Toyota recalls undermine Japanese confidence in an industrial titan
Recalls in the U.S., China and Europe have had a sickening effect on the national psyche in Japan.
By John M. Glionna and Coco Masters
January 29, 2010
Reporting from Tokyo and Seoul – For 15 years, Tokyo taxi driver Kiyomi Hashimoto has been a loyal Toyota man. Not once has he considered changing brands or even the possibility of car problems.
But now, sitting in his black Prius, pondering the news of Toyota’s recent U.S. recalls, there are cracks in his once armor-plated confidence in the world’s biggest automaker.
“I never once thought I’d have a problem before,” he said. “Now, I’m not so sure.”
News that the preeminent icon of Japanese industry had halted U.S. sales of eight popular models because of a design defect — after issuing recalls of 7.6 million cars and trucks in the U.S. in the last few months — has had a sickening effect on the national psyche.
Johann Hari: This corruption in Washington is smothering America’s future
How do you regulate banks effectively, if the Senate is owned by Wall Street?
Friday, 29 January 2010
This week, a disaster hit the United States, and the after-shocks will be shaking and breaking global politics for years. It did not grab the same press attention as the fall of liberal Kennedy-licking Massachusetts to a pick-up truck Republican, or President Obama’s first State of the Union address, or the possible break-up of Brangelina and their United Nations of adopted infants. But it took the single biggest problem dragging American politics towards brutality and dysfunction – and made it much, much worse. Yet it also showed the only path that Obama can now take to salvage his Presidency.
For more than a century, the US has slowly put some limits – too few, too feeble – on how much corporations can bribe, bully or intimidate politicians. On Tuesday, they were burned away in one whoosh.
Of Teen Angst and an Author’s Alienation
AN APPRAISAL | J. D. SALINGER
By MICHIKO KAKUTANI
Published: January 28, 2010
What really knocked readers out about “The Catcher in the Rye” was the wonderfully immediate voice that J. D. Salinger fashioned for Holden Caulfield – a voice that enabled him to channel an alienated 16-year-old’s thoughts and anxieties and frustrations, a voice that skeptically appraised the world and denounced its phonies and hypocrites and bores.
Mr. Salinger had such unerring radar for the feelings of teenage angst and vulnerability and anger that “Catcher,” published in 1951, remains one of the books that adolescents first fall in love with – a book that intimately articulates what it is to be young and sensitive and precociously existential, a book that first awakens them to the possibilities of literature.
After Obama speech, Democrats confused about path ahead
By Paul Kane and Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 29, 2010
A day after President Obama called on them to renew efforts to pass his ambitious agenda, congressional Democrats remained in disarray Thursday about how to move forward, with at least some pointing at the White House as the cause of the legislative standstill gripping Capitol Hill.
Democrats left town early Thursday weighing their next steps on everything from the stalled health-care bill to competing job-creation packages. Before they departed, some criticized Obama for casting blame on the Senate, where moderates felt singled out for ridicule.
Villepin cleared of smearing Sarkozy – now he wants his job
Court victory for former French prime minister accused of trying to derail President’s rise to power
By John Lichfield in Paris Friday, 29 January 2010
In a court judgment with explosive implications for French politics, the former prime minister Dominique de Villepin was cleared yesterday of smearing Nicolas Sarkozy in an effort to destroy his colleague and rival’s rise to the presidency.
Mr Villepin immediately made it clear that he planned to use his acquittal as a springboard to challenge for Mr Sarkozy’s job in 2012, saying: “I now turn to the future to serve the French people and to contribute, in a new spirit of unity, to the recovery of France.”
The delayed judgement in France’s political “trial of the century” was a stinging defeat for President Sarkozy.
Wartime PoW escape stories were irresistible to film and television
From The Times
January 29, 2010
There were 200,000 British prisoners in Germany by the end of the Second World War and most spent their time in uncomfortable tedium.
Yet many hundreds did try to escape, even though success was highly unlikely. Most were soon recaptured and only a few dozen made it all the way home.
