George Bush Thinks
U.S. National Forests Are Best Used
For Housing Sub-Divisions
Israel launches assault across Gaza’s borders
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 4 January 2009 01.03 GMT
Israel last night dramatically escalated its war with Hamas, sending troops and tanks pouring over Gaza’s borders in a move designed to reoccupy parts of the northern Gaza Strip. Amid reports of fierce clashes inside Gaza, columns of military vehicles and what the army said was “a sizeable number of troops” moved across the border at several points, backed by an intense air and artillery bombardment.
The move followed the failure of a week-long air force offensive, which has claimed more than 460 Palestinian lives, to halt the Hamas rockets. More than 30 hit Israel yesterday, wounding three people. Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, said his country was a peace-loving nation but Hamas had given it no choice and brought the assault on the Palestinian people. “Now is the time to do what needs to be done,” he said. “It won’t be easy. It won’t be short. I don’t want to delude anyone.” The government in Jerusalem ordered the call-up of tens of thousands of reservists, suggesting the operation will be expanded further. The army said it expected to be in Gaza “for many long days”.
Beijing strikes at dissidents
Clampdown on Charter 08’s call for democracy also aims to gag parents of tainted milk children and Sichuan quake victims
David Stanway in Shanghai
The Observer, Sunday 4 January 2009
China has launched a tough countrywide crackdown on a new network of political activists, writers and lawyers who have supported a bold new manifesto that presses for the end of one-party rule.
The group of 300 or so people had all signed Charter 08, which called for democracy and the rule of law in China and was named after the famous Charter 77 dissident group formed in cold war Czechoslovakia.
Charter 08 has been hailed as the most significant act of public dissent against China’s Communist party since the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests were brutally crushed in 1989. It was posted online on 10 December, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It condemned recent economic modernisation efforts as having “stripped people of their rights”, and called for political reform and a new liberal, democratic constitution.
Security Agencies Alter Strategies, Add Backup for Inauguration Week
By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 4, 2009; Page A01
Authorities are organizing what appears to be the largest security operation ever for an inauguration, bringing in thousands of extra police, agents and troops to handle crowds as President-elect Barack Obama is sworn in.
Security officials are bracing not just for the ceremony and parade Jan. 20 but also for at least 70 concerts, balls and other events surrounding the inauguration. Those include the welcome celebration featuring Obama on Jan. 18 at the Lincoln Memorial, which could draw 500,000 people, according to the D.C. mayor’s office.
Portrait Emerges of Anthrax Suspect’s Troubled Life
By SCOTT SHANE
Published: January 3, 2009
FREDERICK, Md. – Inside the Army laboratory at Fort Detrick, the government’s brain for biological defense, Bruce Edwards Ivins paused to memorialize his moment in the spotlight as the anthrax panic of 2001 reached its peak.
Dr. Ivins titled his e-mail message “In the lab” and attached photographs: the gaunt microbiologist bending over Petri dishes of anthrax, and colonies of the deadly bacteria, white commas against blood-red nutrient.
Outside, on that morning of Nov. 14, 2001, five people were dead or dying, a dozen more were sick and fearful thousands were flooding emergency rooms. The postal system was crippled; senators and Supreme Court justices had fled contaminated offices. And the Federal Bureau of Investigation was struggling with a microbe for a murder weapon and a crime scene that stretched from New York to Florida.
Sri Lankan forces pound Tigers in battle for control
Government says it will end island’s 25-year war this year and hopes to take rebel leader alive
Gethin Chamberlain in Delhi
The Observer, Sunday 4 January 2009
Sri Lankan forces were pushing deep into Tamil Tiger-held territory last night, announcing the targeting of new Tiger strongholds in the north in the hope of routing the rebel group and capturing its leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran.
A day after taking the town of Kilinochchi, the de facto capital of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Sri Lankan troops moved on the north-east coastal town of Mullaitivu, with air force jets bombing the main Sea Tiger base in Mullaitivu lagoon, according to defence officials in Colombo, and also on the strategically significant Elephant Pass, which fell to the LTTE in April 2000. The defence ministry said rebels were fleeing into the jungle in disarray.
Pakistan arrests former Taliban spokesman
By Riaz Khan in Peshawar
Sunday, 4 January 2009
Pakistan has arrested Ustad Mohammed Yasir, a former Taliban spokesman, according to intelligence officials. The move may reassure Western officials concerned that tension with India is distracting Pakistan from fighting militants on the Afghan border.
