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Lawmakers Balk As Administration Tries to Redefine Central Bank’s Role
By Neil Irwin and Binyamin Appelbaum
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 19, 2009
The Federal Reserve, which has been at the center of the government rescue of the financial system, is now on the hot seat, with a debate on Capitol Hill emerging over its responsibility for the crisis and its proper role in preventing such events in the future.
Lawmakers are simultaneously annoyed that the Fed did not do more to rein in the bad lending and other financial excesses that led to the financial crisis and recession, and wary of the Fed’s aggressive steps over the past two years to combat them. The criticism of the Fed is increasingly loud, bipartisan and from both chambers of Congress.
The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it wants to give the central bank more power to oversee risks to the U.S. economy even as it strips the Fed of power to protect consumers and limits its authority to make emergency loans. But the expansion of its role is already proving to be the most controversial element of the president’s plan to revamp financial regulation.
Iran protests: live
A week after the disputed poll, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will lead Friday prayers today in an attempt to quell continuing anger at the reelection of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Follow live updates
The orignal page will be updated every minute
Al-Jazeera is showing live pictures of Khamenei at the start of Friday prayers. It quotes him calling for peace.
“I advise you to follow Allah and follow the pious way,” he says according to the translation. “Apply the fear of God,” he adds.
He goes on to cite verses from the Qu’ran about enemies surrounding Mecca. “Psychologically Muslims need a quiet and tranquil heart,” al-Jazeera’s translator quotes Khamenei as saying.
“When we gain stress and worries it will be difficult to find our way. When we are quiet it is easier to find solutions. This is the blessing of Allah. Believers need to find calm and strength.”
Democrats Scramble to Cut Costs From Health Plan
By ROBERT PEAR
Published: June 18, 2009
WASHINGTON – The high cost of securing health insurance for all Americans, the top domestic priority of President Obama, has Congressional Democrats scrambling to scale back their proposals or find ways to trim tens of billions of dollars a year from existing health programs.
According to slides presented at a closed-door meeting this week, members of the Senate Finance Committee are debating several new ideas, including “an automatic mechanism” to reduce the growth of Medicare under an expedited procedure like the one used to close military bases.
The documents displayed in the slides show that the committee is also considering a proposal that would require some employers to contribute to the cost of Medicaid or private health insurance for low-wage workers. One purpose is to discourage employers from foisting the cost of employee health benefits onto the federal government, a maneuver that would push up the cost of revamping the health system.
East wonders, ‘Who’ll stop the rain?’
From the prairie to the Atlantic, spring dampens spirits, cancels events
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID
AP Science Writer
WASHINGTON – Mud season has been extended. From North Dakota to Long Island, rain after rain after rain has dampened spirits and swamped roads. Picnics and kids’ baseball games have been washed out, rescheduled and rained out again. Big-time sports, too.
In Farmingdale, N.Y., Tiger Woods’ defense of the U.S. Open championship was delayed Thursday as rain pelted an already soaked course and postponed most of the first round until Friday. “Where’s my canoe,” England’s Ian Poulter wrote on his Twitter feed.
In Bismarck, N.D., heavy rain swamped streets, stressed storm sewers and stalled vehicles. Roads were shut down, and the roof of a bowling alley collapsed under the weight of water.
History suggests the coup will fail
Patrick Cockburn, who reported from Iran during the 1979 revolution, reflects on the fall of the Shah and explains why the current uprising is very different
Friday, 19 June 2009
At first sight, what is happening in Tehran today looks very like the extraordinary events of the Islamic Revolution 30 years ago. But how deep do the similarities go? On 2 December 1978, two million Iranians filled the streets of central Tehran to demand an end to the rule of the Shah and the return of Ayatollah Khomeini. It was the most popular revolution in history. At night, people gathered on rooftops to chant “Allahu Akbar – God is Great”. In the daytime, mass rallies commemorated as martyrs the protesters who had been killed by the security forces.
The methods of protest are very similar. This is hardly surprising because the demonstrators seeking to get rid of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad understandably hope the type of unarmed mass protest that worked against the Shah will succeed again. Mass rally and public martyrdom are part of the Iranian revolutionary tradition, just as the barricade is part of the tradition in France. A difference between 1978-9 and today is that the Iranian government has no intention of letting history repeat itself.
Gaza mud houses are answer to a prayer for the homeless
From Times Online
June 19, 2009
James Hider in Rafah
With no cement or construction materials being allowed by Israel or Egypt into the Gaza Strip, residents are starting to build homes out of mud, using earth excavated from smuggling tunnels that provide an uncertain lifeline to the outside world.
One of the first people to build a mud house, after two years of an Israeli blockade of the Hamas-run coastal enclave, was Jihad Muhammad Shaer, 36, a preacher in the southern strip. With tens of thousands left homeless after the war earlier this year, Gaza’s Hamas rulers are now planning to construct homes, clinics, kindergartens and even mosques from mud.
Even before the month-long war that Israel launched in December to crush Palestinian rocket fire, construction materials were in short supply. Aside from a few special projects, such as a sewage treatment plant championed by Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy, no cement has been allowed into Gaza since Hamas took power two years ago.
