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01.25.09 Afghan president: US forces killed 16 civilians
KABUL (AP) January 25 - President Hamid Karzai condemned a US operation he said killed 16 Afghan civilians, while hundreds of villagers denounced the American military during an angry demonstration Sunday. Karzai said the killing of innocent Afghans during US military operations "is strengthening the terrorists." He also announced that his Ministry of Defense sent Washington a draft technical agreement that seeks to give Afghanistan more oversight over US military operations. The same letter has also been sent to NATO headquarters. Karzai in recent weeks has increasingly lashed out at his Western backers over the issue of civilian casualties, even as US politicians and a top NATO official have publicly criticized Karzai for the slow pace of progress here. [More>>thejkartapost.com; See also the same article with a different slant, thenews.com.pk, January 25, "Karzai wants control over US operations" and related article, Maravot News (below) 01.23.09 Obama ready to cut Karzai adrift .
01.25.09 Hamas to Abbas: End talks with Israel before any reconciliation
(AP) January 25 - A senior Hamas official said Sunday that the Palestinian Authority must end security coordination and peace talks with Israel before any reconciliation talks between the two rival Palestinian groups can take place. The remarks by Osama Hamdan are bound to complicate Arab efforts to reconcile Hamas, which controls Gaza, and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Hamdan is Hamas's representative in Lebanon and is close to top Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal. Speaking at a rally in Beirut Sunday, Hamdan said Hamas welcomed Palestinian dialogue, but any reconciliation should be based on "a resistance program to liberate territory and regain rights." [>jpost.com; See related story,
01.25.09 Taliban releases hit-list of Pakistani politicians
ISLAMABAD, January 25 - [The] Taliban in northwest Pakistan's Swat Valley Sunday released a hit-lit comprising 45 political leaders, ministers, members of parliament, elected councillors and prominent personalities, the News Network International news agency reported. The politicians belonging to various political parties will be targeted if they do not appear in Taliban's Shariat courts, the report said. The NNI quoted a Taliban leader in Swat, Maulana Fazalullah, as saying that the people in the list had destroyed peace in Swat and should be tried in Taliban's Shariat court. Fazalullah said that if these people did not appear in the court, they would face dangerous consequences. [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See related story,
nytimes.com, January 24, "In Pakistan, radio amplifies terror of Taliban" : PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Every night around 8 o’clock, the terrified residents of Swat, a lush and picturesque valley a hundred miles from three of Pakistan's most important cities, crowd around their radios. They know that failure to listen and learn might lead to a lashing — or a beheading. Using a portable radio transmitter, a local Taliban leader, Shah Doran, on most nights outlines newly proscribed "un-Islamic" activities in Swat, like selling DVDs, watching cable television, singing and dancing, criticizing the Taliban, shaving beards and allowing girls to attend school. He also reveals names of people the Taliban have recently killed for violating their decrees — and those they plan to kill.
"They control everything through the radio," said one Swat resident, who declined to give his name for fear the Taliban might kill him. "Everyone waits for the broadcast." International attention remains fixed on the Taliban's hold on Pakistan's semiautonomous tribal areas, from where they launch attacks on American forces in Afghanistan. But for Pakistan, the loss of the Swat Valley could prove just as devastating...
01.25.09 2 suspected Pakistan terrorists killed ahead of R-Day
NOIDA, India, January 25 - In a pre-dawn encounter, two suspected Pakistani terrorists, trying to enter Delhi from Ghaziabad, were on Sunday killed and an Uttar Pradesh ATS personnel was injured in Noida, a day before the Republic Day celebrations. The incident took place at 2.35 am at sector 97 near UNITECH plot after the terrorists, travelling in a white Maruti car, opened fire on the ATS team, leading to an exchange of fire between the two sides. "One of the terrorists, while being taken to hospital identified himself as Farooq, a resident of Okara in Pakistan, and his companion as Abu Ismail from Rawalakot (POK)," UP Additional Director General of Police Brij Lal told a press conference in Lucknow. "Two AK-47 assault rifles, four magazines, 120 rounds of ammunition, five hand-grenades, nine suspected RDX rods, detonators, a Pakistani passport and Rs 18,000 were recovered from the terrorists," Lal said.
