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Dec 25 2010

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 NW Pakistan gun battle leaves 35 dead

AFP

Fri Dec 24, 8:58 am ET

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – Taliban insurgents launched co-ordinated attacks on five paramilitary checkpoints in northwestern Pakistan Friday, leaving at least 11 soldiers and 24 militants dead, officials said.

“At least 11 of our men have been martyred and 12 others wounded,” Amjad Ali Khan, the administrator of lawless Mohmand tribal district, told reporters at a press conference in the area’s main town, Ghalanai.

Security officials earlier said at least three soldiers were killed in the attacks.

2 Xmas joy mixed with threats for Mideast Christians

by W.G. Dunlop, AFP

2 hrs 19 mins ago

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Christians in the Middle East prepared on Friday to celebrate Christmas, some in fear of attacks against their community, as in Iraq, and others in the most discreet way possible, as in Saudi Arabia.

For Iraq’s battered Christian community, threats of attacks from Al-Qaeda and mourning for the victims of an October massacre at a Baghdad church have turned a normally festive season into one of fear and sadness.

Many mass gatherings in Iraq were cancelled on Friday, and Saturday services will be held during the morning for safety reasons.

3 Christmas cheer abounds in sunny Bethlehem

by Sara Hussein, AFP

Fri Dec 24, 11:25 am ET

BETHLEHEM, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – A festive mood gripped a sunny Bethlehem on Friday as tourists flocked in record numbers to celebrate Christmas in the town where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born.

“It’s amazing. To be in the birthplace of Christ on Christmas, you can’t get better than that,” said Brady MacCarl, 22.

MacCarl was among thousands of people packed into Manger Square, awaiting the arrival of Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal, in unseasonably warm weather under clear blue skies.

4 West African leaders threaten force if Gbagbo does not quit

by Susan Njanji, AFP

33 mins ago

ABUJA (AFP) – West African nations on Friday threatened force if Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo refuses to quit power and said those responsible for post-election deaths would face international prosecution.

Leaders from the 15-member ECOWAS regional bloc also said a high-level delegation would be sent to Ivory Coast as an “ultimate gesture” to Gbagbo in the hope that he could be persuaded to leave peacefully.

The statement following an emergency summit of the Economic Community of West African States came as Gbagbo’s internationally recognised rival, Alassane Ouattara, urged the army to desert the incumbent leader.

5 UN demands halt to Ivory Coast killings

by Dave Clark, AFP

Thu Dec 23, 6:21 pm ET

ABIDJAN (AFP) – The United Nations demanded a halt Thursday to the “atrocities” triggered by Ivory Coast’s political crisis that have left 173 dead, and accused Laurent Gbagbo’s troops of harassing its peacekeepers.

And in a second blow to Gbagbo’s increasingly isolated regime, the Central Bank of West African States said only his rival Alassane Outtara’s globally recognised government could manage the country’s accounts there.

UN officials in Abidjan said Gbagbo’s security forces, shielded by civilian protesters and backed by unidentified masked gunmen, had prevented human rights monitors from probing reports of at least two new mass graves.

6 Russian parliament backs US nuclear treaty

by Dmitry Zaks, AFP

Fri Dec 24, 10:42 am ET

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia’s lower house of parliament Friday gave initial backing to a historic treaty with the United States to slash the nuclear arsenals of the Cold War foes but warned final ratification will drag into next year.

The State Duma lower house of parliament voted with 350 in favour and 58 against for the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and US President Barack Obama on April 8.

Yet hopes ratification could be wrapped up by the end of the year after the US Senate’s approval Wednesday were dashed when top Russian officials voiced unease at additions made by US senators to their own ratification resolution.

7 Japan approves record 1.1 trillion dollar budget

by Hiroshi Hiyama, AFP

Fri Dec 24, 1:28 pm ET

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan’s centre-left government on Friday approved a record 1.1-trillion-dollar budget for the next fiscal year that aims to boost the flagging economy but adds to a mountain of public debt.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s cabinet backed the 92.41 trillion yen draft budget for fiscal 2011 which starts on April 1.

To finance the massive outlays, Japan aims to issue fresh bonds worth 44.3 trillion yen — meaning that for the second year in a row new debt will be bigger than tax revenue, projected to raise just short of 41 trillion yen.

