Plans by Russia’s military to station missiles along the border with eastern Europe have been suspended as a goodwill gesture to new US President Obama, the Interfax news agency reported Wednesday. Citing an unidentified source, it said the fact that Obama so far has not pushed for deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic of the US antimissile system planned by his predecessor, President Bush, made the suspension possible. The Defense Ministry declined to confirm the report, however.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe said he has decided to join a unity government with his bitter rival, President Robert Mugabe. Tsvangirai, who’d take the new post of prime minister, said his Movement for Democratic Change and Mugabe’s representatives would meet Thursday to try to resolve their remaining differences, although an MDC spokesman warned that the party “cannot compromise beyond what it [already] has done.” Earlier this week, the MDC voiced disappointment at the results of a regional summit that set a Feb. 11 timetable for the swearing-in of such a government.
After a day of calm, tens of thousands of protesters returned to the streets of Madagascar’s capital, calling for the shutdown of schools and commerce and threatening another mass rally this weekend. The new protests were triggered by reports that as many as 37 looters from the earlier protest were found dead in a burned-out store and warehouse owned by President Marc Ravalomanana. Ravalomanana accused the capital’s mayor of inciting the unrest.
Premier Wen Jibao of China opened the annual World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday, detailing the “big impact” of the global recession on his country. In particular, he cited “rising unemployment in urban areas.” Analysts said the outlook at this year’s forum is one of deep gloom and that, in contrast to previous gatherings, the discussions would be dominated by politicians rather than bankers and other financiers.
Two major companies in Britain announced plans to hire 8,000 new employees, injecting some cheer into an otherwise grim economic scene. ASDA, a supermarket chain (and Wal-Mart subsidiary), said it needs 7,000 more people to work at new stores and in its home shopping unit. The remaining 1,000 jobs were announced by satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
Clients of Spanish financial giant Banco Santander who lost money in Bernard Madoff’s alleged pyramid scheme were offered compensation by the company. It said Tuesday night it will reimburse initial investments by a total of $1.83 billion. But interest was not included in the offer, and no mention was made of institutional investors. Banco Santander was sued this week in Miami by some investors on grounds that it didn’t adequately scrutinize Madoff before commissioning him to manage one of its funds. Bank officials said they’d acted with “due diligence.” Above, a pedestrian passes a Santander branch in Madrid.
Twenty-two more people were found shot to death near Mexico’s border with Texas, reports said Wednesday. Authorities said turf wars between drug cartels almost certainly were responsible for the casualties. Four of the dead were on property belonging to the state oil company, Petróleos de Mexico. Five others were discovered in Ciudad Juárez, where 116 people have been murdered so far this month.
Daytime temperatures soared above 100 degrees F. Wednesday across southern Australia for the fourth time this month, extending the worst heat wave there in a century. The weather was blamed for at least two deaths and brought public transportation in the cities of Melbourne and Adelaide to a halt. Forecasters said the system responsible for the searing heat isn’t expected to “move for several days.”
– Compiled from the wires