Barack Obama’s speech disappoints and fuels frustration at Copenhagen
US president offers no further commitment on reducing emissions or on finance to poor countries
Suzanne Goldenberg and Allegra Stratton in Copenhagen
guardian.co.uk, Friday 18 December 2009 12.53 GMT
Barack Obama stepped into the chaotic final hours of the Copenhagen summit today saying he was convinced the world could act “boldly and decisively” on climate change.
But his speech offered no indication America was ready to embrace bold measures, after world leaders had been working desperately against the clock to try to paper over an agreement to prevent two years of wasted effort – and a 10-day meeting – from ending in total collapse.
Obama, who had been skittish about coming to Copenhagen at all unless it could be cast as a foreign policy success, looked visibly frustrated as he appeared before world leaders.
CIA working with Palestinian security agents
US agency co-operating with Palestinian counterparts who allegedly torture Hamas supporters in West Bank
Ian Cobain in Ramallah
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 17 December 2009 18.16 GMT
Palestinian security agents who have been detaining and allegedly torturing supporters of the Islamist organisation Hamas in the West Bank have been working closely with the CIA, the Guardian has learned.
Less than a year after Barack Obama signed an executive order that prohibited torture and provided for the lawful interrogation of detainees in US custody, evidence is emerging the CIA is co-operating with security agents whose continuing use of torture has been widely documented by human rights groups.
The relationship between the CIA and the two Palestinian agencies involved – Preventive Security Organisation (PSO) and General Intelligence Service (GI) – is said by some western diplomats and other officials in the region to be so close that the American agency appears to be supervising the Palestinians’ work.
Nearing New Arms Pact, U.S. and Russia Look Beyond It
By PETER BAKER
Published: December 17, 2009
WASHINGTON – Eight months, three presidential meetings, countless Geneva negotiating sessions and one missed deadline later, the United States and Russia appear close to agreement on a new arms control treaty that will reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals by at least one quarter.But even if the two sides manage to bring home a deal in coming days as they hope, that will be the easy part. After President Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia sign the new pact, they plan to send negotiators back to the table next year to pursue a far more ambitious agreement tackling whole categories of nuclear weapons never before subject to international limits.
Kucinich panel to investigate Citigroup tax ruling
By Binyamin Appelbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 18, 2009
A House subcommittee said Thursday that it will investigate the Treasury Department’s decision to change a long-standing law so that Citigroup could keep billions of dollars in tax breaks.
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) called Treasury’s action a “farce” and an “outrage” during a hearing Thursday of the domestic policy subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Kucinich, the subcommittee chairman, said that he would demand an explanation from Treasury officials.
Senate healthcare bill now relies on regulation
Without a ‘public option’ to compete with private insurers, the government would instead police the industry. But do regulators have enough authority to make a difference?
By Noam N. Levey
December 18, 2009
Reporting from Washington – When Senate Democratic leaders agreed this week to remove a public insurance plan from their massive healthcare bill, they did more than quash a liberal dream of expanding the government safety net. They effectively pinned their hopes of guaranteeing coverage to all Americans on a far more conventional prescription: government regulation.
The change sprang from a compromise made to placate conservative Democrats wary of a new government program. But shorn of a “public option,” the Senate healthcare bill has reverted to a long-established practice of leveraging government power to police the private sector, rather than compete with it.
China holds the world to ransom
Beijing accused of standing in the way of climate change treaty at Copenhagen as US throws down the gauntlet by backing $100bn fund to help poorest countries
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor, in Copenhagen Friday, 18 December 2009
China was under intense diplomatic pressure last night to abandon key demands which risk scuppering an international treaty on climate change in Copenhagen.
Today President Barack Obama is due to arrive in the Danish capital after Hillary Clinton electrified the faltering conference by announcing that America would back the setting-up of a climate fund for poor countries which would have $100bn to give away annually by 2020.
But at the same time she issued a blunt challenge to China, which has now overtaken the US as the world’s biggest emitter of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, to allow its promised emissions cuts to be internationally verified – something the Chinese have been stubbornly resisting.
At Japanese Cliffs, a Campaign to Combat Suicide
By MARTIN FACKLER
Published: December 17, 2009
SAKAI, Japan – The towering cliffs of Tojimbo, with their sheer drops into the raging, green Sea of Japan, are a top tourist destination, but Yukio Shige had no interest in the rugged scenery. Instead, he walked along the rocky crags searching for something else: a lone human figure, usually sitting hunched at the edge of the precipice.
That is one of the telltale signs in people drawn here by Tojimbo’s other, less glorious, distinction as one of the best known places to kill oneself in Japan, one of the world’s most suicide-prone nations. Mr. Shige, a 65-year-old former policeman, has spent his five years since retirement on a mission to stop those who come here from jumping.