Yasir was caught on Thursday during a raid on his relatives’ house in Peshawar.
The Taliban’s fugitive leader, Mullah Omar, is believed to have sent Yasir to Pakistan last year to mediate between two Taliban groups in the Mohmand tribal area on the Afghan border. He had served as his spokesman since the fall of the regime in 2001.
Gas war prompts crisis talks in Brussels
Europe starts to feel the pinch as Russian and Ukrainian state-run energy giants trade blows. David Randall reports
Sunday, 4 January 2009
The gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine was causing widespread collateral damage in Europe yesterday, as supplies were disrupted to at least seven countries. With accusations still flying back and forth between Moscow and Kiev, a concerned European Union is to hold crisis talks in Brussels tomorrow.
Bulgaria is the latest country to suffer a fall in gas supplies, joining Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Hungary and Poland, which also reported drops. The chief executive of Bulgargaz, Dimitar Gogov, said: “The pipeline pressure has dropped and we are getting smaller deliveries as of Saturday morning.”
Dozens vanish as South Ossetia and Georgia wage war by kidnap
From The Sunday Times
January 3, 2009
Mark Franchetti in Moscow
WHEN Venera Tebilova kissed her son Alan goodbye on a warm evening last October, she expected to see him home the next day. Barely 16, Alan set off with two friends to attend a religious festival in a nearby village in their native South Ossetia. More than three months later, Alan and his friends are still missing.
For weeks his frantic mother searched for him in vain. Finally, a farmer in a nearby village revealed that he had seen a group of armed men, dressed in camouflage, force the three friends at gunpoint into a car that drove them across the border into neighbouring Georgia.
“Other sources have since told me that Alan is being held in a prison in Georgia,” said Tebilova. “He was severely beaten.
Lead for car batteries poisons an African town
Battery recycling leaves deadly levels of contamination, claims 18 children
THIAROYE SUR MER, Senegal – First, it took the animals. Goats fell silent and refused to stand up. Chickens died in handfuls, then en masse. Street dogs disappeared.
Then it took the children. Toddlers stopped talking and their legs gave out. Women birthed stillborns. Infants withered and died. Some said the houses were cursed. Others said the families were cursed.
The mysterious illness killed 18 children in this town on the fringes of Dakar, Senegal’s capital, before anyone in the outside world noticed.
Mugabe tightens grip as cholera epidemic grows>
With Zimbabwe ravaged by a disease it is ill-equipped to tackle, its President is ignoring last year’s deal with the opposition and putting together a new government
By a special correspondent
Sunday, 4 January 2009
Ignoring a worsening cholera epidemic, economic collapse and a power-sharing agreement signed in September, President Robert Mugabe is starting to form a new government in Zimbabwe without the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), according to state media.
Mr Mugabe has cleared the way for a new cabinet by firing a dozen ministers and their deputies, all from his Zanu-PF party, who lost their seats in the parliamentary election last March, according to the state-owned Herald newspaper.
Israeli Arabs on Gaza firing line lack shelter
By ARTHUR MAX, Associated Press Writer
RAHAT, Israel – A rocket exploded a few hundred yards from Mateb Abu Nasr’s house, driving home the message that tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs living within range of militant attacks from Gaza are just as vulnerable as their Jewish neighbors.
But there’s a difference: When the wailing sirens warned of an incoming missile, Abu Nasr’s family had nowhere to hide.
Homes in Jewish towns and settlements are required to have one room with reinforced walls and a steel door. Public bomb shelters are accessible, and protective barriers even have been erected in rural areas.
Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki visits Iran
He hopes to use the two-day visit, including a meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad, to allay Tehran’s concerns about U.S. influence in Iraq.
By Kimi Yoshino
January 4, 2009
Reporting from Baghdad — Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Maliki arrived in Iran on Saturday for a two-day visit with top leaders, during which he is expected to allay Tehran’s concerns about the United States’ continuing influence in Iraq.
The visit is Maliki’s fourth since he was elected and comes just days after the U.S. handed over military control of the capital’s Green Zone to Iraq and began a drawdown that is to lead to all American troops leaving the country by the end of 2011.
Iran initially opposed the pact, accusing the U.S. of seeking to maintain its dominance over Iraq. American officials, for their part, have complained of Iran’s influence in next-door neighbor Iraq, including its ability to sway radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia.