Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

Now with World and U.S. News.

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1 California landing caps shuttle’s Hubble mission

By Steve Gorman, Reuters

24 mins ago

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, California (Reuters) – U.S. space shuttle Atlantis capped an extended 13-day mission to rejuvenate the Hubble Space Telescope on Sunday with a flawless landing at Edwards Air Force base in California.

The shuttle touched down under clear blue skies at 8:39 a.m. PDT (11:39 a.m. EDT/1539 GMT) after foul weather stymied two days of landing attempts at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“Welcome home Atlantis, congratulations on a very successful mission giving Hubble a new set of eyes that will continue to expand our knowledge of the universe,” radioed astronaut Greg H. Johnson from Mission Control in Houston.

2 Netanyahu defies Obama on Israeli settlement freeze

By Adam Entous, Reuters

41 mins ago

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rebuffed U.S. calls for a full settlement freeze in the occupied West Bank and vowed not to accept limits on building of Jewish enclaves within Jerusalem.

Netanyahu’s defiant stance set the stage for a possible showdown with President Barack Obama, who, in talks with the new Israeli prime minister in Washington last week, pressed for a halt to all settlement activity, including natural growth, as called for under a long-stalled peace “road map.”

“The demand for a total stop to building is not something that can be justified and I don’t think that anyone here at this table accepts it,” Netanyahu told his cabinet, referring to Jewish settlements in the West Bank, according to an official.

3 India likely to move on U.S. military pact

By Sanjeev Miglani, Reuters

Sun May 24, 4:59 am ET

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s new ruling coalition, freed of pressure from its former communist allies, is expected to move forward soon on a military logistics deal with the United States that would help U.S. operations in the region.

The Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), on hold for more than two years, allows refueling, maintenance and servicing of military ships and planes from both countries at each other’s ports and bases.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s former communist allies opposed the agreement, saying Indian military bases could become permanent ports of call for the U.S. military engaged in unilateral operations in the region.

4 Magna, Fiat improve bids as Opel battle heats up

By Nicola Leske and Andreas Moeser, Reuters

Sun May 24, 10:45 am ET

FRANKFURT/BERLIN (Reuters) – Magna International and Fiat have improved their offers for General Motors unit Opel ahead of a crucial week in which the German government is expected to decide which bid it backs.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold a meeting of top minister on Monday to review bids from Magna, Fiat as well as Belgium-listed industrial holding company RHJ International. No final decision is expected on Monday.

Italian Fiat improved its offer on Saturday after top German officials said on Friday that Magna, a Canadian car parts group, submitted a better plan than rivals. Magna has also improved its bid, a source close to the negotiations told Reuters on Sunday.

5 Few doubt outcome as Suu Kyi trial grinds on

By Aung Hla Tun, Reuters

Sun May 24, 5:40 am ET

YANGON (Reuters) – As Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial enters its second week, taxi driver Thein Aung offered a widely held view on its eventual outcome.

“She’s innocent,” said the 45-year-old law graduate who drives an old Toyota on the streets of army-ruled Myanmar’s main city, Yangon.

“But I’m not sure the court will go according to the law. It hardly does so,” he said of the trial, due to resume on Monday.

6 Rates likely to stay low for some time: Fed’s Kohn

By Mark Felsenthal, Reuters

Sun May 24, 5:16 am ET

PRINCETON, New Jersey (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve is likely to keep benchmark interest rates near zero for a while in an economy that is pulling out of a steep decline and appears on course for a very gradual recovery, Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn said on Saturday.

“The economy is only now beginning to show signs that it might be stabilizing, and the upturn, when it begins, is likely to be gradual amid the balance sheet repair of financial intermediaries and households,” Kohn told a conference at Princeton University.

“As a consequence, it probably will be some time before the FOMC will need to begin to raise its target for the federal funds rate,” he said, referring to the Fed’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee.

7 ‘Bloody intersection’ secured by Pakistani troops

By NAHAL TOOSI, Associated Press Writer

Sun May 24, 11:39 am ET

ISLAMABAD – The Taliban left so many mutilated bodies at the crossing – some hanging from trees with threatening notes – that Pakistanis in the Swat Valley’s main town took to calling it “bloody intersection.”

On Sunday, the army said that spot and seven other major crossings in Mingora were secured, part of street-by-street urban fighting whose success is considered critical to flushing out the militants from the valley as a whole.

The advances in Swat came as helicopter gunships pounded alleged militant hide-outs in a nearby tribal region, killing at least 18 people, while police announced the arrest of a militant commander and six other Taliban fighters elsewhere in the northwest.

8 Powell to Republicans: Listen to moderates, too

By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 14 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The conservative vs. moderate split threatening to rupture the Republican Party played out across the airwaves Sunday, with Colin Powell and Tom Ridge denouncing shrill and judgmental voices they say are steering the GOP too far right. Karl Rove challenged Powell to lay out his vision and “back it up” by helping elect Republicans.

At stake is the GOP’s status as a major party, Powell and Ridge suggested.

“I believe we should build on the base because the nation needs two parties, two parties debating each other. But what we have to do is debate and define who we are and what we are and not just listen to dictates that come down from the right wing of the party,” said Powell, the nation’s top military officer under President George H.W. Bush and later secretary of state for President George W. Bush.

