Century 21 1 Decade 9  th yr
Century 21 2008- AD


Ehud Barak with Secretary of State Rice
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak with Secretary of State Rice, in
Barak today speaking of war with Hamas "to the bitter end."

Jan 1  In Gaza, in the sixth day of what Israel considers to be a war to defend itself, Israel's airforce strikes the home of Nizar Rayyan, killing him and at least four other people. So far, Nizar Rayyan is the most senior Hamas leader killed in the war. He wore a military uniform, was a liaison between the group's military and political wings and had been calling for renewed suicide bombings against Israel. In 2001, according to the Israelis, he had sent his son on a suicide mission against them.

Jan 1  In Baghdad, military responsibility for the Green Zone formally passes from the United States to the Iraqi government. Prime Minister Maliki calls this the "day of sovereignty for which we have waited for more than seventeen years."

Jan 2  Demonstrators in the West Bank express outrage and express an ancient religious concept as an intended means of triumph against Israel's superior military machine: sacrifice. They chant "We will sacrifice our soul and our blood for Gaza."
Jan 2  Some who support Israel believe that sacrifice employed by Hamas includes a willingness to risk the lives of Muslim civilians by storing weaponry amid them.

Jan 2  Israelis complain that after they vacated Gaza in 2005, instead of launching economic projects Hamas launched rockets and smuggled in vast amounts of weaponry. Hamas, they complain, does not support the right of Israel to exist and has launched violence against their country. They believe that their nation has the same right as other nations to employ its military to defend itself. They see cutting the supply of weaponry to Hamas fighters as part of this defense.

Jan 3  Israel begins its ground campaign into Gaza. For Israel it is a showdown intended to end other than in a compromise that leaves Hamas in power. Hamas is also speaking against compromise, saying "we will not surrender or give in to your conditions." Israel had showdowns in 1967 and 1974, which they won. They had a war in 2006 in response to rockets being fired into Israel by Hezbollah from Lebanon, and ouside Israel there was much bewailing over civilian casualties in Lebanon. Hezbollah emerged triumphant, and Israelis now believe that their country's military response then was too weak, and they believe this should not be repeated.

Jan 4  Israel has begun a military occupation of Gaza. The occupation will better allow the Israelis to keep hostile weaponry out of Gaza and allow a flow in and out of non-military goods - the latter easing distress among the Gazans. The unknown is the extent or speed with which Israelis will be able to divide the Gazan populace from Hamas.

Jan 4  From Israel comes a description of the Israeli government and citizenry being opposed to a lengthy reoccupation of Gaza. An alternative mentioned by one observer - not an Israeli is an international occupation force. This question brings to mind the UN force that stood between the Egyptians and Israelis at the end of the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

Jan 6  Toxins from cigarette smoke accumulate in clothing, other fabrics and hair and can be ingested in dangerous amounts by infants, according to Professor Jonathan Winickoff Massachusetts General Hospital.

Jan 6  Baghdad police report that a female suicide bomber killed at least 35 Shia pilgrims, including 16 Iranians.

Jan 6  About the war between Hamas and Israel, Anne Applebaum, op-ed columnist for the Washington Post, describes current diplomacy as futile in ending the war. She writes that "[T]his war won't be over until someone has won."

Jan 6  President Bush declares protection for three areas in the Pacific that are under US jurisdiction, totaling 505,757 square kilometers. It is described as the largest marine conservation effort in history.

Jan 8  On this the 13th day of the Gaza War more than 750 Gazans are counted as having been killed, 40 percent of them women and children.

Jan 8  Former President Carter claims that the Gaza War "could easily have been avoided." He suggests that Hamas tried to bargain in good faith but couldn't accept Israel's proposal to allow only 15 percent of normal supplies into Gaza. And so, Carter writes, Hamas resumed its rocket attacks. Israelis have a different view of Hamas. They see Hamas as ideologically opposed to the existence of Israel and, with help from Iran, bent on destroying it. They remember the former Hamas leader Nizzar Rayyan describing Israel as an "impossibility" and "an offense against God."

Jan 9  The imam of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, Sheikh Saud bin Ibrahim Al-Shuraim, urges Muslim leaders "to do whatever is possible for the victory of their brethern in Gaza." A return to the Koran and Sunnah, he says, is a prerequisite for success. He links the "brutal crimes" of the Israeli forces to that of the Crusaders of the Middle Ages and he speaks of the failure of international institutions "to protect Muslims and their rights."

Jan 10  A comment on a Muslim website, reformislam.org, about anti-Israel protests throughout the Muslim world, reads: "Somebody please call us the day a similar protest is held against al Qaeda's mass murder of Muslims in Iraq or Pakistan."

Jan 11  Sixty Minutes reviews the steep rise in the price of oil and its fall last year. Back then, some economists and others were ignoring figures and blaming supply and demand. Some were blaming the Saudis for the rise. Sixty Minutes portrays the rise largely as Saudi King Abdullah had described it, as speculation. The rise in demand was for profits from rising oil prices. The expectation of profits evaporated when the bubble burst.

Jan 11  The Israeli Defense Force categorically denies, with detail, the accusation that it is using white phosphorus. White phosphorus in bombs and shells produces serious burns or death.

Jan 13  Hillary Clinton describes Obama's position on Hamas versus Israel: "I think on Israel, you cannot negotiate with Hamas until it renounces violence, recognizes Israel and agrees to abide by past agreements. That is just for me, you know, an absolute. That is the United States government's position; that is the president-elect's position." A lot of people are entering disappointment with Obama and his Secretary of State, HIllary Clinton, among them, Phyllis Bennes, a left-of-center writer. Apparently referring to Hillary rather than Hamas, she complains on the NewsHour about the need to change "the mindset" that leads to war.

Jan 13  Germany's center-right government led by Angela Merkel has unveiled an economic stimulus package worth about $67 billion. The package includes investments for railways, roads and schools and tax relief.

Jan 15  Pakistan Interior Ministry announces cooperation with India against the "common enemy" of terrorism. It says that it has moved against those suspected of being behind the Mumbai attacks of last November. It claims that among other actions taken it has closed web sites, training camps and has detained 71 people.

Jan 18  Israel declares a cease-fire and says it will continue to occupy Gaza militarily and retaliate against any attack. Hamas responds at first by announcing that it will continue fighting as long as Israeli troops occupy Gaza. Then it announces a one-week cease-fire to give Israel an opportunity to withdraw.

Jan 18  Wars have been the product of widespread attitude. Today, most Israelis support their military's occupation of Gaza and readiness to retaliate against any attack. Also today a Palestinian in the West Bank who supports Hamas, tells the BBC, "I am so happy because in the end we won." A Palestinian student in Jerusalem tells the BBC that "it is our land and Hamas must defend it."

Jan 18  Fareed Zakaria characterizes George Bush's "single most significant bad decision" during his presidency as his tax cut. "Rather than pay down debt and save in good times for the inevitable bad times, Bush squandered it all so that all of us - particularly high income earners - could indulge in a bit more consumption." Bush, of course, believed that the tax cut would stimulate economic growth and create more tax revenue.

Jan 20  The Israeli government has changed its mind. It began pulling its military out of Gaza yesterday, and the last of its troops are scheduled to be out today, coinciding with a demand by Hamas that they withdraw.

Jan 20  Barack Hussein Obama II is inaugurated the forty-fourth president of the United States.

Jan 21  According to a Wikipedia reprint of a report in Pakistan's News, in areas of the Pakistani state of Swat controlled by Taliban militants, "Some 400 private schools enrolling 40,000 girls have been shut down. At least 10 girls' schools that tried to open after the January 15, 2009 deadline by the Taliban were blown up by the militants in the town of Mingora, the headquarters of the Swat district." The Taliban militants have been at war with Pakistan's central (federal) government since 2007.

Jan 21  In Gaza, Hamas reasserts political control and is rounding up political opponents - backers of the more moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - and accusing them of having colaborated with Israel.

Jan 21 An article in the New York Times reports that in Gaza Israeli soldiers destroyed the farming village of Juhr el Dik. The houses were flattened by bulldozers and tanks. The livelihood of the area, olive trees, were also flattened. It takes twenty years for regrowth. Israelis claim that Hamas fired on them from the area. Villagers say they had no close relations with Hamas, that Hamas drove in, fired a rocket and left.
President Obama
President Obama

Jan 21 Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk show host and respected intellectual leader of the Republican Party in years past, takes issue with fellow Republicans who say they support President Obama. Limbaugh describes himself as "a thinker" and too many others as emotional in their belief in or support for Obama. He tells fellow conservative Sean Hannity that he is worried that Obama will ruin the US by giving the government too large of a role in the economy, with "many people thinking that just because they're Americans they're entitled to things." He says that his critics will complain that he "is not with the program."

Jan 22  Italy's eminent newspaper, Corriere della Sera, reports that Hamas forced people to stay in homes from which they shot at Israeli soldiers. A Hamas soldier is described as shouting to fellow Gazans: "Cowards, the soldiers of the holy war will punish. And in any case all will die, like us. Attacking the Jewish Zionists we are all destined for paradise. Are you unhappy that we die together?"

Jan 25  Hamas representative Usama Hamadan speaks of the ability to get weapons into Gaza during the peak of the war, under shelling. "It's our right to have weapons," he says. "We will continue bringing weapons into Gaza and the West Bank. No one should think that we will surrender."

Jan 25  The Vatican condemns President Obama's move to restore funding for family planning clinics abroad. It is referring to Obama's repeal of a policy that was begun by President Reagan in 1984, rescinded by President Clinton in 1993, and reinstated by President Bush in 2001. That policy required nongovernmental organizations that receive federal funds to refrain from performing abortions or citing abortion services offered by others.

Jan 25  Police in Nigeria jail a goat believed to be an armed robber who transformed himself through witchcraft. The belief in witchcraft is reported as common in Nigeria.

Jan 28  In Sweden, a woman talking on a cell phone and walking on a railway track center divide fails to notice an approaching highspeed train and is killed. In the United States, cell phones are described as a major factor in car accidents and incidents.

Jan 29  In French cities huge crowds take to the streets. A nationwide strike disrupts rail and air services. People are unhappy about bank bailouts and believe they are paying, literally, for a crisis they are not responsible for.

Jan 30 In Zimbabwe, after four months of effort, a "unity government" is agreed to. Morgan Tsvangira of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is scheduled to become prime minister in twelve days. South Africa, who helped broker the agreement, is committed also to help with Zimbabwe's recovery. Meanwhile, cholera deaths surpass 3,100 and the number of people infected with cholera has reached 60,000.

Jan 31 In recent days a few attacks from Gaza have been made on Israel, perhaps by rogue elements.The month ends with the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert having claimed the Gaza war a success because it wounded Hamas. Hamas, as he sees it, has been punished, as if that were the purpose of the war rather than the fight to the finish first proclaimed. Some Israelis see the war as a failure. Meanwhile, a report today indicates that, back in December, Hamas in Gaza objected to its leadership in Lebanon not extending the six-month truce.

Jan 31 Protest rallies erupt in cities across Russia, supported by Russia's Communist Party. Some outside Russia are blaming the United States for the global economic crisis. The protestors in Russia are blaming Putin and want him to step down. Police break up demostrations.

February 2009

Feb 1  Iceland is trying to recover from its economic crisis. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, 67, a Social Democrat, becomes Prime Minister in a coalition with the Left-Green Movement. She has been rising politically across decades and is the first openly gay head of government in modern times.

Feb 2  At their summit in Ethiopia, African heads of state elect Muammar Gaddafi of Libya as leader of the Africa Union. Gaddafi favors a single military for Africa, a single currency and a single passport. A single military force would threaten the power of various military men.

Feb 2  Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal visits Iran, President Ahmadinejad and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He thanks Iran for support in the "holy war" against Israel and describes Iran as his movement's "partner in victory." A crowd greets him with cheers.

Feb 3  The war against Israel continues as another rocket from Gaza slams into Israel, this one landing in the city of Ashkelon. No one is injured. Israel's air force has been retaliating against these attacks.

Feb 3  Results from Iraq's orderly and peaceful elections for government positions in the provinces are coming in. Hundreds of different political parties have candidates, including Sunnis who did not vote in 2005. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party is reported to be doing well, winning support it is said because it represents national unity, order and security.