"The passport recovered from Farooq bears the name Ali Ahmed, resident of Rahimyaar Khan in Pakistan," the ADGP said, adding some documents like identity cards and diaries were also recovered from them...The officer said the ATS team had been working for the past one month on a terrorist module and around midnight on Saturday night, it got the information that the two persons, equipped with AK-47 rifles, in a white Maruti car were trying to enter Delhi from Lalkuan in Ghaziabad. The ATS unit deployed at Amity outpost saw the suspected vehicle coming at around 2.15 am and tried to stop it, on which the terrorists opened fire at the team, he said. [More>>indianexpress.com; See other details,
01.25.09 Russia welcomes restart of gas supplies to S. Ossetia from Georgia
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) January 25 - Russia welcomes the resumption of gas transits to South Ossetia from Georgia disrupted by a five-day war between Moscow and Tbilisi in August, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Sunday. Georgia resumed Russian gas transits to the breakaway region of South Ossetia on January 23. Gas supplies to South Ossetia were halted for several hours early on Sunday due to a minor accident at the Georgian gas transit system but were restored later in the afternoon...Georgia cut off gas deliveries to its breakaway republic in August stating that a section of the pipeline in South Ossetia had been damaged. With winter closing in, Moscow suggested Georgia was falsely claiming the pipeline had been damaged to avoid sending gas to South Ossetia...Russian energy giant Gazprom earlier announced its plans to build a gas pipeline to directly connect Russia and South Ossetia. [Full story>>en.rian.ru; See related articles,
Maravot News (below) 01.23.09 Moscow worried by Georgian buildup near south Ossetia, Abkhazia and
01.25.09 Earnings, economy - here comes 'terrible'
NEW YORK, January 25 - Investors this week will face the largest batch of company report cards yet, in what is quickly shaping up to be the worst quarter for corporate profits in a decade. The earnings avalanche will test the market's mettle. Last week, the Dow fought back after falling below the 8,000 point psychological benchmark for four days in a row. Analysts say if the Dow can hang on to this level in the weeks ahead, that's a good indication that a bottom has been set. The biggest week for earnings brings reports from 137 S&P 500 companies and 12 Dow components. Standouts include Caterpillar, American Express, McDonald's, Yahoo, Wells Fargo and Exxon Mobil.
01.25.09 Snow covers UAE mountain, first time in history
DUBAI, January 25 - Locals say snow so rare local dialect has no word for it. For the first time in the desert country's history, snow blanketed the peak of Jais Mountain in the northern United Arab Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah Sunday. So rare was the snowfall that a lifelong resident of the area said the local dialect does not even have a word for 'snow,' the UAE daily The National reported. "Twenty years ago we had lots of hail [but] last night was like this. At four in the morning we came out and the ground was white," the paper quoted lifelong resident of the area Aisha al Hebsy, 50, as saying. Sunday's snowfall was only the second time in recorded history that it has snowed in the emirate, with temperatures dropping two degrees below zero as 20 cm (eight inches) of snow accumulated in some places. [More>>alarabiya.net]
Editorial note: Record heat has been experienced in the San Francisco Bay over several days, the weeks of January 11- 21, 2009 ( See cbs5.com, January 12, "Record heat wave brings bay area record high temps"), while record snow appeared in the US Pacific Northwest (Portland, Seattle & Spokane; See seattletimes.nwsource.com, December 19, 2008, "Spokane is paralyzed by record snowfall"). Bankok, Thailand reported record cold in the northern part of the country (See zeenews.com, January 14, "Tropical Thailand declares emergency as cold hits"). Maravot News 1.16.09 carried an intersting story, 01.08.09 So cold the sea around Britain freezes.The Arctic icepack has been significantly melting while Antarctica is warming in the western coast and cooling in other areas (See msnbc.msn.com, January 21, "Antarctica study challenges warming skeptics" : West side warming offsets cooling in parts of east side, researchers report..).
01.25.09 Research: Pacific people originate in Taiwan
WELLINGTON, New Zealand, January 25 - New research into language evolution suggests most Pacific populations originated in Taiwan around 5,200 years ago. Scientists at the University of Auckland have used sophisticated computer analyses on vocabulary from 400 Austronesian languages to uncover how the Pacific was settled. "The Austronesian language family is one of the largest in the world, with 1,200 languages spread across the Pacific," said Professor Russell Gray of the Department of Psychology. "The settlement of the Pacific is one of the most remarkable prehistoric human population expansions."
01.25.09 Mystery virus his 15 million PCs around the world
January 25 - MoD and hospital computers among those infected by worm – the purpose of which is still unclear. A mysterious computer virus, the purpose of which has yet to become apparent, is spreading so fast that it has already infected more than 15 million computers around the world. Some six million machines have been contaminated in the past three days alone by the virus, a worm known as Downadup, Conficker or Kido.
There remains the possibility that it has no function other than to demonstrate its originator's skill, but security experts think it unlikely a worm so sophisticated has no ulterior purpose. Tom Gaffney, technical manager of F-Secure, says this could be to capture confidential information, such as online account details and passwords, but it is more likely to be a "rootkit," which gives the virus designer administrative access – effectively, control over the computer and then, perhaps, its network. He said that Conficker is the worst outbreak of this type seen for six years, since the Slammer worm ran amok in 2003.
