Afternoon Edition is an Open Thread
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1 Tsunami hits Chile as Pacific Basin braces for impact
by Talek Harris, AFP
19 mins ago
|SYDNEY (AFP) – A tsunami crashed into Chile’s coast Saturday in a potential portent of disaster across the vast Pacific Ocean as nations went on alert for towering waves generated by a killer earthquake.
The ominous sound of evacuation sirens blared in Hawaii and French Polynesia as a tsunami raced around the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire” after the 8.8-magnitude quake in Chile, which left at least 122 people dead.
About 50 countries and territories along an arc stretching from New Zealand to Japan were braced for immensely powerful waves, not long after the fifth anniversary of the Indian Ocean disaster that killed more than 220,000 people.
2 Florida whale shows to resume after deadly attack
by Amy Green, AFP
Sat Feb 27, 8:00 am ET
|ORLANDO, Florida (AFP) – US entertainment park SeaWorld is to resume killer whale shows at its facilities on Saturday, just days after an orca it described as “an important part of our team” killed a trainer in front of horrified onlookers.
“He will remain part of our team,” SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment president Jim Atchison said of the whale that killed trainer Dawn Brancheu.
“Tilikum is an extraordinary animal,” he added. “He is a very special animal that requires very special handling.”
3 Toyota accused of ‘withholding documents’
Sat Feb 27, 9:30 am ET
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – A top US lawmaker has attacked Toyota for allegedly withholding documents it was legally required to hand over in lawsuits by people injured in accidents in the Japanese auto giant’s vehicles.
Toyota immediately denied the charge from Democratic Representative Edolphus Towns, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, that its actions betrayed “a systematic disregard for the law.”
On Friday, Towns cited documents obtained from a former Toyota in-house lawyer, Dimitrios Biller, as giving “evidence” of improper behavior including “routine violation of court discovery orders in litigation.”
4 Thaksin and supporters vow to fight Thai verdict
by Apilaporn Vechakij, AFP
Sat Feb 27, 9:36 am ET
|BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand’s fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his supporters vowed Saturday to fight back against a court order seizing more than half of his 2.3-billion-dollar fortune.
Thaksin, who was toppled in a coup in 2006, rejected calls from the ruling party to leave the political stage and dismissed their arguments that a compromise had been struck by returning a portion of his frozen funds. Profile: Thailand’s defiant former PM
His supporters, dubbed the “Red Shirts” for their colourful garb, said they would press on with their plans for mass rallies in Bangkok in mid-March, dimming hopes that the verdict could ease Thailand’s political turmoil.
5 Thailand ruling party urges Thaksin to quit politics
by Apilaporn Vechakij, AFP
Sat Feb 27, 2:57 am ET
|BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand’s ruling party on Saturday urged deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra to leave the political stage after the top court ordered the seizure of more than half of his 2.3-billion-dollar fortune.
The fugitive tycoon said the verdict had made him a “political martyr” of an elitist political system, but politicians from the country’s ruling coalition said he should accept the ruling and stop inciting his supporters to protest. Key facts of the case against ex-Thai PM Thaksin
“Every side should accept the verdict. We want to ask Thaksin to quit the political movement, because if he quits the Red Shirts will quit too,” Theptai Seanapong, a spokesman for the ruling Democrat party, told reporters.
6 US into ice hockey final as Riesch wins slalom gold
by Martin Parry, AFP
Fri Feb 26, 7:08 pm ET
|VANCOUVER (AFP) – The United States swept past Finland and into the men’s ice hockey final on Friday where Canada or Slovakia await them, as Maria Riesch grabbed gold in the last women’s alpine event of the Vancouver Olympics.
On day 15 of the Games, Germany surged to the top of the medals table with nine gold ahead of the United States, Norway and Canada on eight thanks to Riesch who dominated the slalom in appalling weather.
Austria’s Marlies Schild clinched silver with Sarka Zahrobska of the Czech Republic taking the bronze.
