Iraq's three-man Presidential Council endorsed the critical status-of-forces agreement Thursday, the last governmental hurdle for the timetable that calls for withdrawal of American troops by Jan. 1, 2012. The deal replaces the UN mandate for foreign forces in Iraq, which expires this month. In a concession to Sunni members of Parliament, the government agreed to give voters a say on the plan in a national referendum next year, although it already will be in effect by then.
Central banks of both the European Union and Britain cut interest rates Thursday – the latter to 2 percent, a level last seen 57 years ago – to try to stave off prolonged recession. The European bank's 2.5 percent cut was the deepest since it began functioning a decade ago. On the commercial banking front, however, troubled Credit Suisse announced it will lay off another 5,300 employees on top of the 1,800 already let go this year.
France's government became the latest to unveil an economic stimulus plan, a package worth $33 billion. In detailing the measures President Nicolas Sarkozy said, "Our response to the crisis is investment" – in upgrading schools, hospitals, and railways, extending new lines of credit to auto manufacturers, and offering tax breaks to small businesses and one-time $250 checks to poor families. Stimulus plans already are in effect or are planned in China, Japan, Germany, Britain, and other industrialized countries.
On live TV, Israeli troops stormed a building Thursday in the West Bank city of Hebron, evicting about 250 Jewish settlers and their supporters to head off further trouble with Palestinians. At least 20 people were hurt, one of them seriously. Hebron is a flash point in Israeli-Palestinian relations, and ownership of the building is in dispute. A Palestinian says he backed out of a deal to sell it to the settlers. The latter claim otherwise. The incident ended three days of confrontation between the settlers and police and was the worst of its type in Hebron since February 2006.
Heavily armed soldiers were enforcing extremely tight security measures at major airports across India Thursday as intelligence reports indicated that terrorists may attempt new attacks on vulnerable targets. Authorities wouldn't reveal details of the intelligence other than to say, "This is a warning that we have received." Three airports in particular were the focus of the warning: New Delhi, Madras, and Bangalore.
A national emergency was declared Thursday by Zimbabwe's government, which appealed for help to deal with both a growing cholera epidemic and shortages of corn and wheat. A Trade Ministry official said the beleaguered nation needs $450 million worth of "food and farming inputs" for next year because "the humanitarian crisis is very serious." Meanwhile, the Health Ministry pleaded for international aid in the form of medicines and hospital supplies as the number of deaths attributed to cholera rose to 565.
Keeping DNA samples from people who haven't been convicted of crimes is a breach of their privacy, Europe's Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday. The decision, in a suit filed by two British teenagers against whom charges were dropped after their arrests seven years ago, is binding on all member states of the European Union. In particular, it is expected to compel Britain to destroy a database of almost 1 million samples unless it can argue successfully to keep those taken from suspects repeatedly accused of sexual crimes, assault, or terrorism.