Conficker's origin is thought to be in Ukraine, mainly because the first thing the worm does is check if a computer has a Ukrainian-configured keyboard. If it does, the worm leaves it unmolested. Former Soviet states are where so-called "computer warfare" (the hacking of target networks, or hijacking of websites) has been most common. It was prevalent during last year's Georgia-Russia conflict. So far, Conficker's impact has been irritating, but not disastrous...F-Secure, along with other security specialists, has a free online scan for the virus available on its website. [Full story>>independent.co.uk]
01.24.09 Turkey possible winner in Russia-Ukraine gas dispute - Expert
KIEV, Ukraine (RIA Novosti) January 24 - A Ukrainian energy expert said Russia came out on top in the recent gas dispute with Ukraine but believes that Turkey could prove to be the outright winner as the EU seeks alternative gas routes. Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom and Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz signed on Monday a long-awaited contract on gas supplies to Ukraine following a dispute which saw gas deliveries to Europe cut off. The EU called the situation "incredible and unacceptable" and said EU companies could sue Russia and Ukraine if supplies were not restored. "Today's tactical advantage could actually result in a loss of Russia's strategic national interests. Indeed let's see what conclusions Europe makes," Alexander Narbut, an independent Ukrainian energy expert, said on Friday at an energy round-table in Ukraine.
01.24.09 City Minister Lord Myners attacks bankers for greed and arrogance
LONDON, January 24 - A furious onslaught on banking's “masters of the universe” has been unleashed by Gordon Brown's City Minister. Too many top bankers fail to realize they are grossly over-rewarded and have no sense of society, Lord Myners says in an interview with The Times. With figures yesterday pointing to a longer and deeper recession than feared, lasting into 2010, Lord Myners says that banks have been mismanaged and delivers the strongest attack so far on those responsible. He also reveals that the banking system was close to collapse before the first bailout was announced...Lord Myners says that there will have to be fundamental changes in the way that banks operate and that "the golden days of huge bonuses in the investment banking arms are gone." [Full story>>timesonline.co.uk]
01.24.09 Firms that got bailout money keep lobbying
WASHINGTON, January 24 - The financial giant Bank of America says it is no longer lobbying the federal government about its unfolding bank bailout. After receiving $45 billion in bailout money, lobbying was just too unseemly. "We are very sensitive to the fact that we have taxpayer money," said Shirley Norton, a spokeswoman for the company. Citigroup, recipient of another $45 billion, made the opposite call. While trying to keep a low profile, the company is still fielding an army of Washington lobbyists working on a host of issues, including the bailout. In the fourth quarter, it spent $1.77 million on lobbying fees, according to its lobbyists' filings.
Editorial note: Maybe we are not approaching the problem of the banking system collapse from the standpoint of a bankruptcy, which in fact is what many of the "saved" financial institutions were facing. The prospect of selling off assets to pay off creditors and the layoff of employees garners the thought that without being saved the executives and employees would not have received any money, except unemployment benefits, assuming they qualify. This being recognized, shouldn't the government, having saved certain entities and being the major shareholder in the arrangements, ask the executives and employees to adhere to government pay scale? In effect the US government has rehired them.
01.24.09 Palestinian authority applauds Mitchell pick
WASHINGTON, January 24 - The Palestinian Authority and Israel welcomed yesterday the appointment of former senator George Mitchell as the new US envoy to the Middle East. "He's someone with experience of the Israel-Palestinian question and the settlement of political conflicts," chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmad Qorei told AFP. "We have already worked with him as the author of the Mitchell Report, which called for a freeze of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory and the withdrawal of the Israeli army from West Bank towns."
01.24.09 Assad congratulates Hamas on 'victory' over IDF in Gaza
January 24 - Syrian President Basher Assad met with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal Saturday morning, where he congratulated him for the "victory achieved by the Palestinian resistance in Gaza", the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on Saturday. According to the article, Assad told Meshal, currently in exile in Damascus, that the Palestinian peoples' response to Israel Defense Forces operation "Cast Lead" was evidence of their "commitment to their inalienable rights to their land and homes, and of their deep faith in their ultimate victory over occupation and aggression."
01.24.09 Malaysia seeks return of 2 citizens in Guantanamo
KUALA LUMPUR (AP) January 24 - Malaysia offered Saturday to take back two citizens who are prominent terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison after President Barac Obama ordered the closure of the facility. Prime Minister Ahmad Ahmad Badawi said the Malaysian government is seeking permission for its police officers to meet the two men for the first time since their transfer in September 2006 from secret CIA prisons to the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay for trials. "If possible, we'd like to bring both of them home" so that they can be held in Malaysian custody if necessary, Malaysia's national news agency, Bernama, quoted Abdullah as telling reporters during a visit to Dubai. An estimated 245 men are being held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, most of whom have been detained for years without being charged with a crime. Among the issues the Obama administration has to resolve is where to put those detainees — whether back in their home countries or at other federal detention centers. The two Malaysians — Mohd Farik Bin Amin, better known as Zubair, and MohammedNazir Bin Lep, also known as Lillie — are so-called high-value detainees at Guantanamo. [More>>thejakartapost.com]
01.24.09 China reports fourth death from bird flu
URUMQI, China, January 24 - A 31-year-old woman has died of bird flu in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, becoming the fourth death from the disease in the country so far this year, the local health department said Saturday. The woman surnamed Zhang, a resident in the regional capital Urumqi, died at 4:40 a.m. Friday. She had been to a poultry market before she fell ill on Jan. 10, said Wang Xiaoyan, deputy director of the regional health department. She was confirmed to have been infected with the H5N1 strain of avian influenza by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday. [More>>xinhuanet.com]
01.24.09 Iran in scramble for fresh uranium supplies
MOSCOW, January 24 - Western powers believe that Iran is running short of the raw material required to manufacture nuclear weapons, triggering an international race to prevent it from importing more, The Times has learnt. Diplomatic sources believe that Iran's stockpile of yellow cake uranium, produced from uranium ore, is close to running out and could be exhausted within months. Countries including Britain, the US, France and Germany have started intensive diplomatic efforts to dissuade major uranium producers from selling to Iran.
haaretz.com, January 24, "Report: Iran's uranium supply could run out within months" ...The Times said the Democratic Republic of Congo, where fighting and smuggling are rife, was another potential source of supply that troubles Western nations and the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency..
