Sheriff He Never Met
So How About Those Boats
In President’s Budget Plan, Broad Agenda and a Few Gaps
By Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 26, 2009; Page A01
President Obama’s spending plan is built on the assumption that lawmakers can resolve some hugely contentious issues — and it relies on a few well-worn budget tricks.
The request he will deliver to Congress today proposes to provide what administration officials are calling a “down payment” on a major expansion of health care coverage for the uninsured. It identifies $634 billion in tax increases and spending cuts to cover the cost of part of the program, but does not say how the administration hopes to raise the rest of the money — hundreds of billions of dollars more. “TBD” has been penciled into categories for cost savings and benefit reductions.
Why 88 Arab homes received eviction notices
Israel has plans to demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem to make way for a tourist site. Activists say it’s a demographic play that amounts to ethnic cleansing.
By Ilene R. Prusher | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the February 26, 2009 edition
JERUSALEM – Israel plans to demolish 88 homes in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, to make way for a new archaeological park, adding new fuel the slow-burning dispute over Jerusalem.
A variety of neighborhood activists, Muslim leaders in Jerusalem, and even figures from the Palestinian Authority (PA) held a press conference Wednesday, saying that Israel was trying to minimize the Arab presence in this city claimed by both Palestinians and Jews as their capital. They say such a move amounts to ethnic cleansing.
“They have made a decision to clear out 88 houses, and with about three families living in each of these houses, we’re looking at the eviction of about 1,500 people. But people in Silwan are clinging to their land and will not leave, despite the eviction orders,” says Adnan Husseini, who is PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s adviser on Jerusalem Affairs.
Israel’s Jerusalem municipality, which has been mulling over this plan for four years, says that the homes were built without permits in an area not designated for residential use.
U.S. Is a Vast Arms Bazaar for Mexican Cartels
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
Published: February 25, 2009
PHOENIX – The Mexican agents who moved in on a safe house full of drug dealers last May were not prepared for the fire power that greeted them.
When the shooting was over, eight agents were dead. Among the guns the police recovered was an assault rifle traced back across the border to a dingy gun store here called X-Caliber Guns.
Now, the owner, George Iknadosian, will go on trial on charges he sold hundreds of weapons, mostly AK-47 rifles, to smugglers, knowing they would send them to a drug cartel in the western state of Sinaloa. The guns helped fuel the gang warfare in which more than 6,000 Mexicans died last year.
The mood out there? Dread, and resolve too
Main Street America has its own set of economic indicators.
By Peter H. King
February 26, 2009
A heightened demand for teddy bears at a California toy store, night lights blinking off across the Texas oil fields, high school students in suburban Detroit walking the halls in last year’s clothes, a sudden abundance of available parking spaces on what had been a crowded San Francisco street — these were the sorts of ground-level economic indicators that came up Wednesday in conversations with Americans a day after President Obama’s address to Congress.
While foreclosure rates, unemployment percentages and plunging stock prices trace the outline of the beast, the day-to-day dread it stirs can be more difficult to measure. But it’s there, and it’s everywhere.A mid-February Associated Press poll, for example, found that 47% of Americans were worried at some level about losing their jobs, which suggests that 53% have not been paying attention. To borrow from songwriter John Prine, “If heartaches were commercials, we’d all be on TV.”
Amnesty offer to Bangladeshi border guards after mutiny over pay
Bloodshed at Dhaka barracks as troops turn guns on officers who refused to discuss salary grievances
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 26 February 2009 02.33 GMT
Bangladesh was last night coming to terms with an ominous military mutiny after border guards revolted against their top officers in a brief but bloody uprising that reportedly claimed up to 50 lives.
The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, announced an amnesty for the mutineers after meeting 14 of their leaders from the Bangladesh Rifles, the border security force. She was only sworn into office last month, and the uprising is her government’s first crisis.
The rebels said complaints about their pay, and promotion and alleged corruption had been ignored. The prime minister agreed to consider their demands, and last night rebels began disarming.
Pakistan in turmoil after Sharif brother is kicked out
Protesters take to streets as government of country’s largest province disqualified
By Omar Waraich in Islamabad and Andrew Buncombe
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Pakistan has again been plunged into political turmoil after the Supreme Court brought down the government of the country’s largest province, headed by the brother of President Asif Ali Zardari’s main rival. The court ruled the election last year of Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz, as chief minister of Punjab, was invalid. It also kept in place a ban that prevents twice-former prime minister Mr Sharif standing for office.
As two months of central government rule was imposed on Punjab, supporters of the Sharif brothers took to the streets of Lahore and other Punjab towns, burning tyres and chanting, and 5 per cent was wiped from the country’s stock exchange. In Islamabad, young men fanned out on to one of the capital’s main thoroughfares, blocking traffic for hours. Waving flags, they chanted anti-Zardari slogans, and panicked shopkeepers closed their businesses. More demonstrations are planned today.
Mugabe splashes out on birthday bash as cholera spirals out of control
Guardian film exposes horrors of man-made epidemic claiming thousands of lives
Chris McGreal, Africa correspondent, and James Gilchrist in Zimbabwe
The Guardian, Thursday 26 February 2009
Cholera is one of the most visible signs of Zimbabwe’s collapse. It has claimed thousands of lives, infected tens of thousands of other people and left millions of impoverished, half-starved Zimbabweans living in fear of their own drinking water.
But Robert Mugabe has tried to make cholera an invisible disease, hiding the dying in hastily erected treatment centres, behind barbed wire and police guards, and burying the victims away from prying foreign eyes. The president declared the epidemic over even as the numbers of dead were growing ever more rapidly, and claimed the spread of the disease was all a British plot.
