Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 South Sudan rulers hail ‘valid’ independence vote

by Peter Martell, AFP

1 hr 47 mins ago

JUBA, Sudan (AFP) – South Sudan’s ruling party said Wednesday that the 60-percent turnout threshold required for a landmark independence vote to be declared valid has been reached after just three days of polling.

The former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement cited its own estimates for the achievement which must still be officially confirmed by the South Sudan Referendum Commission that organised the week-long vote.

But there were long queues at polling stations again on Wednesday as voters responded to calls from the party for a “100 percent turnout.”

2 Tunisia deploys troops in capital as new clashes erupt

AFP

1 hr 7 mins ago

TUNIS (AFP) – Tunisia deployed troops in the capital and imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew Wednesday as weeks of violent protests reached the city and new clashes erupted further south with three people reported killed.

Under pressure after security forces opened fire on demonstrators over the weekend, killing between 20 and 50 people, the government fired the interior minister and said it would investigate alleged use of excessive force.

In a sign of increasing concern at the spreading protests over rising food prices and unemployment, troops rolled into the capital on armoured vehicles and trucks and took up positions at major intersections.

3 Hezbollah forces Lebanon govt collapse

by Mohamad Ali Harissi, AFP

10 mins ago

BEIRUT (AFP) – Lebanon’s government collapsed on Wednesday after the powerful Shiite party Hezbollah and its allies resigned from the cabinet over a UN probe into the assassination of former premier Rafiq Hariri.

Energy Minister Gebran Bassil told a press conference 10 ministers had resigned because of a long-running dispute with Prime Minister Saad Hariri — son of the slain leader — over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

An 11th minister close to President Michel Sleiman also quit the 30-member cabinet, thus providing the minimum number of resignations needed to topple the government.

4 Palin: Critics guilty of ‘blood libel’

by Olivier Knox and Stephanie Griffith, AFP

1 hr 40 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Sarah Palin stirred new controversy Wednesday denying that angry political rhetoric had encouraged an assassination attempt on a US lawmaker and accusing the media of spreading a “blood libel.”

“Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them,” she said of the shooting rampage that left six dead and Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords fighting for her life.

On a national day of mourning for the victims, Palin fanned speculation she will run for the White House in 2012 and cast herself as the archconservative movement’s champion with a slickly made, nearly eight-minute video.

5 Portugal claims success in bond sale

AFP

Wed Jan 12, 12:45 pm ET

LISBON (AFP) – Portugal said it passed a key test Wednesday with a successful bond sale but analysts were cautious, arguing that a bailout remains a real possibility to ease its debt problems — and those of the eurozone.

The government raised 1.25 billion euros ($1.6 billion), the maximum it sought, attracting strong interest and slightly lower rates for the long-term bonds — proof it said, that Lisbon was a credible, trusted borrower.

“One of the conclusions to draw … is that Portugal is still able to (access) the financial markets, that there is a demand (for its bonds), that it can get (rates) which are acceptable and even favourable, given the context,” Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos said.

6 EU launches new era of tighter economic governance

by Claire Rosemberg, AFP

Wed Jan 12, 11:23 am ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Europe pressed governments to slice deficits and step up difficult structural reforms such as raising the retirement age as it kicked off a new era of tighter EU-wide economic governance on Wednesday.

“We are setting out to break new ground and to decisively improve the way in which we manage and coordinate our interdependent economies,” said European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

The move to tighten coordination across the 27-nation bloc, including the 17 eurozone states, aims to secure recovery after the global crisis, but more particularly break the manic cycle of debt drama unsettling Europe.

7 EU divided over debt crisis fund boost

by Laurent Thomet, AFP

Wed Jan 12, 9:35 am ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – A plea by the European Commission Wednesday to act fast to boost a eurozone debt crisis fund hit immediate opposition from France and Germany despite fears Portugal might need a bailout.

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called for an increase in the size of the 440-billion-euro European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) to reassure nervous markets the stability of the eurozone “is not in question.”

“We believe that the financing capacity must be reinforced, the scope of activities of the EFSF should be widened,” Barroso said.

8 Haitians grieve on quake anniversary

by Sebastian Smith, AFP

Wed Jan 12, 9:19 am ET

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) – Haiti on Wednesday marked a painful first anniversary of the earthquake that killed nearly a quarter-million of its people, with the country gripped by political instability and still struggling to get back on its feet.

The usually teeming streets of the capital Port-au-Prince were quiet as residents, dressed in their best clothes and often holding Bibles, walked to church.

They were mourning the more than 220,000 people killed almost instantly in the 7.0 magnitude earthquake on January 12, 2010.

9 Haitians recall 2010 quake ‘hell’ as death toll raised

By Allyn Gaestel and Tom Brown, Reuters

20 mins ago

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Haiti mourned more than 300,000 victims of its devastating 2010 earthquake on Wednesday in a somber one-year anniversary clouded by pessimism over slow reconstruction and political uncertainty.

Revising upwards previous death toll estimates from the January 12 quake of around 250,000, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said the recovery of additional bodies over the year put the total figure at “over 316,000 people killed.”

He spoke at a news conference with former U.S. President and U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton after thousands of Haitians, many wearing white in mourning, attended poignant memorial services around the battered Caribbean country.

10 Treasury’s Geithner says China needs faster yuan rise

By Glenn Somerville and David Lawder, Reuters

Wed Jan 12, 12:54 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Wednesday that China needs to raise the value of the yuan more quickly and faster progress could pave the way for greater access to U.S. high-tech goods.

Offering a carrot-and-stick approach ahead of a state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao, Geithner laid out his view of each sides’ priorities and said a failure by Beijing to allow for more currency appreciation could damage China’s economy.

“China still closely manages the level of its exchange rate and restricts the ability of capital to move in and out of the country,” Geithner said. “These policies have the effect of keeping the Chinese currency substantially undervalued.”

11 Treasury’s Geithner says China needs faster yuan rise

By Glenn Somerville and David Lawder, Reuters

Wed Jan 12, 12:54 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Wednesday that China needs to raise the value of the yuan more quickly and faster progress could pave the way for greater access to U.S. high-tech goods.

Offering a carrot-and-stick approach ahead of a state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao, Geithner laid out his view of each sides’ priorities and said a failure by Beijing to allow for more currency appreciation could damage China’s economy.

“China still closely manages the level of its exchange rate and restricts the ability of capital to move in and out of the country,” Geithner said. “These policies have the effect of keeping the Chinese currency substantially undervalued.”

12 Hezbollah and allies resign, toppling Lebanon government

By Laila Bassam, Reuters

1 hr 51 mins ago

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Ministers from Hezbollah and its allies resigned on Wednesday, toppling the Lebanese government of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri before expected indictments against the Shi’ite group over the killing of Hariri’s father.

Lebanese politicians had said on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia and Syria failed to reach a deal to contain tensions over the U.N.-backed tribunal, which is expected to issue draft indictments soon over the 2005 assassination of Rafik al-Hariri.

The ministers resigned as Saad al-Hariri was meeting U.S. President Barack Obama, and the White House later released a statement criticizing Hezbollah’s moves and warning against any “threats or action” that could destabilize Lebanon.

13 Euro zone working on crisis package, Lisbon sells debt

By Ilona Wissenbach and Andrei Khalip, Reuters

2 hrs 20 mins ago

BERLIN/LISBON (Reuters) – Major euro zone states are working on a comprehensive medium-term package to solve the bloc’s debt crisis and could reach agreement in the next two months, Germany’s finance minister said on Wednesday.

Wolfgang Schaeuble’s disclosure came as the European Union’s executive called for greater emergency lending power to underpin the euro zone, and Portugal, widely seen as the next candidate for a bailout, successfully sold its first debt of the year.

Schaeuble said talks on a package of measures were under way with France, Italy and the head of the International Monetary Fund. He did not say whether the package would include expanding the euro zone rescue fund.

