Sri Lanka Is
What Happens When
The World Doesn’t Care
In Obama’s Inner Circle, Debate Over Memos’ Release Was Intense
Some Feared That a Partisan Outcry Could Obstruct Larger Agenda
By R. Jeffrey Smith, Michael D. Shear and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, April 24, 2009
As President Obama met with top advisers on the evening of April 15, he faced one of the sharpest policy divides of his young administration.Five CIA directors — including Leon E. Panetta and his four immediate predecessors — and Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser had expressed firm opposition to the release of interrogation details in four “top secret” memos in which Bush administration lawyers sanctioned harsh tactics.
On the other side of the issue were Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair and White House counsel Gregory B. Craig, whose colleagues during the campaign recall him expressing enthusiasm for fixing U.S. detainee policy.
Sri Lanka war toll near 6,500, UN report says
At least 14,000 wounded over last three months, according to United Nations figures
David Pallister, Gethin Chamberlain and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Friday 24 April 2009 09.51 BST
The United Nations says nearly 6,500 civilians have been killed and 14,000 wounded in fighting in Sri Lanka over the last three months, according to a UN document circulated among diplomatic missions.
Two UN officials privately confirmed the figures to the Guardian today. At least 2,000 people are understood to have been killed in the last month but the death toll does not include all of those killed in this week’s intense fighting. The UN has declined to publicly release its casualty figures.
The quarter-century civil war has flared in recent months as government forces pushed to crush the Tamil Tiger rebels in their remaining territory in the north.
According to the UN figures, 6,432 civilians have been killed in the fighting since 20 January and another 13,946 have been wounded.
U.S. Said to Seek a Chrysler Plan for Bankruptcy
By MICHELINE MAYNARD and MICHAEL J. de la MERCED
Published: April 23, 2009
DETROIT – The Treasury Department is directing Chrysler to prepare a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing as soon as next week, people with direct knowledge of the talks said Thursday.
The company faces a deadline of April 30 to come up with a viable business plan supported by its creditors, the United Automobile Workers union, and Fiat, the Italian car company that wants to acquire a stake in Chrysler.
The Obama administration has told Chrysler it will provide up to $6 billion in new financing, on top of the $4 billion in loans it has already given the company, if Chrysler can complete a deal by next Thursday with a cost structure that gives it a chance of survival. The creditors have so far balked at the terms suggested by the Treasury.
U.S. to reveal alleged prison abuse photos
Defense Department officials worry that the Bush-era images will prompt a backlash in the Middle East.
By Peter Wallsten, Julian E. Barnes and Greg Miller
April 24, 2009
Reporting from Washington — The Obama administration agreed late Thursday to release dozens of photographs depicting alleged abuses at U.S. prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan during the Bush White House.
The decision will make public for the first time photos obtained in military investigations at facilities other than the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Forty-four photos that the American Civil Liberties Union was seeking in a court case, plus a “substantial number” of other images, will be released by May 28.
US journalists to face criminal trial in North Korea
If convicted of espionage, the women could be sentenced to at least five years in prison under North Korean law
guardian.co.uk, Friday 24 April 2009 03.55 BST
North Korea has formally decided to indict two US journalists arrested on its border with China more than a month ago.
Laura Ling and Euna Lee, journalists working for former vice-president Al Gore’s San Francisco-based Current TV, were arrested after they allegedly crossed the border from China on 17 March while reporting on North Korean refugees.
North Korean media did not immediately detail charges under the indictments, but the North said last month that the women reporters would be put on trial on charges of illegal entry and unspecified “hostile acts”.
Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency said in a short dispatch today that the North concluded an investigation and formally decided to indict them “based on criminal data confirmed”. It did not elaborate.
Pakistan scrambles to repel Taliban advance
Swat Valley peace deal blamed as government forces come under fire from insurgents 60 miles from capital
By Omar Waraich in Islamabad
Friday, 24 April 2009
The Taliban has seized control of an area just 60 miles from the Pakistani capital Islamabad, provoking fears that militants are attempting to spread their insurgency – and with it their extreme brand of Islam – across the country.
Pakistani forces came under fire yesterday as they attempted to wrest back control of the strategically important district of Buner. The seizure by militants of the district in recent days underlines the strength of the insurgency and its ability to advance from the neighbouring Swat Valley which the Taliban controls, into the heart of Pakistan. Two policemen and a soldier were gunned down as six platoons of the Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary force, were despatched to Buner to attempt to secure government buildings and bridges.
Silvio Berlusconi wants G8 to be in earthquake-stricken city of L’Aquila
• Move sends ‘message of hope’ to region, says PM
• World leaders to join homeless amid rubble
John Hooper in Rome
The Guardian, Friday 24 April 2009
Aftershocks are still rippling through the region, and streets are strewn with the rubble of fallen buildings, but Silvio Berlusconi is undaunted. Yesterday, he unveiled an unlikely plan to switch one of the most exacting, high-profile global summits of the year to the ruins of L’Aquila, the earthquake-stricken city in central Italy still struggling to cope with the privations of its own inhabitants.
“What venue could be more appropriate?” Berlusconi asked yesterday after deciding to move this summer’s G8 summit from the Mediterranean island of La Maddalena to the city devastated by the 6 April quake which killed 295 people.