01.24.09 Suicide car bomb, gunfight kill 19 civilians in Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AFP) January 24 - At least 19 civilians were killed Saturday in Mogadishu by a suicide car bomb aiming for African Union peackeepers and in a gunfight that followed, an official and witnesses said. The explosives-laden car was heading to a control point manned by the AU forces in Mogadishu's southern K4 intersection when a policeman opened fire at the vehicle.
At least 14 civilians died when a would-be suicide bomber hit a civilian bus in Maka Al-Mukarama road. A policeman tried to stop him and fired bullets at the car and it hit the bus killing all on board and the bomber himself,’ Abdifatah Ibrahim Shaweye, Mogadishu's deputy governor told AFP. Shaweye said the suicide bomber was a foreigner after an arm was retrieved from the car wreckage. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
01.24.09 France to send frigate to patrol waters off Gaza
PARIS, January 24 - Says in full cooperation with Egypt and Israel. France will deploy a frigate carrying helicopters to international waters off the coast of Gaza to participate in a mission against arms trafficking in the territory, the presidency said Friday. A statement from President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said the surveillance, aimed at preventing arms trafficking by sea to Hamas-ruled Gaza, would be carried out in full cooperation with Egypt and Israel. "What is urgent now is to consolidate the ceasefire, and that requires humanitarian action, a total halt on arms trafficking to Gaza, the durable reopening of the border crossings, reconstruction and inter-Palestinian reconciliation," the statement said. [More>>alarabiya.net]
01.24.09 Iraqi security forces capture senior al-Qaeda leader
BAGHDAD, January 24 - Iraqi security forces said on Saturday it captured the top Islamic judicial leader of the al-Qaeda in Iraq network in Baghdad, the state-run Iraqi television reported. "An Interior Ministry force arrested the Islamic judicial leader in the al-Qaeda organization in Iraq, Ismail Abdul-Sattar al-Rubaie, in Baghdad," Maj. Gen. Abdul-Kareem Khalaf, spokesman of the Interior Ministry, said in an interview with the channel. "The al-Qaeda leader is currently interrogated by Iraqi security forces," Khalaf said without saying when the leader was arrested. He said that the captured leader is also known as "the blind leader" and "the blind judge." Investigation with the leader disclosed several al-Qaeda cells in and out of Baghdad, according to Khalaf who refused give further details for security reasons. [>xinhuanet.com]
01.23.09 Ex-Gitmo detainee joins al-Qaeda in Yemen
CAIRO (AP) January 23 - A Saudi man released from Guantanamo after spending nearly six years inside the U.S. prison camp is now the No. 2 of Yemen's al-Qaeda branch, according to a purported Internet statement from the terror network. The announcement, made this week on a Web site commonly used by militants, came as President Barack Obama ordered the detention facility closed within a year. Many of the remaining detainees are from Yemen, which has long posed a vexing terrorism problem for the US. The terror group's Yemen branch — known as "al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula" — said the man, identified as Said Ali al-Shihri, returned to his home in Saudi Arabia after his release from Guantanamo about a year ago and from there went to Yemen, which is Osama bin Laden's ancestral home...there are indications that as many as 10 percent of the men released from Guantanamo are "back on the battlefield. They are attacking American troops." [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]
01.23.09 Twenty killed in US drone strikes in North, South Waziristan
WANA, Pakistan, January 23 - Twenty people have been killed and several others injured in US drone strikes in North and South Waziristan on Friday. According to foreign news agencies, the dead include four foreigners. Three missiles were fired at a house of a man named Khalil in Zera, an area located in North Waziristan, killing 10 people and injuring many others.
01.23.09 Green light for US stem cell work
January 23 - US regulators have cleared the way for the world's first study on human embryonic stem cell therapy. The US Food and Drug Administration have been considering the 21,000 page application for months. The decision by the FDA to give the go-ahead comes at a symbolic moment, just days after the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Since 2001 there have been limits on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The decision of the FDA is independent of White House control, but the new president is widely expected to adopt a more pragmatic and science-oriented approach to stem cell research. Under President Bush, federal funding had been limited to around 60 stem cell lines created from embryos destroyed prior to August 2001...Geron Corp, the company behind the research, plans to initiate a clinical trial in a handful of patients paralysed due to spinal cord injury. [Full story>>bbc.co.uk; See also geron.com, January 23, "Geron receives FDA clearance to begin world's first human clinical trial of embryonic stem cell-based therapy."]
