Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Tuesday, 5th August 2008


IW: I've reached the conclusion that McCain, incredibly, will be the next president of the U.S.A.

Trove of endangered primates found in Africa

A grueling survey of vast tracts of forest and swamp in the northern Congo Republic has revealed the presence of more than 125,000 western lowland gorillas, a rare example of abundance in a world of rapidly vanishing primate populations.
As recently as last year, this subspecies of the world's largest primate was listed as critically endangered by international wildlife organizations because known populations — estimated at less than 100,000 in the 1980s — had been devastated by hunting and outbreaks of Ebola virus. The three other subspecies are either critically endangered or endangered.

High oil prices giving Iraq up to $79 billion in surplus cash
The soaring price of oil will leave the Iraqi government with a cumulative budget surplus of as much as $79 billion by the end of this year, a U.S. oversight agency has concluded in an analysis released Tuesday.
The unspent windfall, which covers surpluses from oil sales from 2005 through 2008, appears likely to put a new focus on the approximately $48 billion in U.S. taxpayer money devoted to rebuilding Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion.
The report from the oversight agency, the Government Accountability Office, estimates that Iraqi oil revenue from 2005 through the end of this year will amount to at least $156 billion. And in an odd financial twist, large amounts of that surplus money is sitting in a U.S. bank in New York - nearly $10 billion at the end of 2007, with more expected this year, when the accountability office estimates a skyrocketing surplus.


Scholars question official line of 'plot' to disrupt Olympics

Outside scholars also raise doubts that this was a terrorist act [On Monday, the two men, both of them Uighurs - the Turkic Muslim group once dominant in the western region of Xinjiang - rammed into the joggers with the truck, tossed explosives and then stabbed the victims, leaving 16 dead and 16 wounded, Chinese officials said], and they say that the Chinese are waving the banner of their own "war on terror" to tighten their hold on the area, an independent-minded ethnic minority region that is rich in oil and natural gas.
Whatever seething resentment led to the attack raises questions about the viability of Chinese policy in Xinjiang, even as China seeks to promote an image of a "harmonious society" for the Olympics.
"Is China winning the hearts and minds of Uighur people?" said Dru Gladney, a leading Western scholar of Chinese Muslims at Pomona College. "This kind of incident suggests not."
Gladney and other scholars say that closer scrutiny of the narrative of the assault promoted by Chinese officials and of the history of Xinjiang suggests that the attack was probably carried out by disgruntled individuals and not as an act of terrorism (which, by many definitions, involves violence aimed at civilians and not at security forces.)
"There are a lot of vengeance attacks against police, or government officials, or imams seen as collaborators," Gladney said. "I wouldn't be surprised if one of these guys has a personal connection with the police."
He added: "A lot of these are personal vendettas. This seems to make more sense."


U.S. billionaire pushes plan for the use of natural gas

DALLAS: Interest has been growing around the world in the potential of natural gas, the cleanest of fossil fuels, as a way to power passenger cars. Now, in an era of expensive gasoline, even some Americans are considering the possibility, if it might save them money.
The attention is partly because of the efforts of T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire Texas oilman and onetime corporate raider.
"You have only one fuel that will reduce the oil imports, and you have it in abundance," Pickens said in a recent interview aboard his Gulfstream jet as it streaked from Washington to Dallas - not propelled, alas, by natural gas.

Natural gas is cleaner than gasoline, and at the pump it can cut the cost of transportation fuel by nearly half. But it can cost thousands of dollars more to buy or convert a vehicle for natural gas. Pickens says natural gas could displace 38 percent of the oil the United States imports, but that would require the sale of tens of millions of vehicles.
"There's a role for natural gas," said David Friedman, research director for clean vehicles at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group. "It's just that Pickens's scale is way off the charts."
The immediate problem is a lack of fuel pumps. Without them, drivers would not buy natural gas cars. Without the cars, service stations would not go to the trouble of installing pumps. The few people buying these cars often use home refueling kits that cost thousands of dollars.
Another problem is limited vehicle range. The Honda Civic GX, the only such passenger car on the U.S. market, travels only 250 miles, or 400 kilometers, on a tank - half the range of many cars. With few fueling stations, drivers on long trips would risk being stranded. Honda is selling the GX only in New York and California, mainly to commuters and for fleets.
Because of limited public interest, Ford stopped selling natural gas vehicles in the United States in 2004, and General Motors stopped production last year. Higher gasoline prices, however, could alter the calculations, and the car companies are monitoring public interest.


McCain touts energy plan at nuclear plant

NEWPORT, Michigan: Republican presidential candidate John McCain visited a nuclear power plant on Tuesday to tout his plan to battle rising energy costs by expanding exploration of traditional sources like nuclear power and offshore oil drilling.
With his presidential race against Democrat Barack Obama focused on consumer pain at the gas pumps, McCain also aired a new advertisement stressing his willingness to battle corporate interests and labelling himself "the original maverick."
"Solving our national energy crisis requires an 'all of the above' approach," McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, said on a visit to the Enrico Fermi nuclear power plant in Michigan, named for a physicist who won the Nobel Prize for his work in splitting the atom.
"Nuclear power alone is not enough. Drilling alone is not enough. We need to do all this and more," he said at the plant, home to an operating reactor and a decommissioned one that suffered a partial meltdown in 1966.
McCain has called for the construction of 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030 and a broad expansion of offshore drilling for oil in an effort to reduce reliance on foreign sources of oil.

