Archive for the ‘746’ Category

Drug Abuse, Drug Overdose Killed Heath Ledger

February 6, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
February 6, 2008
(From reports by CNN, AP, FOX News Channel and Reuters)

Heath Ledger died from an accidental overdose of prescription medications including painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs and sleeping pills, the New York City medical examiner’s office said Wednesday.


Actor Heath Ledger, 28, died January 22 at an apartment in Lower Manhatta

“Mr. Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, and doxylamine,” the office said in a short statement.

“We have concluded that the manner of death is accident, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications.”

Oxycodone, a painkiller, is the active ingredient in the prescription drug OxyContin. Hydrocodone, another painkiller, is often combined with acetaminophen, as in the prescription drug Vicodin. Diazepam, sold under the commercial name Valium, is used to relieve anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures and to control agitation caused by alcohol withdrawal. Temazepam, brand name Restoril, is prescribed in the short term to help patients fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Alprazolam, commonly known under the brand name Xanax, is part of a class of medications called benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain.

Doxylamine, found in common “nighttime sleep aids,” is an an antihistamine that causes drowsiness as a side effect and is used in the short-term treatment of insomnia. (It is also used, in combination with decongestants, to relieve cough and cold symptoms.)

Ledger died January 22 at an apartment in Lower Manhattan. The Oscar-nominated Australian actor, best known for his role as a stoic, closeted cowboy in the 2005 film “Brokeback Mountain,” was 28.

Police reported finding several prescription medications in the room but no illegal drugs.

An autopsy done on the actor January 23 was inconclusive.

From Reuters:
His death shocked film fans and fellow actors around the world and added his name to the list of movie stars who died young, like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.

Kim Ledger, the actor’s father, said the family was humbled by the outpouring of support from fans around the world and asked to be allowed to grieve privately.

“Today’s results put an end to speculation, but our son’s beautiful spirit and enduring memory will forever remain in our hearts,” he said in a statement.

“While no medications were taken in excess, we learned today the combination of doctor-prescribed drugs proved lethal for our boy.”


The painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone are opiates, which are dangerous when combined with anti-anxiety medicines like diazepam, alprazolam and temazepam. According to a Drug Enforcement Administration Web site, oxycodone is often abused and an acute overdose can cause respiratory arrest and death.

Diazepam is sold under the brand name Valium and alprazolam is sold under the name Xanax. Temazepam is also used as a sleep aid and sold under the name Restoril. Doxylamine, a sleep aid and antihistamine, is an active ingredient in a number of over-the-counter medications, including NyQuil.

Ledger had said in recent interviews he was having trouble sleeping during the filming of the latest Batman filmThe Dark Knight” in which he plays The Joker, a homicidal maniac. The film is due out in July.

Andrew Kolodny, a psychiatrist at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, said, “If someone has an overdose death with that kind of toxicology report, it’s usually an indication that they were either doctor-shopping or purchasing medications either on the street or on the Internet.”

The handsome star had been romantically linked with a number of actresses and models, periodically spotted in fancy clubs and night spots around New York.

He recently had been in a committed relationship with actress Michelle Williams, the mother of their 2-year-old daughter, Matilda, but the couple split in September. Some reports said Ledger was having difficulty with the breakup.

The couple met during the filming of “Brokeback Mountain,” for which Ledger received an Oscar nomination.

Other film credits included “The Patriot” in 2000, “Monster’s Ball” in 2001 and “I’m Not There” in 2007.

The FOX News Channel reported that Mr. Ledger was taking “two kinds of anti-anxiety medications, two kinds of sleep aids and two kinds of pain killers.”
Related articles:
Teen Media Idols: Drunk, Naked, Pregnant, Unashamed (We Have Pictures!)

Britney Spears: “Dangerous to Herself”

Heath Ledger, President Bush, The Addicted and Our Medical Professionals

Nationwide Imminent Danger Alert – Super Bowl Weekend Dangers

Addicts Neglected, Over-Medicated Despite Vast System of “Care”

Our Holiday Season: A Good Time To Discuss Drugs and Alcohol in America

Britney Spears: Decline Repeatedly Noted Before

Drug Abuse Usually Starts At Home

Teen Prescription Drug Abuse: Alarming Facts

High Prescription Drug Use and Abuse in Colleges


Vietnam releases rights activist

February 1, 2008

January 31, 2008

NEW YORK, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Vietnam has released imprisoned dissident writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, but continues to hold other dissidents under house arrest, Human Rights Watch said.
Tran Khai Thanh Thuy 
Thuy was arrested April 21, 2007, on charges of “causing public disorder.” She was released Thursday following an unpublicized trial in Hanoi, at which she was sentenced to nine months and 10 days, or time served, the rights organization said in a release.

