Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

Now with World and U.S. News.

1 First results due Monday in Iraqi Kurd election

By Tim Cocks and Shamal Aqrawi, Reuters

Sun Jul 26, 11:28 am ET

ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – Preliminary results of elections in Iraqi Kurdistan, widely expected to keep two ruling parties in power despite an unprecedented opposition challenge, will be announced on Monday, Iraq’s electoral commission said.

Kurdish opposition groups are complaining of violations in Saturday’s parliamentary and presidential vote, the first time Kurds have directly elected a leader of their mostly autonomous region, but voting officials say the poll was largely sound.

Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) said the preliminary results would come on Monday evening, according to a statement from the government’s media center.

2 Afghan vice-presidential candidate survives ambush

By Wahdat Afghan, Reuters

2 hrs 26 mins ago

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan (Reuters) – One of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s vice presidential running mates in next month’s elections escaped unhurt from an ambush by Taliban insurgents on Sunday, officials said.

Mohammad Qasim Fahim, the former head of an alliance that toppled the Taliban in 2001, was ambushed on a road in northern Kunduz province where he was campaigning on Karzai’s behalf for the August 20 poll, said senior campaign official Zalmai Mujadidi.

Kunduz governor Mohammad Omar said Fahim was traveling by road to the adjacent Takhar province on Sunday afternoon when his convoy was attacked by insurgents.

3 U.S. probe targets UBS banker visits: report

Reuters

Sun Jul 26, 7:18 am ET

GENEVA (Reuters) – U.S. authorities are targeting client visits by Swiss-based bankers from UBS in their efforts to identify U.S. citizens with accounts at the bank who may have evaded tax, a Swiss newspaper said on Sunday.

U.S. tax authorities want to force UBS to disclose the identity of an estimated 52,000 U.S. holders of secret Swiss accounts suspected of dodging taxes, even though this breaches Swiss bank secrecy laws.

A possible compromise involving the names of account-holders visited by Swiss bankers would identify about 10,000 people, Swiss weekly Sonntags-Zeitung said.

4 Kuwait financier facing U.S. fraud suit found dead

By Rania El Gamal and Eman Goma, Reuters

Sun Jul 26, 11:36 am ET

KUWAIT (Reuters) – A brash Kuwaiti financier facing a fraud suit by U.S. authorities was found dead on Sunday in an apparent suicide that sent shockwaves through the Gulf Arab financial sector.

A security source told Reuters that Hazem Al-Braikan appeared to have died from a single gunshot wound to the side of the head, while a policeman standing outside Braikan’s house said the well-connected financier, 37, had shot himself.

Braikan was the chief executive of Al Raya Investment, which is 10 percent owned by Citigroup Inc, and had been at the center of a financial scandal that erupted last week.

5 WITNESS: Bogus late-night calls from Kuwaiti trader Braikan

By Ulf Laessing, Reuters

2 hrs 13 mins ago

RIYADH (Reuters) – His phone calls could come at any time — during trading hours, close to midnight or on weekends — but they always had the same message: “Hi, Hazem here. I have a major scoop for you.”

And after the third call or so, I managed to track down the mystery Kuwaiti who spoke perfect English and always bragged about his work.

Hazem Khaled al-Braikan, who died from a single gunshot wound to the head on Sunday in what police said was an apparent suicide, was at the center of a lawsuit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launched against him and other Gulf Arab finance firms. He was 37.

6 Pro-Zelaya border protest weakens in Honduras

By Sean Mattson and Esteban Israel, Reuters

9 mins ago

EL PARAISO, Honduras (Reuters) – Disheartened supporters of deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya trickled home from the Nicaraguan border on Sunday, weakening protests backing his bid to return to power after a coup last month.

Honduran troops manning checkpoints have prevented several thousand demonstrators from staging a show of support at the border for the leftist leader, now exiled in Nicaragua.

Six miles from the border, 100 weary protesters milled around the coffee town of El Paraiso, a far cry from the massive outpouring of public backing Zelaya had called for.

7 New direction in terror fight may stem from case

By ADAM GOLDMAN and DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writers

2 hrs 29 mins ago

NEW YORK – When the American-born al-Qaida recruit Bryant Neal Vinas was captured in Pakistan late last year, he wasn’t whisked off to a military prison or a secret CIA facility in another country to be interrogated.

Instead, the itinerant terrorist landed in the hands of the FBI and was flown back to New York to face justice.

Months before President Barack Obama took office with a pledge to change U.S. counterterrorism policies, the Bush administration gave Vinas all the rights of American criminal suspects.

8 Europe fast-tracking swine flu vaccine

By MARIA CHENG, AP Medical Writer

2 hrs 2 mins ago

LONDON – In a drive to inoculate people against swine flu before winter, many European governments say they will fast-track the testing of a new flu vaccine, arousing concern among some experts about safety issues and proper vaccine doses.

The European Medicines Agency, the EU’s top drug regulatory body, is accelerating the approval process for swine flu vaccine, and countries such as Britain, Greece, France and Sweden say they’ll start using the vaccine after it’s greenlighted – possibly within weeks.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organization’s flu chief, warned about the potential dangers of untested vaccines, although he stopped short of criticizing Europe’s approach outright.

