Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has canceled a scheduled trip to Britain and Turkey after her mother fell ill, a senior State Department official said Monday night.
Clinton had been scheduled to attend a conference on Afghanistan on Wednesday in Istanbul, with a stop in London for talks with her British counterpart, Foreign Secretary William Hague, on the way. No details of her mother's illness were disclosed.
Dorothy Rodham made occasional campaign appearances with her daughter during Clinton's unsuccessful Democratic presidential bid in 2008, and helped the former first lady raise money to retire her campaign debt. She also made trips with the Clintons during their years in the White House, including a 2000 visit to India and a 1998 trip to China.
Libya's transitional government picked an engineering professor and longtime exile as its acting prime minister Monday, with the new leader pledging to respect human rights and international law.
The National Transitional Council elected Abdurrahim El-Keib, an electrical engineer who has held teaching posts at the University of Alabama and Abu Dhabi's Petroleum Institute, to the post with the support of 26 of the 51 members who voted. El-Keib emerged victorious from a field that initially included 10 candidates.
"This is a new Libya," El-Keib told reporters. "It's been 42 years with our friends and people all around the world dealing with a brutal dictator, so concerns are in order, but I want to tell you there should be none of those.
"We expect the world to understand that we have national interests as well, and we expect them to respect this," he said. "In fact, we demand respect of our national rights and national interests. In return, we promise respect and dealing according to international law."
But in response to questions about allegations of human rights abuses by the revolutionary forces that toppled longtime strongman Moammar GGadhafi, El-Keib said Libyans needed time to sort things out.
"I also need to remind myself that the Libyan revolution ended just recently in Bani Walid, Sirte, and in Tripoli only about two months ago," he said. "We beg you , the media, to give us the opportunity and the time to think through all the issues that have been raised by yourself as well as other Arab media. But we guarantee you that we are after building a nation that respects human rights and that does not permit abuse of human rights, but we need time."
El-Keib, an NTC member representing Tripoli, has been a member of the Libyan opposition. He is to hold the prime minister's job while Libya writes a constitution and prepares for a national election to vote in a new government, and said he plans to meet a deadline to form a new government within a month of the October 23 declaration of liberation that followed Gadhafi's killing.
It was not immediately clear when he returned to Libya from the United States, where he had lived since 1975. According to his university bios, he earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Tripoli in 1973, a master's at the University of Southern California in 1976 at a Ph.D. at North Carolina State in 1984.
He joined the Alabama faculty in 1985 as an assistant professor and became a full professor in 1996, teaching in the university's electrical and computer engineering department and serving as director of the engineering school's Energy Systems and Power Quality Center, according to a university directory.
He is currently listed as "former faculty" on the website of The Petroleum Institute, which said he served as chairman of its electrical engineering department and lists him as an expert in power system economics, planning and controls.
The United States on Monday cut off funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, after the body voted to accept a bid for full membership by the Palestinians.
State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the vote "regrettable" and "premature," saying it undermines the "shared goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East."
Nuland told reporters that although the United States remains committed to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and to multilateral engagement across the U.N. system, the vote would have immediate consequences.
"Palestinian membership as a state in UNESCO triggers long-standing legislative restrictions, which will compel the United States to refrain from making contributions to UNESCO," said Nuland.
Nuland said the United States will not make a $60 million payment to UNESCO in November as planned. Still, she said, the United States would maintain its membership in the organization.
U.S. lawmakers have placed restrictions on financial support for any U.N.-affiliated body that accepts Palestinian membership before an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord is reached. The United States promotes the goal of a two-state solution reached through direct negotiations.
One-hundred-seven UNESCO delegates voted in favor of the Palestinian bid. The State Department's Victoria Nuland said the United States has made its disapproval clear to those countries, adding that U.S. officials are trying to prevent this from happening again.
"We're certainly making the point directly to the Palestinians and to the voting members of other organizations that we don't see any benefit and we see considerable potential damage if this move is replicated in other U.N. organizations," she said.
Nuland said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spoken to U.S. lawmakers and has organized a team to speak to Congress about the restrictions and options to protect U.S. interests.
According to UNESCO's constitution, if a country is in arrears in its payments to UNESCO for more than two years, it could lose its voting rights in the body.
The funding cuts could also have implications for the U.N. body because the United States provides 22 percent of UNESCO's budget.
Wall Street closed lower on Friday but still kept a robust October, with the Dow hitting best month since 2002, the S&P hitting best month since 1987.
The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 276.10 points, or 2.26 percent, to 11,955.01. The Standard & Poor's 500 slumped 31.79 points, or 2.47 percent, to 1,253.30. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 52.74 points, or 1.93 percent, to 2,684.41.
For the month, the market turned out to be one of the best months for stocks. The Dow rallied almost 10 percent in October, the best monthly performance since October 2002. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq surged about 11 percent, the biggest climb since December 1991 and September 2010 respectively.