Thuy, 47, was the 2007 winner of the Hellman/Hammett prize for persecuted writers. She was one of an estimated 40 activists who have been imprisoned or held under house arrest during the past 18 months in Vietnam, Human Rights Watch said.

Those being held include human rights lawyers, opposition party members, underground publishers, religious activists, Internet dissidents and labor union leaders.

“Like the dozens of other peaceful dissidents who have been jailed, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy should never have been arrested in the first place,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “The Vietnamese government should stop locking people up simply for expressing their views.”

Musharraf: Not Perfect But America’s Ally

December 28, 2007

By James Zumwalt
Human Events Online
December 28, 2007

As the lighthouse of freedom throughout the world, America has sometimes had to make tough decisions where to shine her beacon of light and where not—a decision influenced by national interests.

During the Cold War, faced with containing communism in Asia, the US supported Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos who, although an impeder of human rights within his country, was a provider of muchneeded military bases in the region. It was simply a matter of accepting a least-worst situation where a less-than-democratic
government’s policies helped contain a much more serious threat elsewhere.

We face a similar situation in Pakistan today—but with extremely devastating consequences if we fail to adequately balance conflicting interests.

In an ideal world, the US should pressure Pakistan’sPresident Pervez Musharraf to democratize his country. Having stolen power from a democratically elected government and combined control of civilian and military institutions to maximize it, Musharraf is no poster child for democracy. But that must be weighed against this: we do not live in an
ideal world and, despite Musharraf’s contrariness to democratic principles, his country, with its nuclear arsenal, lies but a heart beat away from control by Islamic extremists.

Furthermore, unlike our Cold war enemy who feared in-kind nuclear retaliation if they used such weapons first, Islamic extremists welcome retaliation as a vehicle to
expedite their journey to the rewards of an after-life they outrageously glorify.

It is clear Musharraf walks a tightrope in Pakistan, trying to contain Islamic extremism, which is most likely responsible for the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto, while it eats away at his power base.

He must worry about internal Pakistani government agencies, such as his intelligence service, and tribal authorities, influenced by extremist mindsets and providing Osama bin Ladin with safe-haven. Should we press Musharraf to recognize the will of an increasingly volatile Pakistani population, we may well help pave the way for a far more dangerous
threat in Islamabad.

Twenty-eight years earlier, hoping for greater freedoms in Iran, we pressed the Shah to depart, enabling an Islamic extremist ideology to gain hold as a nation-state and become the greatest threat to world peace today.

Unbeknownst to many Americans, a circa 9/11 event, receiving little attention, reveals just how close we may have already come to suffering the wrath of Pakistan’s Islamic extremist mindset.

In 1987, Pakistani author Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood wrote the book “Doomsday and Life after Death—the Ultimate Fate of the Universe as Seen Through the Holy Koran.”

The title alone reflects a most disturbing perspective on life. The book ascribes to the extremist belief the 12th Imam will return to restore Islam’s greatness, but only
after an apocalyptic event the extremist can engineer. The author paints a very dismal picture of history concluding, fourteen years prior to 9/11, terrorism would play a major role in international affairs. He predicted, by 2002, a terrorist attack using a weapon of
mass destruction (WMD) would occur, claiming millions of lives.

What is frightening is this author is no Pakistani “Jules Verne,” simply airing
a very creative imagination. He is a nuclear scientist, later recognized as a key player in Pakistan’s weapons development program.

As such, he now believes, since these weapons exist, they belong to the entire Muslim world and not just Pakistan.

After 9/11, as US forces entered Afghanistan, Taliban leader MullahOmar declared no one  comprehended the devastation soon to incinerate the US. Was he alluding to a WMD attack? A post-9/11 investigation revealed significant links between al-Qaeda and Mahmood, an avid Taliban admirer. It discovered, a month prior to 9/11, Mahmood spent
three weeks in Kabul with Omar. A search of a Taliban safe-house found documents explaining how to make a radiological bomb. Later arrested and asked why he met Omar, Mahmood claimed they discussed “agricultural business.” But his failure to pass polygraph exams strongly suggested a more sinister motive—one perhaps in keeping with the timeframe of his 1987 book’s WMD prediction.

