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Petrol sales fell in big freeze

Petrol sales plunged over Christmas as motorists abandoned their cars during the big freeze.

Figures show that filling stations saw more than a fifth of their trade wiped out during December compared with the same month the year before.

David Blevings, of the Irish Petrol Retailers Association, said it was another blow for the industry already reeling from price hikes, carbon taxes and levy increases. Mr Blevings said forecourt owners were also relying more on the sales of groceries, coffee and other stock, because people were thinking twice about using their car during the downturn.

Obama names his spokesman

US President Barack Obama has chosen a White House insider and a former magazine journalist to be his next press secretary.

Jay Carney (45) will be the chief spokesman for Obama and one of the most visible faces of the White House to the American public as Obama's presidency pivots toward re-election in 2012.

He replaces Robert Gibbs, who has also held an outsized presence as a counsellor to Mr Obama for the past several years.

Colombia in extradition plea

Colombia asked Israel to extradite former Israeli army Lieutenant Colonel Yair Klein, who a Colombian court has convicted and sentenced in absentia to nearly 11 years in prison for training drug-traffickers' assassins in the late 1980s.

"The evidence (against Klein) is conclusive," Interior Minister German Vargas told a news conference, saying the formal request had been made in Tel Aviv by Colombia's embassy there.

Macedonia TV station protest

Macedonia's main private TV station is broadcasting news bulletins from the streets to protest against the court-ordered freezing of its bank accounts under a tax fraud probe.

A1 TV news anchor Goran Petreski read the evening bulletin outside the main government building in the capital Skopje, surrounded by 50 station workers. A1, which is critical of the government, accuses authorities of exerting political pressure to close it down.