Dec 25


Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of Israel, left, in Cairo on Thursday with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. (Amr Nabil/The Associated Press)

JERUSALEM: Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Thursday that militants in Hamas-ruled Gaza would pay a “heavy price” if they continued to target Israel, as the Israeli military wrapped up preparations for a possible large-scale assault on the coastal territory.

In Cairo, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt urged Israel to show restraint in his meeting with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, an Israeli official said. Livni insisted that Israel would respond to protect its citizens.

Related articles:
Gaza families eat grass as Israel locks border
Israeli blockade ‘forces Palestinians to search rubbish dumps for food’

On Wednesday, Palestinian militants pummeled southern Israel from Gaza with more than 80 rockets and mortars, causing no injuries but generating widespread panic. Cabinet ministers approved a broad invasion of Gaza, defense officials told The Associated Press.

“We will not accept this situation,” Barak warned Thursday. “Whoever harms the citizens and soldiers of Israel will pay a heavy price.”

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Dec 25


President Ahmadinejad said that Christ would oppose ‘warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over’ (AFP/Channel 4/Sky News)

Channel 4 was rebuked by the Government yesterday for its decision to broadcast an address by the President of Iran as the channel’s alternative Christmas message.

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Dec 25

MOSCOW. Dec 25 (Interfax) – Russia will grow its geological gold,
silver and coal reserves by respectively 513 tonnes, 2,080 tonnes and 58
million tonnes in 2008, Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev told
reporters.

11:22 GMT, Dec 25, 2008

Source: Interfax

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Dec 25

The Army needs to add at least 30,000 active-duty soldiers to its ranks to fulfill its responsibilities around the world without becoming stretched dangerously thin, senior Army officials warn.

“You can’t do what we’ve been tasked to do with the number of people we have,” Undersecretary of the Army Nelson Ford said in an interview last week. “You can see a point where it’s going to be very difficult to cope.”

Already, the Army lacks a strategic reserve of brigades trained and ready for major combat, officials said, and units being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are receiving new soldiers at the last minute, meaning they have insufficient time to train together before crossing into the war zone.

But the demand for soldiers extends beyond those countries, with the Pentagon creating new missions that require troops trained in cyber-warfare, homeland defense, intelligence-gathering and other areas, Ford said. “We have five to 10 new missions, and we are already stretched now.”

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Dec 25


Power struggle … Captain Moussa Dadis Camara joins supporters on the streets of Conakry, a day after seizing power following the death of President Lansana Conte.
Photo: AFP

Dec. 25 (Bloomberg) — Guinea’s military junta chief, Captain Moussa Camara, declared himself the new leader of the resource-rich nation following the death of President Lansana Conte and ruled out elections for two years.

Related article: Military tightens control following coup in Guinea

Camara is heading a council of 26 army officers and six civilians that has ordered a nationwide curfew and told generals and ministers of the previous government to report to a military camp within 24 hours. A faction of the armed forces seized power in the west African country on Dec. 23, a day after Conte died.

“I am convinced, reassured that I am the president of the republic,” Camara, 49, told reporters late yesterday. Earlier, he and several hundred soldiers paraded through the streets of the capital Conakry before cheering crowds.

Guinea, which holds the world’s biggest reserves of bauxite, has never had a democratic transfer of power. The military group set up the National Council for Democracy and Development on Dec. 23 and said it plans to establish a government representing all ethnic groups.

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Dec 25

MULTAN, Dec 25 (APP): Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi Thursday expressed the hope that India would not commit the mistake of carrying out surgical strikes.

“We will be compelled to respond if it happens,” he said while talking to the reporters upon arrival at the airport on Thursday. To a question whether possibility of war can be ruled out, the FM said, “if you are asking me, I am not ruling out anything.  But if war is imposed, we will respond to it like a brave, self‑respected and self‑esteemed nation”.

He said “I want to give a message to India that we are the torch‑bearers of peace and remain committed to our desire for peace”

“Contrary to our reasonable, cooperative and non‑aggressive attitude, some elements from India were issuing provocative statements” , he added.

“But we do not feel the need to do this. We have confidence on ourselves and we rely on the Almighty.”

FM said, Pakistan condemns terrorism and wants to expose those involved in terrorism and had already promised cooperation in this regard.

“We have also conveyed our grief to the families of those who had lost their loved ones in Mumbai attacks”, FM said. He added that “we will not resort to provocation while remaining committed to cooperation but at the same time we will also not tolerate any pressure”.

He said ,”we want to give a message that the whole nation stands united and knows how to defend the geographical boundaries of the motherland”.

