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Dec 28 2010

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo faces West African ultimatum

by Christophe Koffi, AFP

58 mins ago

ABIDJAN (AFP) – A trio of West African leaders Tuesday tried to persuade Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo to stand down, brandishing the threat of force if he refuses to cede power to rival Alassane Ouattara.

The leaders of Benin, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone held talks with Gbagbo at the presidential palace, warning that troops from around the region could be sent to topple Gbagbo from the helm of the world’s top cocoa producer if he remains defiant.

Presidents Boni Yayi of Benin, Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde also held talks with Ouattara at a hotel where he and his supporters have been holed up during the country’s political crisis.

2 Russia tells West ‘mind own business’ over tycoon

by Anna Smolchenko, AFP

Tue Dec 28, 11:14 am ET

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia Tuesday brusquely told the West to keep out of its domestic affairs after “unacceptable” criticism by the United States and Europe of the new guilty verdict for jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Khodorkovsky is facing the prospect of an additional lengthy jail term after being found guilty in his second trial the day earlier in a verdict that provoked an angry reaction in the West.

The White House said it was “deeply concerned” about the “selective application of justice”. France called for rule of law in Russia, while Germany said the verdict was a step backward for Russia.

3 Nobel laureate Liu marks 55th birthday in prison

by Marianne Barriaux, AFP

Tue Dec 28, 8:31 am ET

BEIJING (AFP) – Jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo marked his 55th birthday on Tuesday in a prison in northeast China, prompting renewed calls from rights groups for his immediate release.

Liu, a writer and one-time professor, was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Christmas Day last year on subversion charges after co-authoring Charter 08, a bold petition calling for political reform in one-party Communist-ruled China.

He was named the peace prize winner in October, sparking fury in Beijing, which equated the Oslo-based Nobel committee’s decision with encouraging crime. A ceremony in Liu’s honour was held in the Norwegian capital on December 10.

4 PepsiCo’s Russia deal wins Putin’s blessing

AFP

2 hrs 42 mins ago

MOSCOW (AFP) – PepsiCo’s big venture into Russia received a major boost Tuesday when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave his blessing to the US giant’s takeover of a major local juice and dairy firm.

PepsiCo’s intended purchase of Wimm-Bill-Dann is its biggest acquisition outside the United States and one of the most important deals ever struck outside the Russian energy sector.

The takeover earned a nod of approval from the head of Russia’s anti-monopoly service Monday and still further support from the country’s de facto leader Putin one day later.

5 England close in on Ashes as Australia crash

by Robert Smith, AFP

Tue Dec 28, 7:33 am ET

MELBOURNE (AFP) – England were on the verge of retaining the Ashes after feeble Australian batting left the fourth Melbourne Test at their mercy on Tuesday.

The tourists left the Australians with the huge task of either scoring 415 runs to make England bat again or lasting out eight sessions to secure a draw but the home team showed little fight after their opponents had amassed 513 at the MCG.

Australia were facing probable defeat some time on Wednesday’s fourth day with no rain forecast over the last two scheduled days of the match.

6 Web helps revival of old Arabic poetry in Lebanon

by Rita Daou, AFP

Tue Dec 28, 9:34 am ET

BEIRUT (AFP) – Zajal, an old form of improvised Arabic poetry that enjoyed its heyday in Lebanon before the 1975-1990 civil war, is making a tentative comeback with thousands of fans on Facebook and YouTube.

Traditionally an emotional oratory duel between two men, zajal once drew crowds of tens of thousands who revered its artists as poets of the highest order. It also enraptured fans who sat glued to their black-and-white television sets for the shows.

In the years after the war, however, the art dwindled as more modern forms of entertainment gained popularity and the audience for zajal was relegated to a handful of nostalgic admirers.

7 Consumer confidence slips as home prices decline

By Wanfeng Zhou, Reuters

1 hr 59 mins ago

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Consumer confidence unexpectedly deteriorated in December, while prices of single-family homes fell almost double the expected pace in October, tempering growing optimism on the economy’s recovery.

The latest data was at odds with other signs suggesting the economic recovery is accelerating and a separate report last week showing consumer sentiment in December at its highest level since June.

Concern about the jobs market pushed an index of consumer attitudes to 52.5 in December from 54.3 in November, the Conference Board said on Tuesday. That was below the median of forecasts from analysts polled by Reuters for a reading of 56.0.

8 Apple sued over apps privacy issues; Google may be next

By Supantha Mukherjee and Saqib Iqbal, Reuters

2 hrs 39 mins ago

BANGALORE (Reuters) – Two separate groups of iPhone and iPad users have sued Apple Inc alleging that certain software applications were passing personal user information to third-party advertisers without consent.

