Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread!

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1 Al-Qaida’s stance on women sparks extremist debate

By LAUREN FRAYER, Associated Press Writer

1 hour, 31 minutes ago

CAIRO, Egypt – Muslim extremist women are challenging al-Qaida’s refusal to include – or at least acknowledge – women in its ranks, in an emotional debate that gives rare insight into the gender conflicts lurking beneath one of the strictest strains of Islam.

In response to a female questioner, al-Qaida No. 2 leader Ayman Al-Zawahri said in April that the terrorist group does not have women. A woman’s role, he said on the Internet audio recording, is limited to caring for the homes and children of al-Qaida fighters.

His remarks have since prompted an outcry from fundamentalist women, who are fighting or pleading for the right to be terrorists. The statements have also created some confusion, because in fact suicide bombings by women seem to be on the rise, at least within the Iraq branch of al-Qaida.

2 China says 200,000 evacuated because of flood risk

By WILLIAM FOREMAN, Associated Press Writer

Sat May 31, 9:09 AM ET

MIANYANG, China – Chinese authorities had evacuated nearly 200,000 people by early Saturday and warned more than 1 million others to be ready to leave quickly as a lake formed by a devastating earthquake threatened to breach its dam.

The confirmed death toll from China’s worst quake in three decades was raised Saturday to 68,977, an increase of about 120 people from a day earlier. Another 17,974 people were still missing, the State Council said. The increase was the smallest since the government started issuing a daily death toll shortly after the quake hit.

Hundreds of Chinese troops have been working around the clock to drain Tangjiashan lake in Sichuan province. The lake formed above Beichuan town in the Mianyang region when a hillside plunged into a river valley during the May 12 quake that killed more than 68,000 people.

3 Analysis: US terrorism list also a political tool

By FOSTER KLUG, Associated Press Writer

Sat May 31, 9:13 AM ET

WASHINGTON – North Korea has not been linked to a terrorist attack in more than two decades, but it is still on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Now, it may be on the verge of its coveted goal of getting removed – for reasons having little to do with terrorism.

Meanwhile, Washington has what appears to be fresh evidence that Venezuela supported Colombian guerrillas that the U.S. considers terrorists. Yet the terrorism list does not include Venezuela, a major oil supplier to the United States.

Nearly three decades after its inception, the state sponsors of terrorism list is not just about terrorism. It has become a diplomatic tool to win concessions from U.S. adversaries eager to end the stigma and sanctions that come with the designation. It may also be too blunt a tool to be used against strategically important countries, even if the terrorism link appears clear-cut.

“Of course the list is political,” said Bruce Hoffman, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University.

4 Myanmar warned against premature resettlement

Associated Press

2 hours, 58 minutes ago

YANGON, Myanmar – Cyclone victims in Myanmar who leave relief camps may not receive the aid they need, making them even more vulnerable to disease and the elements, a U.N. official said Saturday following reports of forced evictions by the government.

Human rights groups have lambasted Myanmar’s military rulers, accusing them of kicking homeless cyclone survivors out of shelters. The U.S. defense secretary said the junta’s blockage of international help has cost “tens of thousands of lives.”

The sharp criticism came a day after a U.N. official reported the government was evicting cyclone victims from camps and “dumping” them near their destroyed villages with virtually no supplies a month after the storm unleashed its fury.

5 Sadrists want referendum on US-Iraq pact

By BUSHRA JUHI, Associated Press Writer

Sat May 31, 11:37 AM ET

BAGHDAD – Loyalists of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on the Iraqi government Saturday to hold a public referendum on a long-term security deal with the United States.

Widespread opposition to the deal has raised doubts that negotiators can meet a July target to finalize a pact to keep U.S. troops in Iraq after the current U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.

The U.S. military, meanwhile, said an American Marine died Friday in a non-combat related incident in Iraq, pushing the number of Americans killed this month to 21 as May draws to a close.

6 Iran says its right to enrichment is non-negotiable

Reuters

Sat May 31, 6:24 AM ET

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran will not give up its right to enrich uranium, a senior Iranian official said on Saturday, days before major powers submit an upgraded package of incentives to try to coax Tehran into halting the work.

“Suspending enrichment is not negotiable … Depriving Iran of its right cannot be on offer,” Gholamhossein Elham, the government spokesman, told a weekly news conference.

Iran has agreed to a visit by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to submit the package of incentives, in exchange for a full suspension of uranium enrichment.

7 Deal on reuniting polygamist families delayed

By Jim Forsyth, Reuters

Fri May 30, 11:26 PM ET

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – A deal to return home more than 400 children taken from a polygamist ranch in Texas was delayed on Friday after a judge refused to approve the tentative agreement, saying all parties had not agreed to terms of the pact.

