2009 Archive Selected News Articles

December 2009

  • Dec-31-2009
    Wall Street Journal: Obama's Security 'Breach'. Returning Gitmo's detainees to Yemen defies common sense.
    President Obama has belatedly declared that the near miss above Detroit constituted "a catastrophic breach of security" and ordered a review of America's intelligence efforts. We're glad to hear it, but let's hope the Commander in Chief also rethinks his own approach to counterterrorism. Recent events have exposed the shortcomings of treating terror as a law enforcement problem and rushing to close Guantanamo Bay. A new wave of jihadists is coming of age, inspiring last month's deadly attack at Ft. Hood and nearly bringing down Northwest Flight 253, and next time we may not be so lucky. Their latest sanctuary lies in unruly Yemen, headquarters for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, which last year pulled off a series of local bombings, including at the U.S. embassy in the capital Sana, killing 13. The al Qaeda chapter in Yemen has re-emerged under the leadership of a former secretary to Osama bin Laden.

  • Dec-30-2009
    Wall Street Journal: A Cold-Blooded Foreign Policy. No despot fears the president, and no demonstrator in Tehran expects him to ride to the rescue.
    With year one drawing to a close, the truth of the Obama presidency is laid bare: retrenchment abroad, and redistribution and the intrusive regulatory state at home. This is the genuine calling of Barack Obama, and of the "progressives" holding him to account. The false dichotomy has taken hold—either we care for our own, or we go abroad in search of monsters to destroy or of broken nations to build. The decision to withdraw missile defense for Poland and the Czech Republic was of a piece with that retreat in American power. In the absence of an overriding commitment to the defense of American primacy in the world, the Obama administration "cheats." It will not quit the war in Afghanistan but doesn't fully embrace it as its cause. It prosecutes the war but with Republican support—the diehards in liberal ranks and the isolationists are in no mood for bonding with Afghans. (Harry Reid's last major foreign policy pronouncement was his assertion, three years ago, that the war in Iraq was lost.)

  • Dec-29-2009
    The Atlantic: We Regret The Error. Five Atlantic predictions of the past decade we’d like to take back.
    At The Atlantic, we pride ourselves on the foresight of our authors. We like to point out that “As We May Think,” Vannevar Bush’s 1945 meditation on information networks, foresaw the creation of the World Wide Web. We less often highlight “The Coming Air Age,” another Atlantic article of the same period, which predicted that the average businessman would soon be commuting to work in a helicopter. The last decade has been no exception: we’ve published some 2,000 articles, and many turned out to be eerily prophetic. Nine years after James Fallows’s cover story “The 51st State,” Uncle Sam is, as our cover image anticipated, staggering under the weight of a smoldering Iraq. But inevitably, our crystal ball has its flaws. Here are five thoughtfully argued Atlantic predictions that never quite came to pass.

  • Dec-28-2009
    The Atlantic: The 10 American Ideas of the Decade.
    Let’s say it’s 1999 and you’re at an entertainment store looking for a movie or CD. The two questions you might ask are “Where can I find this?” and “How much does it cost?” Today the answers to those questions would be “Anywhere” and “Nothing.” In a kind of reverse-Big Brother effect, the Internet has been a dream for the little man consumer and a nightmare for Big Media publishers of music, movies, journalism, and television. If your content can be digitized, it can be pilfered, pirated, and otherwise pulled from the Internet without being purchased. As a result newspapers and magazines are folding, network TV is doubling down with reality shows, and music chain stores are filing for bankruptcy.

  • Dec-27-2009
    BBC News: Timeline: Iraq After Saddam. 2003 - 2008.
    A look back at how events in Iraq have unfolded since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

  • Dec-27-2009
    BBC News: Timeline: Iraq 1920 - 2009.
    A chronology of events that happened in Iraq between 1920 and 2009.

  • Dec-25-2009
    Investopedia: Profiting In A Post-Recession Economy.
    People will always question what the future economy will look like after it suffers a recession. Though there are different implications with each recession - owing to its causes and the governmental and financial changes that are brought about - the economy will definitely shift and there will emerge new economic practices and trends for industries, consumers and investors. As long as investors are aware of the likely economic shifts that lie before them in a post-recession environment, the opportunity to make excellent investments is there.

  • Dec-25-2009
    Elaph: Karbala. Ashoura (in Arabic).

  • Dec-14-2009
    Middle East Media Research Institute: Saudi Concerns About Iraqi Oil (Revisited).
    In a MEMRI dispatch issued shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, we wrote the following: Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing country among the members of the Organization of Oil Producing Countries (OPEC) and, as such, it is the dominant force in the organization. Changes in the supply equation that could diminish its role and influence in the international [oil] market and, more significantly, the future of the cartel, concern Saudi Arabia greatly. The possible entry of Iraq, in a considerable way, into the market is more than a matter of concern for the Saudis – it may even develop into an economic nightmare.[1] Six years later, the nightmare looms larger. It is not surprising that the Saudi regime has shown open hostility toward Iraq to the extent that King Abdullah bin Abd Al-Aziz has refused to meet with Iraq's prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki. Oil is not the only issue. As an earlier MEMRI dispatch noted, Saudi hostility toward Iraq has three intertwined roots – religious, political, and economic.[2] There is the aversion of the dominant religion in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the Wahhabism, toward the growing dominance of Shi'ism in Iraq and the legitimate concern that Iraq, dominated by Shi'ite Iran, could pose a strategic threat to the Kingdom's eastern region where most Saudi oil is found and where the Saudi Shi'a minority, estimated at 2 million or about 10 percent of the Saudi population, is demographically dominant but politically marginalized.

  • Dec-09-2009
    Qaddafi's Letter To Izzat Al-Douri (in Arabic).

  • Dec-08-2009
    Elaph: Five Terrorist Explosions In Baghdad - by Shaker Al-Nabulsi (in Arabic).

  • Dec-05-2009
    The Economist: Iraq and the Kirkuk conundrum. A hint of harmony, at last.
    In the run-up to the election, could Iraqi minds be concentrated strongly enough to find at least a temporary solution to an age-old and dangerous conundrum? IT SOUNDS far-fetched but it may be true. A group of Irish peacemongers, from both sides of their long-divided island, claims to have made rare progress last month towards getting Arab and Kurdish Iraqis to settle their differences, which have been threatening to drag the country back to the level of bloodshed that engulfed it three years ago. With a South African who had helped reconcile white and black South Africans looking on, a clutch of Iraqi members of parliament got to unusual grips with the mechanics of sharing power between Kurds, Arabs and Turkomans in the disputed region of Kirkuk. If they can build on this momentum after the general election that is now expected in mid-February (the January date having slipped), a modicum of federal harmony may eventually be achieved—to the benefit of all Iraqis.

  • Dec-01-2009
    The Atlantic: How Einstein Divided America's Jews.
    In 1921, Albert Einstein’s first trip to America triggered the kind of mass hysteria that would greet the Beatles four decades later. But as newly published documents show, it also tore a sharp rift between European Zionists and some of their fellow Jews across the Atlantic, men like Louis D. Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, who felt that the best way for Jews to get ahead was to assimilate, not agitate for a Jewish homeland. ALBERT EINSTEIN’S FIRST tour of America was an extravaganza unique in the history of science, and indeed would have been remarkable for any realm: a grand two-month processional in the spring of 1921 that evoked the sort of mass frenzy and press adulation that would thrill a touring rock star. Einstein had recently burst into global stardom when observations performed during a total eclipse dramatically confirmed his theory of relativity by showing that the sun’s gravitational field bent a light beam to the degree that he had predicted.

  • Dec-01-2009
    The Atlantic: Did Christianity Cause the Crash?
    America’s mainstream religious denominations used to teach the faithful that they would be rewarded in the afterlife. But over the past generation, a different strain of Christian faith has proliferated—one that promises to make believers rich in the here and now. Known as the prosperity gospel, and claiming tens of millions of adherents, it fosters risk-taking and intense material optimism. It pumped air into the housing bubble. And one year into the worst downturn since the Depression, it’s still going strong. LIKE THE AMBITIONS of many immigrants who attend services there, Casa del Padre’s success can be measured by upgrades in real estate. The mostly Latino church, in Charlottesville, Virginia, has moved from the pastor’s basement, where it was founded in 2001, to a rented warehouse across the street from a small mercado five years later, to a middle-class suburban street last year, where the pastor now rents space from a lovely old Baptist church that can’t otherwise fill its pews. Every Sunday, the parishioners drive slowly into the parking lot, never parking on the sidewalk or grass—“because Americanos don’t do that,” one told me—and file quietly into church. Some drive newly leased SUVs, others old work trucks with paint buckets still in the bed. The pastor, Fernando Garay, arrives last and parks in front, his dark-blue Mercedes Benz always freshly washed, the hubcaps polished enough to reflect his wingtips.

November 2009

  • Nov/Dec-2009
    Foreign Affairs: The Suicide of the East? 1989 and the Fall of Communism.
    There was no World War III. A fictional one, depicted in the 1978 international bestseller The Third World War, was imagined by one of the most remarkable soldier-scholars of his generation, a retired British general named John Hackett. His war begins when a 1985 crackup in Yugoslavia lights the great-power fuse, 1914 style. Analogies to World War I, of decaying empires and military machines primed to attack, were very much in the air when the book was published. It was the late 1970s, and Soviet interventionism had reached a high point, while the Soviet Union combined a sprawling, ill-governed military with an aging, insecure political class.

  • Nov-30-2009
    Wall Street Journal: Switzerland and the Minaret. Sunday's vote keeps European heads in the sand about Muslim immigrants.
    Nearly 58% of Swiss voters Sunday cast their ballots in favor of banning the construction of new minarets in the Alpine republic, a surprise result that led at least one Swiss member of parliament to declare that "the foundations of Switzerland's direct democracy have failed." That is clearly wrong. Swiss direct democracy shows its mettle when Swiss voters use it to stand up to their political elites, as happened here. Having said that, Sunday's vote, for all the hand-wringing leading up to it, was a decidedly mild-mannered sort of protest. The construction of new minarets is banned, but the building of mosques is unaffected, and the vote does not affect the four existing minarets in the country. Nobody's freedom of worship is threatened, but a symbolic message has been sent.

  • Nov-29-2009
    Wall Street Journal: The Arabs Have Stopped Applauding Obama. A foreign policy of penance has won America no friends.
    'He talks too much," a Saudi academic in Jeddah, who had once been smitten with Barack Obama, recently observed to me of America's 44th president. He has wearied of Mr. Obama and now does not bother with the Obama oratory. He is hardly alone, this academic. In the endless chatter of this region, and in the commentaries offered by the press, the theme is one of disappointment. In the Arab-Islamic world, Barack Obama has come down to earth. He has not made the world anew, history did not bend to his will, the Indians and Pakistanis have been told that the matter of Kashmir is theirs to resolve, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the same intractable clash of two irreconcilable nationalisms, and the theocrats in Iran have not "unclenched their fist," nor have they abandoned their nuclear quest. There is little Mr. Obama can do about this disenchantment. He can't journey to Turkey to tell its Islamist leaders and political class that a decade of anti-American scapegoating is all forgiven and was the product of American policies—he has already done that. He can't journey to Cairo to tell the fabled "Arab street" that the Iraq war was a wasted war of choice, and that America earned the malice that came its way from Arab lands—he has already done that as well. He can't tell Muslims that America is not at war with Islam—he, like his predecessor, has said that time and again.

  • Nov-29-2009
    Financial Times: The intrinsic unimportance of Dubai World and the important wider message it conveys.
    Dubai is not systemically significant. If its troubles open our eyes to the likely imminence of the start of the final leg of the journey from household default through bank default to sovereign default, it may do some systemic good, by alerting fiscal policy makers to the vulnerability of their nations’ fiscal-financial positions, and by educating citizens and voters to the urgency of deep fiscal burden sharing.

  • Nov-26-2009
    Elaph: How Saddam Was Executed - by Mowaffak Al-Rubaie (in Arabic).

  • Nov-26-2009
    The Economist: Were We Wrong? The intricacies of regional diplomacy and a strenuous American denial.
    LAST week The Economist ran an article entitled “A regional cockpit” describing how the influence of Iraq’s neighbours—Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and, to a lesser extent, Syria—was waxing as that of America waned. To illustrate the evolution of a new balance of power, we pointed to an alleged meeting between the commander of Iran’s infamous Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, and the American commander in Iraq, General Raymond Odierno, along with the American ambassador, Christopher Hill. Our correspondent in Baghdad had been told of this meeting, which was said to have taken place in early September, first by a leading Iraqi politician with close ties to the Iranians. This was confirmed by a senior American official in a position to know whether such a meeting had taken place. Just before publication, General Odierno and Mr Hill officially denied that the meeting had occurred.

  • Nov-19-2009
    Abdul Khaliq Hussein: Warning The Ba'athist (in Arabic).

  • Nov-12-2009
    Investopedia: 3 Canadian Banks Providing Security And Profit.
    While the rest of world begins the process of unwinding the behemoth banks through regulation, Canadian financial institutions are standing ready. Canada's regulated market place has created a safe haven for depositors and a conservative lending environment. Canadian banks are using this conservatism to find worldwide assets on the cheap and expand beyond their borders. Investors wanting to get back into the financial sector can look to the previous three banks as a good place to invest for dividends as well as future growth as they pick up the pieces of the crumbling banking landscape.

  • Nov-08-2009
    Council On Foreign Relations: Iraq Trip Report - by Kenneth M. Pollack.
    "I travelled to Iraq for two weeks, from October 11 to October 25. I went as part of a 14-person Joint Campaign Plan Assessment Team, created by Ambassador Hill and General Odierno to provide an outside critique and evaluation of the latest version of the Iraq Joint Campaign Plan— the fully integrated political-military-economic-diplomatic approach to be pursued by all U.S. military and civilian personnel to achieve the President’s objectives in Iraq over the next 3 years. As part of this effort, the team had numerous meetings with members of the U.S. military, embassy and other personnel; members of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq; as well as a wide variety of Iraqis, most connected to the Iraqi armed forces, the government or the political system in some way. In addition to my time in Baghdad, I traveled to Irbil, Basra, and Najaf to observe the situation in those cities. Other members of the team traveled to Ramadi, Diyala, and Kirkuk and reported back on the situations they found there."

  • Nov-07-2009
    Investopedia: The 5 Most Feared Figures In Finance.
    Every Halloween there is no shortage of children dressed up as vampires, werewolves and witches. If, however, a child truly wanted to inspire horror in the adults handing out the sweet candy treats, he or she would be better to put on a suit, tie and wing-tipped shoes, and threaten to topple the market. In this article, we'll take a look at the frightening financial figures that caused terror on Wall Street. The word terrifying is apt for these men. The names Gates, Soros, Icahn, Rockefeller and Morgan all embody enough power (financial, mental and political), to inspire awe, respect and, consequently, fear. It is unlikely that they will ever inspire their own costume line, but they will forever cause chills down the spines of bankers, investors and financial figures alike.

  • Nov-07-2009
    Investopedia: Profitable Investing, Ivy League Style.
    In addition to Harvard, Yale, Princeton and MIT, there are many other educational institutions that have been running a money machine in their own backyards. Contrary to popular impression, universities earn their living not just by teaching, but by running some of the most successful endowments in the world. That's no surprise considering the fact that the top 20 endowments grew by more than 9% annually on real basis between 1992 and 2005. However, with high negative returns in 2008, university endowments may have to devise new strategies - something that Ivy Leagues always love to do. Read on to find out how Ivy Leagues manage their money through the thick and thin of economic cycles.

  • Nov-07-2009
    Investopedia: Determining Risk And The Risk Pyramid.
    You might be familiar with the risk-reward concept, which states that the higher the risk of a particular investment, the higher the possible return. But, many investors do not understand how to determine the level of risk their individual portfolios should bear. This article provides a general framework that any investor can use to assess his or her personal level of risk and how this level relates to different investments.

  • Nov-05-2009
    Historiae: About New DNO Revelations: While He Was Influencing the Shape of the Iraqi Constitution, Peter Galbraith Held Stakes in an Oilfield in Dahuk.
    It is widely known that the former US diplomat Peter Galbraith has been one of the most prominent figures in shaping the state structure of Iraq in the period after 2003, especially with his vocal advocacy of various forms of radical decentralisation and/or partition solutions for Iraq’s political problems that are reflected in his books and numerous articles in the New York Review of Books, especially in the period from 2004 to 2008. Until now, though, it has generally been assumed that Galbraith’s fervent pro-partition propaganda was rooted in an ideological belief in national self-determination and a principled view of radical federalism as the best option for Iraq’s Kurds. Many have highlighted Galbraith’s experience as a former US diplomat (especially in the Balkans in the 1990s) as key elements of his academic and policy-making credentials.

  • Nov-05-2009
    Historiae: Disputed Territories in Iraq: The Practical Argument against Self-Determination in Kirkuk.
    If history should provide the guidelines, it would be relatively easy to prescribe a solution to what is frequently seen as one of the most “complicated” issues in current Iraqi politics: The status of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. A variety of different historical sources prior to 1957 and dating back several centuries unequivocally designate Kirkuk as a town dominated demographically by Turkmens, who for their part were famous throughout the Iraqi region from Basra to Mosul for their leading role in the Ottoman and later Iraqi administrations. Traditionally, the Kurds in this area, whose relationships with the Ottomans and later the Iraqi government in Baghdad were far more tenuous, had their strongest presence in the rural hinterland outside Kirkuk. Accordingly, any attempt to sever the longstanding ties between Baghdad and the city of Kirkuk itself on the basis of two waves of Kurdish immigration to the city itself in the late 1960s and since 2003 would be ahistorical in the extreme, and not incomparable to, say, a Scottish bid to annex selected slices of Northumbria in the north of England.

  • Nov-05-2009
    Historiae: Biden, US Policy in Iraq and the Concept of Muhasasa.
    On 27 February this year, President Barack Obama held one of the best speeches on Iraq delivered by a US senior official for a long time. Obama congratulated the Iraqis for having resisted the forces of partition, and while he noted the need for political reconciliation, he pretty much refrained from imposing his own interpretation of what the relevant problems were and how they should be solved. As such, the statement was in harmony with the better parts of his speech in Cairo in June, in which he went out of his way to make it clear that he had no intentions of framing America’s relationship with the Muslim world as a monologue where only the values of one side receive attention.

  • Nov-05-2009
    The Economist: Mikhail Gorbachev and the fall of the wall. The man who trusted his eyes. Why the Soviet Union’s leader did not send in the tanks.
    The fall of the Berlin Wall was not big news in Russia. Neither was it a surprise. It was a logical consequence of the process that began in Moscow in 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power. By 1989 his perestroika, or reconstruction and opening, was in full swing. Andrei Sakharov, Russia’s most famous dissident and nuclear scientist, returned from his forced exile in Gorky and was elected to the first Soviet parliament. Banned films and books flooded the intellectual space. The physical space also opened up, as Russians started to travel to the West. Dismantling the Soviet Union was the last thing on Mr Gorbachev’s mind. He believed that socialism and democracy were complementary, and his reforms were aimed at preserving and renewing the country. It was his faith in socialism, his human instincts and legitimacy within the system that set eastern Europe free. For him this was a question of values, not geopolitics, as Russia’s rulers believe today. Unlike them, he had no siege mentality, and needed no Berlin Wall to huddle behind. From their point of view, which is now taught in schools, Mr Gorbachev naively gave up Russia’s “security belt”, getting nothing in return. They would not have made the same mistake.

  • Nov-05-2009
    The Economist: Iraq's coming election. The region's liveliest system. Amid the bickering and chicanery, people are engaging in democracy.
    Sometimes it seems as if Iraqi politicians cannot agree on anything. Parliament has taken months debating a bill to pave the way to elections on January 16th, though at least 296 parties have declared their intention to compete at the polls. Yet outside the chamber many members say they want the same things. The era of sectarian division, they all insist, is over. Shias and Sunnis embrace at press conferences as they present electoral alliances. In the name of reconciliation, politicians disavow the militias that once killed on their behalf. Banners proclaim the goal of “national unity”. Is there any sign that such fine dreams might ever come true? For all the backbiting, progress is plain. After months of negotiations, six main electoral blocks have emerged to meet a looming deadline for registering alliances. The three that look most genuinely post-sectarian may well be the strongest. The rest sport fig-leaves of diversity but are tainted with past sectarian violence.

  • Nov-05-2009
    The Economist: After the soviet collapse. A globe redrawn. Welcome to the new world disorder.
    To Russia's once and possibly future president, Vladimir Putin, the collapse of the Soviet Union—two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall—was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. It set off shocks that were felt across the globe. Russians who lived through the ruinous inflation and currency woes of the early post-Soviet years paid a heavy price. Yet few ouside Russia lamented the passing of the century’s last failed empire. Even Russians had seen worse. For them, the 20th century had already brought the first world war, with the Bolshevik grab for power, followed by Stalin’s self-induced famine, which killed millions. By contrast, the end of the cold war was hardly devastating. The post-1945 nuclear stand-off between the Soviet Union and the West had brought a perilous stability, but had generated proxy wars from Korea and Vietnam to Angola, Central America and Afghanistan—a continuation of cold war by more traditional bloody means. Indeed the collapse of Soviet influence around the world went unmourned outside Russia, except by those who had relied on it to seize and hold power. Yet how had the end come so fast? And how would it refashion a world forged over four decades of superpower domination and rivalry?

  • Nov-03-2009
    Spiegel Online: The Story of 'Operation Orchard'. How Israel Destroyed Syria's Al Kibar Nuclear Reactor.
    In September 2007, Israeli fighter jets destroyed a mysterious complex in the Syrian desert. The incident could have led to war, but it was hushed up by all sides. Was it a nuclear plant and who gave the orders for the strike? The mighty Euphrates river is the subject of the prophecies in the Bible's Book of Revelation, where it is written that the river will be the scene of the battle of Armageddon: "The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East." Today, time seems to stand still along the river. The turquoise waters of the Euphrates flow slowly through the northern Syrian provincial city Deir el-Zor, whose name translates as "monastery in the forest." Farmers till the fields, and vendors sell camel's hair blankets, cardamom and coriander in the city's bazaars. Occasionally archaeologists visit the region to excavate the remains of ancient cities in the surrounding area, a place where many peoples have left their mark -- the Parthians and the Sassanids, the Romans and the Jews, the Ottomans and the French, who were assigned the mandate for Syria by the League of Nations and who only withdrew their troops in 1946. Deir el-Zor is the last outpost before the vast, empty desert, a lifeless place of jagged mountains and inaccessible valleys that begins not far from the town center.

  • Nov-03-2009
    The Economist: How to change the system. In praise of the ideas of Russ Ackoff.
    It is hard to imagine a less enticing title for a book than “Introduction to Operations Research”. Yet Russ Ackoff, one of the authors of this tome of 1959, who died on October 29th aged 90, did not just help to define a nascent branch of industrial engineering. He wrote 30 other books, becoming one of the most influential management gurus of the 20th century in the process. His ideas about systemic thinking are vitally important today if the world is to come out of the current economic crisis in better shape than it went into it. Today’s crisis is the result of a catastrophic failure, primarily in the financial system but also of our economic and political systems. Mr Ackoff spent most of the past half-century as the premier evangelist of systemic thinking, which he contrasted with the reductionist, atomistic thinking that had long dominated humanity’s approach to problem-solving in his view. Time and again, he would point out, decision-makers faced with crises failed to heed Albert Einstein’s warning that “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

  • Nov-01-2009
    National Geographic Magazine: Shadowland -- Poised to play a pivotal new role in the Middle East, Syria struggles to escape its dark past.
    There's a passage in The Godfather in which a young Michael Corleone, living abroad, realizes that with his older brother suddenly and violently deceased, he now stands anointed—doomed is more like it—to take over the Mafia empire his aging father has built from scratch. "Tell my father to get me home," he says to his host, resigned to the role he is now fated to play. "Tell my father I wish to be his son." If there was a moment like that for Bashar al Assad, the current president of Syria, it came sometime after 7 a.m. on January 21, 1994, when the phone rang in his rented apartment in London. A tall, scholarly ophthalmologist, Bashar, then 28, was doing a residency at Western Eye Hospital, part of St. Mary's Hospital system in Britain. Answering the phone, he learned that his older brother, Basil, while racing to the Damascus airport in heavy fog that morning, had driven his Mercedes at high speed through a roundabout. Basil, a dashing and charismatic figure who'd been groomed to succeed their father as president, died instantly in the crash. And now he, Bashar, was being called home.

  • Nov-01-2007
    Saban Center: The “Shi’i Crescent”: Myth and Reality.
    This paper argues that far from there being a threatening “Shi‘i crescent,” or a Middle East about to be torn apart along Muslim sectarian lines, the pattern has been for mixed Sunni-Shi’i states to remain intact. The reason is that important differences remain among Shi’i communities. In many cases, the Shi’ah are more concerned with changing their lot within their existing countries than in binding themselves to Iran, the largest Shi’i community in the region, or in creating any other form of pan-Shi’i alliance.

  • Nov-01-2009
    The Atlantic: Misleading Indicator. Will the Great Recession finally end our misguided obsession with gross domestic product?
    Here's a question no one ever asks about the Great Recession: How do we even know it’s happening? Daily, almost, someone releases employment figures, production estimates, consumer-confidence indexes—almost all of them bad. There’s no need to wonder what’s happening when information about everyone’s problems constantly streams across your TV screen. And in this dolorous statistical parade, no number is quite so central to public life as the gross domestic product. Political scientists build formulas around it to predict who will win the presidency. The stock market trembles at the approach of new quarterly figures. Other economic statistics, like budget deficits or health-care spending, are quoted as percentages of GDP. It has become the common denominator of economic well-being. But GDP’s broad dominion has long had its critics. It was never meant to be the measure of our well-being, they say, only the measure of our production—literally, the total value of the goods and services produced within the national borders in a given year. While the quest for some broader measure of progress has been going on for a while (more than a decade ago, for example, The Atlantic was running articles like “If the GDP Is Up, Why Is America Down?”), it may finally be gaining traction at a time when people understand, as never before, how easily GDP and well-being can diverge.

  • Nov-01-2009
    Foreign Policy: Free Markets, Free Muslims Can a New Middle Class Make a New Middle East?
    It was not long ago that word of "the Dubai miracle" was on everyone's lips. Driven by little more than a grand idea of itself, this sparsely populated, sun-baked strip on the Persian Gulf had become a gleaming multiethnic metropolis overnight. Dubai was bursting with financial assets, boasting the world's most luxurious hotels, and attracting more than six million visitors every year -- no small feat for an emirate of a mere 100,000 citizens. But in the last year, the speculative bubble that had driven much of Dubai's growth popped: cranes fell still, and ambitious projects lay languishing on the drawing board. Behind the scenes, it took tens of billions of dollars in financial guarantees from Abu Dhabi to keep the whole enterprise afloat.

October 2009

  • Oct-30-2009
    Investopedia: Retiring On Investment Interest: Can It Be Done?
    The first and sometimes only retirement income plan that comes to mind for the average investor is interest only. Interest only is just what it sounds like: you are invested in interest-bearing investments and whatever interest you earn is the money you spend. This is a simple strategy, but it isn't as easy to implement as you might imagine. The simplicity of the strategy is one of its appeals. Who hasn't thought of retirement that way? You retire with $1 million and invest the total in a portfolio of fixed-income investments at 6% and live off of the interest ($60,000 per year plus Social Security and your pension if you're so lucky). Then, at death, you leave behind the entire $1 million you started with. What could be better? As it turns out, there are some serious flaws to this approach. Let's take a look.

  • Oct-29-2009
    The Economist: Bombs and politics in Iraq. No end in sight. Another “spectacular” raises doubts about American troop withdrawals.
    Two car bombs that exploded on October 25th in the centre of Baghdad claimed the lives of at least 155 people and injured more than 700. The main targets were the Ministry of Justice and the office of the governor of Baghdad province. Almost simultaneously the explosions blew windows and their frames several hundred metres along Haifa Street, near the fortified Green Zone. Burst water mains flooded parts of the area, washing over charred bodies and through burned cars. This was the second such attack in two months and the bloodiest in two years. On August 19th bombs destroyed several government buildings, including the ministries of finance and foreign affairs, killing about 100 people. Since then, a new sense of crisis has enveloped the Iraqi capital. The overall number of attacks has decreased in the past year, but spectacular assaults are on the rise. This is affecting politics. Elections are due in January and security is now a big issue. Within hours of the bombings, some politicians were pointing fingers. “Voters know these are manipulations by the Saddamists,” says Ammar al-Hakim, the new leader of the largest Shia party. Many other Iraqis blame the same Sunni insurgents, including al-Qaeda and members of Saddam Hussein’s former regime. On October 27th a group calling itself Islamic State in Iraq, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the bombings, saying it had attacked “dens of infidelity” in the capital.

  • Oct-25-2009
    Masada 2000: Intelletual ouput from the [Arab] Muslim World.
    There are a mere 12 Million Jews in the entire world yet they have received 185 Nobel Prizes. The Muslims number 1.4 Billion (with a very big "B")... or 117 times the number of Jews! Based upon this 117:1 Muslim-to-Jewish ratio, one might expect the Muslims to have 24,920 Nobel Laureates. They have NINE! and one of them [Arafat] is a murderer (Allahu Akbar, indeed!) Unless the Swedes and Norwegians start awarding Nobel Prizes for plane hijackings, pizza shop bombings, civilian bus attacks, Jihad suicides/homicides, drive-by shootings, throat-slittings, embassy attacks and other such acts of barbarisms, the embarrassing low level of contribution to the welfare of Civilization and Mankind by the [Arab] Muslim world will continue. The Jewish People, meanwhile, will continue being the Lights Unto All Nations.

  • Oct-21-2009
    Al-Mada Paper: Interview with Ahmed Chalabi (in Arabic).

  • Oct-17-2009
    Abdul Khaliq Hussein: False information is the speciality of the Ba'ath Party (in Arabic).

  • Oct-16-2009
    Wall Street Journal: The Banking System Is Still Broken. Borrow from the Federal Reserve at zero and lend to Treasury for a profit. That's some racket.
    Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have announced that the recession is over. Now that the Dow Jones Industrial Average has broken the 10,000 mark, we'll surely be hearing assurances that economic growth is here to stay. But the credit markets are in much worse shape than some indicators suggest.

  • Oct-14-2009
    Investopedia: Lifetime Income Annuities: The Instant Pension Plan.
    After decades of hard work and diligent savings, you've amassed a tidy nest egg and are ready to retire. The challenge you now face is the need to make your nest egg last as long as you do. If outliving your money is your greatest financial fear, the lifetime income annuity may be just what you need.

  • Oct-14-2009
    Al-Mada Paper: Interview with Mithal Al-Alousi (in Arabic).

  • Oct-12-2009
    Foreign Affairs: All (Muslim) Politics Is Local. How Context Shapes Islam in Power.
    The maxim Islam din wa-dawla (Islam is religion and state) is often said to describe a distinguishing mark of Islam -- the suggestion being that Islam is a religion with a political mission at its core. Both those who repeat the mantra with approving fervor and those who worry about it assert its essential truth and suggest that all Muslims must make it a part of their worldview. Some go so far as to claim that this axiom calls for a particular form of state structure or political behavior. And yet, of course, the statement is nothing more than a political slogan -- an artifact of its time, its meaning contingent on the setting in which it is used, like any other rallying cry. This quality does not make the slogan any less meaningful for the Muslims who subscribe to it; what it does is highlight the fact that this saying reflects a preoccupation with state power in the modern world. The Muslims who adhere to it, no less than those who do not and no less than non-Muslims, are both the products and the makers of that world. This point is worth stating since much of the present debate about the role of Islam in world politics tends to downplay the political or, at least, display a one-dimensional understanding of what drives political ambition. The political behavior of Islamists, and sometimes that of all Muslims, is often treated as an exotic peculiarity that defies normal analysis and can only be explained as an extension of their faith.

  • Oct-09-2009
    Wall Street Journal: The Dollar Adrift. A global vote of non-confidence.
    The biggest story in the world economy is the continuing fall of the U.S. dollar, or at least it is everywhere outside of Washington, D.C., the place most responsible for its declining value. For good reason, the world is wondering if America has cast the dollar adrift. A passel of Asian central banks—South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and Thailand—intervened yesterday to stop the greenback's fall against their currencies. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet also tried to buoy the buck, telling reporters that "A strong dollar is extremely important in the given circumstances." Neither effort made much difference. Meanwhile, the London Independent created a splash this week with a thinly sourced and not very credible story that several nations were working secretly to trade oil in currencies other than the dollar. The alleged conspirators all quickly denied it, but the tizzy the story created suggests the global mood of concern about holding American currency.