9 Vegas casinos try bargains to lure back visitors

By OSKAR GARCIA, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 16 mins ago

LAS VEGAS – It’s back to the buffet, bargains and customer bonuses for Las Vegas casinos.

Fast food is up, fine dining tabs are down and hotel rooms are available for under $50 in a city that has been calling on recession-weary tourists to come back and play the quarter slot machines.

Value is the hippest thing on Las Vegas Boulevard this year.

10 Komodo dragon attacks terrorize Indonesia villages

IRWAN FIRDAUS, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 16 mins ago

KOMODO ISLAND, Indonesia – Komodo dragons have shark-like teeth and poisonous venom that can kill a person within hours of a bite. Yet villagers who have lived for generations alongside the world’s largest lizard were not afraid – until the dragons started to attack.

The stories spread quickly across this smattering of tropical islands in southeastern Indonesia, the only place the endangered reptiles can still be found in the wild: Two people were killed since 2007 – a young boy and a fisherman – and others were badly wounded after being charged unprovoked.

Komodo dragon attacks are still rare, experts note. But fear is swirling through the fishing villages, along with questions on how best to live with the dragons in the future.

11 Fix is hard for Medicare, Social Security finances

By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer

Sun May 24, 10:12 am ET

WASHINGTON – There is no easy fix.

Medicare and Social Security will go broke sooner rather than later because of the recession. With millions of baby boomers beginning to leave the work force, the cost of these popular benefit programs threatens to swamp the government in debt in the coming years if nothing is done.

Congress and the White House are under increasing pressure to find a solution.

12 Sikhs fight one another at temple in Vienna

By VERONIKA OLEKYSN, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 4 mins ago

VIENNA – Sikhs wielding knives and a handgun attacked a preacher at a rival temple in Vienna on Sunday in a brawl that left at least 16 people wounded, police and witnesses said. A related clash later broke out in northern India.

Witnesses said a group of bearded and turbaned men attacked the preacher at the temple in Austria’s capital and his followers moved to defend him.

Police spokesman Michael Takacs said the scene was “like a battlefield.” Six suspects were in custody with more arrests possible, he said.

13 Gore, others urge CEOs to back climate change deal

By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer

Sun May 24, 10:19 am ET

COPENHAGEN – Climate-change heavyweights U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and Nobel prize winner Al Gore urged more than 500 business leaders on Sunday to lend their corporate muscle to reaching a global deal on reducing greenhouse gases.

The CEOs of PepsiCo, Nestle, BP and other of the world’s major businesses began meeting in Copenhagen, where politicians will gather in December to negotiate a new U.N.-brokered climate treaty.

Despite the global financial crisis, both Ban and Gore said there was no time for delay in hashing out the specifics of how to cut greenhouse gases that contribute to warming the planet.

14 Uncertain NASA gets familiar former astronaut boss


Sun May 24, 2:27 am ET

HOUSTON – The nation’s turbulent space program will be run by one of its own, a calming well-liked former space shuttle commander.

President Barack Obama on Saturday chose retired astronaut Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden to lead NASA. He also named former NASA associate administrator Lori Garver as the agency’s No. 2. If confirmed, Bolden, who has flown in space four times and was an assistant deputy administrator at one point, would be the agency’s first black administrator.

Bolden would also be only the second astronaut to run NASA in its 50-year history. Vice Adm. Richard Truly was the first. In 2002, then-President George W. Bush unsuccessfully tried to appoint Bolden as the space agency’s deputy administrator. The Pentagon said it needed to keep Bolden, who was a Marine major general at the time and a pilot who flew more than 100 sorties in Vietnam.

15 Killings shattered dreams of rural Iraqi family

By BRETT BARROUQUERE, Associated Press Writer

Sun May 24, 2:35 am ET

PADUCAH, Ky. – The beautiful, dark-haired girl in the photograph stands near a wall in pre-invasion Iraq. What is unseen and now lost, her family says, is her dream of moving to the big city and getting married.

“Abeer was a strong woman,” said her aunt, Ameena Hamza Rashid al-Janabi. “She was very proud to be young.”

Relatives of the girl, Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, and prosecutors detailed the teen’s hopes and life during the civilian trial of former Pfc. Steven Dale Green, 24, in western Kentucky. They showed pictures of the family at home, and relatives recounted their aspirations for a better life.

16 Iraq slaying verdict highlights combat stress

By KRISTIN M. HALL, Associated Press Writer

Fri May 22, 6:03 pm ET

PADUCAH, Ky. – There’s no question ex-soldier Steven Dale Green raped and killed a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdered her parents and sister.

Still, jurors in Kentucky couldn’t agree this week whether to sentence the 24-year-old to death for heinous crimes he committed while serving in Iraq, indecision that may signal growing public awareness of combat stress and its consequences, experts say.

Jurors declined to talk to reporters, but forms they completed during deliberations indicate some factored in the stress of Green’s bloody combat tour, poor mental health treatment in Iraq and weak leadership in his unit.

