Weekend News Digest: 43 Stories

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 World climate change protests kick off

By RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press Writer

1 hour, 33 minutes ago

LONDON – Skiers, fire-eaters and an ice sculptor joined in worldwide demonstrations Saturday to draw attention to climate change and push their governments to take stronger action to fight global warming.

From costume parades in the Philippines to a cyclist’s protest in London, marches were held in more than 50 cities around the world to coincide with the two-week U.N. Climate Change Conference, which runs through Friday in Bali, Indonesia.

Hundreds of people rallied in the Philippine capital, Manila, wearing miniature windmills atop hats, or framing their faces in cardboard cutouts of the sun.

2 Hollywood on strike: Impasse in 5th week

By LYNN ELBER, AP Television Writer

2 hours, 10 minutes ago

LOS ANGELES – A few days ago, hopes were high that a deal to end a costly five-week strike by thousands of Hollywood writers was imminent. But optimism that writers and producers would soon sign a new pact all but crumbled Friday, as talks broke down and the sides blamed each other for the stalled negotiations that have sidelined many prime-time and late-night TV shows.

“We’re puzzled and disheartened by an ongoing WGA (Writers Guild of America) negotiating strategy that seems designed to delay or derail talks rather than facilitate an end to this strike,” the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said in a statement.

In response, the guild said the chief alliance negotiator, Nick Counter, slammed the door on bargaining after presenting an ultimatum and before the union could respond to his latest proposal regarding crucial new-media compensation issues.

3 Guantanamo: Legal no-man’s land?

By ANDREW O. SELSKY, Associated Press Writer

1 hour, 10 minutes ago

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Guantanamo Bay, the only U.S. military base in a country that has no diplomatic relations with Washington, is a concentrated slice of Americana: The Star Spangled Banner blares from loudspeakers every morning as soldiers outside Starbucks stand at attention.

U.S. law protects endangered iguanas on the naval base, but the Supreme Court is struggling to determine whether it also applies to the 305 men imprisoned there.

In the balance hangs America’s traditional reputation for justice for all.

Leased by Cuba to the United States 104 years ago under an agreement that can be broken only by mutual consent, the base is firmly in Washington’s hands, much to Fidel Castro’s annoyance. Washington pays $4,085 a year in rent for the 29,000 acres of cactus-studded hills and pristine deepwater bay, but Castro refuses to cash the checks and recently said the U.S. is illegally occupying the base and using it for “dirty work.”

4 "Returned-from-dead" canoeist charged

Reuters

54 minutes ago

LONDON (Reuters) – A man who “returned from the dead” after apparently being lost at sea in a canoeing accident five years ago was charged by police on Saturday with obtaining money by deception and making a false declaration to get a passport.

The charges come after a week of revelations that began with John Darwin, 57, walking into a London police station claiming amnesia and ended with his wife Anne telling newspapers she had hidden him at the family home during the missing years.

Anne Darwin described how her husband had avoided discovery by using a small passage to an apartment in an adjoining house owned by the couple.

5 California diocese leaves Episcopals in historic split

By Adam Tanner, Reuters

26 minutes ago

FRESNO, California (Reuters) – An entire California diocese of the U.S. Episcopal Church voted to secede on Saturday in a historic split following years of disagreement over the church’s expanding support for gay and women’s rights.

Clergy and lay representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno in central California, voted to leave the church, which has been in significant upheaval since 2003 when U.S. Episcopals consecrated their first openly gay bishop.

The vote on the key secession amendment was 173 delegates in favor, with 22 against, far more than the two-thirds majority needed. After later voting to align itself with the conservative Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, based in South America, delegates rose and applauded enthusiastically.

6 Gates says Iran still a threat

By Kristin Roberts, Reuters

Sat Dec 8, 2:46 AM ET

MANAMA (Reuters) – Iran poses a threat to the United States and the Middle East despite a U.S. intelligence assessment that Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday.

In a speech to the Manama Dialogue security conference in Bahrain, the Pentagon chief argued Iran still has the capability to restart its weapons program and continues to enrich uranium, an essential part of atomic weapons development.

He also accused Iran of actively supporting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Islamist groups Hezbollah and Hamas, and that its missile program poses a wider threat throughout the region.

