Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

Now with World News and Time Magazine Haiti Supplement.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 US airlift halt sparks fears for Haiti victims

by Alex Ogle, AFP

Sat Jan 30, 6:55 pm ET

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) – Haiti’s injured earthquake victims suffered a potentially deadly setback Saturday after the US military suspended evacuation flights because of a dispute over medical care costs.

Flights that have carried more than 500 people with spinal injuries, burns and other wounds ended Wednesday after the governor of Florida asked the government to share the financial burden on his state’s hospitals.

“Apparently, some states were unwilling to accept the entry of Haitian patients for follow-on critical care,” US Transportation Command spokesman Captain Kevin Aandahl told AFP.

2 Haiti holds nine Americans suspected of child trafficking


1 hr 12 mins ago

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) – Police in Haiti on Sunday were holding nine members of a US Christian ministry group on child trafficking charges, after they allegedly tried to leave the country with 33 Haitian children.

Haiti’s Culture and Communications Minister Marie Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue said police arrested the nine as they tried to enter the Dominican Republic with a bus-full of kids.

Border police “saw a bus with a lot of children. Thirty-three children. When asked about the children’s documents, they had no documents,” Lassegue told reporters in Port-au-Prince.

3 Haiti police charge US citizens with child-trafficking

by Alex Ogle, AFP

Sun Jan 31, 10:36 am ET

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) – Police in Haiti charged 10 members of a US Christian ministry group on child trafficking charges, after they allegedly tried to leave the country with more than 30 survivors of the earthquake.

News of the charges came amid dismay over a decision by the United States government to suspend medical evacuation flights and amid accusations about Washington’s role in Haiti from Latin American nations.

Meanwhile aid workers prepared to launch a massive food distribution effort in a bid to ease some of the chaos surrounding the relief effort.

4 Haiti health chief calls for urgent shelter

by Alex Ogle, AFP

Sun Jan 31, 4:20 am ET

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) – Haitian Health Minister Alex Larsen said the government is “moving as fast as possible” to shelter quake-hit refugees ahead of heavy rains due as soon as next month that could trigger a public health disaster.

“There’s discussion going on right now on how to deal with this issue quick enough,” Larsen told AFP after a briefing Saturday by World Health Organization (WHO) officials about the influx of desperately-needed medical supplies.

The UN has warned that if heavy rains arrive — perhaps as early as mid-February — while as many as a million Haitians are still homeless it could provoke a public health catastrophe, spreading disease through dense, insanitary makeshift encampments.

5 Yemen says war will stop if rebels agree six terms

by Hammoud Mounassar, AFP

Sun Jan 31, 10:35 am ET

SANAA (AFP) – Yemen on Sunday said it would stop its war on Shiite northern rebels only if they agree to a six-point truce offer, including a pledge not to attack Saudi Arabia, as fighting raged on three fronts.

The offer came amid government claims that another 24 Huthi rebels were killed.

“If the Huthi (rebels) agree to start implementing the six points … the government does not see a problem in stopping military operations,” Yemen’s Supreme National Defence Council announced.

6 US, China lock horns over Taiwan arms sale

by Dan Martin, AFP

Sun Jan 31, 7:05 am ET

BEIJING (AFP) – China and the United States were locked Sunday in an escalating row over US arms sales to Taiwan, with Washington rebuffing Chinese protests and insisting the deal promotes stability in the Taiwan Strait.

The Pentagon Friday sparked the latest challenge to China-US relations under President Barack Obama when it approved the 6.4-billion-dollar sale of Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters, mine-hunting ships and other weaponry.

China responded furiously with a raft of reprisals, saying it would suspend military and security contacts with Washington and impose sanctions on US firms involved in the deal.

7 IMF plans 100 billion fund to help poor mitigate climate impact


2 hrs 9 mins ago

DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) – The International Monetary Fund is planning a 100 billion dollar fund to help countries mitigate the effects of climate change, the agency’s head said.

“The new growth model will be low carbon,” Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the IMF, told political and business leaders meeting at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos this weekend.

Efforts to deal with climate change could not be blocked “just because we cannot meet the financing needs,” he said.

8 Ban slams Africa power-grabs as Kadhafi steps aside

by Helen Vesperini, AFP

Sun Jan 31, 7:34 am ET

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) – UN chief Ban Ki-Moon on Sunday criticised power-grabs in Africa in a speech to the continent’s leaders as Libya’s Moamer Kadhafi reluctantly handed over the presidency of the African Union to Malawi.

The build-up to the three-day AU summit in Addis Ababa had been dominated by the expectation that Kadhafi would try to extend his 12-month tenure as head of the 53-member body.

But soon after Ban issued his appeal at the summit’s opening for leaders to stick to the rules, Kadhafi announced that an agreement had been reached for Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika to take the helm for the coming year.

9 US economic rescue failing to meet key goals:auditor

by Rob Lever, AFP

Sun Jan 31, 3:10 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The 700-billion-dollar US government effort to rescue the financial system has failed to meet key goals such as sparking lending and curbing risky activities by banks, a special auditor said Sunday.