17 Bondsmen upset by policies that free more people

By IVAN MORENO, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 8 mins ago

LOVELAND, Colo. – Budget cuts and the cost of maintaining an overcrowded jail forced Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden to begin releasing inmates accused of lesser crimes without bond. Other police agencies across the country are following suit – to the chagrin of bail bondsmen who say their livelihood is threatened.

Officials in this northern Colorado county insist they’re reaping savings by placing released inmates into less-costly supervision programs that can include screening for domestic violence and mental health problems. Supporters of such pretrial programs, which are being tried from Atlanta’s Fulton County to Spokane, Wash., argue that the usual practice of requiring bond for release doesn’t prevent crime.

“It simply separates those who have money from those who don’t,” said Tim Murray, executive director of the Washington-based nonprofit Pretrial Justice Institute.

18 Ex-con’s magazine focuses on advocacy, prison life

By JOHN CURRAN, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 18 mins ago

WEST BRATTLEBORO, Vt. – To prison inmates, he’s a jailhouse lawyer made good.

To wardens, he’s a thorn in the side.

To prison advocates, Paul Wright is a success story: Once a killer, then a prisoner, now a journalist with a cause. He has carved out a niche with his Prison Legal News, a self-help magazine.

19 Final exec faces sentence in SC firm’s $275M bust

By JEFFREY COLLINS, Associated Press Writer

Sun May 24, 12:01 pm ET

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Donald McQuade skipped lobster dinners and long vacations for decades, pouring every dollar he saved into a little South Carolina company that made returns close to 10 percent by loaning to people who couldn’t borrow anywhere else.

By the time he turned 75, McQuade was a millionaire. Then, on one horrible day back in the spring of 2003, he realized it was all gone.

On Tuesday, a judge will sentence the final executive convicted in the scheme – the $275 million collapse of Carolina Investors and parent company HomeGold Financial Inc. Former HomeGold Chief Financial Officer Karen Miller faces up to five years in prison. She cooperated with authorities and pleaded guilty to conspiracy nearly four years ago. The other five executives have been sent to prison.

20 Pakistan battles for Swat’s Taliban-held main town

by Lehaz Ali, AFP

Sun May 24, 5:47 am ET

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – Pakistan’s military said on Sunday it had seized several key areas in the Swat valley’s main town, which is held by the Taliban, as their battle to regain control of the northwest reached a crucial phase.

Troops moved into Mingora on Saturday, fighting street-by-street battles with Islamic insurgents who last month flouted a ceasefire agreement and moved toward the capital Islamabad, sparking a fierce US-backed military retaliation.

By Sunday, officials said several important intersections and three squares in Mingora were under their control, including the notorious Green Square where the Taliban reportedly carried out beheadings late last year.

21 Former South Korean president dead, leaves suicide note

by Park Chan-Kyong, AFP

Sat May 23, 3:35 pm ET

SEOUL (AFP) – Former South Korean president Roh Moo-Hyun, who was at the centre of a multi-million-dollar corruption probe, plunged to his death off a mountainside on Saturday in an apparent suicide.

The 62-year-old Roh, who held office from 2003-2008 and was credited with striving to make South Korea more democratic, had left a suicide note before plunging to his death off a cliff, a former aide said.

“He jumped off a rock on the mountain at 6:40 am (2140 GMT Friday),” ex-chief presidential secretary Moon Jae-In told journalists.

22 Fresh fighting kills five in Somali capital

by Mustafa Haji Abdinur, AFP

Sat May 23, 2:58 pm ET

MOGADISHU (AFP) – At least five civilians died and over a dozen wounded Saturday as Somali government forces clashed with Islamist rebels they are trying to flush out of the war-riven capital, witnesses said.

Fighting resumed late afternoon in two districts of the oceanside capital Mogadishu after a brief morning skirmish.

“One of my neighbours and two other civilians have died,” said Asha Olow, speaking to AFP by telephone. “Fighting is still going on in our neighbourhood.”

23 Suu Kyi proclaims innocence in Myanmar court


Fri May 22, 2:30 pm ET

YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed her innocence in front of a prison tribunal Friday as the prosecution wrapped up its case on the fifth day of her trial.

The opposition figurehead, who is charged with breaching the terms of her house arrest after an American man swam in homemade flippers to her lakeside home, responded to the judge who asked if she was guilty of the charge.

“I have no guilt as I didn’t commit any crime,” her lawyer and spokesman Nyan Win reported Aung San Suu Kyi as saying.

24 Indian PM Singh sworn in for second term

by Elizabeth Roche, AFP

Fri May 22, 2:53 pm ET

NEW DELHI (AFP) – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was sworn in for a second term on Friday, amid a row between his Congress party and a key ally over cabinet posts following their resounding election triumph.

The 76-year-old, soft-spoken economist and 19 members of his cabinet took their oath of office from Indian president Pratibha Patil at the presidential palace in New Delhi.

The portfolios of those sworn in have yet to be allocated.

25 Statue of Liberty has plenty on her mind

by Sebastian Smith, AFP

Fri May 22, 3:57 pm ET

NEW YORK (AFP) – She may be stern and resolute on the outside, but a sneak preview of the Statue of Liberty’s soon-to-be-reopened head shows the icon is thin-skinned, even trembling as she gazes out over New York.