The evidence indicates Mahmood, and his al-Qaeda cohorts, were plotting a much more devastating attack than 9/11 on the US—one using a WMD. If so, the subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan—totally unexpected by al-Qaeda—may well have disrupted those plans. However, unleashing a WMD somewhere in the West clearly remains a top Islamic extremist priority.

Perhaps this is why Musharraf, dealing with civil unrest at home and wary of growing extremist support within his government, recently took control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal himself—away from his prime minister—via a temporary law. Parliamentary approval is required within six months for the law to become permanent. If Pakistan’s parliament rejects it, the best interests of the West are served by Musharraf
retaining control of these weapons, disregarding his legislative body’s

Unfortunately, in exceedingly dangerous times as these, we must be very mindful into which corners of the globe we shine freedom’s beacon of light. For our own security, we may wish to dim it to the darkness of some nation’s democratic shortcomings.

If we do not—instead trying to be all things to all people—we run the risk of losing freedom’s lighthouse to the more urgent threat posed by the pounding waves of
Islamic extremism. 

Holy Women Go To The Mat: Force Convent To Close Shop

December 27, 2007
Corabella Akut – AHN News Writer

Bari, Italy (AHN) – A convent in Italy is finally closing down due to infighting between its last three remaining nuns.

Reports say that the head of the convent, the Mother Superior was brought to a hospital with scratches to her face after the fight between the sisters of the Santa Clara convent in Bari.

With the violent infighting, the local archbishop intervened and asked the Vatican for permission to close the convent.

However, Sister Liliana, the only remaining nun at the convent says she has no intention of leaving the monastery which has served as her home for the past 44 years.

Regarded as the most austere order of the Roman Catholic Church, devoted to a life of prayer, penance and quiet contemplation, the Clarissa nuns, Sisters Annamaria and Gianbattista claimed they were driven to distraction by the habits of their Mother Superior.

During the summer, they became so fed up that, they turned on Sister Liliana, scratching her face and throwing her to the ground.

After the incident, the two nuns have moved to a nearby convent leaving Sister Liliana barricaded inside.

With the incident, Archbishop Giovanni Battista Pichierri wrote to the Vatican asking for permission to close the convent down.

However, Sister Liliana is not about to take things sitting down saying that not once in her 44 years in the nunnery had she left the convent.

She added has written to the Pope telling him she will only leave when God decides it is time to go.

China Has the NSA For Lunch

December 26, 2007


December 26, 2007:  The U.S. recently revealed that China had done some major damage to the NSA (National Security Agency) via penetration of the NSA facility in Hawaii (which concentrates on monitoring China.) The Chinese effort was two-fold. First, the Chinese set up a Chinese translation service in Hawaii, and managed to make it appear as American owned (and able to pass a security check). Eventually, this translation company got NSA contracts to translate material obtained from China. The operators of the translation of the company were able to pass the NSA material back to China, letting the Chinese know what information the NSA was picking up, which helped the Chinese figure out how the NSA was getting certain information, and with what. This made it easier to prevent the NSA from getting certain information, or setting up a trap, to feed the NSA false information.


But there was more. Many of the NSA employees were Chinese-American. The Chinese set up a recruiting operation, that was so carefully established and run, that it was several years before U.S. counter-intelligence caught on, and shut it down.

Read the rest:

Vietnam Sovereignty: Danger Signals

December 24, 2007

Original Vietnamese version by Tran Binh Nam;
English version by Le Khac Ly

On November 20, 2007, the government of China endorsed a resolution to establish an administrative city at county level named “Tam Sa”, which consists of three archipelagoes of Hoang Sa, Trung Sa (Macclesfield Bank, a submerged reefs of 6,250 square kilometers located on the east and about 250 km from the center of Hoang Sa), and Truong Sa, directly dependent on the province of Hai Nam. This province was established in 1988 after it was separated from the province of Quang Dong. Due to the sensibility of the subject, the resolution has not been publicly released.

Hoang Sa (Paracels) and Truong Sa (Spratleys) are located offshore of Vietnam. The archipelagoes of Hoang Sa are situated between latitudes 16 and 17 north, directly administered by the city of Da Nang and the center of the archipelagoes is 350 kilometers away from Da Nang. The archipelagoes of Truong Sa are much bigger, spread from latitudes 7 to 11 north, directly dependent on the province of Khanh Hoa, and if observed from the city of Nha Trang facing South East, its center is 600 kilometers away from the Vietnamese shore.

