21 1 Decade 9 th yr
21 2008- AD
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak with Secretary of State Rice, in
2007 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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."
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
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 to a speech at a conference in
His willingness to travel internationally is now likely at an
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.
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
"Bernie" Madoff, finance guru
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
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
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
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
already in place - more of the European socialism that rightwing
commentators in the US, like Sean Hannity of Fox News, are complaining
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
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.
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.
Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu
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
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
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
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.
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.”
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner
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.
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
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
Apr 29 The University of California has developed a camera
that takes six million images per second. It is to be used in medical
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 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
May 26 Norway's right wing Progess Party has become the only
political party in Norway to support euthanasia (mercy killing), or
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
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
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."
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
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
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
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).
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
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
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, 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
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
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."
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
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
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
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
Jul 20 The Amalgamated Metal Corporation, based in Britain,
is accused of buying minerals from rebels in the Congo who have seized
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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"
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
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
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.
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
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
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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