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Sep 05 2011

The Abbreviated Evening Edition

Once again, apologies for lateness and the very abbreviated news. Since this is an American Holiday weekend and many of us are planning family outing, attending barbecues and celebrating Summer’s last big weekend before beaches and pools close, I won’t bore you with too many details. So here are the top stories that, at least I think deserve some attention.

New Orleans holding up under Tropical Storm Lee

by Kathy Finn

(Reuters) – Tropical Storm Lee moved slowly across southern Louisiana on Sunday as New Orleans’ flood defenses appeared to pass one of their biggest tests since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005.

The National Hurricane Center said Lee’s center was about 110 miles west-northwest of New Orleans, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph at around 5 p.m. EDT, and tropical storm-force winds extending 275 miles. The storm was moving at 5 mph.

Winds were expected to weaken gradually in the next couple of days and up to 20 inches of rain was expected to fall on southeast Louisiana, the Miami-based center said.

 Europe and U.S. should consider stimulating growth: IMF’s Lagard

(Reuters) – IMF chief Christine Lagarde said in an interview released on Sunday that Europe and the United States should consider stimulating economic growth, if the situation permits, to offset a crisis of confidence hitting the global economy.

“Looking at Europe, we recommend countries to adjust their austerity programs to a changed situation and consider measures to drive growth,” news weekly Der Spiegel reported her as saying.

Iceland says it was “bullied” over bank debt

(Reuters) – Iceland’s president accused European countries on Sunday of having bullied it into agreeing to guarantee repayment of the debts of a failed bank, reviving a dispute with Britain and the Netherlands whose citizens are owed billions.

When Iceland’s banking sector collapsed in the 2008 global financial crisis, accounts were frozen at the bank Landsbanki, which had accepted deposits from British and Dutch savers through online funds called Icesave.

China bought back a lot of BofA assets: report

(Reuters) – A consortium that included the Chinese government was the biggest buyer of a 5 percent stake in China Construction Bank Corp sold last month by Bank of America, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

The State Administration of Foreign Exchange, the National Social Security Fund and Citic Securities bought the CCB shares, the FT said, citing unnamed sources.

Dutch study possible Iran hacking of government web sites

(Reuters) – The Dutch government said on Sunday it was investigating whether Iran may have been involved in hacking Dutch state websites after digital certificates were stolen.

Dutch Interior Ministry spokesman Vincent van Steen declined to say whether Iranian authorities in the Netherlands or Iran had been contacted, and said more details would be published in a letter to the Dutch parliament early next week.

Strauss-Kahn returns home

by Pauline Mevel and Chine Labbe

(Reuters) – Dominique Strauss-Kahn, his presidential hopes shattered by a sex assault scandal that rocked his homeland, returned on Sunday to France facing a frosty public reception and unease among his political allies.

The former IMF chief arrived at Paris’s Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport at about 7 a.m. (1 a.m. EDT) with his wife Anne Sinclair. Police escorts whisked the couple through the terminal, past waiting media, and into a car.

Obama vows federal help for Irene victims

by Matt Spetalnick

(Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday urged Republicans not to play politics with federal disaster aid as he toured flood-stricken New Jersey and pledged to do everything possible to help states recover after Hurricane Irene.

With rain-swollen rivers receding in the Northeast after the region suffered its worst flooding in decades, Obama was greeted by cheering crowds of several thousand people lining the streets of the working-class city of Paterson, one of hardest-hit from the storm.

Libyans eye Gaddafi bastions, stability

by Maria Golovnina and Mohammed Abbas

(Reuters) – Libyan forces failed to convince Muammar Gaddafi loyalists on Sunday to give up one of their last strongholds without a fight, raising the prospect of an assault on the town of Bani Walid.

Outside the desert town, a National Transitional Council (NTC) negotiator said talks with tribal leaders were over.

“As chief negotiator, I have nothing to offer right now. From my side, negotiations are finished,” Abdallah Kanshil, a negotiator for the interim council said at a checkpoint some 60 km (38 miles) outside Bani Walid. “We will leave this for the field commanders to decide, for the NTC to decide what to do next. I urge Gaddafi people to leave the town alone.”

No comment was available from the other side.

Italy pledges to meet debt goal as worries grow

by Francesca Landini and Stephen Jewkes

(Reuters) – Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti promised on Sunday to meet Italy’s budget commitments after the European Central Bank stepped up pressure for action by the struggling center-right government.

Tremonti, under mounting pressure to present a credible plan to fulfill a pledge of balancing the budget by 2013 and cutting Italy’s 1.9 trillion euro debt pile, told a business conference in the northern town of Cernobbio that the target would be met.

However he admitted that a hastily put-together package of measures presented to parliament in August and now undergoing substantial revision, had been incomplete.

Iran plugs first nuclear power plant into grid

by Mitra Amiri

(Reuters) – Iran’s first nuclear power plant has finally begun to provide electricity to the national grid, official media reported on Sunday, a long-delayed milestone in the nuclear ambitions of a country the West fears is covertly try to develop atomic bombs.

“The Atomic Energy Agency announced that atomic electricity from Bushehr power plant joined the national grid with a power of around 60 megawatts on Saturday at 2329 (1859 GMT),” the official news agency IRNA reported.

First witnesses in court for Mubarak trial

by Yasmine Saleh

(Reuters) – A top police official and three other officers will testify on Monday in the trial of Egypt’s ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the first witnesses to take the stand in a case that has gripped Egypt and the Arab world.

Egyptians were stunned by television images of their 83-year-old former president of 30 years being wheeled into a cage in court lying on a hospital bed in the first two sessions. By order of the judge, no more sessions will be televised.

Historic rally buoys Israeli social protest movement

by Jeffery Heller

(Reuters) – Organisers of Israel’s biggest rally for economic reform said on Sunday they will begin to fold their tents but social change will move on, driven by weeks of protests that brought hundreds of thousands to the streets.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, responding to the latest massive demonstrations by a disgruntled middle class in the country’s business center, Tel Aviv, and other cities, stuck fast to his pledge to implement change but not at all costs.

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