How's that recovery working out for you? Probably not so good because we are in the Great Recession. Still. So the two big economic problems right now? First up:
US consumer confidence slips further in week - ABC
Reuters - 2 hours ago
NEW YORK, Feb 23 (Reuters) - ABC News reported on Tuesday that its weekly measure of US consumer confidence slipped further toward its all-time low, indicating that American households are becoming ever more fretful over their personal finances.
Stocks Sell Off as Consumer Data Disappoint TheStreet.com
Consumer Confidence and Dollar Drop Stocks Briefing.com
ABC News - Medill Reports: Chicago - Washington Post - Palm Beach Post
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And it's not just confience that's slipping:
Banks at risk of going bust tops 700
CNNMoney.com - 7 hours ago
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- More than 700 banks, or nearly one out of every 11, are at risk of going under, according to a government report published Tuesday.
How would you grade the financial stability of the FDIC? Wall Street Journal
FDIC's 'Problem Bank' List Grows TheStreet.com
Bizjournals.com - Medill Reports: Chicago - eCreditDaily.com - Ticker Magazine
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In what may be the economy's only good news today, David Lightman (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that some moderate Democrats in Congress are not ecstatic over Barack Obama's health care plan (BigBusinessGiveAway). From the article:
Many centrist Democrats face re-election in November in conservative states and districts, and Republicans are eagerly trying to use Democrats' health care positions against them.
"Everybody is looking at the polls that show, on the one hand, folks want something done," said Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. It's hard to get constituents to agree on specifics, however, and "that makes health care a hard sell," he said.
The most common responses from moderates Tuesday about Obama's blueprint were similar to that of Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., who voted against the Democratic plan in November. "It's better than the House bill," said Altmire, who's a member of the conservative, 54-member House Democratic Blue Dog Coalition. "But we still need to see more cost containment."
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., also was guarded.
"I am not going to make comments on specific proposals - and I just saw this on Monday - until I have an opportunity to digest it." Thirty-nine House Democrats voted against the party's health care plan on final passage in November.
Barack made his deal with Big Pharma and his 'plan' is worth nothing for us. We need real reform and he's not offering it. I hope Congress stands up to him and says no. Loudly.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Tuesday:
Tuesday, February 23, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Iraqi Christians continue to be targeted, Nir Rosen longs for Pinochet, election madness continues and more.
Today the US military announced: "RAMADI, Iraq -- A U.S. Soldier died today in a vehicle related accident in Western Iraq. The Ironsides command team wishes to extend their deepest sympathies and condolences to the family. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kind and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website [. . .] The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." Prior to the announcement, ICCC's count of the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4378. The number is now 4379.
Starting with elections and specifically with the Real Ugly. Yes, it is foundation ugly but it's not Thomas E. Ricks, it's worse: Nir Rosen. Rosen's offering predicitions and those who are familiar with his past attempts at tea leaf reading are immediately laughing. But there's laughable and then there is appalling. Rosen, who looks more and more like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, decided to share the following:
Maliki will probably emerge the victor in the elections. His more sectarian and corrupt Shiite rivals are discredited and unpopular, but more importantly, he is an authoritarian ruler in the Middle East, he would have to be really incompetent if he couldn't stay in power. If Karzai could do it, then Maliki should be able to as well. Of course there is nothing uniquely Middle Eastern about this. In fact maybe looking at post-Soviet states is useful -- that is, the new ruler will not readily relinquish control, even if he has to bend the rules a bit, or operate outside the constitution. This has happened in Asia, Africa, and other places in transition. I hate to admit that I hope Maliki wins. He's the best of all the realistic alternatives. It's not like a more secular candidate is likely to win, so if it's not Maliki it will be Jaafari or Chalabi. Frankly this is a rare case where I hope Maliki violates the constitution, acts in some kind of authoritarian way to make sure he wins the elections, because the alternative is fragmentation, or a criminal, sectarian kleptocratic Shiite elite taking over, and then Iraq might unravel. For now it's still "raveling."
"I hope Maliki violates the constitution"? You really want to say that? I guess it doesn't matter, you're now on the record saying that. Saying that you hope he "violates the constitution, acts in some kind of authoritarian way" and we're talking about Little Nouri, the would-be New Saddam. You can't take that back. You can't put it back into the bottle. Your wish is that the Constitution be trashed, that the process be ignored. When Iraqis have to live with your okaying of that process, remember you wanted it, you encouraged it, you wrote a piece advocating for it. There are no take backs on democracy. Nir Rosen is the perfect example of someone who can be educated and educated but never learn. No one who truly values democracy would ever advocate that the process be trashed, thwarted or ignored. We may not be happy with the results of, for example, an election but when we trash the process, we trash our own democracy. When we critique another society and offer that their authoritarian leader should disregard the laws and the processes, we send a message and it's an ugly and dangerous one.
