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Jul 03 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Syria troops press sweep for dissidents in northwest

AFP

1 hr 48 mins ago

The Syrian army made sweeping arrests in a crackdown on dissent in the northwest of the country on Sunday, as troops deployed in the hotbed central city of Hama, an activist said.

The move came as some 100 independent figures met in the capital to discuss a “third way” for Syria, which has been rocked by deadly anti-regime protests for three months.

Troops backed by 97 tanks and personnel carriers advanced late Saturday on Kfar Rumma village and made arrests in the district of Jabal al-Zawiyah, said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

2 Biofuel deal sparks land debate in Sierra Leone

By Rod Mac Johnson, AFP

2 hrs 16 mins ago

Hailed as the biggest ever investment in Sierra Leone’s agriculture, a plan to grow thousands of hectares of sugarcane to produce ethanol has raised fears over food security and land rights.

Swiss group Addax & Oryx announced on June 17 that it had signed a 258 million euro ($368 million) deal with seven European and African development banks to finance the bioenergy project near Makeni in the north of the country.

The hot and rainy west African nation, recovering from a brutal civil war which ended in 2002, has the ideal climate to grow sugarcane, much like that of ethanol powerhouse Brazil which has led the way in using the crop for biofuel.

3 Ocean floor muddies China’s grip on ’21st-century gold’

By Richard Ingham, AFP

2 hrs 29 mins ago

China’s monopoly over rare-earth metals could be challenged by the discovery of massive deposits of these hi-tech minerals in mud on the Pacific floor, a study on Sunday suggests.

China accounts for 97 percent of the world’s production of 17 rare-earth elements, which are essential for electric cars, flat-screen TVs, iPods, superconducting magnets, lasers, missiles, night-vision goggles, wind turbines and many other advanced products.

These elements carry exotic names such as neodymium, promethium and yttrium but in spite of their “rare-earth” tag are in fact abundant in the planet’s crust.

4 Shuttle Atlantis prepares to rocket into history

By Kerry Sheridan, AFP

2 hrs 34 mins ago

The shuttle Atlantis is poised to launch Friday on the final flight of the 30-year American program, a journey that marks the end of an era of US dominance in human space exploration.

The liftoff is scheduled for July 8 at 11:26 am (1526 GMT) from Kennedy Space Center in Florida’s Cape Canaveral, sending Atlantis on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station.

Four American astronauts will ride the shuttle on its last tour of duty to stock the orbiting research outpost with plenty of supplies — 8,000 pounds (3,600 kilograms) worth in all — and bring back a failed ammonia pump, NASA said.

5 Thaksin allies win landmark Thai election

By Daniel Rook, AFP

2 hrs 34 mins ago

Allies of Thailand’s fugitive ex-leader Thaksin Shinawatra stormed to victory in elections Sunday, in a remarkable comeback after years of turmoil sparked by his overthrow in a military coup.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva conceded defeat and congratulated the opposition led by Thaksin’s youngest sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, who is now set to become Thailand first female premier.

With almost all the votes counted, Puea Thai had won a clear majority with 263 seats out of 500, well ahead of Abhisit’s Democrats with 161, according to the Election Commission, which estimated turnout at 74 percent.

6 Afghan drawdown plan ‘unnecessary risk’: McCain

By Mark Wilson, AFP – Sun, Jul 3, 2011

Top US lawmakers on Sunday slammed President Barack Obama’s military drawdown plans for Afghanistan as “risky”, unsupported by his military commanders and a threat to progress made in the last year.

Withdrawal at the rate Obama has planned on — including the removal of 33,000 surge troops by the end of next summer — “is an unnecessary risk and that is why there was no military leader who recommended it”, Republican Senator John McCain said during a visit to Kabul.

Joined by fellow Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman in the Afghan capital, the trio spoke to media after visiting US troops.

