I’ve been asked again and again for my response to the now infamous McCain celebrity ad. I actually have three responses. It is a complete waste of the money John McCain’s contributors have donated to his campaign. It is a complete waste of the country’s time and attention at the very moment when millions of people are losing their homes and their jobs. And it is a completely frivolous way to choose the next President of the United States.
Grenade attack kills 16 policemen on Chinese border
Tania Branigan in Beijing
Monday August 4 2008
Attackers have killed 16 policemen and injured 16 more in a suspected terrorist raid in north-west China’s restive region of Xinjiang this morning, the state media have reported.
Two assailants used a dump truck to target a paramilitary police border post near Kashgar, running down and then knifing a team of policemen on their morning drills before exploding grenades, the state news agency Xinhua said.
The area is already under tight security in the run-up to the Olympics, which begin in just four days. The authorities have repeatedly accused Uighur Muslim separatists seeking an independent “East Turkestan” of plotting violent attacks and recently claimed to have arrested 82 people in Xinjiang this year in connection with terrorism.
Iraqis no longer ask, ‘Are you Sunni or Shiite?’
By Nancy A. Youssef | McClatchy Newspapers
BAGHDAD – For years, when she approached Iraqi Army checkpoints and produced an identification card for soldiers to study for clues about her sect, Nadia Hashim used a simple formula to signal the mostly Shiite Muslim force that she, too, is a Shiite.
“I am one of you,” she’d say.
The soldiers would harass Sunnis, but they’d simply wave Hashim through.
Now her pat line gets her an official reproach.
Housing Lenders Fear Bigger Wave of Loan Defaults
By VIKAS BAJAJ
Published: August 4, 2008
The first wave of Americans to default on their home mortgages appears to be cresting, but a second, far larger one is quickly building.Homeowners with good credit are falling behind on their payments in growing numbers, even as the problems with mortgages made to people with weak, or subprime, credit are showing their first, tentative signs of leveling off after two years of spiraling defaults.
McCain opts out of hard truths
GOP ‘straight talk’ candidate changes ways with latest campaign ad
By Elizabeth Kolbert
The New Yorker
Late last month, Senator John McCain went up with a new television ad, titled “Pump.” The ad begins no place in particular with a gasoline pump, circa 1965. “Gas prices-four dollars, five dollars,” a female narrator intones, as the numbers on the pump’s front panel spin. “No end in sight, because some in Washington are still saying no to drilling in America, no to independence from foreign oil.
“Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump?” the narrator asks. She leaves the question hanging, while a recording from a recent political rally grows louder and louder. “Obama! Obama!” the crowd screams.
Israel’s secret police pressuring sick Gazans to spy for them, says report
· Treatment only offered to would-be informants
· Patients allowed to cross the border drops sharply
Toni O’Loughlin in Gaza
Monday August 4 2008
Israel’s secret police are pressuring Palestinians in Gaza to spy on their community in exchange for urgent medical treatment, according to a report released today by an Israeli human rights organisation.
Physicians for Human Rights says the Shin Bet began interrogating Palestinian patients seeking permission to travel from Gaza to Israel for crucial medical help after Israel blockaded and then declared the tiny territory an enemy entity more than a year ago.
Robert Fisk: Syrian leader gets top billing in Middle East by doing nothing
Monday, 4 August 2008
President Bashar al-Assad is once more one of the “triple pillars” of the Middle East. We may not like that. George Bush may curse the day his invasion of Iraq helped to shore up the power of the Caliph of Damascus. But Mr Assad’s latest trip to Tehran – just three weeks after he helped to toast the overthrow of the King of France beside President Nicolas Sarkozy – seals his place in history. Without a shot being fired, Mr Assad has ensured anyone who wants anything in the Middle East has got to talk to Syria. He’s done nothing – and he’s won.
The Europeans like to think – or, at least, M. Sarkozy likes to think – Mr Assad was in Tehran to persuade President Ahmadinejad not to go nuclear. Even Sana, the official Syrian news agency, was almost frank about it.
Children trampled as 145 die in Hindu temple stampede
By Andrew Buncombe in Delhi
Monday, 4 August 2008
A religious pilgrimage turned into a disaster when at least 145 people – most of them women and children – were killed as a crowd of thousands stampeded at a Hindu shrine in northern India.
