Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread
35 Story Final.
|From Yahoo News Top Stories
1 Abdullah poised to boycott Afghan run-off
by Waheedullah Massoud, AFP
1 hr 40 mins ago
|KABUL (AFP) – Abdullah Abdullah was poised on Saturday to boycott Afghanistan’s run-off presidential election unless incumbent Hamid Karzai has a last minute change of heart and bows to a series of demands from his rival.
Officials in Abdullah’s campaign team said the former foreign minister would announce he was pulling out of the November 7 contest on Sunday in the absence of any U-turn by Karzai on measures to combat fraud.
“If by the end of today we do not receive a positive response to our conditions from the government, then Dr. Abdullah himself will announce his reaction to it tomorrow,” Sayed Aqa Fazel Sancharaki, a spokesman for Abdullah’s campaign, told AFP.
2 Bomb kills seven Pakistani soldiers
25 mins ago
|PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – A bomb killed seven Pakistani soldiers and wounded 11 others Saturday, officials said after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Al-Qaeda is at the core of the country’s terrorist threat.
“Seven paramilitary soldiers were killed and 11 were wounded in the remote-control bomb attack,” Shafirullah Khan, the top administrative official in the northwestern tribal district of Khyber, told AFP by telephone.
The Frontier Corps later issued a statement confirming that seven of its members had “embraced martyrdom”. It gave their names and said they died in an improvised explosive device blast.
3 Rivals Honduras agree to resolve crisis
by Ana Fernandez and Noe Leiva, AFP
Sat Oct 31, 2:00 am ET
|TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) – Rival sides in Honduras have finalized a deal to end four months of political crisis that paves the way for ousted President Manuel Zelaya’s return to his post pending approval by Congress.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led international praise for the deal reached late Thursday, with a push from US envoys, amid a deep crisis set off by a June 28 military-backed coup.
The accord between Zelaya and de facto leader Roberto Micheletti includes a power-sharing government and a congressional decision on Zelaya’s brief reinstatement ahead of presidential polls next month.
4 EU sets aside internal strife to trumpet climate deal
by Paul Harrington, AFP
Fri Oct 30, 4:26 pm ET
|BRUSSELS (AFP) – EU leaders on Friday agreed that developing nations will need 100 billion euros per year by 2020 to tackle climate change, but failed to nail down its own share amid sharp east-west differences.
“We have an agreement,” said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, at the end of a two-day European Union summit in Brussels.
“The EU now has a strong negotiating position” to take to Copenhagen for international climate talks starting on December 7.
5 Mixed messages as Europe reaches out on climate
by Roddy Thomson, AFP
Sat Oct 31, 1:57 am ET
|BRUSSELS (AFP) – Europe’s leaders wanted to send a clear message to Asian giants from this week’s summit — one about coughing up their share in the fight against climate change.
In the end, though, the need to cave in to last-minute Czech threats to get its flagship treaty for reform ratified and a typically European split over Tony Blair’s worth as its first president probably drowned it out.
On climate, they agreed that developing nations will need 100 billion euros (150 billion dollars) annually by 2020 — hardly a new figure and one with lots of wriggle-room when it comes to who should pay which part.
6 Americans embrace alternatives to ‘pagan’ Halloween
by Stephanie Griffith, AFP
Fri Oct 30, 4:13 pm ET
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – Witches, beware. Mummies, be gone. Halloween may be a celebration of all things creepy and macabre, but a growing number of US communities are shunning traditional ghoulish festivities, seen by some as tainted by association with paganism and the occult.
On Saturday, the streets of US cities and towns will fill with zombies, vampires and worse, as children clad in sometimes-fearsome costumes go door to door in search of candy handouts in the annual ritual of “trick-or-treating.”
The days leading up to the October 31 festivities often are marked by similarly ghoulish celebrations at US schools and community centers.
7 US stocks slide ahead of Fed rate decision, jobless data
by Germain Moyon, AFP
2 hrs 25 mins ago
|NEW YORK (AFP) – Despite the return of US economic growth, Wall Street was in no mood to celebrate as it braced for a Federal Reserve interest rate decision and crucial monthly labor data next week.
“Volatility is clearly on the increase as markets attempt to digest what appear to be contradictory signals on the economy,” said Brian Bethune and Nigel Gault, economists at IHS Global Insight, in a client note.
After a slight dip the previous week, the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 2.6 percent over the week to finish Friday at 9,712.73.