7 Belarus violently breaks up opposition protest

By Valery Kalinovsky, AFP

2 hrs 56 mins ago

Belarussian police fired tear gas, beat up activists and arrested dozens Sunday to thwart a major opposition protest in Minsk against the rule of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

The protesters, responding to calls on a social networking site, sought to show their dissatisfaction with Lukashenko by continuously clapping their hands but police arrested anyone who joined in the applause, young or old.

Dozens of people, including photo journalists, were led away into waiting vans from the Independence Day protest while police subdued some demonstrators by kicking or punching them, an AFP correspondent at the scene reported.

8 Contador loses more time to key rivals

By Justin Davis, AFP

Sun, Jul 3, 2011

Three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador’s disappointing start to the defence of his yellow jersey continued Sunday when the Spaniard lost more time to key rivals.

A day after losing 1min 14sec to Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck and 1:17 to Australian Cadel Evans when he got caught up in a crash 9km from the stage finish, Contador dropped more time on the 23 km team time trial.

Norwegian Thor Hushovd took possession of the yellow jersey from Philippe Gilbert of Belgium when his Garmin-Cervelo team dominated the race against the clock in a time of 24min 48sec.

9 Ex-rebels warn of Sudan conflict over Kordofan

By Simon Martelli, AFP

40 mins ago

The northern branch of the ex-rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement warned on Sunday that the South Kordofan conflict would spread along the country’s new southern border unless Khartoum agreed to a ceasefire.

“There are some voices in Khartoum that are against this framework agreement (signed on Tuesday). Those voices are playing with fire,” the SPLM north’s secretary general Yasser Arman told AFP.

“The only alternative to this agreement is a war, from Blue Nile to Darfur. We don’t want that,” he added.

10 Annecy bid chief launches veiled attack on rivals

By Pirate Irwin, AFP

Sun, Jul 3, 2011

Annecy winning the right to host the 2018 Winter Olympics would be a reward for a bid that wants to inspire the world and not just bag a trophy for a company or a country, the bid president Charles Beigbeder told AFP on Sunday.

The 46-year-old entrepreneur, who agreed to step into the role in January after predecessor Edgar Grospiron stepped down in December, was speaking just three days away from the vote by the International Olympic Committee.

Long-time favourites, South Korea’s Pyeongchang, have largely been seen to be bankrolled by Samsung and they have also played a lot on bringing the Games to Asia for only the third time.

11 Anti-China demo in Vietnam despite clampdown

By Ian Timberlake, AFP

Sun, Jul 3, 2011

About 100 anti-China protesters marched peacefully in Vietnam Sunday despite a heavy security clampdown and a vow by both countries to rein in public opinion over tensions in the South China Sea.

Protests — which are not common in authoritarian Vietnam — have taken place in the capital Hanoi for five weekends in a row over the maritime dispute.

Plainclothes and uniformed security agents poured into the area around the Chinese embassy and sealed off surrounding roads, but about 40 protesters penetrated the cordon to gather some distance from the embassy. They marched towards central Hanoi, trailed by riot police and other security personnel.

12 Europe struggles with Act II of Greek debt tragedy

By Laurent Thomet, AFP

Sun, Jul 3, 2011

Europe bought time this weekend to avoid a Greek bankruptcy, but tough negotiations lie ahead to save Athens and prevent the eurozone debt crisis from descending into global drama.

Greece will be able to pay its bills this month after eurozone finance ministers cleared the way late Saturday for the next 12-billion-euro tranche of a 110-billion-euro ($160 billion) bailout granted last year by the EU and IMF.

But the ministers still need to work on a second rescue package potentially of similar size to ensure Athens can stay afloat until at least 2014, warding off a devastating default that would reverberate across Europe.

13 Pakistan energy crisis shrinking the textile trade

By Khurram Shahzad, AFP

9 hrs ago

Spinning yarn into cloth used to be a path to fortune in Pakistan, but a story of decline encapsulates how far a crippling energy crisis and rocketing inflation are suffocating the economy.

