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Porfirio Lobo/Photo by Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "2009 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 19, 2009

Honduras' new start

Hondurans elected Porfirio Lobo, a wealthy rancher from the conservative National Party, to succeed former President Manuel Zelaya, who was arrested and turned out of office June 28. In the Nov. 29 poll, voters rejected Liberal Party candidate Elvin Santos, who represented the party of both the ousted Zelaya and the interim government led by Roberto Micheletti. For most, Lobo's victory represents not only a break with the recent past but a triumph of the country's democratic system and its 27-year-old constitution. "We won. Just by having the freedom to vote, we won," said a hotel desk clerk in the capital city of Tegucigalpa. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a close friend of Zelaya, is widely believed to have exerted his authoritarian influence over the former Honduran president, who tried single-handedly to force a change in the country's constitution, prompting his ouster by Congress and the Supreme Court. "Hondurans are not just electing a president. Their participation is a vote for freedom over Chavez-style socialism," said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America and an official international election observer.

On Dec. 2 Congress voted to reject Zelaya's temporary return to serve out his term before Lobo takes office in January. The focus throughout, said Wright, was on the legitimacy of the election: Hondurans expect Zelaya to "either leave the country, or serve a prison term then leave. But no one we talked with wanted or thought he would return to power."

Viral truth

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South African President Jacob Zuma is acknowledging a fact that his predecessor denied: The HIV virus causes AIDS. Zuma, elected in a landslide in April, announced on World AIDS Day Dec. 1 that the government would provide treatment for HIV-positive babies under the age of 1. Nearly 59,000 babies are born with the virus each year in South Africa, which has the highest number of people living with HIV.

Former president Thabo Mbeki denied the link between HIV and AIDS and lagged in supporting funding for treatment. The rate of HIV infections in South Africa has stabilized, but doctors expect a steep increase in AIDS-related deaths as long-time patients succumb to the disease. South African relief workers say that could lead to a deeper crisis: Nearly one-third of all the children in the country could lose one or both parents to AIDS in the next five years.

Monday surge

It's not quite time for Black Friday to move over, but this year's Cyber Monday-the kickoff online sales day of the holiday season-saw traffic jump 8 percent from last year. Retailers have latched onto the idea of extending the post-Thanksgiving shopping spree by enticing buyers with online sales, and nearly 100 million browsers took the bait. Workplace productivity perhaps did not suffer: Most of the traffic occurred from 5 p.m. until midnight, according to the National Retail Federation. Online retail sales are expected to grow 3 percent this holiday season to $28.8 billion.

Untruth in advertising

Government may regulate crisis pregnancy centers for the first time, now that the Baltimore City Council has passed a measure that would fine CPCs $150 a day if they fail to post signs stating they do not "provide or make referral for abortion or birth-control services." Since the bill, which has yet to be signed into law by Baltimore's mayor Sheila Dixon, has no similar requirements for abortion providers, pro-life organizations say it unfairly targets pro-life centers and implies they are dishonest.

Detainee transfers

Lawmakers from Illinois held what Sen. Dick Durbin described as a "spirited" discussion Dec. 2 about turning a nearly empty state prison in western Illinois into a new supermax home for Guantanamo Bay detainees. While the congressional delegation is divided, the Thomson Correctional Center is reportedly the lead option for the Defense Department. "The 250 remaining terrorists being held at Gitmo represent the worst of the worst," said House Republican Aaron Schock. "We should not put our national security at risk by bringing these terrorists into our state."

Four Guantanamo Bay detainees were transferred to France, Hungary, and Italy at the beginning of December. Tunisians Abel Ben Mabrouk bin Hamida Boughanmi and Mohammed Tahir Riyadh Nasseri, now in Italian custody, are expected to face prosecution. Algerian Sabir Lahmar, 39, was released upon his arrival in France after seven years in the U.S. military prison. Guantanamo still holds 211 detainees, with 29 having been transferred out of the detention center since Obama took office, and over 500 released since 2002.

Message from Dubai

Ripple effects of tiny's Dubai's loan defaults began just before Thanksgiving but will continue through Christmas, as European, and in particular British, banks discover what they've lost. Dubai's bad loan scenario, a further chapter in the saga that began with last year's real estate bust, say experts, likely means a period of falling prices driven by Dubai failures as well as panicked consumers hanging onto their cash. Believing the deflation scenario will play out, what should an investor do? Do the opposite of Dubai-get out of debt, save, and conserve cash.

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