Docudharma Times Thursday December 4

Bush Looks For A Legacy

Looks Under A Rock And In A Cave Finds Nothing  

Thursday’s Headlines:

Insurers propose universal, centralized healthcare

Neo-cons still preparing for Iran attack

Iraqi guards open fire as migrants riot about deportation

Pakistan snubs India over terrorist ‘suspects’

Bombs found at station that was given all-clear

Zimbabwe moves to tackle cash shortage as soldiers riot

Zimbabwe makes desperate plea for international help over cholera epidemic

Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg opposes euthanasia and loses power

OSCE Meets to Discuss Caucasus Crisis and the Region’s Future

Schools become latest targets in violence-plagued Ciudad Juarez

Treasury Weighs Action on Mortgage Rates

Intervention Would Aim to Buoy the Housing Market by Forcing Down the Cost of Loans

By David Cho, Zachary A. Goldfarb and Dina ElBoghdady

Washington Post Staff Writers

Thursday, December 4, 2008; Page A01

The Treasury Department is strongly considering a plan to intervene directly in the mortgage industry to dramatically force down rates and stimulate the moribund housing market, according to sources familiar with the proposal.

Under the initiative, the Treasury would offer to buy securities that finance newly issued loans for home purchases, according to the sources. But to participate in the government’s program, mortgage lenders would have to set exceptionally low interest rates, for instance, no more than 4.5 percent for traditional, 30-year fixed-rate loans.

A toxic legacy

One of the first problems Barack Obama will have to address when he takes office is Guantánamo. What fate awaits its inmates – and how disastrous are the long-term effects of its very existence, asks Julian Borger

The Guardian, Thursday December 4 2008

Ever since January 11 2002, when the first 20 prisoners were flown in from Afghanistan in orange jumpsuits and shackles, the Guantánamo Bay detention camp has been a hefty burden around the Bush administration’s neck.

The defence secretary at the time, Donald Rumsfeld, picked the Cuban enclave as the “least worst place” to hold captives accused of terrorism. But the effort to run a camp outside the reach of US or international law, so that “enemy combatants” could be held indefinitely without charge, steadily corroded America’s standing in the world. The images of the inmates languishing in small metal cages in Camp X-Ray, the rudimentary first phase of the complex, and the steady stream of reports of human rights abuses, have taken a daily toll. The camp’s existence has angered and embarrassed Washington’s closest allies, and become a recruitment tool for its enemies.



U.A.W. Makes Concessions in Bid to Help Automakers


Published: December 3, 2008

WASHINGTON – The United Automobile Workers union said Wednesday that it would make major concessions in its contracts with the three Detroit auto companies to help them lobby Congress for $34 billion in federal aid.

The surprising move by the U.A.W. could be a critical factor in the automakers’ bid not only to get government assistance, but also to become competitive with the cost structure of nonunion plants operated by foreign automakers in the United States.

At a news conference in Detroit, the U.A.W.’s president, Ron Gettelfinger, said that his members were willing to sacrifice job security provisions and financing for retiree health care to keep the two most troubled car companies of the Big Three, General Motors and Chrysler, out of bankruptcy.


Insurers propose universal, centralized healthcare

Several consumer groups criticize the early bid by America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group that fought an overhaul in the 1990s, to take an active role in Obama’s effort to revamp the system.

By Noam N. Levey

December 4, 2008

Reporting from Washington — Sharpening the emerging debate over how to reshape the country’s healthcare system, the major group representing insurers unveiled a proposal Wednesday for covering all Americans in a more centralized insurance market.

The plan offered by America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group representing companies that together insure more than 200 million people, comes a decade and half after the industry helped kill the last major healthcare reform campaign — pushed early in the Clinton administration.And Wednesday’s proposal for a form of universal insurance coverage reflects the intensifying interest among groups like insurers, businesses and healthcare providers in having an active role in shaping the reform effort.

Middle East

Neo-cons still preparing for Iran attack

By Robert Dreyfuss

What, exactly, does president-elect Barack Obama’s mild-mannered choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services, former senator Tom Daschle, have to do with neo-conservatives who want to bomb Iran?

A familiar coalition of hawks, hardliners and neo-cons expects Obama’s proposed talks with Iran to fail – and they’re already proposing an escalating set of measures instead. Some are meant to occur alongside any future talks. These include steps to enhance coordination with Israel, tougher sanctions against Iran, and a region-wide military buildup of US strike forces, including the prepositioning of military supplies within striking distance of that country.

Once the future negotiations break down, as they are convinced

will happen, they propose that Washington quickly escalate to war-like measures, including a US Navy-enforced embargo on Iranian fuel imports and a blockade of that country’s oil exports. Finally, of course, comes the strategic military attack against the Islamic Republic of Iran that so many of them have wanted for so long.

Iraqi guards open fire as migrants riot about deportation

From The Times

December 4, 2008

Deborah Haynes in Baghdad

Migrant workers who paid thousands of dollars to get to Iraq, where they hoped to find jobs as contractors, rioted yesterday because they feared they were about to be deported.

About 450 men were due to be flown out of Iraq last night after spending up to three months inside a warehouse compound near Baghdad airport. Another 500 from Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka will be forced to leave the country in the coming days after the Kuwaiti company that hired them failed to secure enough contract work at dining facilities inside US bases in Iraq.


Pakistan snubs India over terrorist ‘suspects’

• Zardari’s comments pile pressure on Delhi to act

• US tries to ease tension between nuclear powers

Vikram Dodd in New Delhi

The Guardian, Thursday December 4 2008

Pakistan’s president yesterday rebuffed India’s key demand that he hand over 20 alleged terrorists, as the US intensified its efforts to ease tensions between the two nuclear powers in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Speaking from Delhi, the visiting US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, told Pakistan it had a “special responsibility” to help India’s investigation into the terrorist attacks. Washington also sent its most senior military official to Islamabad to hammer home the same message.