He said, “We should not be complacent.” “Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst,” FM said adding that Pakistan is vigilant, and its armed forces are also vigilant.

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Dec 25

India has given Pakistan time till December 26 for a crackdown on terror infrastructure, said a report of a leading publisher of geopolitical intelligence on Tuesday.

The report from Stratfor says that after the November 26 Mumbai attacks, India relayed a message to Pakistan via the US that they would be given 30 days to crackdown on Islamist militant proxies operating on Pakistani soil.

Related article: Pakistan military on ‘high alert’

Pakistan’s deadline, as far as we know, is December 26, making Indian military action against Pakistan a very real and near possibility. The Indians have had a month to prepare their military operations against Pakistan, and Indian defence sources have revealed that these plans are ready to go into effect, the report said.

Source: Times of India

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Dec 24

Silva tells CNBC up to a thousand face failure or forced mergers

Financial analyst Ralph Silva of TowerGroup told CNBC this morning that he expects no less than one third of banks to fail in 2009 and that anything up to a thousand could collapse if they don’t merge.

Silva said that only five or six global banks have enough funds to survive comfortably throughout 2009.

“The rest of the banks, and that means a thousand other banks, don’t have enough money to get themselves through 2009,” added Silva.

“In 2009 we’re gonna see one third of the banks in the G8 countries disappear, either being merged, forced or not forced, or completely disappearing,” said Silva.

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Dec 24

GDP could fall by as much as 6 percent this quarter


Gray’s Papaya, a hot dog and papaya store in New York’s Fashion District, serves quick, inexpensive food with stand-up dining.

WASHINGTON — As the longest recession in a quarter century intensifies, analysts believe the small decline in economic activity in the third quarter has worsened significantly in the current fourth quarter.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic health, declined at an annual rate of 0.5 percent in the July-September quarter. Corporate profits fell 1.2 percent.

Some economists believe the economy’s decline in the October-December period could be as large as 6 percent. If so, that would be the worst quarterly drop since 1982.

“It will get a lot worse before it gets better,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, a Lexington, Mass., forecasting firm. “We are in the midst of the worst recession in the post-war period, even factoring in a massive stimulus program.”

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Dec 24

Patrons surfing the web at an internet cafe in Los Angele

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Internet has surpassed newspapers as the main source for national and international news for Americans, according to a new survey.

Television, however, remains the preferred medium for Americans, according to the survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Seventy percent of the 1,489 people surveyed by Pew said television is their primary source for national and international news.

Forty percent said they get most of their news from the Internet, up from 24 percent in September 2007, and more than the 35 percent who cited newspapers as their main news source.

Only 59 percent of people younger than 30 years old prefer television, Pew said, down from 68 percent in the September 2007 survey.

The latest survey was conducted December 3-7 and released on Tuesday. Pew did not provide the margin of error.

Dec. 24, 08

Source: AFP

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Dec 24

The State of California will run out of money within two months, forcing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to start settling bills and paying employees by issuing “IOU” notes, his chief financial officer has revealed.

John Chiang, the state controller, admitted on Monday that a spiralling budget crisis, which has left California spending billions of dollars more each month than it can raise in taxes, will see his coffers run dry some time in mid-February.

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Dec 24


December 22, 2008

Source: YouTube

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Dec 24

Ameera Ahmad, 25, gave birth to daughter Layan six months ago. Here, she tells of life under siege and of her struggle to bring up a child after 18 months of Israeli blockade

During the months of the blockade, everything in my life has changed. Before, I would wake up and hope that tomorrow would be better than today. But it never happened. The reason is simple. It is because I live in Gaza, where all dreams and hope vanish because of the situation we live in.

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Dec 24

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits jumped by 30,000 to a 26-year peak last week, government data on Wednesday showed, as the country’s year-long recession continued to chill the labour market.

Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits rose to a seasonally adjusted 586,000 in the week ended Dec 20 from a revised 556,000 the prior week, the Labour Department said. It was the highest since the week ended November 27, 1982, when initial claims rose 612,000.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 560,000 new claims versus a previously reported count of 554,000 the week before.

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Dec 24

Gordon Brown and his Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell were last night accused of behaving ‘like loan sharks’ over plans to slap punishingly high interest rates on vital loans to the poor.

In an astonishing move, rebel Labour MPs joined forces with David Cameron’s Tories to accuse the Government of penalising hundreds of thousands of families on benefits who get interest-free cash advances to cover the cost of unforeseen crises.

More than one million individual loans worth over £600million were paid out from the Government’s social fund last year to hard-up people – many of them disabled – who struggled to afford to repair a broken boiler or cope with some other domestic emergency.


