Taliban military commander arrested, say reports
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was reportedly captured in Pakistan in a joint operation by Pakistani and US intelligence forces
Jason Burke in Delhi
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 16 February 2010 05.47 GMT
Mullah Barader, the Taliban’s powerful second in command, has been captured in the Pakistani city of Karachi, according to a report in the New York Times.
If confirmed, the detention of Abdul Ghani Barader will be the most significant breakthrough in many years of the American-led hunt for the Taliban’s leaders. That it appears to have occurred in Karachi underlines the degree to which senior Afghan militants have used Pakistan as a secure base for their operations, but may also signal a very significant change in attitude on the part of the Pakistani Army towards the hardline Afghan Islamic militant movement.
The Pakistani security establishment’s ambivalent attitude towards the Taliban has been repeatedly cited as a major cause of the problems that have beset the Western intervention in Afghanistan since then deposition of the Taliban regime in December 2001.
Praise, propaganda at Kim Jong Il’s birthday party
State media laud North Korea’s leader on his 68th birthday. Outsiders question his physical and mental health.
By John M. Glionna
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 16, 2010 | 12:31 a.m.
Reporting from Seoul – The devoted threw a party fit for a prince: There were dancers, singers and synchronized swimmers, not to mention unnamed foreign dignitaries – all celebrating the 68th birthday Tuesday of Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s glorious “Dear Leader.”
In Pyongyang, state-run media lauded a national hero “praised by mankind as the most outstanding political elder and the peerlessly brilliant commander of the present era.”
Outside the isolationist state, though, the take on Kim’s milestone was a bit less breathless as analysts questioned his physical and mental health following a suspected stroke in 2008.
Spain to accept five Guantanamo detainees
By Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Spain announced Monday it will accept five detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the largest commitment by a European country and a boost for the Obama administration’s dragging effort to close the military detention center.
Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos told reporters in Madrid that the detainees will not pose a security threat and that any transfers to Spain “will be done with all the legal guarantees so as to defend the security situation that our country requires.”
In Texas, ‘tea party’ candidate may shake up governor’s race
The Republican primary has been a grudge match between Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, but a little-known activist named Debra Medina has emerged as a factor
By Mark Z. Barabak
February 15, 2010 | 5:15 p.m.
Reporting from Victoria, Texas – Debra Medina isn’t calling for Texas to secede from the union. She thinks the state should simply ignore federal laws that Texans can’t abide.
“You get [the Environmental Protection Agency] off the backs of Texas agriculture, energy and manufacturing, we won’t have an economic crisis,” the gubernatorial hopeful says.
French ‘sexism’ blamed for attacks on Baroness Ashton
EU’s first foreign affairs supremo is fighting an ‘image war’ which critics say she is losing
By Vanessa Mock in Brussels Tuesday, 16 February 2010
The EU’s new foreign policy chief has come in for a barrage of criticism that is severely undermining her credibility less than three months into her tenure, say Brussels officials.
A public attack on Baroness Ashton of Upholland that first appeared in the French press and was partly fuelled by her decision not to travel to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake has sharpened in recent weeks. Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos is among those believed to have joined the growing ranks of European officials to take aim at the newcomer.
The attacks may help to explain why the Baroness flew to the Balkans yesterday and – with an EU military mission to Haiti is to begin this week – why one of Baroness Ashton’s officials said this might be “the right moment” for the Labour peer to visit the stricken Caribbean country.
Paedophile priests must own up to their sins, says Vatican
From The Times
February 16, 2010
Richard Owen in Rome
Catholic clergy who have sinned by their acts or by turning a blind eye in Ireland’s paedophile priests scandal must admit blame for their “abominable acts”, a senior Vatican official said yesterday.
“Yes, storms spark fear, even those that rock the boat of the Church because of the sins of its members,” said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, in a sermon delivered to Ireland’s bishops inside St Peter’s Basilica shortly before they began two days of crisis talks with the Pope.
Cardinal Bertone said that trials that came from within the Church “are naturally harder and more humiliating”, particularly when “men of the Church were involved in such particularly abominable acts”.
‘European hit squad killed Hamas leader’
Six Britons in 11-strong group which assassinated commander, say Dubai police
By Barbara Surk in Dubai Tuesday, 16 February 2010
An 11-member hit squad, composed mostly of UK passport holders, was responsible for the killing of a leader of the Hamas armed wing in a Dubai hotel room last month, the country’s police chief told reporters yesterday.
Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim showed a news conference surveillance video of the alleged assassination team arriving on separate flights to Dubai the day before Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was found dead by staff at the Bustan Rotana hotel, AP reported from Dubai. He said that six members of the team carried British passports, three – including a woman – Irish passports, one – the head of the team – a French passport, and one a German passport. He said photos and other information were being sent to Interpol.
Saudi FM al-Faisal doubts Iran sanctions plans
Imposing more sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme would not be a quick enough solution, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has said.
The BBC Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Prince Saud al-Faisal said the threat posed by Iran demanded a “more immediate solution” than sanctions.
He spoke in Riyadh alongside US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who earlier said Iran was “becoming a military dictatorship”.
On Tuesday, Turkey’s foreign minister is due in Iran aiming to mediate.
Turkey is a Nato member, and Ahmet Davutoglu is expected to try to promote a deal on Tehran’s nuclear programme between Turkey’s western allies and Iran’s Islamic government.
Speaking at a joint Riyadh news conference with Mrs Clinton, Prince Saud said: “Sanctions are a long-term solution. They may work, we can’t judge.
Aquino’s son heads home to drum up support for presidential bid
February 16, 2010
By Steve Lunt, for CNN
The crowd gathered inside Concepcion church could not have seemed better to Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III: Most people were clad in yellow, the color his mother — revered former president Corazon “Cory” Aquino — wore to symbolize her fight for democracy. The candidate received a rock-star welcome, with supporters vying to get near him.
Aquino last week launched his bid for president here in Concepcion, Tarlac, his family’s homeland. Returning to his roots was perhaps the safest way to start on this first official day of the presidential campaign season: Hiss popularity in recent polls has slightly dipped against his main rival, Manuel “Manny” Bamba Villar Jr. Eight others are also in the running to lead the Southeast Asian nation of more than 90 million. Voters go to the polls on May 10.
2 detained, police say RDX, ammonium nitrate used in Pune blast
PUNE, February 16, 2010
Pune police on Tuesday said they have got “vital” information on Saturday’s blast from the CCTV footages even as two persons with suspected links with Indian Mujahideen were detained in connection with the attack.
Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh said they have got the forensic report and it has established that RDX and ammonium nitrate were used in the attack at the German Bakery, a popular eatery here.
“We have the CCTV footages. We have got some vital information from it,” Mr. Singh told reporters here.
“We received the forensic report last night. It has been established that the presence of RDX, ammonium nitrate and petroleum hydrocarbon oil in it,” the Commissioner said.
Tullow Oil given licence to flare Ugandan gas
• Tullow Oil contract under attack from NGO observers
• Flaring could release huge volumes of greenhouse gases
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 16 February 2010
Tullow Oil, the London-based oil operator, has signed contracts with the Ugandan government allowing it to flare gas with the potential to release huge volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, according to a report by non-governmental organisations.
The production-sharing agreement also appears to carry few specific safeguards in the event of spills or other environmental damage and is too financially weighted in favour of Tullow, says the study by the UK-based NGO Platform, which is working in Uganda with the Civil Society Coalition on Oil.
Kenya faces political ‘meltdown’
Ongoing political wrangling in Kenya’s coalition government is having a major detrimental effect on its fight against corruption, a lobbying group warns.
The BBC Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Transparency International warned Kenya risked turning into a failed state.
A rift in the fragile power-sharing government developed after PM Raila Odinga announced the suspension of two ministers after corruption scandals.
President Mwai Kibaki annulled the suspensions, saying the Mr Odinga did not have the power to take the action.
The head of Transparency International in Kenya, Job Ogonda, said the political dispute in Kenya’s coalition government was sending out a very dangerous message.
It was showing that the struggle for power was more important than the fight against corruption and this, he said, would have dire consequences come the next election.
Haiti quake fear: What if recovery looks like Managua’s?
By Glenn Garvin | Miami Herald
MANAGUA – When Eduardo Chamorro visited Haiti nine days after the earthquake, it all looked horribly, heart-breakingly familiar: the precarious heaps of rubble, the bodies strewn about like broken dolls, the faces dazed with fear and incomprehension.
“It was total desolation,” the Nicaraguan architect says quietly. “It looked like no hope – the pessimism, the dust, the corpses. It looked like 1972 Managua, multiplied by 10.”
No country in the Western Hemisphere has been as transfixed by the harrowing images of Haitian death and destruction as Nicaragua, which suffered its own cataclysmic earthquake in 1972.