Bush Takes A Vacation
Except This Time Its Permanent
Gaza war ‘in final act’ as ceasefire looms
From The Times
January 17, 2009
Martin Fletcher and Sheera Frenkel in Jerusalem
Israel is expected to announce a unilateral ceasefire tonight that will end its three-week war in Gaza.
Officials said that the Israeli Security Cabinet will be asked to approve the surprise move after Israel secured commitments from Egypt and the US to stop Hamas re-arming by smuggling weapons into Gaza.
If the Cabinet agrees, Israeli troops will halt Operation Cast Lead – but if Hamas continues to fire rockets into southern Israel they will resume the action. The plan would allow Israel to stop fighting before Barack Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday, and avoid direct dealings with Hamas, which it regards as a terrorist group.
Weighing Crimes and Ethics in Urban Warfare
By STEVEN ERLANGER
Published: January 16, 2009
JERUSALEM – Your unit, on the edges of the northern Gaza town of Jabaliya, has taken mortar fire from the crowded refugee camp nearby. You prepare to return fire, and perhaps you notice – or perhaps you don’t, even though it’s on your map – that there is a United Nations school just there, full of displaced Gazans. You know that international law allows you to protect your soldiers and return fire, but also demands that you ensure that there is no excessive harm to civilians. Do you remember all that in the chaos?
You pick GPS-guided mortars, which are supposed to be accurate and of a specific explosive force, and fire back. In the end, you kill some Hamas fighters but also, the United Nations says, more than 40 civilians, some of them children.
For Obama, a Party Tempered by Tough Times
By Alec MacGillis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 17, 2009; Page A01
When a train pulls out of Philadelphia today carrying President-elect Barack Obama on a symbolic journey to Washington, it will set off a four-day inaugural celebration of unprecedented ambition that has been calibrated to strike a balance between marking a moment many thought would never come and setting a tone that suits the sober economic times.The event’s planners want to conjure optimism about the country’s ability to rebound from a deep downturn, yet do not want to create unrealistic expectations for Obama — a tension that will dominate the early months of his administration.
After the Splash, Heroics and Comedy
By MICHAEL WILSON and RUSS BUETTNER
Published: January 16, 2009
Some passengers screamed, others tucked their heads between their knees, and several prayed over and over, “Lord, forgive me for my sins.” But a man named Josh who was sitting in the exit row did exactly what everyone is supposed to but few ever do: He pulled out the safety card and read the instructions on how to open the exit door.
US Airways Flight 1549 smacked the Hudson River the way a speedboat lands after jumping over a wake – with a thud that rattled teeth and nerves and stunned the cabin silent. It was as if everyone was waiting for someone else to shout in pain, and no one did.
Chinese mother sentenced to death for hiring man to kill her 9-year-old son
Woman wanted boy dead so she could have a baby with her new husband without violating the ‘one child’ policy
Tania Branigan in Beijing
A Chinese court has sentenced a mother to death for hiring a man to strangle her 9-year-old son so she could have a baby with her new husband without violating the “one child” policy.
Li Yingfang had previously ordered a failed attempt on the life of her young stepdaughter, court officials in Shaanxi, central China, confirmed today.
Population laws introduced three decades ago prevent most couples from having more than one child. Those who break the rules face strict financial penalties. The case came as the country’s official media hinted that the government may be discussing reform after it published a survey showing that most women want more than one child.
Tibet celebrate end of ‘bad old days’ with new festival
From The Times
January 17, 2009
Jane Macartney in Beijing
Fifty years after the Dalai Lama fled into exile and the local government was dissolved by the Chinese, Tibet is to celebrate a new holiday: Serfs’ Emancipation Day.
China is eager to improve its international image after a riot in Lhasa last March resulted in the deployment of the army in many Tibetan regions as the unrest spread. The new commemoration is meant to remind the world of the feudal system that had persisted for centuries in Tibet – the Dalai Lama has said that he would not want to see a return to that era.