Feb 4  Speaking at the African Union summit, Muammar Gaddafi describes his country, Libya, as the best model for Africa rather than a multi-party democracy, which he describes as leading to bloodshed. Africans respect Gaddafi for his years as a leader in the forefront of issues and for Libya's generosity in aid. They have mixed feelings about his becoming leader of the African Union. Gaddafi has been opposed to al Qaeda from before 9/11.

Feb 5  In the US, Gallop polling describes 60 percent of Republicans as having a favorable view of conservative guru radio-talker Rush Limbaugh and 23 percent having an unfavorable view.

Feb 6  In Senegal, those having invested and borrowed for rice farming are under threat of losing everything because of the lack of stability in the rice market. Rice had not been farmed in Senegal until the rice shortages and the leap up in prices last May. Before that a rice farmer would have been unable to compete with imported rice. The price of rice is declining to a point that rice farmers cannot survive the competition of imported rice, and the government is not offering the new rice farmers stability in the form of trade protectionism.

Feb 6  More rockets are fired into Israel from Gaza. Israel's air force retalitates, bombing tunnels in southern Gaza.

Feb 7  In Madagascar, police fire on unarmed anti-government demonstrators, killing at least twenty-three.
Kentucky's Senator Mitch McConnell
Kentucky's Senator Mitch McConnell

Feb 8  The US Senate is designing a bill to stimulate the economy. Most Democrats accept the Keynesian position that stimulus takes place by government spending replacing the spending that the private sector is not providing. Republicans dislike Keynesian economics and think of stimulus more as tax cuts. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican leader, says "We know for sure that the big spending programs of the New Deal did not work." What got the US out of the Great Depression, he adds, "was the beginning of World War II." This was the beginning of the biggest US government spending program ever.

Feb 10  Fires in Victoria province, Australia, continue to burn. More than 900 homes have been incinerated and more than 170 have died. Arson is suspected, but climate change is believed to have played a role. Fires in Australia, as in California, have increased in intensity and frequency and are expected to increase more in the decades ahead.

Feb 11 Italy has been divided over a young woman, Eluana Englaro, in a vegetative condition since 1992. Her father received court permission to have her feeding tube removed. The woman died yesterday. Conservatives and the Vatican are outraged. In the Senate were shouts of "murder." The Vatican is professing love for the woman and protests that everyone has a right to life, especially the helpless. Some others question whether the condition she was in, for seventeen years, can be called life. The Senate is still working on a law to prevent reoccurrence of someone else having the right to remove "live supporting" mechanisms from a family member.

Feb 11  In the US Congress, Republicans are complaining about the stimulus just passed. The representative from Texas, John Carter, speaks of the government spending during Roosevelt's New Deal as a failure. Nobody is arguing in support of spending by citing Germany's recovery from the Depression. One third of Germany's income had as its source government payments and investments - almost three times the percentage being spent by the US government. As in Sweden, the government debt that was created was quickly offset by the recovery in revenues that came with the rise in the economy.

Feb 11  In Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai is sworn in as Prime Minister by President Robert Mugabe. According to the state newspaper, Herald Reporter, part of the pledge was "not to reveal matters discussed in Cabinet and those committed to their secrecy."

Feb 12  In Pakistan, authorities admit that some people in the country were involved in the Mumbai attacks back in late November. India welcomes the announcement.

Feb 15  The New York Times reports that Italy's national debt is greater than 100 percent of its GDP. The NYTarticle describes the national debt of the United States as having been around 40 percent of GDP at the end of 2008 and expected to rise to 60 percent by 2010. This is the Public National Debt  rather than the Gross National Debt.

Feb 15  In Swat valley, Pakistan, the Taliban is in control of at least 80 percent of the state, according to a report described in Wikipedia. An armistice is declared and the guns are silent. Talks are taking place between the Taliban and the federal government.
President Hugo Chavez.
President Hugo

Feb 15  People in Venezuela approve a constitutional amendment that gives Hugo Chavez the right to run for re-election as many times as he wants - which, of course, does not mean that he cannot be voted out of office. Chavez has been president since 1999.

Feb 16  George Soros writes of numbers that indicate a problem with the crash of 2008 that is bigger than the crash of 1929 (in an article published on the Huffington Post on February 12). In 1929 the total amount of money lent, credit extended and other transactions extending financing "total credit outstanding" - was 160 percent of GDP. By 1932 this total rose to 260 percent of GDP because of both accumulated debt and a decline in GDP. With the crash of 2008, total credit outstanding was at 365 percent of GDP. Soros writes of the need for a "radical and comprehensive policy package" that includes "a thorough overhaul of the mortgage system" and "a recapitalization of the banking system."

Feb 16  It is officially confirmed that two nuclear submarines, one British and the other French, have collided underwater in the Atlantic, each on patrol trying to keep its position unknown. Each of the 16 nuclear weapons on each sub has six times the explosive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Some complain about the danger of these weapons dropping to the ocean floor and deteriorating. Some wonder about the national defense necessity of these expensive everyday patrols.

Feb 19  Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, is refusing a visa to Israeli tennis player Shahar Pe'er. She was scheduled to play this coming weekend in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships. Dubai forbids Israeli passport holders from setting foot on its soil. The Women's Tennis Association has expressed its displeasure.

Feb 19  In the eastern Caribbean, in Guadeloupe (an overseas region of France), workers have been on strike since January 20 over rising prices. They want a monthly increase of $251 in minimum wage. There has been urban warfare, looting, the burning of cars and vandalizing government property. Guadeloupe is said to be 69 percent black or mulatto, 14 percent South Asian and 11 percent white. People have been blaming wealthy white families for their dire economic condition and blaming whites in general. Tourists have fled, further damaging the island's economy. France's neighboring Martinique has joined the protests.

Feb 22  Republicans continue to say that the Democrats' stimulus plan is not going to work. They speak ill of Roosevelt's recovery program, and they ignore models of successful Keynesian government spending and recoveries in the 1930s.

Feb 23  The Dow Jones Industrial stock average (DJIA) drops to its lowest point in many years. After more than a couple of weeks of talk in the US about how prolonged the recession will be the message appears to have finally sunk in.
President-elect Obama
President Obama

Feb 24  President Obama addresses the nation and a joint session of Congress for the first time. He speaks of government action that stimulates putting people to work rebuilding the country, of his administration determined to see a return of the lending that is vital to economic recovery. He speaks of accountability and of coming responsible regulation, of stimulating educational opportunity and the need of health care reform as a part of economic recovery. He speaks of bold actions by government across more than a century that didn't supplant private enterprise but catalyzed it.

Feb 24  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal gives the Republican Party's rebuttal to Obama's speech. He gives his life story and says that Americans can do anything and that the way to go in meeting the crisis the nation faces is letting them do so without benefit of an increase in government spending and government organizing actions. He then boasts about all that his government in Louisiana did to help his state through its crisis. Action by his state government, good; action by the federal government, bad - although his state has received a disproportionate amount of federal aid compared for example to liberal New York. Conservative columnist David Brooks shakes his head and calls the speech insane and bad for the Republican Party.

Feb 25  Factcheck.org points out five inaccuracies in President Obama's speech yesterday. He said that the US imports more oil today than ever before. Factcheck claims that imports peaked in 2005. Another inaccuracy: that the automobile was invented in the United States.

Feb 25 The BBC describes a report that farming families in developing countries are suffering from having to pay higher prices. According to the report, many families are spending 80 percent of their entire household budget on basic food items. Families are cutting out meals, taking their children out of school and some are giving up farming.

Feb 26  At a conference in Egypt, Fatah and Hamas agree to form a unity government, to release rival detainees, to stop attacking each other in the media, and to hold elections. Their work to these ends is to be done by the end of March.

Feb 26  In Bangladesh, border guardsmen have maneuvered for personal betterment in an old fashioned and politically naive way: seeking a raise in pay they have rebelled and shot their officers. The bodies of nine officers have been recovered. The two-day rebellion ended today, the rebel soldiers surrendering their weapons.

Feb 27  In Bangladesh, the bodies of 58 more military officers are discovered. Arrests of 200 suspected mutineers have been made. The amnesty originally promised the mutineers if they layed down their weapons has been withdrawn.

Feb 27  A Gallup poll claims that President Obama's approval rating jumped from 59 percent before his speech three days ago to 67 percent. Gallup describes 54 percent of Americans as "comfortable with the level of spending contained in the economic stimulus package."

March 2009

Mar 2  Stocks slump further in Asia, Europe and the United States. There is talk of the economies of the US and Europe being in shambles. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times describes Obama's stimulus as too timid. Republicans speak of Obama's stimulus as a disaster. Between its high in July 1929 and low in July 1932 the stock market fell 79 percent. A comparable fall of 79 percent from the high of 14,000 in 2008 would take the market down to 2940 in the year 2011, but let us consider the naivete of the Hoover administration in the years from 1929 through 1932. The Dow is now down over 50 percent from its 2008 high. It's at 6763. Everyone knows that you are not supposed to sell near the bottom. Given that the bad news could hardly be louder, one might guess that we are near the bottom and that it is the 2009 equivalent of blood on the streets, when savvy investors are supposed to buy. But when loss of wealth is of concern fear can be more powerful than cold calculation.

Mar 2  In Guinea-Bissau, soldiers shoot and kill President Joao Bernardo Vieira, ending his third term as president. The assassination follows the belief by military persons that the president was responsible for an explosion that killed the army chief of staff a few hours earlier.

Mar 3  In the US controversy still exists, perhaps now winding down, over Rush Limbaugh's declaration that he wants President Obama's economic stimulus policy to fail. Limbaugh says that this policy cannot succeed and will not succeed. But he adds that he wants it to fail, as if he has a choice. Some view the enthusiastic response by many Republicans to Limbaugh and conclude that he is foremost among them in influence.

Mar 4  Some Republicans, Newt Gingrich among them, are accusing the Obama administration of "transplanting" European socialism to Washington. "Stalin would love this stuff," says Mike Huckabee. Harold Meyerson, a confessed Social Democrat, writes of this in the Washington Post and describes the difference between the socialists of the 1930s in the US and today's Social Democrats. He writes that the social-oriented capitalism of the Social Democrats is on the horizon "because the deregulated capitalism of the past 30 years has blown itself up, taking much of the known world with it."

Mar 4  A faulty altimeter is blamed for a role in the crash of a Turkey Boeing 737 in the Netherlands on February 25 that killed nine. The plane was landing on automatic pilot.

Mar 4  A cultural note out of China reported in a Chinese newspaper tells of a man who goes to the police station in the early morning hours to report that his wallet was stolen along with his pants while he was in a park with a female acquaintance. He decides to file no report because he does not want his wife to know about it.
Sudan's President Bashir listens
Sudan's President Bashir listens to a speech at a conference in Ethiopia.
 His willingness to travel internationally is now likely at an end.

Mar 4  The International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant against President Oman al-Bashir of the Sudan, charging him with war crimes in Darfur. Bashir's defenders speak of a "neo-colonialist" plot to destabilize Sudan.

Mar 6  Tensions between the United States and Russia over the fighting between Georgia and Russia last August have been evaporating. Russia is cooperating with the US regarding the US getting supplies to Afghanistan. And there is talk of a new srategic arms reduction treaty by the end of the year.
 Paul Krugman
Paul Krugman

Mar 6  Paul Krugman writes that the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve Board have convinced themselves that the troubled assets held by banks are worth more than they actually are. Krugman opines that too much taxpayer money would be needed to subsidize these assets adequately. "Realistically, it's not going to happen," he writes. He adds that "It’s very hard to rescue an essentially insolvent bank without, at least temporarily, taking it over. And temporary nationalization is still, apparently, considered unthinkable."

Mar 7  In the online magazine Slate, Jacob Weisberg continues a debate. He ponders the claims of Newt Gingrich and others that President Obama wants to bring "European socialism" to the United States. Weisberg writes of the upside and downside of Western European societies and concludes that people like Gingrich misread "an ideologically moderate president's substantive views, his political sophistication, and what's within the realm of the possible in our country." He writes that Obama understands that "Americans want government to fix the free market, not take its place."

Mar 8  Rocket fire into Israel by Gaza militants is almost a daily occurence, as are Israeli air strikes against targets like today: against two "smuggling tunnels" under the Egypt-Gaza border and against a "weapons warehouse."

Mar 9  President Obama signs an executive order lifting restrictions on federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells. The ban had forced some scientists to leave the US to continue their reseach. The BBC reports that some researchers now might flock to the US if they think funding is "more readily available" there.

