Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

Now with World and U.S. News.  57 Story Final.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Rumsfeld decision let Bin Laden escape: Senate report

AFP

Sun Nov 29, 11:27 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Osama bin Laden was “within the grasp” of US forces in late 2001 but escaped because then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected calls for reinforcements, a hard-hitting US Senate report says.

The report, set for release Monday, is intended to help learn the lessons of the past as President Barack Obama prepares to announce a major escalation of the conflict, now in its ninth year, with up to 35,000 more US troops.

It points the finger directly at Rumsfeld for turning down requests for reinforcements as Bin Laden was trapped in December 2001 in caves and tunnels in a mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan known as Tora Bora.

2 Switzerland votes to ban new minarets

by Hui Min Neo, AFP

42 mins ago

GENEVA (AFP) – Switzerland on Sunday voted to ban new minarets from being built, with a clear majority of the population backing an initiative by far-right politicians.

To the dismay of the Muslim minority here, some 57.5 percent of the population and 22 out of 26 cantons voted to ban the towers or turrets attached on mosques from where Muslims are called to prayer.

Far-right politicians across Europe celebrated the results, while the Swiss government sought to assure the Muslim minority that a ban on minarets was “not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture.”

3 UAE acts to shore up banking system

by Ali Khalil, AFP

Sun Nov 29, 11:10 am ET

DUBAI (AFP) – The United Arab Emirates central bank on Sunday pumped more liquidity into its banking sector amid fears that local stock markets may plunge after debt-laden Dubai asked to suspend debt payments.

The intervention is seen as a step to soothe investors and bank depositors after the shock announcement that state-controlled Dubai World wants to halt payments to creditors until at least May next year.

“This is a step aimed to calm investors… Markets should be calmer (than feared) tomorrow,” said Emirati financial analyst Nasser bin Gaith.

4 Dubai faces first test as finance hub

by Andrew Newby, AFP

Sun Nov 29, 9:03 am ET

NICOSIA (AFP) – Dubai’s ambitions to become an international financial centre are in doubt after the shock announcement that its main state-owned firm wants to suspend debt payments, analysts said on Sunday.

“What happens next and, more pertinently, how critical decisions are disclosed will cement its continuing credibility and its place as a financial centre,” said Cubillas Ding, senior analyst at Celent research and consultancy group.

“Dubai’s untested financial legal system is now facing its first real test in relation to how it deals with the international community. No one wants to play in a playground where the rules are unclear,” he said.

5 Rwanda joins Commonwealth, renews ties with France

AFP

1 hr 23 mins ago

KIGALI (AFP) – Rwanda achieved a double diplomatic coup on Sunday as it joined the Commonwealth, which is dominated by former British colonies, and agreed to restore ties with France.

Commonwealth leaders shrugged off fears over the mainly French-speaking African nation’s rights record and admitted it as a member at a summit in Trinidad.

Hours later, French officials announced that diplomatic ties cut in 2006 were to be restored.

6 Francophone Rwanda embraced by Commonwealth

by Jo Biddle, AFP

Sun Nov 29, 10:37 am ET

PORT OF SPAIN (AFP) – Commonwealth leaders dismissed protests over Rwanda’s rights record and admitted the mainly French-speaking nation into the family dominated by former British colonies, officials said on Sunday.

As the Commonwealth marks 60 years since it rose out of the break-up of the British empire, the African nation and former Belgian colony became its 54th member.

Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma telephoned Rwandan President Paul Kagame late Saturday to tell him the news, a Commonwealth official said.

7 EU finance chiefs say global stimulus plans must continue

by D’Arcy Doran, AFP

52 mins ago

NANJING, China (AFP) – European finance chiefs said Sunday the global economic recovery was not yet strong enough for governments to halt stimulus measures, after meeting here with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

A delegation led by Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker, European Central Bank head Jean-Claude Trichet and economic and monetary affairs commissioner Joaquin Almunia also urged a “gradual and orderly” appreciation of the yuan.

It also warned China to be careful with its exports — often much cheaper than those of other countries — to avoid provoking a protectionist backlash, in the talks held in the eastern city of Nanjing.

8 Obama prepares to announce Afghan surge

by Laurent Lozano, AFP

29 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Barack Obama is set to make the boldest strategic move of his presidency on Tuesday and order a surge of tens of thousands more US troops into an increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan.

In front of cadets at the prestigious West Point military academy, Obama is expected to announce between 30,000 and 35,000 reinforcements as part of a new Afghan strategy intended in his own words to “finish the job” there.

More than eight years after a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime after it refused to hand over Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders accused of plotting the September 11 attacks in 2001, the president is also under pressure to lay out an exit strategy in his 8:00 pm (0100 GMT Wednesday) address to the American nation.

