This is an Open Thread: Locked doors? What locked doors?
Return to Fallujah
Three years after the devastating US assault, our correspondent enters besieged Iraqi city left without clean water, electricity and medicine
By Patrick Cockburn
Monday, 28 January 2008
Fallujah is more difficult to enter than any city in the world. On the road from Baghdad I counted 27 checkpoints, all manned by well-armed soldiers and police. “The siege is total,” says Dr Kamal in Fallujah Hospital as he grimly lists his needs, which include everything from drugs and oxygen to electricity and clean water.
The last time I tried to drive to Fallujah, several years ago, I was caught in the ambush of an American fuel convoy and had to crawl out of the car and lie beside the road with the driver while US soldiers and guerrillas exchanged gunfire. The road is now much safer but nobody is allowed to enter Fallujah who does not come from there and can prove it through elaborate identity documents. The city has been sealed off since November 2004 when United States Marines stormed it in an attack that left much of the city in ruins.
Races Entering Complex Phase Over Delegates
MIAMI – The presidential campaign is entering a new phase as Democratic and Republican candidates move beyond state-by-state competition and into a potentially protracted scramble for delegates Congressional district by Congressional district.
The shifting terrain is influencing the strategies of candidates from both parties – though decidedly more so for Democrats – as they move from early state contests to the coast-to-coast contests on Feb. 5, when 41 percent of Republican delegates and 52 percent of Democratic delegates will be chosen.
It is the first time in over 20 years in which the campaign has turned into a possibly lengthy hunt for delegates, rather than an effort to roll up a string of big-state victories.
Economy, War To Dominate State of Union
Bush’s Challenge May Be Getting People to Listen
For years, President Bush and his advisers expressed frustration that the White House received little credit for the nation’s strong economic performance because of public discontent about the Iraq war. Today, the president is getting little credit for improved security in Iraq, as the public increasingly focuses on a struggling U.S. economy.
That is the problem Bush faces as he prepares to deliver his seventh and probably final State of the Union address tonight. For the first time in four years, he will come before Congress able to report some progress in tamping down violence in Iraq. Yet the public appears to have moved on from the war — and possibly from Bush himself.
Global markets tumble again on recession fears
Growing fears of a global recession sent stock markets in Europe and Asia tumbling again this morning, with poor results from Japanese companies adding to the mounting concerns.
Japan’s Nikkei stock index lost almost 4% today, dropping 541.2 points to close at 13,087, ending the modest recovery that followed dramatic losses on the world’s major stock markets at the beginning of last week.
In London, the FTSE fell by 1.5% when it opened, dropping 88.4 points to 5,780.6.
Manus Cranny of Cantor Index said the City was in a nervous mood after last week’s turbulence.
“Today is all about confidence,” he said, warning that banks and housebuilders could experience a tough time today.
Tigers shell Sri Lanka’s key military base
COLOMBO (AFP) – Tamil Tiger rebels on Monday shelled Sri Lanka’s main military base in the island’s north, disrupting a vital air link to a region supplied only by planes and ships, defence officials said.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
More than a dozen shells hit the Palaly military complex in the Jaffna peninsula on the northern edge of the Indian Ocean island, officials said, adding that civilian and military air transport was temporarily halted.
Security forces were carrying out retaliatory strikes against suspected rebel artillery gun positions, the officials added. Air strikes had also been ordered against the guerrillas, they said.
Kremlin bars last independent candidate from presidential poll
Luke Harding in Moscow
Monday January 28, 2008
The Kremlin yesterday kicked the only independent contender in Russia’s presidential election off the ballot, a move described by activists as undemocratic and predictable.
Russia’s Central Election Commission disqualified Michael Kasyanov from taking part in the March 2 poll. It claimed that more than 13% of the signatures needed for his candidacy to be registered had been faked.
The disqualification will raise further questions about the election’s legitimacy. International observers described last December’s parliamentary poll as profoundly rigged.
Merkel’s conservatives face ‘humiliating’ election defeat
Angela Merkel’s ruling conservatives were on course for humiliating defeat in key elections in the central German state of Hesse last night after losing more than 10 per cent of the vote to the opposition Social Democrats and Greens.
First exit polls suggested that support for Mrs Merkel’s party had dropped 13 per cent and would force the resignation Roland Koch, the state’s right-wing Prime Minister who had fought a highly controversial anti- “foreign criminals” campaign that was widely described as racist.
Iraq contractors tap Latin America’s needy
Thousands with limited opportunities at home are lured by pay; but for some who are injured or disabled, the cost his high.
LIMA, PERU — Sometimes he wakes up with a shudder, thinking he needs to take cover, fast. At other moments he dreams he’s running and the mortar shell strikes again, fiery shards of metal ripping through his flesh.
“I take pills to help me sleep,” Gregorio Calixto says, proffering a box of cheap over-the-counter medication, the only kind he can afford.
n the United States, Calixto might be under treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Iraq, receiving daily physical therapy and counseling. Here he’s an unemployed street vendor, renting a spartan room and struggling to recover physically and emotionally from severe shrapnel wounds.
With a Whisper, Cuba’s Housing Market Booms
HAVANA – Virtually every square foot of this capital city is owned by the socialist state, which would seem sure to put a damper on the buying and selling of property.
But the people of Havana, it turns out, are as obsessed with real estate as, say, condo-crazy New Yorkers, and have similar dreams of more elbow room, not to mention the desire for hot water, their own toilets and roofs that do not let the rain seep indoors.
Police face riots in west Kenya
Police are struggling to restore order in western Kenya, amid a recent wave of violence linked to disputed elections.
In the opposition stronghold of Kisumu, there were riots as hundreds protested against attacks on fellow Luo tribe members over the weekend.
Meanwhile in Naivasha – the scene of some of the weekend’s worst violence – police battled to keep opponents apart.
The Rift Valley has dozens killed in recent days and the national death toll since the December polls is nearly 800.
‘If there is no change in three months, there will be war again’
A crucial Iraqi ally of the United States in its recent successes in the country is threatening to withdraw his support and allow al-Qa’ida to return if his fighters are not incorporated into the Iraqi army and police.
“If there is no change in three months there will be war again,” said Abu Marouf, the commander of 13,000 fighters who formerly fought the Americans. He and his men switched sides last year to battle al-Qa’ida and defeated it in its main stronghold in and around Fallujah.
“If the Americans think they can use us to crush al-Qa’ida and then push us to one side, they are mistaken,” Abu Marouf told The Independent in an interview in a scantily furnished villa beside an abandoned cemetery near the village of Khandari outside Fallujah.
Olmert and Abbas fail to shut border
By Eric Silver in Jerusalem
Monday, 28 January 2008
For two hours in Jerusalem yesterday, Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas agonised over Hamas’s demolition job on the Gaza-Egyptian border fence and the collapse of their joint strategy of isolating the Strip’s Islamist rulers. But the Israeli Prime Minister and Palestinian President came up with no new answers.
Israel agreed to continue allowing humanitarian food and medical supplies to enter Gaza at the present rate of 50 lorries a day. It will also deliver about 500,000 litres of diesel oil and petrol a day for vehicles, industry and power stations after a 10-day embargo. This is enough to ward off a humanitarian crisis, but far short of meeting demand. Electricity is still being cut for hours every day.