9 Democrat says health overhaul needs GOP to pass

Associated Press

21 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats alone cannot pass President Barack Obama’s ambitious overhaul of how Americans receive health care, a top lawmaker acknowledged on Sunday. Republicans said they will continue their opposition to a plan they say is simply a government takeover of private decisions.

Both sides said they want to improve the system and provide care for almost 50 million Americans who lack health insurance coverage, but they remain deeply divided over how to reach that goal. Republicans said the longer the delay, the more the public understands the stakes of a policy that has vexed lawmakers for decades.

“Republicans want to protect the right of Americans to make their own health care decisions, to pick their own doctors and their own plans,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. “We could have a plan in a few weeks if the goal is not a government takeover. We’ve never seen the government operate a plan of any kind effectively and at the budgets we talked about.”

10 Palin’s resignation day arrives, future unclear

By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press Writer

51 mins ago

FAIRBANKS, Alaska – Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin steps down Sunday giving few clues about her political future, which has been clouded by ethics probes, mounting legal bills and dwindling popularity.

A few things are known: She is scheduled to speak Aug. 8 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, and has said she plans to write a book, campaign for political candidates from coast to coast and build a right-of-center coalition.

She also plans to continue speaking her mind on the social networking site Twitter.

11 Sarkozy hospitalized after collapsing during jog

By DEBORAH SEWARD, Associated Press Writer

19 mins ago

PARIS – French President Nicolas Sarkozy collapsed suddenly while jogging Sunday on the lush grounds of the Chateau of Versailles, then was rushed by helicopter to a military hospital where he will remain overnight, his office said.

Military doctors quickly performed a battery of tests on the 54-year-old president who is known for his hyperactivity. The Elysee palace said Sarkozy’s test results were normal but that doctors would keep him under cardiological observation until Monday.

His office denied that Sarkozy had lost consciousness in the episode. The Elysee Palace statement followed reports from members of Sarkozy’s government and his chief of staff who had indicated that Sarkozy had lost consciousness.

12 AP INVESTIGATION: Main Street’s soaring sour loans

By FRANK BASS and RITA BEAMISH, Associated Press Writers

2 hrs 40 mins ago

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – As the effects of the economic collapse began pouring down Main Street, the government last year was left holding a record $2.1 billion in write-offs of small business loans it had guaranteed. Officials expect the number of defaults to rise as the nation continues to climb out of the recession.

Records obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act show the public is paying to offset bank losses on small business loans across the country, from a convenience store in the tiny Canadian border town of Houlton, Maine, to a graphic arts design company on the island of Hawaii, more than 5,000 miles away.

Despite having loans written off, little companies such as Caffe Sportivo, an espresso shop and small gym in Redwood City, Calif., are barely scraping by.

13 Iran’s opposition asks to mourn iconic victim

By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 12 mins ago

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s opposition leader asked authorities Sunday for permission to hold a memorial service for victims of last month’s post-election unrest, including a young woman whose death was caught on video and became a symbol for protesters.

Iranian authorities have pressured the families of slain protesters not to mourn publicly out of fear the gatherings could spark the kind of demonstrations that followed the June 12 presidential vote, according to the opposition.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and fellow pro-reform presidential candidate, Mahdi Karroubi, sent a request to the Interior Ministry to hold a memorial service in Tehran’s Mosalla mosque Thursday to commemorate the end of the 40-day mourning cycle for at least 10 people killed on June 20, Mousavi’s top aide Ali Reza Beheshti told the Associated Press.

14 US hopes China talks spur economy, job creation

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer

2 hrs 50 mins ago

WASHINGTON – With the global economy mired in recession, the United States and China begin talks Monday to seek a solution together despite tensions over currencies, the U.S. budget deficit and the huge U.S. trade gap with China.

Ultimately, how well the U.S. efforts succeed could help determine how fast the economy recovers and how many U.S. jobs might be created once it does.

Other issues, such as climate control and North Korean nuclear ambitions, also will command attention. Few expect the talks to bridge the sharp differences between Beijing and Washington. But both governments want to use the occasion to help build a less confrontational relationship.

15 Pakistan arrests influential pro-Taliban cleric

By ELENA BECATOROS, Associated Press Writer

26 mins ago

ISLAMABAD – Police arrested an influential pro-Taliban cleric on Sunday who had brokered a failed peace deal in northern Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley, an indication the government will no longer negotiate with militants.

Authorities accused Sufi Muhammad, father-in-law of Swat’s notorious Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, of encouraging violence and terrorism.

The peace deal in February imposed Sharia, or Islamic law, in the valley in exchange for an end to two years of fighting. But it was widely seen as handing over control of the valley, once a popular tourist destination, to the Taliban.

16 Lobbyists the silver lining in health care storm?

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 26, 3:59 am ET

WASHINGTON – A strong force, perhaps as powerful in Congress as President Barack Obama, is keeping the drive for health care going even as lawmakers seem hopelessly at odds.

Lobbyists.

The drug industry, the American Medical Association, hospital groups and the insurance lobby are all saying Congress must make major changes this year. Television ads paid for by drug companies and insurers continued to emphasize the benefits of a health care overhaul – not the groups’ objections to some of the proposals.

