Saturday, February 28, 2009

Holocaust Denying Bishop Apologizes

Holocaust denier apology is first step, bishop says

Reuters India — The head of a traditionalist Catholic group said an apology from a fellow bishop for denying the Holocaust was an important step, but he hoped the bishop would now stay silent.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the ultra-conservative Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) told a German weekly that the apology from British Bishop Richard Williamson, also a member of SSPX, was honest.
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Germany may issue warrant for Holocaust denying bishop

International Herald Tribune — Germany is considering issuing an arrest warrant on hate crime charges against a Holocaust-denying bishop, the country's justice minister said Friday.
It is a crime to deny the Holocaust in Germany and in several other EU countries.
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Vatican: Holocaust denier's apology not enough

CNN — The Vatican said Friday it is not satisfied by the apology issued by a Catholic bishop who denied the Holocaust, saying the cleric must still clearly "distance himself" from the controversial comments.
Bishop Richard Williamson, who is now in England, issued a statement Thursday saying he regretted making the remarks. But he did not retract them or say he had changed his mind about the Holocaust.
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Tibetan New Year Amid Controversy

Wary Tibetans set for muted New Year celebrations

Reuters — Chinese police have discovered explosives under a bridge in restive Tibet, sources said on Tuesday, as ethnic Tibetan villages high in the grasslands of western China faced a tense traditional New Year.
Almost a year after deadly riots erupted in Tibetan capital Lhasa and triggered unrest in neighboring provinces, Chinese security forces remain on high alert a day before the holiday, which varies from year to year and this year begins on Wednesday.
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Tibetan monk shot while on fire

BBC — A Tibetan monk has been shot after setting fire to himself during a protest at Beijing's rule, reports say.
The incident happened in the Tibetan-populated town of Aba in southwest China's Sichuan province during a gathering of more than 1,000 monks.
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Jubilant Tibetans embrace coming new year

Xinhua — After hanging on the door strips of hada, a white long silk scarf considered as a token of blessing, Degyi Drolkar paced excitedly through her new, 198-square-meter home in Gongka Township near Lhasa as she decorated for the Tibetan New Year which falls on Wednesday.
She also hung the portraits of current and former top Chinese leaders, including that of Chairman Mao Zedong, on a most conspicuous position of the wall.
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Friday, February 27, 2009


NASA budget request totals $18.7 billion

UPI — The U.S. space agency would receive $18.7 billion during fiscal 2010 based on the budget request U.S. President Barack Obama presented Thursday to Congress.
The budget proposal's $18.7 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, combined with the $1 billion provided to the agency in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, represents an increase of more than $2.4 billion from NASA's 2008 budget.
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Obama's Budget Calls For Shuttle Program To End As Planned

MSNBC — President Barack Obama released a budget blueprint on Thursday that included a call for NASA to retire the shuttle program as planned.
Obama's plan calls for $2 billion of space shuttle funding through 2010 as well as funding for an additional mission if it can be executed safely, but it does not call for an extension of the shuttle program.
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Obama backs Moon return in NASA budget

New Scientist — NASA will stay on track to return humans to the Moon by 2020, according to an overview of President Obama's 2010 budget request released on Thursday.
Recently, various groups - including Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin and the space advocacy group the Planetary Society - have called for NASA to send astronauts to new destinations, such as asteroids.
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Japanese Economics

Citigroup May Sell Investment Bank in Japan

New York Times — Citigroup may sell both its Japanese investment bank and brokerage, according to media reports, as the faltering U.S. lender looks to raise cash from a sale of global assets.
The two units could bring in hundreds of billions of yen if sold together, Jiji Press and the Sankei newspaper said on Wednesday. Nikko Cordial, the retail brokerage, may alone raise up to 300 billion yen ($3.1 billion), Reuters said, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.
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Japanese economic slump deepens

Aljazeera — Japan's economy is sinking deeper into recession, the country's finance minister has warned, as new figures show industrial production plunged a record 10 per cent in January.
"The recession is further affecting the real economy," Kaoru Yosano, the finance minister, said on Friday.
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Japan Inflation Slows to Zero as Households Cut Back

Bloomberg — Japan’s consumer prices failed to rise in January for the first time in more than a year as households cut spending amid a deepening recession.
Consumer prices excluding fresh food were unchanged from a year earlier after climbing 0.2 percent in December, the statistics bureau said today in Tokyo. The median estimate for 32 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a 0.1 percent decline. Household spending fell 5.9 percent.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Iran's Nuclear Reactor

Iran conducts nuclear plant test

Aljazeera — Iran says it has successfully carried out a test run of its first nuclear plant, a move that will raise concerns in the West over Tehran's atomic ambitions.
The long-delayed reactor, in the southern port city of Bushehr, could come on line within months, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said on Wednesday.
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Barak: Israel not ruling out any Iran option

JTA Jerusalem — Israel is not ruling out any option for dealing with Iran's nuclear threat, Ehud Barak said as Iran announced it has 6,000 centrifuges enriching uranium.
"Time is running out," Israel's defense minister said Wednesday, the Jerusalem Post reported. "Clear and decisive sanctions against the Iranian regime alongside readiness to consider necessary actions, in case the sanctions don't work, are necessary."
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Israel lobbies for war on Iran

Press TV Iran — Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says he advocates a war on Iran, following the country's successful test-runs at the Bushehr power plant.
Tehran edged closer towards the final launch of a light-water reactor in the southern port of Bushehr on Wednesday, after it staged pre-commission operations at the 1000-megawatt reactor.
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McCain: 'We Are Not Winning' War in Afghanistan

Fox News — Sen. John McCain painted a grim picture of the war in the Afghanistan on Wednesday, saying that it will require a change in strategy and years to achieve victory.
Speaking before a packed crowd at the American Enterprise Institute, the Republican from Arizona said that if the U.S. did not make a "serious change" in its strategy and and how it deploys resources in Afghanistan, the result eventually would be failure.
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Decades After Soviet Exit, Another Superpower is Tied Down in Afghan Conflict

Eurasianet — For 35-year-old Abdul Bashir, the physical scars he bears serve as a daily reminder of the morning his childhood home outside the Afghan capital was bombed.
What was to be a day of celebration resulted in the loss of family members and some 70 fellow residents of the village of Ali Mardan, near Kabul.
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Obama to Seek $75.5 Billion More for Wars in 2009

Bloomberg — President Barack Obama will seek $75.5 billion more for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through the end of this fiscal year, according to three people familiar with the request.
It will be submitted along with the fiscal 2010 budget Obama sends to Congress tomorrow. That proposal will request $130 billion for the wars in fiscal 2010 in addition to a total Defense Department budget of about $534 billion, the people said.
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Special Issue! No Spin, Everyone Agrees!

