Tuesday, March 31, 2009

North Korea to Try Journalists

Iran, North Korea Playing Diplomatic Games With American Journalists?

Women on the Web — Iran and North Korea have more than their hatred for the United States in common. They have both detained female American journalists in recent weeks — and we can’t help but wonder how these political outcasts will use them against their mutual enemies.
Increasingly concerned about the well-being of Roxana Saberi, who has been locked up in Iran since January, the United States has been pressuring the Islamic Republic to grant consular access to the American journalist. Officials hope someone from the Swiss government — which serves as the intermediary between the U.S. and Iran — can ensure the physical well-being of the North Dakota woman. Saberi’s father, Reza Saberi, says she is "pretty suicidal" and may go on a hunger strike if she is kept in Tehran’s Evin Prison much longer.
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North Korea to put U.S. journalists on tria

Reuters — North Korea said on Tuesday it would put on trial two U.S. journalists arrested earlier this month on its border with China, accusing them of "hostile acts".
The planned trial adds to the mounting tension over North Korea's planned rocket launch in the next few days, which it says is to send a communications satellite into space but which the United States and others say is to test a long-range missile that could carry a warhead as far as U.S. territory.
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Small Incidents Trigger Wars

Korea Times — Serious misunderstandings cause wars. Even relatively small ones, festering underground over time and eating into the foundations of stability, can have the same calamitous effect. Some poisons work immediately; other poisons take time.
Let us consider a serious current poison that the U.S. media has been underplaying ― mostly deliberately ― at least for the time being.
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Future for Automakers

Frustrated Americans cheer Obama's tough auto moves

Reuters — Some frustrated taxpayers cheered President Barack Obama's tough steps to shore up the reeling auto industry on Monday but critics called his decision to fire General Motors' chief a heavy-handed power grab.
Obama forced out General Motors (GM.N) chief executive Rick Wagoner, pushed Chrysler LLC toward a merger with Italy's Fiat SpA (FIA.MI), and threatened bankruptcy for both, marking an escalation in Washington's involvement in rescuing the faltering economy.
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Obama’s Plan for Automakers Gets Mixed Reviews on Capitol Hill

Bloomberg — President Barack Obama’s steps to force a restructuring by U.S. automakers drew a mixed reaction from members of Congress, with some Republicans criticizing the forced resignation of General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Richard Wagoner.
Lawmakers from Michigan, Ohio and other states with economies dependent on the industry said they hoped that the plan, while tough, could help GM and Chrysler LLC avoid bankruptcy.
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New Leaders Hold Detroit’s Prospects in Their Hands

New York Times — Frederick A. Henderson, a Detroit native known as Fritz, is the quintessential General Motors man. The son of a Buick sales manager, he has spent most of his adult life at G.M., often parachuting into troubled G.M. operations around the globe.
Now, as G.M.’s new interim chief executive, he faces the biggest challenge of all — keeping G.M. itself afloat.
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Monday, March 30, 2009

Chinese Hackers

Apple: China Hackers Crank Out Fake iTunes Gift Cards

Barrons — Well, this is disturbing.
AppleInsider today picked up on a post by the music industry site Outdustry.com which asserts that hacker in China have figured out a way to produce usable iTunes gift cards, and are now selling them on various Asian Web sites.
On Taobao.com, you can apparently buy a $200 iTunes gift card for the equivalent of $2.60. What you’re really buying, the post notes, is a gift voucher code that the seller provides through Taobao’s IM software; you then type the code into your iTunes account. Payment is through AliPay, a PayPal clone which like Taobao.com is controlled by the giant Alibaba Group, in which Yahoo (YHOO) is a large investor. The post said that according to one of the sellers the voucher codes are generated using “key generators.”
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Conficker worm might originate from China

CNET News — There's been a lot of fuss about theConficker worm. However, there is a $250,000 question: the origin of the virus.
This is the amount Microsoft is putting up as a reward for any information leading to an arrest related to the case. Folks at BKIS, a Vietnamese security firm that makes the BKAV antivirus software, announced Monday that they found clues that the virus may have originated from China. Previously, there were rumors that it might have been from Russia or Europe.
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China using Web to spy on enemies

Metro International — China is in control of a mysterious cyber-espionage network — dubbed GhostNet — which infects high-profile computer systems, using Web cams and microphones to spy on sovereign governments and ministries the world over.
Researchers in Canada and Britain have both independently uncovered the murky Internet spy system, though it is still unclear whether the vast espionage web is an instrument of the Beijing government or simply some underground hacker cabal.
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GM and Chrysler in Hot Water

Fiat Now in Driver's Seat In Chrysler Acquisition

Wall Street Journal — The future of Chrysler LLC seems irretrievably tied to an Italian company boasting its own turnaround success after flirting with disaster earlier in the decade.
Fiat has been reborn with a knack for producing cool, small cars; its desire to return to the U.S. market after a 20-year break marks the best, perhaps only, hope for Chrysler.
The planned Fiat-Chrysler alliance outlined in January may have been ...
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GM chief Wagoner to resign at Obama's request

MarketWatch — General Motors Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner is resigning from his leadership of the troubled automaker at the request of the Obama administration. Wagoner's departure is part of the restructuring agreement between GM and the U.S. government, which will clear the way for the company to receive further federal loans.
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G.M. and Chrysler Explore Merger

New York Times — General Motors is in preliminary talks about a possible merger with Chrysler, a deal that could drastically remake the landscape of the auto industry by reducing the Big Three of Detroit automakers to the Big Two.
The talks between G.M. and Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm that owns Chrysler, began more than a month ago, and the negotiations are not certain to produce a deal. Two people close to the process said the chances of a merger were “50-50” as of Friday and would most likely still take weeks to work out.
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Sunday, March 29, 2009

North Korean's to Test Missile

N. Korea defends right to 'explore space' amid missile claim

CNN — North Korea defended Thursday its right to explore outer space after reports that a rocket, believed by the United States to be a long-range missile, had been positioned on its launch pad.
North Korea recently informed a pair of U.N. agencies that it plans to launch a satellite. The launch is believed to be slated for sometime between April 4 to 8, according to Yonhap, South Korea's state-sponsored news agency.
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Gates: US Not Planning to Shoot Down N. Korean Missile

Voice of America — A Japanese newspaper says North Korea is preparing to launch a short or medium-range missile in addition to a long-range rocket it plans to fire in early April. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says while he finds North Korea's actions "troubling," the United States has no plans to stop them.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates says North Korea will probably test a long-range missile in early April in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, but unless the missile test threatens U.S. territory, the United States is not prepared to do anything to prevent it.
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Gates: U.S. Not Prepared to Respond to North Korea Missile Launch

FOX News — The United States can do nothing to stop North Korea from breaking international law in the next 10 days by firing a missile that is unlikely to be shot down by the U.S. or its allies, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday.
Appearing on "FOX News Sunday," Gates said North Korea "probably will" fire the missile, prompting host Chris Wallace to ask: "And there's nothing we can do about it?"
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G20 Summit