Rwanda accuses France over genocide

KIGALI: Rwanda formally accused senior French officials on Tuesday of involvement in its 1994 genocide and called for them to be put on trial.
Among those named in a report by a Rwandan investigation commission were former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and late President Francois Mitterrand.
Kigali has previously accused Paris of covering up its role in training troops and militia who carried out massacres that killed some 800,000 people, and of propping up the ethnic Hutu leaders who orchestrated the slaughter.
France denies that and says its forces helped protect people during a U.N.-sanctioned mission in Rwanda at the time.
The latest allegations from Kigali came on Tuesday with the publication of the report by an independent Rwandan commission set up to investigate France's role in the bloodshed.

"The French support was of a political, military, diplomatic and logistic nature," the report said.
"Considering the gravity of the alleged facts, the Rwandan government asks competent authorities to undertake all necessary actions to bring the accused French political and military leaders to answer for their acts before justice."
An official at the French Foreign Ministry told Reuters that the French government had not yet received any official communication from Kigali and so could not comment.
Attached to the report was a list of 33 accused French political and military officials.
As well as Mitterrand and Villepin, others listed include then foreign minister Alain Juppe, a senior figure in current President Nicolas Sarkozy's party, then prime minister Edouard Balladur and Hubert Vedrine, both still senior politicians.



Just in time, the Paris intelligentsia gets a summer scandal

Like all French intellectual fusses, this one has roots in the past. But it also touches directly on the reputation and power of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and his efforts to intimidate the press.
The result has been the firing of a radical left-wing cartoonist, Maurice Sinet, known as Siné, from one of France's best (and most vulgar) satirical magazines, Charlie Hebdo, after allegations that he had indulged in anti-Semitic stereotypes while taking a shot at Jean, Sarkozy's ambitious second son from his first marriage, who is now 21.
Much attention has been paid to Sarkozy's third wife, Carla, her new album of love songs and the tranquilizing effect she has had on the hyperactive French president. But the French have also been following the career of Jean Sarkozy and his recent engagement to Jessica Sebaoun, daughter of Isabelle Maruani (née Darty) and Marc-André Sebaoun. Isabelle Maruani is an heir to the Darty stores, the large electronics and technology retailer.
Jean Sarkozy has risen fast. A taller, blond version of his father, the young Sarkozy has some of the sullen, sultry look of the actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, and though still a law student, he has already become the leader of his father's party in his father's old constituency, Neuilly-sur-Seine, a Paris suburb.

In some ways, his rise has been in the face of his father, who wanted to put a former spokesman in the mayoralty of Neuilly-sur-Seine. But the aide, David Martinon, proved unpopular, and Jean Sarkozy led a party putsch to replace him.
Jean Sarkozy has also been a beneficiary of his father's power, it seems. When his motor scooter was stolen last year, the police recovered it quickly, even going to the extraordinary length of taking a DNA sample from his helmet. In 2005, he ran his scooter into the back of a BMW, according to a complaint brought by the car's owner, M'Hamed Bellouti, who managed to catch the license plate number as the scooter sped away.
The police failed to find the scooter, but the car owner's insurance company did. Nevertheless, in a December 2007 trial, the complaint against Jean Sarkozy was dismissed.
Bellouti asked then: "Why is there a two-speed justice system? When they steal his scooter, they are full of zeal. When it hits my car, there is less zeal."
All this was on the mind of Siné, the cartoonist, who decided last month to write about Jean Sarkozy, whom he called "a worthy son of his father." After Jean Sarkozy left his trial for fleeing the scene of the scooter accident "almost to applause," Siné said, "it's necessary to state that the complainant is Arab!"
"And that's not all," the cartoonist continued. Jean Sarkozy "has just said that he wants to convert to Judaism before marrying his fiancée, a Jew and heiress of the founders of Darty. He will go far in this life, the little one!"
The column woke up a somnolent Paris, with the journalist Claude Askolovitch of Le Nouvel Observateur telling RTL radio that Siné's piece was anti-Semitic for its conflation of Jews, politics and wealth.
The editor of the weekly, Philippe Val, asked Siné to retract.
The cartoonist - who is 79 years old and was an anti-colonial critic of the Algerian war in the 1950s, supports a Palestinian state, is a fierce atheist and spends a good part of the day on a respirator - said he would rather castrate himself. He filed a suit for defamation against Askolovitch.
Val fired Siné, then wrote a long explanation of why, asserting that Askolovitch was acting on behalf of "the entourage of Jean Sarkozy," and that "a close collaborator of Jean Sarkozy contacted me to tell me that the families of Jean Sarkozy and his fiancée had been outraged and were contemplating a lawsuit."
Nicolas Sarkozy has in the past had editors fired when their coverage has displeased him, and he is being criticized for trying to bring French public television more under his control. The family also denied that Jean Sarkozy was contemplating conversion.
Val, who had previously won much praise (and incurred Muslim wrath) for reprinting the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, ended his editorial by quoting Siné as telling a radio station in 1982, "I am anti-Semitic, and I have no fear of saying so."