Police said that a crowd of up to 10,000 pilgrims may have panicked yesterday morning after heavy rains caused loose stones to tumble down a hillside as they made their way up a narrow two-and-a-half mile path to a hill-top temple in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh.
K2 avalanche death toll climbs to 11
From The Times
August 4, 2008
Zahid Hussain in Islamabad and Jeremy Page
Pakistani rescuers have saved one climber and tried to help another stranded on K2, the world’s second-highest peak, as the death toll from an ice avalanche rose to 11.
“At least 11 climbers have died. This is one of the worst incidents in the history of K2 climbing,” Sultan Alam, a Pakistani mountaineering guide said from the peak’s base camp at an altitude of 5,200 metres.
Last struggle is over for Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
From The Times
August 4, 2008
Tony Halpin in Moscow
He was the conscience of a nation whose writings exposed the horrors of the Communist Gulag and galvanised Russian opposition to the tyranny of the Soviet Union.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s long struggle for his beloved Russia ended last night at his home in Moscow, 14 years after he had returned in triumph from exile imposed by the Soviet regime that he had helped to bring down. His son Stepan said that the Nobel laureate had suffered heart failure, aged 89.
The former dissident had been in failing health for some years. He lived long enough to be fêted by a Kremlin that had once condemned him to slave labour
For the good of Europe give Serbia a chance>
By Bozidar Djelic
T he arrest and extradition of Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader, shows that the new Serbian government is serious about meeting its international obligations. This event was hailed by many European leaders as a watershed for relations between Serbia and the European Union. It has been often said that deeds, not words, are expected from Serbia. The same can now be said of our European partners.
As recent death threats to Serbia’s democratic leaders and violent ultranationalist demonstrations in Belgrade show, great challenges lie ahead. If the ruling coalition, led by President Boris Tadic, is to press on with its ambitious reform agenda, the EU must understand that Serbians expect from it swift and fair actions, but not privileges. The EU helped a few weeks ago by signing with us the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and providing a tough but fair roadmap for visa liberalisation. This new policy of disciplined partnership between the EU and Serbia yields much better results than the old one, based on conditionality and sanctions.
Supporters rally for ANC leader
Thousands of people have rallied in support of the leader of South Africa’s governing ANC as he appeared at a court hearing on corruption charges.
Jacob Zuma is trying to have the charges dismissed and remove the last obstacle in his way to becoming South Africa’s next president.
He stands accused of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money-laundering over a controversial arms deal.
Supporters danced and sang during an overnight rally outside the court.
The supporters have promised to bring the city of Pietermaritzburg – where Mr Zuma is appearing at the high court – to a virtual standstill during hearing.
Sudan Runners Focus on Games, Not Darfur
By Stephanie McCrummen
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, August 4, 2008; Page A01
KHARTOUM, Sudan — When they first started training, they ran barefoot in the hot sand, or in borrowed spikes or whatever clunky sneakers they could buy at their local market. With inadequate equipment and facilities, Sudan’s future Olympians raced in khaki shorts and jeans, in 105-degree heat, along dusty highways, in shallow rivers and up staircases.
As they still do, they bench-pressed logs and paint cans filled with cement.
“We lifted boulders,” Abdullah Nyala said, smiling. “Those were our weights.”
In Colombia, a painstaking effort at closure
Twelve exhumation teams work across the country in an effort to recover and, they hope, identify the remains of thousands of victims of Colombia’s long-running civil war.
By Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 4, 2008
SANTA MARTA, COLOMBIA — When Maira Martinez graduated from college in Bogota, she had dreams of being a female Indiana Jones, excavating ancient burial sites and unlocking secrets to Colombia’s rich pre-Hispanic past.
These days, she’s sifting through a much more recent, and grisly, past. The 27-year-old forensic anthropologist is a member of one of 12 exhumation teams working to recover and, they hope, identify the remains of thousands of victims of Colombia’s civil war.
Less glamorous than she had imagined, Martinez’s role is nonetheless important in Colombia’s nascent peace process, in which families are slowly coming forward to seek the truth, and some sort of closure.