Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Doughnuts: In Sour Times, a Sweet Success Story [via Time]

The number of donuts served in America increased by 6 percent this spring to approximately 1.8 billion, according to a market research firm. Dunkin’ Donuts attributes its success to a 2009 marketing shift back to the basics. “The franchise had been so focused on its coffee and new products like bagel twists and waffle sandwiches that it forgot the power of the doughnut in these tough economic times. ‘Faced with daily disappointments and struggles, the doughnut is one of those affordable treats that can make someone’s day,’ says Frances Allen, a brand-marketing officer for the company.”

Spanish fathers entitled to breastfeeding leave [via CNN]

The European Union Court of Justice ruled last week that working fathers in Spain enjoy the same right to breastfeeding breaks as mothers. The court called the law “an unjustified discrimination on the grounds of sex” and granted men two half hour-long breaks per day for the first nine months of a child’s life. No word on what the fathers are to do with their newfound break time.

Iraq breaks world record for time taken to form a government [via the BBC]

Iraqi politicians have shattered the world record for time taken to form a government, previously held by the Dutch government, which took 208 days to form in 1977. The BBC notes that it took three months just to verify March’s election records due to massive numbers of complaints and appeals, and the largest coalition is still four seats short of forming a parliamentary majority. BBC correspondent Jim Muir concludes that “the Iraqis seem likely to push the record quite a bit further than the Dutch.”


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MI6 ‘used bodily fluids as invisible ink’ [via The Daily Telegraph]

A new book by a Queen University, Belfast, professor reveals that World War I MI6 agents experimented successfully with using semen as an invisible ink for secretive information. The revelation came from the diary of a Secret Intelligence Service officer who was given the tip by SIS Chief Mansfield Cumming in 1915. The method fell out of popularity for the obvious reasons.

How goes Iraq? View from a bookstore is revealing [via the Associated Press]

The AP profiles a Baghdad bookstore that has tripled in size since 2008 yet cannot “count on safe streets, stable government and reliable electricity supplies.” The owners opened the store in 1995, when Saddam Hussein was still in power and poverty due to U.N. sanctions was extreme. Now, they supply many textbooks to universities across the Middle East nation. “The world of books will not make us rich and fat,” said Zeidan, 45 and a father of three. “But it’s not making us poor and skinny either.”

The museum that was written down [via The Art Newspaper]

Turkish novelist and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk has brought to life a museum he created for his 2008 novel “The Museum of Innocence.” In the book, the protagonist collects items from the apartment of the woman with whom he is having an affair, gathering items over nine years and creating “The Museum of Innocence, a shrine to his unavailable paramour.” The real-life version, in central Istanbul, will house 83 boxes, one for each chapter of the book, each filled with items that reflect that chapter. “It was a joy to combine the real with the imaginary,” says the author.

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Bearded Lady Reunites With Long-Lost Son [via AOL News]

33-year-old Kansan Richard Lorenc began searching for his biological parents, he probably didn’t expect to find this. Lorenc discovered his mother is Vivian Wheeler, who suffers from a disease called hypertrichosis, or werewolf syndrome. Wheeler (and her mother) were both born with inch-and-a-half beards, and she worked as a bearded woman at carnivals for years.

Missing Iraqi antiquities located in PM Maliki’s office [via the BBC]

More than 600 ancient Iraqi artifacts have been discovered in boxes in Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s office. The artifacts were among those stolen from the Iraqi National Museum after the U.S. invasion in 2003 and were recovered and sent back to Iraq in 2009, where they were promptly lost. Antiquities Minister Qahtan al-Jubouri blamed “inappropriate handover procedures” for their disappearance.

Christine O’Donnell Angers Wiccan Community with “Witchcraft” Comments [via CBS News]

Delaware Republican senate candidate Christine O’Donnell is taking flack from the Wiccan community after equating witchcraft with Satanism. O’Donnell made the connection after video from 1999 surfaced in which she claimed to have “dabbled in witchcraft.” “Any political candidate that is going to equate witchcraft with Satanism is ill informed and is not likely to get the support of people involved in nature religion,” Reverend Selena Fox, the High Priestess and Senior Minister of the Circle Sanctuary, said.