Power cuts sometimes lasting more than 12 hours a day have forced factory owners in the country’s cloth capital Faisalabad to switch off the lights and sell their looms for scrap, leaving tens of thousands of workers jobless.

The country is the world’s fourth-largest producer of cloth and the industry accounts for 60 percent of export revenue according to official data. But the shortages are heaping pressure on Pakistan’s crippled and debt-ridden economy.

14 New IMF chief faces challenges as job begins

By Hugues Honore, AFP

9 hrs ago

The International Monetary Fund’s new Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, will make her debut under intense pressure this coming week, as Greece’s financial woes pose an urgent challenge.

The French executive is expected to land in Washington on Monday, the Independence Day holiday for the United States. She will officially begin work on Tuesday morning and hold a press conference Wednesday.

A “busy work agenda awaits,” declared the IMF in its internal online magazine, while it stressed one of Lagarde’s most pressing items includes the “difficult policy choices needed to help global recovery (and) address the euro area crisis.”

15 Cameron ‘to pull 500 UK troops from Afghanistan’

By Corporal Barry Lloyd Rlc, AFP

9 hrs ago

British Prime Minister David Cameron is to announce the withdrawal of at least 500 troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012 following a similar drawdown by the United States, reports said Sunday.

The move would take the number of British troops in Afghanistan below the key figure of 9,000 and mark a major step towards Cameron’s stated aim of having all British combat forces out of the country by 2015.

Cameron would announce on Wednesday plans to withdraw up to 800 troops by the end of next year, the Sunday Times reported. The Sunday Telegraph put the figure at 500 and said they would leave in mid-2012.

16 Libya rebels poised for push towards Tripoli

By Andrew Beatty, AFP

11 hrs ago

Buoyed by French arms drops and intensified NATO air strikes on the regime’s frontline armour, Libya’s rebel army said it is poised for an offensive that could put it within striking distance of Tripoli.

The rebels’ announcement late on Saturday came as a prolonged deadlock on the battlefield prompted mounting pressure from countries outside the NATO-led coalition for a negotiated solution to a conflict that has dragged on for four and a half months.

South Africa, which has taken a lead role in mediation efforts, said that President Jacob Zuma would hold talks in Moscow on Sunday with representatives of the International Contact Group on Libya as well as Russian officials.

17 London Olympics official suspended over W.Ham link

By David Poultney, AFP

Sun, Jul 3, 2011

A 2012 Olympic Park Legacy Company executive has been suspended after a Sunday newspaper revealed she had been working for West Ham, the football club which won the bid to take over the main stadium.

The OPLC board voted 14-0 in February to make the Hammers the first choice to move into the £486 million ($776 million) Olympic Stadium once the London Games are over, edging out Tottenham Hotspur.

The future of the 80,000-seater venue in Stratford, east London, has been a bone of contention, trying to match the Games organisers’ pledge for an athletics legacy with the need to make the stadium viable in the long term.

18 Europe clears urgent aid to save Greece from default

By Laurent Thomet, AFP

Sun, Jul 3, 2011

Eurozone finance ministers cleared the way for Greece to receive urgent funds to avoid imminent bankruptcy, but warned it would take weeks to conclude a new bailout for the debt-hit nation.

Greece is expected to receive 12 billion euros from the eurozone and IMF by July 15 after the ministers approved the fifth tranche of aid from last year’s 110-billion-euro ($160 billion) financial rescue package.

The IMF is due to clear its slice of the next installment, 3.3 billion euros, next week. The eurozone’s share amounts to 8.7 billion euros.

19 Cuisine to excite the mind, as well as the palate

By Mariano Andrade, AFP

14 hrs ago

There is cuisine which aims to excite the palate, and cuisine to please the eye.

Argentine neurologist-turned-chef Miguel Sanchez Romera, however, has another proposition: restaurant fare which, with originality and purity, awakens and excites the brain.

When he opens his high-concept “Romera” restaurant next month in New York’s edgy meatpacking district, the Michelin-ranked chef will be serving up what he calls “neurogastronomy” meant to deliver complete sensory experience on a plate.

