Off The Rails And Into
Alan Keys Calls Barrack Obama
A Radical Communist
Obama Widens Missile Strikes Inside Pakistan
By MARK MAZZETTI and DAVID E. SANGER
Published: February 20, 2009
WASHINGTON – With two missile strikes over the past week, the Obama administration has expanded the covert war run by the Central Intelligence Agency inside Pakistan, attacking a militant network seeking to topple the Pakistani government.
The missile strikes on training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud represent a broadening of the American campaign inside Pakistan, which has been largely carried out by drone aircraft. Under President Bush, the United States frequently attacked militants from Al Qaeda and the Taliban involved in cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, but had stopped short of raids aimed at Mr. Mehsud and his followers, who have played less of a direct role in attacks on American troops.
Obama was unconvinced by Bibi’s desire for peace
Barack Obama, they say, did not get on well with Bibi Netanyahu when he met him in Jerusalem before the American elections.
Robert Fisk Saturday, 21 February 2009
Mr Obama, who figured out the Middle East pretty quickly, apparently found Bibi arrogant and unconvincing in his professed desire for peace with the Palestinians. What Mr Netanyahu thought of Mr Obama is not known, but he could scarcely have tried to hide his election line: security for Israel, but no Palestinian state.
Much depends, of course, on whether Tzipi Livni will consent to join a Netanyahu government. For if Avigdor Lieberman slips into a ministerial position, Obama is in trouble. Does he congratulate a new Israeli prime minister who has introduced into his government a man who is prepared to demand loyalty signatures from his own country’s Arab minority? How would that go down in the United States, where a similar proposal – for a loyalty pledge by American minorities, for example – would be a scandal?
But those Palestinians who believe that Lieberman should be in a Netanyahu administration – on the grounds that the “true” face of Israel would then be clear to all Americans – are being a little premature. Obama is not going to change the US relationship with Israel. American foreign policy – like that of most states – is based not on justice but on power.
Bear Market’s Bite Could Go Deeper
Dow at 6-Year Low, but Analysts Say More Pain Lies Ahead
By Tomoeh Murakami Tse and Alejandro Lazo
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, February 21, 2009; Page D01
NEW YORK, Feb. 20 — With the Dow Jones industrial average plunging past its lowest point since the financial crisis began, panicked investors are asking: How much uglier can it get?
Many market analysts and technicians armed with reams of historical data say that even though the Dow has given back all its gains — and more — from the five-year bull market that ended in 2007, it is unlikely the market has hit bottom.
Mark Arbeter, chief technical strategist at Standard & Poor’s Equity Research, said the current market environment is showing few of the signs that have characterized previous lows — high price volatility, high volumes of trading and even higher levels of fear.
Guantanamo meets Geneva Convention standards, Pentagon study finds
The report to be presented to President Obama recommends some changes at the U.S. military prison but concludes that detainees are treated humanely. Rights groups criticize the findings.
By Josh Meyer
February 21, 2009
Reporting from Washington — The Pentagon has concluded that the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay meets the standards for humane treatment of detainees established in the Geneva Convention accords.
In a report for President Obama on conditions at Guantanamo, the Pentagon recommended some changes — mainly providing some of the most troublesome inmates with more group recreation and opportunities for prayer — said an administration official who read the report and spoke on condition of anonymity, citing its confidential nature.
The lengthy report was done by a top Navy official, Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, in response to Obama’s Jan. 22 executive order to close the U.S. military detention facility in Cuba within a year.
The report, which has not officially been released, “has been completed and will be delivered to the White House in accordance with the president’s executive order,” said a Pentagon spokesman, Cmdr. Jeffrey D. Gordon.
Spain overturns EU law to keep fiesta fires alight
Giles Tremlett in Madrid
The Guardian, Saturday 21 February 2009
Spain’s passion for pyrotechnics has led the government to overrule European Union safety legislation that would have taken the fire out of some of the country’s best-known fiestas.
One month before the start of the country’s most fire-obsessed fiesta, the Las Fallas of Valencia, the socialist government has introduced a parliamentary bill scrapping EU safety requirements, arguing that the directive would damage the country’s cultural heritage.
The move follows protests against the European directive throughout Spain’s eastern Mediterranean regions, where fire and the frisson of danger it brings are the central element of many fiestas.
“Fire frightens us but it also attracts us,” Joan Font, of the Comediants theatre group, said. “The biggest fiestas always start and finish with fire, which brings both symbolism and beauty.
Germany and Poland square up in row over war
By Tony Paterson in Berlin
Saturday, 21 February 2009
Berlin and Warsaw are locked in a political row over plans to appoint a German conservative MP accused of playing down Nazi war crimes to run a new museum dedicated to the plight of Germans forced out of eastern Europe after the Second World War.
The dispute, which threatens to jeopardise recently improved relations between the neighbours, centres on the figure of Erika Steinbach, a leading MP in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Party and head of her country’s Association of Expellee Germans. Mrs Steinbach has come to be regarded as a hate figure in Poland because of her support for the plight of 12.5 million of her countrymen who were kicked out of eastern Europe after 1945. She has been accused of playing down Nazi war crimes and of trying to portray German expellees as mere victims.
The 65-year-old blonde, Teutonic-looking politician has been ridiculed for her stance in the Polish press, with one leading magazine depicting her on its front cover in jackboots and a black Nazi SS uniform with Swastika armband.