Moving the venue would send a “message of hope” to the entire region of Abruzzo, Berlusconi said. “I think it could work out very well.”
Ken Loach leads British line-up seeking to score gold at Cannes
From The Times
April 24, 2009
Ken Loach will take on Quentin Tarantino for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival next month, as a host of star directors arrive to do battle on the Riviera.
Both Tarantino and Loach have claimed the prize in previous years; their latest offerings, Inglourious Basterds and Looking for Eric, will compete against films from two more former winners, Lars von Trier and Jane Campion, in what has been billed as Cannes’s “biggest heavyweight auteur smackdown” in recent years.
Three films with strong British connections – Loach’s Looking for Eric, along with Bright Star and Fish Tank – will also vie for the Palme d’Or, guaranteeing a big presence for the UK film industry after last year, when no British film made it into the main competition.
Martyrs of the Iraqi marshes
They survived Saddam, but now the marsh Arabs are losing a battle against nature, reports Patrick Cockburn, winner of the Orwell Prize for journalism 2009
Friday, 24 April 2009
One of the few successes of the Iraqi governments since the fall of Saddam Hussein has been reversing one of his great crimes: the draining of the marshes of southern Iraq and the destruction of the unique water-born civilisation which had survived there for thousands of years.
Now this achievement is in doubt. A prolonged and devastating drought, combined with the building of dams on the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Syria, Turkey and Iran, is reducing the water flow once again and the marshes risk disappearing, possibly forever.
Once double the size of the Everglades in Florida and home to 300,000 people, the marshes nearly vanished in the 1990s when they were drained by Saddam Hussein to stop them being used as hideouts by anti-government guerrillas.
New bombings in Iraq steal thunder from top insurgent’s arrest
Al Qaeda in Iraq appears to be exploiting instability in Iraq’s government
By Tom A. Peter | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
AMMAN, JORDAN – In what Iraqi authorities say could be the biggest blow to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) since its former leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a 2006, a military spokesman announced Thursday that Iraqi security forces had arrested the group’s current leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. [Editor’s note: The original version did not specify the nationality of the security forces.]
The news was a morale boost in Iraq, which has seen increased violence in recent weeks, including two bombings Thursday that killed dozens.
US military officials, however, said that they did not have information from the field to confirm the capture of the self-proclaimed “emir of the Islamic State of Iraq.”
But even if Mr. Baghdadi was captured, Iraq’s recent uptick in violence is not likely to abate soon, experts say. The government remains divided and the country’s sectarian fault lines are easily exploitable.
South Africa’s ANC teeters on edge of supermajority
Partial election returns show the dominant party in South Africa running slightly behind its last showing. The question is whether it will continue being able to alter the constitution at will.
By Robyn Dixon
April 24, 2009
Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa — South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has won a clear victory in this week’s parliamentary elections, but questions remained late Thursday over whether the party would continue to hold the two-thirds majority required to change the constitution at will.
Despite anger over poor services and stubbornly high unemployment, the former liberation party was seeing only a modest decline in its level of support, from close to 70% in the 2004 general election to just under 67%, with more than half the vote counted.
Supporters of the nation’s controversial president-in-waiting, ANC head Jacob Zuma, danced in the streets Thursday night as the results were announced. Analysts, however, said that Zuma may find it difficult to implement an ambitious social agenda as the nation’s commodities-driven economy is being battered by the global downturn.
In South Africa, presidents are voted in by parliament, and as the ANC party president, Zuma is certain to become the nation’s president next month. He told jubilant supporters in Johannesburg that the party’s vote would never sink below 60%.
“For those who do not know the ANC . . . you touch the ANC, you touch a lion,” he said.
18 shabby pirate suspects appear in court
Kenya ramps up prosecution on talk of international piracy tribunal
MOMBASA, Kenya – Shabbily dressed and solemn, 18 Somali men nabbed at sea and hauled ashore by European navies crowded into a Mombasa courthouse Thursday to face piracy charges that could put them behind bars for life.
Kenya appeared to be ramping up prosecutions amid talk of establishing an international piracy tribunal in the country that borders Somalia, the lawless epicenter of a flourishing pirate industry off the Horn of Africa.
The hearings came as a U.S. court this week brought its first piracy charges in over a century, charging a skinny Somali teenager with attacking the American cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama.
Venezuelan court orders arrest for exiled Chávez foe
Manuel Rosales, who ran against Chávez in 2006, is seeking asylum in Peru.
By Tyler Bridges | McClatchy Newspapers
from the April 23, 2009 edition
CARACAS, VENEZUELA – President Hugo Chávez’s offensive against opposition leaders jumped the country’s borders Wednesday.
A Venezuelan court issued an international arrest order for Manuel Rosales, a key Chávez foe who surfaced Tuesday in Peru seeking political asylum.
Wednesday’s developments came only days after Mr. Chávez and President Barack Obama warmed up frosty US-Venezuelan relations with their friendly meeting at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad.
Venezuelan authorities said they want Interpol to arrest Mr. Rosales, the mayor of Maracaibo and Chávez’s opponent in the 2006 presidential election, because he has skipped the country to avoid facing corruption charges.
“He needs to be captured wherever he is,” said Tareck El Aissami, Venezuela’s minister of justice and internal security. “Rosales says he is facing political persecution. But this is a corruption case that doesn’t involve politics.”