The date chosen by the regional government for Tibet’s new celebration will be March 28, with the first commemoration held this year.
Roquefort war rages across the Atlantic
By John Lichfield in Paris
Saturday, 17 January 2009
War has broken out between the lame-ducks of Washington and the “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” of Paris. The spat of 2003 may be officially over but the almost-departed Bush administration has found the time to target a commercial cruise missile on roquefort cheese, a symbol of French gastronomic excellence.
Washington decided this week to triple the existing 100 per cent import duties on the celebrated, blue-veined sheep cheese from the southern Massif Central. Officially, this is part of an interminable battle over the refusal of the European Union to buy US beef which has been artificially pumped-up by growth hormones. However, the targeting of roquefort demonstrates the deep ill-feeling that exists on farm trade between Washington and Paris.
Lithuanians attack parliament to protest taxes
Riot police hold them back in latest instability across Eastern Europe
VILNIUS, Lithuania – Violent political protests sweeping parts of Eastern Europe spread Friday to Lithuania, where police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at a rock-throwing mob attacking Parliament.
Fifteen people were injured and more than 80 detained in several hours of street fighting between angry protesters and helmeted riot police.
The violence followed similar riots this week in Bulgaria and Latvia amid a wave of discontent over economic woes, difficult reforms and government corruption.
Jestina Mukoko: ‘Mugabe’s henchmen came for me before dawn’
For years Jestina Mukoko fearlessly catalogued cases of murder, rape and torture in Zimbabwe. Then the regime seized her.
By Daniel Howden
Saturday, 17 January 2009
It is the visit all Zimbabweans dread. For Jestina Mukoko, it came at 5 o’clock on the morning of 3 December. Six men and a woman appeared at her house in Norton, a short drive from the capital, Harare. They told her to come with them immediately but refused to say who they were or where she was being taken.
The director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project and a forthright campaigner for human rights, she realised she was being abducted and that this was no ordinary arrest.
“I was not wearing anything other than a nightdress,” she says in a sworn affidavit, the contents of which The Independent can reveal. “I had no undergarments and other personal and medical requirements.”
DR Congo rebel faction ends fight>
Senior officers of the main Tutsi rebel group in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo have announced a ceasefire with government forces.
The breakaway faction of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) said its fighters would join the Congolese army.
The move is expected to increase pressure on CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda to declare a full ceasefire.
Some 250,000 people have been displaced by fighting which erupted in August.
Gen Nkunda says he is fighting to protect his Tutsi community from attacks by Rwandan Hutu rebels based in DR Congo, some of whom are accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide
6 die as Israeli shells land near Gaza school
U.N.-run site was being used by Palestinians seeking shelter, officials say
msnbc.com news services
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – An Israeli tank shell killed six people Saturday near a United Nations-run school in Gaza, Palestinian health officials said.
Dr. Moaiya Hassanain said women and children were among the dead. The military and the U.N. had no immediate comment.
Witnesses said four of the victims were killed as other shells struck nearby as people tried to escape. The school was being used by people seeking shelter from fighting.
On Thursday, Israeli shells set ablaze a warehouse at the U.N. Gaza headquarters. Earlier in the fighting, 30 were killed at a different U.N. school. Israel says Hamas militants use U.N. positions for cover when firing rockets.
‘Small disaster’: Gaza journalist finds his apartment destroyed
By Dion Nissenbaum | McClatchy Newspapers
JERUSALEM – When Ahmed Abu Hamda left his Gaza City apartment as Israeli tanks rumbled toward his neighborhood, he said a silent prayer and asked Allah to protect his home.
On Friday morning, after word came that Israeli forces had pulled back, Abu Hamda ventured out to see if his prayers had been answered.
He drove by the charred Red Crescent hospital that had been hit by Israeli shells. He walked past a pair of bullet-riddled ambulances that had been used by Israeli forces to barricade the street. He looked up at gaping holes left by Israeli shells in a long line of apartment buildings.