Thursday, March 26, 2009

Baghdad bombing claims at least 18 lives

Starting with fatalities, ICCC lists their count as 4260. That's the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. AP has a higher count: "As of Wednesday, March 25, 2009, at least 4,261 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count." And AP notes that the US Defense Dept has their count at 4,262.

In Baghdad today, a bombing with multiple fatalities. The Los Angeles Times reports it was a car bombing and at least 18 are dead with another forty wounded. Aseel Kami, Tim Cocks, Mohammed Abbas and Angus MacSwan (Reuters) explain it took place "in a crowded shopping district" and women and children were present and are among the injured. They also note this follows Wednesday's wave of Operation Happy talk from "U.S. and Iraqi security officials [who] lauded a sharp drop in violence in Iraq, which they said was lower than any time since mid-2003, but insurgents have shown themselves still capable of launching high-profile attacks." They said. They said based on their figures. Their non-public figures. LAT reminds, "On Monday, a bomb in western Baghdad's Abu Ghraib district killed at least nine people, and another blast that day killed 18 people north of Baghdad in Diyala province."

The violence never ends. Though the coverage frequently does. Rod Nordland's "Iran's Parliament Speaker Disparages Obama's Video Overture" is the rare New York Times story filed from Iraq:

Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran's Parliament, criticized the United States on Wednesday in harsher terms than any other leading Iranian figure has done since President Obama extended his videotaped olive branch to Iran last week.
The president's video took the form of congratulations on the Iranian New Year. "Our problem with America is not an emotional problem that could be solved by sending congratulations," Mr. Larijani said. "America must know that this is a complex problem that goes back 30 years."

I think Pru said it best, "Barack Obama's video version of Voice of America aimed at Iran." That's really all it was though so many embarrassed themselves by peeing their pants and insisting this was "change." By the way, Nordland has a statement in the article that I'll toss out as a nominee for a "Truest statement of the week" at Third, by the way.

So you're an Iraqi academic and the illegal war started, you found yourself and your family targeted and you became part of the initial wave of the 'brain drain' or maybe a refugee after those waves. You moved on to Syria, Lebanon or Jordan. And now the Iraqi government beckons you back with promises of 'improvement.' What happens if you return? Aseel Kami (Reuters) explains:

With violence now falling dramatically, about 700 Iraqi academics -- a fraction of the exodus -- have made a tentative return, but they have found themselves tangled in red tape and facing erratic salary levels as Iraq slashes its education budget.
"I am enormously shocked. I had assumed things are better and I would find work easily in my own country," said Taif Hassan, who has a PhD in computer science.
He had been working in Syria when Iraqi officials had encouraged him to return, only to find himself unemployed due to delays in allocating him a pay grade.
He was too embarrassed to tell friends in Syria he still didn't have a job. "How is it I can find a job in Syria but in my own country I can't?" he asked.

Lloyd notes this from Howard Kurtz' report in Wednesday's Washington Post on Barack's press conference Tuesday night:

Breaking with tradition and using a prepared list, Obama did not recognize journalists with The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal or USA Today -- the last four of which were not picked at last month's news conference, either. Instead, he called on reporters for Ebony magazine, Stars and Stripes, Univision, and Agence France-Presse.
The president did stick to the usual rotation in recognizing correspondents from ABC, CBS and NBC, along with CNN and Fox News. He also took questions from the Washington Times and Politico. The result was a nearly hour-long session focused almost entirely on domestic policy.
Obama made clear during the transition that he did not plan to follow the usual journalistic pecking order. As president, he has broken with precedent by having his press office notify correspondents that they will be called on at upcoming news conferences. The more unorthodox approach was highlighted at his first evening session, when he took a question from a correspondent for the Huffington Post, a liberal Web magazine.