In the lawsuits seeking class action, filed in a federal court in California, the plaintiffs sought a ban on passing of user information without consent and monetary compensation, according to case documents.

At some point, both cases may be consolidated into one by the judges presiding over the cases, said Majed Nachawati, a partner at law firm Fears & Nachawati, one of the attorneys for the complainants.

9 Allstate sues BofA, Mozilo over Countrywide losses

By Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

2 hrs 28 mins ago

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Allstate Corp has sued Bank of America Corp and 18 other defendants over alleged losses on more than $700 million of mortgage securities it bought from Countrywide Financial Corp.

The largest publicly-traded U.S. home and auto insurer alleged it suffered “significant losses” after Countrywide misled it into believing the securities were safe, and that the quality of residential home loans backing them was high.

Allstate said that starting in 2003, Countrywide quietly decided to boost market share by approving any mortgage product that a competitor was willing to offer, in a “proverbial race to the bottom.” It said Countrywide then passed on the added risks to investors who bought debt backed by the mortgages.

10 Russia accuses West of meddling in Khodorkovsky trial

By Alexei Anishchuk and Maria Tsvetkova, Reuters

Tue Dec 28, 12:00 pm ET

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia accused the United States and Europe on Tuesday of trying to influence the trial of jailed former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, calling such efforts unacceptable and warning the West to mind its own business.

Moscow’s angry message came as Khodorkovsky, whose imprisonment has been a bone of contention between Russia and the West for years, awaited a new sentence that could keep him in jail until 2017 after being found guilty of theft.

Prosecutors are seeking an additional six-year prison term for Khodorkovsky, the former Yukos oil company CEO who is 10 months from the end of an eight-year sentence imposed after a previous trial during Vladimir Putin’s presidency.

11 Japan output up on Asia demand

By Leika Kihara, Reuters

Tue Dec 28, 3:59 am ET

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese factory output rose for the first time in six months in November and manufacturers expect to boost production in coming months, suggesting that firm demand in Asia will help the economy resume a recovery early next year.

But creeping rises in the yen kept policymakers on alert for risks to the export-reliant economy, with the finance minister repeating his warning that the government would take decisive action to stem any sharp yen rises that could hurt growth.

Industrial output rose 1.0 percent in November, matching a median market forecast and marking the first rise in six months, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said on Tuesday.

12 Microfinance faces hurdles in empowering Afghan women

By Michelle Nichols, Reuters

Tue Dec 28, 3:57 am ET

KABUL (Reuters) – In a dimly lit room at the back of an Afghan house, 21-year-old Zahara is crouched on a plank of wood weaving a large carpet on a loom that she was able to buy using a microfinance loan of $1,100.

Zahara started weaving carpets when she was 10 and did not go to school, but the loan from non-profit development group BRAC allowed her to start her own business about 18 months ago and she has since taken out two more loans of $330 each.

“When I first got the money, the carpets I was making were small and now I can make bigger carpets,” said Zahara, who heard about microfinance loans from her neighbor in Kabul. “Before I made carpets for other people and now I make them for myself.”

13 Twin suicide bombings kill 17 in Iraq’s Ramadi

By Fadhel al-Badrani, Reuters

Mon Dec 27, 1:39 pm ET

RAMADI (Reuters) – Twin suicide bombings rocked a government compound in Iraq’s western city of Ramadi on Monday, killing 17 people, a deputy interior minister said.

It was the second attack this month on the compound, which houses the provincial council ands the police headquarters for Anbar province, and the third bombing there in the past year.

“The death toll is 17 killed and between 50 and 60 wounded,” Lieutenant General Hussein Kamal, a deputy interior minister, told Reuters.

14 NATO disputes Afghan authorities over deadly raid

By Hamid Shalizi, Reuters

Mon Dec 27, 8:23 am ET

KABUL (Reuters) – The NATO-led force in Afghanistan disputed Monday an Afghan government accusation that foreign troops had violated a security deal by conducting a night raid in Kabul in which two guards were killed.

Under the 2008 deal, Afghan authorities have to approve and lead all security operations in the capital. But the Ministry of Interior (MOI) has said that foreign forces ignored the security rules and it was unaware of Friday’s operation.

Raids by foreign forces, deeply unpopular among ordinary Afghans, are a source of friction between the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government.

15 Several injured as chairs drop from Maine ski lift

By GLENN ADAMS, Associated Press

24 mins ago

CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine – A 35-year-old chair lift set for upgrades or replacement failed Tuesday at one of Maine’s most popular ski resorts, sending skiers plummeting into ungroomed snow far below that fell with the Northeast’s recent blizzard and softened the landing.

The Sugarloaf resort in Carrabassett Valley, about 120 miles north of Portland, said about six people were taken to hospitals after five chairs fell. The resort’s ski patrol evacuated the lift.