01.23.09 Moscow worried by Georgian buildup near south Ossetia, Abkhazia
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) January 23 - The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday Georgia's expanding military presence on the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia continued to be a matter for grave concern. It said the Georgian military and police presence called for "special attention on the part of the UN and other international organizations operating in the region." A week ago, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference that, "EU monitors working in areas adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been reporting a buildup of Georgian military units and special forces near the borders with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and our 'technical devices' have also recorded this.
01.23.09 Obama ready to cut Karzai adrift
January 23 - Barack Obama's arrival in the White House and the wind of change sweeping through Washington could lead to the ousting from power of Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, The Independent has learnt. International support for Mr. Karzai, who was once the darling of the West, has waned spectacularly, amid worsening violence, endemic corruption and weak leadership. But until very recently, diplomats insisted there were no viable alternatives even as fighting has intensified and the Taliban insurgency in the south has grown. But four key figures believed to be challenging Mr. Karzai have arrived in Washington for meetings with Obama administration officials this week. There is now talk of a "dream ticket" that would see the main challengers run together to unite the country's various ethnic groups and wrest control away from Mr. Karzai.
01.23.09 Israel to approve aid for IDF officers accused of Gaza war crimes
January 23 - The government is set to approve a bill Sunday to grant aid and support to Israel Defense Forces officers in cases where they face suits for alleged war crimes from Operation Cast Lead. The bill, titled "strengthening the IDF's hand after Operation Cast Lead," was put forward by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and coordinated by the Ministry or Defense, Ministry of Justice and State Prosecutor. There is growing concern at the Defense Ministry and the Ministry of Justice that Israeli officers will be singled out in a wave of suits for alleged human rights violations...Barak wrote in the bill that the IDF behaved according to its high moral values during Cast Lead, in spite of the fact that Hamas gunmen fired on IDF troops from areas heavily populated with civilians, in clear violation of international law. [Full story>>haaretz.com]
01.23.09 Feared Congolese rebel leader apprehended
KIGALI, Rwanda, January 23 - Laurent Nkunda, the fearsome Congolese rebel leader whose national ambitions and brutal tactics threatened to destabilize eastern Congo, was arrested Thursday night along the Congolese-Rwandan border, United Nations officials said on Friday. According to the United Nations officials and statements made by the Congolese military, Mr. Nkunda was trying to escape a joint Congolese-Rwandan military offensive that was intended to wipe out several rebel groups terrorizing eastern Congo. He was captured at a small border town called Bunagana after trying to resist Rwandan troops. "He's going to Kigali," said Lt. Col. Jean-Paul Dietrich, a United Nations spokesman, referring to Rwanda's capital.
01.22.09 Obama orders secret prisons and detention camps closed
WASHINGTON, January 22 - Saying that "our ideals give us the strength and moral high ground" to combat terrorism, President Obama signed executive orders Thursday effectively ending the Central Intelligence Agency's secret interrogation program, directing the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp within a year and setting up a sweeping, high-level review of the best way to hold and question terrorist suspects in the future. "We intend to win this fight," Mr. Obama said, "We are going to win it on our own terms."
01.22.09 Crowley: Balance of power trying to find balance
WASHINGTON, January 22 - Democrats hold a strong majority in Congress, but with power comes a power struggle, and a potential headache for President Obama. Just two days into his term, the president is already facing pushback from leaders of his own party. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have made it clear — it's not their job to answer to Obama. To a certain degree, the president-Congress tension is simply politics at play — something that happens every time a new president comes in. But this time, the Democrats have even more power than they did before the election, meaning Pelosi and Reid both have huge majorities in their respective houses.
01.22.09 Thain resigns from Bank of America
NEW YORK (AP) January 22 - Former Merrill Lynch & Co. CEO John Thain resigned from Bank of America Corp. Thursday following news that Merrill had moved up its yearend bonuses, paying them just before BofA completed its acquisition of Merrill and sought more government bailout money. The company gave no reason for Thain's departure. Bank of America spokesman Scott Silvestri issued a terse statement: "(BofA Chairman and CEO) Ken Lewis flew to New York today to talk to John Thain. And it was mutually agreed that his situation was not working out and he would resign." The bonuses to Merrill Lynch executives were also paid out as the company prepared to report a $15.45 billion fourth-quarter loss — a loss that led Bank of America to request and receive $20 billion in government bailout money. Merrill also received bailout funds. [More>>abcnews.go.com]
01.22.09 Microsoft to slash 5,000 jobs, misses on 2Q profit
January 22 - Microsoft said today it would cut 5,000 jobs as another round of negative economic news sent US stocks lower and reaffirmed the extent of a global slowdown. The Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant — a bellwether for the tech industry — said that slowing sales of personal computers had led to an 11 percent decline in profit in the final three months of 2008 compared with the same period a year ago. The job losses will be company-wide — including 1,400 positions eliminated today — and amount to about 5 percent of Microsoft's labor force. [More>>washingtonpost.com; See related stories;
joongangdaily.joins.com, January 23, "S. Korea:"4th-quarter GDP drops 3.4 percent from 2007 level" Declining exports due to worldwide economic crisis are the main culprits. In the last quarter of 2008, the Korean economy shrank 3.4 percent from a year earlier, the largest retreat since the first quarter of 1998. Compared with the third quarter, the fourth-quarter gross domestic product dipped 5.6 percent, the Bank of Korea said yesterday...