Soros sees no bottom for world financial "collapse"

Reuters — Renowned investor George Soros said on Friday the world financial system has effectively disintegrated, adding that there is yet no prospect of a near-term resolution to the crisis.
Soros said the turbulence is actually more severe than during the Great Depression, comparing the current situation to the demise of the Soviet Union.
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Volcker: Crisis May be Even Worse than Depression

CNBC — The global economy may be deteriorating even faster than it did during the Great Depression, Paul Volcker, a top adviser to President Barack Obama, said on Friday.
Volcker noted that industrial production around the world was declining even more rapidly than in the United States, which is itself under severe strain.
"I don't remember any time, maybe even in the Great Depression, when things went down quite so fast, quite so uniformly around the world,'' Volcker told a luncheon of economists and investors at Columbia University.
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Greenspan: This is the Worst Economy I've Ever Seen

Huffington Post — Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan offered a woeful outlook of America's economic situation on Sunday, saying the crisis with the country's financial institutions was as dire as he had ever seen in his long career, and predicting that one or more of those institutions would likely collapse in the near future.
"Oh, by far," Greenspan said, when asked if the situation was the worst he had seen in his career. "There's no question that this is in the process of outstripping anything I've seen and it still is not resolved and still has a way to go and, indeed, it will continue to be a corrosive force until the price of homes in the United States stabilizes. That will induce a series of events around the globe which will stabilize the system."
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Binyam Mohamed

British resident is first to be released from Guantanamo under Obama administration

L.A. Times — A British resident who spent seven years in U.S. captivity and was allegedly tortured under questioning became the first prisoner Monday to be released from Guantanamo Bay by the Obama administration.
Binyam Mohamed, 30, returned to Britain as a free man after what he described as an ordeal he had never dreamed of in his "darkest nightmares," one in which he was "abducted, hauled from one country to the next and tortured in medieval ways -- all orchestrated by the United States government."
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'Those I hoped would rescue me were allied with my abusers'

Guardian UK — Britain's role in the secret abduction of terror suspects came under intense new scrutiny with the return to the UK of Binyam Mohamed yesterday after more than four years in Guantánamo Bay.
Senior MPs said they intended to pursue ministers and officials over what they knew of his ill-treatment and why Britain helped the CIA interrogate him.
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Ex-Guantanamo inmate returns to UK

Aljazeera — Binyam Mohamed, an ex-UK resident held at Guantanamo Bay, has arrived back in Britain amid calls for an independent inquiry into allegations he was tortured by captors working in collusion with British intelligence agents.
Ethiopian-born Mohamed, 30, arrived at RAF Northolt in London on Monday after spending seven years in US captivity without charge, more than four of them at the US prison camp in Cuba.
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Stimulus, State Governor's, and Approval Ratings

Schwarzenegger is one of few GOP governors to praise stimulus plan

Mercury News — Fresh from a resolution of the state's budget meltdown, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger retook the national spotlight as a bipartisan bridge-builder, completing a three-day trip here Monday with fresh praise for President Barack Obama's stimulus plan.
"It's very important for the country that both parties pull together right now," the Republican governor said at a news conference. Referring to the economic crisis, he added: "We need to get the confidence of the people back."
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Big stimulus bill sparks long-term fiscal fears

Miami Herald — Despite all the White House hoopla Monday about "fiscal responsibility," Washington is showing little inclination to practice what it's preaching.
The $787 billion stimulus package that President Barack Obama signed Feb. 17 adds an estimated $185 billion to the already-record federal deficit for fiscal 2009, pushing it up to about $1.4 trillion. That's a whopping 10 percent of the gross domestic product, the highest level since the end of World War II.
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Most Americans support Obama's economic plan

Reuters — Large majorities of Americans support U.S. President Barack Obama's plans to revive the economy and his efforts to work across party lines, according to a pair of public opinion polls released on Monday.
One month into his presidency, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found 68 percent of Americans approve of Obama's job performance.
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YSL Auction Controversy

Yves Saint Laurent's love affair with art

AFP — In 1965 Yves Saint Laurent stunned the fashion world with his Mondrian collection.
Only a designer of his genius and artistic sensitivity could have seen the potential for flattering a woman's shape in the grids of black lines framing bright primary colours which are the Dutch abstract painter's hallmark.
The Mondrian shifts were just the first manifestation of Saint Laurent's lifelong love affair with art, reflected in the collection amassed with his partner and right-hand man Pierre Berge, which is being dispersed by auction at the Grand Palais next week.
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Paris court rejects China's Saint Laurent art claim

Reuters — A Paris court rejected a bid to block the sale of two bronze sculptures claimed by China that are to be auctioned with the art collection of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, a court official said on Monday.
APACE, an association representing Chinese cultural and heritage interests, filed an appeal to have the sale blocked but the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris rejected it, an official at the Paris court told Reuters.
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Art World's Stimulus Package: Matisse, Mondrian, Not Picasso

Wall Street Journal — Amid a grim economic environment, the art market let out a sigh of relief Monday as Christie's in Paris successfully auctioned $264 million of Impressionist and modern artworks collected by the late designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre BergĂ©.
The evening sale in Paris surpassed its presale high estimate of $232 million, a reassuring result indicating that the world's billionaires are willing to compete for blue-chip artworks that they consider a bargain. Nobody wanted the collection's priciest painting, a moody Cubist Picasso estimated to sell for at least $32 million. But records were broken for seven other artists, including Piet Mondrian, Marcel Duchamp and Constantin Brancusi.
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Singapore Bomb Attack

French teenagers victims of Cairo bomb

Times Online UK — A 17-year-old French girl died and 17 other French teenagers aged as young as 13 were injured when a bomb exploded in a crowded Cairo market on Sunday.
The blast occurred at the Khan al-Khalili market close to the historic Hussein mosque in a medieval part of the Egyptian capital. A second bomb was discovered by police after the explosion and was safely detonated.
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Singapore condemns Cairo blast

Straits Times — SINGAPORE on Monday condemned the bomb attack in Cairo, which killed a French woman and wounded at least 21 others, most of them foreigners.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement: 'The attack clearly targeted innocent civilians.
'Singapore stands with the international community to support the continued efforts of Egypt to combat terrorism.'
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Students safe after Cairo bomb blast

The Observer — Though the eight Notre Dame students currently studying abroad in Cairo were not directly affected by Sunday's bomb explosion in the Khan el-Khalili neighborhood of the city, they have concerns about their safety and unanswered questions about the attack.
The blast, which hit one of the city's famed bazaars packed with tourists, killed a French woman and wounded at least 21 people - most of them foreigners - according to a report by The Associated Press. A government statement said a homemade bomb was placed under a bench in the main plaza, the AP reported.
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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tibetan Chinese Relations

