400 richest Americans’ incomes doubled under Bush.
While One Hundred Thousand Americans Lost Their Jobs
Steep Slide in U.S. Economy as Unsold Goods Pile Up
By LOUIS UCHITELLE
Published: January 30, 2009
The economy shrank at an accelerating pace late last year, the government reported on Friday, adding to the urgency of a stimulus package capable of bringing the country back from a recession that appears to be deepening.
The actual decline in the gross domestic product – at a 3.8 percent annual rate – fell short of the 5 to 6 percent that most economists had expected for the fourth quarter. But that was because consumption collapsed so quickly that goods piled up in inventory, unsold but counted as part of the nation’s output.
“The drop in spending was so fast, so rapid, that production could not be cut fast enough,” said Nigel Gault, chief domestic economist at IHS Global Insight. “That is happening now, and the contraction in the current quarter, as a result, will probably exceed 5 percent.”
Governments across Europe tremble as angry people take to the streets
Ian Traynor, Europe editor
The Guardian, Saturday 31 January 2009
France paralysed by a wave of strike action, the boulevards of Paris resembling a debris-strewn battle?eld. The Hungarian currency sinks to its lowest level ever against the euro, as the unemployment ?gure rises. Greek farmers block the road into Bulgaria in protest at low prices for their produce. New ?gures from the biggest bank in the Baltic show that the three post-Soviet states there face the biggest recessions in Europe.
It’s a snapshot of a single day – yesterday – in a Europe sinking into the bleakest of times. But while the outlook may be dark in the big wealthy democracies of western Europe, it is in the young, poor, vulnerable states of central and eastern Europe that the trauma of crash, slump and meltdown looks graver.
Daschle Owed Back Taxes That Exceeded $128,000
Former Senator Paid Days Before First Confirmation Hearing
Thomas A. Daschle, nominated to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, did not pay more than $128,000 in taxes over three years, a revelation that poses a potential obstacle to his Senate confirmation.
The back taxes, along with $12,000 in interest and penalties, involved unreported consulting fees, questionable charitable contributions, and a car and driver provided by a private equity firm run by entrepreneur and longtime Democratic Party donor Leo J. Hindery Jr., according to a confidential draft report prepared by Senate Finance Committee staff
The last stop for a young utopian
She traveled across the country with little but her conviction that a better world was around the bend. Then she came to New Orleans.
By Richard Fausset
January 31, 2009
Reporting from New Orleans — Kirsten Brydum pedaled away from the Howlin’ Wolf club into the darkness of another American city that she didn’t know very well. It was 1:30 a.m.
She rode a black cruiser bicycle with a basket on the back, borrowed from friends of friends. In nearly every city she had visited on her 2-month-road trip, it seemed someone was willing to lend her an old bike.
The Rebirth Brass Band was on the bill that night. Brydum, 25, had danced for a while outside the club in her flip-flops. She thought that the bouncer would eventually let her in for free, and that suited her in more ways than one. She believed, passionately, that people would one day reject a basic mechanism of free-market societies: the exchange of goods and services for money.
Women fight for Iraqi votes but still lack power behind scenes
Election rules mean 30% of candidates are female – but many keep a low profile
Martin Chulov in Basra
The Guardian, Saturday 31 January 2009
In the overwhelmingly male arena that is Iraqi politics, it was a striking sight. A local sports ground, an election rally and a candidate – a female candidate.
Zahra Hamza Ali is upbeat about her chances. In private interviews she speaks of speeding up dormant reconstruction projects in Basra province, of stability and security, but not to the exclusively male audience, who still insist that women in public life are seen and not heard.
The men, about 3,000 of them, rapturously waved vibrant Shia Islamic and political flags in the main Basra sports arena as they waited for the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, this week.
Iran’s nuclear terrorism fears
“The commission believes that unless the world community acts decisively and with greater urgency, it is more likely than not a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013.”
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
This statement was made recently by Graham Allison, one of the authors of “World at Risk”, a report by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, during his testimony before the US Congress. Sounding alarms about the growing risks of a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States, the report gloomily states that America’s “margin of safety has decreased”.
The comprehensive report provides a list of practical steps to reverse this unwanted situation. For example, making sure North Korea is de-nuclearized while Iran “must not be allowed to cross its nuclear goal-line”.
Sri Lanka president calls for safety of civilians in Tamil Tiger conflict
About 250,000 people are believed to be caught in crossfire of major government offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels
Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, today gave the Tamil Tigers 48 hours to allow civilians to leave an area of dense jungle in which the rebels are mounting a last stand, but the government refused to grant a ceasefire, declaring its intention to eradicate the guerilla force after more than three decades of conflict.