The special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said in a report to Congress that it is too soon to measure the overall success of the program passed at the height of the financial crisis in October 2008.

The quarterly report said that because of TARP, “there are clear signs that aspects of the financial system are far more stable than they were at the height of the crisis in the fall of 2008.”

10 US Marines facing a ‘different war’ in Afghanistan

by Jason Gutierrez, AFP

Sun Jan 31, 2:45 am ET

SOUTHEAST OF MARJAH, Afghanistan (AFP) – For the US Marines deployed to the battlefields of southern Afghanistan, life is fragile and thoughts focus on the day they see their families again, but something about this war is different.

They are preparing for an offensive on Marjah, one of the Taliban’s big urban strongholds in the southern province of Helmand, but progress is slow with the militants apparently preferring fight to flight.

The Marines will soon be joined by tens of thousands more soldiers, the lion’s share of the 30,000-strong troop surge promised by US President Barack Obama in December to try and turn around the grinding Afghan war.

11 Bankers leave Davos battered by blame game

by Philippe Onillon, AFP

Sun Jan 31, 12:53 am ET

DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) – The global banking elite left Davos on Sunday battered and bruised by the latest round of the blame game over the world financial crisis.

Scolded by presidents, prime ministers, central bank chiefs and even billionaire investors over regulation and their salaries, the heads of the institutions which dominate the financial markets have had to admit that some kind of reform is necessary.

US President Barack Obama’s plans to limit the size and activities of banks prompted an urgent call at the World Economic Forum for new regulations coordinated on an international level.

12 Haiti quake injured at risk, food handouts improve

By Mica Rosenberg and Tom Brown, Reuters

32 mins ago

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Foreign doctors treating the injured from Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake fear more could die as emergency medical relief winds down, but food distribution was smoother on Sunday using a coupon system.

The medical care worries have increased after the U.S. military on Wednesday stopped flying critical quake patients to U.S. hospitals for treatment, in a confused dispute over where they should be hospitalized and who should pay the costs.

Nearly three weeks after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake killed up to 200,000 Haitians and left up to 1 million more homeless, a huge U.S.-led international relief operation has been struggling to help injured and hungry survivors.

13 China: U.S. arms sales to Taiwan hurt national security

By Ken Wills and Jim Wolf, Reuters

Sun Jan 31, 2:27 am ET

BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. arms sales to Taiwan hurt China’s national security, its foreign minister said, escalating the rhetoric in a dispute threatening to deepen rifts between the world’s biggest and third-biggest economies.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi was the latest and most senior official to denounce the arms sale plan Washington announced on Friday.

The Obama administration has defended the package worth about $6.4 billion as necessary to boost regional security.

14 U.S. satisfied with recall fix, Toyota chief apologizes

By John Crawley, Reuters

Sat Jan 30, 11:47 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. safety regulators are satisfied with a Toyota Motor Corp. plan for fixing an accelerator problem that is part of a widening global recall and unprecedented sales and production halt, a government official said on Saturday.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) engineers have reviewed Toyota’s proposal for preventing gas pedals in eight models from sticking and have raised no objections, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has yet to be publicly announced.

Toyota has issued a series of recent recalls covering 5.6 million vehicles in the United states due to sudden acceleration in some vehicles. It is the largest ever recall for Toyota and among the biggest for an automaker in U.S. history.

15 Haiti detains Americans taking kids across border

By FRANK BAJAK, Associated Press Writer

14 mins ago

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Ten U.S. Baptists were being held in the Haitian capital Sunday after trying take 33 children out of Haiti at a time of growing fears over possible child trafficking.

The church members, most from Idaho, said they were trying to rescue abandoned and traumatized children. But officials said they lacked the proper documents when they were arrested Friday night in a bus along with earthquake survivors aged from 2 months to 12 years.

The group said its “Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission” was an effort to help abandoned children by taking them to an orphanage across the border in the Dominican Republic.

16 Haitian child quake victims flown to US for care

By FRANK BAJAK and PAISLEY DODDS, Associated Press Writers

54 mins ago

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Doctors skirted a bureaucratic logjam to save the life of three critically ill child victims of Haiti’s earthquake on Sunday, flying them to U.S. hospitals on a private jet to avoid a military suspension of medical evacuation flights.

A 5-year-old tetanus victim, a 14-month-old boy critically ill with pneumonia and a baby with third-degree burns were sent to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia by the aid group Partners in Health, based in Boston.

The airlift had been in doubt after the U.S. military stopped medical evacuation flights on Wednesday night because of because of apparent concerns over the long-term costs to U.S. public hospitals of absorbing seriously injured patients.

17 Florida gov: Flights continue out of Haiti

By JENNIFER KAY, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 42 mins ago

MIAMI – Hundreds of people have been flown from Haiti to Florida, even after the U.S. military halted evacuation flights for critically injured patients, the state’s governor said Sunday.

Gov. Charlie Crist told ABC News’ “Good Morning America” on Sunday he was puzzled by the suspension, which has been in effect since Wednesday. Civilian flights and other military flights have continued.