Beijing imposes crackdown in Tibet, exiles say

Reuters India — Tibet's government-in-exile appealed to Beijing on Saturday to end what it said was a Chinese crackdown on fresh protests in the troubled region.
A statement by Tibet's exiled cabinet, the Kashag, said:
"The Kashag strongly deplore the recent arbitrary arrest, detention and torture (that has) taken place ... for the slightest peaceful expression of their (Tibetans) aspirations or resentments."
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Tibet clergy warned against protest

Aljazeera — Buddhist clergy in Tibet have been warned not to take part in any political activity in the run-up to the anniversary of last year's massive protests against Chinese rule.
The warning from Lobsang Gyaincain, a member of the Chinese communist party's regional standing committee, came in the wake of a reported crackdown earlier this week on Tibetan protesters in Lithang, a volatile traditionally Tibetan region in China's Sichuan province.
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Revised Tibetan Buddhists constitution says no to separatism — Tibetan Buddhists revised their association constitution Wednesday, calling on lamas and nuns to safeguard social stability, abide by the law and not to participate in separatist activities.
The revision was unanimously endorsed at the annual congress of the region's Buddhist association which began Monday and closed Wednesday.
Monks and nuns should "safeguard social stability, the socialist legal system and fundamental interests of the people", and should "consciously keep themselves away" from separatist activities and illegal demonstrations that impair social order, the new constitution said.
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Sudan / Darfur

Sudan, Darfur rebels agree to hold peace talks

Reuters — Sudan's government and a leading Darfur rebel faction agreed on Tuesday to meet for peace talks, signing a deal with concessions from both sides, and the Qatari mediator urged all other rebels and Chad to come to the table.
Tuesday's agreement included measures to aid and protect refugees in Darfur and a commitment by the two sides to continue negotiations in Doha. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) also wants a prisoner swap.
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Clooney: Arrest of Sudan's leader would be a start

MSNBC - AP -- Actor George Clooney said a possible arrest warrant against Sudan's president on charges of war crimes in Darfur would be a "start," but would not resolve the six-year conflict in the country.
Clooney, a Darfur activist who has visited the region several times, said the pending International Criminal Court decision on whether to issue a warrant for President Omar al-Bashir presents an opportunity to engage the ruler in negotiations to help end the crisis.
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Sudan army denies Darfur attack

BBC -- Sudan's military has denied accusations that it attacked a Darfur rebel group, a day after the two sides signed a goodwill agreement.
The Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), Sudan's most active rebel group, said the military launched air raids that left a number of casualties.
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Banks + Nationalization = ?

Banking Sector Reels on Talk Of Possible U.S. Takeover

Washington Post — The specter of bank nationalization is driving a historic fire sale of stocks including Citigroup and Bank of America, making it harder for those firms to survive and imperiling the efforts of the Obama administration to keep banks in private hands.
A burgeoning chorus of prominent economists and members of Congress has concluded that some banks lack the money to solve their own problems and charges that the government has not yet announced an effective plan to help and that time is running short.
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Mixed message on nationalized banks

Bloomberg News - Senate Banking Committee chairman Christopher Dodd said banks may have to be nationalized for "a short time" to help lenders survive the worst economic slump in 75 years.
"I don't welcome that at all, but I could see how it's possible it may happen," Dodd said yesterday in an interview to be aired this weekend
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Citi, B. of A. drop on nationalization concerns

Marketwatch -- Bank of America Corp. shares hit a record low and Citigroup Corp.'s stock slumped
to an 18-year low Friday on concern the two financial giants may be nationalized. Citigroup dropped 22% to $1.95, their lowest level since early 1991. Bank of America fell 3.6% to $3.79 and earlier changed hands at a lowest-ever $2.53, according to FactSet Research data.
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Friday, February 20, 2009

NATO in Afghanistan

NATO allies reluctant to increase Afghan presence

International Herald Tribune — NATO defense ministers concluded two days of talks here Friday with indications that few allies were willing to offer significant numbers of additional combat troops for Afghanistan but that they might seek to compensate by deploying more civilians to train local security forces and build the country's economy.
The announcement this week that the Obama administration would send 17,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan by the summer was met with formal offers from allies numbering only in the hundreds of fresh troops of their own.
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Increasing Afghan challenges for NATO

BBC -- Nato defence ministers meeting amid the glacial beauty of Krakow skated their way over many of the difficulties surrounding the alliance's mission in Afghanistan.
There was no getting away from the realities on the ground, though, amid what President Barack Obama recently termed a "deteriorating situation".
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NATO members offer more Afghan support

ABC Australia -- US Defence Secretary Robert Gates says up to 20 NATO members have offered to boost their civilian, military or training commitment to Afghanistan.
The United States has been putting pressure on its allies to increase their contribution at a time when Washington is sending an extra 17,000 troops.
But many NATO countries face opposition at home and do not want to get more deeply involved.
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Tamil Tiger Rebels

Thousands of Tamils rally at White House

AFP — Thousands of members of the Tamil diaspora rallied Friday outside the White House to demand US pressure on the Sri Lankan government as it pursues a major offensive against Tiger rebels.
The rally was met by a smaller counter-demonstration, mostly by members of Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese community, who called for the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to end their trademark suicide attacks.
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Tamil Tiger Planes Destroyed After Attack on Colombo

Bloomberg -- Two planes operated by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were shot down by anti-aircraft fire after a raid on Sri Lanka’s capital of Colombo, the country’s Ministry of Defense said.
At least two people were killed and more than 45 people were hurt late yesterday when one of the planes crashed into a building housing the Inland Revenue Department, the ministry said in a statement posted on its Web site.
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Sri Lanka rebels attack despite losses

BBC The attack by Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels on the capital shows that while their conventional capacity has been drastically reduced, their ability to launch surprise attacks is undiminished.
The rebels are currently surrounded by troops in a small area in the north-east of the island. They have lost significant tranches of territory to the army and most analysts agree it is only a matter of time before they lose what little land they still hold.
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

N.D. abortion bill

US state's 'personhood' law would hit birth control: opponents

AFP — Pro-choice groups have warned that a law passed by legislators in the US state of North Dakota recognizing the "personhood" of a fetus would not only outlaw abortion but could also bar access to birth control.
Lawmakers in the North Dakota lower house voted 51 to 41 on Tuesday to pass the Personhood of Children Act, which confers the same basic rights on "all human beings from the beginning of their biological development, including the pre-born, partially born."
The bill is expected to go before the state senate in around two weeks.
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Anti-abortion measure says fertilized egg is human

AP A bill approved by the North Dakota House says a fertilized human egg has all the rights of a human being.
The legislation would have the effect of banning abortion in North Dakota.
Representatives approved the measure 51-41. It now goes to the North Dakota Senate.
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N.D. House OKs anti-abortion measure