7 U.S. intel report on Iran was political: Bolton

Reuters

1 hour, 41 minutes ago

BERLIN (Reuters) – U.S. intelligence services were seeking to influence political policy-making with their assessment Iran had halted its nuclear arms program in 2003, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said.

Der Spiegel magazine quoted Bolton Saturday as saying the aim of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), contradicting his and President George W. Bush’s own oft-stated position, was not to provide the latest intelligence on Iran.

“This is politics disguised as intelligence,” Bolton was quoted as saying in an article appearing in next week’s edition.

Bolton described the NIE, released Monday, as a “quasi-putsch” by the agencies, Der Spiegel said.

8 Democrats’ fury grows over destroyed tapes

By Randall Mikkelsen and Tabassum Zakaria, Reuters

Sat Dec 8, 12:39 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats charged cover-up and demanded investigations into the CIA’s destruction of videotapes showing terrorism suspects being subjected to severe interrogation techniques.

The United States has been widely criticized by European allies and human rights groups for methods like “waterboarding” in which prisoners are made to fear that they are drowning.

President George W. Bush, who has repeatedly said the United States does not torture, had no recollection of being told about the tapes or their destruction, the White House said.

9 Troops close in on Taliban town, NATO soldier killed: ministry

by Nasrat Shoaib, AFP

17 minutes ago

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) – Troops closed in on a Taliban-held town Saturday as a major operation to reclaim the area killed 15 including a NATO soldier and two children, the defence ministry said.

Ground troops were approaching Musa Qala from three directions, the ministry said, after deploying from helicopters Friday to kick-off a long-awaited assault to eject Taliban rebels who stormed in 10 months ago.

The two children were killed when the vehicle they were travelling in was caught up in a firefight, ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi told reporters, adding five civilians were also wounded.

10 Catholics mark 150th anniversary of Lourdes apparitions

by Alexandra Lesieur AFP

21 minutes ago

LOURDES, France (AFP) – Catholics began marking Saturday 150 years since a young shepherdess saw visions of the Virgin Mary, with thousands of pilgrims expected at her shrine at Lourdes over the next year, including Pope Benedict XVI.

The celebrations, coinciding with the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a key date in the Catholic calendar, began with a mass celebrated by Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias before some 20,000 faithful, including 400 priests, bishops and other cardinals.

It was followed by the solemn opening of the gates leading to the pilgrim trail to the holy places where Bernadette Soubirous lived and experienced 18 apparitions of the mother of Jesus Christ between February and July 1858.

11 If online worlds collide, some hope for big bang of sales

By Tom A. Peter, The Christian Science Monitor

Fri Dec 7, 3:00 AM ET

When online role-playing games first appeared, they offered people a chance to escape the daily grind and do something different, like slaying an ogre. Then something changed: These fantasy three-dimensional games got real.

Virtual worlds like Second Life and There appeared where residents used 3-D versions of themselves to do, well, pretty much what they’d do in real life, like get ice cream or shop for clothes. Soon real-world retailers, corporate training firms, even banks opened branches in virtual worlds to market real goods and services.

There’s just one problem for these virtual wannabes: They can only set up shop one world at a time. Each new virtual space means building a storefront, the equivalent of making a new Web page for every brand of Web browser.

12 Bush takes steps to solve loan crisis

By Mark Trumbull, The Christian Science Monitor

Fri Dec 7, 3:00 AM ET

With foreclosures reaching new heights, a downturn in housing has become a problem for the whole economy, not just for troubled subprime borrowers.

That’s why President Bush announced Thursday a voluntary private-sector plan to freeze interest rates for many borrowers at risk of losing their homes.

The problem: Economists say the freeze is only a partial answer to the challenge.

13 Romney moves to allay Mormon concerns directly

By Linda Feldmann, The Christian Science Monitor

Fri Dec 7, 3:00 AM ET

Washington – In an echo of John F. Kennedy’s election-eve address on Catholicism 47 years ago, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sought to allay concerns Thursday over his Mormon faith before an audience of invited guests at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.

Without delving into the specifics of Mormon doctrine, Mr. Romney invoked the Founding Fathers in asserting the nation’s religious underpinnings, called for religious tolerance, and highlighted the “common creed of moral convictions” within the varied theologies of American churches.

And, just as the future President Kennedy promised in 1960 that he would not accept instruction from the pope, Romney promised that as president he would answer to “no one religion.”

14 Ahmadinejad: rock star in rural Iran

By Scott Peterson, The Christian Science Monitor

Fri Dec 7, 3:00 AM ET

Birjand and Bideskan, Iran – Shoes off, and packed so tightly in a mosque that they sweat in the chilly night, several thousand men in eastern Iran await their hero. The air is electric.

When he arrives, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is greeted like a rock star: with a collective inhale the crowd jumps up to catch a glimpse of the firebrand populist. “Sit down! Sit down!” a cleric implores, as laudatory whistling intensifies. “The friend of the Imam [Mahdi] has come!”

While Mr. Ahmadinejad is under attack across Iran’s political spectrum for his economic policies and unyielding nuclear rhetoric, even his detractors say these frequent visits to Iran’s provinces are shrewd politics that give him a serious shot at reelection in 2009.

And that’s just the top stories!

Lots of news today and I’m running slightly behind, so I’m going to ‘rolling publish’ with updates for the next little bit as I get the sections put together.

The Christian Science Monitor pieces are always interesting, because they have good reporting and a particular point of view.

From Yahoo News Most Popular, Most Recommended

15 Embattled State Department inspector general resigns

By Warren P. Strobel, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri Dec 7, 2:32 PM ET

WASHINGTON – Embattled State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard submitted his resignation Friday, forced out for allegedly impeding ongoing criminal investigations into the construction of a new, $740 million U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and security firm Blackwater Worldwide.

A State Department official said that Krongard had become a political liability, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice , through aides, asked him this week to leave. The official insisted on anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak about personnel matters.

An abrasive attorney who once reportedly referred to himself as an “equal-opportunity abuser,” Krongard came under fire from his own investigators and from a congressional panel for allegedly blocking probes into serious claims of wrongdoing in Iraq.

16 All nations must join climate fight: Bali draft

By Alister Doyle and Gerard Wynn

Sat Dec 8, 9:44 AM ET

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) – All nations must do more to fight climate change, and rich countries must make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts, a draft proposal at United Nations talks said on Saturday.

The four-page draft, written by delegates from Indonesia, Australia and South Africa as an unofficial guide for delegates from 190 nations at the December 3-14 talks, said developing nations should at least brake rising emissions as part of a new pact.

It said there was “unequivocal scientific evidence” that “preventing the worst impacts of climate change will require (developed nations) to reduce emissions in a range of 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.”

17 Canadian retail chain pulls plastic water bottles

By Claire Sibonney

Fri Dec 7, 5:20 PM ET

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada’s largest outdoor-goods chain has pulled water bottles and food containers made of polycarbonate plastic from its shelves over worries about the chemical bisphenol A, which has been linked to cancer and reproductive problems in animals.

Vancouver-based Mountain Equipment Co-op became the first major Canadian retailer to stop selling products that contain bisphenol A over fears the chemical can leach from plastic food and water containers.

“Inconclusive science and regulatory uncertainty presently surrounds bisphenol-A (BPA),” the company said in a statement.

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18 Huckabee wanted to isolate AIDS patients

By ANDREW DeMILLO, Associated Press Writer

1 hour, 35 minutes ago

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Mike Huckabee once advocated isolating AIDS patients from the general public, opposed increased federal funding in the search for a cure and said homosexuality could “pose a dangerous public health risk.”

As a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in 1992, Huckabee answered 229 questions submitted to him by The Associated Press. Besides a quarantine, Huckabee suggested that Hollywood celebrities fund AIDS research from their own pockets, rather than federal health agencies.

“If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague,” Huckabee wrote.

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19 Record-size spitting cobra found in Kenya

By Nicolo Gnecchi, Reuters

Fri Dec 7, 1:21 PM ET

NAIROBI (Reuters) – A new species of giant spitting cobra, measuring nearly nine feet and possessing enough venom to kill at least 15 people, has been discovered in Kenya, a conservation group said on Friday.

WildlifeDirect said the cobras were the world’s largest and had been identified as unique. The species has been named Naja Ashei after James Ashe, who founded Bio-Ken snake farm on Kenya’s tropical coast where the gigantic serpents are found.

“A new species of giant spitting cobra is exciting and reinforces the obvious — that there have to be many other unreported species but hundreds are being lost as their habitats disappear under the continued mismanagement of our planet,” said the group’s chairman, Kenyan environmentalist Richard Leakey.

