Bankers Need Bribes To Work
Obama’s Battle on Stimulus Shows Threats to His Agenda
By RICHARD W. STEVENSON
Published: February 11, 2009
WASHINGTON – It is a quick, sweet victory for the new president, and potentially a historic one. The question now is whether the $789 billion economic stimulus plan agreed to by Congressional leaders on Wednesday is the opening act for a more ambitious domestic agenda from President Obama or a harbinger of reduced expectations.
Both the substance of his first big legislative accomplishment and the way he achieved it underscored the scale of the challenges facing the nation and how different a political climate this is from the early stages of recent administrations.
While it hammered home the reality of bigger, more activist government, the economic package was not the culmination of a hard-fought ideological drive, like Lyndon B. Johnson’s civil rights and Great Society programs, or Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts, but rather a necessary and hastily patched-together response to an immediate and increasingly dire situation.
FBI expects number of major financial bailout fraud cases to rise
Investigations will focus on big-name companies and the cases are likely to be similar in scope and complexity to that of failed energy giant Enron, Deputy Director John Pistole tells a Senate panel.
By Josh Meyer
7:50 PM PST, February 11, 2009
Reporting from Washington — Despite an expected wave of fraud in the trillion-dollar bailout that aims to stop the ongoing financial meltdown, federal law enforcement officials told Congress on Wednesday that they have nowhere near the level of resources to combat it.
Top FBI and Justice Department officials said they believed mortgage fraud and other types of corporate criminal behavior has contributed to the economic tailspin. And they said they already have more than 2,300 open investigations into suspected illegal financial activity — including 38 probes specifically linked to the crisis.
Those investigations are already straining the resources of the FBI and the Justice Department, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole and Acting Assistant Atty. Gen. Rita Glavin said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But the problems will worsen exponentially as the economy plunges, and as the Obama administration and Congress spend more than $1 trillion in various bailout and stimulus packages in an effort to forestall foreclosures, corporate bankruptcies and a prolonged economic depression, they said.
Out of Work and Challenged on Benefits, Too
In Record Numbers, Employers Move to Block Unemployment Payouts
By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 12, 2009; Page A01
It’s hard enough to lose a job. But for a growing proportion of U.S. workers, the troubles really set in when they apply for unemployment benefits.
More than a quarter of people applying for such claims have their rights to the benefit challenged as employers increasingly act to block payouts to former workers.
The proportion of claims disputed by former employers and state agencies has reached record levels in recent years, according to the Labor Department numbers tallied by the Urban Institute.
Elderly immigrants find life in U.S. a tough go
With government aid limited and the economy straining the finances of the relatives who sponsored them, many are thinking increasingly wistfully of their homelands.
By Anna Gorman
February 12, 2009
Several times a day, Shaukat Ali prays in the garden of his daughter’s Artesia home — for his family and his health and now, for the economy.
“There is no alternative but to ask our God,” said Ali, 70.
Like many elderly immigrants, Ali dreamed of reuniting with relatives in the United States and working a few years before retiring. But since arriving here legally from Pakistan three years ago, Ali has not been able to find a job and said he has become a heavy bur- den on his daughter and son-in-law.
“They are not in a position to support me,” he said. “Dollars are not growing on trees.”
Maoris win battle to control All Blacks’ haka ritual
Ellen Connolly in Sydney
The Guardian, Thursday 12 February 2009
The eye-rolling, tongue-flicking haka war dance made famous by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team was officially handed back to a Maori tribe yesterday to stop it being ripped off by Hollywood directors and international advertising campaigns.
The New Zealand government assigned intellectual property rights in the traditional Maori haka, the Ka Mate, to Ngati Toa, a North Island tribal group.
The new agreement is largely symbolic, but it is considered immensely significant by Maori leaders. “Ngati Toa’s primary objective is to prevent the misappropriation and culturally inappropriate use of the Ka Mate haka,” the official settlement letter read.
Editor arrested for ‘outraging Muslims’
Protests against Indian newspaper over article reprinted from Independent
By Jerome Taylor
Thursday, 12 February 2009
The editor and publisher of a major Indian newspaper have been arrested for “hurting the religious feelings” of Muslims after they reprinted an article from The Independent. Ravindra Kumar and Anand Sinha, the editor and publisher of the Kolkata-based English daily The Statesman, appeared in court yesterday charged under section 295A of the Indian Penal Code which forbids “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings”.
Sections of central Kolkata have been paralysed by protests for much of the past week after The Statesman republished an article by The Independent’s columnist Johann Hari. Titled “Why should I respect oppressive religions?”, the piece was originally printed in The Independent on 28 January. In it, Hari said he believed the right to criticise any religion was being eroded around the world.
The Statesman, a highly respected liberal English-language daily, reprinted the article on 5 February, causing a major backlash among a small group of Muslims who felt that the piece slighted the Prophet Mohamed and insulted their religion. Peaceful protests were held outside The Statesman’s offices at the weekend but by Monday, demonstrations had turned violent. Angry crowds began blocking roads, attacking police and calling for the arrest of the article’s author and the newspaper’s publisher and editor. On Monday and Tuesday police used baton charges to try to disperse crowds and more than 70 protesters were arrested.
Tsvangirai sets out plans to restore rule of law and revive devastated economy
Chris McGreal in Harare
The Guardian, Thursday 12 February 2009
Hours after he was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s new prime minister yesterday, Morgan Tsvangirai laid out an ambitious programme to restore the rule of law and freedoms stripped away by President Robert Mugabe’s regime, and to revive his country’s all but eradicated economy.
Tsvangirai immediately won over near-destitute government workers and soldiers by promising that they will be paid in foreign currency because the Zimbabwean dollar is now worthless.