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Please welcome to the blog contributor Bertel King, Jr. You can find out more about him at the About page.

The two things that stick with me the most from Obama’s speech last night both came at the end: that “some [American soldiers] were teenagers when the war began” and that the 4,000-plus people who died in Iraq had worked alongside the “nearly 1.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq.” To me, those are sad figures for what was ultimately a mistake. However, the decision to invade was not Obama’s, nor was the decision to withdraw, so I will search the speech for what I thought was worth commending the president:

His rhetoric.

Yes, what was one of the biggest attack points used by conservatives during the 2008 election is what I consider Obama’s best strength. The man can speak, and when he does it he speaks in a way that will not haunt America for years to come and ruin our credibility around the world. Following are a few bite-sized chunks of his speech.

Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission. Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife. But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals. Iraqis are a proud people. They have rejected sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction. They understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets. Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders. What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.

I felt that this claim was necessary. While I question those who declare that we have won in Iraq, I do see some reason to be proud of the military’s accomplishments thus far (though I do think it is ironic that a victory for our mighty military is to be able to get out of a mess that it started with some dignity intact). However, never again should the United States declare “Mission Accomplished” prematurely, and Obama has made it explicitly clear that there will still be combat ahead.

… I am mindful that the Iraq War has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, it is time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.

This is a post-partisan moment for Obama. Politically, it’s safe to bash Bush — even conservatives do it. But Obama has chosen the high road. And in doing so, he has bucked against the conservative tactic of branding politicians who disagree as traitors, a tactic that helped Bush defeat Kerry in 2004 and prevented Democrats from gaining a majority in Congress at the time. Obama has chosen not only to stand up for his fellow Democrats, but to make the respectable decision to honor those politicians who disagree with his policies.

Within Afghanistan, I have ordered the deployment of additional troops who-under the command of General David Petraeus — are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum. As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future. But, as was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we are training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. And, next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: this transition will begin — because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.

Here Obama learns from the mistakes of Kennedy, Johnson and Bush. Afghanistan will not be another Vietnam. We cannot afford to stay in a country once we’ve realized it is hopeless. There are good things that can come out of the war in Afghanistan, but if it becomes clear that they’re not going to happen, or that the ability to accomplish them lies not in our hands but rather the Afghani’s, than we need to count our losses and leave. America has more to lose from its drudging economy and crippled credibility than from the Taliban at this point.

Unfortunately, over the last decade, we have not done what is necessary to shore up the foundation of our own prosperity. We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform. As a result, too many middle class families find themselves working harder for less, while our nation’s long-term competitiveness is put at risk.”

I think this paragraph sums up what has been and will be the Obama legacy. Bush was a war president, and while Obama has inherited both wars they are not where his priorities lie. His efforts have been on domestic issues — economic recovery, health care, tax cuts — and his ambitions remain domestic — energy reform, education reform, economic recovery. Obama hasn’t charted a new path when it comes to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he doesn’t have to. They will bring themselves to an end with time, and they will never be his babies. With the economy in the shape that it’s in, Obama has bigger fish to fry.

You can read the entire text of Obama’s Tuesday night speech here.

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President Barack Obama and the White House are gearing up to discuss the end of combat operations in Iraq tomorrow night during a primetime Oval Office address, Obama’s second. Monday Obama presented 11 Purple Hearts at Walter Reed Naval Hospital, and Vice President Joe Biden has flown to Iraq. Obama even intends to call his predecessor, George W. Bush, to discuss the end of combat operations for the war that began under Bush.

Just because the cameras have yet to roll doesn’t mean the internet is alight with commentators arguing about what Obama should or should not say. A sampling:

Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway in The Huffington Post:

With Americans formally retiring from their combat role in Iraq, we should be revisiting constitutional fundamentals. From the days of John Marshall, the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed Congress’ authority to define the scope of limited wars. Unless Obama begins to demonstrate his fidelity to this principle, he will be setting a terrible precedent for future presidents.

Abby Phillip at POLITICO:

The still-unsettled Iraqi state also complicates matters for Obama; while avoiding Bush’s famous “mission accomplished” declaration, the president must nevertheless signal a satisfactory conclusion to the second-longest war in American history. The White House has said Obama, speaking on prime-time TV for just the second time, will hit the same themes as in his weekly address last Saturday, thanking the troops and reiterating that “as a candidate for this office, I pledged I would end this war; as president, that’s what I’m doing.”

