Al-Qaeda benefits from a decade of missteps to become a threat in Yemen
By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, January 3, 2010
SANAA, YEMEN — Nearly a decade after the bombing of the USS Cole, a combination of U.S. and Yemeni missteps, deep mistrust and a lack of political will have allowed al-Qaeda militants here to regroup and pose a major threat to the United States, according to Yemeni and U.S. officials, diplomats and analysts.
The U.S. failures have included a lack of focus on al-Qaeda’s growing stature, insufficient funding to and cooperation with Yemen, and a misunderstanding of the Middle Eastern country’s complex political terrain, Yemeni officials and analysts said. U.S. policies in the region, they said, often alienated top Yemeni officials and did little to address the root causes of militancy.
Afghans love to get their goat in national sport of buzkashi
The sport, in which players on horseback vie for a headless goat carcass to much crowd enthusiasm, is back in force since the Taliban’s overthrow. Some dream of it being in the Olympics.
By Tony Perry
January 3, 2010
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan – Leaning far off his horse like a polo player, amid a chaotic-looking scrum of other riders doing the same, the rider snatched the decapitated goat by a foreleg and galloped off.
He whipped his heavy-breathing horse for more speed while the others raced in pursuit. As they neared their rival, they whipped him and his horse and tried to grab the goat carcass before the rider could score.
A game of buzkashi, the national sport and passion of Afghanistan, was in full cry, watched by thousands of yelling, picture-taking fans, including hundreds of young men and boys who pushed so close to the field of play that they were repeatedly in danger of being trampled by the surging horses.
Mortgage foreclosures still swamping federal efforts to help
By Chris Adams | McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON – Banks and other lenders are still foreclosing on Americans’ homes at a rate that’s outpacing the Obama administration’s main effort to stem the crisis.
In fact, while the Treasury Department’s Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, has started the mortgage modification process on almost 760,000 homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes, less than 5 percent of those workouts have become permanent, government data show.
“HAMP has made only limited progress for nine months now, and the residential foreclosure crisis continues to mount,” said Richard Neiman, the superintendent of banks in New York state and a member of the Congressional Oversight Panel that was formed to monitor the Treasury bank bailout funds that support the mortgage program. He was appointed to the post by the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives.
Hollywood vs the iPhone
Today’s must-have gadget has an application about a fictitious Tinseltown agent – and the real thing doesn’t like what he sees
By Guy Adams Sunday, 3 January 2010
One of the most feared men in Hollywood has begun what is believed to be the world’s first legal action over the content of an iPhone application. Ari Emanuel, a wheeler-dealer so vaunted that his clients include Ben Affleck, Christian Bale, Robert De Niro and Keira Knightley, has seen an iPhone game called Super Agent, noted that its less than morally scrupulous lead character bears his own name, and set the legal hounds on its creator, a small computer programmer from Dublin.
Mr Emanuel, who famously inspired Ari Gold, the foul-mouthed agent of the TV series Entourage, has turned the full force of his lawyers on Oisin Hanrahan, an Irish technology entrepreneur whose start-up firm, Factory Six, developed the iPhone game based on the entertainment industry.
Catalonia votes to ban bullfighting
Bloodthirsty ‘sport’ is dying a slow death across Spain, as younger audiences turn away
By Alasdair Fotheringham in Madrid Sunday, 3 January 2010
Already faced with a rapidly ageing fanbase at home and widespread incomprehension and rejection abroad, Spanish bullfighting has suffered another major setback after the Catalan parliament voted to outlaw it completely across the region.
The decision was so controversial that some deputies hunched over their desks to hide their fingers from photographers as they punched in their votes. After a narrow initial victory for the abolitionists – 67 in favour and 59 against – the law could become effective as soon as May.
London gallery snaps up Marc Chagall painting for just £26,000
From The Sunday Times
January 3, 2010
A small British art gallery has managed to buy a Chagall painting worth hundreds of thousands of pounds for a tiny percentage of its estimated value after spotting it on sale at a Paris auction.
The London Jewish Museum of Art bought the work in a secret operation designed to avoid alerting the world’s big galleries to the existence of the painting. If they had taken part, they would have bid the price up far beyond the museum’s budget.
Only now has the museum disclosed its purchase in October of Marc Chagall’s previously unknown 1945 work Apocalypse in Lilac, Capriccio, for €30,000 (£26,600).