9 Talks to set Afghan goals for British troop exit

by Jo Biddle, AFP

Sat Nov 28, 4:08 pm ET

PORT OF SPAIN (AFP) – Britain aims to set clear goals in Afghanistan at top-level talks next year to move towards bringing its troops home, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Saturday amid public anger at the war.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and major contributors to the coalition fighting in Afghanistan including the United States as well as regional neighbors will be invited to the London conference on January 28.

Brown made it clear the international community expected Karzai, who has been slipping from global favor among widespread allegations of corruption, to step up and assume his responsibilities.

10 Karzai under pressure to draw up troop exit plan

by Jo Biddle, AFP

Sun Nov 29, 6:16 am ET

PORT OF SPAIN (AFP) – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has upped the pressure on Afghan President Hamid Karzai insisting he draw up in the next two months an action plan to enable foreign forces to start withdrawing.

Karzai needed to draw up a “credible plan” for international forces to start handing over control to Afghan military and police before an international conference in London on January 28, Brown told Sky News in Trinidad.

“I want to know that by the time we get to January 28 we have a credible plan in place from President Karzai so that we can train Afghan troops,” Brown said in the interview late Saturday.

11 Hondurans vote for post-coup president

by Sophie Nicholson, AFP

Sun Nov 29, 8:55 am ET

TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) – Voting began in Honduras Sunday for the first elections since President Manuel Zelaya was forced out of the country in June, in a tense climate around polls which have divided the Americas.

The holding of the general elections with Zelaya out of office — and holed up in the Brazilian embassy where he reappeared in September — marks a victory for those behind his ouster, including business leaders, the courts and Congress.

After a subdued campaign alongside post-coup crisis talks and a string of small bomb attacks, the de facto regime has sought to calm a fearful population to encourage them to vote and legitimize the polls.

12 UAE moves to counter Dubai fallout but markets wary

By Martin Dokoupil and Enjy Kiwan, Reuters

1 hr 11 mins ago

DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates offered banks emergency support on Sunday, the first steps to ease fears that a looming debt default by two of Dubai’s flagship firms could derail the global economic recovery.

But the move to inject liquidity into Dubai’s banks by the central bank of the Gulf Arab state, together with promises by neighboring city-state Abu Dhabi to provide selective support to Dubai companies was seen as by analysts as the bare minimum.

Dubai markets, which are set to open on Monday morning after a four-day holiday, are expected to fall by the maximum daily limit of 10 percent as banks, property and construction firms face investor ire over moves to restructure the Dubai economy.

13 Shoppers spent less over Black Friday weekend

By Nicole Maestri, Reuters

11 mins ago

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – American consumers shopped more for bargains at the start of the U.S. holiday season and spent significantly less than a year ago, according to early data released on Sunday.

Consumers said they will have spent nearly 8 percent less on average, or about $343 per person, over the weekend that includes Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and runs through Sunday, according to the National Retail Federation.

While traffic to stores and retail websites rose to 195 million people from 172 million in 2008, the early data this weekend represents a worrisome sign for retailers, who had braced for weak sales and sought ways to protect margins.

Remember all those optimistic stories?  I told you so.

14 Commonwealth advances momentum for climate deal

By Pascal Fletcher, Reuters

Sat Nov 28, 7:25 pm ET

PORT OF SPAIN (Reuters) – Commonwealth nations representing one-third of the world’s population threw their weight on Saturday behind accelerating efforts to clinch an “operationally binding” U.N. climate deal in Copenhagen next month.

Leaders of the 53-nation Commonwealth meeting in Trinidad and Tobago used their summit to bolster a diplomatic offensive seeking wide consensus on how to fight global warming before December 7-18 U.N. climate talks in the Danish capital.

“The clock is ticking to Copenhagen … we believe that the political goodwill and resolve exists to secure a comprehensive agreement at Copenhagen,” Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told a news conference in Port of Spain.

15 Hondurans to elect new president after June coup

By Mica Rosenberg, Reuters

Sun Nov 29, 10:42 am ET

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Hondurans choose a new president on Sunday in an election that could ease a crisis triggered by a coup but the vote has pitted Washington against some of the biggest countries in Latin America.

Neither President Manuel Zelaya nor arch-rival Roberto Micheletti, installed as interim president by Congress after Zelaya’s overthrow in June, is in the race. That leaves the door open for someone else to take the coffee-producing Central American nation beyond the gridlock that has crippled it for months and cut off international aid.

Doubts remain over whether the world will recognize the election because it is being run by the coup leaders and could end any hope of Zelaya returning to power.

16 Afghan talks to seek road to security handover

By Adrian Croft, Reuters

Sat Nov 28, 2:31 pm ET

PORT OF SPAIN (Reuters) – Britain will host talks on Afghanistan on January 28, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Saturday, just days before U.S. President Barack Obama spells out his expansion of the war effort next week.

The international conference in London, to be followed by a meeting in Kabul, will address progressively handing security to Afghan control, Brown and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago.