Police trying to 'smear' peaceful protests

Times UK — Organisers of some of the protests planned in London over the next week to coincide with the G20 summit have complained that police briefings have given the impression that demonstrations will be mounted by anarchists intent on causing trouble.
Thousands of police will be on duty next week for the run-up to the summit on Thursday and to deal with any violence.
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Bankers told keep low profile as public anger rises

Reuters — Leave the flash car at home, spend the night in a hotel, hire a bodyguard. This is the kind of advice security experts are giving bank executives who fear attacks from people angered by the financial crisis.
In London, where leaders of the world's largest economies will gather for a G20 summit next Thursday, the discontent may spill out into protests starting with a rally on Saturday that police expect will draw 40,000 demonstrators.
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G20 summit could face Twitter tactics

UPI — Demonstrators targeting the upcoming G20 summit in London will likely be using the Twitter networking service to orchestrate their moves, police say.
An unidentified senior police official said summit demonstrators may use the social networking service, along with text messaging, to continuously coordinate their protest plans and thwart security efforts during next week's summit, The Times of London reported Saturday.
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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Auto Industry, Whats Next?

U.S. Expected to Give More Financing to Automakers

New York Times — The Obama administration will probably extend more short-term aid to General Motors and Chrysler on Monday, but will impose a strict deadline for bondholders and union workers to make concessions that would help the ailing automakers become viable businesses and avert bankruptcy.
President Obama’s auto task force is expected to say that despite its recommendation of more federal assistance for G.M. and Chrysler, bankruptcy could still be a possibility for either company, according to people close to the discussions.
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Auto sales seen plunging again in March

Reuters — Auto sales likely slogged at the weakest monthly rates in more than 27 years in March and show few signs of life, adding to the pressure on General Motors Corp, Chrysler and Ford Motor Co.
The Detroit-based automakers and the three top-selling foreign carmakers all are expected to post severe U.S. sales declines in March from a year earlier with the nation engulfed in a deep recession.
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GM CEO Meets U.S. Officials

Washington Post — With the White House set to announce more financial aid for General Motors and Chrysler on Monday, the Obama administration's automotive task force met yesterday, and GM chief executive G. Richard Wagoner Jr. visited with officials.
On Thursday, President Obama said that the administration's aid package would require the companies to make "painful" and "pretty drastic" changes. It is not known how much more financial assistance would be offered or what conditions would be attached.
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Obama Meets Bank CEO's

Bankers Pledge Cooperation With Obama

NY Times — In a bit of political stagecraft designed to quiet the public’s anger toward Wall Street, President Obama summoned the heads of some of the nation’s largest financial institutions to the White House on Friday and urged them to accept responsibility for their industry’s excesses.
The 13 chief executives emerged from the 90-minute meeting pledging to cooperate with the administration’s efforts to shore up the banking industry and the broader economy. On a bright day with the cherry blossoms in bloom, administration officials and the bankers presented a unified message to the nation: We’re all in this together.
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Bank CEOs Pleased By Meeting With Obama

CBS News — Heads of the country's financial services firms met today with President Obama to discuss the financial meltdown and the road to recovery.
Many of the companies that these business leaders represent have been hard hit by the economic crisis - which they helped bring about through risky investments - and they have received billions of dollars in bailout funds from the federal government.
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CEOs warn against rushing reforms

Washington Times — Chief executives from the nation's top banks Friday acknowledged to President Obama during a White House meeting that they have made mistakes with excessive bonus pay and pledged to do better, but they also urged him not to rush reform of financial regulation.
Mr. Obama brought the 15 CEOs to the White House for a noon meeting in the State Dining Room with himself and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. No lunch was served, but the president did instruct the executives that they needed to be mindful of the economic pain being experienced by everyday Americans.
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Friday, March 27, 2009

North Korea Poised To Launch Missile

Russia says North Korea should not launch rocket

Reuters — Russia said on Friday North Korea should abstain from launching a rocket and called for dialogue with Pyongyang to resolve the situation.
"We understand that the current situation in the region of North-East Asia is tense, and this is why it would be better if our partners in North Korea abstained from this, from this launch," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin told journalists.
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Clinton Says North Korea Missile Launch Would Have Consequences

Voice of America — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the long-range missile launch North Korea is apparently preparing for would be a provocative act that would have consequences for Pyongyang. Clinton spoke in Mexico City amid reports North Korea has moved multi-stage missile to a launch pad.
U.S. officials have warned North Korea against going ahead with what it says will be the launch of an experimental space satellite early next month.
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Japan Gives Order to Destroy Any North Korean Missile

Bloomberg — Japan’s Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada ordered the shooting down of any North Korean missile or falling debris that enters its “airspace, waters or soil.”
“We will take every effort to protect the safety of Japanese people,” Hamada told reporters in Tokyo today.
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Pope, Condoms, Africa

Ugandan AIDS doctors, British medical journal at odds over Pope’s condom comments

Catholic Culture — As columnists worldwide condemned Pope Benedict’s comments on condoms and AIDS for the tenth consecutive day, a group of Ugandan healthcare workers who are on the forefront of combating the disease has issued a paper supporting the Pontiff. “We are social and health workers committed to face AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic in Uganda,” they write. “Our experience indicates that what the Pope said is realistic, reasonable and scientifically sound. With our letter we would like to enrich the debate with scientific and sound data.”
However, a leading medical journal-- The Lancet-- took issue with the Pope, calling upon him to retract his statement. The Lancet alleged that the Pope "publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine"-- although the Pope was making a common-sense argument, not citing scientific evidence, in the statement to which the journal objects. A particularly vicious and tasteless anti-papal cartoon appeared in The Martlet, a student newspaper at the University of Victoria in Canada-- an immaturity also evident in an Italian Facebook group’s pledge to mail the Pope condoms. The Italian news agency ANSA speculated that the Pontiff could receive millions of condoms in the mail.
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Medical journal says Pope distorting condom facts

Reuters — A prestigious medical journal on Friday accused Pope Benedict of distorting scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine by saying that condoms increase the spread of AIDS.
The Lancet in an editorial called on the Pope to retract the comments made last week, saying anything less would be an immense disservice to the public and health advocates fighting to contain the disease.
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Harvard Aids expert says Pope "correct" on condoms and spread of HIV

Times UK — The head of a Harvard-based AIDs prevention centre says the Pope is “correct” to claim that condom distribution risks aggravating the transmission of HIV.
Last week Benedict XVI incurred the wrath of AIDs campaigners and criticism from the Governments of France and Germany for saying, en route to Africa, that AIDS could not “be overcome by the distribution of condoms.” In comments condemned as "scary" and "alienating" by members of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Benedict XVI lauded monogamy as a way to combat the spread of AIDs. He said that condom distribution risked exaggerating the spread of the virus.
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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gaza Aftermath