14 China nudges U.S. on assets ahead of Hu trip

By Chris Buckley, Reuters

2 hrs 47 mins ago

BEIJING (Reuters) – China would welcome assurances its financial assets in the United States are safe, a senior diplomat said on Wednesday, ahead of President Hu Jintao’s visit next week, but played down rifts between the two powers.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said North Korea and other issues that need the two global giants to work together would also come up during Hu’s January 18-21 trip. Hu will hold talks with President Barack Obama on January 19.

While Obama is certain to press Hu on currency controls, which many in Washington say keeps the yuan unfairly cheap and contributes to the U.S. trade deficit, Cui said Beijing had its own concerns about safety its big holdings of U.S. treasury debt.

15 China grabs attention with new jet, says it’s no threat

By Sui-Lee Wee and Ben Blanchard, Reuters

Wed Jan 12, 8:11 am ET

BEIJING (Reuters) – China told the United States on Wednesday its first test-flight of a stealth fighter jet should not be seen as a threat, reiterating it had no intention of challenging U.S. military might in the Pacific.

China confirmed on Tuesday it held its first test-flight of the J-20 stealth fighter jet, a show of muscle during a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates that sought to defuse military tensions between the two powers.

The flight came against a backdrop of a massive Chinese military modernization program. China’s plans to develop aircraft carriers, anti-satellite missiles and other advanced systems have alarmed neighboring countries and Washington.

16 AIG agrees $2.2 billion sale of Taiwan unit after long delay

By Jonathan Standing, Reuters

Wed Jan 12, 5:19 am ET

TAIPEI (Reuters) – American International Group Inc accepted a $2.16 billion cash offer for its Taiwan Nan Shan Life unit from a group led by local conglomerate Ruentex, marking the beginning of the end of a drawn-out process fraught with political wrangling.

AIG has been trying to sell the unit for some 15 months as part of its plans to help pay back the U.S. government for its $180 billion bailout, but regulatory issues have dogged the sale process and might yet delay it further.

The buyer group, called Ruen Chen Investment and comprising Ruentex Industries Ltd and shoe maker Pou Chen Corp, signed a deal on Wednesday for the 97.57 percent of Nan Shan that is for sale, Ruentex said in a statement to the Taiwan stock exchange.

17 Verizon Wireless ends long wait for iPhone fans

By Sinead Carew, Reuters

Tue Jan 11, 5:04 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – After waiting three-and-a-half years Verizon Wireless customers will finally get their hands on Apple Inc’s iPhone next month.

The top U.S. wireless operator ended months of speculation and anticipation from impatient consumers on Tuesday by announcing that it would begin selling a version of the iPhone on February 10 at the same prices as AT&T Inc.

“I’m going to switch right away. I’m going to go back to Verizon,” said Raheem Noble, 24, a New York City rapper, who was on his way to buy the device before being told that preorders would not begin until February 3.

18 As China moves to free up yuan, investors want more

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss, Reuters

23 mins ago

NEW YORK (Reuters) – State-owned Bank of China Ltd’s move to offer limited deposit services in the renminbi to U.S. customers represents a tiny step in what will be a long journey for the Chinese unit to become a widely-traded international currency.

The move generated little buzz among fund managers and investment banks eager to see more aggressive changes from China, but most were hopeful it could lead to more flexibility in the currency.

The Bank of China’s news, reported by newspapers and news wires on Tuesday, is significant because it is the first Chinese bank to widely offer non-corporate deposit services in the renminbi, also known as the yuan, outside Hong Kong and mainland China.

19 Analysis: For-profit schools attack reform rule by lobbying

By Diane Bartz, Reuters

51 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – For-profit schools, under fire for programs that fail to graduate students and help them find jobs, are lobbying Congress to undermine rules that would cost them dearly if too many of their students default on government loans.

The U.S. Education Department has proposed a rule that would strip programs of financial aid if more than 65 percent of their students fail to pay back their loans and if graduates get buried in debt. Losing the aid would cripple many schools.

The “gainful employment” rule is supposed to make sure that these schools provide an education that will prepare students for “gainful employment,” which in turn could help them pay back their loans. The schools want the rule scrapped, or at least weakened before a final version comes out.