news.com.au, January 23, $5bn worth of exports to China at risk: Kevin Rudd" : Kevin Rudd has warned that the sudden collapse in China's economic growth reported yesterday will wipe $5 billion off Australia's annual exports and destroy domestic jobs. Dramatically hardening his rhetoric on the depth of the global economic crisis, the Prime Minister warned that 2009 could be "one of the most troubled years of our age."...
01.22.09 Repossessions in the UK jump 92%
LONDON, January 22 - The number of homeowners who have missed more than one mortgage payment has risen sharply, say FSA figures. Repossessions almost doubled in the three months to September last year, according to the City watchdog. Figures published today by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) show 13,161 homes were repossessed by mortgage lenders in the third quarter of last year. It represents a 92 per cent jump on the same period in 2007, when fewer than 7,000 householders lost their homes.
cbsnews.com, January 22, "New home construction hits 49-year low" : WASHINGTON - New home construction plunged to an all-time low in December, capping the worst year for builders on records dating back to 1959. The Commerce Department reported Thursday that construction of new homes and apartments fell 15.5 percent to an annual rate of 550,000 units last month. That shattered the previous low set in November. It was a much weaker showing than the pace of 610,000 that economists were forecasting and ended 2008 on a dismal note. Bad news also came in on the job front Thursday as new jobless claims climbed higher than expected, matching the 26-year high reached four weeks ago...
01.22.09 Death sentences in Chinese milk case
BEIJING, January 22 - Chinese courts sentenced two men to death on Thursday for endangering public safety in a tainted milk scandal that killed at least six children, according to state-run news media. Three other defendants, including a top dairy company executive, were sentenced to life in prison, another defendant received a suspended death sentence, and 15 others were given jail terms ranging from two to 15 years. The sentences were the first to be handed down in one of the worst food safety scandals in China in decades. The Intermediate People's Court in Shijiazhuang, in the northern province of Hebei, said the defendants had intentionally produced or sold dairy products laced with a toxic chemical called melamine, which was used to artificially increase protein readings but which caused kidney stones and other ailments in about 300,000 children last year. [More>>nytimes.com]
01.22.09 Italian paper: Gazans say Hamas kept them in homes used by gunmen
January 22 - Palestinian civilians have accused Hamas of forcing them to stay in homes from which gunmen shot at Israeli soldiers during the recent hostilities in Gaza, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported Thursday. More than 1,250 Palestinians were reportedly killed during Israel's offensive against Hamas in the coastal territory. Israel has been harshly criticized for the large number of civilians among the Palestinian dead, of whom they numbered more than half, according Gaza officials. But the Italian paper also quoted a doctor at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital as disputing the number of Palestinians said to have been killed in the campaign.
01.22.09 Fatwa charter signed in Saudi to curb abuses
DUBAI, January 22 - Islamic scholars agree to regulate religious rulings. For the first time in the history of Islam, Muslim leaders have agreed to regulate the issuing of fatwas, or religious edicts, according to press reports Wednesday. More than 170 Islamic scholars attending the International Conference on Fatwas convened at the Muslim World League in Mecca, Saudi Arabia agreed to a charter intended to curb disruptive and unauthorized fatwas, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat reported Wednesday.
01.22.09 Italy to ban demos in front of places of worship
ROME (AFP) January 22 - Seen as anti-Muslim measure following prayer protests. Italy is to introduce far-reaching restrictions on where demonstrations can be held after a row over recent protests by Muslims outside cathedrals in Rome, Milan and Bologna, [an] Italian newspaper reported Thursday. The ministerial directive will ban demonstrations in front of all places of worship, barracks, commercial or cultural centers, highly populated areas and other "sensitive zones," the Italian daily La Repubblica reported...On Jan. 3, several hundred Muslims protesting the Israeli war in the Gaza Strip knelt down for prayers led by an imam for several minutes in front of cathedrals in Milan and Bolgna, provoking outrage among the Italian right. [Full story>>alarabiya.net]
01.22.09 Troops kill around 30 insurgents in Afghanistan
KABUL (AFP) January 22 - Afghan and international forces said Thursday they had killed around 30 militants in Afghanistan, 22 of them in NATO air strikes after a patrol was attacked near the Pakistan border. A "large number of insurgents" attacked a NATO patrol in eastern Khost province on Wednesday, the alliance's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement.