  • Oct-08-2009
    Wall Street Journal: Islamists and Ottomans. Reactionary nostalgia for the caliphate is completely misplaced.
    The reaction in Turkey to the recent death of Ertugrul Osman, heir to the Ottoman throne and successor to the last Caliph, could not be more shocking. Islamists in kaftans and long beards gathered in Istanbul two weeks ago to bury the titular head of the world Muslim community. He was a scotch-drinking, classical music-listening Western Turk who until recently lived on New York City's Upper East Side. The Islamists' embrace of Osman, a descendant of the Westernized Ottoman sultans, provides a window into the Islamist mind. Islamism is not about religion or reality. Rather it is a utopian ideology. Osman, raised by a line of Western-leaning caliphs and sultans, loved Atatürk's Turkey, yet the Islamists abused his funeral and the memory of the caliphate, changing him into a symbol for their anti-Western, anti-secular and anti-liberal agenda.

  • Oct-08-2009
    Investopedia: 3 Ways To Make Your Retirement Funds Last.
    Congratulations, you've made it to retirement! Hopefully you've planned appropriately, saved enough money and are prepared to start living off your savings. Unfortunately, it is common to find that retirees are unprepared for the distribution phase of retirement. They have spent their working lives focusing on the accumulation phase. They've contributed to IRAs, participated in their employer- provided retirement plans and saved. Often it's not until right before they retire that they consider how to create and receive their income. This article will address some of the basics of retirement income distribution plans. We will address three methods using a standardized 4% cash flow rate. Two of the methods are well known; the third, not so much. They are all viable methods; it is a retiree's personal circumstances that should determine which method, or combination of methods, are used.

  • Oct-08-2009
    Investopedia: 4 Overlooked Homeownership Costs.
    Stocks Mutual Funds FOREX ETFs Active Trading People have two choices when it comes to their living arrangements: to rent or purchase a residence. Many people come to the conclusion that homeownership is the way to go because real estate prices have soared over the past decade. However, when comparing the two alternatives many people tend to overlook the multitude of hidden costs that come with homeownership. In fact, there is much more that goes into owning a home than just the mortgage payment. Let's take a look at the four most overlooked items that tend to be a burden to all homeowners and examine how these costs can be minimized.

  • Oct-08-2009
    Investopedia: Bankruptcy Filing Changes That Could Affect You.
    It isn't much of a surprise that when the economy suffers a downturn, the number of people filing bankruptcy increases. Since 2005, there have been several changes to U.S. bankruptcy laws that may make it harder to file than it used to be. As changes are implemented, it is important to know what your options are if you are considering filing.

  • Oct-08-2009
    Investopedia: 4 Must-See Gold Charts.
    The price of gold has reached record highs this week and has understandably resulted in a renewed interest in gold mining stocks. As you can see from the charts below, the rising commodity price has helped send the price of many gold stocks above the resistance of a well-formed bullish flag formation, which from a technical perspective is a signal of a continued run higher for the players in this sector, despite conflicting chatter in the media.

  • Oct-01-2009
    Foreign Policy: It's Still the One. Oil's very future is now being seriously questioned, debated, and challenged. The author of an acclaimed history explains why, just as we need more oil than ever, it is changing faster than we can keep up with.
    On a still afternoon under a hot Oklahoma sun, neither a cloud nor an ounce of "volatility" was in sight. Anything but. All one saw were the somnolent tanks filled with oil, hundreds of them, spread over the rolling hills, some brand-new, some more than 70 years old, and some holding, inside their silver or rust-orange skins, more than half a million barrels of oil each. This is Cushing, Oklahoma, the gathering point for the light, sweet crude oil known as West Texas Intermediate -- or just WTI. It is the oil whose price you hear announced every day, as in "WTI closed today at ...." Cushing proclaims itself, as the sign says when you ride into town, the "pipeline crossroads of the world." Through it passes the network of pipes that carry oil from Texas and Oklahoma and New Mexico, from Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, and from Canada too, into Cushing's tanks, where buyers take title before moving the oil onward to refineries where it is turned into gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, home heating oil, and all the other products that people actually use. But that is not what makes Cushing so significant. After all, there are other places in the world through which much more oil flows. Cushing plays a unique role in the new global oil industry because WTI is the preeminent benchmark against which other oils are priced. Every day, billions of "paper barrels" of light, sweet crude are traded on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange in lower Manhattan and, in ever increasing volumes, at electron speed around the world, an astonishing virtual commerce that no matter how massive in scale, still connects back somehow to a barrel of oil in Cushing changing owners.

  • Oct-01-2009 - SPECIAL REPORT
    Human Rights Watch: Dignity Denied: Systematic Discrimination & Hostility Toward Saudi Shia Citizens.
    A pilgrimage of Saudi Shia to Medina in February 2009 to observe the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad’s death led to clashes between the pilgrims and Saudi security forces. Those forces included the non-uniformed religious police, which is staunchly Sunni and opposed to what they consider the idolatrous innovations of Shia rituals of commemorating special holidays and making visits to graves. The immediate cause of the Medina clashes was the filming on February 20 of Shia women pilgrims by a man believed to belong to the religious police. The clashes continued in the area of the Baqi’ cemetery in Medina over a five-day period, and resulted in the arrest of tens of pilgrims. The Medina clashes and subsequent events in the Eastern Province stoked the sharpest manifestation of long- standing sectarian tensions that the kingdom has experienced in years. The incidents at the Baqi’ cemetery reflected in part these long-standing tensions, but they were also an outlet for anger among the Shia (who are 10-15 percent of the population) over systematic discrimination at the hands of the government in education, the justice system, and, especially, religious freedom. They also face exclusion in government employment. The government for its part reacted with repressive measures of arrest and a clampdown on public airing of Shia grievances rather than seeking dialogue to prevent further conflict. Nevertheless, underlying discrimination has risen. Since the February-March events, authorities have intensified ongoing restrictions on Shia communal life. The Saudi government should urgently address the underlying reasons for sectarian tension, and end systematic discrimination against the Shia.

September 2009

August 2009

  • Aug-30-2009
    Middle East Transport: Waiting In Religious Thoughts (in Arabic)

  • Aug-30-2009
    Center For Strategic International Studies (CSIS): Memorandum To General Raymond Odierno. Subject: Observations From A Visit To Iraq.
    The Changing Challenge to Iraqi Security: The Kurdish Challenge; The Sectarian Challenge; The US Response. Planning for the Longer Term and Emerging Risks, Not Just For Withdrawal. Looking at Individual Aspects of the US Aid Effort: Ensure the flow of CERP/quick reaction civil aid; Establish plans for multiyear aid funding; Ensure Iraq does not try to sustain too large and too costly a mix of ISF forces, and sets goals that can create a supportable mix of ISF forces; Do not downsize the PRT effort too quickly or end it too soon; At the same time, efforts to trace the history of the PRTs and lessons learned need to be transformed into more standardized models and reporting systems, and careful attention needs to be placed on comparing the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan; The "human terrain" effort seems validated. Two Thirds of a Joint Campaign Plan? The Need for a Stronger Civilian Effort: Restructuring the Civil Side of the US Effort in Iraq; The Use of Venture Analysis; More broadly, the US team seemed to have the right priorities for creating suitable investment laws, but it was unclear that there was a set of defined goals and actions to get laws and practices in place; There was a suitable emphasis on agricultural reform, water, and related needs for power. The efforts involved, however, seemed fragmented and often shaped around project level efforts as ways of leading by example. Iraq's agricultural problems, however, are deep structural problems. They need large-scale action and reform, and detailed economic analysis and planning; There are few "magic bullets" that can create 1,000s of jobs quickly out of a single project. The State Owned Enterprises do, however, seem to be the best platform for both job creation and giving current state employment a meaningful degree of productivity; Iraq needs major infrastructure investment, and better government services are a critical part of this effort; Iraq needs sustained aid in improving the overall quality and capacity of government services; Police performance increasingly needs to be measured in ways tied to rule of law; More broadly, we need to reassess the character of the rule of law effort; Similar plans are needed to cover the transition from stability operations to a true civilian rule of law.

  • Aug-30-2009
    Center For Strategic International Studies (CSIS): American Strategic, Tactical, and Other Mistakes in Iraq: A Litany of Errors. Report of April 19, 2006.
    Wartime is scarcely the easiest time for demanding self criticism, but the recent exchanges between the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense over the mistakes the US did or did not make in Iraq have highlighted the fact that the US must both admit its mistakes and learn from them to win in Iraq and successfully engage in the “long war.” The full chronology of what happened in US planning and operations before, during, and immediately after the fight to drive Saddam Hussein from power is still far from clear. It is now much easier to accuse given US leaders than it is to understand what really happened or assign responsibility with credibility. The following summary analysis does not focus on blame, although it indicates that any such “blame game” should focus on the overall problems in the US national security apparatus and not any individual. It rather attempts to highlight a litany of errors that the US needs to deal with if it is to succeed in the future.

  • Aug-27-2009
    Middle East Transport: Obama's Mideast Vision: Confustion
    There is great discomfort these days among those who backed Barack Obama’s “new” approach to the Middle East when he took office 10 months ago. That shouldn’t surprise us. Everything about the president’s shotgun approach to the region, his desire to overhaul all policies from the George W. Bush years simultaneously, without a cohesive strategy binding his actions together, was always going to let the believers down. As the president’s accelerated pullout from Iraq begins to look increasingly ill-thought-out, as his engagement of Iran and Syria falters, as Arab-Israeli peace looks more elusive than ever, and as Americans express growing doubts about the war in Afghanistan, Obama is discovering that personal charisma is not enough to alter the realities of a Middle East that has whittled down better men than he. Barack Obama’s devotees may imagine that because he spent a few years abroad as a boy, he is well equipped to understand our complicated world. Perhaps he is, but his approach to the greater Middle East, shorn of the soaring rhetoric, has been artless and arrogant. The president is being tied up every which way by his foes, who can plainly see that the Obama vision is an unsystematic one. If ever the US has been close to achieving potentially terminal self-marginalization in the region, it is now.

  • Aug-27-2009
    The Economist: Europe and Islam: A treacherous path? A pessimist’s view of what Islamic immigration may be doing to Europe Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West.
    Christopher Caldwell is an American journalist who writes for the liberal Financial Times as well as the conservative Weekly Standard. He has spent the past decade studying European immigration, travelling widely and reading voraciously in an impressive variety of languages. His controversial new book repeatedly echoes Powell’s warnings all those years ago. Mr Caldwell argues that “Western Europe became a multi-ethnic society in a fit of absence of mind.” European policymakers imported people to fill short-term job shortages. But immigrants continued to multiply even as the jobs disappeared: the number of foreign residents in Germany increased from 3m in 1971 to 7.5m in 2000 though the number of foreigners in the workforce did not budge. Today immigrants account for about 10% of the population of most west European countries, and up to 30% in some of Europe’s great cities.

  • Aug-25-2009
    Al-Meda: Editorial (in Arabic)

  • Aug-24-2009
    Money Morning: In the Race for a U.S. Economic Rebound, Growing Debt and Budget Deficits Remain the Biggest Possible Roadblock.
    Even as investors get more and more bullish about the outlook for the U.S. economy, the economy’s underlying foundation continues to erode. In a report to be released this week, the Obama administration will boost its 10-year projectiojn for the federal budget deficit to about $9 trillion – an increase of roughly $2 billion, or 29%, from its prior projection, Fox News reported over the weekend, citing a source from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The new cumulative deficit projection – for 2010-2019 – replaces the administration’s previous estimate of $7.108 trillion. Changes in budget projections – whether they result in a surplus or a deficit – are often refined as economic conditions change. This new projection was necessary because the recession has gone on for so long, causing federal tax receipts to plunge – and because the economic rebound will be prolonged and weak, resulting in lower forecasts for future federal revenue.

  • Aug-24-2009
    Al-Meda: Editorial (in Arabic

  • Aug-23-2009
    Al-Meda: Editorial (in Arabic

  • Aug-20-2009
    Elaph: The Last Hours Of General Qassim (in Arabic)

  • Aug-17-2009
    Wall Street Journal: The President And The Arab Status Quo - It's time for Obama to turn his back on tyrants.
    As a candidate, Barack Obama pledged not to support dictators friendly to the United States. Yet despite this promise, President Obama welcomes Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to the White House this week. This unusual goodwill—the president also visited Mr. Mubarak in Cairo on June 4—is sending mixed messages to all those Americans who worked to elect Mr. Obama as a champion of change. And it is disappointing to those in Egypt, Africa and the Arab world who hailed his historic victory as the first African-American president. Mr. Mubarak, 82 years old, has been ruling Egypt for 28 years. He's received more than $50 billion in outright U.S. aid but has failed to deliver anything to his own people. He hasn't contributed an iota to regional peace beyond what his predecessor, the late Anwar Sadat, had already accomplished at Camp David 32 years ago. Mr. Obama only has to read the latest Human Development Report from the United Nations Development Program to note the steady drop in Egypt's regional and global ranking. Likewise, the annual reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House all focus on the lack of democratic governance and the massive violations of human rights under Mr. Mubarak—including torture and coerced disappearances.

  • Aug-15-2009
    Aawsat: Interview With President Jalal Talabani (in Arabic)

  • Aug-14-2009
    Investopedia: What's The Minimum I Need To Retire?
    Can I retire with $1 million dollars? Of course you can. Truth be told, you might be able to retire with much less. Then again, you might not be able to retire with $1 million or $2 million or perhaps even $10 million. It all depends on your personal situation. On thing is sure: you want to make sure your golden years are golden, not merely a struggle for existence. Most advisors and financial professionals have been able to boil it down to one number, also known as the holy grail of retirement analysis: the amazing 4% sustainable withdrawal rate. Essentially, this is the amount you can withdraw through thick and thin and still expect your portfolio to last at least 30 years, if not longer. This will determine how long your retirement savings will last, and will help you determine how much money you need for the retirement you want.

  • Aug-14-2009
    Investopedia: The Importance Of Diversification
    Diversification is a technique that reduces risk by allocating investments among various financial instruments, industries and other categories. It aims to maximize return by investing in different areas that would each react differently to the same event. Most investment professionals agree that, although it does not guarantee against loss, diversification is the most important component of reaching long-range financial goals while minimizing risk. Here we look at why this is true, and how to accomplish diversification in your portfolio.

  • Aug-14-2009
    Investopedia: 5 Common Mistakes Young Investors Make
    When learning any skill, it is best to start young. Investing is no different. Missteps are common when learning something new, but when dealing with money, it can have serious consequences. Investors starting young generally have the flexibility and time frame to take on risk and recover from their money-losing errors, but sidestepping the following common mistakes can help a novice investor be more successful over time. Young investors should take advantage of their age and their increased ability to take on risk. Applying investing fundamentals early can help lead to a bigger portfolio later in life. There are also many risks that a young/less-experienced investor will face when making decisions. Hopefully, avoiding some of the common mistakes above will help young people learn investing early and embark on a fruitful investing career.

  • Aug-14-2009
    Investopedia: 4 Ways To Weather An Economic Storm
    Economic conditions can be as temperamental as the weather. In this article we'll look at some simple steps that can help keep the financial boat afloat during an economic tempest. One of the biggest temptations is to reverse all your preparation when the economy recovers. Economists sometimes call this spending binge "pent up demand." As things improve, there seems to be less need to have large amounts of cash in reserve, or to keep to a strict budget. There is also a tendency to mindlessly push money back into the market to make up for lost time and value, sometimes leading to an echo bubble. If, however, you can continue to run a tight financial ship, you'll find that your superior reserves, cost consciousness and contrarian thinking will keep you sailing smoothly in all manner of economic seas.

  • Aug-07-2009
    Al-Mada Paper: Arab Nationalism - Part 1 - by Shakir Al-Nabulsi (in Arabic)

  • Aug-05-2009
    Wall Street Journal: Autocracy and the Decline of the Arabs.
    The Arab world is plagued by despots. But don’t expect the U.N. to give President Bush any credit for challenging this order.

    Not since the days of Henry Kissinger’s Mid-East shuttle diplomacy in the 1970s has America’s foreign policy toward Israel been characterized by such an attitude of unsentimental realism. After eight years of fighting, the stalemate in Afghanistan and the loss of 4,000 American troops in Iraq – not to mention the deaths of perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis – has rendered the search for stability, rather than democracy, paramount, and created a climate in which interests are to be valued far more than friends. Indeed, having sacrificed so much for the sake of the Middle East’s future, America will not think twice about asking its friends—especially the one it bankrolls, and which is occupying densely Arab-populated land—to sacrifice, too. Many, both in the Administration and in the wider Washington establishment, have simply lost patience with what they see as Israeli intransigence over settlements in occupied territories. This may not be fair, or even wholly logical, for the issue of settlements is highly complex. But the reality is that Washington’s quiet passions have turned decidedly against Israel.