8 Nine U.S. banks seized in largest one-day haul
By Sam Mircovich and Edwin Chan, Reuters
Sat Oct 31, 12:11 am ET
|LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – U.S. authorities seized nine failed banks on Friday, the most in a single day since the financial crisis began and the latest stark sign that substantial parts of the nation’s banking industry are being crippled by bad loans.
The move brought the total number of failed banks in 2009 to 115 — their highest annual level since 1992 — with analysts expecting more to come. Among the lenders seized Friday was Los Angeles-based California National Bank, in what was the fourth-largest U.S. bank failure this year.
The largest institution to fail in the current financial crisis was Washington Mutual, which boasted $307 billion in assets when it was shuttered in September 2008.
9 Madoff: Had ‘too much credibility’ with SEC
By MARCY GORDON, AP Business Writer
2 hrs 14 mins ago
|WASHINGTON – As Bernard Madoff sat in jail a few months after pleading guilty to fraud, he sounded faintly boastful.
The only problem with officials at the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Washington headquarters, he said, is that he had “too much credibility with them and they dismissed” the idea that he was scheming people out of billions of dollars.
A document released Friday details a prison interview conducted June 17 by the SEC inspector general in which Madoff says he had the impression that “it never entered the SEC’s mind that it was a Ponzi scheme.”
10 Cheney to FBI: No idea who leaked Plame’s identity
By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer
2 hrs 23 mins ago
|WASHINGTON – Citing faulty memory, former Vice President Dick Cheney told federal investigators in a 2004 interview he had no idea who revealed to reporters that Valerie Plame, the wife of a Bush administration critic, worked for the CIA.
Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was convicted of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI in the probe of who leaked the former spy’s identity to the news media. At the end of Libby’s trial, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said “there is a cloud over the vice president” regarding the leaking of Plame’s identity.
A summary of the FBI’s interview with the then-vice president reflects that he had deep concern about Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador in Africa who said the administration had twisted prewar intelligence on Iraq.
11 Winfrey, Clooney among first White House guests
By SHARON THEIMER, Associated Press Writer
2 hrs 16 mins ago
|WASHINGTON – Celebrities George Clooney and Oprah Winfrey and prominent lobbyists, corporate executives and Democratic fundraisers were among the first to score visits with President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle or top aides at the White House, newly released records show.
The White House late Friday afternoon posted a list of roughly 480 records in response to questions about whether specific people visited the president’s home. It plans to start disclosing comprehensive visitor lists in coming months.
The records are a step toward making good on Obama’s promise of transparency. But they also show that despite a campaign pledge to reduce special-interest influence on policymaking, lobbyists are getting face time with him and his aides.
12 ALL BUSINESS: Credit-card rates up before new law
By RACHEL BECK, AP Business Writer
2 hrs 12 mins ago
|NEW YORK – Have you checked the interest rates on your credit cards lately? Odds are they’re going way up.
That’s because credit-card companies are rushing to raise rates and tack on extra fees ahead of a law slated to take effect Feb. 22 that is supposed to limit such moves in the future. In some cases, rates are doubling to as high as 30 percent or more, even for people who pay their bills on time.
The current maneuvering by the card companies is serving up another blow to American consumers who are already struggling with their finances. U.S. lawmakers let that happen by giving the card companies nine months to prepare for the rules.
13 Federal regulators close 9 banks, mostly in West
By TIM PARADIS and MARCY GORDON, AP Business Writers
Sat Oct 31, 3:37 am ET
|NEW YORK – Regulators have shut California National Bank of Los Angeles and eight smaller related banks as the weak economy continues to produce a stream of loan defaults.
The banks closed on Friday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation were in California, Illinois, Texas and Arizona. They were divisions of privately held FBOP Corp., a bank holding company based in Oak Park., Ill.
U.S. Bank in Minneapolis, a division of US Bancorp, agreed to assume the deposits and most of the assets of the banks. The banks had combined assets of $19.4 billion and deposits of $15.4 billion at the end of September, the FDIC said.
14 New papers detail FBI, CIA wrangle over detainees
By DEVLIN BARRETT and PAMELA HESS, Associated Press Writers
Fri Oct 30, 11:37 pm ET
|WASHINGTON – Newly released documents show the FBI interviewed a naked, chained terror suspect back in 2002 as the bureau struggled with the CIA over how to treat high-value prisoners.
Details of the interrogation were contained in documents released late Friday as part of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, and Judicial Watch.