20 Best Meteor Shower of 2007 Peaks Dec. 13

Joe Rao, SPACE.com Skywatching Columnist

Fri Dec 7, 9:01 AM ET

What could be the best meteor display of the year will reach its peak on the night of Dec.13-14.

Here is what astronomers David Levy and Stephen Edberg have written of the annual Geminid Meteor Shower: “If you have not seen a mighty Geminid fireball arcing gracefully across an expanse of sky, then you have not seen a meteor.”

The Geminids get their name from the constellation of Gemini, the Twins, because the meteors appear to emanate from a spot in the sky near the bright star Castor in Gemini.

From Yahoo News World

21 Suicide bomber strikes Iraqi oil hub

By SAMEER N. YACOUB, Associated Press Writer

57 minutes ago

BAGHDAD – A suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden truck filled with sand struck a police station north of Baghdad on Saturday, the latest in a week of bombings that have killed nearly 80 people.

The truck was allowed through the main gate of the complex in Beiji, the site of Iraq’s largest refinery, after the driver told the guards he was delivering the sand to a construction site inside. The driver detonated his payload when two policemen approached him as he tried to enter a parking lot, police said.

The blast, which damaged nearby homes and sent shards of glass flying through the air, killed eight people and wounded 16, police said. It occurred in a neighborhood that is home to many refinery workers and engineers, but apparently was targeting the station.

22 Pakistan says militants on the run

By STEPHEN GRAHAM, Associated Press Writer

1 hour, 34 minutes ago

MINGORA, Pakistan – The Pakistani army has driven Islamic militants from all the towns in a scenic northern valley and killed 290 of the followers of a pro-Taliban cleric who has called for a holy war against the government, a general said Saturday.

The militants, followers of firebrand preacher Maulana Fazlullah, had taken control of at least eight towns in the Swat valley since July, scattering outgunned police and erecting “Taliban station” signboards outside former police stations.

Officials accuse them of imposing a reign of terror, shuttering schools for girls and beheading locals who opposed them. Their seizure of the region demonstrated the government’s feeble control in Pakistan’s remote areas.

23 Amazon still faces threats old and new

By MICHAEL ASTOR, Associated Press Writer

2 hours, 22 minutes ago

MANAUS, Brazil – In the 1980s, scientists sounded the alarm: The Amazon was burning and would be gone by the end of the century.

Two decades later, the dire predictions have not come to pass. Around 80 percent of the world’s largest remaining tropical wilderness is still standing – a vast carpet of green crisscrossed by the Amazon river and its 1,100 tributaries.

But scientists warn that the destruction only has slowed, and a Connecticut-sized chunk disappears every year for ranching, farming, and logging.

24 Independence jitters grip Kosovo

By WILLIAM J. KOLE, Associated Press Writer

1 hour, 52 minutes ago

CAMP NOTHING HILL, Serbia – Suddenly, they’re almost everywhere: NATO peacekeepers patrolling Kosovo in trucks and Humvees. The increased presence is intended to reassure, but it’s rattling nerves as the breakaway province gears up for independence.

“There’s tension in the air – especially at night,” said Dragan Jovanovic, 41, who lives in Sainovica, a Serb village in western Kosovo that is surrounded by ethnic Albanian settlements in a valley lined by a rugged range of snowcapped peaks known as the Cursed Mountains.

With some Serbian officials threatening violence if Kosovo declares statehood early next year, there are fears that things could go badly again in the Balkans. And if there is trouble, it is likely to happen here first, along northern Kosovo’s desolate border with the rest of Serbia.

25 Serbia calls for more Kosovo talks in Belgrade

By Ellie Tzortzi, Reuters

Sat Dec 8, 10:58 AM ET

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serb Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica on Saturday warned Kosovo Albanians against an “illegal” declaration of independence and called for talks on the territory’s future to resume.

He proposed new talks be held in Kosovo and Serbia instead of abroad. Almost 18 months of mediated talks, mostly in Vienna but also Brussels and London, have failed to reach an accord.

“Serbia wants to negotiate and it’s essential that a political and democratic settlement … is found through talks,” Kostunica told Serbian state news agency Tanjug.

26 South Korea’s worst oil spill blackens coast

By Jo Yong-hak, Reuters

Sat Dec 8, 5:35 AM ET

TAEAN, South Korea (Reuters) – South Korean workers using skimmers and containment fences battled on Saturday to clean up the worst oil spill in the country’s history, as the slick washed ashore near a nature preserve on the west coast.

