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Clinton held talks with seven opponents of Assad (AFP/Pool, J. Scott Applewhite)

The United States and France sent their ambassadors back to Syria to champion protesters, demanding that the regime protect the envoys who had been pulled out due to safety fears.

US Ambassador Robert Ford and French Ambassador Eric Chevallier had faced harassment and threats as they shone a light on President Bashar al-Assad’s nine-month crackdown, in which more than 4,000 people are said to have died.

“We believe his presence in the country is among the most effective ways to send the message that the United States stands with the people of Syria,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said as the two envoys flew back in.

Ford will seek to provide “reliable reporting on the situation on the ground” and engage “with the full spectrum of Syrian society on how to end the bloodshed and achieve a peaceful political transition,” Toner said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney demanded that Syria uphold international obligations to protect foreign diplomats and allow US officers “to conduct their work free of intimidation or obstacles.”

In Paris, deputy foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said that the concerns that led to Chevallier’s recall have not gone away but that “his work on the ground in Syria is important.”

“France is more than ever at the side of the Syrian people,” Nadal told AFP.

The US and French ambassadors had both traveled in Syria to document protests and show their support, amid official attempts to prevent international media and observers from witnessing the crackdown firsthand.

The United States announced on October 24 that Ford had been brought back to Washington because of “credible threats.” Assad supporters had pelted Ford and the embassy staff with tomatoes and damaged US vehicles as they visited an opposition leader in Damascus.

The French ambassador was recalled on November 16 after mobs loyal to Assad attacked France’s honorary consulate in the northern city of Latakia and the detached chancery in Aleppo.

Toner said the United States “felt there was a sense of urgency” in sending Ford back to Damascus but said that Washington would “keep a close eye” on what it viewed as threats to him, including articles in the state-run press.

In further pressure on Syria, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday held talks in Geneva with seven opponents of Assad. She called for the protection of women and minorities, a key concern for a future without Assad, as he comes from the minority Alawite sect.

read more -AFP

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The U.S. unemployment rate fell to a 2-1/2 year low in November, even though the pace of hiring remained too slow to suggest a significant quickening of the recovery.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 120,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday, and the jobless rate dropped to 8.6 percent, the lowest since March 2009, from 9.0 percent in October.

It was the biggest monthly decline since January. While part of the decrease was due to people leaving the labor force, the household survey from which the department calculates the unemployment rate also showed solid gains in employment.

“The economy is continuing to head in the right direction,” said Millan Mulraine, senior macro strategist at TD Securities in New York. “However, the ultimate test of the sustainability of the recovery is for the economy to create a sufficient number of jobs to sustain a consumer-led rebound in activity.”

“On this measure, this report falls short,” he said.

Although the gain in the number of jobs created as measured by the survey of employers was relatively modest, it marked a pickup from October’s upwardly revised 100,000 increase.

In all, 72,000 more jobs were created in October and September than previously reported.

The retail sector accounted for more than a third all new private sector jobs in November as shops geared up for a busy holiday season, but average earnings fell two cents.

Data ranging from manufacturing to retail sales suggest the U.S. economy’s growth pace could top 3 percent in the fourth quarter, an acceleration from the third quarter. In contrast, much of the rest of the world is slowing and the euro zone appears to have already fallen into recession.

Stocks on Wall Street opened higher on both the employment report and growing optimism of a solution to the European debt crisis, while prices for U.S. government debt fell. The dollar was little changed against a basket of currencies.

The report could temper the appetite among some Federal Reserve officials to ease monetary policy further.

In forecasts released earlier this month, the Fed said the jobless rate would likely average 9 percent to 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter. It did not expect it to drop to an 8.5 percent to 8.7 percent range until late next year.

via reuters


Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, with Senator Charles Schumer and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who inscribed a wall at the company’s Madison Avenue sales office on Friday. -Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Facebook announced on Friday that it planned to open an engineering office in New York City in early 2012, establishing the company’s first such outpost beyond the West Coast.

At a gathering in Facebook’s sales office on Madison Avenue, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Senator Charles E. Schumer joined Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, in hailing the move as a testament to the city’s growing technological profile.

“We want the next Facebook to start here,” Mr. Bloomberg said. High-tech jobs in the city have grown by more than a third over the past five years, the mayor added, noting his goal to make New York “the world’s No. 1 hub for information technology and social media.”

Several companies in Silicon Valley have established a presence in Manhattan in recent years, and this year, Twitter and Yelp opened local offices.

Ms. Sandberg would not estimate how many workers the new Facebook engineering office might employ, but said the company as a whole planned to add thousands of jobs in the next year. The new office will be led by Serkan Piantino, an engineering manager who previously oversaw the team behind the company’s News Feed.

“This isn’t a satellite office,” Mr. Piantino said. “This is going to be a core part of our engineering stack.”

read more at nytime


Pakistani protesters burn a U.S. flag during an anti-Nato rally in Peshawar, Pakistan Photo: AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad

Pakistan’s top military commander has ordered the country’s troops to return fire should they come under attack again from U.S.-led coalition forces, a move that’s likely to increase tensions after an American-led air raid on two border outposts last week killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief, issued the order in a letter Thursday that set out the rules of engagement against any “aggressor.”

The new orders came as Pakistan and U.S. officials continued to trade conflicting accounts of what happened in the incident, which American officials say came after a joint U.S.-Afghan unit took fire from the Pakistani side of the border but which Pakistani officials say was unprovoked. No American or Afghan casualties were reported in the incident, which now is thought to have occurred shortly after midnight Nov. 26.

The Pentagon said Pakistan has refused to participate in the U.S. investigation of the bombing. Defense Department spokesman George Little said the U.S. has asked Pakistan to be part of the investigation, but that the Pakistanis have “elected to date” to not participate.

Little refers to the bombing as a “bump in the road” for U.S.-Pakistani counterterrorism cooperation.


  • Global market investment in outsourcing is set to rise to $8bn in 2012 for many users of data center services found the Data Center Industry Census 2011.
  • A substantial proportion of racks are and will be outsourced found the new report “Technology Cycles and Cloud”, the latest in the series based on the world’s largest survey of the data center industry.
  • In quantitative terms, the sample indicates the USA is the largest market with 210,000 racks outsourced either to third party suppliers or to other offices.
  • However, there is enormous variation in the proportion of outsourced racks from region to region; from as little as 3% in the Middle East, to as much as 28% in China and 30% in India.
  • Nick Parfitt, a researcher at DatacenterDynamics said: It is evident that outsourcing fulfils different roles in the evolution of markets; as an entry point for organisations which have not yet evolved the capacity requirement to operate their own environments, or as an exit point in developed markets where the pace of increased IT requirements has exceeded in-house capacity.

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  • U.S. companies are researching and developing biopowered computer data centers due to the availability of local feedstocks and the resulting competitive power pricing for consumers. Vineyards LLC has developed a shovel-ready data center campus in Colorado Springs, Colo., and intends to use local municipal waste and mountain pine beetle-killed timber as fuel. HP Labs, an advanced research group for Hewlett Packard, has released research on data center facilities powered by dairy farm waste.
  • The Vineyards Data Center Park will utilize a 50-megawatt plant that will be built on a 100-acre development south of downtown Colorado Springs. Developers are in the process of selecting a capital partner, and expect data center units will be available for occupancy by the spring of 2012.
  • The local utility, Colorado Springs Utilities, is designing, planning and constructing the plant, with an estimated completion date of 2014. The biomass plant is a joint venture, providing electricity to the Vineyards and the city of Colorado Springs.

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