – Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of London ahead of next week’s G20 summit to express their anger at the human cost of the financial crisis.

Demonstrators also marched in other European capitals as politicians appealed for calm during Thursday’s Group of 20 gathering in London, due to be attended by world leaders including US President Barack Obama.

Police estimated the London crowd at up to 35,000 but there were no reports of any violence as the placard-waving crowd snaked along the four-mile route to Hyde Park.

20 Germany to buy stake in HRE: bank


Sat Mar 28, 4:45 pm ET

BERLIN (AFP) – Germany’s government will take an 8.7 stake in the troubled bank Hypo Real Estate which it is seeking to nationalise, the lender said Saturday, reporting a net loss of 5.46 billion euros for 2008.

Germany’s national banking sector stabilisation fund SoFFin would acquire the stake as a first step and “intends to gain full control over Hypo Real Estate Group” (HRE), said a statement from the bank.

“(SoFFin) intends to take action to stabilise Hypo Real Estate Group, in the interest of stabilising the financial markets,” it said.

21 Talks with Canadian auto union still deadlocked: Chrysler


Sat Mar 28, 3:59 pm ET

DETROIT, Michigan (AFP) – The Canadian branch of ailing US automaker Chrysler and the Canadian Auto Workers union have not yet reached an agreement to reduce costs, Chrysler’s chief negotiator said in a statement Saturday.

“After several days of bargaining in good faith, Chrysler and the CAW have not reached an agreement that closes the competitive gap with other automobile manufacturers in Canada, to ensure Chrysler’s immediate viability,” said Al Iacobelli, Chrysler’s chief bargainer.

If both sides fail to reach an agreement, Chrysler has vowed to permanently shutter its Canadian operations, putting some 8,000 Canadians out of work.

22 As Americans tighten belts, shopping malls cut hours

by Virginie Montet, AFP

Sat Mar 28, 2:54 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – As Americans tighten their belts to cope in the grim economy, the venerable US shopping mall has begun to suffer and many are quietly cutting back on their opening hours.

Shops in malls which used to stay open until nearly midnight in some states — and 24 hours in others — have begun opening later in the morning and closing earlier at night.

“Generally, we open a half-hour later and close a half-hour earlier, for a net reduction of five to six hours a week,” said Katy Dickey, spokeswoman for Australian group Westfield, which manages 55 malls across the United States.

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23 Obama envoy: Time to act on climate change

By ARTHUR MAX, Associated Press Writer

42 mins ago

BONN, Germany – Once booed at international climate talks, the United States won sustained applause Sunday when President Barack Obama’s envoy pledged to “make up for lost time” in reaching a global agreement on climate change.

Todd Stern also praised efforts by countries like China to reign in their carbon emissions, but said global warming “requires a global response” and that rapidly developing economies like China “must join together” with the industrial world to solve the problem.

The debut of Obama’s climate change team was widely anticipated after eight years of obdurate participation in U.N. climate talks by the previous Bush administration.

24 AP Exclusive: UN suggests power-sharing for Kirkuk

By LARA JAKES, Associated Press Writer

Sun Mar 29, 8:16 am ET

KIRKUK, Iraq – Seeking to head off an explosion of ethnic violence, the United Nations will call for a power-sharing system of government for Iraq’s deeply divided region of Kirkuk in the oil-rich north.

A draft U.N. plan, outlined to The Associated Press by two Western officials, aims to defuse dangerous tensions. Kurds, a majority in the region, have been trying to wrest control from Arabs, Turkomen and other rival ethnic groups. If open warfare breaks out, it could jeopardize the U.S. goal of stability across Iraq before elections at year’s end.

Peaceful elections are critical to reducing the U.S. presence in Iraq, promised by President Barack Obama.