17 Protesters call for end to Iranian rights abuses

By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 26, 4:00 am ET

LONDON – Protesters around the world called on Iran Saturday to end its clampdown on opposition activists, demanding the release of hundreds rounded up during demonstrations against the country’s disputed election.

Groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International backed a global day of action, with protests planned in more than 80 cities, including several in the United States.

The protesters want Iranian authorities to release what they say are hundreds, or even thousands, of people detained during protests that followed the presidential election last month that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

18 US military increases attacks on Afghan drugs

By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 26, 11:35 am ET

KABUL – U.S. Marines and Afghan forces have found and destroyed hundreds of tons of poppy seeds, opium and heroin in southern Afghanistan this month in raids that a top American official said show the new U.S. counter narcotics strategy in Afghanistan is working.

U.S. and NATO troops are attacking drug warehouses in Afghanistan for the first time this year, a new strategy to counter the country’s booming opium poppy and heroin trade. NATO defense ministers approved the targeted drug raids late last year, saying the link between Taliban insurgents and drug barons was clear.

U.N. officials say Taliban fighters reap hundreds of millions of dollars from the drug trade each year, profits used to fund the insurgency.

19 Bizarre run of evangelist Tony Alamo may be over

By DEBORAH HASTINGS, AP National Writer

36 mins ago

Of all the horrid accusations against evangelist Tony Alamo – and the list is long – it was the testimony of formerly loyal subjects, recounting “marriages” between their cult leader and girls as young as 8, that may end his 40-year rule and send him to prison for life.

Born Bernie Lazar Hoffman, the 74-year-old faces up to 175 years behind bars following his conviction Friday on 10 counts of transporting young girls across state lines for sexual purposes. Some jurors wept while women described being molested by and forced into sex with their decades-older pastor.

Among many who’ve watched Alamo’s handiwork since the 1970s – which produced allegations including kidnapping, brainwashing, child abuse, tax evasion and threatening a federal judge – there was never any doubt the street-hustler-turned-pastor should be locked away for good. Their question is, what took so long?

20 LAPD has shed scandalous image, city leaders say

By JOHN ANTCZAK, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 32 mins ago

LOS ANGELES – Eleven years after an anti-gang cop was arrested for stealing six pounds of cocaine from an evidence room, city leaders believe the Los Angeles Police Department has dashed the image of corruption and abuse spawned by revelations of the theft investigation.

“The LAPD that through much of its history was maligned and criticized is now moving into the 21st century as a leader in creating positive change,” Chief William Bratton declared after a federal judge this month freed his department from oversight by the U.S. Justice Department.

The assessment is a far cry from the reputation that allowed Hollywood to serve up such gritty LA cop tales as “Training Day” and “The Shield” in the aftermath of a decade that included the 1991 Rodney King Beating, the 1992 riot and finally an episode that became known as Rampart.

21 HARD TIMES: School budgets dip, class sizes grow

By LIBBY QUAID, AP Education Writer

2 hrs 55 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Like a seesaw on the school playground, falling state budgets are pushing class sizes higher.

The recession is forcing districts to lay off teachers even as the economic stimulus pumps billions of dollars into schools. As a result, classrooms across the country will be more crowded when school starts in the fall.

Patti Hathorn, a fifth-grade teacher in rural Pinson, Ala., is expecting 29 or 30 students, making it the biggest class she’s taught. Many of her students at Kermit Johnson Elementary are learning English or are in special education.

22 ‘Bird racing’ at NYC park under federal scrutiny

By CRISTIAN SALAZAR, Associated Press Writer

9 mins ago

NEW YORK – The two black finches whistled songs at each other in fluttering voices as a group of men crowded around their cages.

It was the first bird singing competition of the morning, and men on either side of the two cages counted the songs, each as fleeting as a haiku. The first finch to tweet 50 would be declared the winner.

For years, bird racing, as the sport is known, has been held in a park in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens on warm Sunday afternoons with scant attention from outsiders.

23 In Texas, drought means conserving every last drop

By JOHN McFARLAND, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 26, 11:05 am ET

DALLAS – Off-duty police officers are patrolling streets, looking for people illegally watering their lawns and gardens. Residents are encouraged to stealthily rat out water scofflaws on a 24-hour hot line. One Texas lake has dipped so low that stolen cars dumped years ago are peeking up through the waterline.

The nation’s most drought-stricken state is deep-frying under relentless 100-degree days and waterways are drying up, especially in the hardest-hit area covering about 350 miles across south-central Texas. That’s making folks worried about the water supply – and how long it might last.

“The water table’s fallin’ and fallin’ and fallin,’ like a whole lot of other people around here,” said Wendell McLeod, general manager of Liberty Hill Water Supply Corp. and a 60-year resident of the town northwest of Austin. “This is the worst I can recall seeing it. I tell you, it’s just pretty bleak.”

24 Alaska’s soon-to-be governor shares Palin’s values

By MARK THIESSEN, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 26, 9:58 am ET

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – After Sean Parnell becomes Alaska’s governor on Sunday, he’s promised to push many of Sarah Palin’s higher profile initiatives, like the natural gas pipeline.

“We share the same core values,” he said while noting their personalities are different.

That fact hasn’t been lost on the people who deal the most with the governor’s office. State lawmakers are looking for a better relationship after a rocky few months with Palin since she returned from the 2008 presidential campaign.