Mar 10  A male chimpanzee in a zoo in Sweden displays a skill needed by investors: strategic planning. He has collected and stored rocks for throwing at zoo visitors. Chimps planning future events heretofore have been considered by scientists to be unproven.

Mar 10  The panic of the last three weeks by some owners of stocks diminished today as stock prices, as indicated in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, bounded higher by 379 points (5.8 percent) from a twelve-year low.
Bernie" Madoff, finance guru
"Bernie" Madoff, finance guru
(Wikimedia commons)

Mar 12  Frequently if not always, financial scam artists cannot maintain their scheme in a big economic downturn. They are left exposed. And one such exposed scammer, "Bernie" Madoff, pleaded guilty today to an 11-count criminal complaint, admitting to defrauding investors of almost $65 billion. He faces a maximum sentence of 150 years in prison. Meanwhile, hucksters remain in the financial advice industry in abundance, a couple of them having written a book. The best in the industry

Mar 12  In Pakistan, President Zardari's government tries to suppress unrest created by supporters of a popular opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, and by a lawyers' movement. The lawyers are calling for reinstatement of judges sacked by former President Musharraf and calling for an independent judiciary.

Mar 12  Serbia's judiciary sentences thirteen fellow Serbs for their having "murdered, tortured and inhumanely treated prisoners of war" in the village of Ovcara near Vukovar in Croatia in 1991.

Mar 12   Hamas announces that it is trying to find out who is responsible for the rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel that have been occurring recently. Hamas says now is the wrong time for such attacks.

Mar 12   A study published in Science concludes that only in Europe have skies become cleaner than they were some 30 years ago. It is claimed that Europe enjoys the difference as a result of its air quality regulations.

Mar 14   California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, is under attack from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, right-wing talk radio hosts and other anti-tax people. Schwarzenegger wants to increase revenues in order to avoid budget crises. His Proposition 1A budget measures for the May 19 ballot includes an increase in sales taxes and in motor license payments. The anti-tax people complain that Schwarzenegger's taxes will harm the economy. In conservative Orange County this past week a crowd of 15,000 gathered and destroyed DVDs, VHS tapes, and memorabilia associated with Schwarzenegger, and they waved placards and a stick with a latex replica of the governor's head. Speaking recently before California's Commonwealth Club, Schwarzenegger complained of an unwillingess of Californian legislators to act until a crisis gets their attention. It was not until Katrina, he said, that they saw they should fix California's dikes. Schwarzenegger wants to channel a lot of the water that is now running into the sea to help solve the state's water crisis, which will take money, but he claims it should be done.

Mar 16   In election campaigning in El Salvador, the Arena Party has associataed FMNL candidate Mauricio Funes with Hugo Chavez and has described Funes as a dangerous socialist. Arena and the FMNL were on opposite sides in a civil war that lasted from 1980 to 1992. Both sides have agreed to try politics by the ballot. Mauricio Funes wins and become president-elect. He calls for the maturity needed in a functioning democracy, for a spirit of reconciliation and collaboration. He thanks the crowd for choosing "the path of hope." Funes promises to crack down on those big businesses that have exploited government complacency to evade taxes.

Mar 16  Pakistan's government moves to reinstate the judges removed in 2007 by former President Pervez Musharraf in 2007. The opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, calls off demonstrations. Jubilation spreads.
Andry Rajoelina
Andry Rajoelina

Mar 17  People frustrated by economic hard times have won the military to the side of an opposition leader, Andry Rajoelina, a former disc jockey. Rajoelina has led protests that began in January and have left more than 100 people dead. Today the military drives the constitutionally elected president, Marc Ravalomanana, 59, a religiously fervent Protestant, from power after Ravalomanana called for a referendum on the presidency to defuse the unrest. The South African Development Community describes it as a military coup. Rajoelina, a Roman Catholic, promises elections in two years and says, "I accept humbly and with love - I assume as a duty - all responsibility, management and leadership of our beloved country, Madagascar." Madagascar's constitution requires presidential candidates to be at least 40 years of age. Rajoelina is 34.

Mar 18  Pakistan's foreign ministry complains that US air strikes, with drone aircraft, are counter-productive. There have been at least six drone air strikes into Pakistani territory since President Obama took office.

Mar 19  The US Congress moves to stop bonuses issued by the insurance giant AIG to its executives. AIG has a reputation for having used offshore tax havens, among them the Cayman Islands, to avoid paying US taxes. In court today, AIG is suing the US government to retrieve 306 million dollars taken from it by the government's revenue service. To keep AIG in business, the US government has recently bought 80 percent of the company - described as a bail out.

Mar 20  Southern African countries are refusing to recognize the authority of Andry Rajoelina's regime in Madagascar. The United States joins them in condemning the regime.

Mar 20  Israeli Defense Forces order an investigation into descriptions by Israeli soldiers of violations of military rules of engagement that were permitted during January's Gaza war. Described are abuses against property and unnecessary killing rising from the venting of hostility against Palestinians.

Mar 23  The US Congress the Keysian model that rescued Sweden and Germany in the 1930s is fading as more politicians side with the public mood against bailouts.

Mar 23  The Obama-Geithner plan to rescue the banks from their toxic assets sends stocks upward. The economists Robert Reich and Paul Krugman are distressed by the Obama-Geithner plan. Krugman sees the economy in trouble not because banks are not lending - they are, he says - but because people are not buying and therefore businesses are not hiring. Today in the New York Times, Krugman describes the Obama-Geithner plan as a rehash of the Bush-Paulson strategy. He thinks that the Geithner scheme is over-estimating the value of banking's toxic assets. He writes that "It’s just an indirect, disguised way to subsidize purchases of bad assets."

Mar 23  The president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, speaks out against more deficit spending, siding with Europe's governments in how to overcome the worst recession in a generation.

Mar 25  The center-left, including President Obama, Britain's Gordon Brown and Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Russ favor deficit spending for the sake of speeding recovery and with recovery an earlier revenue enhancement - Keysian economics. Also, the Dutch government favors deficit spending. Center-right politicians in Europe tend to be opposed. This includes Sarkozy of France. And today the Czech Republic's center-right prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, in an address to the European Union parliament, described Obama's plans for deficit spending as "a road to hell."

Mar 27  Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek resigns following a no confidence vote in the Czech Republic's parliament.

Mar 27  Robert Hormats of Goldman Sachs reports that some European leaders are opposed to more stimulus spending because they believe that their societies have enough social insurance
benefits already in place - more of the European socialism that rightwing commentators in the US, like Sean Hannity of Fox News, are complaining about.

Mar 27  President Obama describes his strategy regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan. He plans to send an extra 4,000 US personnel to train and bolster the Afghan army and police. He plans more support for civilian development in Afghanistan. And he speaks of striking at al Qaeda within Pakistan.

Mar 27  Monica Crowley, conservative political commentator, weighs in on a debate about how to respond to the economic crisis. She tells her McLaughlin Group fellow panelists that "government cannot create wealth."

Mar 30  In Pakistan more bloodshed is initiated by extremists. Young bearded men with submachine guns and hand grenades attack a police academy on the outskirts of the city of Lahore. A few of the attackers blow themselves up during the eight hours before they are killed or overwhelmed. The strategy of the attackers produces no apparent gains for their cause except for the killing of eight policemen, two civilians and the wounding of 95.

April 2009

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu
Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu

Apr 1  Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu returns to power as prime minister and announces that if Palestinians want peace they can have it. Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, complains that Netanyahu has not endorsed the idea of an independent Palestinian state and does not want to stop Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank.

Apr 2  Described as the most important summit meeting since World War II, in London leaders of nations with big economies agree to new regulatory rules in world finance, sanctions against secretive tax havens, a trillion dollars to stimulate the global economy, and more aid to the poorest of countries. Another summit is scheduled for September to evaluate progress.

Apr 3  Sweden's center-right government extends its bank rescue plan, begun in late October, to help banks provide loans at reasonable conditions to households and businesses. Sweden projects a 4.2 percent drop in economic growth for 2009 and a 0.2 percent growth rate for 2010.

Apr 4  A web resource for physicians and other health professionals, Medscape, questions the benefit of drugs commonly used to lower cholesterol levels. These are drugs that use statins. Medscape writes of "evidence-based concerns" regarding the "adverse effects of statins," the possibility of "billions of wasted healthcare dollars" and concern regarding the "FDA based system regulating drug approval and advertising" in the United States. Medscape writes of advertising by the drug company Pfizer (USA) not disclosing that its drug atrovaSTATIN has been "associated with increased risk to women."

Apr 4  Baitullah Mehsud, a tribal leader in South Waziristan, takes credit for a suicide bombing in Islamabad that injures a number of Pakistani police. Baitullah took credit for a March 23 attack on Pakistani police, which killed one policeman and left another injured. And he takes credit for the killing of thirteen yesterday in Binghamton, New York, reported by US investigators to be a false claim.

Apr 5  In Islamabad, another suicide bombing, at night, in an upper class neighborhood. It kills eight security officers guarding foreign diplomats and wealthy residents. Twelve hours later, in the town of Chakwal, a male teenager blows himself up at the entrance to a crowded Shiite mosque, killing at least 26 people. A deputy to Baitullah Mehsud describes the attacks as retaliation for an attack by an American pilotless aircraft.

Apr 5  Conservative George Will on a panel on ABC's This Week proclaims absolutely: "There is no community of nations." He complains that there is an "old liberal axiom that harmony is natural." The liberal Arianna Huffington responds that community of nations is an aspiration and that to abandon diplomacy leaves us with force.

Apr 8  In the Republic of Moldova, a Communist political party won 49 percent of the votes in elections on the 5th, giving the Communists 60 seats and a majority in parliament. On the 7th, thousands of anti-Communists protested in the streets and ransacked the parliament building. Today, from Russia comes accusation that Romania is encouraging the protests.

Apr 9  Saudi Arabia has been arresting al-Qaeda operatives believed to have ties with al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Yemen. The average age of the captured terrorist suspect is 36, higher than in the past. The Saudi interior ministry describes al-Qaeda's ability to recruit young members in the Kingdom as "diminishing" and al-Qaeda as "losing ground.”

Apr 10  Again, French commandos rescue French citizens taken hostage by Somali pirates - as commandos did in April and again in September, 2008. The US merchant sea captain, Richard Phillips, held hostage aboard a lifeboat, jumps overboard in an attempt to swim to a nearby US Navy ship. The pirates haul the captain back aboard the lifeboat.

Apr 11  In the Gulf of Aden, Somali pirates seize a US-owned tug boat with sixteen people aboard, while in the Indian Ocean a standoff continues between pirates holding Captain Richard Phillips and the US Navy. The BBC reports that the pirates have been using ransom payoffs to upgrade their boats and weapons and that the "the pirates themselves say, piracy will only end in Somalia once the country gets an effective and stable government." There are those who believe it would end sooner if some others were as tough as the French. Meanwhile, US ships are around Phillips and his abductors, with aircraft overhead. The US military is trying to get Phillips back alive.

Apr 12  US Navy Seals rescue Captain Phillips. Three pirates are dead. One is being held by the US Navy. (This observer, having seen the Seals in action while in the Marine Corps ages ago, was wondering yesterday how soon an efficient operation by the Seals would unfold.)

Apr 12  In the US, opinion is divided on the stock market. Some speak pessimistically about what they call a "bear market rally." Some others speak of the recent rally as signaling the beginning of economic recovery. On ABC's This Week, Paul Krugman says that the stock market has "predicted six of the last one [sic] recoveries." Conclusion: perhaps the Dow will fall from today's level of 8,083 maybe into the 7000s, but not to a new bottom below 6,547.

Apr 13  In Thailand, protests by the United Front for Democracy against dictatorship have been taking place since March. They support the former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatraa, ousted by a military coup in 2006. Rather than follow Martin Luther King tactics, the protestors have allowed their demonstrations to become violent assaults against security forces, including crashing busses into the security force's line. The center of Bangkok has been shut down. Two have died and 113 have been wounded, including 23 "security officers." Citizens are growing tired of the violence, and support for the government is increasing.

Apr 16  The French captured a pirate vessel and eleven Somali pirates yesterday. French officials announce that the European Union and Kenya have agreed to put them on trial in Kenya.

Apr 16  An Israeli, Daniel Barenboim, conducts the Cairo Symphony Orchestra at the Cairo Opera House and receives a "rapturous" ovation. Barenboim has been described as a critic of Israeli policy regarding Palestinians.

