Docudharma Times Friday January 23

Spending The Public’s Money

The Old Fashioned Way On A Toilet  

Friday’s Headlines:

They came for the inauguration but got stuck in a tunnel

Israel may swap prisoners for soldier

Fatah fears Gaza conflict has put Hamas in the ascendancy

Congo and Rwanda forces arrest rebel leader Laurent Nkunda

Millions of caterpillars devour Liberia crops

Lebedev to invest ‘tens of millions’ after snapping up Standard for £1

Closing Guantánamo: Will Europeans take detainees?

Sri Lanka editor stabbed in latest attack on media

Thailand accused of mistreating Muslim refugees

Bolivians set to vote on new constitution

Freed by U.S., Saudi Becomes a Qaeda Chief


Published: January 22, 2009

BEIRUT, Lebanon – The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.

The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

His status was announced in an Internet statement by the militant group and was confirmed by an American counterterrorism official.

No Home to Return to in Gaza

15,000 Still Living In Crowded Shelters

By Griff Witte

Washington Post Foreign Service

Friday, January 23, 2009; Page A12

GAZA CITY, Jan. 22 — When members of the Sultan family ran from their home as an Israeli tank shelled its northern wall, there was no time to shut the front door. There was also no need.

The house, which family patriarch Samir al-Sultan began building at the age of 15, was all but destroyed as Israeli forces advanced into the Gaza Strip in early January, turning the house’s contents into a mangled mess of glass and mortar.

With no home to return to and no prospects for rebuilding, the Sultans on Thursday were among the thousands of Palestinians in Gaza searching for somewhere to go.



Stimulus Plan Meets More GOP Resistance

Obama to Reiterate Appeal for Bipartisanship

By Paul Kane

Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, January 23, 2009; Page A01

Just days after taking office vowing to end the political era of “petty grievances,” President Obama ran into mounting GOP opposition yesterday to an economic stimulus plan that he had hoped would receive broad bipartisan support.

Republicans accused Democrats of abandoning the new president’s pledge, ignoring his call for bipartisan comity and shutting them out of the process by writing the $850 billion legislation. The first drafts of the plan would result in more spending on favored Democratic agenda items, such as federal funding of the arts, they said, but would do little to stimulate the ailing economy.

They came for the inauguration but got stuck in a tunnel

Many holders of purple tickets spent hours in a tunnel under the National Mall instead of witnessing Obama’s swearing-in. Officials are investigating what went wrong.

By Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

7:48 PM PST, January 22, 2009

Reporting from Washington — You wouldn’t think a presidential inauguration would require a survivors group. But shortly after thousands of ticket holders were trapped in an underground tunnel beneath the National Mall on Tuesday, a new Facebook group was born: Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom. Membership as of Thursday evening: 3,950.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), head of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which was responsible for the event, has apologized to the distressed visitors — whose color-coded tickets were purple — and called for an investigation by the law enforcement agencies that planned the event, which include the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Capitol Police.

“Sen. Feinstein was very displeased,” said committee spokeswoman Carole Florman. “Word has gone out to get some answers.”

Middle East

Israel may swap prisoners for soldier

• Olmert deal could involve hundreds of Palestinians

• Release of captive held for two years seen as priority

Peter Beaumont in Ramallah

The Guardian, Friday 23 January 2009

Israel might be prepared to swap hundreds of jailed Palestinians for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has been held in captivity in the Gaza Strip for more than two years, senior Israeli officials indicated yesterday.

Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, said yesterday that the Israel Defence Forces’ operation in the Gaza Strip had created “renewed momentum” to strike a deal with Hamas for Shalit’s return.

Hamas officials in Gaza and the West Bank insisted, for their part, that Shalit, who was captured in a cross-border raid, “would not see the light of day” unless Israel agreed to the release of up to 1,400 Palestinian prisoners.

Shalit has become a cause célèbre in Israel. Little information is known about his condition and there have been unconfirmed reports that he had been injured at the beginning of Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Fatah fears Gaza conflict has put Hamas in the ascendancy

Palestinian party created by Yasser Arafat suffers sharp decline in support

By Patrick Cockburn in Nablus

Friday, 23 January 2009

The Islamic movement Hamas is taking over from Fatah, the party created by Yasser Arafat, as the main Palestinian national organisation as a result of the war in Gaza, says a leading Fatah militant. “We have moved into the era of Hamas which is now much stronger than it was,” said Husam Kadr, a veteran Fatah leader in the West Bank city of Nablus, recently released after five-and-a-half years in Israeli prisons.

“Its era started when Israel attacked Gaza on 27 December.”

The sharp decline in support for Fatah and the discrediting of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, because of his inertia during the 22-day Gaza war, will make it very difficult for the US and the EU to pretend that Fatah are the true representatives of the Palestinian community. The international community is likely to find it impossible to marginalise Hamas in reconstructing Gaza.


