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
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
By JOHN M. BRODER and PETER BAKER
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
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.
Iranian football boss in trouble over ‘battle of sexes’ claims
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.
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.