Docudharma Times Monday February 23

More Interested In Political Power

Louisiana Governor  Bobby Jindal Rejects Stimulus Money

Which Would Have Helped 25,000 People In That State      

Monday’s Headlines:

Obama stimulus: More old school fix-ups, less New Deal grandeur

Cairo bomb blast kills French girl, 17

Iraq faces a new war as tensions rise in north

India moves to protect traditional medicines from foreign patents

The ‘prisoner’ versus the President

Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci discovered in Basilicata

Shoestring budget for Robert Mugabe’s big birthday bash

In South Africa, an artist in the vineyard

Drug violence tarnishes Mexico’s international image

Secret U.S. Unit Trains Commandos in Pakistan


Published: February 22, 2009

BARA, Pakistan – More than 70 United States military advisers and technical specialists are secretly working in Pakistan to help its armed forces battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the country’s lawless tribal areas, American military officials said.

The Americans are mostly Army Special Forces soldiers who are training Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops, providing them with intelligence and advising on combat tactics, the officials said. They do not conduct combat operations, the officials added.

They make up a secret task force, overseen by the United States Central Command and Special Operations Command. It started last summer, with the support of Pakistan’s government and military, in an effort to root out Qaeda and Taliban operations that threaten American troops in Afghanistan and are increasingly destabilizing Pakistan. It is a much larger and more ambitious effort than either country has acknowledged.

Suspend military aid to Israel, Amnesty urges Obama after detailing US weapons used in Gaza

• White phosphorus shells traced back to America

• Activists call for arms embargoes on both sides

Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem

The Guardian, Monday 23 February 2009

Detailed evidence has emerged of Israel’s extensive use of US-made weaponry during its war in Gaza last month, including white phosphorus artillery shells, 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles.

In a report released today, Amnesty International detailed the weapons used and called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian armed groups. It called on the Obama administration to suspend military aid to Israel.

The human rights group said that those arming both sides in the conflict “will have been well aware of a pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by both parties and must therefore take responsibility for the violations perpetrated”.



Government Gets Chance To Prove It Can Work

Stimulus Act Will Test Civil Servants’ Abilities

By Alec MacGillis

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, February 23, 2009; Page A01

For weeks, the economic stimulus package lay in the hands of President Obama and congressional leaders. But with Obama having signed the $787 billion bill on Tuesday, its fate has been dispersed far and wide — to places such as the state office building in Crownsville, Md., outside Annapolis, where three workers face the challenge of a career.

The team oversees the home-weatherization program in Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development, disbursing $2.6 million a year in federal funds to cities and community groups to insulate the homes of 1,000 low-income residents. The stimulus package provides $65 million over two years, enough to cut deep into the waiting list of 22,000 homes.

Obama stimulus: More old school fix-ups, less New Deal grandeur

Quick spending to repair America’s infrastructure is the priority for most of the bill’s $787 billion. Instead of grand public works, officials seek to fix roads, schools, sewer lines and the like.

By Richard Simon

February 23, 2009

Reporting from Washington — Compared with the epic approach of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, President Obama’s economic recovery strategy could be summed up as: Think small — in a huge way.

FDR left a legacy of engineering marvels that still adorn the landscape: the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state, and New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Triborough Bridge among them.

But don’t look for similar monuments to emerge from the new stimulus plan, despite its $787-billion price tag. Billions in infrastructure spending is likely to go for less-glamorous but widely distributed projects such as repaving battered streets, repairing rundown schools and replacing aging sewer lines.

“Resurfacing, painting, lighting and maintenance programs are not as flashy as building a new bridge, but as projects they are no less important,” said Jeff Solsby of the American Road and Transportation Builders Assn. “They provide important benefits and create jobs to grow the economy.”

Middle East

Cairo bomb blast kills French girl, 17

Anil Dawar and Jack Shenker in Cairo

The Guardian, Monday 23 February 2009

At least one tourist was killed and 21 people injured when a bomb exploded in a crowded Cairo marketplace yesterday, Egyptian police said. The explosion happened in the Khan el-Khalili bazaar, which is popular with tourists, in the centre of the capital.

Last night, the Egyptian health ministry reported that a 17-year-old French girl had been killed. Officials said at least 21 people were hurt, including 13 French, one German and three Saudi tourists, and four Egyptians.

The blast happened shortly after 5.30pm last night. Around an hour after the first explosion, police found a second explosive device and detonated it safely. Security officials said three people were in custody.

Iraq faces a new war as tensions rise in north

Violence between Iraqi Kurds and Arabs is threatening an all out conflict that could complicate US plans to withdraw troops

By Patrick Cockburn in Mosul

Monday, 23 February 2009

A new war is threatening Iraq just as the world believes the country is returning to peace. While violence is dropping in Baghdad and in the south of the country, Arabs and Kurds in the north are beginning to battle over territories in an arc of land stretching from Syria to Iranian border.

A renewal of the historic conflict between Arabs and Kurds in Iraq, which raged through most of the second half of the 20th century, would seriously destabilise the country as it begins to recover from the US occupation and the Sunni-Shia civil war of 2005-07.