AP — A measure approved by the North Dakota House gives a fertilized human egg the legal rights of a human being, a step that would essentially ban abortion in the state.
The bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that extended abortion rights nationwide, supporters of the legislation said
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

North Korea

N Korea's Kim Jong Il makes pitch before election

International Herald Tribune — North Korean strongman Kim Jong Il is no ordinary politician. But he is acting like one, making promises and urging citizens to vote ahead of an election that was delayed amid his reputed health problems.
The reclusive leader of the impoverished yet nuclear-armed country has appealed to citizens ahead of balloting next month for his re-election to the Supreme People's Assembly — North Korea's rubber-stamp parliamen
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Hillary Clinton's North Korea naivete

L.A. Times -- Hillary Rodham Clinton prefaced her first trip abroad as secretary of State with a speech Friday sketching out various Obama administration views regarding her Asia itinerary. Her approach on the crucial issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons program embodies an overwhelming -- and unfortunate -- continuity with the Bush administration. This is not at all surprising, given the president's campaign rhetoric.
What is surprising is the sheer innocence in which the substance has been packaged, a naivete extending well beyond North Korea. The secretary's attitude is potentially more troubling than the dull repetitiveness of the policy, which invokes the importance of the six-party talks and the need to "get the negotiations back on track."
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North Korea has right to launch missiles - KCNA

Reuters -- North Korean state media on Monday said the country had the right to launch its longest-range missile, after reports in the South that such a test could come by the end of the month.
North Korea says the long-range missile is a cornerstone of its peaceful space program. It accused the United States and others of a "grave challenge" to question its intentions.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Obama sees Afghan situation deteriorating

Reuters — The situation in Afghanistan seems to be getting worse and a solution will require more than just military force, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday.
"There are a lot of concerns about a conflict that has lasted quite a long time now and actually appears to be deteriorating at this point," he told CBC television in an interview ahead of his visit to Canada on Thursday.
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US to boost troops in Afghanstan

BBC -- President Barack Obama has authorised the deployment of up to 17,000 extra US troops to Afghanistan, saying they are to "meet urgent security needs".
Two brigades - one army and one marine - are to be sent, Mr Obama said in a statement released by the White House.
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Obama Says Afghanistan Can't Be Solved by Military Means Alone

Bloomberg -- President Barack Obama said the conflict in Afghanistan can’t be won by military means alone, and a solution needs to be “comprehensive.”
“I’m absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban, the spread of extremism in that region solely through military means,” Obama said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. “We’re going to have to use diplomacy, we’re going to have to use development.”
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Global Warming

Scientists: Pace of Climate Change Exceeds Estimates

Washington Post — The pace of global warming is likely to be much faster than recent predictions, because industrial greenhouse gas emissions have increased more quickly than expected and higher temperatures are triggering self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms in global ecosystems, scientists said Saturday.
"We are basically looking now at a future climate that's beyond anything we've considered seriously in climate model simulations," Christopher Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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Big Oil shifts on global warming

energycurrent Confronted with a sharp change of priorities in Washington, international oil executives are expressing an eagerness to work with President Barack Obama to fashion new policies to tackle global warming.
At an industry conference here this week, the executives struck a conciliatory tone on how to limit the emissions that are contributing to climate change, with many of them sounding like budding conservationists as they stressed energy efficiency and the need to develop renewable fuels.
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Five places to go before global warming messes them up

CNN -- Scientists expect some great travel spots to be altered or ruined by global climate change.
Some of the changes are already taking place. Others are expected to be seen in coming decades.
There are two ways to look at this: Either stay home (which might be less depressing and won't add more airline emissions) or get a move on it and see the hot spots you just can't miss.
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Pakistan lets Islamists have their law

Pakistani militants talk peace amid criticism

AP — Pakistan dispatched a pro-Taliban cleric to talk peace with militants in the former tourist haven of Swat on Tuesday, a day after it agreed to a truce with the extremists and pledged to implement Islamic law in the region as part of a widely criticized deal.
A U.S. defense official called the agreement "a negative development" and a Pakistani civil rights activist dubbed it a surrender to militants believed to control up to 80 percent of the Swat Valley, which lies near the northwest tribal regions where al-Qaida and Taliban have long had strongholds.
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Islamic Law Instituted In Pakistan's Swat Valley

Washington Post -- The Pakistani government, desperate to restore peace to a Taliban-infested valley once known as the "Switzerland of Pakistan," agreed Monday to enforce strict Islamic law in the surrounding district near the Afghan border, conceding to a long-standing demand by local Islamist leaders who in turn pledged to ask the fighters to lay down their arms.
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Pakistan cuts 'dangerous' deal with Taliban

ABC Australia -- The Swat Valley, in Pakistan's north-west, was once a popular tourist destination. But for more than a year, Taliban militants and Pakistani forces have been battling it out there.
Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands have fled.
And despite being greatly outnumbered, the militants have succeeded in gaining control of most of the area, about 160 kilometres north of the capital, Islamabad.
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General Motors

Would a G.M. Bankruptcy Save Taxpayer Money?

New York Times — As General Motors and Chrysler race to pull together their restructuring plans ahead of a government-mandated deadline on Tuesday, one of the top academic experts on distressed debt and bankruptcy is calling for the Obama administration to dispense with niceties and push the carmakers into bankruptcy.
If done right, the move could help ensure that taxpayers remain first in line for repayment, according to Edward I. Altman, the Max L. Heine professor of finance at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
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GM exec: Saturn near finish line

bizjournals Robert Lutz, General Motors Corp.’s soon-to-depart vice chairman, says that struggling Saturn probably won’t survive.
In recent years, Saturn — like General Motors and the U.S. auto industry — has fallen on troubled times, with sales down and debt rising.
Lutz, who will retire this year as vice chairman of global product development, told industry publication Automotive News that GM lacks the time or resources to help Saturn rebound.
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GM slated to get $4b more in aid

Globe Wire Services - The US government will release $4 billion in additional aid to General Motors Corp. today as planned, a White House aide said yesterday, ahead of the deadline for the automaker to submit a new survival plan.
The aide said Chrysler LLC's request for additional aid would be treated as a new request and dealt with separately.
To date, GM has received $9.4 billion in federal aid that has allowed it to stay in operation since the start of the year. It is widely expected to seek additional assistance with the restructuring plan it must submit today.
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Monday, February 16, 2009

Japan Yen Economy

Japan Economy Goes From Best to Worst on Export Slump, Yen Gain

Bloomberg — Japan’s economy, only months ago predicted to be the best performing among the world’s most advanced nations, has become the worst.
Gross domestic product shrank an annualized 12.7 percent last quarter, the Cabinet Office said yesterday. The contraction was the most severe since the 1974 oil crisis and twice as bad as those in Europe or the U.S
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Japan's Leaders Powerless as Economy Plunges

