Hate The Stimulus In Washington
Love It In Their Districts
U.S. Rounding Up Investors to Buy Bad Assets
This article is by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Eric Dash and Rachel L. Swarns.
By ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, ERIC DASH and RACHEL L. SWARNS
Published: March 22, 2009
WASHINGTON – Obama administration officials worked Sunday to persuade reluctant private investors to buy as much as $1 trillion in troubled mortgages and related assets from banks, with government help.
The talks came a day before the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, planned to unveil the details of the administration’s long-awaited plan to purchase troubled assets, meant to remove them from the balance sheets of banks and, in turn, spur banks to lend more money to consumers and companies.
The plan relies on private investors to team up with the government to relieve banks of assets tied to loans and mortgage-linked securities of unknown value. There have been virtually no buyers of these assets because of their uncertain risk.
As part of the program, the government plans to offer subsidies, in the form of low-interest loans, to coax private funds to form partnerships with the government to buy troubled assets from banks.
Tibetan monks arrested over police station attack
Tania Branigan in Beijing
The Guardian, Monday 23 March 2009
Almost 100 monks are being held in detention after hundreds of people attacked a police station and government officials in a Tibetan area of north-western China, state media reported.
The unrest broke out in Qinghai province on Saturday when a Buddhist lama vanished after escaping police custody. He was under investigation “on suspicion of Tibetan independence activities”.
The official news agency, Xinhua, said monks from the local monastery attacked the police station in Ragya, a township in the Tibetan prefecture of Golog. Some officials were slightly injured. It added that six people were arrested for involvement in the attack, while 89 others surrendered. All but two were monks.
As Cuts Loom, Will Working From Home Lead to a Layoff?
Recession Pushes Some to Eschew Flexible Job Policies
By Annys Shin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 23, 2009; Page A01
With the recession forcing businesses to cut back on workers, employees are increasingly doing all they can to hang onto their jobs and are forgoing many of the benefits that once allowed them to balance the demands of work and family life.
In good times, workers frequently seized the opportunity to use “flex time” and family leave, to telecommute and to take paid sick days. But, according to workplace consultants, human resources specialists and employees themselves, those days are slipping away. More workers are giving up those arrangements, or resisting asking about them in the first place, out of fears that doing so will make them appear less committed to their work and therefore more expendable.
Mournful calm follows Oakland firestorm
Flowers are placed at makeshift memorials across the city as relatives of the dead — four police officers and the gunman — remain ‘shocked’ at the ‘extraordinary’ violence that broke out Saturday.
By Maria L. La Ganga and Peter H. King
March 23, 2009
Reporting from Oakland — It was early Saturday afternoon, and Curtis Mixon was talking with his 26-year-old nephew. Lovelle Shawn Mixon had called on a cellphone from his newly purchased 1995 Buick as he drove through east Oakland.
“Vel said the police was pulling him over,” the 38-year-old medical records clerk recalled Sunday. “He said, ‘I just pulled over.’ ”
The uncle listened as his nephew — stopped on MacArthur Boulevard less than two blocks from a police station and around the corner from his sister’s apartment — spoke with a motorcycle officer and searched for his driver’s license and registration.
Mixon told his uncle he would have to call him back.
He never did.
What followed was an almost inexplicable chain of events that left Mixon and four Oakland police officers dead and sent this city into an all-too-familiar ritual of municipal grief and self-examination.
Sri Lankans face humanitarian crisis trapped in ‘no fire zone’, warns UN
• Witnesses report dozens dying in daily shelling
• Tigers accused of wanting a bloodbath for own ends
Randeep Ramesh in Colombo
The Guardian, Monday 23 March 2009
More than 150,000 people are being shelled daily and are running short of water and medicine in a Sri Lankan-government declared “No Fire Zone”, according to witness reports and United Nations briefing documents obtained by the Guardian.
Tens of thousands of people are caught between the last 1,500 fighters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the advancing troops of the Sri Lankan army. The civilians are trapped on a thin strip of land – estimated at 13.5 square miles (35 square kilometers) – on Sri Lanka’s north-east coast.
The UN warns that if people stay they risk being killed by government shells and if they try to leave they will be in danger of being shot by the Tigers. Diplomats say there is a real danger that a bloody denouement to the 25-year-old civil war could result in an “all-out humanitarian catastrophe”.
Terror forces India to abandon plans to host cricket contest
Games will be played outside the cricket-obsessed nation because security would be overstretched
By Andrew Buncombe in Delhi
Monday, 23 March 2009
Indians reacted with anger and sadness after it was announced yesterday that a hugely popular cricket tournament will have to be played outside the country because the government cannot ensure security.
In what was seen as another example of sport falling victim to the threat of terrorism, cricket officials said state and federal authorities had not approved the schedule for the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 tournament because it clashed with a general election which will dominate the attention of security personnel.
After last year’s attack in Mumbai, in which 164 people were killed, and the recent attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Pakistan, some players and officials had voiced doubts about playing in the subcontinent. Shashank Manohar, head of the Board of Control for Cricket for India (BCCI), said: “Due to the attitude of the government that it cannot provide security for the tournament, we are forced to take a decision to move the IPL out of India.”