Humanitarian agencies voiced concern over the fate of an estimated 250,000 Tamil civilians trapped by the fighting, and said that hundreds had already been killed. The Red Cross was today negotiating with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), as the rebels are formally known, to coordinate the transfer of civilians cornered in the 300 square kilometres of jungle and scattered villages still controlled by the Tigers.
We are on the brink of war with the South, says North Korea
Bellicose words seen as bid to attract Obama’s attention
By Jonathan Thatcher in Seoul
Saturday, 31 January 2009
North Korea said yesterday it was scrapping all accords with South Korea, a move the South’s prime minister said could be timed to coincide with Barack Obama taking office in the US.
The US State Department said the North Korean comments were “distinctly not helpful” but the US would keep pursuing a 2005 multilateral deal under which North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear programs.
Analysts said the rise in tension made a military clash on the strongly-defended border more likely.
“There is neither way to improve [relations] nor hope to bring them on track,” North Korea’s KCNA news agency quoted the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea as saying.
Officials sacked after Sarkozy hears jeers
By John Lichfield in Paris
Saturday, 31 January 2009
To jeer President Nicolas Sarkozy has become a serious offence, punishable by the sacking of any official who allows the boos to reach the presidential ears. The police chief and the most senior national government official in the Manche département (county) of lower Normandy have been fired in successive days, to the fury of local politicians, including members of M. Sarkozy’s own party.
The officials’ offence was to fail to shield the President from the boos and whistles of protesters when he made a speech in the town of Saint-Lô earlier this month. Their dismissal has fuelled a debate about President Sarkozy’s increasingly autocratic behaviour. Two high-profile ministers from ethnic minorities, appointed by M. Sarkozy to much fanfare in 2007, have been placed in the political deep-freeze by the President in recent weeks. Last year he ordered the firing of a successful Corsican police chief after nationalist protesters had invaded the garden of his friend, the actor Christian Clavier
Mafia bosses seek sun and safety on la costa nostra
From The Times
January 31, 2009
Graham Keeley in Barcelona
Scruffy and unkempt, Antonio Caiazzo seemed like just another Italian who had come to Spain for the sun and good life. The reality was very different: he was one of the deadliest capos, or bosses, of the Camorra, the Neapolitan Mafia.
Caiazzo, 51, who was arrested in Madrid this week, was involved in a bloody turf war in the 1990s in which innocent bystanders were killed in shoot-outs on the streets of Naples.
In 2007 he was imprisoned for 12 years for Mafia association and aggravated extortion. Caiazzo went on the run, however, staying one step ahead of the law – until now.
New power-sharing deal will not end the agony in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe
From The Times
January 31, 2009
What does Zimbabwe’s power-sharing deal mean for Africa? The answer depends on who you ask. To some it is the only realistic way of moving the country out of its humanitarian crisis. To others it represents a wholesale failure of democracy that will reverberate around the continent for years to come.
“The way Africa handles this process in Zimbabwe will define how democracy goes in Africa,” Raila Odinga, the Kenyan Prime Minister told the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday.
He should know. Mr Odinga took office as the result of a power-sharing deal brokered by Kofi Annan in the wake of postelection violence in which more than 1,000 people were killed. That Kenyan deal was supposed to be “unique”, not a model for any African country, like Zimbabwe, to adopt when the going got tough
Somali MPs choose new president
Moderate Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed has been elected Somalia’s new president, after a secret ballot of members of parliament.
Mr Ahmed comfortably won a majority in a second round of voting after one of the frontrunners, Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, withdrew.
The election followed the resignation of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed.
MPs met in Djibouti because of instability in Somalia, where Islamist militias control much of the country.
Mr Ahmed was until recently the leader of an opposition movement accused of having links to al-Qaeda.
The BBC’s Peter Greste in the region says he won the election as the one man who may be able to straddle the political extremes between the secular warlords, who until now have dominated government, and the Islamist al-Shabab militia.
Lithium deposits could power long-exploited Bolivia’s future
By Tyler Bridges | McClatchy Newspapers
RIO GRANDE, Bolivia – On a remote Andean plain here, a short drive on unpaved roads from the world’s largest salt flat, 120 government workers are constructing a facility to help power the fuel-efficient electric cars of the future.
The plant, in a sparsely populated region, is supposed to begin producing basic compounds of lithium, which is used to make batteries for cell phones, power tools, computers and other electronic devices, by year’s end.