CPAC Continues To Ride
The Ox Cart Into
The Ditch And
They Really Didn’t “Love” Bush
Barack Obama to end US combat operations in Iraq by 2010
President Barack Obama has made the historic announcement that he will end US combat operations in Iraq by the end of August 2010.
By Alex Spillius in Washington
Last Updated: 8:32AM GMT 28 Feb 2009
In a speech at a Marine Corps base, he said around 100,000 troops would be brought home by then with 35,000 to 50,000 staying on to advise Iraqi forces, target terror and protect US interests.
Mr Obama, whose popularity was fuelled by his opposition to the war, issued a “responsible” withdrawal timetable three months slower than he had previously promised voters.
More controversial among fellow Democrats was his decision to leave up to 50,000 troops in the country until the end of 2011, which he said was vital to preserve a dramatically improved security and political climate.
Nancy Pelosi, Democrat speaker of the house, said she thought the number was unnecessarily high. She said: “I don’t know what the justification is for … the 50,000 troops in Iraq. I would think a third of that, maybe 15,000 or 20,000.”
Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said: “I’m happy to listen to the secretary of defence and the president, but when they talk about 50,000, that’s a little higher number than I had anticipated.”
Iraq hero goes on the warpath
Victoria Cross holder condemns government failure to care for veterans suffering post-combat stress.
Exclusive by Terri Judd
Saturday, 28 February 2009
The Army’s most decorated serving war hero has accused the Government of failing soldiers suffering from mental trauma resulting from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for twice saving the lives of colleagues in Iraq while under heavy rocket fire, told The Independent it was “disgraceful” that some veterans were struggling to receive treatment. He said the Government was relying on military charities to cover its own deficiencies and called on it to act to better help the growing number of his comrades suffering from severe combat stress, depression and mental breakdowns.
Sharper Downturn Clouds Obama Spending Plans
By PETER S. GOODMAN
Published: February 27, 2009
The economy is spiraling down at an accelerating pace, threatening to undermine the Obama administration’s spending plans, which anticipate vigorous rates of growth in years to come.
A sense of disconnect between the projections by the White House and the grim realities of everyday American life was enhanced on Friday, as the Commerce Department gave a harsher assessment for the last three months of 2008. In place of an initial estimate that the economy contracted at an annualized rate of 3.8 percent – already abysmal – the government said that the pace of decline was actually 6.2 percent, making it the worst quarter since 1982.
Illinois’ highest-security prison a study in isolation
The state’s most dangerous inmates live with sparse human contact, no jobs and little chance for education at Tamms.
By Gary Marx
February 28, 2009
Reporting from Tamms, Ill. — A few times a week, Joseph Dole stands in a back corner of the outdoor recreation area at Tamms Correctional Center, straining to catch a ray of sunlight.
“About four feet gets sun,” said the rail-thin Dole, who is serving a life sentence for murder. “You can only get it if they call yard between 11 and 1. I just stand there. You feel warm, you feel refreshed.” Another murderer, Adolfo Rosario, said he hadn’t shaken anyone’s hand since his transfer to Tamms 11 years ago. “There is no contact at all, none,” he said.
“The hardest part is the isolation,” said Tyrone Dorn, serving time for carjacking. “It’s like being buried alive.”
The so-called supermax section of the prison was built in the 1990s to house Illinois’ most dangerous inmates. Human-rights activists persistently criticize it. The long isolation of supermax prisons, opponents say, drives inmates to mental illness — when the inmates aren’t already ill.
Bangladeshi army officers’ bodies found as death toll from rebellion rises to 70
• Guardian shown around scene of devastation
• Show trials expected after hundreds detained
Randeep Ramesh and Maloti Monsur in Dhaka
The Guardian, Saturday 28 February 2009
The bodies of dozens of army officers were exhumed from shallow graves in the headquarters of Bangladesh’s border guard unit yesterday, bringing the death toll from the two-day rebellion to more than 70.
