Important News From The AP:
The Color Of Sasha Obama’s Backpack. Now Back To Our Regularly
Gaza now in ‘full-blown’ humanitarian crisis
Red Cross warns 500,000 civilians in danger; Israel rejects calls for truce
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Gaza is now in a “full-blown” humanitarian crisis, a senior international Red Cross official said Tuesday as Israeli ground forces edged closer to major population centers.
International Committee of the Red Cross head of operations Pierre Kraehenbuehl said the situation for Palestinian civilians is “extreme and traumatic as a result of 10 days of uninterrupted fighting.”
He said ICRC staff in Gaza told the neutral body Tuesday that the previous night was “the most frightening of all to date” on account of the ground offensive Israel has launched in the Palestinian territory.
Israel looks to drive out Hamas
• Officials push for regime change
• Islamist party ‘fatally damaged’
• Both sides reject calls for ceasefire
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
The Guardian, Tuesday 6 January 2009
Israeli intelligence and military officials are increasingly pushing for the assault on Gaza to continue until it assures the eventual downfall of Hamas amid assertions that the 10 days of military bombardment have crippled the Islamist party’s ability to govern.
As the onslaught progresses, officials are more confident of “changing the equation” in Gaza and are predicting the collapse of the Hamas administration.
Last night, Israeli forces bombed the centre of Gaza, and there were reports of intense clashes with Hamas fighters on the edge of the city. But the fighting and the occupation of parts of the north and centre of the Gaza Strip did not stop Hamas from firing more than 40 rockets into Israel.
Ex-Detainee of U.S. Describes a 6-Year Ordeal
By JANE PERLEZ, RAYMOND BONNER and SALMAN MASOOD
Published: January 5, 2009
LAHORE, Pakistan – When Muhammad Saad Iqbal arrived home here in August after more than six years in American custody, including five at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, he had difficulty walking, his left ear was severely infected, and he was dependent on a cocktail of antibiotics and antidepressants.
In November, a Pakistani surgeon operated on his ear, physical therapists were working on lower back problems and a psychiatrist was trying to wean him off the drugs he carried around in a white, plastic shopping bag.
The maladies, said Mr. Iqbal, 31, a professional reader of the Koran, are the result of a gantlet of torture, imprisonment and interrogation for which his Washington lawyer plans to sue the United States government.
Panetta Chosen as C.I.A. Chief in Surprise Step
By MARK MAZZETTI and CARL HULSE
Published: January 5, 2009
WASHINGTON – Leon E. Panetta, a former congressman and White House chief of staff, has been selected by President-elect Barack Obama to head the Central Intelligence Agency. The choice, disclosed Monday by Democratic officials, immediately revealed divisions in the party as two senior lawmakers questioned why Mr. Obama would nominate a candidate with limited experience in intelligence matters.
The job was the last unfilled major post for Mr. Obama, who has criticized the agency for using interrogation methods he characterized as torture. Democratic officials said Mr. Obama had selected Mr. Panetta for his managerial skills, his bipartisan standing, and the foreign policy and budget experience he gained under President Bill Clinton.
Obama Pitches Stimulus Plan
GOP Asked to Help Design Bill; $300 Billion in Tax Cuts Sought
By Paul Kane, Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 6, 2009; Page A01
President-elect Barack Obama arrived on Capitol Hill yesterday and immediately set to work reassuring skeptical Republicans about his massive economic stimulus package — part of a campaign that earned him praise for seeking their input but questions from those averse to hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending.
Pitching a plan that is expected to include $300 billion in tax cuts, Obama pledged to consult Republican leaders, who until yesterday had been left out of negotiations between the president-elect’s advisers and congressional Democratic staff.
Police in Israel grapple with a mafia gang war
Daylight bombings, bystander deaths and the occasional rocket attack have laid bare the shortcomings of Israel’s formidable security apparatus in dealing with the crime wave.
By Ashraf Khalil
January 6, 2009
Reporting from Jerusalem — His name rhymed with Al Capone and he came to a bad end behind the wheel of a rented white Volkswagen.
Until the moment a bomb planted on his car exploded on a Tel Aviv street, mob boss Yaakov Alperon was living large. He and his Carmela Soprano-blond wife, Ahuva, were media darlings who even took part in a 2006 reality show in which a famous Israeli model moved in with their family.
After her husband’s assassination in November, a tearful Ahuva went on Israeli television to plead for an end to the violence. “I’m left with seven orphans,” she said. “I beg you, don’t look for revenge.”
But as he stood over his father’s grave, one of her sons appeared to have vengeance on his mind: “I will send back that person to God,” he said. “He won’t have a grave because I’ll cut off his hands, head and body.”
Two strikes, and another family lay buried in rubble
By Said Ghazali and Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
Tuesday, 6 January 2009
The extended Abu Eysha family were asleep when their three-storey house five minutes from Gaza’s coast was hit by the first air attack early yesterday. Five minutes and another air strike later, Amer Abu Eysha, 50, who used to work as a tiler in Israel, his 30- year-old wife, Naheel, and three of his children lay dead under a pile of rubble.
Yesterday the children’s uncle, Rashad Abu Eysha, said a missile fired by an Israeli F16 went through the second and first floors before exploding on the ground floor where his brother lived with his immediate family.
Are India and Pakistan heading for war?
Pressure is mounting on politicians in both countries to take drastic action in the wake of recent terrorist attacks
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 6 January 2009 08.00 GMT
Tensions between India and Pakistan are at their highest in nearly a decade. Perhaps not since militants attacked India’s parliament in December 2001 has the prospect of war between the two countries been so high. Then, as with the recent attacks in Mumbai, the assailants were believed to be from Lashkar-e-Taiba, the jihadi militant group created under the auspices of Pakistani military intelligence in the late 1980s to wage guerrilla war in Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan has denied involvement in either of those commando-style attacks on centres of Indian power and privilege, but the denials have curried little sympathy internationally.
Toyota factories face days of closure
From Times Online
January 6, 2009
Leo Lewis, Asia Business Correspondent
Toyota, the Japanese car giant, has been forced into suspending production at a number of factories in the face of chilling economic data, the strong yen and rapidly collapsing global car markets.
In a rare move which appears likely to be repeated in a similar form across much of the struggling Japanese automotive industry, the Nagoya-based giant said that all 12 of its Japanese manufacturing facilities would go dark for a total of 11 days between February and March.
By Toyota’s own admission, the move is designed to save permanent staff jobs amid fears that huge swathes of once booming industrial Japan are on the brink of turning very bleak indeed.
Death on the slopes leaves key Merkel ally facing manslaughter investigation
Woman dies in collision after state PM allegedly skied wrong way up piste
By Tony Paterson in Berlin
Tuesday, 6 January 2009
A leading German politician was yesterday suspected of breaking piste traffic regulations at an Austrian ski resort only seconds before he was involved in a 60mph collision with a Slovakian woman skier who died from the injuries suffered in the accident.
Dieter Althaus, the conservative prime minister of the east German state of Thuringia and a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, was on a skiing holiday at Austria’s Riesneralm resort when he collided with Beata Christiandl on New Year’s Day.
Aged 41 and a mother of four, Mrs Christiandl was quickly rescued by helicopter but suffered a cardiac arrest on her way to hospital and died.
Ukraine pays dearly for haggling over price >
From The Times
January 6, 2009
Robin Pagnamenta: Analysis
As with most things, Ukraine’s dispute with Russia comes down to money and, in this case, the Kremlin’s desire to force former Soviet republics to pay the same price for gas as countries further west.
A quarter of Europe’s gas comes from Russia, a figure that is expected to rise steadily as supplies from the North Sea dwindle. While most countries in Western Europe pay Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled gas monopoly, a fluctuating price calculated every three months and linked to the oil price, the situation is different for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. These three have benefited for years from sweetened energy supply deals with Moscow, a relic of their shared history, and fixed-price contracts, often set for a year or longer.
Piracy raises pressure for new international tack on Somalia
The world is not willing to allow this strategic nation to remain ungoverned. Can a coordinated effort create a stable government?
By Scott Baldauf | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the January 6, 2009 edition
JOHANNESBURG – With Islamist militias in control of much of the country, pirates using Somali coasts to attack commercial ships with ease, and mounting hunger among civilians, Somalia is a failed state begging for new ideas in 2009. US-backed Ethiopian troops who’ve been propping up an unpopular transitional government are now fleeing the country. Yet as the growing presence of European, American, Indian, and, soon, Chinese navies off the Somali coast show, the world is not willing to allow this strategic nation in the Horn of Africa – with its long coastline along key shipping routes – to remain ungoverned. One of the central questions for 2009: Can a coordinated international effort help create a lasting and stable government?
Ebola alert shuts Angolan border
The authorities in Angola say they have closed part of the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
Angolan officials said all movement of people from northern Luande Norte province to DR Congo would be stopped.
The outbreak in DR Congo was the first in Africa in several months and the fourth in DR Congo since 1976.
It is believed to have infected at least 40 people of which more than ten have died.
“We are suspending all movement of people and trade with the DRC in the province of Lunda Norte”, said Angolan Health Minister Jose Van Dunem.
Reuters news agency reported Mr Van Dunem as saying that no cases of Ebola had been diagnosed in Angola so far but that the Angolan military and police were on the alert for signs of the virus in the north-east border region.
To Rid Slums of Drug Gangs, Police in Rio Try War Tactics
By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, January 6, 2009; Page A08
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan. 5 — From the school balcony, Marcos Cunha had an unobstructed view of Santa Marta, the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood that had been giving his fellow police officers so much trouble.
Looming above him was the rocky peak that police once rappelled down to raid the shantytown. At eye level sat the bullet-pocked Church of the Nazarene, where drug dealers had fired at oncoming police on another day. And spread below him were the clustered shacks and tangled wires of this largely ungoverned place on a hillside of the capital.