Apr 19  In the US, Republican minority leader in Congress, John Boehner, questions humanity's contribution to global warming. He suggests that it is a matter of the carbon dioxide that we exhale and that cows emit and says this is not a danger.

Apr 21  At the Latin American summit conference in Trinidad, in front of the TV cameras while President Obama is at the podium speaking, a friendly President Chavez of Venezuela gives Obama a book published in 1997, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. Sensation being a strong force in book sales, the book catapults to second in sales at Amazon.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner

Apr 22  Someone in the US expresses a populist view of Timothy Geithner, accusing him of coddling "banksters" and "taking care of his pals on Wall Street because he IS one." Yesterday, answering questions from congressmen, Timothy Geithner says of the Obama administration, "When we act, we DON'T do it for the benefit of those banks." Geithner claims that the system as a whole is his focus. "The critical thing we care about," he adds, "is whether the system as a whole has the capacity to support the credit the economy requires.”

Apr 23  The morning-after contraceptive pill has been cleared for use for seventeen-year-olds by the US Food and Drug Administration. The previous minimum age was eighteen.
Bill O'Reilly
Vociferously, Bill O'Reilly

expresses his opinion about torture.

Apr 24  The Obama administration is working on the illegality of torture employed by US citizens during the Bush administration. International law opposes torture, which is defined by the UN as severe pain and suffering intentionally inflicted. Studies indicate that torture is no more useful in intelligence gathering than other methods. The question whether torture applied by US personnel on terrorists saved lives remains forefront. Meanwhile, polling by the Pew Research Center indicates that in the United States 49 percent believe that torture is often or sometimes necessary, and only 25 percent are absolutely opposed to its use. Of those polled, 49 percent who identified themselves as Republicans sided with torture as sometimes justified. For Democrats this was 24 percent. The Pew study aside, among pundits accused of siding with torture is Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, while Rush Limbaugh accuses the Obama administration of watering down the definition of torture.

Apr 26  China celebrates the claim that GDP growth in the first quarter of 2009 was 6.1 percent and that the growth rate in industrial production has rebounded. At a conference between mainland and Taiwan officials happiness abounds with an agreement on investment from the mainland. The conference announces a "new era of peaceful development."

Apr 26  A small security force on an Italian cruise ship returns fire from Somali pirates and forces the pirates to withdraw. Elsewhere, in waters near Somalia,pirates seize a Yemeni freighter.

Apr 27  The tide is turning against the Somali pirates. A Yemeni forces storms the tanker seized yesterday, kills three of the pirates and takes the others prisoner.

Apr 27  Prince Charles warns of global warming, saying that humanity has "less than 100 months" to save the planet.

Apr 28  The tide for Somali pirates continues to go out. The Russians report that they have seized a pirate boat with 29 people on board.

Apr 29  The University of California has developed a camera that takes six million images per second. It is to be used in medical science.

Apr 29  China agrees to Taiwan becoming a member of the World Health Organization. In 1971, Taiwan lost its seat in the United Nations to China.

May 2009

May 1  In Brazil, following the country's Supreme Court ruling, enforcement begins in expelling non-indigenous people from the Raposa Serra do Sol reservation. Non-indigenous rice farmers and farm workers who had intruded onto the reservation complain. The government claims they will be properly compensated.

May 1  Palestinians can get permission from Jewish authorities to build a home only in a zone that comprises about 13 percent of East Jerusalem. About 28 percent of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem have been built without a permit. These are homes to around 60,000 Palestinians. The UN asks Israel to forego plans to demolish these houses.

May 3  An article in the New York Times by Sabrina Tavernise reports that a lack of funding for public elementary school education results in parents sending their boys to madrasas. In these schools there is "no instruction beyond memorizing the Koran." Madrasas in southern Punjab have become "an urgent concern in the face of Pakistan’s expanding insurgency."

May 5  Time magazine reports of the Australian government's plan to spend $31 billion to build a broadband network of fiber-optics connections that will make Australia more advanced in highspeed internet access than South Korea, where 44 percent of residences have fiber-optic computer connections. The US has only 5 percent. Fiber-optic connections download at around 100 megabytes per second, about 100 times faster than that now available to the average Australian.

May 8  From the Heritage Foundation comes a pessimistic assessment: "[T]he debt-based Obama economic stimulus plan is about to become a major drag on the recovery, just as expected... There are two critical consequences to the economy stabilizing. The first is that the massive liquidity injected into credit markets by the Federal Reserve and central banks around the world transforms from economic medicine to inflationary heroin...The second dangerous consequence is that President Obama is on course to double the national debt in just four years."

May 11  In Sri Lanka, artillery bombardment by government forces against Tamil rebels leaves what one doctor says is as many as 1,000 civilian dead. The U.N. calls it a bloodbath.

May 12  In Pakistan's Swat Valley government soldiers are fighting the Taleban. Thousands have been fleeing the fighting. Some among Pakistan's poor and more religious associate the army with the US, which is aiding the army with weapons and supplies. Nationalist fervor has been aroused. Some Muslims are demonstrating with signs against the Taleban and against the United States.

May 12  China is being described as turning more toward economic development within rather than relying as much as it has on exports.

May 15  The United States is moving slightly away from an economy for the sake of consumerism - described derisively as a Coca-Cola economy - and toward more public sector activity: infrastructure investment and other government spending. This requires higher taxes for some people. The Republican Party continues to find this unacceptable and can be heard to speak of reckless spending, socialism and skyrocketing deficits. But their complaints have not been winning adherents. The Pew Research Center has reported that the GOP has lost roughly a quarter of its base over the past five years and that only 23 percent of those polled identify themselves as Republicans. In 1920 the US public sector was 8 percent of GDP. In recent times it has been 35 percent, compared to from 42 to 59 percent of GDP in the European Union.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

May 16  India's Congress Party triumphs in parliamentary elections, ensuring that the eminent economist Dr. Manmohan Singh will continue as prime minister. His administration has focused on reducing the fiscal deficit, providing debt-relief to farmers, extending social programs and advancing pro-industry economic and tax policies. The Congress Party of Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi and her sons have moved from the left more toward the center. India withstands the present-day global financial crisis because, in part, seventy percent of its banks are in the public sector (nationalized), and its banks are heavily regulated. The Congress Party's conservative rival, the BJP, campaigned on less taxation and is described as not having "clicked" with younger voters.
Pervez Musharraf
Pervez Musharraf

May 17  Former president and army chief of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, tells Americans that they should should have more confidence in the integrity of Pakistan's army and intelligence service, the ISI.

May 17  The politics that dominates the media on this day in the United States is as follows. Leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has been attacked verbally by some Republicans. Defensiveness is often unattractive, and Pelosi has defended herself not well it seems to some. She has accused the CIA of having misled her and Congress. The head of the CIA, a Democrat, has defended the image of the agency, perhaps motivated in part to maintain morale at the agency. Some look upon all this as trival and petty stuff at a time when serious work needs to be done by Congress. Newt Gincrich, a perennial spokesperson for himself and the Republican Party, is reported as calling Pelosi "trivial," "vicious," and "dispicable." And he says, "I think she has lied to the House, and I think that the House has an absolute obligation to open an inquiry, and I hope there will be a resolution to investigate her. And I think this is a big deal."

May 19  Another attempt at separation has failed - no matter the history of abuse or oppression. Separation was advocated by Blacks in the US who felt oppressed, but that separatist movement dissipated. Kurdish separatists have been making trouble for Turkey, and to this day they have failed. Some Tibetans launched a try at ethnic separatism and ethnic cleansing recently, without success. The Tamil separatists had grievances, but their choice of warfare has proven a failure. Their leader, Prabhakaran, is dead. Their army is crushed and Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war ended, except in the minds of some Tamil diaspora.

May 19  On the News Hour, Pamela Constable of the Washington Post describes a family patriarch having told her of Taliban fighters coming to his village in Pakistan and the Taliban telling the villagers that they were bringing justice, peace, religious order and fairness. The patriarch told Constable that these Taliban talked in a very persuasive way and were received well by the villagers. Just two days later the villagers saw Taliban fighters grab the local policeman and start chopping off his head. And the whole village, the patriarch told Constable, was just horror-struck. They managed to save the man's life and get him away and hide him, but he said, "All of us from that moment on looked at each other and said, 'Who are these people? Why have they come here? Are they really Muslims? And what do they really want with us?"

May 20  California voters have rejected tax raising issues on Tuesday's ballot, leaving the state to face a $21.3 billion budget gap. For the legislature to raise taxes requires a two-thirds vote, which has not been attainable. How worthy the spending of the few dollars not paid in additional taxes will be decided by the public. Legislators and the governor are left with choices as to what deep cuts to make in services, a drama that will now unfold.

May 24  The BBC reports that Lebanese banks "are posting record deposits and bankers say this is the best year in Lebanon's financial history." Lebanon's banks were well regulated and missed the international banking crisis. They were limited in the amount of debt they could carry, they had to have at least 30 percent of their assets in cash, and they were not allowed to speculate in risky packages of bundled up debts.

May 24  In the US it is the Memorial Day weekend. People are remembering the country's war dead. Andy Rooney of Sixty Minutes, a World War II Army veteran, lost friends in that war and says that soldiers did not give their lives, they had their lives taken away. He objects, as I do, to frequent use of the word sacrifice for what is not sacrifice. Indeed people in the US do not go off to war planning or hoping to die. They want to survive, and their military superiors want them to survive. Sacrifice is something suicide bombers do. Service to their country, Rooney would agree, is more appropriate than the word "sacrifice."

May 25  North Korea conducts an underground nuclear weapons test. Its leadership senses US hostility and fears US aggression, and it claims its right to self-defense.
Norway's Siv Jensen, Progess Party Leader
Norway's Siv Jensen,
Progess Party Leader

May 26  Norway's right wing Progess Party has become the only political party in Norway to support euthanasia (mercy killing), or Kevorkianism.

May 27  In Pakistan, the Taliban has been using the US military's drone attacks against Taliban and al Qaeda leadership to extend their recruitment. The growth of the Taliban is splitting families and communities and is extensive enough to make the drone attacks counter productive. A few dead leaders are easily replaced. Today another bombing occurs in the city of Lahore, against a police station, killing 23. The Taliban is described as behind the Lahore attack and as responding to the government's offensive against them in Swat Valley.

May 28  Germany and Japan lead the world in the production of solar power and the installation of solar technology. Germany motivates homeowners and businesses by offering "top dollar" for producing energy. Interest in the German approach has spread to the United States, especially in Hawaii, where the cost of electricity consumption is unusually high.

May 29  A Swede comments on attacks by youths against Iraqi refugees in his country. He blames the economic hard times and complains that crime is presumed to have been committed by foreigners. He describes as racism the view that Swedes "are special, harmonious and good clean living Ayran people." He writes that they ignore the widespread alcohol abuse, pill popping, the suicide levels, the jealousies, two-facedness, materialism to the extreme, abuse within marriage and relationships in general and a dillusionment about "about how great the country is."

May 30  Pakistan’s military claims victory over the Taliban in the most populous city in the Swat Valley, Mingora. The military estimates that ten percent of enemy combatants were from outside the Swat Valley.

May 31  Niall Ferguson, hotshot Harvard professor of History and Business bad mouths liberal Princeton economist Paul Krugman. Ferguson warns that there has been an explosion of government debt that will impact the bond market and drive up interest rates. Signs of recovery he describes as little weed sprouts, and talk of recovery he describes as "wishful non-thinking."

June 2009

Jun 2  In China, the General Motors (GM) and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC) joint venture announces that sales of GM cars were a monthly record for May: 56,011 units. In the US, sales of GM cars have been falling, and GM is reconstituting itself through bankruptcy proceedings, with support from the federal government. The government is expected to acquire a temporary 60 percent stake in the company.

Jun 2  Those who make up the regime in North Korea have viewed themselves as Marxist and most progressive, but today the successor to leader Kim Jung-il has been named as his son, Kim Jong-un, 26, the third generation in a monarchy-like family dynasty. Kim Jung-il, 67, General Secretary of the Workers' (Communist) Party of Korea, appears to have played a major role in the choice of his successor, which brings to mind another Communist Party General Secretary, Joseph Stalin, who also was supposed to be part of a collective leadership but was surrounded by yes-men. It is hard to imagine, however, Stalin naming any of his sons as his successor. To the world, Communist rule in North Korea appears as bizarre if not more so than the Stalinist regime in the old Soviet Union - for various reasons. Marx, of course, would not have liked either. Many expect the regime in North Korea eventually to go the way of authoritarian monarchies and Stalinist regimes.