  • Aug-05-2009
    The Atlantic: Losing Patience With Israel. More than democracy,
    Washington wants stability in the Middle East. That means leaning against the interests of the Jewish state.

    ‘It made me feel so jealous,” said Abdulmonem Ibrahim, a young Egyptian political activist, of the recent upheaval in Iran. “We are amazed at the organization and speed with which the Iranian movement has been functioning. In Egypt you can count the number of activists on your hand.” This degree of “Iran envy” is a telling statement on the stagnation of Arab politics. It is not pretty, Iran’s upheaval, but grant the Iranians their due: They have gone out into the streets to contest the writ of the theocrats. In contrast, little has stirred in Arab politics of late. The Arabs, by their own testimony, have become spectators to their history. A struggle rages between the Iranian theocracy and the Pax Americana for primacy in the Persian Gulf and the Levant. The Arabs have the demography—360 million people by latest count—and the wealth to balance Iran’s power. But they have taken a pass in the hope that America—or Israel, for that matter —would shatter the Iranian bid for hegemony. We are now in the midst of one of those periodic autopsies of the Arab condition. The trigger is the publication last month of the Arab Human Development Report 2009, the fifth of a series of reports by the by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on the state of the contemporary Arab world.

  • Aug-03-2009
    Wall Street Journal: What’s Different About The Obama Foreign Policy? - The continuities with Bush are striking. But what happens when diplomacy fails?
    President Barack Obama has put some miles on Air Force One. He and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have made major foreign policy speeches. The national security team is in place. It’s time to make a preliminary judgment about Mr. Obama and the world. Just how different is this administration’s foreign policy from its predecessor? And will such departures where they exist make much difference? Set aside the administration’s conceit of “smart power,” since only fools (read: Team Obama’s predecessors) would prefer stupid power. Continuity is the dominant note.

July 2009

  • Jul-30-2009
    Al-Mada Paper: The Root Of Arab Nationalism - by Shakir Al-Nabulsi (in Arabic)

  • Jul-26-2009
    Aawsat: The True Fall Of Cities - by Jabir Habeeb Jaber (in Arabic)

  • Jul-24-2009
    Foreign Policy: The New Nuri Al-Maliki - U.S. officials used to worry that Iraq's prime miniter was too weak. That was then.
    The circumstances surrounding Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's visit to Washington this week could not be more different from the last time he was in town. In July 2006, Maliki was largely unknown, both in Iraq and in the West, and lacked a constituency. Today, he is the dominant force in Iraqi politics, has consolidated much of the emerging Iraqi state into his own hands, and has won a measure of democratic legitimacy after January's provincial elections. In 2006, with Iraq on the verge of state failure, it was Maliki's indecisiveness that troubled Washington. Today, with his country emerging as a sovereign power, his assertiveness is what's worrying. Three months before his last visit, Maliki had been chosen as prime minister precisely because he seemed weak. Iraq's first elections under the new constitutional order were held in December 2005, yet the negotiations to form a government stretched on for months. The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the majority coalition of Shiite parties, was unable to agree on a candidate for prime minister.

  • Jul-20-2009
    Foreign Policy: The New Nuri Al-Maliki - U.S. officials used to worry that Iraq's prime minister was too weak. That was then.
    The circumstances surrounding Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's visit to Washington this week could not be more different from the last time he was in town. In July 2006, Maliki was largely unknown, both in Iraq and in the West, and lacked a constituency. Today, he is the dominant force in Iraqi politics, has consolidated much of the emerging Iraqi state into his own hands, and has won a measure of democratic legitimacy after January's provincial elections. In 2006, with Iraq on the verge of state failure, it was Maliki's indecisiveness that troubled Washington. Today, with his country emerging as a sovereign power, his assertiveness is what's worrying.

  • Jul-20-2009
    Abdul Khaliq Hussein: The Kurds Of Iraq (in Arabic)

  • Jul-18-2009
    Telegraph: Saddam Hussein's Palaces
    Saddam Hussein spent billions building dozens of vast, gaudy palaces all over Iraq, many of which are still occupied by US troops. But the Iraqi government is divided - as usual - on what to do with them once the soldiers have gone. There is, as yet, no instructed estate agent, but should one come along, their marketing pitch will for once need no over-egging. ‘For sale/rent: 80 presidential palaces, average unit living space half-a-million square feet. Attached gardens featuring disused swimming pools, personal zoos/nuclear bunkers etc. Rooms fitted with thrones and gold lavatories, en suite torture chamber optional. Some bomb damage. Suit megalomaniac or similar.’

    saddam hussein palace

  • Jul-09-2009
    Investopedia: It's Raining Lawsuits: Do You Need An Umbrella Policy?
    It's impossible to predict whether you might lose a lawsuit resulting from a car accident or an accident on your property. Nor is it possible to predict the amount that might be awarded to the winning party, an amount that you would be responsible for paying. To protect yourself against the possibility of devastating financial loss from these unforeseen events, you may want to purchase an umbrella policy.

  • Jul-09-2009
    Investopedia: 5 Ways To Double Your Investment
    There's something about the idea of doubling one's money on an investment that intrigues most investors. It's a badge of honor dragged out at cocktail parties, a promise made by over-zealous advisors, and a headline that frequents the cover of some of the most popular personal finance magazines. Where this fixation comes from is anyone's guess. Perhaps it comes from deep in our investor psychology; that risk-taking part of us that loves the quick buck. Or maybe it's simply the aesthetic side of us that prefers round numbers - saying your "up 97%" doesn't quite roll off the tongue like "I doubled my money." Whatever the source though, it is both a realistic goal that investors should always be moving towards, as well as something that can lure many people into impulsive investing mistakes. Knowing some of the most trusted avenues to doubling your money is something that all investors should have in their toolboxes.

  • Jul-09-2009
    Investopedia: Assessing Bank Assets: Are Your Savings Safe?
    Every asset on a bank's financial statement carries some risk of default or loss. The degree of risk the bank takes on usually affects the size of losses the bank eventually incurs. Measuring that risk is a critical part of understanding the potential for the bank to encounter difficulties or perform well. Often called mark-to-market, measuring the fair value of financial assets and liabilities is an essential step when analyzing the fundamentals of a financial institution.

  • Jul-08-2009
    Mideast Monitor: Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism and the Spread of Sunni Theofascism - by Ambassador Curtin Winsor, Jr.
    Wahhabism is derived from the teachings of Muhammad ibn abd al-Wahhab, an eighteenth century religious zealot from the Arabian interior. Like most 1 of 14 7/8/09 8:39 PM Sunni Islamic fundamentalist movements, the Wahhabis advocated the fusion of state power and religion through the reestablishment of the Caliphate, the form of government adopted by the Prophet Muhammad's successors during the age of Muslim expansion. What sets Wahhabism apart from other Sunni Islamist movements is its historical obsession with purging Sufis, Shiites, and other Muslims who do not conform to its twisted interpretation of Islamic scripture. Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism and the Spread of Sunni Theofascism.

  • Jul-06-2009
    Sotal Iraq: The 9th Of April 2003 Is Iraq's Freedom-Day (In Arabic)

  • Jul-05-2009
    National Security Archive: Saddam Hussein Talks to the FBI: Twenty Interviews and Five Conversations with "High Value Detainee # 1" in 2004
    Saddam Hussein
    FBI special agents carried out 20 formal interviews and at least 5 "casual conversations" with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein after his capture by U.S. troops in December 2003, according to secret FBI reports released as the result of Freedom of Information Act requests by the National Security Archive and posted today on the Web at www.nsarchive.org. Saddam denied any connections to the "zealot" Osama bin Laden, cited North Korea as his most likely ally in a crunch, and shared President George W. Bush's hostility towards the "fanatic" Iranian mullahs, according to the FBI records of conversations from February through June 2004 between Saddam and Arabic-speaking agents in his detention cell at Baghdad International Airport. The former Iraqi leader, when asked about his accomplishments, listed social progress for the people of Iraq, a temporary truce with the Kurds in the early 1970s, the nationalization of Iraq’s oil in 1972, support for the Arab side during the 1973 Middle East war with Israel, and after that, for the remaining 30 years of his rule, simple survival – through a devastating eight year war with Iran that he had launched, and a 12-year sanctions regime imposed on his people after another war that he began. During the interviews he repeatedly contests FBI evidence and the neutrality of his interlocutors – which one of them finds ironic, given the record of peremptory Iraqi justice under Saddam’s governance. He selectively outlines recent Iraqi history and acknowledges some mistakes, including the destruction without U.N. supervision or verification of some of Iraq’s WMD arsenal left over from the 1980s. During the interviews Saddam refutes some examples of what he views as myths, like his purported use of body doubles. Instead he says that to evade his enemies he never used the telephone and traveled constantly from one dwelling to another (he describes the farm where he was captured in a “spider hole” as the same place where he took refuge after a failed 1959 coup attempt.)

  • Jul-01-2009
    Investopedia: How Will Your Investment Make Money?
    Congratulations! After two years of saving and sacrifice - sweat and overtime - you have finally accumulated enough money to begin investing outside of your retirement accounts. You have just spent the afternoon with your new broker, while he or she went over a myriad of investment choices with you, explaining each one in detail and causing your head to swim. Your broker presented you with several hypothetical scenarios outlining the overall rate of return that you could expect to receive in each case, until finally you decided to purchase some stock in a local company that you're somewhat familiar with. But, as you drive away from his office, the ocean of information that was presented to you is already beginning to recede from your overtaxed brain. What exactly am I going to get out of this, and how am I going to get it? This article defines the basic types of investment income and which asset classes pay them.

  • Jul-01-2009
    The Atlantic: Lincoln’s Emancipation - The cruelty and degeneracy the future president was subjected to in his youth forged his iron will
    LINCOLN’S BICENTENNIAL has permitted us to revisit and reconsider every facet of his story and personality, from the Bismarckian big-government colossus so disliked by the traditional right and the isolationists, to the “Great Emancipator” who used to figure on the posters of the American Communist Party, to the reluctant anti-slaver so plausibly caught in Gore Vidal’s finest novel. Absent from much of this consideration has been the unfashionable word destiny: the sense conveyed by Lincoln of a man who was somehow brought forth by the hour itself, as if his entire life had been but a preparation for that moment.

June 2009

  • Jun-29-2009
    Washington Bureau: How The F.B.I. Broke Saddam - Part 1
    Where were Iraq’s WMD? How close was Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda, really? These were vital - but still unanswered - questions when the Iraqi despot was yanked out of a spider hole in December 2003 and placed in U.S. military detention. Lives were at stake - along with the entire political rationale for the U.S.-led coalition invading Iraq. Only one man could say for sure, and now that the U.S. finally had him in custody, they had to find out. There was only one way: Break Saddam. The FBI’s newly-declassified interrogation files on Saddam Hussein, reported exclusively in yesterday’s Daily News, stand in contrast to the dark view espoused by Team Bush: only extreme interrogation techniques extract confessions from “high-value” detainees who resist questioning. The CIA and FBI were intent on getting Saddam to explain what happened to the missing weapons of mass destruction, his operational ties - if any - to Al Qaeda and admit his own crimes against humanity by gassing and slaughtering his own people. CIA WMD hunter David Kay had resigned in frustration in late January 2004, and the missing arsenal was vexing Team Bush just as special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was beginning his probe of the White House over leaks in retaliation against Iraq war critic Joe Wilson. The pressure was intense.

  • Jun-29-2009
    Washington Bureau: How The F.B.I. Broke Saddam - Part 2
    Saddam Hussein was defiant in his first meetings with his American captors. But soon it was time to begin whittling down his ego, bloated by decades of absolute power in Iraq. Brute force, however, was not in the gameplan. By mid-February 2004, FBI Supervisory Special Agent George Piro had sat down with Saddam Hussein three times - as The Mouth reported on Friday - and listened to the toppled tyrant yap away about his great accomplishments leading ragtag Iraq out of the Stone Age.

  • Jun-29-2009
    Washington Bureau: How The F.B.I. Broke Saddam - Part 3
    Saddam Hussein loved to talk - and to b.s. his sole interrogator, FBI Supervisory Special Agent George Piro. But Piro - backed up by a team of FBI agents and crack CIA analysts - knew Saddam’s history too well. Where there were gaps, Piro was able to parry with the imprisoned leader to get credible answers. “High Value Detainee-1” was soon blabbing so freely it was hard for him to keep his lies intact. As the weeks wore on, Saddam opened up more and more as the FBI-CIA team leveraged its strategy to “overwhelm” - and break - him by confronting the deposed dictator with evidence of his crimes against humanity. He was soon boasting of terrible misdeeds against his own people - in order to set the historical record straight, which Piro had encouraged.

  • Jun-26-2009
    Wall Street Journal: The Iraq Drawdown Is Proof Of Success - U.S. forces will remain to assist the Iraqi army
    A major transformation is underway in Iraq. Each day U.S. forces hand over more responsibility for security to the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police. As this moves along, the number of U.S. forces in Iraq will shrink to no more than 50,000 by August 2010 from approximately 132,000 now. Further, as directed by President Barack Obama, all U.S. forces will be out of Iraq by the end of December 2011. As we proceed with this drawdown, the role of U.S. forces in Iraq will transition to primarily focus on advising Iraqi forces instead of fighting terrorism directly. From 2003 to 2008, the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq was authorized by the United Nations. Since then, U.S. forces have remained at the invitation of the Iraqi government under the terms of a security agreement negotiated between our two countries. Among the provisions of this agreement is a requirement for U.S. combat forces to be out of Iraq's cities by June 30, 2009.

  • Jun-22-2009
    Wall Street Journal: Obama's Persian Tutorial - The president has to choose between the regime and the people in the streets
    President Barack Obama did not "lose" Iran. This is not a Jimmy Carter moment. But the foreign-policy education of America's 44th president has just begun. Hitherto, he had been cavalier about other lands, he had trusted in his own biography as a bridge to distant peoples, he had believed he could talk rogues and ideologues out of deeply held beliefs. His predecessor had drawn lines in the sand. He would look past them. Thus a man who had been uneasy with his middle name (Hussein) during the presidential campaign would descend on Ankara and Cairo, inserting himself in a raging civil war over Islam itself. An Iranian theocratic regime had launched a bid for dominion in its region; Mr. Obama offered it an olive branch and waited for it to "unclench" its fist.

  • Jun-19-2009
    Investopedia: Rent To Own, Own To Rent
    Real estate purchase options are a form of financing that allows buyers to purchase homes without initially taking title of the property. Although they are used in both strong and weak real estate markets, they tend to be most used when sellers are having difficulty renting or selling, or when purchasers are having difficulty qualifying for mortgages. Many real estate investors have used lease purchase options to amass an inventory of assets without the need for a significant capital investment. Lease options can be beneficial for both buyers and sellers, but they do carry some specific investment and legal risk, and are subject to abuse. Investors thinking of using these options to buy or sell properties should understand these risks before entering into a real estate option agreement.

  • Jun-15-2009
    YesNoGod.com: Do You Believe In God?
    Survey poll of most international countries answering such question.

  • Jun-05-2009
    Elaph: Political History Of Iraq Part-1:_Painful End (in Arabic)

  • Jun-05-2009
    Elaph: Political History Of Iraq Part-2:_The Royalists, The Nationalists, And The Cummunists (in Arabic)

  • Jun-05-2009
    Elaph: Political History Of Iraq Part-3:_Baghdad Television Shows Execution Of General Qassim (in Arabic)

  • Jun-04-2009
    Investopedia: The Hidden Costs Of Home Ownership
    Leaky roofs, bursting pipes and infestations - all on your own dime. Though home ownership has many perks, there are some extra expenses to watch out for. Maintaining and repairing a home can be a daunting task, especially if you're learning these skills for the first time as a home owner. Repair costs can make any first-time homeowner long for the "good ol'" renting days. Each of the major systems in your home, like the plumbing, electrical and roofing, serves a very important purpose and must be kept in good working order to protect your investment and keep life running smoothly. (Should owning be in your retirement plans?

  • Jun-04-2009
    Investopedia: The Advantages Of Bond Swapping
    Bond swapping is the process of selling a bond and using proceeds from the sale to purchase another bond, in order to achieve specific investment objectives. There are several reasons why an investor would want to consider bond swapping or why a financial professional may advise it for a client, such as adding diversity to a portfolio, lowering taxes or taking advantage of anticipated interest rate changes.

  • Jun-04-2009
    Investopedia: Playing It Safe In Foreign Stock Markets
    For many, investing in foreign stock markets can be a challenging way to balance a portfolio, though the outcomes can often be rewarding. Investors that do get involved have the opportunity to participate in the long-term growth prospects of many emerging markets – markets that have faster growth rates in comparison with those developed nations. Successful investing requires the understanding of the risks of investing in these types of markets, and how to buy stocks in the foreign markets.

