Coalition Begins Major Afghan Offensive
By C. J. CHIVERS and DEXTER FILKINS
Published: February 12, 2010
MARJA, Afghanistan – Thousands of American, Afghan and British troops attacked the watery Taliban fortress of Marja early Saturday, moving by land and through the air to destroy the insurgency’s largest haven and begin a campaign to reassert the dominance of the Afghan government across a large arc of southern Afghanistan.
The force of about 6,000 Marines and soldiers – a majority of them Afghan – began moving into the city and environs before dawn.
As Marines and soldiers marched into the area, several hundred more swooped out of the sky in helicopters into Marja itself. Marines from Company K, Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, landed near an intersection of two main roads at the northern fringes of Marja, piled out of the their helicopters and scattered into the houses and compounds around them.
Olympics opening ceremony dedicated to Georgian luger
By Michelle Kaufman | McClatchy Newspapers
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – This wasn’t how organizers envisioned the opening day of the 2010 Winter Olympics – with a death on the luge track, steady rain, protests along the torch relay route and the postponement of Sunday’s women’s alpine event due to slushy conditions on Whistler Mountain.
But for two and a half hours Friday night, the genial can-do Canadians tried to put the troubles aside and celebrate their heritage and the Olympic spirit in front of an estimated worldwide television audience of 3 billion.
Eyeing midterms, Democrats to push Republicans to go on record against key bills
By Scott Wilson
Saturday, February 13, 2010
President Obama has reached out to Republicans in recent weeks, acknowledging that he needs bipartisan support to effectively govern the country. But the White House and congressional Democrats are also hedging their bets with a plan to make a campaign issue of what they say is Republican intransigence.
The emerging strategy seeks to take advantage of the partisan stalemate in Congress over Obama’s nominees and major policy initiatives, and to turn the page on a year when the White House failed to secure passage of complicated health-care and energy legislation.
Toyota races to fix sticky gas pedals
Dealers work around the clock and report that the effort is going relatively smoothly. Toyota says that of the 2.4 million vehicles recalled for the problem in the U.S., 400,000 have been fixed.
By Tiffany Hsu and Jerry Hirsch
February 13, 2010
It’s a monster of a problem, with more than 2.4 million recalled vehicles in the U.S. alone needing repairs.
Yet a week into Toyota’s massive effort to fix sticky gas pedals, dealers and customers say things are moving relatively smoothly.
The rate of cars being fixed is approaching 54,000 a day. Many dealers are keeping service bays open on weekends and operating extended hours. Across the country, Toyota Motor Corp. says it has repaired more than 400,000 vehicles.
“It’s all been pretty smooth,” said Jose Uribe, service manager at Longo Toyota in El Monte.
Berlusconi ally Guido Bertolaso accused of swapping contracts for sex
From The Times
February 13, 2010
Richard Owen in Rome
Another sex scandal has hit the Government of Silvio Berlusconi, with accusations that one of the Prime Minister’s right-hand men was offered “megagalactic” sex parties in return for illegally awarding public contracts.
Guido Bertolaso, 59, the head of the Civil Protection Agency, who became a national hero for overseeing the rescue efforts after the earthquake in Abruzzo last year, offered to resign twice this week after prosecutors said that he was under investigation over alleged sex parties and bribes for public contracts.
The claims relate to the construction of a €327 million (£285 million) complex at the former US naval base of La Maddalena in Sardinia, which was meant to host the G8 summit. Mr Berlusconi moved the summit to L’Aquila, the main city in Abruzzo, as a gesture to the earthquake victims, although critics said that it was because the Sardinia site was not ready.
20 insurgents killed as Jihadist attacks rise in Russia’s Caucasus
An Islamist insurgency is now spreading beyond Chechyna to the entire patchwork of republics known as the north Caucasus.
By Fred Weir Correspondent / February 12, 2010
One of the biggest thorns in Russia’s side since the Soviet Union’s collapse has been Chechnya, one of seven republics along its southeastern flank known collectively as the north Caucasus.
After two wars, Moscow has largely tamed Chechnya’s separatists with the help of strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, though not without cost. An estimated quarter million people have been killed, and the tiny republic has turned into a totalitarian statelet. Dissenters face kidnapping, torture, and extrajudicial execution, says Alexander Cherkassov of Memorial, Russia’s largest independent human rights group.
“Now we are seeing the same methods being applied in Ingushetia and Dagestan,” he says.
Indeed, as fresh unrest brews in the re gion – a crazy quilt of ethnic groups who were forced into the Russian Empire – Russia is applying the same method of suppression that put a lid on Chechnya. President Dmit ry Medvedev has called for the “bandits” to be wiped out, and just today Russian forces said today they had killed at least 20 insurgents in the Ingushetia region of the North Caucasus.
Eight Iraqis held over 2003 killing of military police north of Basra
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 13 February 2010 00.26 GMT
Eight Iraqis suspected of involvement in the deaths of six British military policemen murdered by a mob in southern Iraq in 2003 have been arrested, the MoD said yesterday.
The Red Caps died after coming under attack from an estimated 400-strong mob at a police station in Majar al-Kabir in Maysan province north of Basra.