BusinessWeek A slurring, muddled performance by Japanese Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa at the Group of Seven meeting in Rome over the weekend is attracting plenty of attention in Japan. At a news conference on Feb. 14, the minister, an ally of Prime Minister Taro Aso, appeared to be drunk: He misunderstood questions, his speech was unclear, and at one point he even appeared to almost drift off to sleep. A day later, back in Tokyo, Nakagawa explained that he had been suffering from a cold and reacted badly to medicine. "I wouldn't drink before a G7 meeting," he told reporters outside his home, sniffling.
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Dollar, yen rise on heightened global turmoil

Wall Street Journal - The U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen pushed higher Monday, after worries about global economic turmoil were reinforced by the weekend Group of Seven meeting and a steep fourth-quarter contraction in Japan's gross domestic product.
The Japanese economy shrank by a larger-than-expected 3.3% in the final three months of 2008 compared to the previous quarter, according to government data released Monday. Compared to the final quarter of 2007, GDP fell 12.7% -- the largest contraction since 1974.
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Gas Prices

Cheaper crude = cheaper gasoline

AP — Crude oil prices have fallen to new lows for this year. So you'd think gasoline prices would sink right along with them. Not so.
On Thursday, for example, crude oil closed at just under $34 a barrel, its lowest point for 2009. But the national average price of a gallon of gas rose to $1.95.
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GAS WATCH: Stimulus package may stabilize market prices

Delmarva Media — Gasoline demand is predicted to drop to the lowest level seen in almost 30 years but the price at the pump continues a steady rise.
Representatives of AAA Mid-Atlantic said the upcoming passage of the economic stimulus package could stabilize market prices for oil and gasoline
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Low oil prices are not translating into low gas prices

USA Today The economy is in tatters. Oil prices are plunging. So why are gasoline prices closing in on $2 a gallon again?
The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $1.97 Sunday, according to the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) and AAA. That's up 22% since pump prices hit a five-year low of $1.61 on Dec. 30
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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Auto Industry Bailout talks

White House ups pressure on US automakers

AFP — US automakers came under White House pressure Sunday to make painful choices as a deadline loomed this week for cap-in-hand General Motors and Chrysler to present their recovery plans to the government.
David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said the collapse of talks between GM and the United Auto Workers union underlined the gravity of the situation ahead of Tuesday's restructuring deadline.
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Report: GM to say, 'more aid or bankruptcy'

MarketWatch The online edition of The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, said the competing choices present a dilemma for the Obama administration, which may fear seeing the industrial icon carmaker (GM:2.50, -0.15, -5.7%) fall into bankruptcy and cut more jobs if it's refused more aid.
The government has already committed $13.4 billion to GM as part of a federally-funded bailout. The automaker is expected to include its call for more funds in a restructuring plan it's required to submit to the Treasury Department by Tuesday, though the company isn't expected to include a dollar amount, according to the Wall Street Journal report.
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GM, Chrysler Struggling to Strike UAW Deal

Washington Post General Motors and Chrysler are far from reaching a new labor pact with the United Auto Workers, making it unlikely they will secure an agreement before their Tuesday deadline for presenting a viability plan to the Obama administration.
The automakers so far have been unable to meet one of the government's key demands for assuring federal assistance: that they reduce autoworker compensations to levels competitive with foreign carmakers Honda, Nissan and Toyota. A union official said yesterday the two sides remain far apart in reaching an accord.
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Saudi Kings Changes Cabinet Members, Central Banker

Saudi Arabia Replaces Head of Central Bank

Wall Street Journal — Saudi Arabia named Muhammad al-Jasser as its new central-bank governor on Saturday in a government reshuffle that saw the appointment of the first woman to a cabinet-level position in the kingdom.
Mr. al-Jasser replaces Hamad Al Sayyari, the longest serving central banker in the Gulf, to head the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, an authority that controls monetary policy in the kingdom and oversees its vast foreign assets estimated to be worth in excess of $500 billion.
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Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah adds moderates -- including a woman -- to government

LA Times King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia weakened the hold of Islamic hard-liners Saturday by appointing the first woman to a ministerial post and dismissing a leading fundamentalist cleric and the head of the nation's powerful religious police.
The surprising government reshuffle indicated that the 84-year-old monarch was frustrated with the pace of reform in a kingdom uneasily balanced between moderates and ultra-conservatives. By broadening the voices of modern Islamic thinkers, King Abdullah apparently is trying to refashion the religious establishment at a time the country faces the global financial crisis and renewed threats from Al Qaeda militants.
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Saudi king shakes up religious establishment

International Herald Tribune The Saudi king on Saturday dismissed the chief of the religious police and a cleric who condoned killing the owners of TV networks that broadcast "immoral" content, signaling an effort to weaken the country's hard-line Sunni establishment.
The shake-up — King Abdullah's first since coming to power in August 2005 — included the appointment of a female deputy minister, the highest government position a Saudi woman has attained.
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Friday, February 13, 2009

Gaza War/Truce

Hamas Says Cease-Fire Nears; Israel Demurs

New York Times — Hamas officials said Friday that an announcement of an 18-month cease-fire with Israel was days away and would include a substantial opening of Gaza’s borders with Israel in exchange for an end to Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli southern communities. But a senior Israeli official said nothing had been agreed on yet.
Meanwhile, rockets were fired into Israel on Friday, causing no damage or injuries, and Israeli warplanes struck the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis, wounding two Popular Resistance Committee fighters.
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Hamas Leader Says Gaza Truce Has Setback

Voice of America The leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas says he is unsure of whether a long-term truce with Israel over the Gaza Strip can be announced on Sunday, as previously planned.
Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal told reporters on Friday that there have been some complications and that Egyptian negotiators may need more time to announce a cease-fire.
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Israeli warplanes strike on N Gaza

Xinhua Israeli F16 warplanes struck on Friday night two targets near Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza Strip, no injuries were reported, witnesses said.
Jabalia residents said the Israeli aircraft hovered over the northern area of the Gaza Strip, where two big successive explosions struck the area, adding the two explosions were a result of Israeli missiles fired at east of the refugee camp.
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Satellites Collide

Crash of US, Russian satellites a threat in space

AP — U.S. and Russian officials traded shots Thursday over who was to blame for a huge satellite collision this week that spewed speeding clouds of debris into space, threatening other unmanned spacecraft in nearby orbits.
The smashup 500 miles (800 kilometers) over Siberia on Tuesday involved a derelict Russian spacecraft designed for military communications and a working satellite owned by U.S.-based Iridium, which served commercial customers as well as the U.S. Department of Defense.
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How Much Is Too Much Space Junk?