That would, in theory, allow NATO countries to draw down their forces gradually as public support wanes on both sides of the Atlantic for the costly war that began in late 2001.

17 Swiss voters back minaret ban – report

By Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters

Sun Nov 29, 9:09 am ET

GENEVA (Reuters) – Swiss voters have approved a right-wing-backed proposal to ban construction of new minarets, initial projections showed on Sunday, a surprise result that could damage Switzerland’s economic ties with Muslim states.

If confirmed, the result would be a huge embarrassment for the neutral Swiss government, which had warned that amending the constitution to ban construction of minarets could serve could “serve the interests of extremist circles.”

“The initiative would appear to be accepted, there is a positive trend. It’s a huge surprise,” French-language Swiss television said, 30 minutes after polls closed at midday.

18 UAE to back banks amid Dubai meltdown

By BARBARA SURK and TAREK EL-TABLAWY, Associated Press Writers

20 mins ago

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The United Arab Emirates has pledged to stand behind foreign and domestic banks in the country, offering additional money while extolling the strength of the Gulf nation’s financial sector as world markets brace for a potential day of reckoning Monday over Dubai’s crushing debt.

The UAE’s immediate priority was arguably to avert any run, however unlikely, on banks by panicked depositors. But the promise of cheap funds also signaled to global investors that the country’s federal government – backed by oil money – will do what it can to limit the fallout from its indebted emirate’s woes.

In a statement Sunday, the UAE’s central bank said it had sent notice to Emirati banks and foreign banks with branches in the country making clear they would have access to “a special additional liquidity facility.”

19 Senator says Afghan forces, not US, key to success

By RICHARD LARDNER, Associated Press Writer

44 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The leading Senate Democrat on military matters said Sunday that President Barack Obama’s anticipated plan for significantly expanding U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan must show how those reinforcements will help increase the size of the Afghan security forces.

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that more Afghan army and police are central to succeeding in the 8-year-old war and more U.S. trainers and equipment can help meet that goal. But it’s unclear, Levin said, what role tens of thousands additional combat troops will play and Obama has to make a compelling case during a national address he’s scheduled to give Tuesday night from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

“The key here is an Afghan surge, not an American surge,” Levin said. “We cannot, by ourselves, win (the) war.”

20 AP Impact: For-profit colleges haul in gov’t aid

By JUSTIN POPE, AP Education Writer

1 hr 3 mins ago

RALEIGH, N.C. – Students aren’t the only ones benefiting from the billions of new dollars Washington is spending on college aid for the poor.

An Associated Press analysis shows surging proportions of both low-income students and the recently boosted government money that follows them are ending up at for-profit schools, from local career colleges to giant publicly traded chains such as the University of Phoenix, Kaplan and Devry.

Last year, the five institutions that received the most federal Pell Grant dollars were all for-profit colleges, collecting over $1 billion among them. That was two and a half times what those schools hauled in just two years prior, the AP found, analyzing Department of Education data on disbursements from the Pell program, Washington’s main form of college aid to the poor.

21 Turbulence ahead: Senate opens health care debate

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 13 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The 60 votes aren’t there any more.

With the Senate set to begin debate Monday on health care overhaul, the all-hands-on-deck Democratic coalition that allowed the bill to advance is fracturing already. Yet majority Democrats will need 60 votes again to finish.

Some Democratic senators say they’ll jump ship from the bill without tighter restrictions on abortion coverage. Others say they’ll go unless a government plan to compete with private insurance companies gets tossed overboard. Such concessions would enrage liberals, the heart and soul of the party.

22 Swiss ban mosque minarets in surprise vote

By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS, Associated Press Writer

10 mins ago

GENEVA – Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on minarets on Sunday, barring construction of the iconic mosque towers in a surprise vote that put Switzerland at the forefront of a European backlash against a growing Muslim population.

Muslim groups in Switzerland and abroad condemned the vote as biased and anti-Islamic. Business groups said the decision hurt Switzerland’s international standing and could damage relations with Muslim nations and wealthy investors who bank, travel and shop there.

“The Swiss have failed to give a clear signal for diversity, freedom of religion and human rights,” said Omar Al-Rawi, integration representative of the Islamic Denomination in Austria, which said its reaction was “grief and deep disappointment.”

23 Employers play Dr. Mom to limit swine flu impact

By LINDA A. JOHNSON, AP Business Writer

1 hr 31 mins ago

TRENTON, N.J. – Big businesses are spending serious time and money trying to limit the swine flu pandemic’s impact on operations, from bankrolling video on good hygiene to training employees to cover for co-workers with critical jobs.

Companies from health insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc. to beverage can maker Ball Corp. are arranging for employees with flu symptoms or sick family members to work from home where possible, holding fewer in-person meetings, even discouraging handshakes. And hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and tissues are at the ready everywhere as employers make keeping workers healthy their first line of defense.

