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Fed Chief Reinforces Suggestions of Rate Cut

Ben S. Bernanke PhD ’79, chairman of the Federal Reserve, acknowledged on Thursday that a “fresh wave of investor concern” had led to tougher credit conditions that posed new risks to the economy, reinforcing the view that the Fed is likely to cut interest rates again when it meets on Dec. 11.

Speaking one day after another top Fed official signaled that policy makers might have to reduce interest rates to head off trouble, Bernanke pledged that the Fed would remain “exceptionally alert and flexible” in setting policy.

“Economic forecasting is always difficult, but the current stresses in financial markets make the uncertainty surrounding the outlook even greater than usual,” Bernanke said in remarks to a business group in North Carolina.

Noting that investors have been shaken by losses and write-downs on soured mortgages, Bernanke said a new round of turbulence in financial markets had reversed some of the recovery in credit markets after a first round of panic broke out in August over subprime mortgages.

“Needless to say, the Federal Reserve is following the evolution of financial conditions carefully, with particular attention to the question of how strains in financial markets might affect the broader economy,” he said.

Kasparov, Freed From Jail, Warns on Russia’s Direction

Released from jail after serving a five-day sentence for leading an opposition march, Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion, said on Thursday that Russia was heading toward chaos under President Vladimir V. Putin.

Kasparov said his coalition, Other Russia, would continue its protests against the Kremlin to spotlight what he described as a government that has grown increasingly repressive.

“We’ve entered a very dangerous period because we don’t know where this is going to stop,” he said at an impromptu news conference outside his home in Moscow shortly after being freed. The failure of the government to abide by its own laws and constitution, he said, “could result in a catastrophe for the whole country.”

Kasparov was arrested last Saturday when he and other members of his coalition tried to deliver a letter to federal election officials contending that the parliamentary election this Sunday is biased toward Putin’s party, United Russia.

Kasparov said he had not been treated badly behind bars, but said that he had been denied access to a lawyer and that a court would not hear evidence in his defense.

President Bush and other Western leaders had expressed alarm about Kasparov’s arrest, but the Kremlin dismissed their concerns, saying that Kasparov had violated the law by holding an unauthorized march and thus had faced appropriate punishment.

In Britain, Muslims Propose Code for Civic Life

Moderate British Muslim leaders on Thursday proposed guidelines that aim to root out extremism, promote a culture of “civic responsibility” and foster women’s rights in the country’s mosques, Islamic centers and Muslim schools.

The guidelines, circulated in draft form to Muslim groups across the country, represent a sweeping new effort by the moderate leaders to combat alienation among disaffected Muslim youth and to foster a new atmosphere of openness and tolerance among Britain’s 2 million Muslims, particularly in the country’s 1,500 mosques.

The 10-point “code of conduct” will be put before Muslim groups for public discussion, with the aim of producing a final version by March 2008. The proposals would commit groups that accept the code to “actively combat all forms of violent extremism” within their communities and to “promote civic responsibility of Muslims in wider society.”

The guidelines come nearly two and a half years after the suicide bombings in London that killed 52 people on July 7, 2005, and a failed plot to repeat the attacks on the London transit system two weeks later. Six of those involved in the second, failed wave of attacks have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Court Convicts Teacher Of Insulting Islam

The British teacher in Sudan who let her 7-year-old pupils name a class teddy bear Muhammad was found guilty Thursday of insulting Islam and sentenced to 15 days in jail and deportation.

Under Sudanese law, the teacher, Gillian Gibbons, could have spent six months in jail and been lashed 40 times.

“She got a very light punishment,” said Rabie A. Atti, a government spokesman. “Actually, it’s not much of a punishment at all. It should be considered a warning that such acts should not be repeated.”

British officials, meanwhile, were furious. As soon as the news broke that Gibbons had been convicted, the Foreign Office in London, which had called the whole ordeal “an innocent mistake,” summoned the Sudanese ambassador — for the second time in two days.

“We are extremely disappointed,” said Omar Daair, spokesman for the British Embassy in Khartoum, the capital.

Gibbons, 54, has been in jail since Sunday, and Daair said her sentence would include time served, which means she will spend 10 more days behind bars before being sent to Britain.