William Kristol in The Weekly Standard:

When you speak tomorrow, you might also do what you neglected to do Saturday: You might praise General Ray Odierno, who, with General David Petraeus, turned the war in Iraq around in an amazing feat of generalship, and then did a terrific job of managing, under your direction, a delicate drawdown and transfer of responsibility to our Iraqi partners. … And I hope you would also explain that, whatever one’s views of the decision to go to war, we now have a moral obligation and strategic opportunity to help a free and democratic Iraq succeed. This means emphasizing that we expect to work closely with Iraq in the future, and that we are open to stationing troops there. It means not repeating the vulgar and counter-productive emphasis in your Saturday address—”But the bottom line is this: the war is ending. Like any sovereign, independent nation, Iraq is free to chart its own course. And by the end of next year, all our troops will be home.”

Julie Kirtz at Fox News:

White House officials say in President Obama’s Oval Office address he will talk about the way forward in a country once ruled by a dictator and highlight milestones that many doubted would ever be reached. … Seven years after President Bush said no outcome but victory would be accepted in Iraq, President Obama will say America and its allies have succeeded. Will the country rally around him as it did in 2003?

Michael Muskal in the Los Angeles Times:

The president will try to avoid the mistake made by former President Bush, who triumphantly claimed the military mission was accomplished in 2003, only to spend the rest of his time in office fighting a deadly war against Iraqi insurgents.

A.B. Stoddard in The Hill:

President Obama’s idea to call President George W. Bush on Tuesday before he speaks from the Oval Office about the end of combat operations in Iraq is a good one. And Obama has rightly concluded that the words “mission accomplished” won’t be appropriate for tomorrow night’s address. In what will be his second Oval Office address, Obama will thank our men and women in uniform — and their families — for their service and sacrifice in that more than seven-year-old war and acknowledge the challenges that remain.

Deborah White at About.com:

Americans long ago gave up believing President Bush regarding the Iraq War, and frankly, trusting President Obama to carry out promises made in his many uplifting speeches is getting to be a stretch, too, even for progressive Democrats. Americans are no longer naive about U.S. misadventures in Iraq. We’ll believe genuine withdrawal when we actually see it… not when a President proclaims “Mission Accomplished” or makes pretty pronouncements from the Oval Office.

Jill Lawrence in Politics Daily:

Here are the top two words I want to hear President Obama say in his Oval Office speech about Iraq: Never again. … I want to hear about first principles from him – principles that determine when we go to war. I want to hear about fact-based decision-making – why we go to war. I want to hear about smart planning and contingency planning and choosing competent people to lead us into, and out of, potential quagmires. In short, I want to know I can once again trust my government.

Aaron Gee in American Thinker (thereby making the grammatical errors even funnier):

Almost every American wants our troops to come home victorious, and President Obama will capitalize on that sentiment tomorrow night.  It’s worth reminding folks that Obama was one of those Americans who wanted to bring troops home regardless of victory.  No amount of kind words and clever phrases will change that fact.  When one examines the mess our economy is in, or the stubborn refusal to acknowledge that the surge worked, you realize that President Obama hasn’t been right very often.  While President Obama may not have been right very often, but he was clever at convincing people that he was something he wasn’t (a moderate healer).  Look for that type of cleverness in this speech.

Peter Feaver in Foreign Policy:

To my ears at least, he did not do well in the preliminary quiz, this week’s radio address, which focused on Iraq. He repeated the gimmicks, fudged on the mission going forward, had nothing to say about the challenges that lay before us, pretended no national security interests were at stake in Iraq, and came dangerously close to reducing current and former military personnel to a government benefits enterprise. Only a stray phrase noting in passing that the troops fought “for the defense of our freedom and security” hinted at the important matters left unaddressed. Perhaps he will address them in the big speech.

Sarah Palin on Twitter:

Tues:Obama Iraq speech;poor leadership if this fierce opponent of the surge can’t give credit where credit’s due.Credit due GW,McCain,troops

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