Jun 3  In Pakistan, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group responsible for the massacre in Mumbai, India, is released from detention.

Jun 3  California's Senate narrowly passes a bill to prohibit the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic food containers. The Los Angeles Times reports that "More than 200 independent scientific studies have linked BPA to brain development problems and behavioral troubles in young children, the early onset of puberty and several types of cancer." The bill now goes to the California Assembly.

Jun 4  Obama makes a speech at Al-Azhar University in Cairo that may be historic. He says that "violent extremists" had bred fear and that the "cycle of suspicion and discord must end." His speech was interrupted with applause 36 times. Among Muslims in the Middle East who are interviewed his speech is described as honest and sincere and viewed with favor.

Jun 5  As elsewhere in the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia President Obama's speech appears to have widespread approval. The major thrust of Obama's speech is in accord with Saudi King Abdullah's approach to reforms and, international affairs including anti-terrorism and interfaith amity.

Jun 6  For two months in northern Peru, Indians were maintaining fuel and transport blockades to prevent drilling for oil and gas on their ancestral land. The government sent in the military to clear the blockades. Violence yesterday left at least 22 tribesmen and 11 police dead. The Indians took hostages, and a rescue effort today is described as leaving nine policemen dead and 22 others as freed.

Jun 6  In the US, "conservative" commentator Dr. Monica Crowley (she has a PhD in international relations) describes Obama's speech in Cairo to the Muslim world as insufficiently pro-American. On her website she writes, "Forget about American superiority. Now we must go through 'partnerships' and progress cannot be ours; it must be 'shared.' " She adds that Obama "wants to level America out of penance for our past 'evils.' Two hundred and twenty-three years of American exceptionalism, being erased in less than 200 days. Our enemies could not do it better."

Jun 7  On the Sunday talk shows, Obama's speech in Cairo is evaluated. Among the guests are intellectuals from the Middle East and Malaysia. The conservative George Will views the speech without hope of better relations with the Muslim world, but other panelists approve of Obama having spoken about mutual interest and mutual respect, of restoring credibility and about inclusion in solving problems. Most conclude that Obama's speech accomplished what he intended. The opinion was expressed that time will tell whether it is a turning point or just another speech.

Jun 7  In Lebanon political maturity triumphs. The pro-Western coalition wins enough seats to hold on to its majority in parliament. The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, accepts the election results and congratulates all who won seats.

Jun 9  In Pakistan another hotel is bombed, supposedly by the Taliban. It's the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar. Eleven are reported killed and at least 52 injured. Such acts are political and still pursued by the politically naive. It is one of a series of recent attacks. The world will see whether it contributes to the Taliban's taking power in Pakistan.

Jun 9  In Sweden it is alleged that "anti-fascist" leftists have initiated twenty violent attacks on centrists and rightists during parliamentary electoral campaigning. Typically, Swedes describe the attackers as imbeciles. One adds that the "true fascists" in Sweden "are them" (the violent activists).
Oscar Kingara
Oscar Kingara
Jun 11  Two Kenyan human rights activists are assassinated. One of them, Oscar Kingara, recently gave the United Nations evidence of police abuses in Kenya. Kenya is reported as submerged in corruption, including the longstanding extortion racket by a sect called the Mungiki (united people), which evolved from political action in the 1980s to monetary gain. Complaints abound in Kenya that the police are a power unto themselves, corrupt and killing with impunity. Calls for the sacking of Kenya's police chief and the resignation of its attorney-general have been ignored.

Jun 13  Iran has held an election for its presidency without the freedom of press that democracy requires. The winning candidate is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (pictured), the incumbent president. He was favored more by the poorer urban workers and rural peasants - the less educated and more fervently religious of the electorate.

Jun 16  The Copenhagen Post reports that "nearly a fifth of all residents" are making use of private health insurance, an option available to the Danes, all of whom are covered by state health care. Private insurance, the Post reports, "covered only 1.1 billion kroner of health care expenses last year, out of a total national health care bill of 90 billion kroner." In other words, the vast majority of Danes have chosen health care that they have paid for through taxation.

Jun 17 Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh says of President Obama’s June 4 address in Cairo: “We saw a new tone, a new language and a new spirit in the official US rhetoric. He reiterates to former President Carter that his movement accepts a Palestinian state alongside Israel with its 1967 borders with full sovereignty and Jerusalem as the new state's capital. No doubt Jerusalem will be a major point of contention in any future negotiations between Palestinians and Israel.
Jun 19  Switzerland's central bank warns that it is considering imposing constraints on the size of its biggest domestic banks - unless global policymakers can come up with a new system to deal with large banks when they fail.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Jun 19  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured), tells his followers that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election victory (62.6 percent versus 33.75 percent) was not fraudulent. Therefore, he proclaims, protests are outside the realm of legitimacy. He uses the phrase "religious democracy," although he suppresses freedom of expression and his position as Supreme Leader is not elective. As have dictators, he puts blame for any coming bloodshed not on his police or supporters but on demonstrators. In his speech he uses the word "enemies" often and "Zionist" occasionally. He speaks of Western journalists and leaders as enemies, describing them as having been stunned by "our great election victory." And now, he says, they have removed their masks.
Jun 20  The Khamenei regime tries to block news coverage of police actions against today's demonstrators - the snatching of demonstrators to be hauled away to an unknown fate, the swinging of batons and tear gas. CNN is prohibited from trying to cover the day's events in Iran, to no effect. Because of amateur video the coverage on CNN is like never before. One purpose behind the news blockade is perhaps to protect the regime's image abroad, where news blockades are associated with dictatorship.

Jun 20  The world was wondering whether Iranians would stay home or defy Khamenei. The answer is in. It's defiance. The world changed in 1979 with the Iranian revolution, and the breadth of today's defiance suggests that another major turn is underway, because of the courage of Iranians. One of the slogans heard from protesters is "Live or Die."

Jun 21  On his website, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says to foreign powers that "By making hasty comments, you will not have a place in the circle of the Iranian nation's friends. Therefore, I recommend you to correct your interfering positions."
Neda, a former philosophy student,
Neda, a former philosophy student, gunned down
 while demonstrating. She has become an icon.

Jun 21  At a memorial service for Neda, her mother does not speak the lies that Iran's ruling regime wants her to speak. Trying to defend its image, authorities have offered her substantial finanicial support if she joins the mendacity of murderers.

Jun 22  In Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria writes that we are watching the fall of the political-religious ideology that was part of the founding of Iran's theocracy thirty years ago. Repressions might keep the Supreme Leader Khamenei's regime in power for a while, he writes, but the ideology of "divinely ordained" arbiters of both morality and politics has suffered a fatal blow an idea falling before its politics.

Jun 24  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announces on state television that, "For sure, neither the system nor the people will give in to pressures at any price." At any price as Khamenei uses it here, is outside of the politics that makes possible healthful social interaction. But Khamenei considers his position in the realm of the divine and himself as infallible, while many in the world have come to see him as morally and politically befuddled.

Jun 24  In Iraq another bombing has killed 70 or more people in a Shia community in Baghdad. The average number of daily births in Iraq is around 2,391, the average deaths 408. That is 1,983 more being born than dying. Around 60 percent of the Iraqis are Shia, so on an average day there are an additional 1,189 Shia born. No continuing daily slaughter perpetrated against the Shia of Iraq is going to reduce significantly the Shia population. Of course, those perpetrating today's bombing see neither the futility nor the barbarity of their act. They too may be focused on the divine.

Jun 26  Speaking at Friday prayers, broadcast nationally, Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami, a member Iran's Assembly of Experts, says that "Anyone who takes up arms to fight with the people, they are worthy of execution." Speaking with disgust for the knighthood of author Salman Rushdie, Khatami has recently said that the death sentence issued by the late Ayatollah Khomeini against Rushdie is still alive and cannot be changed.

Jun 27  Male fish producing eggs and deformations in new born boys, plus a statement this month by scientists belonging to the Endocrine Society should be a wake-up call writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times.

Jun 28  Manuel Zelaya has been serving a non-renewable four-year term as President of Honduras. That country's Supreme court has ruled that a referendum to make his term renewable is unconstitutional, and the court twice accused him of acting illegally. His attorney general had said he should resign. The BBC writes that he has "sacked his chief of defence staff." The heads of the army navy and air force resigned. One might expect the military to act, and it did. Today, troops arrest Zelaya and fly him in his pajamas to exile in Costa Rica. And Congress appoints its speaker, Roberto Micheletti, a member of Zelaya's Liberal Party, as the acting head of state.

Jun 30  The latest anti-Obama pessimism, including talk of debt and of coming inflation that will sap economic recovery, has contributed to the fall of the Dow Jones Industrial Average from a high at 9000 on June 12 to a low of almost 8200 on June 24. President Obama this past week again complained of those who say "the sky is falling." Those skeptical of Obama following his signing the stimulus bill on February 18 sent the Dow down from 7500 to below 6500 on March 9. The Dow returned to 7500 on March 26. Some Obama doubters nowadays believe the Dow will drop from 8500 to the mid-7000s again, if not to a new bottom. Or maybe the Dow will return to 9000 or higher? Stay tuned.

Jun 30  Comparing Iran and Morocco, Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post describes Morocco as having moved in the past decade from "traditional monarchy to constitutional monarchy, acquiring along the way real political parties, a relatively free press, new political leaders - the mayor of Marrakesh is a 33-year-old woman - and a set of family laws that strive to be compatible both with sharia and international conventions on human rights."

July 2009

Jul 1  The BBC reports fireworks, concerts and jubilation in the streets of Iraq. This coincides with the withdrawal of foreign forces from their cities and towns. The government wants credit and declares June 30 as Sovereignty Day. Prime Minister Malaki boasts of tough-talk with the US that led to the withdrawal agreement. A celebrating Shia member of parliament, Haidar al-Obadi says that "people have tasted democracy" and that "nobody can enforce dictatorship again on this country."

Jul 2  In India a 148-year-old law against homosexuality, from the time of British rule, is overturned.

Jul 4  It is Independence Day in the United States, and, in an ongoing campaign against President Obama, media personality Monica Crowley scolds him for not having boasted sufficiently to Europeans about the superiority and exceptional qualities of the United States. Some conservatives older than Crowley remain concerned about character - as conservatives historically do - and they still find ostentation and bragging bad form.

Jul 4  The CIA Factbook lists the US as 50th in life expectancy at birth, at an average of 78.11 years. And it ranks the US as 45th at infant mortality, at 6.26 deaths before the age of one for every 1,000 in population. But creating a top ranking, and having fun, Joey Chestnut eats 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes at an annual 4 July contest at Coney Island, breaking his former world record of 66.

Jul 6  The China Daily reports rioting and "carnage" in the city of Urumqi of the Autonomous Republic of Xinjiang, including 156 deaths, about 1080 injured. According to the lengthy and detailed article the "Rioters vandalized and burned 203 local stores and 14 residential houses, while 260 vehicles, including two police vehicles and 190 buses, were reportedly torched." An article in the New York Times describes Muslim Uighurs chanting "God is great" and previous brawls between Muslims and Han Chinese residents. News clips broadcast in the United States show Han Chinese women bloodied by Uighurs. The New York Times reports Uighur use of the internet in organizing the riots, and it describes Chinese officials blaming Rebiya Kadeer for the rioting. She is now living in Washington D.C. and leading a movement for Uighur separation.

Jul 7  In Xianjing a mob of Han Chinese armed with iron bars and machetes roam about looking to retaliate against Muslim Uighurs (pronounced WEEger) for yesterday's violence. Authorities claim to have restored order and vociferously support ethnic harmony. Some Uighur exiles agitate for separation in the form of political independence - as black nationalists opposed to integration did in the US during the early 1960s. China's Communist Party sees integration as the wave of the future rather than ethnic separation.

Jul 10  A debate exists about the transfer of land from local farmers in Africa to foreign investors. This aside, from the G-8 summit of the world's more wealthy nations comes a promise of more than $12 billion in agricultural investments to help Africa's agriculture. The promise is reported to involve seed and fertilizer, storage bins, farm equipment, and regional trade pacts.
Jul 14  In Frankfurt, twelve companies, among them Siemens and Deutsche Bank, sign an agreement to begin what has been described as the biggest solar energy project of all time. In places in the Sahara, banks of mirrors will send suns rays to a central column that drives a turbine. The project is estimated to start generating electricity in about ten years and to produce 15 percent of Europe's electricity needs by 2050.