25 Save South Africa’s penguins – give them a home

By CLARE NULLIS, Associated Press Writer

Sun Mar 29, 12:09 pm ET

BOULDERS BEACH, South Africa – Nesting in the sparkling sand, preening on the rocks and darting through the waters, the penguins on the southern tip of Africa are the ultimate crowd-pleaser. But crisis looms.

Short of food, exposed to predators and the African sun, their numbers are plummeting. But salvation may rest in a simple manmade solution – housing for penguins.

Dotting the shore of this penguin colony near the Cape of Good Hope are 200 nesting boxes, each big enough to house a happy family of parents, eggs and chicks. The experiment has already worked well on a more distant penguin island in South African waters, and wildlife rangers are eager to see whether the boxes recently installed on Boulders Beach, where tourists can watch the birds up close, will prove equally attractive.

26 Danish employment model put to test in meltdown

By KARL RITTER, Associated Press Writer

Sun Mar 29, 11:45 am ET

COPENHAGEN – Dennis Harmon lost his job, but that doesn’t mean he’ll lose his livelihood.

The veteran bricklayer is entitled to the maximum jobless benefits in Denmark: $594 a week. After taxes, that’s enough to cover rent for his two-room apartment outside Copenhagen, utilities and payments on his 1996 Opel Vectra.

“There’s not much left for fun,” mutters Harmon, a 40-year-old Dane whose surname is tattooed on his right forearm.

27 Afghan high court extends Karzai’s term 3 months

By JASON STRAZIUSO and RAHIM FAIEZ, Associated Press Writer

Sun Mar 29, 11:23 am ET

KABUL – Afghanistan’s Supreme Court announced Sunday that President Hamid Karzai should remain in office until a new leader is chosen in a late-summer election, a decision that effectively extends his term more than three months, state TV said.

Afghanistan’s constitution says Karzai’s term expires May 21, and a vote should be held 30 to 60 days before that. However, the country’s election commission pushed back the election until Aug. 20 because of security fears, lingering mountain snows, and logistical problems such as ballot distribution.

But that decision left at least a three-month gap between the end of Karzai’s term and the election. And because of vote-count delays and a possible election run-off, Sunday’s court decision could mean Karzai will remain in power into October – a five-month extension opposition lawmakers have said they will not accept.

28 Abu Sayyaf militants reject Filipino troop pullout

By JIM GOMEZ, Associated Press Writer

Sun Mar 29, 7:49 am ET

MANILA, Philippines – Al-Qaida-linked militants who have threatened to behead three Red Cross hostages rejected a limited pullout of government forces in exchange for the release of one of the captives, an official said Sunday.

Sulu provincial Gov. Abdusakur Tan said Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad told him by phone Sunday that a limited withdrawal of more than 1,000 marines, police and armed village guards on southern Jolo island was unacceptable, adding the militants will not release any hostages.

“They’re insisting on a total pullout,” Tan told The Associated Press by telephone. “That is their position, and he said they’re not budging.”

29 Thailand trying to muzzle ousted PM Thaksin

By JOCELYN GECKER, Associated Press Writer

Sun Mar 29, 5:42 am ET

BANGKOK – Thailand’s prime minister admitted Sunday that authorities are trying unsuccessfully to muzzle Thaksin Shinawatra, the fugitive ousted leader who is re-igniting the country’s political crisis as he roams the world.

Thaksin has become the prime attraction at protests that started last week outside the prime minister’s office, speaking via video link from abroad and firing up supporters with calls for nationwide protests.

“The government is trying to block the call-ins but cannot do more than the law permits,” Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told a gathering of leaders from his Democrat Party. “We are also trying to get him back to the country.”

30 Kenyan human rights activists in hiding: group

By Alison Bevege, Reuters

Sun Mar 29, 6:49 am ET

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Human rights activists in Kenya have gone into hiding after receiving death threats in the wake of a scathing United Nations report on extrajudicial police executions, a rights group said Saturday.

Rights lawyer Ann Njogu told Reuters more than 30 people had gone into hiding. The government-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said earlier this week that some activists had fled the country.