During French domination (from the mid 19th century to 1945), then successively during the administration of the Tran Trong Kim cabinet, the government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the government designated by Chief of State Bao Dai, these two archipelagoes were under the jurisdiction of the governments of Vietnam and were undivided parts of Vietnam.
During their domination, the French set a meteorological station on the biggest island of the archipelagoes of Hoang Sa. After the Geneva Accords in 1954 to divide the country into two parts, the two archipelagoes of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa, which are located below latitude 17; therefore belonged to the Republic of (South) Vietnam. Warships of this government frequently went to carry out re-supply missions to a military garrison unit at Hoang Sa, and always conducted patrols to keep an eye on the cluster of islands around Truong Sa.

Back in history, from the17th century, every year, the Nguyen Lords always sent ships to Hoang Sa and Truong Sa, and created a naval unit called North Sea Naval Unit whose mission was to protect those islands. A chronicle by the Chinese Buddhist Monk Thich Dai San written in 1696 confirms those facts. In his historical document written in 1776, the Vietnamese scholar Le Quy Don described in details the archipelagoes of Hoang Sa.

The sovereignty of Vietnam over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa has been mentioned in all historical documents written after the unification of the country by The Emperor of Gia Long (1802) such as Du Dia Chi, Dai Nam Thuc Luc, Dai Nam Nhat Thong Chi. .

There were no western documents depicting Chinese sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. Even in Chinese documents, written before 1909, none of them mentioned that the two archipelagoes Hoang Sa and Truong Sa belong to China.

In 1958, the Chinese began a plan to invade Vietnamese land after Mao had solidly established a communist regime in his century-long-intimidated- by-western-influences country. On September 4, 1958, China published a declaration saying that its territorial sea now is 12 nautical miles from shore to ocean instead of 3 miles as previously established, with a map attached, intentionally showing a boundary of its sea territory embracing Hoang Sa and Truong Sa as they belong to China.

Ten days later, on September 14, 1958, the Prime Minister of the government of North Vietnam, Pham Van Dong, signed a diplomatic note recognizing the Chinese declaration of its new territorial sea changing from 3 to 12 nautical miles, tacitly accepting that Hoang Sa and Truong Sa belong to China. Thanks to this diplomatic negligence (or intentionally, this still is a subject to be debated), China has developed plans to encroach little by little on Vietnamese land and sea territories.During this period of time, China could not yet do anything with the two archipelagoes Hoang Sa and Truong Sa since they were belonged to South Vietnam according to the Geneva Accords of 1954, and South Vietnam was an ally of the United States. It is noteworthy that at the time, the US Seventh Fleet was a dominant power in the Pacific.

The great opportunity arrived in the 1970s when the Vietnam War moved to the ending phase. Hanoi was about to take over South Vietnam through the Paris Agreements, which meant the Hanoi regime would eventually control Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. The United States did not want the Soviet Union, through the Hanoi government, to use Hoang Sa and Truong Sa as observation stations watching all activities in South Pacific, which could cause trouble for the waterway from Indian Ocean crossing through the Malacca straits, up to the North-West Pacific, a vital route for the US fleets. It is also an oil supply route from the Middle-East to Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, the U.S. allies. The US had settled it, through a meeting in Beijing between Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State and Chu An Lai, the Chinese Prime Minister, by agreeing to let China occupy the archipelagoes of Hoang Sa, blocking the path toward South Pacific of the USSR fleets. At this moment, the relationship between Hanoi and Moscow was smooth, while its relationship with China was at the low ebb. Meanwhile, the US had just established diplomatic relations with Beijing and both saw the USSR as a threat to the region. (See document “Bien Dong Day Song [East Sea Blazes Up] no.118,, Commentary pages).

In the end of January 1974, as a result of that unwritten mutual agreement, the Chinese Navy took over Hoang Sa, after a fierce naval battle with the South Vietnam Navy. The US Seventh Fleet had been asked for help but neither intervened nor rescued Vietnamese sailors drifting at sea. [The US government made a good gesture by soliciting the Chinese to release the prisoners captured at Hoang Sa within a month. Mr. Gerald Kosh, an American working for DAO (Defense Attaché Office) at the US Embassy in Saigon – also captured at Hoang Sa – was released with five wounded Vietnamese sailors earlier on Jan. 31, 1974. Other 43 sailors and soldiers were released on February 15, 1974.]

