Bipartisanship Is A Funny
In The Media’s Eyes
G.M. Presses Union for Cuts in Health Care
By BILL VLASIC and NICK BUNKLEY
Published: February 16, 2009
DETROIT – With its access to a government lifeline possibly at risk, General Motors executives were locked in intense negotiations Monday with leaders of the United Automobile Workers over ways to cut its vast bills for retiree health care.
G.M. will file what is expected to be the largest restructuring plan of its 100-year history on Tuesday, a step it must take to justify its use of a $13.4 billion loan package from the federal government.
The plan will outline in considerable detail, over as many as 900 pages, how G.M. will further cut its work force, shutter more factories in North America and reduce its lineup of brands to just four, from eight, according to executives knowledgeable about its contents. The remaining core brands will be Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick.
Whitehall devised torture policy for terror detainees
MI5 interrogations in Pakistan agreed by lawyers and government
an Cobain and Richard Norton-Taylor
A policy governing the interrogation of terrorism suspects in Pakistan that led to British citizens and residents being tortured was devised by MI5 lawyers and figures in government, according to evidence heard in court.
A number of British terrorism suspects who have been detained without trial in Pakistan say they were tortured by Pakistani intelligence agents before being questioned by MI5. In some cases their accusations are supported by medical evidence.
The existence of an official interrogation policy emerged during cross-examination in the high court in London of an MI5 officer who had questioned one of the detainees, Binyam Mohamed, the British resident currently held in Guantánamo Bay.
Late Change in Course Hobbled Rollout of Geithner’s Bank Plan
By Neil Irwin and Binyamin Appelbaum
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 17, 2009; Page D01
Just days before Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner was scheduled to lay out his much-anticipated plan to deal with the toxic assets imperiling the financial system, he and his team made a sudden about-face.
According to several sources involved in the deliberations, Geithner had come to the conclusion that the strategies he and his team had spent weeks working on were too expensive, too complex and too risky for taxpayers.
They needed an alternative and found it in a previously considered initiative to pair private investments and public loans to try to buy the risky assets and take them off the books of banks
‘Made in the U.S.A.’ isn’t dead, just different
Manufacturing sector is shedding jobs; Experts see it changing
WASHINGTON – It may seem like the country that used to make everything is on the brink of making nothing.
In January, 207,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs vanished in the largest one-month drop since October 1982. Factory activity is hovering at a 28-year low. Even before the recession, plants were hemorrhaging work to foreign competitors with cheap labor. And some companies were moving production overseas.
But manufacturing in the United States isn’t dead or even dying. It’s moving upscale, following the biggest profits, and becoming more efficient, just like Henry Ford did when he created the assembly line to make the Model T.
A child of Cairo’s streets, with a child of her own
Amira has a baby girl and is expecting. She is 13, with no permanent place to stay, one of thousands of street children in Egypt, whose laws make a hard life harder for a single mother like her.
By Jeffrey Fleishman
February 17, 2009
Reporting from Cairo — She has a baby in her arms and another growing inside. She says she knows about love, says she found it on the streets, where boys fight with razors and a one-armed glue-huffer whispers the pretty things a girl yearns to hear before she curls and sleeps in the abandoned buildings that clutter Cairo’s heart.
Amira Osman Dakhly left the streets a few days ago, rushing past the new houses on the hill to the homeless shelter, the one with yellow walls and toddlers in the courtyard. She’ll stay, maybe until next month, or maybe until tonight. That’s the thing about Amira, she changes direction as quick as a starling in a winter sky.
But for now, the 13-year-old with the snug white blouse and gap-tooth smile will sit and talk, cracking her knuckles and squinting her eyes, narrow and thin, like shutter slats.
After the surge, the splurge: Iraq spends $5bn rebuilding its forces
From The Times
February 17, 2009
Michael Evans in Umm Qasr
America is supplying the Iraqi armed forces with tanks, fighter jets and other high-tech weapons worth billions of dollars, in one of the biggest rearmament programmes ever seen in the region.
The Iraqi Army, Navy and Air Force are all being rearmed under the programme, which is designed to make sure that the fledgeling Government in Baghdad is able to subdue the insurgency once US troops leave. The weapons should also be enough to defend the country against hostile neighbours.
Already on order are 140 M1 Abrams tanks. The air force is to get F16 fighters by 2015, and the navy is awaiting the arrival in June of the first of four 450-tonne Italian patrol ships.
Hunt intensifies for Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladic
Belgrade says it has stepped up efforts and increased cooperation with western intelligence agencies despite political costs at home
Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
Western intelligence agencies have stepped up the hunt for Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general wanted for war crimes, by sending officials to Belgrade to work directly with their Serbian counterparts, Serbia’s foreign minister said today.
Vuk Jeremic said that following the capture last year of the Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, the search for Mladic had intensified and was being run by an international team of intelligence officials in Belgrade. “This government is absolutely committed, and we have demonstrated our seriousness. All our agencies are working around the clock on this and it is now an international effort,” Jeremic said in an interview in London.
“A number of partner countries are involved in this effort … They are actively participating on the ground.”
Will there be another Russian revolution?