20 EU exec eyes 50 billion bank tax for crisis fund

By John O’Donnell, Reuters

Wed Jan 12, 10:55 am ET

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – A one-off 50 billion euro tax on banks could help pay for a new stability scheme to protect euro zone countries in financial trouble, according to an internal report from the EU’s executive for ministers.

In the European Commission document seen by Reuters, which outlines its vision for the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the EU executive recommends ways of paying for the new fund that will tackle debt crises from 2013.

They also say the fund should be allowed to buy government bonds, which could enable the European Central Bank to step back from the bond-purchase program it began last May.

21 Analysis: China securities regulator flexes muscle, eyes private

By Benjamin Kang Lim, Reuters

Wed Jan 12, 8:53 am ET

BEIJING (Reuters) – Private equity funds in China are nervously eyeing a push by the country’s top securities regulator to gain oversight of the fast-growing sector, fearing increased scrutiny and tougher new rules.

This could be bad news for foreign private equity firms such as Blackstone Group and Carlyle Group, which are bullish on China but already have to navigate past a phalanx of regulators.

In the wake of the global financial crisis, the question is no longer whether China’s private equity industry needs a single regulator and national legislation to fill a legal void.

22 Yuan to spread as Bank of China lets U.S. customers trade RMB

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Saikat Chatterjee, Reuters

Wed Jan 12, 4:07 am ET

NEW YORK/HONG KONG (Reuters) – State-owned Bank of China Ltd has offered yuan trading to its U.S. customers, a sign that Beijing this year may increasingly promote the use of the Chinese currency in major financial centers.

The change at Bank of China announced in a posting dated December 2010 means that customers can trade yuan in the United States for the first time rather than having to do so in Hong Kong.

However, like elswhere, China is keeping a tight rein on the yuan allowed to circulate beyond its borders, so individual accounts can only convert around $3,000 a day into yuan.

23 Goldman opens books to scrutiny but no wider shake-up

By Dan Wilchins, Reuters

Tue Jan 11, 11:07 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Goldman Sachs Group Inc pledged to be more open about how it makes money and to put the interests of clients ahead of its own in an effort to rebut criticism it acted more like a hedge fund than a bank during the credit boom and misled investors.

Goldman revealed for the first time how much it made from trading and investing on its own behalf, which many investors have suspected is a key source of the bank’s profits, during the first three quarters of the year.

The bank also made structural changes to its divisions, but there was no major management shake-up, leaving in place Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein.

24 Panel calls for tough regulation after BP spill

By Ayesha Rascoe, Reuters

Tue Jan 11, 5:42 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A White House panel probing BP’s massive oil spill called for an overhaul of a regulatory system that was “entirely unprepared” for disaster and outlined stringent, new oversight, a plan sure to face opposition from Republicans reluctant to expand government involvement.

The White House oil spill commission said in its final major report that the U.S. government needs to expand its drilling regulations, as well as set up an independent drilling safety agency.

“None of the major aspects of offshore drilling safety — not the regulatory oversight, not the industry safety standards, not the spill response practices — kept pace with the push into deepwater,” said commission co-chair Bill Reilly.

25 Riots reach Tunisia’s capital, curfew imposed

By BOUAZZA BEN BOUAZZA, Associated Press

13 mins ago

TUNIS, Tunisia – Tear gas and stone-throwing youths reached the heart of Tunisia’s once-calm capital Wednesday as rioters desperate for jobs defied their autocratic president in escalating unrest that poses his biggest challenge in 23 years in power.

The army deployed armored vehicles around Tunis, and the government imposed a virtually unprecedented curfew to try to quell protests over unemployment and political repression that began more than three weeks ago in a central Tunisian town. Outside the capital, at least two deaths were reported from police fire Wednesday.

The demonstrations have set off clashes with police as they spread around the country, leaving at least 23 dead and shattering Tunisia’s image as an island of calm in a region beset by Islamist extremism.