Military planes carrying 700 U.S. citizens, legal residents and other foreign nationals landed in central Florida over the past 24 hours, and three of those people required medical care at hospitals, state officials said.

18 5-day Davos forum ends on note of humility

By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer

26 mins ago

DAVOS, Switzerland – The world’s foremost gathering of business and government leaders wrapped up a five-day meeting Sunday with widespread agreement that a fragile recovery is under way but no consensus on what’s going to spur job growth and prevent another global economic meltdown.

In a group of big egos and many power players attending the annual World Economic Forum, there was even some humility and a realization that overcoming the first global financial crisis is uncharted territory.

The gathering of some 2,500 VIPs in this Swiss alpine resort saw much spirited debate on whether more regulation is needed for the financial industry, how to boost sagging global unemployment, and finding ways to ensure the nascent recovery is kept on course through 2010.

19 Obama pushes nuclear energy to boost climate bill

By DINA CAPPIELLO and MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press Writers

25 mins ago

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is endorsing nuclear energy like never before, trying to win over Republicans and moderate Democrats on climate and energy legislation.

Obama singled out nuclear power in his State of the Union address, and his spending plan for the next budget year is expected to include billions of more dollars in federal guarantees for new nuclear reactors. This emphasis reflects both the political difficulties of passing a climate bill in an election year and a shift from his once cautious embrace of nuclear energy.

He’s now calling for a new generation of nuclear power plants.

There is still no solution to the nuclear waste problem.

20 Problems at Toyota, JAL taint Japan Inc.’s image

By MALCOLM FOSTER, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 1 min ago

TOKYO – Toyota is the latest Japanese corporate icon making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

News of the automaker’s massive vehicle recalls over faulty gas pedals in the U.S. came just days after Japan Airlines, a once proud flag carrier, filed for bankruptcy, saddled with billions in debt.

Sony has lost its lead in consumer gadgets to the likes of Apple Inc. and has suffered its own quality mishaps. Honda, Japan’s No. 2 automaker, is recalling 646,000 cars worldwide because of a faulty window switch.

21 Xmas bomb attempt prods Super Bowl security change


2 hrs 17 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The massive, multimillion-dollar security operations for the Super Bowl and Winter Olympics are being adjusted in light of recent breaches such as the attempted Christmas Day bombing of an airliner and the White House gatecrashers.

Sports and government officials say such lapses – where individuals got past guards on the ground – are leading to increased screening efforts at major upcoming events, including the NFL championship game between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints in Miami next Sunday, and the Vancouver Games starting Feb. 12.

Extensive ticket-checking procedures also are being implemented for soccer’s World Cup, which begins June 11 in South Africa. Even entertainment awards shows are taking extra steps, like stricter monitoring of cars arriving at the Golden Globes Awards ceremony two weeks ago.

I really don’t understand the attraction of crowd events.  My ex wanted to do Times Square.  Why?

22 22-year-old goes from Miss Va. to Miss America

By OSKAR GARCIA, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 18 mins ago

LAS VEGAS – A 22-year-old Virginia woman who said she once thought her only talent was singing is the nation’s newest Miss America, emerging from a field of 53 contestants picked for their beauty, compassion and interview savvy.

Caressa Cameron, a broadcast journalism student at Virginia Commonwealth University, now plans a second year away from college as she travels extensively to raise money for charity and carry the 89-year-old pageant’s crown.

“I hope to gain inspiration, I hope to gain momentum so that when this 365 days is over, I can shoot through the moon,” Cameron told The Associated Press.

Travel Channel.  How the mighty have fallen.  I snooted it in favor of 24 Hours @ Daytona because I know Richard is going to quiz me later.

23 Watchdog: Bailouts created more risk in system

By DANIEL WAGNER and ALAN ZIBEL, AP Business Writers

Sun Jan 31, 7:29 am ET

WASHINGTON – The government’s response to the financial meltdown has made it more likely the United States will face a deeper crisis in the future, an independent watchdog at the Treasury Department warned.

The problems that led to the last crisis have not yet been addressed, and in some cases have grown worse, says Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the trouble asset relief program, or TARP. The quarterly report to Congress was released Sunday.

“Even if TARP saved our financial system from driving off a cliff back in 2008, absent meaningful reform, we are still driving on the same winding mountain road, but this time in a faster car,” Barofsky wrote.

24 Afghan leader appeals to Taliban to lay down guns

By RAHIM FAIEZ and HEIDI VOGT, Associated Press Writers

Sun Jan 31, 11:32 am ET

KABUL – Afghanistan’s president appealed to Taliban fighters Sunday to lay down their weapons and accept Afghan laws as the government and its international allies push a program to entice militants away from the insurgency.

President Hamid Karzai spoke three days after he and Western backers agreed at a conference in London to create a more comprehensive program to bring Taliban insurgents over to the government’s side in order to reduce violence that has raged in recent years.

Incentives have existed for years for the Taliban to stop fighting, but these have generally been ineffective, attracting only the lowest-level fighters with no guarantees they wouldn’t return to the insurgency or that promised aid would come through.

