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Mar 25 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Deaths reported as demos held in Syrian cities

by Natacha Yazbeck, AFP

2 hrs 8 mins ago

DARAA, Syria (AFP) – Protesters took the streets in a number of Syrian cities Friday to demand major change, dismissing promises of reforms by the authorities as rights activists reported deaths in police shootings.

Demonstrations were reported in Damascus, Banias, Latakia, Hama, Dahel and Homs, and the southern town of Daraa, with videos purporting to be of the rallies surfacing on YouTube. The authenticity of the videos could not be verified.

Human rights activists said police fired on protesters in the southern village of Sanamen as they were heading to nearby Daraa, hub of the protests, for the funeral of two people killed earlier in the week during clashes with security forces.

AFP

2 Allies hit Kadhafi forces amid diplomatic endgames

by Imed Lamloum, AFP

1 hr 22 mins ago

TRIPOLI (AFP) – Coalition forces carried out a seventh day of air strikes against the Libyan regime’s forces on Friday as Western powers battled to find a way to hand control of the campaign to NATO.

France insisted on keeping the 28-member alliance out of decision-making with President Nicolas Sarkozy holding out hopes of a diplomatic initiative to end the conflict.

Britain and France were jointly preparing a “political and diplomatic” solution, he said.

3 NATO takes control of enforcing Libya no-fly zone

by Imed Lamloum, AFP

Thu Mar 24, 7:10 pm ET

TRIPOLI (AFP) – NATO late Thursday agreed to take control of enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya to thwart the forces of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, as coalition air strikes targeted Tripoli for the sixth straight day.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that after days of fraught talks, as NATO member Turkey objected to air strikes against Kadhafi’s forces, the 28-member alliance had finally reached a deal.

“We have now decided to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya,” he said in a statement, adding “we are taking action as part of a broad international effort to protect civilians against the Kadhafi regime.”

4 Allies hit Kadhafi forces in ‘weeks-long’ campaign

by Imed Lamloum, AFP

Fri Mar 25, 7:29 am ET

TRIPOLI (AFP) – Coalition forces launched a seventh day of air strikes against the regime of Libya’s Moamer Kadhafi on Friday in the NATO-led campaign which France’s military chief predicted would last “weeks”.

NATO agreed to take control of a no-fly zone over Libya to thwart Kadhafi loyalists while British and French warplanes targeted his ground forces in the strategic eastern town of Ajdabiya.

“We are taking action as part of a broad international effort to protect civilians against the Kadhafi regime,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

5 Yemen’s Saleh offers handover to ‘safe hands’

by Hammoud Mounassar, AFP

2 hrs 31 mins ago

SANAA (AFP) – President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he would only hand over power to “safe hands,” in a defiant speech to massed supporters on Friday, after talks with a top defector failed to defuse Yemen’s crisis.

“We will stand firm … steadfast in the face of all challenges,” Saleh, wearing a suit and sunglasses and confidently waving his right hand, told vast crowds in Sanaa.

With Yemen’s two-month-old political crisis in limbo, tensions ran high and security forces were out in large numbers amid fears of a repetition of a Sanaa bloodbath a week earlier that cost more than 50 lives.

6 Huge crowds gather for rival Sanaa demos

by Hammoud Mounassar, AFP

Fri Mar 25, 9:55 am ET

SANAA (AFP) – Hundreds of thousands of rival demonstrators gathered for separate rallies in Yemen’s capital on Friday, a week after loyalists of President Ali Abdullah Saleh killed more than 50 people.

Anti-regime protesters poured into a square near Sanaa University where they have been camped since February 21, as regime loyalists crowded a nearby square in response to a call from the longtime president.

“The people want Ali Abdullah Saleh,” his supporters shouted, according to AFP correspondents who put the number of protesters at both the pro- and anti-regime demonstrations at hundreds of thousands.

7 Reactor fear at Japan plant as toll tops 10,000

by Giles Hewitt, AFP

1 hr 9 mins ago

SENDAI, Japan (AFP) – The operator of a disaster-struck Japanese nuclear plant on Friday reported possible damage to a reactor vessel — casting a new shadow over efforts to control a steady radiation leak.

