Your Tax Dollars At Work
Wall Street Bonuses
Senate Passes Health Insurance Bill for Children
Immigrant Clause Opens Rift
By Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 30, 2009; Page A01
The Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation yesterday to provide health insurance to 11 million low-income children, a bill that would for the first time spend federal money to cover children and pregnant women who are legal immigrants.
The State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which is aimed at families earning too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance, currently covers close to 7 million youngsters at a cost of $25 billion.
Lawmakers voted 66 to 32, largely along party lines, to renew the joint state-federal program and spend an additional $32.8 billion to expand coverage to 4 million more children. The expansion would be paid for by raising the cigarette tax from 39 cents a pack to $1.
China’s Solution for Unemployed College Grads: State Jobs in the Boonies
By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, January 30, 2009; Page A08
BEIJING — Liu Yongquan thought he was well prepared for China’s job market, with his degree in electromechanical engineering. But a long internship had provided no help in the way of connections, nor any real job experience. So after graduating in 2007, he headed for rural Laozhuanghu village in Xiji town, on the outskirts of Beijing, where he works as a librarian, passing out legal and health-care notices and conducting surveys.
“I’m not from the city, so this job can solve my residential permit problem. Second, the rural experience helps me in my civil service exam,” said Liu, who is from Shandong province and now hoping for the stability of a state job. “I’m forgetting all my engineering knowledge, but this work doesn’t need professional skill. It is enough if you are patient and careful.”
Obama Calls Wall Street Bonuses ‘Shameful’
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and STEPHEN LABATON
Published: January 29, 2009
WASHINGTON – President Obama branded Wall Street bankers “shameful” on Thursday for giving themselves nearly $20 billion in bonuses as the economy was deteriorating and the government was spending billions to bail out some of the nation’s most prominent financial institutions.”There will be time for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses,” Mr. Obama said during an appearance in the Oval Office with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. “Now’s not that time. And that’s a message that I intend to send directly to them, I expect Secretary Geithner to send to them.”
It was a pointed – if calculated – flash of anger from the president, who frequently railed against excesses in executive compensation on the campaign trail. He struck his populist tone as he confronted the possibility of having to ask Congress for additional large sums of money, beyond the $700 billion already authorized, to prop up the financial system, even as he pushes Congress to move quickly on a separate economic stimulus package that could cost taxpayers as much as $900 billion.
Republicans lack a party line on economy
Without strong leadership or the political capital to oppose a popular president, the fractured GOP can’t agree on options for the economic stimulus package.
By Mark Z. Barabak and Janet Hook
January 30, 2009
Reporting from San Francisco and Washington — Donald Manzullo, a House Republican from Illinois, has proposed a $5,000 voucher for anyone buying a new car. Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, the Senate GOP leader, favors a temporary suspension of the payroll tax. Jim DeMint, a Republican senator from South Carolina, wants to permanently cut the federal income tax.
As Republicans fight President Obama’s gargantuan economic plan, they have plenty of ideas. What they don’t have is a party-wide consensus: They can’t agree among themselves on the best alternative, or on whether government action is even needed to pull the economy from its nose dive.
The House passed an $819-billion version of the stimulus bill Wednesday without a single Republican voting in favor. Still, Obama and fellow Democrats hope for at least some GOP support in the Senate, where a more collaborative — and expensive — bill is taking shape. Many Republican governors, meanwhile, have already begun calculating how to spend their share of any federal bailout.
US overtures divide Iran’s policymakers
Julian Borger and Robert Tait
The Guardian, Friday 30 January 2009
Iran’s foreign minister said yesterday that Tehran would be “co-operative” in response to changes in US policy, following the revelation that President Barack Obama’s team is drafting a landmark letter to the Islamic Republic aimed at thawing a three-decade freeze in relations.
Manouchehr Mottaki, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, hedged his response by saying that Obama would have to change Washington’s policy in the Middle East, “not in saying but in practice”. If that happened, he said, the new administration would definitely find “a cooperative approach and reaction” from the region, and from Iran in particular.