  • Jun-04-2009
    Investopedia: Does International Investing Really Offer Diversification?
    Does international investing really offer diversification to a U.S.-based investor? There certainly is enough information available to the investing public to suggest it does, and institutional investors have been on board for more than 20 years. The premise for investing in international assets is typically driven by the benefits that the diversification offers to a U.S.-based investor. Taking a look at the long term correlations between non-U.S. assets and U.S. assets, it's obvious that the theory applies, as adding low-correlated assets to any portfolio can reduce overall risk. While this seems to be generally accepted in investing theory, a more in-depth evaluation provides some compelling evidence that this is not always the case - especially in the short term and during times of dramatic swings in global markets.

  • Jun-04-2009
    Investopedia: Top 4 Things Successful Forex Traders Do
    Trading in the financial markets is surrounded by a certain amount of mystique because there is no single formula for trading successfully. Think of the markets as being like the ocean and the trader as a surfer. Surfing requires talent, balance, patience, proper equipment and astute discrimination. Would you go into the water if there were sharks swimming all around you or dangerous rip tides? Hopefully not. (Benjamin Graham pioneered cutting edge concepts that propelled other top investors to fame. Read The 3 Most Timeless Investment Principles.) The attitude to trading in the markets is no different to that required for surfing. By blending good analysis with effective implementation, your success rate will improve dramatically and, like many skill sets, good trading comes from a combination of talent and hard work. Here are the four legs of the stool that you can build into a strategy to serve you well in all markets.

May 2009

  • May-31-2009
    Washington Post: A Quiet But Undeniable Cultural Legacy - U.S. Occupation of Iraq Will End, but a Host of American Influences May Linger
    BAGHDAD - Across the street from the tidy rows of tombstones in the British cemetery, mute testimony to the soldiers of an earlier occupation, Mustafa Muwaffaq bears witness to the quieter side of the United States' six-year-old presence in Iraq. In wraparound sunglasses, shorts and shoes without socks, the burly 20-year-old student waxes eloquent about his love for heavy metal of all kinds: death, thrash, black. But none of it compares, he says, to the honky-tonk of Alan Jackson, whose tunes he strums on his acoustic guitar at night, pining for a life as far away as a passport will take him. "You know, I wanna go to Texas and be a country boy," he said, as he stood in the sweltering shade of Baghdad's Academy of Fine Arts. "I wanna be a cowboy, and I wanna sing like one." All occupations eventually end. When this one does, history's narratives will be shaped by the cacophony it wrought -- the carnage unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion that threatened Iraq's notion of itself as a country and that will haunt generations to come.

  • May-31-2009
    Foreign Affairs: What To Read On Lobbying
    Mistrust of interest groups and their efforts to lobby the government dates back to the founding of the United States, but so does the recognition that such groups are an integral part of American democracy. Contemporary political science has taken up both of these themes, spawning heated debates about how interest groups are formed, what they do, and how much influence they have. Most commentators fall into one of two opposing camps: those who believe that group demands distort politics and policymaking by pursuing narrow private interests at the expense of a broader public interest, and those who believe the public interest itself is simply an aggregation of group interests.

  • May-30-2009
    Investopedia: Who Needs Bonds When You Can Have Income Mutual Funds?
    Investors seeking current income and diversification have many alternatives to choose from with income mutual funds. These funds can invest in either debt or equities or a combination of both. This article examines the various categories of income funds and the types of investors for whom they are appropriate. Regardless of what type of underlying security an income fund invests in, most income funds share a few common characteristics, such as diversification and professional management. Most income funds pay either interest or dividends (or both) on a monthly basis. Some funds are more liquid than others, and the yields on almost all of them rise and fall with interest rates. Many income funds invest internationally or globally while others are strictly domestic. Some pay interest, others pay dividends and a third category of income funds combines an element of growth with the income.

  • May-30-2009
    Investopedia: The Bright Side Of The Credit Crisis
    A credit crisis, also known as a "credit crunch" or "credit shock", occurs when there is a rapid reduction in the availability of loans from banks. This occurs when loans go sour, forcing the banks to tighten up lending standards. Credit shocks create both positive and negative effects in the economy. By examining these effects carefully, we can gain a greater understanding of how credit shocks work and what we can learn from them. Read on to find out more.

  • May-30-2009
    Investopedia: Personal Loans: To Lend Or Not To Lend?
    Lending and borrowing money from a bank follows procedural guidelines that have evolved over centuries. Personal lending, that is making or taking loans with friends and family, has been going on for just as long, but firm guidelines haven't developed because each circumstance is unique. There is, however, a way to make family loans safer and more secure for all parties involved.

  • May-30-2009
    Investopedia: An Introduction To Corporate Bond ETFs
    The corporate bond market is one of the largest and most liquid of the financial markets. Corporate bonds can be appealing for many reasons, as they are generally considered safer than stocks and they often provide higher returns than government bonds. However, until recently, investing in the corporate bond market was a more difficult task for individual investors. This has changed, with the introduction of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) focused on corporate bonds. This article will focus upon the corporate bond market and whether corporate bond ETFs are an attractive option for individual investors.

  • May-27-2009
    Wall Street Journal: Pakistan's Struggle for Modernity - The country's voters have never endorsed religious extremism
    The drama of the Swat Valley -- its cynical abandonment to the mercy of the Taliban, the terror unleashed on it by the militants, then the recognition that the concession to the forces of darkness had not worked -- is of a piece with the larger history of religious extremism in the world of Islam. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was the latest in a long line of secularists who cut deals with the zealots, only to discover that for the believers in political Islam these deals are at best a breathing spell before the fight for their utopia is taken up again. The decision by Pakistan to retrieve the ground it had ceded to the Taliban was long overdue. We should not underestimate the strength of the Pakistani state, and of the consensus that underpins it. The army is a huge institution, and its mandate is like that of the Turkish army, which sees itself as a defender of secular politics.

  • May-27-2009
    Interesting Facts: Large PDF file (1.3 MB) with image slides and charts of various geographical, country, automobile, consumerism and other miscellanous facts

  • May-26-2009
    Foreign Affairs: What To Read On Saudi Politics
    Saudi Arabia's political system is opaque, and its government, while more open now than in past decades, is generally hostile to independent outside inquiry. Much of what has been written about Saudi politics, therefore, has been based on anecdotes or limited information. Ideology has also skewed research: those who favor strong American relations with Saudi Arabia have portrayed it in the most favorable light, while others with differing views have demonized it. Since 9/11, there has been more criticism than praise, but too often both miss the most interesting and important dynamics in Saudi politics -- the development of the Saudi state; the changing relationship between the religious and political establishments and the accompanying changes in Wahhabism; the social revolution brought on by oil wealth that has transformed Saudi Arabia from a rural to an urban society; the emergence of domestic political groups and the regime's efforts to deal with them; and the twists and turns of Saudi Arabia's relationship with the United States.

  • May-26-2009
    Foreign Affairs: Misreading The Map
    As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comes to Washington for a meeting with President Barack Obama, U.S. policymakers are being urged to place the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the back burner and spend their time and energy addressing the true menace supposedly confronting Arabs and Jews in the Middle East -- Iran. Deal with that threat, the sirens sing, and the other pieces of peace in the Holy Land will fall into place. Netanyahu framed the issue in a speech he made in Washington earlier this month. "There is something happening today in the Middle East, and I can say that for the first time in my lifetime I believe that Arabs and Jews see the common danger," he told supporters of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. "This wasn't always the case," he added. Or was it? In fact, there have been many times when key players in Jerusalem and Washington have convinced themselves that focusing on some third party would make Israeli-Palestinian peace possible. But it has not worked in the past, and it won't work now.

  • May-24-2009
    Iraq Of Tomorrow: Secret Documents Of The Baath Party - Part 2 (in Arabic)

  • May-22-2009
    Investopedia: The Biggest Stock Scams Of All Time
    It is unfortunate, but words often associated with money and fortune are "cheat," "steal," and "lie." Who among us hasn't "accidentally" taken two $500 bills from the Monopoly bank, or forgotten at least once to pay $5 back to a friend? Chances are you were never called on it because your friends trusted you. Just as we trust our friends, we put faith in the investing world. Investing in a stock takes a lot of research, but it also requires us to make a lot of assumptions. For example, we assume reported earnings and revenue figures are correct, and that management is competent and honest. But these assumptions can be disastrous. ...The worst thing about these scams is that you never know until it's too late.

  • May-19-2009
    Spiegel Online: The Worst Ways To Die - Torture Practices Of The Ancient World
    Was the cradle of civilization also the birthplace of atrocity? Historians have been researching the most extreme forms of torture in the ancient world. Among other things, they have found that, back then, "sitting in the tub" was actually a pretty nasty way to kick the bucket. In total, Julius Caesar reckoned that he had 1,192,000 enemies killed during his reign. Meanwhile the Emperor Tiberius would have young men's urethras laced shut before force-feeding them wine. And, under Caligula, it became customary to saw noblemen in half. It sounds bad -- but were these the cruellest of them all? Would they qualify for the barbarity top 10? A new book, "Extreme Formen von Gewalt in Bild und Text des Altertums" (Extreme Violence in the Visuals and Texts of Antiquity) by Martin Zimmerman, a professor of ancient history in Munich, looks at current research into the kinds of violence that inspired "loathing, dread, horror and disgust." Its conclusion? In the ancient Far East, where there were large states peopled by many different ethnicities, leaders demonstrated their might by inventing ingenious new tortures and agonizing methods of execution -- as a way to keep the population obedient.

  • May-19-2009
    Spiegel Online: Middle East Peace - Obama's Mission Impossible
    Obama isn't distancing himself from Israel, nor is he making advances towards Palestine. He wants to force both sides to get off the hamster wheel and take some real steps forward. The meeting between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu didn't really need to take place. Most reporters and commentators knew in advance that it would come to a show down. The anchorwoman of the television news in far-off Hamburg acted as if she had been at the meeting. "The public appearances of the two men must have demanded real acting skills," she said, because "Obama is distancing himself from Israel." As so often in the Middle East peace process, when dealing with relations between Israelis and Palestinians and the rest of the world, we let our hopes govern our heads. Unwilling and unable to make a constructive contribution towards a solution and at the same time frustrated that the Americans have taken the initiative, Europeans do what they do best: warn and complain, like the viewers of a soccer game, who -- from the stands -- know they would convert every strike into a goal.

  • May-18-2009 - SPECIAL REPORT
    |
    >> (English version)
    Iraqi Construction Special Inspector General:
    HARD LESSIONS - The Iraq Reconstruction Experience

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    >> (Arabic version)
    Iraqi Construction Special Inspector General: HARD LESSIONS - The Iraq Reconstruction Experience

  • May-15-2009
    Investopedia: Start Your Own Business
    Wouldn't it be great to be able to quit your job, be your own boss and earn a paycheck from the comfort of your own home? The good news is that with a little planning and some startup money, it is possible! Let's delve a little deeper into how to start a small business from home and help you decide how much planning and money you'll need to be your own boss. There are few things more satisfying and rewarding than launching and owning your own home-based business, but before diving in, be sure to do your homework. Making a business work is not an easy task, but proper planning will help to increase its chances of success.

  • May-14-2009
    Wall Street Journal: British MPs Pad Their Expense Accounts - We actually paid to dredge a moat
    This week couldn't get worse for Britain's politicians. Their expense claims, long kept secret, are being disgorged daily in London's newspapers. An appalled and exuberantly entertained nation is learning just how much its elected parliamentarians have been charging taxpayers for domestic cleaners, swimming-pool maintenance, chauffeurs and more. One former minister has submitted receipts included a £2,000 ($3,021) bill for dredging the moat at his country house. Another had the public purse pay the price for horse manure for his garden. All of this is coming at a time when politicians are trying to persuade the country to accept public-sector cuts during a sharp recession.

  • May-14-2009
    Aafaq: Why Muslims Are Against Women? (in Arabic)

  • May-13-2009
    Investopedia: Five Ways To Lose Your Nest Egg
    There are two surefire ways for you to help your retirement accounts grow: maximizing your contributions as often as you can and properly managing the investments in your accounts. But there are also some sure ways to decrease the size of your retirement nest egg. Here we look at five actions that could lead to the loss of your retirement savings - once you know what they are, it will be much easier to avoid such mistakes.

  • May-13-2009
    Investopedia: Five Strategies For Surviving Tough Times
    When economic times turn tough, governments urge their citizens to spend. Economists think of citizens as "consumers" and rely on them to put their "disposable income" to work. By doing this they will support the economy, which translates into higher stock prices. However, in times like early 2008, when consumers were reeling from the perfect storm of inflation, a global credit crunch, a global housing market in decline and concerns about stagflation, there is often a conflict with the governmental cry for consumers to spend. It's a bewildering scenario. What's the best course of action for a concerned consumer to take? The following five strategies provide a road map for surviving economic downturns.

  • May-13-2009
    Elaph: Syria & Terrorism- By Shaker Al-Nabulsi (in Arabic)

  • May-13-2009
    The Atlantic: What Makes Us Happy?
    Is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life? For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been examining this question, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age. Here, for the first time, a journalist gains access to the archive of one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history. Its contents, as much literature as science, offer profound insight into the human condition—and into the brilliant, complex mind of the study’s longtime director, George Vaillant.

  • May-12-2009
    By His Excellency Samir Shakir Mahmood Sumaida'ie, Ambassador of Iraq to the U.S.: Iraqi Media - Freedom Or Chaos?
    The ousting of Saddam Hussein in 2003 ushered in a new era for the Iraqi media landscape. It transformed from a few state-run ventures, propagating the government line, to a free press representing a diversity of actors, often with conflicting agendas, views, and affiliations. It has not been a painless transformation. While Iraqi media has enjoyed its fair share of successes, it has been hindered by violence, sectarianism, and the challenges of forging a public sphere that previously did not exist. As Iraq transitions away from an absolute dictatorship to the formative stages of a functioning democracy, it is important to understand the media’s role in this transition. The hope I have for Iraqi media is the same that I have for the country itself: maturity. The end of the dictatorship left a vacuum in which individuals are grabbing what they can of power and influence. The media reflects this turmoil. The essential ingredients are ensuring that freedom of expression continues to be exercised as an ingrained right, and that these rights are exercised with responsibility. If we can guarantee this, Iraq will continue to advance towards stability, and with it, prosperity.

  • May-11-2009
    Washington Post: Federalism, Not Partition - A System Devolving Power to the Regions Is the Route to a Viable Iraq
    Iraq's government is at a stalemate. As in the United States, there is much discussion here of the need for political reconciliation. What does that mean? That the majority Shiites and the minority Sunnis and Kurds must find a way to govern collectively at the national level. As national security adviser to the head of Iraq's governments since March 2004, I have participated in the development of democracy in my country. I strongly support the government and applaud its achievements. But I understand that the political objectives of Iraq's three main communities are unrealizable within the framework of a unitary, centralized state.

  • May-11-2009
    Investopedia: Getting Started In Forex
    The forex (FX) market has many similarities to the equity markets; however, there are some key differences. This article will show you those differences and help you get started in forex trading. The forex market is the largest market in the world, and individuals are becoming increasingly interested in it. But before you begin trading it, be sure your broker meets certain criteria, and take the time to find a trading strategy that works for you. Remember, the best way to learn to trade forex is to open up a demo account and try it out.

  • May-10-2009
    Middle East Transparent: The Shia Muslims In Lebanon (in Arabic)

  • May-10-2009
    Middle East Transparent: Does Political Party And Resistance Constitute Altrnatives To Country & Religion (in Arabic)

  • May-09-2009
    Middle East Transparent: Hezbollah - Historical Background (in Arabic)

  • May-09-2009
    Aawsat: Paul Bremer's Interview (in Arabic)

  • May-08-2009
    Foreign Affairs: The Eclipse Of The Americas - How the Trinidad Summit Marked the Fragmentation of the Inter-American System
    At the fifth Summit of the Americas, Obama presented the new body language of the U.S. presidency. But he has yet to fully refurbish the American brand, such that the rejectionist countries still felt it was in their interests -- that the benefits outweighed the costs -- to buck a U.S.-led inter-Americanism. The question still remains whether a results-oriented, hub-and-spoke flexible functionalism will pull friendly states back into the U.S. orbit and gradually persuade the rejectionist states that, on balance, they would do better to diminish their anti-Americanism, if not abandon it altogether.