Two weeks after a giant earthquake hit and sent a massive tsunami crashing into the Pacific coast, the death toll from Japan’s worst post-war disaster topped 10,000 and there was scant hope for 17,500 others still missing.

The tsunami obliterated entire towns and some 250,000 homeless in almost 2,000 shelters are still braving privations and a winter chill, with a degree of discipline and dignity that has impressed the world.

8 Tsunami batters Japan’s tourism industry

by Huw Griffith, AFP

Fri Mar 25, 12:09 pm ET

OKUMATSUSHIMA, Japan (AFP) – The beach resort of Okumatsushima was a thriving stop on the Japanese tourist trail until two weeks ago, when a huge tsunami virtually wiped it from the map.

On a summer day, thousands would visit the resort’s pristine sands, many of them staying in the guest houses that dotted the shoreline on Japan’s picturesque northeast coast.

They came to gather shellfish or take boat tours of pine-covered islands and eat the oysters produced in the bay.

9 Global food scare widens from Japan nuclear plant

by Karyn Poupee, AFP

Thu Mar 24, 5:18 pm ET

TOKYO (AFP) – Countries across the world have shunned Japanese food imports as radioactive steam leaked from a disaster-struck nuclear plant, straining nerves in Tokyo.

The grim toll of dead and missing from Japan’s monster earthquake and tsunami on March 11 topped 26,000. Hundreds of thousands remained huddled in evacuation shelters and fears grew in Tokyo over water safety.

The damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant from the tectonic calamity and a series of explosions has stoked global anxiety. The United States and Hong Kong have already restricted Japanese food, and France wants the European Union to do the same.

10 EU leaders wait on Portugal, markets bet on bailout

by Roddy Thomson, Reuters

Fri Mar 25, 12:02 pm ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – European leaders faced an anxious wait wait Friday as the markets bet that struggling Portugal will need a debt bailout despite Lisbon’s protests it can avoid one in the run-up to tense elections.

After last year’s massive bailouts for Greece and then Ireland, Portugal slipped towards the brink this week when prime minister Jose Socrates resigned after parliament blocked an austerity plan already agreed with eurozone partners.

“Portugal does not need a financial rescue plan and I will maintain this in defending my country,” Socrates insisted after a European Union summit clouded by his country’s financial troubles.

11 Europe tells Portugal to slash spending

by Roddy Thomson, AFP

Thu Mar 24, 7:26 pm ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Rocked by expectations Portugal will call in a 75-billion-euro bailout, Europe told Lisbon on Thursday to slash spending as leaders bargained a deal to end a year-long debt rollercoaster.

Led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, top figures insisted Portugal’s options were limited, with massive savings on spending required even if it seeks to negotiate a financial rescue package such as those given Greece and Ireland.

The two-day European Union summit was called to bolster defences against a eurozone debt crisis, but the overnight resignation of Portuguese premier Jose Socrates seriously undermined efforts to promote new shared economic goals.

12 Leaders watch nervously after Portugal government tumble

by Roddy Thomson, AFP

Fri Mar 25, 11:32 am ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Tense weeks lie ahead for Europe as it attempts to douse a Portuguese debt fire, with leaders watching nervously Friday as a lame duck government in Lisbon faces tense elections.

After last year’s massive bailouts to Greece and then Ireland, Portugal slipped towards the brink this week when prime minister Jose Socrates resigned after parliament blocked an austerity plan already agreed with eurozone partners.

“Portugal does not need a financial rescue plan and I will maintain this in defending my country,” Socrates insisted after a European Union summit clouded by his country’s financial troubles.

13 Europe sets out euro defences as Portugal fears rise

by Roddy Thomson, AFP

Thu Mar 24, 11:10 pm ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Europe set out its arsenal to prevent a repeat of a year-long debt rollercoaster, amid rising expectations that Portugal needs a 75-billion-euro bailout after hefty credit rating downgrades.

A two-day European Union summit called to seal the bloc’s “comprehensive” response to a debt crisis crossed a major hurdle Thursday when partners conceded a last-minute German demand.

Berlin successfully that the the timeframe for contributions to a future, 700-billion-euro rescue fund, should be renegotiated.

14 F1 rivals’ warning for Red Bull in opener

by Robert Smith, AFP

Fri Mar 25, 10:57 am ET

MELBOURNE (AFP) – McLaren and Ferrari threw down the challenge to the world champion Red Bull team in Friday’s practice for this weekend’s season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne.