“They have had to go undercover for fear of either being rounded up, or being killed,” said Njogu, executive director of the Center for Rights, Education and Awareness.

31 Indonesian president woos voters in tense Aceh

By Ed Davies, Reuters

Sun Mar 29, 3:58 am ET

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (Reuters) – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono praised on Sunday the rebuilding of Aceh and played down concerns over a peace deal in the province, as he highlighted Indonesia’s stability ahead of polls next month.

Tensions have risen in the province in recent months with a number of attacks on members of Aceh parties blamed by some on disgruntled elements of the Indonesian military concerned that some former rebels have not dropped separatist aims.

Yudhoyono, who is seeking a second term in office, has visited Aceh twice in two months and has a key stake in ensuring the peace deal struck during his administration after the devastating 2004 tsunami remains on track.

32 Montenegro votes with eye on economic crisis

by Olivera Nikolic, AFP

1 hr 50 mins ago

PODGORICA (AFP) – Montenegrins voted Sunday in snap general elections, with veteran Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic vowing to guide the country through an economic crisis and to closer ties with the EU and NATO.

Less then four hours before the closing of the polls at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT), 52 percent of the roughly 500,000 voters had already cast their ballots, local observers of non-governmental CEMI group said.

In Sunday’s vote, called some 18 months in advance, Djukanovic’s coalition is likely to sweep to a landslide victory despite increasingly obvious signs of an economic downturn in this tiny ex-Yugoslav republic.

33 Thousands march in Spain against abortion reforms

by Pierre Ausseill, AFP

Sun Mar 29, 11:05 am ET

MADRID (AFP) – Tens of thousands of demonstrators crowded central Madrid on Sunday, waving banners and chanting slogans against government plans to liberalise the country’s abortion laws.

Protestors massed outside the Equality Ministry, which is drafting a law, and marched through the streets with signs proclaiming: “There is no right to kill, there is the right to live” and “Women yes, abortion no”.

“Get out of here and let the children live,” they chanted, calling on the socialist government’s equality minister Bibiana Aido to resign.

34 Former colony votes on becoming fully French

by Raphael Hermano, AFP

2 hrs 41 mins ago

MAMOUDZOU, Mayotte (AFP) – The Indian Ocean island of Mayotte looked set Sunday to become an integral part of France after a referendum that could end local traditions like Islamic courts and polygamy.

The island’s 71,122 registered voters were asked if they wanted their mostly Muslim island to end its status as a French overseas “collectivity” and become the country’s 101st department.

They were likely to say yes, according to most observers, and thus by 2011 complete a process begun in 1974 when Mayotte remained French as the three other islands of its archipelago chose independence and became the Comoros.

35 Violence erupts after Iraqi army arrest of Sunni paramilitary leader

By Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers

Sat Mar 28, 5:44 pm ET

BAGHDAD – Sunni militants staged a violent uprising in central Baghdad Saturday after Iraqi forces detained a leader of the Sons of Iraq , a mostly Sunni paramilitary force that until recently had received salaries from the United States and is now on the Iraqi government payroll.

Sixteen people were injured in the battle in the once volatile Fadhl neighborhood, and five Iraqi soldiers were missing – snatched Saturday night by members of the Sons of Iraq , a security official said.

The arrest of Adel Mashhadani, who leads the force in Fadhl, and his assistant, heightened fears among Sunnis that the Iraqi government plans to divide and disband the movements now that its taken control of all but a few thousand of the 94,000 members across the country.

36 Will Europe embrace President Obama like candidate Obama?

By Steven Thomma, McClatchy Newspapers

Sun Mar 29, 6:00 am ET

WASHINGTON – They gave him their hearts when he visited last summer. Now, the question hanging over Europe is how much more they’ll give Barack Obama as he returns for the first time as president of the United States .

