This is an Open Thread: Let the sunshine in
Judge: U.S. gets Texas land for border fence
Feds succeed against city, could file 102 lawsuits against landowners
WASHINGTON – A federal judge has ordered a small border city in Texas to temporarily turn over its land to the federal government so it can begin to build a border fence.
U.S. District Judge Alia Moses Ludlum ordered the city of Eagle Pass, on the border about 100 miles southwest of San Antonio, to “surrender” 233 acres of city-owned land. The Justice Department sued the city for access to the land.
Richard Knerr, 82; co-founded Wham-O, maker of the Hula Hoop and Frisbee
Richard Knerr, co-founder of Wham-O Inc., which unleashed the granddaddy of American fads, the Hula Hoop, on the world half a century ago along with another enduring leisure icon, the Frisbee, has died. He was 82.
Knerr died Monday at Methodist Hospital in Arcadia after suffering a stroke earlier in the day at his Arcadia home, said his wife, Dorothy.
With his boyhood best friend, Arthur “Spud” Melin, Knerr started the company in 1948 in Pasadena. They named the enterprise Wham-O for the sound that their first product, a slingshot, made when it hit its target.
A treasure chest of dozens of toys followed that often bore playful names: Superball, so bouncy it seemed to defy gravity; Slip ‘N Slide and its giggle-inducing cousin the Water Wiggle; and Silly String, which was much harder to get out of hair than advertised.
Republicans are losers as Romney win leaves the race wide open
By David Usborne in Detroit
Published: 17 January 2008
Fresh from his convincing, native-son victory in Michigan, a jubilant Mitt Romney rode his jet plane straight back into the campaigning fray in South Carolina yesterday as all bets were off in the still wide open race for the Republican presidential nomination.
“I’m not making predictions about what’s going to happen in every other state, but I’m feeling pretty darn good at this point,” said Mr Romney, who scored highly among mainstream Republicans. Pundits had said that a loss for him in Michigan may have put a stake through his White House bid. It can’t have hurt that he outspent his closest rival John McCain three to one on television advertising.
Outrage as US accuses Britain of inexperience in Taleban conflict
Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, risked an unprecedented rift with Britain and other close allies after accusing Nato countries fighting in southern Afghanistan of lacking experience in counter-insurgency warfare.
Mr Gates said failings in the south were contributing to the rising violence in the fight against the Taleban.
His outspoken criticism, voiced in an interview with an American newspaper, provoked instant reactions from Britain, Canada and the Netherlands, the three most prominent members of the alliance, who have endured much of the fiercest fighting in southern Afghanistan.
Democrats go deep to court Latino vote
They’re reaching into the communities in key Western states and avoiding old-style ethnic politicking.
LAS VEGAS — Hillary Rodham Clinton was sympathetic as, one after another, members of the audience discussed their unhappy dealings with shady home lenders.
“This is a problem we’re going to talk a lot about in this campaign,” the Democratic hopeful promised, suggesting that presidential candidates too often isolate issues like the sub-prime mortgage meltdown from the bigger economic picture.
“All of our problems are interconnected, but we treat them as though one is guacamole and one is chips,” the New York senator said, drawing laughter and applause from the mostly Latino crowd gathered at the Lindo Michoacan restaurant off the Las Vegas Strip.
Dry, polluted, plagued by rats: the crisis in China’s greatest river
The waters of the Yangtze have fallen to their lowest levels since 1866, disrupting drinking supplies, stranding ships and posing a threat to some of the world’s most endangered species.
Asia’s longest river is losing volume as a result of a prolonged dry spell, the state media warned yesterday, predicting hefty economic losses and a possible plague of rats on nearby farmland.
News of the drought – which is likely to worsen pollution in the river – comes amid dire reports about the impact of rapid economic growth on China’s environment.
The government also revealed yesterday that the country’s most prosperous province, Guangdong, has just had its worst year of smog since the Communist party took power in 1949, while 56,000 square miles of coastline waters failed to meet environmental standards.
Battle to save the last of Nepal’s Dura speakers
By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent
Published: 17 January 2008
Soma Devi Dura is blind, partly deaf and in failing health. At the age of 82 she is also the last direct link to one of the hundreds of Asia’s indigenous languages threatened by extinction.
Mrs Dura is believed to be the last remaining speaker of Dura, the language once spoken by the Nepalese ethnic group from which both she and the language she alone can speak take their names. The only other known speaker of Dura died last August.
Scrambling to complete a dictionary of the language and a compile a record of Dura culture, researchers are seeking to obtain medical treatment for Mrs Dura both to help her and to give them more time to finish their work. With her agreement they intend to bring Mrs Dura to Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, from her home in the west.
Riot police move in as Kenya unrest grows
· At least one person shot dead in Odinga stronghold
· Opposition says peaceful protests will continue
Xan Rice in Kisumu
Thursday January 17, 2008
Kenya’s simmering political stand-off erupted into street violence yesterday as police used teargas and live rounds to snuff out opposition plans to stage three days of protests against the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki.