UN Human Rights Council censures Israel five times

Jerusalem Post — The United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday approved five anti-Israel resolutions in which it took issue with Israel's continued settlement activity, its treatment of West Bank Palestinians and its January military operation in Gaza.
Canada was the sole country to object to all the resolutions. They were joined in one instance by the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, who opposed the resolution against Israeli military activity in Gaza.
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Israel disputes Gaza death rates

BBC — Israel says its calculation of the death toll from its assault on Gaza shows a much lower ratio of civilian deaths than other published figures.
Military researchers say 1,166 Palestinians were killed of whom 709 are described as "terror operatives" from the militant group Hamas.
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Israel defends use of flesh-eating weapon

Iran Press TV — Tel Aviv hits back at a humanitarian report that suggests the Israeli army had 'illegally' shelled Gazans with white phosphorus shells.
The New York-headquartered Human Rights Watch said in a recent report that Israel's indiscriminate and deliberate use of white phosphorus against Palestinian civilians amounts to war crimes.
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Czech Government Collapses

Czech vote dooms BMD defense against Iran

United Press Internatonal — The pro-American Czech government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek fell Tuesday after being defeated in a vote of confidence in Parliament. That event may have sounded the death knell for U.S. plans to defend the Eastern Seaboard of the United States from Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear weapons.
The U.S. plan, formulated by the Bush administration, was to build two ballistic missile defense bases in Central Europe. One was to be located in Poland and house 10 Ground-based Mid-course Interceptors, known as GBIs, that could shoot down Iranian-launched ICBMs in flight. The other base was to be in the neighboring Czech Republic. It would have housed the very advanced radar tracking arrays that were needed to guide the super-fast GBIs -- flying at 20,000 to 25,000 miles per hour -- to their ICBM targets.
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Czech government loses confidence vote

Reuters — Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek's minority center-right government lost a vote of confidence Tuesday and will probably leave office after the country's term as European Union president finishes in June.
Topolanek said he was ready to resign, although the opposition Social Democrats said his government could stay on until Prague hands over the EU's six-month's rotating presidency to Sweden. He said the vote would have no impact on the EU role.
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EU Risks Paralysis as Czech Collapse Snarls Treaty

Bloomberg — The collapse of the Czech government threatened a new setback for the European Union’s stalled governing treaty, distracting the bloc’s leadership just as President Barack Obama presses for bolder European steps to confront the recession.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek tendered his resignation today after losing a March 24 no-confidence vote, raising a new hurdle to passage of the treaty by lawmakers in Prague. A setback there may undercut a referendum in Ireland, the only other country that still hasn’t ratified it.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Obama at Notre Dame

Notre Dame Right to Invite Obama

Washington Post — Controversy over commencement speakers at Catholic universities pops up every spring along with the tulips. This year the controversy is over President Obama speaking at Notre Dame University May 17. Some have objected that this is a violation of the bishops' statement Catholics in Political Life. This is absurd.
According to Catholics in Political Life, "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."
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Critics Blast Obama's Scheduled Notre Dame Commencement Address

Fox News — Nearly 65,000 people have signed an online petition protesting President Obama's scheduled May 17 commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, saying the president's views on abortion and stem cell research "directly contradict" Roman Catholic teachings.
"It is an outrage and a scandal that 'Our Lady's University,' one of the premier Catholic universities in the United States, would bestow such an honor on President Obama given his clear support for policies and laws that directly contradict fundamental Catholic teachings on life and marriage," the petition at notredamescandal.com reads.
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Religious zealots vs. Obama at Notre Dame

Feministe — President Obama is set to speak at Notre Dame on May 17th, and some folks aren’t too happy about it. Why? Because he’s pro-choice, and giving him a platform would violate the rules laid out in Catholics in Political Life. The pertinent guideline reads, “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
Interestingly, George W. Bush spoke at Notre Dame’s 2001 commencement. Pretty sure that he’s in favor of the death penalty, and that under his leadership in Texas a whole lot of people were executed.
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Youtube in China

China Blocks YouTube, Google Tries to Reinstate Access

Wired — On Monday, traffic from China to YouTube began dwindling until it dried up nearly completely today, due to a site-wide block of the popular video sharing site in that country.
Google says it has no idea why it's being blocked. China has demonstrated the ability to block access only to certain YouTube URLs as part of its ongoing censorship of the internet, so this site-wide ban represents a significant change in strategy.
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China Blocks Access to YouTube -- But Why?

PC World — China appears to be blocking all access to YouTube. Now, why in the world would it do something like that? I've got some theories.
First, though, the facts: YouTube use from China started dropping off the map sometime Monday night, with traffic nearly reaching a standstill by Tuesday morning. Google (which owns YouTube) has confirmed the apparent ban, though its staff is not certain of the cause.
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Chinese Internet is 'open enough,' says foreign minister

Beta News — Yesterday evening, YouTube reportedly became inaccessible in most of China, possibly due to the presence of graphic videos of violence against Tibetan separatists in Lhasa. The site is normally filtered for content, not only for intellectual property violations, but also for videos deemed subversive or critical of the Communist Party.
Last week, in the Vatican's continuing efforts to utilize the Internet to spread the Catholic church's message, it released a Chinese site, which many expected will be blocked, since observation of the Pope as an authority figure defies Communist rule.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

EPA Warns of Greenhouse Gas Danger

EPA Presses Obama To Regulate Warming Under Clean Air Act

Washington Post — The Environmental Protection Agency's new leadership, in a step toward confronting global warming, submitted a finding that will force the White House to decide whether to limit greenhouse gas emissions under the nearly 40-year-old Clean Air Act.
Under that law, EPA's conclusion -- that such emissions are pollutants that endanger the public's health and welfare -- could trigger a broad regulatory process affecting much of the U.S. economy as well as the nation's future environmental trajectory. The agency's finding, which was sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget without fanfare on Friday, also reversed one of the Bush administration's landmark decisions on climate change, and it indicated anew that President Obama's appointees will push to address the issue of warming despite the potential political costs.
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The price of greenhouse gases

L.A. Times — President Bush's greatest crime against the environment was his refusal to regulate greenhouse gases. The Obama administration is reportedly wasting little time righting that wrong.
Quoting unnamed sources, the Washington Post reported Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency has sent the White House a preliminary finding that climate change is endangering public health and welfare. If this is cleared by the Office of Management and Budget and finalized by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, it would lay the groundwork for national regulation of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases. That would have an impact on the economy, though whether positive or negative is a matter of debate.
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Obama looks to Congress for climate change plan

The Hill — The White House said Monday that President Obama wants to work with Congress on a plan to address greenhouse gases after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report stating that global warming is endangering the public’s health.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged that he had not studied the EPA report, which represents a significan
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Re: China to Abandon the Dollar?