French plan to break taboo on ethnic data causes uproar
Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
The Guardian, Monday 23 March 2009
France is embroiled in a bitter row over how to resolve its issues surrounding race after Nicolas Sarkozy’s new diversity tsar suggested breaking one of the republic’s biggest taboos and legalising the counting of ethnic minorities.
Unlike in Britain or the US, where people are often asked to tick a box about ethnic origin, in France it is illegal to classify people by ethnicity or to ask census questions on race or origins. The foundation stone of the secular French republic is that all citizens should be equal and free from distinctions of class, race or religion.
Sarkozy recently went further than any other French president to denounce the hypocrisy of everyday racism and discrimination, which has poisoned that republican ideal. He said the lack of data on ethnic minorities was hampering the ability to measure inequality and deal with it.
Spain’s defence minister shot down over Nato gaffe
Controversial politician in trouble over announcement to pull troops out of Kosovo
By Elizabeth Nash in Madrid
Monday, 23 March 2009
The Spanish Defence minister, Carme Chacón, suffered a dramatic fall from grace after announcing that Spain would shortly withdraw from Nato operations in Kosovo, only to have the decision reversed yesterday following a diplomatic row.
On a morale-boosting trip to troops in Kosovo last week, Ms Chacón, Spain’s first female defence chief and a star of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s majority female cabinet, declared: “The mission has been completed and it’s time to return home.”
But her announcement burst like a bombshell among Nato officials, the US administration and senior diplomats who complained she had acted unilaterally and failed to inform them through the proper channels.
Nobel outrage at South Africa’s decision to ban the Dalai Lama
From The Times
March 23, 2009
South Africa was plunged into a diplomatic row yesterday after the Government barred the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, from entering the country to take part in a peace conference linked to the 2010 football World Cup.
The decision, confirmed to The Times by senior government officials, was met with outrage by his fellow Nobel peace laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the former President F. W. de Klerk, who are organising the conference on March 27 with the Norwegian Nobel Peace Committee.
Archbishop Tutu urged the Government, which has close ties to China, to reconsider its “disgraceful” decision and threatened to boycott the meeting, planned to promote the first World Cup tournament to be held in Africa.
“If His Holiness’s visa is refused, then I won’t take part in the upcoming 2010 World Cup-related peace conference. I will condemn the Government’s behaviour as disgraceful, in line with our abysmal record at the UN Security Council, a total betrayal of our struggle history,” he said from California, where he is on a visit.
Hutu rebels in Congo strike back against joint offensive
FDLR militia targets civilians, aid workers, and officials who supported the Congo-Rwanda effort.
By Matthew Clark | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the March 23, 2009 edition
GOMA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO – A new rebel push in Congo’s wild, wild east is threatening to mar recent progress toward peace and plunge one of the world’s most war-ravaged regions into a fresh humanitarian crisis.
From Jan. 21 until late February, the Congolese Army joined neighboring Rwanda in a surprise offensive against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu militia suspected of committing the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and wreaking havoc in the mineral-rich mountains of eastern Congo ever since.
The joint operation – a rare instance of cooperation between two neighbors with a history of animosity – is credited with flushing out hundreds of FDLR militiamen for re-integration into Rwanda, something widely viewed as key to ending the conflict that has killed more than five million people in the past decade.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon heralded the operation during a visit to eastern Congo earlier this month.
But now the Hutu rebels are retaking many of their positions and carrying out reprisal attacks on civilians suspected of cooperating with the joint offensive.
Turkish president visits Baghdad
Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul is visiting Iraq, the first by a Turkish head of state for more than 30 years.
Mr Gul is expected to meet his Iraqi counterpart Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
An Iraqi spokesman said they would discuss a number of issues, including the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK.
The activities of the PKK, which uses bases in northern Iraq to attack Turkey, has long been an issue of contention between the two countries.
Turkey stepped up its cross-border operations into Iraq last year, and accused Iraq of failing to stop the rebels, who are fighting for greater autonomy in south-eastern Turkey.
However, the two countries have pledged to work together to build security and economic ties.
Last July, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Baghdad for talks with Mr Maliki about greater co-operation over trade, energy and water, and agreed to set up a council to foster relations.
UN to criticise Israel over Gaza
The UN investigator into human rights in the Palestinian territories is set to present his latest report to the UN human rights council in Geneva.
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Geneva
It is the first such report since Israel’s incursion into Gaza.
Richard Falk has been highly critical of Israel in the past, and his new report is no exception.
In it he questions the legality of Israel’s actions in Gaza. Israel, however, has repeated accusations that that Mr Falk is biased.
Israeli authorities denied him entry last December, when he attempted to conduct his regular investigative mission to the Palestinian territories.
Because Mr Falk was unable to enter the Palestinian territories, his latest report focuses instead on the legality of Israel’s incursion into Gaza.
He suggests that it is not a question of whether Israel used disproportionate force in Gaza, but rather whether Israel acted lawfully in entering Gaza at all.
He concludes that it did not, and that the incursion may constitute a war crime.
He is calling for an independent inquiry to examine possible war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas.