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JOHANNESBURG - South Africa readied itself for the arrival of a flood of world leaders for the funeral and memorial services for Nelson Mandela as thousands of mourners continued to flock to sites around the country Saturday to pay homage to the freedom struggle icon. At Mandela's house in the Johannesburg neighbourhood of Houghton, more than 100 people, black and white, gathered in the morning where they sang liberation songs and homages to Mandela. Among those who have already indicated that they will be travelling to South Africa to honour Mandela, who died at his Johannesburg home at the age of 95 on Thursday night, are U.S. President Barack Obama and his two predecessors, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
BANGKOK - Thailand's prime minister said Saturday that she will not cling to power and that she is ready to resign and dissolve Parliament if all parties agree to hold new elections. But Yingluck Shinawatra acknowledged that the leader of the country's biggest anti-government demonstrations in years has rejected all of those things, and said she sees no quick end to her country's deep political impasse. "Our door is still open" to dialogue, Yingluck said in an interview with a small group of foreign journalists at her office at Bangkok's ornate Government House, a target of protesters who briefly swept into the compound just a few days earlier. Thailand has been hit repeatedly by bouts of political turmoil, many of them violent, since the army overthrew then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's older brother, in a 2006 coup.
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - One of the three Americans who won this year's Nobel prize for economics said bloated public deficits on both sides of the Atlantic meant that recession remained a real risk for 2014. Eugene Fama, who shares this year's 8 million crown ($1.2 million) prize with Robert Shiller and Lars Peter Hansen, said on Saturday that highly indebted governments in the United States and Europe posed a constant threat to the global economy. ...
OTTAWA - It's the time when tourists usually begin posing for family photos with the newly strung holiday lights on Parliament Hill. This year the festive visits will almost certainly be captured by RCMP lenses, too. The Mounties have recently added new video cameras near pedestrian entrances and a vehicle screening facility along Wellington Street, the boulevard in front of the Parliament Buildings. The RCMP and its Hill security partners have also bowed to the wishes of the federal privacy commissioner by posting signs on bollards that read: 24 hour video surveillance for security of the grounds.
KABUL - U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel is visiting with American forces in Afghanistan amid a stubborn stand-off between the U.S. and Afghan leaders over a security agreement that President Hamid Karzai still refuses to sign despite increasing pressure from diplomatic and defence officials. The U.S. has made its position on the security agreement clear and Karzai has tentatively endorsed the deal. Washington and NATO officials say they want a quick decision on the bilateral security agreement, which allows U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014 to do training and some counterterrorism missions. Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog said Hagel is travelling to Afghanistan "to thank troops for their service fighting far away from home and commend the progress they have made this year" in improving the Afghan security forces.
OTTAWA - The movers and shakers on Parliament Hill usually know where the bodies are buried. But deposits of human bones uncovered within sight of the Peace Tower seem to have caught everyone off guard. Construction workers digging out part of downtown Queen Street have come across yet another burial under the busy road, the third finding of human remains since September. The excavation is to upgrade old watermains before the Big Dig, a massive tunnelling project for light-rail-transit trains that will rumble for 2.5 kilometres under the city core, dubbed the Confederation Line.
By Leika Kihara TOKYO (Reuters) - Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said central banks should avoid offering overly complicated forward guidance on their policies, warning that doing so could disrupt financial markets and prove to be counter-productive. He also said that exiting from the current ultra-easy monetary policy may be more difficult than when the BOJ last ended its quantitative easing in 2006, because the bank now loads up on more long-term government debt and risky assets. Many central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of England, have resorted to "forward guidance" in lowering long-term interest rates, which is to offer guidance on how long they will maintain their ultra-loose policies. Kuroda has insisted on keeping the BOJ's message simple, which is to maintain its massive stimulus until 2 percent inflation is achieved, and has refrained from offering specific information on what will trigger an exit from that policy.
By Randy Fabi NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - The World Trade Organization reached its first ever trade reform deal on Saturday to the roar of approval from nearly 160 ministers who had gathered on the Indonesian island of Bali to decide on the make-or-break agreement that could add $1 trillion to the global economy The approval came after Cuba dropped a last-gasp threat to veto the package of measures. "For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered," WTO chief Roberto Azevedo told exhausted ministers after the talks which had dragged into an extra day on the tropical resort island. We have put the 'world' back in World Trade Organization," he said. "We're back in business...Bali is just the beginning." The talks, which had opened on Tuesday, nearly came unstuck at the last minute when Cuba suddenly refused to accept a deal that would not help pry open the U.S. embargo of the Caribbean island, forcing negotiations to drag into Saturday morning.
Jay Z easily led Grammy Award nominations announced Friday with nine, but left-of-centre rappers Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Kendrick Lamar were among a group of new stars who took many of the major nominations. Macklemore and Lewis's gay marriage anthem "Same Love" was among song of the year nominees and the Seattle rap crew joined Los Angeles rapper Lamar with seven nominations apiece, including best album and best new artist of the year. Pharrell Williams had four major nominations among his seven and Justin Timberlake also had seven.
SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea on Saturday deported an elderly U.S. tourist, apparently ending the saga of Merrill Newman's return to the North six decades after he advised South Korean guerrillas still loathed by Pyongyang. North Korea made the decision because the 85-year-old Newman, who was detained since late October, apologized for his alleged crimes during the Korean War and because of his age and medical condition, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency. "I am very glad to be on my way home," a smiling Newman told reporters after arriving at the airport in Beijing from Pyongyang. "And I appreciate the tolerance the (North Korean) government has given me to be on my way."
Peter Pocklington will not begin serving a six-month prison sentence on Monday. The former Edmonton Oilers owner has appealed his conviction for breaching probation on a previous perjury conviction related to a bankruptcy fraud case.