Docudharma Times Monday January 26

Republican Stimulus: Tax Cut’s Tax Cut’s

Tax Cut’s Screw The Middle Class

Obama’s Stimulus: Fix Infrastructure Create Jobs

Help The Middle Class

Monday’s Headlines:

Fight building over judges redoing mortgages

Armed separatists and ecologists unite against fears of a paradise lost

Meltdown: Iceland on the brink

Iranian football boss in trouble over ‘battle of sexes’ claims

Donald Macintyre: An assault on the peace process

Beijing holds secret talks with banned churches as 100 million defy party rules

Filipina activist boosts overseas workers

Congo’s risky push to crush rebels

West African villagers stake their fortunes on rice

Bolivia constitution is set to pass

Economic Crisis Fuels Unrest in E. Europe

Shaky Governments Face Growing Anger

By Philip P. Pan

Washington Post Foreign Service

Monday, January 26, 2009; Page A01

RIGA, Latvia — On a frigid evening this month, more than 10,000 people gathered outside a 13th-century cathedral in this Baltic capital to protest the government’s handling of Latvia’s economic crisis and demand early elections. The demonstration was one of the largest here since the mass rallies against Soviet rule in the late 1980s, and a sign of both the public’s frustration and its faith in the political system.

But at the end of the night, as the crowd dispersed, the protest turned into a riot. Hundreds of angry young people, many drunk and recently unemployed, rampaged through the historic Old Town, smashing shop windows, throwing rocks and eggs at police, even prying cobblestones from the streets to lob at the Parliament building.

Gaza family recounts day of horror

Hours after the ground incursion began, two were killed in a swirl of mixed messages and flying bullets.

By Ashraf Khalil

January 26, 2009

Reporting from Gaza City — There were 14 of them huddled under the stairs. Israeli shells and airstrikes had long since shattered every window of the Helw family’s three-story home. But underneath the concrete staircase, they said, they felt relatively safe — until the soldiers came early in the morning on Jan. 4.

There was pounding on the courtyard door, they recalled last week, and voices in accented Arabic shouted, “Who’s in there?”

As the troops burst inside, family members said Fuad Helw, 55, jumped up with his arms in the air.

“We all put our hands up and yelled, ‘We’re women and children. We’re not the resistance,’ ” recalled Sherine Helw, Fuad’s daughter-in-law.

The soldiers opened fire on Fuad, said Sherine, and he died in front of his family.

There are no independent accounts of what happened that day, when Israeli tanks rolled into the Zeitoun neighborhood on the outskirts of Gaza City at the beginning of the land offensive. The Israeli army, which staged its offensive after years of rocket attacks against southern Israel emanating from the Gaza Strip, refuses to discuss individual charges in detail.



Obama’s Order Is Likely to Tighten Auto Standards


Published: January 25, 2009

WASHINGTON – President Obama will direct federal regulators on Monday to move swiftly on an application by California and 13 other states to set strict automobile emission and fuel efficiency standards, two administration officials said Sunday.

The directive makes good on an Obama campaign pledge and signifies a sharp reversal of Bush administration policy. Granting California and the other states the right to regulate tailpipe emissions would be one of the most emphatic actions Mr. Obama could take to quickly put his stamp on environmental policy.

Mr. Obama’s presidential memorandum will order the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider the Bush administration’s past rejection of the California application. While it stops short of flatly ordering the Bush decision reversed, the agency’s regulators are now widely expected to do so after completing a formal review process.

Fight building over judges redoing mortgages

Lending industry, other businesses fighting moves in Congress

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Most congressional Democrats say the quickest way to save homeowners like Troy Butler of Saginaw, Mich., is to let them declare bankruptcy and allow judges to dictate new mortgage terms.

Easy, except the lenders that would absorb the pain – and lose control of any deals to ease the terms – do not want to get dragged into bankruptcy court by millions of overextended borrowers.

Butler, 40, is a laid-off General Motors worker who has filed for bankruptcy. But the bankruptcy court has no authority to change the terms of his $90,000-plus mortgage that is more than double the value of his home.


Armed separatists and ecologists unite against fears of a paradise lost

Corsica Plans to develop coastline with holiday homes prompt anger on troubled isle

Angelique Chrisafis in Porto-Vecchio

The Guardian, Monday 26 January 2009

In the hills above southern Corsica’s paradise beaches, Vincente Cucchi sat stoking the log fire of her restored shepherd’s cottage.

“There have been a lot of murders lately, a lot of score settling, it’s becoming worse than Naples,” she said. “But I’m not scared, you just have to carry on.”

Cucchi, a Corsican mother in her forties, is leading an environmental crusade to protect the wild coastline around Bonifacio on the island’s southern tip. She targets everyone from locals to Nicolas Sarkozy’s Parisian friends, and goes to court to ban villas that illegally destroy virgin stretches of coast. Her latest victory was to scrap the proposed holiday home of Jacques Séguéla, the publicist who introduced France’s president to Carla Bruni.

