All Vote Against The Stimulus Package
House Passes Stimulus Plan Despite G.O.P. Opposition
By JACKIE CALMES
Published: January 28, 2009
WASHINGTON – Without a single Republican vote, President Obama won House approval on Wednesday for an $819 billion economic recovery plan as Congressional Democrats sought to temper their own differences over the enormous package of tax cuts and spending.
As a piece of legislation, the two-year package is among the biggest in history, reflecting a broad view in Congress that urgent fiscal help is needed for an economy in crisis, at a time when the Federal Reserve has already cut interest rates almost to zero.
But the size and substance of the stimulus package remain in dispute, as House Republicans argued that it tilted heavily toward new spending instead of tax cuts.
In China, a Grass-Roots Rebellion
Rights Manifesto Slowly Gains Ground Despite Government Efforts to Quash It<
By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, January 29, 2009; Page A01
SHANGHAI — When Tang Xiaozhao first saw a copy of the pro-democracy petition in her e-mail inbox, she silently acknowledged she agreed with everything in it but didn’t want to get involved.
Tang, a pigtailed, 30-something cosmetology major, had never considered herself the activist type. Like many other Chinese citizens, she kept a blog where she wrote about current events and her life, but she wasn’t political.
A few days later, however, Tang surprised herself. She logged on to her computer and signed the document by sending her full name, location and occupation to a special e-mail address.
Peanut Corp. recalls all products back to 2007
Salmonella was found at least 12 times in products made at the Ga. plant
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
Food and Drug Administration officials called for a recall of all products containing peanut butter, peanut paste and peanut oil manufactured since Jan. 1, 2007 at the Blakely, Ga., processing center operated by Peanut Corp. of America.
That could vastly increase the number of recalled food and other products in the nation’s consumer supply.
Additional strains of salmonella also have been detected at the plant, although federal officials emphasized they have confirmed no illnesses beyond those associated with the current Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak.
Fed warns of deepening slump, may move on mortgage rates
By Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve on Wednesday kept its benchmark lending rate near zero and said that it’s likely to stay that way for some time, as it also signaled new efforts to lower home-mortgage rates.
The Fed left unchanged its target for the fed funds rate, which banks charge each other for overnight loans, in a range of zero to a quarter point. This ensures that most consumer lending rates will remain unchanged, too.
The Fed promised new steps to boost lending to consumers. It also suggested that it would soon purchase Treasury bonds to decrease other lending rates – notably, home mortgage rates and long-term corporate loans.
Israel’s destruction of U.S.-style school shocks Gazans
By Shashank Bengali | McClatchy Newspapers
ATATRA, Gaza Strip – When President George W. Bush visited the West Bank a year ago, Palestinian militants in Gaza vented their anger by ransacking the American International School here, smashing windows, stealing computers and torching a small fleet of buses.
It was just the latest episode in a decade-long string of bombings, kidnappings and lootings at the elite private school, which isn’t connected to the U.S. government but has an American-style curriculum and coed, English-only classrooms, which have made it a favorite target of Islamic extremists.
On Jan. 3, the school finally was destroyed, but not by Islamist extremists. An Israeli airstrike flattened the two-story building and sprayed shards of steel and stone over the manicured lawns and soccer field. The night watchman was killed. Books, computers, science equipment and art supplies were crushed beneath the wreckage.
Iraq’s voters will come out in force for Saturday’s elections, armed with knowledge, says deputy prime minister.
By Larry Kaplow | Newsweek Web Exclusive
A few years ago, Dr. Rafe al-Eissawi was an orthopedic surgeon in the embattled city of Fallujah-sometimes mediating with Americans, sometimes angering them with his public casualty reports. Backed by Anbar tribes and in the Sunni parliamentary block that is seeking to win a bigger role in the Shiite-led government, he became one of the technocrats in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s cabinet and then one of two deputy prime ministers. Now he wins praise from Americans and Iraqis for his efforts to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and attract investment.
Unlike most other top-ranking Iraqis who returned in 2003 from exile, Eissawi, 43, stayed in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. He now heads a small party hoping to score wins Saturday in the first election expected to see widespread participation from Sunnis, who largely boycotted the local voting in 2005. He spoke to NEWSWEEK’s Larry Kaplow in his Green Zone office. Excerpts:
Russia ready to shelve missiles plan in conciliatory gesture to Obama
Luke Harding in Moscow
The Guardian, Thursday 29 January 2009
Russia yesterday offered a broad gesture of conciliation to the Obama White House, suggesting that it was shelving plans to deploy nuclear-capable missiles close to the Polish border.
In a short statement that drew a welcome from Nato and eager anticipation of some sort of detente after years of Moscow-Washington confrontation, officials said that the Kremlin’s plans to station short-range Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, the small Russian exclave on the Baltic, had been “suspended”.
The move follows President Barack Obama’s decision to review the Pentagon’s contentious missile defence system in central Europe, they added.
