Docudharma Times Tuesday Dec.18

This is an Open Thread: Always Free Until the End of Time

Headlines For Tuesday December 18: Democrats Delay a Vote on Immunity for Wiretapps : Fed Shrugged as Subprime Crisis Spread: FBI Probes Virginia Mortgage Scam: Turkish army sends soldiers into Iraq


Democrats Delay a Vote on Immunity for Wiretaps

WASHINGTON – In a setback for the White House, Senate Democrats on Monday put off until at least next month any decision on whether to give legal protection to the phone carriers that helped with the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping program.

The Bush administration had pushed for immediate passage of legislation to grant immunity to the phone companies as part of a broader expansion of the N.S.A.’s wiretapping authorities. But that will not happen now.

After daylong debate in the Senate on the wiretapping issue, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, announced at the end of the day that there would not be time to consider the legislation this week as he had hoped. With a dozen competing amendments on the issue and an omnibus spending bill separately awaiting consideration, Mr. Reid said he believed it would be difficult to give the wiretapping issue the close consideration that it deserved this week before the Senate leaves for its Christmas recess.

Fed Shrugged as Subprime Crisis Spread

WASHINGTON – Until the boom in subprime mortgages turned into a national nightmare this summer, the few people who tried to warn federal banking officials might as well have been talking to themselves.

Edward M. Gramlich, a Federal Reserve governor who died in September, warned nearly seven years ago that a fast-growing new breed of lenders was luring many people into risky mortgages they could not afford.

But when Mr. Gramlich privately urged Fed examiners to investigate mortgage lenders affiliated with national banks, he was rebuffed by Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman.

FBI Probes Virginia Mortgage Scam

Townhouses Bought and Sold for Big Profits as Market Was Cooling

By Allan Lengel

Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, December 18, 2007; Page A01

The sidewalks are still scrubbed and most lawns are neatly trimmed, but now the subdivision of townhouses off Route 1 in Woodbridge is pocked with empty windows and foreclosures. Federal investigators are poking around.

Sources with knowledge of the probe at the Villages at Rippon Landing said investigators are examining why a number of townhouses in a five-block area were bought and resold quickly, for a large profit, even as the real estate market was cooling and unsold homes dotted the neighborhood. The new buyers sometimes failed to pay the mortgages, sending homes into foreclosure and hurting lenders. Renters found themselves unexpectedly forced to move.

Middle East

Turkish army sends soldiers into Iraq

BAGHDAD – The Turkish army sent soldiers about 1.5 miles into northern Iraq on Tuesday, a spokesman for Kurdish security forces said.

The troops crossed into an area near the border with Iran, about 75 miles north of the city of Irbil, said Jabar Yawar, a spokesman for Kurdistan’s Peshmerga security forces.

It was not immediately clear what time the incursion took place or whether the Turkish troops were still in Iraq.

On Sunday, Turkey conducted airstrikes against rebels from the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq. As many as 50 fighter jets were involved in the attack, the biggest against the PKK in years.

The Iraqi parliament on Monday condemned the bombing, calling it an “outrageous” violation of Iraq’s sovereignty that killed innocent civilians.

Donors pledge billions in aid for Palestinians

· Tony Blair helps drum up support at conference

· Total amount raised exceeds target for reform

Palestinians were given a powerful signal of international and Arab support for an independent state last night, with $7.4bn (£3.6bn) in aid to revive their moribund economy and bolster renewed but faltering peace negotiations with Israel.

Opening a grand donors conference three weeks after the Annapolis summit, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, underlined the urgency of creating a Palestinian state by the end of 2008 – a hugely ambitious goal given the gap between the sides, bitter internal divisions, and doubts about whether weak leaders can deliver a workable deal.

“Momentum for peace is building once again,” Sarkozy declared. “It must not, it cannot, fail.” Tony Blair, co-chairing the Paris event for the Quartet of Middle East peace-makers, said: “The next few months will be crucial.” It was, said US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, the Palestinian government’s “last hope to avoid bankruptcy”


Police in Italy, Germany hold four in anti-mob raids

ROME (Reuters) – Police in Italy and Germany on Tuesday arrested four members of an Italian crime family linked to the execution-style killings of six Italians in Germany last August.

A police statement said two of the arrests were made in Germany and the other two in Calabria, the poor southern Italian region that is home to the ‘Ndrangheta crime group, the area’s version of the Sicilian Mafia.

