Republicans Know How
To Look Backwards. They’re Professionals
Welcome to Libby, Montana, the town that was poisoned
After an epidemic of asbestos-related deaths, one woman is fighting for justice in the Rocky Mountains
Joanna Walters in Libby, Montana
The Observer, Sunday 8 March 2009
Dean Herreid’s lungs are gradually being destroyed. When he coughs, as he frequently does, his long, wheezing splutter sounds so painful it makes you wince. Herreid lives in Libby, a tiny Rocky Mountain town in Montana that is isolated, beautiful and toxic. Scores of men in this rough-edged, blue collar town have been killed off, poisoned with deadly asbestos from the local mine.
But Herreid is not elderly and he was never a miner. He simply played baseball as a child on a field near the mine and, years later, has developed a lung disease that is destroying the life of this 44-year-old father of two young boys. There are many others like him.
Horrifying stories are emerging at a criminal trial where the corporate giant WR Grace, which owned the mine, is accused of knowingly allowing not only its miners but the entire town to breathe deadly asbestos dust. The US government calls it “the worst case of industrial poisoning of a whole community in American history”.
Big plans in China for revolution’s 60th anniversary
The Oct. 1 festivities promise some of the dazzle of the Olympics shows. But critics fault plans for a huge military display and bring up other dates, such as the Tibet revolt and Tiananmen protests.
By Barbara Demick
9:32 PM PST, March 7, 2009
Reporting from Beijing — The Chinese Communist Party loves its anniversaries, so it comes as no surprise that the bosses in Beijing are planning a blowout to commemorate the 60th year since the nation’s founding.
President Hu Jintao has commissioned an extra-stretch limousine, 19 feet long, for the October festivities. A year before the occasion, the Beijing municipality put out advertisements for women between the ages of 17 and 25 (height between 5 feet 3 and 5 feet 7) to perform in a parade; rehearsals began in December.
“This is the tradition in communist culture. They use these grand occasions to justify their existence,” said Li Datong, former editor of a supplement of the China Youth Daily and now a pro-democracy activist.
The Next Hit: Quick Defaults
More FHA-Backed Mortgages Go Bad Without a Single Payment
By Dina ElBoghdady and Dan Keating
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, March 8, 2009; Page A01
This decade’s housing boom rendered the agency irrelevant. Americans raced to aggressive lenders, seduced by easy credit and loans with no upfront costs. But the subprime mortgage market has crashed and borrowers are flocking back to the FHA, which has become the only option for those who lack hefty down payments or stellar credit. The agency’s historic role in backing mortgages is more crucial now than at any time since its founding.
With the surge in new loans, however, comes a new threat. Many borrowers are defaulting as quickly as they take out the loans.
Pakistan: The greatest threat
The militants who attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team also have Britain and the US in their sights, write Omar Waraich and Raymond Whitaker
Sunday, 8 March 2009
Three separate bombings, including one in which a dead body was used to lure policemen to the scene, killed 15 people in Pakistan yesterday, underlining the helplessness of the authorities as they search in vain for the militants who attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team last week.
Six policemen were killed on Tuesday as a dozen gunmen ambushed the Sri Lankan team bus in broad daylight in the centre of Lahore, long regarded as Pakistan’s least-troubled city. The cricketers escaped with relatively minor wounds, but the sight of them having to be evacuated by helicopter from the pitch where they were due to play a Test match against Pakistan, coupled with widespread reporting of the reaction of English and Australian match officials, and coaches caught up in the attack, brought home to millions what the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, described as the “mortal threat” that Pakistan faces from its “internal enemies”. It was the first direct terrorist attack on a sports team since the Munich Olympics in 1972.
N Korea holds parliamentary poll
People in North Korea are voting in parliamentary elections that observers say could give a clue to the country’s eventual succession.
The elections to the Supreme People’s Assembly are always a formality, with each candidate elected unopposed.
But for the first time, one of leader Kim Jong-il’s sons – Kim Jong-un – is rumoured to be on the ballot.
There has been much speculation over the health of Kim Jong-il, after reports that he had a stroke last year.
Mr Kim is not known to have named his successor and Western diplomats fear any leadership crisis could further raise tensions on the peninsula.
Grooming for power
The BBC’s John Sudworth in the South Korean capital, Seoul, says that Kim Jong-un, the president’s Swiss-educated third son, is thought to be his father’s most likely successor.
Defectors expose plans of Germany’s ‘real’ Nazis
Inside report reveals the violence and Hitler worship of the National Democrats, an overtly racist party on the brink of electoral success
By Tony Paterson in Berlin
Sunday, 8 March 2009
Germany’s main neo-Nazi party pretends to be democratic. But its members hoard weapons, plan to rebuild Hitler’s Reich and are using the economic crisis to try to make sweeping gains in this year’s elections, a new and disturbing study of the extreme right has revealed.