Ireland set to seek approval for Lisbon treaty if it wins legal guarantees
From The Times
June 19, 2009
David Charter in Brussels
Ireland is ready to call a rerun of its referendum on the Lisbon treaty in the autumn if EU leaders meeting today agree to a series of guarantees stating that the controversial document will not change the country’s taxation, abortion laws or military neutrality.
The decision will come exactly a year after Irish voters stunned EU leaders by rejecting the redrawn EU constitution and follows polls suggesting that they are prepared to back the document, which creates the jobs of EU president and foreign minister.
Brian Cowen, the Taoiseach, astonished fellow leaders at their summit in Brussels last night by demanding that the guarantees he needs to win the referendum must be in the form of a legal protocol attached to a future EU treaty. The next one would probably be the accession treaty for Croatia, which hopes to join in 2011.
Zimbabwe police take batons to women protesters 50m from Amnesty chief
From The Times
June 19, 2009
Jan Raath in Harare
Minutes after the secretary-general of Amnesty International accused elements of the Zimbabwean Government of “persistent and serious human rights abuses” yesterday, riot police broke up a peaceful demonstration only yards away.
Irene Khan had just delivered a damning assessment of continuing abuses in Zimbabwe when baton-wielding officers waded into a protest by a few hundred people, mostly women, in an adjacent park.
Ms Khan was still in a hotel function room when the police struck 50 metres away, although Amnesty officials said that she missed the incident because the curtains were closed.
Ms Khan had described the human rights situation in Zimbabwe earlier as grim, but also urged Western governments not to withhold aid.
Nigeria ‘wrong’ to seize weapons
The owners of a Ukrainian aircraft seized in northern Nigeria with a cargo of weapons say the authorities there have no reason to hold it.
The BBC Friday, 19 June 2009
Nigerian officials say they found 18 crates of weapons on board the plane bound for Equatorial Guinea.
The Ukrainian company told Russian news agency Itar-Tass the aeroplane landed in Kano city to refuel and had all the correct permits and documents.
It was initially reported that the aircraft had made an emergency landing.
The plane was flying from Croatia and Ukrainian arms export agency Ukrspetseksport said the cargo did not belong to Ukraine.
“There were all [the] permits for this flight, including from the Nigerian authorities. There were no violations regarding either the plane or the cargo, or the documents,” Meridian Director-General Mykola Minyaylo was quoted as saying.
“The plane was flying from Zagreb to Equatorial Guinea and landed in Nigeria to refuel.”
Protests marking Suu Kyi birthday
Activists across the world are marking the 64th birthday of Burma’s detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, with vigils and protests.
The BBC Friday, 19 June 2009
Celebrities including author Salman Rushdie and actors George Clooney and Julia Roberts have signed an online petition demanding that she be freed.
The European Union has also renewed its calls for her “unconditional release”.
Burma’s military rulers have held the Nobel Peace Prize winner under house arrest for most of the past 19 years.
She is currently on trial for breaking the terms of her detention.
Aung San Suu Kyi was charged after an American man swam to the house where she is being held, and stayed there overnight.
Observers say the charges – which carry a maximum punishment of five years in jail – are designed to keep Ms Suu Kyi imprisoned until after a general election which the junta has scheduled for next year.
In Afghanistan, halting civilian deaths in strikes is a tough mission
The U.S. has made the goal a top priority. But the nature of the war calls for split-second life-or-death decisions, almost guaranteeing more accidental casualties.
By David Zucchino
June 19, 2009
Reporting from Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan — When Afghan parliament member Obaidullah Helali went to visit his constituents in the village of Garani last month, they confronted him with clubs and stones.
It was three days after a U.S. airstrike killed dozens of civilians in the remote settlement in the western province of Farah. Enraged villagers threatened to beat Helali and other officials and asked why the Afghan government couldn’t protect them — not from the Taliban, but from the U.S. military.
“If the Americans don’t stop these kind of accidents, the people will never believe the government will keep them safe,” Helali said.
But experiences such as the fateful May 4 airstrike show that halting civilian deaths will not be easy. Fighter pilots and air controllers at the main U.S. air base here, near Kabul, the Afghan capital, say that even the most comprehensive safeguards can fail under the stress and confusion of combat against an enemy that they say often uses civilians as human shields.
The mounting death toll of Afghan civilians from U.S. airstrikes has unleashed a tide of resentment and fury that threatens to undermine the American counterinsurgency effort. From President Obama to the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, American officials have made the reduction of civilian deaths a top priority as they revamp their strategy.
Images reveal full horror of ‘Amazon’s Tiananmen’
Peru accused of cover-up after indigenous protest ends in death at Devil’s Bend
By Guy Adams in Los Angeles
Friday, 19 June 2009
First, the police fire tear gas, then rubber bullets. As protesters flee, they move on to live rounds. One man, wearing only a pair of shorts, stops to raise his hands in surrender. He is knocked to the ground and given an extended beating by eight policemen in black body-armour and helmets.
Demonstrators getting worked-over by the rifle butts and truncheons of Peru’s security forces turn out to be the lucky ones, though. Dozens more were shot as they fled. You can see their bullet-ridden bodies, charred by a fire that swept through the scene of the incident, which has since been dubbed “the Amazon’s Tiananmen”.