For its part, Hanoi never raised its voice to protest China’s invasion. Hanoi would believe that it was better to let Hoang Sa to fall into the hands of a communist country than leaving it in the hands of South Vietnam.

After the collapse of Soviet bloc in 1991, the reconciliation between Hanoi and China had given the latter the momentum to begin gnawing land in the northern border of Vietnam, and sea territory in the gulf of Tonkin, and particularly little by little to swallow the archipelagoes of Truong Sa. In addition to its strategic location in the region, archipelagoes of Truong Sa today also are a shelf of ocean bed promisingly rich in oil and gas.

Hanoi has shown its feeble spirit when facing the obvious invasion of China. The unique weapon that Hanoi is using up to this day is some perfunctory words of protest from its Department of Foreign Affairs.

This time, facing the resolution of the China government to officially integrate Vietnamese territory into theirs, Hanoi again protests weakly. During a press conference on December 5, 2007, Mr. Le Dung, the spokesman of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said: “Vietnam has obtained complete historical evidence and legal basis to affirm the sovereignty of Vietnam towards the two archipelagoes of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. This act has violated the territorial sovereignty of Vietnam, not agreeable with general perception of the leaders of two countries, not beneficial for the process of negotiation to seek for a fundamental and lasting measure for the sea problems of two parties”.

To the act of China appropriating Vietnamese territory brazenly and officially on papers, the Vietnamese at home and abroad are extremely angry. They are waiting for Hanoi government to take strong action to protect the national frontier, like the invasion-fighting tradition of our ancestors.

It is regrettable that until today, the Hanoi government has not do anything except utter few words to confirm the sovereignty of Vietnam over the archipelagoes of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. When students of the Technology College which is part of National University System of Hanoi prepared a demonstration in front of the Chinese Embassy, university officials obeying (communist) party authority issued a circular requesting students and cadres of the school to be calm and not demonstrate, because that would “not be beneficial for the process of negotiation to find fundamental and long-lasting measure for sea problems of two parties.”

Hanoi government, however, could not prevent students from taking to the streets on December 9, 2007 in both cities of Hanoi and Saigon to protest the Chinese invasion. But, in order to avoid offending China, when asked about the demonstrations, Le Dung said: “This is a spontaneous act of the people, not authorized by the authorities. When it occurred, the police were timely present to explain and to request fellow citizens to stop doing that”. Le Dung continued to explain Vietnam’s point of view which is “to have all conflicts solved peacefully through negotiations on legal base and international reality.” Hanoi obviously did not do what needed to be done to protect the country.

If the balance of naval forces between China and Vietnam does not allow Vietnam to send warships to hoist national flags on the archipelagoes of Truong Sa to confirm its sovereignty, at least as a minimum, Hanoi should convene the Chinese ambassador to the Department of Foreign Affairs to receive a protesting diplomatic note. Hanoi may convene the people Congress to pass a resolution confirming the sovereign rights of Vietnam over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa.

Next, Hanoi should take the issue to the UN Security Council with a dossier of complete historical documents to prove the sovereignty of Vietnam over the two disputed archipelagoes, then prepare a strong resolution to accuse Chinese invasion for the Security Council to debate.

In reality, the veto power of China will prevent the passage of the resolution, but Vietnam may get 9 of 15 votes of the Security Council reflecting the international opinion in favor of Vietnam. Those documents and the resolution submitted by Vietnam to the UN Security Council will be used as a foundation for present government to mobilize people power to protect Truong Sa, and for next generations to conduct the fight to reclaim the archipelagoes of Truong Sa, and to nullify the Chinese integration of Truong Sa. In addition, Hanoi should file a case to the international court suing China for the invasion and nullify the resolution of the Chinese National Affairs Institution.

The above are what a country with sovereignty should do in the defense of the motherland. What makes the leaders in Hanoi stuck, and cannot do what they should do? The only reason that may explain Hanoi behavior is that the Vietnamese communist party who is presently in power in Vietnam is controlled by the Chinese government by a fifth column in the highest leadership.If that is true, Vietnam is facing the greatest danger in its four thousand years history.

China Causes U.S. Debate: How Best to Protect U.S. Satellites

December 23, 2007
By Kevin Whitelaw
U.S. News and World Report
December 17, 2007 Edition

Some of the U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq’s troubled Anbar province most likely wondered why the Air Force was sending a space weapons expert to help them fight Sunni insurgents. But U.S. forces there had a tough problem. Traditional artillery was too inaccurate for urban hotbeds like Fallujah, and insurgents took cover when they heard attack aircraft overhead.

