Docudharma Times Monday February 9

Republicans Turn Their

Back On Americans Across The

Economic Spectrum  

Monday’s Headlines:

Peanut Case Shows Holes in Safety Net

Pakistan identified as biggest foreign policy test

Sonali Samarasinghe: A widow on the run

Netanyahu digs for election victory

For the first time, Christians in Qatar worship in church

Meet South Africa’s top shark spotter

Claim in Africa About a Leader Is Recanted

Pope Benedict XVI joins fight over right to die of coma victim Eluana Englaro

Stepping Out From Putin’s Shadow

Families want answers from man who says he dissolved 300 people

If Spending Is Swift, Oversight May Suffer

Plan’s Pace Could Leave Billions Wasted

By Robert O’Harrow Jr.

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, February 9, 2009; Page A01

The Obama administration’s economic stimulus plan could end up wasting billions of dollars by attempting to spend money faster than an overburdened government acquisition system can manage and oversee it, according to documents and interviews with contracting specialists.

The $827 billion stimulus legislation under debate in Congress includes provisions aimed at ensuring oversight of the massive infusion of contracts, state grants and other measures. At the urging of the administration, those provisions call for transparency, bid competition, and new auditing resources and oversight boards.

‘We’re still in the pool – we can smell the fire’

• Final death toll may reach hundreds, say authorities

• Arsonists blamed as army called in to quell flames

Ellen Connolly in Sydney

The Guardian, Monday 9 February 2009

The death toll from the deadliest bushfires in Australia’s history could reach into the hundreds as the devastation is uncovered in the burning and blackened ruins of towns, the authorities warned last night.

Described as “hell on earth”, the fires left at least 108 dead, but police in Victoria said the final death toll would be much greater.

“I think it [the body count] will be up into the 100s … 200,” acting Sergeant Scott Melville, who has the job of dragging bodies out of charred vehicles and homes, told the Melbourne Age. “It’s like a friggin’ war zone up here, it’s like a movie scene.”

The army has been called in to help the thousands of exhausted firefighters who, for the third consecutive day, will try to put out 26 fires threatening suburbs near Melbourne.



Unemployment benefits safety net is fraying

As payments dry up, almost half of  11.6 million jobless don’t receive help

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The government safety net designed to protect laid-off workers from financial catastrophe is falling short, leaving nearly half the 11.6 million jobless Americans without unemployment benefits.

The shortcomings are fueling the recession as an increasing number of workers fall through the cracks and curtail spending. The trend highlights what economists say is a growing need for a 21st century makeover of a program started in the depths of the Great Depression.

Among the key problem areas:

There are many more part-time workers now than in 1935, but the program only covers those looking for full-time work.

Peanut Case Shows Holes in Safety Net


Published: February 8, 2009

BLAKELY, Ga. – Raw peanuts were stored next to the finished peanut butter. The roaster was not calibrated to kill deadly germs. Dispirited workers on minimum wage, supplied by temp agencies, donned their uniforms at home, potentially dragging contaminants into the plant, which also had rodents.

Even the roof of the Peanut Corporation of America plant here in rural southwest Georgia was an obvious risk, given that salmonella thrives in water and the facility should have been kept bone dry.

“It leaked when it rained,” said Frank Hardrick, 40, an assistant manager who, along with four other workers, described life inside the plant. “Different crews would come in to work on it, but it would still leak.”


Pakistan identified as biggest foreign policy test

Saeed Shah in Islamabad

The Guardian, Monday 9 February 2009

Washington’s newly appointed special envoy is due to arrive in Islamabad today, as Barack Obama’s administration tackles what may turn out to be its greatest foreign policy challenge: a nuclear-armed country hurtling towards chaos.

According to Obama’s aides, Pakistan is the nation that really “scares” him. The country is threatened by a growing Islamist insurgency, economic collapse and a crisis of governance as it struggles to establish democratic rule. The Obama administration believes Pakistan is key to its objectives of pacifying Afghanistan and going after al-Qaida and has appointed a pugnacious diplomatic troubleshooter, Richard Holbrooke, as a special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We often call this situation Afpak,” said Holbrooke at a conference in Munich yesterday, before flying to Islamabad.

Sonali Samarasinghe: A widow on the run

Her husband predicted the authorities would murder him. Now in hiding, she is on a mission to bring justice to Sri Lanka. Andrew Buncombe reports

Monday, 9 February 2009

There had been previous incidents, threats and warnings scrawled in red paint. And on that very morning, when they had driven before work to the chemist’s shop, two sinister-looking men on a large black motorbike raced past their car. Lasantha Wickrematunga, a newspaper editor, and his wife, Sonali Samarasinghe, were convinced they were being tailed.

Back in their home, Mrs Wickrematunga, who is also a journalist, pleaded with her husband to stay at home. But it was a Thursday – a vital production day at her husband’s Sunday newspaper – and he had to go. “See you in the office,” she said as he left. Thirty minutes later she received a phone call telling her he had been fatally shot as he made his way to the office on the outskirts of Colombo. She rushed to the hospital and found her husband on a trolley, blood seeping from his mouth and ears. Doctors struggled to save him, but there was nothing they could do.

Middle East

Netanyahu digs for election victory

 Likud head plants a tree for his son in disputed territory

By Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem  

Monday, 9 February 2009

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud leader who is the favourite in what is expected to be a close electoral contest tomorrow, planted a eucalyptus tree in the occupied Golan Heights yesterday, demonstrating the uncompromising posture he intends to take towards Israel’s Arab neighbours.

Seeking to beat back a challenge from the Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, who has gained on him in recent polls, making the race too close to call, Mr Netanyahu warned that a victory for her centrist Kadima party would lead to a dangerous withdrawal from the strategic plateau overlooking the Sea of Galilee that was seized from Syria during the 1967 war.

Mr Netanyahu, also wary of gains by the far-right Yisrael Beytenu party, has fallen back on his favoured theme of being tough on terror and the most adamant in rejecting territorial concessions. His possible return to power for the first time

For the first time, Christians in Qatar worship in church

The move is seen as part of an effort to modernize the emirate and demonstrate traditional Islam’s tolerance.

By Caryle Murphy | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

from the February 9, 2009 edition

DOHA, QATAR – When the Rev. Tomasito Veneracion arrived in this Muslim nation seven years ago, his Roman Catholic parishioners prayed in small groups scattered in apartments, schools, and one tiny makeshift chapel. At Easter, Indian Catholics gathered in one place, Filipinos in another, Arabs in yet another.

But with last year’s opening of Our Lady of the Rosary Church, his congregants for the first time had a recognized, central place to worship. On Christmas Eve, 15,000 attended a midnight mass, with those who couldn’t cram into the 2,700-seat church watching on video screens outside.

“When I first came here, the church was not recognized. But now we are enjoying this gift,” Father Veneracion says. “It’s a tremendous feeling of relief that we can breathe, worship, and pray in a place without fear and without disturbance.”

The decision to permit church building is widely seen as part of an effort by Qatar’s leader, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, to modernize the tiny emirate, made wealthy by its natural-gas reserves, and demonstrate traditional Islam’s flexibility and tolerance.


Meet South Africa’s top shark spotter

Patrick Davids left behind a life plagued by alcoholism and drug addiction to keep swimmers and surfers safe along one of the world’s most perilous coastlines.

By Ian Evans | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

from the February 9, 2009 edition

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – Like a predator stalking his prey, Patrick Davids’s eyes rarely stray from the choppy green sea, and his radio is always at the ready.

While the assortment of sunbathers, swimmers, and surfers may not know his name, they know what he does and that one day they may owe him their lives.

Mr. Davids, or “Rasta” as he is better known, is a shark spotter who helped set up one of the world’s only shark-monitoring units along beaches in Cape Town, South Africa.

From a cramped beach hut, Davids has helped build up a network of full-time shark spotters on nine beaches, watching over one of the world’s most shark-infested shorelines.

Nearly seven years ago, the former alcoholic and drug addict was chased out of his Cape Town suburb by vengeful gangsters after falling into debt from his drug habits. He fled to nearby Muizenberg Beach, where he scratched out a living as a car guard.

Claim in Africa About a Leader Is Recanted


Published: February 8, 2009

JOHANNESBURG – The juiciest part of the salacious allegations surrounding South Africa’s 59-year-old president – that he was having an affair with a 24-year-old who would soon bear his child – suddenly dried up on Sunday when the newspaper that broke the story said it had been lied to by the woman.

“Sex, lies and the president” was the front-page headline in The Sunday Independent, which two weeks ago claimed that President Kgalema Motlanthe was separated from his wife and having affairs with two other women.

“Who is our first lady?” the newspaper had asked then, setting off a debate about whether the private life of the president was any of the public’s business.

As it turns out, that civics discussion was more theoretical than people assumed. “Yes, it was a lie,” The Sunday Independent quoted the woman, Kelebogile Mmokwa, as saying.


Pope Benedict XVI joins fight over right to die of coma victim Eluana Englaro

From The Times

February 9, 2009

Richard Owen, Rome

Doctors were removing all life support last night from an Italian woman in coma whose “right to die” has triggered a constitutional crisis and provoked an intervention from the Pope.

As Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Government was rushing an emergency decree through parliament ordering the restoration of medical care for Eluana Englaro, the clinic in Udine that is treating her ignored appeals for a delay.

“We are proceeding with the total suspension of artificial nutrition,” Carlo Alberto Defanti, her neurologist, said.

Stepping Out From Putin’s Shadow

With Recent Moves, Medvedev Edges Away From Prime Minister and His Economic Policies

By Philip P. Pan

Washington Post Foreign Service

Monday, February 9, 2009; Page A10

MOSCOW — With a series of careful moves and subtle statements, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has begun to shed his image as the obedient sidekick of his powerful predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, fueling speculation that their partnership could be strained by the nation’s worsening economic crisis.

Putin remains the dominant figure, and there has been no sign of serious differences between the two men. But Medvedev’s efforts to establish an independent profile have injected a new element of uncertainty at the top of the authoritarian system built by Putin at a time when it is being tested for the first time by a severe recession.

Latin America

Families want answers from man who says he dissolved 300 people

Santiago Meza Lopez, known as El Pozolero (the Stew Maker), says he stuffed bodies into barrels of lye for drug cartels. He may be a good source of information about missing loved ones.

By Richard Marosi

February 9, 2009

Reporting from Tijuana — Fernando Ocegueda hasn’t seen his son since gunmen dragged the college student from the family’s house three years ago. Alma Diaz wonders what happened to her son, Eric, a Mexicali police officer who left a party in 1995 and never returned.

Arturo Davila still pounds on police doors looking for answers 11 years after his daughter and a girlfriend were kidnapped in downtown Ensenada. For the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of families of people who have vanished amid Baja California’s drug wars, the search for justice has been lonely and fruitless. But their hopes have been buoyed recently by the Jan. 22 arrest of a man Mexican authorities believe is behind the gruesome disposal of bodies in vats of industrial chemicals.

Santiago Meza Lopez, a stocky 45-year-old taken into custody after a raid near Ensenada, was identified as the pozolero who liquefied the bodies of victims for lieutenants of the Arellano Felix drug cartel. Authorities say he laid claim to stuffing 300 bodies into barrels of lye, then dumping some of the liquefied remains in a pit in a hillside compound in eastern Tijuana.