Why the US dollar is still resilient

The Economic Times - India — Trillion-dollar bailouts, trillion-dollar deficits, and the largest spending bill in US history. No matter how dire the news out of the US, the dollar strengthens. It has carried on rising in spite of new bailouts for two leading financial institutions — Citigroup and AIG — a catastrophic fall in US gross domestic product and more dreadful news about the US housing market. The dollar has risen 10% against the euro so far this year, and by 7.4% against the yen.
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China challenges power of the dollar as it flexes its economic muscles

Times Online UK — China yesterday threw down a challenge to America’s 50-year dominance of the global economy as it proposed replacing the dollar as the world’s main reserve currency with a new global system under the control of the International Monetary Fund.
In a muscle-flexing move that will be seen as an attempt to exploit the big shifts in economic power created by the recession sweeping the West, Beijing said that the dollar’s role could eventually be taken over by the IMF’s so-called Special Drawing Right (SDR), a quasi-currency that was created in 1969.
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Dollar falls on U.S. toxic asset plan and home sales data

Xinhua — The dollar fell against most major currencies on Monday after U.S. government unveiled a toxic asset rescue plan and a latest report showed U.S. existing home sales jumped in February.
The Obama administration on Monday announced a program aimed at cleansing toxic assets from bank balance sheets that have frozen up lending and fueled the recession.
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Monday, March 23, 2009

World Water Forum

Water not recognized as human right in forum statement

Canadian Broadcast Company — A week-long international conference ended Sunday in Istanbul with a statement that recognizes access to safe drinking water as a "basic human need," but not a "human right," as some delegates had proposed.
The statement, coinciding with the United Nations' World Water Day, was issued at the end of a three-day ministerial meeting at the 5th annual World Water Forum in the Turkish city.
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As climate changes, is water the new oil?

Reuters — If water is the new oil, is blue the new green?
Translation: if water is now the kind of precious commodity that oil became in the 20th century, should delivery of clean water be the same sort of powerful political force as the environmental movement in an age of climate change?
And, in another sense of green, is there money to be made in a time of water scarcity?
The answer to both questions, according to environmental activists watching a global forum on water, is yes.
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Alternative forum: Water a right

Hurriyet News — The Alternative Water Forum wrapped up Sunday with a closing assembly after a full day of workshops, seminars and lectures espousing an alternate perspective on water management and policy.
The forum was organized as an alternative to the 5th World Water Forum, which took place in Istanbul over the last week. Bilgi University’s SantralIstanbul campus played host to the water dissidents for the last two days. The jam-packed forum schedule included lectures called Anti-Dam Struggles, Water Poisoned by Nationalism, Water as a Common Good and Water Management, as well as Water and Women.
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Taliban to Enter Politics?

US to introduce Taliban political party?

Press TV Iran — A top US official says Washington is mulling over bringing the Taliban into the Afghan politics amid escalating insurgency in the country.
"There is room for discussion on the formation of political parties [or] running... for elections. That is very different from shooting your way into power," William Wood, the outgoing US ambassador to Afghanistan, told the Observer on Sunday.
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America floats plan to tempt Taliban into peace process

Guardian UK — America has signalled a radical new initiative to bring the Taliban into the Afghan political process as part of growing efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to the war in Afghanistan.
The US ambassador to Kabul told the Observer that America would be prepared to discuss the establishment of a political party, or even election candidates representing the Taliban, as part of a political strategy that would sit alongside reinforced military efforts to end the increasingly intractable conflict.
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Over 20 Taliban militants captured in Afghanistan

Russian News and Information Agency — Afghan troops have captured twenty-two Taliban militants in the southern Kandahar province in Afghanistan, the country's Defense Ministry said on Sunday.
The militants from the radical Islamic Taliban movement were captured by soldiers from the 1st division of the Afghan 205th army corps in the a
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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Venezuela in Crisis

Venezuelan central gov't takes full control of air, maritime ports

Xinhua — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced on Saturday that the central government has taken over all the country's maritime ports and airports from local governments.
The takeover, which Chavez said was aimed at coordinating national efforts in socialist construction, was based on the revised Organic Law of Decentralization, Delimitation and Competence Transfer of the Public Power, whose amendment was approved on March 12.
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Chávez Trims Budget to Offset Low Oil Revenues

New York Times — President Hugo Chávez announced a series of economic measures Saturday night, including a reduction in this year’s federal budget and a modest increase in the value-added tax, that are aimed at offsetting a recent plunge in the government’s oil revenues. Mr. Chávez said the changes were needed to shield Venezuela from the global financial crisis. Growth slowed in the most recent quarter to its most sluggish rate in five years.
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Venezuela Bolivar Drops to 16-Month Low on Devaluation Concern

Bloomberg — Venezuela’s bolivar sank to a 16- month low on speculation President Hugo Chavez will devalue the official exchange rate for the first time in four years to narrow a budget gap that swelled as oil prices declined.
The bolivar fell 1.9 percent to 6.43 per dollar in unregulated trading at 12:25 p.m. New York time, said Nelson Corrie, head trader at Interacciones Casa de Bolsa in Caracas. Chavez said yesterday that he’ll announce economic measures this weekend in response to the tumble in oil, the source of more than 90 percent of the South American country’s exports.
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Iran Policy

Obama offers Iran 'new beginning'

BBC — US President Barack Obama has offered "a new beginning" of engagement with Tehran in an unprecedented direct video message to the Iranian people.
"My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us," Mr Obama said.
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U.S. plan for Iran: Talks alongside sanctions

Haaretz — Senior U.S. officials are preparing to present President Barack Obama with a plan for dialogue with Iran on its nuclear program, including increased international sanctions against Tehran alongside dialogue.
Top Israeli and U.S. officials have been holding meetings on Iran.
The unofficial dialogue between Washington and Tehran, bitter enemies since the Islamic Revolution toppled American ally Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1979, will begin within two weeks, even before Obama approves the plan.
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Khamenei Says Obama Hasn’t Shifted ‘Hostile’ View

Bloomberg — Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said President Barack Obama’s video message yesterday didn’t show that the U.S. has modified its “hostile” attitude toward his nation. The U.S. has shown no sign of “genuine” change in its “hostile” policy the Islamic Republic, Khamenei, 69, said in a speech to mark the Iranian New Year, according to state-run Press TV.
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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Israeli Nukes

U.S. Army document describes Israel as 'a nuclear power'

Haaretz — In a rare breach of official American adherence to Israel's policy of nuclear ambiguity, the U.S. military is terming Israel "a nuclear power" on a par with Russia, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea, all of which have declared their nuclear weapon status, and ahead of "nuclear threshold powers" Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, and the "emerging" Iran.
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Israel's nuclear programme

BBC — While Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons, few international experts question the Jewish state's presence on the world's list of nuclear powers.
Its nuclear capability is arguably the most secretive weapons of mass destruction programme in the world.
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Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran

London Times — ISRAEL has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.
Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.
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Friday, March 20, 2009

Gaza, Hamas, Israel

Hamas blasts arrest of its leaders in WB

Iran Press — Hamas has condemned Israel for the arrest of the movement's leaders, saying the move would have no positive impact on the prisoner swap deal.
"The arrest of senior Hamas officials won't force Hamas to make concessions regarding the case of [Israeli soldier Gilad] Shalit," said Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel on Thursday.
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Israeli Coalition Appears Fated to Clash With U.S.

