Bush Holds His
Final Press Conference And
Lies Out His…… He Also Acts Like A Spoiled Child
Israeli forces step up offensive as UN chief tours
By Nidal al-Mughrabi, Reuters
Tuesday, 13 January 2009
Israeli forces tightened their hold on the outskirts of the city of Gaza today as United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon pressed for a ceasefire in the fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants.
In clashes on the edges of the city, Israeli forces killed 12 gunmen, some of them Hamas members, medical workers said.
“We are tightening the encirclement of the city,” Brigadier General Eyal Eisenberg told reporters touring Israeli positions.
UN Secretary-General Ban was heading to the region for a week of talks with leaders in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Syria aimed at ending the bloodshed.
“My message is simple, direct, and to the point: the fighting must stop. To both sides, I say: Just stop now,” Ban told reporters before his departure.
As more Chinese lose jobs, protests grow bolder
Economic woes shining a light on social issues
By Ariana Eunjung Cha
BEIJING – For months, the Communist Party had been able to deflect anger about factory closings toward the companies themselves. The party managed to come off as the benevolent savior by handing out cash to make up for unpaid salaries. The strategy stopped working at the Jianrong Suitcase Factory in late December.
When offered 60 percent of their wages to disband their protest and go home, the workers pushed back at riot police sent to keep them locked in their factory compound in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan. According to several witnesses, more than 100 irate workers broke through the cordon, some shouting, “There are no human rights here!”
Obama’s Plan to Close Prison at Guantánamo May Take Year
By WILLIAM GLABERSON and HELENE COOPER
Published: January 12, 2009
President-elect Barack Obama plans to issue an executive order on his first full day in office directing the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, people briefed by Obama transition officials said Monday.
But experts say it is likely to take many months, perhaps as long as a year, to empty the prison that has drawn international criticism since it received its first prisoners seven years ago this week. One transition official said the new administration expected that it would take several months to transfer some of the remaining 248 prisoners to other countries, decide how to try suspects and deal with the many other legal challenges posed by closing the camp
Southern California fire chiefs debate stay-and-defend program
If residents don’t want to evacuate, some fire officials argue, they could help save homes by putting out embers and keeping watch for combustible materials. Training materials are in the works.
By Catherine Saillant
January 13, 2009
Fire chiefs in tinder-dry Southern California, faced with lean budgets while more people squeeze into the region, are starting to rethink long-standing policies on ordering mass evacuations in a wildfire, debating whether it may be wiser in some situations to let residents stay and defend their homes.
“We don’t have enough resources to put an engine at every house in harm’s way,” said Ventura County Fire Chief Bob Roper. “We figure, if people are going to stay, maybe they can become part of the solution.
Borrowing from tactics used in Australia for nearly two decades, top officials from fire agencies in seven Southern California counties started last fall to discuss moving toward an evacuation policy that makes allowances for people who want to try to save their homes. They will take the matter up again Wednesday at a meeting of Firescope, an advisory panel representing fire services statewide, said Roper, vice chairman of Firescope and a member of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2005 blue-ribbon fire commission.
Demands grow for Gaza war crimes investigation
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
The Guardian, Tuesday 13 January 2009
Israel is facing growing demands from senior UN officials and human rights groups for an international war crimes investigation in Gaza over allegations such as the “reckless and indiscriminate” shelling of residential areas and use of Palestinian families as human shields by soldiers.
With the death toll from the 17-day Israeli assault on Gaza climbing above 900, pressure is increasing for an independent inquiry into specific incidents, such as the shelling of a UN school turned refugee centre where about 40 people died, as well as the question of whether the military tactics used by Israel systematically breached humanitarian law.
As US withdraws, will Al Qaeda in Iraq find new openings?
The Sunni insurgent group may strike back, but Iraq experts say it’s unlikely they will ever achieve the level of power they once wielded.
By Tom A. Peter | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the January 12, 2009 edition
YUSUFIYAH, IRAQ – Three months before Amin al-Qaraghouli walked into a meeting of tribal sheikhs here and blew himself up, killing 23 people, he was in jail for planting roadside bombs. He was freed after local elders backed his claim that he had abandoned his violent past.
The Jan. 3 attack in this town of dirt roads and mud-brick buildings 25 miles southwest of Baghdad was the worst suicide bombing in months and a deadly reminder that Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) remains within striking distance.
With American forces largely gone from Yusufiyah and pulling out of cities across the country, security is being left to the Iraqi Army, police, and their paramilitary allies in the Sons of Iraq (SOI). But experts and many Iraqis worry that in the absence of US soldiers AQI may attempt to resurface and once again carry out mass-casualty attacks.
Spain’s high-speed trains win over fed-up flyers
Giles Tremlett in Madrid
The Guardian, Tuesday 13 January 2009
Spain’s sleek new high-speed trains have stolen hundreds of thousands of passengers from airlines over the last year, slashing carbon emissions and marking a radical change in the way Spaniards travel.
Passenger numbers on fuel-guzzling domestic flights fell 20% in the year to November as commuters and tourists swapped cramped airline seats for the space and convenience of the train, according to figures released yesterday.