Refugees International really can't afford these type of comments from Rosen. And just yesterday, the US military was trumpeting a Monday conference on "human rights and the role of the military in a democracy" that over 60 female Iraqi soldiers attended. You can bet that the seminar didn't teach the soldiers to root for their country's Constitution being trashed or that the elections were fraudulent. There is democratic thinking and there is what Nir Rozen has offered which, pay attention, is how the US government has justified installing every despot from Saddam Hussein in Iraq to Augusto Pinochet in Chile. There is no excuse for the 'hope' Rosen has expressed. It is outrageous and it is offensive.
As to his predictions, Nir Rosen will no doubt insist, "I was just there!" Yes, and you've been there before and all of your predictions have been wrong repeatedly (do we need to go into Sahwa for just one example or maybe the way you wrongly predicted what's known as the "civil war" of 2006 and 2007 would go down?). Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) doesn't breeze through like Rosen, Sahar lives there:
When asked why more than 500 candidates were banned just before the elections -- they would answer, "We are not sectarian -- there are as many Shiites as Sunnis on those lists", but when I asked Ahmed Chalabi at a press conference why were the political parties in power, who were religious in nature, targeting the seculars (and not the Sunnis as was the usual question to be asked of a Shiite controlled government), he was taken aback, but recovered quickly and with a knowing twinkle in his eyes, retorted, "Do you see me being targeted??" It was no use telling him that he was part of the biggest and maybe the most powerful Shiite alliance in the country, and therefore not considered secular -- I knew he would not answer -- He was too smart. Instead, he declared, "This conference is to discuss the legality of the ban -- and not the political aspects of it." and ended the conference soon after.
So the struggle, now, is religious vs. secular.
This country was secular once.
Will it be secular again? Do the seculars have a chance?
Difficult to say.
Further bad news for the laughable Nir Rosen comes via the latest ORB poll. Michael Hastings (The Hasting Report, True/Slant) reports that Iraqis were polled last week and
* In Baghdad 65% of people want someone other than Maliki as Prime Minister and fewer people say they are very likely to vote than elsewhere -- just 22% compared with 64% across Iraq as a whole.
*When asked whether conditions for peace and security have improved in the past 3 months 57% of Baghdad voters say things have worsened and across all of Iraq more than half (54%) think things have gotten worse or not improved.
* 96% of voters want change in the country -- with most wanting significant change. Maliki's status quo is not endough.
* An average of 64% of voters have an unfavourable view of Iran -- only 18% have a favorable view and 68% of all voters think that Iran is a bad influence in Iraq.
The polling reflects earlier reporting by Aseel Kami (Reuters) who noted over a week ago that the lack of basic services were impacting Iraqi attitudes towards voting.
Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) profiles a few of the candidates running for Parliament including an activist "for those the war has left wounded," Karim Radhi al-Khafaji who states, "I consider myself the candidate for the disabled and the deprived and those who are marginalized. [. . .] We have not seen anyone pay attention to us, including the prime minister." He offers that the percentage of people disabled or challenged in Iraq is 13% greater than the "world average of 2 percent".
Ahmed Chalabi has reported cut a deal with Tehran that, if true and if they stick with it, would slide Nouri al-Maliki to the side after the elections and allow Chalabi to be Prime Minister. (If true. Some are beginning to wonder if the original source of the rumor isn't Chalabi himself.) Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) reports on a recent interview the War Criminal gave:
Chalabi was obnoxious with Souhair Al-Qayssi and she would not let him off the hook, he did not intimidate her with his aggressiveness and she grilled him...Good for you Souhair, you're my kind of an Iraqi woman ! At one point his lies were so blatant that S.Al-Kayssi could not contain her laughter...this is how comic it was ...but let me not waste more time with my introduction and let's get down to what Chalabi said. I did take short notes but I am not a secretary and my mind is not a computer bank for storing data either..so there may be some grotesque lies that I may not remember as well... S.Q : Why the fall out with the U.S ?A.C : The U.S wants to bring back the Baath to Iraq so they can fight Iran in Iraq (no joke) Since 2004, I knew that this was Bremer's plan, after I initiated the De-baathification process and that is why I backed off. Now the U.S feels remorse for having removed the Baathists and they want them back in. S.Q : (smiling wide) But you were close to the CIA yourself and you welcomed with open arms the U.S occupation, what changed ? A.C : We (the Iraqi National Congress/opposition) have always refused the Occupation (no joke). I stood in the U.S congress in 1998 and asked for the liberation of Iraq and not its occupation. The cooperation with the US was limited, with the sole aim of removing Saddam Hussein, they liberate us and then they leave. I only have the best of interests for Iraq and its sovereignty ... S.Q : But you had a honeymoon season with the U.S and some say you worked for the CIA and that the Justice and Accountability Committee which you now head was formed by Bremer himself... A.C : Me, the CIA, never ! I went to Bremer with my daughter (her name is T.Chalabi) and told him you are not giving us sovereignty, you are not allowing a full Iraqi government as you promised, I even told Manning (some British Foreign official) that even Gertrude Bell in the 20's was more merciful in her approach to Iraq than you guys.