  • May-01-2009
    Elaph: The Arab & Islamic World - More Secterian (in Arabic)

  • May-01-2009
    Elaph: Islamic Fatwas - What A Mess! - By Shaker Al-Nabulsi (in Arabic)

April 2009

March 2009

  • Mar-30-2009
    Wall Street Journal: How Long Until Stocks Bounce Back? - Even the best-case scenarios will require years
    Investors have breathed a world-wide sigh of relief in the waning weeks of March as equity markets have shown signs of upward vigor. The question now being bruited around the financial centers of the world is: Have we hit bottom? No one really knows, but that is likely the wrong question. More important to investors than the date we hit bottom is how long the recovery will take. How long will it take for investors to recoup the losses they suffered since October 2007, when the S&P 500 index reached a record high of 1565? Here's a clue: It will take longer than you think. Let me explain.

  • Mar-30-2009
    Money & Markets: Alarming News: Bank Losses Spreading!
    For the first time in history, U.S. banks have suffered large, ominous losses in a giant sector that, until now, they thought was solid: bets on interest rates. In a moment, I’ll explain what this means for your savings and your stocks. But first, here’s the alarming news: According to the fourth quarter report just released this past Friday by the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), commercial banks lost a record $3.4 billion in interest rate derivatives, or more than seven times their worst previous quarterly loss in that category.

  • Mar-26-2009
    Financial Times: Gulf Donors Linked To Taliban Funds
    The US has told its Nato partners that funds from individuals in Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia now rival drug money as a source of financing for Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. The US launched a high-profile push to reduce Gulf funding for the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other militant groups operating out of Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 2001 attacks. As a result, in recent years insurgent links to Afghanistan's burgeoning heroin trade have become the principal focus. But Richard Holbrooke, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, expressed fresh concerns to Nato ambassadors during a briefing this week on the US's strategic review of Afghan-Pakistan policy, which is expected to be announced tomorrow.

  • Mar-24-2009
    Poem By Nizar Qabbani: My Country (in Arabic)

  • Mar-24-2009
    Investopedia: Microsoft Excel Features For The Financially Literate
    Microsoft Office Excel is a great computer program that is widely used throughout the financial industry. Excel is an invaluable tool for portfolio managers, traders and accountants. Billion dollar portfolios and positions can be managed and traded using Excel spreadsheets. Management reports and risk management tools can be created and run in this program. In short, Microsoft Excel has. In this article, we'll demonstrate some of Excel's functions and features that a financial professional can use to make the job more efficient. This article does not discuss Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), but instead focuses on Excel features that non-programmers can deploy. Only basic knowledge of Excel is needed to make use and benefit from this program, so read on to learn about how it can make your job easier.

  • Mar-23-2009
    Wall Street Journal: My Plan for Bad Bank Assets. The private sector will set prices. Taxpayers will share in any upside
    The American economy and much of the world now face extraordinary challenges, and confronting these challenges will continue to require extraordinary actions. No crisis like this has a simple or single cause, but as a nation we borrowed too much and let our financial system take on irresponsible levels of risk. Those decisions have caused enormous suffering, and much of the damage has fallen on ordinary Americans and small-business owners who were careful and responsible. This is fundamentally unfair, and Americans are justifiably angry and frustrated. The depth of public anger and the gravity of this crisis require that every policy we take be held to the most serious test: whether it gets our financial system back to the business of providing credit to working families and viable businesses, and helps prevent future crises.

  • Mar-23-2009
    Money & Markets: Dangerous Unintended Consequences
    I’ve just returned from Washington, DC, where I held a press conference at the National Press Club and a round-robin series of meetings with members of Congress ... with more to come this week. Let me first tell you what I told them. Then, I’ll explain what I think you should do about it ... Why Banking Bailouts, Buyouts, and Nationalizations Can Only Prolong America’s Second Great Depression And Weaken Any Subsequent Recovery (Edited Transcript of Press Conference Presentation) The Fed Chairman, the Treasury Secretary and Congress have now done more to bail out financial institutions and pump up financial markets than any of their counterparts in history. But it’s not nearly enough — and, at the same time, it’s already far too much. Two years ago, when major banks announced multibillion-dollar losses in subprime mortgages, the world’s central banks injected unprecedented amounts of cash into the financial markets. But that was not enough.

  • Mar-23-2009
    Al Jeeran: Dealing With The Ba'ath Party - By Dr. Kadhom Habib (in Arabic)

  • Mar-22-2009
    Investopedia: The Ghouls And Monsters On Wall Street
    It's Halloween and adults and children alike have been browsing costume shops for teeth, fake scars and the occasional severed hand. Running around with a gorilla mask and a chain of severed heads around your neck can have shock value, but if you want to be truly terrifying, it might be better to put on a power business suit, carry a briefcase and flash everyone a quick smile. This article will look at the biggest monsters ever to hound Wall Street - the people whose crimes were so heinous that investors still flinch whenever their names are mentioned.

  • Mar-22-2009
    Investopedia: Poker Face: Corporate Tells And How To Spot Them
    Just because a company in which you own stock reports a negative quarter doesn't mean that you should head for the hills. In fact, sometimes it makes sense to stand firm (or even add to your position). The key is in knowing how to decipher the company's ability to handle the situation. How can you do this? Let's take a look.

  • Mar-22-2009
    Investopedia: Market Capitalization Defined
    You often hear companies or different mutual funds being categorized as small cap, mid cap or large cap. But what do these terms really mean? The "cap" part of these terms is short for capitalization, which is a measure by which we can classify a company's size. Although the criteria for the different classifications are not strictly bound, it is important for investors to understand these terms, which are not only ubiquitous but also useful for gauging a company's size and riskiness.

  • Mar-22-2009
    Investopedia: How To Fix Your Forex Broker
    The forex market, unlike other exchange driven markets, has a unique feature that many market makers use to entice traders to trade. They promise no exchange fees or regulatory fees, no data fees and, best of all, no commissions. To the new trader just wanting to break into the trading business, this sounds too good to be true. Trading without transaction costs is clearly an advantage. However, what might sound like a bargain to inexperienced traders may not be the best deal available - or even a deal at all. Here we'll show you how to evaluate forex broker fee/commission structures and find the one that will work best for you.

  • Mar-22-2009
    Investopedia: Avoiding Tax Scams
    Have you ever been contacted by someone claiming to know a secret that will help you significantly reduce your tax bill or avoid paying taxes altogether? Have you ever received an email from the IRS asking for personal information? If you've answered yes to either of these questions then you've probably had an encounter with a tax scam. We will look at seven common scams to help you avoid becoming a victim. Examining these scams will make you aware of what to look for if other scams come your way.

  • Mar-21-2009 -SPECIAL REPORT
    Dar Al Hayat: Ahmed Chalabi Remembers - Part 1 (in Arabic)

  • Mar-21-2009 -SPECIAL REPORT
    Dar Al Hayat: Ahmed Chalabi Remembers - Part 2 (in Arabic)

  • Mar-21-2009 -SPECIAL REPORT
    Dar Al Hayat: Ahmed Chalabi Remembers - Part 3 (in Arabic)

  • Mar-21-2009 -SPECIAL REPORT
    Dar Al Hayat: Ahmed Chalabi Remembers - Part 4 (in Arabic)

  • Mar-21-2009 -SPECIAL REPORT
    Dar Al Hayat: Ahmed Chalabi Remembers - Part 5 (in Arabic)

  • Mar-21-2009 -SPECIAL REPORT
    Dar Al Hayat: Ahmed Chalabi Remembers - Part 6 (in Arabic)

  • Mar-21-2009 -SPECIAL REPORT
    Dar Al Hayat: Ahmed Chalabi Remembers - Part 7 (in Arabic)

  • Mar-21-2009 -SPECIAL REPORT
    Dar Al Hayat: Ahmed Chalabi Remembers - Part 8 (in Arabic)

  • Mar-21-2009
    Wall Street Journal: Now Is No Time To Give Up On Markets
    "What can we do that would be beneficial? [One thing] is lower corporate taxes and businesses taxes and maybe taxes in general. Particularly, you want to lower the tax on capital so you raise the after-tax return to investing and get more investing going on." Gary Becker, the winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, is in New York to speak to a special meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society on the global meltdown. He has agreed to sit down to chat with me on the subject of his lecture. Slumped in a soft chair in a noisy hotel coffee lounge, the 78-year-old University of Chicago professor is relaxed and remarkably humble for a guy who has achieved so much. As I pepper him with the economic and financial riddles of our time, I am impressed by how many times his answers, delivered in a pronounced Brooklyn accent, include an "I think" and sometimes even an "I don't know the answer to that." It is a reminder of why he is so highly valued. In contrast to a number of other big-name practitioners of the dismal science, he is a solid empiricist genuinely in search of answers -- not the job as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. What he sees is what you get.

  • Mar-19-2009 - SPECIAL REPORT
    Weiss Research Inc.: Dangerous Unintended Consequences: How Banking Bailouts, Buyouts and Nationalization Can Only Prolong America's Second Depression and Weaken Any Subsequent Recovery

  • Mar-19-2009
    Investopedia: Industries That Thrive On Recession
    Recessions are hard on everyone - aren't they? Actually, just as wars have their war babies (companies that perform well during war and suffer during peace), recessions have their tough offspring as well. In this article we'll take a look at the industries that flourish in the adversity of a recession and why they do so well when everyone else is struggling to make ends meet.

  • Mar-19-2009
    Investopedia: Four Tips For Buying Stocks In A Recession
    Equities tend to outperform other asset classes and should not be entirely ignored - even during periods of recession. If this sounds scary, don't worry: it is possible to choose the right investment candidates and to mitigate risk during tough economic times. In fact, in a Washington Post story entitled "Five Myths About That Depressing R-Word", Kevin Hassett writes "With the economy heading south during recessions, the conventional wisdom is that stock prices drop as well ... However, the market tends to look ahead and starts to respond favorably to the expected end of a recession long before it occurs. Influential economist Donald Luskin of Trend Macrolytics recently ran the numbers and found that stocks have produced an average return of 12.1% in post-World War II recessions. This is only slightly below the average return outside recessions" (January 20, 2008). Keep reading for some tips on how to invest in a troubled economy.

  • Mar-15-2009
    Aafaq: Is The Ba'ath Party Coming Back? (in Arabic)

  • Mar-14-2009
    Elaph: Keynote Speech In Austrailia - By Nuri Al-Malaki (in Arabic)

  • Mar-12-2009
    Financial Times: A Need To Reconnect
    In different times, the offer from the check-in attendant would have been accepted with alacrity. But in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, with an angry public, populist politicians and an aggressive press baying for a crackdown on Wall Street’s “excesses”, the senior banker paused for thought when he heard those usually welcome airline words: “Sir, you have been upgraded to first class. Please follow me.” Finally replying, “I am fine in coach, thank you”, he gave up the better seat and opened another chink in the armour of beliefs and practices that corporate America had built and spread around the world over decades.

  • Mar-13-2009 - SPECIAL REPORT
    (date of report: Feb-01-2007)

    Foreign Policy: Who Won in Iraq: The Iraqi People - By Jalal Talabani (President of Iraq)
    "The past four years have been a roller-coaster for the Iraqi people. We’ve been liberated from our oppressive tyrant, only to be thrust into deadly sectarian warfare. But the fight for Iraq is not just the fight of the Iraqi people; the entire civilized world has a stake in what happens here. And simply abandoning the country to the terrorists would be everyone’s shame."

  • Mar-12-2009
    The Economist: Economics focus: A Plan B for global finance In a guest article, Dani Rodrik argues for stronger national regulation, not the global sort.
    THE clarion call for a global system of financial regulation can be heard everywhere. From Angela Merkel to Gordon Brown, from Jean-Claude Trichet to Ben Bernanke, from sober economists to countless newspaper editorials; everyone, it seems, is asking for it regardless of political complexion. That is not surprising, perhaps, in light of the convulsions the world economy is going through. If we have learnt anything from the crisis it is that financial regulation and supervision need to be tightened and their scope broadened. It seems only a small step to the idea that we need much stronger global regulation as well: a global college of regulators, say; a binding code of international conduct; or even an international financial regulator. Yet the logic of global financial regulation is flawed. The world economy will be far more stable and prosperous with a thin veneer of international co-operation superimposed on strong national regulations than with attempts to construct a bold global regulatory and supervisory framework. The risk we run is that pursuing an ambitious goal will detract us from something that is more desirable and more easily attained.

  • Mar-12-2009
    Investopedia: Understanding Your Mortgage
    One of the biggest financial decisions people will make in their lifetime is the choice to buy a home. Why would anyone want to make such a large financial commitment when renting is cheaper, flexible to where you want to live, and short term in obligation? The reasons are quite straightforward: homeownership allows you to build equity and allows you a deduction for mortgage interest paid, which makes it the single biggest tax break available to most taxpayers, not to mention all the intangible benefits that ownership has to offer. When you are buying a home your monthly payouts will increase and you'll need to set a few dollars aside for those unexpected expenses, but owning your home can be one of your most rewarding decisions if you play your cards correctly from the start.

  • Mar-12-2009
    Investopedia: Modern Portfolio Theory: An Overview
    If you were to craft the perfect investment, you would probably want its attributes to include high returns coupled with little risk. The reality, of course, is that this kind of investment is next to impossible to find. Not surprisingly, people spend a lot of time developing methods and strategies that come close to the "perfect investment". But none is as popular, or as compelling, as modern portfolio theory (MPT). Here we look at the basic idof your portfolio.

  • Mar-11-2009
    Investopedia: Sovereign Wealth Funds - Friend Or Foe ?
    If you were to craft the perfect investment, you would probably want its attributes to include high returns coupled with little risk. The reality, of course, is that this kind of investment is next to impossible to find. Not surprisingly, people spend a lot of time developing methods and strategies that come close to the "perfect investment". But none is as popular, or as compelling, as modern portfolio theory (MPT). Here we look at the basic idof your portfolio.

  • Mar-11-2009
    Investopedia: Investing In Real Estate
    Buying real estate is about more than just finding a place to call home. Investing in real estate has become increasingly popular over the last fifty years and has become a common investment vehicle. Although the real estate market has plenty of opportunities for making big gains, buying and owning real estate is a lot more complicated than investing in stocks and bonds. In this article, we'll go beyond buying a home and introduce you to real estate as an investment.

  • Mar-11-2009
    Investopedia: Borrowing Smart In A Debt-Filled World
    Leverage (or debt) has become an integral aspect of our society and learning to use it effectively is essential to almost any individual's financial well-being. Consider for a moment the pervasiveness of leverage in the economy. The U.S. government relies on debt to support its daily operations, and only a fraction of corporations operate without applying debt to their balance sheets. Similarly, home ownership, higher education and even basic consumer goods are often beyond the grasp of ordinary individuals without the use of loans or credit cards. Regardless of where you look in our economy, leverage is there in one form or another. It is a tool - the financial equivalent of a double-edged sword - that must be wielded with wisdom and prudence. In this article, we will look at home ownership, investing and lifestyle leverage and show you how to stay debt-free in a debt-filled world.

  • Mar-11-2009
    Investopedia: Bonds You May Have Never Heard Of
    Bonds aren't usually seen as a hot topic, but by learning about some of the lesser known types of bonds you might wonder why. The type of bonds this article will discuss are defined by radically different terms within their indentures. These types of bonds can fit unique niches within a portfolio where traditional investment products may fall short. Other investors may choose unusual bonds to gain exposure to different kinds of risk that are uncorrelated with other assets in their portfolios. Read on for an introductions to some bonds you may never have heard of, but should get to know.

  • Mar-11-2009
    Investopedia: Banking Profits In Bull And Bear Markets
    Both bear markets and bull markets represent tremendous opportunities to make money, and the key to success is to use strategies and ideas that can generate profits under a variety of conditions. This requires consistency, discipline, focus and the ability to take advantage of fear and greed. This article will help familiarize you with investments that can prosper in up or down markets.

  • Mar-09-2009 - MUST READ
    Wikipedia: Credit Default Swap
    A credit default swap (CDS) is a credit derivative contract between two counterparties. The buyer makes periodic payments to the seller, and in return receives a payoff if an underlying financial instrument defaults.[1] CDS contracts have been compared with insurance, because the buyer pays a premium and, in return, receives a sum of money if one of the specified events occur. However, there are a number of differences between CDS and insurance.

  • Mar-09-2009
    Money Morning: When it Comes to Naming Wall Street’s Worst Invention Ever, Credit Default Swaps Continue to Fill the Bill
    When it comes to naming a winner in the competition for “the worst product ever invented by Wall Street,” there is quite a list of worthy candidates. With just the current financial crisis alone there are such “inventions” as subprime mortgages, auction rate preferred stock and asset-backed commercial paper, which all have a good claim to this title. There’s also the credit default swap (CDS). While credit default swaps remain in second place to subprime mortgages in terms of total losses caused, there are plenty of reasons to crown these derivative securities as Wall Street’s worst offenders ever.