25 AP Sources: Govt blesses Toyota gas pedal fix


Sun Jan 31, 2:37 am ET

DETROIT – Toyota Motor Corp. plans to start sending parts to dealers in the coming days to fix a sticky gas pedal problem that has tarnished its image and led to the recall of 4.2 million cars and trucks on three continents, according to people briefed on the matter.

Toyota plans to reveal details of the fix on Monday morning, according to two dealers who asked not to be identified because the plan had not been announced. One dealer was told by a Toyota executive that the parts could arrive Thursday or Friday.

The automaker told the dealers about the plan Saturday after hearing from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it did not object to the fix, the dealers said. A Department of Transportation official, who also requested anonymity because the announcement had not been made, confirmed that the government had no objections.

26 Many obstacles to choosing a site for 9/11 trials

By DAVID B. CARUSO, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jan 31, 2:36 am ET

NEW YORK – Now that President Barack Obama’s administration is considering moving the Sept. 11 trial away from a courthouse in Manhattan, the question is: Where to?

Legally, the Justice Department could choose a variety of locations in which to bring an indictment. There is no requirement that the trials of professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others be held in the places where the most victims died, experts said.

Politically, though, the administration faces a bigger challenge.

27 Books pulled from Amazon.com in pricing dispute

By HILLEL ITALIE, AP National Writer

Sat Jan 30, 11:57 pm ET

NEW YORK – New copies of Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall,” Andrew Young’s “The Politician” and other books published by Macmillan were unavailable Saturday on Amazon.com, a drastic step in the ongoing dispute over e-book prices.

Macmillan CEO John Sargent said he was told Friday that its books would be removed from Amazon.com, as would e-books for Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. Books will be available on Amazon.com through private sellers and other third parties, Sargent said.

Sargent met with Amazon officials Thursday to discuss the publisher’s new pricing model for e-books. He wrote in a letter to Macmillan authors and literary agents Saturday that the plan would allow Amazon to make more money selling Macmillan books and that Macmillan would make less. He characterized the dispute as a disagreement over “the long-term viability and stability of the digital book market.”

28 Palin’s shadow hangs over Alaska ethics debate

By BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 27 mins ago

JUNEAU, Alaska – The fallout from Sarah Palin’s hasty retreat as governor is being cleaned up by the man she appointed attorney general in her waning days in office.

Attorney General Dan Sullivan has proposed broad changes to Alaska’s ethics rules that Palin complained helped drive her out. One Sullivan recommendation that might sound familiar: Setting ethical standards for spouses and kids to travel with the governor or lieutenant governor at taxpayer expense.

Another would implement an opinion he issued in August, that the state could pay legal fees executive branch officials rack up fighting ethics complaints, if the official is exonerated by an attorney general, independent investigator or by the state Personnel Board, whose members are appointed by the governor.

29 Furloughs hurt military’s view of Hawaii schools

By AUDREY McAVOY, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jan 31, 12:00 pm ET

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii – The third-to-fifth graders ran up to their instructor clutching a list of words using the letters B, D, and E.

Split into boy and girls teams, the students offered the teacher “bed” and “bead.” The boys spelled more words, beating the girls 18-15.

It’s a Friday, but these students aren’t in school. They’re at a youth center where the U.S. Army is keeping soldiers’ children engaged and learning on the 17 Fridays this school year the state of Hawaii has closed public schools to narrow a budget deficit.

Hawaii can’t even afford to run a special election to fill an empty Congressional seat.

30 Sticky, smelly Bag Balm: Problem-salving for all

By JOHN CURRAN, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jan 31, 10:51 am ET

LYNDONVILLE, Vt. – Winter is most definitely here. It must be. The phones are ringing at Bag Balm headquarters.

Everyone wants a new tub of the gooey, yellow-green ointment. And all have a story about its problem-salving – they use it on squeaky bed springs, psoriasis, dry facial skin, cracked fingers, burns, zits, diaper rash, saddle sores, sunburn, pruned trees, rifles, shell casings, bed sores and radiation burns.

Everything, it seems, except for cows.

31 Despite anthrax, beat goes on for drum circle fans

By HOLLY RAMER, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jan 31, 9:33 am ET

CONCORD, N.H. – For drum circle devotees, the beat goes on.

The case of a young New Hampshire women who contracted a rare form of anthrax at a drum circle in December has done little to deter fans of the gatherings, which range from informal outdoor jam sessions to professionally run sessions in corporate conference rooms. Some focus on the music of specific cultures, while others promote spirituality, healing or a sense of community.

“I would never give it up,” said Lois Emond, a registered nurse from Hooksett who drums as part of a women’s chorus group. “I’ve been drumming for over 25 years and nothing’s ever happened.”

32 Conviction angers anti-abortion militants

By ROXANA HEGEMAN and DAVID CRARY, Associated Press Writers

Sat Jan 30, 4:18 pm ET

WICHITA, Kan. – Those living on the virulent edge of the anti-abortion movement pinned their hopes on Scott Roeder.

