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Murtha’s Nephew Got Defense Contracts
Millions in Work Came Without Competition
By Carol D. Leonnig and Alice Crites
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The headquarters of Murtech, in a low-slung, bland building in a Glen Burnie business park, has its blinds drawn tight and few signs of life. On several days of visits, a handful of cars sit in the parking lot, and no trucks arrive at the 10 loading bays at the back of the building.
Yet last year, Murtech received $4 million in Pentagon work, all of it without competition, for a variety of warehousing and engineering services. With its long corridor of sparsely occupied offices and an unmanned reception area, Murtech’s most striking feature is its owner — Robert C. Murtha Jr., 49. He is the nephew of Rep. John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has significant sway over the Defense Department’s spending as chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.
Swine flu fears subside, but second wave looms
In previous outbreaks, new infections in fall and winter were most deadly
By JoNel Aleccia
The rest of the world may be exhaling at the apparent easing of a potential swine flu pandemic, but some global experts are tempering their optimism with concerns about what one calls “the fall question.”
That’s the uncertainty over whether the current outbreak is only a preview of what’s to come, an echo of previous epidemics – including the 1918 flu – that saw mild first cases of infection in the spring followed by more severe second and third bouts in the fall and winter that brought widespread infection, illness and death.
“Right now, you have to wait and watch,” said Ann Marie Kimball, professor of epidemiology and an expert in emerging infectious disease at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Where Home Prices Crashed Early, Signs of a Rebound
By DAVID STREITFELD
Published: May 4, 2009
SACRAMENTO – Is this what a bottom looks like?
This city was among the first in the nation to fall victim to the real estate collapse. Now it seems to be in the earliest stages of a recovery, a hopeful sign for an economy mired in trouble and anxiety.
Investors and first-time buyers, the traditional harbingers of a housing rebound, are out in force here, competing for bargain-price foreclosures. With sales up 45 percent from last year, the vast backlog of inventory has diminished. Even prices, which have plummeted to levels not seen since the beginning of the decade, show evidence of stabilizing.
Supreme Court limits identity theft law
In a unanimous decision, the justices say an illegal worker must know he is using a real person’s Social Security number.
By David G. Savage
May 5, 2009
Reporting from Washington — The Supreme Court on Monday took away one of the government’s tools for prosecuting and deporting workers in this country illegally, ruling that the crime of identity theft was limited to those who knew they were using another person’s Social Security number.
People who use false documents can be jailed, the court said. But they cannot be convicted of the more serious crime of “aggravated identity theft” without proof that they knew the identification number belonged to someone else, the court ruled unanimously.
The justices also set the stage for a ruling on long prison terms for juveniles. They voted to decide, in two cases from Florida, whether it was cruel and unusual punishment to impose a life term on a minor as young as 13 for a crime such as rape or murder.
Dozens killed in ‘blood feud’ gun attack on Turkish wedding
Masked assailants storm hall in village of Sultankoy and attack guests with automatic rifles and hand grenades, killing 44
Sam Jones and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 5 May 2009 09.05 BST
Forty-four people were killed when gunmen opened fire at a wedding reception in south-eastern Turkey last night in what is believed to have been the culmination of a blood feud between rival families.
The masked assailants stormed a hall in the village of Sultankoy and attacked guests with automatic rifles and hand grenades during the wedding of the daughter of Cemil Celebi, a former village official who was among the wounded.
The bride, Sevgi Celebi, the groom, Habib Ari, his mother and sister were all killed, as was the Islamic cleric who was conducting the wedding.
An entire family, including six children aged between three and 12, were also among the dead.
The Anatolia news agency reported that the attack had lasted for 15 minutes.
One survivor, a 19-year-old woman, said the assailants ordered people to huddle in one room and then opened fire, the Turkish NTV news channel said.
First World War mass grave to be excavated
By John Lichfield in Paris
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Archaeologists will today begin to excavate, and possibly identify, the remains of 400 Australian and British soldiers who were buried in one of the largest mass graves ever found on the battlefields of the First World War.
Over the next four months, the Australian and British governments hope to use DNA evidence to identify at least some of the remains buried in eight large pits near Fromelles in northern France. The bodies are believed to be those of mostly Australian, and some British, soldiers killed in a calamitous attack on German lines on 19 July 1916, which has gone down as one of the most futile and bloody actions of the war.
Pakistani Taliban seize control of key Swat Valley town
• Pakistani security personnel holed up in Mingora
• Fight signals death knell for peace deal
Declan Walsh in Islamabad
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 5 May 2009 09.04 BST
The Taliban have seized control of the main town in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, threatening a return to full-blown fighting with the army and signalling the death knell for a fragile peace deal with the provincial government.
Taliban fighters are laying siege to the main power station in Mingora, where an estimated 46 security personnel were holed up after a fire-fight last night, residents and officials said.
Elsewhere militants patrolled the deserted city streets and occupied the rooftops of several tall buildings. Yesterday the militants blew up an empty police station and a government school and kidnapped several officers.
Maoist Prime Minister quits after army chief row
Nepal’s leader accuses President of trying to stage a power grab
By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Nepal’s political turmoil deepened yesterday when its Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda dramatically resigned, accusing the country’s President of attempting to make a power grab.
