Thursday, January 16, 2014

Iraq: Spoiled food, corruption, missing voters

Let's start with food.  Alsumaria reports 7 people have been arrested in Maysan suspected of planning to sell expired food.  They also report that the Parliament's Integrity Committee is questioning a Ministry of Commerce sugar contract.   These food issues follow another one from earlier this week -- the issue of bisquits.

National Iraqi News Agency reports:

Allawi said in a statement on Wednesday 15, Jan. that the government and the concerned parties are responsible for the case of forgery and corruption about the deal for importing invalid biscuits for the Ministry of Education within the school feeding program, and the manipulation of mafias from abroad in the duration of the validity of the biscuits sent to Iraq by the World Food Program.

He called for stopping the import of the biscuits from the World Food Programme, and to stop supplying the schools with all kinds of biscuits existing in the warehouses of the Ministry of Education.

Allawi stressed the need to fight financial and administrative corruption that is eating away the body of the Iraqi state, blaming the Iraqi government responsible for exacerbating this phenomenon, which increased from the tragic situation in the country, represented by the deterioration of security, infrastructure, environmental services, social, educational, and the absence of professional and genuine partnership in the management of all state institutions

Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) reported yesterday that 139 tons of these biscuits had been distributed to schools in Dhi Qar Province.  Alsumaria reports today that the UN World Food Program has expressed regrets over the concerns regarding the "high-energy biscuits" and their "validity" (UN Representative Jane Pearce's word) and called on the Iraqi media to mitigate negative publicity.  Pearce is also the country director for the WFP on Iraq.

At the end of April, Iraq is supposed to hold parliamentary elections.  All Iraq News reports that, as announced by the Independent High Electoral Commission, electronic election cards have arrived in Najaf.  The cards go to the voters and "contain the personal data of the voters."  Voters in Kirkuk are already bothered by the voting roles.  Amjad Salah (Alsumaria) reports that over 54,000 eligible voters in Kirkuk are missing from the voting rolls.  Residents are threatening to sue if the situation is not rectified.  Salah adds in another report that the Electoral Commission is denying any names are missing from the rolls.

From elections to politicians,  Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq is currently on a visit to the United States.  Tuesday, he spoke at the Institute of Peace.  Alsumaria reports today he met with US politicians.  With Senator John McCain, he discussed relations between Iraq and the US, terrorism and political reconciliation.  Senator McCain's office issued the following statement on the meet-up:

Jan 15 2014

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement on his meeting yesterday with Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Saleh Mutlaq:
“I had an excellent meeting yesterday with Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Saleh Mutlaq. We discussed the tragic developments in Anbar province, and he offered great insights into how our two governments can work together in addressing Iraq’s current crisis. We both agreed that strengthening and improving the capabilities of Iraq’s armed forces is essential at this difficult time, but we also agreed that there is no purely military solution to Iraq’s problems.
“The only way to halt Iraq’s slide into instability and achieve lasting peace and prosperity is through greater democracy, power sharing, and reconciliation. All Iraqi citizens should be empowered through the political system, and all Iraqis have an obligation to reject violence and extremism and take steps to further political reconciliation. In particular, both members of Congress and the Obama Administration should continue to urge Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government to reach out to all Iraqis, to govern more inclusively, and to pursue the necessary political reforms that can strengthen national unity and marginalize Al-Qaeda and other violent extremists.”


Al Mada notes al-Mutlaq's visit to the US and his statement that the US has a responsibility to assist the crisis in Iraq.  al-Mutlaq isn't the only Iraqi politician on the go.  Amjad Salah (Alsumaria) reports KRG President Massoud Barazani is off to Europe where he will participate in the World Economic Forum (Davos, Switzerland, January 22-25th).  He's leading a delegation from Erbil -- a KRG delegation.

Meanwhile, Iraq's budget has gone to Parliament.  National Iraqi News Agency reports that Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman calls the forwarding of the budget -- which led the Kurds to walk out of the Cabinet -- "unwise."  NINA also notes Kurdish MP Ashwaq al-Jaf notes the Kurds plan to use Constitutional steps in Parliament to address the issue.

Iraq was discussed yesterday in the House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee.  We noted it in yesterday's snapshot, Ruth covered it in "Benghazi addressed in Congress," Kat in "Homeland Security Committee hearing," Wally in "Beto O'Rourke talks about Iraq" and Ava in "US Rep Brian Higgins weighs in on Iraq."

Finally, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this from Bacon's "WORKING ON THE STREET:  THE GRITTY LIFE OF A DAY LABORER: The story of Fidel Antonio" (East Bay Express):

Day laborers are pretty much taken for granted, as they wave at cars passing the sidewalk where they look for work near Home Depot or the local lumberyard. What road brought them to their street corners, far from their families in Mexico and Central America? What do they do if they don't get hired - where do they live and how do they eat? Fidel Antonio makes a living, barely, from jobs gained on the sidewalk near Truitt and White Lumber in Berkeley. He lives in Oakland's Fruitvale, and every day takes a bus to this street corner hiring hall. He told his story to David Bacon.

In the state of Morelos, my family was very poor, living just from one day to the next. My father had no land of his own, so landowners would rent him land. But he was a very hard man, and would fight with them, so then we'd have to move. Later he had asthma, which kept him from working at all.
 Sometimes we didn't have enough to eat. My mother tells me that she would make a soup with two eggs and some vegetables, and make it stretch so it would feed the whole family. She'd have to borrow tortillas from the neighbors to eat with it. Or if there wasn't enough corn for the tortillas, she would combine corn with sorghum to make them. That would satisfy our hunger, and maybe we'd have some left over for the following day.
In many little towns, especially up in the mountains, people still live this way. They don't have enough money even to buy beans - just enough for tortillas to eat with salt.

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