Docudharma Times Sunday September 6

Wall Street Pursues Profit in Bundles of Life Insurance



Published: September 5, 2009

After the mortgage business imploded last year, Wall Street investment banks began searching for another big idea to make money. They think they may have found one.

The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash – $400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will receive the payouts when people with the insurance die.

Is America ready to admit defeat in its 40-year war on drugs?

A wave of decriminalisation is sweeping through Latin America

Ed Vulliamy in Tijuana

The Observer, Sunday 6 September 2009

Bruno Avangera, a 40-year-old web designer from Tucumán in Argentina, pauses to relight a half-smoked joint of cannabis. Then he speaks approvingly of “progress and the right decision” by the country’s seven supreme court judges, who decided last week that prosecuting people for the private consumption of small amounts of narcotics was unconstitutional.

“Last year three of my friends were caught smoking a spliff in a park and were treated like traffickers,” he said. “They went to court, which took six months. One went to jail alongside murderers. The others were sent to rehab, where they were treated for an addiction they didn’t have, alongside serious heroin and crack users. It was pointless and destroyed their lives.”

The court’s ruling was based on a case involving several men caught with joints in their pockets.


Administration Seeks to Keep Terror Watch-List Data Secret

By Ellen Nakashima

Washington Post Staff Writer

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Obama administration wants to maintain the secrecy of terrorist watch-list information it routinely shares with federal, state and local agencies, a move that rights groups say would make it difficult for people who have been improperly included on such lists to challenge the government.

Intelligence officials in the administration are pressing for legislation that would exempt “terrorist identity information” from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Such information — which includes names, aliases, fingerprints and other biometric identifiers — is widely shared with law enforcement agencies and intelligence “fusion centers,” which combine state and federal counterterrorism resources.

Vegas dreamers go all in

Four transplants found opportunity in a booming city: shiny cars, new homes, high-paying jobs. Then came the recession.

By Ashley Powers :: reporting from las vegas

September 6, 2009

An arctic evening in Minnesota: Tracy Bridges shivered near her apartment window, weary of snowstorms and slender paychecks. She was 27, making $23,000 dealing blackjack at an Indian casino in Duluth, and couldn’t shake thoughts of those dealers who had flown in from Las Vegas.

They were teaching the casino staffers and talked about high-rollers and tipsy celebrities, about the huge tips dealers pocketed. “I could do that,” she thought.

That winter of 1997, Bridges quit her job, packed her Chevy Lumina and sped off across the state, the frozen Red River fading in her rear-view mirror.

Middle East

Hamas in talks on freeing kidnapped Israeli soldier

Top Palestinian meets Egyptian intelligence chief amid reports of progress over a deal for prisoner exchange

Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem

The Observer, Sunday 6 September 2009

Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas, has made a dramatic visit to Cairo amid a new diplomatic effort to secure the release of an Israeli soldier captured near Gaza more than three years ago.

Meshal was to meet Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian intelligence chief, who has been the most important mediator between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group in the case of Gilad Shalit. The Israeli soldier, now 23, is believed to be still alive, held somewhere in Gaza by Hamas.

Since mid-July, officers from Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, have been leading a new attempt to broker his release. German officials have made 11 visits to Gaza in the past month, a Hamas spokesman said.

Yemen truce collapse within hours

Violent clashes have broken out between Shia rebels and government forces in northern Yemen, with both sides accusing the other of breaking a truce.


A Yemeni military source claims there were many casualties, although there is no independent confirmation.

The truce had been agreed to allow aid agencies to help tens of thousands of people known to have fled their homes.

The rebels allege government persecution, while Yemeni officials say rebels want to take over the country.

Hmoud Abbad, Yemen’s minister of youth affairs, speaking to al-Arabiya Television, blamed the rebels for breaking the truce.

“Those insurgents and terrorists cannot commit to any deal,” Mr Abbad reportedly said.

Government ‘excuses’

He added that the government and armed forces had a “responsibility to put an end to those terrorists… and destroy this insurgency.”


Child sacrifice and ritual murders rise in Uganda as famine looms

Surge in deaths and kidnaps among poor linked to witch-doctors and organ trafficking

Annie Kelly

The Observer, Sunday 6 September 2009

When James Katana returned from a church service to his village in the Bugiri district of eastern Uganda he was told that his three-year old son had been taken away by strangers.

