The Auto Bailout: Means
Screw The Workers And Their Union
Madoff Scheme Kept Rippling Outward, Across Borders
By DIANA B. HENRIQUES
Published: December 19, 2008
By the end, the world itself was too small to support the vast Ponzi scheme constructed by Bernard L. Madoff.
Initially, he tapped local money pulled in from country clubs and charity dinners, where investors sought him out to casually plead with him to manage their savings so they could start reaping the steady, solid returns their envied friends were getting.
Then, he and his promoters set sights on Europe, again framing the investments as memberships in a select club. A Swiss hedge fund manager, Michel Dominicé, still remembers the pitch he got a few years ago from a salesman in Geneva.
Iraqi shoe-thrower was beaten by security, says judge
• Chief investigator says journalist may be pardoned
• Doubts cast on apology as ‘shoe intifada’ spreads
Ian Black, Middle East editor
The Guardian, Saturday 20 December 2008
Muntazer al-Zaidi could hardly have anticipated the extraordinary reaction when he hurled his shoes at George Bush on Sunday to protest at the invasion of Iraq. His “farewell kiss” to the US president has kept the previously unknown TV journalist in the centre of global attention – a hero across the Arab world and beyond.
Zaidi, who was wrestled to the ground by security men, was beaten on the face, investigating judge Dhia al-Kinani revealed in Baghdad yesterday. But claims that he has asked the Iraqi prime minister to forgive him for his “big ugly act” were immediately questioned by his brother.
Zaidi’s emergence as a role model for anti-American resistance was confirmed by the Iranian ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who praised what he called the “shoe intifada [uprising]” at Tehran University, where demonstrations against the “Great Satan” have been routine for 30 years.
Aid in Hand, Clock Ticks for Detroit
With $17.4 Billion, a Mandate: Restructure by March or Go Bankrupt
By Steven Mufson, David Cho and Cecilia Kang
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, December 20, 2008; Page A01
President Bush put the government into the daunting role of industrial oversight yesterday by grudgingly throwing a $17.4 billion lifeline to General Motors and Chrysler, a politically sensitive mission that President-elect Barack Obama will soon inherit.
The emergency loans mark the first time the administration has extended its bailout to companies outside the financial sector and will head off imminent bankruptcy for the ailing Detroit automakers, which have said they lack enough cash to make major payments due to suppliers by the beginning of January.
Next Obama must put his centrist Cabinet to work
The team of politicians and technocrats lacks a strong ideological bent, but they might have the technical skills to carry out his ambitious agenda.
By Peter Nicholas and Jim Tankersley
December 20, 2008
Reporting from Washington — The Cabinet that President-elect Barack Obama completed on Friday is a largely centrist and pragmatic collection of politicians and technocrats without a pronounced ideological bent. Liberals are satisfied but not delighted. Conservatives say the nominees aren’t as leftist as they’d feared. Powerful interest groups with conflicting agendas are appeased.
But compared with what comes next, assembling the 15-member team was the easy part.
Obama wants this Cabinet to market and put in place the most dramatic policy changes in the country since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal: a mammoth program to improve roads and bridges; a healthcare system that covers more sick people at less cost; limitations on fossil fuels and greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming; big investments in energy efficiency; middle-class tax cuts along with a tax hike on wealthy Americans.
Mugabe defiant as Brown steps up pressure on African leaders to move against him
• The country is mine, president declares
• Tsvangirai threatens to quit talks over abductions
Chris McGreal, Africa correspondent
The Guardian, Saturday 20 December 2008
Robert Mugabe told his ruling Zanu-PF party yesterday that his country was facing a war with Britain but he would never surrender, and “Zimbabwe is mine”.
The Zimbabwe president’s defiant comments came amid escalating pressure from London on Zimbabwe’s neighbours to press Mugabe from office. Gordon Brown urged southern African leaders yesterday to distance themselves from Mugabe and described the situation in Zimbabwe as a tragedy.
“I will never, never, never, never surrender. Zimbabwe is mine,” Mugabe told the party’s annual conference. “I won’t be intimidated. Even if I am threatened with beheading, I believe this and nothing will ever move me from it: Zimbabwe belongs to us, not the British.” Brown called on African leaders to “make sure that it is absolutely clear to the people of Zimbabwe that we support those who are the democratically elected politicians”.
S. Africa’s Crime-Driven Emigration
Essay Fuels Debate With Expatriates
By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 20, 2008; Page A08
JOHANNESBURG For South Africans with means, a fundamental question is: stay or go?
Yes, South Africa boasts perpetual sunshine, jaw-dropping scenery and vigorously free media and civic debate. But since the dawn of democracy in 1994, many thousands have found reasons to emigrate, and 2008 delivered several more — political uncertainty, power shortages, gruesome attacks on foreigners.
The most oft-cited reason for leaving, though, remains crime. Ghastly, violent crime.
In this month’s Harper’s Magazine, a famed Afrikaner poet and former anti-apartheid activist cited the brutality in an essay that gave his answer to the stay-or-go question: “My bitter advice” to young South Africans, Breyten Breytenbach wrote, “would be to go.”
Merkel warning on German funds gap stirs old divisions
• Chancellor says west has suffered ‘backlog’ of need
• Critics say comments to magazine are ‘dangerous’
Kate Connolly in Berlin
The Guardian, Saturday 20 December 2008
Chancellor Angela Merkel has provoked a storm of protest by suggesting west German states have fallen into decay because of the vast amount of public money that has been ploughed into former East Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall 19 years ago.
Merkel, who grew up in the communist east, told a political affairs monthly that states in western Germany had a “backlog of need” following the transfer of a total of €1.5tn to boost the former eastern states.
“When I travel through the old federal states [western Germany], I see many town halls, schools and public buildings dating back to the 1960s and 70s while much in the east is new,” Merkel told the magazine Cicero.
‘Greek Syndrome’ is catching as youth take to streets
First it was Athens. Now the Continent’s disillusioned youth is taking to the streets across Europe. John Lichfield reports
Saturday, 20 December 2008
Europe exists, it appears. If Greek students sneeze, or catch a whiff of tear-gas, young people take to the streets in France and now Sweden. Yesterday, masked youths threw two firebombs at the French Institute in Athens. Windows were smashed but the building was not seriously damaged. Then youths spray-painted two slogans on the building. One said, “Spark in Athens. Fire in Paris. Insurrection is coming”. The other read, “France, Greece, uprising everywhere”.
It was a calculated and violent attempt to link disparate youth protest movements. Links between protests in Greece and France – and, to a lesser degree, unrest in Sweden – may seem tenuous, even non-existent. But social and political ailments and their symptoms transmit as rapidly as influenza in the television, internet and text-message age.
The Dawn of a new Basra
With the date set for British troops to leave, Kim Sengupta ventures on to the streets to find a city at peace with itself – for now
Saturday, 20 December 2008
Dining late in the evening on the restaurant boat Tistaahel on the Shatt Al Arab, as the manager discusses plans for an open-air casino in the summer, is an unusual experience for Basra. This was, not so long ago, a lawless place where militias terrorised the population through murder and intimidation.
The gunmen have disappeared, the shops are busy and the roads crowded. Evidence, one could argue, to back Gordon Brown’s assertion, as he announced the withdrawal of British forces during a flying visit to Basra, that Iraq is being left a bright future of stability and prosperity .
Iraqi judge orders Baath party plot suspects freed >
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Write
BAGHDAD – An Iraqi judge ordered nearly two dozen officials freed after determining there was no evidence that they conspired to bring back Saddam Hussein’s banned Baath party, Iraq’s interior minister said.
Their release Friday came shortly after Iraqi officials began playing down the arrests of the officials from Iraq’s three major security ministries and dismissing reports that they were believed to have been planning a coup.
Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told The Associated Press that the investigating judge ordered the officials released “because they are innocent” of allegations they were trying to restore the Baath party, whose exiled leaders staunchly oppose the current government.
Belatedly, China spreads word about HIV prevention
After long neglecting the HIV prevalence in the country, the government has embarked on an awareness campaign.
By Barbara Demick
December 20, 2008
Reporting from Beijing — The student with shaggy hair hanging low over his eyes, his head pulled turtle-like into a leather jacket, was plainly embarrassed by his ignorance.
Not until three months ago, when he got back the results of his blood test, had the 22-year-old art student at a Beijing university heard the term “HIV.” None of his friends knew how to use condoms or had any idea why they should.
“By the time they realized, it was too late,” said the student, who asked not to be named.
Belatedly, China is trying to get out the word about the AIDS virus and officials are doing it in the typically oversize way that befits the world’s most populous nation, deploying an army of volunteers.
To mark World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, a banner of a giant red ribbon was draped from the huge National Stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest, used in the Summer Olympics.
Australia opens controversial asylum centre on Christmas Island
Labor government meets fierce criticism after opening centre 1,000 miles from mainland
Ian MacKinnon, south-east Asia correspondent
Australia is opening a controversial detention centre for asylum seekers on a remote Indian Ocean island nearly 1,000 miles from its mainland.
The decision to use the facility on Christmas Island is an embarrassing U-turn for the prime minister, Kevin Rudd, whose own Labor party had criticised the centre’s construction while in opposition.
Rudd’s centre-left government had been resisting calls to use the prison-like facility which can house up to 800 people. But a spate of new arrivals forced the rethink. Seven boats carrying 172 refugees have been intercepted off the Australian coast over the past three months.
The first would-be immigrants sent to the detention centre will be 37 men who were stopped on Tuesday around 100 miles north-east of Darwin.
Human rights groups and the Labor MPs have been damning in their criticism of the centre, a £180m facility surrounded by cliffs on the island’s remote western tip.
Extreme drug violence grips Mexico border city
Two journalists visiting Ciudad Juarez for three days find that death is always just around the corner. Killings in 2008: 1,350, and counting.
By Ken Ellingwood
7:40 PM PST, December 19, 2008
Reporting from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico — The two victims rest at the same 45-degree angle, embraced by seat belts that at this moment seem an odd precaution, given the manner of death.
Gunmen had pulled alongside the forest-green Chevy Tahoe on a gritty downtown street and, in broad daylight, pumped 52 shots into where the bodies now lean.
Onlookers, at least 125 of them, press wordlessly against yellow police tape. About 50 olive-clad Mexican soldiers and blue-uniformed federal police take up positions around the perimeter, though it is unclear against what.
Ghostly quiet gives way to the beating blades of a police helicopter.
“That’s 12 today?” a young man standing nearby asks, in the matter-of-fact tone of a baseball fan confirming the number of strikeouts. “Ten,” I answer, meaning that 10 people have been slain in Ciudad Juarez so far on this chilly Tuesday. It is barely 3 in the afternoon. Seven more people will die later, bringing the day’s total to 17 in the city of 1.3 million residents.