Washington Post — The foreign minister of Israel's incoming government lives in a West Bank settlement and will begin life as a diplomat battling the perception that he is anti-Arab.
A leading contender to become defense minister once characterized the two-state solution that forms the basis of U.S. and international policy toward Israel and the Palestinians as "a story the Western world tells with Western eyes." And the potential make-or-break votes in the country's new parliamentary coalition belong to legislators from religious parties that would like to expand settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.
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Hamas: We're counting on Obama's 'change'

World Net Daily — Hamas is hopeful President Obama will open dialogue with the Islamist group and will employ a less pro-Israel approach than President Bush, the Hamas' chief political adviser in Gaza told WND in an exclusive interview.
"We hear all the time statements (from Obama) promising change will come to the region, and that's what we count on," Ahmed Yousef said yesterday, speaking from his cell phone in the Gaza Strip.
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Prostate Screening

Study: Prostate screenings don't reduce cancer deaths

CNN — A decade-long study following more than 75,000 men found that prostate cancer screenings led to more diagnoses but did not reduce the number of deaths from the illness.
The National Cancer Institute's findings, which are published online in the New England Journal of Medicine, challenge the popular idea that routine screenings reduce cancer-caused deaths.
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Studies fail to settle prostate testing debate

The Boston Globe — 2nd articleRegular screening for prostate cancer may prevent the deaths of a small number of men but exposes many more to potentially needless treatments accompanied by serious complications, according to two landmark studies that fail to settle a long-running debate about the value of screening.
The reports, published online yesterday by The New England Journal of Medicine, are the first to explore whether the widely used prostate-specific antigen test, known as the PSA, actually leads to a reduction in deaths from prostate cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer mortality among men.
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Screening all older men for prostate cancer 'could reduce deaths by a fifth'

Daily Mail — All older men could be tested for prostate cancer after a major international study found death rates can be cut by up to 20 per cent by routine screening.
Health ministers have ordered a review which could pave the way for widespread testing.
Prostate cancer affects around 35,000 men in the UK each year and claims 10,000 lives.
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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Automakers Face Bankruptcy

Half of U.S. auto suppliers face bankruptcy: study

Reuters — More than half of the top U.S. auto parts suppliers could file for bankruptcy protection in 2009 with at least one million job losses, according to a study by global consultants A.T. Kearney.
Those suppliers, which ship parts directly to automakers, are pressured from above by production cuts by the automakers and from below by increasingly fragile companies that supply them with components, the study found.
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U.S. Treasury unveils $5 billion aid for auto suppliers

The Detroit News — The Treasury Department agreed today to provide up to $5 billion in financing for cash-strapped auto parts suppliers -- a move that could help stave off collapse of many major suppliers.
A credit-insurance program run through General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC will allow suppliers access to "government-backed protection that money owed to them for the products they ship will be paid no matter what happens to the recipient car company."
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Auto supplier shares leap on bailout news

Reuters — News that the U.S. Treasury had pledged up to $5 billion in financing support to struggling auto suppliers sent shares in auto parts makers soaring on Thursday.
The price of Lear stock more than doubled shortly after the news, before slipping to $1.25, or 75 percent above the stock's Wednesday close on the New York Stock Exchange of 72 cents.
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AIG Bonuses

House overwhelmingly OKs 90-percent tax on AIG executive bonuses

The Detroit News — The House overwhelmingly approved Thursday a bill co-authored by U.S. Rep. Gary Peters of Michigan to slap punishing taxes on big employee bonuses from AIG and other firms bailed out by taxpayers.
The vote was 328-93.
Of Michigan's 15 House members, only Rep. Thad McCotter, R-Livonia, voted against the bill, which he called unconstitutional because it uses "the tax code as a penal code."
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Obama: AIG can't justify 'outrage' of exec bonuses

L.A. Times — President Barack Obama declared today that insurance giant American International Group is in financial straits because of "recklessness and greed" and said he intends to stop it from paying out millions in executive bonuses.
"It's hard to understand how derivative traders at AIG warranted any bonuses, much less $165 million in extra pay," Obama said at the outset of an appearance to announce help for small businesses hurt by the deep recession.
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Obama's AIG Panic

Wall Street Journal — The AIG Beltway bonfire continued yesterday with the spectacle of Ed Liddy, AIG's government-appointed CEO, enduring the wrath of Congress for embarrassing the Members with post-bailout bonuses. What we now have is a full-blown political panic ignited by no less than President Obama himself that is threatening to engulf his attempts to revive the financial system, and is undermining confidence in his leadership. This is no way to promote an economic recovery.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pope in Africa

Pope says condoms are not the solution to Aids - they make it worse

The Times UK — The Pope courted further controversy on his first trip to Africa today by declaring that condoms were not a solution to the Aids epidemic – but were instead part of the problem.
In his first public comments on condom use, the pontiff told reporters en route to Cameroon that Aids "is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems".
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Pope visits Africa's growing flock

Christian Science Monitor — As Pope Benedict XVI makes his first trip to Africa as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, he will confront a phenomenon that can only be called a mystery.
Why is it that Africa – a continent of bloody conflicts, forced migration, rampant health problems, and profound poverty where as many as 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger – contains some of the most exuberantly religious people on earth? How do Africans find so much hope amid the hopelessness?
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Pope, Visiting Africa, Denounces Corruption, Abuse of Power

Bloomberg — Pope Benedict XVI, making his first visit to Africa, condemned graft and abuse of power on the continent and said the church won’t remain indifferent to the suffering such actions cause people.
“In the face of violence, corruption and abuse of power, the church can never remain silent,” the 81-year-old pontiff told a crowd of more than 5,000 people at Cameroon’s Nsimalen International Airport late yesterday. The message, he said, must be proclaimed loud and clear.
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Madagascar president hands power to military

Xinhua — Madagascar's president Marc Ravalomanana has resigned, handing power to the military.
But the military has appointed opposition leader Andry Rajoelina as president of a transition government, after weeks of violent street protests by his followers.
Tanks and scores of soldiers guarded the Presidential Palace on Tuesday.
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US orders diplomats to leave Madagascar

Associated Press — The State Department on Tuesday ordered all nonessential staff at the U.S. Embassy in Madagascar and the families of all American personnel there to leave the country due to the uncertain security situation after the ouster of the Indian Ocean island's president.
In a travel warning, the department said it had taken the step because of unrest related to the resignation of Madagascar's president and his hand-over to the military of his command.
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Supporters of Deposed Madagascar President to Hold Rally Wednesday

Voice of America — Supporters of deposed Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana are expected to hold a political rally today (Wednesday) to know their next line of action after their leader resigned Tuesday under opposition pressure. Some Malagasies fear the meeting could potentially lead to clashes with supporters of the opposition in the ongoing political crisis. President Ravalomanana handed over power to the military Tuesday following a protracted political struggle with deposed Antananarivo mayor Andry Rajoelina. But the military declined to accept the handover, saying it was not interested in ruling the country setting the stage for the opposition leader to take over power. The military had so far backed the opposition leader during the power struggle. Mialy Randriamampianina is a Malagasy journalist. She tells reporter Peter Clottey that Malagasies are afraid of a possible civil war after the president resigned under pressure.
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Russian Bombers in Venezuela?

