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South America: Royal Navy's Falklands ship turned away by Brazil

HMS Clyde Falklands
© EPA
HMS Clyde was refused permission to stop in Rio de Janeiro
The Royal Navy's Falkland Islands protection ship has been turned away from docking in Rio de Janeiro in an indication that Brazil's new government could back Argentine claims to the islands.

Despite continuing tensions with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, the Navy had until now enjoyed cordial relations with its Brazilian equivalent.

But last week, within days of the former left-wing guerilla Dilma Rousseff succeeding Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as Brazil's president, HMS Clyde was refused permission to stop in Rio.

Miss Rousseff is due to visit Argentina at the end of this month, in her first international trip, with closer trade relations between South American countries due to be discussed.

The decision to block the Royal Navy ship from docking "satisfied" the government of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Buenos Aires, according to the Argentine newspaper Clarin.

HMS Clyde was forced to re-route and instead dock later in Chile, where the Royal Navy still enjoys good relations.

It is the first time that Brazil has refused permission for a British ship to dock in such circumstances and the decision appears to be a clear indication that Miss Rousseff wanted to send a message to Britain and Argentina over the Falklands.

War Whore

4 dead as forces raid Ivory Coast neighborhood

Ivory coast civil war
© Reuters/Luc Gnago
Police on patrol in armoured vehicles pass people walking on a road in Abobo in Abidjan January 11, 2011. At least five people were killed in clashes between supporters of Ivory Coast's presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara and forces loyal to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan on Tuesday.
Security forces loyal to Ivory Coast's incumbent leader, who refuses to cede power, on Tuesday fired volleys of gunshots, leaving at least four people dead after they cordoned off a large section of a neighborhood known to be his rival's stronghold.

United Nations peacekeepers arriving in a convoy of 13 vehicles were forced by a mob to make a U-turn as they attempted to enter the area. Young men allied with incumbent Laurent Gbagbo amassed on the highway, wielding sticks and throwing large objects in their path.

PK 18, where the early morning raid occurred, is part of Abobo, an Abidjan district that supported Alassane Ouattara, who won the Nov. 28 election with a margin of over half a million votes, according to results verified by the United Nations.

He has been recognized as the president-elect by the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the United States, but international pressure has not been able to dislodge the 65-year-old Gbagbo. He accuses the U.N. of bias after it endorsed Ouattara's victory and is refusing to leave office. He is backed by the army as well as a militant youth group that has been organizing daily rallies - including one planned for Tuesday near PK 18 - to warn the international community against interfering in Ivory Coast.

Residents and the mayor of the area say police awoke them between 4 and 5 a.m. and began conducting house-to-house searches accusing them of hiding arms. A 39-year-old mother of five said the soldiers burst in and told her and her children to lie down on the floor. One of them placed his boot on Habiba Traore's back, as the others opened her suitcase and went through her belongings. They made off with cash as well as her husband's pants and two shirts, she said.

Wall Street

Portugal, refusing bailout, faces key bond test

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates
© AP Photo/Armando Franca
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates addresses journalists Tuesday, Jan. 11 2011, at his official residence, the Sao Bento palace in Lisbon. Socrates called a news conference to announce that Portugal cut the 2010 budget deficit to below its target of 7.3 percent of gross domestic product, according to provisional data.
Portugal insists that it does not need an international bailout to solve its debt problems. It faces a bond auction Wednesday that could reveal the price of going it alone - and perhaps even add to the European financial crisis.

Investors have identified the debt-burdened country as the potential next victim of the crisis and have pushed its borrowing costs to barely sustainable levels by demanding higher premiums to lend it money.

Market tensions were eased slightly Tuesday after Japan, taking advantage of high interest rates and echoing a similar pledge by China, said it would help finance European bailout efforts.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates sought to soothe frayed nerves with evidence that his government, which has introduced pay cuts and tax hikes, is reducing its budget deficit. Preliminary data show last year's will be below the government target.

"The government is doing its job and is doing it well," Socrates told a news conference. "I'd like to stress again that ... Portugal won't request any financial help for the simple reason that it doesn't need it."

But reports have said Germany and France, Europe's two main financiers, are pushing Lisbon to accept assistance to keep the debt crisis from spreading to bigger countries that would be much costlier to rescue.

Stop

Iraq: Study Shows High Rate of Fallujah Birth Defects

Fallujah General Hospital
© Mozhgan Savabieasfahani
A doctor cares for children at Fallujah General Hospital. Doctors there have observed an elevated rate of birth defects. An study funded by an anti-war group and published Dec. 31 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health links the malformations to US warfare.

Is the U.S. war in Iraq behind an increase of severe birth defects in Fallujah?

That's the question raised by new research co-authored by an Ann Arbor resident and published in the International Journal of Environmental Health.

"Lots of babies are dying in Fallujah," said environmental toxicologist Mozhgan Savabieasfahani. "Those who don't die have a grim future. Their parents aren't able to care about them."

The study authors theorize that military assaults in Fallujah left a toxic footprint that could be continuing to harm families there, especially pregnant mothers and their babies, some of whom are being born with severe deformities and other problems.

Savabieasfahani, author of the 2009 book Pollution and Reproductive Damage, joined the international research team working on the study after she saw Fallujah General Hospital doctor Samir Allani on BBC news reports about the birth defects. Allani was interviewed by the BBC about birth defects and cancer in the Iraqi city following heavy U.S. assaults in 2004 aimed at stamping out out an insurgency.