State District Judge Barbara Walther in San Angelo adjourned a hearing without signing an order presented to the court earlier in the day that would have returned the children to their families as early as this weekend. The children were removed from the ranch in remote west Texas by state officials last month after allegations of abuse.

Walther told the court all parties must agree on terms of the deal over the weekend following objections lodged by some parties. She said she would reconsider the matter on Monday.

8 Anti-U.S. beef protest draws 100,000 S.Koreans

Reuters

Sat May 31, 8:52 AM ET

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean students, parents with toddlers in tow, and union members took to the streets on Saturday in a massive protest against a government decision to resume imports of U.S. beef that they see as dangerous.

The organizers of the candle-lit vigil said 100,000 people were at the rally that stopped traffic on the 16-lane central Seoul main thoroughfare, after more than a week of daily protests against President Lee Myung-bak.

South Korea, once the third-largest importer of U.S. beef until a 2003 outbreak of mad cow disease in the United States, said it would start quarantine inspections of U.S. beef, a move that opens its market fully for the first time in four years.

9 Myanmar junta under new pressure over cyclone victims

by Hla Hla Htay, AFP

Sat May 31, 4:01 AM ET

YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s junta Saturday came under renewed international pressure from rights groups and the US defence chief who said its slow response to the cyclone disaster had cost “tens of thousands of lives.”

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates criticised the military regime’s delay in allowing in foreign aid, saying US ships and aircraft could have swiftly brought much-needed relief to the cyclone-hit nation.

“Our ships and aircraft awaited country approval so they could act promptly to save thousands of lives — approval of the kind granted by Indonesia immediately after the 2004 tsunami and by Bangladesh after a fierce cyclone just last November,” Gates told a top-level security forum in Singapore.

10 US cancer researchers attack federal budget cuts

by Jean-Louis Santini, AFP

Sat May 31, 6:57 AM ET

CHICAGO (AFP) – Consistent reductions in US federal budget allocations for cancer research that have been implemented since 2003 threaten to undermine recent gains in the fight against the disease, scientists said.

The warning came from about 30,000 prominent US cancer researchers gathered in Chicago this weekend for the 44th annual conference of the American Society of Oncology (ASCO).

“I want to reinforce that today cancer research faces a very, very significant funding crisis,” said Friday Doctor Nancy Davidson, a professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University and current chairwoman of the society.

11 Spain, Italy, Portugal join French fishing strike over fuel prices

AFP

Fri May 30, 4:44 PM ET

MADRID (AFP) – Fishermen from Portugal, Italy and Europe’s largest fleet, Spain, began open-ended national strikes Friday, adding to growing continent-wide protests at the soaring price of fuel.

French fisherman have already been on strike for two weeks, disrupting cross-Channel ferry traffic and blocking oil facilities.

Organisers of the actions in Portugal and Spain claimed a 100 percent response to the strike call, whilst more than 10,000 Italian fishermen joined the strike, according to unions.

“Compliance is total. The entire Spanish coast is at a halt,” said Jose Caparros, a spokesman for the fishing industry in Barcelona.

12 Fishing fuel strikes, protests hold firm across Europe

AFP

Sat May 31, 10:35 AM ET

MADRID (AFP) – An all-out strike by Spanish fishermen, Europe’s largest fleet, went into a second day Saturday, as protests continued on land and at sea across Europe at rocketing fuel prices.

Almost all Portuguese trawlers were also staying in harbour, union officials said, whilst striking Italian fishermen managed to delay the start of a sailing race in the Mediterranean, ANSA news agency reported.

The rapid rise in the price of oil has pushed up the cost of marine diesel by around 30 percent since the beginning of the year, causing trawler owners to warn they face bankruptcy without increased subsidies.

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13 Bone drug Zometa helps fight breast cancer spread

By MARILYNN MARCHIONE, AP Medical Writer

2 hours, 20 minutes ago

CHICAGO – A drug to prevent bone loss during breast cancer treatment also substantially cut the risk that the cancer would return, results that left doctors excited about a possible new way to fight the disease.

It is the first large study to affirm wider anti-cancer hopes for Zometa and other bone-building drugs called bisphosphonates. Zometa, made by Novartis AG, is used now for cancers that have already spread to the bone.

The new study involved 1,800 premenopausal women taking hormone treatments for early-stage breast cancer. Zometa cut by one-third the chances that cancer would recur – in their bones or anywhere else.

14 Alzheimer’s brain plaques cleared in mice

By Anthony J. Brown, MD, Reuters

Fri May 30, 1:25 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Protein accumulations, or plaques, characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease can be eliminated from the brains of mice, researchers report, by encouraging scavenger immune cells called macrophages to do their work.

The activity of macrophages is damped down by a naturally occurring compound called TGF-beta, to stop runaway reactions, and prior research has shown that brain levels of TGF-beta are increased in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the report in the research journal Nature Medicine.