25 Calif. officials concerned about new budget woes

By STEVE LAWRENCE, Associated Press Writer

Sat Jul 25, 4:13 pm ET

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California officials are warily awaiting the next round of state revenue figures, concerned that their latest budget-balancing efforts may not be enough to end a seemingly endless stream of deficits.

Lawmakers wrapped up a nearly 24-hour session Friday afternoon by approving most of a complicated package of spending cuts, raids on local government funds and accounting maneuvers designed to eliminate a $26 billion budget shortfall.

But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders said they might have to deal with more red ink in a few months if the state’s economy doesn’t turn around.

26 Libertarians seek a place in the New Hampshire sun

By ADAM GELLER, AP National Writer

Sat Jul 25, 3:34 pm ET

LANCASTER, N.H. – He fled the “People’s Republic of Massachusetts” to escape tyranny. Now he strides the campground in a plaid kilt and mirror shades, an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle across his torso, an immense Scottish sword sheathed between his shoulders.

Out here, though, the only signs of danger are the ones warning drivers to watch out for moose. Could it be he senses a threat we’re not seeing?

“Not expecting,” says the swordsman, who calls himself Doobie, grinning broadly. “Just ready.”

27 Canadian doughnut chain enters NYC doughnut wars

By SUZANNE MA, Associated Press Writer

Fri Jul 24, 7:07 pm ET

NEW YORK – There’s a new doughnut in town with a Canadian flavor, and it’s saving Zachary Abella from making a two-hour commute.

For a sip of hot chocolate and his preferred pastry fix, the 32-year-old Manhattan lawyer has driven 100 miles to Meriden, Conn., to what was then the closest Tim Hortons, a beloved Canadian chain that sells coffee and baked goods.

Abella, a Toronto native, now has an easier time satisfying his cravings. Earlier this month, Tim Hortons opened its first New York City locations, replacing 11 Dunkin’ Donuts in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

28 Forty-two dead as sect, police clash in Nigeria

by Aminu Abubakar, AFP

Sun Jul 26, 11:58 am ET

KANO, Nigeria (AFP) – Forty-two people were killed Sunday in clashes between police and members of a radical Islamic sect in Nigeria that is inspired by the Taliban in Afghanistan, a hospital source said.

“We have received a total of 42 bodies,” Awwal Isa, a nurse at Bauchi Specialist Hospital in the northern city of Bauchi where the violence took place, told AFP by telephone.

They were victims of “fighting between security personnel and members of the Taliban,” he said, alluding to the sect founded in Nigeria in 2004 with a mission to set up a strict Islamic state in Nigeria.

29 Farewell to Fleet Street

by Pierre Lesourd, AFP

Sat Jul 25, 9:40 pm ET

LONDON (AFP) – Fleet Street, the London thoroughfare synonymous with 300 years of journalism in Britain, bids farewell to its last international newsroom on Sunday, when Agence France-Presse moves office.

AFP’s departure means that Scottish publishers D. C. Thomson’s London bureau is the last remaining newsroom in the industry’s spiritual home, now overtaken by investment banks and legal offices.

It is a far cry from 30 years ago, when Fleet Street, a narrow east-west road near Saint Paul’s Cathedral, was the bustling heart of the British newspaper industry.

30 Lucky US pets get stuck on acupuncture

by Virginie Montet, AFP

Sun Jul 26, 12:25 am ET

FAIRFAX, Virginia (AFP) – Chronic back pain, neurological troubles, arthritis: Jordan Kocen’s veterinary clinic has a solution, offering acupuncture as an alternative to his many patients.

“I use homeopathy, Chinese herbs and acupuncture,” said the 50-year-old veterinarian, who practices at “South Paws” in Fairfax, Virginia just outside the US capital Washington.

“It’s the same type of needle as for people. The basic acupuncture channels are the same. Acupuncture pathways mirror the nervous system and stimulate it the same way.”

31 Curtain rises on 98th Bayreuth Festival

AFP

Sat Jul 25, 8:28 pm ET

BAYREUTH, Germany (AFP) – The curtain went up on the first night of the 98th Bayreuth Festival, with a gala performance of “Tristan and Isolde”, attended by Germany’s political and social elite.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was among the many guests welcomed by Eva Wagner-Pasquier, 64, and her half-sister, Katharina Wagner, 31, who this year have taken over the joint running of the legendary month-long festival dedicated to the works of their great-grandfather, Richard Wagner.

Among the other ministers arriving at the Festspielhaus theatre, built to Wagner’s own designs, were Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer and Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

From Yahoo News World

32 Revolutionary Guard tightens hold in Iran crisis

By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 26, 2:58 pm ET

CAIRO – The Revolutionary Guard tightened its already powerful hold over Iran during the post-election turmoil, raising alarm among some Iranians that it is transforming the Islamic Republic into a military state.

The elite force and an affiliated volunteer militia, the Basij, led the crackdown against street protesters who claim mass fraud in the June 12 election after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner in a landslide. At least 20 protesters have been killed in clashes and hundreds detained.

The Revolutionary Guard weighed in at key moments of the crisis.

33 Opposition in Iraqi Kurd elections cries foul

By YAHYA BARZANJI, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 26, 2:16 pm ET

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq – An opposition party on Sunday claimed there had been violations in the presidential and parliamenary elections in Iraq’s self-ruled Kurdish region but said it still expected a strong showing.

The opposition front called “Change” was at the heart of a push for reform in a bid to shake up the political establishment in Iraq’s three Kurdish-ruled provinces that have been dominated by two parties for decades.

Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission said 78 percent of 2.5 million eligible voters cast ballots during Saturday’s elections. The high turnout apparently was fueled by excitement over the rare show of opposition to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which have been accused of corruption, intimidation and failing to provide services.

34 Lebanon is Middle East’s daring fashion capital

By ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 26, 2:07 pm ET

BEIRUT – The gowns are cut low in the front, slashing down to the navel, or low in the back, swooping below the waist, inset with delicate see-through fabric. They couldn’t be further from the modest dress generally worn by women in the Muslim Arab world.

Yet these fashions come from Lebanon, a tiny Arab country of 4 million on the Mediterranean. This nation better known for military conflicts than the arts has produced an impressive crop of designers, such as Reem Acra and Elie Saab, whose work is showcased at celebrity events such as the Oscars and the Golden Globes.

“Lebanon’s name has always been synonymous with war, but when it comes to fashion … these designers really make us proud,” said Laura Seikaly, 39, who was among a recent crowd of bikini-clad sunbathers on a beach north of Beirut. “I guess it comes from the society itself, the way Lebanese women dress. They’re very courageous, even more than Europeans.”

35 Myanmar may get more money in fight against AIDS

By The Associated Press

Sun Jul 26, 1:46 pm ET

YANGON, Myanmar – Shrunken to 30 pounds of skin and bones, Ma Moe could barely walk when she arrived on the doorstep of the clinic nearly two years ago. AIDS had killed her husband three years earlier, and it was slowly killing her.

If not for the free medicine she receives, she would be dead, the 35-year-old widow said as she waited for her monthly visit. “I had no money, my house was destroyed by (Cyclone) Nargis, I had nowhere else to go.”

The modest one-story wooden clinic, one of two dozen run by international aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres, is on the front lines of Myanmar’s struggle against HIV/AIDS, a disease that often spells a slow death sentence for Burmese because of a shortage of antiretroviral medicines. As foreign donors largely shunned this isolated military-run nation, its AIDS epidemic, one of the most serious in Asia, steadily worsened out of the spotlight.

36 China tightening control over steel industry

By JOE McDONALD, AP Business Writer

Sun Jul 26, 6:36 am ET

BEIJING – China’s stolen secrets case against an Australian working for Rio Tinto Ltd. may have more to do with Beijing’s push to tighten control over its huge steel industry than trying to dampen industrial espionage.

Chinese officials have complained for years that steel companies paid too much for foreign iron ore, failing to translate China’s position as the world’s biggest steel producer into clout at the bargaining table. A state-sanctioned industry group was brought in to fix that by taking over price talks. But the China Iron & Steel Association was tripped up, Chinese state media say, because its bottom line was leaked to Rio.

“The arrest of the Rio Tinto employees earlier this month appears to be the latest salvo in an ongoing battle between CISA and the major Chinese steel mills,” the Chinese newspaper Economic Observer said.

37 Moldova, at east-west crossroads, heads for polls

By Dmitry Solovyov, Reuters

Sun Jul 26, 10:08 am ET

CHISINAU (Reuters) – Moldovans electing a new parliament this week face a choice between the ruling Communists, and their calls to keep close links with Russia, and liberal opponents who want to move closer to the West.

Outgoing Communist President Vladimir Voronin, who wants to remain close to the levers of power after stepping down, has warned Moldovans that a vote against his party on Wednesday will place the ex-Soviet state in danger of extinction.

Voronin dissolved parliament last month and called the election after opposition parties twice thwarted his plan to have parliament elect his handpicked successor as new president.

38 Guinea-Bissau votes amid fears of violence

By Alberto Dabo, Reuters

Sun Jul 26, 8:38 am ET

BISSAU (Reuters) – Guinea-Bissau voters were choosing between two former leaders in a presidential run-off on Sunday that many fear could stir violence rather than restore stability in the West African nation.

Malam Bacai Sanha, who was interim president 1999-2000, is widely tipped to beat Kumba Yala, whose record in power between 2000 and 2003 left bitter memories in the former Portuguese colony, which has endured years of coups and political violence.

Already desperately poor and struggling to secure aid money and lure investors, Guinea-Bissau suffered tit-for-tat assassinations of its army chief and his arch-enemy President Joao Bernardo Vieira in March.

39 Iran plunged into fresh political turmoil

AFP

1 hr 42 mins ago

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran was plunged into fresh political turmoil on Sunday as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sacked his intelligence minister while his culture minister resigned saying the government has been weakened.

Ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani meanwhile came out publicly to deny the Islamic republic is in the throes of a power struggle.

No official reason was given for the sacking of Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie, which comes just a few weeks before Ahmadinejad, re-elected for another four year term in a disputed vote last month, is due to finalise his new cabinet line-up.

