Misha Lerner has a question
for Condoleezza Rice
What did Rice think about the things President Obama’s
administration was saying about the methods the Bush administration
had used to get information from detainees?
Pakistan Strife Raises U.S. Doubts on Nuclear Arms
By DAVID E. SANGER
Published: May 3, 2009
WASHINGTON – As the insurgency of the Taliban and Al Qaeda spreads in Pakistan, senior American officials say they are increasingly concerned about new vulnerabilities for Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, including the potential for militants to snatch a weapon in transport or to insert sympathizers into laboratories or fuel-production facilities.The officials emphasized that there was no reason to believe that the arsenal, most of which is south of the capital, Islamabad, faced an imminent threat. President Obama said last week that he remained confident that keeping the country’s nuclear infrastructure secure was the top priority of Pakistan’s armed forces.
But the United States does not know where all of Pakistan’s nuclear sites are located, and its concerns have intensified in the last two weeks since the Taliban entered Buner, a district 60 miles from the capital.
Mexico complains of swine flu backlash
• Travellers isolated under ‘unacceptable’ conditions
• Four Latin American countries restrict Mexico flights
Rory Carroll in Mexico City and Tania Branigan in Beijing
Mexico has protested about an international backlash against Mexican travellers who have been quarantined and banned from several countries as suspected flu carriers.
Mexican authorities tonight singled out China for its draconian measures and criticised four Latin American countries for restricting air links. More than 70 Mexican travellers were quarantined in hospitals and hotels in China as part of sweeping measures against swine flu.
“Mexican citizens showing no signs at all of being ill have been isolated under unacceptable conditions,” said Patricia Espinosa, Mexico’s foreign minister. “These are discriminatory measures, without foundation. The foreign ministry recommends avoiding travelling to China until these measures are corrected.”
4th-Grader Questions Rice on Waterboarding
Ex-Secretary of State Stresses Legality
By Alec MacGillis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 4, 2009
Days after telling students at Stanford University that waterboarding was legal “by definition if it was authorized by the president,” former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was pressed again on the subject yesterday by a fourth-grader at a Washington school.
Rice, in her first appearance in Washington since leaving government, was at the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital before giving an evening lecture at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. She held forth amiably before a few dozen students about her love of Israel, travel abroad and the importance of learning languages, then opened the floor to their questions.
For her an uproar, for him a whisper
When a USC student dies in a hit-and-run, police and the media jump on the case and officials rush out a $235,000 reward. A nearly identical accident across town gets no attention and few resources.
By Joel Rubin and Ari B. Bloomekatz
May 4, 2009
They were killed on the same day, in the same way. One of the deaths captured the attention of a city and spurred the Los Angeles Police Department into overdrive. The other slipped by unnoticed, leaving a lone detective with little more to go on than hope.
Adrianna Bachan died first. Shortly after 3 a.m. March 29, Bachan, 18, and a friend stood at the intersection of Jefferson Boulevard and Hoover Street on the edge of the USC campus. Returning home after a night out, the two students stepped into the crosswalk and started across Jefferson.
An eastbound car blew through a red light, tossing Bachan into the air and hurling her friend onto the windshield, before it disappeared into the darkness, witnesses and police said.
Bachan’s friend suffered broken legs and other injuries. Bachan was alive when she reached California Hospital Medical Center, but died before sunrise of massive head injuries.
Minutes before 11 that night — just as television stations were about to start news broadcasts filled with reports about Bachan’s death — Agapito Gaspar Nicolas stepped into a crosswalk on Figueroa Street, a block from his cramped Highland Park apartment. The 55-year-old Guatemala native had been scratching out a living on construction crews since coming to California about 15 years ago.
Slash fees to save education, Zimbabwe minister tells schools
Warning as Morgan Tsvangirai says unity government is ‘broke’
David Smith, Africa correspondent
State schools in Zimbabwe have been ordered to slash their fees in a bid to stave off the collapse of the country’s education system, it was reported today. The move came after Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister, admitted that the unity government he formed with his rival, President Robert Mugabe, was “broke” and could not meet union demands for higher wages.