"The ISAF patrol fired back in response and called in attack helicopters and close air support," it said. "ISAF servicemembers from a nearby operating base assessed the scene, confirming a total of 22 insurgents killed in the remote area," it said...The Afghan defence ministry said separately that police posts in neighboring Tere Zayi district had come under attack late Wednesday, sparking heavy fighting that lasted into Thursday morning. "Eight enemies were killed and another two wounded were left on the battlefield," it said. [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]
01.22.09 Al-Qaeda urges attacks in US, Britain to avenge Gaza war
DUBAI (AFP) January 22 - A prominent al-Qaeda figure, Abu Yahya al-Libi, on Thursday urged Islamist militants to launch attacks in the West, naming the United States and Britain, to avenge Israel's onslaught on Gaza. "Sacrifice what you can to deliver to the capitals of the infidel West, the criminal America, and the agent tyrants a taste of what they deliver to our brothers and our oppressed brothers and people in Palestine," Libi said in a videotape posted on the Internet, according a translation by SITE monitoring group... The videotaped message, titled "Palestine... Now the Fighting is Fierce" is the third message by a member of al-Qaeda leadership within three weeks... [Full story>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]
01.22.09 With Ethiopian pullout, Islamists rise again in Somalia
NAIROBI, January 22 - The departure of the last Ethiopian tanks from Somalia's capital is ushering in a new phase of conflict in a nation known for clan warfare: a battle for power among militias flying Islamist banners. In some ways, the situation in Somalia, where people have long practiced a moderate and mostly apolitical form of Islam, has circled back to where it was when the Ethiopians invaded two years ago. The US-supported operation was intended to oust a popular movement of moderate and radical Islamists that had taken over the capital and that the United States accused of having ties to al-Qaeda.
01.21.09 After a day of crowds and celebration, Obama turns to sobering challenges
WASHINGTON, January 21 - President Barack Obama moved quickly on Wednesday to lay some touchstones for the "more responsible, more accountable government" he has promised, ordering a salary freeze for senior White House staff, tightening rules on lobbyists and establishing what he said was a new standard of greater government openness. "However long we are keepers of the public trust, we should never forget that we are here as public servants," Mr. Obama said at a swearing-in ceremony for staff members in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. He then shook each of their hands. Just hours after a long day of inaugural ceremony and celebration ended late Tuesday, Mr. Obama took up a pressing schedule on Wednesday, his first full day in office, aimed at grappling with the daunting foreign and domestic challenges facing his administration.
cnn.com, January 21, "Vowing transparency, Obama OK's ethics guidelines" : Promising "a new era of openness in our country," President Barack Obama signed executive orders Wednesday relating to ethics guidelines for staff members of his administration. "Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency," Obama said. Among other things, Obama said he would issue a pay freeze for his senior staff.
01.21.09 Iran: 'Palestinian resistance has right to arms'
(Reuters) January 21 - Iran, accused by Israel of supplying arms to Hamas militants, today said resistance groups around the world like those in Gaza had the right to have access to weapons to fight against "colonialists." "A government or a people who would like to defend themselves, it is very natural they will do their utmost to get weapons from whatever place possible," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in a speech on the conflict in Gaza. Israel accuses Iran of providing weapons to Hamas. Tehran says it provides financial, humanitarian and moral support and has condemned Israel's offensive in the Palestinian territory.
jpost.com, January 21, "Gaza Strip smuggling tunnels operating despite IDF offensive" : Smuggling into Gaza from Egypt is underway again, only days after the end of the IDF operation against Hamas. AP Television News footage showed Palestinian smugglers Wednesday filling a fuel truck with petrol that came through a cross-border tunnel from Egypt. The footage also shows workers busy clearing blocked tunnels and bulldozers carrying out other repairs. One of the stated goals of the IDF offensive was to stop the smuggling through the hundreds of tunnels under the border. The goods coming through have included a steady flow of rockets and other weapons. Israel has said eighty percent of the smuggling tunnels were destroyed in bombing raids during the IDF's Operation Cast Lead.
haaretz.com, January 21, "White House: Obama determined to help consolidate Gaza truce" : US President Barack Obama on Wednesday called four Middle East leaders, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to express his commitment to be actively engaged in the path toward Middle East peace. The White House said in a statement that Obama was determined to help consolidate a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, and would pursue an active role in reaching a Middle East settlement.
01.21.09 Muslim world cautious of Obama's "new way"
CAIRO, January 21 - Arabs, Muslims, Iranians voice differing views on Obama. Arabs and Muslims received Wednesday US President Barack Obama's promise of "a new way forward" with caution as many in the region said action speaks louder than words, while Iranians doubted reconciliation between Tehran and Washington. Arabs and Muslims gave the benefit of some doubt on Wednesday to US President Barack Obama's offer of "a new way forward" with the Muslim world, but many said it would take deeds rather than words to convince them.
indianexpress.com, January 21, "Let Obama walk the talk, say British Muslim groups" : LONDON - British Islamic groups gave a cautious welcome to new US President Barack Obama's pledge to reach out to the Muslim world, saying his policies needed to match his words. In his inauguration address on Tuesday, Obama promised a "new way forward" based on "mutual interest and mutual respect" following tensions that followed the Sept. 11 attacks, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and US support for Israel.