Parts of about 17 kms (11 miles) of coastline about 100 km southwest of Seoul have already been blackened by oil, the coast guard said. More of the spill is expected on Sunday to hit the area that has marine farms and oyster beds.

“We are taking all measures to prevent that from happening,” said Song Myeong-dal, head of the maritime ministry’s Information and Policy Monitoring team.

27 US justice officials to probe CIA interrogation tapes

AFP

32 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US justice officials announced on Saturday a preliminary inquiry into the CIA’s destruction of videotapes showing harsh interrogations of Al-Qaeda operatives.

The inquiry will be carried out jointly with the Central Intelligence Agency’s internal watchdog and would determine whether a full-blown investigation was needed, the Justice Department said in a statement.

“The Department of Justice and the CIA announced today that the Justice Department’s National Security Division initiated a preliminary inquiry in conjunction with the CIA’s Office of Inspector General regarding the destruction of the interrogation videos” described two days ago by the CIA director, it said.

28 No more independence talks with Serbia, say Kosovo Albanians

by Ismet Hajdari, AFP

15 minutes ago

PRISTINA, Serbia (AFP) – Ethnic Albanians in Serbia’s breakaway province of Kosovo said Saturday they had no time to spare for eagerly awaited independence as international mediators said they see no solution to the delicate issue of Kosovo’s future status.

“It is useless to hope that Serbia will accept an independent Kosovo, so our leaders have to act on their own and declare independence by the end of the year,” said 64-year pensioner Beqir Hajrullahu.

The troika of international mediators in the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo said in their report to the United Nations Friday that 120 days of talks between Belgrade and Pristina officials failed to solve the issue of Kosovo’s future status of Kosovo.

29 U.S., Iraqi government at odds over Sunni volunteers in Baghdad neighborhood

By Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri Dec 7, 6:11 PM ET

BAGHDAD – The Baghdad neighborhood of Saidiyah is becoming the focal point of a growing battle between the U.S. military and the U.S.-backed Iraqi government over the burgeoning number of U.S.-financed armed groups known as “concerned local citizens.”

U.S. officers in the neighborhood said that the Shiite Muslim-led government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki is undermining American efforts to bolster the volunteers, who are predominantly Sunni Muslims. At the same time, U.S. soldiers acknowledged that some of the volunteers could be sympathizers of al Qaida in Iraq and other anti-government organizations.

Saidiyah, in southwest Baghdad , remains a battle zone between Sunni and Shiite forces in a capital where sectarian cleansing has turned most formerly mixed neighborhoods into either Sunni or Shiite enclaves.

30 In Afghanistan, a Do-Over Battle

By TONY KARON, Time Magazine

Sat Dec 8, 11:40 AM ET

The spectacle of fierce fighting around a dusty Afghan town, with well-armed Western troops, backed by helicopters and Afghan allies, bearing down on hundreds of dug-in Taliban fighters, would seem to date from late 2001. The fact that it’s unfolding this weekend at Musa Qala in southeastern Afghanistan – a full six years after the Taliban was first routed by coalition forces – is a reminder of how difficult the war is proving for the the U.S. and its allies.

The town, where some 2,000 Taliban fighters are believed to be holed up, was surrounded on Friday by British and Afghan forces, in preparation for an airborne assault by U.S. troops expected overnight in a drive to recapture the town. Musa Qala was captured by the Taliban in February of this year, without a shot being fired – they simply rolled into town and planted their flag after British forces withdrew, having brokered an agreement with local tribal elders to keep the peace. And the radical movement fighting to expel foreign forces from Afghanistan and reimpose its harsh brand of Islamic rule has held the town ever since.

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31 Why They Love Huckabee

By DAVID VON DREHLE, Time Magazine

Fri Dec 7, 1:10 PM ET

Once upon a time, a little-known Southern Governor charmed Iowa voters with his frank expressions of Baptist faith and a pledge to tell the truth no matter what. And that’s how Jimmy Carter became President of the United States. It’s a story Mike Huckabee knows well. He likes it much better than the one about televangelist Pat Robertson’s strong showing in Iowa, which melted away faster than a Tulsa ice storm when the contest went national. The Iowa caucuses almost always produce an interesting tale, but interesting doesn’t translate into lasting significance. As Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher and Governor of Arkansas, surges to the front of the Republican field here, the question looms: Which storybook ending lies ahead? Is he Carter or Robertson?