The resort said the lift, which went into service in 1975 and recently passed an inspection, was set for improvements but wouldn’t say when.

16 European anarchists grow more violent, coordinated

By NICOLE WINFIELD and DEREK GATOPOULOS, Associated Press

23 mins ago

ROME – A loosely linked movement of European anarchists who want to bring down state and financial institutions is becoming more violent and coordinated after decades out of the spotlight, and may be responding to social tensions spawned by the continent’s financial crisis, security experts say.

Italian police said Tuesday that letter bombs were sent to three embassies in Rome by Italian anarchists in solidarity with jailed Greek anarchists, who had asked their comrades to organize and coordinate a global “revolutionary war.”

Identical package bombs exploded at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome on Dec. 23, badly wounding the two people who opened them. A third bomb was safely defused at the Greek Embassy on Monday.

17 Turmoil in Pakistan as party quits Cabinet

By NAHAL TOOSI, Associated Press

24 mins ago

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s U.S.-allied ruling party suffered a fresh blow to its fragile hold on power Tuesday when a coalition partner said it will quit the cabinet, deepening the nation’s political turmoil and potentially distracting Islamabad from helping American forces target militants.

New elections could lead to the emergence of a government not as friendly to U.S. interests and less vocal in opposing the Taliban.

Still, even if the government changes – a prospect that is not at all certain – the country’s new leaders will be faced with the same seemingly intractable challenges as their predecessors: a feeble economy, chronic power shortages and rebuilding after this year’s horrendous flooding.

18 Manatees paddle to warm water to escape Fla. chill

By TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press

19 mins ago

APOLLO BEACH, Fla. – People aren’t the only ones in Florida who don’t like cold weather. Manatees – those giant aquatic mammals with the flat, paddle-shaped tails – are swimming out of the chilly Gulf of Mexico waters and into warmer springs and power plant discharge canals. On Tuesday, more than 300 manatees floated in the outflow of Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station.

“It’s like a warm bathtub for them,” said Wendy Anastasiou, an environmental specialist at the power station’s manatee viewing center. “They come in here and hang out and loll around.”

Cold weather can weaken manatees’ immune systems and eventually kill them. State officials said 2010 has been a deadly year for the beloved animals: between Jan. 1 and Dec. 17, 246 manatees died from so-called “cold stress.” During the same time period in 2009, only 55 manatees died from the cold. In 2008, only 22 manatees succumbed to chilly temperatures.

19 West Africa delegation tells Gbagbo he must go

By MARCO CHOWN OVED, Associated Press

19 mins ago

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – West African leaders who came to deliver an ultimatum to Laurent Gbagbo met with him late into the night Tuesday after threatening a military ouster if he doesn’t accept an offer to go into exile a month after the disputed election.

Meanwhile, the U.N. mission said that a peacekeeper had been wounded with a machete when a large crowd encircled a convoy and set one of its vehicles on fire.

The regional delegation led by presidents from Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and Benin held meetings with both Gbagbo and internationally recognized winner Alassane Ouattara, then returned to meet with Gbagbo a second time late Tuesday.

20 700 NATO soldiers killed in 2010; new firefights

By ELENA BECATOROS, Associated Press

1 hr 19 mins ago

KABUL, Afghanistan – A coalition patrol fought off an insurgent attack in mountainous eastern Afghanistan Tuesday, on a day when two servicemen were killed in the country’s troubled south, bringing the death toll for foreign troops in the country 2010 to 700, according to an AP count.

This year is by far the deadliest for the coalition in the nearly decade-long war, as tens of thousands of additional international troops have poured into the country in an effort to suppress a virulent Taliban insurgency. But while NATO and the United States note progress has been made in the militants’ traditional strongholds in the south, they acknowledge gains made remain precarious.

Security has also deteriorated in the north, while many parts of eastern Afghanistan, along the border with Pakistan, remain violent and under militant control. NATO forces often engaging in heavy fighting there.

21 Survey shows consumer confidence slips in December

By ANNE D’INNOCENZIO, AP Retail Writer

1 hr 43 mins ago

Consumer confidence slipped this month as more people worried that the job market is worsening.

The latest survey from Conference Board showed a decline even after reports are showing that people increased their holiday spending at the biggest rate in four years and other indicators suggest the economy is brightening.

The private research group said Tuesday its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 52.5 in December, down from a revised 54.3 in November. Economists were expecting 55.8. The decline reverses two consecutive months of increases. It takes a reading of 90 to indicate a healthy economy, a level not approached since the recession began in 2007.