To write their exposé on the increasingly influential neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), the authors spent two years infiltrating Germany’s far right. They interviewed party leaders and defectors who have since quit the organisation in disgust. “The NPD is a dangerous organisation,” warned Olaf Sundermeyer, one of the two journalists who wrote In the NPD, published in Germany last week. “It pretends to be democratic, but make no mistake about it: these people are genuine Nazis.”
Two soldiers shot dead in Ulster attack
From Times Online
March 8, 2009
Liam Clarke, Simon Alford and Rhodri Phillips
Two soldiers were shot dead last night and two others were seriously injured as dissident republicans are believed to have brought violence back to the streets of Northern Ireland.
The soldiers were understood to be taking delivery of a pizza when their attackers pulled up in a vehicle and opened fire outside the barracks of 38 Engineer Regiment in Antrim. Two civilians were also seriously hurt.
The soldiers are the first to be killed in Northern Ireland for 12 years. Their deaths came just 36 hours after Sir Hugh Orde, the Northern Ireland chief constable, confirmed that undercover soldiers from the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) had been called in to carry out surveillance operations on dissidents amid warnings that the threat against his officers and military personnel was at its highest for almost a decade.
Iraqi women ‘lack basic services’
Women in Iraq still lack security and basic services, despite an overall drop in violence six years after the US-led invasion, aid agency Oxfam says.
Reporting on a survey of about 1,700 women in five provinces taken last year, Oxfam described their plight as a “silent emergency”.
It suggested more than half the women had suffered from violence.
A quarter did not have daily access to water supplies, and more than three-quarters were not getting pensions.
Last month, Iraq’s minister for women resigned, saying the government was not taking the plight of women seriously.
Oxfam said: “Iraqi women are suffering a silent emergency’, trapped in a downward spiral of poverty, desperation and personal insecurity despite an overall decrease in violence in the country.”
The survey, released to mark International Women’s Day, suggested that more than 20% of widows had been victims of domestic violence.
Premier quits to help unify Palestinians
By Isabel Kershner Published: March 7, 2009
JERUSALEM: Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, on Saturday submitted his government’s resignation, saying he hoped that it would help efforts to form a Palestinian unity government with the Islamic group Hamas.
A statement from his office said the resignation would take effect no later than the end of March.
Over the years, Fayyad, a political independent and an American-educated economist, who also serves as finance minister, has gained the trust of Washington and the international community. The announcement was bound to raise anxiety, coming just days after international donors pledged about $4.4 billion in economic assistance for the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and for rebuilding Gaza.
The United States pledged $900 million to the Palestinian Authority, a third of it intended for rebuilding in Gaza after Israel’s recent 22-day military offensive there.
Zimbabwe Premier Leaves Hospital
SUV Crash Blamed On Meager Security
By Angus Shaw
Sunday, March 8, 2009; Page A12
HARARE, Zimbabwe, March 7 — Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai left the hospital bandaged a day after he was injured and his wife was killed in a car crash that his supporters blamed partly on insufficient security provided by President Robert Mugabe.
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change called for an investigation into the collision with a truck carrying U.S. aid supplies but cautioned against concluding that it was the latest assassination attempt against the longtime opposition leader.
Sudan’s Bashir makes defiant Darfur tour
By Khaled Abdelaziz
EL FASHER, Sudan, March 8 (Reuters) – Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir flew into Darfur on Sunday to rally supporters in defiance of growing international criticism of his closure of 16 aid groups.
Sudan expelled 13 foreign aid groups and shut down three local organisations saying they helped the International Criminal Court, which last week issued an arrest warrant for Bashir over charges he masterminded atrocities in Darfur.
Bashir arrived in El Fasher, the capital of north Darfur, on Sunday morning as government officials said the expulsion orders were “irreversible”.
Foreign Ministry undersecretary Mutrif Siddig told the state Suna news agency the aid groups’ cooperation with the court had been “proved by evidence”.
Siddig also was quoted by the Sudanese Media Centre saying government agencies would cover the programmes left by the expelled aid groups, with help from remaining foreign and local aid groups.
A key to Colombia peace: Reintegrating the ex-fighters
Programs that help former FARC rebels and paramilitary troops reenter society is seen as crucial to the nation’s long-term peace. The U.S. is on board, checkbook in hand.
By Chris Kraul
March 8, 2009
Reporting from Medellin, Colombia — On some days, former Colombian rebel Wilmar Quintero says, he feels like a research monkey.
He recently spent his morning taking “psycho-social” tests, sitting through an hourlong accounting course and meeting with victims of this country’s endemic violence at the Peace and Reconciliation Program training center in Medellin.
But he’s not complaining.
“It’s a beautiful opportunity for the education, the social aspects and to be able to go forward with my life,” said Quintero, 24, a former fighter in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, who is now seeking a business degree.
Quintero is one of 40,000 former leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitary combatants whom the Colombian government is preparing for reentry to society through training, counseling and financial aid.
The mounting battlefield successes of the country’s military aside, failure to make law-abiding citizens of Quintero and other hardened fighters could doom Colombia to continued violence.