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Posted: 24 Dec 2012 12:05 PM PST
Chicago: General Motors will recall 119,000 US vehicles because some of them may be missing a backup hood latch, the US automaker said in regulatory filings.
GM did not say whether it was aware of any accidents or injuries as a result of the defect, which affects certain Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon vehicles from the 2010 to 2012 model years.
“If the primary hood latch is not engaged, the hood could open unexpectedly,” GM wrote in the recall notice to federal safety regulators.
“During vehicle operation, this could obstruct the view of the driver and increase the risk of a crash.”
Notices will be sent to owners, who can simply check under the hood to see if the second latch is missing. If it is, GM dealers will replace the missing part free of charge.
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 11:57 AM PST
Cairo: A credit rating downgrade Monday and an opposition challenge to a constitutional referendum which the ruling Islamists say they won added to Egypt’s political crisis and piled pressure on President Mohamed Morsi.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood says its numbers show 64 percent of voters backed the new charter, despite weeks of protests by the secular-leaning opposition.
But the electoral commission said it was investigating opposition allegations of fraud during the two-stage referendum held on December 15 and 22.
Official results would not be released until the commission could show the voting “really reflects the will of the Egyptian people,” commission official Mohamed el-Tanobly told AFP.
The National Salvation Front opposition coalition warned that, regardless of the outcome, “the referendum is not the end of the road. It is only one battle.”
That raised the prospect of more protests like the ones which have confronted Morsi for more than a month, leaving the Arab world’s most populous nation polarised and its political institutions paralysed.
Clashes on December 5 outside Morsi’s Cairo palace killed eight people and wounded hundreds, prompting the army to deploy troops and tanks.
Rating agency Standard and Poor’s on Monday downgraded Egypt’s long-term credit rating one notch to ‘B-’ and said it could be cut further if foreign exchange reserves or the government’s deficit sharply worsen.
“We expect political tensions to remain elevated, with no clear indication that rival factions will be brought to a point at which they can contribute to addressing Egypt’s economic, fiscal, and external challenges,” the agency said.
Agreement on a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund was put on hold this month, accentuating the risk of Egypt’s currency collapsing.
The central bank has run through more than half its foreign reserves since the ouster of longtime president Hosni Mubarak early last year, leaving less than $15 billion.
Egypt’s economy, once a vibrant opportunity for investors, was brought low by the 2011 revolution and has continued to lag under Morsi.
It was unclear how a political remedy could be reached.
Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are using their newfound power to spearhead rapid changes they contend will put Egypt on the path to stability.
But the largely urban, liberal, leftwing, Christian and secular opposition feels alienated by Morsi’s steamrolling tactics, and worries the new charter will open the door to strict Islamic law, or sharia.
Merzek, a 29-year-old health ministry employee in the city of Minya south of Cairo who declined to give his last name, said the Islamists “say they want to apply sharia even on Christians. If that happens, we can’t say no, but I will stay in my country because, if we go, Egypt is finished.”
His wife, Mariane, 25, added: “If they try to force the (Islamic) headscarf on us, I will certainly not wear it.”
The direction has also generated international unease.
Germany is echoing the opposition’s call for an investigation into the alleged voting fraud.
The United States, which provides Egypt’s powerful military with $1.3 billion in aid per year, has kept mostly quiet on the turmoil buffeting its key Middle East ally.
But the Republican chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the US House of Representatives, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, called the vote “a defeat for the Egyptian people” at the hands of “an Islamic dictatorship.”
Only Iran, which is trying to claim the Arab Spring was inspired by its own 1979 Islamic revolution, welcomed the referendum. It said it promoted “progressive, Islamic and revolutionary goals” in Egypt.
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 11:47 AM PST
Johannesburg: Ailing icon Nelson Mandela will spend Christmas Day in hospital, the South African government said Monday, dashing hopes for a festive end to his longest stay in care since being released from prison in 1990.
