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"Capital Ideas:

Jacques Attali, Banker and Champion of Marx"

Stuart Jeffries, London Guardian

Jacques Attali has changed. When he was the special economic adviser to François Mitterrand in the 1980s, his name was a byword for pomp. In the Elysée Palace, Mitterrand had the most coveted office, but Attali had the best desk, one that had been designed for Napoleon. Mitterrand may have been the French president, critics said, but Attali — for all the brilliant banker's socialist credentials — had the airs of an emperor. He is even Napoleonically short.

That reputation followed Attali to London, where, in 1991, he became the first president of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development and sparked controversy by lavishly marbling the halls of its headquarters. Critics suggested that the £750,000 makeover would have been better spent on the bank's founding purpose — namely to ease former Soviet Bloc countries' transition to capitalism by supplying small businesses with loans. Under Attali, though, the EBRD got a reputation for being the bank that liked to to say "yes" — to itself. He left early in 1993, trailing a reputation for profligacy.

Tens of Thousands Rally in Mexico

Leftist Obrador Leads Opinion Polls

Kevin G. Hall, Knight Ridder Newspapers

MEXICO CITY — Tens of thousands of Mexicans filled an ancient square
in this capital Sunday to hear leftist presidential frontrunner
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pledge to distance himself from U.S.

While not naming the United States or the Bush administration, Lopez
Obrador, a fiery former mayor of Mexico City, made it clear that he
would return Mexico to its traditional foreign policy of
non-intervention in the affairs of its neighbors.

Conservative President Vicente Fox broke that tradition after taking
office in 2000 when he joined the United States in condemning the
lack of fundamental liberties in Cuba and elsewhere. Like U.S.
foreign policy, Mexico's under Fox sought to promote human rights and
civil liberties abroad.

That'll change, Lopez Obrador signaled to a crowd estimated between
70,000 and 120,000. Having led public opinion polls for two years,
Lopez Obrador is on track to become Mexico's first president elected
from a left-wing party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

Anonymous Comrade writes:

"Cartoons and Bombs"

John Chuckman

I wonder, are waves of angry protest, flag burning, and embassy burning in the name of religion any less rational than waves of B-52s, cluster bombs, and torture in the name of democracy?

So when I hear any American official speak about the worldwide protests against unflattering cartoons of Islam’s Prophet, it is difficult to credit the words, but surprisingly there is one statement by an American – someone who ranks third only after George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld for total number of career lies – that I do credit.

Cindy Sheehan Arrested Before State-of-Union Speech

Clarence Williams and Allan Lengel, The Washington Post

Activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested last night after demonstrating in
the spectators gallery of the House of Representatives as part of a larger
war protest that was held outside the Capitol.

Sheehan, who was apparently given a gallery ticket by a member of
Congress, began to attract notice about 30 minutes to an hour before
President Bush's State of the Union speech.

Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, opened her jacket to reveal a
T-shirt that, according to a supporter, gave the number of U.S. war dead and
asked, "How many more?"

She was also vocal, said U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer,
and after she ignored instructions to close her jacket and quiet down, she
was led out and arrested. Demonstrating in the House gallery is prohibited.

"Real Threat Is From Imperial Fundamentalism"

Tariq Ali Inteviewd by Marcus Dam, The Hindu

Writer and political activist Tariq Ali describes himself as a "person of the Left." In a recent interview in Kolkata, he talked about his concerns over an Asia which is "politically undetermined and economically over-determined," and of an Indian political leadership "obsessed with money and markets."

Q: You were initiated into political activism during the Vietnam War and have been engaged in it ever since. How has the world changed since the late sixties? What has become of the human condition and the dignity of man?

We are living in a different epoch than we were 40 years ago. There has been a sea change since then. We have seen a big triumph of global capitalism, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have collapsed, and China is today the most dynamic capitalist state in the world. What we are seeing now are problems of a different sort and a growing opposition in some parts of the world to the American Empire... History never progresses in a straight line, it moves forward, backwards, it zig-zags, and there is no guarantee of progress — it has to be fought for and maintained.

Anticipating Hamas Victory, Palestinian Cabinet Resigns
Steven Erlanger & Greg Myre, New York Times

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, and his
government submitted their resignations Thursday as the radical Islamic
faction Hamas appeared to have scored a major upset and defeated the
ruling Fatah party in parliamentary elections.

