World and Nation

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Lesser known nuclear pact with Russia wins clearance

WASHINGTON — While President Barack Obama presses the Senate to embrace a new arms control treaty with Russia, another nuclear pact with Moscow cleared its final hurdle on Thursday after more than four years with virtually no notice but potentially significant impact.

An agreement opening the door to greater civilian nuclear cooperation between the two countries cleared its final hurdle in Congress and will now take force in what Obama hopes will be another step toward strengthening the Russian-American rapprochement that has been one of his signature foreign policy goals.

The civilian nuclear agreement lifts longstanding limitations to allow extensive commercial nuclear trade, technology transfers and joint research between Russia and the United States. It does not permit the transfer of restricted data, but it eliminates a significant barrier to Russia’s importing, storing and possibly reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from American-supplied reactors around the world.

The agreement was a top priority of Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, who sealed a deal with the Kremlin in May 2008. But he withdrew it from Congress four months later in protest of Russia’s war with its tiny neighbor, Georgia. Obama resubmitted it last May, saying that Georgia “need no longer be considered an obstacle” and citing recent Russian cooperation in trying to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Payroll gives Red Sox edge on Yankees in making deals

For the past decade, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox have been rivals not just on the field during the season, but also in the off-season while trying to sign big-name stars. One year, the Yankees sign C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. The next year the Red Sox add John Lackey and Adrian Beltre.

So it goes this year, only the Red Sox appear to have the upper hand because they have more players coming off their payroll. With that cash, the Red Sox have signed two of the most sought-after stars: first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (an eight-year contract extension reportedly worth about $160 million) and outfielder Carl Crawford (seven years, $142 million).

The Yankees passed on Jayson Werth but, as expected, gave new contracts to Derek Jeter (three years, $51 million) and Mariano Rivera (two years, $30 million).

Eager to erase the memory of their playoff departure this year and mindful of their goal to reach the World Series each season, the Yankees sweetened their offer for Cliff Lee on Thursday, adding a seventh guaranteed year.

Coincidentally or not, the fresh bid by general manager Brian Cashman came a day after the Red Sox shook hands with Crawford and tipped the balance of power between the clubs in Boston’s direction.

Hackers attack sites considered enemies of WikiLeaks

LONDON — In a campaign that had some declaring the start of a “cyberwar,” hundreds of Internet activists mounted retaliatory attacks Wednesday on the websites of multinational companies and other organizations they deemed hostile to the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy organization and its jailed founder, Julian Assange.

Within 12 hours of a British judge’s decision Tuesday to deny Assange bail in a Swedish extradition case, attacks on the websites of WikiLeaks’ “enemies,” as defined by the organization’s impassioned supporters, caused several corporate websites to become inaccessible or slow down markedly.

Targets of the attacks, in which activists overwhelmed the sites with traffic, included the website of MasterCard, which had stopped processing donations for WikiLeaks;, which revoked the use of its computer servers; and PayPal, which stopped accepting donations for Assange’s group. was also affected by the attacks, as were the websites of the Swedish prosecutor’s office and the lawyer representing the two women whose allegations of sexual misconduct are the basis of Sweden’s extradition bid.

The Internet assaults underlined the growing reach of self-described “cyber anarchists,” anti-government and anti-corporate activists who have made an icon of Assange, a 39-year-old Australian whom they consider one of their own.

Cash is king for more consumers this holiday season

Christmas will no longer be on credit for many shoppers, despite tempting offers from retailers and credit card companies trying to coax the plastic out of consumers’ wallets.

The lowest percentage of shoppers in the 27-year-history of a national survey said they used credit cards over the Thanksgiving weekend, while the use of general credit cards like Visa and MasterCard fell 11 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, according to the credit bureau TransUnion.

“Cash is the route I’m taking this year, from past experiences with credit cards and being in debt and trying to pay it off for so many years,” said Liz Gonzalez, a community-college employee in Signal Hill, Calif. Her debt problems started two Christmases ago, when she charged the gifts that turned into the bills that sent her life into disarray. Gonzalez, 40, still owes $2,200 from that Christmas.

“I was spending so much with them,” she said of the credit cards. “I lost control.”

Britt Beemer, chief executive of America’s Research Group, a survey firm, said that was a common sentiment.