Employers are playing Dr. Mom, teaching about hygiene, distributing information about the pandemic, telling folks to stay home if they get sick – generally with pay – and scrapping the required doctor’s note. Some companies have even distributed “wellness kits” with thermometers and face masks.

24 Pakistan’s president told to give up powers

By CHRIS BRUMMITT, Associated Press Writer

Sun Nov 29, 11:40 am ET

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s main opposition party Sunday demanded the president give up the sweeping powers he inherited from his predecessor, setting the stage for political turmoil just as the Obama administration wants the country to focus on fighting the Taliban.

President Asif Ali Zardari’s grip on power is increasingly under threat from opposition lawmakers and elements within the powerful military who want him to resign or divest powers to the prime minister and take on a ceremonial role. Opinion polls show him to be desperately unpopular 15 months into a five-year term.

His presidency suffered another blow Saturday when an amnesty protecting him, several key allies and thousands of other officials from graft prosecution expired. While he enjoys immunity from prosecution as president, opponents could now go to the Supreme Court to challenge his eligibility for office.

25 Bernanke makes case for strong Fed role on banks

By EILEEN AJ CONNELLY, AP Business Writer

Sun Nov 29, 3:31 am ET

NEW YORK – The chairman of the Federal Reserve is concerned that congressional efforts at financial reform could weaken the central bank’s ability to handle future crises and may politicize monetary policy.

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke made the comments in an Op-Ed piece to appear in Sunday’s Washington Post, five days before the Senate Banking committee holds a hearing on his nomination for a second term. His current four-year term expires Jan. 31.

Bernanke wrote the nation is challenged to design a financial oversight system that will “embody the lessons of the past two years and provide a robust framework for preventing future crises and the economic damage they cause.”

26 RI museums consider relocating sarcophagus

By ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 37 mins ago

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Gina Borromeo is well-versed in ancient artifacts, but one recent question from a museum curator caught her off-guard: “Do you want a sarcophagus?”

And not just any sarcophagus. This was the white marble coffin, perhaps from the 18th century, depicting followers of the Greek wine god Dionysus. It was brought back from Europe by a wealthy Rhode Island couple who donated it to the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium in 1904. For years, the coffin sat unceremoniously in the lobby of the building at Roger Williams Park.

Now, the city-operated museum was willing to part with it after more than a century, deciding the mission of the natural history museum was shifting more toward the natural sciences.

27 Nat’l parks seek to share of profitable science

By MEAD GRUVER, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 40 mins ago

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – A soon-to-be-implemented policy for scientists who are permitted to conduct research in national parks will give the National Park Service a share of any profits from their work.

The policy is expected to go into effect early next year following more than a decade of concern and a lawsuit over “bioprospecting” in Yellowstone National Park. Bioprospecting – a hybrid of the words “biodiversity” and “prospecting” – is the search for organisms that promise scientific breakthroughs in medicine and chemistry.

“This is about the public, which owns places like Yellowstone, getting some kind of benefit if someone has a commercial product based on research which started in the park,” said Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash.

28 Black-white turnout key in Atlanta mayoral runoff

By ERRIN HAINES, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 56 mins ago

ATLANTA – Just a few weeks ago, some suggested Atlanta was about to name its first white mayor in a generation. Instead, the Nov. 3 election set up a hard-fought runoff battle that’s expected to break down largely along racial lines when voters return to the polls Tuesday.

Mary Norwood, the white candidate, and former state Sen. Kasim Reed, an African-American, are vying for a critical mass of racial crossover votes, with victory likely hinging on black-versus-white turnout.

“What it comes down to is if she gets more black votes than he gets white votes,” said political strategist Tom Houck. “When people say race doesn’t matter, obviously it does. There is no dominant issue that distinguishes these two other than she’s a white woman and he’s a black guy.”

29 Pa. city torn by racial strife elects black mayor

By MARC LEVY, Associated Press Writer

Sat Nov 28, 1:21 pm ET

YORK, Pa. – A little girl who trembled in her house as a National Guard tank rumbled past during York’s chaotic 1969 race riots has grown up to become the first black mayor of the central Pennsylvania city.

Kim Bracey, 45, an energetic veteran of the struggling manufacturing city’s improvement efforts will take office in January, to the delight of many African-Americans who thought they would never see a black mayor.

“President Obama was one thing, but here in York where few people vote … I really didn’t think I would live to see this take place,” Bracey said in a recent interview at her transition office.

30 Hawaii among several destinations luring Chinese

By HERBERT A. SAMPLE, Associated Press Writer

Sun Nov 29, 10:00 am ET

HONOLULU – Hawaii, California and Las Vegas are among American tourist destinations vying fiercely for a vast and largely untapped new market segment.

Yes, to be a Chinese tourist these days is to be a widely-sought traveler.

Hawaii has beaches and its famed “aloha spirit” as its siren call. Las Vegas offers gambling and its entertainment-oriented attractions. San Francisco can boast high-end shopping and the Golden Gate Bridge.

