Republicans Begin The Week
Just Wanting To Say No
Even If It Helps A Nation
To Fix Detroit, Obama Is Said to Drop Plan for ‘Car Czar’
By BILL VLASIC
Published: February 15, 2009
DETROIT – President Obama has dropped the idea of appointing a single, powerful “car czar” to oversee the revamping of General Motors and Chrysler and will instead keep the politically delicate task in the hands of his most senior economic advisers, a top administration official said Sunday night.
Mr. Obama is designating the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, and the chairman of the National Economic Council, Lawrence H. Summers, to oversee a presidential panel on the auto industry. Mr. Geithner will also supervise the $17.4 billion in loan agreements already in place with G.M. and Chrysler, said the official, who insisted on anonymity.
New world of squalor and exploitation
• Labourers badly paid and work in squalid conditions
• Exploitative middlemen lure poor into huge debts
Tom Phillips in Marabá
The Guardian, Monday 16 February 2009
Day and night the men roll up outside the Correntão supermarket, a roaming army of impoverished workers, searching for a better future and for work. Any work.
Wearing rubber flip-flops, ragged T-shirts and carrying their possessions under their arms in plastic bags, they gather at the meeting point on the outskirts of Marabá, a gritty Amazon city, at Kilometre Six of the Trans-Amazonian highway and wait.
Some are picked up almost immediately and transported to remote jungle camps and farms where they are often forced to work by cattle ranchers and illegal loggers in dangerous and squalid conditions for little or no pay.
Others string hammocks up around the local bus station, waiting for a possible employer to arrive. The rest pile into dozens of tatty boarding houses, known in the Amazon as “pioneer hotels”, where they await recruitment.
4 Cases Illustrate Guantanamo Quandaries
Administration Must Decide Fate of Often-Flawed Proceedings, Often-Dangerous Prisoners
By Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 16, 2009; Page A01
In their summary of evidence against Mohammed Sulaymon Barre, a Somali detained at Guantanamo Bay, military investigators allege that he spent several years at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Sudan. But other military documents place him in Pakistan during the same period.
One hearing at Guantanamo cited his employment for a money-transfer company with links to terrorism financing. Another file drops any mention of such links.
Barre is one of approximately 245 detainees at the military prison in Cuba whose fate the Obama administration must decide in coming months.
Three Marines, three paths
They joined on the buddy program with high hopes. It’s been a hard road.
By David Zucchino
February 16, 2009
Reporting from Bala Balouk, Afghanistan — The last in an occasional series on three high school friends from Southern California and their wartime enlistment in the Marine Corps.
Lance Cpl. Daryl Crookston knew there would be casualties. That inevitability had been drummed into him as far back as boot camp, by drill sergeants and infantry school instructors, by fellow Marines.But when two Marine buddies went down on a combat patrol in the flat scrub desert of western Afghanistan, it was so shocking that Crookston felt overwhelmed. One minute the two men were alive, and in an instant they were dead.
When he left for Afghanistan last spring, Crookston spoke passionately of his desire to fight for his country, to confront insurgents, to test himself in combat. When he returned home in December to the serenity of Santa Clarita, he was distant and withdrawn. He refused to talk about what had happened in combat — not with his friends, brothers or parents.
Tariff Protests in Eastern Port Rattle Kremlin
By CLIFFORD J. LEVY
Published: February 15, 2009
VLADIVOSTOK, Russia – Vladimir Kirillov and Vitaly Sukhinin and their co-conspirators once had little interest in politics. They were rat-a-tat-tat salesmen here in Russia’s Far East who did a thriving trade in secondhand vehicles imported from Japan. But then the government reacted to the financial crisis by imposing steep tariffs on their industry.And so was born a growing protest movement that might easily be dismissed as the Revolt of the Used Car Dealers, except for the fact that it seems to have unnerved the Kremlin like few other outbursts of public discontent in recent years.
The car dealers’ demonstrations in Vladivostok in the past two months have drawn thousands of people, more than events sponsored anywhere in Russia by liberal opponents of Vladimir V. Putin.
Greeks argue over status and statue of Alexander
Helena Smith in Athens
The Guardian, Monday 16 February 2009
For a warrior king who had conquered most of the known world by the age of 33, Alexander the Great never flinched when it came to a fight. But even he might have been left powerless by a row in Greece over the location of a statue, carved in his likeness in 1972.
Seventeen years after its acquisition by the Greek culture ministry, the rendition of the military commander has been gathering dust in a basement storeroom because of fierce controversy over where to put the sculpture. Nationalist-minded politicians, on both sides of the spectrum, believe the statue “rightfully” belongs to a prominent square in the heart of ancient Athens. There, they say, the Macedonian king would not only receive maximum viewing but the reverence he deserves from a people who see themselves as his rightful descendants.
Pakistan imposes Islamic law in Taliban stronghold
Government brings in sharia courts in Malakand in attempt to placate extremists
Saeed Shah in Islamabad
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 15 February 2009 18.39 GMT
Pakistan is to impose Islamic law in a vast region of the north-west called Malakand in an attempt to placate extremists, even as President Asif Zardari warns that they are “trying to take over the state”.
Pakistani Taliban militants who are in control of the Swat valley in the region announced a ceasefire tonight, reacting to the government’s agreement to bring in sharia courts.
Malakand is part of North West Frontier province, a regular part of Pakistan, not the wild tribal area, which runs along the Afghan border.
Critics warned that the new sharia regulations represented a capitulation to the extremists’ demands, and that it would be difficult to stop hardliners elsewhere in the country from demanding that their areas also come under Islamic law.
Khmer Rouge prison torturers finally put on trial
Of the 14,000 Cambodians held in the brutal Khmer Rouge prison of Tuol Sleng, barely a dozen survive. Chum Mei is one of them, and this week he will finally see his torturers put on trial. Andrew Buncombe reports from Phnom Penh
Monday, 16 February 2009
Beneath the shade of spreading branches in the courtyard of Tuol Sleng prison, Chum Mei slipped off his sandals and demonstrated how Khmer Rouge torturers had pulled out his toenails. “They beat me seriously,” he said quietly, sitting on the floor as tourists wandered past, unaware of his story. “I tried to protect my face and they broke my finger. They kept repeating the same question: was I working for the CIA? They pulled out my toenails. Then they used electricity to shock me through my ear. And then I went unconscious.”
Forty years ago, the black-clad cadres of the Khmer Rouge swept to power in Cambodia and set in motion a genocidal programme that left up to 1.7 million of its people dead. Tomorrow, after what seems like an eternity of struggle, the trial will finally begin of some of those senior figures who headed one of the 20th century’s most brutal regimes.
Mandela supports Zuma’s hopes of becoming president
(and boosts his bid to stay out of prison)
By Daniel Howden in Cape Town
Monday, 16 February 2009
Facing its first real challenge since the end of apartheid, the African National Congress (ANC) has turned to the man who many wish was still leading South Africa to bolster the hopes of the leader expected to take over in late April.
Nelson Mandela came out of political retirement yesterday to give his public backing to Jacob Zuma, the ANC leader who is aiming for the highest office on 22 April under a poisonous cloud of suspicion.
“Despite the rain, you have all come here in numbers to show your commitment to the ANC,” he told the crowd. “Long live the ANC!”
Robert Mugabe henchmen bent on sabotaging fragile partnership
From The Times
February 16, 2009
Jan Raath in Harare
Zimbabwe’s fledgeling power-sharing Government staggered into its fifth day yesterday as fears grew that a shadowy cabal of President Mugabe’s top security bosses are edging towards a military coup.
Roy Bennett, nominated by Morgan Tsvangirai as his choice for Deputy Agriculture Minister, was seized and detained by state security agents on Friday – an act seen widely as an attempt to sabotage the coalition of Mr Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Mr Tsvangirai.
Yesterday charges against Mr Bennett were altered from treason to plotting “insurgency, banditry and sabotage” by allegedly funding the MDC to buy arms in 2005, supposedly with the intention of destroying a telecommunications station outside Harare. The charges appear to have been brought under the Public Order Security Act, which carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison. He is expected to appear at Mutare Magistrates’ Court today for a bail hearing.
Livni, Netanyahu and Lieberman: Israel’s tangled trio
Lieberman’s the kingmaker to whom Livni and Netanyahu are appealing in their push to become prime minister. But the scenario is complicated, and the power players have a long, fraught history.
By Richard Boudreaux
February 16, 2009
Reporting from Jerusalem — The three big players in Israel’s leadership struggle first crossed paths in 1996 when a rising politician named Avigdor Lieberman helped a former intelligence agent land her first high-level government job.
Lieberman, who was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-hand man at the time, resigned the following year and became his bitter rival. But Lieberman and the ex-spy, Tzipi Livni, then both 39, remained friends.Today Lieberman has the power to determine almost single-handedly who, Netanyahu or Livni, will become the next prime minister. Their tangled relationships in the intimate world of Israeli politics suggests that his choice is not clear-cut.
Both Netanyahu, the conservative opposition leader, and Livni, the more moderate foreign minister, are claiming victory in Tuesday’s election and feverishly courting Lieberman, whose ultranationalist party finished third. The bargaining intensifies this week as they compete to gather a majority of the 120 members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, into a governing coalition.
Fraud Committed in Iraqi Election
Violations Reported in Every Province, but Results Stand, Officials Say
By K.I. Ibrahim
Special to the Washington Post
Monday, February 16, 2009; Page A11
BAGHDAD, Feb. 15 — Iraqi election officials said Sunday that some fraud was committed in virtually every province during local elections Jan. 31 but that it was not widespread enough in any of them to require a new vote.
“We have received complaints over violations in all 14 provinces, with varying degrees of seriousness, but most of them were not critical and did not change the final results,” said Kareem al-Tamimi, a member of Iraq’s national electoral commission. “Some of the provinces had more than others.”
Venezuelan leader wins key reform
Venezuelans have voted to lift limits on terms in office for elected officials, allowing President Hugo Chavez to stand for re-election.
With 94% of votes counted, 54% backed an end to term limits, a National Electoral Council official said.
Mr Chavez has said he needs to stay in office beyond the end of his second term in 2012 so he can secure what he calls Venezuela’s socialist revolution.
Critics say that would concentrate too much power in the presidency.
“The doors of the future are wide open,” Mr Chavez shouted from the balcony of his Miraflores palace after the results were announced.
“In 2012 there will be presidential elections, and unless God decides otherwise, unless the people decide otherwise, this soldier is already a candidate.”
Crowds of the president’s supporters filled in the streets, letting off fireworks, waving red flags and honking car horns.