Jul 15  California is meeting its obligations to pay taxpayers, vendors and local governments by issuing IOUs that major banks announce they will not honor. Governor Schwarzenegger switches to the anti-tax position of his fellow Republicans. He speaks of business competition, saying that increased taxes with drive businesses and jobs from California. In a recent election, Californians, accustomed to buying "stuff" including generous portions of food, voted down an increase in taxes.

Jul 15  Al-Qaeda promises to target Chinese workers in Algeria. China demands that Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, retract his comment that the Chinese are committing genocide against Oighurs. An editorial in the newspaper China Daily calls his comments "irresponsible and groundless." China accuses the US-based World Uighur Congress of inciting unrest in Xinjiang, and it asks that organizers of Melbourne's International Film Festival not show a documentary celebrating the Uighur Congress leader, Rebiya Kadeer.

Jul 16 Peace talks resume between India and Pakistan, and many are encouraged that the two sides, after decades of conflict, appear committed to peace.

Jul 17 In the United States, despite the rising negativity about the economic recovery from conservatives and others, the Dow jumps up from an 11-week low at 8146 to end the week 700 points higher - the Dow's best weekly performance in recent months. Some of those selling when the Dow was below 8200 had to be anti-Obama pessimists. (a reader complains)

Jul 17  Nepal's government exercises a male point of view by offering a cash incentive to men to marry one of many women widowed by the country's high death rate from AIDs and recent war. Some women complain, believing that such marriages are likely to create more misery.

Jul 19  The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, speaks of reconciliation for the many Hutu guilty of murder during his nation's genocide. He describes it as for the sake of "building the future." This follows the Prime Minister of India, Manmoha Singh, flattering the President of Sri Lanka yesterday in order to encourage generosity toward former rebel fighters in Sri Lanka now being denied a victor's generosity.

Jul 20  The Amalgamated Metal Corporation, based in Britain, is accused of buying minerals from rebels in the Congo who have seized mineral sources.

Jul 20  The International War Crimes Tribunal finds two former Bosnian Serbs of the White Eagles paramilitary force guilty of war crimes. Milan Lukic is described as leader of an assault that herded about 130 women, children and elderly men into two houses - in or near the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad. The houses were then set afire, and all those who tried to escape were shot.

Jul 21 The city of Malmo, in southern Sweden, has moved freedom forward by legalizing being topless at city swimming pools, but as yet women are not baring their breasts, probably because like other normal people they still want to be able to move in public without being stared at.

Jul 22  Canadians are sending letters to editors of the Toranto Star that include personal stories praising the speed with which healthcare has been available to them. They dislike descriptions of Canadian healthcare they are hearing in the debate on healthcare in the United States.

Jul 24  Swedem's military is attacked near its base in northern Afghanistan. In the hours-long firefight three attackers are killed and two injured. No Swedish soldiers are reported to have been injured. The Swedes has approximately 400 military personnel in Afghanistan.

Jul 24  In Indonesia, President Yudhoyono wins re-election with 60.8 percent of the vote. Yudhoyono is widely reputed for integrity, smart management of the economy and fighting corruption. His reputation for creating stability was shaken by recent terrorist bombings of two luxury hotels.

Jul 26  Back in the Middle East again, after traveling the "front line of terrorism," Tom Friedman of the New York Times reports that "the bad guys are losing." He writes that the "extremist Islamist groups and governments... have failed to persuade people by either their arguments or their performances in power that their puritanical versions of Islam are the answer."

Jul 27  In northern Nigeria a Muslim "preacher," Mohammed Yusuf, according to the BBC has been attacking Western education, and mobs have been attacking people and a police station. Yusuf himself has had a Western education. His group has been called Nigeria's Taliban. More than 50 Muslim leaders are reported to have urged Nigeria's police, local authorities and state security to take action against Yusuf's sect. In recent violence more than 700 have been killed. Most sect members are young and unemployed.

Jul 28  In California, Governor Schwarzenegger uses the line item veto in signing the budget bill and closing the state's budget deficit. This cuts funding to help abused and neglected children and healthcare to children of low-income families. It closes more state parks, cuts AIDS treatment and prevention, and it cuts help for the elderly.

Jul 30   While in the custody of police, Mohammed Yusuf dies. Officials say he was shot while trying to escape. Associated French Press (AFP) reports that state television showed police celebrating around his body.

Jul 30   Democrats on a House committee defeat a Republican effort to eliminate a public insurance option from the health care bill under construction. Republicans complain about a government bueaucracy replacing the current health care system. They say that this is not what the American people want. Reformers, on the other hand, speak of private insurance companies having bureaucracies and executives with big salaries, taking around 20 cents of every dollar of income from their clients. The government run Medicare program, they point out, is more efficient, with only about 3 cents of every dollar as overhead.

August 2009

 Aug 1  US economic output (GDP) declined at a slower rate in April, May and June, compared to January, February and March. The first three months of this year had a GDP decline at a rate of 6.4 percent per year. In April, May and June this decline was only 1 percent. Twenty percent of the economic activity was the result of government spending, including the first portion of its stimulus package. Reduced inventories - empty shelves - are encouraging expectations of increased production. Some estimate that this year's third quarter (July, August and September) will have a rise in output equivalent to 2.5 percent annual growth.

Aug 2  Raul Castro announced yesterday that Cuba will cut spending on education and health care to help advance the economy. Cuba's economy has one-fifth the per capita GDP of the United States and health care that produces a lower infant mortality rate: 5.82 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to 6.26 in the United States, according to CIA figures. Cuba's neighbor, the Dominican Republic, is listed as having an infant mortality rate of 25.96 deaths per 1,000. Haiti's is 59.60 per 1,000.

Aug 4  In Australia, authorities accuse five nationals of Somali and Lebanese descent of planning to kill as many soldiers on an army base as they could. The five are linked to a Somali group that wants to overthrow Somalia's UN-backed government. The connection between that struggle or advancing Islam and killing Australian soldiers remains unclear.

Aug 4  Somewhere in the United States, a motorist with a history of small-mindedness or stupidity honks his or her horn to protest having to slow down slightly for one second.

Aug 5  An article in the New York Times describes failure of the legal system in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. There is intimidation and sometimes the murder of witnesses with impunity. "Weakness of the state is matched only by the strength of its criminals." Pakistan, according to the article, is suffering from "weak civilian institutions."

Aug 7  One year ago, Georgia attacked breakaway South Ossetia. A Russian military counter-attack quickly pushed Georgia's military back. Now, rather than refraining from speaking of the matter for the sake of better relations with Russia, Georgia seeks propaganda points and sticks its thumb in Russia's eye by accusing it of having started the war an accusation not generally accepted today. And Russia, of course, responds with its version of last years events.

Aug 7  Following Bill Clinton's retrieving two journalists imprisoned in North Korea, rightist commentators respond. They criticize the two Asian-American journalists for having stumbled into North Korea and the expense of the air transport to and from North Korea. Gordon Liddy calls them "Wee Wee" and "Long Long". Their real names are Euna Lee and Laura Ling. Most significant to the right is a posturing-prestige war. Some people on the right are perennially fearful concerning prestige. North Korea is one of the world's most ridiculed states, but critics of the Clinton mission see North Korea as having won prestige and the United States as having lost face. Pat Buchanan, on the McLaughlin Group show, predicts that the Obama administration will regret the rescue mission. Stay tuned.

Aug 8  Commander Baitullah Mehsud, the unofficial amir of South Waziristan, leader of the Taliban, organizer of the murder of Benair Bhutto and other terrorist acts inside Pakistan, has been described by followers as having been killed by a US drone missile on August 5. Strategists in the US admit that someone will rise to take his place, if he is indeed dead. Today, Baitullah's deputy, Hakimullah Mehsud (apparently not a brother or son), said reports of Baitullah death were "ridiculous." At any rate, the US strategy is to behead Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. People in South Waziristan and in greater Pakistan dislike the drone intrusions. But US strategists, while aware of the long-term importance of hearts and minds, are not willing to give up cross border drone attacks. Meanwhile, some believe that beheading the regime in Burma would be a popular move.

Aug 9  As today's reports have it, Hakimullah is no longer claiming that his commander, Baitullah Mehsud, is still alive. According to reports, a meeting took place to decide who was to replace Baitullah. Gunfire was employed. Hakimullah was shot dead. Rehman Malik appears to have been the winner. But gathering news and confirmations from South Waziiristan is difficult.

Aug 11  Reminiscent of the trials in the 1930s, when Stalin believed he was consolidating his power against rival revolutionaries, the Iranian revolution is conducting a sham trial that involves torture and publicized confessions.

Aug 11  In Burma, a regime that is criminal in its origins concludes its sham trial by sentencing Suu Kyi to 18 more months of house arrest.
Aug 12  The inflation that Obama's critics Naill Ferguson (May 31) and conservative Heritage Foundation (May 8) analysts predicted in May has not yet appeared. The Federal Reserve left key interest rates unchanged today at a record-low range of zero percent to 0.25 percent. The Federal Reserve described the US economy as having returned to a more stable footing. The Dow industrial average has not fallen again as some analysts have been predicting. These are advisors who didn't warn investors of the market collapse in 2007 and have been stunned into caution while missing out and deriding the rally that has lifted the Dow 40 percent since March. They are excusing themselves with talk of market fundamentals. The market remains at a high for the year and may be going sideways for a while, but it is not wild to suggest that it would be better for people to buy into strong companies that pay good dividends rather than earn only bankrate interest.

Aug 13  An article in the Washington Post titled "Why Are Afghans Smiling" includes the following results of a survey conducted across eight regions in Afghanistan: "Fewer than 10 percent of respondents answered that they could trust their neighbors; 20 percent said they trusted the government; 21 percent trusted the police; and 17 percent trusted the international security forces."

Aug 14  On US television, Britain's Daniel Hannan has been describing his country's National Health Service (NHS) as a "60-year mistake." The leader of Britain's Conservative Party, David Cameron, looking forward to becoming Prime Minister, has vowed to protect government funded health care from spending cuts if he comes to power, because he knows the popularity of the country's health care service. He calls the views of his fellow conservative, Mr. Hannan, "eccentric" and says that the Conservative Party "stands four square behind the NHS."

Aug 17  According to worldmeters.info, in the world so far today (8pm New York time), were 315,500 births and 138,340 deaths. This ratio of births to deaths for the day compares to the two figures for the year: 87,266,000 births and 38,128,800 deaths. The competition for space is increasing.

Aug 18  In Denmark, the Conservative Party favors a ban on people covering their face with clothing such as burkas and niqabs in public places. An immigrant from Syria, Naser Khader, who helped establish a Modern Muslims group, agrees. Danish People’s Party and the Social Democrats agree. But the Liberal Party declares legislating against certain types of clothing as step too far.

Aug 21  A team of Japanese scientists reports that plastics adrift on the oceans are decomposing, creating a toxic soup that sinks.

Aug 22  Ramadan begins. The imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca calls upon Muslims to do good deeds, to work for world peace and to stop bloodshed, violence and injustice.

Aug 24  Mali has passed a law that gives women equal rights in marriage. Protests have erupted across the nation. The head of a Muslim woman's association reports that only a minority - Muslim intellectuals - supports the law. Mali is 90 percent Muslim.

Aug 24  Pennsylvania's budget stalemate is in its eighth week, with state funding frozen. Citizens are blaming the politicians although the actions of the politicians are a reflection of what is in the heads of the citizens.

Aug 24  In the mountainous north of Yemen, a government offensive with air strikes, tanks and artillery moves against the tribal Zaidi Shia sect, which is said to have been seeking to establish Shia rule. Yemen is predominately Sunni.

Aug 25  In Malaysia, punishing a woman by six blows with a cane for having drank beer is under review by an Islamic court. Malaysia has a two-track legal system: one for Muslims, the other for non-Muslims.

Aug 27  According to General Agwai, leader of the UN and African Union peacekeeping force, the war that broke out in 2003 between Darfur rebels and government forces has ended, the rebels having fragmented politically to insignificance.

Aug 31 In Japan, the political party that has ruled since 1955, the Liberal Democrats, loses power. The Democratic Party of Japan takes power on promises to rely less on American-style capitalism (more like China perhaps, where government spending drives the economy more than consumer and entrepreneurial spending) and to do more for the people - more welfare. Japan's debt is more than 170 percent of GDP (much higher than is that of the United States, but its not in debt to foreigners), and its population is aging.