The Red Bull pair of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel dominated first free practice with Webber clocking a best lap of one minute 26.831 seconds, before Jenson Button led a McLaren one-two in the late afternoon hit-out.

Button, bidding for a hat-trick of Melbourne victories in Sunday’s race, clocked 1:25.854, just 0.132secs ahead of 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton.

15 Cycling chiefs not ‘waging war’ against Contador

AFP

Thu Mar 24, 12:28 pm ET

APELDOORN, Netherlands (AFP) – World cycling chiefs said on Thursday they had revived a doping case against three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador in a bid to secure the fairest possible outcome.

Contador’s future has hung in the balance since he tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France.

After he declared his innocence, and blamed the tiny amounts of clenbuterol found in his urine on a contaminated steak, the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) cleared Contador to compete last month.

16 Ukraine ex-leader charged over reporter’s murder

by Anya Tsukanova, AFP

Thu Mar 24, 1:44 pm ET

KIEV (AFP) – Ukraine on Thursday charged ex-president Leonid Kuchma over the 2000 murder of a journalist, its most notorious post-Soviet crime, amid doubts he could be jailed even if found guilty.

Ukrainian prosecutors confirmed they had presented charges of “abuse of power” to Kuchma as he attended a second session of questioning after a criminal probe was formally opened earlier this week.

The headless body of 31-year-old Georgy Gongadze — the founder of the liberal Ukrainska Pravda website and a virulent critic of Kuchma — was found in 2000 after he was abducted from central Kiev.

17 Arbitration court nixes BP’s Russia tie-up

by Dmitry Zaks, AFP

Thu Mar 24, 4:54 pm ET

MOSCOW (AFP) – An arbitration tribunal on Thursday blocked British energy giant BP’s Arctic oil tie-up with Rosneft in a decision that could hit Russia’s hopes of expanding its share of the world energy market.

The Stockholm Arbitration Tribunal ruling upholds a freeze on the tie-up issued by a London court in February and formally puts a halt to the $16 billion deal.

The British firm immediately issued a statement saying it “remains committed to partner with Russia” and would seek other ways of completing the historic deal.

18 Putin secures Japan skating event for Russia

by Dmitry Zaks, AFP

Thu Mar 24, 12:52 pm ET

MOSCOW (AFP) – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday scored another sporting coup for Russia by securing the right to host the world figure skating championships next month instead of earthquake-hit Japan.

“I would like to assure all our friends and partners that their athletes and all of the event’s participants and guests will feel themselves at home in Moscow,” Putin declared moments after the official announcement.

The globally-watched championships had been due to start on March 21 in Japan but will now run between April 24 and May 1 in Moscow.

19 I.Coast post-election violence kills 52 in 1 week

by Fran Blandy, AFP

Fri Mar 25, 12:55 am ET

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Post-election violence claimed 52 lives in the Ivory Coast in the past week, bringing the death toll this year to 462, the UN mission said, as strongman Laurent Gbagbo clung to power.

Rocket fire and shelling rocked the Abidjan suburb of Abobo, a stronghold of internationally-recognised president Alassane Ouattara, witnesses said.

The United Nations Operation in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) said the west of the country was also wracked by violence, with militia fighters looting a warehouse belonging to the UN refugee agency.

Reuters

20 Protests spread against Assad rule in Syria

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Suleiman al-Khalidi Khaled, Reuters

Fri Mar 25, 11:22 am ET

DAMASCUS/DERAA, Syria (Reuters) – Protests spread across Syria Friday, challenging the rule of the Assad family after their forces killed dozens of demonstrators in the south.

In the southern city of Deraa, which has been in revolt for a week, gunfire and tear gas scattered a crowd of thousands after people lit a fire under a statue of late president Hafez al-Assad, whose son Bashar has ruled since his death in 2000.

Al Jazeera aired comments by a man who said security forces had killed 20 people Friday in the nearby town of Sanamein.

21 West strikes Libya forces, NATO sees 90-day campaign

By Maria Golovnina and Michael Georgy, Reuters

1 hr 1 min ago

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Western warplanes bombed Muammar Gaddafi’s tanks and artillery in eastern Libya on Friday to try to break a battlefield stalemate and help rebels take the strategic town of Ajdabiyah.