40 Brown, Obama in Afghanistan talks as Britain pledges more troops

by Robin Millard, AFP

Fri Jul 24, 7:04 pm ET

LONDON (AFP) – Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Friday called US President Barack Obama for talks on Afghanistan as Britain announced it would send in reinforcements after a recent spike in troop deaths.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it was deploying 125 more troops in Afghanistan on Monday following a surge in deaths this month that has seen the overall toll overtake that suffered during the war in Iraq.

Meanwhile Brown and Obama held telephone talks on the situation in Afghanistan and stressed the importance of “better military and civilian burden-sharing with NATO allies,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

41 Kyrgyz leader re-elected amid charges of fraud

by Matt Siegel, AFP

Fri Jul 24, 11:15 am ET

BISHKEK (AFP) – The leader of Kyrgyzstan, a strategically important ex-Soviet state courted by both Moscow and Washington, kept his grip on power Friday in an election that monitors said was marred by massive fraud.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev won re-election with more than 85 percent of the vote, the Central Asian state’s election commission announced, trouncing all challengers, as independent experts had predicted he would.

The official landslide victory by Bakiyev, 59, came a month after Kyrgyzstan secured more than 300 million dollars from the United States for the continued use of an airbase there crucial to supplying US troops in Afghanistan.

42 Spiralling violence unnerves Afghanistan before vote

by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson, AFP

Sun Jul 26, 2:57 am ET

KABUL (AFP) – Spiralling Taliban attacks and record Western military deaths have put Afghanistan on edge less than four weeks before key elections that many fear could be overshadowed by violence.

The August 20 presidential vote, only the second in Afghan history, is seen as a crucial test in the nearly eight-year effort led by the United States and NATO to stabilise Afghanistan since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban.

Thousands of newly deployed foreign troops have flooded into southern Afghanistan to try to wrest back Taliban strongholds, but the resulting surge in soldiers’ deaths has created a backlash in Western nations.

43 Polarizing Alaska governor Palin steps down Sunday

AFP

Sun Jul 26, 2:27 am ET

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – With questions swirling about her next move, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin steps down Sunday after bursting into the US political spotlight last year as John McCain’s presidential running mate.

The Republican Party lightning rod has been touted as a potential adversary for President Barack Obama in 2012, but with continued ethics probes, outsized legal bills, and growing doubts about her ability to govern dogging her, it is unclear if her farewell is a precursor to a Washington career or a political finale.

Palin, 45, has been participating in an annual series of picnics in her hometown of Wasilla since Friday, when she told a crowd of more than 1,000 she was grateful for the backing she has received from Alaskans amid mounting pressure from critics after she abruptly announced her resignation on July 3.

44 Congo’s laborers find harsh conditions at Chinese-run plants

By Shashank Bengali, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri Jul 24, 2:53 pm ET

LUBUMBASHI, Congo – Here in one of the richest mineral belts in the world, where copper and cobalt almost seem to burst from the rugged earth, the people have grown accustomed to foreign opportunists. Anger is mounting, however, at some of the newest arrivals: businessmen from China .

At lunch hour outside the smelters near Lubumbashi, the gritty capital of southern Congo’s mining country, workers in fraying clothes and canvas sneakers rattle off complaints about their Chinese employers: wages of as little as $3 a day, backbreaking hours and a lack of safety equipment, which many said had led to severe on-the-job injuries and even deaths.

“We don’t have a choice but to keep working. Life is hard, and we have to survive,” said Andre, 26, whose younger brother died in an accident last year while toiling on the graveyard shift at a private, Chinese-owned smelter. While raking a slag pit early one morning, a sudden noise startled 21-year-old Akahika, who lost his balance, fell into the scorching slag and was burned to death almost instantly.

45 In Kurdistan too, voters are offered Obama-like ‘Change’

By Adam Ashton, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri Jul 24, 4:55 pm ET

IRBIL, Iraq – The two political parties that have dominated political life in Iraq’s Kurdish provinces since 1991 face their first serious challenge at the ballot box Saturday with an unexpectedly strong run from a group riding all the buzz it can carry by promising Obama-like “change.”

The results could shift the often-fractious relationship between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraq’s central government in Baghdad . Negotiations over territory and oil, however, are on the back burner on the streets of Irbil and Sulaimaniya.

Charges of pervasive corruption and a perception that members of the ruling government have enriched themselves while in office have many Kurds getting behind the simply named “Change” party.

46 Kurds vote in a spirited campaign between incumbents and new party

By Adam Ashton, McClatchy Newspapers

Sat Jul 25, 3:27 pm ET

SULAIMANIYA, Iraq – Kurdish voters on Saturday packed polling places in Iraq’s second election this year, weighing the promises of a new party that pledged to shake up the status quo by exposing corruption in the incumbent regional government.

The election appeared to take place smoothly without serious complaints from parties or voters, though two opposition parties raised questions late Saturday about whether soldiers tried to cast multiple ballots and whether greeters at polling places showed too much support for incumbents.

Those questions could lead to unrest in coming days when Iraq’s Independent Electoral Commission discloses results, party leaders suggested.

47 Rights groups seek probe as China, Uighur emigres exchange charges

By Grace Chung, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri Jul 24, 6:55 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Three weeks after ethnic violence rocked Urumqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang province, official Chinese news sources are carrying upbeat headlines and photos of smiling Uighurs on the streets, assuring readers that things in western China have returned to normal. On Friday, however, Chinese officials pledged to crack down with an “iron fist” on Uighurs who challenge the authorities.