Non-Iraq issue. Tuesday's snapshot included this:

Independent journalist David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). Bacon covers the a homeless camp that has sprung up in Sacramento and here's an excerpt (click here to read it in full at Immigration Prof Blog):

On one side of the American River in downtown Sacramento, foundations and media organizations have comfortable offices with views of the water. On the other side, a homeless camp sits beside the railroad tracks next to the huge Blue Diamond almond processing plant. A biking and jogging trail winds past the camp, and over the bridge crossing the river. Runners and bicyclists in spandex and shorts pass by, hardly noticing the hundreds of people living in tents, under makeshift tarps, or simply sleeping on the ground. This community has mushroomed in the last few months as the economic crisis puts people out of homes and jobs, onto the streets, or in this case, into a field.

Jesse LIBEL McKinley's "Tent Cities Arise and Spread in Recession's Grip" appears on the front page of this morning's New York Times on the same topic. (And "LIBEL" is a private message and not a critique of Jesse McKinley's article. Or of his own writing. It's a joke involving a word Jesse loves to use.)

The Kurdish Regional Government announces:

KRG Prime Minister Barzani meets Turkish President Gul in Baghdad

Erbil, Kurdistan - Iraq ( – Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani conducted a meeting with the President of Turkey, Mr. Abdullah Gul, in Baghdad. President Gul’s visit to Iraq was the first of a Turkish Head of State in 33 years.

The meeting was open and cordial, and the Prime Minister warmly thanked President Gul for his visit and his support. The Prime Minister explained that it is in the interest of the Kurdistan Region and all of Iraq to foster good neighborly relations with Turkey. And he reiterated his government’s policy to expand and consolidate peaceful relations with neighboring countries.

President Gul explained that Turkey was ready and willing to work with the new Iraq.

Prime Minister Barzani said, “This was a very positive meeting, and it sends the right message. We will not reach a solution in one meeting, of course.” He continued, “However, if we look back to one year ago, we see that the situation has improved a lot, and I think this has been a very positive step. We are on the right path. The KRG will spare no effort in the development of this relationship.”

This meeting comes as part of the normalization process between the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and Turkey. The focus was on the issues of economic cooperation, the expansion of commercial relations between Turkey and both the Kurdistan Region and Iraq as a whole, and on border security.

The KRG policy, in line with the Constitution of Iraq, is against the use of Iraqi soil for military attacks on our neighbors, and Prime Minister Barzani stressed his complete adherence to this policy.

Prime Minister Barzani also met with Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Their discussion centered on the relationship between Federal Iraq and the KRG, and on the unresolved issues yet to be addressed in Iraq. These issues are currently under consideration in committees. Prime Minister Barzani emphasized the will of the Kurdistan Region to participate in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation in order to find mutually acceptable solutions to the issues.

Prime Minister Barzani attended a lunch banquet, hosted by Prime Minister Maliki, and a dinner reception, hosted by President Jalal Talabani – both in honor of the visit by President Gul.

And Iraq's Foreign Ministry announces:

Iraqi-French Joint Committee Meeting in Paris

Iraqi-French Joint Committee meeting was held for the first time in 20 years on March 20-24 in Paris, the Iraqi delegation was chaired by the Minister of Oil Mr. Hussein Al-Shahristani and included representatives of the ministries of oil, industry, trade, finance and Investment committee, and representatives of other ministries, in addition to the Iraqi ambassador in France Mr. Muwaffaq Mehdi Abboud. The French side was chaired by French Minister of Economy and Finance Mrs. Christine Lagarde.

During the meeting the two sides signed two agreements, one with the French foreign investment committee, "Cofas" to ensure the French trade with Iraq, and the second provided for the establishment of a club for French-Iraqi employers.

During a joint press conference of the two sides, the French minister stated the importance of exchanging visits between officials from the two countries and the possibility of the French Prime Minister's visit to Baghdad on the head of a large economic and trade delegation.

On his part, Minister Al-Shahristani expressed Iraq's desire to develop relations with France in various political, economic, cultural and scientific fields.

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