7 Canada, USA in dream ice hockey Olympic final
by Martin Parry, AFP
Sat Feb 27, 3:04 am ET
|VANCOUVER (AFP) – Canada sneaked past Slovakia while the United States crushed Finland to set up a blockbuster Olympic ice-hockey final on Friday as the host nation surged to the top of the medal table with two more gold.
With just two more days left, the Canadians have 10 gold medals, one clear of Germany and two ahead of the United States and Norway.
Their two titles on Friday both came in short-track skating, where Charles Hamelin won the 500m final then backed-up to help his team claim the 5,000m relay.
8 Vast iceberg could disrupt ocean currents, weather
by Marlowe Hood, AFP
Sat Feb 27, 10:54 am ET
|PARIS (AFP) – An iceberg the size of Luxembourg knocked loose from the Antarctic continent earlier this month could disrupt the ocean currents driving weather patterns around the globe, researchers said.
While the impact would not be felt for decades or longer, a slowdown in the production of colder, dense water could result in less temperate winters in the north Atlantic, they said Thursday.
The 2,550 square-kilometre (985 square-mile) block broke off on February 12 or 13 from the Mertz Glacier Tongue, a 160-kilometer spit of floating ice protruding into the Southern Ocean from East Antarctica due south of Melbourne, researchers said.
9 Kabul attacks aimed to show Taliban ‘defiance’
by Lynne O’Donnell, AFP
Sat Feb 27, 7:01 am ET
|KABUL (AFP) – Friday’s deadly suicide attack on two guesthouses in the Afghan capital showed the Taliban were still defiant despite recent military setbacks and the arrest of senior leaders, analysts said.
The attacks, which killed 16 people including Westerners and Indian in central Kabul, also highlighted India as a target for the rebels, they said.
The Islamist militia, which has been waging a bitter insurgency against the US-backed Afghan government and more than 121,000 foreign troops based in the country, claimed responsibility for the attack.
10 Facebook wins US patent for ‘news feeds’
by Glenn Chapman, AFP
Sat Feb 27, 5:07 am ET
|SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Facebook has won a US patent on news feeds behind the kinds of real-time updates that make social-networking websites a hit with users.
“The launch of News Feed in 2006 was a pivotal moment in Facebook?s history and changed the way millions of people consumed and discovered information on the site,” Facebook said Friday in an email response to an AFP inquiry.
“We?re humbled by the growth and adoption of News Feed over time and pleased with being awarded the patent.”
11 Court blocks Colombia’s Uribe from third term
Sat Feb 27, 5:00 am ET
|BOGOTA (AFP) – Colombia’s Constitutional Court blocked attempts by the country’s popular President Alvaro Uribe to seek a third term in office, ruling as unconstitutional a law calling for a referendum on the issue.
Uribe, who has near 70-percent approval ratings and is Washington’s closest ally in South America, said he would honor the ruling, which cannot be appealed.
It opens the way for former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos, a Uribe supporter, to run in Colombia’s May 30 presidential election.
12 Anti-whalers call end to ‘most successful’ season ever
Sat Feb 27, 1:55 am ET
|SYDNEY (AFP) – Militant anti-whalers declared an end to this year’s pursuit of Japanese harpoon ships in Antarctic waters on Saturday, declaring it their most successful and intensely fought campaign so far.
Paul Watson, captain of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society fleet, estimated that they had reduced the Japanese kill count by up to half, costing the whalers between 70 and 80 million US dollars.
“This year’s been our most successful campaign ever, we’ve shut them down for more days this year than ever before,” Watson told AFP, speaking en route to the southern Australian port of Hobart.
13 Hawaii evacuates coasts ahead of tsunami
1 hr 29 mins ago
|HONOLULU (Reuters) – Hawaii sounded warning sirens and began evacuating residents near the coastline on Saturday ahead of a tsunami generated by a massive earthquake in Chile.
Civil defense sirens sounded across the island state at 6 a.m. local time (1600 GMT) after the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a tsunami was generated that could cause waves of up to 8 feet and damage along the coasts of all the Hawaiian islands.