An inquest into their deaths in 2006 heard details of how some of the men died at the hands of the mob.
Sergeant Simon Hamilton-Jewell, 41, from Chessington, Surrey; Corporal Russell Aston, 30, from Swadlincote, Derbyshire; Cpl Paul Long, 24, of Tyne and Wear; Lance-Corporal Benjamin Hyde, 23, from Northallerton, North Yorkshire; L/Cpl Tom Keys, 20, from Bala, North Wales; and Cpl Simon Miller, 21, from Tyne and Wear, all died in the attack.
The new McCarthyism sweeping Israel
To disagree with the state is to ‘delegitimise’ the state: that is the increasingly strident response of the country’s political and military establishment to those who dare to criticise its conduct
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem Saturday, 13 February 2010
It’s hard, sitting on the other side of the office table from which Naomi Chazan is picking at her modest hummus and salad snack lunch, to believe that the amiable 63-year-old university professor with a self-deprecating sense of humour has suddenly become the most discussed, not to say demonised, woman in Israel.
Ms Chazan is president of a long-established agency with large numbers of Jewish donors in the US and Britain, which is committed to fighting for “social justice and equality for all Israelis”. The New Israel Fund has over the last 30 years disbursed some $200m to around 800 charitable, social and human rights groups, and justly claims much of the credit for building modern Israel’s still vibrant civil society.
How the Taliban pressed bin Laden
Feb 13, 2010
By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON – Evidence now available from various sources, including recently declassified United States State Department documents, shows that the Taliban regime led by Mullah Mohammad Omar imposed strict isolation on Osama bin Laden after 1998 to prevent him from carrying out any plots against the United States.
The evidence contradicts claims by top officials of the Barack Obama administration that Mullah Omar was complicit in bin Laden’s involvement in the al-Qaeda plot to carry out the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. It also bolsters the credibility of Taliban statements in recent months asserting that they have little interest in al-Qaeda’s global jihadi aims.
A primary source on the relationship between bin Laden and Mullah Omar before 9/11 is a detailed personal account provided by Egyptian jihadi Abu’l Walid al-Masri and published on Arabic-language jihadist websites in 1997.
China Sees Growth Engine in a Web of Fast Trains
By KEITH BRADSHER
Published: February 12, 2010
WUHAN, China – The world’s largest human migration – the annual crush of Chinese traveling home to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which is this Sunday – is going a little faster this time thanks to a new high-speed rail line.
The Chinese bullet train, which has the world’s fastest average speed, connects Guangzhou, the southern coastal manufacturing center, to Wuhan, deep in the interior. In a little more than three hours, it travels 664 miles, comparable to the distance from Boston to southern Virginia. That is less time than Amtrak’s fastest train, the Acela, takes to go from Boston just to New York.
Even more impressive, the Guangzhou-to-Wuhan train is just one of 42 high-speed lines recently opened or set to open by 2012 in China. By comparison, the United States hopes to build its first high-speed rail line by 2014, an 84-mile route linking Tampa and Orlando, Fla.
Kenya relocates zebras and wildebeest to feed its hungry lions
From The Times
February 13, 2010
Tristan McConnell in Kenya
Shortly after dawn yesterday, as a large orange sun shone across a classic Rift Valley scene of grassland, acacia trees and misty blue hills, the silence was broken by the thumping blades of a helicopter.
The pilot made low, buzzing runs at small herds of zebra, coaxing them towards a 50m-wide funnel-shaped trap with Tarpaulin walls hidden among the trees.
Once the stamping, snorting animals were inside the funnel, rangers in camouflage fatigues shouted and used sticks to cajole them towards waiting trucks.
Ivory Coast President Gbagbo dissolves government
Ivory Coast’s President Laurent Gbagbo has dissolved the government and electoral commission, casting doubt on when long-delayed elections will occur.
The BBC Saturday, 13 February 2010
Prime Minister Guillaume Soro has been asked to form a new government.
Mr Gbagbo had accused the electoral commission of registering more than 400,000 people who were not eligible to vote because they were foreigners.
The opposition says most of the people were from ethnic groups in the north, who were unlikely to support Mr Gbagbo.
Ivory Coast, which is the world’s biggest cocoa producer, is slowly recovering after being cut in half by a civil war for several years.
However, attempts to hold elections have been repeatedly postponed.’Final actions’
In a recorded message broadcast on Friday, President Gbagbo announced that Ivory Coast’s government had been dissolved.
Haiti marks one month on from the earthquake
Haiti has held ceremonies for the victims of the devastating earthquake which hit the country a month ago, killing at least 217,000 people.
The BBC Saturday, 13 February 2010
Thousands prayed at the exact time the quake struck, on 12 January.
Earlier, Catholic and Voodoo leaders joined other religious figures for a service near the ruined National Palace in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
More than a million Haitians remain homeless, just as the rainy season is due to begin.
Haiti’s President Rene Preval has vowed that his country will live on.
“Haiti will not die, Haiti must not die,” he told mourners at the main service in Port-au-Prince. “Wipe away your tears to rebuild Haiti.
“Today, allow me as citizen Rene Preval, the man, the father of a family, to address you to say that I cannot find the words to speak of this immense pain.