Siné has many defenders who deny the passage is anti-Semitic.
Gisèle Halimi, a prominent lawyer, said a charge of anti-Semitism would not stand up in court adding, "This operation is part of the ever more numerous witch hunts aimed at maintaining the psychosis of the persecuted Jew." The magazine, she said, citing the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, "always posed as a champion of freedom of expression." Now, she said, "I no longer want to read you or hear you."
The cartoonist Plantu, in L'Express last month, depicted Val in a fascist uniform kicking Siné, under a headline saying that Charlie Hebdo was the magazine "where everything is permitted - including firing a cartoonist."
Luc Mandret, a well-known blogger, wrote that Siné had defamed Muslims in Charlie Hebdo more coarsely than he had insulted Jews, but those comments had produced no similar reaction. "Siné is a provocateur," Mandret wrote.
There was heavier artillery used to support Val: a letter in Le Monde signed by 20 politicians and public intellectuals, including Elie Wiesel, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Alexandre Adler and Claude Lanzmann, and Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris. Siné "has broken the barrier that separates humor from insult and caricature from hate," they said.
Levy wrote further, "Behind these words, a French ear is unable not to hear the echo of the most rancid anti-Semitism."
Jacques Attali, a former government minister writing in L'Express, summarized the complaint. "One can also read there, and not for the first time for this cartoonist, the return of the old anti-Semitic hymn: 'The Jews are rich, so to convert to Judaism allows one to get rich."'
As for Siné, he is entirely unrepentant. In a letter to Libération, he wrote: "Sorry to disappoint, but I am the author neither of 'Mein Kampf' nor of 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.' I am only, for the last 60 years, an anti-imbecile of the first order (a euphemism destined to pre-empt any eventual refusal to publish this)."


At Freddie Mac, chief disregarded warning signs

The chief executive of the mortgage giant Freddie Mac rejected internal warnings that could have protected the company from some of the financial crises now engulfing it, according to more than two dozen current and former high-ranking executives and others.
That chief executive, Richard Syron, in 2004 received a memo from Freddie Mac's chief risk officer warning him that the firm was financing questionable loans that threatened its financial health.



A vendetta on the Internet destroys a Wall Street reputation

NEW YORK: Last week, Credit Suisse announced the resignation of Steven Rattner, a managing director and the head of its private equity arm, DLJ Merchant Banking.

As is the custom on Wall Street, a spokeswoman for Credit Suisse said Rattner was leaving of his own volition to "spend more time with his family."

But the real reason for Rattner's departure, which had been whispered across Wall Street for weeks and around his hometown of Rye, New York, after it was circulated as part of a vendetta on the Internet, was much more complicated, painful and personal. It is a cautionary tale about the fragility of reputation on Wall Street and elsewhere.
I'll leave out the tawdriest details, but here is the general outline: Five years ago, Rattner was involved in an affair with a married woman in London. Eventually, he cut off the romance, confessed to his wife and subsequently worked hard to repair his marriage.

During the time of the affair and its aftermath, no one at Credit Suisse complained about his job performance - nor have they since. He was a rising star.
In other words, this ought to be a story that, while painful, remained private. Instead, it's just the opposite, having already played out widely on the Internet.
Kelly Cosgrove, the woman with whom Rattner had an affair, was married at the time to an Australian named Tommii Cosgrove. And after he learned of the affair, Cosgrove decided to make it his life's mission to damage Rattner. And with Rattner's resignation, he may have succeeded.
Rattner, who is apologetic and contrite, did not commit a crime. He did not violate Credit Suisse's code of ethics. His affair was not with a subordinate or a peer - Cosgrove had no relationship with Credit Suisse.
Here is one of the bizarre facts about the case: Although Tommii Cosgrove has known about the affair for five years - indeed although the Cosgroves were divorced last year - he began his vendetta only two months ago.
When I asked him about the strange five-year gap, Cosgrove said, "I had to put my life back together again. He destroyed everything I had. And I had to find him."

Find him Cosgrove did. On a half-dozen Web sites, and in a series of incendiary e-mail messages to Rattner's colleagues and clients, as well as to reporters, Cosgrove accused Rattner of trying, essentially, to steal his wife.

Asked whether he was happy that Rattner had resigned from his job, Cosgrove, reached on his mobile telephone Monday, said, "He should have thought about that before he did what he did to me."