At the time, some officers felt that, whatever the odds, the discipline and effort of the planning would prevent a collapse in morale. Later generations have simply marvelled at the astonishing ingenuity and daring of the escapers.
Untypical though the escapes were, such feats proved irresistible to film and television, making them, and the rich mythology that has has built up around them, firmly part of our common culture.
Iran hangs alleged dissidents to warn opposition
From The Times
January 29, 2010
Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent
Iran said yesterday that it had executed two men for plotting to overthrow the regime. They are the first to be put to death after more than 100 dissidents went on trial following President Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election last June.
The hangings of Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour marked an escalation in the regime’s attempts to crush the opposition movement through Iran’s clerical courts.
The two men were hanged before dawn, hours before prosecutors announced death sentences for five more opposition members arrested in connection with the protests on the Shia holy day of Ashura last month in which eight demonstrators were killed and hundreds arrested. The number of alleged dissidents sentenced to death is now at least 11.
Tony Blair faces ‘pivotal day’ at Iraq inquiry
Former British PM’s reputation and that of his Labour government at stake
REUTERS Jan. 29, 2010
LONDON – Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair makes a much-anticipated appearance before an inquiry into the Iraq War on Friday, his personal reputation as well as that of the Labour government at stake.
The decision to send 45,000 British troops to invade Iraq in 2003 was the most controversial of Blair’s 10-year premiership, provoking huge protests, divisions within his Labour Party and accusations he had deceived the public over his reasons for war.
Seven years after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, and almost three years after Blair handed over to Gordon Brown, the issue still provokes anger.
Afghan legislators hold tentative peace talks with insurgents
By Roy Gutman | McClatchy Newspapers
KABUL – Traveling at their own expense, Afghan parliamentarians held preliminary peace talks over the weekend with members of an insurgent faction that’s trying to overthrow the government, participants said Thursday.
“Security is getting worse and worse. The government is getting worse and worse. Corruption is getting worse and worse,” said Sayed Jamal Fakori Beheshti, a member of parliament from Bamiyan province, explaining the decision by 10 members of parliament to participate in the talks Saturday and Sunday in the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean.
However, it isn’t clear how many insurgent groups feel some incentive to compromise with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and how many think they can outlast the embattled Karzai and wait for U.S. troops to begin withdrawing next year, as President Barack Obama reiterated they will do in his State of the Union speech Wednesday night.
Dodging bombs for a good book in Pakistan
Bomb attacks have scared many shoppers away from Islamabad’s storied bookstores, including foreign diplomats who used to come to unload their libraries as they moved to a new assignment.
By Carol Huang Staff writer / January 28, 2010
Secondhand bookstores are a storied institution in Islamabad, famous for their ubiquity. In one marketplace alone, Jumbo Books, Old Book Fair, and Mr. Old Books overflow with worn paperbacks; several more stores dot the Pakistani capital.
But like many shops here, these literary troves are struggling. Bomb attacks have scared many shoppers away, including foreign diplomats who used to come to unload their libraries as they moved to a new assignment.
Not to mention that, as delightful as finding an entire collection of “Pashtun Tales” or an oversized gilded hardcover edition of “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” may be, there’s a reason these books didn’t sell the first time around.
Zelaya goes into exile in Dominican Republic
Under a deal ending the Honduras political crisis, the ousted president leaves the country hours after Porfirio Lobo is sworn in to office.
By Ken Ellingwood and Alex Renderos
January 28, 2010
Reporting from Mexico City and San Salvador – As a new Honduran president took office Wednesday, former leader Manuel Zelaya flew into exile in the Dominican Republic under a deal that ends months of turmoil since his ouster by the military last summer.
Zelaya, accompanied by his wife, two children and President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, left Honduras just hours after Porfirio Lobo was sworn in as president.
Under an arrangement brokered last week by Fernandez, Zelaya agreed to abandon the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, where he had holed up in September, and to leave the country once his term officially ended.