The latest study, funded by The Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalize War, focuses on birth defects observed at the hospital since 2003. International media outlets, including the BBC World and others, have published reports on the Ann Arbor resident's research since the journal published the paper Dec. 31.

Footprints

US: John Dingell Runs Through Litany Of Violent Rhetoric On House Floor

Image
© C-SPAN
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI)

Members of Congress have, by and large, stayed out of the partisan fray over violent rhetoric in the wake of the Arizona shooting spree. But there have been some exceptions. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) took the opportunity to muse that the government may be withholding information about the crime because Jared Loughner is a flag-hating Marxist liberal who might embarrass President Obama.

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), by contrast, ran through a litany of now-infamous statements by high-profile politicians, leaving blank the names of people and issues under threat.

"Let me read some statements that I have seen to be pretty awful," he said on Wednesday.

Arrow Down

US: Housing Market Slips Into Depression Territory

As the economy revs back to life, with signs of hiring on the horizon, the housing market is being left behind like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.
Image
© AP
Macaulay Culkin

In the past few years, we've all been careful to choose our words carefully, not calling it a recession until it fit the technical definition and avoiding any inappropriate use of the "D" word - Depression.

Things were bad but the broader economy never reached Depression territory. The housing market, on the other hand, just crossed that threshold.

Igloo

US: D.C Considers Ticketing for Uncleared Sidewalks

Image
© Examiner File Photo
District property owners could soon be ticketed for not shoveling snow off the sidewalks around their land.

The D.C. Council is considering a bill that would empower the city to write tickets of at least $25 for residential property owners and at least $250 for businesses if they don't clear their sidewalks. They'd have eight hours from the time the snow stops to get the job done.

"Pedestrian safety should be a priority no matter what season it is," said Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh, who introduced the bill. "Every year, though, the District wakes up during winter and rediscovers that the current scheme for enforcing sidewalk clearing is impractical and does not work."

The city currently requires property owners to shovel within the eight-hour time frame. But if a property owner doesn't act, the city can clear the sidewalk and then sue the property owner for the cost. That's too costly and time consuming to be effective, officials said.

Syringe

Mexico: Drug-Related Killings Hit Record High

Image
© unk
Thousands of bodies have been uncovered in Mexico's ongoing drug wars
More than 34,000 people have died in drug-related killings in Mexico since 2006 - nearly half of those in the last year alone, government officials have said.

Police in Mexico have found 18 bodies in a mass grave near Acapulco following a surge in drug violence.

The deaths have occurred in the four years since President Felipe Calderon launched a military crackdown on organised crime and cartels.

A total of 34,612 have died, with the number of deaths jumping sharply from 9,616 in 2009 to 15,273 in 2010.

Beaker

US: New Jersey Town To Vote On Middle School Drug Tests

Image
© (Photo/CBS 2)
Belvidere Elementary School
A proposal to conduct random drug tests of young students in one New Jersey town is raising some eyebrows.

Students at Belvidere Elementary School could be adding drug testing to their list of lessons when they move into middle school.

The Board of Education will vote Wednesday on a plan to randomly test sixth, seventh and eighth graders to see if they are under the influence of drugs. School administrators said they were confident the proposal would pass.

Elementary School Principal Sandra Szabocsik said school officials want to use the testing "as a deterrent."

"We're hoping that the students if they're at say a party or someone's house or just hanging out somewhere, that they'll say 'I don't want to get involved in drinking or using any drug because tomorrow could be a drug testing day,'" she told CBS 2′s Christine Sloan.

The program is voluntary and both parents and students must consent. School officials said it was important to note that if a student tested positive, they would not be suspended or have the results sent to the police.

Bomb

'Our Savings Have Vanished - We've Lost Everything'

Dhaka crowd
© Reuters
Chanting investors accuse brokers of dishonesty at Dhaka's stock exchange
Angry investors take to streets as Dhaka's stock exchange crashes.

Police in Bangladesh used tear gas and water canons to disperse angry protests by crowds of small investors after a dramatic free-fall plunge on the country's stock market caused the authorities to suspend trading.

Hundreds of outraged investors took to the streets outside the stock exchange in the Motijheel neighbourhood of the nation's capital after the worst plunge in the country's history saw the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) fall by 660 points, or 9.25 per cent, in less than an hour.

Chanting slogans that accused brokers and traders of manipulating stock prices and of the government of failing to properly regulate the situation, the small-scale investors smashed up cars, burned tyres and ran loose until police stepped in to break them up. There were other protests in smaller cities and towns. Four journalists were reportedly beaten by police.

Last night, with trading due to restart later today in both Dhaka and the country's second city, Chittagong, Bangladesh's prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, met with senior financial officials including the governor of the central bank, and ordered them to take steps to try and ease the crisis. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), after an emergency meeting with the central bank, said trading - which was halted yesterday after just an hour - could resume.

But the crisis that began on Sunday, when the DSE's bench mark Dhaka Stock Exchange general index (DGEN) fell by almost 8 per cent, has long been smouldering. Last month there were similar demonstrations to those yesterday when the market fell by around 7 per cent, triggering panic among investors. Since early December, the index - which had climbed by more than 80 per cent in 2010 - has fallen by 27 per cent.