Congo and Rwanda forces arrest rebel leader Laurent Nkunda

General whose rebel offensive in Congo led to humanitarian crisis last October held after crossing border into Rwanda

Matthew Weaver and agencies, Friday 23 January 2009 08.05 GMT

The renegade Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda, who led a rebel offensive in eastern Congo that caused a humanitarian crisis last October, has been arrested in a joint operation by Rwandan and Congolese troops, it was announced today.

Troops converged yesterday on Nkunda’s base in the town of Bunagana, in North Kivu province. Nkunda then fled south, crossing the border into Rwanda, where he was captured.

“Ex-general Laurent Nkunda was arrested on Thursday, 22 January at 2230 hours while he was fleeing on Rwandan territory after he had resisted our troops at Bunagana with three battalions,” Congolese and Rwandan military commanders said in a statement.

They said rebels were being urged to disarm, but did not say why Nkunda had been arrested

Millions of caterpillars devour Liberia crops

‘Black, creeping and hairy’ insects also clog wells, waterways with feces

Associated Press

ROME – Tens of millions of voracious caterpillars are destroying crops and prompting terrified villagers to flee their homes in northern Liberia in what is described as the West African country’s worst plague in 30 years, a U.N. agency said Thursday.

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization said the inch-long caterpillars – described by villagers as “black, creeping and hairy” – are devouring vegetation and food crops in dozens of towns.

The plague is spreading fast because the pests multiply rapidly and adult moths can fly long distances.


Lebedev to invest ‘tens of millions’ after snapping up Standard for £1

Ex-KGB agent promises he will not interfere with editorial policy

By Shaun Walker in Moscow

Friday, 23 January 2009

Alexander Lebedev, the Russian billionaire and former KGB agent, outlined his plans for London’s Evening Standard at a news conference in Moscow yesterday. He said there would be changes at the paper and promised to funnel “tens of millions of pounds” into the loss-making title over the next two years.

Mr Lebedev, who paid a symbolic £1 to acquire the Evening Standard this week, becomes the first Russian to own a British newspaper, and many eyebrows have been raised at the deal. It comes at a time when British-Russian relations have still not recovered from the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, and Russia’s relations with Europe as a whole are strained after the Georgia war last summer and the recent gas spat with Ukraine.

Closing Guantánamo: Will Europeans take detainees?>

Europeans, who have long pushed to close the controversial facility, are hesitant to take some of its inmates.

By Robert Marquand | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

from the January 23, 2009 edition

PARIS – On no single issue has Europe been more in disagreement with America than the Guantánamo detention center. The camp was a focus of anti-US protest here, synonymous with the image of a bullying world power using torture to obtain confessions from terror suspects.

The European Union collectively called for closing “Gitmo.” Now, Barack Obama, who is deeply admired in Europe, has ordered Gitmo trials to be halted, and signed an executive order Thursday to close Guantánamo within a year.

It sounds like Europe’s dream scenario. Yet European states are not rushing to take detainees, a step considered essential to closing the camps.

Rather, on the eve of a Jan. 26 meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels that takes up the question, there’s more temporizing than unity – and a possibility that some states that say they will take inmates considered wrongly detained may hide behind bureaucratic moves to tie such help to a collective EU agreement. Such agreement may be difficult.


Sri Lanka editor stabbed in latest attack on media

From Times Online

January 23, 2009

Jeremy Page in Delhi

Another Sri Lankan newspaper editor was attacked this morning while driving to work near Colombo, the capital, just over two weeks after the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge, editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper.

Upali Tennakoon, chief editor of the Rivira weekly, was driving on the outskirts of Colombo with his wife when two men on motorbikes pulled up in front of his car and told him to get out, according to a reporter on the paper.

When he refused, they smashed the car window and attacked him and his wife with wooden clubs and a knife, Stanley Samarasinghe, a senior journalist at Rivira, told The Times.

The two assailants escaped on their motorbikes and Mr Tennakoon and his wife were taken to hospital, where they are in a stable condition, Mr Samarasinghe said.

Thailand accused of mistreating Muslim refugees

Nearly 1,000 refugees were detained on a remote island in December before being towed out to sea and abandoned with little food or water, rights group says.

 By Simon Montlake | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

from the January 23, 2009 edition

BANGKOK, THAILAND – Hundreds of Muslim refugees from Burma (Myanmar) are feared missing or dead after Thai troops forced them onto boats without engines and cut them adrift in international waters, according to human rights activists and authorities in India who rescued survivors. The revelations have shone a spotlight on the Thai military’s expulsion policy toward Muslims it sees as a security threat.