01.21.09 After down day, markets push higher
January 21 - After a steep Inauguration Day slide, Wall Street bounced back on Wednesday as bargain-hunting investors lifted companies whose shares had tumbled by double digits a day earlier. After opening higher and then stumbling, the major indexes regained their footing, paring some of their losses from Tuesday's rout in which the Dow slid by 330 points.
01.21.09 Northern Rock staff awarded 10% bonus
LONDON, January 21 - Northern Rock staff will this week receive 10 per cent of their salary as a reward for their "dedication" to the nationalized bank. The majority of the bank's 4,500 staff are in line for the bonus, which was approved by the Treasury last year. Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said the payout to staff at the rescued bank was indefensible. He said: "This is bringing the worst of the City bonus culture into a public body. This is an extraordinary action from a state-owned bank which still owes billions to taxpayers. When millions of people are facing pay cuts or even unemployment, this is indefensible. The Government should step in to stop this now."
However Gordon Brown defended the agreement. He said: "Northern Rock, as I think is well known, has repaid its debts to the Government at a rate faster than originally planned for. Operational decisions such as this are a matter for Northern Rock." [More>>timesonline.co.uk]
01.21.09 Iraq accuses Iranian exiles of plotting attack
BAGHDAD, January 21 - The Iraqi government this week accused an Iranian opposition group of planning a suicide attack against Iraqi troops, a possible prelude to decisive government action to close the group's camp in Iraq and expel its members. The Mujaheddin-e Khalq, or MEK, on Tuesday denied Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie's allegation that it was planning an attack. Rubaie, who made the charge Monday during a visit to Tehran, offered no evidence to back up his assertion.
01.21.09 Chinese translation cuts out parts of Obama speech
BEIJING, January 21 - The official Chinese translation of President Barack Obama's inauguration speech was missing his references to communism and dissent, while a live broadcast on state television Wednesday quickly cut away to the anchor when the topic was mentioned. The comments by the newly installed US president veered into politically sensitive territory for China's ruling Communist Party, which maintains a tight grip over the Internet and the entirely state-run media.
01.21.09 Agreement reached for NATO supplies' new route
DOSHANBE, January 21 - The US Commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, says an agreement has been reached for new overland transport routes into Afghanistan through countries other than Pakistan. Western troops in Afghanistan had been seeking different ways of getting supplies because convoys were coming under regular attack. General Petraeus said agreements have been reached for additional logistical routes to Afghanistan through the north.
01.21.09 Pakistan arrests suspected planners of NATO attacks
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) January 21 - Pakistani security forces arrested on Wednesday seven suspected al-Qaeda militants believed to have planned attacks on trucks taking supplies to Western forces in Afghanistan, intelligence officials said. The arrests were made in a pre-dawn raid on the house of an Afghan refugee on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province. "They were planners behind all the attacks on NATO supplies," an intelligence official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
01.21.09 Letter threatens to blow up Delhi stations, zoo
HAPUR, India, January 21 - A letter purportedly written by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-mohammed has threatened to blow up a dozen railway stations, including in Delhi, Meerut and Ghaziabad, cinema halls and the zoo in the national capital and target top politicians on Republic Day. The letter was received by the Station Master of Hapur S S Rana late on Wednesday evening. Rana said security at Hapur station in the wake of the letter. Threats to blow up the station had been received on three occasions in the past. [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]
01.21.09 Health Ministry: 2 Indonesians died of bird flu
JAKARTA (AP) January 21 - Two Indonesians have died of bird flu, apparently after contact with sick chickens, raising the country's death toll to 115, the Health Ministry said Wednesday. A ministry statement said a 6-year-old girl in Bekasi, West Java, died on Jan. 2. She got sick after buying a chicken with her parents at a market and was hospitalized for a week. A 29-year-old woman died on Dec. 16 in Tangerang just outside the capital, Jakarta. She developed flu-like symptoms after visiting a market and died in a hospital five days later.
xinhuanet.com, January 21, "China: Health minister warns chllenge from bird flu human infection after third death" : BEIJING - China's Health Minister Chen Zhu admitted here Tuesday that the country faced a "grim" situation to prevent and control bird flu human infection. A 16-year-old boy died of bird flu in central Hunan Province Tuesday morning, the third death in China from the disease so far this year. "It is the high season of human bird flu cases," Chen said at a meeting here. He asked health departments across the country to double their efforts and well implement measures to prevent and control the disease...China reported eight cases and six deaths in the first quarter of 2006, one case and one death in the same time of 2007 and three cases and three deaths between January and March in 2008, according to the WHO China office...
01.21.09 It's ok to hit your wife, says Melbourne Islamic cleric Samir Abu Hamza
January 21 - A Melbourne Islamic cleric has told his male followers they can force their wives to have sex and hit them if they are disobedient. Coburg's self-styled cleric Samir Abu Hamza said despite Australian rape laws it was impossible for a man to rape his wife even if she refused to have sex with him, the Herald Sun reports. In a recorded lecture entitled "The Keys to a Successful Marriage," delivered to his male worshippers but now broadcast on the internet and viewed by several thousand people, Mr. Hamza said Islamic law allowed men to hit their wives as a last resort, but they were not to make them bleed or become bruised.
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