From July 4 small numbers of tourists will be allowed inside the statue, climbing the 168 steps to her seven-rayed crown, which was closed as part of a security clampdown after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

What they will find are the secrets of a monument that in many ways is the heart of US identity — symbol of freedom, heart-stopping movie backdrop, and inspiration for an unending supply of key chains and fridge magnets.

26 Iraqi Army: almost one-quarter lacks minimum qualifications

By Jane Arraf, The Christian Science Monitor

Fri May 22, 5:00 am ET

Baghdad – In a legacy of the US rush to build up Iraqi security forces, almost one-quarter of the Iraqi Army currently fails to meet its own minimum qualifications for soldiers, the Iraqi government is discovering in its first real look at the composition of the Army.

“They’re finding about 24 percent are not qualified based on Army criterion for being in the Army,” US Brig. Gen. Steven Salazar says of an ongoing rescreening of Iraq’s 253,000 soldiers.

“A very small number of them are overage, a little bit bigger number of them would be medically disqualified, and then somewhere – around 15 percent they’re finding – are illiterate,” says General Salazar, deputy commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq, in an interview.

27 What’s in a name? In Macedonia, this is no easy question.

By Chris Deliso, The Christian Science Monitor

Fri May 22, 5:00 am ET

Skopje, Macedonia – At first glance, being Macedonia’s president has never been better.

With the opening of a grand villa residence surrounded by shady pines, high on the slopes of Mt. Vodno overlooking Skopje, banished forever is the former ignominious reality of presidents sharing space in the antiquated parliament building downtown, almost 18 years since the small Balkan country declared independence from Yugoslavia on Sept. 8, 1991.

Despite the tranquility of his elevated quarters, however, the new residence’s first occupant, who was inaugurated May 12, won’t have time to relax.

28 Somalia: East African bloc calls for a UN blockade and no-fly zone

By Scott Baldauf, The Christian Science Monitor

Fri May 22, 5:00 am ET

Johannesburg, South Africa – Somalia’s fragile government began to push back against its armed Islamist opponents Friday in Mogadishu in heavy street fighting. It’s the first sign that the transitional government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s efforts to reach out to unaligned warlords and Islamist militias is beginning to pay off, and that his enemies, the radical Al Shabab, may have stretched themselves too thin with their ambitious assault.

In Mogadishu, government spokesman Farhan Mahdi Mohamed told Agence France-Presse news agency that the government had begun to take away key parts of Mogadishu from the militias of Al Shabab and Hizb Islamiya.

“This is a large military offensive against violent people,” Mr. Mohamed said. “The government will sweep them out of the capital and the fighting will continue until that happens.”

29 This summer, more Americans may head to movie theaters

By Daniel B. Wood, The Christian Science Monitor

Fri May 22, 5:00 am ET

Berkeley, Calif. – Judd Stein, exiting the United Artists Cinema on Shattuck Avenue here, represents several of the trends driving the Hollywood box office to great success – 16 percent ahead of last year – despite the national economic downturn.

First, he is still smiling after shelling out $10.25 times four for his family, not including three small popcorns at $5.75 each. While the total seems high at first blush, it’s a drop in the bucket compared with the cruise idea that morphed into an Arizona road trip that morphed into a “staycation.”

“I just saved several thousand dollars, so anything less than $100 feels like nothing to me,” says the bank clerk with a smile.

From Yahoo News World

30 Hundreds of UK lawmakers could face ouster or quit

By DAVID STRINGER, Associated Press Writer

Sun May 24, 12:32 pm ET

LONDON – A major purge of veteran lawmakers is likely at Britain’s next national election due to mounting public anger over the expenses scandal, opposition leader David Cameron said Sunday as a new study estimated that over 300 lawmakers could be forced out.

Cameron, who has ordered some of his Conservative Party lawmakers to quit over their excessive claims, said fresh faces are necessary to help rebuild confidence in Britain’s political system.

The Conservatives are far ahead of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party in opinion polls and widely expected to win power at the next election, which Brown must call by June 2010.

31 Suu Kyi trial dashes improved US-Myanmar ties

By MICHAEL CASEY, Associated Press Writer

Sun May 24, 9:44 am ET

BANGKOK – A widely expected guilty verdict in the trial of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to halt tentative Western moves to improve relations with the country’s junta and make it harder to raise funds for humanitarian relief efforts, analysts said Sunday.

Suu Kyi, who has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years, is being tried on charges of violating the terms of her house arrest after an uninvited American, John W. Yettaw, swam across a lake to her home earlier this month and stayed for two days. The offense is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.

Suu Kyi pleaded not guilty Friday, but expectations are high that she will be found guilty after the court accepted the charges and moved to proceed with the trial. Myanmar’s courts operate under the influence of the ruling military, and almost always deal harshly with political dissidents.

32 Gender issues worsen Iraq’s medical woes

By KATARINA KRATOVAC, Associated Press Writer

Sun May 24, 2:35 pm ET

SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq – This part of Iraq, says Dr. Ayad al-Hadithy, is so conservative that a man would rather have his pregnant wife die in labor than be touched by a male nurse or doctor.