Meanwhile the Ahrar Party issued this release today:
Tonight on al-Arabiya, Ayad Jamal Aldin sets out his party's policies to secure the future of a united and peaceful Iraq
Ayad Jamal Aldin says that only Ahrar has a detailed and credible plan to end the sectarian violence and intimidation that blights the lives of all Iraqis and bring peace to our country.
On the Race To Parliament programme, he points out that of all the parties standing for election, Ahrar is the only party with a comprehensive and plausible plan to provide water, electricity and jobs in Iraq.
Ayad Jamal Aldin believes that Iraq's young people are capable and full of energy, ideas, and aspirations.
On the show, he recognises the need for Iraqis to build their own future, without the assistance of outsiders, and announces that under Ahrar 1200 Iraqis with college degrees will be sent to foreign universities to earn a degree in management leadership.
Ayad Jamal Aldin also explains the fundamental disagreement with the existing party structures which made it necessary to form the Ahrar Party as a standalone organisation, outside of previous coalitions. It reflects his belief that only an independent Iraqi organization not tainted by the corruption and failings of current political parties can be free to make the change Iraq needs.
He also reveals his opinion on the recent troubles between the Iraqi government and the Mujaheden Khalq in Diyala Province and the effect of these events on Iraq's foreign reputation.
Commenting on the US presence in Iraq Ayad Jamal Aldin says: "The American presence in Iraq is a fact. It is up to diplomacy to deal with the situation, not violent actions."
For further information, contact:
Ahrar Media BureauTel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 email@example.com
About Ayad Jamal Aldin:
Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.
Todya's violence included another assault on Iraqi Christians. Jamal Al-Badrani, Jack Kimball and Andrew Roche (Reuters) report a Mosul home invasion which resulted in 3 Iraqi Christians being killed -- a father and two sons. International Christian Concern is calling on Iraqi Christians to turn out at the polls in spit of the recent violence targeting them: "If Iraqi Christians do not vote in the general election, then minority rights will not be fully recognized, and the survival of Christianity in Iraq will be dictated and confined by radical sectarianism." . Saturday AFP reported that Adnan al-Dahan has become the fifth Iraqi-Christian killed in Mosul last week (at least one other has been wounded) and that the shopkeeper's corpse was found today in Mosul. AFP notes the other four victims: 20-year-old Wissam George (Wednesday), 21-year-old Zia Toma (killed Tuesday, Rasin Shmael was also wounded), 40-year-old Fatukhi Munir (Monday) and 43-year-old Rayan Salem Elias (Sunday). And they remind, "In late 2008, a systematic campaign of killings and targeted violence killed 40 Christians and saw more than 12,000 flee Mosul." Spero News reported the mood in Mosul is "fear and shock" and quotes an unnamed Chaldean priset stating, "It is an ethnic cleansing that goes on day after day, in silence and indifference. We are in deep distress as the authorities and the police do nothing to stop this massacre." Vatican Radio spoke with Mosul's Syrian Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa about a meeting with Iraqi officials yesterday.Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa: We bishops are from Mosul city went to visit civilian governor and we spoke with him and with the chief of police about the Christian situation in Mosul especially. And we present our message about the [responsibility] of the local government and the central goverment to take care of the security of citizens and officially of Christians. Zenit News reported that Archibishop Emil Shimoun Nona "is asking for prayers as more and more of his faithful leave Mosul because of a violent intimidation campaign that has brought" multiple deaths. Joan Lewis (Joan's Rome, EWTN) provided background on Archbishop Amil Nona:At 42 he is the yougest archbishop in the Catholic Church and he succeeds the martyred Archbishop Paulos Rahho who was killed in 2008. The youthful archibishop's election by the synod of the Chaldean Church was confirmed by Pope Benedict last November 13. He took possession of his see just a little over a month ago on January 8.[. . .]I am once again writing this blog at a late hour and the lights have gone out twice -- though only briefly – since I started this column. Electricity is rationed in Iraq for anywhere from two to 12 hours a day. If you don't have a generator you have to learn how to ration those hours. The seminary does have a generator, for which I have been thankful countless times every day! Given these conditions I wll briefly describe our meeting today and tell most of the story with some delightful photos.I firmly believe that Archbishop Nona's greatest gift to his people is his youth, He is young in age but also in visions and dreams. He is a realist and knows the security issues in Mosul, knows that hundreds of his families have emigrated to safer havens such as Kurdistan but he wants to give them hope and bring them back or, at least, keep families here. Today Vatican Radio featured Baghdad's Chaldean Bishop Shelmon Warduni:
Chaldean Bishop Shelmon Warduni: Our situation in this time is not so good -- especially in Mosul -- because there are many attacks against our Christians. Some of them were killed. So they are afraid. And they are leaving, many of them are leaving Mosul or our country to other countries and this is very, very bad for us. So we ask our people and everybody to do the election because this is the right and duty of everybody to build our country and to elect the good people who can build our country because we don't want our question of Christians politicized. We want to be as everybody in our country with our rights, with our duties and we thank God for everything.