The Army offered what seemed like a good solution—the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, a mobile battery that fires precision missiles from miles away. The powerful new weapon, however, came with a serious glitch—the launcher sometimes relied on outdated coordinates from GPS satellites, which could send rockets hundreds of yards off target. Maj. Toby Doran, the space expert, helped find creative ways to prevent the error, and the launcher was put into action.

That’s just one small example of how integral satellites have become to even the most basic daily operations of today’s U.S. military, not to mention the broader U.S. economy. But any sense that this crucial sophisticated technology is out of the reach of potential enemies because it flies hundreds, even thousands, of miles above Earth disappeared early this year. On January 11, China blew up one of its own aging weather satellites….

Read the rest:

Shoppers ‘too little, too late’ to save season

December 22, 2007

The Associated Press & Peace and Freedom

At the outset of this holiday shopping season, we wrote about the perils retailers faced between “Black Friday” and Christmas even in the best of times.  With fuel prices on the rise and the housing crisis still putting the brakes on house and home construction and sales; this year seemed to offer even more risks.  Now, despite the upbead proclimations of President Bush, it is appearing that this will be a black year for retailers across the nation.

With less than three days left until Christmas, the nation’s retailers are in a lather to attract last-minute shoppers to salvage what has been a mediocre December.

Department-store operator Macy’s Inc. has slashed prices on everything from clothing to jewelry, while Toys “R” Us is offering price cuts of up to 75 percent this weekend. At stake are retailers’ profits for the year and perhaps even the strength of the economy.

While consumers jammed stores at the start of the season for big discounts and shopped early for Nintendo Co.’s hard-to-find Wii game console, popular video games like “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock” and Australian sheepskin UGG boots, they waited until the end for most everything else, to take advantage of the best deals amid a challenging economy.

The biggest disappointment comes from women’s apparel, extending a downturn that’s grown deeper in recent months and serving as an ominous sign for the health of retailing in general. Women do the primary shopping for the family, so analysts say it’s troubling that they are spending less time in the stores.

“I have no money or time to shop,” said Tina Morabito, who just started her holiday shopping on Friday morning at the Providence Mall, in Providence, R.I. She was buying some greeting cards and mint chocolates, but didn’t plan to buy clothing.

“There’s been a malaise” among women’s clothing sales and “it has spread to other areas,” said Dan Hess, chief executive of Merchant Forecast, a New York-based research firm. “The panic button has been pushed, particularly in department stores.”

And even with an expected sales surge this weekend, which traditionally accounts for about 10 percent of holiday sales, Lazard Capital Markets analyst Todd Slater expects that the last-minute spending will be “too little, too late” to save Christmas.

U.S. Economy: Storm Warning

Wall Street is betting on a recession

Economy: More people sign up for jobless benefits

Key Setbacks Dim Luster of Democrats’ Year

December 20, 2007

 By Jonathan Weisman and Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 20, 2007; Page A01

The first Democratic-led Congress in a dozen years limped out of Washington last night with a lengthy list of accomplishments, from the first increase in fuel-efficiency standards in a generation to the first minimum-wage hike in a decade.

But Democrats’ failure to address the central issues that swept them to power left even the most partisan of them dissatisfied and Congress mired at a historic low in public esteem.

Handed control of Congress last year after making promises to end the war in Iraq, restore fiscal discipline in Washington and check President Bush’s powers, Democrats instead closed the first session of the 110th Congress yesterday with House votes that sent Bush $70 billion in war funding, with no strings attached, and a $50 billion alternative-minimum-tax measure that shattered their pledge not to add to the federal budget deficit.

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China Begins New Initiative in Fighting Corruption

December 19, 2007

By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, December 19, 2007

BEIJING, Dec. 19 — China’s new National Bureau of Corruption Prevention thought it would be a good idea to open a Web site for citizens to denounce crooked officials. The idea was so good that the site was immediately deluged by irate Chinese, overwhelming the system and causing several crashes during the first two days of operation.

The outpouring from people across the country was seen as a measure of how deeply Chinese resent the official corruption that has infected Communist Party rule over three decades of economic reform. By the end of Wednesday, its second day online, the site had recorded more than 250 entries despite the technical difficulties. Entries ranged from tirades to denunciations to congratulations for cracking down.

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