It’s just one of the difficulties faced by U.S. and Iraqi officials as they struggle to nurse the war-ravaged province of Anbar back to health. One showcase of their efforts is the reopening last year, for women only, of the Nursing School in Anbar’s capital, Ramadi. Another is a field school in the town of Saqlawiyah that has just graduated its first batch of 10 female nurse’s aides.

Nowhere are nurses more badly needed than in Saqlawiyah and its surrounding villages, where 50,000 people have no women doctors and only one female nurse and one midwife, both old and overworked.

33 Myanmar says Thai meddling over Suu Kyi trial

By Aung Hla Tun, Reuters

1 hr 30 mins ago

YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar accused neighboring Thailand of meddling in its internal affairs on Sunday after Bangkok said the trial of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi threatened the junta’s “honor and credibility.”

Myanmar said the statement issued last week by Thailand, amid growing international outrage over Suu Kyi’s trial, was factually wrong and “deviated from the practice of ASEAN.”

Thailand holds the rotating chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), one of the few groups that allows the former Burma as a member.

34 Darfur fighters take Sudan army base: peacekeepers

By Andrew Heavens, Reuters

2 hrs 11 mins ago

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Armed raiders using mortars and heavy guns seized a Sudanese army base near the Chad border in Darfur on Sunday, the second to have fallen in just over a week, international peacekeepers said.

The joint U.N./African Union UNAMID peacekeeping force said it could not confirm the identity of those who attacked the base at Umm Baru but suspected the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) that has been active in the area in recent months.

“Umm Baru was overrun. It has fallen,” said UNAMID information director Kemal Saiki. “Our own base just a few kilometers away heard the heavy gunfire.” Saiki said the attack started at around 4pm (1300 GMT) and ended around 8.30pm.

35 Suicide car bomber kills 7 in Somalia, residents flee

By Abdi Guled and Ibrahim Mohamed, Reuters

27 mins ago

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – A suicide bomber killed six policemen and a civilian on Sunday in Somalia’s capital and hardline Islamist insurgents warned more suicide attacks would target pro-government forces in the coming days.

Abdifatah Shaweye, deputy governor of Mogadishu, said the bomber drove a 4×4 vehicle to the gate of a police headquarters and detonated it by the guards.

“Four died on the spot, two others died of serious injuries, and one civilian (died),” a police commander, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

36 Mongolians vote for new president

by Peter Oetzmann, AFP

Sun May 24, 10:06 am ET

ULAN BATOR (AFP) – Voters in Mongolia on Sunday went to the polls to choose a new president less than a year after allegations of vote-rigging in parliamentary elections triggered deadly riots.

The violence last July shocked a nation that prides itself for having emerged from communism in 1990 after a peaceful revolution, and inhabitants of the capital Ulan Bator voiced their concern over the potential for more unrest.

“I hope there won’t be riots this time,” said Garda, a 75-year-old retiree who voted for incumbent Nambaryn Enkhbayar of the ex-communist Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party.

37 Celebrations as Germany turns 60, re-elects president

by Simon Sturdee, AFP

Sat May 23, 1:20 pm ET

BERLIN (AFP) – Huge crowds in Berlin celebrated on Saturday 60 years since Germany emerged from the ruins of World War II to lay the foundations for what became a democratic, peaceful and prosperous nation.

Meanwhile MPs and public figures re-elected the conservative Horst Koehler to the largely ceremonial post of president for a second five-year term, in a boost to Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of general elections in September.

Authorities expected half a million people around the historic Brandenburg Gate for a celebration of all things German from beer to Beethoven, with the country’s newly felt sense of national pride on full show.

38 Two dead, 14 injured in Nepal church blast: police

by Subel Bhandari, AFP

Sat May 23, 1:14 pm ET

KATHMANDU (AFP) – Two people were killed, including a teenage girl, and 14 wounded when a bomb exploded Saturday in a Roman Catholic church packed with worshippers on the outskirts of the Nepalese capital, police said.

The attack on Kathmandu’s only Roman Catholic place of worship marked the “saddest day” in the history of the religion in the impoverished mountain nation, one prominent church leader said.

The building was jammed with around 500 people when the homemade device packed with nails went off at the start of morning Mass, creating panic as people rushed for the exits, police said.

39 Berlusconi may address parliament over links to teen


Sat May 23, 3:24 pm ET

ROME (AFP) – Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, already haunted by corruption allegations, said Saturday he may address parliament on “vile” reports over his links to a teenager at the heart of his public divorce.

Berlusconi, 72, hit out at critics and the media over his ties to Noemi Letizia in the wake of the announcement by his wife Veronica Lario that she was seeking a divorce after he turned up to fete the girl’s 18th birthday bash.

“Explain to parliament my relationship with Noemi Letizia? I’m thinking about it,” the billionaire tycoon told T9 television in one of a series of interviews ahead of European parliament elections in June.

40 Car bomb kills 10, wounds 70 in Pakistan

by Lehaz Ali, AFP

Fri May 22, 1:11 pm ET

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – A car bomb exploded in a busy area outside a cinema in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Friday killing at least 10 people and wounding 70 others, a local minister said.