31 New commanders at embattled ND base vow perfection

By JAMES MacPHERSON, Associated Press Writer

Sat Nov 28, 3:08 pm ET

MINOT, N.D. – The sign over the main gate at Minot Air Force Base brags, “Only the Best Come North.”

It’s been a questionable claim over the past two years at the North Dakota base following a rash of nuclear-related screwups that spurred no mushroom clouds but embarrassed the military and cost several officers their careers.

The new base commander said the foul-ups – including a cross-country flight from Minot of a B-52 bomber mistakenly armed with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles – stemmed from lax attitudes in maintaining the arsenal there.

From Yahoo News World

32 Honduras hopes to move past coup with election

By ALEXANDRA OLSON, Associated Press Writer

16 mins ago

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Hondurans on Sunday elected a new president whose first challenge will be defending his legitimacy to the world and ending a crisis over a June coup that has isolated one of Latin America’s poorest countries.

Porfirio Lobo and Elvin Santos, two prosperous businessmen from the political old guard, are the front-runners. But their campaigns have been overshadowed by the debate over whether Hondurans should vote at all in an election largely shunned by international monitors.

The debate has split Western Hemisphere countries.

33 UAE to back banks amid Dubai meltdown

By BARBARA SURK and TAREK EL-TABLAWY, Associated Press Writers

16 mins ago

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The United Arab Emirates has pledged to stand behind foreign and domestic banks in the country, offering additional money while extolling the strength of the Gulf nation’s financial sector as world markets brace for a potential day of reckoning Monday over Dubai’s crushing debt.

The UAE’s immediate priority was arguably to avert any run, however unlikely, on banks by panicked depositors. But the promise of cheap funds also signaled to global investors that the country’s federal government – backed by oil money – will do what it can to limit the fallout from its indebted emirate’s woes.

In a statement Sunday, the UAE’s central bank said it had sent notice to Emirati banks and foreign banks with branches in the country making clear they would have access to “a special additional liquidity facility.”

34 Upfront money needed to ease UN climate deal

By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent

58 mins ago

NEW YORK – Money on the table – perhaps $10 billion a year or more – could help close a deal in Denmark next month and keep climate talks moving toward a new global treaty in 2010. But if poorer nations see too little offered up front, the U.N. conference could end in discord.

The money would help developing countries cope with ocean flooding, drought and other effects of climate change, while also helping them cut down on emissions of global-warming gases. The funds might eventually come from new sources, such as a tax on airline flights, but negotiators for now are seeking quicker infusions.

“Rich countries must put at least $10 billion a year on the table to kick-start immediate action up to 2012,” the U.N. climate chief, Yvo de Boer, told reporters last week in a preview of the two-week conference opening next Monday in Copenhagen.

35 China tries to fix crumbling health care system

By GILLIAN WONG, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 17 mins ago

JIZHUANGCUN, China – Unable to rely on China’s broken health care system, the Ji family was desperate.

Doctors had taken 15-year-old Ji Xiaoyan off a ventilator and discharged her because her family could no longer pay her hospital bills. So an uncle cobbled together a makeshift ventilator from bicycle and washing machine parts, driven by a noisy electric motor. The contraption pumped air into the teenager’s lungs through a washer hose plugged into an incision in her throat for more than a month, until the family got donations for treatment.

“I knew my child didn’t want to leave this world. We had to save her no matter what,” said Yang Yunhua, the girl’s mother, a farmer in Henan province. “But we are only poor people.”

36 Mysterious ‘Saddam Channel’ hits Iraq TV

By LARA JAKES, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 3 mins ago

BAGHDAD – Turning on their TVs during the long holiday weekend, Iraqis were greeted by a familiar if unexpected face from their brutal past: Saddam Hussein.

The late Iraqi dictator is lauded on a mysterious satellite channel that began broadcasting on the Islamic calendar’s anniversary of his 2006 execution.

No one seems to know who is bankrolling the so-called Saddam Channel, although the Iraqi government suspects it’s Baathists whose political party Saddam once led. The Associated Press tracked down a man in Damascus, Syria named Mohammed Jarboua, who claimed to be its chairman.

37 Powerful Filipino clan says innocent in massacre

By JIM GOMEZ, Associated Press Writer

Sun Nov 29, 12:01 pm ET

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Kristia Subang wiped her father’s coffin with a cloth and recalled the last time she saw the veteran newspaperman, when he woke her with a surprise gift of a new set of shoes for school – the night before he and 29 colleagues were massacred on their final assignment.

Relatives of the journalists – among 57 civilians who were shot and hacked to death in a Nov. 23 attack on an election convoy in the southern Philippines – gathered for a wake Sunday at a rundown funeral parlor. The white wooden coffins were all shut except for one to hide their remains, disfigured in a slaughter that used guns, machetes and a backhoe.