Testifying in his own defense, a remorseless and resolute Roeder insisted he had committed a justified act for the defense of unborn children by killing Dr. George Tiller, one of the country’s few physicians to offer late-term abortions. It was a bold legal strategy that, if successful, had the potential to radically alter the debate over abortion by reducing the price for committing such an act of violence.

When it failed, those who share Roeder’s passionate, militant belief against abortion were outraged: One said they are getting tired of being treated as a “piece of dirt” unable to express the reasons for such acts in court. So while relieved at the outcome, abortion-rights advocates worry a verdict that should be a deterrent will instead further embolden those prone to violence.

33 Hungry otters stray into fishermen’s territory

By NOAKI SCHWARTZ, Associated Press Writer

Sat Jan 30, 3:37 pm ET

LOS ANGELES – The first hint of trouble in trying to save endangered sea otters and protect fishermen competing for the shellfish the creatures eat was when bureaucrats drew a line in the ocean separating the two.

That was followed by an unsuccessful attempt to create a colony for the creatures on a distant island and a more disastrous venture to relocate strays who wandered into what was dubbed the “no-otter zone.”

The otters didn’t cooperate and their subsequent rebound in Southern California created a classic man vs. nature conflict that could alter a two-decade recovery program and raises the question of what species is more endangered: animals or urchin divers.

34 Obama v. Alito: Political dust-up during State of the Union

By Brad Knickerbocker, The Christian Science Monitor

Sat Jan 30, 10:39 am ET

It wasn’t exactly a “You lie!” moment, reminiscent of Republican Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst the last time the president addressed a joint session of Congress. But President Obama’s State of the Union speech this week did include an episode that has left commentators clucking over political tradition and decorum.

That’s when Obama needled – well, lambasted – the US Supreme Court for a recent decision he said would “open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.”

Sitting right in front of the president – robed in sober black, hands folded in their laps – were six of the justices, including three who had made it possible (in Obama’s words) for American elections to be “bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.”

From Yahoo News World

35 Chaos eases as Haiti food lines focus on women

By BEN FOX, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 38 mins ago

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The 79-year-old woman with a 55-pound bag of rice perched on her head gingerly descended concrete steps Sunday and passed it off to her daughter-in-law – who quickly disappeared behind the faded leopard-print sheets that are the walls of their makeshift home on the crowded turf of Haiti’s National Stadium.

That personal victory for Rosedithe Menelas and her hungry family was a leap forward as well for the United Nations and aid groups that have struggled to help 2 million people who need food aid after the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Under a new targeted approach to aid, Menelas and thousands of other women across Haiti’s capital no longer have to battle with men at food handouts that in recent days have been chaotic and dangerous scrums.

36 U.S. troops more than welcome in Haiti – for now

By BEN FOX, Associated Press Writer

Sat Jan 30, 11:18 pm ET

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Young men gripping a steel fence along Port-au-Prince’s waterfront call out “Hi, Sir!” to two U.S. Army soldiers, pleading for jobs as translators, drivers, laborers.

None are getting any jobs today. But that doesn’t dampen their enthusiasm for the U.S. military, despite a checkered history in Haiti for the forces that are now providing a huge humanitarian mission after the Jan. 12 earthquake killed at least 150,000 people.

“The Americans are our friends,” said Jean Rony Doudou, a 28-year-old jobseeker. “They are here to help us.”

37 Iranians celebrate ancient Persian fire fest

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jan 31, 12:17 pm ET

CHAM, Iran – Thousands of Iranians gathered at dusk against a snowy mountain backdrop to light giant bonfires in an ancient mid-winter festival dating back to Iran’s pre-Islamic past that is drawing new interest from Muslims.

Saturday’s celebration was the first in which the dwindling remnants of Iran’s once plentiful Zoroastrian religious minority were joined by thousands of Muslims, reflecting a growing interest in the strict Islamic society for the country’s ancient traditions.

The festival, known as Sadeh, celebrates the discovery of fire and its ability to banish the cold and dark, and it is held in the frigid depths of winter.

38 Sri Lanka’s Tamils left to wonder what comes next

By FISNIK ABRASHI and KRISHAN FRANCIS, Associated Press Writers

Sun Jan 31, 12:43 pm ET

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Riding high on his battlefield victory against the Tamil Tiger rebels and his landslide re-election, Sri Lanka’s president appears under little pressure to tackle the deep ethnic tensions that fueled a generation of conflict here.

Any effort to empower the marginalized Tamil-speaking minority could only anger Sinhalese nationalists, and many observers fear that an opportunity to bring a real peace to this country will be squandered.

With general elections coming later this year, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has indicated he will wait until the next parliament is in place to deal with Tamil demands for greater rights and self-rule in areas where they form a majority.

39 Haiti quake injured at risk, food handouts improve

By Mica Rosenberg and Tom Brown, Reuters

2 hrs 13 mins ago

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Foreign doctors treating the injured from Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake fear more could die as emergency medical relief winds down, but food distribution was smoother on Sunday using a coupon system.

The medical care worries have increased after the U.S. military on Wednesday stopped flying critical quake patients to U.S. hospitals for treatment, in a confused dispute over where they should be hospitalized and who should pay the costs.