Soldiers from the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), a paramilitary unit that patrols the country’s borders, tried to flee dressed as civilians but hundreds were detained after the army set up roadblocks around the country. The government announced three days of national mourning.
Although the rebels were offered a general amnesty once they surrendered, ministers said there would be no pardon for “people directly involved in the killings”. This means the country could see show trials followed by mass hangings as the legal penalty for mutiny is the gallows.
The revolt raised questions about the stability of the mainly Muslim country of 140 million people. Bangladesh had only returned to democratic rule two months ago and has a long history of coups, with two presidents assassinated.
Pyongyang plays the puppet master
By Donald Kirk
WASHINGTON – United States President Barack Obama, talking for more than an hour this week before Congress, seemed to cover all the issues facing the country. Or so a number of commentators told us in the post-address yak sessions.
There was one problem. He did not seem to have mentioned Korea.
Could this really be? No, wait a moment. Korea did come up in a riff on “the power of clean, renewable energy”. He wanted Americans to consider the example of China’s “largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient”, the danger of the US falling behind Germany and Japan on solar energy and, yes, the embarrassment of having “batteries made in Korea” run “plug-in hybrids” rolling off American assembly lines.
Considerably more noteworthy than the passing mention of Korean-made batteries, however, was that he forgot to allude to another made-in-Korea product – the missiles and nuclear warheads produced in North Korea and the threat they now pose to peace and stability in the region. How could the American president have overlooked what had been in the news just the day before, that North Korean technicians were busy preparing a missile for another launch, that the missile, according to the North Koreans, would put a satellite into orbit?
Robbers snatch record €7m from Dublin bank
Gangsters hold Bank of Ireland worker’s family hostage and force him to make withdrawal
Irish gangsters have staged the biggest cash robbery in the history of the Republic, stealing up to €7 million from the Bank of Ireland in Dublin’s College Green early today.
The Garda Siochana said an armed gang took the family of a Bank of Ireland worker hostage at their County Kildare home on Thursday night.
The gang forced their way into the home at Kilteel and seized the worker’s partner, her mother and a seven-year-old child. The man’s partner was beaten before the family were taken away in their car.
The worker, who is in his 20s, was forced to drive his car to the Bank of Ireland in College Green, across from Trinity College, and get the cash.
£20bn bailout to defuse East Europe’s timebomb
Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, surging growth in the former communist bloc has been replaced by deep recession
By Daniel McLaughlin in BudapestSaturday, 28 February 2009
Three global development banks pledged more than £20bn yesterday to avert potential financial meltdown in eastern Europe, where plunging currencies, mounting job cuts and a deepening debt crisis have sparked riots, rocked governments and stoked fears of widespread social unrest.The move came as the European Union prepared for emergency talks tomorrow on the economic crisis, and Hungary’s Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, asked Brussels to spend up to €180bn (£160bn) to bolster eastern Europe. Just a mile from his office, at one of Budapest’s main markets, the impact of the crisis on ordinary people is clear. A customer buys a small portion of one of the cheapest cuts of meat, with a quiet apology that he can’t afford more. “Even my regulars are buying much less than they used to,” says the butcher, Maria. “I never remember things being this bad. And if it keeps getting worse we’ll be out of business in a couple of years.”
Maria is one of millions of people feeling the bite of the economic crisis, which has hammered hopes of prosperity across the old communist bloc in the very year that it marks two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The hopes that free market democracy and the EU would replace Kremlin-backed dictatorship with a utopia of stability, security and unending economic growth have taken a real knock.
The West Africa Connection: how drug cartels found new routes
From The Times
February 28, 2009
O.C. was untouchable. For years the stocky man with pockmarked skin and heavy-lidded eyes had run a cocaine-trafficking network on the coastal plains of northern Guinea. Planeloads of cocaine were flown into Boke airport from neighbouring Guinea-Bissau, the country that became known as Africa’s first narco-state.
