Docudharma Times Thursday February 21

This is an Open Thread:

When the New York Times said God is dead

And the war’s begun

Alvin Tostig has a son today

Thursday’s Headlines:McCain’s Ties To Lobbyist Worried Aides: Missile Strikes a Spy Satellite Falling From Its Orbit: Europe: Nato vows to protect north border of newborn Kosovo: What was the Amber Room, and has it really been discovered at last?: Africa: Kenyan athletes accused of organising violence in political tribal clashes: Fighting ‘traps’ Darfur refugees: Asia: South Korea’s next president cleared of fraud: UN envoy to raise Suu Kyi poll ban with Myanmar: Middle East: How Labour used the law to keep criticism of Israel secret:  Anti-US cleric’s cease-fire in doubt: Latin America: Colombia guerrillas to free politicians: Cuba expected to turn over new leaf in farming


U.S. Payments To Pakistan Face New Scrutiny

Little Accounting for Costs To Support Ally’s Troops

Once a month, Pakistan’s Defense Ministry delivers 15 to 20 pages of spreadsheets to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. They list costs for feeding, clothing, billeting and maintaining 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistani troops in the volatile tribal area along the Afghan border, in support of U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

No receipts are attached.

In response, the Defense Department has disbursed about $80 million monthly, or roughly $1 billion a year for the past six years, in one of the most generous U.S. military support programs worldwide. The U.S. aim has been to ensure that Pakistan remains the leading ally in combating extremism in South Asia.

But vague accounting, disputed expenses and suspicions about overbilling have recently made these payments to Pakistan highly controversial — even within the U.S. government.

USA

McCain’s Ties To Lobbyist Worried Aides

Before 2000 Campaign, Advisers Tried to Bar Her

Aides to Sen. John McCain confronted a telecommunications lobbyist in late 1999 and asked her to distance herself from the senator during the presidential campaign he was about to launch, according to one of McCain’s longest-serving political strategists.

John Weaver, who was McCain’s closest confidant until leaving his current campaign last year, said he met with Vicki Iseman at the Center Cafe at Union Station and urged her to stay away from McCain. Association with a lobbyist would undermine his image as an opponent of special interests, aides had concluded.

Members of the senator’s small circle of advisers also confronted McCain directly, according to sources, warning him that his continued ties to a lobbyist who had business before the powerful commerce committee he chaired threatened to derail his presidential ambitions.

Missile Strikes a Spy Satellite Falling From Its Orbit

WASHINGTON – A missile interceptor launched from a Navy warship has struck a dying American spy satellite orbiting 130 miles over the Pacific Ocean, the Pentagon announced late Wednesday.

Officials cautioned that while early information indicated that the interceptor’s “kill vehicle” had hit the satellite, it would be 24 hours before it could be determined whether the fuel tank with 1,000 pounds of toxic hydrazine had been destroyed as planned.

Even so, one official who received a late-night briefing on the mission expressed confidence that the impact had been so powerful that the fuel tank probably had been ruptured.

Completing a mission in which an interceptor designed for missile defense was used for the first time to attack a satellite, the Lake Erie, an Aegis-class cruiser, fired a single missile just before 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, and the missile hit the satellite as it traveled at more than 17,000 miles per hour, the Pentagon said in its official announcement.

Europe

Nato vows to protect north border of newborn Kosovo

By Peter Popham in Pristina

Thursday, 21 February 2008

The commander of the Nato force in Kosovo has moved swiftly to assert its authority on the newborn nation’s northern border.

Lt-Gen Xavier de Marnhac, commander of the Nato-led peacekeeping force, Kfor said the posts destroyed on Tuesday would be rebuilt and re-manned. “I just want everyone to be fully aware of my determination to maintain [and] restore a safe and secure environment in Kosovo,” he insisted.

While 90 per cent of Kosovo’s population is Albanian, the northernmost four districts, including the divided city of Mitrovica, are overwhelmingly Serb.

What was the Amber Room, and has it really been discovered at last?

By Michael Savage

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Why are we asking this now?

Because the hunt for the fabled Amber Room, regarded as one of Russia’s truly great art treasures, could be over. The Amber Room, so-called for its ornate amber panels, was kept in Russia for more than 200 years, before it was looted by the Nazis during the Second World War.

Its treasures and amber panels were spirited away to Germany, but the exact location of it was lost in the chaos that engulfed Germany at the end of the war. The mystery of its resting place has fuelled 50 years of hunting, debating and conspiracy theorising. But despite the large following of hunters, it had seemed that not even Indiana Jones could lay its mystery to rest. Until now.

Africa

Kenyan athletes accused of organising violence in political tribal clashes

Some of Kenya’s best distance runners funded, organised and commanded tribal gangs involved in some of the worst violence in the country last month, according to witnesses in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret.

Two athletes died in clashes when Kalenjin youths used bows, arrows and machetes to drive out members of the Kikuyu tribe believed to be loyal to President Mwai Kibaki.

In a report published today researchers from the International Crisis Group say that wealthy Kenyan athletes have emerged as benefactors of tribal militia, taking over the role from traditional elders.

Fran├žois Grignon, the director of the group’s Africa programme, said: “We are very confident that they are part of the equation. They are a rising elite who see their leadership potential and economic prospects being curtailed by the fact that they are politically marginalised nationally.”

Fighting ‘traps’ Darfur refugees

Thousands of people are trapped in Sudan’s Darfur region, unable to cross into Chad, amid a government offensive, rebels and aid workers say.

Aid agencies say the civilians took refuge in the Jebel Moun mountains following government bombing of three rebel-held towns earlier this month.

The rebels say Sudanese troops are stopping civilians crossing the border.

Sudan’s Foreign Ministry told the Associated Press (AP) news agency it was unaware of any stranded refugees.

Asia

South Korea’s next president cleared of fraud

Stock-rigging scandal plagued but couldn’t derail Lee’s campaign

SEOUL, South Korea – An independent counsel cleared President-elect Lee Myung-bak on Thursday of financial fraud allegations that had clouded his rise to South Korea’s highest office.

The announcement put an end to suspicions that Lee colluded in a 2001 stock price manipulation case, a controversy that plagued Lee throughout last year’s campaign.

“The president-elect was not involved in the stock price manipulation,” special prosecutor Chung Ho-young said in a televised announcement of the outcome of a 38-day investigation.

UN envoy to raise Suu Kyi poll ban with Myanmar



JAKARTA, Feb 21, 2008 (AFP) – The UN envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, said Thursday that he would raise the issue of Aung San Suu Kyi being banned from 2010 elections when he visits the military regime as early as next month.

The ruling junta said this week that democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi would be barred from running in polls slated under a proposed constitution, which has been drafted for approval in a May referendum.

Asked about the ban and whether the election would be pointless without Aung San Suu Kyi’s participation, Gambari told reporters: “These are some of the issues that I intend to discuss with the authorities.

Middle East

How Labour used the law to keep criticism of Israel secret

Concern over nuclear arsenal removed from Iraq dossier

The full extent of government anxiety about the state of British-Israel relations can be exposed for the first time today in a secret document seen by the Guardian.

The document reveals how the Foreign Office successfully fought to keep secret any mention of Israel contained on the first draft of the controversial, now discredited Iraq weapons dossier. At the heart of it was nervousness at the top of government about any mention of Israel’s nuclear arsenal in an official paper accusing Iraq of flouting the UN’s authority on weapons of mass destruction.

The dossier was made public this week, but the Foreign Office succeeded before a tribunal in having the handwritten mention of Israel kept secret.

The FO never argued that the information would damage national security. The Guardian has seen the full text and a witness statement from a senior Foreign Office official, who argued behind closed doors that any public mention of the candid reference would seriously damage UK/Israeli relations. In the statement, he reveals that in the past five years there have been 10 substantial incidents and 20 more minor ones relating to Israeli concerns about attitudes to their government within Whitehall.

Anti-US cleric’s cease-fire in doubt

BAGHDAD – With deadly attacks against U.S. targets increasing around Baghdad, anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr raised the possibility Wednesday that he may not renew a six-month cease-fire widely credited for helping slash violence.

The cease-fire is due to expire Saturday, and there were fears, especially among minority Sunni Arabs, that the re-emergence of al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia could return Iraq to where it was just a year ago – with sectarian death squads prowling the streets of a country on the brink of civil war.

A surge of violence would also make it all the more difficult for Iraq’s Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds to reach agreements on sharing power and wealth, and greatly complicate the debate in the United States on whether and how quickly to withdraw troops.

Latin America

Colombia guerrillas to free politicians

CARACAS, Venezuela – Colombia’s largest guerrilla group is expected to release at least three captive Colombian politicians in the coming days or weeks, France’s foreign minister said Wednesday.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, will likely free political leader Gloria Polanco, former Sen. Luis Eladio Perez, ex-congressman Orlando Beltran and possibly a fourth unnamed politician “within several days or weeks,” Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he was told in a closed-door meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The FARC first announced plans to release the ailing Polanco, Perez and Beltran – who have been held captive for more than six years – in a Jan. 31 communique.

Cuba expected to turn over new leaf in farming

Reforms are also seen as likely in the oil

MIAMI — Without Fidel Castro as president, Cuba is more likely to launch reforms to boost food production, create oil industry jobs and put more pesos in citizens’ pockets, analysts said Wednesday.

Some changes, probably starting with efforts to help farmers, are likely to occur during the next year, some analysts said.

Raul Castro, the president’s 76-year-old brother and potential successor, and other Cuban leaders for months have indicated that farmers may receive legal rights to their land and guaranteed market prices for their produce.

Those changes and other economic improvements could happen more quickly following Fidel Castro’s announcement Tuesday that he would step down as head of state after nearly half a century running the island nation, analysts said.

“I don’t know that Cubans would be expecting something in the next two weeks. But I do think Raul has raised expectations to a degree that they’re expecting something in the course of this year,” said Phil Peters, Cuba analyst for the Lexington Institute think tank near Washington.industry and monetary system in the post-Castro era.

3 comments

    • on February 21, 2008 at 14:04
  1. It’s good to have an overview of what’s going on in the world.

  2. Thanks,

    I think it`s great that I can get a news round-up without having to go to a meme-stream-media-scheme-flat-screen.

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