Also today, Human Rights Watch issued the following release:
Iraq's government should bolster security to protect the lives of Christians in Mosul, Human Rights Watch said today. Since February 14, 2010, five Christians have been killed in Mosul in separate attacks that appear to be politically motivated, given the country's looming national election.
Human Rights Watch called on the government to take immediate measures, such as an increased security presence in Chaldo-Assyrian neighborhoods before and during the elections, to help prevent a repeat of a campaign of violence that devastated the community in Mosul in late 2008.
"Iraq's authorities need to act now to stop this campaign of violence against Christians from spreading again," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "In particular, the government needs to see that those responsible for these murders are swiftly arrested and prosecuted to protect Mosul's Christians from further violence."
According to information obtained by Human Rights Watch, on February 16, assailants impersonating secret police approached Zaya Toma and his cousin, Ramsin Shmael, while they waited at a bus stop in Mosul's al-Tahrir district on their way to the university they attend. Speaking in Arabic, the assailants asked Toma, a 22-year-old engineering student, and Shmael, a 21-year-old pharmacy student, for their identity cards. Although identity cards in Iraq do not indicate religion or ethnicity, assailants have often used the victim's name as a marker of his or her religious or ethnic affiliation.
After Toma produced his card, one of the assailants shot him point-blank in the head, killing him instantly. Ramsin tried to run but was shot twice; one bullet shattered his teeth. The assailants fled, apparently assuming they had killed both students, although Shmael survived. Family members arrived on the scene before the police, to find Toma lying in a pool of blood, his books on one side of his body, his identity card on the other.
The incident has devastated the broader family of Toma and Shmael, who escaped to northern Iraq from Baghdad in the summer of 2007 after receiving threats to kill them unless they converted to Islam. Family members say they want to move again - this time out of Iraq - to join the hundreds of thousands of Chaldo-Assyrians who have fled since 2003.
"By killing Zaya, they have taken everything from us," a family member told Human Rights Watch. "Our only crime is that we are Christian,"
The attack was one of several killings of Christians in Mosul the same week:
On February 20, the body of Adnan Hanna al-Dahan was found in northern Mosul. The 57-year-old Syrian Orthodox grocer had been kidnapped by unknown assailants from inside his shop a few days earlier.
On February 17, the bullet-ridden body of Wissam George, a 20-year-old Assyrian studying to be a teacher, was found after he disappeared that morning on his way to school.
On February 15, gunmen stormed a grocery store and killed Fatukhi Munir, its owner.
On February 14, Rayan Salem Elias, a Chaldean man, was shot dead outside his home.
While the identities of the perpetrators remain unknown, the spike in attacks against Christians comes only days ahead of Iraq's March 7 parliamentary vote. Families of the victims and community leaders believe the violence is politically motivated and are appealing to the government for protection.
The Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, Emil Shimoun Nona, said the most recent killings could prompt a new wave of refugees fleeing northern Iraq, where Christians live in constant apprehension. Since 2003, between 250,000 and 500,000 Christians - or about half the Christian population - have left the country, according to the UN High Commission for Refugees. In January, Archbishop Nona was installed as successor to Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, whose body was found in March 2008, ten days after kidnappers seized him as he was leaving the Holy Spirit Church in Mosul.
