Docudharma Times Friday February 13

Republicans Hide In The Shadows

Hoping For Failure

While Americans Work For Success  

Friday’s Headlines:

Feinstein comment on U.S. drones likely to embarrass Pakistan

Far-right Dutch MP refused entry to UK

The Lynx effect: One woman’s quest to save a species

How did it come to this?

Zimbabwe cabinet to be sworn in

US envoy in Kabul to map out surge

Australian police charge man with arson over bushfire which killed 21 people

Israel, Hezbollah: Has deterrence worked

Iraqi Interpreters May Wear Masks

In Mexico, officials cleared of civil rights abuses in 2006 riot

Gregg Withdraws As Commerce Pick

Republican Senator Cites Policy Disagreements As Congress Prepares to Vote on Stimulus Plan

By Anne E. Kornblut and Michael D. Shear

Washington Post Staff Writers

Friday, February 13, 2009; Page A01

Saying he “made a mistake,” Republican  Sen. Judd Gregg withdrew yesterday as the nominee for commerce secretary, dealing a fresh blow to President Obama’s quest to fill out his Cabinet and dramatically undercutting his efforts to forge a new bipartisanship in the capital.Gregg said that he had simply lacked foresight and that he shouldered the burden of the decision entirely. “I should have focused sooner and more effectively on the implications of being in the Cabinet versus myself as an individual doing my job,” he said at a news conference on Capitol Hill.

Barbed wire villages raise fears of refugee concentration camps

From The Times

February 13, 2009

Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent

Sri Lanka was accused yesterday of planning concentration camps to hold 200,000 ethnic Tamil refugees from its northeastern conflict zone for up to three years – and seeking funding for the project from Britain.

The Sri Lankan Government says that it will open five “welfare villages” to house Tamils fleeing the 67 sq mile patch of jungle where the army has pinned down the Tamil Tiger rebels.

The ministry in charge says that the camps, in Vavuniya and Mannar districts, will have schools, banks, parks and vocational centres to help to rehabilitate up to 200,000 displaced Tamils after a 25-year civil war.



Ailing Banks May Require More Aid to Keep Solvent



Published: February 12, 2009

Some of the nation’s large banks, according to economists and other finance experts, are like dead men walking.

A sober assessment of the growing mountain of losses from bad bets, measured in today’s marketplace, would overwhelm the value of the banks’ assets, they say. The banks, in their view, are insolvent.

None of the experts’ research focuses on individual banks, and there are certainly exceptions among the 50 largest banks in the country. Nor do consumers and businesses need to fret about their deposits, which are federally insured. And even banks that might technically be insolvent can continue operating for a long time, and could recover their financial health when the economy improves.

Feinstein comment on U.S. drones likely to embarrass Pakistan

The Predator planes that launch missile strikes against militants are based in Pakistan, the senator says. That suggests a much deeper relationship with the U.S. than Islamabad would like to admit.

By Greg Miller

February 13, 2009

Reporting from Washington — A senior U.S. lawmaker said Thursday that unmanned CIA Predator aircraft operating in Pakistan are flown from an air base in that country, a revelation likely to embarrass the Pakistani government and complicate its counter-terrorism collaboration with the United States.

The disclosure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, marked the first time a U.S. official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patrolling Pakistan take off and land.

At a hearing, Feinstein expressed surprise over Pakistani opposition to the campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes against Islamic extremist targets along Pakistan’s northwestern border.

“As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base,” she said.


Far-right Dutch MP refused entry to UK

Immigration officials prevent Geert Wilders leaving Heathrow airport to attend showing of his film about ‘fascist’ Qur’an at House of Lords

Haroon Siddique, Peter Walker and agencies, Thursday 12 February 2009 15.18 GMT

Geert Wilders, the rightwing Dutch politician accused of Islamophobia, was today refused entry to the UK after arriving at Heathrow airport in London.

Wilders was due to show his 17-minute film Fitna, which criticises the Qur’an as a “fascist book”, at the House of Lords today. But on Tuesday he received a letter from the Home Office refusing him entry because his opinions “threaten community harmony and therefore public safety”.

He arrived at Heathrow shortly after 2pm and was questioned by immigration officials.

On the plane from Amsterdam, the controversial leader of the Freedom party told Dutch journalists he had travelled to Britain in December without any fuss. “I don’t see why there’s a problem with me this time,” he said. “I don’t understand why they allowed me to come before and not now.

The Lynx effect: One woman’s quest to save a species

 Europe’s most endangered mammal has been pulled back from the brink of extinction and it’s all thanks to one woman, as Elizabeth Nash reports from El Acebuche, Andalusia

Friday, 13 February 2009

You would be lucky to see the shy, elusive Iberian lynx, Europe’s most endangered mammal, in the wild. The 250 or so wild lynxes that remain after decades of depredation of their habitat hide deep in the protected scrubland of Spain’s south-western corner, and shun human contact. But you may just glimpse the agile and astute creature, twice as big as a domestic cat but half the size of the more common Eurasian lynx, crouching at night by the road that intersects Andalusia’s Doñana National Park, poised to dart across. The roadsides here are cleared of vegetation to make the lynx more visible to motorists, and high fences discourage it from venturing outside its terrain. But being run over remains the main cause of mortality. The second is the lack of prey, principally rabbits, forcing lynxes to brave the perilous roads in search of new sources of food.


How did it come to this?