32 Romney’s Risky Faith Gambit

By AMY SULLIVAN/WASHINGTON, Time Magazine

Fri Dec 7, 1:05 PM ET

Speaking at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas Thursday morning, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney countered questions about his Mormon faith by throwing down an implicit question of his own to religious conservatives: Who are you more afraid of – Mormons or secularists?
From Yahoo News Politics

33 Schilling pitches McCain for president

By The Associated Press

Sat Dec 8, 12:05 PM ET

It may not be Oprah endorsing Obama, but Schilling is a heroic figure in New England. Question is can a baseball pitcher with more than 200 victories and a bloody sock in the Hall of Fame deliver votes for McCain in Red Sox-crazy New Hampshire. The state is a crucial contest in the GOP presidential nomination and a World Series champion can’t hurt.

34 Four British-linked Guantanamo inmates to be freed: lawyer

AFP

2 hours, 25 minutes ago

LONDON (AFP) – Four British-linked detainees in Guantanamo Bay are to be released, their lawyer said Saturday, insisting they pose no threat to security here as rights campaigners renewed calls for the US camp’s closure.

Laywer Clive Stafford Smith confirmed a report by the BBC that all but one of five inmates who were previously resident in Britain are set to be freed, although he would not forecast when.

“There’s no doubt that the agreement has been struck, that they will return home, the question is, when?” he said. “There’s no reason why they couldn’t come home tomorrow, but the US are insisting on a lot of red tape.”

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35 States’ investment strategy scrutinized

By JOE BEL BRUNO, AP Business Writer

Sat Dec 8, 6:21 AM ET

NEW YORK – State treasurers from Florida to Maine to Montana have found themselves in the awkward position this past week of having to explain why they parked taxpayer money in some of the most opaque investments on Wall Street.

More than a dozen state-run cash pools that manage money for local governments have some exposure to mortgage-related and other high-risk holdings that roiled credit markets this past summer, according to rating agency Standard & Poor’s.

The fear now is that the same subprime-mortgage turmoil that triggered multi-billion-dollar writedowns for Wall Street’s biggest banks might trickle down to teachers, civil servants and even the vendors delivering supplies to schools because of the way public funds were invested.

36 Convicted newspaper baron faces prison

By MIKE ROBINSON, AP Legal Affairs Writer

Sat Dec 8, 12:20 AM ET

CHICAGO – Conrad Black, the brash media mogul who vacationed in Bora Bora, rode around London in a Rolls Royce and ended up convicted of swindling shareholders out of millions of dollars, is headed for prison where inmates are paid 12 cents an hour for such jobs as washing windows and mopping floors.

Strong willed, possessed of a powerful ego and given to dizzying flights of rhetoric, the 63-year-old British baron known as Lord Black of Crossharbour is expected to be sentenced Monday. Federal prosecutors say the sentence could be as much as 24 to 30 years, though a recent court filing suggested he could get a more lenient term.

Any stay in the pen will be an inglorious next step for a man who famously brushed aside questions about his expenses as boss of the Hollinger International Inc. newspaper holding company.

37 Stocks sputter after November job report

By JOE BEL BRUNO, AP Business Writer

Sat Dec 8, 12:38 AM ET

NEW YORK – Wall Street paused from its big rally Friday, with stocks closing narrowly mixed after the government’s November labor report showed tepid job growth as well as a pickup in inflation. The major indexes ended the week higher, with the Dow Jones industrials having gained nearly 900 points over nine trading days.

The Labor Department reported 94,000 jobs were added to payrolls in November and that the unemployment rate held steady at 4.7 percent. Thomson/IFR analysts had set a median projection of 100,000 new jobs. The report also showed that average hourly earnings increased 0.5 percent in November, compared with forecasts for a more-modest 0.3 percent.

The report at least temporarily chilled a rally that has left the Dow only 538 points, or 3.8 percent, below the record close it reached on Oct. 9.

38 James Murdoch steps up as News Corp heir apparent

By Kate Holton and Kenneth Li, Reuters

Fri Dec 7, 12:51 PM ET

LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Rupert Murdoch’s younger son James is to return to News Corp (NWSa.N) to head its Asian and European operations cementing his position to eventually take over the global media empire.