26 Palin’s words reach back to sordid history

By ADAM GELLER, AP National Writer

14 mins ago

NEW YORK – When Sarah Palin accused journalists and pundits of “blood libel” in the wake of the deadly Arizona shootings, she reached deep into one of medieval history’s most sordid chapters to make her point.

The term “blood libel” is not well known, but it is highly charged – a direct reference to a time when many European Christians blamed Jews for kidnapping and murdering Christian children to obtain their blood. Jews were tortured and executed for crimes they did not commit, emblematic of anti-Semitism so virulent that some scholars recoiled Wednesday at Palin’s use of the term.

In a video posted to her Facebook page early Wednesday, the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate accused the U.S. media of inciting hatred and violence after the shooting that gravely wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Palin has been criticized for marking Giffords’ district with the cross hairs of a gun sight during last fall’s campaign.

27 Gov. Quinn promises to quickly sign Ill. tax hike

By DEANNA BELLANDI, Associated Press

15 mins ago

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn defended a massive increase in state income taxes passed by lawmakers Wednesday and promised to quickly sign the measure to help heal the state’s ailing finances.

Lawmakers worked overnight to pass the increase to raise the personal income tax rate from 3 percent to 5 percent for four years – a 66 percent increase. Corporate income taxes also will rise, but Quinn rejected the notion that it would decimate businesses.

The rate increase might be the biggest any state has adopted in percentage terms while grappling with recent economic woes. Nevertheless, Illinois’ tax rate would remain lower than in several other states in the region.

28 Latest German animal star a cross-eyed opossum

By MELISSA EDDY, Associated Press

1 hr 26 mins ago

BERLIN – Heidi, the cross-eyed opossum, is the latest creature to rocket from Germany’s front pages to international recognition, capturing the world’s imagination with her bright, black eyes turned toward her pointed pink nose.

Since the first photos were published in December, the marsupial from Leipzig Zoo has attracted more Facebook fans than Chancellor Angela Merkel. By Wednesday more than 111,000 fans from as far away as Bangkok and Montreal and clear across Europe were exclaiming “so cute!!” and “so sweet.”

Experts say that like Knut, Berlin’s famous fluffy white polar cub who was abandoned by his mother, and Paul, the late octopus who correctly predicted the outcome of all of Germany’s 2010 World Cup games and Spain’s victory in the final, the hype surrounding Heidi is fed by a human weakness for cuddly looking critters and the ability of modern mass media to spread images around the globe instantly.

29 Prayer and mourning in Haiti a year after quake

By JONATHAN M. KATZ, Associated Press

19 mins ago

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The normally traffic-clogged streets of the Haitian capital turned quiet Wednesday as businesses closed and people walked in solemn processions to prayer services marking the anniversary of the worst natural disaster in the nation’s history.

Many people wore white, a color associated with mourning in Haiti, and sang hymns as they navigated collapsed buildings and rubble from the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that left much of Port-au-Prince in ruins. The government increased the estimated death toll to more than 316,000 people, but it did not explain how it arrived at that number.

Evens Lormil joined mourners in a crowd at the Roman Catholic cathedral, its towering spires and vaulted roof now collapsed, waiting for a memorial Mass next to what was once a prominent landmark in a ragged downtown. The 35-year-old driver of the collective taxis known as tap-taps said his wife and two children were in the countryside north of the capital, still too traumatized by the quake to attend the service, or even live in the city.

30 Hezbollah and its allies topple Lebanon government

By ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY and BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press

1 hr 48 mins ago

BEIRUT – Lebanon’s government collapsed Wednesday after Hezbollah and its allies resigned from the Cabinet in a dispute with Western-backed factions over upcoming indictments in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

A U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the truck bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others is widely expected to name members of the Shiite militant group, which many fear could re-ignite sectarian violence that has erupted repeatedly in the tiny nation.

Hezbollah’s walkout ushers in the country’s worst political crisis since 2008 in one of the most volatile corners of the Middle East.

