With His Top Priority on the Line, President Reframes Critical Debate
By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 10, 2009
After a month of angry town hall meetings and dire predictions about the state of his top domestic priority, President Obama moved forcefully Wednesday night to take the initiative on health care — and in the process rejuvenate his presidency and unite his fractious Democratic Party.
There was a sense of urgency in Obama’s voice — in apparent recognition of the problems he has encountered through months of congressional dickering, hostile and sometimes false claims hurled by opponents of reform, and the degree to which he has gambled his political fortunes on the outcome.
Japan death row ‘breeds insanity’
Prisoners on death row in Japan are being driven towards insanity by harsh conditions, according to human rights group Amnesty International.
The BBC Thursday, 10 September 2009
The group is calling for an immediate moratorium on all further executions and for police interrogation reform.
A total of 102 prisoners face execution in Japan. Many of them are elderly and have spent decades in near isolation.
International human rights standards prohibit the imposition of the death penalty on the mentally ill.
In Japan, where criminal trials have a 99% conviction rate, the death penalty has wide public support.
But Amnesty’s UK Director Kate Allen called on the government to immediately halt executions.
“Rather than persist with a shameful capital punishment system, the new Japanese government should immediately impose a moratorium on all further executions,” she said.
Judge allows gray wolf hunt to proceed in Idaho and Montana
But his ruling criticizes maintaining endangered status for wolves in Wyoming but not in the neighboring two states. That may bode well for conservationists seeking to restore protections.
By Kim Murphy
September 10, 2009
Reporting from Seattle – With four gray wolves having been killed in Idaho since Sept. 1, a federal judge has cleared the way for legal hunting of the once-endangered predators to proceed.
U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy in Montana found that there would be no irreparable harm if the limited hunt in that state and Idaho were allowed to go forward.
But the judge also wrote that the Fish and Wildlife Service, in continuing to list Wyoming wolves under the Endangered Species Act while delisting them in the two neighboring states, “has distinguished a natural population of wolves based on a political line, not the best available science.”
Supreme Court justices skeptical of campaign limits
By Michael Doyle | McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration’s top lawyer Wednesday withdrew an earlier claim that certain books could be banned under campaign finance restrictions.
The legal retreat, though, didn’t mollify conservative Supreme Court justices, who repeatedly challenged limits on corporate campaign expenditures. On a day of several judicial firsts, a divided court appeared poised to overturn at least some campaign restrictions.
Fears Taliban was ready to move hostages may have prompted raid
Deaths of translator and soldier continue to raise questions about whether all avenues of negotiation had been properly explored
Declan Walsh, Jon Boone, Julian Borger and
Richard Norton Taylor
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 10 September 2009 09.29 BST
Fears that the Taliban was about to move British hostage Stephen Farrell across the border into Pakistan may have prompted yesterday’s controversial commando raid in which his translator and a soldier were killed.
As fresh details of the dramatic pre-dawn assault emerged, the New York Times correspondent said his captors had become increasingly menacing and appeared to be preparing to move him to a neighbouring district.
A senior Afghan official quoted by the paper said the ultimate destination was Pakistan. A British official yesterday told the Guardian the journalists’ lives were in imminent danger.
Burmese generals pocket $5bn from Total oil deal
An impoverished nation is deprived as pipeline cash is deposited in foreign bank accounts, report claims
By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent
Thursday, 10 September 2009
The Burmese military junta has earned almost $5bn from a controversial gas pipeline operated by the French oil giant Total and deprived the country of vital income by depositing almost all the money in bank accounts in Singapore, a new report claims.
Campaigners say Total has also profited handsomely from the arrangement, with an estimated income of $483m from the project since 2000. Campaigners say that the windfall from the Yadana pipeline, operated by Total and two other partners, has been so huge that it has done much to insulate the country’s military rulers from the impact of international sanctions imposed over its human rights abuses.
In Norway, prisoners take part in TV debates
A pre-election TV debate in Norway was held in a prison, with prisoners and guards taking part in the discussion. Gwladys Fouché asks if this could ever happen in the UK
Gwladys Fouché in Oslo
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 10 September 2009 10.00 BST
It was a stunning political debate that would be hard to imagine in Britain. But it was not so shocking in Norway, where a general election is taking place on Monday.
The topic was crime policy and – so far so normal – it featured a panel of politicians discussing the best ways to reduce crime. But the live TV show was set inside a high security prison, the audience consisted exclusively of guards and prisoners, with one inmate, Bjørnar Dahl, taking part in the panel alongside the justice minister and the deputy leader of the main opposition party.
“It was high time the politicians came here to talk about crime policy,” explains Dahl, 43, a few days after the event. “This is about us, what happens in prisons and how we can return to society in a way that is beneficial to everyone.”
The world’s worst radiation hotspot
At the start of the Cold War, Stalin chose one of the furthest outposts of his empire to test the Soviet Union’s first nuclear bombs. Sixty years on, their cancerous legacy is still being felt. Jerome Taylor reports from Kurchatov
Thursday, 10 September 2009
Walking through the flat and endless Kazakh steppe, Nemytov Oleg suddenly stops, fumbles in his desert camouflage trousers and pulls out a Geiger counter. The device bleeps into life. He peers pensively at the reading. When we got out of the car it read 3. Now, within a couple of hundred yards, it has jumped to 10. He unwraps breathing masks and two pairs of disposable shoe coverings. “If we want to go any further we will have to wear these,” he says.
Further along the dusty road he checks his device once more. “You see, the meter is now reading 21,” he says. “If we were in a city far away from here it would read about 0.1. The radiation increases very quickly.”
Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki accused of sinister purge to become dictator
From Times Online
September 10, 2009
Oliver August in Baghdad
The Iraqi opposition accused Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, yesterday of purging the American-trained security apparatus so that he could attain quasi-dictatorial powers.
Mr al-Maliki, who is facing a tough election battle, has dismissed three high-profile members of the Ministry of Interior, which oversees the fight against insurgent groups. He has also forced the resignation of the head of the intelligence service and replaced several police and army commanders in the last few weeks. The moves provoked outrage among political opponents, who worry about the rise of a new police state and accuse the Prime Minister of using the aftermath of last month’s massive bomb attack in Baghdad to make a power grab. The sacked officials are expected to be replaced by al-Maliki loyalists.
Dubai unveils $7.6-billion mass-transit rail system
The United Arab Emirates city is emphasizing the public transportation system’s luxuriousness, such as VIP cars. But authorities hope it will ease traffic congestion.
By Meris Lutz
September 10, 2009
Reporting from Beirut – Dubai, a Persian Gulf boomtown where Porsches share the road with truckloads of South Asian laborers, launched a mass-transit rail system Wednesday in an effort to ease crippling traffic that costs the city-state an estimated $1.4 billion a year.
Despite recent economic reverses, the railway in this United Arab Emirates city of superlatives — home to palm-shaped artificial islands and the world’s tallest building — will sport a showy attitude. The system will include VIP cars with fares equivalent to $3.55, more than seven times the lowest-cost ticket.
Jacob Zuma joins President Mugabe’s allies to demand end to sanctions
From The Times
September 10, 2009
David Charter, Fred Bridgland, Jan Raath
African leaders demanded that sanctions against Zimbabwe should be lifted unconditionally yesterday in a move seen as a diplomatic triumph for President Mugabe.
The call came despite a plea from Morgan Tsvangirai, the Zimbabwean Prime Minister, to link moves to end sanctions with better co-operation between Mr Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) party and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Travel ban for Gabon opposition
Gabon has barred opposition leaders from leaving the country following recent riots over claims of fraud in last month’s presidential election.
One defeated candidate said he had been prevented from flying to Ivory Coast. A minister said the ban would last while the violence was investigated.
Ali Ben Bongo was declared the winner, sparking violent protests in Port Gentil, an opposition stronghold.
Mr Bongo succeeds his father, Omar, who died in June after 41 years in power.
“Police told me that they had received strict orders not to let opposition leaders travel,” Paul Mba Abessole told the AFP news agency.