  • Mar-09-2009
    Investopedia: Rental Properties: Cash Cow Or Money Pit?
    Real estate investors must have basic valuation skills to make buy, sell, or hold decisions. Real estate investment companies have developed sophisticated valuation models to aid them in making investment decisions. However, by using spreadsheet tools an individual can produce an adequate valuation on most income-producing real estate. This would include residential real estate purchased as residential rental property. Valuing real estate using discounted cash flow or capitalization methods is similar to valuing stocks or bonds. The only difference is that cash flows are derived from leasing space as opposed to selling products and services. Read on to find to out how any investor can create a valuation satisfactory enough to weed through prospective investment opportunities.

  • Mar-08-2009 - SPECIAL REPORT
    Fisher Investments: Q1 2009 Stock Market Outlook, Part 1
    Weak economic news seems endless these days, but it's important to cling to two crucial facts. First, every bear market is followed by a bull market, which ends up being bigger than manhy people expect. Second, stocks routinely rebound in advance of an economic recovery while the economy is, in fact, still contracting with no apparent end in sight. Having just experienced a very severe bear market, which has made stocks unusually cheap, we are optomistic the stock market will rebound strongly this year, maybe immediately, or not, but renound nonetheless.

  • Mar-06-2009
    Wall Street Journal: What The Bashir Indictment Means. Palestinians aren't the world's only victims
    At last. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. This decision is huge news for his victims and to all of us who, for years, helplessly witnessed the Darfur massacres. It confirms, with all the authority of the law, though without directly accusing Mr. Bashir of genocide, the terrible accusations that weighed on the regime. It stigmatizes, isolates and consequently weakens a state that was not strong except for our weakness, our indifference to the suffering it inflicted, and, ultimately, our cowardice vis-à-vis the power (oil, etc.) we gave it.

  • Mar-04-2009
    Wall Street Journal: Bank Robbery - Depleting capital when it's most needed
    The Treasury and Federal Reserve continue to cook up creative ways to pump taxpayer money into troubled financial institutions. So we're having a tough time understanding why another federal agency, the FDIC, has announced plans to take $27 billion out of the banking system this year. It's true that the FDIC's deposit-insurance fund has been shrinking, and that since the beginning of 2009 the FDIC has rolled up two banks a week, on average. It took over two more last Friday. The fund is now down to $19 billion from $52 billion a year ago and by law had to be replenished.

  • Mar-04-2009
    Investopedia: Top Stocks Under $10 (GE)
    The carnage in the equity markets has clearly been massive. Many large companies are now trading at a fraction of the price that they once were. That being said, bargain hunting investors may be able to take advantage of this situation. "As part of my research I screened for companies that are currently trading under $10, which sport a market cap in excess of $200 million, and which are currently expected to post a profit in 2009 or in the current year."

  • Mar-03-2009
    Investopedia: The NASCAR Portfolio: Stocks Headed To Victory Lane (DD, FDX, K, PEP)
    No sport is more tied to corporate America than NASCAR. Sure, there's an "official" beer of the NFL and an "official" airline of the NBA, but in those sports, companies don't sponsor an entire team. The opposite is true in NASCAR where large corporations sponsor every NASCAR driver, and pay millions of dollars for the privilege. The cars are essentially billboards moving at 180 miles per hour and the drivers are essentially the sponsors' spokesmen. While it's easy to spot a driver's primary sponsor - it's the company on his car's hood - each car is also covered in some of America's most recognizable companies.

February 2009

  • February/March 2009
    The Atlantic: How The Crash Will Reshape America
    The crash of 2008 continues to reverberate loudly nationwide—destroying jobs, bankrupting businesses, and displacing homeowners. But already, it has damaged some places much more severely than others. On the other side of the crisis, America’s economic landscape will look very different than it does today. What fate will the coming years hold for New York, Charlotte, Detroit, Las Vegas? Will the suburbs be ineffably changed? Which cities and regions can come back strong? And which will never come back at all?

  • Feb-28-2009
    Wall Street Journal: Was George W. Bush The Worst President? A historian urges us to take a deep breath before we answer
    Several polls of historians have named George W. Bush the worst president in American history. This baffles me. I've been writing about presidents for a long time. What I know, and what I presume these gentlemen know, doesn't connect. Is Mr. Bush worse than John Adams? When a shooting war at sea started between the United States and revolutionary France in 1798, Honest John wrote a letter to George Washington, offering to resign so that George could resume the job. How's that for presidential leadership? Meanwhile, Adams had kept Washington's cabinet officers on the job, although he loathed them. He finally fired them in a fit of hysteria, which made them wonder if he had lost his mind.

  • Feb-28-2009
    Wall Street Journal: A Resolute Ally In The War On Terror - Canadians are with us in Afghanistan. We should be with them on free trade
    "If we as the major countries of this hemisphere cut an ally off at the knees we will pay a tremendous price for it." Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been fielding questions for more than 30 minutes in a meeting with the editorial board at The Wall Street Journal's New York office. Up to now his answers, on everything from war to how to confront an economic tsunami, have been delivered in the low-key monotone of a plainspoken Western Canadian conservative.

  • Feb-28-2009
    Smart Money: The Troubles Of Auction Rate Preferred Shares
    THEY WERE SOLD as a liquid, safe, slightly higher-yielding, tax-exempt alternative to money-market funds. I should know, since I bought some. For several years I've been parking a good part of my cash in Auction Rate Preferred Shares (ARPS). These are typically shares of a closed-end fund that used the proceeds to buy triple-A-rated securities. (In my case, municipal bonds.) There was virtually no interest rate risk since the rate was set at frequent auctions of the shares. My shares were issued by BlackRock (BLK 1 ), the asset-management firm almost half-owned by Merrill Lynch (MER 2 ); many other firms also sold the securities. When I needed cash, I simply redeemed shares, as I did last month when I took advantage of the market downturn to buy stocks.

  • Feb-27-2009
    Wall Street Journal: Argentina Has A Bond It Wants To Sell You - Deadbeat nations should be kept out of U.S. capital markets
    Argentina reportedly intends to file for Securities and Exchange Commission approval to re-enter U.S. capital markets. The SEC should instead insist that Argentine securities bear a warning like cigarette packages: "This issuer has a record of misrepresentation, debt defaults and debt repudiation, and therefore may be dangerous to your financial health. Do not consume this issuer's bonds unless you have a platoon of lawyers and a Navy to back them up, and you're prepared to use both." In this global economic crisis, Argentina's financial behavior is especially worrisome. Its status as history's largest sovereign debt defaulter; its unprecedented repudiation in 2005 of bonds held by those who balked at substandard terms for restructuring; and the lack of transparency and fulsome disclosure surrounding its current capital raising efforts set a dangerous example.

  • Feb-25-2009
    Investopedia: Junk Bonds: Everything You Need To Know
    For many investors, the term "junk bond" evokes thoughts of investment scams and high-flying financiers of the 1980s, such as Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken, who were known as "junk bond kings". But don't let the term fool you - if you own a bond fund, these worthless-sounding investments may have already found their way into your portfolio. Here's what you need to know about junk bonds. From a technical point of view, a junk bond is exactly the same as a regular bond. Junk bonds are an IOU from a corporation or organization that states the amount it will pay you back (principal), the date it will pay you back (maturity date) and the interest (coupon) it will pay you on the borrowed money.

  • Feb-25-2009
    Investopedia: Understanding The Current Account In The Balance Of Payments
    The balance of payments (BOP) is the place where countries record their monetary transactions with the rest of the world. Transactions are either marked as a credit or a debit. Within the BOP there are three separate categories under which different transactions are categorized: the current account, the capital account and the financial account. In the current account, goods, services, income and current transfers are recorded. In the capital account, physical assets such as a building or a factory are recorded. And in the financial account, assets pertaining to international monetary flows of, for example, business or portfolio investments are noted. In this article, we will focus on analyzing the current account and how it reflects an economy's overall position.

  • Feb-25-2009
    Investopedia: Protect Your Foreign Investments From Currency Risk
    Investing in foreign securities, while a good thing for your long-term portfolio, continues to pose new threats for investors. As more people broaden their investment universe by expanding into foreign stocks and bonds, they must also bear the risk associated with fluctuations in exchange rates. Fluctuations in these currency values, whether the home currency or the foreign currency, can either enhance or reduce the returns associated with foreign investments. Currency plays a significant role in investing; read on to uncover potential strategies that might downplay its effects.

  • Feb-25-2009
    Investopedia: Forces Behind Exchange Rates
    Aside from factors such as interest rates and inflation, the exchange rate is one of the most important determinants of a country's relative level of economic health. Exchange rates play a vital role in a country's level of trade, which is critical to most every free market economy in the world. For this reason, exchange rates are among the most watched, analyzed and governmentally manipulated economic measures. But exchange rates matter on a smaller scale as well: they impact the real return of an investor's portfolio. Here we look at some of the major forces behind exchange rate movements.

  • Feb-25-2009
    Investopedia: Downsize Your Home To Downsize Expenses
    Downsizing your home is most commonly associated with empty-nesters and retirees looking for smaller spaces after the kids have moved out, but it's also becoming a more popular move for a growing number of hard-working, money-smart homeowners. It's also a move that makes a lot of financial sense. From a corporate perspective, the whole concept of downsizing is financial. Companies close facilities, shed business lines and lay off workers in order to save money. When they do, Wall Street cheers and stock prices rise because lower expenses lead to bigger profits. The exact same thing occurs, on a smaller and more personal scale, when you downsize your house.

  • Feb-25-2009
    Investopedia: An Introduction To LIBOR
    When most Americans think of British imports, their minds probably conjure up images of James Bond and Monty Python movies. These are all fine contributions, and with the success of the aforementioned British imports, it's hard to argue their significance, but quite possibly the most important import from England has a direct impact on the wallets of many Americans, especially homeowners. In this article we'll explain a little understood yet extremely relevant financial tool used across the globe: the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR).

  • Feb-25-2009
    Investopedia: 4 ETF Strategies For A Down Market
    Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are rapidly becoming a popular investment tool for many investors. As with any investment, it is important to understand the downside risks. ETFs are traded like stocks, so they inherit many of the same risks as stocks. However, there are several strategies that ETF investors can use to protect their capital during a down market. These strategies include knowing when to sell, knowing how to allocate your assets, following the rotation of sectors and using hedging techniques.

  • Feb-23-2009
    Elaph: The Arabs Must Apologize To America - By Shaker Al-Nabulsi (in Arabic)

  • Feb-22-2009
    Elaph: Baghdad - The Paradise Of Lovers & Poets - By Shaker Al-Nabulsi (in Arabic)

  • Feb-19-2009
    Wall Street Journal: Five Ways To Restore Financial Trust - Government should offer matching funds for IPOs
    Restoring trust in the financial system is the key to solving the current economic crisis. Today, people don't trust bankers and banks don't trust other banks because they know that they have assigned totally arbitrary values to the assets on their own books. The result: Banks won't lend because they don't trust they will be repaid. Increasingly, it seems as if much of the banking and hedge-fund industry in the last decade was a house of cards built by leverage, irresponsible lending and complicated derivative instruments. What began as a limited subprime crisis has morphed into a $33 trillion drop in global stock markets. In such a climate, a $787 billion fiscal stimulus will be wasted unless we clean up banks' books and get them lending again.

  • Feb-19-2009
    Elaph: Results Of Provincial Elections In Iraq (in Arabic)

  • Feb-18-2009
    Money Morning: The Top 12 U.S. Banks: From Zombies to Hidden Gems
    U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner last week proposed a series of programs, totaling $1.5 trillion, to bail out the U.S. banking system. Of course, Geithner hasn’t told us precisely how he plans to spend the money, or identified which banks require such an enormous outlay. This article looks at the United States’ 12 largest banks to see where the problems might be and identify which banks might need big infusions of government cash ... by perusing the financial statements of all 12 banks, and also looked at their market valuations.

  • Feb-18-2009
    The Independent: Boom Time In Baghdad: Return Of Refugees Puts Heat Under Property Prices
    As the price of housing collapses in the rest of the world, it is soaring in Baghdad. “Property is the fastest way to make money here,” says Mohammed al-Hadithi, who runs a real estate office in the wealthy Yarmouk district of west Baghdad. “Over the past two years there has been a big rise in the market because the security situation is calmer.” Until recently anybody wanting to sell a house in Baghdad avoided putting up “for sale” signs because they were closely watched by gangs who would wait for the purchase to go through and then kidnap the seller or one of his children so they could demand the selling price as ransom.

  • Feb-18-2009
    Financial Times: The Eurozone Needs A Government Bond Market
    The euro suffers from certain structural deficiencies; it has a central bank but it does not have a central treasury and the supervision of the banking system is left to national authorities. These defects are increasingly making their influence felt, aggravating the financial crisis. The process began in earnest after the failure of Lehman Brothers when, on October 12, the European finance ministers found it necessary to reassure the public that no other systemically important financial institution would be allowed to fail. In the absence of a central treasury, the task fell to the national authorities. This arrangement created an immediate and severe financial crisis in new European Union member states that have not yet joined the euro and eventually it also heightened tensions within the eurozone.

  • Feb-14-2009
    Wall Street Journal: The Great Interest Rate Wave - What's caused such a wide swing in interest rates
    Amid the daily news about economic woes, it is useful to ponder the long view. And the long view shows that we now stand at the tail end of the greatest secular swing in interest rates in U.S. history. Interest rates are a barometer of economic conditions. So where have they been, and what can they tell us?

  • Feb-13-2009
    Wall Street Journal: Jimmy Carter and the Camp David Myth - It was only by putting aside the Palestinian issue that Mideast peace progress was made
    Will Jimmy Carter be President Barack Obama's role model on how to bring peace to the Middle East? Some, especially in Israel, view that prospect with apprehension. Others, like Ralph Nader, have greeted the possibility with enthusiasm, urging Mr. Obama to rely on Mr. Carter's "wise and seasoned counsel" in dealings with the volatile region. After all, Mr. Carter is renowned as the master craftsman of the historic accord between Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Israel's Menachem Begin at Camp David in September 1978, which opened the way for a formal peace agreement three months later. The myth of Camp David hangs heavy over American foreign policy, and it's easy to see why. Of all the attempts to forge a Middle East peace, the 1978 treaty between Egypt and Israel has proved the most durable. Mr. Carter's admirers extol Camp David as an example of how one man's vision and negotiating skill brought former enemies together at the peace table, and as proof that a president can guide America toward a kinder, humbler foreign policy. Camp David was indeed Mr. Carter's one major foreign policy accomplishment amid a string of disasters including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the rise of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and Ayatollah Khomeini's ascent in Iran.

  • Feb-13-2009
    Investopedia: The Currency Market Information Edge
    The global foreign exchange (forex) market had an average daily turnover of $3.2 trillion as of April 2007, an increase of 69% from the previous year, according to the 2007 Triennial Central Bank Survey of Foreign Exchange and Derivatives Market Activity, conducted by the Bank for International Settlements. It is by far the largest financial market in the world, and its size and liquidity ensure that new information or news is disseminated within minutes. However, the forex market has some unique characteristics that distinguish it from other markets. These unique features may give some participants an "information edge" in some situations, resulting in new information being absorbed over a longer period.

  • Feb-13-2009
    Investopedia: Stashing Your Cash: Mattress Or Market ?
    When stock markets become volatile, it makes investors nervous. In many cases, this prompts them to take money out of the market and keep it in cash. Cash can be seen, felt and spent at will and for most people, having money in hand feels safe. But how safe is it really? Read on to find out whether your money is safer in the market or under your mattress.

  • Feb-13-2009
    Investopedia: Investing During Uncertainty
    Every day it seems like the world is getting smaller. If you watch any financial television station or read the newspaper, you are most likely aware of how events in one country seem to have an ever-increasing affect on other countries around the world. We are more interconnected now than at any other time in history. It goes without mention that globalization definitely has its positives, but when threats of financial crisis, war, global recession, trade imbalances, etc, do occur it often leads to talk of moving money to safer investments and increasing government deficits. This rising uncertainty can confuse even the well-informed investor.

  • Feb-13-2009
    Investopedia: Giants Of Finance: John Maynard Keynes
    If ever there was a rock star of economics, it would be John Maynard Keynes. Keynes shares his birthday, June 5th, with Adam Smith and he was born in 1883, the year communist founder Karl Marx died. With these auspicious signs, Keynes seemed to be destined to become a powerful free market force when the world was facing a serious choice between communism or capitalism. Instead, he offered a third way, which turned the world of economics upside down. In this article, we'll examine Keynes' doctrine and its impact.