8 Christmas cheer, Afghan-style, for US troops

by Claire Truscott, AFP

Fri Dec 24, 1:14 am ET

FOB TALIBJAN, Afghanistan (AFP) – There will be no Christmas turkey and trimmings for US marines at Patrol Base Talibjan this year — a chemically heated meal of preserved meat is all the infantry men expect.

The troops — living in unheated tents in the Taliban heartland of Musa Qala district, in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province — will climb out of their sleeping bags as usual, plan patrols and hope the day ends without casualties.

“I’m hoping it’s going to be a quiet day and our guys can relax a little bit,” says Staff Sergeant Josh McCall, 32, who will call his wife and children at home in rural North Carolina on Saturday.

9 Bomb blasts hit Swiss, Chilean embassies in Rome

by Dario Thuburn, AFP

Thu Dec 23, 8:31 pm ET

ROME (AFP) – Bomb blasts in the Chilean and Swiss embassies in Rome injured two staffers in attacks that officials said may have been carried out by anarchists like the ones behind a similar plot in Greece.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the attacks represented “a serious threat” against foreign embassies, while Chile’s ambassador Oscar Godoy Arcaya condemned “an absolutely irrational and brutal act of terrorism.”

Police said checks were under way in all the embassies in the Italian capital and the city’s mayor said emergency services were on the ready.

10 Rome on alert after embassy bomb blasts

by Dario Thuburn, AFP

Fri Dec 24, 7:49 am ET

ROME (AFP) – Rome was on high alert on Christmas Eve after parcel bomb blasts left two staffers at the Chilean and Swiss embassies in the Italian capital badly injured in an attack claimed by an anarchist group.

“Checks around sensitive targets have been reinforced. Foreign embassy and consulate workers should be on alert and call us if they see suspect packages,” a spokesman for the Carabinieri paramilitary police force told AFP.

Embassies, ministries and post offices were placed under tighter security.

11 St. Petersburg icicle patrol fights winter hazards

by Marina Koreneva, AFP

Fri Dec 24, 5:46 am ET

SAINT PETERSBURG (AFP) – Every winter, Russia’s most European city battles traditional Russian problems as snow blocks streets and falling icicles injure and even kill pedestrians.

Amid severe winter, the former capital of the Russian tsars — conceived by Peter the Great as a “window to Europe” for a country which stretches to the Pacific — Saint Petersburg suffers from problems unimaginable in Western Europe.

Huge snowdrifts make Saint Petersburg’s streets impassable for cars and pedestrians, who risk being killed by huge icicles falling from roofs.

12 Russia to discuss initial approval of US nuclear treaty

by Dmitry Zaks, AFP

Fri Dec 24, 2:59 am ET

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia’s parliament was due Friday to discuss initial approval to a historic nuclear arms pact with the United States that opens the way for the former Cold War foes’ cooperation on everything from Afghanistan to Iran.

The State Duma lower house of parliament was scheduled to hold the first of three required votes on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in its final session of the year Friday.

Duma deputies were expected to add their non-binding resolutions to the text that did not change the essence of the treaty but underscored Russia’s displeasure with US plans to deploy a new missile defence system in Europe.

13 Medvedev says more time needed for reforms

By Alissa de Carbonnel and Steve Gutterman, Reuters

Fri Dec 24, 12:23 pm ET

MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday his drive to modernize Russia and shed crippling Soviet traditions needs more time to yield results, but left unclear whether he will seek a second term in a 2012 election.

Still struggling to emerge from Vladimir Putin’s shadow less than 18 months before the end of his term, Medvedev has struck a softer, more liberal tone on issues ranging from jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s trial to ties with the United States.

But in the latest appearance in what looks like a contest between the two leaders for public approval, he announced no major initiatives and lamented the pace of his trademark campaign to enliven Russia’s economy through innovation.

14 Karzai warms to idea of talking to Taliban in Turkey

By Simon Cameron-Moore, Reuters

1 hr 48 mins ago

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Hamid Karzai said on Friday the Afghan government would welcome any offer by Turkey to facilitate talks with the Taliban that could help bring an end to the conflict in his homeland.

More than 700 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year — nearly a third of the total in over nine years of war.

While U.S.-led NATO forces have applied a surge strategy there is also a search on for ways to bring about a political solution as a countdown begins for the withdrawal of troops.