Now a new Guardian film, smuggled out of the country, reveals what Zimbabwe’s autocratic leader does not want seen: the stark reality of life, and death, in the midst of a cholera outbreak that Médecins Sans Frontières only last week called part of a “massive medical emergency that is spiralling out of control”.
Kenyan troops trained by British are condemned for ‘death’ campaign
From The Times
February 26, 2009
Tristan McConnell in Nairobi
The Kenyan Army, which receives training and support from Britain, was accused yesterday of torture and murder by a United Nations investigator.
Speaking at the end of a ten-day visit to the country Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, said that Kenyan soldiers were responsible for the deaths or disappearances of 200 people in the Mount Elgon area during a police and army operation that began in March last year. Mr Alston called the figure a conservative estimate.
Human Rights Watch in New York alleges that the 20 Para regiment of the Kenyan Army, trained in counter-terrorism by Britain, was responsible for the disappearances as well as the torture of perhaps thousands more.
Lipstick revolution: Iran’s women are taking on the mullahs
It started with a switch from hijabs to Hermès headscarves. Now, after 30 years of Sharia law, the fight for women’s rights is gathering pace. Katherine Butler meets the Iranian rally drivers, bloggers and film-makers demanding change
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Zohreh Vatankhah slides into the driving seat of her BMW X3, flicks a switch to some pulsating Persian pop and we’re soon zipping along the narrow lanes near her home in northern Tehran, almost in the foothills of the snow-capped Alborz mountains. Most Iranians behave in traffic as if they are in charge of dodgems, not potentially lethal vehicles: the traffic is heart-stoppingly dangerous, but with this woman I can relax. A professional racing driver, she’s used to competing, and winning, at speeds of up to 180mph.
She’s glamorous, too, wearing high-heeled boots over her jeans (a controversial look in the eyes of the Iranian morality police) and a Rolex on her wrist. When she’s not confounding stereotypes of Iranian women by beating men on the rally circuits, she’s climbing mountains (she recently conquered Mount Damavand, the highest peak in the Middle East), or, here, in the axis of evil, sworn enemy of the United States, watching US (banned but tolerated) satellite TV channels; 24 is one of her favourite shows.
Israel blocks pasta shipment to Gaza, and tensions boil
By Dion Nissenbaum | McClatchy Newspapers
JERUSALEM – For more than seven weeks, the international aid group Mercy Corps has been trying to send 90 tons of macaroni to the isolated Gaza Strip as part of a global campaign to help the 1.4 million Palestinians there rebuild their lives after Israel’s recent devastating 22-day military operation.
Israel, which controls most of what goes into and out of Gaza, has said no repeatedly.
At first, Israeli officials said that they wanted to make sure that the macaroni wasn’t destined for a Hamas charity. Then they said macaroni was banned because they didn’t consider it an essential food item.
Nine die as aircraft crashes near Amsterdam
From The Times
February 26, 2009
David Charter in Amsterdam, Suna Erdem in Istanbul, and Steve Bird
Flight TK1951 was within sight of the runway on its final approach to Schiphol airport when, without warning, it seemed to fall out of the sky and crashed tail-first into a field with the loss of at least nine lives.
Survivors described last night how, in a matter of seconds, the Turkish Airlines Boeing 737 from Istanbul to Amsterdam plummeted to the ground and split into three, leaving 84 of the 134 people on board injured, many seriously, and the two pilots and a trainee pilot dead.
Investigators refused to speculate why the aircraft had descended too soon, or to comment on suggestions that its tail smashed into the ground as it tried to regain height or tried to execute an emergency landing. Dutch officials ruled out terrorism as a possible cause of the crash.
Recession? War? Gulf developer continues massive Georgia luxury project.
The recent war, plunging crude prices, and an economic crisis haven’t derailed plans for a gated community in the Caucasus
By Dan Catchpole | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the February 26, 2009 edition
TBILISI, GEORGIA – Despite a war and global financial crisis, Rakeen, an Arab real estate developer in Georgia, is pressing ahead with building hundreds of luxury villas in a gated community, complete with equestrian and falconry clubs.
Since 2006, Rakeen has invested $2 billion in Georgia, which amounts to almost 20 percent of the country’s prewar gross domestic product. The development company is indirectly owned by Ras al-Khaimah, one of the United Arab Emirates. Like the other emirates, Ras al-Kaimah has attempted to diversify its petroleum economy with overseas investment.
Rakeen says it has not been deterred by plunging crude oil prices or the August war between Russia and Georgia, despite the deaths of three employees and three contractors when the port city of Poti was bombed.
“Our construction work hasn’t stopped,” says Zaza Mikadze, Rakeen’s general director in Georgia. Rakeen became sole owner of Poti’s port in December; it opened a cement plant near Tbilisi in October to support construction.
Mexican town fed up with violence turns to army
In the state of Zacatecas, residents of Villanueva demanded that the military take over. The soldiers came, but drug war violence got worse.
By Tracy Wilkinson
February 26, 2009
Reporting from Villanueva, Mexico — The people of Villanueva said they’d had enough. Men in cowboy hats, women with hand-scrawled signs, children on bikes — they gathered outside town and blocked the main interstate highway.
“If you can’t do it, quit!” they told their police force. They demanded that the army take over.
The army rolled into this town in Zacatecas state last month and ordered the police to stand down and surrender their weapons. They did.
Things only got worse. A few days later, Police Chief Romulo Madrid, a former military man said to be eager to cooperate with the army, was shot and killed outside his house at 10:30 on a bright morning. The mayor’s chauffeur, a first cousin, was arrested in the shooting.
Five days later, gunmen working for a drug gang ambushed an army patrol. One soldier and four assailants were killed. Among the attackers captured was a police officer. Sources close to the military point to evidence that elements of the police force set up the army patrol.