Following 24 hours of political drama which saw the premier dismiss the army chief only for President Ram Baran Yadav to tell him to remain in his post, the Maoist leader announced live on television that he was standing down. “I have resigned from the cabinet,” Prachanda said in his address. “We made enough efforts to forge a consensus but various forces were active against this and were encouraging the President to take the unconstitutional and undemocratic step.”
The decision by the Maoists plunged Nepal into new uncertainty and raised fresh challenges for the stumbling peace process that has emerged following a decade of civil war.
Iraq security at risk in crackdown on militias who fought al-Qaeda
From Times Online
May 4, 2009
James Hider in Baghdad
Iraq’s impressive security gains over the past 18 months are looking increasingly fragile as the government cracks down on US-backed Sunni militias who turned on al-Qaeda.
Government forces arrested another commander of the so-called Sunni Awakening Councils over the weekend, even as senior officials warned that al-Qaeda and the ousted Baath Party of Saddam Hussein were trying to launch new attacks to coincide with a planned US army withdrawal from inside Iraqi cities by the end of next month.
The Awakening Councils are largely made up of former Sunni insurgents who started fighting their erstwhile al-Qaeda allies in 2006, angered at the extremists’ bloody attempts to spark a civil war with the Shia community.
Iran to hear US reporter appeal
An appeal will begin next week for US-Iranian reporter Roxana Saberi, who was sentenced to eight years in jail for spying, an Iranian official has said.
Ms Saberi’s father says she has been on a hunger strike since she was sentenced behind closed doors last month by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran.
Iranian officials have denied the claim, saying she is in good health.
US President Barack Obama has dismissed the spying charges as baseless and appealed for her release.
The 32-year-old US-born freelance journalist had appealed against the verdict through her lawyer.
“There has been a date set for next week,” judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi told a news conference, giving no further details.
Iranian authorities earlier said they would hear her appeal fairly and quickly.
South Koreans defend North Korean ship as pirates attack near Aden
From The Times
May 5, 2009
South Korean snipers in a helicopter chased off pirates who were in pursuit of a freighter from North Korea, in a rare instance of one half of the peninsula co-operating with the other.
The Lynx helicopter was reported to have been sent from a 4,500-tonne South Korean warship patrolling off the coast of Somalia on a mission to protect its country’s cargo ships from pirates. According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the North Korean vessel sent out a distress call that it was being pursued about 23 miles south of the Yemeni port of Aden.
The pirates gave up chasing the North Korean ship and sped away after the snipers fired warning shots. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that the helicopter, also armed with missiles and machineguns, circled above the pirate vessel, which was less than two miles away from the North Korean freighter. The helicopter guided the North Korean ship, said to be carrying iron ore, to a safer area and the ship later sent a “thank you”.
Soldier pay threatens to undo Congo’s progress against rebels
Many soldiers haven’t seen wages for months. Meanwhile, a Hutu militia is increasing attacks on civilians in response to the military offensive.
By Duncan Woodside | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
LUOFO, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO – “You see how I am, I cannot fight again,” says Mukalayi Senga, a bed-ridden Congolese government soldier, his lower right leg heavily bandaged after it was shattered by a misdirected mortar. “With the small money the Army gave me, I was not able to pay for my children’s school fees. Now, I don’t know how I will be able to take care of my family at all.”
The experience of Mr. Senga is far from unique. He is one of many government soldiers injured recently in operations against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an extremist Hutu militia. But he is one of the fortunate ones. He was flown out of the battle zone to a United Nations military hospital in Goma, a provincial capital. And he was being paid.
Many troops on the front line have not received wages for months, even in the midst of a UN-sponsored offensive against the Hutu fighters exiled from neighboring Rwanda.
The Congoglese Army’s month-long joint offensive with Rwandan troops – invited across the border in a surprise bilateral deal in January – had the FDLR on the run. But now, the desperate militia is terrorizing tribes it had previously lived with peacefully, killing scores of civilians and displacing tens of thousands. Security officials, diplomats, and aid workers are becoming increasingly concerned that lack of payment for soldiers could worsen already low morale and undo recent progress toward rooting out the Hutu militiamen.
A critical patient, an overwhelmed hospital and a tenacious newspaper
In Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s poorest areas, the Despertar daily sniffed out the crisis, forcing doctors to announce, a week before emergency was declared, that they faced a deadly ‘atypical pneumonia.’
By Tracy Wilkinson
May 5, 2009
Reporting from Oaxaca, Mexico — It was Easter weekend when people in Oaxaca noticed strange happenings at the state-run Dr. Aurelio Valdivieso General Hospital. Sections were suddenly off-limits. Security guards were added.
The cop reporter at the local newspaper, El Diario Despertar, got a tip from a source at the hospital. Not above dressing its journalists up as paramedics, the paper sent two people to investigate. They quickly realized that the hospital was seized by alarm.
Queries from Despertar forced Oaxaca health officials to go public on April 16 — a full week before a national emergency was declared over swine flu — with news of a deadly “atypical pneumonia.”
One of the Oaxaca patients was the first person confirmed to have died from swine flu in an outbreak now circling the world.
How Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s poorest and most ethnically diverse regions, with a crusading newspaper and a strapped health system, faced the first strikes of what would become a global health crisis underscores the public health dilemma facing Mexico.