“We were looking for my child for hours, but we couldn’t find him,” he said. “Someone rang me and told me my son was dead and had been left in the forest. I ran there and saw him lying in a pool of blood. His genitals had been cut off, but he was still alive.” A witch-doctor is now in police custody, accused of the abduction and attempted murder of the boy.

Despite the mutilation and terror the child experienced, police say he was one of the lucky ones. Uganda has been shocked by a surge in ritualistic murders and human sacrifice, with police struggling to respond and public hysteria mounting at each gruesome discovery.

Gabon troops outside stadium as unrest continues


Sunday, 6 September 2009

Hundreds of soldiers deployed en masse around Gabon’s football stadium for a World Cup qualifier Saturday as the country’s new president attended and postelection violence continued for a third straight day.

Ali Bongo arrived at the stadium in a convoy of SUVs. He walked up to the VIP booth, then stepped forward to salute the crowd, wearing a cap embossed with a miniature map of his country and the word “Gabon.” Soldiers and riot police set up a perimeter around the stadium and stood guard at every entrance.

The mood inside the stadium was tense as Gabon lost 2-0 to neighboring Cameroon. An Associated Press reporter saw police beat one man who tried to enter without a ticket. Otherwise, the match finished without incident.

On Friday, the country’s constitutional court declared Bongo the winner of last weekend’s divisive presidential race.


David Irving sparks row over Holocaust ‘propaganda’

Controversial historian causes outrage by calling the Nazis’ mass murder a ‘commercial phenomenon’

By Elizabeth Nash in Madrid

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Eminent historians have condemned a Spanish newspaper’s decision to interview the controversial historian David Irving as part of its coverage to mark the 70th anniversary of the Second World War.

The Hitler specialist Sir Ian Kershaw, whose interview last Monday launched El Mundo’s commemorative series, said he – and most historians – would have pulled out had they known of Mr Irving’s participation.

In the interview published yesterday, Mr Irving once again played down the slaughter of millions of Jews during the Second World War, despite having served time in an Austrian jail for his extremist views.

Missing channel pirate ship carried Russian arms for Iran

From The Sunday Times

September 6, 2009

Mark Franchetti in Moscow and Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv

A CARGO ship that vanished in the Channel was carrying arms to Iran and was being tracked by Mossad, the Israeli security service, according to sources in both Russia and Israel.

The Arctic Sea, officially carrying a cargo of timber worth £1.3m, disappeared en route from Finland to Algeria on July 24. It was recovered off west Africa on August 17 when eight alleged hijackers were arrested. The Kremlin has consistently denied that the vessel was carrying a secret cargo. It claims the ship was hijacked by criminals who demanded a £1m ransom.

The official version was challenged by sources in Tel Aviv and Moscow who claimed the ship had been loaded with S-300 missiles, Russia’s most advanced anti-aircraft weapon, while undergoing repairs in the Russian port of Kaliningrad.


10 die in dash to build Commonwealth venues

 From The Sunday Times

September 6, 2009

Nicola Smith in Delhi

The race to complete venues for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi has cost the lives of at least 10 construction workers, while hundreds have been injured.

After one labourer, Shailendra Kumar, 28, was killed by a falling crane, there were two days of violent protests by those working to build the athletes’ village. Kumar was said to have warned his employers the crane was in dangerous condition.

The Commonwealth Games Federation has denied any responsibility for safety at the 19 sites. Michael Hooper, its chief executive, said he had no comment about workers’ deaths or health and safety.

“You need to talk to the relevant authorities. Each country has its own health and safety rules and monitoring system,” he said.

China Web Sites Seeking Users’ Names


Published: September 5, 2009  

BEIJING – News Web sites in China, complying with secret government orders, are requiring that new users log on under their true identities to post comments, a shift in policy that the country’s Internet users and media have fiercely opposed in the past.

Until recently, users could weigh in on news items on many of the affected sites more anonymously, often without registering at all, though the sites were obligated to screen all posts, and the posts could still be traced via Internet protocol addresses.

But in early August, without notification of a change, news portals like Sina, Netease, Sohu and scores of other sites began asking unregistered users to sign in under their real names and identification numbers, said top editors at two of the major portals affected. A Sina staff member also confirmed the change.

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