This is an Open Thread: Where everything is spun to the left
Obama Takes Iowa in a Big Turnout as Clinton Falters; Huckabee Victor
DES MOINES – Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, a first-term Democratic senator trying to become the nation’s first African-American president, rolled to victory in the Iowa caucuses on Thursday night, lifted by a record turnout of voters who embraced his promise of change.
The victory by Mr. Obama, 46, amounted to a startling setback for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, 60, of New York, who just months ago presented herself as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. The result left uncertain the prospects for John Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina, who had staked his second bid for the White House on winning Iowa.
U.S. Curtailing Bids to Expand Medicaid Rolls
WASHINGTON – The Bush administration is imposing restrictions on the ability of states to expand eligibility for Medicaid, in an effort to prevent them from offering coverage to families of modest incomes who, the administration argues, may have access to private health insurance.
The restrictions mirror those the administration placed on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program in August after states tried to broaden eligibility for it as well.
Video of Sleeping Guards Shakes Nuclear Industry
Sight of Guards Asleep Shakes Industry
By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 4, 2008; Page A01
Kerry Beal was taken aback when he discovered last March that many of his fellow security guards at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania were taking regular naps in what they called “the ready room.”
When he spoke to supervisors at his company, Wackenhut Corp., they told Beal to be a team player. When he alerted the regional office of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, regulators let the matter drop after the plant’s owner, Exelon, said it found no evidence of guards asleep on the job.
Kenyan police block fresh rally
Thousands of police in Kenya have deployed around the capital, Nairobi, to prevent an opposition rally.
Opposition parties say they intend to press ahead with protest plans, after police blocked their rally on Thursday.
But the BBC’s Adam Mynott, reporting from an opposition slum area, says enthusiasm for the protest has waned.
The opposition says the government rigged last week’s presidential election. More than 300 people have been killed in post-election violence.
Another 70,000 have been displaced.
Close ally of president calls for review of election result
· Attorney general seeks ‘proper tally of certificates’
· Kibaki unmoved as opposition rally cancelled
Kenya’s attorney general has called for an independent investigation into the results of the presidential election that has plunged the country into turmoil and seen more than 300 people killed.
Amos Wako – who is seen as a close ally of President Mwai Kibaki, the winner of the disputed poll on December 27 – warned in a televised statement that Kenya was “quickly degenerating into a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions”.
“It is necessary … that a proper tally of the valid certificates returned and confirmed should be undertaken immediately on a priority basis by an agreed and independent person or body,” he said. Western diplomats have been pushing for an independent review of the vote, but there is concern that the official forms have been tampered with since the results were announced.
Chavez in major cabinet reshuffle
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced a major cabinet reshuffle – weeks after his reform proposals were defeated in a referendum in December.
Mr Chavez said he would make 13 changes, including the replacement of Vice-President Jorge Rodriguez.
Mr Rodriguez was blamed by many Chavez supporters for the defeat of the proposals on constitutional changes.
The referendum would also have given Mr Chavez increased powers and the right to run for re-election indefinitely.
But Venezuelans voted 51% to 49% against the proposals on 2 December.
Israeli strikes kill 11 in Gaza
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli troops on a night mission in the Gaza Strip killed two Hamas gunmen early Friday as Israel responded to Palestinian rocket fire with strikes against militants that left 11 dead in 24 hours.
The simmering conflict between Israel and Gaza’s armed groups has escalated less than a week before President Bush’s visit to the region, overshadowing peace efforts and increasing the chances of a full-scale armed conflict in Gaza.
On Thursday, Palestinian militants hit Israel with a Katyusha rocket, a weapon with a deadlier warhead and longer range than the smaller rockets militants regularly launch. It hit in the northern part of the town of Ashkelon, the longest reach yet for a Palestinian rocket.
Five killed in Turkish car bomb attack
Agencies in Ankara
Friday January 4, 2008
At least five people were killed and scores injured when a car bomb detonated yesterday outside a five-star hotel in the Kurdish-dominated city of Diyarbakir in south-east Turkey.
In the country’s deadliest bombing for months, the remote-controlled bomb went off just as a bus transporting troops was passing by. At least 30 soldiers were among the 68 people wounded, officials said.
Diyarbakir is home to large numbers of troops who are battling PKK Kurdish rebels both inside Turkey and in nearby northern Iraq. The blast will keep up pressure on Turkey to strike PKK positions in northern Iraq.
Artists spliced fake nuclear blast into TV weather news
Kate Connolly in Berlin
Friday January 4, 2008
A group of radical artists who panicked viewers of a Czech TV station by sneaking a nuclear mushroom cloud into its weather report are to be put on trial, prosecutors confirmed yesterday.
Six members of the Ztohoven collective, whose aims include “penetrating public space”, are to appear in court this month charged with spreading false information. They could face three years each in jail.
The artists sent shock waves through the Czech Republic in June last year by splicing footage of the atomic explosion into a live panoramic shot of the Krkonose mountains, in north-east Bohemia.
Science bows to theology as the Pope dismantles Vatican observatory
By Peter Popham in Rome
Published: 04 January 2008
Science is to make way for diplomacy at the Pope’s summer residence, with the dismantling of the astronomical observatory that has been part of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, for more than 75 years. The Pope needs more room to receive diplomats so the telescopes have to go.
The eviction of the astronomers and their instruments, reported by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, and their removal to a disused convent a mile away, marks the end of a period of intimacy between popes and priest-astronomers that has lasted well over a century.
Father Jose G Funes, the present director of the observatory, known as the Specola Vaticana, insisted that there was no sinister significance in the move. “It is not a downgrading of science in the Vatican,” he said. “To remain within the palace would have had only a symbolic significance, whereas where we are going we will be even more comfortable. Nearly everybody is in agreement with the move even though I realise that every change produces disquiet.” His predecessor, Father George Coyne, said, “I agree completely with Father Funes. We have discussed the issues many times together and with the rest of our Jesuit staff.”
Musharraf tries tea and cakes to counter critics
By Andrew Buncombe in Islamabad
Published: 04 January 2008
The charm offensive began with the tea and cakes served on the presidential china and continued as Pervez Musharraf warmly welcomed the journalists he had invited to attend his weekly broadcast to the people of Pakistan. It ended when he received his first question.
How could Pakistan make a peaceful transition to democracy in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, it was put to him, when many people in the country believed he had blood on his hands? Mr Musharraf noticeably bristled in his charcoal suit. “Frankly, I consider that question beneath my dignity to answer,” the President said, half suppressing a snarl. “I am not a feudal, I am not a tribal. I have been brought up in a very educated and civilised family that believes in values… My family did not believe in killing people, assassinating, intriguing. And that is all I want to say.”
Burma marks independence day
Burma has been marking the 60th anniversary of its declaration of independence from British colonial rule in a series of low-key ceremonies.
In a statement, Burma’s ruler Gen Than Shwe reiterated the government’s determination to continue with its seven-stage roadmap to democracy.
The plan has been widely condemned as a means of perpetuating the military’s hold on power.