31 Study: Penguin tracking bands hurt the seabirds

By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer

2 hrs 36 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Some scientists studying penguins may be inadvertently harming them with the metal bands they use to keep track of the tuxedo-clad seabirds, a new study says. The survival rate of King penguins with metal bands on their flippers was 44 percent lower than those without bands and banded birds produced far fewer chicks, according to new research published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The theory is that the metal bands – either aluminum or stainless steel – increase drag on the penguins when they swim, making them work harder, the study’s authors said.

Author Yvon Le Maho of the University of Strasbourg in France, said the banded penguins looked haggard, appearing older than their actual age.

32 Dutch government enforcing taxes on prostitution

By TOBY STERLING, Associated Press

Wed Jan 12, 10:17 am ET

AMSTERDAM – Workers in the world’s oldest profession are about to get a lesson in the harsh reality of Europe’s new age of austerity.

The Dutch government has warned prostitutes who advertise their wares in the famed windows of Amsterdam’s red light district to expect a business-only visit from the taxman.

Prostitution has flourished in Amsterdam since the 1600s, when the Netherlands was a major naval power and sailors swaggered into the port looking for a good time. The country legalized the practice a decade ago, but authorities are only now getting around to looking to sex workers for taxes.

33 Biden reasures Pakistan in speech as bomb kills 18

By NAHAL TOOSI, Associated Press

Wed Jan 12, 11:56 am ET

ISLAMABAD – Vice President Joe Biden warned Pakistanis Wednesday about the dangers of failing to counter growing Islamist extremism in a speech that also hit back at what he said were popular Pakistani misconceptions about America and its motives.

Hours after Biden spoke, a suicide car bomber devastated a police station and adjoining mosque in a northwestern region, killing 18 people and providing a fresh reminder of America’s challenges in the unstable, nuclear-armed Islamic country.

Reflecting the delicacy of U.S.-Pakistan ties, Biden did not mention any frustrations in Washington over the Pakistani army’s reluctance to move into a key militant sanctuary along the northwest border with Afghanistan, instead concentrating on Washington’s efforts to boost the alliance between the two countries.

34 Bill to abolish death penalty awaits Ill. governor

By KAREN HAWKINS, Associated Press

10 mins ago

CHICAGO – More than a decade after Illinois put all executions on hold, a bill to abolish the death penalty altogether awaits only the governor’s signature.

But Pat Quinn’s approval is hardly assured. While he says he supports capital punishment when properly applied, he has not yet indicated whether he will sign the proposal, despite intense pressure from fellow Democrats.

“I think it’s important, given the importance of this measure, that people from all over Illinois express their opinions,” Quinn said Wednesday, a day after lawmakers sent the historic bill to his desk. “I’m happy to listen and reflect, and I’ll follow my conscience.”

35 Perry mum on how Texas can end ‘sanctuary cities’

By PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press

21 mins ago

AUSTIN, Texas – Republican Gov. Rick Perry offered no clues Wednesday on how Texas might abolish “sanctuary cities” that he says provide haven to illegal immigrants, after ordering the new GOP-dominated state legislature make the issue a top priority.

Perry didn’t get into details on how Texas should correct a “number of cities” he said are in conflict with state and federal immigration laws. He said writing a bill on the second day of a new session was premature, and didn’t give an answer when asked whether he wants local police officers to question people about their immigration status during traffic stops.

“I don’t know yet,” Perry said. “We’ll write the legislation over the next 140 days.”

36 Senators say military cyber ops not disclosed

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press

32 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon failed to disclose clandestine cyber activities in a classified report on secret military actions that goes to Congress, according to a Senate document that provides a public peek at oversight concerns surrounding the government’s computer war capabilities.

A brief written exchange between Senate questioners and the Pentagon’s assistant secretary for special operations, Michael Vickers, underscores unresolved questions about how and when the Pentagon conducts cyber warfare, and about the guidelines for military action in the event of a computer-based attack on the U.S.

The U.S. military’s use of offensive cyber warfare has only rarely been disclosed, the most well-known instance being the electronic jamming of Iraqi military and communications networks just before the lightning strike against Saddam Hussein’s army in 2003. But Pentagon officials have been clear that cyber espionage and attacks from well-funded nations or terror groups are the biggest threats to military networks, including critical battlefield communications.

