Obama challenges lobbyists to legislative duel

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama challenged the nation’s vested interests to a legislative duel Saturday, saying he will fight to change health care, energy and education in dramatic ways that will upset the status quo.

“The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long,” Obama said in his weekly radio and video address. “But I don’t. I work for the American people.”

He said the ambitious budget plan he presented Thursday will help millions of people, but only if Congress overcomes resistance from deep-pocket lobbies.

“I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight,” Obama said, using tough-guy language reminiscent of his predecessor, George W. Bush. “My message to them is this: So am I.”

The bring-it-on tone underscored Obama’s combative side as he prepares for a drawn-out battle over his tax and spending proposals. Sometimes he uses more conciliatory language and stresses the need for bipartisanship. Often he favors lofty, inspirational phrases.

On Saturday, he was a full-throated populist, casting himself as the people’s champion confronting special interest groups that care more about themselves and the wealthy than about the average American.

Some analysts say Obama’s proposals are almost radical. But he said all of them were included in his campaign promises. “It is the change the American people voted for in November,” he said.

Nonetheless, he said, well-financed interest groups will fight back furiously.

Insurance companies will dislike having “to bid competitively to continue offering Medicare coverage, but that’s how we’ll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs,” the president said. “I know that banks and big student lenders won’t like the idea that we’re ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, but that’s how we’ll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won’t like us ending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that’s how we’ll help fund a renewable energy economy.”

Passing the budget, even with a Democratic-controlled Congress, “won’t be easy,” Obama said. “Because it represents real and dramatic change, it also represents a threat to the status quo in Washington.”

Obama also promoted his economic proposals in a video message to a group meeting in Los Angeles on “the state of the black union.”

“We have done more in these past 30 days to bring about progressive change than we have in the past many years,” the president in remarks the White House released in advance. “We are closing the gap between the nation we are and the nation we can be by implementing policies that will speed our recovery and build a foundation for lasting prosperity and opportunity.”

Congressional Republicans continued to bash Obama’s spending proposals and his projection of a $1.75 trillion deficit this year.

Almost every day brings another “multibillion-dollar government spending plan being proposed or even worse, passed,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who gave the GOP‘s weekly address.

He said Obama is pushing “the single largest increase in federal spending in the history of the United States, while driving the deficit to levels that were once thought impossible.”

source : news.yahoo.com


Japan finance minister steps down

TOKYO: Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa has said he will resign for health reasons, amid claims that he was drunk at a recent G7 meeting.

Mr. Nakagawa said he would resign after the lower house of parliament passed the government’s budget. He earlier apologised for his behaviour at last weekend’s news conference in Rome but blamed cold remedies for a slurred performance there. He said he had not drunk more than a sip of alcohol before facing the media.

Mr Nakagawa’s resignation is seen as a major blow to Prime Minister Taro Aso’s government in an election year.

source : jang.com.pk

Pakistan to seek 4.5 billion dollars from IMF

KARACHI: Pakistan is to ask for an additional loan of 4.5 billion dollars from the International Monetary Fund to patch up an economy wilting under a widening trade deficit, an official said Tuesday.

The request will be on top of a 7.6 billion dollar advance already agreed with the IMF, and comes as Pakistani officials meet creditors to review how the cash is being spent. At the talks in Dubai, which are due to last until February 26, Pakistani and IMF officials will assess financial targets set for the country to qualify for the second installment of the loan, a finance ministry official said.

“During that meeting, Pakistan will ask for an additional loan of 4.5 billion dollars,” the official told on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized by the government to release the information. It was not immediately clear whether the IMF would grant the request.

Pakistan got 3.1 billion dollars in the first tranche of a 23-month standby IMF loan last November, with subsequent payments dependent on Islamabad’s fulfilling targets set by the international fund. Among other tight demands, the IMF wants a reduction in Pakistan’s deficit and huge borrowing from the central State Bank. The country approached the IMF last year for a rescue package as it grappled with a 30-year high inflation rate and fast-depleting reserves that held barely enough to cover nine weeks of import bills.

source : jang.com.pk

Flour price increased in Balochistan

QUETTA: Flour price has been increased in Balochistan and the price of 20 kg bag of flour has gone up to Rs50.

Flour bag of 20 kg is being sold at Rs650 to Rs700 in various districts of Balochistan including Quetta for the last two days whereas the same flour is available at fair-price shops at Rs530.

Flour dealers said that the government has abolished quota for bringing flour from Punjab due to which they are not getting flour from Punjab.

Owners of flour mills in Quetta have refused to lift flour from government godowns saying that wheat imported from Ukraine is sub-standard.

