Ben Bernanke says Fed didn’t act quickly enough to stop reckless mortgage lending
But the central bank’s chairman defends its role in rescuing giant firms such as insurer AIG, saying that it needed to take steps to stave off an economic collapse.
By Don Lee
July 27, 2009
Reporting from Kansas City, Mo. — After taking a pounding in Congress over the economic crisis and the multibillion-dollar bailout of ailing financial firms, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke went to Middle America to try to explain the central bank’s actions and shore up its bruised image.
In his efforts to open a window into the traditionally secretive institution, Bernanke conceded to an assembled audience here Sunday that the Federal Reserve did not act soon enough to stop reckless mortgage lending that fueled the global financial crisis.
But he defended the Fed’s part in rescuing giant firms such as insurer American International Group Inc., saying that he was “disgusted” by their reckless behavior but needed to take steps to stave off an economic collapse.
“I was not going to be the Federal Reserve chairman who presided over the second Great Depression,” he said firmly in an event to be aired this week on the PBS program “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.”
Files Vanished, Young Chinese Lose the Future
By SHARON LaFRANIERE
Published: July 26, 2009
WUBU, China – For much of his education, Xue Longlong was silently accompanied from grade to grade, school to school, by a sealed Manila envelope stamped top secret. Stuffed inside were grades, test results, evaluations by fellow students and teachers, his Communist Party application and – most important for his job prospects – proof of his 2006 college degree.
Everyone in China who has been to high school has such a file. The files are irreplaceable histories of achievement and failure, the starting point for potential employers, government officials and others judging an individual’s worth. Often keys to the future, they are locked tight in government, school or workplace cabinets to eliminate any chance they might vanish.
Reach of Subsidies Is Critical Issue for Health Plan
By ROBERT PEAR
Published: July 26, 2009
WASHINGTON – The major health care bills moving through Congress would require nearly all Americans to have health insurance. But as lawmakers struggle to achieve the goal of universal coverage, a critical question is whether the plans will be affordable to those who are currently uninsured.
All the bills offer some kind of assistance to lower-income people who do not get health benefits through the workplace. The bills would provide premium subsidies to millions of people and would establish limits on consumers’ out-of-pocket costs. But lawmakers and consumer groups say insurance could still be out of reach for many families with modest incomes who receive small subsidies or none at all.
Infectious Diseases Study Site Questioned
Tornado Alley May Not Be Safe, GAO Says
By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 27, 2009
The Department of Homeland Security relied on a rushed, flawed study to justify its decision to locate a $700 million research facility for highly infectious pathogens in a tornado-prone section of Kansas, according to a government report.
The department’s analysis was not “scientifically defensible” in concluding that it could safely handle dangerous animal diseases in Kansas — or any other location on the U.S. mainland, according to a Government Accountability Office draft report obtained by The Washington Post. The GAO said DHS greatly underestimated the chance of accidental release and major contamination from such research, which has been conducted only on a remote island off the United States.
Afghanistan agrees provincial ceasefire with Taliban
Announcement comes as Britain renews call for peace talks
Matthew Weaver and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Monday 27 July 2009 08.41 BST
Afghanistan announced its first provincial ceasefire agreement with the Taliban today as the British government renewed its backing for Northern Ireland-style talks with the group in an effort to end the conflict.
The truce was agreed on Saturday in the remote north-western Badhis province, near the border with Turkmenistan, the presidential spokesman Seyamak Herawi told Reuters.
He said Afghanistan wanted to make similar deals with the Taliban in other parts of the country ahead of the presidential elections on 20 August.
“As long as the ceasefire holds, the government does not have the intention to attack the Taliban [in Badghis]. And the Taliban can also take part in the elections,” Herawi said.
Teenage bombers are rescued from Taleban suicide training camps
From The Times
July 27, 2009
Zahid Hussain in Mingora
Murad Ali, one of five schoolboy suicide bombers rescued from a Taleban training camp, looks haggard beyond his 13 years.
He was thrilled at first when he was given a gun, but Murad told The Times last week of his ordeal at the hands of the Islamists, who have kidnapped 1,500 children like him to prepare for their fatal missions.
Murad was studying in class five in Mingora, the main city in northwest Pakistan’s Swat Valley, when the Islamists abducted him and took him to their remote mountain base in Chuprial.