  • Feb-13-2009
    Investopedia: Buying Life Insurance: Term Versus Permanent
    If you're wondering whether or not you should buy life insurance, ask yourself this one question: "Would my death leave anyone in a financial bind?" If you answer "yes", it may be time to get serious about shopping for life insurance. Life insurance can offer peace of mind, ensuring that your debts or loved ones will be taken care of in the event of your death. But before you buy it, you need to ask yourself if you'll qualify, and whether you should purchase term or permanent life insurance.

  • Feb-12-2009
    Foreign Policy: The List: The Crisis's Big Winners
    Meet five smart players that are not just surviving, but thriving, despite the economic downturn: (1) John Paulson; (2) George Soros; (3) Steve Eisman; (4) Qatar; and (5) ExxonMobil.

  • Feb-11-2009
    Wall Street Journal: Wall Street Mocked American Values - Just look at the lifestyles of these überconsumers.
    The announcement last week that Trader Monthly magazine was ceasing publication was one of those moments when a chance arrow of history scores a perfect bull's eye on a deserving target. The current recession, brought on at least in part by Wall Street's bonus lust, has claimed countless innocent victims. But in this case it has finally delivered a comeuppance to our era's loudest, gaudiest, cockiest champion of Wall Street excess. Those who still single out former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain as a symbol of extravagance should take note. Yes, the man once spent over a million dollars having his office remodeled and went on to arrange questionable bonuses for the year in which Merrill lost billions and sold itself to Bank of America.

  • Feb-11-2009
    The Atlantic: The Great Reset - Urban theorist Richard Florida explains why recession is the mother of invention.
    America’s shrinking economy has shortened everyone’s time horizons. When the Obama administration announced its plans for an $800 billion dollar stimulus package, legislators were on board with spending 75 percent of the money over the next 18 months. But the portions of the bill that are more forward-looking—like long-term investments in education and infrastructure—have proven more controversial. Who can think about laying down train tracks over the next decade when millions more jobs could be derailed by the middle of next year? Urban theorist Richard Florida, for one, takes the longer view. In a series of provocative books and articles—including The Rise of the Creative Class and, most recently, Who’s Your City?—Florida has set his sights on how economic shifts give rise to demographic trends. And in his March article for The Atlantic, “How the Crash Will Reshape America,” Florida applies those lessons to the current economic crisis. Which cities will rise and fall with investment banks and the housing market? Which regions will thrive, and which will start to look like latter-day Dust Bowls? I spoke recently with Florida about his Atlantic piece. But our conversation quickly turned to Obama’s stimulus and the kinds of policies we can enact to shape our own demographic destiny.

  • Feb-10-2009
    Investopedia: Why Money Market Funds Break The Buck
    Money market funds are often thought of as cash and a safe place to park money that isn't invested elsewhere. Investing in a money market fund is a low-risk, low-return investment in a pool of very secure, very liquid, short-term debt instruments. In fact, many brokerage accounts sweep cash into money market funds as a default holding investment until the funds can be invested elsewhere.

  • Feb-10-2009
    Investopedia: Why A Falling Stock Is Not Always A Bargain
    An old axiom warns investors not to "catch a falling safe", a reference to the fact that a falling stock is not always a bargain. For every solid company whose stock is experiencing a temporary downturn, another is punished by the market for very good reasons and may not recover. To "buy low and sell high" successfully, it makes sense to find undervalued stocks that are trading for less than they should. The trick for investors is separating a temporary stock pullback from a prolonged - and perhaps irreversible - downturn.

  • Feb-10-2009
    Investopedia: Analyzing Mutual Fund Risk
    There are a number of attractive mutual funds and fund managers that have performed very well over both long-term and short-term horizons. Sometimes, performance can be attributable to a mutual fund manager's superior stock-picking abilities and/or asset allocation decisions. In this article, we'll summarize how to analyze a mutual fund's portfolio and determine whether there are specific performance drivers.

  • Feb-10-2009
    Investopedia: A Guide To Portfolio Construction
    In today's financial marketplace, a well-maintained portfolio is vital to any investor's success. As an individual investor, you need to know how to determine an asset allocation that best conforms to your personal investment goals and strategies. In other words, your portfolio should meet your future needs for capital and give you peace of mind. Investors can construct portfolios aligned to their goals and investment strategies by following a systematic approach. Here we go over some essential steps for taking such an approach.

  • Feb-09-2009
    New Yorker: Hazardous Materials ?
    In the course of the ongoing financial crisis, we’ve been ceaselessly reminded of the dangers of moral hazard—the idea that if people are insulated from the negative effects of their gambles they are more likely to act rashly. When Bear Stearns was bailed out, last spring, the move was attacked for exacerbating the threat of moral hazard. When Lehman Brothers was allowed to go bankrupt, in mid-September, the decision was praised by some for reducing the risk of moral hazard. These days, moral-hazard concerns are making policymakers cautious about stemming the rise in foreclosures, and about dealing with ailing banks: if we bail out banks or homeowners, we’re told, it will only encourage more recklessness.

  • Feb-08-2009 - Iraqi Provincial Elections 2009
    Washington Post: Iraq's Good Example
    A new Iraq is emerging from five years of American invasion and occupation, and at first glance it looks distressingly like the old Iraq: Its people are still bound by the barbed wire of suspicion and hatred as much as by any sense of common purpose and history. But the new Iraq is clearly a nation in ways that the old Iraq -- long considered by experts as an artificial creation that would fly apart under the pressure of outside intervention -- was not. It did not fly apart and has in fact undergone significant, positive mutations as a result of a soon-to-subside U.S. presence.

  • Feb-06-2009
    Wall Street Journal: .AFGHANISTAN CAN BEAT AL QUEDA - Afghanistan Will Be A Quagmire For Al Qaeda. The war on terror will end once we've empowered the Muslim majority to stand up against extremists
    Although President Barack Obama and all of us in Congress are understandably focused on the economic crisis, we also face multiple crises in the rest of the world -- beginning with the war in Afghanistan. Security there has been deteriorating as the insurgents have grown in strength, size and sophistication, expanding their influence over an increasing swath of territory. Reversing the downward spiral will not be easy. But as Gen. David Petraeus once said of another war, "Hard is not hopeless." And we possess considerable strengths in this fight.

  • Feb-05-2009 - Iraqi Provincial Elections 2009
    New York Times: (From Baghdad Bureau - Blog From Inside Iraq): Preliminary Results Of Iraq's Provincial Elections 2009
    These are the results of the main parties with 90% of the votes counted in the 14 provinces taking part in Iraq’s 2009 provincial elections, as announced by Faraj al-Haidary, the head of Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission. The preliminary count shows Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition getting the biggest vote in nine out of the 14 provinces contested, but nowhere does he manage an absolute majority. His highest tally is 38% in Baghdad, but in other areas he is on 11% to 20%, which means he will be dependent on other coalition partners, or could even be squeezed out by others forming alliances against him. It is unclear exactly how many seats each of the leading parties will win - with between 26 and 57 up for grabs in each province, depending on its size. The full results will take more than three weeks, because of complex voting rules on how to allocate seats. Anbar could prove problematic, with some parties alleging voting irregularities. For an analysis, see Alissa Rubin’s story.

    Click here to view image of electrion's results

  • Feb-05-2009
    Wall Street Journal: Iraq's Remarkable Election. The government ensured integrity and security. Iran and sectarianism were the big losers
    When the surge in Iraq began in January 2007, no one imagined that two years later Iraq would plan and conduct provincial elections with limited Coalition assistance and presence, that those elections would proceed smoothly and peacefully, and that the United Nations special envoy would be able to certify its legitimacy immediately. Nor could anyone have dreamt that the news story would be not the smoothness and peacefulness of the polling, but its results and the prospects they offer for political progress in Iraq.

  • Feb-05-2009 - Iraqi Provincial Elections 2009
    Wall Street Journal: Iraq's Latest Progress - Political compromise follows security, not vice versa
    One sign that Iraq's local elections went well on the weekend is that there's been so little reporting of the event. Mayhem in the Middle East always gets attention, but a democracy growing in Baghdad is apparently a snooze. The result is nonetheless worth noting because it showed several encouraging trends in Baghdad while settling some old debates in Washington. While complete results won't be known until the end of the week, the vote itself was peaceful and early returns suggest a victory for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition and other secular parties at the expense of more religious Shiite parties.

  • Feb-05-2009 - Iraqi Provincial Elections 2009
    Economist: God Takes A Back Seat - Encouraging signs from the country’s provincial elections
    One sign that Iraq's local elections went well on the weekend is that there's been so little reporting of the event. Mayhem in the Middle East always gets attention, but a democracy growing in Baghdad is apparently a snooze. The result is nonetheless worth noting because it showed several encouraging trends in Baghdad while settling some old debates in Washington. While complete results won't be known until the end of the week, the vote itself was peaceful and early returns suggest a victory for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition and other secular parties at the expense of more religious Shiite parties.

  • Feb-04-2009
    Wall Street Journal: We Can Do Better Than a 'Bad Bank' - And we already have the resources to recapitalize lenders
    The Obama administration should come out of the gate with a comprehensive economic program that has two pillars in addition to a fiscal stimulus package. One would prevent housing prices from overshooting on the downside by making mortgages cheaper and more available and reducing foreclosures to a minimum; the other would enable banks to resume lending by adequately recapitalizing them. It would take several months to implement the program and a further period before it impacts the economy. But in the meantime, people could see that there is a way out, and that would help mitigate the severity of the downturn.

  • Feb-04-2009
    Wall Street Journal: Washington Could Use Less Keynes And More Hayek - The late Austrian economist offered good reasons to be skeptical of government action
    "In the long run, we are all dead," John Maynard Keynes once quipped. An influential British economist, Keynes used the line to dodge the problematic long-term implications of his policy proposals. His analysis of the Great Depression redefined economics in the 1930s and asserted that increased government spending during a downturn could revive the economy. President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats (very few of whom likely have read Keynes's 1936 book "The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money") have dug up the dead economist's convenient justification for deficit spending in defense of their bloated stimulus legislation. But none ask the most important question: Was Keynes right?

  • Feb-03-2009
    Wall Street Journal: How To Value Toxic Bank Assets - The government and banks can share in any upside
    The Obama administration is reportedly developing a plan to buy from U.S. banks some of their "toxic" assets -- troubled debt securities backed by subprime mortgages or complex derivatives. Many commentators agree that banks will not ramp up their lending until these assets are taken off their balance sheets. However, the purchase of these securities faces a major challenge -- no one really knows how they should be priced since most have not traded for six months, a long time. Although the Treasury department could hire experts to estimate their prices by methods like discounted cash flow, these estimates would be educated guesses with considerable margin for error.

  • Feb-03-2009
    Wall Street Journal: The Stimulus Package Is More Debt We Don't Need - Can Obama really defend this 'line by line'?
    As the Senate considers a massive $1.1 trillion stimulus bill, it is vital that the American people ask hard questions of their elected officials. When they do, it will become very clear that the bill will not only fail to stimulate the economy, but could seriously delay economic recovery. As a nation, we got into this mess by spending and investing money that didn't exist. We won't get out of it by doing more of the same.

  • Feb-03-2009
    New York Times: Iraq’s Victory, Iran’s Loss'
    IRAQ’S peaceful elections and strong voter turnout last weekend were a major success for both that country and the United States — not that there was much celebration in American news coverage. The elections could also redefine Iran’s role in the region. Critics of the Iraq war claimed that overthrowing Saddam Hussein in 2003 strengthened Iran’s position. Had we left Mr. Hussein in power, the theory goes, Iran would be less of a global threat. This argument is fundamentally wrong.

  • Feb-03-2009 - Iraqi Provincial Elections 2009
    The Independant: A coup for Maliki and a secular Iraq
    Voters have rebuffed religious parties – and cemented the power of the country's Prime Minister, reports Patrick Cockburn The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who seemed weak and isolated a year ago, appears to have won a sweeping victory in the Iraqi provincial elections that will strengthen his hold on central government. For the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein, according to preliminary results, Iraqi voters chose secular and nationalist parties over their religious rivals.

  • Feb-03-2009 - SPECIAL REPORT
    Validea Special Report: 10 Big-Name Stocks That Can Beat The Recession
    Recession: It's an ugly word -- and one that's hard to escape these days. Every time we see another report on rising unemployment, slow economic growth, or skyrocketing mortgage defaults, we're reminded of just how tough a time the economy has been having. All of the negative economic news is enough to make an investor want to cash out and head for the hills. If you're thinking of fleeing the market, however -- STOP RIGHT THERE! Doing so might just be the worst move you can make right now. To understand why that's the case, it's important to consider a couple of key points. First, just because the economy's tanking doesn't mean your portfolio has to follow suit. Though we often think of it as some sort of monolithic entity, the "stock market" is more aptly described as a market of individual stocks. And on any given day, hundreds, if not thousands, of those stocks will be gaining ground -- regardless of what the economy or the major indices are doing. One recent afternoon, for example, the S&P 500 -- the index most commonly referred to when people discuss "the market" -- was down more than 2 percent, but about 20 percent of stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange had gained ground. The message: Even if the economy drags the broader market down, there are always opportunities to make money in stocks.

  • Feb-02-2009 - Iraqi Provincial Elections 2009
    The Guardian: Democratic Dawn In Iraq
    Polling was peaceful, the results encouraging. We could yet be looking at a model for Arab states. The weekend's elections in Iraq were a huge success for the Iraqi people. The remarkably peaceful day of voting on Saturday - and the interim results - give good reason to hope Iraq really is on the way to building a decent society.

  • Feb-01-2009 - SPECIAL REPORT
    Times Online: The British House Of Lords Scandal
    Five articles from The Times Online, regarding subject news of scandal at The British House Of Lords, have been conjoined together into one file:
house of lords

Jan-25-09 | Revealed: Labour lords change laws for cash.
LABOUR peers are prepared to accept fees of up to £120,000 a year to amend laws in the House of Lords on behalf of business clients, a Sunday Times investigation has found. Four peers — including two former ministers — offered to help undercover reporters posing as lobbyists obtain an amendment in return for cash.

Jan-25-09 | Whispered over tea and cake: price for a peer to fix the law.
BARON TRUSCOTT of St James’s took a bite of his teacake before explaining to the two lobbyists in front of him just how much it would cost to hire a peer of the realm. “Rates vary between £1,000 and £5,000 a day,” he said quietly, his voice almost drowned by the chatter in the House of the Lords dining room. It was a question, he agreed, of getting the right person rather than haggling over the money

Jan-28-09 | The Lords are not so noble any more: The rise of professional politicians should make the Upper House rethink its disciplinary rules.
Cash for laws is worse than cash for questions. In 1994 John Major was vilified for presiding over a culture of sleaze when two insignificant Tory MPs were found to have accepted money to ask questions in Parliament. Four Labour peers have now been accused of being willing to accept cash to alter legislation. Parliamentary questions seek to influence policy through the front door. The peers, by contrast, are being accused of seeking to influence legislation not through the front door by putting down amendments, but through the back door by nobbling ministerial chums. They are alleged to have breached the Lords code of conduct, which declares that “Members of the House... must never accept any financial inducement... for exercising parliamentary influence”, and “must not... promote any matter in return for payment”. The four strenuously deny the allegations, which are to be considered by the sub-committee on Lords' Interests. But, unlike the Commons, the Lords has no sanctions against wrongdoers.

Jan-30-09 | Exclusive: Peers for cash investigation - new undercover footage. The Sunday Times has released secret video and audio in which Lord Truscott offers to help reporters 'facilitate' a bill amendment.
The Sunday Times secretly filmed Lord Truscott, one of the four peers who the newspaper revealed were prepared to assist in changing legislation for cash, during a meeting with the undercover reporters in the St James’ Hotel and Club in London on Wednesday January 21, 2009. The recording shows Truscott telling the reporters, posing as lobbyists, that he will work with them to “facilitate” the amendment to the Business Rates Supplement Bill on behalf of their client.

Feb-01-2009 | Lords for hire: Members of the House of Lords should act primarily out of public interest. Yet some seem too ready to sell their services.
Earlier this month Lord O’Neill of Clackmannan, a Labour peer, walked into the public bill office in the House of Lords with a clutch of amendments to a proposed law going through parliament. The clerks checked the amendments and agreed to their publication. O’Neill, president of the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group, was trying to change a bill about the construction industry so that it would favour his organisation’s members. He is paid a fee by the group, but does not disclose how much.

January 2009