While the African Union said it was planning to facilitate talks to help end war in the oil producing country, NATO said its no-fly zone operation could last three months, and France cautioned the conflict would not end soon.

In Washington, a U.S. military spokeswoman said the coalition fired 16 Tomahawk cruise missiles and flew 153 air sorties in the past 24 hours targeting Gaddafi’s artillery, mechanized forces and command and control infrastructure.

22 NATO envisages 90-day Libya no-fly mission

By David Brunnstrom, Reuters

52 mins ago

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO has planned for a three-month no-fly operation over Libya, but could make it longer or shorter if necessary, an alliance official said on Friday of a mission that is due to start early next week.

The U.N.-mandated no-fly mission, approved by NATO states on Thursday, will involve dozens of planes from the 28-nation military alliance.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the alliance would decide “in coming days” whether to broaden its role to take over full command of military operations, including ground strikes to protect civilians, from a coalition led by France, the United States and Britain, which began air strikes almost a week ago.

23 Warplanes target Libya town, rebels plan new push

By Mohammed Abbas, Reuters

Fri Mar 25, 11:54 am ET

NEAR AJDABIYAH, Libya (Reuters) – Western warplanes flew over Ajdabiyah on Friday and rebels said they had bombed Muammar Gaddafi’s forces holding the strategic town in Libya’s east.

A Reuters correspondent on the road a few kilometers east of Ajdabiyah heard three explosions and saw large plumes of black smoke rise over its eastern entrance.

A rocket that seemed to be fired from a rebel truck then hit the eastern entrance, sending a fireball into the sky. Black smoke also began rising from the western gate.

24 Yemen’s Saleh says wants to put power in safe hands

By Cynthia Johnston and Mohamed Sudam, Reuters

Fri Mar 25, 12:32 pm ET

SANAA (Reuters) – President Ali Abdullah Saleh said on Friday he was ready to cede power to stop more bloodshed in Yemen but only to what he called “safe hands” as tens of thousands rallied against him in “Day of Departure” protests.

Quiet talks were underway on two tracks to work out the details of a deal on a peaceful transition of power in the Arabian Peninsula state that is home to a resurgent arm of al Qaeda, Yemeni political sources said.

Western countries are concerned that al Qaeda militants could exploit any disorder arising from a messy transition if Saleh, a pivotal U.S. and Saudi ally fighting for his political life, finally steps down after 32 years in office.

25 Bahrain forces quash small protests in "Day of Rage"

By Lin Noueihed and Frederik Richter, Reuters

Fri Mar 25, 11:01 am ET

MANAMA (Reuters) – Small protests broke out in Bahrain’s capital for a planned “Day of Rage” on Friday despite a ban under martial law imposed last week, but were quickly crushed by security forces fanned out across Manama.

Helicopters buzzing overhead, extra checkpoints erected on major highways and a large troop presence prevented any major demonstration from kicking off in the small Gulf Arab island kingdom, where a security crackdown last week quelled a month of protests by the mostly Shi’ite Muslim demonstrators.

Bahrain has great strategic importance because it hosts the U.S. 5th Fleet, facing non-Arab Shi’ite power Iran across the Gulf, and is situated off-shore from Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter.

26 High radiation levels at Japanese plant raise new worry

By Yoko Kubota, Reuters

35 mins ago

TOKYO (Reuters) – Highly radioactive water has been found at a second reactor at a crippled nuclear power station in Japan, the plant’s operator said, as fears of contamination escalated two weeks after a huge earthquake and tsunami battered the complex.

Underscoring growing international concern about nuclear power raised by the accident in northeast Japan, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement it was time to reassess the international nuclear safety regime.

Earlier, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, making his first public statement on the crisis in a week, said the situation at the Fukushima nuclear complex, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, was “nowhere near” being resolved.

27 Japan seeks to ease radiation fears in shipping

By Randy Fabi and Chikako Mogi, Reuters

Fri Mar 25, 4:44 am ET

SINGAPORE/TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s transport ministry on Friday sought to ease growing fears among global shipping lines on the safety and insurance issues of operating in Tokyo Bay, saying radiation at the country’s largest ports were at “very safe” levels.