Obama leaves on Tuesday on a whirlwind eight-day tour. He remains enormously popular in Europe , and the throngs that greeted him last year as a candidate are likely to grow. With first lady Michelle Obama along, Obamas’ debut on the world stage as president already is inspiring anticipation of the kind of rock-star reception that greeted John and Jackie Kennedy on their first trip first couple to Europe in 1961.

Yet Obama also heads into his first overseas trip with grand goals – looking to forge a coordinated global response to the economic crisis, hoping Europe will send more of its sons and daughters to help in an escalating war in Afghanistan , and seeking to restore international cooperation that he thinks suffered in the Bush years.

37 Germany’s Phantom Serial Killer: A DNA Blunder


Sun Mar 29, 2:45 am ET

The murderer dubbed “The Phantom of Heilbronn” had been baffling German investigators for two years. The criminal was a rarity, a female serial killer, and a very busy one: Police had linked DNA evidence from 40 crimes – including the famous homicide of a policewoman in the southern German town of Heilbronn – to the same woman.

38 The Iraqi Government’s New Target: NGOs


Sun Mar 29, 2:45 am ET

When Iraq’s provincial elections in January ran smoothly, observers touted the outcome as a positive step toward a freer society. But elections alone don’t make a democracy. A draft law to regulate non-governmental organizations was approved this week by the Cabinet, unsettling elements of the nascent local NGO community, who say that parts of the law raise concerns about how free and fair the new Iraq will be.
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39 Urban coyote attacks on rise, alarming residents

By JUDITH KOHLER, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 1 min ago

DENVER – A coyote ambling into a Chicago sandwich shop or taking up residence in New York’s Central Park understandably creates a stir. But even here on the high plains of Colorado, where the animals are part of the landscape and figure prominently in Western lore, people are being taken aback by rising coyote encounters.

Thanks to suburban sprawl and a growth in numbers of both people and animals, a rash of coyote encounters has alarmed residents.

Wildlife officials are working to educate the public: Coyotes have always been here, they’ve adapted to urban landscapes and they prefer to avoid humans.

40 Guns on Campus: Bills would allow guns at college

By JIM VERTUNO, Associated Press Writer

Sun Mar 29, 1:06 pm ET

AUSTIN, Texas – John Woods sometimes sits in a classroom at the University of Texas and wonders what would happen if somebody walked in and started shooting.

In April 2007, he was a student at Virginia Tech when his girlfriend and several other people he knew there were gunned down in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Thirty-two people died, plus the gunman.

There were times when Woods thought that maybe he should get a gun.

41 NY House special election seen as Obama’s 1st test

By VALERIE BAUMAN, Associated Press Writer

16 mins ago

ALBANY, N.Y. – Two months ago, it would have been hard for the most ardent political wonk to find the state’s 20th Congressional District on a map. On Tuesday, it will be the center of the American political landscape, with Republicans hoping desperately a win there will knock President Barack Obama off stride and Democrats looking to build on the momentum of the past two years.

Republican Jim Tedisco, a state legislator for 27 years, faces Democrat Scott Murphy, a businessman who has the backing of the president and influential unions. The special election is to replace Kirsten Gillibrand, who was named to the U.S. Senate in January after former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton became secretary of state.

The contest quickly became about issues far beyond the sprawling, mostly rural district, which stretches along the Hudson River valley from just north of the New York City suburbs to just below the Canadian border. Voters will flip levers for Murphy and Tedisco, but national leaders will see a judgment on a president, his plan to save the economy and the strength of the country’s two dominant political parties.

42 Smoke break gets more expensive with tax boost

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press Writer

Sun Mar 29, 2:16 pm ET

WASHINGTON – However they satisfy their nicotine cravings, tobacco users are facing a big hit as the single largest federal tobacco tax increase ever takes effect Wednesday.