At least one person was killed in Kisumu, the main opposition stronghold in north-west Kenya, and half a dozen were wounded in confrontations across the country. Riot police locked down low-income estates in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa, preventing thousands from marching to rallies in the city centres.
Battle of the blogs in Kenya
Kenyan’s political crisis sparked by the disputed presidential election continues to dominate debate on the country’s blogs and online forums.
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga says he was robbed of victory in December by Mwai Kibaki, who was declared the winner.
Some bloggers and online forums try to regulate their content, but others appear to have shunned moderation.
Mashada.com, a prominent online forum frequented by Kenyans in the diaspora, has introduced rules to govern and guide discussion by members.
“This forum exists to facilitate civil discussions and debates. Condescending, rude, and annoying remarks and insults are awarded with temporary and permanent bans,” the forum’s administration says. Forum members are expected to abide by 10 rules, among them a rule that states: “Personal aggression, condescension, rudeness, racism, bigotry, are banable offences.”
British Council chief detained as Russia steps up diplomatic dispute
By Anne Penketh, Diplomatic Editor
Published: 17 January 2008
The head of the British Council’s office in St Petersburg was detained on drink-driving charges in the latest escalation of the UK-Russia diplomatic dispute which yesterday saw the KGB successor agency enter the fray.
Stephen Kinnock – the son of Lord Kinnock, the former leader of the Labour Party and chairman of the British Council – was stopped by traffic police in the Russian city at 11.30pm on Tuesday after being followed and accused of driving the wrong way up a one-way street. According to the Russian news agency Interfax, police detected a “heavy smell of alcohol” on his breath. He was held for an hour before being released.
It is not known if the allegations against Mr Kinnock are founded as he declined to take a breathalyser test in line with international convention. The timing of the arrest appeared suspicious as it coincided with heightened tensions following the British decision on Monday to defy orders to close two British Council offices in Russia which were accused of operating illegally.
Russia warns Kosovo on independence
UNITED NATIONS – Russia warned Kosovo’s leaders Wednesday that if they declare independence the territory will never become a member of the United Nations or other international political institutions.
The United States and Britain countered by reaffirming their support for Kosovo’s drive for independence from Serbia, a close ally of Russia.
The council was supposed to discuss a report on the U.N. Mission in Kosovo, but instead the two sides replayed their debate last month on independence vs. autonomy for the Serb province, and neither side budged.
Bad Reviews for Bush in the Mideast
The disparaging of President Bush’s eight-day tour of the Middle East by America’s staunchest opponents in the region was hardly unexpected. Iran’s foreign minister claimed it was designed to give Israel a green light “to perpetrate new crimes” against Palestinians. Lebanon’s most senior Shi’ite cleric accused Bush of “war crimes.” A prominent jihadist web site called the President “this criminal, butcher and murderer of our blood.”
But Bush was also harshly criticized – albeit in more circumspect language – in countries with close ties to Washington, including some from the very countries that rolled out the red carpet for the visiting President. Commenting on the two main purposes of the tour, even the most liberal Arab press questioned the sincerity of Bush’s efforts to establish a Palestinian state and criticized his campaign to pressure Iran over its nuclear program.
Egypt’s Problem and Its Challenge: Bread Corrupts
CAIRO – “Get out! Get back! Get back! I am not selling to you!”
Ibrahim Ali Muhammad, a bread seller, is shouting at his customers. His teeth are brown and misshapen from decay, and he says the stress of his 20 years on the job has given him diabetes. He is standing behind bars, jail-like bars, shouting into a crowd that is pushing, punching, thrusting money at him.
“I already sold to you,” he screams, again, this time distracted by a young man in a blue windbreaker who swiveled on his heels and punched the man behind him.
New Mexican interior minister named
Calderon picks his chief of staff for the top Cabinet post, a traditional springboard to the presidency.
MEXICO CITY — At 36, Spanish-born Juan Camilo Mouriño was already the quiet power behind the throne in Mexico. He controlled the calendar of President Felipe Calderon and appointed the top deputies of each member of Calderon’s Cabinet.
On Wednesday, the green-eyed man known by the nickname “Ivan” officially became the second most powerful man in Mexico. Calderon named him interior secretary, the top Cabinet post and a traditional springboard to the presidency.
Mouriño was born in Madrid, the scion of a wealthy Spanish family that moved to Mexico when he was 7. He remained a Spanish citizen until age 18.
His rise to power, achieved in little more than a decade in politics, is an unlikely story in a country where Spaniards are still linked with empire and conquest.
Mouriño has the youthful good looks and European features most commonly associated here with TV actors. But before Wednesday, few Mexicans had heard his voice. Even among Mexico’s political class, he’s an unknown quantity.