15 Italy on alert after Rome embassy attacks

By James Mackenzie, Reuters

Fri Dec 24, 12:30 pm ET

ROME (Reuters) – Italy was on alert for new attacks on Friday, a day after an anarchist group claimed responsibility for parcel bombs that injured two people at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome.

A false alarm took place on Friday at the Irish embassy, when police were called to open a package that resembled those sent on Thursday, but which turned out to contain a greeting card.

“These false alarms confirm that our message has got through to the people it needs to reach,” Francesco Tagliente, Rome’s chief of police told SkyTG24 television.

16 Anarchists claim responsibility for Rome bombs

By Roberto Landucci and Daniele Mari, Reuters

Thu Dec 23, 5:41 pm ET

ROME (Reuters) – An Italian anarchist group claimed responsibility for parcel bombs on Thursday that wounded two people at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome, a reminder of Europe’s home-grown threats at a time of political instability.

A Swiss man was seriously wounded and rushed to hospital. An employee at the Chilean embassy was less seriously hurt. A note was found stuck to his clothing, claiming responsibility for the attack on behalf of the FAI, or Informal Anarchist Federation.

“We have decided to make our voice heard with words and with facts, we will destroy the system of dominance, long live the FAI, long-live Anarchy,” said the note, written in Italian, which was released in the evening by the police.

17 "Christmas of misery" for many in calamity-hit Haiti

By Joseph Guyler Delva, Reuters

Fri Dec 24, 1:14 pm ET

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Maritza Monfort is singing along to a Christmas carol in Creole on the radio, but the Haitian mother of two is struggling to lift her spirits.

“I sing to ease my pain. If I think too much, I’ll die,” said Monfort, 38, one of over a million Haitians made homeless by a January earthquake that plunged the poor, French-speaking Caribbean nation into the most calamitous year of its history.

With a raging cholera epidemic and election turmoil heaping more death and hardship on top of the quake devastation, Haitians are facing an exceptionally bleak Christmas and New Year marked by the prospect of more suffering and uncertainty.

18 Toyota settles suit over California crash for $10 million

By Steve Gorman, Reuters

Thu Dec 23, 10:23 pm ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Toyota has agreed to pay $10 million to settle legal claims from the family of a California state trooper and three relatives whose fatal car wreck helped spark the automaker’s wide-ranging safety recall, lawyers said on Thursday.

The family’s lawsuit, filed in March in San Diego Superior Court, was part of a wave of product-liability and wrongful-death actions brought against Toyota Motor Corp and subsidiaries over complaints of sudden, unintended acceleration in its vehicles.

But the fiery August 28, 2009, crash near San Diego of a Lexus ES 350 sedan driven by off-duty California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor drew intense media attention and renewed government scrutiny of safety problems leading to the recall of over 6.5 million Toyota vehicles in the United States.

19 Jailed Russian tycoon Khodorkovsky faces verdict in test case

By Steve Gutterman, Reuters

Fri Dec 24, 7:55 am ET

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Jailed former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky faces a verdict next week in a second trial whose outcome will test the Kremlin’s readiness for reform and shape Russia’s political climate ahead of a 2012 presidential vote.

After an unexplained postponement that deepened suspicions of government interference in the fate of a prominent Kremlin foe, a judge is to start reading out the verdict on Monday, with Khodorkovsky confined to a glass-and-steel courtroom cage.

Once Russia’s richest man and head of its biggest oil producer, Yukos, Khodorkovsky is serving the final year of an eight-year term imposed in a fraud and tax evasion trial that marked a key event in Vladimir Putin’s 2000-2008 presidency.

20 Obama to renominate Diamond to Fed: official

By David Lawder, Reuters

Thu Dec 23, 4:51 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama will again nominate economist Peter Diamond to the Federal Reserve Board next year, a White House official said on Thursday, setting up a potential clash with Republicans who will have more influence in the new Senate.

The Senate scuttled Diamond’s nomination on Wednesday by failing to vote on it before adjourning a lame-duck legislative session for the year.

The Obama administration views Diamond, a Nobel prize-winning economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as extremely well qualified for the job and believes Republicans will see this too if they stick with him.

21 Russian parliament tentatively approves arms pact

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press

Fri Dec 24, 12:49 pm ET

MOSCOW – Russia’s lower house of parliament gave preliminary approval Friday to a U.S.-Russian arms treaty, but decided to delay the final vote until next month.