Meltdown: Iceland on the brink

Two years ago, Iceland was top of the UN living index. Now it is in the frontline of the global economic crisis after the failure of its banks, reports Sophie Morris in Reykjavik

Monday, 26 January 2009

Just a few short years ago, Iceland had much to be proud of. The good times were rolling so fast that one almost expected the country’s almost round-the-clock summer daylight to last all year. Business was booming, society overfed, and the capital, Reykjavik, was in vogue as a travel destination for rich revellers, gastronomes and culture lovers.

Iceland is a country of dramatic natural beauty: lunar landscapes, spouting geysers, sheer glaciers and craggy volcanic rock formations; an impressive but inhospitable isle floating in mid-Atlantic isolation. When, in 2007, it topped the UN’s Human Development Index for its high standard of living, literacy and life expectancy, the tiny community of 310,000 felt they had proved their educated, hard-working and resilient character on an international scale.

Middle East

Iranian football boss in trouble over ‘battle of sexes’ claims

Robert Tait

The Guardian, Monday 26 January 2009

A 7-0 drubbing would be enough to threaten the position of any football manager. But it is not the scoreline that could lead to the sacking of Alireza Mansourian, the football academy director of one of Iran’s biggest clubs. It is allegations that the club’s male and female players staged a battle-of-the-sexes match behind closed doors, breaching the country’s strict gender segregation laws.

The encounter is said to have occurred between the female and male youth teams of Esteghlal, a Tehran-based club with a mass following and under the overall authority of Iran’s Islamic rulers.

The claims have embarrassed the management, which has denied any such match took place. Sensitivity has been heightened by Esteghlal’s historic success and prestige – the club has twice won the Asian championship and was once closely linked to the monarchy under the shah, when it was known as Taj (crown). It was confiscated and renamed Esteghlal (independence) by the regime after the 1979 Islamic revolution

Donald Macintyre: An assault on the peace process

Israel devastated the Strip’s production capacity as well as destroying homes

Monday, 26 January 2009

Israeli forces used aerial bombing, tank shelling and armoured bulldozers to eliminate the productive capacity of some of Gaza’s most important manufacturing plants during their 22 days of military action in the Gaza Strip. The attacks – like those which destroyed at least 4,000 homes, left some residential areas resembling an earthquake zone and more than 50,000 people in temporary shelters at their peak – destroyed or severely damaged 219 factories, Palestinian industrialists say.

Leaders of Gaza’s business community – who have long stayed aloof from the different Palestinian political factions – say that much of the 3 per cent of industry still operating after the 18-month shutdown caused by Israel’s economic siege has now been destroyed.


Beijing holds secret talks with banned churches as 100 million defy party rules

From The Times

January 26, 2009

Jane Macartney in Beijing

A secret meeting between Chinese officials and leaders of the banned underground Protestant Church has marked the first significant step towards reconciliation in decades.

The discussions, which were held in an office in Beijing, were the first time that members of the Government and stalwarts of the outlawed “house churches” had sat down as negotiators rather than foes, The Times has learnt.

The timing was significant: this year is the 60th anniversary of communist power and the Government is keen to ensure that there are no disturbances to mar its celebrations.

Filipina activist boosts overseas workers

Connie Regalado prods officials to do more for workers hit hard by the global financial crisis.

By Jonathan Adams | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

from the January 26, 2009 edition

QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES – In her office in this hectic part of Manila, Connie Regalado paints signs for a rally the following day. Her latest cause: calling on the government to do more for overseas Filipino workers who are losing their jobs due to the global economic slump.

A couple days earlier, she and other activists went to the airport to pick up 82 such workers, who flew from Taiwan at their own expense. They’d been axed from semiconductor-factory and other low-end jobs, victims of downsizing. The government was also at the airport, boasting of “one-stop shop” services for the workers, inviting them to the presidential palace, even offering them an appearance on a TV game show.

Ms. Regalado wasn’t impressed. “It’s a sham,” said Regalado. “The ‘one-stop shop’ services aren’t even palliative measures. There’s no comprehensive plan to address the problem.”

That no-nonsense approach has guided Regalado over nearly two decades of activism. Cynical yet committed to social justice, Regalado has dedicated much of her adult career to improving the working conditions, political voice, and basic rights of overseas Filipino workers


Congo’s risky push to crush rebels

Rwanda’s Army moved deeper into neighboring Congo Sunday as part of a surprise deal last week to root out Hutu rebels. But when will Rwanda’s troops leave?

By Scott Baldauf | Staff Writer

and Jina Moore | Correspondent

from the January 26, 2009 edition

NAIROBI, KENYA; AND KIGALI, RWANDA – With the arrest of Congolese rebel leader Gen. Laurent Nkunda last week in Rwanda, Congolese President Joseph Kabila would seem to have what he wanted from his surprise deal with Rwanda, inviting the Rwandan army in to help him clear out unwanted rebel groups.

General Nkunda, after all, had led a four-year rebellion against Congo’s military in the name of protecting his Tutsi ethnic group against attacks from other ethnic militias, especially the FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu rebel group accused of launching the 1994 genocide against Tutsis. And earlier this year, Nkunda raised the stakes, promising to topple Kabila’s government.