Looking drained in his smudged clothes and dirty sandals, he gave a glimpse into the short life that awaits boys who are taken by the Taleban.
Son of leading scientist dies in jail as fears grow over fate of Iran’s political prisoners
• Two inmates die from meningitis in Evin prison
• Former detainees speak of harassment and torture
Robert Tait and Saeed Kamali Dehghan in Tehran
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 26 July 2009 21.01 BST
Fears are mounting over the safety of hundreds of political inmates in Iran’s most notorious prison following the deaths of two prisoners detained in the recent post-election unrest.
Mohsen Rouholamini and Amir Javadifar died in Tehran’s Evin prison after being arrested at a demonstration this month. Rouholamini, the son of a prominent Iranian scientist close to the country’s political elite, died from meningitis after injuries believed to have been inflicted by his jailers went untreated.
The deaths prompted fears of a meningitis outbreak in Evin and other overcrowded detention centres where opposition figures, journalists and students are kept following last month’s disputed election.
Reformist gains in Kurdish vote shake Iraq’s quiet north
Calls for end to monopoly control of power generate strong results for Goran party
By Patrick Cockburn in Sulaimaniyah
Monday, 27 July 2009
The surprisingly strong showing by a reformist party in Kurdistan elections is shaking the power structure in what has long been the most stable part of Iraq.
The “Goran” party – which translates as “change” – did particularly well in Sulaimaniyah, in eastern Kurdistan. This region has long been the stronghold of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani. The electoral setback to his party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), is reported to be so severe he is considering resignation, according to al-Sharqiya, a television news channel.
Bayreuth Festival starts new era by discussing Hitler and Wagner
From The Times
July 27, 2009
Roger Boyes in Berlin
It could be the making of a revolution in one of Germany’s most hallowed cultural shrines.
The two great-granddaughters of the composer Richard Wagner held their first Bayreuth Festival this weekend – and have promised to reveal the Wagner family’s link to the Nazis.They even want to tackle the question of whether their grandmother, Winifred Wagner, slept with Hitler.
Eva Pasquier-Wagner, 64, and Katharina Wagner, 31, took over the festival from their ailing father, Wolfgang, and are committed to making the event, which is a high point in the classical music calendar, modern.
After 25 years of conflict, Turkey makes overtures to Kurds
As votes cast by Iraqi Kurds Saturday are counted, Kurds in Turkey are mulling recent overtures made by Ankara. After 25 years of conflict between Turkey and Kurdish separatists, there are signs of a rapprochement.
TURKEY | 26.07.2009
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced last week that his government was working on steps to solve the Kurdish conflict, which has claimed over 40,000 lives.
“Whether we call it the Kurdish, the southeast or eastern problem, whether we call it the Kurdish initiative, we have started work on this,” Erdogan told a news conference before departing on a trip to Syria.
He did not say when the plan would be announced or what it might entail, but did say the interior ministry was already discussing the issue with other branches of government including the military and the national intelligence agency.
South Africa faces strike chaos
South Africa is bracing itself for a week in which bus, train and municipal workers are all set to go on strike.
By Jonah Fisher
BBC News, Johannesburg
The industrial action will see more than 160,000 people stop work in support of claims for higher wages.
This is the latest in a series of challenges for South Africa’s new President Jacob Zuma, who has called for understanding from workers.
There were violent demonstrations in several townships last week, during which some 200 people were arrested.
It is proving to be a cold and difficult winter for Jacob Zuma.
Just two months after taking power, he is facing South Africa’s first recession since the end of apartheid.
Military signals softening in Honduras crisis
Exiled President Zelaya has set up camp on the Nicaraguan border to keep up pressure on interim government.
By Sara Miller Llana | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the July 26, 2009 edition
MEXICO CITY – With mediation talks over the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya broken down last week, and international pressure failing to get the interim government to step down, everyone is asking: What’s next?
Mr. Zelaya crossed into his country Friday, and then set up a camp at the Nicaraguan border over the weekend, vowing to come back to the border as many times as necessary.
The interim government has vowed to arrest Zelaya on charges, including treason, after he was exiled by the military June 28 in what the international community has declared a coup, though leaders in Honduras maintain the move was legal. Many feared his return could spark widespread conflict.
Instead, the moment passed. The interim government shrugged it off as a publicity stunt and foreign leaders condemned the move, saying it will do nothing to get Honduras back on constitutional track.