The Kremlin-controlled State Duma voted 350-58 to approve the New START treaty in the first of three readings. The legislators said they would proceed further after returning from the New Year’s vacation that lasts until Jan. 11.

The Russian parliament normally ratifies international treaties in a single vote, but this time legislators said they needed an extra time to study legislation accompanying the treaty that was passed by the U.S. Senate when it ratified the pact on Wednesday.

22 EPA moving unilaterally to limit greenhouse gases

By MERRILL HARTSON, Associated Press

Fri Dec 24, 9:24 am ET

WASHINGTON – Stymied in Congress, the Obama administration is moving unilaterally to clamp down on power plant and oil refinery greenhouse emissions, announcing plans for developing new standards over the next year.

In a statement posted on the agency’s website late Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson said the aim was to better cope with pollution contributing to climate change.

“We are following through on our commitment to proceed in a measured and careful way to reduce GHG pollution that threatens the health and welfare of Americans,” Jackson said in a statement. She said emissions from power plants and oil refineries constitute about 40 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution in this country.

23 UN: Ivory Coast gunmen block possible mass grave

By MARCO CHOWN OVED, Associated Press

53 mins ago

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – Masked gunmen with rocket launchers are blocking access to what officials believe may be a mass grave site in Ivory Coast, the United Nations said, as concerns grow that the West African nation that suffered a 2002-2003 civil war could return to conflict.

The U.N. reported that heavily armed forces allied with Laurent Gbagbo and joined by masked men, were preventing people from getting to the village of N’Dotre, where the global body said “allegations point to the existence of a mass grave.”

The U.N. did not elaborate on the possible victims, though it has expressed concerns about hundreds of arrests, and dozens of cases of torture and disappearance during the political turmoil since the presidential runoff vote was held nearly a month ago.

24 Beer heir is in the headlines after model dies

By JIM SALTER, Associated Press

1 hr 17 mins ago

ST. LOUIS – For generations, the Busches of St. Louis were the first family of American beer-making, the city’s most devoted boosters, and bearers of the most famous name in town. But they have also been touched by scandal, tragedy and allegations of reckless behavior.

Now the Busch name is in the headlines again, this time after an aspiring young model was found dead in the gated home of August Busch IV, the former Anheuser-Busch CEO and heir to the Budweiser fortune. The death is under investigation.

The woman, Adrienne Nicole Martin, was Busch’s girlfriend and there was “absolutely nothing suspicious” about her death, said Busch’s attorney, Art Margulis.

25 Pilgrims, clergy come to Bethlehem for Christmas

By TIA GOLDENBERG and DALIA NAMMARI, Associated Press

Fri Dec 24, 1:37 pm ET

BETHLEHEM, West Bank – The traditional birthplace of Jesus is celebrating its merriest Christmas in years, as tens of thousands of tourists thronged Bethlehem on Friday for the annual holiday festivities in this biblical West Bank town.

Officials said the turnout was shaping up to be the largest since 2000. Unseasonably mild weather, a virtual halt in Israeli-Palestinian violence and a burgeoning economic revival in the West Bank all added to the holiday cheer.

By nightfall, a packed Manger Square was awash in red, blue, green and yellow Christmas lights.

26 NORAD Santa team has welcome news for parents, too

By DAN ELLIOTT, Associated Press

17 mins ago

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Tens of thousands of children call NORAD on Christmas Eve eager to hear how far Santa is from their town, but the volunteers answering the phones have a welcome bit of news for parents, too: St. Nick won’t stop at homes unless all the kids are asleep.

Volunteer Liz Anderson said that when she tells kids that, she will sometimes hear parents say, “See! I told you.”

Tracking Santa’s travels, a celebrated tradition at the North American Aerospace Defense Command, unfolded Friday for the 55th year.

27 Paralympian’s recovery: Legs regained, dreams lost

By RAF CASERT, Associated Press

Fri Dec 24, 1:17 pm ET

AMSTELVEEN, Netherlands – Monique van der Vorst’s competitive spirit thrived even after she lost the use of her legs as a teenager. She won two silver medals at the Beijing Paralympics and hoped to win gold in London in 2012.

Those dreams are gone now, because another was fulfilled: She began regaining feeling in her legs over the summer, and now she can walk again.

Van der Vorst savors every step through the snow. Every climb up the stairs. The ability to look somebody in the eye standing up.