As the CIA began to use harsh interrogation techniques against captured terror suspects, the FBI became wary of the legality of the methods, which ranged from forced nudity to waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning. As a result, FBI agents were ordered not to participate in such harsh interrogations.
15 Path clears for House to OK compromise health bill
By ERICA WERNER, Associated Press Writer
Sat Oct 31, 12:42 am ET
|WASHINGTON – They may not like it, but many House liberals look ready to accept a compromise health care bill, putting Democratic leaders well on the way to delivering on President Barack Obama’s call for overhaul.
After claiming for months they couldn’t vote for a bill without the strongest possible government-run insurance option, liberals are putting aside their disappointment over the weaker version in the legislation for a historic chance to remake America’s medical system.
“The current language is far weaker than what I would have preferred, and I think that is also true of the Progressive Caucus,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Friday. “But because I did not come up here to participate in gridlock and acrimony, I have told leadership that I am willing to compromise.”
The big sellout begins.
16 Obama administration: Toss wiretap lawsuit
By DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writer
Sat Oct 31, 3:47 am ET
|WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder says a lawsuit in San Francisco over warrantless wiretapping threatens to expose ongoing intelligence work and must be thrown out.
17 Dozens of House members scrutinized, report shows
By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer
Fri Oct 30, 6:33 pm ET
|WASHINGTON – Dozens of lawmakers have drawn scrutiny from their ethics monitor this year for everything from financial dealings to travel and campaign donations, according to a leaked account showing an active House panel secretly at work.
Seven of the lawmakers – four not previously known – serve on a defense appropriations subcommittee that divvies up money for Pentagon contractors.
Most of the names and investigative subjects, mentioned in a summary of the ethics committee’s work last July, were known. But the summary – obtained by The Washington Post – shows the widespread scope of preliminary reviews and investigations the panel can have before it at any one time.
18 Retail gas prices highest in a year
By MARK WILLIAMS, AP Energy Writer
Fri Oct 30, 4:04 pm ET
|Retail gasoline prices chugged higher Friday to a new peak for the year, forcing consumers to dig deeper into already-thin wallets to pay for fuel.
The worst part: Supplies of oil and gas are plentiful. In fact, storage points for gas are so jammed, producers are running out of places to put it and crude supplies are well above average levels.
19 OSHA fines BP a record $87M for Texas refinery fix
By SAM HANANEL, Associated Press Writer
Fri Oct 30, 4:21 pm ET
|WASHINGTON – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Friday imposed a record $87 million fine against oil giant BP PLC for failing to correct safety hazards after a 2005 explosion killed 15 workers at its Texas City refinery.
The fine – the largest in OSHA’s history – comes after a 6-month inspection revealed hundreds of violations of a 2005 settlement agreement to repair hazards at the refinery.
BP officials formally contested the fine, saying they believed the company had fully complied with the settlement agreement.
20 SCLC elects MLK’s daughter as 1st female president
By ERRIN HAINES, Associated Press Writer
Fri Oct 30, 7:24 pm ET
|ATLANTA – The Rev. Bernice King embraced the legacy and leadership of her parents on Friday as she became the first woman to head the civil rights organization co-founded by her father.
The youngest child of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King vowed to be a bridge between the civil rights generation and the hip-hop generation as the eighth president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
“I stand before you as a daughter of the civil rights movement calling forth the daughters and sons of the next generation of social change,” King said Friday at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where her father preached from 1960 until his death in 1968. “I am a King, yet I am mindful that I am not the only one.”
21 Hawaii celebrates new saint, return of relic
By AUDREY McAVOY, Associated Press Writer
1 hr 12 mins ago
|HONOLULU – Hula, chants and prayer will greet a heel bone of one of the Catholic Church’s newest saints when it arrives in Honolulu this weekend.
The celebrations are the culmination of weeks of ceremonies and celebrations marking the Vatican’s canonization of Belgian-born Joseph de Veuster, or Father Damien, in Rome earlier this month.
Damien has long been a saint to the people of Hawaii for caring for exiled leprosy patients in the mid-1800s when no one else would, and then contracting and dying of the disfiguring disease himself.
22 Not all boom counties cough up gains in recession
By MIKE SCHNEIDER and MIKE BAKER, Associated Press Writers
2 hrs 6 mins ago
|RALEIGH, N.C. – In the state capital’s downtown core, $500,000 decorative street lights beam down on bustling crowds who’ve come to dine and play along a recently revitalized pedestrian plaza.