UBS general counsel quits

Cuomo [the New York attorney general, Andrew Cuomo] sued UBS, charging that it committed fraud by telling clients that auction-rate securities were safe cash equivalents. Many of the instruments became impossible to sell once credit markets tightened. Cuomo said UBS insiders dumped their own holdings even as the bank continued to sell the securities to clients.
The lawsuit said that shortly after receiving e-mails from UBS executives about the increasing difficulty in the auction-rate security market, "Executive A" sent an e-mail to his broker asking to shed $250,000 of his personal auction-rate holdings.

In an e-mailed statement, UBS said, "The New York Attorney General did not identify the names of the executives in his Complaint, and we decline to do so."



Citigroup's credit card unit loses money for first time since 2005

Led by the chief executive, Vikram Pandit, Citigroup manages about $202 billion of credit-card loans worldwide, about $111 billion of which have been turned into securities and sold, according to the filing.
Delinquencies on the securitized portion have jumped by 16 percent since the end of last year to $2.16 billion as of June 30, Citigroup said. The firm's results may portend similar losses for rivals.


American-trained neuroscientist charged with trying to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

The complaint gave the following account of what happened next.
Americans entered a room in the police station, unaware that Siddiqui was being held there, unsecured, behind a curtain. One of the soldiers, a warrant officer, sat down and placed his M-4 rifle on the floor next to the curtain.
Shortly after the meeting began, the other soldier, a captain, heard a woman yelling from behind the curtain. He turned to see Siddiqui pointing the warrant officer's rifle at him.
The interpreter sitting closest to Siddiqui lunged at her and pushed the rifle away as she pulled the trigger and shouted, "God is great!" She fired at least two shots, but no one was hit. The warrant officer returned fire, hitting Siddiqui at least once in the torso.
Siddiqui struggled when officers tried to subdue her, shouting in English that she wanted to kill Americans. She eventually lost consciousness.
Siddiqui was charged Monday with one count of trying to kill U.S. officers and employees and one count of assaulting the officers and employees, the Justice Department said. If convicted she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each count.
The wild scene in the police station is the latest chapter in one of the strangest episodes in the U.S. campaign against terrorism.
Human rights groups and a lawyer for Siddiqui, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, said they believed that Siddiqui had been secretly held since 2003, much of the time at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
"We believe Aafia has been in custody ever since she disappeared," Sharp said in an interview before the complaint was made public, "and we're not willing to believe that the discovery of Aafia in Afghanistan is coincidence."



Possibility of mistrial arises at Guantánamo

GUANTÁNAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba: The possibility of a mistrial emerged Tuesday in the United States's first war crimes trial at Guantánamo, after prosecutors said the judge gave flawed instructions to a jury of military officers in the case against Osama bin Laden's driver.
Prosecutors asked the judge to revise the instructions he gave on what constitutes a war crime to the jurors who began deliberating Monday in the case of the Yemeni prisoner Salim Hamdan.


Art historians outraged over Berlusconi decision over painting
ROME: The government cover-up making headlines in Italy this August has been over its clumsy attempts to hide the truth.
The truth, in this case, refers to an 18th-century allegorical figure in a painting by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo that serves as a backdrop for government news conferences in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's official residence.
It was retouched in recent weeks to cover an exposed breast, which "might have upset the sensitivity of some viewers," Paolo Bonaiuti, the prime minister's spokesman, told the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera over the weekend.
"That breast, that little nipple, ends up right in the shots that TVs make during press conferences," Bonaiuti said.
Bonaiuti said the touch-up had been the "initiative of those who look after the prime minister's image."

Blow-up church looks to lure Italian beachgoers
ROME: Catholic nuns and priests in Italy are following their flocks to the beach this summer, establishing an inflatable church and a beach-convent in the sands to lure sunbathers.
The 30-metre (98 ft) long blow-up church -- staffed by priests ready to take confession -- will debut on Saturday on the Adriatic coast in the Molise region, an organiser said.
"There will be four or five people singing, with music about God," said Chiara Facci with Catholic group Sentinelli del Mattino. Night time activities, which will not include Mass, will run from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.


H.D.S. Greenway: Matters of pride

Preah Vihear is physically more attached to Thailand on the edge of a 1,640-foot cliff overlooking Cambodia. In 1904 the French and the Siamese, as the Thais were then called, convened a boundary commission that seemed to set the border on the watershed, which would have put Preah Vihear inside Thailand. But a subsequent French map in 1907 put Preah Vihear inside Cambodia.
When France fell to the Germans in 1940, Thailand saw a chance to seize western Cambodia. The Vichy French colonial government, which had made a deal to let Japan use its territory against China, reacted militarily and a short war with Thailand followed in January 1941 - a tiny sideshow to World War II that was rapidly unfolding. An inconclusive land battle, involving French and colonial "Tirailleurs," was followed by a naval encounter in the Gulf of Siam, which the French decisively won. The French dropped a couple of bombs on Bangkok, too.
The Japanese stepped in to arbitrate, and gave much of western Cambodia to Thailand, which took pieces of British territory, too. But the eventual Allied victory in 1945 forced Thailand to disgorge its French and British territories, and Preah Vihear returned to Cambodia.
No sooner had the French given up their Indochina empire in 1954, however, than the Thais moved back into Preah Vihear. They stayed for seven years until an independent Cambodia took Thailand to the International Court of Justice at The Hague in 1962.
Cambodia's case was ably argued by former secretary of state Dean Acheson, and the court ruled in Cambodia's favor. It seems, however, that the court decision left ambiguous the fate of 1.8 square miles around the temple, and it is over that bit that Thai and Cambodian troops faced one another this summer. The poisonous airs of nationalism were fanned by ambitious politicians in both countries.
The International Court of Justice's decision was based on geography and maps, and not over whose culture the temples belong in, but there is no earthly reason that Preah Vihear shouldn't belong to Cambodia with an open border for tourists to reach it from the more accessible Thai side - except for the fact that national passions can usually be counted upon to rise above reason.