Euro zone hopes and strong earnings optimism seemed to be fragile. Investors were concerned about Italy, the euro zone's third largest economy, which is also facing a debt problem. Japanese monetary authorities announced earlier Monday a massive currency intervention to safeguard the country's exporters. The greenback surged significantly after the intervention. Investors also were worried that the U.S. economy, especially the exporting sector will be hurt by strong dollar.
Meanwhile, the securities firm MF Global filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday after the company's debt was downgraded to junk status by ratings agencies which were concerned about its large holdings of European government debt, which added to concerns of the magnitude of the problem in Europe.
Adding to the pressure, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned on Monday that European economies will see a "marked slowdown" next year.
With optimism about the resolution to the European debt problems starting to fade away, investors decided to take profits after a strong October.
Also on the economic front, investors will be focused on the meeting of the Federal Reserve's policy-setting committee. While the committee is expected to maintain Fed fund rates unchanged, investors will be closely watching for any clues the Fed may give on the outlook of the economy. As for dollars, the greenback soared on Monday after Japan's latest intervention.
U.S. oil price edged down on Monday also due to Japan's massive intervention. Light, sweet crude for December delivery dropped 13 cents, or 0.14 percent to settle at 93.19 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. But it still posted the biggest monthly gain of 17.66 percent in more than two years.
In London, Brent crude for December delivery last traded flat around 110 dollars a barrel, on track to post a 6 percent monthly gain, the biggest increase since April.
The European debt-relief plan, agreed to last week, has been thrown into doubt as Greece now says it will hold a referendum on whether to approve it.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has been a staunch supporter of the plan that could cut Greece's debt by about $140 billion, while binding his country to years of austerity measures. But Mr. Papandreou told ruling Socialist party members in Parliament Monday that the "command of the Greek people will bind us." He said if the Greek people do not want it, the plan will not be adopted.
European and world leaders have praised the adoption of the plan aimed at cutting Greek debt and calming world financial markets worried about a Greek default. The agreement also forces European banks to increase their cash reserves and boosts the continent's bailout fund for future financial emergencies.
But the Greek people for months have recoiled at the tax increases and spending cuts the Athens government has been forced to adopt to satisfy its international creditors. They have staged repeated strikes in protest, some of them violent.
One Greek survey showed 60 percent of those questioned took a negative view of the Brussels agreement, reached in the middle of the night last Thursday. Until Monday, there had been no suggestion of a referendum on the plan.
The Greek leader's call for a referendum came as new reports in Europe show that the economic fortunes of the 17 eurozone nations are markedly weakening, with higher unemployment and diminished growth prospects for 2012.
The continent's Eurostat statistics agency reported that the unemployment rate hit 10.2 percent in September, an 11-month high. That left more than 16 million people out of work, the biggest number in the 13 years the agency has kept records.
Financially troubled Spain had Europe's highest jobless rate, more than 22 percent, and Austria the lowest, just under 4 percent.
Meanwhile, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicted that collectively the economies of the bloc of countries that use the euro will virtually stall in 2012, with some of them sliding into a recession. The agency projected growth of only three-tenths of one percent, less than a sixth of the 2 percent growth that was projected just five months ago. The OECD said there would be "patches of mild negative growth" in some eurozone nations.
Eurostat said the inflation rate for the bloc of nations that use the euro currency held steady at a 3 percent annual rate in October, the highest figure in three years.
OECD praised European leaders for adopting last week's debt-relief plan. But it said details of its implementation should be quickly made public to reassure world financial markets. The agency said European economic growth could be better than expected if the debt plan proves to be successful.
Japan said Monday it would continue to buy European government bonds. But, like China last week, Japan stopped short of saying it would invest in the eurozone's expanded bailout fund to aid debt-ridden countries in the future.
The OECD, which promotes economic growth, said U.S. economic prospects are weak as well, echoing projections made by key American finance officials. The agency projected that the world's largest economy would advance a sluggish 1.8 percent next year, down from the 3.1 percent figure it predicted last May.
The agency released its report three days ahead of the Group of 20 meeting in Cannes, France, grouping leaders from the world's industrial and developing nations.
Rosen Plevneliev, 47, candidate of the ruling GERB party, won the presidential runoff in Bulgaria, according to an exit poll on Sunday evening. According to Alpha Research agency, Plevneliev is expected to have 54.8 percent of the votes, against 45.2 percent for his opponent from the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, Ivaylo Kalfin.
The official results will be released on Wednesday and the new president will take office in January. Eighteen candidates participated in the presidential elections. The current President Georgi Parvanov was not among them as he is ending his second five-year mandate.
Plevneliev, born on May 14, 1964, graduated from Technical University in Sofia in 1989, and became a respected name in the construction business managing private companies. Between July 2009 and September 2011, he was Minister of Regional Development and Public Works. Plevneliev is considered as an expert who takes this position for only one mandate.
"I'm not a politician, I'm not a member of the party, I am an expert and I would like to remain so," he told an interview this April, while in September announcing the nomination of Plevneliev, the GERB leader and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said "I will be presidential candidate for next presidential elections."
Australia's airline Qantas planes will be back in the air some time on Monday afternoon after Fair Work Australia (FWA) ruled to terminate Qantas industrial action, local media reported on Monday.
Tens of thousands of passengers have been stranded in Australia and round the world over the weekend since the airline grounded its entire fleet on Saturday.
After a 15-hour hearing in Melbourne, FWA handed down its decision to end all industrial action by the airline and unions, saying it was acting to prevent significant damage to the tourism and airline industries, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation ( ABC) reported. The ruling means the airline and unions have 21 days to reach a settlement.
About 3 million people are without power on Sunday after the U.S. Northeast was struck by an unusually early snow which began to fall a day before, and at least three people have died of reasons related to the snow.
Electricity was out in large areas from Maryland to Maine, according to local authorities. The state of Connecticut was hit hardest, with more than 750,000 homes left without power, said Governor Dannel Malloy at a press briefing on Sunday morning. The number broke a state record set in August, when Hurricane Irene lashed the East Coast. Malloy warned some could see their power out for a week.
Things were also bad in other places. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency reported on Sunday that more than 650, 000 people were without power in the state. The state of New Jersey also saw 271,000 without power.
By Sunday morning, three deaths were cited related to the snow: one each in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. The victims died from falling trees, traffic accident and downed power line. The rare October snowstorm began to pelt the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states with heavy and wet snow on Saturday, and is expected to stop by Sunday evening.
President Barack Obama goes to the G20 economic summit in France this week with hopes of helping Europe move toward a long-term solution for its debt crisis. The president is also trying to convince the other G20 countries that America’s economic and political problems can be overcome.
Europe’s debt crisis will be at the top of the agenda at this week’s summit in the French resort city of Cannes, involving 20 of the world’s largest industrial countries and international organizations.
Last week’s agreement by the European Union to enlarge its bailout fund and to cut Greece’s debt in half will likely ease some of the pressure on the G20 countries.
President Obama called the agreement an important first step toward long-term global economic growth. But he said more work lies ahead. “The key now is just to make sure that it drives forward in an effective way," he said. Some experts agree that the EU agreement is only the beginning of the solution.
Matthias Matthijs is an assistant professor of international political economy at American University in Washington. “It still has a bit of a whiff of kicking the can, maybe, down the road for a couple of months this time. But the main problems are still there," he said.
America’s economic and political problems may also come up at the G20. Stubborn high unemployment has stifled the US economic recovery.
And partisan bickering caused a debt crisis, which led to US debt being downgraded and questions from other countries about whether Washington is competent to address its economic problems.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney assures the G20 partners that the president is making progress on these issues. “So he carries with him to France the fact that we are pushing our Congress to act on these matters, and he comes as the leader of the largest economy in the world and a great friend and ally of a great many nations," he said.
Another of Mr. Obama’s priorities in Cannes is to push for greater access to overseas markets for American exports. “We’ve got to get into a posture where the U.S. is always going to be a big market, and we’re going to welcome goods from all around the world, but we’ve also got to be selling goods around the world," he said.
In addition, professor Matthias Matthijs says the president will continue to bring up the sensitive issue of the value of China’s currency. “So basically, the United States is the debtor country and thinks that the Chinese are exporting because of unfair trade practices, and then the Chinese think that the Americans basically print too much money and manipulate their economy that way," he said.
Scheherazade Rehman, the director of George Washington University’s European Union Research Center, doubts that the president’s views on China’s currency will get much European support. “They are so caught up in putting out their own fires that they cannot fathom that this is a good time to bring up a currency war with China. From President Obama’s point of view, this is a good time, so he can show the American people that ‘Look, we are going to do whatever we can to keep jobs at home," he said.
These and other issues will be covered in just two days. Mr. Obama and the other G20 leaders arrive in Cannes early Thursday and leave late Friday.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Chairman of the Central Military Commission Hu Jintao Saturday issued an order to publicize the Regulations on Resettlement of Ex-Servicemen, which will take effect from Nov. 1.
Formulated with an aim to protect the legitimate rights and interests of ex-servicemen, the 53-article document highlights a series of initiatives designed for the appropriate placement of veterans.
State organs, social groups, enterprises and public institutions should give preferential treatment to ex-servicemen while recruiting staff members or contract workers, according to the regulations.
The regulations provide that demobilized soldiers who register for a civil servant examination or apply for a position in government institutions will be given preference. Those companies or organizations which recruit retired soldiers will enjoy favorable policies prescribed by current laws and regulations.
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