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World briefly for Nov. 26

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POSTED: November 26, 2012 9:26 a.m.

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Thousands of Bangladeshi workers blocked the streets of a Dhaka suburb Monday, throwing stones at factories and smashing vehicles, as they demanded justice for 112 people killed in a garment-factory fire that highlighted unsafe conditions in an industry rushing to produce for major retailers around the world.

Some 200 factories were closed for the day after the protest erupted in Savar, the industrial zone where Saturday's deadly fire occurred. Protesters blocked a major highway.

The government announced that Tuesday will be a day of national mourning, with the national flag flying at half-mast in honor of the dead.

Investigators suspect that a short circuit caused the fire, said Maj. Mohammad Mahbub, fire department operations director. But he said it was not the fire itself but the lack of safety measures in the eight-story building that made it so deadly.

"Had there been at least one emergency exit through outside the factory, the casualties would have been much lower," Mahbub said. He said firefighters recovered at least 100 bodies from the factory, and 12 more people died at hospitals after jumping from the building to escape the fire.

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Emissions, climate aid in focus as new round of UN climate talks opens in Qatar

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — U.N. talks on a new climate pact resumed Monday in oil and gas-rich Qatar, where negotiators from nearly 200 countries will discuss fighting global warming and helping poor nations adapt to it.

The two-decade-old talks have not fulfilled their main purpose: reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are warming the planet.

Attempts to create a new climate treaty failed in Copenhagen three years ago but countries agreed last year to try again, giving themselves a deadline of 2015 to adopt a new treaty.

A host of issues need to be resolved by then, including how to spread the burden of emissions cuts between rich and poor countries. That's unlikely to be decided in the two-week talks in the Qatari capital of Doha, where negotiators will focus on extending the Kyoto Protocol, an emissions deal for industrialized countries, and trying to raise billions of dollars to help developing countries adapt to a shifting climate.

"We all realize why we are here, why we keep coming back year and after year," said South Africa Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who led last year's talks in Durban, South Africa. "We owe it to our people, the global citizenry. We owe it to our children to give them a safer future than what they are currently facing."

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Egypt's political foes grow more entrenched in fight over president's powers

CAIRO (AP) — Supporters and opponents of Egypt's president on Sunday grew more entrenched in their potentially destabilizing battle over the Islamist leader's move to assume near absolute powers, with neither side appearing willing to back down as the stock market plunged amid the fresh turmoil.

The standoff poses one of the hardest tests for the nation's liberal and secular opposition since Hosni Mubarak's ouster nearly two years ago. Failure to sustain protests and eventually force Mohammed Morsi to loosen control could consign it to long-term irrelevance.

Clashes between the two sides spilled onto the streets for a third day since the president issued edicts that make him immune to oversight of any kind, including that of the courts.

A teenager was killed and at least 40 people were wounded when a group of anti-Morsi protesters tried to storm the local offices of the political arm of the president's Muslim Brotherhood in the Nile Delta city of Damanhoor, according to security officials.

It was the first reported death from the street battles that erupted across much of the nation on Friday, the day after Morsi's decrees were announced. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, identified the boy as 15-year-old Islam Hamdi Abdel-Maqsood.

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Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says he's leaving politics, shaking up election campaign

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday abruptly announced he was quitting politics, shaking up the country's political system just weeks ahead of general elections.

Barak, a decorated former general and one-time prime minister, said he would stay on in his current post until a new government is formed following the Jan. 22 balloting.

"I didn't make this decision without hesitating, but I made it wholeheartedly," he told a hastily arranged news conference, saying he had been wrestling with the decision for weeks.

Barak's resignation could mean the departure of the most moderating influence on hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is expected to retain his job after the election. Barak, who heads a small centrist faction in parliament, had often served as Netanyahu's unofficial envoy to Washington in order to smooth over differences with the Obama White House.

Barak, 70, made the surprise announcement even after polls showed his breakaway Independence Party gaining momentum after Israel's recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

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INFLUENCE GAME: Fiscal compromise is fine, groups say, provided members don't share the pain

WASHINGTON (AP) — A big coalition of business groups says there must be give-and-take in the negotiations to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of massive tax increases and spending cuts. But raising tax rates — a White House priority — is out of the question, the group adds.

The homebuilding industry says it won't tolerate even a nick in the mortgage interest deduction. It doesn't matter, industry leaders say, if it's part of a broad, spread-the-pain package designed to tame the soaring debt.

And there's no ambiguity in the views of the top lobbying arm for retirees.

"AARP to Washington: No cuts to Medicare and Social Security in last-minute budget deal" the group's Web site declares. AARP nixes the notion of slowing the cost-of-living formula for Social Security recipients, even if it's part of a big, bipartisan compromise package. And President Barack Obama should drop his idea of raising Medicare's eligibility age, AARP adds.

So much for the notion of shared sacrifice as Congress and the White House face a Dec. 31 deadline to craft a far-reaching deficit-reduction plan. If they fail, the government tips over the so-called fiscal cliff, at least for a time. Nearly everyone's taxes will rise, and federal programs will be whacked. Financial markets might quake, and a new recession could begin, economists say.

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White House could get its chance to close books on Benghazi PR disaster, push Rice nomination

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House could finally have its chance to close the books on its Benghazi public relations disaster, as key Republicans signal they might not stand in the way of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to become the next secretary of state.

"I think she deserves the ability and the opportunity to explain herself and her position," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told "Fox News Sunday." ''But she's not the problem. The problem is the president of the United States," who, McCain said, misled the public on terrorist involvement.

Rice is widely seen as President Barack Obama's top pick to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as the nation's top diplomat. But Rice's reputation took a serious hit this fall when she relied on unclassified talking points provided by the intelligence community that portrayed the attack in Benghazi, Libya, as a spontaneous assault by a mob angered by an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube.

Intelligence officials quickly amended their assessment to conclude the attack hadn't been related to other film protests across the Middle East. But that revised narrative was slow to reach the public, prompting Republicans to allege a White House cover-up ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

0The attack killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, a State Department computer specialist and two former Navy SEALs who were working as contract security guards.

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Cyber Monday is likely to be the busiest online shopping day, but other days gain ground

NEW YORK (AP) — Bye-bye Black Friday. So long Small Business Saturday. Now, it's Cyber Monday's turn.

Cyber Monday, coined in 2005 by a shopping trade group that noticed online sales spiked on the Monday following Thanksgiving, is the next in a series of days that stores are counting on to jumpstart the holiday shopping season.

It's estimated that this year's Cyber Monday will be the biggest online shopping day of the year for the third year in a row: According to research firm comScore, Americans are expected to spend $1.5 billion, up 20 percent from last year on Cyber Monday, as retailers have ramped up their deals to get shoppers to click on their websites.

Amazon.com, which is starting its Cyber Monday deals at midnight on Monday, is offering as much as 60 percent off a Panasonic VIERA 55-inch TV that's usually priced higher than $1,000. Sears is offering $430 off a Maytag washer and dryer, each on sale for $399. And Kmart is offering 75 percent off all of its diamond earrings and $60 off a 12-in-1 multigame table on sale for $89.99.

Retailers are hoping the deals will appeal to shoppers like Matt Sexton, 39, who for the first time plans to complete all of his holiday shopping online this year on his iPad tablet computer. Sexton, who plans to spend up to $4,000 this season, already shopped online on the day after Thanksgiving known as Black Friday and found a laptop from Best Buy for $399, a $200 savings, among other deals.

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Facing bias, loss of children, disabled parents should get more support, advocates say

Millions of Americans with disabilities have gained innumerable rights and opportunities since Congress passed landmark legislation on their behalf in 1990. And yet advocates say barriers and bias still abound when it comes to one basic human right: To be a parent.

A Kansas City, Mo., couple had their daughter taken into custody by the state two days after her birth because both parents were blind. A Chicago mother, because she is quadriplegic, endured an 18-month legal battle to keep custody of her young son. A California woman paid an advance fee to an adoption agency, then was told she might be unfit to adopt because she has cerebral palsy.

Such cases are found nationwide, according to a new report by the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency. The 445-page document is viewed by the disability-rights community as by far the most comprehensive ever on the topic — simultaneously an encyclopedic accounting of the status quo and an emotional plea for change.

"Parents with disabilities continue to be the only distinct community that has to fight to retain — and sometimes gain — custody of their own children," said autism-rights activist Ari Ne'eman, a member of the council. "The need to correct this unfair bias could not be more urgent or clear."

The U.S. legal system is not adequately protecting the rights of parents with disabilities, the report says, citing child welfare laws in most states allowing courts to determine that a parent is unfit on the basis of a disability. Terminating parental rights on such grounds "clearly violates" the intent of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the report contends.

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Bounce houses a big hit at parties but number of kids injured has soared 15-fold, study finds

CHICAGO (AP) — They may be a big hit at kids' birthday parties, but inflatable bounce houses can be dangerous, with the number of injuries soaring in recent years, a nationwide study found.

Kids often crowd into bounce houses, and jumping up and down can send other children flying into the air, too.

The numbers suggest 30 U.S. children a day are treated in emergency rooms for broken bones, sprains, cuts and concussions from bounce house accidents. Most involve children falling inside or out of the inflated playthings, and many children get hurt when they collide with other bouncing kids.

The number of children aged 17 and younger who got emergency-room treatment for bounce house injuries has climbed along with the popularity of bounce houses — from fewer than 1,000 in 1995 to nearly 11,000 in 2010. That's a 15-fold increase, and a doubling just since 2008.

"I was surprised by the number, especially by the rapid increase in the number of injuries," said lead author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

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Knicks, Nets set for big game in the Big Apple, with first place on the line in Brooklyn

NEW YORK (AP) — From Madison Square Garden to the Garden State, the Knicks cast a shadow the Nets could never escape.

The Knicks were considered first rate and the Nets second class, even in years when the better team was in New Jersey. The Nets would watch fans in orange and blue take over their home games, believing all along things would be different when they finally got their shot at the Knicks in Brooklyn.

Well, here it comes.

The city rivals play the makeup of their postponed season opener on Monday, a matchup the Knicks insist is just another game but one that's probably much bigger to the Nets.

"I think obviously being on center stage tomorrow night, all eyes on Brooklyn, truly makes this a very special night for us because it's something that we worked for, for so long," Nets CEO Brett Yormark said Sunday. "Even though it's not opening night, it's a dramatic night. I mean, the Knicks are playing well, the Nets are playing well, Brooklyn's certainly embraced this franchise, and I think tomorrow night is hopefully the start of some really special nights between the Nets and the Knicks.

 

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