Not quite ready to go home

Stephen Biddle is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Michael E. O'Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Kenneth M. Pollack is a senior fellow at the Saban Center at Brookings.

Almost everyone now agrees there has been great progress in Iraq. The question is what to do about it.

But this does not make the peace inherently stable. Wary former combatants are constantly on the lookout for signs - real or imagined - that rivals mean to take advantage of them. The cease-fires, moreover, are extremely decentralized: More than 200 tribal and regional groups have reached individual agreements with the United States to stand down from fighting; in time, some will inevitably test the waters to see what they can get away with, or will misinterpret innocent behavior from neighbors as threatening and retaliate.
A leader of one group of Sunni tribesmen who had switched allegiances and took up arms against Al Qaeda made this point at a meeting we had at Salman Pak, a military base south of Baghdad. He told us he was worried about encroachment onto his territory "from several directions" - apparently meaning he didn't trust his Sunni neighbors any more than he trusted his traditional Shiite rivals. Left on their own, minor local flashpoints could easily spiral into a renewal of widespread violence.



'Baghdad High': 4 young Iraqis show the fabric of their lives

Ivan O'Mahoney, who produced and directed "Baghdad High" with Laura Winter, says in the press notes that it was fantastic to realize "that people do lead normal lives despite the mayhem." And you can see what he means: boys texting girlfriends, doing homework to the sound of Tupac, cutting Islamic studies to play soccer.

But of course it's the differences that make the film. The way the boys can tell without looking whether it's an Apache or a Chinook helicopter overhead. The way the curtains are always drawn. The level of physical contact and affection among the men, which would be alien to American sensibilities. And the seriousness with which these teenagers take their lives and responsibilities as filmmakers.
The mixture of adolescent high spirits and Baghdad pragmatism can be exhilarating and chilling. In one scene Ali kills time with his best friend, Mohammed, an irrepressible joker who emerges as the film's star. They argue over control of the television; they roughhouse on the couch. "If Chemical Ali really wanted to destroy the north, he should have fired a rocket with Mohammed's socks in it," Ali says. Suddenly Ali is holding a large knife. "He's being naughty!" Mohammed says. Ali holds the knife near Mohammed and says, a little too unemotionally: "Allah! This is the first hostage. I'm going to slaughter him this way." Mohammed tells him to stop fooling around. Ali relents. "He just got a presidential pardon. He can live."
While the boys talk frequently about violence and despair, they rarely discuss politics or ethnic differences (with the exception of Anmar, the Christian) and they almost never directly address the American presence. Whether this reflects their mindset or is a result of editing 300 hours of tape into 90 minutes, we can't tell. We do hear some parental opinions, which are surprisingly neutral. One mother says: "We shouldn't blame the Americans for everything. There is something wrong with us too."



Book review: 'Descent Into Chaos,' by Ahmed Rashid

Descent Into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia

By Ahmed Rashid

484 pages. $27.95, Viking; £25, Allen Lane.

In his appropriately titled "Descent Into Chaos," Ahmed Rashid says the Clinton administration bears some responsibility for where we find ourselves today in South and Central Asia. It had blown "hot and cold when it came to Afghanistan and chasing Al Qaeda," had "no coherent strategy for undermining the Taliban regime" and had tilted strongly toward India over Pakistan. CIA officers had made only a few trips to Afghanistan during the Clinton years, according to Rashid, and no one in the agency spoke Pashto, the language of the Pashtuns, the country's largest ethnic group.
But the real target of Rashid's blistering critique is the Bush administration, and particularly Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld insisted on bringing Afghanistan's notorious warlords into the government. He blocked a "Marshall Plan" for Afghanistan. He opposed expanding the multinational International Security Assistance Force to work beyond Kabul because, he claimed, Europeans did not want to. "A lie," says Rashid, a journalist who has also been a participant in some of the events he writes about. And the litany goes on throughout this timely book.
Pakistan, Rashid explains, supported the Taliban when they were in power, to keep Afghanistan in Pakistan's corner against India. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the country's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, better known as ISI, has been duplicitous, at best. It continues to provide sanctuary and military support for the Taliban, even to this day, while arresting some Arabs among their fighters to appease Washington.