Murdoch, 34, will become chairman and chief executive of Europe and Asia at News Corporation, taking charge of its broadcasting, print and Internet divisions including Hong Kong-based Star TV, Britain’s Sun newspaper and Sky Italia.

He will rejoin the News Corp board and step down as chief executive of Britain’s pay-TV firm BSkyB (BSY.L), but remain with BSkyB as non-executive chairman, replacing his 76-year-old father Rupert. BSkyB Finance Director Jeremy Darroch will become CEO.

39 Two French rail unions announce new strike

AFP

23 minutes ago

PARIS (AFP) – Two French rail unions, including the biggest, on Saturday announced a new nationwide 24-hour strike next week to push for more concessions in ongoing talks over pension reform.

A spokesman for the General Labour Confederation (CGT), the largest union representing workers at the French state rail company SNCF, said the grass-roots momentum for a new strike could not be resisted.

The strike from 1900 GMT Wednesday to 1900 GMT Thursday will follow on from a similar 24-hour walkout for the previous day called by the CGT on the Paris transport system of metro trains, buses and trams known as the RATP.

40 China to raise bank reserve ratio requirement to 14.5 percent

AFP

2 hours, 31 minutes ago

BEIJING (AFP) – China’s central bank announced Saturday it will raise the bank reserve ratio requirement by a full percentage point to 14.5 percent on December 25.

The People’s Bank of China made the move “in order to strengthen the management of liquidity in the banking system and curb the excessive growth of credit,” it said in a statement on its website.

State-run Xinhua news agency called the new rate an all-time high.

The rise in the requirement, the 10th this year, had been widely expected following exceptionally strong recent economic growth and inflation data and a government vow last week to adopt “tight” fiscal policies.

From Yahoo News Science

41 Idaho test reactor opens to universities

By KEITH RIDLER, Associated Press Writer

Sat Dec 8, 5:28 AM ET

BOISE, Idaho – The U.S. Department of Energy is making available to university researchers a nuclear reactor test facility in southeast Idaho so they might learn how to build better nuclear power plants.

The Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Test Reactor earlier this week issued a call for proposals from universities to conduct irradiation experiments.

“There has been a resurgence of interest in commercial nuclear power,” Ivonne Couret, public affairs officer with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “The NRC has been very busy and has had an increase of applications received and expects to receive more in 2008.”

42 Afghans close road to save minarets

Reuters

Sat Dec 8, 2:15 AM ET

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan has closed a road that threatened the foundation of a group of mediaeval minarets which Kabul wants to see listed among the World’s Cultural Heritage sites.

The minarets, standing at more than 100 feet, are all that remain of what was once a brilliantly decorated complex for Islamic learning and devotion along the Silk Road on the outskirts of the western city of Herat.

Just over a century ago, more than a dozen minarets stood in Herat, part of a madrasa-mosque complex built in the 15th century.

43 Asian nations warn of coral ‘mass extinction’

by Sebastien Blanc, AFP

2 hours, 42 minutes ago

NUSA DUA (AFP) – Asian delegates at UN climate change talks have renewed calls to protect the region’s huge stock of coral reefs, partly blaming global warming for their alarming decline.

Six Southeast Asian and Pacific nations have launched a joint initiative to save the ‘coral triangle’ which contains more than half the world’s reefs, considered building blocks for marine life.

“I regret to say that marine resources of our countries and our regions are threatened by climate change, destructive fishing and pollution,” said Freddy Numberi, Indonesia’s Minister of Maritime Affairs.

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  1. Don’t wait for me.

    Feel free to comment on what you see.

  2. Please take this badge and put it on your own blog until the strike is over.  Show support and solidarity for the writers.

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  3. check out my first essay posted here. Thanks, Tom.

    http://docudharma.com/show

  4. One of my best and most interesting ever.  I’m tempted to crosspost, but they’ll be all like Ophra/Obama and won’t want to talk about anything else.

    Still, if Magnifico needed a vacation…

    • nocatz on December 8, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    may help detainees get a trial.

    And for the new giant cobra, a room with:

    ________

    fill in your favorite

  5. Thanks, I like getting info at one location & then be able to go the respective articles.

    Thanks, between you & Magnifico, the varied current affairs stories are a welcome break from Oprahma & Orange acid.

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