Tobacco companies and public health advocates, longtime foes in the nicotine battles, are trying to turn the situation to their advantage. The major cigarette makers raised prices a couple of weeks ago, partly to offset any drop in profits once the per-pack tax climbs from 39 cents to $1.01.

Medical groups see a tax increase right in the middle of a recession as a great incentive to help persuade smokers to quit.

43 Obama Notre Dame invite stirs Catholic debate

By ERIC GORSKI, AP Religion Writer

Sat Mar 28, 1:41 pm ET

In American Catholicism, it doesn’t get much bigger than Notre Dame. So when the university known for its golden dome, “Touchdown Jesus” mural and rigorous academics invited President Barack Obama to speak at its commencement and receive an honorary degree in May, it stoked both pride and anger on campus and nationwide.

By giving a platform to a politician whose record on abortion and stem cell research clashes with core church teachings about human life, the private Catholic school on the plains of northern Indiana renewed an impassioned debate about what it means to be Catholic.

The Notre Dame administration knew it was entering a political minefield. But the intensity of the reaction in the week since Obama accepted demonstrates the depths to which Catholics are divided about how Catholic individuals and institutions should engage politics in a pluralistic society.

44 Afghan soldier kills two U.S. troops


Fri Mar 27, 2:26 pm ET

KABUL, Reuters – An Afghan army soldier shot dead two U.S. servicemen and wounded a third before killing himself in northeast Afghanistan on Friday, U.S. military said.

The Afghan soldier fired at the U.S. soldiers, killing one and wounding two others, one of whom died later, it said in a statement.

“One coalition service member was killed … another died of wounds and a third was wounded by an Afghan National Army soldier who reportedly fired upon them,” it said. “The Afghan National Army soldier reportedly killed himself immediately after the incident.”

45 US banks on ‘sustainable’ recovery from recession

by P. Parameswaran, AFP

2 hrs 30 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Sunday that any recovery of the world’s largest economy from prolonged recession has to be sustainable and not based on an “artificial boom.”

Speaking ahead of a London G20 summit where the global economic crisis will take center stage, he said most private economists believed the US economy would hit “a more durable bottom” in the second half of 2009 to set the stage for resumption of growth.

“We want to have a stronger, more sustainable recovery, not a recovery based on an artificial boom that is not going to be sustainable,” he said in an interview with the NBC broadcast network.

46 Mobile clinic brings healthcare to America’s poor

by Erika Berenstein, AFP

Sat Mar 28, 6:12 am ET

FREDERICK, Maryland (AFP) – Patients at the Mission of Mercy free mobile medical clinic in the state of Maryland usually begin lining up before dawn just to get a shot at seeing the dentist or doctor.

Most haven’t seen any kind of medical professional in months, many have run out of vital medicines for chronic conditions, and all have few other options to access any kind of healthcare.

According to a recent study by the non-profit organization Families USA, one out of three Americans spent a stretch of time last year with no medical coverage. Health insurance is out of reach to many in the United States because it is so expensive.

47 In California’s Medical Marijuana Truce, a Troubling Gray Legal Area


Sun Mar 29, 2:50 am ET

Marijuana advocates were not the only ones overjoyed when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that he was ending federal raids on medical marijuana facilities unless they are in violation of both state and federal laws. In budget-strapped California, for one, taxpayers are grateful. There, the fed crackdowns, which had continued despite the end of the state’s own raids, got in the way of upwards of $100 million in revenue from medical marijuana sales taxes in 2007, according to Americans for Safe Access (ASA), an advocacy group for prescription pot.

48 Three Mile Island at 30: Nuclear Power’s Pitfalls


Sun Mar 29, 1:50 pm ET

If the Three Mile Island atomic reactor near Harrisburg hadn’t melted down 30 years ago this Saturday…well, there probably would have been an accident somewhere else. The entire U.S. nuclear industry was melting down in the 1970s, irradiated by spectacular cost overruns, interminable delays and public outrage. Forbes later called its collapse “the largest managerial disaster in business history, a disaster on a monumental scale.”
From Yahoo News Politics

49 Treasury secretary says market won’t solve problem

By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer

Sun Mar 29, 3:11 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner defended his approach to fixing the country’s economic mess Sunday, saying “the market will not solve this” while disclosing a bailout fund for battered banks has $135 billion left and might need more.