The remarks followed the Guardian’s report on Thursday that Obama was formulating a conciliatory letter to Iran’s leadership aimed at unfreezing relations between Washington and Tehran and clearing the way for direct talks for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
My terror as a human shield: The story of Majdi Abed Rabbo
As battle raged in Gaza, Israeli soldiers forced Majdi Abed Rabbo to risk his life as a go-between in the hunt for three Hamas fighters. This is his story…
By Donald Macintyre in Jabalya, Gaza
Friday, 30 January 2009
After yet another fierce, 45-minute gun battle, Majdi Abed Rabbo was ordered once again to negotiate his perilous way across the already badly-damaged roof of his house, through the jagged gap in the wall and slowly down the stairs towards the first-floor apartment in the rubble-strewn house next door. Not knowing if the men were dead or alive, he shouted for the second time that day: “I’m Majdi. Don’t be afraid.”
All three men – with Kalashnikov AK-47 rifles, wearing camouflage and headbands bearing the insignia of the Izzedine el Qassam brigades – were still alive, though one was badly injured and persuaded Mr Abed Rabbo to tighten the improvised bandage round his right arm. The youngest – perhaps 21 – was taking cover behind fallen masonry from where he could see the Israeli troops who had sent the visitor. Nervously, Mr Abed Rabbo told them: “They sent me back so I can take your weapons. They told me you are dead.” It was the youngest who replied defiantly: “Tell the officer, ‘If you’re a man come up here’.”
Iceland to be fast-tracked into the EU
Plan for cash-strapped state to become member by 2011
Ian Traynor in Brussels, additional reporting by Valur Gunnarsson in Reykjavik
The Guardian, Friday 30 January 2009
Iceland will be put on a fast track to joining the European Union to rescue the small Arctic state from financial collapse amid rising expectations that it will apply for membership within months, senior policy-makers in Brussels and Reykjavik have told the Guardian.
The European commission is preparing itself for a membership bid, depending on the outcome of a snap general election expected in May. An application would be viewed very favourably in Brussels and the negotiations, which normally take many years, would be fast-forwarded to make Iceland the EU’s 29th member in record time, probably in 2011.
Olli Rehn, the European commissioner in charge of enlargement, said: “The EU prefers two countries joining at the same time rather than individually.
French demonstration: Sarkozy vs the street
More than a million people in a dozen French cities protest at the government’s stewardship of the economy
By John Lichfield in Paris
Friday, 30 January 2009
In the biggest demonstrations seen in France for more than a decade, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets yesterday to protest against everything from the global economic crisis to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s efforts to shrink the French state.
About 300,000 people – mostly representing the many tribes of a rejuvenated left-wing movement – marched raucously through the centre of Paris to demand higher wages, more job protection and greater government efforts to stop the country from tipping into a deep recession.
In a carnival atmosphere – one of political defiance, rather than deep popular anger – the trades union and left-wing sympathisers marched to a chanted refrain, in English, of “Yes, yes, yes, we can”.
Sri Lanka gives Tamil Tigers 48 hours to allow civilians through jungle
From Times Online
January 30, 2009
Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent
Sri Lanka’s President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has given the Tamil Tiger rebels a 48-hour window to allow 250,000 Tamil civilians to leave the small patch of northeastern jungle where the army has pinned the rebels down.
Mr Rajapaksa made the announcement last night after the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned of a humanitarian crisis in the area, and a top UN official expressed alarm about mounting civilian casualties.
The President accused the Tigers, formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), of refusing to allow the civilians to leave and placing their heavy artillery inside a “safe zone” set up by the government last week.
“I urge the LTTE, within the next 48 hours to allow free movement of civilians to ensure their safety and security,” he said.
Pakistan tackles Swat, a key militant area
The Army launched fresh operations this week, following mounting pressure to retake the onetime tourist idyll now controlled by ultraconservative militants.