“We’re not expecting this to be a worst-case scenario, but we are expecting dangerous waves to appear on shore,” said Charles McCreery, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii.
14 Obama: Healthcare reform can’t wait a generation
By Matt Spetalnick, Reuters
Sat Feb 27, 6:05 am ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama sought on Saturday to spark momentum for a final push to revive his stalled healthcare overhaul, insisting that Americans “cannot wait another generation for us to act.”
Two days after a healthcare summit that produced no Republican converts, Obama used his weekly radio address to try to rally public support for a Democratic bid to press ahead with reform legislation, with or without bipartisan agreement.
The White House said Obama would announce a decision next week on “the way forward” on healthcare, signaling his patience is running thin with Republicans who have demanded he scrap his year-old approach and start over.
15 Colombia election race starts, Santos favored
By Andrew Cawthorne and Patrick Markey, Reuters
2 hrs 47 mins ago
|BOGOTA (Reuters) – The race for Colombia’s presidency began Saturday, with former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos the favorite after the South American nation’s popular incumbent was blocked from running for a third term.
The Constitutional Court’s decision to bar a referendum on re-election heralds an end to President Alvaro Uribe’s eight-year rule, during which the U.S. ally beat back left-wing guerrillas, stabilized the economy and drew investors.
With Colombian politics fixated for more than a year on the re-election issue, and polls showing Uribe would have won easily if allowed to run, Friday’s ruling represented a starting gun for other presidential aspirants.
16 Congress panel cites evidence of Toyota concealment
By Steve Gorman, Reuters
Fri Feb 26, 9:01 pm ET
|LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A U.S. congressional panel has found evidence Toyota routinely withheld company records it should have turned over in court and settled personal injury cases to avoid revealing key engineering data dubbed the “Books of Knowledge,” the panel’s chairman said on Friday.
A paper trail of Toyota’s alleged misconduct in defending itself against personal injury suits was revealed in documents subpoenaed from a former in-house Toyota lawyer, said Edolphus Towns, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
The documents “indicate a systematic disregard for the law and routine violation of court discovery orders in litigation,” Towns wrote in a letter to Toyota Motor Corp’s North American chief, Yoshimi Inaba, demanding an explanation.
17 Smart money moves to Washington
By Karey Wutkowski and Rachelle Younglai, Reuters
Fri Feb 26, 3:18 pm ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – On Joe Jiampietro’s first day at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp last year, he walked into his office and found a windowless room devoid of even a computer.
It was a far cry from the cushy office he left behind when he worked as an investment banker JPMorgan in New York, and a stark sign of the fact that although he was just a few hundred miles south of New York in Washington, he was in a new world.
Jiampietro did not mind much. “I could have been in a telephone booth and I would have been happy and excited,” he said during an interview in his now-upgraded office at the FDIC, complete with sunlight and multiple computer screens.
18 U.S. to launch operation in Kandahar city
By Ross Colvin and Sue Pleming, Reuters
Fri Feb 26, 4:20 pm ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan will launch a new military operation later this year to get full control of Kandahar, the former “capital city” of the Taliban, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.
The top U.S. general in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, had already flagged his intention to target Kandahar following an offensive, now in its third week, to retake control of the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in neighboring Helmand province.
“If our overall goal for 2010 in Afghanistan is to reverse the momentum (of the Taliban) … then we think we’ve got to get to Kandahar this year,” said the senior Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
19 Tsunami races across Pacific, threatens Hawaii
By JAYMES SONG, Associated Press Writer
4 mins ago
|EWA BEACH, Hawaii – A tsunami triggered by the Chilean earthquake raced across the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, threatening Hawaii as it rushed toward the U.S. West Coast and hundreds of islands from the bottom of the planet to the top.
Sirens blared in Hawaii to alert residents to the potential waves. Nine small planes equipped with loudspeakers flew along the shoreline, warning beachgoers. On several South Pacific islands hit by a tsunami last fall, police evacuated tens of thousands of coastal residents.