September 2009
Sep 1  Conservative columnist George F. Will writes that it is "Time to get out of Afghanistan." The strategy of "clear, hold and build" is not working. Neither is nation-building. Recent elections have "altered no fundamentals." The US, he writes, "should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters." George Will does not want to see more "American valor" squandered.

Sep 3  The civil war in Mexico rages on. President Calderon has sent his army to take control of local police stations and communities. He is fighting six major drug organizations: one in the Tijuana area; another in the Ciudad Juarez area; a third in control from Monterrey in the northeast and south along the gulf coast area, including Yucatan; a fourth between Culiacan and Morelia in the southwest; the fifth in Morelia, ruled by "La Familia"; and the sixth between Morelia and just short of the city of Oaxaca in the far south. The drug dealers are fighting back, killing people in restaurants, clubs, hospitals, hitting police stations and elsewhere.

Sep 5  National Geographic reports a study about a coming ice age produced by the earth's wobble as it rotates around the sun. Evidence indicates that human-induced global warming is delaying what would be normal cooling. From 2,000 years ago, temperatures in the Arctic have been tending downward, until 100 years ago, when they began a dramatic spike upward. (A graph was provided on their website.) The Arctic is now much warmer than it was 2,000 years ago, and it may be thousands of years before the coming of another ice age.

Sep 6  George Will has stirred up debate on Afghanistan. Secretary of Defense Gates says that more ground troops may be needed in Afghanistan. He adds that when they see us as occupiers "we will have lost." The conservative writer Robert Kagan describes George Will's position on Afghanistan (see September 1) as "double surrender" and against US interests.

Sep 9  An Israeli rights group, B'Tselem, claims that careful cross-checking indicates that during the Gaza War 1,387 Palestinians died, over half of them civilians and 252 of them children. An Israeli army report states that fewer than 300 civilians died during the fighting in December and January. A group of Israeli veterans of the war have said that widespread abuses had been committed against Gaza civilians under "permissive" Israeli army rules of engagement. Some Israelis are disturbed too by reports of rabbis assigned to the troops having evoked a "We are God's army" element during the fighting.

Sep 10  People are complaining about insensitive fellow Muslims using their mobile phones around the Kaaba, in Mecca, disrupting the sanctity of the holy place while most others are praying.

Sep 11  It is the 8th anniversary of what is known as 9/11. "None of al Qaeda’s top leadership is in our custody," writes Ali Soufan, an F.B.I. special agent from 1997 to 2005. In a long and detailed article published in the New York Times on September 5, Soufan writes that so-called enhanced interrogation techniques failedo gain intelligence that "stopped even a single imminent threat of terrorism." He concludes that, "the professionals in the field are relieved that an ineffective, unreliable, unnecessary and destructive program - one that may have given al Qaeda a second wind and damaged our country’s reputation - is finished." Meanwhile, after more than eight years of warring, al Qaeda has failed to make any gains in its agenda.

Sep 13  On ABC's Roundtable, the columnist George Will makes a point held by some of his fellow conservatives that economic depressions or recessions could heal themselves without government intervention. He suggests this is the best course. The idea of no government reforms in response to the Great Depression boggles the mind of some students of history, and not all conservatives adhere to applying that idea to this past year. A fellow conservative at the table, David Brooks, credits Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner, on behalf of the federal government, with having stabilized the economic system. This point of view is rejected by millions in the United States, some of whom joined the march on Washington this weekend.

Sep 14  Alice Rivlin, Senior Fellow at Brookings, weighs in on the side of government action and reform. Making her a liberal, or a socialist, in the eyes of those in the streets protesting President Obama's policies. She speaks of the benefits of Social Security, unemployment insurance and deposit insurance, created in the 1930s, as dampening the economic crisis of 2008-09.

Sep 15  An eleven-minute tape by Osama bin-Laden has been released. In it he celebrates his September 11 attack, and he speaks of his war of attrition. Whether it will take another eight years before we see him as a victor celebrated by throngs of millions he did not say.

Sep 16  Saudi Arabia's Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior, Prince Naif, announces a plan for a special department "to combat extremism and terrorism." He says that the Saudi kingdom will continue its efforts to convince al-Qaeda militants to return to the right path.

Sep 17  The New York Times reports that a member of Pakistan's Christian minority has died in jail. Robert Fanish, 20, was interested in a young woman whose family, it appears, retaliated by accusing him of having desecrated the Koran. Fanish was jailed on the 12th. After two days of police questioning he was found dead in his cell. Local police claim that he had committed suicide.

Sep 17  As September approached, some market analysts spoke of September and October as bad months for stocks. But historical abstractions don't move events nor the Dow. On the first day of September the Dow fell 189 points to 930, the biggest one-day drop so far this month. Today, the Dow moved to a new high for the year, a little over 980.

Sep 20  Relations between the US and Russia improved this week. Fox News commentator Monica Crowley described it as Obama adding Poland and the Czech Republic to "the long list of close, loyal American allies he has thrown to the wolves." Just watch, warns Crowley. Obama's show of weakness will encourage hostile moves against the United States. Fareed Zakaria of CNN and Newsweek sees it differently. He writes that "By canceling plans to station antiballistic-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, President Obama has traded fantasy for reality."

Sep 21  The head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) favors rules to prevent those with big money from advantage in use of the internet. "All web traffic," he says, "should be treated equaly." President Obama has backed the concept of network neutrality. It also has the support of Google, eBay and Amazon. Some Republicans complain that it is more unnecessary or harmful regulation. Telecommunications executives, according to the New York Times, complain that it is a solution looking for a problem.

Sep 23  A judge in Poland says that Catholics have the right to express their disapproval of abortion and to call it murder, but they don't have the right to vilify an individual. On a doctor's advice, Alicja Tysiac wanted an abortion. The Catholic magazine, Gosc Niedzielny, compared her abortion to the actions of Nazi war criminals. In Poland, abortions are allowed when the health of the mother is threatened.

Sep 23  A multi-billion dollar science and technology university opens in Saudi Arabia. It has one of the world's fastest super-computers. The university will take advantage of brain power that exists among Saudi Women. On campus women will work on a basis of equality with men. Scientists and students will attend from more than sixty countries.

Sep 27  Spain's government reveals its plan to liberalize abortion beyond a response to rape, a fetus showing genetic defect or when the health of the pregnant woman is at risk. The new law will allow an abortion for girls as young 16 without parental consent.

Sep 27  Hugh Sykes writes of British failures regarding hearts and minds in the Basra area of Iraq. He quotes a US battalion commander, Colonel Brian Doser, as saying "You can't wait for the security problem to be solved before you work on reconstruction," and "If you wait to solve the security problem before you improve the infrastructure, you may never solve the security problem."

Sep 27  General McChrystal, commander of US Forces in Afghanistan, tells 60 Minutes that in Afghanistan mistakes have been made and that Taliban insurgests will no longer be targeted with air strikes. Civilian casualities, he says, are more import than was realized. "If the people view us as occupiers," he adds, "we can't be successful."

Sep 29  In Guinea, Captain Moussa Camara's soldiers rampage in a stadium of people protesting rumors of Camara's plan to run in January’s presidential election, after promising he would not. Around 157 people are reported dead. In an interview with Radio France Internationale, Camara denies responsibility, saying, "I wasn't myself in the stadium."

Sep 30 The Dow ends the month at 9,712, up 2.2 percent, contrary to the down month spoken of by overly-pessimistic anti-Obama prognosticators, those who have missed the rally since March, and those confused by historical abstractions.

October 2009

 Oct 1  An international report describes Georgia as having started its war with Russia in August 2008. The report was commissioned by the Council of the European Union. It was written by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini with the help of 30 European military, legal and history experts. During the US presidential campaign, Russia was described as the aggressor and confrontation was urged.

Oct 1  The 60th anniversary of the Communists taking power in China is celebrated with a great show of parading tanks, soldiers, air power and fireworks, with speeches about the success of China's socialism. One can still hear in the United States talk of victory in the Cold War. But a victory of what sort? The defeat of Communism? Almost 18 years ago, the Soviet Union divided into independent states. Free enterprise triumphed over central planning, but the "Cold War" and a sporting-event-like political "victory" were words of fantasy by people who believed the free world had continued to be in a life and death struggle rather than the "peaceful coexistence" and cooperation sought by Soviet leaders and sought by the leaders of China to today.

Oct 2  In Guinea, Captain Camara, who seized power in December, tells Radio France Internationale of anarchy. The army, he says, "is unstructured." In other words, he does not effectively command it. He expresses fears for his safety.

Oct 4  Richard Goldstone of South Africa, who led an independent fact-finding mission created by the United Nations Human Rights Council, complains that Israel's prime minister, Netanyahu, misreprented the investigation that he led regarding the Gaza War of last December. Goldstone: "We didn't question the right of Israel to defend itself or to defend its citizens. It clearly has that right. What we looked [for were] the methods used in doing that."

Oct 5  David Letterman, on his Late Night show says "You can't be victimized by criminals. You have to push back." Rather than pay to keep hidden his having had sex with a couple members of his staff, he chose to push back against an extortion attempt. The affair, it seems, took place before Letterman married - in March this year - to the woman he had been together with since 1986. He says that he very much regrets having hurt her.

Oct 7     After years of development and operation, the Envion Corporation is launching an efficient oil generator. It transforms plastic waste back to its origion form - crude oil - without producing "second-time pollution."

Oct 7     Arrests numbering around 100 are made in the United States and Egypt for cyber crimes: "phishing" on the internet for the purpose of theft identity and fraud.

Oct 7     In Saudi Arabia, a 32-year-old man who spoke on television about cruising the streets and his sexual exploits has had the car and the cell phone he used confiscated by the state. He has been sentenced to five years in prison and 1,000 lashes to be applied in installments.

Oct 9     President Obama is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Rightwing conservatives in the US are offended, believing that he is receiving the prize for not adequately broadcasting or pursuing the mission that God has bestowed upon his country. Monica Crowley is among the offended, complaining that Obama has been throwing US allies "under the bus." The Republican National Committee head, Michael Steele, says the prize to Obama indicates "how meaningless a once honorable and respected award has become." The prize was decided twelve days after Obama took office, for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Hamas and the Taliban join rightists in the US in disapproval. Israel's Netanyahu and conservative German chancelor, Angela Merkel, appear to be pleased.

Oct 12  In the US the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) announces that the recession is over. Republicans, including Rush Limbaugh, are not giving the Obama administration any credit for it. They proclaim that President Obama so far has accomplished nothing. The NABE and everyone, including President Obama, expects a muted recovery.

Oct 12  Vladimir Putin's political party, United Russia, sweeps regional elections across Russia. In Moscow it wins 66 percent of the vote, the Communist Party is next best with 13 percent. The liberal party, Yabloko, wins less that 7 percent.

Oct 14  The Dow Jones Industrial Average rises above 10,000 for the first time this year. to 10,016.

Oct 14  On Larry King Live, Ben Stein, conservative media-talk careerist and columnist for the conservative American Spectator, fails at an attempted profundity. "If we can't be trusted," he says, "we're not a great power." A more sagacious conservative might claim that power differences might create distrust while lack of power differences creates indifference.

Oct 15  France's High Court has ruled that Monsanto Corporation has not told the truth about the safety of its best-selling weed-killer, Roundup. Roundup's main ingredient, glyphosate, is classed as "dangerous for the environment" by the European Union.

Oct 17  In Germany, prosecutors have filed a motion against the English traditionalist Catholic bishop, Richard Nelson Williamson, who has said, "There was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies." Williamson is being charged with inciting racial hatred. According to Wikipedia, Williamson, 68, also sees changes created by Second Vatican Council as "unacceptably liberal and modernistic."

Oct 19  Ben Bernanke warns that it is urgent that Asian nations (China would be among them) change to a greater focus on buying imports for home consumption. He believes that the longstanding imbalance of trade needs to end.

Oct 19  According to worldometers.info there are more than twice as many births so far today as deaths. At this moment, around 10 pm, 353,600 births and 154,500 deaths.

Oct 21  In Italy, Parliament Speaker Gianfranco Fini calls for international support to the interfaith dialogue initiative by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

Oct 21  Authorities in Syria have aroused international criticism by arresting the 78-year-old veteran dissident Haitham Maleh. Syrian authorities claim that Maleh has spread false information. Recently Mr. Maleh described Syria as being run "by decree." Apparently Syrian authorities do not want Mr. Maleh to malign their image.

