Daily News Digest

By Duane Shank 1-11-2008

the latest news on Economy, President in Mideast, Presidential campaign, Republican debate, Iraq, Iran-US, Pakistan, Stem cells, heating costs, Colombia, Sudan, Kenya, and Editorial commentary.

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Economy. Economy Slumps To the Top of the Campaign Agenda "As the presidential campaign got underway a year ago, the candidates faced a volatile political environment dominated by the Iraq war, illegal immigration and terrorism. A year later, the campaigns are rewriting their playbooks as it appears that the race may actually be shaped by the economy." Public senses an economy going south "Exit polls from the New Hampshire primary confirm that: 97% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans are worried about where the economy is headed. Only 14% of Democrats -- and about half of Republicans -- consider the current state of the economy good." Fed Chief Talks of 'Decisive' Action "Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke signaled that the central bank will cut interest rates aggressively to try to prevent a serious economic downturn, using unusually direct and forceful language." Fed Chief Signals Further Rate Cut"Presenting a bleak picture of a deteriorating national economy, Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, strongly suggested that the Fed would cut interest rates soon, perhaps by a large amount."

President in Mideast. A faith-based stop for the president "After descending the stone stairs to the dim grotto beneath the Church of the Nativity, President Bush lit a candle and stood in silent, somber reflection at the place where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born." Bush meeting with Abbas recalls antipathy toward Arafat "For the day's news conference, Palestinian officials placed a large portrait of Arafat over the podium where Bush stood, providing an ironic juxtaposition between the leaders." Bush tells Olmert: End the occupation "U.S. President George W. Bush implored senior cabinet ministers at a dinner yesterday evening to work to promote the peace process, telling them that the current situation cannot continue and efforts to achieve a peace treaty must be made." Bush plans return to Middle East "The US president, George Bush, today said he planned to return to the Middle East in May to press for a peace settlement as he left Israel for the next stage of his trip to the region." Bush Outlines Mideast Peace Plan "President Bush outlined in the clearest terms so far the shape of a two-state peace treaty he is hoping to broker between Israel and the Palestinians by the end of his term."

Presidential campaign. For the remaining primaries, the campaigns will change tactics"Candidates can forget lingering in cozy coffee shops to woo a table of undecided voters, or spending an icy afternoon ringing doorbells in some small-state suburb. The presidential campaign is going national now."

Republican debate. Hopefuls Clash in Debate as 1st Southern Primary Nears "The leading Republican presidential candidates used a Fox News debate to draw contrasts with their rivals on the economy, U.S. relations with Iran, immigration and political change." Republicans battle for Reagan legacy "The six top GOP presidential candidates met in their final debate before South Carolina's first-in-the-South primary, each vying to regain the lost mantle of Reagan Republicanism amid the Democratic threat to the party's eight-year hold on the White House." GOP candidates trade barbs "Last night's Republican presidential debate in South Carolina reflected just how chaotic the contest has become, with candidates squaring off against opponents they view as their biggest obstacles to the nomination in the upcoming primaries in South Carolina, Michigan and in Florida."

Iraq . Snow delights residents of Baghdad "Snow fell on Baghdad today for the first time in living memory, delighting residents who declared it an omen of peace. "It is the first time we've seen snow in Baghdad," said 60-year-old Hassan Zahar. "We've seen sleet before, but never snow." U.S. Bombs Iraqi Insurgent Hideouts "American bombers and fighter aircraft dropped 40,000 pounds of bombs on suspected militant hide-outs, storehouses and defensive positions in the southern outskirts of Baghdad."

Iran-US. Iranian Boats May Not Have Made Radio Threat, Pentagon Says "The Pentagon said yesterday that the apparent radio threat to bomb U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf last weekend may not have come from the five Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboats that approached them -- and may not even have been intended against U.S. targets." Iran releases its own tape on Hormuz ship incident "Iranreleased a videotape to support its side of an ongoing propaganda battle with Washington over a weekend naval confrontation in the narrow waterway leading into the Persian Gulf." Doubts over Iranian boat threats "Doubts intensified last night over the nature of an alleged aggressive confrontation by Iranian patrol boats and American warships in the Persian Gulf on Sunday, after Pentagon officials admitted that they could not confirm that a threat to blow up the US ships had been made directly by the Iranian crews involved in the incident."

Iran-nuclear. UN nuclear head in Iran for talks "The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, is holding talks in Tehran on Iran's nuclear programme. During the two-day visit, he is expected to meet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Pakistan . Suicide blast kills 23 in Pakistan "In the first major suicide attack since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto two weeks ago, a bomber blew himself up in front of a provincial high court building, killing at least 23 people and injuring more than 60 others." Suicide bomber hits Pakistan court "The bomber dropped the motorcycle he was riding and ran into a group of officers who were gathering on Thursday morning ahead of a protest by lawyers outside the court." Rise in terrorism plaguing Pakistan "A suicide blast that killed at least 22 people, most of them police, was the latest in an accelerating string of such attacks in Pakistan that has claimed the lives of nearly 800 people over the past year and spread to areas previously untouched by extremist bombs." Musharraf open to power sharing "Pakistani Ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani said yesterday that the party allied with President Pervez Musharraf will be prepared to work with any other parties to form a government after critical parliamentary elections Feb. 18."

Stem cells. Lab Cites Stem Cell Advance "Scientists in Massachusetts said that they had created several colonies of human embryonic stem cells without harming the embryos from which they were derived, the latest in a series of advances that could speed development of stem-cell-based treatments for a variety of diseases."

Heating costs. New Yorkers Paying More Than Ever to Keep Their Homes Warm This Winter"Despite a relatively mild winter so far, New Yorkers are paying more than ever to heat their homes, largely because of a surge in the prices of oil and natural gas. At an average price of $3.50 a gallon statewide, the price of heating oil has risen by more than one-third in the past year."

Colombia . Colombian hostages freed "Venezuelan Red Cross helicopters plucked two high-profile Colombian hostages from the jungle yesterday, ending their six-year kidnap ordeal and raising hopes for other hostages." Colombian leftist guerrillas free two high-level hostages "It's the most important hostage release in the Colombian conflict since 2001, when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, freed some 300 soldiers and police officers and it's being hailed as a political victory for Mr. Chávez and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe." 2 freed Colombian hostages thank Chavez, talk about captivity "Two high-profile hostages freed by Colombian rebels after six years in captivity thanked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for arranging their freedom and joined in a jubilant reunion at the presidential palace."

Sudan . Sudan Apologizes for Shooting at UN "Sudanacknowledged that its troops shot at a United Nations convoy in Darfur, reversing an initial denial, but it in part blamed the peacekeepers saying they should have notified Khartoum of their movements."

Kenya . Kenya faces three days of rallies "Kenya's main opposition has called three days of nationwide rallies next week to protest at the 27 December polls it says were effectively stolen." Kenya: ODM Calls Three Days of Mass Action "The party has announced three day of mass protests countrywide on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday next week, even as former UN boss Kofi Annan is expected to reopen mediation and the new Parliament has been summoned for Tuesday."

Editorial commentary.

Not a lost year (Haaaretz) "Even President George Bush's fiercest critics with regard to his insubstantial involvement in creating peace between Israel and the Palestinians must admit that until recently he did not have the appropriate partners for an effort to reach a permanent arrangement."

Bush's damage control (Al Jazeera) "To understand why George Bush, the US president, is visiting the Middle East and what he seeks to accomplish, re-read the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton commission from December 2006, subtract what has been implemented since then and you are left with a must-do list in this troubled region."

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