Nearly three weeks after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake killed up to 200,000 Haitians and left up to 1 million more homeless, a huge U.S.-led international relief operation has been struggling to help injured and hungry survivors.

40 Opposition in call for protest on Iran anniversary

by Jay Deshmukh, AFP

Sat Jan 30, 10:22 am ET

TEHRAN (AFP) – Opposition heads on Saturday implicitly called for demonstrations on the February 11 anniversary of Iran’s Islamic revolution, as the elite Revolutionary Guards warned that any such protest will be crushed.

Iran, meanwhile, put on trial 16 anti-government protesters, two of them women, who were arrested in late December on the Shiite mourning day of Ashura, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have spearheaded protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, met and invited supporters to demonstrate on the anniversary day, Karroubi’s website Sahamnews.org said.

41 NW Pakistan suicide attack ‘kills 16’

by Nasrullah Khan, AFP

Sat Jan 30, 8:31 am ET

KHAR, Pakistan (AFP) – A suicide bomber blew himself up at a military checkpoint in northwest Pakistan’s volatile tribal region on Saturday, killing 16 people including two soldiers, officials said.

A man wearing a vest packed with explosives walked up to the post in Khar, the main town in the restive tribal region of Bajaur, and detonated himself, senior administration official Iqbal Khattak told AFP.

“The death toll has gone up to 16 including two paramilitary soldiers,” he said. Another 23 people were wounded, with six in a critical condition, he added. The injured include one security official, Khattak said.

42 WWI dead from mass grave laid to rest in France

by Carole Landry, AFP

Sat Jan 30, 8:45 am ET

FROMELLES, France (AFP) – The first of 250 Australian and British soldiers whose remains were unearthed from a World War I mass grave was laid to rest Saturday with military honours in a village in northern France.

Australian, British and French flags flew at half mast as the coffin was lowered into a grave in a snow-covered new military cemetery built in Fromelles, a quiet village once on the frontlines of the Great War.

Several hundred French villagers gathered alongside Australian and British guests in the bitter cold to remember the sacrifice of the soldiers who died in the disastrous Battle of Fromelles in 1916.

43 January death rate signal of tough year in Afghan war

by Lynne O’Donnell, AFP

Sun Jan 31, 1:50 am ET

KABUL (AFP) – The Afghan war has notched up another grisly record, with the number of international troops to die in the fight against the Taliban the highest for the month of January since the war began.

With tens of thousands more international troops being deployed to Afghanistan this year, analysts and officials are warning the deaths of 44 foreign soldiers in January is a sign of things to come.

The record death toll comes as the Kabul government and its international partners shift the war’s emphasis from battleground to development, and start focusing on attempts to convince Taliban infantry to lay down their arms.

44 Envoy: Inept government, past U.S. policy hamper Haiti relief

By Sananda Sahoo, McClatchy Newspapers

Thu Jan 28, 6:59 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Haiti’s inept government, a lack of coordination by aid organizations and a history of U.S. policy failures are hampering international efforts to rebuild the quake-stricken island nation.

That was the judgment of officials who testified Thursday before a Senate committee and in a separate teleconference by relief organizations. The chaotic conditions since the quake risk an outbreak of deadly cholera, one official said.

Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince , was devastated by the 7.0 quake on Jan. 12 . As many as 200,000 people in the country are feared dead.

45 New U.S. air strategy in Afghanistan: First, do no harm

By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri Jan 29, 5:23 pm ET

NANGAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – As his commander greeted a local leader in a district government building one day recently, Air Force Technical Sgt. Tyler Woodson , 20, scurried past them and ran up three flights of stairs to the roof.

There, Woodson, of Macon, Ga. , surveyed the town. He saw children playing soccer in an adjacent field, trucks traveling on the main throughway and, several hundred yards away, a glorious range of mountains touching the sky.

He knew that was the best place to drop a bomb from an F-16 – where there was no chance of striking anyone or anything.

46 Obama’s arms sale to Taiwan likely to anger China

By Warren P. Strobel, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri Jan 29, 6:32 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration announced plans Friday to sell $6.4 billion in weapons to Taiwan , including helicopters and missile defense systems, a move that’s certain to anger China , which considers the island nation a renegade province.

At the same time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly stepped up pressure on China to reconsider its opposition to new sanctions on Iran , suggesting that a nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize the Middle East and, with it, China’s energy supplies.

Taken together, the developments appeared to portend rough times ahead for ties between the world’s two largest economies, already strained this month over a threat by Internet giant Google to pull out of the Chinese market.

47 Obama to seek major increase in nuclear weapons funding

By Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri Jan 29, 7:21 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration plans to ask Congress to increase spending on the U.S. nuclear arsenal by more than $5 billion over the next five years as part of its strategy to halt the spread of nuclear weapons and eventually rid the world of them.

The administration argues that the boost is needed to ensure that U.S. warheads remain secure and work as designed as the arsenal shrinks and ages nearly 18 years into a moratorium on underground testing and more than two decades after large-scale warhead production ended.