Human Rights Watch said that the recent attacks recall the campaign of targeted killings against Chaldo-Assyrians in Mosul in late 2008 that the organization documented in a 51-page report, "On Vulnerable Ground: Violence against Minority Communities in Nineveh Province's Disputed Territories," released in November 2009. The orchestrated violence left 40 Chaldo-Assyrians dead and led to a mass exodus of more than 12,000 from their homes in Mosul. Assailants targeted Christians in their homes, in workplaces, and in places of worship.
Those killings began shortly after the Christian community lobbied the Iraqi parliament to pass a law that would set aside a greater number of seats for minorities in the January 2009 provincial elections. The attacks escalated after Christians held demonstrations in Nineveh and Baghdad in response to parliament's decision (later amended) to drop a provision in the provincial elections law ensuring political representation for minorities.
The report also documented intimidation and restrictions on freedom of movement by Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq of other minority groups in Nineveh, including Yazidis and Shabaks, during the 2009 provincial elections.
Iraq's worldwide refugee population includes a large number of Christians. It also includes many other targeted groups: LGBT members, Sunnis, Shi'ites, Jews, etc. Taylor Luck (Jordan Times) reports that the Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission is urging groups and organizations -- and even journalists! -- to watch and monitor polling closely . . . outside Iraq.
In addition to the 3 Christians killed in the home invasion, there was other reported violence . . . .
Reuters notes a Mosul sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer, a Baghdad plastic bag bombing which claimed 1 life and left three people injured, a Kirkuk roadside bombing which left two people injured and, dropping back to Monday for the rest, a Mosul roadside bombing which injured one person, a Tikrit bombing which claimed 2 lives, a Tikrit bombing which injured two police officers and a Kirkuk bombing which injured one person. Yesterday's snapshot noted: "[. . .] a Ramadi suicide car bombing which claimed the life of the bomber and the lives of 3 other people (with seven police officers injured), [. . .]" Anne Tang (Xinhua) reports the death toll rose to five (plus the suicide bomber).
Reuters notes 2 police officers shot dead in Mosul, 1 woman shot dead in Mosul and, dropping back to Monday, an armed clash in Mosul in which 1 soldier and 1 assailant were killed.
In the United States, the Los Angeles Times notes that ProPublica's T. Christian Miller has been awarded the $35,000 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting as a result of the articles he and the paper collaborated on about civilian workers in Iraq:Miller's articles are available at latimes.com/con-tractors and propubli-ca.org/contractors. Terry Gross (NPR's Fresh Air) spoke with T. Chrisitan Miller January 11, 2010 and link has audio and text (including transcript). And we'll close with this on the Black Forum, The State of Black America which takes place tomorrow (Wednesday) in New York.
Media Contact: David Webb – 212.372.3414, firstname.lastname@example.orgBLACK FORUM, THE STATE OF BLACK AMERICA - A BLACK HISTORY MONTH PRESENTATIONBi-Partisan Coalition Formed to Discuss and Take Action on Issues in the Black CommunityNew York, NY…February 22, 2010 -- The Henrietta Wells Livermore School of Politics (Host Committee), Manhattan Republican Community Coalition, New York Urban League Young Professionals and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Alpha Gamma Lambda Chapter, have joined to tackle important issues during Black History Month. An impressive and diverse panel has been assembled. Community outreach is broad and a diverse audience is expected to attend.
The bi-partisan forum will focus on Employment, Business, Education, Healthcare and Crime, not just politics.
There will be a press conference at 6:00pm. A bloggers row is also available. The forum will be webcast live and available on-demand at www.blackforum.info (under construction). C-SPAN will tape and rebroadcast the Black Forum.
Date: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 Time: 6:00 - 9:00pm (6:15pm - doors open; 7:00pm - program begins)Location: 3 West 51st Street (at 5th Avenue) in ManhattanOn-site: Mult Box, Camera Risers and Power
Charles Payne CEO Wall Street Strategies, FOX Business Contributor www.wstreet.com Marc Lamont Hill Professor of Education, Columbia University www.marclamonthill.com Tara Dowdell Business and Political Strategist www.taradowdell.net Janks Morton Documentary Filmmaker, Activist wbmt.wordpress.com Jehmu Greene President, Women's Media Center www.womensmediacenter.com
Niger Innis National Spokesman, Congress Of Racial Equality www.core-online.org George Holmes Executive Director, Congress Of Racial Equality www.core-online.org David Banks President, The Eagle Academy Foundation www.eagleacademyfoundation.com Vincent Morgan Congressional Candidate, NY-15 www.morgan4congress.com Michael Faulkner Congressional Candidate, NY-15 www.faulknerforcongress.com
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