The first waves in Hawaii were expected to hit shortly after 11 a.m. Saturday (4 p.m. EST; 2100 GMT) and measure roughly 8 feet (2.5 meters) at Hilo. Most Pacific Rim nations did not immediately order evacuations, but advised people in low-lying areas to be on the lookout.
20 Obama to GOP on health care: ‘Let’s get this done’
By ERICA WERNER, Associated Press Writer
2 hrs 2 mins ago
|WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said Saturday he is ready to compromise with Republicans on health care if they are serious about it, but that an overhaul must go forward. “Let’s get this done,” he said.
Obama’s comments in his weekly Internet and radio address, two days after an all-day bipartisan summit across from the White House, were the latest sign that Democrats are getting set to try to pass health care legislation without any Republicans on board.
Success will require colossal efforts on the part of Obama and Democratic leaders to round up votes after a year of corrosive debate and a Senate special-election upset that threw the overhaul effort into limbo last month. But Obama and the Democrats reject the piecemeal approach sought by Republicans and have no intention of scrapping their 10-year, $1 trillion bill and starting over, as the GOP demands.
21 Universities push to get students in Census 2010
By CHRIS WILLIAMS, Associated Press Writer
2 mins ago
|ST. PAUL, Minn. – It was 5 p.m. in the lobby of the library of Metropolitan State University, and Clara Ware was sitting behind a table covered with pens, notepads and buttons with the Census 2010 logo, calling out like a sideshow barker.
“Here comes a prospect,” she said as a student walked up.
Ware explained that filling out the census form this spring could mean more money for the university and the surrounding neighborhood, one of the oldest and most diverse in the city. The student took some knickknacks and promised to fill out her form. Ware smiled.
22 Whales perform for 1st time since trainer’s death
By BRIAN SKOLOFF and TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press Writers
1 hr 11 mins ago
|ORLANDO, Fla. – More than 2,000 people watched killer whales perform Saturday at SeaWorld for the first time since one of the orcas dragged a trainer to her death underwater in front of horrified spectators three days ago.
The audience seemed thrilled, applauding and cheering as the whales zipped around their tank and splashed spectators during the show – with the theme of “believe,” about a young boy who sees an orca and dreams of one day becoming a whale trainer. At one point, a young girl was brought on stage and given a whale tail necklace.
“I just wanted to be here for this show. It’s so special,” said Russell Thomphsen, 65, who said he is a season-ticket holder for SeaWorld. “This touches so many lives.”
23 Ex-UN nuclear chief: Egypt is hungry for change
By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Writer
Sat Feb 27, 10:05 am ET
|CAIRO – The ex-U.N. nuclear chief who has emerged as an opposition leader in Egypt urged the government Saturday to respond to peaceful demands for change, cautioning it could face a popular uprising if it doesn’t.
Mohamed ElBaradei, who returned to Cairo a week ago to a hero’s welcome by supporters who see him as a possible rival to President Hosni Mubarak in next year’s elections, told The Associated Press that he hopes to create a peaceful public movement pressing for electoral reforms.
“You have seen how much support I got even before I set foot in Egypt,” said in an interview in the garden of his home on the outskirts of Cairo. “It shows that people are ready, I would say even hungry for change. But this is still something that has to take roots and has to spread to different parts of the country.”
24 Shock over voided Puerto Rican birth certificates
By SUZANNE GAMBOA, Associated Press Writer
Sat Feb 27, 10:46 am ET
|WASHINGTON – Native Puerto Ricans living outside the island territory are reacting with surprise and confusion after learning their birth certificates will become no good this summer.
A law enacted by Puerto Rico in December mainly to combat identity theft invalidates as of July 1 all previously issued Puerto Rican birth certificates. That means more than a third of the 4.1 million people of Puerto Rican descent living in the 50 states must arrange to get new certificates.
The change catches many unaware.
25 NY governor abandons bid for full, 4-year term
By DAVID B. CARUSO and MICHAEL GORMLEY, Associated Press Writers
Sat Feb 27, 11:50 am ET
|NEW YORK – Calling himself an everyday fighter, Gov. David Paterson put an end to his long-shot bid to stay in office, acknowledging that critics who said he was a failed leader with fading support were hurting his chances.
