U.S. Loan Effort Is Seen as Adding to Housing Woes
By PETER S. GOODMAN
Published: January 1, 2010
The Obama administration’s $75 billion program to protect homeowners from foreclosure has been widely pronounced a disappointment, and some economists and real estate experts now contend it has done more harm than good.
Since President Obama announced the program in February, it has lowered mortgage payments on a trial basis for hundreds of thousands of people but has largely failed to provide permanent relief. Critics increasingly argue that the program, Making Home Affordable, has raised false hopes among people who simply cannot afford their homes.
Miscommunications let accused killer of 4 cops stay free
By Jonathan Martin | Seattle Times
SEATTLE – It was after 10 p.m. on Nov. 23 when Maurice Clemmons walked out of the Pierce County Jail with $3.39 in his pocket and a brewing sense of injustice.
Clemmons had just posted bail on felony assault and sex-crime charges, and he was supposed to report to a state Department of Corrections field office within 24 hours.
Instead, Clemmons dropped off the agency’s radar. The corrections department didn’t even know Clemmons was out of jail until it was too late.
Aughts were a lost decade for U.S. economy, workers
By Neil Irwin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 2, 2010
For most of the past 70 years, the U.S. economy has grown at a steady clip, generating perpetually higher incomes and wealth for American households. But since 2000, the story is starkly different.
The past decade was the worst for the U.S. economy in modern times, a sharp reversal from a long period of prosperity that is leading economists and policymakers to fundamentally rethink the underpinnings of the nation’s growth.
Hawaii is far from an economic paradise
The plunge in tourism has resulted in soaring unemployment and home foreclosures, a shortened school year and an exodus from the state. Some residents blame the visiting President Obama.
By Alana Semuels
January 2, 2010
Reporting from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii – Between dealing with terrorism threats and crises abroad, President Obama is unwinding in Hawaii with his family this week. They’ve snorkeled in pristine bays and dined in fashionable restaurants. Tourism officials only wish there were thousands more visitors like them.
Tourism is the glue that holds this island state’s finances together, keeping its streets clean, its workers paid and its children educated. But for the last two years, vacationers and conventioneers alike have abandoned Hawaii in favor of less exotic destinations closer to home. The result is an unprecedented slowdown in the industry and some cavernous cracks in the state’s budget.
Irish atheists challenge new blasphemy laws
Secular campaigners publish series of anti-religious quotes and say they will challenge law if charged with blasphemy
Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
Secular campaigners in the Irish Republic defied a strict new blasphemy law which came into force today by publishing a series of anti-religious quotations online and promising to fight the legislation in court.
The new law, which was passed in July, means that blasphemy in Ireland is now a crime punishable with a fine of up to €25,000 (£22,000).
It defines blasphemy as “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted”.
Russia starts year with war on cheap vodka
Medvedev sanctions law putting minimum price on spirits to fight binge drinking
By Roland Oliphant in Moscow Saturday, 2 January 2010
As Russians woke to nurse their New Year’s Day hangovers yesterday, they may have found that the dog that bit them had doubled in price overnight. A government clampdown took effect yesterday banning the sale of vodka at less than 89 roubles – about £1.80 – for half a litre.
The law is the first move in a high-level war on binge drinking launched by President Dmitry Medvedev. Calling alcohol abuse a “national tragedy”, Mr Medvedev vowed to slash Russians’ prodigious drinking. Russian adults drink on average 18 litres of pure alcohol a year, twice the World Health Organisation’s recommended safe minimum. The new price almost doubles the cost of the cheapest vodka from as little as 51 roubles per half litre, although it will affect only the very bottom of the market. Further measures are planned for the first half of 2010, including a single, higher, rate of excise duty for spirits, and the banning of the ubiquitous street-side kiosks where the cheapest alcohol is to be bought.
Concern as China clamps down on rare earth exports
Neodymium is one of 17 metals crucial to green technology. There’s only one snag – China produces 97% of the world’s supply. And they’re not selling
By Cahal Milmo Saturday, 2 January 2010
Britain and other Western countries risk running out of supplies of certain highly sought-after rare metals that are vital to a host of green technologies, amid growing evidence that China, which has a monopoly on global production, is set to choke off exports of valuable compounds.
Failure to secure alternative long-term sources of rare earth elements (REEs) would affect the manufacturing and development of low-carbon technology, which relies on the unique properties of the 17 metals to mass-produce eco-friendly innovations such as wind turbines and low-energy lightbulbs.
Slaughter on the volleyball field as Taleban wreak revenge on villagers
From The Times
January 2, 2010
Zahid Hussain in Islamabad
At least 88 people were killed yesterday when a suicide bomber drove a truck loaded with explosives on to a village green during a volleyball match in northwestern Pakistan.
Hundreds of people were watching the match in the remote village of Shah Hason Khel when the bomber struck. The attack is thought to be in retaliation for the village’s stand against the Taleban.
Militants in Pakistan have increased their attacks in recent months to avenge military operations that have taken place in their strongholds on the border with Afghanistan.
Israel’s Netanyahu proposes Egypt peace summit with Palestinians
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, proposed an Egyptian summit with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, offering a glimmer of hope for the Middle East peace process.
By Robert Crilly in Jerusalem
Published: 5:03PM GMT 01 Jan 2010
Israeli officials said the proposal was made earlier this week, during talks in Cairo between Mr Netanyahu and Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president.
The offer was the latest sign that progress was being made towards renewing US-backed negotiations that have been frozen for a year and comes at the start of a busy fortnight of diplomacy. Mr Abbas is due in Cairo next week to discuss the possible resumption of talks.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egypt’s foreign minister, will then travel to Washington to give an update on progress before George Mitchell, President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy, returns to the region for a fresh push for peace. Included in the proposals is the idea of holding a peace summit later this month at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Archbishops condemn attacks on Zimbabwe’s Anglicans locked out of church
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have condemned a surge in intimidation and violence against Anglican worshippers in Zimbabwe instigated by an excommunicated bishop allied to President Robert Mugabe.
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare and Sebastien Berger
Published: 7:30AM GMT 02 Jan 2010
Riot police backing Nolbert Kunonga have beaten up congregants in Harare and locked them out of the city’s St Mary’s and All Saints Cathederal on Christmas Day despite a high court order instructing police not to interfere in chuurch acitivities.
Mr Kunonga, who has often voiced support for Mr Mugabe and has been given a farm seized from its former white owners, was bishop of Harare when he split from the Anglican province of Central Africa in 2007 and declared himself an “archbishop”.
Cuba faced worst economic crisis in 2009
Deepening economic troubles, rising crime and corruption, and a burgeoning blogger movement vexed Cuba in 2009.
By Juan Tamayo | El Nuevo Herald
Raúl Castro was right, when he predicted on Jan. 1 that 2009 would be a tough year for Cuba.
Havana faced its worst economic crisis in 20 years, myriad scarcities, freezing foreigners’ deposits in its banks — with promised reforms stalled and its political cohesion put in doubt by one of the revolution’s worst-ever leadership purges.
Crime and corruption increased, according to official reports. Bloggers as well as black Cubans fired increasingly daring darts at the government, but Castro gave no ground on human rights.