Docudharma Times Thursday February 5

Gonzales Claims U.S. Attorneys Were Not ‘Fired for Political Reasons

Of Course They Weren’t

They Were Fired For Failing To Attend

Pat Robertson’s Law School

Thursday’s Headlines:

Deluge Is Holding Up Benefits to Unemployed

No territorial concessions to Palestinians, says Netanyahu

Gaza War Created Rift Between Israel and Turkey

Europe needs to forge a strategy to cope with a shaken, evolving Russia

French foreign minister ‘took cash from African dictators’

Zimbabwe’s MDC plan to extradite Mengistu Haile Mariam to Ethiopia

‘Pirate pay-off’ for weapons ship

China declares an emergency amid worst drought in 50 years br>

In Pakistan, Swat Valley police give up in face of Taliban attacks

Higher prices irk Venezuelans ahead of Chávez’s referendum

Obama puts the heat on Republicans

He says the ‘half steps’ now urged by the GOP for the stimulus bill are the same ideas that led to the financial crisis.

By Peter Nicholas

February 5, 2009

Reporting from Washington — President Obama abruptly changed tactics Wednesday in his bid to revive the economy, setting aside his bipartisan stance and pointedly blaming Republicans for demanding what he cast as discredited “piecemeal measures.”

Obama’s comments were a marked departure from the conciliatory tone he has maintained as he courted Republican votes for his stimulus package through compromise. Against the wishes of his own party, Obama crafted a plan that relied heavily on tax cuts rooted in Republican economic doctrine.

But in an unusual opinion piece in today’s Washington Post, and in remarks he made at two White House appearances, the president seemed to acknowledge that his approach wasn’t working.

Evidence of torture ‘buried by ministers’

Judges condemn secrecy over files detailing treatment of suspect by CIA

Richard Norton-Taylor

The Guardian, Thursday 5 February 2009

The government was accused last night of hiding behind claims of a threat to national security to suppress evidence of torture by the CIA on a prisoner still held in Guantánamo Bay.

An unprecedented high court ruling yesterday blamed the US, with British connivance, for keeping the “powerful evidence” secret, sparking criticism from lawyers, campaigners and MPs, who claimed the government had capitulated to American bullying.

Two senior judges said they were powerless to reveal the information about the torture of Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British resident, because David Miliband, the foreign secretary, had warned the court the US was threatening to stop sharing intelligence about terrorism with the UK.



Senate Advances Tax Break for Homebuyers


Published: February 4, 2009

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Wednesday voted to expand the economic stimulus package with a tax credit for homebuyers of up to $15,000, a provision championed by Republicans as addressing a root cause of the recession.

The vote to add the tax credit, at a cost of about $18.5 billion, came as Senate leaders seemed to be nearing completion of negotiations. The majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, suggested that a final vote on the stimulus plan could come on Thursday.

Moderate lawmakers in both parties are pushing to reduce the overall cost of the measure and to focus it more tightly on provisions that will quickly spur spending and create jobs. The vote came as President Obama met with centrist lawmakers to address concerns about the package.

Deluge Is Holding Up Benefits to Unemployed

Decline in Funding Forces Staff Cuts as Claims Swell

By Chris L. Jenkins

Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, February 5, 2009; Page A01

Thousands of people in the Washington area and hundreds of thousands more across the country are waiting longer than they should for unemployment benefits at a time when they need the money the most because rising joblessness is overwhelming claims offices, records show.

The problem is compounded by a simultaneous decrease in federal funding, which has reduced staffing at some local government offices. The result is that the District and many states, including Maryland and Virginia, are failing to meet federal guidelines that require timely processing of unemployment claims, appeals and benefit payments, the records show.

Middle East

No territorial concessions to Palestinians, says Netanyahu

Land would be ‘grabbed by extremists’, says Israeli opposition leader

Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem

Israel’s rightwing opposition leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads the polls before next week’s parliamentary elections, warned today against giving up any occupied territory to the Palestinians, saying it would be “grabbed by extremists”.

Under Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are likely to grow more rapidly, putting Israel at odds with the new US administration.

In a speech, Netanyahu said that rather than peace talks with the Palestinians about giving up territory, he favoured economic development – a plan of “economic peace”. He has stopped short of endorsing a two-state solution that would see the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

Gaza War Created Rift Between Israel and Turkey



Published: February 4, 2009

ISTANBUL – The four daily flights to Tel Aviv are still running. The defense contract signed in December has not been scrapped. But since Israel’s war in Gaza, relations with Turkey, Israel’s closest Muslim ally, have become strained.

Israel’s Arab allies stood behind it in the war, but Turkey, a NATO member whose mediating efforts last year brought Israel into indirect talks with Syria, protested every step of the way in a month of angry remarks capped when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stalked off the stage during a debate in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 29.

In the week since, both sides have taken pains to mend fences, with officials in Israel and Turkey making conciliatory statements.


Europe needs to forge a strategy to cope with a shaken, evolving Russia

Our vital interests from energy to security cry out for a new, fully European Ostpolitik – and one nation holds the key

Timothy Garton Ash

The Guardian, Thursday 5 February 2009

Russia has lost an empire and not yet found a role. As we approach the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we should pay tribute again to the fact that a nuclear-armed superpower surrendered its vast continental empire with scarcely a shot fired in anger. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, many Russians have been regretting that act of historic magnanimity ever since.