Chavez offers Russia use of base

BBC — Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez, says he has offered Moscow the use of an airfield off its Caribbean coast for Russian strategic long-range bombers.
But Mr Chavez denied there would be discussions on building any permanent base on the island of La Orchila.
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Pentagon mocks Russian moves in Latin America

Agence France Presse — The US Defense Department on Monday made light of Russia's possible use of air bases in Venezuela or Cuba for its strategic bombers.
"That would be quite a long way for those old planes to fly," Geoff Morrell, Pentagon press secretary, told AFP.
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Chávez denies offering base to Russia

Boston Globe — President Hugo Chávez said yesterday that Russian bombers would be welcome in Venezuela, but the socialist leader denied that his country would offer Moscow its territory for a military base.
Chávez - a fierce critic of Washington with close ties to Russia and Cuba - said his government did not raise the possibility, as Russian media had reported.
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El Salvadoran President Compares Himself to Obama

Funes Wins Salvadoran Presidential Election

Voice of America — In El Salvador, former television journalist Mauricio Funes promised to unite his country, following his victory in El Salvador's presidential election that ended two decades of conservative rule in the crime-plagued Central American country.
Mr. Funes ran as a member of the former rebel group Farabundi Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN. He claimed victory late Sunday over Rodrigo Avila, who represented the ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance, or ARENA party. Incumbent President Elias Antonio Saca was barred from seeking another five-year term.
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New Salvadoran President Compares Message of Change to Obama's

Fox News — SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Two decades ago, the United States backed Salvadoran governments as they battled leftist guerrillas who ultimately laid down their arms. Now the former U.S. enemies are back — this time as El Salvador's first elected leftist government.
The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, is the second former foe of the United States to democratically take power in Latin America's lurch to the left. In 2006, Nicaraguans elected Daniel Ortega two decades after his Sandinista government fought U.S.-backed Contra rebels, and his relations with Washington have remained tense under President Barack Obama's administration.
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El Salvador's president strikes conciliatory note

L.A. Times — Reporting from San Salvador -- Back in the 1990s, when he was a television reporter who relished tweaking the government, Mauricio Funes accepted an invitation from the president to dine at his home and receive an award.
Funes asked if he could tape the ceremony for his mother. The president, Armando Calderon Sol, consented. Then, at the moment of the toast, Funes launched into a scathing rebuke of Calderon and what Funes considered to be government abuse and corruption.
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Monday, March 16, 2009


Pakistan Stocks Rise Most in 9 Months as Gilani Restores Judges

Bloomberg — Pakistan stocks rose the most in nine months after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani pledged to reinstate Supreme Court justices fired under military rule in 2007, ending a confrontation with the opposition.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and other deposed judges will be restored on March 21, Gilani said in a 6 a.m. televised address in Islamabad, meeting the demands of thousands of protesters who are challenging President Asif Ali Zardari. Authorities will also lift a ban on rallies and release detained protesters, he said.
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Pakistan Reinstates Chief Justice, Defusing Political Standoff

Voice of America — Pakistan's prime minister has acceded to demands to reinstate the country's former supreme court chief justice, who was fired by then-President Pervez Musharraf in 2007. The announcement in Islamabad appears to have defused the standoff between the government and its opponents.
The prime minister announced the reinstatement in a broadcast on state television just before dawn Monday - hours before thousands of protesters were preparing to converge on the capital.
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U.S. welcomes Pakistan's decision to restore deposed chief justice

Xinhua — The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan issued a statement on Monday, welcoming the decision made the Pakistan government to restore the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
"We welcome the announcement by the Government of Pakistan of its plans to reinstate former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry," said the statement.
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Israelis 'firing live rounds' at West Bank protesters

Guardian UK — Israeli armed forces and border police used the cover of the war against Hamas in Gaza to reintroduce the firing of .22 rifle bullets - as well as the extensive use of a new model of tear-gas canister - against unarmed demonstrators in the Occupied West Bank protesting at the building of Israel's "separation wall".
The tactics were highlighted on Friday, when a US protester, Tristan Anderson, 38, was hit in the head by one of the new extended-range gas canisters in the village of Ni'ilin, suffering an open wound in his skull and substantial brain damage. Anderson's friend, Gabrielle Silverman, claims he was struck by a canister fired from a high-velocity rifle. The Israeli military says stone-throwing "poses a threat to troops", and several officers have been injured by rocks.
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Oakland activist critically wounded in West Bank

San Francisco Bay Guardian — Oakland activist Tristan Anderson, 38, was critically wounded March 13 in the village of Ni’lin in the West Bank, when he was shot in the head with a high-powered tear-gas canister fired by Israeli forces.
The shooting occurred during a protest over the separation barrier that Israel is erecting between itself and the West Bank, according to a press release from the International Solidarity Movement.
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Two Israeli policemen die in West Bank shooting

Haaretz — Senior police officials say that the removal of checkpoints and the low intensity of Israel Defense Forces operations in the West Bank did not contribute to Sunday's shooting death of two traffic cops in the Jordan Valley.
"The IDF's activity is very extensive," said Shlomi Katbi, the commander of the West Bank police. "I don't see where one can tie the ongoing security activity and its quality with what happened Sunday evening."
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Sunday, March 15, 2009


U.S. drops 'enemy combatant' term

The Washington Times — The Justice Department on Friday jettisoned the term "enemy combatant," ditched some of the George W. Bush administration's assertions of presidential power and raised the standard needed to hold detainees at the naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
But some scholars and advocates say the moves are mainly symbolic breaks with the Bush administration and will have little actual impact.
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Obama breaks sharply with Bush on terror suspect detention

Kansas City Star — Breaking with the Bush White House, the Obama administration on Friday said it intends to establish specific criteria for the continued imprisonment of terrorism suspects now at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, which President Barack Obama intends to close.
In a court filing in Washington, the Justice Department said the government's authority to continue to jail suspects would hinge on proving that they "authorized, committed or aided" the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks or that they "were part of or substantially supported" the Taliban or al-Qaida.
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Obama retains Bush policy on Guantanamo