France hit by nationwide strike
By Estelle Shirbon, Reuters
Thursday, 29 January 2009
Hundreds of thousands of French workers staged a nationwide strike today to try to force President Nicolas Sarkozy and business leaders to do more to protect jobs and wages during the economic crisis.
Public transport was snarled in many cities, scores of flights were cancelled, and schools, banks, hospitals, the post office, law courts and state broadcasters were also expected to be hit by the protest.
The strike aims to highlight fears of growing unemployment, discontent over Sarkozy’s reluctance to help consumers and resentment towards bankers blamed for the economic slump.
“We need to sound a cry of anger,” said Francois Chereque, head of the moderate CFDT union
Wounded trapped in Sri Lankan war zone
Thursday, 29 January 2009
The Tamil Tigers blocked a convoy carrying hundreds of wounded people from leaving the site of heavy fighting in Sri Lanka’s north, the United Nations said yesterday.
The Tigers denied travel permission for the UN convoy, forcing it to turn back. Sri Lankan troops have made dramatic advances in recent days, cornering the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in a 100sq-mile area.
The advance by government troops has led many to forecast an end to the long-running conflict. But the UN and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) say 250,000 civilians are also trapped in the area, including those wounded by the fighting.
A battle before a battle
ON THE MILITANT TRAIL, Part 1
Jan 29, 2009
Peshawar – the High Fort – is the capital of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the administrative center for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. It was one of the main trading centers on the ancient Silk Road and was a major crossroads for various cultures between South and Central Asia and the Middle East.
Located on the edge of the Khyber Pass near the Afghan border, Peshawar, with a population of several million, is the commercial, economic, political and cultural capital of the Pashtuns in Pakistan.
Peshawar and its surrounds are also now the epicenter for the Taliban and other militants in their struggle not only in Afghanistan and Pakistan but also in their bid to establish a base from which to wage an “end-of-time battle” that would stretch all the way to the Arab heartlands of Damascus and Palestine.
Even in exile, Somali journalists face death
Since 2007, at least 13 journalists have been killed while working on stories and more than 50 have been forced to leave the country, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists and the National Union of Somali Journalists.
By Scott Baldauf | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the January 29, 2009 edition
NAIROBI, KENYA – When Somali government forces found Osman during an operation in a village outside of Mogadishu on March 9, 2007, they arrested him and sent him off to jail to face interrogation, beatings, and torture.
Osman was not a terrorist or an anti-government militant. He was a journalist working for HornAfrik, a Somali-language news organization that had been critical of the Transitional Federal Government’s military operations, in which innocent civilians were often the chief victims.
“This is the man we want,” Osman recalls the commanding officer saying, as he was carted away. “Because of the hate they have for the media, and especially when I said I worked for HornAfrik, they had me beaten, tortured.”
(Osman’s name – and those of the other Somali journalists interviewed in this story – have been changed because of threats to their lives, even in exile.)
For the next 11 days, Osman faced a very uncertain future. “They wanted to kill me, but some of them understood that – with the kind of work that I do – that there could be repercussions if I was killed outright, so they put me in jail,” says Osman, speaking in the office of a sympathetic Somali peace organization in the Eastleigh suburb of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. “But there was a lot of pressure on the state from the international community, so that is how I was released.”
South Africa Says Zimbabwe Agreed on Unity Government
By Mike Cohen Jan. 28 (Bloomberg)
Zimbabwe’s three main political parties have agreed to form a coalition government and observers shouldn’t “read too much” into opposition complaints about how it will be constituted, a senior South African government official said.
The 15-nation Southern African Development Community decided at a meeting in Pretoria yesterday that Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai should be appointed prime minister by Feb. 11. The MDC subsequently said it wasn’t satisfied with the ruling and its leadership would decide at a Jan. 30 meeting whether to join President Robert Mugabe’s government.
“The parties have the right to consult their mandating bodies,” Frank Chikane, the director-general of South Africa’s presidency, told reporters in Pretoria today. “There is an agreement in Zimbabwe on how to resolve the political challenges. You do lose things and gain things in a negotiated settlement. We can solve most problems” once the unity government is in place.
Mexico drug bosses may have set truce
According to news reports, trafficking chiefs in the state of Sinaloa agreed last month to curb their bloody rivalry. Killings there have declined sharply.
By Tracy Wilkinson
January 29, 2009
Reporting from Mexico City — Have some of Mexico’s most notorious drug bosses declared a truce?
After a record year of bloodshed, killings have dropped by two-thirds from the December level in the state of Sinaloa, the historic center of Mexican drug trafficking, according to tallies kept by local and national news media.
Those reports have fueled speculation that leaders of the two biggest Sinaloan drug gangs, which have been locked in a fight for territorial control, reached an agreement in December to hold fire, after finding that the battle was sapping time, energy and money better spent on the drug business.
A truce would be welcome in Sinaloa, where ambushes, shootouts and kidnappings have occurred day and night. More than 120 people were killed in the state in December, according to Mexican news media; January looks set to end with about 40 deaths.