Under Fire: Gordon the ‘loan shark’ and James Purnell

However, in a provocative move, Mr Purnell wants to start charging 26.8 per cent on new loans – the sort of punitive rate found on High Street store cards and way above normal credit-card rates.

This would add nearly £50 to the cost of an average £433 loan and saddle the borrowers, who are almost all on State benefits, with an extra four weeks of repayments.

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Dec 23

Part 1:

December 22, 2008 Source: YouTube

Part 2:

December 22, 2008 Source: YouTube

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Dec 23

The Federal Reserve caused the financial crisis.

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Dec 23


December 23, 2008

Source: YouTube

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Dec 23

American property developers are pleading for assistance from the US government to help them through tough financial times, joining a lengthening queue for public support behind banks, financial services corporations and carmakers.

Leading American property firms have told politicians in Washington of a looming crisis when $200bn (£135bn) to $400bn of commercial mortgages mature over the next few years. With banks loth to lend money, they may be unable to refinance these loans.

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Dec 23


RIA NOVOSTI/REUTERS Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, speaks with President Dmitry Medvedev in the Gorki residence outside of Moscow. (Dec. 17, 2008)

MOSCOW-The upper house of parliament unanimously approved extending Russian presidential terms on Monday, a constitutional amendment which has fuelled speculation Vladimir Putin will return as head of state.

The Federation Council endorsed a decision by regional assemblies to support a six-year term for future presidents versus four years now. President Dmitry Medvedev, who proposed the changes, now will sign the bill into law.

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Dec 23


Vladimir Putin talks to Roman Abramovich, whose business interests are reported to have already received a £1.2bn bailout

They bought country houses, super-yachts and football clubs, but the era of the Russian oligarch may be drawing to a close.

Details of the financial bailout being offered by the Kremlin to Russia’s richest men have revealed that many could be stripped of power by next Christmas. The loans will last for one year only and will be collateralised against shares owned by the oligarchs.

Most are expected to struggle to repay the loans within a year, raising the possibility that the Kremlin is trying to engineer the renationalisation of the Russian economy.

The bailout could be a double-edged sword: it may save the oligarchs’ companies in the short-term but could reduce their power and wealth in the long run. According to Zina Psiola, a Russian fund manager at Clariden Leu in Zurich: “Some oligarchs will no longer be oligarchs. It’s extremely unlikely they’ll all be able to repay in a year.”

Figures such as Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, have seen the value of their companies collapse, forcing them to seek government aid or risk defaulting on loans to foreign banks. Evraz, a steel company part-owned by Mr Abramovich, has reportedly already received $1.8 billion (£1.2 billion) from the Kremlin.

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Dec 23

New Zealand’s economy has contracted for a third straight quarter as the combination of a weak housing market and a slowing global economy takes its toll.

The country’s gross domestic product contracted 0.4pc in the three months to the end of September and that follows a 0.2pc decline in the second quarter and a 0.3pc shrinkage in the first three months of the the year. The decline for the latest quarter was in line with economists’ expectations.

Like that of its larger neighbour Australia, New Zealand’s economy has enjoyed a booming housing market over the past decade. However, the bursting of the housing bubble has prompted New Zealanders to apply a sharp brake to their spending.

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Dec 23

Researchers have created the world’s thinnest sheet – a single atom thick – and used it to create the world’s smallest transistor, marking a breakthrough that could spark the development of super-fast computer chips.

This innovation will allow ultra small electronics to take over when the current silicon-based technology runs out of steam, according to Prof Andre Geim and Dr Kostya Novoselov from the University of Manchester.

They reveal details of transistors that are only one atom thick and fewer than 50 atoms wide in the journal, Nature Materials.

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Dec 23
$20 bills at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving in Washington: central banks are taking unprecedented action to increase the money supply by expanding their balance sheets

A quiet revolution in central banking is gathering speed, as the Federal Reserve ploughs ever deeper into the brave new world of unorthodox monetary policy and other central banks ponder how far they might have to follow.

The world’s central banks have already undergone dramatic changes since the start of the credit crisis more than a year ago. They have cut interest rates with unprecedented rapidity – in some cases to historic lows – and have increased bank reserves massively to meet heightened private sector demand for liquidity.

They have become de facto central counterparties in the money markets, and in some cases even direct lenders to companies. Moreover, by making liquidity available against collateral on terms far more favourable than those that prevail in the private markets, they have become in effect catastrophic risk insurers of last resort for whole classes of financial assets – taking on the risk that the crisis could become so bad that they cannot recoup their loans.

But the latest steps by the Federal Reserve – which cut interest rates virtually to zero last week and said it would create money to finance ever-larger credit operations – break new ground.