Some researchers believed that the high levels of TGF-beta were simply an attempt to quiet the inflammatory response associated with Alzheimer plaques. However, the new findings contradict that notion.

15 Survey: Americans make 41 million fewer air trips

Associated Press

Fri May 30, 3:57 PM ET

WASHINGTON – Nearly half of American air travelers would fly more if it were easier, and more than one-fourth said they skipped at least one air trip in the past 12 months because of the hassles involved, according to an industry survey.

The Travel Industry Association, which commissioned the survey released Thursday, estimated that the 41 million forgone trips cost the travel industry $18.1 billion – including $9.4 billion to airlines, $5.6 billion to hotels and $3.1 billion – and it cost federal, state and local authorities $4.2 billion in taxes in the past 12 months.

When 28 percent of air travelers avoided an average of 1.3 trips each, that resulted in 29 million leisure trips and 12 million business trips not being taken, the researchers estimated.

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16 Fox News worker sues over bedbugs in office

Reuters

Fri May 30, 1:37 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Fox News employee who says she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after being bitten by bedbugs at work filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the owner of the Manhattan office tower where she worked.

Jane Clark, 37, a 12-year veteran of Fox News, a unit of News Corp, said she complained to human resources after being bitten three times between October 2007 and April 2008. She said she was ridiculed and the office was not treated for months.

Beacon Capital Partners, which owns the tower in midtown Manhattan, said in a statement that it had not been made aware of the problem and that it was the responsibility of tenants to manage infestations.

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17 Iraq deaths down, but for how long?

By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer

58 minutes ago

BAGHDAD – U.S. military deaths plunged in May to the lowest monthly level in more than four years and civilian casualties were down sharply, too, as Iraqi forces assumed the lead in offensives in three cities and a truce with Shiite extremists took hold.

But many Iraqis as well as U.S. officials and private security analysts are uncertain whether the current lull signals a long-term trend or is simply a breathing spell like so many others before.

U.S. commanders also warn the relative peace is fragile because no lasting political agreements have been reached among the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities.

Talks on returning Sunnis to the government broke down this week, and tensions among rival Shiite parties remain high despite a May 11 truce that ended weeks of bloody fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City district.

18 111 nations, but not US, adopt cluster bomb treaty

By SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press Writer

Fri May 30, 6:00 PM ET

DUBLIN, Ireland – Chief negotiators of a landmark treaty banning cluster bombs predicted Friday that the United States will never again use the weapons, a critical component of American air and artillery power.

The treaty formally adopted Friday by 111 nations, including many of America’s major NATO partners, would outlaw all current designs of cluster munitions and require destruction of stockpiles within eight years. It also opens the possibility that European allies could order U.S. bases located in their countries to remove cluster bombs from their stocks.

The United States and other leading cluster bomb makers – Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan – boycotted the talks, emphasized they would not sign the treaty and publicly shrugged off its value. All defended the overriding military value of cluster bombs, which carpet a battlefield with dozens to hundreds of explosions.

19 Tight security for Macedonian elections

By KONSTANTIN TESTORIDES, Associated Press Writer

Sat May 31, 12:00 AM ET

SKOPJE, Macedonia – Macedonian authorities promised tight security for Sunday’s national elections at the close of a campaign marred by violence, including an assassination attempt against an ethnic Albanian opposition leader.

Interior minister Gordana Jankulovska said a “record high number” of police officers will be deployed at polling stations, especially in areas that have been hotspots in the past.

Police said at least one helicopter and a special police unit were deployed briefly Friday in the village of Vejce, near Tetovo, in the heart of the tiny Balkan country’s restless ethnic Albanian area. Police said the unit was performing routine checks on the area before Sunday’s vote. No incidents were reported.

20 Kenya police disperse food protesters

Reuters

Sat May 31, 8:59 AM ET

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenyan police fired teargas on Saturday to disperse hundreds of demonstrators protesting against high food prices in the east African country.

Food prices have risen sharply in the region’s biggest economy since a political crisis over a disputed election led to food shortages.

“The government must subsidize the cost of food, it is not fair for the poor to be suffering with high food prices yet the government has not increased salaries,” said Tom Aosa, one of the organizers.

21 Galapagos eruption no threat to giant turtles

By Alonso Soto, Reuters

Sat May 31, 12:47 AM ET

QUITO (Reuters) – A volcano in the Galapagos islands that spewed molten lava is not a threat to 100-year-old giant tortoises living around the crater, island officials said on Friday.

The 5,541-feet- (1,690-metre-) high Cerro Azul mountain started spewing lava on Thursday after 10 years of inactivity on the largest island of the Galapagos archipelago, a chain formed from volcanoes thrusting from the Pacific Ocean.

“There is no threat to the local human population … nor for the tortoise population because lava rivers are flowing in the opposite direction,” the Galapagos Park said in a statement after its rangers flew over the mountain to assess the eruption.