Giovanni Strangio, a key member of one of the families involved in a long-standing feud that led to the killings, was still at large, it said.

Strangio is the subject of a European arrest warrant.

The Italians were killed on August 15 outside a pizzeria run by Calabrians in Duisburg, northwest Germany, where the ‘Ndrangheta is well established.

German communist in hot water after dining out on lobster

Kate Connolly in Berlin

Tuesday December 18, 2007

The Guardian

By the time she had realised her mistake – that as one of Germany’s top communists she should probably not be seen eating lobster – it was too late.

There was no time to switch from the €22 (£16) “rich man’s dish” to a more modest platter of kippers, because Sahra Wagenknecht had already been caught on camera in the act of betraying her own political ideals.

So the photogenic MEP for Germany’s Left party set about trying to destroy the evidence of what happened that night in the Strasbourg restaurant Aux Armes in a manner that has sent ripples of scorn across Germany.

Latin America

Castro: I won’t cling to power forever

HAVANA – Ailing leader Fidel Castro says he doesn’t intend to cling to power forever, saying in a letter read on state television that he does not want to stand in the way of a younger generation.

The 81-year-old Castro has not been seen in public since he temporarily ceded his powers to his younger brother Raul 16 months ago after undergoing emergency intestinal surgery. He has not said when – or even if – he will permanently step aside.

“My elemental duty is not to cling to positions, or even less to obstruct the path of younger people, but to share experiences and ideas whose modest worth comes from the exceptional era in which I lived,” Castro wrote in the final paragraph of a lengthy letter Monday discussing the Bali summit on global warming.


U.N.’s Ban to visit Algiers in wake of bombing

ALGIERS (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will visit Algeria on Tuesday to express support for the country after a December 11 twin bombing that killed at least 37 people including 17 U.N. staff, state media reported.

The attacks, the second big bombing this year in the capital of the north African OPEC member country, destroyed two U.N. buildings in the city’s Hydra district and damaged the Constitutional Court building in Ben Aknoun district.

Ban was expected to meet President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and visit the Hydra bomb site.

Al Qaeda’s North African wing claimed responsibility for the bombs, saying it had targeted what it called “the slaves of America and France.”

ANC begins bitter leadership vote

Members of South Africa’s governing ANC are voting to elect a party leader in a contest between President Thabo Mbeki and his arch-rival Jacob Zuma.

The vote at the party’s conference comes after two days of debate that revealed the deep divisions.

Mr Mbeki is seeking a third term at the helm of the ANC, but the party’s number two, Jacob Zuma, is favourite to win.

Correspondents say that if elected, Mr Zuma will become the frontrunner to take over as president in 2009.


Japan to cut drug prices by 5.2 pct in 2008: source

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will order drug prices to be cut by an average 5.2 percent in its latest review, a government source said on Tuesday, along with more steps to promote generic medicines in a double blow for makers of branded drugs.

Fast-ageing Japan, which has national health insurance, is eager to trim ballooning medical costs now estimated at around 33 trillion yen ($290 billion) per year, with drugs alone accounting for some 7 trillion yen.

Analysts had forecast an average drug price cut of 5 to 6 percent. The cut, to take effect from the start of the financial year on April 1, is part of a review of medical costs conducted every two years.

A 5.2 percent cut would be less than the 6.7 percent reduction ordered in 2006, although analysts say stronger measures to boost cheaper generic drugs means the toll on makers of brand-name drugs could be just as great.

Japan tests anti-missile system

Japan has for the first time shot down a ballistic missile in flight, testing a defence system aimed at warding off any missile threat from its neighbours.

A Japanese warship stationed off Hawaii launched a US-developed Standard-3 interceptor missile to destroy a mock target fired from onshore.

The US has conducted such tests in the past, but it is the first by a US ally.

Japan and the US have worked closely on missile defence since North Korea flew a missile over northern Japan in 1998.

Japanese government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura described the test as very significant for Japan’s national security.


  1. but, I always read The Docudharma Times first thing every morning.

    Thanks mishima!  Plus, I really liked the embed.

    • Temmoku on December 18, 2007 at 21:23

    Better than the Newspaper!

    Taking a break from household “fun and games”…that heavy vacuum has got to go!

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