Examiner — Trying to distance himself from former President George W. Bush's connection with the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, President Barack Obama apparently thinks that by dropping the words "enemy combatants", he could put a new face on similar policies.
In a court filing on March 13, 2009, Obama's Justice Department stated that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges. That is exactly the same thing that was asserted by the Bush administration. In other words, the new administration will defend its right to hold detainees at Guantanamo.
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Saturday, March 14, 2009

OPEC concerned about falling oil demand

OPEC could cut production on weekend

Associated Press — Slash oil output to boost revenues but risk deepening the world's economic woes? Rarely have OPEC oil ministers faced a tougher choice.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meets in Vienna Sunday, where they could reduce daily production by up to half a million barrels, or do nothing.
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Venezuela Says OPEC Should Promote Non-Member Production Cuts

Bloomberg — The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries should seek to sway non-members to trim oil output to bolster the price of crude, said the head of Venezuela’s Energy and Mines Commission.
OPEC should “intensify diplomatic efforts” to convince Russia to join the organization, said Angel Rodriguez, president of the legislative commission. The addition would boost the group’s output to 50 percent of global petroleum production from 40 percent, Rodriguez said in an e-mailed statement. Control of fossil-fuel reserves would reach 80 percent of the world’s total.
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OPEC set to keep oil production quotas unchanged

Reuters — OPEC oil producers are likely to keep their official oil production targets unchanged when they meet on Sunday, choosing to enforce existing quotas rather than cut output further, a Reuters poll showed on Tuesday.
Nine of 14 analysts polled thought the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would agree to roll forward production ceilings when they meet in Vienna on March 15.
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Sri Lankan Conflict

Sri Lanka on verge of defeating terrorism: Hillary Clinton

Xinhuanet — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that Sri Lanka is now on the verge of defeating terrorism, and that this presented a great opportunity to restore peace, leading to reconstruction and rehabilitation in the country, according to a statement issued by Sri Lanka's presidential office on Friday.
She made the remarks when speaking to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse by telephone Friday evening, said the statement.
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U.N. rights chief points to war crimes in Sri Lanka

International Herald Tribune — Both sides in Sri Lanka's conflict may have committed war crimes and must suspend fighting to let up to 180,000 civilians escape, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Friday.
Warning that the loss of life may reach "catastrophic levels," she urged the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels to halt hostilities to allow the evacuation of civilians trapped on the northeastern coast.
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Deadly surge in S Lanka fighting

BBC — Both the Sri Lankan army and sources supportive of Tamil Tiger rebels have reported a bloody escalation in the fighting in the country's north-east.
A military spokesman said it had killed about 100 rebels in a series of clashes since Friday.
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Friday, March 13, 2009

Obama Reaches out to Business Community

Obama Says U.S. Can’t Afford ‘Bubble-and-Bust’ Cycles

Bloomberg — President Barack Obama warned a group of chief executive officers that the U.S. can’t continue with “endless cycles of bubble and bust” and must build a new foundation for future economic growth.
The financial markets crisis is only part of the challenge to the U.S. economy, Obama told the Washington-based Business Roundtable today.
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Obama Makes Overtures for Cooperation of CEOs

Wall Street Journal — In his most aggressive outreach yet to the business community, President Barack Obama told some of the nation's leading CEOs that he is ready to talk about lowering corporate income-tax rates and could compromise on his plan to combat global warming.
Speaking for more than an hour Thursday to the Business Roundtable, a chief executives organization, Mr. Obama made it clear he wants the business community's cooperation to secure his agenda of expanding the federal role in education, overhauling health care and transforming the energy sector.
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Administration warns of tighter reins on stimulus money

CNN — Vice President Joe Biden told a group of state leaders Thursday that the Obama administration is set to unveil a series of regulations restricting the use of funds from the recently-enacted economic stimulus plan.
The new rules are expected to be rolled out on Friday.
The government needs to go "above and beyond the typical ways of doing business" to help the economy, President Obama said at a White House conference on best practices for implementing the $787 billion package.
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Pakistan: Protests, Crackdowns

US appeals for calm in Pakistan

Agence France Presse — Key US diplomats dealing with Pakistan have personally urged the leaders in Islamabad and their opponents to avoid violence amid growing political agitation, a US official has said.
"We wanted just to make sure and make clear to everyone that peaceful, democratic activity needs to take place in Pakistan. Violence is something we don't need," State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters Thursday.
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Pakistan protest crackdown widens

BBC — Authorities in Pakistan's north-west have banned political gatherings and a protest convoy has been halted in Sindh as a crackdown on activists spreads.
Dozens of lawyers and political leaders were arrested in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) overnight.
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Zardari gets 24-hr ultimatum to end deadlock

Times India — Earlier in the day, Pakistan army and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani asked Zardari to go if he does not accept a new deal hatched by them in consultation with foreign powers.
The new political deal, backed by Washington, London and the army establishment, has quietly been conveyed to Pakistan PM Gilani, to bring down the political temperature in the country.
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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bernie Madoff Found Guilty

A 'sorry and ashamed' Bernard Madoff pleads guilty

International Herald Tribune — Bernard Madoff's victims got what they wanted to see, but not what they wanted to hear.
Saying he was "deeply sorry and ashamed," the disgraced financier pleaded guilty Thursday to perhaps the biggest swindle in Wall Street history and was led off in handcuffs to begin serving a sentence expected to be up to 150 years in prison.
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Madoff says felt compelled to deliver "at any cost"

Reuters — Bernard Madoff, who cultivated a worldwide mystique as he churned out amazingly steady returns for his investors year after year, finally admitted it was all a lie, saying he had felt compelled to deliver "at any cost."
If his thousands of customers were expecting deep insight into why he did it, they were disappointed.
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Madoff Victims: Gov't Missed Red Flags

CBS News — Victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme have turned their ire from the primary source of their financial losses to the SEC, IRS and Madoff family members and employees who may have been involved the massive fraud.
Speaking with CBS News anchor Katie Couric, several victims expressed their emotions on the day that the 70-year-old Madoff pled guilty and was sent to jail, most likely for the remainder of his life. Their emotions ranged from hopeful to frustrated, with much of the frustration now aimed at the U.S. Government.
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Somali's Recruited for Terrorism?

