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Buying Guns, For Fear of Losing The Right to Bear Them

Sales of handguns, rifles and ammunition have surged in the last week, according to gun store owners around the nation who describe a wave of buyers concerned that an Obama administration will curtail their right to bear arms.

“He’s a gun-snatcher,” said Jim Pruett, owner of Jim Pruett’s Guns and Ammo in northwest Houston, which was packed with shoppers on Thursday.

“He wants to take our guns from us and create a socialist society policed by his own police force,” added Pruett, a former radio personality. He was talking about President-elect Barack Obama.

Pruett said that sales on Saturday, before the election, ran about seven times higher than a typical good Saturday.

A spot check by reporters in four other states easily found Pruett’s comments echoed from both sides of the counter.

David Nelson, a co-owner of Montana Ordnance & Supply, in Missoula, Mont., said his buyers were “awake and aware and see a dangerous trend.”

Nelson said that sales at his store have risen about 30 percent since Obama declared his candidacy. “People are concerned about overreaching legislation from Washington,” he said. “They are educating themselves on the Internet.”

In Colorado, would-be gun buyers set a one-day record on Saturday with the highest number of background check requests in a 24-hour period, according to figures from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Iran’s Leader Offers Salute To Obama in a Letter

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran sent an unusual letter congratulating President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday for his victory in the American presidential race, even though the two nations have had no diplomatic ties for nearly 30 years.

Ahmadinejad has written letters to world leaders in the past, including one to President Bush. But this is the first time an Iranian leader has congratulated the winner of an American election, at least since the Iranian revolution.

Diplomatic ties between Iran and the United States were severed in 1979, when radical students attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took American diplomats hostage.

Iranian leaders continue to use hostile language toward the United States, and Ahmadinejad had said that he did not think a black candidate could be elected because of racial discrimination.

“I congratulate you for attracting the majority of votes in the election,” Ahmadinejad wrote in his message, an Iranian news agency, ISNA, reported. “As you know, opportunities that are bestowed upon humans are short lived,” he wrote, adding that he hoped Obama would make the most of the opportunity.

The delivery of the letter coincided with a move by the Bush administration to put more pressure on Iran by adding measures that prohibit financial institutions from helping Iranian banks, the government or others in the country, the Treasury Department said Thursday.

In Japan, Small Investors Taking More Chances as Markets Decline

A global stock rout and fears of worldwide recession have sent millions of professional investors into panicked flight. But here a growing breed of contrarian investors sees opportunity after the Tokyo stock market reached a 26-year low recently.

Since last month, Japan’s legions of household savers have poured into the market by the tens of thousands — many of them first-time investors — seizing the world financial crisis as the greatest buying opportunity in a generation.

Sitting atop $15 trillion in personal savings, they are snapping up equities, currencies and even riskier investments like index futures, to some extent replacing foreign investors and even helping drive a limited rally in Tokyo’s beleaguered exchanges, say stock analysts.

“The stock market rout has popularized stock trading like nothing before,” said Yuji Kusunoki, president of Rakuten Securities. “It’s a paradox, but all the grim news has actually ended up making the market seem more attractive.”

Individuals have emerged as the most active buyers on the exchange. Japanese individual investors were net buyers of $10 billion worth of stocks on the Tokyo Stock Exchange last month, according to Tokyo-based Daiwa Securities, compared with $2.1 billion in September. Foreign institutional investors were net sellers of some $7 billion in stocks the same month, the brokerage firm said.

Craigslist Agrees to Curb Prostitution Ads

The online classifieds company Craigslist said on Thursday that it had reached an agreement with 40 state attorneys general and agreed to tame its notoriously unruly “erotic services” listings.

Prostitutes and sex-oriented businesses have long used that section of Craigslist to advertise their services. Along with their ads, they often include pornographic photos.

Early this year, the attorney general of Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, representing 40 states, sent a letter to Craigslist demanding that it purge the site of such material and better enforce its own rules against illegal activity, including prostitution. The two sides began a series of conversations about what Craigslist could do to prevent such ads from appearing.

“They identified ads that were crossing the line,” said Jim Buckmaster, chief executive of Craigslist. “We looked at those ads, we saw their point, and we resolved to see what we could do to get that stuff off the site.