Geithner used his first Sunday talk show appearances to promote President Barack Obama’s massive government spending plan to ease credit, help borrowers and inject billions of dollars into the financial sector. Long kept behind the scenes, the treasury secretary has emerged as the administration’s champion of a plan that fueled an uptick in Wall Street markets.

“We came through a period where people borrowed too much and we let our financial system take on much too much risk,” Geithner said. “And the consequences of those choices, made over years, were a huge boom. And that boom, the air is now coming out of that and that’s causing enormous damage.”

50 Biden says Spain relationship goes beyond Kosovo


Sat Mar 28, 3:33 pm ET

VINA DEL MAR, Chile (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Saturday his country’s relationship with Spain went beyond disagreement over a Spanish decision to pull troops out of Kosovo.

Biden and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero held bilateral talks during a pre-G20 warm-up meeting of center-left leaders in the Chilean coastal resort of Vina del Mar on Saturday.

“The relationship we have with Spain exceeds whatever disagreement we may have over Kosovo,” Biden said at the end of the summit. “We talked about the need for expanding communications.”

51 Obama vows no pursuit by US troops into Pakistan

by Jitendra Joshi

Sun Mar 29, 3:27 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama said US troops would not go in hot pursuit of extremists across the Afghan border into Pakistan — but demanded Islamabad hold up its end of the anti-terror struggle.

Referring to US missile strikes on militants, Obama said in a television interview broadcast Sunday: “If we have a high-value target within our sights, after consulting with Pakistan, we’re going after them.”

But asked on CBS program “Face the Nation” if he would send US troops on the ground into militant safe havens inside Pakistan, Obama stressed: “No.”

52 US ‘fully committed to UN climate talks’

by Marlowe Hood, AFP

Sun Mar 29, 2:00 pm ET

BONN, March 29, 2009 (AFP) – The US administration is “fervently engaged” in UN talks to forge a global climate treaty but cannot rescue the troubled process on its own, its top climate negotiator said Sunday.

“Yes, the US will be powerfully and fervently engaged in this process,” Todd Stern said as the 11-day United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) technical meeting got under way.

The entry of the new US team into negotiations involving more than 190 states and riven by deep divisions between rich and developing countries has generated huge expectations, sharpened by the contrast with Obama’s predecessor.

53 Gas-guzzling Pentagon going green

by Olivia Hampton, AFP

1 hr 1 min ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Pentagon may seem an unlikely promoter of alternative energy, but the biggest consumer of oil in the United States is looking at ways to become just that by partnering with private firms.

“When you don’t use as much fuel, not only does it not cost you as much, but it also saves lives and injuries of those people who would have to deliver fuel through hostile territory,” Assistant Army Secretary for Installations and the Environment Keith Eastin told AFP.

Despite reducing its overall energy consumption by five percent between 2005 and 2007, the US military spent 13 billion dollars on energy in 2007 and requested an additional five billion due to a spike in oil prices.

54 Pakistan spies under heat in new US strategy

by Shaun Tandon, AFP

Sat Mar 28, 5:29 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States has vowed to put the heat on Pakistan’s spies in its new regional strategy, with top officials openly accusing elements in powerful intelligence agency of abetting Al-Qaeda.

President Barack Obama on Friday unveiled a plan to root out extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan by boosting troops and drastically increasing civilian personnel and aid to the region.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai immediately hailed the proposals.


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  1. Another short story day.

  2. Perhaps I’m wrong, but my impression is they’re a sharia oriented party, and a religiously motivated government is never a good thing.

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