22 Bangladesh detains 50 grassroot leaders: police

Reuters

Sat May 31, 6:44 AM ET

DHAKA (Reuters) – Nearly 50 grassroot leaders were detained in Bangladesh late on Friday, police said, after the country’s key political parties rejected an offer of talks with the army-backed interim government on elections scheduled later this year.

Most of those detained belonged to the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the country’s two main political parties.

“It was confirmed that the detainees were trying to instigate the people against the interim-government,” a senior officer of the joint forces said on Saturday without giving details.

The Awami League and BNP are seeking the release of their respective leaders, former prime minister Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda Zia respectively. Both parties have threatened to launch countrywide protests if their leaders were not released.

23 Putin backs Abkhazia autonomy, Russian troops sent

By Gleb Bryanski, Reuters

2 hours, 50 minutes ago

PARIS (Reuters) – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he approved of a plan to give Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia autonomy but not full independence.

But Georgia accused Moscow of trying to annex the impoverished Black Sea region after Russia sent unarmed troops on Saturday to rebuild a railway in Abkhazia.

Russia called the deployment “humanitarian aid.” Georgia said on Friday it had stopped spy plane flights over Abkhazia to quell Western fears that tensions between Tbilisi and Moscow could degenerate into war.

24 Two NATO soldiers, 100 rebels killed in Afghanistan

by Sardar Ahmad, AFP

29 minutes ago

KABUL (AFP) – Two NATO soldiers were killed Saturday in a Taliban suicide car bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan, while authorities said more than 100 rebels were slain in military operations in the southwest.

Four more International Security Assistance Force soldiers and five civilians were wounded in the blast in Jalalabad, a thriving city 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the Pakistan border, the alliance and Afghan government said.

The 40-nation ISAF would not release the nationalities of its casualties, according to policy. Most foreign troops in eastern Afghanistan are US nationals.

The new deaths bring to 67 the number of international soldiers who have died in Afghanistan this year, most of them in hostile action.

25 France expresses renewed commitment to Iraq

by Herve Bar, AFP

1 hour, 45 minutes ago

BAGHDAD (AFP) – French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner arrived in Iraq on Saturday on an unannounced visit to underline the “renewed political commitment of France” to the war-ravaged nation, diplomats said.

Kouchner arrived in Nasiriyah in southern Iraq at the start of a two-day trip during which he held talks with Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi, said a diplomatic source who asked not to be named.

Mahdi, a Shiite Francophone who lived in exile in France, is one of the leaders of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), a key member of the governing coalition.

26 Ethiopian children go hungry as government response faulted

By Shashank Bengali, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri May 30, 4:02 PM ET

SHASHEMENE, Ethiopia – Nine-month-old Alfiya Galeto weighed just 10 lbs. when she arrived at the makeshift clinic here, her eyes dull and her arms as thin as drinking straws. There was no food in their village, her mother said, and for weeks she’d been fed nothing but breast milk.

In the week after this clinic was opened by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, nearly 300 children like Alfiya were admitted for severe malnutrition. In the poor farming villages around Shashemene, in drought-ravaged southern Ethiopia , aid workers believe that hundreds and perhaps thousands more children are starving.

A serious drought and the worldwide surge in food prices are fueling one of Ethiopia’s gravest hunger crises in years, with 6 million children younger than five urgently needing food, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund , or UNICEF . Relief workers say scores of children already have died.

27 Iraqi officials worry about security deal with U.S.; thousands protest

By Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri May 30, 4:58 PM ET

BAGHDAD _Thousands of followers of militant Muqtada al Sadr peacefully took to the streets Friday following his call to protest a bilateral pact that would govern the economic, security and political relationship between Iraq and the United States .

The Status of Forces Agreement and an economic and political accord are expected to be completed by July and must pass the parliament before being finalized. Already voices of dissent are in the air.

The United Nation’s mandate that allows foreign forces to occupy Iraq will not be renewed at the end of the year. So any future U.S. military involvement in the war-torn nation can only continue with such an agreement.

28 Two more Bolivian provinces weigh autonomy

By Alex Ayala and Jack Chang, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri May 30, 6:08 PM ET

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Political tensions in this divided country threaten to deepen Sunday when voters in two Bolivian provinces decide whether to declare themselves autonomous from the leftist government of President Evo Morales .

The referendums scheduled in Beni and Pando provinces are the latest in a wave of autonomy votes that present the socialist president with his strongest challenge since taking office in January 2006 . The votes have also sparked fears that this impoverished nation of 9.1 million may be on the verge of division or civil war.

Beni and Pando are sparsely populated, agricultural provinces stretching across Bolivia’s northern tip, with a combined population of about 450,000 people. They are expected to vote for autonomy.

29 Bush backs Pakistan’s Musharraf as ex-military leader’s support wanes

By Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri May 30, 6:10 PM ET

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – President Bush reached out Friday to support longtime ally Pervez Musharraf , calling the embattled Pakistani president to assure him of continued U.S. backing.

Musharraf’s demise is now considered almost a foregone conclusion in Pakistan , but Bush’s intervention appeared to be a powerful signal that Washington wouldn’t welcome Musharraf’s exit.

“The president reiterated the United States’ strong support for Pakistan , and he indicated he looked forward to President Musharraf’s continuing role in further strengthening U.S.-Pakistani relations,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in Washington .

30 As violence drops, some ponder faster Iraq troop withdrawals

By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri May 30, 7:33 PM ET

WASHINGTON – Violence against civilians and U.S. and Iraqi military forces dropped to some of the lowest levels of the war in May even as Iraqi troops are leading offensives in three major cities.

That drop, combined with the Iraqi forces’ growing capabilities, has some military experts wondering whether the Pentagon could accelerate the drawdown of its troops.

“Do we really need 155,000 troops to support the Iraqis?” asked one senior military official at the Pentagon who didn’t want to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

31 Are Ahmadinejad’s Days Numbered?

By SCOTT MACLEOD/CAIRO, Time Magazine

Sat May 31, 11:45 AM ET

Ali Larijani projected a presidential bearing as he accepted his election as speaker of Iran’s parliament on Wednesday – a vote that boded ill for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Larijani, a high-profile arch-rival of the President, addressed global themes in his address to the opening session of the Majlis, dressing down the International Atomic Energy Agency and praising Hizballah. Despite the tough talk that was welcomed by some of the legislators with shouts of “God is great!” and “Death to America!” Larijani received a congratulatory call from European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana – an old negotiating partner. While Iran’s insistence on its right to enrich uranium unites all major factions in the country, Larijani represents a more pragmatic approach to handling the issue, aimed at finding agreement with the West and avoiding confrontation.

32 Civil War Threatens Sudan, Again

By DAVID LEWIS/ABYEI, Time Magazine

Sat May 31, 12:10 PM ET

It may have lasted lasted 22 years, claimed 2 million lives and displaced 4 million people, but Sudan’s north-south civil war that ended in 2005 was scarcely noticed in the West. But as the conflict threatens to resume, it could wreak havoc with U.S. and international efforts to stabilize the region.

33 Iraqi Opposition to U.S. Pact Grows

By MARK KUKIS/BAGHDAD, Time Magazine

Sat May 31, 12:10 PM ET

Iraqi Shi’ite militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr has long been one of the galvanizing figures for opposition to the U.S. presence in the country. Friday’s massive street protests against Washington’s plans for a long-term strategic agreement with Iraq, along with his followers’ call for a public referendum on the issue, were further evidence of this. But opposition, or at least skepticism, towards the U.S. appears to be spreading through the ranks of Baghdad’s political establishment, even among partisans the United States hopes to win over.
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34 Students skip slime, stink with virtual dissection

By P.J. DICKERSCHEID, Associated Press Writer

11 minutes ago

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – It’s not just concern for the squeamish biology students who wince at the feel and smell of cutting into a formaldehyde-soaked animal.

Think about the frog. The pig. Or even the rat.

That’s what animal rights activists in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle had in mind when they donated interactive software that replicates a frog dissection to Wheeling Park High School.

Marilyn Grindley, a member of the Ohio County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said dissecting animals “desensitizes kids. It tells them that we do not have any respect for any animal.” She wants to end the practice.

Mandates in 14 states, including Virginia and Maryland, that allow biology students to opt out of dissection without jeopardizing their grades are fueling interest in virtual dissection as an alternative tool for teaching anatomy.

35 Menu Foods announces $24 mln settlement fund

Reuters

Fri May 30, 3:43 PM ET

TORONTO (Reuters) – Menu Foods Income Fund said on Friday that a U.S. court gave preliminary approval to a settlement agreement covering lawsuits in U.S. and Canadian courts.

Menu Foods was hit by more than 100 class action lawsuits last year after pet foods it distributed were found to contain toxic ingredients imported from China.

In March 2007, the company, whose products were sold under such labels as Iams, Eukanuba, and President’s Choice, recalled tens of millions of containers of wet dog and cat food.

36 Britain’s BAE rises as Pentagon supplier

By Jim Wolf, Reuters

Fri May 30, 7:44 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – BAE Systems Plc has become the Pentagon’s sixth-biggest supplier, up from eighth, despite a U.S. investigation of its compliance with anti-bribery laws to win a Saudi arms deal in the 1980s.

BAE, based in Farnborough, England, picked up $9.2 billion in fiscal 2007 prime contracts, a list of the Pentagon’s top 10 contractors showed on a new White House Web site.