By Issam Ahmed | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the January 30, 2009 edition
LAHORE, PAKISTAN – The Pakistani Army’s renewed effort to reclaim control of the Swat Valley – a tourist idyll taken over by ultraconservative militants allied with the Taliban – has taken on symbolic importance in the country’s fight against a growing insurgency.
The Army launched fresh operations in Swat Wednesday, as Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani vowed to retake the troubled region following growing criticism over what analysts and human rights groups are calling the complete loss of government control. By the estimates of residents and local officials, up to 80 percent of Swat is now under militant control.
Unlike the northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where militants also hold sway, Swat falls in the “settled areas” of Pakistan.
The strategic significance of the Swat Valley is difficult to underplay, says Badar Alam, a senior editor for Pakistan’s Herald magazine. “If it falls to the Taliban, despite not being geographically linked to Afghanistan – it will send the message they can claim victory in part of the NWFP [Northwest Frontier Province], if not the country.”
Zimbabwe sidelines currency as economy collapses
Jan Raath in Harare
Zimbabwe sidelined its own near-worthless currency yesterday, declaring the US dollar, the British pound and even the Botswana Pula as legal tender in the country’s rapidly collapsing economy.
“The Government is allowing the use of multiple foreign currencies for business alongside the Zimbabwean dollar,” Patrick Chinamasa, the acting Finance Minister, announced in a humiliating admission that the Mugabe’s regime’s battle to prop up the national currency was lost.
From now on, shops, insurance companies, schools, state-owned utilities could charge in foreign and local currency – though many of them will have to be licenced. A range of taxes will also be payable in hard and local currency. Mr Chinamasa’s estimates of expenditure were presented in Zimbabwe dollars, US dollars and Rand.
Recalling an audience with Congo warlord Lubanga
In 2003, a reporter listened as the militia commander denied that he employed children.
By Nicole Itano | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the January 30, 2009 edition
In June 2003, Thomas Lubanga welcomed members of the international press to his headquarters in Bunia, in the northeast part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr. Lubanga, whose militia was called the Union of Congolese Patriots, had shed his fatigues. He wore a dark suit, white shirt, and blue tie, and was clean-shaven – looking more like a bureaucrat than a warlord.
But outside, heavily armed militiamen patrolled the compound. One guard in a florescent orange shirt, machine gun in hand, looked like a boy.
But Lubanga denied his troops included children. “We have never used children militarily in our army,” Lubanga said. “But child soldiers who are now here have been trained by Uganda. When the UPC was absent from Bunia, Uganda gave guns to children…. I have signed a decree that they will be disarmed.”
Lubanga spoke in French, the language of the DRC’s educated elite, saying his only goal was peace and justice for the people of Ituri, a region rich with gold and soaked in blood.
Mexico City braces for water rationing
Supplies will be cut or reduced to homes in many areas of the capital this weekend, making a scarce resource even scarcer. ‘We are running out of water,’ an official said.
By Tracy Wilkinson
January 30, 2009
Reporting from Mexico City — Already-scarce water gets even scarcer this weekend for millions of Mexicans.
One of the world’s largest cities is launching a rationing plan in a drastic — and some say overdue — effort to conserve water after rampant development, mismanagement and reduced rainfall caused supplies to drop to dangerously low levels.
Starting Saturday, water will be cut or reduced to homes in at least 10 boroughs in Mexico City plus 11 other municipalities in the state of Mexico, which surrounds the capital. The action affects an estimated 5.5 million people and includes neighborhoods ranging from affluent Lomas de Chapultepec on the western edge of the city to poor, densely populated Iztapalapa in the southeast.
Full service is expected to be returned sometime Tuesday. Similar cuts will be carried out every month until the rainy season begins, usually around May.
“We are running out of water,” Jorge Efren Villalon, a senior official with the National Water Commission, told Mexican radio Thursday.