Zimbabwe’s Sunday Mail newspaper said David Coltart, the education minister, had recommended that state schools should cut their fees when they open for a new term on Tuesday because many parents could not afford them.
“I cannot divulge the figures at the moment because the recommendations are going to Mugabe, Tsvangirai and deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara on Monday,” he was quoted as saying. “However, what we want are substantial cuts.”
Doh! Pirates captured after attacking the wrong ship
From Times Online
May 4, 2009
From a distance the large ship on the horizon looked like the perfect target, ripe for a successful spot of piracy.
But as the Somali pirates sped toward the vessel sailing near the Seychelles, they were horrified to see two boats and a helicopter set off from their target and launch their own counter-attack.
They had failed to spot, in the dazzling sun, that the ‘merchant ship’ they thought they were intercepting was, in fact, a French naval ship bristling with cannons, radar technology and armed commandos.
When the three pirate boats were spotted heading toward them the frigate Nivose, one of the ships patrolling the region as part of the European Union anti-piracy mission Atalanta, headed into the sun to camouflage its true identity before turning to confront its attackers.
China’s quake cover-up
Families seeking justice for child victims are being intimidated by the state, alleges Amnesty
By Clifford Coonan in Beijing
Monday, 4 May 2009
Almost one year on from the Sichuan earthquake, Amnesty International has called on the Chinese government to stop intimidating parents and relatives of the child victims, who face harassment and arrest as they seek justice for the dead and injured.
The timing of the quake on 12 May 2008 was particularly harsh for the province’s children – it struck at 2.28pm, when most students were in class. Many of the younger pupils were having a nap before resuming lessons.
The number of children who perished has never been released officially, but some estimates put it at around 10,000 – out of a death toll of 80,000. More than 8,000 families lost their only child in the disaster, with angry parents blaming shoddy building – or “tofu construction” – for their loss.
Hamid Karzai gets clear road to re-election as challengers fall by wayside
From The Times
May 4, 2009
Tom Coghlan in Kabul
President Karzai’s re-election campaign in Afghanistan appears almost unassailable amid opposition disarray and with less than a week to go for candidates to register for the battle.
The Afghan President’s likely re-election in the August poll follows increasing Western criticism of the corruption and incompetence of his government and despite polling data seen by The Times suggesting that he enjoyed only 15 per cent of popular support at the start of the year.
The US and Britain have been vocal in their scepticism that Mr Karzai can rebuild his war-torn nation. During his election campaign, President Obama said that Mr Karzai had not “gotten out of the bunker and helped to organise Afghanistan in ways that would give people confidence”.
The remarks, and others by US officials and the regional special envoy Richard Holbrooke, were seen widely as signalling a US move to find an alternative to Mr Karzai.
Elite police in France complain of being used as dog walkers
From The Times
May 4, 2009
Adam Sage in Paris
The 600 officers of the Service de Protection des Hautes Personnalités (SPHP) are selected after gruelling physical and psychological tests and trained to defend politicians against terrorism. They form one of France’s most elite police units – but they are fed up with the missions assigned to them: walking the dog, buying the bread or taking the spouse shopping.
French police unions complain that many are treated as domestic help by the public figures they are supposed to be guarding. They say that SPHP officers are often allocated to minor dignitaries in little danger of attack, under a system that is out of control, with second-string politicians, journalists, business leaders and footballers all benefiting from police minders financed by French taxpayers.
Critics say that the mission creep is symptomatic of President Sarkozy’s struggle to bring a sprawling state apparatus to heel at a time when he needs to devote public money to the fight against recession.
Fiat could buy Vauxhall and Opel
Italian carmaker Fiat is in talks about buying the European business of General Motors (GM) – which includes the UK’s Vauxhall and Germany’s Opel.
Fiat is already trying to take over some of Chrysler, the US carmaker that has applied for bankruptcy protection.
And it said it was considering merging its carmaking business with those of Chrysler and GM Europe.
