Docudharma Times Monday February 2

Bush May Be Gone

But His Disaster Continues

Monday’s Headlines:

Late move on drugs by Bush FDA could be dangerous

Israeli governing parties face poll battering amid Gaza scepticism

Maliki allies set for big wins in Iraq election

Anger as Pope names controversial bishop

Wildcat strikes over foreign workers expected to spread

Aung San Suu Kyi allowed out of house to meet with Ibrahim Gambari

Aid groups: Sri Lanka situation ‘nightmarish’

Five-pound note buys two souvenirs and a wide smile in Zimbabwe

How team of rivals could still save Zimbabwe

Where has Chávez taken Venezuela?

Welfare Aid Not Growing as Economy Drops Off


Published: February 1, 2009

WASHINGTON – Despite soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis in decades, 18 states cut their welfare rolls last year, and nationally the number of people receiving cash assistance remained at or near the lowest in more than 40 years.

The trends, based on an analysis of new state data collected by The New York Times, raise questions about how well a revamped welfare system with great state discretion is responding to growing hardships.

Michigan cut its welfare rolls 13 percent, though it was one of two states whose October unemployment rate topped 9 percent. Rhode Island, the other, had the nation’s largest welfare decline, 17 percent.

Under fire in the Afghan badlands

British push deeper into Taliban territory to pave way for spring surge

By Kim Sengupta in Lakari, Helmand

Monday, 2 February 2009

The shattering blast from the rocket-propelled grenade forced us to dive into a ditch. A second round exploded almost immediately, leaving a swirl of black cloud overhead. Then after a moment came long, raking bursts of machine-gun fire from the poppy fields. We were pinned down in the mud. What followed was hours of fierce, rolling, close-quarter combat against the Taliban fighters in the heart of the Afghan badlands. This was Operation Kapcha Salaam or “Cobra Salute”, the furthest south that a British combat mission has ever gone in Afghanistan.

In this highly dangerous Taliban-controlled area in the deep south of Helmand province lie the supply routes that keep the insurgency watered and armed, as well as the “blooding ground” where young jihadists cut their teeth. The joint British and Afghan offensive, which included armour and warplanes, was part of efforts to pave the way for the forthcoming US surge, which Nato chiefs hope can turn the tide on a war they are far from winning.



Democrats Set High Goal Of Sweeping Fiscal Reform

As Senate Opens Stimulus Debate, Sacrifices Become More Urgent

By Lori Montgomery

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, February 2, 2009; Page A01

It’s the holy grail of Washington politics: a federal budget that generates ample funds through a simpler and fairer tax code, defuses the spending time bomb for health and retirement programs, and supports the nation’s economy during the worst downturn in generations.

President Obama and congressional Democrats have high ambitions to chart such a course, and say that they hope to strike a grand bargain with Republicans to bring taxes and government spending back into balance over the next few years, taming budget deficits that threaten to spiral out of control.

Late move on drugs by Bush FDA could be dangerous

By Chris Adams | McClatchy Newspapers

CORNELIUS, N.C. – In the waning days of the Bush administration, the Food and Drug Administration finalized new guidelines to make it easier for drug manufacturers to promote “off-label” prescription drug uses, which can be deadly for patients.

The move came despite criticism from Bush’s own Department of Veterans Affairs, which said the change “favors business interests over public safety” and could lead to a “decline in drug safety.” It also was crafted despite efforts by state and federal law-enforcement experts to clamp down on off-label drug marketing.

Middle East

Israeli governing parties face poll battering amid Gaza scepticism

• Survey reveals public’s doubts about war

• New rocket attack draws promise of retaliation

Toni O’Loughlin in Jerusalem

The Guardian, Monday 2 February 2009

Israel’s governing parties are facing eclipse in an upcoming general election as the Gaza campaign fails to convince a sceptical public while playing into the hands of opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu.

With Israel’s 10 February election just over a week away, opinion polls and analysts say that the two principal government parties, Kadima and Labour, have extracted little benefit from the three-week Gaza war.

That much was underscored yesterday when at least 10 rockets were fired into Israel, injuring three and drawing ominous promises of retaliation from the government. Hamas has not taken responsibility for the new attacks, some of which have been claimed by smaller groups. But Israel says it holds Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since seizing power in June 2007, responsible for all attacks coming from the territory.