American Somali youths aren't seen posing major risk

LA Times — There is no evidence that radicalized Somali American youths who have disappeared over the last two years are being trained abroad to attack the United States, intelligence and law enforcement officials told members of a Senate panel Wednesday.
Although worrisome, their apparent recruitment by the Shabab , a militant group linked to Al Qaeda, is more likely to signify that they are motivated to help their country fight against Ethiopians, who invaded the country in 2006.
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FBI Sheds Light On Missing Somali-Americans

NPR — It started about two years ago.
Somali-American youth in Minneapolis would suddenly go missing, telling their parents they were going out with friends or just off to do some laundry — only to board planes to Africa. About 20 young men have disappeared so far, and they are believed to have traveled to Somalia to join a terrorist group.
NPR first reported this story in January and on Wednesday law enforcement officials told Congress how they think the young men are recruited and what threat they might pose to the United States.
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Somali Americans Recruited by Extremists

Washington Post — Senior U.S. counterterrorism officials are stepping up warnings that Islamist extremists in Somalia are radicalizing Americans to their cause, citing their recruitment of the first U.S. citizen suicide bomber and their potential role in the disappearance of more than a dozen Somali American youths.
In recent public statements, the director of national intelligence and the leaders of the FBI and CIA have cited the case of Shirwa Ahmed, a 27-year-old college student from Minneapolis who blew himself up in Somalia on Oct. 29 in one of five simultaneous bombings attributed to al-Shabaab, a group with close links to al-Qaeda.
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U.S. China Relation

U.S.-China spat complicates minister's visit

Reuters — The United States accused China on Tuesday of adopting a more aggressive military stance in the South China Sea as a naval confrontation sparked anger in Beijing and raised tension ahead of a U.S. visit by China's foreign minister.
The incident involving five Chinese ships and a U.S. Navy survey vessel threatened to further complicate ties between the two powers as they wrestle with a joint response to the global economic crisis and prepare for the G20 summit in London next month.
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Yang urges U.S. to stop meddling in China's internal affairs

Xinhua — Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Wednesday urged the United States to stop meddling in China's internal affairs through the Tibet issue.
During his talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Yang reaffirmed the principled position of the Chinese government on Tibet-related issues, expressing the Chinese side's resolute opposition and strong indignation over some recent statements made by the U.S. administration and over the adoption on Wednesday by the U.S. House of Representatives of a resolution on Tibet introduced by a handful of anti-China U.S. congressmen.
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Trade: nightmare of a US-China protectionist war

Guardian UK — A full-blown trade war between the United States and China would dislocate the global financial system. To get an idea of what would happen, consider America's 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which heralded the Great Depression.
The legislation was brazen protectionism, introduced in the wake of the 1929 Wall Street crash, and saw the US hike tariffs on more than 20,000 imported goods to record levels. It was introduced despite a plea by leading American economists who signed a petition asking the government to have second thoughts. Within weeks of it being passed by Congress, America's trading partners retaliated with their own increased tariffs on US goods and American exports and imports plunged by more than half. In the opinion of most economists, the measure was a catalyst for the severe reduction in world trade, which crashed by 66% between 1929 and 1934.
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dalai Lama marks 50 years of protest

Dalai Lama Decries 'Brutal Crackdown'

Forbes — The anniversary that Chinese leaders dreaded most this year has arrived, and the Dalai Lama is not letting anyone forget.
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader marked the 50th anniversary of a March 10, 1959, attempted uprising against Communist rule on Tuesday by accusing Beijing of making life in Tibet unbearable over half a century of destructive campaigns, including the Cultural Revolution and repeated security crackdowns.
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Dalai Lama lashes out at Beijing

Radio Netherlands — Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has lashed out at the Chinese government. He said that hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have died as a result of Chinese rule, and accuses the authorities in Beijing of turning Tibet into a hell on earth. The Dalai Lama made his remarks on the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising that forced the Tibetan leader to flee into exile.
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Tibetans are unhappy when Dalai Lama tells lies

Tibet News — To Tibetan car dealer Purbu, the Dalai Lama always seems unhappy when Tibetans are really happy.
When knowing the recent claim of the monk that Tibetans are becoming more unhappy about the government, Purbu scorned "it is all imaginary and false."
"How can Tibetans be unhappy when the economy develops so fast with the support from the central government?" said Purbu, a car dealing company manager in Lhasa.
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Salmonella in Peanuts

FDA issues peanut safety guidelines for foodmakers

Reuters — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued safety guidelines for companies that use peanut products on Tuesday and said it may seize products that test positive for salmonella bacteria.
While heat-sensitive, salmonella bacteria become heat-resistant in high-fat environments such as peanut butter, the FDA guidance advises.
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Salmonella recall could cost peanut producers $1B

Fox KMPH — A congressional panel holds hearings Wednesday on how peanut farmers and small businesses from food stores to restaurants are being hurt by the nationwide peanut scare.
According to advance testimony obtained by The Associated Press, the head of the Georgia Peanut Commission says it could cost peanut producers $1 billion in lost production and sales.
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Salmonella spurs changes in Ga. food inspection

Forbes — Spurred by a deadly salmonella outbreak traced to a Georgia peanut processing plant, the state's lawmakers have sought to toughen food safety standards they say could have stemmed the spread of the illness.
The House unanimously adopted a proposal Tuesday that gives state agriculture officials power to deputize local health inspectors so they can quickly probe potential trouble spots. The state Department of Agriculture complained loudly after the outbreak that its 60 inspectors are stretched thin, trying to monitor some 16,000 sites throughout Georgia.
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Budgets and Politics

Republicans’ McConnell Seeks to Say Yes to Obama on Something

Bloomberg — Mitch McConnell, the most powerful Republican in the U.S. Senate, has so far had one word for President Barack Obama’s agenda: No.
Now, with his party being battered as rejectionist, the Kentucky lawmaker says he’s looking for something he can say yes to. The Senate minority leader, who has opposed every major Obama initiative since the president took office, says he sees the opportunity for agreement in areas such as foreign policy and overhauling Social Security.
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A party waver over President Barack Obama's $3.5 trillion budget

NY Daily News — After proposing the biggest, most ambitious federal budget in history, President Obama isn't too worried Republicans will get in his way.
It's Democrats who could give him the biggest headache.
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GOP Looks to Escalate Attacks on Obama

Washington Post — Last month, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) repeatedly excoriated House Democrats for what he considered flaws in the economic stimulus plan, rarely mentioning President Obama, one of the chief architects of the bill.
But as Congress considers a bill to fund federal agencies, legislation largely hashed out last year before Obama was elected, Boehner has shifted his aim from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other.
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Education Reforms

Obama makes call for sweeping education reform

CNN — President Obama began to flesh out the details of one of his signature campaign promises Tuesday, outlining his plan for a major overhaul of the country's education system.
"We have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short and other nations outpace us," Obama said in an address to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "The time for finger-pointing is over. The time for holding ourselves accountable is here."
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Obama Says Better Education Tied to Economic Growth

Bloomberg — President Barack Obama said he will seek tougher standards in schools, merit pay for teachers and reduced high-school dropout rates in a bid for a more educated and competitive workforce in a contracting economy.
“Economic progress and educational achievement have always gone hand-in-hand in America,” Obama told the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce today in his first major address on education since becoming president. “The future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens.”
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Education Push Includes Merit Pay

Wall Street Journal — President Barack Obama laid out his "cradle to career" agenda for education Tuesday, including a controversial plan to boost pay for teachers who excel.
In a speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Obama said he backs the idea of merit pay for the best school teachers.
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