37 Protesters climb trees to save Calif. oak grove

By JOHN ROGERS, Associated Press

55 mins ago

ARCADIA, Calif. – With the sounds of bulldozers echoing beneath him, veteran tree sitter John Quigley perched in a century-old oak Wednesday, saying he won’t come down until public works officials stop felling scores of trees as part of a dam improvement project.

Quigley, who helped save a beloved oak with a similar sit-in eight years ago, was joined by a handful of other sitters who took up positions in branches overlooking 11 acres of picturesque foothills.

“They’re destroying trees all around us,” Quigley said by cell phone as the sound of bulldozers below him could be heard. “It’s a sad scene and definitely something that didn’t need to happen.”

38 Haitian-Americans mark 1st year since earthquake

By JENNIFER KAY, Associated Press

1 hr 26 mins ago

MIAMI – Grief and pride are painted into a colorful new mural, unveiled for Wednesday’s anniversary of Haiti’s massive earthquake, wrapping a prominent corner in this city’s Little Haiti neighborhood.

The presidential palace and hillside homes of Haiti’s capital stand firm and uncracked, but the images are from the past. The mural’s artists painted tears running down the solemn faces of Haiti’s revolutionary heros, a presidential-appearing hip hop star Wyclef Jean and a young girl stitching together the red and blue fields of Haiti’s flag.

“Even the sky is very sad today,” said Dr. Suzie Armas, emerging from a morning Mass at nearby Notre Dame d’Haiti to damp, gray clouds. “This is the same way the Haitian community has been feeling. Unfortunately, there has not been that much progress.”

39 Justices to pot users: Be careful when you flush

By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press

1 hr 43 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court isn’t given to offering advice to people who are breaking the law, even in a minor way. But some justices on Wednesday effectively told those who might be sitting at home smoking pot when the police come knocking: Do not flush the toilet.

Because if officers smell the pot from the outside, think the occupants are trying to get rid of it and burst in without a search warrant to prevent evidence from being destroyed, some justices indicated they would approve.

The discussion arose during the court’s consideration of a case about when the police can enter a home without a search warrant, which the Constitution normally requires.

40 Court: Judge can’t rule on Texas death penalty

By JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated Press

2 hrs 37 mins ago

HOUSTON – The highest criminal court in Texas on Wednesday ruled that a Houston judge does not have the authority to order or preside over a court hearing questioning the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said state District Judge Kevin Fine was “acting beyond the scope of his lawful authority” when he decided to hold the two-week hearing, which began last month but was temporarily stopped after two days at the request of prosecutors.

Last spring Fine declared the Texas death penalty statute unconstitutional after granting a pre-trial motion in a capital murder case he is presiding over. Under heavy criticism, Fine clarified his ruling, saying the procedures the state follows to get a death sentence are unconstitutional. He then rescinded his ruling and ordered the hearing, saying he needed to hear evidence on the issue.

41 Prosecutor: Ex-CIA agent lied about militant past

By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press

2 hrs 55 mins ago

EL PASO, Texas – A federal prosecutor told jurors Wednesday that an ex-CIA agent and nemesis of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro “can do anything he wants to the Cuban regime” but broke federal law when he lied about it under oath while seeking American citizenship.

During opening statements in the trial of Luis Posada Carriles, a defense attorney countered that the Cuban militant “substantially told the truth” during naturalization hearings in 2005 and that the government’s case is built on an unreliable paid informant.

Posada, 82, faces 11 counts of perjury, obstruction and naturalization fraud. He is accused of making false statements during immigration interviews in 2005 in El Paso about how he got into the U.S. and about his role in a string of 1997 bombings that rocked Havana hotels and killed an Italian tourist.

42 NYC clears streets, mayor’s reputation after storm

By SARA KUGLER FRAZIER, Associated Press

2 hrs 57 mins ago

NEW YORK – The biggest complaint New Yorkers could muster Wednesday, after a storm dumped a foot or so of snow overnight, was that the scraping of snowplows kept them up all night.