In fiscal 2006, its prime Pentagon contracts totaled $4.7 billion. The sole supplier of Bradley Infantry Fighting vehicles, BAE remained alone among Europe-based companies to figure as one of the Pentagon’s top 10 suppliers.

37 Number of uninsured U.S. young adults grows

By Will Dunham, Reuters

Fri May 30, 12:21 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of uninsured U.S. young adults, who already represent a major chunk of the American population without health coverage, rose again in 2006, according to a study released on Friday.

Based on census data, 13.7 million people aged 19 to 29 had no health insurance, either public or private, in 2006, up from 13.3 million in 2005, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that researches health policy.

Men and women in this age group accounted for 17 percent of the under-65 U.S. population, but made up almost 30 percent of the uninsured, according to the report. At age 65, people enter the federal Medicare insurance program.

38 The Boy Scouts’ Free-Speech Fight

By SEAN SCULLY/PHILADELPHIA, Time Magazine

Fri May 30, 1:25 PM ET

The City of Philadelphia wants the Boy Scouts to be prepared – prepared, that is, to change their views on homosexuality or get out of the city-owned building they have occupied for 80 years. “As a city government we cannot allow discrimination in the delivery of services on public property; that is the issue,” said Mayor Michael Nutter. “The Boy Scouts, they have some options here – they can change their policy, they can pay full-market rent, or they cannot be on public property.”

39 An Epidemic of Abandoned Horses

By PAT DAWSON, Time Magazine

Sat May 31, 1:45 AM ET

The global food and fuel crisis is resulting in more than just people going hungry. Rising grain and gas prices, as well as the closure of American slaughterhouses, have contributed to a virtual stampede of horses being abandoned – some starving – and turned loose into the deserts and plains of the West to die cruel and lonesome deaths. Horse rescue projects, which are mostly small, volunteer operations with limited land and resources, are feeling the consequences of this convergence of events. In the meantime, many now unaffordable horses are being sold to abbatoirs south of the border where inhumane methods of slaughter are practiced.
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40 Pakistan and U.S. ties to remain close: military official

Reuters

Sat May 31, 4:32 AM ET

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Defense ties between Pakistan and the United States will remain strong through the next administration despite tough talk from U.S. presidential candidates looking to review the relationship, a top Pakistan military official said on Saturday.

Tariq Majeed, Pakistan’s chairman of Pakistan’s joint chiefs of staff committee, told Reuters on the sidelines of a security conference that the common goal of fighting terrorism will be the basis of the relationship between the two countries.

“We have common objectives, shared goals and common commitments, therefore I find no reason why we should not be close — even with a change of U.S. administration,” Majeed said.

41 Pentagon chief says U.S. will remain Asian power

By Andrew Gray, Reuters

Sat May 31, 3:05 AM ET

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Washington will remain committed to Asia no matter who wins this year’s U.S. presidential election, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the region’s decision makers on Saturday.

His message at a conference of Asian security and defense officials appeared intended both to reassure allies and serve as a statement of intent to China, following Beijing’s rise in economic and military power in recent years.

“As someone who has served seven United States presidents, I want to convey to you with confidence that any future U.S. administration’s Asia security policy is going to be grounded in the fact that the United States remains a nation with strong and enduring interests in this region,” Gates said.

42 Bush to leave ‘strong and positive legacy’ in Asia: Gates

AFP

Sat May 31, 5:18 AM ET

SINGAPORE (AFP) – President George W. Bush will leave a “strong and positive legacy” in Asia and his successor will maintain engagement in the region, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Saturday.

Gates told a high-level security forum here that any speculation that the United States was losing interest in the region was “preposterous.”

“Actually I think this will be an area where there will be a strong and positive legacy in the future,” he told the forum, six months before the US presidential elections.

43 Gulf dollar peg is sovereign issue: US treasury chief

AFP

2 hours, 9 minutes ago

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AFP) – US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said on Saturday that the link of Gulf currencies to the dollar is a sovereign matter, as he started a Gulf tour in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

“This is a sovereign decision for Saudi Arabia and the rest of the region’s states,” Paulson said following talks with Saudi officials, according to SPA state news agency, which quoted him in Arabic.

“The (future of the) link between these currencies and the dollar rests in the hands of these governments,” SPA reported him saying at a press conference with his Saudi counterpart, Ibrahim al-Assaf.

44 Legal processes came too late at Guantanamo: Chertoff

AFP

Sat May 31, 10:02 AM ET

LONDON (AFP) – US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said legal processes should have been in place earlier at the Guantanamo Bay US military prison in an address to British students late Friday.

“It had taken too long to get those processes up and running,” Chertoff told the Oxford Union debating society at the prestigious university in the city, west of London.

“It would have been better had they been in place in 2000 and in 2003. It would have been much more desirable to do it earlier.”

In 2004 and 2006, the US Supreme Court ruled that detainees had a statutory right to contest indefinite detention before an independent judge.

