Mitch McConnell Thinks The
Stimulus Package Should Be Targeted Towards
The Rich And Corporations As Usual
Obama camp ‘prepared to talk to Hamas’
Incoming administration will abandon Bush’s isolation of Islamist group to initiate low-level diplomacy, say transition sources
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
guardian.co.uk, Friday 9 January 2009 03.18 GMT
The incoming Obama administration is prepared to abandon George Bush’s doctrine of isolating Hamas by establishing a channel to the Islamist organisation, sources close to the transition team say.
The move to open contacts with Hamas, which could be initiated through the US intelligence services, would represent a definitive break with the Bush presidency’s ostracising of the group. The state department has designated Hamas a terrorist organisation, and in 2006 Congress passed a law banning US financial aid to the group.
The Guardian has spoken to three people with knowledge of the discussions in the Obama camp. There is no talk of Obama approving direct diplomatic negotiations with Hamas early on, but he is being urged by advisers to initiate low-level or clandestine approaches, and there is growing recognition in Washington that the policy of ostracising Hamas is counter-productive.
War in Gaza: Israel accused of shelling house full of children
From Times Online
January 9, 2009
The United Nations has cited witnesses accusing Israeli troops of evacuating scores of Palestinians – including children – into a house in Gaza on Sunday and then shelling the property 24 hours later, killing approximately 30 people.
Just hours after calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the UN cited witnesses of the alleged attack in the house in Zeitun, an eastern Gaza city neighbourhood.
The UN said that “according to several testimonies, on January 4, Israeli foot soldiers evacuated approximately 110 Palestinians into a single-residence house in Zeitun (half of whom were children) warning them to stay indoors. 24 hours later, Israeli forces shelled the home repeatedly, killing approximately 30”.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) described it as “one of the gravest incidents since the beginning of operations” by Israeli forces in Gaza on December 27.
Senate Allies Fault Obama on Stimulus
By PETER BAKER and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
Published: January 8, 2009
WASHINGTON – President-elect Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan ran into crossfire from his own party in Congress on Thursday, suggesting that quick passage of spending programs and tax cuts could require more time and negotiation than Democrats once hoped.
Senate Democrats complained that major components of his plan were not bold enough and urged more focus on creating jobs and rebuilding the nation’s energy infrastructure rather than cutting taxes.
Just hours earlier, Mr. Obama called for speedy passage of the stimulus measure, warning that the recession “could linger for years” if Congress did not pass his plan within weeks.
Geithner Preparing Overhaul Of Bailout
Obama Team Broadens Scope to Secure Final $350 Billion for Rescue
By David Cho
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 9, 2009; Page A01
Confronted with intense skepticism on Capitol Hill over the $700 billion financial rescue program, Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy F. Geithner and President-elect Barack Obama’s economic team are urgently overhauling the embattled initiative and broadening its scope well beyond Wall Street, sources familiar with the discussions said.
Geithner has been working night and day on the eighth floor of the transition team office in downtown Washington with Lawrence H. Summers and other senior economic advisers to hash out a new approach that would expand the program’s aid to municipalities, small businesses, homeowners and other consumers.
EU says deal struck with Russia over gas supply
• Moscow accepts European monitors on Kiev pipeline
• Freezing Balkans face catastrophe if pact fails
Ian Traynor in Prague
The Guardian, Friday 9 January 2009
European leaders announced a breakthrough deal with Moscow last night that could see Siberian gas flowing to the households and heating systems of Europe. But hundreds of thousands of families across the Balkans and central Europe faced a freezing weekend without heating amid uncertainty over whether the deal settling the dispute between Russia and Ukraine would stick.
With large stretches of eastern and southern Europe blanketed in snow in some of the coldest weather in a decade, an air of panic gripped parts of Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, and Bosnia, all almost entirely dependent on Russian gas for central heating. The gas has been cut off since Wednesday.
Ireland’s second biggest employer defects to Poland
Fears for workers as vulnerable economy is hit by defection of Dell
By David McKittrick, Ireland Correspondent
Friday, 9 January 2009
The Irish Republic’s precarious economy was dealt a hammer blow yesterday with the announcement that one of the country’s biggest employers – the computer giant Dell – is to shed almost 2,000 jobs, a huge setback by Irish standards.
According to one estimate, Dell contributes around 5 per cent of Ireland’s GNP and 4 per cent of all expenditure in the economy. In addition to Dell’s own jobs, thousands more are dependent on the company.
Describing it as “one of the blackest days we’ve ever had in Limerick City”, Mayor John Gilligan said many workers had taken on large mortgages.
The West Bank: We’re all Hamas now – supporters of Fatah unite behind enemy
Mahmoud Abbas’s popularity has been caught in the crossfire of the Gaza invasion
By Ben Lynfield in Ramallah
Friday, 9 January 2009
Even if Israel wins on the battlefield or in the diplomatic corridors it is already paying the price of its Gaza onslaught in intensified hatred in the hearts of its Palestinian neighbours in the West Bank. The campaign also appears to be increasing public scepticism about the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s chosen path of negotiations as the way to establish an independent state alongside Israel.
The diplomacy championed by Mr Abbas has for years been difficult to sell to Palestinians because it has brought little or no relief from occupation or improvement in their daily lives, only the expansion of Israeli settlements. This existing frustration
which helped Hamas defeat Mr Abbas’s Fatah movement in the 2006 electionsis now combined with popular anger and dismay at the carnage among fellow Palestinians in Gaza.