Meanwhile, Director Food Balochistan said that reserves of wheat for two months is available in government godowns and there is no scarcity of flour in the province.

He said that an action would immediately be taken against those increasing the prices of flour in the province.

source : jang.com.pk

DG Khan blast victims laid to rest

DG KHAN: Mass funeral prayer of 21 people died in DG Khan blast yesterday was offered on Friday.

Funeral prayer of 21 out of 31 people killed in DG Khan blast was offered in a play ground of Government High School No.1.

Large number of people came to attend the funeral prayer.

Later, the bodies were sent to their ancestral areas for burial after the prayer.

source : jang.com.pk

Thai cabinet passes bill to prevent airport blockades

BANGKOK: Thailand’s cabinet Wednesday approved a bill aimed at preventing another blockade of its main airport, as they tried to restore confidence after the weeklong siege of Bangkok’s hubs last year.

Protesters trying to topple the previous government seized Suvarnabhumi International Airport and the smaller domestic hub just over two months ago, stranding hundreds of thousands of passengers and stunning the world.

Under the special bill dealing with Suvarnabhumi, airport staff would be able to make arrests, checkpoints would be set up, and drills aimed at preparing staff for a similar incident would be mandatory.

“These measures endorsed by the cabinet today (Wednesday) will help us to regain the confidence of international investors,” said Panitan Wattanayagorn, the government’s spokesman.

source : jang.com.pk

UN criticises violent slum eviction in Cambodian capital

PHNOM PENH: The violent eviction of about 150 families from a slum in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh was an abuse of the country’s law, the United Nations human rights agency said Wednesday.

Authorities used tear gas, rubber bullets and batons to evict residents from Dey Krohom slum Sunday after they failed to reach a deal to sell their property to a construction company planning to build a business centre on the site.

A statement by the Cambodian office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the eviction was “a breach of residents’ right to their land” and “abuse of the land law.”

“All families were brutally taken out of their houses and those who resisted and attempted to protect their property were beaten and pulled away,” the UN human rights office said.

“This is the latest in a far too long series of violent evictions in the capital,” it added.

The Cambodian government is facing mounting criticism for forced evictions throughout the country at the hands of army and police, which have increased as land prices have risen over the past few years.

Last year over 20,000 people were reported affected by forced evictions from their homes, according to human rights groups Amnesty International.

source : jang.com.pk

Somali Islamists to rule by sharia law in Baidoa

BAIDOA: Somalia’s hardline Islamist insurgent group al Shabaab said on Tuesday it had introduced sharia law in Baidoa, a day after taking the town that had been a government stronghold and seat of parliament.

Fighters from al Shabaab, which is on Washington’s list of terrorist groups, captured Baidoa on Monday after the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops who had been supporting the government. They quickly took the airport, parliament building and president’s home, and called locals to a meeting at a football stadium on Tuesday to explain how they would govern. “We will not accept a government which is not working with sharia. We shall make changes in the town and will rule by Islamic law,” al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Muktar Robow Mansoor told hundreds of people in the stadium.

source : jang.com.pk

Pakistan set to achieve 25m-tonne wheat target

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is on course to meet a target of 25 million tonnes of wheat in the 2008/09 crop year but production may be slightly lower in case of bad weather, industry officials said on Tuesday.

An increase in the area planted with wheat, an early end of the cotton crop that made way for wheat sowing and a higher procurement price the government pays farmers were all reasons for the higher output, they said. “The target of 25 million tonnes is achievable,” said Ibrahim Mughal, chairman of the Agri-Forum farmers’ association. “But in case of unfavourable weather, output is expected to be between 24 million and 25 million tonnes.” Pakistan produced 21.8 million tonnes of wheat in the2007/08 crop after the area under cultivation fell 2.6 percent against a target area of 21 million acres (8.49 million hectares), and the government had to import wheat to cover the shortfall and for reserves.

Pakistan consumes about 22 million tonnes of wheat a year while nearly one million tonnes finds its way to neighbouring Afghanistan and Iran, traders say. According to the industry officials wheat has been sown over an area of about 22 million acres, largely because of a 52 percent increase in the procurement price to 950 rupees ($12.05) that encouraged farmers to grow more. “The response of farmers has been very good to the increase in procurement price and that is the reason for the increase in the area planted with wheat,” said Zahoor Agha, a top official of the private All Pakistan Flour Mills Association. “God willing, we will achieve the target of 25 million tonnes,” he said. Domestic wheat prices had become more competitive compared with the cost of imported wheat because of lower prices in the international market.

source : jang.com.pk