Doris Lessing looks back on shadows and parents

Doris Lessing once declared that "fiction makes a better job of the truth" than straightforward reminiscence, and while that might well be true of her celebrated and semi-autobiographical Martha Quest novels, it's an observation that doesn't apply at all to her latest book, "Alfred & Emily," an intriguing work that is half fiction, half memoir. The sketchy, insubstantial first half of the book imagines what her parents' lives might have been like if World War I had never occurred. The potent and harrowing second half recounts the real life story of her parents, and the incalculable ways in which the war fractured their dreams and psyches and left them stranded in the bush in Africa, eking out a meager existence on a tiny farm in Rhodesia.

Writing with the incandescent clarity of her 88 years, Lessing — the 2007 Nobel laureate — conveys the appreciation she now feels for the hardship of her parents' lives, and the anger she often felt as a young girl in rebellion against her mother. She also writes about her father and mother's memories of the war, and how those memories affected her own apprehension of the world:
"I think my father's rage at the Trenches took me over, when I was very young, and has never left me. Do children feel their parents' emotions? Yes, we do, and it is a legacy I could have done without. What is the use of it? It is as if that old war is in my own memory, my own consciousness."


Georgia denies war plans in South Ossetia
AVNEVI, Georgia: Georgia on Tuesday denied preparing for war in its breakaway South Ossetia region following deadly weekend clashes that have raised fears of a new war in the Caucasus.
Russia said it would not be indifferent if there was further violence on its border, escalating a war of words in a region where Moscow and the West are vying for influence over vital energy transit routes.
"If events develop according to the worst-case violence scenario, Russia will not allow itself to remain indifferent, considering that Russian citizens live in South Ossetia, particularly in the conflict zone," Interfax news agency quoted Russian special ambassador Yuri Popov as saying.
But Georgia rejected accusations of indiscriminate shelling of Ossetian-held areas over the weekend, and denied it was preparing for conflict.
"We are not mobilising forces, we are not getting ready for war," deputy Interior Minister Ekaterine Zguladze told Reuters in the Georgian-held village of Avnevi in South Ossetia.
"There is no military build-up whatsoever on the Georgian side," said Zguladze. NATO said on Tuesday it was "not aware of any troop concentrations by Georgia in or near South Ossetia."

Man in Canada bus beheading says "please kill me"

PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Manitoba: A man accused of killing, decapitating and eating the flesh of a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus in Canada shook his head and said "Please kill me" on Tuesday when a judge asked him if he wanted a lawyer.
Vince Weiguang Li, 40, was otherwise silent, staring at the floor and swaying side to side with hands clenched, as the prosecutor recounted the grisly details of the killing at a court hearing in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba.

Prosecutor Joyce Dalmyn said Li, who immigrated to Canada from China in 2001, stabbed to death his sleeping seatmate, Tim McLean, in an unprovoked attack aboard the bus, which was rolling along the TransCanada Highway about an hour's drive west of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The bus stopped and other passengers fled. After a six-hour standoff, Li jumped out a window and was apprehended by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Dalmyn said.
They found a severed ear, nose and mouth in a white plastic bag in his right front pant pocket, Dalmyn said.

Greyhound has scrambled since the incident to remove advertising billboards promoting the relaxation of bus travel. The ads carried the slogan, "There's a reason you've never heard of bus rage".


Bosnia fugitive is hero to some, butcher to others

BOZINOVICI, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Ratko Mladic, accused in Europe's worst massacre since World War II and now the most wanted fugitive for the atrocities in the Balkan wars, grew up in this poor, remote mountain village that is blanketed with crows. Here, as in many places where Serbs live, his military prowess, his undeniable suffering and the imponderable scale of the crimes he is accused of have made him as much a national myth as a man.

He is a weathered survivor, his character forged by poverty, the slaying of his father and the suicide of his daughter — with his own favorite pistol.
"His mother had no job, no pension, no husband, so from a young age Ratko had to fight to survive," said his cousin Stretko Mladic. "But he was strong. He could swim faster than anyone, dive deeper, run faster, throw stones over his shoulder farther than anyone."
"He is stubborn, determined and never gives up," the cousin added. "If there is a world under the sea, then he is hiding there."

"Mladic turned his hate and violence on what he perceived to be the threats to his country: the West, Albanian nationalism, and Muslims," said Seki Radoncic, a leading Bosnian investigative journalist.