Rafah: A border town caught between Egypt and Hamas
The Rafah crossing is seen by Israel as a weapons supply line for Hamas and a humanitarian lifeline by Gazans.
By Lina Attalah | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
from the January 9, 2009 edition
RAFAH, EGYPT – This border town that sits between a war zone and the country trying to end the war has increasingly become the crux of a cease-fire deal between Hamas and Israel.
Egyptian mediators on Thursday continued to hold talks with representatives of Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Hamas to stop the conflict in the Gaza Strip as it entered its 13th day.
Israel launched air raids Wednesday on the Palestinian side of Rafah, targeting at least 25 houses alleged to contain some of the 1,500 tunnels under the border that serve as the supply lifeline for Hamas. On Thursday, Gazans reported heavy bombardment in the Israeli offensive that has killed some 700 Palestinians, and the United Nations said it was halting aid deliveries after a UN truck driver was killed by Israeli tank fire.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Thursday that Egypt will ask Israel and Hamas for a temporary truce “that would lead to a consolidated permanent cease-fire.” Then, he said, negotiations would take place with the European Union and the PA, which lost control of Gaza, on how to open Rafah.
Tokyo set for a turf war as recession-hit yakuza gangsters fight it out
From The Times
January 9, 2009
Leo Lewis in Tokyo
An attractive residential backstreet, a highly desirable postcode and a hugely provocative bit of corporate relocation could unleash a murderous gang war on the streets of Tokyo.
Veteran observers of Japanese organised crime are predicting a sharp increase in violence in the coming weeks as two rival yakuza crime syndicates threaten to battle it out for supremacy of the protection, prostitution and drugs rackets in the centre of the city.
The stakes are rising fast. With many of their business interests such as property and construction battered by the country’s deepening recession, the gangs are scrambling more aggressively for the profits from rackets such as blackmail and loan-sharking, which thrive in the more glamorous districts of Tokyo, according to one authority on the yakuza.
Trading a life in Vegas to speak for troops in Afghanistan>
Some 250 US citizens of Afghan origin have made unlikely career changes to become military interpreters.
By Danna Harman | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the January 9, 2009 edition
KALAGUSH FORWARD OPERATING BASE, AFGHANISTAN – It’s a long way from Vegas.
For the past three years, Torpekay (Peggy) Farhamg, a longtime security guard and dealer at the strip’s Imperial Palace, has been living behind concertina wire with American troops in Afghanistan. Ahmadullah Barak, who until recently was a used-car salesman at his cousin’s dealership in Jamaica Heights is here, too, daydreaming about a slice of New York thin-slice pizza.
The two are among some 250 American citizens of Afghan origin who have made unlikely career changes and become Pashto or Dari military interpreters here – working as intermediaries between foreign troops and the locals they meet, collaborate with, and fight against – and making big bucks along the way.
Most easily admit it was the generous remuneration offered by the contracting agencies – up to $225,000 a year for those with the highest security clearances, they say – that convinced them to give up comfortable lives and join a war effort in the dusty land they long ago left behind. But there is a sprinkling of idealism as well.
‘It Feels Like We Are Under Siege’
Zimbabwe’s Jailed Activists Symbolize Breakdown of Power-Sharing Deal
By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, January 9, 2009; Page A12
HARARE, Zimbabwe — At 72, Fidelis Chiramba had spent a decade as a rural opposition party organizer, and late 2008 seemed to bring the truest promise yet for the democracy he wanted. In September, Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s autocratic president for nearly three decades, shook hands with his rivals and agreed to share power.
But one dark October morning, Chiramba was seized by several men in four cars, his wife said. Soon, dozens of civil rights and opposition activists had vanished, according to human rights organizations and lawyers. They remained missing until late December, when authorities marched Chiramba and 17 others into court on accusations of plotting to overthrow Mugabe.
West African nations meet amid split over Guinea
ABUJA, (AFP) Fri Jan 9
West African foreign ministers were set to gather here Friday for the first part of a meeting that could formally suspend Guinea from the ECOWAS group following the recent coup there.
Friday’s meeting — followed Saturday by a summit of heads of state — comes as the military junta that seized power in Guinea on December 23 has become more nervous, arresting in the past few days a number of military officers and civilians.
The political director of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Abdel Fatau Musah told AFP the meeting would be given over to “Guinea and Guinea-Bissau”.
Sunny Ugoh, ECOWAS spokesman said foreign ministers from nine of the grouping’s 15 member states had confirmed their attendance.
For redress of grievances, Mexicans turn to bureaucracy contest
By Elisabeth Malkin Published: January 9, 2009
MEXICO CITY: To get life-saving medicine for her young son, Cecilia Velázquez embarks each month on a bureaucratic odyssey. First, two government doctors have to sign off on the prescription. Next, four bureaucrats must stamp it. Last, she has to present it (in quadruplicate) to a hospital dispensary.
The process takes at least four days and sometimes as many as 15. Since her son suffers from a hereditary immune system deficiency that could make an infection fatal, she said she asked God to keep him well on the months when he had to go without his medicine for several days.
She once complained to the government agency that runs the hospital where her 7-year-old son, Diego Emilio, is treated for his illness, agammaglobulinemia. But the comptroller’s office there told her that the procedure “just is that way.”