Maliki allies set for big wins in Iraq election


By Waleed Ibrahim, Reuters

Monday, 2 February 2009

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s allies look set for sweeping victories in provincial polls, a result that could overturn the post-Saddam political order and strengthen the hand of a leader once seen as weak.

Although official preliminary results will not be published for days, leaders of rival Shi’ite parties acknowledged that Maliki’s State of Law coalition appeared to be headed for a substantial win and perhaps a landslide in Shi’ite areas.

“The results of the bloc of the prime minister: it was a surprise for many people. And I think … it means a new power has emerged,” said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh referring to initial reports of success in provinces across the south.


Anger as Pope names controversial bishop

• Hurricane Katrina ‘God’s punishment’, cleric said

• Appointment follows row over Holocaust denier

Kate Connolly in Berlin

The Guardian, Monday 2 February 2009

Pope Benedict has promoted to bishop an ultra-conservative Austrian clergyman who called Hurricane Katrina “God’s punishment” and condemned the Harry Potter books for “spreading satanism”.

The appointment, which was confirmed by the Vatican at the weekend, comes days after the Pope was criticised for his rehabilitation of a bishop who denies the Holocaust.

Gerhard Maria Wagner, 54, is to become auxiliary bishop in the Austrian city of Linz, where he is viewed as a controversial figure by churchgoers and clergy alike. In 2005, he wrote in a parish newsletter that Hurricane Katrina was an act of “divine retribution” for the sins of a sexually permissive society.

Wildcat strikes over foreign workers expected to spread

Splits appear within government ranks after Prime Minister and Lord Mandelson condemn illegal industrial action at energy plants.

By Andy McSmith and Andrew Grice

Monday, 2 February 2009

Energy plants around the UK are bracing themselves for another outbreak of wildcat strikes this morning in protest at the employment of foreign workers on construction sites.

Yesterday, ministers appeared divided between those wanting to condemn the illegal strikes, and those who believe the Government should be listening to the workers’ complaints, even if they do not condone their actions. The pressure on ministers to act will increase as preparations go ahead for a lobby of Parliament to protest at using Spanish workers to construct a power station at Staythorpe, in Nottinghamshire.


Aung San Suu Kyi allowed out of house to meet with Ibrahim Gambari

From Times Online

February 2, 2009

Richard Lloyd Parry, Asia Editor

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy leader and Nobel Prize winner, was permitted a rare respite from her house arrest this morning for a brief meeting with a United Nations envoy dispatched to mediate with the country’s repressive military dictatorship.

Ms Suu Kyi, who has spent 13 of the past 18 years in detention, met for 90 minutes with Ibrahim Gambari, special adviser on Burma to the UN secretary-general, in his latest effort to foster political dialogue between the Burmese junta and its political opponents. Details of their discussions have not yet been revealed, but there is little chance of an immediate breakthrough in a country which has been in the grip of generals for close to half a century.

The fact that the meeting took place at all is a small success – the last time Mr Gambari visited Burma’s biggest city, Rangoon, Ms Suu Kyi refused to see him, apparently out of disgust at his failure to bring meaningful pressure to bear against the regime.

Aid groups: Sri Lanka situation ‘nightmarish’


International humanitarian aid agencies called Monday for increased access to the “nightmarish situation” in northern Sri Lanka, where government forces and Tamil rebels are locked in battle. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are thought to be trapped by the fighting.The plea came as artillery shells slammed into a hospital in the northern district of Mullaittivu, where civilians — including a growing number of children — are being treated.

“We don’t know how many lives exactly, but there was a third strike on the hospital around about midnight,” said Gordon Weiss, a U.N. spokesman who talked to a member of the U.N. staff at the hospital early Monday.

“Women and kids’ wards shelled … still counting the dead bodies,” he said.

Sarah Crowe of UNICEF said aid from the United Nations is getting into the war zone only every few days.

“We need open access,” she said. “These children and families need to be protected and they need to get out fast.”


Five-pound note buys two souvenirs and a wide smile in Zimbabwe

From The Times

February 2, 2009

Martin Fletcher in Harare

It was, in every respect but one, a perfectly normal purchase – an inspection of the carved wood animals on sale at a Harare flea market, the selection of a cheetah and hippopotamus, and some good-natured haggling.

What made it remarkable was that The Times paid with a British £5 note, the currency of the colonial power from which Zimbabwe gained independence 29 years ago and which Robert Mugabe constantly denounces. The stallholder was delighted. “The Zimbabwean dollar is useless,” she declared.