The massacre highlighted the violent factionalism that plagues the volatile region – and the deadly risks journalists take in covering it. The powerful clan accused in the killings vowed it was innocent and said Sunday it would wage a legal battle to disprove the allegations.

38 Somali training camps fuel threat of attacks on US

By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN and JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writers

Sun Nov 29, 10:22 am ET

MOGADISHU, Somalia – The recruits gather in scorching desert hideouts in Somalia, use portraits of President Barack Obama for target practice, learn how to make and detonate bombs, and vow allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

Training camps in the lawless nation of Somalia are attracting hundreds of foreigners, including Americans, and Somalis recruited by a local insurgent group linked to al-Qaida, according to local and U.S. officials. American officials and private analysts say the camps pose a security threat far beyond the borders of Somalia, including to the U.S. homeland.

In interviews with The Associated Press, former trainees gave rare details on the camps, which are scattered along desert footpaths, rutted roads and steamy coastal dens. They say the recruits are told the United States is the enemy of Islam.

39 Eq. Guinea vote to reinstall leader denying graft

By MICHELLE FAUL, Associated Press Writer

Sun Nov 29, 12:26 pm ET

JOHANNESBURG – Elections in Equatorial Guinea on Sunday were certain to extend the 30-year rule of Teodoro Obiang Nguema, a man accused of draining his nation’s oil wealth to fabulously enrich family and cronies while his people suffer in slums.

Western governments that have promised to fight corruption so far have done little as companies compete for concessions for petroleum and a burgeoning natural gas industry currently dominated by U.S. multinationals.

Obiang, 67, denies all charges and his government said in a statement released by an expensive U.S. lobbying firm that Equatorial Guinea “is committed to holding fair and democratic elections.”

40 Reformed rebel may become Uruguay’s next president

By MICHAEL WARREN, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 32 mins ago

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – A plain-talking socialist who once led an armed revolutionary movement and now scorns “stupid ideologies” was favored to win Uruguay’s presidential run-off Sunday and keep a center-left coalition in power for another five years.

Jose Mujica’s opponents claimed he would transform the South American country into a radical socialist state, but he campaigned as a consensus builder, and polls suggested most voters were convinced he would govern from the center.

Mujica won 49 percent of the votes in October’s first round of the election, which secured another majority in Congress for the governing Broad Front coalition.

41 Philippine journalists expect attacks to continue

By JIM GOMEZ, Associated Press Writer

Sun Nov 29, 3:48 am ET

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Several white wooden coffins – all but one shut to hide the journalists’ disfigured remains – were crammed into a rundown funeral parlor in the southern Philippines, not far from where they were slaughtered with guns, machetes and a backhoe.

At least 30 journalists and their staff perished in the Nov. 23 massacre that killed 27 other civilians in the deadliest single attack on the media in the world. The carnage drew worldwide condemnations, including from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, but few think the killings will stop.

The victims were in a convoy to cover a local politician’s filing of his intention to run for governor in predominantly Muslim Maguindanao province when dozens of gunmen allegedly led by a political rival abducted and then butchered them en masse on a nearby hill. All 57 people were raked with gunfire at close range and their bodies were hacked up.

42 Berlusconi defends record on Mafia

By Stephen Brown, Reuters

Sun Nov 29, 11:19 am ET

ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi on Sunday defended his record in fighting the Mafia and vowed to hit back at the opposition press that reported he was being investigated in connection with a 1993 Mafia bombing campaign.

“If there’s a person who by nature, sensitivity, mentality, background, culture and political effort is very far from the Mafia, it is me,” the 73-year-old conservative prime minister and media mogul said in a statement.

“If there is a government that, more than any other, has made fighting the Mafia one of its clearest and coherent goals, it is my government,” said Berlusconi.

43 Former guerrilla favored to win Uruguay election

By Kevin Gray, Reuters

Sun Nov 29, 9:05 am ET

MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) – A former guerrilla fighter is poised on Sunday to become the next president of Uruguay, pledging to maintain the ruling leftist coalition’s moderate policies in one of Latin America’s most stable economies.

Jose Mujica, 74, who waged an armed revolt against a democratically elected government in the 1960s and 1970s and was jailed for 14 years, has at least a 6-point lead in polls over his center-right rival, former President Luis Lacalle.

A Mujica victory would keep in power the ruling Broad Front coalition credited by many Uruguayans with lifting the country out of an economic slump earlier this decade and stoking growth this year in the face of the global slowdown.

44 Pakistani PM takes charge of nuclear weapons

By Augustine Anthony, Reuters

Sun Nov 29, 7:56 am ET

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s president has transferred authority over the nation’s nuclear weapons to the prime ministership, as the unpopular leader tries to deflect growing criticism he has too much power.

President Asif Ali Zardari, beset by corruption allegations, has been under pressure to give up sweeping powers that his predecessor Pervez Musharraf accumulated for the presidency.

The transfer of the chairmanship of the National Command Authority (NCA), which oversees Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, came as Zardari could face pressure after the lapse of an amnesty opened several of his top aides to prosecution on graft charges.