“We will keep to the policy of launching ‘pre-emptive strikes’ against and cracking down on enemies with an iron first to curb violent criminality,” Nur Berkri, the chairman of the regional government, said Friday, according to Xinhua, the official news agency.

Chinese officials maintain that their policies of resettling ethnic Han Chinese in the traditional homeland of the Muslim minority aren’t to blame, and they continue to accuse U.S.-based Uighurs for the protests, which erupted into violence July 5 .

48 Why U.S.-allied refugees are still branded as ‘terrorists’

By Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Newspapers

Sun Jul 26, 6:00 am ET

WASHINGTON – Almost every day for three years, prison guards at one of Saddam Hussein’s most notorious prisons tortured Sami Alkarim .

Now, in a cruel twist of fate, the accomplished Iraqi artist is being treated like a terrorist by the U.S., the country where he sought refuge.

U.S. officials have told him they can’t give him permanent residency in Denver because of messenger work he did as a teenager for the same political party that counts the current prime minister of Iraq as a member.

49 The return of Honduras’s deposed president sputters

By Jim Wyss, McClatchy Newspapers

2 hrs 11 mins ago

OCOTAL, Nicaragua – Admitting that his plans to march across Honduras’ southern border and recapture the presidency have been frustrated, ousted leader Manuel Zelaya said Sunday he would continue to drum up international support and pressed the United States to take a stronger stand in the month-long political crisis.

“The coup leaders are making a mockery of the presidents of the Americas and I want to know how the presidents of the Americas will respond,” he told a few dozens supporters as he sat on the hood of a car in this rural Nicaraguan border town.

He also called on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take a firm stand on the crisis that has both Zelaya and his rival, Roberto Micheletti , claiming to be the sole leader of the nation of 7.8 million. “I want to know what the United States’ real position [is] on this coup,” he said.

50 Afghanistan War: U.S. Officials Lower Expectations

By MARK THOMPSON / WASHINGTON, Time Magazine

Fri Jul 24, 11:05 am ET

Time was kind to the U.S. over its invasion of Iraq: the Bush Administration was able to waste four years pursuing misguided strategies there before finally getting things right last year and turning the situation around. But the new U.S. military approach to winning the war in Afghanistan is likely to take years, if not decades, to bear fruit, and there are growing signs that America’s patience is fraying. On July 23, Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged that a lot more sacrifice would be required of Americans, but he insisted that it was worth the price to “straighten out” the Afghan-Pakistan border region because of the terrorism threat it potentially represents to Europe and the U.S. Still, American officials are lowering expectations after nearly eight years of fighting in Afghanistan, insisting that progress rather than victory is the best that can be achieved over the coming year.

51 First Blood Diamonds, Now Blood Computers?

By ELIZABETH DIAS, Time Magazine

Sat Jul 25, 12:45 pm ET

When the film Blood Diamond came out in 2006, people were startled at the alleged origins of the precious stones from areas of bloody conflict and began asking whether the jewels on their fingers cost a human life. Will consumers soon find themselves asking similar questions about their cell phones and computers?
From Yahoo News U.S. News

52 Soldiers in Colorado slayings tell of Iraq horrors

Associated Press

Sun Jul 26, 5:19 pm ET

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Soldiers from an Army unit that had 10 infantrymen accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter after returning to civilian life described a breakdown in discipline during their Iraq deployment in which troops murdered civilians, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Some Fort Carson, Colo.-based soldiers have had trouble adjusting to life back in the United States, saying they refused to seek help, or were belittled or punished for seeking help. Others say they were ignored by their commanders, or coped through drug and alcohol abuse before they allegedly committed crimes, The Gazette of Colorado Springs said.

The Gazette based its report on months of interviews with soldiers and their families, medical and military records, court documents and photographs.

53 Analysis: What they saw during the Gates arrest

By JESSE WASHINGTON, AP National Writer

Sun Jul 26, 4:31 pm ET

Henry Louis Gates Jr. felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up as he looked across the threshold of his home at Sgt. James Crowley. Looking back at Gates, Crowley worried about making it home safely to his wife and three children.

Fear was the only thing the white police officer and black scholar had in common. Soon their many differences would collide, exploding into a colossal misunderstanding.

How could things go so wrong? How could two by all accounts decent men start a fire that drew comparisons to the O.J. Simpson case and knocked President Barack Obama off his racial tightrope?

54 NASA patches air-purifying system on space station

By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer

Sun Jul 26, 3:40 pm ET

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A space station air purifier was working again Sunday after it shut down at the worst possible time, when company was still visiting and had swollen the on-board crowd to a record 13.

The repair by flight controllers, albeit temporary, came as a great relief to NASA.

Even if the carbon dioxide-removal system had remained broken, shuttle Endeavour would not have had to undock early from the international space station, said flight director Brian Smith. But the system needs to work to support six station residents over the long term, he said.

55 Suspect in Kan. abortion killing faces hearing

By ROXANA HEGEMAN, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 26, 2:50 pm ET

WICHITA, Kan. – The man accused of killing one of the nation’s few late-term abortion providers will get his first look this week at the evidence against him, even as he has called the shooting of Dr. George Tiller justified.