TIME How Much Is Too Much Space Junk? By Jeffrey Kluger Friday, Feb. 13, 2009 A computer-generated image of objects in Earth's orbit A computer-generated image of objects in Earth's orbit NASA * Print * Email * Share o Digg o Facebook o Yahoo! Buzz o Add to Mixx! Mixx o Permalink * Reprints * Related * * If you've ever walked through a swarm of gnats at a picnic, you have some idea of what it's like to navigate the mass of debris that circles our planet in low-Earth orbit. Space planners have long warned that the growing belt of cosmic junk would eventually lead to collisions, and on Tuesday it happened, when an American satellite and a defunct Russian satellite totaled each other 500 miles above Siberia. This has sparked new worries that space is simply becoming too dangerous a place to travel. Things aren't nearly that severe yet — but they're getting worse all the time.
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Satellite collision not to 'delay' space program

CHINA daily The wreckage of US and Russian satellites that collided over Siberia poses a threat to China's satellites in orbit, but the country's space plan will proceed as scheduled.
A privately owned US communications spacecraft collided with a defunct Russian military satellite about 800 km above northern Siberia at 4:55 pm GMT on Tuesday, according to the US Strategic Command, which made it public on Wednesday.
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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Coca Cola; Profits, Revenues and Share Prices

Coca-Cola profit dips to $5.8B

Triangle Business Journal — The Coca-Cola Co.’s net income dipped about 3 percent in 2008 and included the impact of charges for Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. and restructuring, the company said Thursday.
The Atlanta-based beverage giant had net income of $5.81 billion and earnings of $2.49 a share, compared with net income of $5.98 billion and earnings of $2.57 a share in 2007.
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Coca-Cola profit down on charges, but volume rises

WSJ Coca-Cola Co. reported Thursday its earnings per share fell 17% in the fourth quarter on charges and a slump in North American volume.
Before the bell, Coke (KO: The Coca-Cola Company (KO 44.39, +3.12, +7.6%) said that it earned $995 million, or 43 cents a share, down from $1.21 billion, or 52 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Excluding one-time items, earnings were 64 cents a share, a 10% rise.
The soft-drink giant said revenue for the quarter was $7.13 billion, compared to $7.33 billion in the year-ago period
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Coca-Cola shares rises as profit tops view

Reuters UK Coca-Cola Co (KO.N) posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday, as double-digit volume gains in China, India and Eastern Europe offset a decline in North America, and shares rose 6 percent.
More than three-quarters of Coke's sales volume comes from abroad, a statistic analysts have often pointed to when trying to predict whether the world's top soft drink maker, or its rival PepsiCo Inc (PEP.N), would outperform in the recession.
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Iraseli Parliamentary Elections

Moderate party holds edge in final Israeli count

AP — The Kadima Party of moderate Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni kept its slight lead over Benjamin Netanyahu's hawkish Likud in final election results announced Thursday, but the hard-line bloc in Israel's new parliament will have the power to stymie Mideast peace efforts.
Kadima will get 28 seats in the 120-seat parliament and Likud 27, far less than the 61-seat majority needed to govern alone. Livni and Netanyahu are already hard at work trying to line up potential partners for a governing coalition.
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Results confirm Israeli deadlock

BBC he final results of Israel's general election have confirmed that neither of the two main parties can form a government on its own.
With military and overseas ballots counted, the governing Kadima still has 28 seats and the opposition Likud has 27 - well short of the 61 they need.
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Netanyahu moves to form coalition government

Iran VNC Likud Party chairman, Benjamin Netanyahu, may offer top positions to rival party leaders, in a bid to quickly form a coalition government, Israel’s Haaretz daily reports today.
Following Tuesday’s election, the right-wing Likud Party gained 27 seats in the 120-member parliament, while the centrist Kadima Party of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni won 28 seats.
However, analysts say the right-wing parties have a better chance of forming a coalition government.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

French Auto Bail-Out

France says it preserves jobs, not breaking EU rules

REUTERS — President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Wednesday he wanted to preserve French jobs during the economic downturn and denied that a rescue package for France's struggling carmakers broke EU state aid rules.
France was hit by a hail of criticism from EU allies over a 6 billion euro ($7.8 billion) state loan offered to Renault (RENA.PA) and PSA Peugeot-Citroen (PEUP.PA) earlier this week in return for an unwritten pledge not to close sites in France.
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France to loan €7.5 billion to auto industry

International Herald Tribune French auto makers Renault SA and PSA Peugeot-Citroen on Monday won a government rescue package which includes €7.5 billion ($9.8 billion) in low-interest loans by promising not to lay anyone off this year or close factories.
The government is offering Peugeot-Citroen and Renault a five-year direct loan of €3 billion each at an interest rate of 6 percent — well below market rates — to help finance investment in producing low-polluting vehicles.
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Sarkozy’s Go-It-Alone Aid Plan Defies EU Rules, Risks Reprisals

Bloomberg PRESS First he told smaller countries to take a back seat in crafting the European Union’s response to the economic crisis. Then he rapped Germany for spending too little and the U.K. for spending too much.
Now French President Nicolas Sarkozy is discarding any pretense of European solidarity, clashing with EU authorities who object to his plan to lend 6 billion euros ($7.8 billion) to carmakers Renault SA and PSA Peugeot Citroen as long as they agree not to close French plants or fire French workers.
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Stimulus Bill passes

Who are the 3 GOP mavericks who hold the key to stimulus?

Miami Herald — Two of the renegade Republican senators critical to getting the economic stimulus bill through the Senate — Maine's Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins — represent a state where folks are known for their flinty, thrifty ways.
The other GOP maverick, Arlen Specter, is from Pennsylvania, where the government has long been regarded as an economic lifeline.
So it's hardly a surprise that the three moderate Republicans are the only lawmakers in their party so far to go along with the Democrats' economic stimulus plan. They play a key role in shaping a compromise stimulus package, since Democrats control 58 Senate seats and need at least two more to cut off procedural roadblocks.
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Dem, GOP Lawmakers Reach Stimulus Deal

abc NEWS After a day of closed-door negotiations, Congressional leaders struck a deal on a trimmed-down version of the stimulus plan, scaling it back to $789 billion, with House and Senate leaders working into the evening to overcome last-minute hurdles.
Democratic and Republican leaders went into a conference committee meeting, where differences in the House and Senate versions of a bill are resolved publicly, at 5 p.m. to hash out the details of the plan, but the meeting was postponed for the second time for unknown reasons.
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Despite Post-Partisan Pledges, Obama Enters 'Campaign Mode' to Sell Stimulus

Fox News Despite a pledge to bridge the partisan divide in Washington, President Obama left the capital this week to deploy a battle-tested strategy of bypassing Congress and taking his policy proposals to the people.
The result was a political scene that more resembled the hard-knuckle presidential campaign than the diplomatic transition period.
Obama hit the stump and the airwaves to talk up his economic recovery package and shame its foes into supporting it. Republicans countered with press conferences blasting the Democratic agenda. Both sides traded fire in the editorial pages.
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