“Former president Nelson Mandela will spend Christmas Day in hospital, his doctors have confirmed today, on 24 December 2012,” the presidency said in a statement.
The 94-year-old Nobel Peace laureate and South Africa’s first black post-apartheid president, was admitted to a Pretoria hospital on December 8. He has been treated there for a recurrent lung infection and had surgery to remove gallstones.
In a statement President Jacob Zuma said his predecessor “continues to respond to treatment”.
“Knowledge of the love and support of his people keeps him strong,” Zuma said.
“We urge all South Africans to keep Tata (father) uppermost in their thoughts at every place of worship or entertainment tomorrow on Christmas Day, and throughout the festive season.
“We also humbly invite all freedom loving people around the world to pray for him. He is an ardent fighter and will recover from this episode with all our support,” Zuma said.
There was no indication of when he might be discharged.
“He remains in hospital, recovering,” presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj told AFP on Monday. “I can’t say when he will be discharged, doctors will make that decision.”
Only limited details of Mandela’s condition have been made public by the South African government, which has repeatedly called on the public to respect the former president’s privacy.
Before his retirement in 2004 Mandela used to host a Christmas feast in his home village of Qunu for impoverished children — a highlight for many.
Since retiring from public life, Christmas has been a more low-key affair, spent with family.
Neither tradition will be repeated this year.
While many South Africans have resigned themselves to the idea of life without the country’s most respected citizen, he remains highly esteemed and was the subject of many prayers.
On Monday churchgoers at the renowned Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto sent him messages of love and support after mass.
Others, including local celebrities, have taken to social networking sites to wish Madiba — the clan name he is fondly known by — a speedy recovery.
“Thinking of Madiba tonight, prayers that he gets well soon just in time for Christmas,” wrote radio and television personality Jeannie D.
Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president after the country’s first all-race elections in 1994, has a long history of lung problems.
He contracted tuberculosis — a disease which killed his father — while in jail as a political prisoner.
The former statesman was later hospitalised for an acute respiratory infection in January 2011, when he was held for two nights.
Mandela was last seen in public in 2010, clad in a scarf during the closing ceremony of the FIFA World Cup, when he was wheeled into the stadium in a golf cart.
In May, footage of a smiling, grey-haired Madiba seated on a couch, was shown on television when he was visited by ruling ANC leaders to present him with a symbolic flame to mark the party’s 100 years.
Mandela stepped down in 1999 after serving one term as president.
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 11:37 AM PST
New Delhi: Visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin signed deals to sell 71 military helicopters and kits to build 42 fighter jets to India on Monday as he sought to firm up ties with a traditional ally.
The contract for Mi-17 helicopters was first signed in 2010 and India has now increased the order from 59 to 71, the ministry of external affairs said in its list of deals agreed by Putin and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
India, which is one of the world’s largest arms importers as it works to upgrade its military, depends on Russian-made military equipment that accounts for 70 percent of its arms supplies.
“Russia is a key partner in our efforts to modernise our armed forces and enhance our defence preparedness,” Singh said after holding talks with Putin and signing ten deals ranging from science and technology to education.
“A number of joint design, development and production projects are underway in high-technology areas. We expressed satisfaction that these projects are progressing well,” Singh said.
Also among the deals were the delivery of parts for 42 Su-30MKI fighter planes for assembly in India. The original agreement for the jets was signed last year.
The value of the two deals was not known but Russian news agencies said they were worth about $2.9 billion.
Russia once had a virtual monopoly over India’s arms market, but New Delhi has been shopping around in recent years and Putin’s visit is seen in Moscow as a chance to regain lost ground.
Moscow has been worried recently by New Delhi’s increasing preference for Western suppliers, especially after Boeing was chosen last month over Russia’s Mil plant for a major helicopter contract.
India has been unhappy about delays to deliveries of some naval equipment, notably the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov which is being refurbished for the Indian Navy in Russia.
Russia was originally to deliver the upgraded vessel in August 2008, but the date has now been pushed back to the end of 2013 while the price has more than doubled to $2.3 billion.
After the meeting on Monday, Putin said the dialogue was “substantial and constructive”.
“We agreed to deepen ties in the areas of military and defence sectors,” he said.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund, a sovereign wealth fund, and the State Bank of India agreed to jointly invest up to $2 billion to promote trade and economic cooperation projects.
The leaders also discussed the construction of India’s largest nuclear power plant, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
First conceived in 1988, the Russian-built Kudankulam plant was expected to start operations in 2011. But protesters surrounded the compound after an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011.
Singh said negotiations for the construction of Units 3 and 4 at Kudankulam had made good progress.
Bilateral trade has been growing steadily and is expected to reach around 10 billion dollars in 2012, up from 7.5 billion in 2009, according to official figures.
“Our trade turnover has overcome the consequences of global crisis, and in 2012 we expect to reach record numbers, over $10 billion. Our next goal is to reach $20 billion already by 2015,” Putin had said before the one-day visit.
Agreements in the pharmaceutical, chemical and cultural sectors were also signed Monday.
The venue of the talks was switched to Singh’s official residence due to violent protests in central New Delhi following the gang-rape of a student that has caused widespread public outrage.
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 11:34 AM PST
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana: Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who spent the past three months fighting leukemia, wiped away tears on Monday as he returned to work, saying the team’s success helped his recovery.
Under interim coach Bruce Arians, the Colts’ offensive coordinator, the team that finished with the National Football League’s worst record last season, won nine games and at 10-5 has clinched a playoff spot with one game remaining.
“Watching them week in and week out, from a hospital bed or in my living room was not easy,” Pagano said. “You felt helpless at times, but watching them coach and play, they inspired me. They have no quit. They find ways to win.”
Pagano, who took the job last January, met with players in his first hours back on duty after having taken an indefinite leave last September in order to undergo chemotherapy and other treatments to fight blood cancer.
“You just keep the right frame of mind, stay positive and know you can win. You keep that mindset and know you can overcome,” Pagano said.
“It’s your faith and belief and will. It’s like with our players. We talk about beating their man. It’s just lining up against something else. We still talk about that will to win.
“Circumstances don’t make you. They reveal you.”
Colts owner Jim Irsay was confident Pagano was ready to return to guide the team as it prepares to close the season next Sunday against Houston and then open the playoffs on the road the next week against an undecided foe.
“I know Chuck is ready for this challenge,” Irsay said. “I know the time is right for him to grab the reins and get that head coaching cap on and get the coaching journey back.
“The main thing we’re ecstatic about is Chuck is here and he’s healthy. I couldn’t be happier. So many other things happen besides wins and losses.
“The inspiration Chuck has been to others, it’s a fairy tale, it’s a Hollywood script. But it’s real.”
Arians, himself a prostate cancer survivor, guided the club into the NFL playoffs with a victory on Sunday at Kansas City.
“What a masterful job you did, Bruce,” Pagano said. “You carried the torch and won nine ball games and you got us in the playoffs and you did it with dignity and with class.”
“The sky is the limit with the club and it’s because of you, Bruce.”
Pagano said he will try to take charge without hurting the chemistry the team and Arians have built the past three months.
“Tough act to follow. I’ve got my hands full,” Pagano said. “I’ll try not to get in the way. It’s great to be back, like a kid in a candy store to be back around the guys again.”
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 11:20 AM PST
The Hague: Steve Jobs’ superyacht Venus was free to leave Amsterdam port Monday after the late Apple co-founder’s estate paid a deposit to resolve a dispute with designer Philippe Starck, who had had the yacht impounded.
“The Venus is no longer impounded, we have found a solution,” Gerard Moussault, a Hague-based lawyer for the Jobs estate, told AFP.
“A security deposit was paid into a bank account, but I cannot say for how much,” Moussault said after French designer Starck last week asked Amsterdam bailiffs to seize the sleek 70-metre (230-foot) yacht.
The vessel, which reportedly cost over 100 million euros ($130 million) to build, was impounded after Starck said Jobs’ estate still owed him three million euros for his contribution to its design.
Starck said he was to be paid a fixed sum of nine million euros, while lawyers for Jobs’ estate said he was to be paid a percentage of the project’s cost equal to six million euros.
The Dutch-built yacht, which was only unveiled in October — just over a year after Jobs died — is in Amsterdam harbour because of bad weather.
“The captain is waiting for better weather to set sail,” Moussault said.
Starck’s lawyer in the Netherlands, Roelant Klaassen, said on Friday that Jobs and Starck were “very close in the period that the design was made and the building proceeded.
“That’s one of the reasons there was no formal agreement on the job,” he said.
The yacht will reportedly be shipped by another ship to the United States, where Jobs’ family, including widow Laurene Powell Jobs and their three children Reed, Erin and Eve, are to take charge of her.
The aluminium-hulled yacht was built by Royal De Vries shipbuilder’s in Aalsmeer, just south of Amsterdam, with interiors designed by Starck.
The bridge features a control panel made up of an array of seven iMac computers.
Starck said last year that he was working on the yacht, which was mentioned in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, who died on October 5, 2011. He said it was “sleek and minimalist”, with teak decks.
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 11:10 AM PST
Chishtian: Pakistan's Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said on Monday that everyone should play their role for democracy as it was the only way forward for Pakistan.
Addressing the oath-taking ceremony of newly-elected office-bearers of the Renala Khurd Press Council and members of Chishtian Bar Associations, he said the future caretaker setup will be decided by political forces only.
The information minister welcomed the return of Chief of Tahreek Minjhaj-ul-Quran Dr Tahirul Qadri from Canada and said the government would respect his standpoint in accordance with the constitution to help strengthen democracy and institutions, APP reported.
"Allama Tahirul Qadri should seek the people's support through popular public vote within the ambit of the constitution … no one can be allowed to oppose the constitution," he said.
"We welcome all the parties who want to do politics in the country according to the constitution and desire to strengthen democracy and democratic institutions," Kaira added.
However, he said the PPP would not allow anyone to derail democratic system as it had been restored after numerous sacrifices.
The minister said some elements had been trying to create confusion as the nation was preparing for general elections.
Kaira said the PML-N has always maneuvered elections, adding that the N-League was afraid of the government's resolve to hold free and fair polls as it would hinder their interests.
On dual office of the president, Kaira said the PML-N leadership should understand that President Asif Ali Zardari's office of PPP Co-Chairman was honorary.
"The PML-N must elaborate whether it wants a democratic president or a conspirator in the Presidency," he added.
He said unfortunately, the Presidency had been a root of conspiracies against democracy in the past but President Zardari strengthened democracy by relinquishing all powers to the prime minister including the atomic control.
Kaira also called upon the judiciary to avoid involvement in political decisions as it raises eyebrows on judiciary's role.
"We respect courts and their decisions," he added.
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 10:51 AM PST
BANGALORE, India: Police bomb squad officers and sniffer dogs searched Bangalore stadium Monday as part of a massive security operation for the start of the first Pakistan cricket tour to India for five years.
Hardline Indian nationalist organisations including Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena have both threatened to hold protests outside all the venues for the five-match series, which begins in Bangalore on Tuesday evening.
The Indian government has said it will issue a record number of 3,000 visas to Pakistani fans attending the series — the first since the 2008 Mumbai attacks which led to a complete breakdown in relations between the two countries.
“As the governments of both the countries have agreed to hold the bilateral series, no organisation will be allowed to disrupt the match,” Bangalore police commissioner Jyotiprakash Mirji told reporters.
An AFP reporter saw bomb squad officers carrying out a painstaking inspection with their dogs in and around the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore, the capital of the southeastern state of Karnataka.
As many as 5,000 security personnel, including a 100-member bomb squad, have been deployed to cover the match, fearing attempts to disrupt the game or even stage an attack.
Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist party based in Mumbai, has branded the tour a “national shame” and accused Indian cricket authorities of “betraying the country for sake of money”.
The same organisation dug up the wicket at the Feroz Shah Kotla cricket ground in New Delhi in 1999 ahead of an India-Pakistan Test although the match did go ahead.
Cricket has been used in the past to mend diplomatic ties, with the prime ministers of both nations symbolically shaking hands as they watched their teams in the semi-final of last year’s World Cup in the northern Indian city of Mohali.
But the prospects of a diplomatic dividend this time round appear slim and there has been no announcement of a visit by a Pakistani leader for any match.
Ties were further strained on a trip to New Delhi by Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik this month, when he compared the Mumbai attacks to the 1992 razing of a mosque by a Hindu mob which sparked a wave of sectarian violence.
Boria Majumdar, a Kolkata-based academic and sports historian, said there was little reason to expect that the resumption of cricketing ties would herald any wider political thaw between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
“This series is not going to yield any diplomatic dividends,” he told AFP.
“Cricket needs India-Pakistan rivalry, but having said that this contest will not lead to any diplomatic breakthroughs.”
Few Pakistani fans had made it to Bangalore on Monday. But one who had travelled from the United States said it was too much to expect cricket to stimulate diplomacy every time the teams played.
“The Mohali magic cannot be repeated every time the countries face off on a cricket ground,” said 60-year-old Mohammed Bashir, who lives in Chicago.
“That the teams are playing each other on Indian soil is in itself a big thing. We should not expect anything more to come out of this encounter,” Bashir told AFP, dressed in the green and gold of the Pakistani team.
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 10:35 AM PST
London: Swansea defender Ashley Williams will not face a Football Association charge after Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson slammed the Wales star for kicking the ball into Robin van Persie’s head.
Williams earned a stinging rebuke from Ferguson after Sunday’s 1-1 draw at the Liberty Stadium following the second half clash with van Persie.
The United forward was lying prone on the turf following a foul when Williams kicked the ball into the back of the Dutchman’s head.
Ferguson called on the Football Association to ban the Swansea centre-back, who was booked for the incident by referee Michael Oliver.
“He (van Persie) could have been killed. Williams should be banned for a long time, Ferguson said.
“It was absolutely deliberate. The whistle has gone, the game has stopped and he has done that right in front of the referee. It was a disgraceful act.”
But it is believed the FA will not instigate disciplinary procedures against the 18-year-old, who denied malicious intent.
Meanwhile, Williams was backed by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, who was his boss at Swansea until the end of last season.
“I think more has been made of it than what it actually was,” Rodgers said.
“When you slow it down and look at it 20 times it does not look good for Ashley.
“But I know the player well and it is just that split-second when you can see he is trying to clear the ball and unfortunately hits van Persie right on the back of his head.
“Of course, it looks dangerous but knowing Ashley he won’t have meant it, knowing his character that won’t have been intentional.”
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez, who signed Williams for Swansea in 2008, admitted he could understand Ferguson’s reaction but did not believe the player acted out of malicious intent.
“If you see one of your players with a bang on the back of the head it is really dangerous and it can have bad consequences. You can understand that,” Martinez said.
“I signed Ashley Williams for Swansea and I know his character inside out. I can guarantee you without even looking at the incident that he is not a nasty footballer.
“He is a winner and fully committed, a leader and a captain. When you sign a player you find out about a player and I can guarantee you he is not the type of footballer who would do that on purpose.”
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 10:21 AM PST
New York: Two firefighters were shot dead and two others wounded in New York state on Monday when at least one gunman opened fire as the emergency personnel responded to a blaze, local media reported.
The incident — which comes as debate rages in the United States about gun control following the Newtown school massacre — happened in Webster, a suburb of Rochester, the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper reported, citing officials.
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