Less than three weeks after the first snowfall of the season – more than 2 feet in places – paralyzed New York for days, streets were clear and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s reputation was on the mend as the city deftly responded to the latest winter blitz.

“Last time, we could barely get down the street,” said Rosalie Casciorizzo, a resident of south Brooklyn, where many blocks were neglected after the Dec. 26 blizzard. “Now, it’s no problem. They did a much better job.”

43 Volt: Electric car with backup

By ANN M. JOB, For The Associated Press

Wed Jan 12, 11:47 am ET

The innovative Chevrolet Volt is getting lots of attention. But in my home garage, the car that can travel up to 50 miles on a full electric charge wouldn’t charge at all when I plugged it in.

It wouldn’t charge at a California airport, either, where special parking spaces have been set aside for years to charge electric vehicles.

And because an extension cord is a no-no with the Volt and the power cord that came with the car was too short, I was unable to charge the car from power outlets in my home.

44 Virus kills hordes of crickets raised for reptiles

By JANET McCONNAUGHEY, Associated Press

Wed Jan 12, 3:50 am ET

PORT ALLEN, La. – A virus has killed millions of crickets that are raised to feed pet reptiles and zoo animals, putting some producers out of business and disrupting supplies to pet shops across North America.

The cricket paralysis virus killed 60 million of the insects at an operation in Canada, forced a Florida farmer to declare bankruptcy and prompted a Michigan grower to close until spring.

The virus led Elizabeth Payne to declare bankruptcy in June, and a bank foreclosed on her property in Leesburg, Fla., in November. She and her husband, who died three years ago, bought their farm in 1987 and built up sales to a million crickets a week, but it was ruined by the virus.

45 Alaska pipeline being restarted

By MARY PEMBERTON, Associated Press

Wed Jan 12, 12:19 am ET

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The operator of the 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline says it has received government approval to restart it, three days after a leak was found near a pump station at Prudhoe Bay.

The Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. says the plan is to restart the pipeline and warm things up to prevent ice and wax from building in the line.

The company says state and federal regulators gave the green light Tuesday afternoon to do what is being described as an “interim restart.” Alyeska spokeswoman Michelle Egan says the restart will allow some oil to begin flowing again.

46 House foreign affairs chair: Haiti needs leaders

By JENNIFER KAY, Associated Press

Tue Jan 11, 10:11 pm ET

MIAMI – Real recovery and development in Haiti depends on accountability and strong leadership by the Caribbean country’s government, the new chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Tuesday.

“Leadership that is not there,” U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said after returning to Miami International Airport.

Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the magnitude-7 earthquake that killed more than 230,000 people and left more than 1.5 million homeless.

47 Protecting lawmakers: Arm them? Install shields?

By CHARLES BABINGTON and DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press

Tue Jan 11, 7:18 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Several lawmakers defiantly vowed Tuesday to arm themselves after the shooting rampage in Arizona despite the Senate’s top law enforcement officer’s admonition that more guns would not be the answer. “It’s not that I’m going to be like Wyatt Earp,” declared Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., who said he was re-applying for a state permit to carry a concealed weapon even if he didn’t necessarily plan to carry the pistol to public events.

In a Capitol already ringed by concrete stanchions and armed guards, members of Congress struggled to come up with new ways to ensure their safety in a democracy suddenly shaken by an assassin’s bullets. Republican and Democratic leaders signaled that closer coordination with local law enforcement was a practical first step after the Arizona shootings that left six dead and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords critically wounded.

Beyond that, talk centered on legislation that would make it a crime to carry a weapon within 1,000 feet of elected or high-ranking federal officials at publicly announced events and a proposal to install a Plexiglas enclosure to protect the House floor from gallery spectators – two ideas unlikely to get much traction in the new Congress. Democrats also called for rolling back a 5 percent, GOP-engineered cut in congressional spending and redirecting the money to security.

2 comments

    • on 01/13/2011 at 00:22
      Author
    • on 01/13/2011 at 02:40

    I bet we could even get Caribou Barbie behind a Cash for Kalashnikovs stimulus bill. It would be great for the body armor business.

    snark.

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