20 Filipinos fight for US citizenship in Afghanistan

By Ben Sheppard, AFP

Sun, Jul 3, 2011

Darby Ortego, 25, endures gunfire and mine attacks fighting for the United States army in Afghanistan, but this July 4 will be his first as a citizen of the country he serves.

Ortego, who battles insurgents in the violent eastern province of Khost with Bravo Company, 1-26 Infantry, recently attended a naturalisation ceremony at a US base near Kabul ahead of this year’s Independence Day celebrations.

Like thousands of fellow Filipinos, he sees the US military as a fast-track to American citizenship, securing his own future and also helping his family back home.

21 Czech cider courts world’s greatest beer lovers

By Jan Flemr, AFP

14 hrs ago

Starting a cider-making business in a country that guzzles the most beer per head in the world may seem risky, but the Czech Republic’s first cider house has taken up the challenge.

In only three years since it started, the Mad Apple firm in Novy Saldorf, a village in a wine-making region about 200 kilometres (125 miles) southeast of Prague, is set to increase output a hundredfold, has won an industry medal and launched into the export market.

Its young owner, 29-year-old Vaclav Beran, started the business with his sister and a friend after a trip to England where apple cider has a devoted following.

22 West Bank: ancient priesthood predicting future

By Majeda El Batsh, AFP

Sun, Jul 3, 2011

In the northern West Bank city of Nablus, a small and ancient Samaritan community is managing to make ends meet by dabbling in the age-old practice of fortune-telling.

University Avenue, in the hill-ringed city of Nablus, is lined with white banners with the names of Samaritan priests, renowned among their Palestinian neighbours for astrology and divination.

Palestinians go to the Samaritans’ booths along the avenue or to their homes on nearby Mount Gerizim hoping to find answers to their most pressing problems.

23 Indonesian capital faces $3 bln traffic nightmare

By Alvin Soedarjo, AFP

Sun, Jul 3, 2011

Jakarta’s traffic chaos costs Indonesia billions of dollars a year in a depressing reminder of the gap between the country’s ambitions for growth and its daily realities, analysts said.

The Indonesian capital ranked last of all in a global survey of commuter satisfaction in 23 cities published last month by business research firm Frost & Sullivan.

The Journey of Experience Index poll of almost 15,000 people around the world found that travellers in Jakarta were the most miserable of all, gloomier even than those in Rio de Janeiro and Cairo — notorious for its dire gridlock.

24 Ex-Iceland PM says he saved economy

By Nina Larson, AFP

Sat, Jul 2, 2011

Iceland’s former prime minister Geir Haarde, facing trial over the country’s 2008 financial meltdown, describes the case as a farce, insisting he actually helped rescue the economy from a fate similar to that of Greece.

“We saved the country from going bankrupt,” Haarde, 68, told AFP in an interview this week, claiming that if he and his government had acted differently when all the major banks failed in October 2008, the economy could have fallen off a cliff.

“That is evident if you look at our situation now and you compare it to Ireland or not to mention Greece,” he said, adding that the two debt-wracked EU countries “made mistakes that we did not make … We did not guarantee the external debts of the banking system.”

25 Libyans ‘executed’ for shunning Kadhafi rally: relative

By Andrew Beatty, AFP

Sat, Jul 2, 2011

Hours after thousands packed Tripoli’s Green Square cheering for Moamer Kadhafi, Mohammed said the still warm body of his nephew was dumped outside the family home with two bullets in his head.

Mohammed told AFP why he is certain 30-year-old’s Ahmed’s fate was sealed while green flags were waving on the other side of the capital and as Kadhafi dished out threats against Europe, NATO and Libyan “traitors” on Friday.

Ahmed’s execution, he said, was punishment for his family’s refusal to take part in the rally, a vital show of strength by the Libyan leader amid a five-month-long uprising that has pushed the regime to the brink of collapse.

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