At least two German shipping companies are avoiding Tokyo area ports due to radiation concerns from Japan’s quake-crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, sparking worries of new supply chain bottlenecks if others in the industry follow their example.

Radiation levels as of late Thursday in Tokyo’s port, located 240 km (150 miles) south of the plant, were below exposure levels the World Health Organization (WHO) considered normal, the ministry said.

28 EU agrees crisis package, Portugal clouds summit

By Noah Barkin and Jan Strupczewski, Reuters

Fri Mar 25, 11:14 am ET

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European leaders agreed a new package of anti-crisis measures at a two-day summit, but were forced to delay increasing their rescue fund and acknowledged they faced new threats from a government collapse in Portugal.

Battling to stem a debt crisis that has raged for over a year and pushed both Greece and Ireland to accept bailouts, the EU had promised to unveil a comprehensive solution at the March 24-25 summit that it hoped would reassure jittery markets.

But the abrupt resignation of Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates on the eve of the meeting, after his austerity measures were rejected by parliament, cast a long shadow. Uncertainty in other euro members such as Finland and Ireland also prevented leaders finalizing fundamental elements of their plan.

29 Special report: The revolution in central banking

By Paul Carrel, Mark Felsenthal, Pedro da Costa, David Milliken and Alan Wheatley, Reuters

Thu Mar 24, 10:31 pm ET

FRANKFURT/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – On a warm, Lisbon day last May, Jean-Claude Trichet, the ice-cool president of the European Central Bank, was asked whether the bank would consider buying euro zone governments’ bonds in the open market.

“I would say we did not discuss this option,” Trichet told a news conference after a meeting of the ECB’s Governing Council. Four days later, the ECB announced that it would start buying bonds.

Trichet’s U-turn was part of an emergency package with euro zone leaders to stave off a crisis of confidence in the single currency. By reaching for its “nuclear option”, the ECB had also helped rewrite the manual of modern central banking.

30 Fed unlikely to extend QE2: officials

By Ann Saphir, Reuters

2 hrs 15 mins ago

NEW YORK, March 25 – With the economy on firmer footing the Federal Reserve Bank is unlikely to extend its bond-buying stimulus program beyond a planned $600 billion, several top Fed officials said on Friday.

Members of the more hawkish wing of the Fed went further, with Philadelphia Fed Bank President Charles Plosser saying the U.S. central bank will have to reverse its easy money policy in the “not-too-distant future” to avoid sowing the seeds of inflation.

The Fed has kept short-term rates near zero since December 2008 and has bought more than $2 trillion in long-term securities to push borrowing costs down further and boost recovery from the 2007-2009 recession.

31 Russia’s Rosneft to push ahead with BP Arctic pact

By Sarah Young and Olesya Astakhova, Reuters

Fri Mar 25, 9:09 am ET

LONDON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s Rosneft vowed to push ahead with a strategic alliance with BP, despite a block on the deal by the British oil company’s partners in joint venture TNK-BP.

Rosneft Chairman Igor Sechin said an arbitration panel ruling preventing BP and the state-controlled energy giant from jointly exploring Russia’s Arctic region and from executing a $16 billion share swap did not void the deal.

“The court didn’t block (the deal), it extended the injunction until April 7. We must await the court’s verdict,” Sechin, also Deputy Prime Minister, told reporters.

32 Special report: Can an Italian Elvis make Fiat-Chrysler dance?

By Lisa Jucca, Deepa Seetharaman and Soyoung Kim, Reuters

Fri Mar 25, 2:39 am ET

GENEVA, Switzerland (Reuters) – The doors of the Geneva Motor Show have just slid open and immediately throngs of reporters and camera crews scramble to reach Fiat’s stand. The Italian carmaker is unveiling the Freemont, one of its first models to borrow from the Chrysler playbook since it took a stake in the Detroit auto giant after its 2009 bankruptcy.

But the media isn’t here for the car. They want Sergio.

Sergio Marchionne, who runs both Fiat and Chrysler, has a rock star appeal you don’t see anywhere else in the global car industry these days. After two hours, he finally appears, tieless, in a dark turtleneck sweater over a white-and-blue checked shirt. As always, he’s wearing laceless shoes. Laces take too much time.

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