Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

I believe the collective yawn you're hearing is directed at the lame duck: President Bush said Saturday he will host an international summit in response to the global financial crisis, but said that any reform of financial systems must not chip away at the foundations of democratic capitalism and free enterprise. Bush, meeting at the Camp David presidential retreat with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, did not set a date or place for the meeting. Sarkozy, however, suggested it be held before the end of November in New York.

Who will win the hearts and minds of Pakistan--China or the US? China has agreed to sell two new nuclear reactors to Pakistan to help the increasingly energy-starved country from further disarray in its energy generation, Pakistani officials announced on Saturday. The agreement for the two reactors, to be located at Chashma, a small city in Pakistan's central Punjab province, follows China's installation of a nuclear power reactor at the same site. Meanwhile, work is continuing on the construction of a second Chinese nuclear reactor in the same city. "It is a good gesture at a time of growing power shortages (in Pakistan)," Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said at a press conference in Islamabad on Saturday. Pakistanis have braved up to 12 hours of electricity cuts since the beginning of this year.

This can't be good: Iraq's prime minister said in remarks aired Friday that the top U.S. commander in Iraq "risked his position" by alleging Iran was trying to bribe lawmakers to vote against the proposed security agreement with the United States. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki briefed top political leaders Friday about the draft agreement, which includes a timeline for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2011 and a compromise giving Iraq authority to try U.S. contractors and soldiers for major crimes committed off-duty and off-base.

You have to understand how they bluff: The United States said Friday that North Korea has stepped up disablement of a nuclear reactor it had been threatening to reactivate. "The North Koreans have, in their efforts, reversed all their reversals in the reactor," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters, referring to the Yongbyon plutonium reprocessing plant. The North, he said, has replaced seals, reinstalled surveillance and restored equipment that had been removed at the reactor. "In addition to that, they have removed more rods from the reactor," he said. "So, on the reactor, they have actually gone beyond where they were prior to their reversing the disablement."

Sounds like their Get Out the Vote got up and went: Thursday's first day of early voting drew record numbers across North Carolina, election officials said, as more than 100,000 people turned out. That exceeded the 2004 figure by about 40 percent, said Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections. "We blew it away," Bartlett said Friday, encouraging other voters to take advantage of the early voting period before it ends on Nov. 1. "If not, it will be a long day on Election Day." ...Across the state, Democrats showed the most first-day enthusiasm. Of the nearly 114,000 first-day voters, 64 percent were Democrats, 21 percent Republicans and 15 percent unaffiliateds.

Does this bode well for Obama?Florida's unemployment rate was 6.6 percent last month, flat with revised figures for August, according to a state report released Friday. It's the worst unemployment rate the state has seen since October 1994 and higher than the current national figure of 6.1 percent. Florida lost 119,700 jobs over the past 12 months, according to the figures from the state Agency for Workforce Innovation.

Casually expressing racism: It must be an intoxicating and fearful time to be a black political junkie. I assume this because it appears that Barack Obama is poised to become the next president of the United States, but, at the same time, a political junkie is forced to confront one racist attack after another. Try to read an article about Obama's efforts to win Indiana, and you get subjected to this: For others, like David Ward, who runs an antique shop with his wife in New Albany, the issue is race. Ward, a registered Democrat, said he will vote for McCain "mainly because he's not black."

This is cool: A small NASA spacecraft embarks on a two-year mission this weekend to give scientists their first view of the happenings at the edge of the solar system. The Ibex probe, short for Interstellar Boundary Explorer, will study a chaotic region in space where the solar wind from the sun clashes with cold gases from interstellar space. The solar wind, a stream of charged particles spewing from the sun at 1 million miles per hour, carves out a protective bubble around the solar system. This bubble known as the heliosphere shields against most dangerous cosmic radiation that would otherwise interfere with human spaceflight.

More fighting in the Caucasus: Russia's armed forces launched a counter-terrorist operation in the Caucasus region of Ingushetia on Saturday after an attack on a convoy of Interior Ministry troops. State controlled Russian news agencies reported that two soldiers had died but a regional law enforcement source said 40 were killed in the attack, making it the most deadly in a recent series of attacks on troops in Ingushetia, a small territory bordering Chechnya. "The soldiers didn't even manage to resist, because several rocket-propelled grenades hit their trucks," the source said, adding that three armoured personnel carriers and two trucks were hit by automatic rifle fire and grenades.

You think they'd be pissed? The Bush administration believes the 17 Chinese Muslim Uighurs detained at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp should not be released into the United States because they pose a "risk distinct to this nation," according to court documents obtained by AFP. The potential risks, said the US Justice Department, were compounded by the fact "that petitioners were detained for six years by the country to which the district court has ordered them brought." A federal judge last week ordered that the group be released and brought before him in Washington -- an historic ruling where, for the first time, a court ordered that "war on terror" prisoners detained at the US Navy-run prison in Cuba should be released onto US soil.