But if the price for removing one enemy, Nkunda, meant inviting in another enemy – the well-armed nation of Rwanda – into Congolese territory, why did Congo agree to the deal?

The answer appears to be a mixture of desperation, personal animosity, and incompetence. Given the history of Rwandan interventions in Congo, Kabila’s people may pay the price for this deal for months and years to come.

West African villagers stake their fortunes on rice


By Lydia Polgreen Published: January 26, 200

RONKH, Senegal: Ndeye Sarr Diop hardly looks like a bit player on the global commodities market. Resplendent in a flowing brown and mauve bou bou and carrying a dainty purse, she gazed across the watery expanse of her rice fields. She had invested everything she had, and borrowed hundreds of dollars on top of that.

“I hope rice will make me rich,” she said, running a hand over the green stalks and fingering the sheathed grains.

Hoping to take advantage of high global food prices that brought many poor nations to the brink of chaos last year, farmers across West Africa are reaping what experts say is one of the best harvests in recent memory.

But after investing and borrowing heavily to expand their production, these farmers also run the risk of being wiped out as global food prices plummet.

Latin America

Bolivia constitution is set to pass

Exit polls show voters backing changes that give more rights to indigenous groups and let President Evo Morales seek another consecutive term.

By Chris Kraul

January 26, 2009

Reporting from La Paz, Bolivia — Voters appeared to have handed Bolivian President Evo Morales a resounding victory Sunday, with exit polls showing they had approved a new constitution that will advance indigenous rights, strengthen state control over natural resources and permit him to seek another term.

Morales addressed a cheering crowd in the plaza before the presidential palace here Sunday night to claim victory and declare that “Bolivia has been re-founded” and that “neoliberalism has been defeated.”

According to exit polls by two television stations and a political consulting firm, at least 56% of voters approved the 411-article constitution.

The final count of votes is not expected for several days.

Approval of the constitution, which caps a two-year campaign by Morales, will give expanded discretionary powers to the president, such as the ability to dissolve Congress. He will also be eligible to run for a second five-year term late next year. The earlier constitution did not allow consecutive terms.


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  1. The Nation’s Hardest to House

    According to reports, it took an average of nine years postdeployment for Vietnam vets to fall into homelessness. There’s concern that it’s happening much sooner for the recent vets, says Blecker.

  2. And we’re footing the bill??

    U.S. forces overseeing nearly two dozen solar projects to alleviate Iraq’s electricity crisis

    Solar power is not a completely new strategy in Iraq. American forces have long relied on the technology to power lights that illuminate Iraqi streets and deter enemy fighters. But the most recent efforts use sun power for more significant essential services like sewage pumps and medical clinics. In all, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division plans to spend close to $6 million on solar-powered projects in the quadrant of northwest Baghdad that it oversees.

    Baghdad’s essential services face a variety of obstacles, yet inadequate and inconsistent electricity tends to trump all others. For example, sewers back up when electricity stops flowing to the pumps. In one area, just 13 of 300 pumps and lift stations have continuous power.

    Fuel is also expensive, especially if bought on the black market. Over 25 years, solar power will save the Amariyah clinic an estimated $2 million, Mahdi said.

    Solar power avoids all those problems – all without stressing Iraq’s overtaxed electrical system even more, said Col. Joseph Martin, the 2/1 HBCT commander. In many cases, the Iraqi government can even tie the services to the national power grid if it wants to when the grid is at last running at full capacity.

    Talk about a stimulus package!!

  3. Torture weakened America’s national security

    However, I and many others believe that the use of torture and indefinite detention have not only tarnished our honor but also diminished our security.

    In this global counterinsurgency effort against al Qaeda and its allies, too often our means have undercut our efforts by wasting one of our best weapons: the legitimacy that comes from our moral authority.

    Torture plays directly into a central tenet of al Qaeda’s recruiting pitch: that everyday Muslims across the world have something to fear from the United States of America.


  4. Layers of graffiti on walls tell history of Iraq war

    BAGHDAD – Iraq is a nation of walls: Tall concrete blast walls built during the past six years, ancient mud-brick barricades that date to antiquity and walls built of various materials from the centuries in between. The newest walls protect Iraqis from one another, but they also divide families. They separate the government from the people, and foreigners from Iraqis.

    The walls don’t just stand there; they’re a constantly changing record of recent history.

    Idyllic murals of flowers and scenic canoe rides mask bullet holes and graffiti, and campaign posters for the candidates who are running in provincial elections Jan. 31 paper many of the remaining free surfaces.

    Peel away the layers, however, and you’ll find Iraq’s recent history: the U.S.-led invasion nearly six years ago, the Sunni Muslim insurgency, a sectarian war and now low-level but steady violence in a year of elections.

    In two neighborhoods, one that surrounds a water-purification plant in the Sunni city of Fallujah, the other in Baghdad’s poor Shiite Muslim district of Amil, once controlled by the Mahdi Army militia of radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr, two walls tell two histories of the last six years.



  5. UBS U.S. tax case widens

    U.S. tax investigators believe the number of American clients that the Swiss bank helped to avoid taxes could be much higher than the previously disclosed estimate of about 17,000, the people told the paper.

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