Oct 21  In the US is talk of the decline of accountability journalism and the rise of advocacy journalism. Newspapers and TV news departments have been cutting back on correspondents who merely describe and who do investigative reporting. Opinion we have plenty of. In the US a public news agency is confused with government control. No prospect exists for building from existing public radio and television to something similar to the BBC. The British can afford it, but US citizens cannot.

Oct 26  The Obama administration is putting a limit on compensation for individuals in those companies the government has saved from ruin. Some complain that this will cause these companies to lose their best managerial talent. Meanwhile, culture remains an influence. Early this year, in response to the economic slump the president of Japan Airlines was riding the bus to work, eating in the company cafeteria, and he cut his salary to $98,000. Today the CEO of Germany's Siemens Corporation has an annual total compensation of €123,950, equal to $185,925. The CEO of General Electric, Jeff Immelt, who is one of the better CEOs in the United States, received no bonus with his base salary of $3.3 million at the end of 2008. In 2007 he had been paid a 5.8 million bonus - part of the go-go corporate culture in the United States.

Oct 27  In Germany, the carmaker BMW plans to link executive pay to workers’ wages in order to prevent a widening salary gap.

Oct 28  Civil war is being fought in Pakistan. The arrival of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton coincides with a rise in bomb explosions at various locations across the country. In Peshawar, a bomb explodes in a marketplace and 105 are reported as killed and a couple of hundred injured. Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, broadcasts a message to the Taliban: "You think, by attacking innocent people and lives, you will - you will shake our determination? No, sir, you will not. We will be more determined to fight you and defeat you, for our own reasons, because we have a vision for Pakistan. And that vision does not fall in line with what you stand for."

Oct 31  Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, George H.W. Bush, US President at the time, says of Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet leader at the time, "Through it all he stood firm, which is why he'll also stand tall when the history of our time in office is finally written." Helmut Kohl, Germany's chancellor at the time, was also present. Gorbachev told the group, "The people were the heroes. The three of us don't want to take credit for the accomplishments of the previous generations."

November 2009
Nov 3  China is talking about a transformation from being a large producer to a large consumer. This means an increase in imports, which will help the world economy.

Nov 3  In China it is announced that light rail trains will be delivered to the city of Ismir in Turkey in April 2012.

Nov 4  In the US the political commentator Glen Beck is gaining a lot of attention. His style is theatrical and his language riles. It is the language of victimhood. Today, for example, he says that "the mother of all government programs is being SHOVED on Americans." He is describing a democratic process: Congress working on a health care bill.

Nov 7  The weight of international approval affects Madagascar. Failing to win international backing, Andry Rajoelina agrees to form a power-sharing goverment with Marc Ravalomanana, overthrown by a military coup back in March. An election for president is scheduled for next year.

Nov 10  Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the US Army psychistrist who killed 13 and wounded 28 on November 5 on the Fort Hood base in Texas, has been described as having had communications with a Muslim cleric now living in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki was a spiritual leader at a mosque in suburban Virginia where Maj. Hasan worshipped. He takes a view that has little support among Muslims in the United States. He describes Hasan as a "hero” and "a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people.” That this explanation and Hasan's strategy is rational is open to question. For Hasan it was a suicide mission. What it accomplished that could not have been accomplished by his simple refusal to be shipped out remains undescribed.

Nov 10  In her first policy speech since being sworn in for a second term, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkle says that the “full force of the economic crisis will hit us next year." She adds that "problems will get bigger before things can get better.”

Nov 11  China's response to the swine flu is being compared to that of India and the United States. According to the New York Times, India has reported 505 deaths from the swine flu. The US, with only 300 million people, reports about 4,000 deaths. China, which has around a billion people reports 30 deaths. China has taken tough quarantine and medical detention measures, with complaints from around the world. Edward Wong's article in the New York Times headlines:
"China’s Tough Flu Measures Appear to Be Effective."

Nov 12  According to Cody Williard of Market Watch the median S&P 500 stock in 1982 was selling at about 7-8 times earnings and today that figure is 15 times earnings. He goes on: homes were more affordable in 1982, costing about 3.5 times medium annual income, and today despite the drop in home prices it is 4.1; in 1982 government spending was about 30 percent of GDP and today it's about 50 percent; in 1982 the national debt was about 30 percent of GDP and today it's 85 percent. Williard adds up credit cards and mortgages, bringing the total debt obligation to 75 percent of GDP, up from 40 percent in 82. Today interest rates are already at zero and can't be lowered to stimulate spending. To all this, Williard adds inflation for everyday items like band-aids and toothpaste to 2.5 and 3.3 percent annualized. Yesterday the Dow reached a new high at 10,340. Williard writes that his data says that buying stocks at a Dow level of 10,200 this month is probably not a good long-term bet.

Nov 17  The world is watching President Obama's visit to China. The US dollar has been declining in value. The US Commerce Department reports a disturbing rise in the US trade deficit, which is widely perceived as threatening a greater fall in the dollar. It appears that the only way the US will correct its trade deficit is by a dollar devaluation, discouraging buying from abroad. This would damage the economic recovery. The chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, says he is watching the situation. The Obama administration sees remedy in China buying more from the US and selling it less.

Nov 18  In the US, an imbalance in trade remains a primary concern. President Obama's visit to China has produced no sign of relief from what he has described as the Chinese selling everything to Americans and Americans not selling anything to them. On the Huffington Post, Robert Reich writes discouraging words about an increase in buying by the Chinese consumer, and he describes putting hope in this buying as "wishful thinking." Reich adds: "The dirty little secret on both sides of the Pacific is that both America and China are capable of producing far more than their own consumers are capable of buying. In the US, the root of the problem is a growing share of total income going to the richest Americans, leaving the middle class with relatively less purchasing power unless they go deep into debt. Inequality is also widening in China, but the problem there is a declining share of the fruits of economic growth going to average Chinese and an increasing share going to capital investment."

Nov 22  A segment on 60 Minutes describes many in the US failing to accept the inevitability of death and a lot of money going to medical procedures that make doctors and hospitals money but do not prolong life. Health care costs in the US are as high as they are, according to the piece, because Medicare pays for it, or private insurance, which drives up premiums. It adds that the US is the only industrially advanced nation that does not have a cap on spending for health care. The segment could be titled "Let Grandma Die." Instead, it is "The Cost of Dying."

Nov 23  A team of scientists at the Lare Hadron Collider in Europe has successfully collided beams of protons. They are hoping to find in the wreckage of the collision a scientific breakthough associated with what is called Higgs boson, which is expected to explain the origin of mass.

Nov 29  On his television program GPS (Global Public Square) Fareed Zakaria shows Pakistani citizens blaming foreigners - Americans or Jewish intelligence - for the string or murderous suicide bombings in their country. It is a disbelief that fellow Pakistanis would not do such a thing, even though a spokesperson for the Taliban in Pakistan was in the past, but not lately, outspoken in taking credit for the bombings. A recent opinion poll in Pakistan gives Osama bin Laden a 46 percent approval rating. Former President Musharraf's rating was 38 percent, and the poll gave President Bush an approval rating of 9 percent.

Nov 29  Economist Paul Krugman continues to downplay dangers of the national debt. He wants people not to panic. It's not the debt that matters, he says, it's the economy. An adequately stimulated ecomomy, he believes, will correct the debt problem.

December 2009

Dec 1  President Obama addresses the nation about Afghanistan. His plan is a troop surge: 30,000 more US troops to secure the major population centers. It's a plan that his military advisors approved. His exit strategy: withdrawal in July 2011. Some in the US are concerned about the cost - an additional 30 billion dollars at least. And some say that the operation is another example of wishful thinking by a president and his military advisors.

Dec 2  A spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan vows to fight on, reminiscent of Hanoi during the US-Vietnam War. Hanoi pursued its war against the US presence in their country with the understanding that eventually the Americans would give up the fight.

Dec 3  US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says that the pace of withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan in mid-2011 will be determined by "conditions on the ground." Critic George Will writes of President Obama's "halfhearted embrace of a half-baked nonstrategy" and adds that "This will not end well."

Dec 4  Official US unemployment figures are reported as having dropped from 10.2 to 10 percent and this creates enthusiasm among some people. Not Republican House Minority Leader Boehner. He is unimpressed and blames the Obama administration for depriving business people an incentive to hire. Others see a lack of purchasing power among consumers as holding back the economy and hiring - a distribution of wealth problem. Companies are sitting on a lot of cash with which to buy up other companies in the mergers game, and surplus wealth has made stock prices higher than they should be. Sebastial Mallaby, the financial columnist for the Washington Post, writes that we may be witnessing the kind of "bandwagon mentality" regarding stocks that creates a bubble. The Dow today closed at 10,388.90. Will it fall back into the 9,000s or lower? Stay tuned.

Dec 10  The suicide bomber who killed at least 22 people in Somalia recently was from Denmark. One can suppose that in Denmark he grabbed onto his identity as a Muslim strongly because he was an outsider. This is not a rare reaction among youthful minorities. Atta, who led the 911 suicide attack, acquired such an attitude while living in Hamburg as a student. And today there is news of a few Americans having been arrested in Pakistan and said to have been planning to join a war to advance Islam. Identity-ego crises, as most of us know, strike youths more than the mature. Beware of people with wounded egos!

Dec 11  A study by the Human Genome Organisation's (HUGO) Pan-Asian SNP Consortium supports the hypothesis that Asia was populated primarily through a single migration event from the south. It had been argued that Asia was populated in two waves - one into southeast Asia and a later migration into central and northeast Asia.

Dec 16  Population growth is being described as the "elephant at the summit" - the summit conference at Copenhagen on global warming. Population growth is held as the long-range fundamental behind climate change environmental degradation. It is held that it will be impossible to feed an expanding population while reducing the impact of people on the environment.

Dec 17  In Central Ohio, amid an unemployment crisis, I see that a contractor has put a team of non-citizens to work repairing roofs. Nothing that I know of prevents him from doing so, and it means more money in his pocket. (The non-citizen workers like all people who work hard, in my opinion, deserve unmitigated respect.)

Dec 18  The UN climate talks at Copenhagen conclude with some talk from environmentalists calling it an historic but incomplete agreement. President Obama called it an "unprecedented breakthrough." China's refusal to allow inspections prevented an accord with set standards. But there is an agreement among the nations to work individually in fighting global warming. Premier Wen of China announces that China will remain committed to achieving and even exceeding the emission reduction targets, and he adds that “We will honor our word with real action.” Many around the world hope that the US Congress will pass meaningful climate control legislation in early 2010.

Dec 21  Vali Nasr has written a new book, Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for Our World. Economic progress among Muslims, he claims, will create a greater friendliness and interdependence with the non-Muslim world.

Dec 22  Another journalist is murdered in Kyrgyzstan. Gennady Pavluk was tied around his ankles and his wrists tied behind his back, and he was thrown from a window. He had occasionally criticized the Kyrgyz government.

Dec 22  China's most prominent dissident, Liu Xiaobo, said it would take more that 300 years of colonialism to change China the way that Britain changed Hong Kong in 100 years. Following this statement, Liu was taken from his home and his statement used against him, with most of China's citizenry siding with the government. Some outside of China are calling for his release. Many inside China see their country as a democracy, as in the People's Republic of China." Civic-minded young people can join the country's one political party. In their mind it is a party for the citizens as a whole. They fear that a multi-party system would return China to political chaos and give too much power to multi-millionaires. China's old political party the Guomindang was a party of the wealthy, and it was the primary opponent of China's revolution. Many in China see Liu Xiaobo as a traitor to the revolution and the country.

Dec 28  In cities in Iran, demonstrations are growing. The failure of government forces to intimidate creates more than frustration for them. There is a sense that the tide is turning. Rocks are the weapons used by the demonstrators. There are instances of government forces running away. The morale of the demonstrators is up amid their anger and despite their deaths here and there, counted as nine yesterday. Sometime in 2010 we will probably see dramatic political change in Iran - unlike China.

Dec 30  In Iran, huge marches supporting the government occur in major cities. They chant "Death to opponents." These are government sponsored demonstrations, with free transportation and in some places free milk. Government pronouncements again associate dissident demonstrators with foreign powers wishing to destroy Iran's 1979 revolution. The government reports that since the anti-government demonstrations on the 27th it has arrested 1,400.

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