U.S. talks with Iran

Iranian Overture Might Complicate Relations With Israel

New York Times — When President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran took up President Obama’s oft-repeated invitation for direct talks between the United States and Iran — something that hasn’t happened in 30 years — he seemed to be signaling the start of a long-delayed war-or-peace drama that may define the Obama administration’s first engagement with the rest of the world.
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Iran demands mutual respect

The Hindu India Iran has declared its readiness for a dialogue with the U.S. based on “fairness” and “mutual respect.”
The announcement was made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a huge rally at Tehran’s iconic Azadi square, marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Iranian revolution.
“The new U.S. administration has announced that they would bring about change and that they want to hold dialogue,” Mr. Ahmadinejad told the assembled crowds, running into tens of thousands. He added: “This change must be fundamental, not a mere tactical move.” He said Iran “is ready to hold talks but talks [should be held] in a climate of fairness with mutual respect.”
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Obama urged to focus on Israel during Iran talks

Press TV Iran Tel Aviv has urged US President Barack Obama to focus on Israeli concerns when the time for Tehran-Washington talks finally arrive.
Israeli officials said Tuesday that top Obama administration officials have privately reaffirmed an unwavering commitment to Tel Aviv's security in high-level meetings over the past months.
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Monday, February 9, 2009

The Palestinian Situation

U.N. to resume Gaza aid operations

Aljazeera — The UN is to resume delivering aid in Gaza after it said Hamas returned humanitarian supplies it had seized from UN warehouses last week.
But the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) said on Monday that the earliest it could resume aid delivery was Wednesday because the Israeli-controlled crossing points would be closed for the country's elections on Tuesday.
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Gaza's children traumatized by war, despite ceasefire

Haaretz Children in the Gaza Strip continued to suffer and feel insecure despite a ceasefire that has mostly ended three weeks of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas, the UN special envoy for children and armed conflict said Monday.
Radihika Coomaraswamy said grave violations of child rights had been committed during the fighting that began on December 27 when Israel Defense Forces launched airstrikes against Hamas militants who had been firing rockets and mortars into southern Israel.
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Palestinians Stop Paying Israeli Hospitals

New York Times Scores of Palestinian patients being treated in Israeli hospitals, a rare bright spot of coexistence here, are being sent home because the Palestinian Authority has stopped paying for their treatment, partly in anger over the war in Gaza.
Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem says that for the past week, no payments have come in and Palestinians whose children it is treating have been instructed by Palestinian health officials to place them in facilities in the West Bank, Jordan or Egypt.
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Election in Israel

Israel's Livni woos female voters ahead of poll

Reuters UK — With Israeli pollsters predicting a close national election on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is wooing female swing voters whose support could help her clinch victory.
Campaign ads for Livni's centrist Kadima party splashed over billboards and across websites promise a "different kind of prime minister" and urge Israelis to elect the country's first woman prime minister in three decades.
Livni, 50, an ex-Mossad agent, had avoided playing the "gender card" for fear of appearing weak in a male-dominated society where frequent wars with Arab neighbours tend to make generals and other military figures more popular as politicians.
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Many Candidates, No Leaders

IPS Along the ironic lines of "Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum", the old Broadway musical about democracy in ancient times, something "funny" happened to Israelis on their way to the polling stations.
They went to war.
As a result, something weird is happening to Israeli democracy as the country goes to the polls on Tuesday.
Israeli elections used to be known for their fiery nature, the explosive debates, the contrasting ideological credos of the competing parties, the ruckus of left-right rivalry, the no-holds-barred traditional confrontation between religious and secular.
And beyond it all, existential questions which have challenged Israeli democracy since its inception 60 years ago: how to live with the Palestinians and how to make peace while guaranteeing the security of the state.
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Don't Mention The Economy

Forbes With Netanyahu poised to win a tight election race, the prospect of recession fails to make headway.
With Israelis only one day away from elections that could see the return of right-wing Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu as prime minister, there was little sign on Monday that the economic pressures facing the country would make much headway in a debate dominated by security issues.
But the economy will be a potent issue later this year, with Israel's economic growth set to plummet after posting solid 4.0% to 5.0% annual expansion over the past few years. Nomura International economist Serhan Cevik expects Israel to shrink by 1.5% this year, as the country's dependence on exports like high-tech goods and diamonds gets squeezed by slowing demand in the U.S. and Asia.
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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Stimulus Plan

Battle over stimulus plan tests Obama's mettle

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE — He's calm, he's cool, he's been called "No Drama Obama" - but President Obama is going to need every bit of that reserve this week as he takes to the road to sell his stimulus package.
Obama has barely learned his way around the White House and just took his maiden voyage on Air Force One last week, but thanks to the economic meltdown, change has already come in a big way in Washington.
In the three short weeks since Obama took office, Obama headlines have shifted from wonder and awe at his ascendancy to outright shock and awe at the partisan battling over his stimulus package.
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Stimulus sparring will test Congress

The Seattle Times -- The Senate agreement on a roughly $827 billion economic-stimulus bill sets up tough negotiations with the House, primarily over tens of billions of dollars in aid to states and local governments, tax provisions, and education, health and renewable-energy programs.
Congress is racing to complete the legislation this week.
The price tag for the Senate plan is only slightly more than the $819 billion measure adopted by the House. Both plans are intended to blunt the recession with a combination of quick-acting tax cuts to help increase spending by consumers and businesses, and slower long-term government spending on public-works projects and other programs to create more than 3 million jobs.
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President's Economic Adviser Pushes for Speed, Social Spending in Recovery Bills

FOX NEWS --- President Obama's top economic adviser on Sunday urged Congress to move quickly on a massive spending and tax cut plan that he says can combine the best of separate House and Senate packages yet to be finalized for a presidential signature.
National Economic Council Chairman Larry Summers said the two bills -- a House version unanimously opposed by Republicans and a Senate compromise still in the works -- are 90 percent alike. Differences, therefore, must be dealt with in an urgent manner so government can start rolling out cash for infrastructure, health care, education and tax cuts aimed at helping the economy recovery from a prolonged and far-reaching slump.
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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Freed Pakistan nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan

What kind of ally is Pakistan?