People who met Mladic during the war said he would often rail against politicians, preferring the company of his soldiers, whom he routinely joined on the front line. While others dove into trenches during an attack by Bosnian forces, they said, he would remain standing, apparently unafraid of death.
Many observers in both Serbia and Bosnia believe that Mladic descended into deep depression, and possibly madness, after the suicide of his daughter Ana, a 22-year-old medical student who killed herself in March 1994, reportedly over a Serbian magazine article that depicted her father as a murderer.
Zoran Stankovic, the former chief military pathologist and former Serbian minister of defense, who did the autopsy on Mladic's daughter and was one of his closest confidants, said Ana's suicide deeply shook her father.
Stankovic recalled that after he completed the autopsy, Mladic asked him to cut off a piece of her hair and to extract the bullet from her head to give to him as mementos.
"After the suicide I never saw brightness in his eyes, only sadness," Stankovic said.
On the eve of the Srebrenica massacre, a defiant Mladic made an address broadcast on Bosnian Serb television, during which he warned that the time had come to avenge centuries of conquest by the Ottoman Muslims.
Mehmedovic, the witness, contended that she had seen Mladic in Srebrenica, smiling and handing out candies to Muslim children while a Serbian television crew filmed. When the cameras stopped, she said, his face suddenly became expressionless and he barked an order for the officers to begin loading the men and boys onto the buses that took them to their deaths.

Plane crashes into Oregon house and kills 3 children
PORTLAND: A small plane crashed into a vacation home on the Oregon coast on Monday, killing three children inside and two adults on board, officials said.


David Brooks: Where's the landslide?

There is a sense that because of his unique background and temperament, Obama lives apart. He put one foot in the institutions he rose through on his journey but never fully engaged. As a result, American voters have trouble placing him in his context, understanding the roots and values in which he is ineluctably embedded.

Last week Jodi Kantor of The New York Times described Obama's 12 years at the University of Chicago Law School. "The young law professor stood apart in too many ways to count," Kantor wrote.

He was a popular and charismatic professor, but he rarely took part in faculty conversations or discussions about the future of the institution. He had a supple grasp of legal ideas, but he never committed those ideas to paper by publishing a piece of scholarship.
He was in the law school, but not of it.
This has been a consistent pattern throughout his odyssey. His childhood was a peripatetic journey through Kansas, Indonesia, Hawaii and beyond. He absorbed things from those diverse places but was not fully of them.
His college years were spent on both coasts. He was a community organizer for three years but left before he could be truly effective.
He became a state legislator, but he was in the Legislature, not of it. He had some accomplishments, but as Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker wrote, he was famously bored by the institution and used it as a stepping stone to higher things.
He was in Trinity United Church of Christ, but not of it, not sharing the liberation theology that energized Jeremiah Wright Jr. He is in the U.S. Senate, but not of it. He has not had the time nor the inclination to throw himself into Senate mores, or really get to know more than a handful of his colleagues. His Democratic supporters there speak of him fondly, but vaguely.
And so it goes. He is a liberal, but not fully liberal. He has sometimes opposed the Chicago political establishment, but is also part of it. He spoke at a rally against the Iraq war, while distancing himself from many anti-war activists.
This ability to stand apart accounts for his fantastic powers of observation, and his skills as a writer and thinker. It means that people on almost all sides of any issue can see parts of themselves reflected in Obama's eyes. But it does make him hard to place.


Reverence but no outpouring for Solzhenitsyn

Solzhenitsyn is to be buried at the Donskoi monastery in Moscow on Wednesday after a Russian Orthodox funeral service, officials said.
The service is to receive widespread coverage in the state-controlled media, but in interviews, young people said they would not pay much attention to it. Approached at a park in Moscow, Taisiya Gunicheva, 17, a college student, said she had heard of Solzhenitsyn, but could not name any of his books.
She said his work was largely absent from her school curriculum. "Can you imagine, there is nothing about it at all," she said. "It is sad, but unfortunately, it's true."
Nearby was Anton Zimin, 26, an advertising copywriter, who said he was quite familiar with Solzhenitsyn but doubted that others in his generation were. He said people his age had lost touch with the struggles of their parents and grandparents.
"The problem is that now, it's all about consumption — this spirit that has engulfed everybody," Zimin said. "People prefer to consume everything, the simplest things, and the faster, the better. Books are something that force you to think, reading books requires some effort. But they prefer entertainment."


The art of losing

It was a given that we would be conspicuous. We were four distinctly un-European females - my Midwestern mother; my mentally disabled and legally blind sister; my 14-month-old daughter; and me - going to Brussels and Paris on a pilgrimage of sorts. My sister, Cecily, had long dreamed of visiting the country where she was born and spent her early childhood, and also France, for which she'd always felt an affinity because her birthday is Bastille Day.
We lived in Brussels for four years, because of my father's job, and moved back to Wisconsin when I was almost 5 and Cecily was about 4. Cecily now lives semi-independently in a community near my parents, where she helps take care of the severely handicapped. Recently, at an evaluation meeting, one of the "goals" she articulated was to visit Brussels. It was a trip that would require serious planning. She is awkward getting around and needs to be considered as a child does: Is she fed and rested? Is she sufficiently entertained, at ease?
Somehow I always knew my mother and I would go on this trip with her. My daughter was the obvious fourth. In Brussels, our days were filled with touristic excursions - the Grand' Place, the Atomium (a 102-meter-high model of an atomic crystal) - and sentimental ones. We visited the house where we lived, now an old-age home; the park where we once fed swans; and our babysitter from those years, now 87. Unintentionally (I think), we drove past Ste. Elisabeth Hospital, where Cecily was taken when she went into a coma - a few hours after a routine vaccination at the age of 4 months. When she regained consciousness five days later, she was completely altered from the healthy, normal infant she had been. Our family has never dwelled on the topic, but we carried the fact of it through the city like a small and heavy piece of luggage.
For our group, with two of us needing attendance, plus a stroller and other gear, just getting out of a cab could become a complex operation. So maybe it's not a surprise that my mother and I kept losing things - wallet, keys, sunglasses, maps, guidebooks and so on. An Elizabeth Bishop poem sang through my head: "The art of losing isn't hard to master; / so many things seem filled with the intent / to be lost that their loss is no disaster." But the item always eventually turned up.
Then on our last day in Brussels, I went to the front of a tram to buy us tickets while my mother took care of Cecily and the baby. A few stops later, my mother said: "My wallet's gone. It has my passport in it." This time it was gone for good. Later, standing in the center of town and asking for directions to the U.S. Embassy, I thought, I cannot believe I am that American.