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45 Russell index revamp could lead to hectic trading

By EILEEN AJ CONNELLY, AP Business Writer

Sat May 31, 1:06 AM ET

NEW YORK – “The whole month of June is kind of a magic month.” Citi Investment Research equity strategist Lori Calvasina wasn’t referring to weddings, graduations or wildflowers blooming. She was talking about the stock trading that will take place in the next few weeks in anticipation of the annual reconstitution of Russell Investment’s indexes.

It may seem like a wonkish matter that few individuals would pay attention to, but the reshuffling of the stocks that make up Russell’s indexes, including the widely followed Russell 2000 index of small companies, will have a big impact on stock and mutual fund holdings.

“Your benchmark index is going to change,” Calvasina explained. Those changes will affect some $4.4 trillion in assets that Russell says is tied to one of its indexes, which were launched in 1984.

46 Column: Institutional money drives up commodities

By RACHEL BECK, AP Business Writer

Sat May 31, 2:20 AM ET

NEW YORK – Next time you face sticker shock at the gas pump over a $4 gallon of gas, check out your pension fund’s investments. They may explain much about the surge in oil prices.

Institutional investors such as pension funds, university endowments and sovereign wealth funds have ramped up investing in commodities as a hedge against inflation and to seek out higher returns versus stocks and bonds.

The strategy has worked – if you gauge success solely by the rising returns that come from a market where oil prices have doubled in the last year to levels above $130 a barrel and other commodities are also sharply higher.

But this story has an ironic twist: The money put into commodities is boosting the inflation investors have been trying to offset.

47 High gas prices hit consumers worldwide

By ANGELA CHARLTON, Associated Press Writer

Sat May 31, 2:12 AM ET

PARIS – Feeling woozy about the fortune you’ve just pumped into your gas tank? Drivers around the world share the sensation.

Consumers, gas retailers and governments are wrestling with a new energy order, where rising oil prices play a larger role than ever in the daily lives of increasingly mobile people. But as the cost of crude mounts, the effect on the price at the pump varies startlingly – from Venezuela, where gas is cheaper than water, to Turkey, where a full tank can cost more than a domestic plane ticket.

Taxes and subsidies are the main reasons for the differences, along with lesser factors such as limited oil refining capacity and hard-to-reach geography that push up prices.

48 Deutsche Telekom spying went on ‘for years’

AFP

Sat May 31, 8:01 AM ET

BERLIN (AFP) – Germany’s national phone company Deutsche Telekom spied on its staff for years to see who had unauthorised contacts with journalists, a former security chief at the company said Saturday.

Deutsche Telekom has admitted that it hired an outside firm to track hundreds of thousands of phone calls by senior executives and journalists to identify the sources of press leaks, but said the “ill-advised use of communications data” happened only in 2005 and probably 2006.

However Hans-Juergen Knoke, who was responsible for security at Deutsche Telekom from 1998 to 2004, told the Spiegel television channel that the company was already engaged in the practice under former boss Ron Sommer, who left the group in 2002.

49 OPEC chief insists speculation behind price rises

AFP

Sat May 31, 12:23 PM ET

ALGIERS (AFP) – OPEC president Chakib Khelil again blamed speculators for the steep rise in oil prices Saturday, insisting that supply was not a problem.

“There is no problem of supply, the problem is much more linked to speculation,” he told a press conference with visiting French ecology and energy minister Jean-Louis Borloo.

He also said the price of oil was closely linked to the exchange rate of the US dollar, which has fallen steeply against other major currencies.

From Yahoo News Science

50 Brazil says uncontacted Amazon tribe threatened

By MICHAEL ASTOR, Associated Press Writer

Fri May 30, 3:51 PM ET

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Brazil’s government agreed to release stunning photos of Amazon Indians firing arrows at an airplane so that the world can better understand the threats facing one of the few tribes still living in near-total isolation from civilization, officials said Friday.

Anthropologists have known about the group for some 20 years but released the images now to call attention to fast-encroaching development near the Indians’ home in the dense jungles near Peru.

“We put the photos out because if things continue the way they are going, these people are going to disappear,” said Jose Carlos Meirelles, who coordinates government efforts to protect four “uncontacted” tribes for Brazil’s National Indian Foundation.

51 Phoenix Mars Lander has short-circuit problem

By ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN, Associated Press Writer

Sat May 31, 12:41 AM ET

TUCSON, Ariz. – Scientists for the Phoenix Mars Lander are wrestling with an intermittent short circuit on the spacecraft.

The problem is in a device that will analyze ice and soil dug from the planet’s surface, the scientists said Friday. The short circuit was found during testing done before the mission’s experiments get under way.

The short circuit isn’t considered critical, said William Boyton of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. Boynton is in charge of the device that will heat and analyze samples scooped up by the lander’s robotic arm.

52 Animals fare better in zoos as experts learn more

By Andrew Stern, Reuters

Fri May 30, 5:55 PM ET

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Scientists are learning more about how zoo animals feel and how a toy or a little training can sometimes help cut the endless pacing and other repetitive behaviors that are often assumed to be signs of distress.

Some big cats want a high perch from which to view visitors, polar bears want to scratch for hidden caches of food, and male barn swallows could use a tail extension to appeal to potential mates, according to experts from zoos and universities meeting on Friday at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo.

Visitors who see a cheetah pacing or a polar bear swimming in circles might assume they are stressed by confinement. But they may simply be expending excess energy or soothing themselves, experts said interviews at the symposium.

53 Scientists take the pop out of tiny bubbles

By Julie Steenhuysen, Reuters

Thu May 29, 5:27 PM ET

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The trouble with tiny bubbles is they pop, but U.S. researchers have made bubbles that last as long as a year — a finding that could improve many consumer and industrial products, they said on Thursday.

Bubbles lend an airy texture to foods, cosmetics and other products, but the smaller the bubble, the more likely it is to shrink and pop, succumbing to gas pressure and surface tension.

By adding a sugary coating, Harvard University graduate engineering student Emilie Dressaire and colleagues reported in the journal Science that they made bubbles that could last up to 12 months.

54 Thousands gather to protest Heathrow expansion

AFP

1 hour, 53 minutes ago

LONDON (AFP) – Thousands of people gathered Saturday for a protest against plans to expand London’s Heathrow airport with a third runway and sixth terminal, police and organisers said.

The protests were organised by environmental campaigners concerned about the impact of more flights on climate change alongside local people who fear increased noise and air pollution.

Demonstrators are marching from Hatton Cross London Underground station near Heathrow, west of London, to Sipson, a village where around 700 homes will be knocked down if plans for a third runway get the green light.

55 Cleaning up: Nano ‘towel’ soaks up oil spills

AFP

Fri May 30, 1:15 PM ET

PARIS (AFP) – Researchers in the United States announced Friday they had created a paper-like membrane made of nano-scale materials that could clean up oil pollution and other chemical spills.

The substance can absorb up to 20 times its own weight in oil and be recycled again and again for future use, while the oil itself can also be recovered and used, they reported in the specialist journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The novel material comprises wires made of potassium manganese oxide at the scale of 20 nanometres, or 20 billionths of a metre, in diameter.

56 NASA Delays Next Space Telescope’s Launch

SPACE.com Staff

Fri May 30, 11:45 AM ET

NASA has delayed the planned launch of a new space telescope next week by two days to allow engineers extra time to check the observatory’s rocket.

Initially slated to launch Tuesday, NASA’s Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) is now set to launch atop a Delta 2 rocket on Thursday at 11:45 a.m. EDT (1545 GMT) from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The new launch target was selected to “give the launch team sufficient time to make sure remaining open engineering issues are resolved,” NASA officials said in a Thursday announcement.

57 ‘Aliens’ Ogled My Teen Daughters!

Benjamin Radford, LiveScience’s Bad Science Columnist

Sat May 31, 8:32 AM ET

A Denver man named Jeff Peckman wants to spend $75,000 in taxpayer money to deal with aliens, and not the illegal kind. He wants the City of Denver to create an “Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission” that would handle the problem of alien encounters. It’s unclear what, exactly, that is, but perhaps those who have been anally probed by aliens would receive counseling or victims’ assistance funds.

But here’s where the story gets strange.

To publicize his efforts, Peckman held a press conference on May 30 announcing that he had definitive proof of alien visitation. This came in the form of a short video clip shot in Nebraska by a man named Stan Romanek in July 2003. At the time, Romanek was concerned that neighborhood Peeping Toms were looking at his teenage daughters. The best solution Romanek could think of was to place a video camera inside the house, aimed at a window. He taped several nights, and to his shock and amazement, the Peeping Tom was not a horny local teen but instead an extraterrestrial! Yes, Romanek claims that an alien traveled across the universe to stop by his house and look through his window at his daughters. The video footage seen at the press conference shows a dark window, behind which a strange, indistinct head pops up and down several times.

7 comments

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  1. Yes, Alanis is one of my favorites.

    Why do you ask?

    • Viet71 on May 31, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    for being sexist, but must instead really chide that peeping-Tom alien.  What bad manners.  Wonder if he left any DNA behind.  Disgusting thought.

    • Edger on May 31, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    Especially from reading Chertoff use the incompetency defense and try to blame torture on bureaucratic red tape.

    I wonder if Chertoff really is stupid enough to believe that anyone could be stupid enough to pretend to themselves that they believe that anyone else would believe that they are stupid enough to believe any of the stupid things he says?

    Well.. Maybe Bush and Pelosi?

  2. A song about irony with nothing ironic in the song.

    How … ironic.

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