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE — It could be an episode of "24." A rogue bombmaker peddles nuclear weapon technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya. He's caught but then set free in the seething, violent politics of his home country.
Pakistani leaders served up the awkward news as a hands-off legal matter and the end of a lengthy court case that began when Khan was arrested in 2004. But it carries another meaning - a very troubling one - for Pakistan's neighbors and allies.
Quite simply, the nation isn't a reliable force for peace or stability in a central front of the terrorism fight. Khan was accorded the status of a populist hero, a scientist who gave his country a mighty weapon to hold far-bigger India at bay. When he set up a black market network to sell nuclear supplies to three of the worst countries imaginable, he was given wrist-slap treatment and protected from international investigators.
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US attacks nuclear scientist's release

FINANCIAL TIMES The US hit out at Pakistan yesterday after Abdul Qadeer Khan, the architect of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, was freed after five years of effective house arrest for selling nuclear secrets.
Mr Khan was declared to be a free citizen and allowed to move around the country in a brief unexpected order by the chief justice of the Islamabad High Court.
"This man remains a serious proliferation risk," said Gordon Duguid, a US state department spokesman.
He said Washington was still seeking official confirmation of the decision.
"The proliferation support that Khan and his associates provided to Iran and North Korea has had a harmful impact on international security and will for years to come."
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Pakistan nuclear scientist 'free'

BBC A court in Pakistan has freed disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan from house arrest.
Dr Khan, who has been under tight restrictions since 2004, can now leave home and receive visitors.
Dr Khan welcomed the ruling and said he was not bothered what the international community thought of his release.
The US has described the move as "unfortunate", with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying she was "very much concerned" by Dr Khan's release.
Dr Khan admitted transferring nuclear secrets to other countries in 2004 but was later pardoned by former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
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Republicans Seize on Nominees’ Tax Problems

NEW YORK TIMES -- Long after President Obama finds a new secretary of health and human services, presumably one who has paid his or her taxes, the damage from this week’s failed nomination may still plague him and his party.
For years, the Democrats have struggled to shed the image of a high-tax party, and Mr. Obama made significant progress last year, according to opinion polls. But the succession of Obama nominees who failed to pay all of their taxes handed the Republicans a simple, powerful and possibly enduring argument in future tax debates.
“It is easy for the other side to advocate for higher taxes,” Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House Republican whip, told a party retreat last weekend, “because you know what? They don’t pay them.”
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Daschle's, Geithner's, and Killefer's tax missteps come at time when 89 percent of Americans say it's unacceptable to fudge.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR -- The tax woes of three of President Obama’s top-level appointees come at a touchy time.
Amid deep economic troubles and taxpayer-funded bailouts and stimulus packages, many Americans are supersensitive to double standards between political and business elites and “the rest of us.” Some are angry because a different set of rules seemed to be in play on that basic civic responsibility: paying taxes.
Despite the news headlines this week, the US has a remarkable culture of tax compliance, and that attitude seems to be strengthening.
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Daschle withdrawal could alter calendar for health care issues

FINANCIAL TIMES -- Tom Daschle’s withdrawal this week of his nomination for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could significantly alter the calendar for health reform in the coming year, sources in Washington told Pharmawire.
With significant health proposals still included in the economic stimulus package – including funding for health information technology and comparative effectiveness research – a push towards health care reform was expected in the first half of the year.
The withdrawal could also delay the announcement of President Obama’s pick to head the Food and Drug Administration - though some sources said it remains possible the president will push ahead with that process given the magnitude of the agency’s current problems.
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Study says Israel didn't violate war laws

UPI -- Israel didn't violate the laws of war and made impressive improvements in its fighting capability in the recent Hamas clash in Gaza, a U.S. study says. The analysis of the 22-day conflict in Gaza by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies finds "marked improvements in the readiness and capability" of the Israeli military since the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. It said further, that Israel didn't violate the laws of war despite the large number of civilian casualties among the Palestinians, the Jerusalem Post reported. "(Israel) did deliberately use decisive force to enhance regional deterrence and demonstrate that it had restored its military edge," the report states. "These, however, are legitimate military objectives in spite of their very real humanitarian costs." Nearly 1,300 Palestinians were reported killed in the operation, including hundreds of civilians, according to Palestinian officials in Gaza.
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Israeli warplanes strike on southern Gaza tunnels' area

XINHUA -- Israeli F16 warplanes struck at midnight by missiles the borderline area between the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah and Egypt, aiming at destroyed underground tunnels used for smuggling, witnesses said Saturday. They said that five successive airstrikes were carried out by Israeli war fighters, causing huge explosions in the town, adding that some underground tunnels were destroyed and some were damaged. The town of some 80,000 residents and its refugee camp were in a big fear, mainly those are living closed to the borderline area between the town and Egypt. No injuries were reported. Part of the 22-day Israeli military assault on the Gaza Strip, which ended on Jan. 18, was to destroy hundreds of tunnels dug under the borderline to smuggle good. Smugglers in Rafah said they dug tunnels to bring goods from Egypt and to defy an Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip for two years. Israel says these tunnels are used by Islamic Hamas movement to smuggle weapons.
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Israeli air raids hit Gaza

ALJAZEERA -- Israel has launched several air raids against targets in southern Gaza near the border with Egypt, causing damage but no injuries, Palestinian security sources say. The attacks targeted "open areas" near the town of Rafah and tunnels along the border with Egypt, residents said. An Israeli military spokesman confirmed that the "Israeli air force intervened in the Gaza Strip" late on Friday. "Our planes attacked four tunnels that were dug under the border with Egypt and used for weapons smuggling," the spokesman told the AFP news agency. "An arms depot was also targeted and the explosives that were stocked there exploded," he said. The raids came hours after Palestinian fighters fired two rockets at southern Israel without causing damage or deaths, according to a military spokesman.
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Friday, February 6, 2009

Panetta for CIA post

Panetta Open to Tougher Methods in Some C.I.A. Interrogation
NY Times — Leon E. Panetta, the White House pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, on Thursday left open the possibilitythat the agency could seek permission to use interrogation methods more aggressive than the limited menu that President Obama authorized under new rules issued last month.
Under insistent questioning from a Senate panel, Mr. Panetta said that in extreme cases, if interrogators were unable to extract critical information from a terrorism suspect, he would seek White House approval for the C.I.A. to use methods that would go beyond those permitted under the new to read complete article
Panetta: Waterboarding is torture
LA Times -- Leon E. Panetta, President Obama's pick to head the CIA, testified today that he believes the harsh interrogation technique known as waterboarding is torture and vowed to end an era in which the CIA's conduct became source of controversy in the United States and drew condemnation around the world. "I believe that waterboarding is torture and it's wrong," Panetta said during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Asked whether the president could authorize the agency to resume using such harsh methods, even in the midst of a crisis, Panetta replied: "Nobody is above the law." click to read complete article
Panetta Styles Himself A CIA Company Man
San Francisco Chronicle --- Leon Panetta, President Obama's choice for CIA chief, pledged to lawmakers that he would end some of the most controversial intelligence-gathering practices of the last eight years, including waterboarding and renditions of suspects overseas. But the former Monterey congressman and Clinton White House chief of staff also endeared himself to the CIA rank-and-file by saying he does not believe U.S. interrogators should be prosecuted for past use of harsh methods approved by the Bush administration. click to read complete article