However, no official results were expected until Thursday evening.

Fatah, which has dominated Palestinian politics for decades, was favored
in Wednesday's election and exit polls released after the polls closed
projected Fatah as the winner by a narrow margin.

But on Thursday morning, Hamas leaders claimed their own count showed that
the group was winning an outright majority in the 132-seat Palestinian
Legislative Council. Sixty-seven seats are needed for a majority, and
Ismail Haniya, a senior Hamas leader, said the group expected to control at least

Caracas Excels As Left-Wing Haven

Greg Morsbach,
BBC News

Venezuela has been put firmly on the map of global left-wing activism this week, as more than 100,000 people take part in this year's World Social Forum which is being held in the capital city, Caracas.

Students, trade unionists, politicians and academics from 54 countries have arrived at hotels, hostels and Venezuelan host families.

Delegates from around 2,000 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are now taking part in an intensive programme of workshops, panel discussions and seminars which are critical of the free-trade policies at the heart of the World Economic Forum (WEF) being held this week in Davos, Switzerland.

Caracas is by now used to staging big events for foreign visitors, many of whom oppose what they call "neo-liberal" economic policies and are critical of plans to set up a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

"It's obvious why Venezuela is such a magnet for tens of thousands of visitors," said Professor Edgar Lander, one of the main organisers of this year's World Social Forum in Caracas.

"The revolutionary process being carried out by the government here has captured the imagination of the world."

Iran Bars CNN Over Translation of Remarks

Nasser Karimi, Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran ­— Iran said Monday it is barring CNN from working in Iran "until further notice" due to its mistranslation of comments made by the president in a recent news conference about the country's nuclear research.

On Saturday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defended Iran's right to continue nuclear research. State media have complained since the speech that CNN used the translation "nuclear weapons" instead of "nuclear technology."

The ban by the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry was read in a statement on state-run television.

"Due to mistranslation of the words of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his press conference, activities of the American CNN in Tehran are banned until further notice," said a statement by the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry read on state-run television.

CNN acknowledged the mistake.

"CNN quoted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying that Iran has the right to build nuclear weapons," the network said in its report of the ban. "In fact he said that Iran has the right to nuclear energy. He added that, quote, " 'a nation that has civilization does not need nuclear weapons and our nation does not need them.' CNN has clarified what the Iranian president said and apologized here on the air to the Iranians directly, as well as on the air."

Federal Judge Gives Go-ahead in Kurtz Case:

Motion to Dismiss Charges Called "Premature"

Dan Herbeck, Buffalo News

A criminal case that has upset many people in the art world will continue to move forward in federal court here.

In an opinion issued late Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr. refused to recommend dismissal of charges against Steven J. Kurtz, a University at Buffalo art professor who was indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2004.

Kurtz, 47, is a founding member of the Critical Arts Ensemble, a group whose art exhibits often criticize the the federal government. His indictment touched off debate about artistic freedom and the government's efforts to tightly control the distribution of bacterial agents in the post-9/11 era.

It would be "premature" to dismiss the charges, Schroeder wrote. The judge also refused to recommend the suppression of evidence taken from Kurtz's Allentown home after his wife died there in May 2004.

"Even if it assumed . . . that the government will fall short in the required proof, a motion to dismiss the indictment must be considered as being premature and inappropriate in addressing that issue," Schroeder wrote.

The judge said he will schedule a hearing to determine whether some statements Kurtz made to Buffalo police should be suppressed.

Kurtz and Robert E. Ferrell, a human genetics researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, are charged with illegally obtaining bacterial agents from a laboratory in Virginia. They are charged with felony mail fraud and wire fraud.

Microsoft Shuts Down Chinese Blog

Joe McDonald, Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — Microsoft Corp. has shut down the Internet journal of a Chinese blogger that discussed politically sensitive issues, including a recent strike at a Beijing newspaper.

The action came amid criticism by free-speech activists of foreign technology companies that help the communist government enforce censorship or silence dissent in order to be allowed into China's market.

Microsoft's Web log-hosting service shut down the blog at the Chinese government's request, said Brooke Richardson, group product manager with Microsoft's MSN online division at company headquarters in Redmond, Wash.


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