22 Obama’s economist pick seen as sign of new agenda

By JULIE PACE, Associated Press

1 hr 13 mins ago

HONOLULU – Change is soon coming to the White House economic team, with President Barack Obama set to announce a new top adviser who will have broad influence over the administration’s efforts to jumpstart the struggling economy.

Obama is expected to announce a replacement for departing National Economic Council director Lawrence Summers early in the new year, soon after he returns to Washington from his Hawaiian vacation. The president’s choice is being closely watched for signs of where he wants to take his economic agenda in the second half of his term, and how he looks to bring down the almost double-digit unemployment rate.

Will he tap the business world with a figure such as Roger Altman, an investment banker and Clinton administration alumnus who might carry too much baggage from his association with Wall Street? Will he turn to academia instead, calling on a scholar such Yale President Richard Levin? Or will he go with deeply experienced insiders such as deficit hawk Gene Sperling at the Treasury Department or Jason Furman, the council’s deputy director?

23 Where are the jobs? For many companies, overseas

By PALLAVI GOGOI, AP Business Writer

Tue Dec 28, 7:59 am ET

Corporate profits are up. Stock prices are up. So why isn’t anyone hiring?

Actually, many American companies are – just maybe not in your town. They’re hiring overseas, where sales are surging and the pipeline of orders is fat.

More than half of the 15,000 people that Caterpillar Inc. has hired this year were outside the U.S. UPS is also hiring at a faster clip overseas. For both companies, sales in international markets are growing at least twice as fast as domestically.

24 Baby boomers near 65 with retirements in jeopardy

By DAVE CARPENTER, AP Personal Finance Writer

Mon Dec 27, 9:33 pm ET

CHICAGO – Through a combination of procrastination and bad timing, many baby boomers are facing a personal finance disaster just as they’re hoping to retire. Starting in January, more than 10,000 baby boomers a day will turn 65, a pattern that will continue for the next 19 years.

The boomers, who in their youth revolutionized everything from music to race relations, are set to redefine retirement. But a generation that made its mark in the tumultuous 1960s now faces a crisis as it hits its own mid-60s.

“The situation is extremely serious because baby boomers have not saved very effectively for retirement and are still retiring too early,” says Olivia Mitchell, director of the Boettner Center for Pensions and Retirement Research at the University of Pennsylvania.

25 GOP hopefuls find some issues a hazard early on

By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press

Tue Dec 28, 3:01 am ET

WASHINGTON – This month’s early, under-the-radar campaigning by potential Republican challengers to President Barack Obama is a reminder of something too easily forgotten: Running for president is harder than it looks, and Obama ultimately will stand against a flesh-and-blood nominee certain to make mistakes along the way.

Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and other possible GOP candidates stumbled over health care, taxes and other issues in December, even as Obama coped with the harsh political reality stemming from his party’s “shellacking” in last month’s elections.

No serious contender has officially launched a 2012 campaign. But with the Iowa caucuses less than 13 months away, at least a dozen Republicans are jockeying for position, speaking to groups throughout the country, writing op-ed columns and taking potshots at one another.

26 Mead, drink of vikings, comes out of the Dark Ages

By ALLEN G. BREED, AP National Writer

Tue Dec 28, 1:11 pm ET

PITTSBORO, N.C. – Mead, that drink of viking saga and medieval verse, is making a comeback. But this ain’t your ancestors’ honey wine.

“It’s not just for the Renaissance fair anymore,” says Becky Starr, co-owner of Starrlight Mead, which recently opened in an old woven label mill in this little North Carolina town.

In fact, this most ancient of alcoholic libations hasn’t been this hot since Beowulf slew Grendel’s dam and Geoffrey Chaucer fell in with the Canterbury pilgrims at the Tabard.

27 Farmers, pecan growers say coal plant kills plants

By RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI, Associated Press

Tue Dec 28, 6:48 am ET

BASTROP, Texas – Along a stretch of Highway 21, in Texas’ pastoral Hill Country, is a vegetative wasteland. Trees are barren, or covered in gray, dying foliage and peeling bark. Fallen, dead limbs litter the ground where pecan growers and ranchers have watched trees die slow, agonizing deaths.

Visible above the horizon is what many plant specialists, environmentalists and scientists believe to be the culprit: the Fayette Power Project – a coal-fired power plant for nearly 30 years has operated mostly without equipment designed to decrease emissions of sulfur dioxide, a component of acid rain.

The plant’s operator and the state’s environmental regulator deny sulfur dioxide pollution is to blame for the swaths of plant devastation across Central Texas. But evidence collected from the Appalachian Mountains to New Mexico indicates sulfur dioxide pollution kills vegetation, especially pecan trees. Pecan growers in Albany, Ga., have received millions of dollars in an out-of-court settlement with a power plant whose sulfur dioxide emissions harmed their orchards.

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