The deadly blast comes as troops battle Taliban rebels in a major ongoing operation in a valley 140 kilometres (90 miles) away, with officials saying it is likely the bomb was revenge for the offensive in Swat.

“The purpose of such type of incidents is to terrorise the masses,” provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told AFP, confirming the toll and adding some of the dozens hurt were in a serious condition.

41 EU-Russia summit fails to mend rifts

by Stuart Williams, AFP

Fri May 22, 2:28 pm ET

KHABAROVSK, Russia (AFP) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday condemned EU moves to strengthen ties with former Soviet states after a summit that failed to smooth out the bloc’s tetchy relationship with Moscow.

The controversy over the Eastern Partnership plan was just one dispute laid bare at the summit in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk, alongside conflict on an energy charter and a new warning over gas supplies.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus, holder of the rotating EU presidency, said the European Union had sought to reassure Russia over its Eastern Partnership initiative. But he failed to assuage Medvedev’s suspicions.

42 Prospects are dismal for returning Iraqi refugees

By Corinne Reilly, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri May 22, 12:45 pm ET

BAGHDAD – When Dhafir Hussein left Iraq last year for Sweden , he hoped it would be for good. Sectarian killings and armed gangs had turned his old Baghdad neighborhood, Sheik Omar, into a ghost town. Business had disappeared at the small engine-repair shop where he once made a decent living.

A year after Hussein got to Stockholm , his immigration lawyer called and said that Hussein would never be allowed to settle in Sweden permanently with his wife and two teenage sons, so he decided to go home. Besides, he figured, Iraq’s government had said things were better there.

Hussein returned to Baghdad two months ago. His shop is still deserted. He said that customers were afraid to come to Sheik Omar. He’s looked for other jobs, but he hasn’t found one.

43 Yo, ho, ho and a million-dollar McMansion in Kenya

By Shashank Bengali, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri May 22, 3:01 pm ET

NAIROBI, Kenya – Young, newly rich and restless, Ali Abdinur Samo wasn’t long for his dead-end homeland of Somalia . The 26-year-old recently decamped to Kenya , East Africa’s land of opportunity, to put his wealth to work.

“I’m looking around,” said Samo, whose close-cropped hair is already flecked with gray, an occupational hazard in his line of work. “I know people who are buying shops, hotels, properties. The economy is strong here, not like back home.”

Samo, if you hadn’t guessed, is a Somali pirate.

44 On war zone tour, Pakistani army says ‘collateral damage’ minimal

By Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri May 22, 6:22 pm ET

KHWAZAKHELA, Pakistan – From the window of a Pakistani army helicopter, the Swat valley looked serene and inviting, not at all like a battlefield in the country’s self-described fight for survival against Taliban extremists.

Accounts from some of the 1.5 million refugees who’ve fled Swat have painted a picture of destroyed villages and burning countryside under massive Pakistani army bombardment. Two weeks into the offensive, however, the military felt confident enough Friday to take foreign reporters on a guided tour of Swat to refute those claims.

A helicopter flight along the vast Swat valley, the site of the government’s stand against a brutal Islamist militia that had overrun the northwestern district, seemed to support the military’s contention that it’s been waging a counterinsurgency operation, not a massive offensive to level the place.

45 Iraq’s disgraced trade minister expected to step down

By Jack Dolan and Laith Hammoudi, McClatchy Newspapers

Sat May 23, 1:08 pm ET

BAGHDAD – Iraq’s trade director, who made history last week as the first government minister ever forced to answer corruption charges before a nationwide television audience, is expected to resign before a no confidence vote in the Iraqi parliament on Tuesday, a top party official said Saturday.

“The Minister of Trade presented his resignation letter” before he was grilled by the parliament’s Integrity Committee last weekend, Dr. Ali al Adeeb , a high-ranking member of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s ruling Dawa party, told McClatchy . “I expect that he will be deposed before the no confidence vote.”

The trade minister, Falah al Sudany , also a Dawa party member, couldn’t be reached for comment Saturday.

46 Pakistan says decisive battle against the Taliban has begun

By Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers

Sat May 23, 1:30 pm ET

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The Pakistani army has entered Mingora, the largest town in Swat valley, and a street-to-street battle is raging with the Taliban , the military said Saturday.

In what’s likely to be the most dangerous and crucial phase of the campaign to retake the vast Swat area back from armed Islamic extremists, the army has taken the fight to the narrow streets of Mingora, where thousands of civilians are thought to remain trapped.

Residents who’ve fled said that several hundred fighters are present, and they’ve mined the streets, created bunkers and tunnels and taken positions on rooftops.

47 Former Iraqi insurgent contemplates returning to war

By Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers

Sun May 24, 6:00 am ET

BAGHDAD – Abu Fatma dresses in suits now. He cuts his hair short and talks like a politician.

He looked down at his tie and his clean gray suit.

“Don’t be fooled by my clothes,” he said.

