A Tea Party for Stupidity
Americans stick to their guns as firearms sales surge
Amid fears that President Obama is planning a clampdown on guns, Chris McGreal reports from Culpeper, Virginia, on a new US arms race
The Guardian, Monday 13 April 2009
At the Guns and Ammo Warehouse they are reluctant to admit Barack Obama is right about very much. But customers enjoy the thought that his controversial campaign comment, that “bitter” small-town Americans are clinging to their guns, has proved more true than the president could have imagined.
Firearms sales have surged in the six months since Obama’s election as millions of Americans have gone on a buying spree that has stripped gun shops in some parts of the country almost bare of assault weapons and led to a national ammunition shortage.
The FBI says that since November more than seven million people applied for criminal background checks in order to buy weapons, a figure excluding the many more buying at thousands of gun shows in states such as Virginia, without facing any checks.
Clashes Over Thai Protests Intensify
Janesara Fugal contributed reporting from Bangkok
By SETH MYDANS and THOMAS FULLER
Published: April 13, 2009
BANGKOK — The Thai army clashed with demonstrators here early Monday after thousands of anti-government protesters defied a state of emergency, massing in the streets, climbing atop armored military vehicles and attacking the prime minister’s motorcade.
In one clash at a major intersection, soldiers fired shots from automatic rifles and tear gas at the protesters, who answered with gasoline bombs. The intersection leads to a major road out of the city.
The gunfire appeared to be aimed above the protesters; hospitals reported more than 70 injured, many from tear gas. Four of the casualties had gunshot wounds, including two civilians and two soldiers, according to a hospital official quoted by the Reuters news agency.
An Early Military Victory for Obama
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 13, 2009; Page A09
It was one of the earliest tests of the new American president — a small military operation off the coast of a Third World nation. But as President Bill Clinton found out in October 1993, even minor failures can have long-lasting consequences.
Clinton’s efforts to land a small contingent of troops in Haiti were rebuffed, for the world to see, by a few hundred gun-toting Haitians. As the USS Harlan County retreated, so did the president’s reputation.
For President Obama, last week’s confrontation with Somali pirates posed similar political risks to a young commander in chief who had yet to prove himself to his generals or his public.
Mood of America may have finally hit bottom
Are things going to get worse or better? Depends on who you ask
CLIFTON, N.J. – Friday night in northern New Jersey, circa April 2009, offers clues to prove any theory about the American economic meltdown, depending on what you want to believe. Just like so many places these days.
Craving optimism? Watch the tour bus emptying into the La Quinta lobby off Route 3, its occupants abuzz about their weekend sightseeing jaunt into Manhattan. Or see the hungry diners spilling out the door of Carino’s Italian Grill in the Clifton Commons shopping center – a line of customers waiting to put their money into the consumer economy.
Storm brews as Italian hoteliers target forecasters
Tom Kington in Rome
The Guardian, Monday 13 April 2009
Italian beach hotel managers who have battled eroding coastlines, plagues of jellyfish and plunging currencies in recent years are taking on a new foe they claim has emptied one of Italy’s top beaches over Easter.
Hoteliers in Forte dei Marmi in Tuscany are furious with Italy’s weather forecasters for predicting that storms would batter the resort, which basked in sunshine and temperatures of 24c (75F) over the holiday weekend. Backed by the mayor, they are now threatening legal action against the “hazardous guesswork” and “cheating cynicism” of Italian forecasters, claiming cancellations have cost them at least 10% of their business.
“The sun’s been shining for days, yet I turned on the TV and they are still predicting storms,” the mayor,
Sébastien Clerc’s common sense crusade to improve French education
From The Times
April 13, 2009
Adam Sage in Paris
Sébastien Clerc left teacher training college with a good knowledge of 18th-century literature and 19th-century history, but he had almost no idea how to cope with the violent, rebellious teenagers he met in his first job.
He was posted to a secondary school near Paris teetering on the edge of anarchy amid gangland battles and classroom insurrection. “I was on my knees” within a few weeks, he said.
Now the frail-looking 33-year-old is fighting back with a campaign to restore authority in the suburban lycées that are in the front line of social and economic breakdown in France.
Iraqi leaders attacked over spate of homophobic murders
Dozens of young men and boys killed by death squads in Baghdad
By Nigel Morris, Deputy Political Editor
Monday, 13 April 2009
Iraqi leaders are accused of turning a blind eye to a spate of murders of homosexuals after 25 young men and boys were killed in recent weeks.
Gay groups claim the Iraqi government is giving tacit support to the death squads targeting young homosexuals who venture outdoors.