The crisis between the government of the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and the Kurds, who make up 20 per cent of the population, is coming to a head now because a resurgent Iraqi army is beginning to contest control of areas which Kurds captured when Saddam Hussein fell in 2003.


India moves to protect traditional medicines from foreign patents

India fights to protect ancient treatments from western pharmaceutical companies  

Randeep Ramesh  

In the first step by a developing country to stop multinational companies patenting traditional remedies from local plants and animals, the Indian government has effectively licensed 200,000 local treatments as “public property” free for anyone to use but no one to sell as a “brand”.

The move comes after scientists in Delhi noticed an alarming trend – the “bio-prospecting” of natural remedies by companies abroad. After trawling through the records of the global trademark offices, officials found 5,000 patents had been issued – at a cost of at least $150m (£104m) – for “medical plants and traditional systems”.


The ‘prisoner’ versus the President

Georgia’s leader faces daily criticism on a TV show he claims to adore. Could it be his undoing?

By Sarah Marcus in Tbilis

Monday, 23 February 2009

As domestic pressure mounts on Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign following the short war the country fought with Russia in August last year, one man has turned opposition into entertainment, locking himself into a fake prison cell and vowing not to come out until the President gives up his job.

Giorgi Gachechiladze, a singer, poet and political satirist, is filmed 24 hours a day in his cell, which is inside a television studio, with the resulting programme broadcast live throughout the night and highlights shown every evening.

Cell Number 5, as the show is called, has become the talk of Tbilisi since it first aired one month ago and more than 150 people, including Georgia’s human rights ombudsman Sozar Subari and theatre director Robert Sturua, have appeared in discussion with Gachechiladze on the programme.

Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci discovered in Basilicata

From The Times

February 23, 2009

Richard Owen in Rome

What may be a hitherto unknown portrait of Leonardo da Vinci in middle age shows that the Renaissance genius had piercing blue eyes, a long nose and long greying hair with a droopy moustache.

The damaged oil-on-panel portrait was discovered by Nicola Barbatelli, a medieval historian, while he was researching the archive and picture collection of an aristocratic family at Acerenza (population 3,000), an ancient village perched on a rock above the river Bradano near Potenza in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. The family has asked to remain anonymous.


Shoestring budget for Robert Mugabe’s big birthday bash

From The Times

February 23, 2009

 Jan Raath in Harare

President Mugabe began a week of celebrations at the weekend to mark his 85th birthday, even as organisers struggled to raise funds for the festivities amid a crippling economic crisis and growing criticism of his regime.

On Saturday the youth league of his Zanu (PF) party is to stage Mr Mugabe’s annual birthday party to which 10,000 children will be bussed, as well as his relatives and members of his inner elite, to be fed on slaughtered oxen, mountains of sticky cakes and thousands of fizzy drinks. The youth league originally planned to raise $300,000 (£200,000) for the bash, but reports say donations are drying up.

Businesses and farmers are spurning menacing youth league officials demanding cash. With the Government now run under a power-sharing interim administration, the fear of refusing to contribute is trickling away.

In South Africa, an artist in the vineyard

In the wrong place (South Africa) at the wrong time (global recession), Eben Sadie is devoted to making great ($90 a bottle) wine.

By Robyn Dixon

February 23, 2009

Reporting from Malmesbury, South Africa — Eben Sadie jumps barefoot into a vat of grapes like a boy on a beach leaping into the surf.

He tramps until the liquid runs purple up to his shins. Jumps out to fix a recalcitrant motor. Scoops fermenting grapes, bucket by bucket, into a basket press. Unloads a truckload of grenache and verdelho grapes with three of his employees, and wheels the load into a cool room. Scurries back to the basket press to extract the juice. Buckets the straw-colored liquid into a steel vat. Siphons off a glass and tastes it thoughtfully, a slow smile spreading across his face.

And that’s all before 10 a.m.

Through it all, Sadie, shaggy-haired and apologetically unshaven, a former surfer who got into winemaking almost by accident, is glued to his cellphone, sending trucks here and pickers there. Or he’s talking about the poetry of making wine.

It’s less a matter of finding the perfect recipe of yeast, oak and tannin than coaxing his grapes to surrender their hidden gifts, like a man trying to tame a shy stray cat.

Latin America

Drug violence tarnishes Mexico’s international image

The US State Department has issued a new travel advisory warning of ‘large firefights’ across the country.

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

from the February 23, 2009 edition

Mexico has an image problem. It has long been internal – with newspaper headlines and nightly news broadcasting the menacing notes, severed heads, and bullet-riddled bodies that are the byproducts of a deadly drug war raging across the country.

But now Mexico’s vicious reputation has gone international.

In the past week, international newscasts have focused on protests along the US-Mexican border against soldiers battling drug gangs, which officials say were organized by drug gangs themselves. Then a chilling note left for the police chief of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico’s most violent city, made headlines around the globe: Step down, it stated, or one police officer will be killed every two days.

Hours later, Roberto Orduna resigned after a police officer and jail guard were murdered and left with signs on their bodies that said more people would be killed until he stepped down.

Now the US State Department has issued a new travel advisory, warning of “large firefights” across the country.