 Ten years ago, Zimbabwe was self-sufficient in food. Today more than two-thirds of its population needs food aid, many are dying of hunger and this year’s harvest will be the worst in decades. By Chris McGreal  

Chris McGreal

The Guardian, Friday 13 February 2009

Juliana Tafirei will probably die, while the pills that could save her life lie on her bedside table. The drugs arrive each month with a batch of Red Cross food aid at her small conical house in the village of Muzondo in Masvingo, a sprawling agricultural province of about 1.3 million people, 300km from Harare, the Zimbabwean capital. But there are a lot of mouths to feed and the food runs out after a couple of weeks, three at best. After that, Tafirei and her six children eat only every other day, a meal consisting of a few boiled wild vegetables and sometimes a cup of maize begged from neighbours.

That is when Tafirei, 36, stops taking the antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that prevent HIV from developing in to full-blown Aids. On an empty stomach they are, as one health worker puts it, like digesting razor blades. “We don’t each much. The food they give us doesn’t last. The children get hungry.

Zimbabwe cabinet to be sworn in

The formation of Zimbabwe’s unity government is due to be completed with the swearing-in of a new cabinet.


The cabinet posts are split according to a power-sharing deal signed after months of political deadlock.

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF will have 15 posts and the two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) 16.

The formation of the government is going ahead despite MDC concern about the fate of imprisoned activists.

Mr Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 28 years, has promised to co-operate in the unity government.

But the allocation of key ministerial portfolios has been highly contentious, and the new cabinet will bring bitter rivals face to face, the BBC’s Peter Biles reports from South Africa.


US envoy in Kabul to map out surge

President Obama expected to decide on size of troop reinforcements for Afghanistan in ‘the next few days’

By Kim Sengupta

Friday, 13 February 2009

Richard Holbrooke arrived in Kabul yesterday with the evidence of the lethal resurgence of the Taliban only too plain to see – the debris from a series of attacks just 24 hours earlier in the heart of the Afghan capital that killed 20 people and wounded 57.

Barack Obama’s special envoy is on a landmark visit as the US draws up a new strategy for a country which the new administration has declared will become its chief military focus with the drawdown from Iraq.

However, the assault by suicide bombers and gunmen on Wednesday also illustrated the span of the Islamist insurgent threat across the region with US and Afghan security officials saying the plot was hatched in Pakistan, similar to the attacks on Mumbai, and is likely to have been assisted by rogue elements in Pakistan’s intelligence service.

Australian police charge man with arson over bushfire which killed 21 people

From Times Online

February 13, 2009

Sophie Tedmanson in Sydney

Australian police have charged a man with arson over one of the country’s deadly bushfires and moved to protect his identity for fears of a public backlash.

The suspect was arrested in a country town in Victoria, the southeastern state ravaged by the fires last weekend, and transferred to state capital Melbourne for his own safety.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in jail and the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has previously called for any arsonists proven to have lit the fires to “rot in jail.”

The man arrested is accused of lighting a fire at Churchill, east of Melbourne, on February 7 which killed some 20 people, destroyed a reported 36,000 hectares of land and continues to rage out control.

Middle East

Israel, Hezbollah: Has deterrence worked?

As anniversary of Hezbollah commander Mughniyah’s assassination looms, Israel tightens security.

By Nicholas Blanford | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

from the February 13, 2009 edition

BEIRUT, LEBANON – When Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s top military commander, was assassinated by a car bomb in Damascus one year ago, the militant Shiite group blamed Israel – which denied involvement – and vowed revenge. But a year on, that vow remains unfulfilled.

While Israel is taking no chances and has tightened security ahead of the Mughniyah anniversary, Israeli officials repeatedly have claimed that threats of massive retaliation to a Hezbollah revenge attack have deterred the Shiite group.

“On the one hand, Hezbollah is driven by its desire to carry out an attack as revenge for the death of Mughniyah … but they do not want to start a war,” Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, Israel’s military intelligence chief, told the Israeli cabinet in a briefing two weeks ago.

Iraqi Interpreters May Wear Masks

Pentagon Gives Battalion Commanders Discretion to Disregard Ban Policy

By Ernesto Londoño

Washington Post Foreign Service

Friday, February 13, 2009; Page A12

BAGHDAD, Feb. 13 — Iraqi interpreters working with the U.S. military in Baghdad are again allowed to hide their identity during certain missions, after a Pentagon decision to grant battalion commanders the discretion to disregard an earlier policy banning interpreters from wearing masks.Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, disclosed the reversal last month in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). But several interpreters and American soldiers in Baghdad said they were unaware that battalion commanders can waive the mask ban for “high-risk” missions.

Latin America

In Mexico, officials cleared of civil rights abuses in 2006 riot

The Supreme Court rules that two officials who approved sending in the police to quell a riot can’t be held responsible for the actions of officers who killed a boy and allegedly abused detainees.

By Ken Ellingwood

February 13, 2009

Reporting from Mexico City — The Mexican Supreme Court on Thursday cleared several top officials of responsibility for civil rights violations when riot police in 2006 used force to quash an uprising near Mexico City.

Justices ruled 8 to 3 that it would be unfair to blame top decision-makers, including Enrique Peña Nieto, governor of the state of Mexico, and Eduardo Medina Mora, then the national public safety chief, even though they approved sending police to quell rioters in the town of San Salvador Atenco in May 2006.

Thousands of police officers stormed the town square to evict machete-carrying protesters who had beaten two officers in a scene televised live. The clashes, led by a firebrand activist involved in another rebellion there years earlier, erupted after flower vendors in a nearby town were evicted from their usual market.

A 14-year-old boy was fatally shot during the clashes. Three of the uprising’s leaders were later convicted and sentenced to 67 years in prison on kidnapping charges stemming from the unrest. No police officers were prosecuted.