A few states to the south, the lamp posts shine largely on empty lots in a subdivision outside Orlando where only a third of the 95 planned homes have been built.
Wake County, N.C., and Lake County, Fla., shared the spoils of the real estate surge as two of the nation’s 100 fastest-growing counties of this decade, until the recession hit and their paths diverged.
|From Yahoo News World
23 Zimbabwe: Mugabe takes sharp dig at Tsvangirai
By ANGUS SHAW, Associated Press Writer
23 mins ago
|HARARE, Zimbabwe – President Robert Mugabe took a sharp dig at his estranged governing partner Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Saturday, but said they were still allies in Zimbabwe’s troubled coalition.
Speaking Saturday at the state funeral of a former guerrilla leader who fought for independence from Britain in 1980, Mugabe, speaking of Tsvangirai’s temporary withdrawal from the Cabinet, said: “Even if some person is not mentally stable he is still your partner.
“We bound ourselves to work together even though we had disparate positions. We will continue talking, no matter what,” Mugabe told mourners at the Heroes Acre cemetery west of the capital as Mischek Chando was buried.
24 Pakistan says soldiers close in on Taliban bases
By TIM SULLIVAN, Associated Press Writer
2 hrs 54 mins ago
|ISLAMABAD – Pakistani soldiers closed in on two major Taliban strongholds in South Waziristan on Saturday, officials said, as government jets pounded insurgent hide-outs and the prime minister said the country had no choice but to defeat the militants.
“We are at war,” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told a press conference in the city of Peshawar, where a militant car bombing a few days ago killed more than 115 people. “Our civil leadership, our military leadership and political leadership … we are on the same page that we have to fight the militancy. We do not have any other option because their intentions are to take over” the country.
Pakistan, which years ago helped nurture the Taliban’s rise in neighboring Afghanistan, is now involved in an escalating fight with the militants. Two weeks ago, the government launched the offensive in the South Waziristan tribal region, viewed as the main stronghold in the country of both the Taliban and al-Qaida. The offensive has drawn retaliatory militant attacks across Pakistan.
25 Iran’s Mousavi hints at new opposition rally
57 mins ago
|TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi appeared to urge his supporters on Saturday to take part in rallies on November 4 marking the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
If they gather in the streets on Wednesday, there may be clashes with police and government backers, as happened during annual demonstrations in Iran in support of the Palestinians on September 18.
In a statement posted on a reformist website, Mousavi said he would press ahead with his efforts for political change in Iran following its disputed election in June, which he says was rigged in favor of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
26 Iraqi politics shuns sectarianism as violence ebbs
By Muhanad Mohammed, Reuters
2 hrs 7 mins ago
|BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s upcoming election may mark a departure from the sectarianism that plunged the country into civil war as Shi’ite and Sunni politicians join forces and emphasize nationalism and unity.
Iraqis have grown tired of the bloodshed between once dominant Sunnis and majority Shi’ites that erupted after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein and propelled the once oppressed Shi’ites into power, analysts say.
The latest example of a trend that appears likely to be a central theme of the election due on January 16 occurred this week as former prime minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shi’ite, and Saleh al-Mutlaq, an independent Sunni, created an alliance.
27 Bush says Afghan war must be won to stop ‘tyranny’
by Ben Sheppard, AFP
2 hrs 55 mins ago
|NEW DELHI (AFP) – Former US president George W. Bush said Saturday that the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan must be won to stop a return to “brutal tyranny” in the nation.
In a wide-ranging speech to a leadership conference in the Indian capital New Delhi, Bush said defeating the insurgents was “necessary for stability” and peace both in the region and globally.
“If the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and their extremist allies were allowed to take over Afghanistan again, they would have a safe haven and the Afghan people, particularly the Afghan women, would face a return to a brutal tyranny.”
28 Baghdad bombing suspect kills policeman during questioning
by Ammar Karim, AFP
1 hr 13 mins ago
|BAGHDAD (AFP) – A suspect being questioned over Baghdad bombings last week grabbed a police weapon and killed an officer, the interior ministry said on Saturday, as it announced an inquiry into the “negligence”.
The suspect, who also shot and wounded the policeman whose gun he took, later died in hospital. The ministry did not specify whether he had been shot by police or taken his own life.
The announcement came shortly after the United Nations confirmed a special envoy would be visiting Baghdad on Sunday to make preliminary findings on security after last weekend’s bombings and a similar attack against government offices in August.
29 Berlusconi corruption trial on November 27: judicial sources
1 hr 15 mins ago
|MILAN (AFP) – Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will go go on trial on corruption charges November 27, judicial sources said Saturday, after a top court this month stripped him of his immunity.
The trial was suspended last year after Italy’s parliament passed legislation giving the premier immunity. But the Constitutional Court struck down the law on October 7, paving the way for legal cases against Berlusconi to resume.
Berlusconi is accused of paying his British former tax lawyer, David Mills, 600,000 dollars (400,000 euros) to give false evidence in two trials in the 1990s.
30 At least nine survivors in Amazon plane crash
Fri Oct 30, 5:30 pm ET
|BRASILIA (AFP) – Indigenous tribesmen in the world’s largest jungle have found at least nine survivors after a Brazilian military transport plane crash-landed on a river deep in the Amazon, the air force said Friday.
One person on the flight that went down on Thursday in far northwestern Brazil was found trapped in the plane and is presumed dead, while another apparently went searching for help and is missing, the statement said.
Members of the Matis, a tiny tribe of some 300 people first contacted by modern Brazilian officials in the 1970s, discovered the plane and its crew and passengers “in the middle of the Amazon jungle” between the Matis village of Aurelio and another tribe’s village, the air force said in a statement.
31 New Haiti PM named after government sacked
Fri Oct 30, 6:14 pm ET
|PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) – President Rene Preval designated Haiti’s planning minister as the next prime minister Friday, moving swiftly to fill the vacuum left by the overnight sacking of the previous government.
President Rene Preval summoned the heads of both chambers of the Congress to the national palace to inform them of his selection of Jean-Max Bellerive to head up a new government, Senate President Kelly Bastien told AFP.
“We should convene the Senate early next week for the ratification and the whole process should be completed before November 18,” Bastien said.
32 Clinton: ‘We’re not getting through’ to Pakistanis
By Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers
Fri Oct 30, 6:26 pm ET
|ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — After three days of encounters with America-bashing Pakistanis — who rejected her contention that the U.S. and Pakistan face a common enemy — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that “we’re not getting through.”
Prominent women and tribesmen from the North West Frontier Province delivered the same hostile message that she’d heard the two preceding days from students and journalists: Pakistanis aren’t ready to endorse American friendship despite an eight-year-old anti-terrorism alliance between the countries and a multi-billion-dollar new U.S. aid package.
Clinton put her case directly to the public Friday in televised appearances in Islamabad , the Pakistani capital, fielding angry questions about the alleged activities of U.S. contractor Blackwater in Pakistan , the tough conditions that came with a $1.5 billion
|From Yahoo News U.S. News
33 Ford-UAW deal nears rejection, no new talks seen
By Bernie Woodall and David Bailey, Reuters
Fri Oct 30, 11:39 pm ET
|DETROIT (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co’s U.S. factory workers moved a step closer late Friday to delivering a landslide rejection of proposed concessions while the United Auto Workers leadership said the union would not return to talks with the automaker until 2011.
Workers at Ford’s truck assembly plant near the automaker’s Dearborn, Michigan headquarters voted 93 percent to reject the deal and workers at two Kentucky assembly plants voted 84 percent against it, adding to a growing number of rank-and-file workers lining up against the proposed contract changes.
A “no” vote in the closely watched ratification would represent a major setback for Ford as it seeks to bring its costs in line with U.S. rivals.
34 Too few in U.S. seek flu treatment: CDC
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor, Reuters
Fri Oct 30, 6:46 pm ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Only half of the people in the United States who most need immediate treatment for H1N1 swine flu are actually seeking it, even as the virus spreads at unprecedented speed, U.S. health officials said on Friday.
The latest count shows 114 children have been killed by the virus in the United States since April, during a time when there is usually virtually no influenza, said U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden.
And while President Barack Obama expressed frustration over vaccine delays, analysts said his credibility was at risk if vaccination did not start to go more smoothly.
35 Bloomberg surfs cash wave to 3rd NY mayor term
by Sebastian Smith, AFP
Sat Oct 31, 11:58 am ET
|NEW YORK (AFP) – New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg looks set to secure a third term Tuesday after spending record sums of his own money — a million dollars a day — to remain master of the Big Apple.
The media tycoon, who first took office in 2001, goes into election day with polls predicting a comfortable win over his closest rival, the little-known and underfunded William Thompson.
Bloomberg, 67, is widely credited with turning once gritty and chaotic New York into one of the cleanest, safest and most efficient US cities.