Friday, June 19, 2009

Iraqi refugees

It hasn't been smooth sailing for the thousands of Iraqi refugees entering America's resettlement program. Only 11 percent are finding work this year, compared with 80 percent two years ago. Many are frustrated as benefits dwindle, cash runs out, and eviction notices pile up.
With such findings in hand, nonprofit resettlement agencies like the International Rescue Committee (IRC) are urging this week an overhaul of America's three-decade-old refugee policy.
Reforms should include more cash assistance from the US government to the refugees, the IRC says. The government should also offer a uniform and more substantial package of benefits, the IRC says.
Refugees "never imagined that they would be struggling to survive here in America," says Alaa Naji, a refugee from Baghdad who now works in Atlanta for the IRC. "They expected more from a country that was involved in the violence that destroyed our land, homes, and loved ones."
Complaints about the handling of refugees have risen as the United States has tried to welcome more Iraqi refugees. Until 2006, only 202 Iraqis had come to the US, partly because of security concerns. In the past three years, 25,659 Iraqi refugees have arrived.

The above is from Patrik Jonsson and Kristen Chick's "Many Iraqi refugees in US now in dire straits" (Christian Science Monitor) which is the most in depth article on Iraq by a US outlet this morning. Assyrian International News Agency also covers the refugees with a report (including many photos) entitled "Assyrian Refguees in Sweden Caught in Political Struggle." The article notes that despite puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki meeting with Pope Benedict XVI there's no increase in trust. A refugee is quoted stating, "How will he [al-Maliki] protect anyone? He doesn't even dare to leave the Green zone."

Meanwhile Asia News reports that the Pope met with the Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians Ignace Youssiff III Younan today and the Pope declared, "I constantly pray for peace in the Middle East, in particular for the Christians who lived in the beloved nation of Iraq, every day, during the Eucharistic Sacrifice, I present their suffering to the Lord." On Iraqi Christians, Iran's Press TV observes:

In Iraq, the number of Christians has been declining on a fast track basis in the wake of the 2003 invasion of the country by the US. Of the 1.4 million Christians living there in 2003, nearly half have fled. Apart from the consequence of the invasion, Iraqi Christians, especially those in Mosul, came under attacks unleashed by the Salafi militants as well as the Al-Qaeda.
These Salafi groups did not appear over night in the Arab countries. Some regional governments have been funding these groups primarily to target Shia Muslims and those Sunnis who rose up against extremism.
Therefore, it is no wonder to see that the holy Shia sites including Askariya shrine and Imam Musa al-Kadhim shrine as well as churches became the targets of such groups. Interestingly, many of these regional governments are very close allies of the West, especially the US.

A large percentage of Iraq's external refugees are Christians. Some Christians remain in Iraq. In Kirkuk, Archbishop Louis Sako has called for an end to executions in Iraq as Amnesty International also has. Adnkronos Security quotes Archbishop Sako stating, "The Death penalty is horrible deed. It is humanly and spiritually unjustifiable. It is an offence to life and to the maker." This as Iraq Oil Report notes a Sunni satellite TV station which is said to broadcast hate speech aimed at Shi'ites and Christians inflaming tensions in Najaf with such comments as, "If I have ten nuclear bombs, I would use one against Christians and Jews, and the remaining nie agains Shi'ites."

In the New York Times this morning, Bernie Becker offers "Senate Widely Approves Emergency Funds for Wars" about yesterday's vote for the War Supplemental in the Senate and includes this:

Senators Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, had threatened to block the spending measure because it had no longer included a ban on the release of photographs showing abuse of prisoners held by American forces.
But the two backed off after separate legislation to ban the photos' release was introduced and approved by the Senate on Wednesday. Mr. Obama had already said he would work to prevent the release of the photos.

That's a circumspect way of describing what happened. David Lightman (McClatchy Newspapers) doesn't skirt the issue:

The other obstacle was lifted Wednesday after Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., spoke to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel about controversial photos that show Guantanamo Bay detainees being abused.
"I have been personally assured by Rahm Emanuel that if Congress fails to do its part in protecting these photos from being released, President Obama will sign an executive order classifying the photos," Graham said.
The senator was threatening to block Senate business unless he got assurance that either the Senate would act to bar the photos or the president would issue such an order.
He wound up with both. The Senate unanimously approved the ban on releasing the photos without debate late Wednesday. Graham also said that Emanuel "assured me these photos would not see the light of day." Emanuel's office didn't answer requests for comment.

TV notes. Starting with PBS. This week on Bill Moyers Journal (begins airing tonight on most PBS stations, check local listings, and it streams online -- video and audio -- and offers transcripts):
Instructed by a dream and organized in prayer, Leymah Gbowee and
thousands of everyday women in Liberia - both Christians and Muslims
alike - confronted warlords and a corrupt president to successfully
fight for peace and dignity in their war-torn nation. "I realized that
every problem we encounter on this journey, I'm going to rise above it
and lead these women because they trusted me with their lives and their
future," says Gbowee. Journal guest host Lynn Sherr interviews Leymah
Gbowee and Abigail Disney, who documented their inspiring tale in the
award-winning film PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL. Lynn Sherr is a
long-time broadcast journalist who most recently covered events in
Liberia for PBS' news program, WORLDFOCUS.

NOW on PBS offers:

According to the Department of Education, the average amount of undergraduate student debt in this country is now more than $22,000. And sudden changes in lenders' terms and rates can quickly turn a personal debt into a financial sinkhole, grounding the dreams of many college graduates even before they've started.
This week, NOW follows the story of a single mother in Baltimore trying to dig herself out of more than $70,000 student loan debt. While issues of personal responsibility are debated, there's no question the high price of higher education is creating an ocean of student loan debt for people who can least afford it.
How are the 70 million Americans with student debt frustrating America's economic recovery?

Washington Week finds Gwen sitting around the table with Barbara Slavin (Washington Times), Karen Tumulty (TIME magazine), David Wessel (Wall St. Journal) and Jeff Zeleny (New York Times). All begin airing tonight (check local listings) on most PBS stations and tonight also finds Bonnie Erbe sitting down with Karen Czarnecki, Irene Natividad and Leslie Sanchez to discuss the week's news on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

A Clean Version Of Hell
Exclusive footage from within and a rare interview with its former warden takes viewers inside the secretive "Supermax" federal prison, where the nation's most dangerous and infamous criminals - including terrorists - are held under the strictest rules. Scott Pelley reports.

The War Next Door
Drug-cartel fueled violence has turned into a war in Mexico, with thousands of deaths and the government battling well-armed gangs whose military-quality weapons come mostly from U.S. dealers. Anderson Cooper reports.

Steve Kroft profiles the Cleveland Cavalier's superstar, LeBron James, who at only 24, is already among an elite handful of athletes who command tens of millions a year in playing and marketing fees.

60 Minutes, Sunday, June 21, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

This morning on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show (begins airing at 10:00 a.m. EST, streams online at the same time and archives shortly after the broadcast is over), the panel for the first hour (domestic) is USA Today's Susan Page, Hedda Hopper Lives!'s Eamon Javers and Wall St. Journal's Laura Meckler; while the panel for the second hour (international) is Wall St. Journal's Youchi Dreazen, Washington Time's Barbara Slavin and Al-Arabiya's Hisham Melhem.

The e-mail address for this site is

the new york times
mcclatchy newspapers
bill moyers journal
60 minutes
cbs news
to the contrary
bonnie erbe
now on pbs
the diane rehm show