45 Parties complain of irregularities in Namibia vote

By Agnieszka Flak, Reuters

Sun Nov 29, 9:07 am ET

WINDHOEK (Reuters) – Four Namibian opposition parties including the main challenger to ruling SWAPO complained on Sunday of voting irregularities in the country’s two-day presidential and parliamentary elections.

First results were expected to be known about midday, with President Hifikepunye Pohamba and his South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) forecast to win a fourth five-year term, but by mid-afternoon no numbers had been reported.

The Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), seen becoming the official opposition, said some ballot papers lacked an identification stamp, making them invalid, and the ink identifying voters was removable in some cases, allowing people to vote twice. The voters roll was also contested.

46 Obama prepares to announce Afghan surge

by Laurent Lozano, AFP

Sun Nov 29, 2:01 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Barack Obama is set to make the boldest strategic move of his presidency on Tuesday and order a surge of tens of thousands more US troops into an increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan.

In front of cadets at the prestigious West Point military academy, Obama is expected to announce between 30,000 and 35,000 reinforcements as part of a new Afghan strategy intended in his own words to “finish the job” there.

More than eight years after a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime after it refused to hand over Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders accused of plotting the September 11 attacks in 2001, the president is also under pressure to lay out an exit strategy in his 8:00 pm (0100 GMT Wednesday) address to the American nation.

47 Honduras voters seek end to coup crisis

by Sophie Nicholson

43 mins ago

TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) – Hondurans voted Sunday for a new president in the first elections since the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya, with de facto leaders hoping to turn a page on the five-month coup crisis.

Election officials hailed calm voting across the Central American nation, but security forces in the northern city of San Pedro Sula fired tear gas and water cannon at supporters of Zelaya at a protest against the polls.

Journalists and activists at the scene reported some arrests and injuries.

48 Commonwealth admits Rwanda, lashes Fiji

by Marc Burleigh, AFP

48 mins ago

PORT OF SPAIN (AFP) – Leaders of the Commonwealth admitted French-speaking Rwanda and admonished military-ruled Fiji on Sunday, as they emphasized their club’s commitment to promoting democracy and human rights.

The decisions were set out in a statement at the close of the three-day summit in Trinidad’s capital that also threw the Commonwealth’s full weight behind climate talks soon to start in Copenhagen.

The Commonwealth, a grouping that now counts 54 members with Rwanda’s inclusion, asserted that it remained a vital and relevant institution in the 21st century, having evolved from its origins as an alliance of former British colonies, while maintaining Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as its symbolic head.

49 Russia hunts for train bombers

by Alexander Osipovich, AFP

1 hr 38 mins ago

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian police on Sunday hunted for the bombers behind an attack that killed around 25 people on an elite passenger train, while relatives undertook the grim task of identifying bodies.

It remained unclear why attackers had struck the Nevsky Express, a train popular with well-off Russians and foreign tourists, as it ran from Moscow to Saint Petersburg late Friday evening.

“An active investigative and operational effort is under way to identify and find the individuals involved in the crime,” Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for investigators, said on state television.

50 Demjanjuk faces landmark Nazi death camp trial

by Richard Carter, AFP

Sun Nov 29, 9:13 am ET

MUNICH, Germany (AFP) – Eighty-nine-year-old John Demjanjuk stands trial in Germany Monday accused of herding 27,900 Jews to their deaths as a Nazi camp guard, in what will likely be the last major case of its kind.

The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk is expected to be pushed into the Munich court in a wheelchair to face 27,900 individual charges of assisted murder while a Nazi guard at Sobibor in occupied Poland between March and September 1943.

If found guilty the infirm elderly man will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison. If acquitted, he will face an uncertain future as he has no passport and no country wants him.

51 Karzai under pressure to draw up troop exit plan

by Jo Biddle, AFP

Sun Nov 29, 6:16 am ET

PORT OF SPAIN (AFP) – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has upped the pressure on Afghan President Hamid Karzai insisting he draw up in the next two months an action plan to enable foreign forces to start withdrawing.

Karzai needed to draw up a “credible plan” for international forces to start handing over control to Afghan military and police before an international conference in London on January 28, Brown told Sky News in Trinidad.

“I want to know that by the time we get to January 28 we have a credible plan in place from President Karzai so that we can train Afghan troops,” Brown said in the interview late Saturday.

52 Climate talks on track after Commonwealth boost

by Marc Burleigh, AFP

Sun Nov 29, 5:23 am ET

PORT OF SPAIN (AFP) – Global climate talks to be held in Copenhagen got a big boost over the weekend when leaders representing a third of the planet’s population put their full weight behind sealing a deal.

The heads of government of the 53-nation Commonwealth announced Saturday that a legally binding climate accord was “essential” and they backed the December 7-18 Copenhagen negotiations called to draft a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol.