What Russia’s new role will be is something that Russians have to work out for themselves. That will take time. In Britain, the country about which the “lost an empire and not yet found a role” quip was originally made, the process of post-imperial national redefinition has taken half a century – and we still haven’t got there.

French foreign minister ‘took cash from African dictators’

Author accuses Kouchner of showing favouritism towards notorious leaders

By John Lichfield in Paris

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner yesterday dismissed claims that he had mingled humanitarian activities with paid work for African dictators as “grotesque” and anti-Semitic.

The allegations against M. Kouchner, co-founder of Médecins sans Frontières, are contained in a vitriolic book published yesterday to a divided response from the French political establishment. Its author is one of France’s most experienced – and most controversial – investigative journalists.

The book, which critics contend relies on innuendo and is fatally flawed by the biases of its author, claims that M. Kouchner ignored a conflict of interest between his humanitarian work and payments he was receiving as a consultant on health matters from two African dictators, President Omar Bongo Odimba of Gabon, and Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville.


Zimbabwe’s MDC plan to extradite Mengistu Haile Mariam to Ethiopia

From The Times

February 5, 2009

Martin Fletcher in Harare

For 17 years Mengistu Haile Mariam, the former Ethiopian dictator who slaughtered opponents on an industrial scale in the “Red Terror”, has lived in Zimbabwe as the honoured guest of Robert Mugabe, dividing his time between a heavily guarded villa in Harare, a farm near the capital and a retreat on glorious Lake Kariba.

Last year an Ethiopian court sentenced the “Butcher of Addis” to death after convicting him of genocide in absentia but Mr Mugabe flatly refused to extradite the man who helped to arm Zanu (PF)’s guerrillas during Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation war.

‘Pirate pay-off’ for weapons ship

Reports from Somalia say pirates holding a Ukrainian ship loaded with weapons have received a ransom worth more than $3m (£2.1m).

By Peter Greste

BBC News, Nairobi

The pirates seized the MV Faina and its crew of 20 off the Somali coast in September last year.

It is the highest profile vessel in the custody of the pirates.

After months of tortuous negotiations and a number of stalled attempts to free it, the ship and its crew appear to be on the verge of freedom.

Its cargo includes 33 T-72 battle tanks, spare parts, rocket launchers and small arms.

The ship was bound for the port of Mombasa in Kenya and although the Kenyan government insisted the cargo was theirs, the manifest indicated that it was intended for South Sudan.

Either way, the nature of the cargo complicated and prolonged negotiations over the ransom, which now finally seems to have been paid – reportedly $3.2m.


China declares an emergency amid worst drought in 50 years

From Times Online

February 5, 2009

Jane Macartney in Beijing

The worst drought in half a century has parched fields across eight provinces in northern China, leaving nearly four million people without proper drinking water and forcing the government to declare an emergency.

Not a drop of rain has fallen on Beijing for more than 100 days, the longest dry spell for 38 years in a city known for its arid climate.

The Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters described the drought as a phenomenon “rarely seen in history.” The office has declared a “level 2” emergency.

The deputy chief of the office told local officials to make fighting the drought and protecting seedlings a major task.

President Hu Jintao said all efforts must be made to save the summer grain harvest.

In Pakistan, Swat Valley police give up in face of Taliban attacks

Taliban struck a police station Wednesday. Many police are resigning because of death threats.

By Ayesha Nasir | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

from the February 5, 2009 edition

LAHORE, PAKISTAN – Fazal Rehman’s childhood dream was to be a police officer. But after a dozen years on the force in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, he has finally turned in his badge.

During his training, Swat, which is located in the North West Frontier Province, about a five-hour-drive from Islamabad, was an idyllic place. Known as the “Switzerland of Pakistan,” it was renowned for lush valleys, ragged mountainsides, and snowcapped peaks.

But in the past two years, Swat has been caught up in the throes of a violent insurgency that has repelled tourists and is forcing locals to manage their lives around curfews and bans – and prompting many to leave the area.

The latest violence struck Wednesday, when militants attacked and destroyed a police station, capturing – and later releasing – some 30 paramilitary soldiers and policemen. A Taliban spokesman said the Taliban had gotten promises from the men that they would quit their jobs.

Latin America

Higher prices irk Venezuelans ahead of Chávez’s referendum

Inflation of 31 percent and continuing food shortages are presenting major problems for President Hugo Chávez as he asks Venezuelans on Feb. 15 to lift term limits so he can run for reelection indefinitely.

By Tyler Bridges | MClatchy Newspapers

from the February 5, 2009 edition

CARACAS, VENEZUELA – Desiree Pereira couldn’t decide among the squash she was squeezing at a food stall here on Tuesday.

Ms. Pereira expressed no uncertainty, however, when asked about the Venezuelan economy under President Hugo Chávez.

“Prices are always going up, and salaries can’t keep up,” said Pereira, a computer programmer. “It’s time to give someone else a chance.”

Inflation of 31 percent – easily the highest in Latin America – and continuing food shortages are presenting major problems for Mr. Chávez as he asks Venezuelans on Feb. 15 to lift term limits so he can run for reelection indefinitely. Food prices alone rose by nearly 50 percent in 2008. Government price controls kept down energy costs and electric and telephone rates.

Chávez is making a determined defense of his 10 years in office as he campaigns across Venezuela, noting that he inherited an economy in recession in 1999 and has overseen an economic boom. During his tenure, the percentage of Venezuelans living in extreme poverty – those who subsist on $1 a day or less – has been halved, government statistics show.