It was said that O.C.’s operation was protected by a contingent of elite Red Berets he had commandeered from his father, the late President Conte. Like other drug smugglers, Ousmane Conte lived large. In Conakry, the steamy capital on the coast, those who knew Conte said that he liked to party and to sample his merchandise. He was a heavy drinker with a quick temper.
In the early hours of Tuesday the Army raided one of O.C.’s villas in Conakry, arresting the eldest son of Guinea’s former dictator and dragging him off to a military camp. He admitted involvement in drug trafficking but denied being the godfather of a smuggling ring linked to Colombian cartels.
African nations pledge to press for aid to Zimbabwe
At a regional meeting in South Africa, nations make no promises themselves. Western countries are reluctant to commit funds, concerned that President Robert Mugabe still holds all the power.
By Robyn Dixon
February 28, 2009
Reporting from Harare, Zimbabwe — The headline in Zimbabwe’s Herald newspaper Friday measured the disconnect between hopes and reality: Southern African nations were “to invest $US 2 Billion in Zim,” it screamed.
But after a meeting of regional finance ministers in Cape Town, South Africa, later in the day, Zimbabwe left with nothing but vague promises.Instead of pouring in money to support the unity government brokered by southern African leaders, the region will press donors and international financial institutions to bail out Zimbabwe.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader sworn into office this month, has called on Western governments to support the fledgling transitional government, which includes members of his Movement for Democratic Change and President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.
But Europe and the United States have been reluctant to commit funds amid concerns that Mugabe and his hard-line security chiefs remain firmly in charge despite the power-sharing arrangement.
Tzipi Livni rejects offer to join Israel government
Tzipi Livni, leader of Israel’s centrist Kadima party, has formally rejected an offer by her hawkish rival Benjamin Netanyahu to join his government
By Dina Kraft in Tel Aviv
The main sticking point was cited as a fundamental disagreement over the creation of a Palestinian state.
Miss Livni gave Mr Netanyahu her final “no” to the idea of a unity government after already putting up stiff resistance immediately after the election earlier this month. Her decision makes it all but certain that the next Israeli coalition will be made up of Right-wing and religious parties, none of which support a peace agenda.
“Two states for two peoples is not an empty slogan. It is the only way Israel can remain Jewish and fight terror. It’s a fundamental issue,” Miss Livni said after talks with the Likud party leader at a Tel Aviv hotel.
As foreign minister, Miss Livni had been leading negotiations with the Palestinians and had made it clear that work towards a peace deal would be a condition of her joining the government. For his part Mr Netanyahu said he assured her that peace talks would continue.
An End to Baghdad’s ‘Dark Era’
Nightclubs on the City’s Famous Abu Nawas Street Are Open Again and Popular — Even With U.S. Troops
By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, February 28, 2009; Page A07
BAGHDAD, Feb. 27 — The American soldier stepped out of the Baghdad nightclub. In one hand, he clutched his weapon. In the other, a green can of Tuborg beer. He took a sip and walked over to two comrades, dressed as he was in camouflage and combat gear.
Inside the club Thursday night, U.S. soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division ogled young Iraqi women who appeared to be prostitutes gyrating to Arabic pop music. A singer crooned soulfully through scratchy speakers to the raucous, pulsating beat — an action that Islamic extremists have deemed punishable by beheading.
Colombia captures Farc kidnapper
Colombian security forces have clashed with a Marxist rebel group and captured one of its most notorious kidnappers.
By Jeremny McDermott
BBC News, Medellin
Soldiers fought Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) rebels in the central province of Cundinamarca, killing 10 and capturing another eight.
Among those taken was a leader known by the alias “El Negro Antonio”, whom authorities have been seeking for well over a decade.
One soldier was killed in the combat and a kidnap victim rescued.
“El Negro Antonio” is a Farc guerrilla with 33 arrest warrants outstanding against him.
The operation took place in the mountain range of Sumapaz in Cundinamarca province.