Georgia’s answer to ‘The Simpsons’
By Shaun Walker in Moscow
Friday, 18 December 2009
They are a yellow-skinned cartoon family, consisting of a dopey husband and his lavishly coiffed wife, who live in a made-up city with their children. But this isn’t The Simpsons – it’s The Samsonadzes.
Brainchild of a celebrated local film-maker, The Samsonadzes burst onto Georgian television screens a few weeks ago, bearing more than a passing resemblance to their more famous American counterparts.
Gela Samsonadze, the Homer Simpson figure, works in a Georgian bank, and each week the programme covers his escapades at work and at home with the family.
Irish Bishop Donal Murray resigns over cover-up of child sex abuse
From The Times
December 18, 2009
David Sharrock, Ireland Correspondent
A bishop accused of covering up the serial sex abuse of children by priests resigned yesterday and a second said he was ready to stand down as the Roman Catholic Church sought to clean up its tarnished image.
Donal Murray resigned three weeks after a government report criticised him along with four other serving bishops and five retired bishops, including Cardinal Desmond Connell, for their handling of allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the Dublin Archdiocese.
How Ehud Olmert mapped a vision for peace in West Bank
From The Times
December 18, 2009
James Hider in Jerusalem
Ehud Olmert proposed a land swap with the Palestinians that would have involved uprooting tens of thousands of Jewish settlers from the West Bank and establishing boundaries that closely followed the route of Israel’s controversial security barrier, an Israeli newspaper said yesterday.
The former Prime Minister of Israel presented the plan to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, but the Palestinians did not accept the deal, which would have annexed 6.3 per cent of the West Bank to Israel, in areas containing about 75 per cent of the Jewish settlement population.
Mr Olmert eventually had to step down to fight corruption charges. His Kadima party lost out in elections at the start of this year to a right-wing coalition headed by the Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu.
Search as ship sinks off Lebanon
A major rescue operation is under way after a ship carrying 83 passengers and crew and a cargo of livestock sank off the north Lebanese coast in a storm.
The BBC Friday, 18 December 2009
The Panamanian-flagged Danny F II capsized 11 nautical miles off Tripoli after sending a distress signal.
At least 25 survivors from the vessel – sailing from Uruguay to the Syrian port of Tartous – have been picked up, officials said.
High seas, strong winds and severe rain are hampering the rescue effort.
One of those saved was from the Philippines and another from Pakistan, a Lebanese rescue official said.
“They were very scared and cold when we pulled them out of the water,” he told AFP news agency.
“If the sea remains calm we hope to find more survivors, but if the storm kicks up again then they have little chance of surviving for more than an hour in the water,” he said.
Dairy firm managers leave over Robert Mugabe wife deal
Two South African managers of a dairy company linked to the Tetra Pak packaging empire have left the firm after it sold hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of equipment to Grace Mugabe’s farm in Zimbabwe.
By Sebastien Berger, Southern Africa Correspondent
Published: 6:00AM GMT 18 Dec 2009
The Daily Telegraph revealed in October that the South African subsidiary of DeLaval, a Swedish-based dairy giant, had sold a 32-cow-capacity milking parlour, two giant cooling tanks and consumables worth £300,000 to Gushungo Dairy Estate, which was seized from its white owner and is now part of Mrs Mugabe’s assets.
Mrs Mugabe, 44, is on the European Union’s list of members of her husband’s regime who are subject to targeted sanctions. She is described as “engaged in activities that seriously undermine democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law”.
Mexican drug lord: Why Arturo Beltran Levya’s death matters
The death of Mexico’s top drug lord gives President Calderon a much-need victory in his three-year old strategy of using the Mexican military to attack drug-trafficking cartels, say analysts.
By Jonathan Roeder Correspondent / December 17, 2009
The Mexican military killed one of the country’s most powerful drug traffickers late Wednesday, handing the government a badly needed victory in its three-year war against drug traffickers.
President Felipe Calderón lost no time in underlining the significance of the death of Arturo Beltrán Leyva – known as “the boss of bosses” – calling it “a resounding blow” in the nation’s bloody battle against organized crime.
Beltrán Leyva, whose henchmen were known to dismember and decapitate police and rival gang members and had successfully infiltrated Mexicans security forces in recent years, was killed along with six bodyguards in a shoot out that lasted 90 minutes at a luxury condo in Cuernavaca, an hour south of Mexico City.
Local television footage showed helicopters and military vehicles circling the site while hundreds of gunshots rang out. One of Beltrán Leyva’s bodyguards reportedly took his own life rather than surrender to the Mexican Navy, which carried out the operation. One soldier was killed and two were injured.