Related:
- The Neo-Alchemy of the Federal Reserve by Ron Paul
Interview: Peter Schiff still grim on future

Already the Fed arguably has one companion, the Bank of Japan. The BoJ cut rates to nearly zero on Friday, stepped up its purchases of government bonds and said it would buy commercial paper.

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Dec 23

Her sinking with the loss of almost 1,200 lives caused such outrage that it propelled the U.S. into the First World War.

But now divers have revealed a dark secret about the cargo carried by the Lusitania on its final journey in May 1915.

Munitions they found in the hold suggest that the Germans had been right all along in claiming the ship was carrying war materials and was a legitimate military target.


Doomed: A contemporary view of the sinking of the Lusitania off Ireland in May 1915

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Dec 23

A man who was left completely blind by multiple strokes has been able to navigate an obstacle course using only his “sense” of where hazards lie.

The feat is an example of “blindsight”, the ability of some blind people to sense things that they cannot see.

Scientists already knew that the man, known only as TN, reacted to facial expressions that he could not see.

Brain scans showed that he could recognise expressions including fear, anger and joy in other people.

However, he is totally blind and normally walks using a stick to alert himself to objects in his path.

To test the extend of his blindsight, scientists constructed an obstacle course made up of boxes and chairs arranged in a random pattern.

Not only was TN able to safely manoeuvre the course he did not bump into a single box or chair.

Professor Beatrice de Gelder, from the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands, who led the study, said: “This is absolutely the first study of this ability in humans.

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Dec 23

Afghan parents are selling their sons to wealthy women unable to have their own.

Afghan parents selling their sons to survive
Channel 4 footage shows eight-year-old Qassem saying goodbye to his family Photo: CHANNEL 4 NEWS

The trade in children is spurred by the battered country’s economy and the failure of foreign aid to reach beyond the coffers of central government in the capital Kabul.

While girls are are rarely traded, boys can fetch substantial sums – at least in the eyes of the poor couples who give up a child simply to allow the rest of the family to survive.

A cameraman working for Channel 4 News, Mehran Bozorgnia, witnessed the sale of an eight-year-old boy, Qassem, to Sadiqa, a wealthy woman from Kabul, outside the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

As the meeting began, the boy’s father, Nek Mohammed, knew he only had a final few moments with his son. Sadiqa was business-like. “Kiss your father and mother goodbye now – it is time,” she said, before handing over $1,500 (£1,000). Mr Mohammed began to weep.

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Dec 23

The recession in the UK economy in the three months to September was worse than previously thought, official data out on Tuesday showed, underlining the speed of the downturn.

Gross domestic product shrank by 0.6 per cent between the second and third quarters of this year – the worst performance since the end of 1990 – the Office of National Statistics reported.

That compares with an earlier estimate that the UK economy had contracted by 0.5 per cent in the quarter, and is worse than the consensus view of economists who had expected GDP to remain unrevised.

The pound, which has moved closer to parity with the euro in the last week, came under renewed pressure following the release of the revised figures.

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Dec 23


Rick Wagoner, chief executive officer of General Motors Corp., speaks at a news conference at the company’s headquarters in Detroit, Dec. 19, 2008. Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg News

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) — General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner said the biggest U.S. automaker got “what we asked for” with $9.4 billion in U.S. loans over the next 24 days. Investors bet that it’s not enough.

Related: Stocks in U.S. Fall on Concern Loans Won’t Save Car Industry: GM Declines

GM dropped as much as 18 percent today in New York trading to extend yesterday’s 22 percent plunge, while credit-default swaps on GM bonds rose 0.5 percentage point in a sign of increasing concern that the Bush administration’s bailout may end in a default.

The stock-price slide erased the 23 percent gain on Dec. 19, when Detroit-based GM received a federal aid package to help the automaker stay in business until March 31 while it crafts a plan to shut plants, shed brands and reduce debt.

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Dec 23

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) — Sales of single-family houses in the U.S. dropped in November by the most in two decades and resale prices collapsed at a pace reminiscent of the Great Depression, dashing speculation the market was close to a bottom.

Purchases of both new and existing houses dropped 7.6 percent, the biggest decline since January 1989, to an annual rate of 4.43 million, government and industry figures showed today. A 13 percent drop in the median resale price was the most since records began in 1968 and was likely the largest since the 1930s, the National Association of Realtors said.

“Housing is still in a freefall,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.

The figures were worse than economists had forecast and signal that the battered housing market that led the economy into a recession may be taking another lurch down. Sliding property values mean more Americans will be under water on their mortgages, destroying household wealth and undermining consumers’ purchasing power.

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