The increase is also required to modernize facilities – some dating to World War II – that support the U.S. stockpile and to retain experts who “will help meet the president’s goal of securing vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide . . . and enable us to track and thwart nuclear trafficking (and) verify weapons reductions,” Vice President Joe Biden wrote in a Friday Wall Street Journal opinion piece.

Because this is such a good idea.

48 Few see progress in flurry of Taliban talks

By Roy Gutman and Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newpapers

Sat Jan 30, 3:56 pm ET

KABUL, Afghanistan – Despite a flurry of proposals to launch talks on ending the war in Afghanistan, leaders of the Taliban insurgency have yet to show any serious interest and instead are pressing their demands to oust all U.S. forces and establish an Islamist state.

With no apparent coordination, Afghan President Hamid Karzai , departing U.N. special representative Kai Eide and members of the Afghan parliament have launched separate initiatives in recent days, allowing the Taliban to choose the forum for talks if and when they decide to come to the table.

Eide’s meeting in Dubai with a low-ranking Taliban commander sometime this month came in for criticism Saturday by Afghan politicians and Western military officials, who disparaged the attempt to launch a process by seeing at best a minor official.

49 China responds angrily to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan

By Warren P. Strobel, McClatchy Newspapers

Sat Jan 30, 4:13 pm ET

WASHINGTON – China curtailed military exchanges with the United States on Saturday and threatened to sanction U.S. firms in retaliation for proposed American weapon sales to Taiwan

The moves signaled a souring of relations between the world’s two largest economies.

China’s actions, reported by its state-run news agency, came a day after President Barack Obama told Congress he would sell Taiwan $6.4 billion in helicopters, missile defense rockets, mine-hunting ships and other materiel.

50 Tough old soldier battles new enemy: Suicide epidemic

By Halimah Abdullah, McClatchy Newspapers

Sun Jan 31, 12:01 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel Rhodes keeps pictures of the dead in his pockets.

They’re the faces of young soldiers whose eyes stare out resolutely from photocopied pages worn and creased by the ritual of unfolding them, smoothing them flat and refolding them.

They’re the faces of men who, haunted by problems at home or memories of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – the dead children, the fallen comrades and the lingering smell of burnt flesh – pressed guns to their heads and pulled the triggers or tied ropes with military precision and hanged themselves.

51 Why Russia Wants Its Orthodox Churches Back


Mon Jan 25, 4:15 am ET

Though not even two decades have passed since the Soviet state collapsed in 1991, the Orthodox Russians who came to France to flee communism say they’re starting to view Moscow with mistrust again. The reason: the recent move by Russia to take control of a dazzling Orthodox cathedral built in Nice during the reign of Czar Nicholas II, which some opponents say is part a wider, nationalistic power play by Moscow to regain symbols of Russia’s historical, cultural and religious grandeur abroad.

52 Energy Wars: Russia’s Neighbors Get Even


Tue Jan 26, 12:10 pm ET

It is becoming a New Year’s tradition in Europe to wake up on January 1 with a big Russian headache. At the beginning of 2006 and 2009, Russia cut off energy supplies to Ukraine after a disagreement over natural gas prices, which subsequently caused fuel shortages in the European Union in the dead of winter. This January, all eyes are trained on Belarus, which has been having its own quarrel with Moscow over oil prices, threatening European energy supplies once again. But three weeks into the current standoff, there’s been a twist: Kazakhstan, another ex-Soviet republic, stepped in last week to offer Belarus its own oil. Now the Kremlin’s most reliable tool for controlling its neighbors – energy blackmail – is at risk of blowing up in its face.

53 Archaeology in Jerusalem: Digging Up Trouble


1 hr 45 mins ago

The Jerusalem syndrome is a psychological disorder in which a visit to the holy city triggers delusional and obsessive religious fantasies. In its extreme variety, people wander the lanes of the Old City believing they are biblical characters; John the Baptist, say, or a brawny Samson, sprung back to life.

Time Magazine Haiti Supplement

54 Amid So Much Loss, Port-au-Prince’s Streets Still Teem With Life


Sun Jan 24, 11:00 am ET

Saturday is laundry day and today, the 11th day after the earthquake, the Haitians are doing the laundry. Buckets of soapy water line the streets of Port-au-Prince – made of plastic and almost radiant in the sunshine, translucent reds and blue, pinks and greens; their sizes depend on how many people you’re washing for. Women of similarly differing sizes, their legs akimbo, are scrubbing and beating and sudsing as if their lives depended on it. There’s always a big push to clean yourself up in Haiti on a Saturday; clean yourself up for Sunday, and then the days that follow.

55 Finding a 94-Year-Old Survivor in Haiti


Thu Jan 28, 8:05 pm ET

Journalists covering a disaster always keep an eye out for a “good-news story” – a tale of heroism, of human kindness, of happy serendipity. We do this because it is an important for readers to know that even amid appalling tragedy, there’s hope. But we also do it for ourselves: we desperately need to look away from the horror and carnage around us, and find something to lift our own spirits.