Taliban must join security forces, says Brit general
Taliban fighters who reconcile with the Afghan government must be allowed to join the police or army, a senior British general has told The Sunday Telegraph.
By Ben Farmer in Kabul
Published: 7:00AM GMT 03 Jan 2010
Major General Richard Barrons backs the move despite concerns that militants might use it as an opportunity to infiltrate the security services.
In two separate incidents last week, a Taliban bomber wearing a military uniform and a suicide vest entered a base in Khost and blew himself up inside the gym, killing eight Americans thought to be CIA officers, and an Afghan soldier killed a member of the US forces and wounded two Italian soldiers when he opened fire at an army base in western Afghanistan. In November, a rogue Afghan policeman shot dead five British soldiers while serving alongside them.
U.S. troops rely on Afghan police while trying to train them
By Thomas L. Day | McClatchy Newspapers
KABUL, Afghanistan – A group of Georgia National Guard soldiers joined Lt. Col. Mir Salam Adamkhil, a Kabul precinct chief, in his office Thursday. At first the conversation centered on small talk, mostly about the precinct chief’s teenage sons, as the men sipped on chai.
Then Staff Sgt. Josh Heaton opened a metal folder and flipped through a sheaf of paper marked “Secret.”
“Ask him if he knows who this guy is?” Heaton told his interpreter as he underlined the name of an insurgent planning attacks on U.S. troops.
The precinct chief was very familiar with the name, and his expression changed: “If I see him, I will arrest him.”
US General Petraeus in Yemen talks on tackling al-Qaeda
Senior US soldier Gen David Petraeus has visited Yemen’s President Ali Abdallah Saleh, amid a renewed offensive against militants.
The BBC Sunday, 3 January 2010
The general, head of US Middle East and Central Asian operations, said America would back Yemen’s fight with al-Qaeda.
It came as UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown discussed how Britain and the US were tackling Islamists in the region.
An al-Qaeda offshoot in the Arab nation has been linked to a failed attack on a plane over the US on Christmas Day
Confirming Gen Petraeus’ visit to Yemen on Saturday, a senior Obama administration official told AFP news agency: “We have made Yemen a priority over the course of [the past] year, and this is the latest in that effort.”
Kenya slum electrician puts his life on the line
A ‘freelance’ electrician risks getting jolted each time he’s called out to fix problems in the area he services. His best friend died on the job.
By Robyn Dixon
January 3, 2010
Reporting from Nairobi, Kenya – In a year as a “freelance” slum electrician, Francis Otieno has been shocked five times. Three of the accidents were “not so bad,” just enough to throw him across the room. Two nearly killed him.
“I just cried out. I didn’t know what was going on. I passed out,” he says. “For two days, I didn’t know where I was.”
But he was luckier than his best friend, who had the job before him: He was killed when he jumped on a roof to fix a short, unaware that the roof was live because a rat had nibbled at a wire.
MDC minister accused of treason says Mugabe will never break him
Roy Bennett insists that his trial will not deter him from fighting for justice in Zimbabwe
Alex Duval Smith
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 3 January 2010 00.06 GMT
Barefoot at his front door, wearing faded shorts and a T-shirt, Roy Bennett looks tired. As well he might. Next week, instead of kicking off the new year discharging a brief as deputy agriculture minister in Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government, Bennett will be back in Harare’s high court, enduring a further instalment of a trial in which he faces life imprisonment for conspiring to overthrow the president, Robert Mugabe.
Under the draconian Public Order and Security Act, the former commercial farmer is accused of buying £3,000 worth of arms in 2006 to carry out acts of insurgency, sabotage, banditry or terrorism. The prosecution claims to have email evidence, along with a confession from Mike Hitschmann, a gun dealer and alleged conspirator, that Bennett bought the weapons to be used as part of an anti-government plot.
Peru’s mountain people face fight for survival in a bitter winter
Annie Kelly in Pichccahuasi
The Observer, Sunday 3 January 2010
For alpaca farmer Ignacio Beneto Huamani and his young family, life in the Peruvian Andes, at almost 4,700m above sea level, has always been a struggle against the elements. His village of Pichccahuasi, in Peru’s Huancavelica region, is little more than a collection of small thatched shelters and herds of alpaca surrounded by beautiful, yet bleakly inhospitable, mountain terrain.
The few hundred people who live here are hardened to poverty and months of sub-zero temperatures during the long winter. But, for the fourth year running, the cold came early. First their animals and now their children are dying and in such escalating numbers that many fear that life in the village may be rapidly approaching an end.