Until a few days ago the transaction would have been illegal but not any more. The Government has announced that sterling, the US dollar, euro, South African rand and Botswanan pula are now legal tender. It was a humiliating admission that Zimbabwe’s own currency has been rendered worthless by an inflation rate of approximately 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 per cent.

How team of rivals could still save Zimbabwe

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai agreed last Friday to form a power-sharing government with longtime President Robert Mugabe.

By Scott Baldauf | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

and a correspondent

from the February 2, 2009 edition

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA; AND HARARE, ZIMBABWE – If old habits are hard to break, how will Zimbabwe’s two warring parties – one led by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, the other by longtime President Robert Mugabe – work together in a coalition government, as Mr. Tsvangirai agreed to do last Friday?

The good news is that after nearly a year of political stalemate and economic collapse, these enemies may have no choice. Mr. Mugabe’s long rule has left the country bankrupt, hungry, disease-ridden, and in desperate need of foreign aid. Tsvangirai may not have troops, but he has things Mugabe desperately needs: access to foreign donors and expertise that can make Zimbabwe function again.

It may not be a match made in heaven, but Tsvangirai – the presumed junior partner in a coalition government – can still make a difference in setting priorities – ending the cholera epidemic, fixing basic systems of water and sanitation, and rebuilding the economy – that would give him political leverage in the long term.

Latin America

Where has Chávez taken Venezuela?

After 10 years as president, Hugo Chávez has polarized Venezuela, but inspired its poor.

By Sara Miller Llana | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

from the February 2, 2009 edition

CARACAS, VENEZUELA – José Luis Ramirez dropped out of school at age 13 and spent most of his life doing odd jobs. The father of six had little time to think beyond how to make ends meet.

But after Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was elected and began a series of social programs called “missions,” Mr. Ramirez’s life changed. He joined a literacy program and later one on television training. Today, he’s not only a TV producer, but trains others and sets up everything from street cleaning to fundraising dinners.

“I’m considered a community leader,” says Ramirez, almost surprising himself.

Ramirez has come of age alongside the presidency of Mr. Chávez, and he is not alone. This week marks 10 years since Chávez was inaugurated. His decade in power has been a controversial one. To his harshest critics, he is squandering the nation’s oil wealth, lavishing it on programs to boost his popularity and on allies abroad while crime and inflation remain rampant and unattended.


  1. Reality that should be with All pols and business execs in these times and times like this:


    Sanibel city manager cuts own salary

       Sanibel City Manager Judy Zimomra issued the following statement this morning after cutting her salary by 15%:

       “Today I have directed the Finance Director reduce the City Manager’s base salary by 15% effective immediately and to transfer the funds to the Public Works Department Overtime Account. I believe that during these stark economic times managers have a moral obligation to lead in sacrifice. I am fortunate to have been born to hard working blue-collar parents thus I am well aware of the value of a paycheck to the families of our laborers.

       This directive is a unilateral decision, made without direction from or consultation with any City Council members.”

    I have a sister and her family that have lived on Sanibel for years, reason this caught my eye, no news stories outside of the statement so far that I could find.

  2. Iraq’s Shocking Human Toll: About 1 Million Killed, 4.5 Million Displaced, 1-2 Million Widows, 5 Million Orphans

    Now that Bush is gone, perhaps we can honestly face the damage we have wrought and the responsibilities we must accept from it.

  3. Or just a political threat after the voting?

    Iraq tribes threaten to take up arms over poll

    Tribal sheikhs who helped drive al Qaeda militants out of Western Iraq threatened on Monday to take up arms against the provincial government because of what they said was fraud in Saturday’s provincial polls.

    Hamid al-Hais, head of the Anbar Tribes list in the election, traveled to Baghdad to lodge a protest.

    “We will set the streets of Ramadi ablaze if the Islamic Party is declared the winners of the election,” he told Reuters, referring to Anbar’s provincial capital. “We will make Anbar a grave for the Islamic Party and its agents. We will start a tribal war against them and those who cooperate with them.”

    Could this also be pushed by U.S. interests? As there’s a few reports popping up about the Generals joining together to push President Obama against a quick pullout, or pullout at all, moving to what we had in ‘Nam, changing the roll of In-Country Troops in name only, to Advisor’s, and not Combat and Support!

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