28 New tax law packed with obscure business tax cuts

By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, Associated Press

Fri Dec 24, 11:41 am ET

WASHINGTON – The massive new tax bill signed into law by President Barack Obama is filled with all kinds of holiday stocking stuffers for businesses: tax breaks for producing TV shows, grants for putting up windmills, rum subsidies for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

There is even a tax break for people who buy race horses.

Millions of homeowners, however, might feel like they got a lump of coal. Homeowners who don’t itemize their deductions will lose a tax break for paying local property taxes.

29 Iraqi dad says killed daughter linked to al-Qaida

By REBECCA SANTANA, Associated Press

Fri Dec 24, 2:47 pm ET

BAGHDAD – When police came hunting for a 19-year-old woman they believed had been recruited by al-Qaida to be a suicide bomber in a town north of Baghdad, they found she was already dead: Slain by her father, who told police he strangled his daughter out of shame and then cut her throat.

The killing of Shahlaa al-Anbaky, reported by police Friday, appeared to be from an unusual melding of motives – part to defend the family honor, part to prevent her from joining the militants. But how much of each weighed in her father’s mind remains unclear, with police still investigating the details.

Al-Qaida has been recruiting women for suicide attacks because they can pass police checkpoints more easily than men by concealing explosives under an abaya, a loose, black cloak that conservative Muslim women wear. Suicide bombers have been al-Qaida’s most lethal weapon in Iraq, killing hundreds of civilians and members of Iraq’s security forces.

30 Spider-Man returns – and lands smoothly this time

By JOCELYN NOVECK, AP National Writer

Fri Dec 24, 5:48 am ET

NEW YORK – It was a smooth landing for Spider-Man.

A day after Broadway’s costliest show was forced to cancel two performances following a scary fall by a stunt actor, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” resumed previews Thursday and came off without a hitch, including virtually all its complex aerial stunts.

“It’s a safer show now,” said a clearly relieved lead actor Reeve Carney, who plays Peter Parker and his alter ego, Spider-Man, as he signed autographs following the show. “It was always safe, but now it’s safer. It was beautiful to see everyone come together tonight.”

31 Fed board: Keep companies from oil spill evidence

By HARRY R. WEBER, Associated Press

Fri Dec 24, 3:16 am ET

NEW ORLEANS – The credibility of the investigation into the Gulf oil spill is being undermined because representatives of companies that made or maintained a key piece of evidence – the blowout preventer – have had too much access to it as it is being analyzed, a federal board says.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which is being allowed to monitor the analysis, demanded in a letter Thursday to the head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement that testing stop and not resume until Transocean and Cameron officials are removed from any hands-on role in the examination of the 300-ton device.

An employee of Transocean – the owner of the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf – has been removed as a consultant for the Norwegian firm conducting the testing, but the ocean energy bureau says that otherwise the companies have provided their expertise appropriately. The board claims conflicts still exist.

32 Federation: Taurasi tests positive for modafinil

By DOUG FEINBERG, AP Basketball Writer

36 mins ago

NEW YORK – WNBA standout and former UConn star Diana Taurasi tested positive for modafinil while playing in a professional women’s league in Turkey, the country’s basketball federation said Friday.

Neither her lawyer nor her team, Fenerbahce, would confirm that Taurasi tested positive for the stimulant, which has been involved in several major doping cases, including that of U.S. sprinter Kelli White.

Modafinil is used to counter excessive sleepiness due to narcolepsy, shift-work sleep disorder or sleep apnea, according to the website for the prescription drug Provigil, which contains the substance.

33 Rome embassy blasts wound 2; anarchists suspected

By FRANCES D’EMILIO, Associated Press

Thu Dec 23, 9:31 pm ET

ROME – Mail bombs exploded in the hands of employees at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome on Thursday, seriously wounding two people and triggering heightened security checks at diplomatic missions just as holiday deliveries deluge their mailrooms.

Italian investigators suspected the attacks were the work of anarchists, similar to the two-day wave of mail bombs that targeted several embassies in Athens last month – including those of Chile and Switzerland. One of last month’s booby-trapped packages, addressed to Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, was intercepted in Italy.

Late Thursday night, the Italian news agency ANSA reported that a claim by anarchists was found in a small box near one of the wounded employees, and was being examined by anti-terrorism police squad.