48 Russia and Ukraine Battle Over Their Shared History

By JAMES MARSON / KIEV, Time Magazine

Fri May 22, 5:00 am ET

Fresh from their conflict over gas in January, Ukraine and Russia are again in the midst of a heated battle – this time about the countries’ shared Soviet past. As Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko this week lamented that Ukraine had become “a hostage in the fight between two totalitarian regimes – fascist and communist” and called for Soviet-era symbols around the country to be torn down, his Russian counterpart Dmitri Medvedev ordered the creation of a presidential commission “to counter attempts to harm Russian interests by falsifying history.”

49 Tajikistan’s President: No Photos, Please

By JOHN WENDLE / MOSCOW, Time Magazine

Fri May 22, 8:40 pm ET

Across Central Asia, they are a common sight: portraits glorifying each nation’s leader. Rising above the people on roadside billboards and taking pride of place on the walls of local government offices, visual tributes to the region’s sitting presidents outnumber internet cafes, independent newspapers and working bank machines. But Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmon aims to change all that. He has issued a decree that all portraits depicting him with local politicians are to be torn down immediately.

50 For Nicaraguans, New Currency Is a Hot Potato

By TIM ROGERS / MANAGUA, Time Magazine

Sat May 23, 9:20 am ET

In a country accustomed to surprises from its government, Nicaraguans received another curiosity on May 15 when they awoke to find that the Central Bank, moving in the night as stealthily as the Tooth Fairy, had snuck a new legal tender into their economy while the markets were sound asleep.

51 How the Economy Could Crush Iraq’s Hopes

By MARK KUKIS / BAGHDAD, Time Magazine

Sun May 24, 12:05 am ET

Ahmed Basim Mohammed al-Abaje is understanding about slow salary payments from the Iraqi government. He and other citizens of Baghdad are beginning to realize that the Iraqi government is running low on cash owing to the global financial crisis. “There have been some delays, but we did not have to wait too long for pay,” says Abaje, a member of the volunteer Sunni watchmen-fighters known as the Awakening in the Baghdad neighborhood of Mansour. But Abaje, like scores of other Awakening members across Iraq, worries that the pay may dry up altogether. “If the government wanted to end the Awakening program, no one could stop them.”

52 No Gas Deal at the E.U.-Russia Summit

By JOHN WENDLE / MOSCOW, Time Magazine

Sun May 24, 1:05 am ET

The location may have been the first hint. The 23rd European Union-Russia summit on Friday was held in the Russian Far East city of Khabarovsk, a former Tsarist army outpost just a few dozen miles from the Chinese border and 5,000 miles east of Western Europe. The location seemed more aimed at inducing jet lag and awe at Russia’s size than at forging agreement on energy, an issue that has consistently soured relations between the two powers over the past months – and which the summit failed to resolve.

53 Iran’s Spending Spree in Afghanistan


Sun May 24, 12:30 pm ET

Some locals jokingly call Herat the “Dubai of Afghanistan.” The nickname is a stretch, but the mini-boom taking place in this commercial capital is borne out by 24-hour electricity and pothole-free streets where people wander without fear of the random violence that afflicts other urban centers in the country. Who gets the credit? Much of it goes to Iran, which lies less than a hundred miles to the west and is moving closer.

54 Zimbabwe in Transition: A 100-Day Report Card


Sun May 24, 12:30 pm ET

It’s been 100 days since Zimbabwe passed from crisis into the hands of the strange and strained partnership of the President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled autocratically since 1987, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who defeated Mugabe in a controversial election last year but, despite intense international pressure, was not able to oust him from power.
From Yahoo News U.S. News

55 GOP senator threatens filibuster over court pick

By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 26 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The Senate’s No. 2 Republican on Sunday refused to rule out a filibuster if President Barack Obama seeks a Supreme Court justice who decides cases based on “emotions or feelings or preconceived ideas.”

Sen. Jon Kyl made clear he would use the procedural delay if Obama follows through on his pledge to nominate someone who takes into account human suffering and employs empathy from the bench. The Arizona Republican acknowledged that his party likely does not have enough votes to sustain a filibuster, but he said nonetheless he would try to delay or derail the nomination if Obama ventures outside what Kyl called the mainstream.

“We will distinguish between a liberal judge on one side and one who doesn’t decide cases on the merits but, rather, on the basis of his or her preconceived ideas,” Kyl said.

56 Liberals ask how they lost gun, Guantanamo votes

By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 39 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Frustrated liberals are asking why a Democratic-controlled Congress and White House can’t manage to close the Guantanamo prison or keep new gun-rights laws from passing.

After all, President Barack Obama pledged to shut down the military detention center on Cuba for suspected terrorists. And Democratic control of the government would suggest that any gun legislation leads to tighter controls on weapons, not expanded use.

Even as they grouse, however, liberal lawmakers acknowledge that no one factor explains last week’s disappointing back-to-back votes in Congress.

57 Terrorism arrests: snitch, sting, then controversy


Sun May 24, 1:26 pm ET

NEW YORK – It usually starts with a snitch and a sting operation, followed by a great deal of publicity and controversy.

Case in point: Four Muslim men charged last week with plotting to blow up synagogues and military planes. The informant is a convicted felon and Pakistani immigrant who turned informant seven years ago to avoid deportation. This wasn’t his first foray into undercover work for federal authorities.