High-speed rail travel – boosted by the opening of a line that slashed the journey time from Madrid to Barcelona to 2 hours 35 minutes in February – grew 28% over the same period. About 400,000 travellers shunned airports and opted for the 220mph AVE trains.
Step aside, Sartre: this is the new face of French intellectualism
While the West threw billions at global poverty, Esther Duflo tried to solve the problem with science. It has made her France’s most fêted thinker, says John Lichfield
Tuesday, 13 January 2009
Everyone knows what a world-renowned, French intellectual looks like. There is the older sort, now rare, who has a squint and smokes cigarettes and haunts the cafés of the Paris Left Bank. There is the newer kind, who has flowing hair and an open-necked shirt and haunts television studios.
Wrong and wrong again. The new face of the world-leading French intellectual is a brisk 36-year-old woman with the pleasant but no-nonsense look of a primary school teacher, who climbs mountains in her spare time.
Ethiopia troops ‘leave Mogadishu’
Ethiopian troops have withdrawn from their main bases in the Somali capital two years after they intervened in Mogadishu, reports say.
There were scenes of jubilation among Mogadishu residents as the troops left.
The troops entered Somalia in 2006 to help government forces oust Islamists, who again control much of the country.
A small African Union peacekeeping force provides security in Mogadishu but analysts say it is not strong enough to withstand the Islamists.
The departure of the Ethiopians gives urgency to efforts to find more peacekeepers, says the BBC’s Elizabeth Blunt in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Some 16,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict between Somalia’s transitional government and the Islamists, and a million more have been forced from their homes.
Exclusive: Pirate tells how five drowned>
NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN)
From David McKenzie
One of the pirates who held a Saudi-owned oil supertanker off the coast of Somalia before releasing it for ransom over the weekend told CNN how five in his group drowned in an operation gone wrong.
Pirates seized the Sirius on November 15. A $3.5 million ransom payment — down from the initial demand of $25 million — was dropped by parachute onto the ship Friday, but the pirates delayed the vessel’s release after the drownings.
“Other pirates on the shore wanted a tip from the pirates on the Sirius Star, so they started to fire in the air as our people approached the land,” Libaan Jaama told CNN. “When our pirates heard the shots, they thought they would be robbed, so they tried to return to the tanker. In that quick turn the boat capsized.”
Pakistan tested by battles with Al Qaeda, Taliban
The US pursuit of Al Qaeda with airstrikes complicates Pakistan’s struggle against the Taliban, who launched their largest attack in months over the weekend.
By Shahan Mufti | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the January 13, 2009 edition
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – US military officials said over the weekend that a Jan. 1 drone aircraft strike in Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal area killed two senior Al Qaeda operatives.
But the continuing strikes inside Pakistan are doing little good in the war on terror, many observers here charge – or for a Pakistani government that is trying to sell it as “Pakistan’s own war” rather than an American imposition, which is the popular perception.
Pakistan’s government also maintains that such air strikes are strengthening the cause of the Taliban militancy at home.
“There are two battles going on here,” says Ikram Sehgal a former major in the Pakistan Army and the publisher of the Defence Journal in Karachi. One involves the American search for Al Qaeda operatives hiding in the tribal areas, he says. The other is the Pakistan military’s fight against the Taliban Movement of Pakistan that has taken root in the northwestern regions of the country.
Race to the death over Kashmir waters
By Haroon Mirani
SRINAGAR – India and Pakistan, in an expensive winner-takes-all race to tap the power of the Kishenganga river in Kashmir, are separately aiming to build large hydro-electric projects just 70 kilometers apart on the same fast-flowing water on their respective sides of the divided region.
India’s Kishenganga hydro-power project, which the government last February priced at US$740 million, involves a 330-megawatt plant in the Gurez Valley. That is about a third the capacity of the 963MW Neelum-Jhelum project planned at an estimated cost of US$2.16 billion in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, the project name reflecting the change from Kishenganga to Neelum of the river’s name as it crosses to the Pakistani side of the divided region.
According to the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) signed between the two countries in 1960, the country whose project is completed first will get the complete rights of this river. Despite the fear of losing billions of dollars and possible international embarrassment, both sides have taken up the gamble and speeded up construction work.
Vatican suggests excommunicating Mexican drug traffickers
The Vatican’s No. 2 official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, calls for a ‘harsh deterrent’ to the drug violence that left more than 5,000 dead last year.
By Tracy Wilkinson
January 13, 2009
Reporting from Mexico City — Decrying the violence that Mexicans are enduring, the Vatican has suggested excommunication as a possible punishment for drug traffickers whose war with the government has led to the deaths of thousands of people in the last year.
But the Roman Catholic Church’s severest form of rebuke would probably have little effect on traffickers and killers who lack a religious conscience, the Vatican’s No. 2 official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, acknowledged.
Speaking to Latin American journalists at the Vatican before traveling to Mexico on Monday, Bertone said it was a “duty” to fight drug gangs because their actions represent “the most hypocritical and terrible way of murdering the dignity and personality of today’s youth.”