He said he wanted to see civil servants, teachers and nurses back at work on Monday to get schools and hospitals open again and the country moving.
Addressing thousands of people at a Harare stadium, where nine months ago he was prevented from holding an election rally by a violent assault on his supporters, Tsvangirai acknowledged that sharing power with Mugabe was not ideal.
Brutal retreat of LRA rebels in Congo
The joint mission to finish off the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army has led to more than 900 deaths and displaced more than 1,330 civilians since it began nearly two months ago.
By Max Delany | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
from the February 11, 2009 edition
NGILIMA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO – Nelson Ngamu is so weak that he can barely stand up.
Up until he was captured by Congolese troops three days earlier, Mr. Ngamu was a foot soldier in one of Africa’s most brutal rebel groups, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). He was abducted from his village in South Sudan at age 12. After watching LRA rebels kill his family, over the next 11 years, he was transformed from a prepubescent farmer’s son into a confessed murderer.
Now, nearly two months after a US-backed military mission to finish off the LRA, Sudanese, Congolese, and Ugandan commanders of the joint operation say the rebels are slowly starving to death, losing contact with their leadership, and running out of ammunition. But fresh details from soldiers involved in the operation, former LRA abductees, and local villagers reveal that success is coming at a heavy price.
Video Paradiso: how an Italian town rescued a priceless film collection
55,000 videos threatened with oblivion find a new home with an oddball mayor
By Peter Popham in Rome
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Serendipity on a grand scale has found a new Sicilian home for a vast American video collection that was on the point of being broken up.
The story begins with Yongman Kim, a Korean immigrant in New York, who started a video rental business in a corner of his East Village dry-cleaning establishment in 1987. Over the years, it became his obsession, swelling to a total of 55,000 films covering every genre, and becoming a local fixture.
But with the advent of online DVD rental services such as Netflix, the ritual trip to the local video store began to die out and, eventually, Mr Kim reluctantly decided to close the shop. He offered to give away his entire collection to a person or institution who would agree to his three conditions: keep it intact, keep it up to date, and make it accessible to members of his video shop and others.
Kremlin relents as schoolgirl Anastasia Ivliyeva forces it to bridge the guinea pig gap
From The Times
February 12, 2009
Tony Halpin in Moscow
It is the sort of request that has politicians queuing up for a photo opportunity. But Russian bureaucrats had other ideas when schoolgirl Anastasia Ivliyeva wrote to President Medvedev asking him for a pet guinea pig.
Anastasia, 13, explained in an e-mail to the President’s official Kremlin website that her parents had given her a male guinea pig and that she hoped Mr Medvedev would send a girlfriend to keep him company.
After weeks without a reply the teenager was suddenly summoned to see her headmistress at her village school in Kalitvensky near Rostov, southern Russia, and given a dressing-down for wasting the President’s time.
Key to who will govern Israel: Avigdor Lieberman
In a country divided between the centrist Kadima and hawkish Likud parties, a new kingmaker emerges from the far right.
By Ilene R. Prusher | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the February 12, 2009 edition
JERUSALEM – Israel is in a political bind. The nation voted Tuesday, but Wednesday two leaders claimed victory and a third-party newcomer found himself anointed the new Israeli “kingmaker.”
Centrist Tzipi Livni’s Kadima won 28 seats in the Knesset, or parliament, while right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud took 27 – so slim a margin that neither can claim a governing majority.
Enter Avigdor Lieberman. The third-largest vote-getter was his far-right Yisrael Beytenu party that wants a “national, right-wing government.” Common wisdom suggests an alliance with Mr. Netanyahu’s party. But some analysts say that Mr. Lieberman might find common ground with Ms. Livni. Either way, Lieberman will have great sway over the makeup of Israel’s next governing coalition, potentially winning control of key ministries.
Iraq Cabinet member’s exit raises gender, sectarian issues
Nawal Samarai, a Sunni Arab, says she resigned because her ministry of women’s affairs was a fake office. Critics say such ‘ministers of state’ were appointed to fill quotas and lack real power.
By Tina Susman and Caesar Ahmed
February 12, 2009
Reporting from Baghdad — It sounded like a dream job: $10,000 a month, a fleet of fancy cars, a house and best of all, said Nawal Samarai, a chance to improve the lives of widows and millions of other Iraqi women affected by the U.S.-led invasion and its aftermath.
But in a rare show of public muscle-flexing by an Iraqi woman in a high-profile role, Samarai has quit in a rage, saying she had been given a Potemkin Cabinet post created to fill a quota for Sunni Arab lawmakers such as herself, and make it appear that the Shiite Muslim-dominated government cares about women’s issues.
“I tried. I tried hard, but every time I asked for authority they’d tell me it’s not a real ministry, it’s just an office,” the former parliament member said Monday, four days after submitting her resignation as minister of state for women’s affairs.
Amid mass migration to cities, Bolivians learn to adapt to urbanization
Latin America and the Caribbean – where 78 percent of residents live in cities – is the world’s most urbanized developing region.
By Sara Miller Llana | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the February 12, 2009 edition
Sitting at 13,000 feet, the sun scorches every corner of this city, sprawled out on a plateau above La Paz. The roads teem with minivans letting out gusts of exhaust, choking already thin air. Bus drivers holler out routes, vendors barter, drivers honk horns – making for dizzying chaos.
Yet El Alto does lure. Thousands land on its doorstep each year. Today over 90 percent of its largely indigenous population comes from somewhere else – mostly the countryside.
If any city in the world is a migrant’s city, it is this city, which is why it is a showcase of the future. According to the United Nations, more than half the world’s population is now living in cities for the first time in history, as people move for jobs, education, and better services. By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population is expected to be urbanized.
This demographic shift poses challenges: creating new slums, overwhelming governments, and placing new demands on land and water.