Nearly 1,000 refugees were detained on a remote island in December before being towed out to sea in two batches and abandoned with little food or water, according to a tally by a migrant-rights group based on survivors’ accounts and media reports. The detainees, mostly members of Burma’s oppressed Rohingya minority, then drifted for weeks. One group was later rescued by Indonesia’s Navy, and two others made landfall in India’s Andaman Islands.

Photos of refugees on a Thai island show rows of bedraggled men stripped to the waist as soldiers stand guard. In a separate incident, foreign tourists snapped pictures of detainees trussed on a beach. Thailand’s Andaman coastline, where the abuses took place, is a popular vacation spot.

Latin America

Bolivians set to vote on new constitution

Bolivians head to the polls Sunday to vote on a controversial new charter that boosts rights for indigenous people and nationalizes gas reserves.

By Sara Miller Llana | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

from the January 23, 2009 edition

SANTA CRUZ AND LA PAZ, BOLIVIA – The word “No” papers the prosperous, tropical city of Santa Cruz, the cradle of opposition to Bolivia’s President Evo Morales. Posters, bumper stickers, and even billboards urge residents to reject a new constitution to be voted on Sunday.

Yet the first placard one sees upon entering the city’s Plan 3,000 indigenous neighborhood is in support of the president, urging a “Yes” vote. “We feel divided here from the rest of Santa Cruz,” says resident Benjamin Penaranda. “Here we support the constitution. It will give us rights we never had.”

It’s just one example of the class, cultural, and geographical divisions that have roiled Bolivia since Mr. Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, came into office three years ago promising to “refound” the nation.

The centerpiece of his mission is a new constitution that he says would reverse decades of discrimination against the indigenous majority – his critics claim it’s just a power ploy.


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  1. More bad accounting in veterans health care

    According to latest GAO report, the VA is believed to have:

    Undercut its 2009 budget estimate for nursing home care by roughly $112 million. It noted the VA planned for $4 billion in spending, up $108 million from the previous year, based largely on a projected 2.5 percent increase in costs. But previously, the VA had actually seen an annual cost increase of 5.5 percent.

    Underestimated costs of care in noninstitutional settings such as hospices by up to $144 million. The VA assumed costs would not increase in 2009, even though in recent years the cost of providing a day of noninstitutional care increased by 19 percent.

    Overstated the amount of noninstitutional care. The VA projected a 38 percent increase in patient workload in 2009, partly in response to previous GAO and inspector general reports that found widespread gaps in services and urged greater use of the facilities. But for unknown reasons, veterans served in recent years actually decreased slightly, and the VA offered no explanation as to how it planned to get higher enrollment.

  2. Veterans Turn To Online Strangers For Financial Help

    Morning Edition, January 22, 2009 ·  When Robert Sprenger’s Humvee blew up in Iraq, the Army specialist was burned black over large swatches of his body.

    After the Army transported him to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, Sprenger spent months lying in his bed, wrapped in gauze, almost like a mummy.

    When he was released, he moved back home with his mother to the farm town of Sleepy Eye, Minn., where they made a troubling discovery.

    You Can Bring Up Player To Listen

    More On Aid For Veterans

    Organizations and other Web resources for veterans seeking financial assistance:

    Click link for a list of the programs mentioned in the audio and the written report at site.

  3. BBC: Wednesday, 21 January 2009

    Chris Arendt, a former guard at the prison camp and Moazzam Begg an ex-detainee spoke to the BBC.

    Three of the main points were:

      1. It will be seen by many as “too little too late”.

      2. (Question: Do you think Guantanamo has radicalized them?) These people are just tired, they want to go home to their families and to children who they have in some cases never seen…

      3. They had to pay the ultimate price because of a war that appears to have no aims or objectives.

  4. The UN’s humanitarian chief has told the BBC the situation in Gaza after a three-week Israeli offensive against Hamas was worse than he anticipated.

    Sir John Holmes, who visited Gaza on Thursday, said he was shocked by “the systematic nature of the destruction”.

    He said that the territory’s economic activity had been set back by years.

    Israel defends use of phosphorous

    Palestinians run for cover during an Israeli strike over a UN school in Beit Lahia, 17/01

    Some rights groups say images from the conflict prove the illegal use of phosphorus.

    White phosphorus is legal for making smokescreens in open battleground. But rights groups and journalists say it was used in crowded civilian areas.

    The weapon sticks to human skin and will burn through to the bone.


  5. With Guantanamo closing, where will the detainees go?

    If not Guantanamo, then where? Anything but a welcoming party is forming at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. When President Barack Obama signed an order Thursday forcing the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center within a year, he put in sharp relief the possibility that some of the world’s most potentially dangerous terror suspects could be hauled to the military’s maximum security facility in Kansas.

    The gopers who ‘Rubber Stamped’ these Illegal Policies and over and over………..,defended same, Are Now whining and screaming about Not In My Backyard????

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