As the cold, hard realities of the global economic meltdown hit home in Russia’s remote industrial ‘monotowns’, Vladimir Putin is facing the first serious challenges to his authority. Is anarchy just around the corner? Shaun Walker reports from the Urals
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
These are hard times for the town of Asbest, deep in Russia’s Urals industrial belt. For more than a century, asbestos has been mined here on a grand scale. And in recent years, despite an EU ban on the use of asbestos, the 19 factories that make up the world’s biggest asbestos mining and processing operation have been working at full stretch, fuelled by Russia’s construction boom.
Andrei, a 37-year-old local, has worked in the asbestos industry for 13 years, along with thousands of the town’s 76,000 residents. More than 70 per cent of all families here have at least one member working in the asbestos plant. Indeed, without it, the town would be nothing. Across Russia’s Urals region, and elsewhere, there are many places like Asbest. In a hangover from the days of Soviet planning, Russia has more than 500 “monotowns” – communities where one factory accounts for most of the local budget and employs the majority of the population.
Why the conscience of Kenya came home
When death threats forced anti-corruption tsar John Githongo to flee into exile, he inspired a book – published this week – about the parlous state of East Africa’s biggest economy. Now he has returned, still determined to fight corruption. Daniel Howden talked to him in Nairobi
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
It is hard to imagine John Githongo in hiding. A great bull of a man with a booming voice, he doesn’t look the sort to be easily intimidated. Nonetheless the former anti-corruption tsar has spent years in exile from Kenya chased by death threats all the way to London for daring to expose the rapacious fraud of his government colleagues.
While he insists that he’s no longer in hiding, Africa’s most famous whistleblower has tried not to trumpet his return by stages to Kenya and works from an office in a nondescript apartment block in Nairobi. This gradual, low-key homecoming has been exploded this week as a new book about his life and work has taken Kenyans back to the corruption scandals of the past just in time to remind people that they are at the root of the country’s present parlous state.
Darfur rebel group ‘reaches deal’
Sudan and Darfur’s most active rebel group have reached a tentative deal, amid hopes it could lead to talks on a peace deal in the war-torn region.
Khartoum and the Justice and Equality Movement agreed to sign a declaration of good intentions on Tuesday.
The deal – reached in Qatar – includes an end to attacks on more than two million people in refugee camps and an exchange of prisoners, diplomats say.
However, other rebel groups are refusing to talk to the government.
The BBC’s Africa editor, Martin Plaut, says that much more needs to be done to achieve peace in the region.
And hanging over any agreement is a proposed indictment from the International Criminal Court of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir for alleged crimes.
The agreement between the Sudanese government and the Jem rebels was announced by Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, whose country has been mediating talks under way since last Tuesday.
Shoichi Nakagawa to resign as Japanese Finance Minister over ‘drunken’ peformance at G7
From Times Online
February 17, 2009
Leo Lewis, Tokyo
Japan’s Finance Minister has said he will resign later this year amid a spiralling furore over what appeared to be drunken behaviour at last weekend’s G7 summit in Rome.
Shoichi Nakagawa’s resignation could not come at a more fragile time for the government of Prime Minister Taro Aso – a leader who is fast becoming Japan’s most unpopular ever, and who stands accused by the public of dithering on solving the country’s rapidly deteriorating economic problems.
Mr Nakagawa’s decision to step down came ahead of an opposition-led censure motion against him, which he will almost certainly lose in a vote tomorrow.
Mr Nakagawa, who was today sticking with his excuse that a combination of jetlag and cough mixture got the better of him, said that he would stay on in the Cabinet until parliament gives the green light to a supplementary budget aimed at steering Japan out of its sharpest recessionary plunge in history.
In Japan, foster parents blaze an unpopular trail
The government is taking small steps to boost interest. But prejudices remain in a society where the pull of traditional family structures and blood ties is strong.
By Takehiko Kambayashi | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the February 17, 2009 edition
HACHIOJI, JAPAN – Yoko Sakamoto remembers well the prejudice she faced as a foster mother.
She and her husband, Koichi, who were childless, decided to expand their family by welcoming foster children. But when their first son had major problems in elementary school, the criticism started.
Some parents whispered about the different family names. One waited for the boy after school and slapped him for the “nuisance” he caused. Even Mrs. Sakamoto’s own parents criticized the decision. “We were facing a fierce storm of discrimination,” she says.
When the Sakamotos let their son skip school because of stress, officials removed him, sending him to institutional care.
But the couple didn’t give up. Today, their home in this quiet Tokyo suburb reverberates with the energy of five children, ages 4 to 15. And the government is looking for more people like them.
Promoting foster parenting has not been easy in Japan, a country where blood ties and traditional family structures are paramount. But in recent years, a home setting has begun to trump institutional care in officials’ views of what’s best for children who face abuse or abandonment. And now, the government is revamping its foster-care system to increase the number of caseworkers and better promote the option for families.
Latin America’s Document-Driven Revolutions
Team of Spanish Scholars Helped Recast Constitutions in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador
By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, February 17, 2009; Page A01
LA PAZ, Bolivia — Once a product of armed rebellion, the revolution in Latin America today is taking place on paper in the form of new constitutions, a mostly peaceful process influenced by the work of European legal scholars who have played a behind-the-scenes role in drafting the populist documents.
Venezuela’s referendum Sunday on whether to amend a constitution less than a decade old to allow President Hugo Chávez to run for office indefinitely is just the latest example. Two other South American countries have embarked in the past decade on rewriting their societies’ fundamental rules, creating enormous new charters that vastly expand the social and economic rights granted to citizens, particularly the poor.