In an unusual move, Amnesty International will today write to the Iraqi President, Nouri al-Maliki, demanding “urgent and concerted action” by his government to stop the killings. Amnesty said the murders appear to have been carried out by militiamen and relatives of the victims, after being incited by religious leaders. Homosexuality has always been taboo in the country, but a surge of killings followed religious leaders’ sermons condemning “deviancy”.
In Algeria, Bouteflika’s opponents challenge his landslide win
Amid the whites, oranges, and purples of his flower garden, Mohamed Tiarti’s wilting hope for political change mirrors the sentiment of many Algerians.
By Liam Stack | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
ALGIERS, ALGERIA – When Algerian polls opened late last week, few voters turned up at the polling stations visited by this reporter.
They were supposed to cast a ballot for the presidency in this North African country wracked by the legacy of two wars in the last half-century.
At the Asharea school in Algiers, plastic flags strung above the courtyard flapped in the chilly, drizzly breeze. The walls were plastered with posters reminding people that as Algerians it was their duty to cast a vote. But of the few people milling around the puddle-strewn schoolyard, most were election workers occasionally wondering aloud when their boss would pass out their boxed lunches.
Yet when the official results came out Friday, the Interior Ministry said 75 percent of voters had turned out to elect incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika by a whopping 90 percent. His five opponents cried foul, and four said Saturday they planned to file complaints, reported the Associated Press (AP).
Ceasefire hope for civilians trapped in Tamil Tiger zone
From The Times
April 13, 2009
Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent
Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s President, ordered his Army yesterday to suspend operations against the Tamil Tigers for two days to allow tens of thousands of civilians to escape from a “no-fire” zone where they are trapped with the last of the rebels.
After a two-year offensive, the Army has pinned the Tigers down in a seven square-mile strip of coastline in northeastern Sri Lanka and is poised to defeat them as a conventional force, bringing a formal end to 26 years of civil war.
But Mr Rajapaksa has come under intense international pressure to protect 150,000 ethnic Tamil civilians estimated by the UN to be trapped inside the “safety zone” – and coming under regular artillery fire from government forces.
The United States, Britain, Norway and Japan called for an end to the “futile” fighting on Friday and more than 100,000 people, led by British Tamils, marched through London on Saturday to demand a ceasefire. Tamil protesters also stormed the Sri Lankan Embassy in Oslo yesterday.
As Asia builds economic ties, Taiwan sidelined by China
Taiwan watches as Asian neighbors ink trade deals, lower tarrifs, and get access to Chinese loans for growth.
By Jonathan Adams | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
KAOHSIUNG, TAIWAN – Looking out over towering stacks of containers and hulking freighters here, the problem is far from evident.
But this bustling port – once one of the world’s busiest – is in sharp decline.
By the port’s own calculations, it’s now fallen off the list of the world’s top 10 – down to No. 12, from No. 3 just a decade ago, a ranking that should become official later this month.
That’s not because Kaohsiung Port isn’t growing. It’s because China’s ports are growing much faster.
“In the last decade, several new ports have been established in the mainland, with annual growth rates of 40 percent,” says Shieh Ming-hui, director-general of the Kaohsiung Harbor Bureau. “Our port’s growth rate is about 4 percent per year. That’s the main reason for this phenomenon.”
Kaohsiung Port’s decline is a symptom of a far more serious problem for this island-nation: Amid China’s dramatic rise, Taiwan is being economically sidelined.
Zimbabwe: A brave man’s words keep his memory alive
Gibson Elliott made an impression with his clear mission to bring peaceful change to his battered nation. ‘I just can’t work with people who kill people,’ he said. And he didn’t, no matter what.
By Robyn Dixon
April 13, 2009
Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa — Stored for months, the creased pages are filled with untidy black ink, a scrawl of arrows, squiggles and scraps of shorthand. I’ve pulled out my notes to find a man named Gibson Tafadzwa Elliott.
Words leap from the paper, crows flapping out of a graveyard: Camouflage. Danger. Kidnapped. “Beat him up. He’ll talk.”
Touching fingers on the paper, I remember a warm July day last year in the garden of a friend’s house in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. The light was hard, dazzling.
A go-between had brought Gibson Elliott in a battered old Toyota to meet me. He came with a man named Noel Mukuti, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change candidate in his area, Midlands province, whom he referred to quaintly as “my Honorable” (from the parliamentary term “honorable member”).
Africa: International Body Launches Appeal for Polio-Affected Countries
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal for fund to help 14 African countries respond to wild polio virus outbreaks
“We have clear indications that polio is spreading again, including in countries such as Uganda which had been polio-free for more than a decade,” Dr Tammam Aloudat, IFRC senior officer for health in emergencies, said in a statement.
The UN correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the statement was released in Geneva, and made available to reporters at the UN headquarters on Friday.
The statement said the international body was hoping to raise 2.1 million dollars in funding for such intervention.