The Commonwealth Climate Change Declaration, issued mid-way through a three-day summit in Trinidad, also hailed moves promoted by Britain and France to establish a 10-billion-dollar fund to help offset the cost to poor countries that cut carbon output.

53 Trainers of Afghan police have work cut out for them

By Jay Price, McClatchy Newspapers

Sun Nov 29, 12:01 pm ET

KOLK, Afghanistan – When the improvised bomb exploded in a mud-walled compound about 300 yards from a new traffic checkpoint, the six Afghan police officers at the post just looked at one another.

Another violent day on Afghanistan’s Highway 1 had begun.

“Tell them to send three guys and go check it out to make sure no locals were hurt,” U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Hans Beutel told a translator. “Tell them not to get too close, but go take a look.”

54 Workers of the World vs. China Inc.

By HANNAH BEECH / RAMU, Time Magazine

Sun Nov 29, 10:10 am ET

Lunch at the site of the future Ramu nickel and cobalt mine in the remote hills of Papua New Guinea is a hurried affair, food shoveled into eager mouths. But the menu is as divided as the two distinct groups of workers squatting in the heat, swatting away flies and filling their bellies before their nine-hour, seven-day-a-week shifts begin again. In one huddle are local laborers chewing chunks of sweet potato and the canned fish known in pidgin dialect as tinpis. In another clump are imported workers from China who dig into rice topped with pork belly and chili – black bean sauce. The Chinese, who were shipped in by the state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corp. that has invested $1.4 billion into this faraway outpost, can understand neither English nor pidgin, two of the national languages. The Papua New Guineans speak no Mandarin. Even at mealtime, an event during which both cultures would normally encourage community and hospitality, the air is weighted by mutual incomprehension. “How can we eat together if everything about us is different?” asks Shen Jilei, whose first overseas experience transferred him directly from China’s Sichuan province to a South Pacific nation he hadn’t even known existed.

55 Why Ireland Is Running Out of Priests

By BRYAN COLL / BELFAST, Time Magazine

Sun Nov 29, 10:10 am ET

Wanted: Clean-living young people for a long career (women need not apply). Responsibilities: Varied. Spiritual guidance, visiting the sick, public relations, marriages (own marriage not permitted). Hours: On call at all times. Salary: None, bar basic monthly stipend.
From Yahoo News U.S. News

56 US says ‘playing leadership role’ at WTO

by P. Parameswaran, AFP

Sun Nov 29, 3:18 pm ET

GENEVA (AFP) – The United States said Sunday it was “playing a leadership role” at the World Trade Organisation, even as some developing nations pointed the finger at Washington for holding up global trade talks.

On the eve of a WTO meeting of ministers, President Barack Obama’s trade envoy Ron Kirk stressed that Washington remained committed to bringing the elusive Doha Round of trade negotiations to a successful conclusion.

“The United States engages with other economies and plays a leadership role at the World Trade Organization in order to boost American exports and grow the well-paid jobs Americans want and need,” Kirk said in a statement.

57 Florida Grapples With Its Deadly Hit-and-Run Car Culture

By TIM PADGETT/MIAMI, Time Magazine

Sun Nov 29, 12:40 pm ET

Ashley Nicole Valdes was a smart, pretty 11-year-old girl who often cared for her younger, mentally disabled sister while their single mother studied to be a paramedic. In January, while crossing the street to get to her home west of Miami, Ashley was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in a pickup truck – and became a heart-wrenching symbol of South Florida’s notoriously reckless car culture. “You see all these people getting run over and you ask yourself what’s happened to us as people here,” says Ashley’s mother, Adonay Risete. “We need to get tougher and change attitudes.”

7 comments

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    • TMC on November 29, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Rumsfeld & OBL. Seems the Senate is still not “looking forward”. Well, it only took them over 7 years to find out something we already knew.

    Dubai. The BIG question. What will happen to Halliburton’s HQ? Will “Dead-Eye” Dick have to relocate his hiding place for his billions and his man sized safe? Or will his Saudi oil pals protect him and his “undisclosed” location?

    Bernanke. Still trying to protect his little fiefdom for his Wall St. buddies. Heaven forbid we, the tax payers and Congress should know where all the money went, into whose pockets and just how bad our economy really is.

    • TMC on November 29, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    The tune is 100 beats per minute and if you are doing the correct depth for an adult 2 inches, you do not need to do mouth to mouth. The compressions will cause a change in intra-thoracic pressure that will keep blood oxygen levels high enough to maintain the brain. This is the video with the tune and lyrics that I hope will stick in your head.


    • Inky99 on November 30, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Imagine my surprise …..

    File this into the “stuff I already knew” file.  

    • Miep on November 30, 2009 at 12:56 am

    is really creepy. I don’t think anybody’s going to solve the world’s problems by banning architectural forms. But it does set a terrible precedent for cultural censorship, insofar as architecture is a cultural expression.

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