Festivities for Mugabe’s birthday feed anger in hungry nation
President turns 85 today – but the event will be a pale imitation of previous years
By Daniel Howden, Africa Correspondent
Saturday, 21 February 2009
While all else in Zimbabwe falls apart, one thing endures: Robert Gabriel Mugabe turns 85 today.
The landmark was met with little celebration in the country which, under his stewardship, now has the lowest life expectancy in the world – 34 years. Attempts by his Zanu-PF party to raise funds for a national celebration on 28 February have so far failed to meet the planned cost of US$250,000 (£175,000). The business community, which faces annual threats and extortion to fund related events, could not provide the money, despite funding past events to the tune of US$1.2m.
News of lavish celebrations to mark yet another of the autocrat’s birthdays has sparked anger in a country where more than half the population is being fed by international aid and a crumbling sanitation system has fuelled a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 3,500 people.
Gaddafi offers oil and power to people
From The Times
February 21, 2009
Philip Pank in Tripoli
Forty years into the revolution he unleashed on Libya Muammar Gaddafi has announced plans to dismantle the Government, hand the riches from Africa’s biggest oil reserves to the people and nationalise foreign oil operations that have recently been allowed back into the country.
“The administration has failed and the state economy has failed. Enough is enough. The solution is, we Libyans take directly the oil money and decide what to do with the money,” he says.
To end the corruption that has sapped the vast oil wealth, bundles of cash should be delivered to the poor, three quarters of the ministries should cease to exist and the workers should run hospitals and schools.
The announcement has left diplomats and the 40 overseas oil companies operating in the country on edge.
Binyamin Netanyahu warns of Iranian nuclear threat
From The Times
February 21, 2009
James Hider in Jerusalem
Israel was set for the return to power of Binyamin Netanyahu after the Likud leader was invited to form a coalition government yesterday.
Immediately after he was invited to become the next prime minister by President Peres, Mr Netanyahu lost no time in restating his warnings about a nuclear-armed Iran, calling it the greatest existential threat faced by Israel since its creation. His words came a day after the UN announced that Tehran had acquired sufficient uranium to build a nuclear bomb – a “red line” development Israel has said it will not tolerate.
New jail opens at Abu Ghraib site
Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison which became notorious for detainee abuse by US forces in 2004, is being officially re-opened in a new incarnation.
By Jim Muir
BBC News, Baghdad
It has been handed over to the Iraqis and renamed Baghdad Central Prison.
The site has been extensively renovated, with upgraded facilities and amenities, including a hospital, rest rooms and visiting rooms.
Work is continuing on the prison, which will eventually be the city’s main jail, holding about 12,000 inmates.
Initially, only one of its four sections will be used.
There are already about 300 prisoners there to test it out and, once the prison has been officially inaugurated, that figure will rise to 3,500.
Along with the change of name, the Iraqi justice ministry is trying to change both image and reality, billing it as a model prison, open to random inspection by the Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations.
Sri Lanka’s government killing civilians, says Human Rights Watch
From The Times
February 21, 2009
Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent
Sri Lanka’s Government is “slaughtering” civilians with indiscriminate shelling as it tries to finish off the last Tamil Tiger rebels hiding in a patch of northeastern jungle, Human Rights Watch said yesterday.
After a two-week covert fact-finding mission to the region, the New York-based group also said that civilians who escaped the conflict zone were being herded in military-run internment camps.
“This ‘war’ against civilians must stop,” said James Ross, the group’s legal and policy director. “Sri Lankan forces are shelling hospitals and so-called safe zones and slaughtering the civilians there.”
The group estimated that 2,000 civilians had been killed and 5,000 injured by both sides in the last month alone.
Surviving on a little luck and lots of street smarts
‘Slumdog Millionaire’ doesn’t impress Shekhar Sahni, who as a runaway at 12 grew up on Delhi’s streets, quickly learning how to earn a buck and dodge thugs
By Mark Magnier
February 21, 2009
Reporting from New Delhi — Shekhar Sahni has a cocky air, a music player filled with Hindi tunes and a swagger befitting someone who’s beaten the odds in a culture where it’s drummed into you early to accept your fate.
The 21-year-old grew up on India’s rough streets and dreams of becoming a Bollywood star. Sahni liked the hit film “Slumdog Millionaire,” which is up for 10 Oscars on Sunday, including best picture, but he was not particularly impressed by the way it depicted street life.
One thing the film got right, said Sahni, who works for a New Delhi charity, was the importance of on-the-street training.
“The streets make you smart,” he said. “You grow up fast.”
At any given time, there are an estimated 300,000 children on the streets of Delhi living with their families, and 50,000 on their own, said Praveen Nair, managing trustee with Salaam Baalak Trust, which helped Sahni get off the streets. Government centers and charity networks such as Salaam Baalak are overwhelmed, while gangs, with their promises of fancy clothes and easy money, often are far better recruiters.
Soul of Rio’s Carnival in informal street parties
By BRADLEY BROOKS, Associated Press Writer
RIO DE JANEIRO – On a street in Rio’s Ipanema beach neighborhood, Juju Maravilha, dressed in a sultry gold and green sequined gown topped off by a headdress of yellow feathers, takes less than five seconds to ponder a question.
“The soul of Carnival? Why it is here, darling,” he coos, pointing at a crowd of thousands gathered for one of Rio de Janeiro’s more than 200 informal street marches that give life to the yearly bacchanal of music, flesh, dance and drink.
The showcase event of Rio’s Carnival is undoubtedly the two-night parade put on by traditional samba schools – an ornate spectacle with thousands of drummers, dancers and meticulously designed floats costing up to $2.5 million each.