My sister took it hard, though she blamed my mother. "You'd think after getting her wallet stolen last year, she would know better," Cecily said to me as my mother filed her police report. It was true that my mother, generally savvy, was pickpocketed on a trip to Chicago on Super Bowl weekend. I told Cecily that it could have happened to any of us. But my sharp tone, betraying my own impatience, made her cry.
We did eventually get to Paris. In contrast with Brussels, it felt like part of the present, not just a stolid setting of the past, marred by things lost and taken. When we took my daughter into the crowded chapel at Sainte-Chapelle, she looked around and proclaimed, "Wooow!" inspiring a young guard to get on his walkie-talkie to cheerfully report the incident. Then, at the airport, I went with the baby to the détaxe window to get my sales-tax refund. My mother insisted I take my belongings in case we got separated. When I returned to check in, at a different counter from my mother and sister, I looked down at the luggage cart to see that my backpack was gone, with my laptop inside it.
This time, I was not that American, so much as that person, the one you pity in the airport. I was something of a spectacle. People tried to help, but there was nothing to be done. An agent told me: "When something like that is stolen, all the bad energy goes with it. So let it go. Your daughter is fine. That's the important thing." I nodded, sniffling, already feeling chagrined, when I saw my mother and sister approaching - perhaps the two people in the airport who didn't know of my mishap. On top of their cart was my backpack, where it had always been. I put it on the stroller handle and said nothing. Later, I would wonder about my outburst, and if it was only that I needed to say, in the most visible possible way: Lucky as I've always been in my life, I lost something, too.
Daphne Beal is the author of a novel, "In the Land of No Right Angles," which will be published later this month.

Rogue bosses in the firing line

LONDON: Rogue bosses who exploit vulnerable workers with low pay and poor working conditions will be exposed as part of a new crackdown launched by the government on Tuesday.
More inspectors with strengthened powers will check standards in the workplace and impose stronger penalties on culprits under plans announced by Employment Relations Minister Pat McFadden.
A new single telephone helpline will help workers report mistreatment or illegal pay rates and a six million pound campaign will boost awareness of workers' rights.


For English, the boot is now on the other foot

In the past month, Newcastle United, a club that has survived on local passion since 1892, is rumored to have aroused takeover bids from the family of Osama bin Laden, from an American private equity company, from the rulers of Dubai, from a Singapore investment group ... and most recently from India.
With two-thirds of England's top teams already in foreign ownership, what is quite clear is that Mike Ashley, an English billionaire who bought Newcastle just a year ago, is struggling to keep up with the likes of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea. Even Queens Park Rangers, a second-division team now owned by the steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal in conjunction with Bernie Ecclestone of Formula One and Flavio Briatore of Renault's Formula One team, has deeper pockets.
Ashley insists that the club is not for sale, but he opened the door to speculation last month by telling The Evening Standard in London: "Abramovich has unfortunately got, however, tens of billions more than me. That lot from Queens Park Rangers have tens of billions more than Newcastle. It would be very useful if we could get some multibillionaire partners."
Mittal, based in London, is fourth on the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest people, with a net worth of $45 billion. He is just ahead of the brothers Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani, who have gone their separate ways, Mukesh into petrochemicals, Anil into the breakneck development of communications technology across India.


Secret deal blamed for keeping UK troops out of Basra

LONDON: A newspaper said on Tuesday British soldiers in Iraq had been prevented from coming to the aid of American and Iraqi allies during battles in Basra because of a deal with the Mehdi Army militia.
The Times said 4,000 British troops were forced to watch from the sidelines for almost a week in March while U.S. and Iraqi forces battled militants in the southern city because of the deal with the Shi'ite group led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
But the Ministry of Defence denied any secret deal or accommodation had kept its troops out of Basra, and said British forces had provided a "raft of military support" to the Iraqi operation.
Iraqi forces met strong resistance when Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered them into Basra to combat the militias.
U.S. forces supported the Iraqi army but Britain ruled out deploying troops to Basra in the early days of the operation.


No comments: