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Feds’ closed-door deal could ease development
New Forest Service rules could let largest private owner convert land
By Karl Vick
MISSOULA, Mont. – The Bush administration is preparing to ease the way for the nation’s largest private landowner to convert hundreds of thousands of acres of mountain forestland to residential subdivisions.
The deal was struck behind closed doors between Mark E. Rey, the former timber lobbyist who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, and Plum Creek Timber Co., a former logging company turned real estate investment trust that is building homes. Plum Creek owns more than 8 million acres nationwide, including 1.2 million acres in the mountains of western Montana, where local officials were stunned and outraged at the deal.
Accounting Plan Would Allow Use of Foreign Rules
By STEPHEN LABATON
Published: July 5, 2008
WASHINGTON – Federal officials say they are preparing to propose a series of regulatory changes to enhance American competitiveness overseas, attract foreign investment and give American investors a broader selection of foreign stocks.
But critics say the changes appear to be a last-ditch push by appointees of President Bush to dilute securities rules passed after the collapse of Enron and other large companies – measures that were meant to forestall accounting gimmicks and corrupt practices that led to those corporate failures.
Secretive Agency Under the Spotlight
Chief Tries to Repair CIA as Scrutiny Grows
By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 5, 2008; Page A01
Soon after accepting the post of CIA director two years ago, Michael V. Hayden set an unusual goal for his scandal-beset agency: virtual invisibility.
“CIA needs to get out of the news as source or subject,” he said in an internal memo to his staff in 2006.
Two years later, that goal is far from met, as Hayden has tacitly acknowledged. In a retirement ceremony last month marking the end of his military career, the Air Force general stressed the need for the agency to “stay in the shadows” while ignoring what he called the “sometimes shrill and uninformed voices of criticism.”
Bitter lessons learned from refinancing
When their need for cash met the hard sell, many homeowners bit. Now they can’t afford to pay the mortgage.
By Maura Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
July 5, 2008
WASHINGTON — Vicki Miller bought her childhood home in Altoona, Pa., from her mother’s estate for $32,000, using a nice, traditional mortgage from the local savings and loan.
Seven years later, her debt has more than doubled, her once-significant equity has shrunk to zero and she’s behind on her payments. The lender has begun to threaten foreclosure.
“I grew up here. My son grew up here. And I had hoped my grandchildren would grow up here,” Miller said woefully.
Miller said she was persuaded to refinance her mortgage twice into sub-prime loans she didn’t really understand, along with taking out a second mortgage. As such, she reflects what experts say is the true face of the sub-prime mortgage debacle.
G8 summit: Breathtaking venue with no protesters to spoil the view
Huge Japanese security operation to keep anti-globalisation activists far from leaders
Justin McCurry in Lake Toya
Saturday July 5, 2008
It has been more than a year since Japan’s then prime minister, Shinzo Abe, stood outside the Windsor Hotel – one of several candidate venues for this year’s G8 summit – gazed at the ring doughnut-shaped lake below and, as one government official confided, “immediately fell in love”.
Abe has gone, but Japan will be paying the price for his dewy-eyed dalliance with the pristine waters of Lake Toya in Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido for some time.
Just as citizens of the developed world feel the pinch from the credit crunch and rising food and oil prices, their leaders are about to take centre stage in the G8’s biggest ever summit. When the three-day meeting, centred on a communique whose wording has already been largely agreed, ends next Wednesday,
China’s [lost] Children: Return to Sichuan
On 12 May, a devastating earthquake hit the Chinese province of Sichuan, leaving 90,000 people dead or missing. But the unique aspect of this tragedy was the extraordinary number of school children who lost their lives. Here, bereaved parents tell Clifford Coonan why they believe that negligence and corruption are to blame for the deaths of their loved ones
Saturday, 5 July 2008
Wang Kanghua ran down the street to Juyuan Middle School as soon as her house stopped shaking from the earthquake, and dug with her fingers to find her daughter, Zhou Yating.
“This is my little girl, and this is her ID card, and here you can see her wearing Tibetan costume when she went on holiday there,” she says, carefully arranging the photos on her lap. “She liked to paint, she was pretty good at it. Also Chinese embroidery. And she was great at English, she liked to watch the English-language lectures on TV. She’s so beautiful. My daughter is just like a flower.”
Strike and we’ll strike you back, warns Tehran
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, Anne Penketh and Kim Sengupta
Saturday, 5 July 2008
Iran has handed over its long-awaited response to the West’s offer of incentives to halt its suspected nuclear weapons programme, after a warning by one of its top military leaders that any strike against it would trigger war.
Details were not immediately disclosed of what Iran called a “constructive and creative” response to an offer by the US, Britain, Russia, China, Germany and France of a deal under which Iran would halt uranium enrichment in return for an agreement to ease sanctions and allow Tehran to continue developing civil nuclear power.
Before the response, however, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Mohammed Jafari, was quoted by the Iranian state news agency as saying: “Iran’s response to any military action will make the invaders regret their decision and action.”
Gaza ceasefire breaking down as violations by Hamas and Israel continue
From The Times
July 5, 2008
Sheera Frenkel in Jerusalem
The ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip was on its last legs yesterday, according to Egyptian officials who spent months mediating the complex accord.
Hamas said that it was suspending negotiations with Israel over a prisoner swap deal, citing Israeli violations of a declared truce in Gaza. “There is no way for those talks to begin before the obligations of calm are implemented ,” Sami Abu Zuhri, the Hamas spokesman, said.
Despite Egyptian requests that Hamas envoys return to Cairo to continue indirect talks with Israel, he added, the faction had no plans to send a delegation.
Robert Mugabe uses food as weapon as famine looms
From The Times
July 5, 2008
Jan Raath in Bulawayo
Zimbabwe is on the brink of an unprecedented famine after its worst harvest since independence in 1980. The plight of Zimbabweans is compounded by the deliberate starvation of most of the population because of their support for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
A crop assessment by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says that the country that once fed scores of famine-stricken African nations will harvest only 575,000 tonnes of maize, the national staple, from last summer’s crop – only 28 per cent of the grain needed to feed the country’s estimated 11.8 million people.
Already 29 per cent of the population are “chronically malnourished,” according to the Health Ministry and the UN. A similar percentage of children suffer stunting.
‘I was being loyal to a government that was not loyal to its people’
Saturday July 5, 2008
The clandestine operation to record the truth about Zimbabwe’s prison service began 10 months ago. Two weeks ago undercover film specialists were sent to the region to smuggle three secret cameras into Harare. But the Guardian’s search for a prison official brave enough to reveal life behind prison walls was not easy.
Shepherd Yuda had been proud to join the prison service 13 years ago to serve his country. The 23-year-old officer had a good salary and a house in prison grounds. A tall, highly trained weapons instructor, Yuda ranked third in an annual rifle contest, and received an award from President Mugabe.
Italy gypsies find echoes of Nazism in fingerprinting move
From The Times
July 5, 2008
Richard Owen in Verona
“This is like the Shoah, the Holocaust,” says Vanda Colombo as her 11 children splash around in an inflated paddling pool in the searing heat of a Gypsy camp on the outskirts of Verona. “The Nazis exterminated Gypsies as well as Jews, and this kind of discrimination is how it started. If they come here and try to fingerprint our children we will stop them.”
With the help of the Italian Red Cross (CRI), the centre-right Government of Silvio Berlusconi is about to start fingerprinting Roma people – including children – as part of its promised crackdown on crime.
Synod set to debate women bishops
The governing body of the Church of England, the General Synod, is due to discuss the controversial appointment of women bishops.
The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, has urged the Church of England Synod to resolve its dispute over how to ordain women as bishops.
Bishop McCulloch said the Synod must not allow a stalemate to develop.
His comments come amid signs of an alliance among traditionalist priests wanting to answer to male bishops only.
The Rev Prebendary Kay Garlick has called on the Synod to be a model of how Christians can “disagree in love” as it debates plans for women bishops.
Breathing literary life into 1950s Cuba
In ‘Telex From Cuba,” first-time novelist Rachel Kushner depicts the upheaval of Anglo privilege as seen through the eyes of children who lived it.
By Scott Timberg, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
When Americans think of ’50s Cuba, they tend to picture Che Guevara with beard and cap, Fidel Castro ranting in tattered fatigues — and maybe the romantic early days of the members of the Buena Vista Social Club.
But a new novel shows us, instead, United Fruit Co. executives in starched linen suits, daughters who play Chopin preludes on pianos groaning with humidity, a mysterious exotic dancer who comforts dictators, and company wives who wile away their days in a cocktail haze, dreaming of French perfume. The cane cutters and “the help” are viewed mostly obliquely, as if through the shimmer of tropical heat. Just before the revolution, then, we see the crisp world of Anglo privilege it overturned.
These scenes were created, or re-created, by Rachel Kushner, an L.A.-based art writer whose compelling debut novel, “Telex From Cuba,” is out this week with strong early reviews (as well as a coveted blurb from writer’s writer Paula Fox)