Scott Roeder, 51, is charged with one count of first-degree murder in Tiller’s death and two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two ushers who tried to stop him during the May 31 melee in the foyer of the doctor’s church.

Unless the defense waives the preliminary hearing set for Tuesday, prosecutors must convince a judge that they have enough evidence to merit a trial. Roeder would then enter a plea.

56 Scientists try to stop schizophrenia in its tracks

By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science Writer

Sun Jul 26, 2:44 pm ET

PORTLAND, Maine – She was sociable and happy in high school. But in college that changed abruptly: Depressed and withdrawn, some days she couldn’t get out of bed.

And that wasn’t all.

“I had really odd thoughts,” recalled the woman, now 21, who asked that her name not be used. While walking across campus at the University of Southern Maine, “sometimes I’d feel like people were just right behind me (who might) jump me or something.”

57 U.S. drops case to detain young Guantanamo prisoner

By James Vicini, Reuters

Fri Jul 24, 5:16 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department said on Friday that it would drop its efforts to keep imprisoned one of the youngest Guantanamo Bay captives, but said he now would face a criminal investigation.

The decision came in the case of Afghan prisoner Mohammed Jawad, who had asked a federal judge in Washington to order his release from the U.S. military prison in Cuba.

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission has said Jawad was only about 12 when arrested in 2002, but the Pentagon disputes that and has said bone scans indicated he had turned 18 when sent to Guantanamo in early 2003.

58 Return of Wall St pay bonanza triggers concern

by Sebastian Smith

Fri Jul 24, 10:05 am ET

NEW YORK (AFP) – The Wall Street gravy train is gathering speed again as banks only just emerging from financial crisis lavish billions of dollars on their employees.

Announcements over the last week by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley of a return to mega compensation pools are seen by some as a sign of health. For others, they mark a worrying throwback.

When Wall Street tipped into the abyss last year, dragging the country’s economy with it, popular and much political anger was directed at so-called fat cat executives — individuals paid fortunes with little regard to their performance.

59 Legacy Fight: Inside Bush and Cheney’s Tense Final Days

By MASSIMO CALABRESI AND MICHAEL WEISSKOPF, Time Magazine

Thu Jul 23, 11:20 am ET

Hours before they were to leave office after eight troubled years, George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney had one final and painful piece of business to conclude. For over a month Cheney had been pleading, cajoling, even pestering Bush to pardon the Vice President’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby. Libby had been convicted nearly two years earlier of obstructing an investigation into the leak of a covert CIA officer’s identity by senior White House officials. The Libby pardon, aides reported, had become something of a crusade for Cheney, who seemed prepared to push his nine-year-old relationship with Bush to the breaking point – and perhaps past it – over the fate of his former aide. “We don’t want to leave anyone on the battlefield,” Cheney argued.

60 Tom Brokaw on Walter Cronkite

By TOM BROKAW, Time Magazine

Thu Jul 23, 11:00 pm ET

Walter Cronkite was the most famous journalist of his time, the personification of success in his beloved profession, with all that brought with it: a journalism school named for him, a Presidential Medal of Freedom and the adulation of his peers and audience.

61 Will Citigroup’s Performance Improve?

By STEPHEN GANDEL, Time Magazine

Thu Jul 23, 11:40 am ET

While much of Wall Street and the rest of the financial sector are finally seeing some sun, the storm clouds around Citigroup just don’t seem to be breaking. The company said on July 17 that it earned $3.4 billion in its second quarter. It was the second quarter in a row that Citi had announced a profit, after many critics said the company was done for. In a press release, Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit triumphantly said, “Our financial results today reflect the incredibly dedicated efforts of all of our people around the world and their success in implementing our plan.”

62 Why Is Six Flags Using a Creepy Old Guy to Attract Kids?

By SEAN GREGORY, Time Magazine

Fri Jul 24, 12:15 pm ET

The fortunes of Six Flags, the country’s largest regional theme-park operator, have fallen more steeply than its roller coasters. It’s not that the company’s 20 parks across North America are all that bad. The current management team has worked hard to give the facilities a makeover and offer more family-friendly options. Attendance and revenues actually rose in 2008, despite the onset of the recession, and high gas prices, last summer. But the company’s crippling $2.4 billion debt load led to a $135 million loss last year. Six Flags was $141 million in the red for the first quarter of ’09, and this spring the swine-flu outbreak forced Six Flags to close its Mexico park for eight days. In June, Six Flags finally filed for Chapter 11.

6 comments

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  1. Slightly ahead of schedule!

    I’m not sure if this is a good omen or not.

    • Edger on July 26, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    speak all of her mind in one tweet, I think, no?

    I mean, there’s a whole 140 characters there for her to explicate with…

    • TMC on July 26, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    never mind the donuts, how’s the coffee?

  2. Indian Navy’s nuclear sub and China’s encirclement

    This is a recent Real News Network Video, not up on YouTube yet!

    While the leaders? ramp up the rhetoric about Iran, our Friend India Expands The Nuclear Defense Of!!

    An NDTV panel in India discusses the launch Sunday of lndia’s nuclear ballistic submarine INS Arihant

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