34 Election board: Emanuel can run for Chicago mayor

By TAMMY WEBBER, Associated Press

Thu Dec 23, 9:32 pm ET

CHICAGO – Rahm Emanuel is a resident of Chicago and eligible to run for mayor, city elections officials ruled Thursday, removing the primary obstacle to the former White House chief of staff’s bid to lead the nation’s third-largest city.

The decision of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners was followed a few hours later by the surprise withdrawal from the race of state Sen. James Meeks, who said the remaining African-American candidates must rally a “divided and splintered” black community in Chicago to beat “the front-running, status quo candidates” – a list presumably topped by Emanuel.

Meeks’ decision to exit and urge the city’s large African-American community to rally around a unity candidate tightens a still-large field of people seeking to replace retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley.

35 In Christmas tradition, Gulf Coast birds counted

By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press

Fri Dec 24, 6:01 am ET

GRAND ISLE, La. – As dawn breaks on the Gulf of Mexico, Hans Holbrook and Chris Brantley stomp onto the beach in rubber boots, telescopes and tripods slung over their shoulders, alert for signs of birds.

Grand Isle’s annual Christmas bird count has begun – early, as always.

This year the National Audubon Society’s bird count on the Gulf Coast is especially important: It comes eight months after the BP oil spill set off panic in the hearts of ornithologists and bird lovers across the nation. The counts will be used by scientists tracking the health of the Gulf’s bird populations.

36 Midwest farmland prices soar due to strong prices

By MICHAEL J. CRUMB, Associated Press

Fri Dec 24, 3:38 am ET

DES MOINES, Iowa – Increased commodity prices and strong demand have sent prices of farmland skyrocketing, making it more difficult for young and beginning farmers to get established but strengthening the balance sheets for those who own the land.

Across the Corn Belt, the price of farmland was on the rise in 2010. The highest increases were seen in Iowa, where values rose 13 percent and an acre of farmland sold for upward of $7,000 in some areas of the state. Minnesota and Wisconsin also saw double digit increases in farmland value, averaging 12 percent and 11 percent respectively, according to the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City.

“A lot of it is driven by commodity prices,” said Jason Henderson, a branch manager and economist with the Federal Reserve Bank in Omaha, Neb. “As soon as June, the Russian drought started to raise concerns about global crop supplies and we saw commodity prices begin to rise and we saw farmland values rise with commodity prices.”

37 Accountants, Texas board still at odds over Enron

By DANNY ROBBINS, Associated Press

Fri Dec 24, 3:31 am ET

AUSTIN, Texas – To many in the accounting world, Carl Bass is a hero. Long before Enron became a worldwide symbol of scandal, Bass told his supervisors at Arthur Andersen LLP that something was amiss with the Houston energy giant.

But the Texas state board that licenses accountants sees Bass differently – as unfit to continue in his profession.

Nearly a decade after Enron collapsed and took Arthur Andersen with it, the work of Bass and another former Andersen partner, Thomas Bauer, as Enron auditors is still being debated in a highly contentious and costly proceeding.

38 Ground zero workers celebrate political victory

By SAMANTHA GROSS, Associated Press

Thu Dec 23, 7:23 pm ET

NEW YORK – The politicians who wrangled a last-minute compromise bill giving 9/11 survivors and responders with five more years of health care and billions of dollars in compensation gathered at the World Trade Center site Thursday to declare a patriotic victory, though others disagree over whether the bill goes far enough.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer joined other New York politicians and some ground zero workers beneath the rising construction at the site to celebrate the $4.2 billion legislation, which they said amounted to a declaration that the U.S. would not abandon those who defended its people in a time of war.

“When you risk your life for this country in a time of war, America is there for you. Yesterday we affirmed that tradition. The dream of America is alive and well,” Schumer said.

39 Wilderness rules restored for public lands

By KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press

Thu Dec 23, 6:13 pm ET

DENVER – The Obama administration plans to reverse a Bush-era policy and make millions of undeveloped acres of land once again eligible for federal wilderness protection, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Thursday.

The agency will replace the 2003 policy adopted under former Interior Secretary Gale Norton. That policy – derided by some as the “No More Wilderness” policy – stated that new areas could not be recommended for wilderness protection by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and it opened millions of acres to potential commercial development.

That policy “frankly never should have happened and was wrong in the first place,” Salazar said Thursday.

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