But the announcement that the governor for 300-plus more days won’t seek election may not be enough to quiet growing questions and a criminal investigation into Paterson’s handling of an abuse complaint against a top aide.
Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat who will likely run for the office Paterson will leave, is heading a probe into whether the Paterson administration, and the governor himself, improperly intervened in a domestic violence case involving one of Paterson’s most trusted aides, David Johnson.
26 Health care odds long, but Democrats push ahead
By ALAN FRAM, Associated Press Writer
Sat Feb 27, 1:07 am ET
|WASHINGTON – Democrats pushed hard to revive President Barack Obama’s stalled health care overhaul on Friday – and pointed to glimmers of hope – but the long odds facing them seemed little changed after Obama’s extraordinary summit with both parties’ leaders.
At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama would unveil a “way forward” next week on legislation that has been his foremost domestic priority. Obama, who will first discuss the strategy with Democratic congressional leaders, said at Thursday’s bipartisan marathon that he’s open to several Republican ideas, including medical malpractice changes.
There were signs of intensified activity on Capitol Hill.
27 Ohno grabs 8th career Olympic medal in relay
By BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer
Sat Feb 27, 3:52 am ET
|VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Apolo Anton Ohno held up eight fingers, smiled and basked in the cheers from the crowd on the final night of his so-called “home” Olympics.
The 27-year-old short track skater from Seattle – just a few hours away from the games – bounced back from a disqualification in the 500 meters Friday night to anchor the United States to a bronze medal in the 5,000 relay.
Ohno claimed his eighth Olympic medal to extend his own record as the most decorated short track skater and U.S. Winter Olympian.
28 Rangel refuses to step aside after ethics slap
By LARRY MARGASAK and TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writers
Sat Feb 27, 1:11 am ET
|WASHINGTON – Rep. Charles Rangel said Friday he won’t step down as chairman of the powerful House tax-writing committee after being admonished by an ethics panel for accepting corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean. The public rebuke of one of the Democrats’ most outspoken leaders posed more woes for a party that had vowed to end a “culture of corruption.”
The House ethics committee said that aides to the 20-term New York Democrat tried at least three times to show him the trips – to Antigua in 2007 and St. Maarten in 2008 – had corporate sponsorship, a violation of congressional gift rules.
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee claimed that Friday’s report by the ethics panel “exonerates me” because it cites no evidence that he knew the trips were sponsored by corporations.
29 Woes of governor, Rangel mark end of Harlem 4 era
By SAMANTHA GROSS, Associated Press Writer
Fri Feb 26, 7:11 pm ET
|NEW YORK – They ran the city, represented Malcolm X and were black pioneers who put Harlem on the political map. The “Gang of Four” were kingmakers who built Harlem’s political dynasty into an empire. But with high-profile body blows this week to one member and the son of another, the group’s legacy is in disarray.
It seems unlikely that Gov. David Paterson could have become the state’s first black governor without the groundwork laid by the group – and the connections that came with being the son of Basil Paterson, one of the quartet along with Rep. Charles Rangel, political power broker Percy Sutton and former New York City Mayor David Dinkins.
But with the younger Paterson ending his election bid following a scandal over an abuse complaint against his aide, Rangel facing accusations of breaking House rules, the death of Sutton in December and the aging Dinkins fading from public view, the power base that made Harlem a launching pad for the state’s black leadership seems to be dissipating.
30 Police, Penn St. target St. Patty’s Day lookalike
By GENARO C. ARMAS, Associated Press Writer
Fri Feb 26, 4:40 pm ET
|STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Bars served green beer. Stores sold green shirts and party hats. Revelers took to the streets at dawn.
The unofficial holiday known as “State Patty’s Day” in this college town has looked a lot like St. Patrick’s Day celebration, except it falls two weeks before the traditional Irish holiday.
Now, police, businesses and student leaders are trying to crack down this year on the event they say is just an excuse for a day of excessive drinking and destructive behavior.