56 Breast-Milk for Haiti: Why Donations Are Being Discouraged

By BONNIE ROCHMAN, Time Magazine

Fri Jan 29, 3:00 pm ET

The call had gone out across the U.S. to breastfeeding moms: Power up your pumps, ladies. Haitian babies need your milk.

57 Out of Faith and Compassion: Diary of a Haiti Volunteer

By LONNIE VARGAS, Time Magazine

Sat Jan 30, 11:25 am ET

As the devastating magnitude of Jan. 12 earthquake became apparent, countless ordinary folk were compelled by faith or compassion to rush to the aid of the people of Haiti. Lonnie Vargas is a production manager for Time Inc. Almost instinctively, he and a group of 11 people, including a restaurant manager, a school principal, an accountant, a flight attendant and a truck driver figured out how to get down to the island nation. All were members of the Old Bridge, New Jersey branch of Calvary Chapel, a non-denominational church that is spread around the world. They arrived a few days after the quake struck with 20 duffel bags full of medical supplies – and the name of only one contact, who lived in the Dominican Republic’s side of the island. While a few people on the team had helped after 9/11 and Katrina, most had never done anything like this before. Following are excerpts from a diary Vargas kept of the work they did and the obstacles they overcame.

58 Haiti and the Art of Survival: Lessons from the Streets


Sat Jan 30, 1:30 pm ET

Here’s what’s on the ground in the debris of the Haitian earthquake: on Rue Pavee, downtown, an empty can of motor oil, some black piping, a turned dowel, empty blue medicine bottles, shards of ancient plywood, empty water bags, and a crushed brass candelabra. Then, after a turn onto Grande Rue (“This was the Wall Street of Haiti,” says Franco Petruzzelli, an Italian businessman who is watching his hardware store across the street) there are O rings of all sizes, scattered blue fan guards, old computers, a box for an Oster blender, orange peels. Broom heads and eyeglass frames dot the hills of strewn brick and cement block. Petruzzelli has hired four security guards to ward off opportunistic salvagers; and, yesterday, Petruzzelli leased a warehouse at the edge of town where he’s going to send all his stuff.

59 How NASCAR Came to the Rescue of Haiti Orphans

By STEVE GOLDBERG, Time Magazine

Sat Jan 30, 1:30 pm ET

When the earthquake struck Haiti on Jan. 12, Abbey McArthur, 26, was half-way through her year-long commitment to teach kids at the Angel House orphanage in Port-au-Prince. “It felt like God had picked up the earth and was just shaking it back and forth,” the Indiana native said. She was less than a mile away, exercising at another school when it happened. In the nightmarish aftermath of those destructive 15 seconds, as she headed back to look for her students, as she crawled over rubble and heard the locals mourning in the streets, the last thing she probably could have imagined was that NASCAR would have something to do with rescuing her and her wards.

60 Who’s to Blame for Suspending Haitian MEDEVAC Flights?

By TIM PADGETT / MIAMI, Time Magazine

28 mins ago

The U.S. and its international partners knew from the start that aiding victims of Haiti’s Jan. 12 earthquake would be a logistical nightmare. Yet while their response has been laudable, less than tight coordination between government, non-governmental and military forces has frequently undermined the effort. Right after the quake, for example, the U.S. aircraft carrier Carl Vinson raced into Port-au-Prince Bay, only to find that the U.S., U.N. and NGOs had gotten relatively scant relief supplies in place for its helicopters to deliver. The military made its own missteps, rerouting Doctors Without Borders flights and giving the impression that its foot soldiers mattered more to the relief campaign than physicians did.

Too Short


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  1. Better than the ‘Perry The Platypus’ Inaction Figure-


    It’s Fun!

  2. But their outrage over the conviction is funny.

    When it failed, those who share Roeder’s passionate, militant belief against abortion were outraged: One said they are getting tired of being treated as a “piece of dirt” unable to express the reasons for such acts in court.

    Their reasons?!  What did they expect?  If we can all kill people and try to get away with it by talking about our rationales for why we killed this or that person or people in court, well that’s a sword that could cut many ways, not all of them to the anti-abortionists’ liking.  I don’t believe in killing people, but I sure think the world would be better off without these guys.  Just as I think the world would be better off without James Dobson, Marilyn Musgrave, et. al.  And I have my “reasons” for thinking that, too, much as I disapprove of any bad thoughts my id might have on how to achieve their not being here among us.

    If you’re a true militant you don’t expect to be treated like you have “reasons” by a court of the broader public.  You wear your defiance on your sleeve and state that you are not answerable to them.  If you want to be a revolutionary, even a bad stupid kind like a militant anti-abortionist terrorist, well there’s a price to be paid for that, and they’re not holding up their end of the bargain.


  3. F*ck the trad media.  This is f*cked up when the news Dharmaniacs get about the disaster in Peru is from me and not Reuters or AP or AFP or…  Permit me to be frustrated for a moment.  Is it that not enough people have died so far? Or that the backpackers were rescued?  Or that it’s South America?  Or that it’s maybe caused by El Nino?  Sh*t.

    EK: sorry to flame.  You do a great job.  The f*cking stenographers in the “press” suck.

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