Western powers, led by the US, are trying to stop tensions between the two countries spilling over after last week’s attacks in Mumbai, which killed more than 170 people. India and Pakistan have fought three wars and had numerous skirmishes in the past 60 years

Bombs found at station that was given all-clear

Discovery highlighted as another security failure

By Andrew Buncombe

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Police discovered two left-over explosive devices in Mumbai’s main railway station a week after the terror attacks that killed at least 188 people.

In an announcement that came with equal measures of farce and horror, the authorities said the bomb squad had defused two 8lb (3.6kg) devices at the Chhatrapati Shivaji station that had been left there by the militants who terrorised the city last week.

The station was declared safe and opened the day after the attacks. There was no explanation as to why the devices were discovered a full week later.


Zimbabwe moves to tackle cash shortage as soldiers riot

• Government raises money withdrawal limit

• UN confirms 565 deaths in cholera outbreak

Chris McGreal in Harare

The Guardian, Thursday December 4 2008

The Zimbabwe government has greatly increased the amount of money people can withdraw from banks from today in an attempt to quell unrest, including riots and looting by soldiers this week, over a cash shortage caused by hyperinflation.

The central bank has raised the withdrawal limit from the equivalent of 18p a day to about £33 a week following protests in which scores of troops angry at waiting in long bank queues targeted shops in th capital, Harare, that will only accept payment in US dollars and black market money changers dealing on the streets.

The anger among soldiers and other Zimbabweans is in part because of the difficulty of using the national currency to buy anything but a few locally produced vegetables and bread after the US dollar was made legal tender.

Zimbabwe makes desperate plea for international help over cholera epidemic>


From Times Online

December 4, 2008

Times Online

Zimbabwe is appealing for international aid after declaring its cholera epidemic a national emergency, the state-run Herald newspaper said today.

“The government yesterday (Wednesday) declared the cholera outbreak … and the malfunctioning of central hospitals as national emergencies and appealed to the donor community for assistance to alleviate the situation,” it said.

“The emergency appeal will help us reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with the current socio-economic environment,” David Parirenyatwa, the Health Minister, told a meeting of aid groups.


Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg opposes euthanasia and loses power

From The Times

December 4, 2008

David Charter, Europe Correspondent

Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg is to be stripped of his executive power to veto laws passed by parliament after threatening to block a Bill to allow euthanasia in the tiny state.

The hereditary sovereign, 53, who is the last Grand Duke in the world, caused a constitutional crisis when he gave notice that he objected to Luxembourg following its neighbours Belgium and the Netherlands in permitting euthanasia before a second-reading vote in the Chamber of Deputies next week.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister, also opposed the Bill but decided that the Grand Duke had overstepped the mark in threatening to deny the will of parliament.

OSCE Meets to Discuss Caucasus Crisis and the Region’s Future

Foreign ministers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are spending two days in Finland. Their mission — to find out what went wrong in this summer’s brief war between Russia and Georgia.


Germany’s Frank Walter Steinmeier is among the 50 foreign ministers who have arrived in Helsinki for what could be an awkward meeting.

The military conflict between Russia and Georgia this summer over the breakaway Caucasus regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was just the sort of confrontation the OSCE was designed to prevent.

Ministers will be discussing how to improve future cooperation in the Caucasus, although Russia, which has recognized the provinces’ independence, and the West, which considers them part of Georgia, completely disagree on the issue.

On Wednesday, December 3, after meeting in Brussels, NATO foreign ministers agreed to use the OSCE as a forum for restarting a direct dialogue between the alliance and Moscow.

Latin America

Schools become latest targets in violence-plagued Ciudad Juarez

Anonymous threats warn of unspecified harm if teachers don’t hand over their year-end bonuses.

By Ken Ellingwood

December 4, 2008

Reporting from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico — Outside the gaily painted gates of the Elena Garro Federal Kindergarten, the grown-ups are afraid.

If daily drug-related killings haven’t sown enough alarm in this gritty border city, parents now confront written messages left near several schools warning of unspecified harm unless teachers hand over their annual year-end bonuses.

The threats, printed on posters hung near schools last month, have spread panic among teachers and parents throughout a city rattled by a violent turf war between drug gangs that has killed more than 1,300 people here this year.

Some parents are keeping their children at home, at least through this month, when Mexican teachers receive a yearly bonus of as much as three months’ salary. Other parents have sent youngsters back to class, but with trepidation.


    • on December 4, 2008 at 1:58 pm
    • Robyn on December 4, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    …hanging out with WsMD.

  1. if this weren’t so sad, it might be funny. Insurance for insurance?!!

    Just when you thought the nation’s health insurance system couldn’t get any more byzantine: Now you can buy insurance to protect yourself from losing your health insurance.

    That’s the basic idea behind UnitedHealth Continuity, a new product rolled out this week by insurance giant UnitedHealthcare. It’s only for people who currently have coverage through their employers, but who fear they might lose it or may want to retire early and will need coverage to tide them over until they become eligible for Medicare…

    But Robert Laszewski, a health insurance industry consultant, says he can’t imagine the market for the new product will be very large.

    “It would have to be someone who wears a belt and suspenders at the same time,” he says. “Someone who has a job and health insurance, and is afraid they’re going to get laid off and COBRA won’t be enough.”

    The people who dream up this stuff must mainline fear!!!  

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