With considerable fanfare, a steady stream of terrorism busts has been announced by the FBI since Sept. 11, 2001. And in most cases, accusations soon followed that the stings were overblown operations that entrapped hapless ne’er-do-wells. Federal authorities say such arrests save lives.

58 Recession suddenly humbles high-tech sector

By MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer

Sun May 24, 2009 1:11PM EDT

LOS GATOS, Calif. – The $1.6 million red Bugatti crouches in the showroom, flanked by Lamborghinis, Bentleys and a Rolls-Royce all polished to a shimmer. The nearby potted plants, however, are dusty and wilting. With super-luxury car sales here just half of what they used to be, they had to cut something.

“We wash our own windows now, take care of the plants ourselves,” says Ryan Dohogne, general manager of Silicon Valley Auto Group. Although they haven’t laid anyone off, yet, Dohogne said they’re saving everywhere they can.

Five miles away, former indoor plant specialist Michael A. Jones is having what he calls “a humbling experience” at a nonprofit food pantry, choosing dented cans of corn and tuna, a crunched box of Rice Krispies and some soon-to-expire milk to supplement his food stamps.

59 U.S. appeals court agrees tobacco companies lied

By Diane Bartz, Reuters

Fri May 22, 4:53 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Cigarette companies systematically lied for decades to hide the dangers of smoking, a U.S. appeals court said on Friday as it upheld a trial judge’s racketeering verdict.

But in a blow to anti-smoking groups, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia also upheld U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler’s 2006 rejection of plans to force the companies to fund smoking cessation programs, which could have cost them billions of dollars.

The appeals court’s three-judge panel ruled that the companies, including Altria Group Inc and its Philip Morris USA unit, violated federal anti-racketeering laws by conspiring to lie about the dangers of smoking.

60 New Jersey seeks laid-off traders to teach math

By Claudia Parsons, Reuters

Fri May 22, 11:24 am ET

MONTCLAIR, New Jersey (Reuters) – When Scott Brooks got laid off by American Express in February he decided to turn his back on finance and revive a dream he gave up on many years ago — to become a math teacher.

He happens to live in New Jersey, where state education authorities have long worried about a dearth of math teachers.

Last week he heard about a new program called “Traders to Teachers” being set up at Montclair State University to retrain people in the finance industry who have been laid off in the deepest crisis to hit Wall Street since the Great Depression.

61 Does Cheney’s assault hold risks for Republicans?

by Stephen Collinson, AFP

1 hr 26 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Dick Cheney, the most publicity averse US vice president in decades, is now the most outspoken former White House power broker of modern times after a stunning political transformation.

Freed of the shackles of office, Cheney is now in the eye of fierce public debate, while in power he often lurked in the shadows.

Leading the Republican charge against President Barack Obama on Guantanamo Bay and harsh CIA interrogation methods, Cheney is rocking Washington with a rare clash between past and present administrations.

62 GM, Chrysler face decisive week as deadlines loom

by Rob Lever, AFP

Sun May 24, 5:33 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US auto industry faces a tumultuous week that could see sector leader General Motors forced into bankruptcy and number three maker Chrysler move toward a quick exit from court protection.

A consensus is growing that GM — which faces a June 1 deadline from the US government to come up with a viability plan or face an aid cutoff — will seek bankruptcy court protection even as it scrambles to win last-minute concessions.

GM reached a tentative deal with the United Auto Workers union on cost-saving concessions that still must be ratified by rank-and-file workers.

63 Newburgh 4: "These Guys Picked the Wrong Town"


Fri May 22, 2:20 am ET

It will be days, possibly weeks, before we know all the details of how the attempted Riverdale, New York, bombing was foiled, but counterterrorism experts say it’s already clear where the plotters made their first mistake: they picked targets in New York City. Since the devastating attacks on Sept. 11, the city has built up formidable intelligence resources that are designed to anticipate, detect and eliminate terror threats. “No city is better prepared for this kind of attack than New York,” says Fred Burton, a counterterrorism expert at Stratfor, a global intelligence firm. “These guys picked the wrong town to mess with.”

64 When a Soldier Commits Murder: Life in Prison for Steven Green


2 hrs 19 mins ago

Just over three years and two months ago, Steven Green raped 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and murdered her, her parents and her 6-year-old sister in the family’s isolated farmhouse 20 miles south of Baghdad. On May 21, after deliberating about a death sentence for 10 hours over two days, a jury of nine women and three men in the U.S. District Court in Paducah, Ky., declared they could not come to a unanimous decision. As a result, Green will receive an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole.


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  1. Next weekend I expect I’ll be too busy to post Saturday or Sunday at the regular time.

    I do expect I’ll have time to do my regular Sunday OND and I’ll crosspost that when I’m done.

    In June this will happen again with great frequency so I’m going to look into getting a replacement.

  2. Shocking that people have actual lives to attend to!

    While here I am yapping on the puter and letting my dog drink out of my glass of iced tea.

    • daMule on May 24, 2009 at 23:33

    Awwwwww….  couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.

    • dkmich on May 24, 2009 at 23:33

    the new and improved Hubble will bring.    

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