Saab is also part of GM Europe, but may not be part of the discussions as it is being reorganised under Swedish law.
Vauxhall employs about 5,000 people in the UK while Opel employs nearly 26,000 in Germany.
A top Fiat official will meet German government ministers on Monday to discuss the bid for Opel.
Fiat chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said Opel would be an “ideal partner” and that a takeover was an “extraordinary opportunity”.
GM faces potential bankruptcy in the US and has until 1 June to restructure.
An interview with a jailed Somali pirate leader
Behind the bare brick walls of a desolate former British colonial prison in Somali land, five jailed Somali pirates didn’t seem very fearsome at all.
By Shashank Bengali | McClatchy Newspapers
MANDHERA, SOMALIA – Their exploits have turned the inky-blue waters of the Indian Ocean into a perilous gantlet for ships and an unlikely security challenge for world leaders. But behind the bare brick walls of a desolate former British colonial prison here, five jailed Somali pirates didn’t seem very fearsome at all.
One looked to be in his late 40s, his brambly hair stained a deep henna orange, his milky eyes staring into the middle distance. A slightly younger man clutched a faded sarong to his matchstick waist and spoke in barely a whisper.
The leader of the pirate crew, 38-year-old Farah Ismail Eid, wore such a hungry look that a visiting government official, unsolicited, folded a pale $10 bill into his sandpaper palm.
That a few hundred men like these have wreaked so much havoc in the seas off of East Africa is a testament to the sheer power of guts and greed. It’s also a stark illustration of the all-consuming anarchy ashore in Somalia, where, after 18 years of conflict, jobs are scarce, guns are plentiful, men will risk everything for a payday – and their government is too weak and corrupt to stop them.
The men behind bars, however, offered another explanation for piracy.
Is the Darfur bloodshed genocide? Opinions differ
U.S. presidents and some activist groups have called the bloody campaign by the Sudanese Arab-led government and allied militias ‘genocide.’ But others doubt the violence fits the legal definition.
By Edmund Sanders
May 4, 2009
Reporting from El Fasher, Sudan — What if the conflict many call the “first genocide of the 21st century” weren’t one at all?
In the United States, many see the six-year war in Darfur as a bloody campaign by a Sudanese Arab-dominated government against rebellious “African” tribes in western Sudan. Two consecutive American presidents and several activist groups have defined it as genocide.
But others, while acknowledging the severity of the violence, question whether it meets the legal definition of genocide. The United Nations determined in 2005 that the Sudanese government wasn’t committing genocide in Darfur. Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders avoid the G-word too.
The International Criminal Court renewed the debate in March when it issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir. Judges said his counterinsurgency tactics in Darfur may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, but that there was no evidence of genocide.
Cuban Zeal: Revolutionary art and artists
The 10th Havana Biennial has transformed the Caribbean city into a melting pot of truly revolutionary art and artists. Alice Jones reports
Monday, 4 May 2009
Just a few minutes’ drive from the hill- side mansions of Cubanacan, the leafy north-western corner of Havana where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara liked to play golf in the Sixties, is El Romerillo, the city’s largest slum.
The sprawling barrio, a higgledy-piggledy mix of corrugated iron and luridly painted breezeblock shacks, narrow streets, roaming dogs and impromptu baseball games makes for an unlikely cultural hotspot. But for the last five years it’s been the focal point for one of Cuba’s most celebrated artists, René Francisco.
Francisco, a dynamic 48-year old professor at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) in Havana started visiting El Romerillo over 10 years ago. When, in 2003, he received a grant from a foundation in Berlin to create a new work, he resolved to spend it in that desperately poor neighbourhood. First he surveyed 44 residents, asking them who was most deserving of his help. The answer came back: Rosa Estevez, a local healer who lived with her son in a broken-down lean-to. Francisco duly put the money towards renovating her home – repairing the roof, providing a toilet and putting up shelves. Along the way, he took beautiful photographs which he later exhibited in Berlin.