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Iraq defaults on millions in welfare payments

November 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Iraq defaults on millions in welfare payments

By LARA JAKES


 

Iraq has run out of money to pay for widows‘ benefits, farm crops and other programmes for the poor, its parliament was told yesterday.
In only their fourth session since being elected in March, MPs demanded to know what happened to the estimated £625 million allocated for welfare funding by the finance ministry for 2010.

“We should ask the government where these allocations for widows’ aid have gone,” demanded Maha Adouri of Baghdad, one of the women who make up a quarter of the parliament’s’s 325 members.

“There are thousands of widows who did not receive financial aid for months.”

Another MP said farmers have not been paid for wheat and other crops they supplied the government for at least five months.

The cause of the shortfall was unclear, but officials have worried that the deadlock over forming a new government since March’s inconclusive election ultimately would lead to funding shortages.

Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi promised that the parliament would push the Iraqi government for answers on where the money went.

.The MPs’ eagerness to take up an issue dear to their constituents may have been aimed in part to reverse public scorn for their own lavish pay.

Despite being elected only a short time ago, MPs have continued to pull in salaries and allowances that reach £14,000 a month, as well as one-off perks such as free nights in Baghdad’s finest hotel.

 

Article Source:  news.scotsman.com/world/Iraq-defaults-on-millions-in.6634360.jp

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WikiLeaks Announces Release 7x the Size of the Iraq War

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Picture of Julian Assange during a talk at 26C3

Picture of Julian Assange during a talk at 26C3

Logs

Stan Schroeder

WikiLeaks has announced an important release on its Twitter account, claiming it’ll be seven times bigger than the Iraq war logs, which are widely considered to be the biggest military leak in history.

“Next release is 7x the size of the Iraq War Logs. intense pressure over it for months. Keep us strong” was the message posted to the Wikileaks Twitter account earlier today.

The message was followed by an even bolder statement two hours later: “The coming months will see a new world, where global history is redefined.”

WikiLeaks is an organization that publishes submissions of otherwise unavailable documents, keeping the sources anonymous. It has published nearly 500,000 secret U.S. documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Recently, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange found himself in the center of a rape scandal. The rape charges against him were initially dropped, but the case still looms over Assange’s head, with the Swedish court recently approving a motion to bring him into custody for questioning.

No details about the upcoming release have been revealed, but the fact that it was mentioned in the same context as the Iraq war logs points to another military-related leak. What do you think Wikileaks will announce? Please, share your opinions in the comments.

Copyright © 2010 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

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Yael Naim – She Was a Boy

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

ZORIAH – zoriah.net blog


Source article

Two years ago I began a friendship with two of the wold’s most kind and talented individuals, Yael Naim and David Donatien. Before I get into our friendship, let me tell you a bit about how we met.

Yael_naim_she_was_a_boy_cover_zoriah
Above is the photo we used for the cover of She Was a Boy

Music plays a big role in my work, although most of you would never know it.  I studied music in university and it has been my passion, probably even more so than photography, for many, many years.  As a photographer, music inspires me both while I am creating images and especially while I am editing them.  My first four years working as a photojournalist I almost always had music on while I was shooting.  As I grew and refined my stile I focused more on getting close to my subjects and relating to them and saved my music for before and after shoots.  But the music is always there.

In 2008 I had an album with me on my travels and this particular album was played more than any other.  It kept me company in Iraq and was my inspiration during my projects in Gaza and the West Bank.  This album was Yael and David’s first album together.

It was months later that I would find out that while I was listening to Yael’s album in her birthplace, Israel, she and David were watching me on television in my birthplace, Colorado.

Over the past two years I have spent a lot of my free time with Yael and David and learned to love them, and their music, more than I could have ever expected.  Their music continues to inspire me and I truly hope that my work is able to do the same for them.

For the past year I have been photographing Yael and David regularly.  I have photographed their concerts, countless recording sessions, day trips, night trips…you name it.  With the release of their new album today there will be a limited edition set of CD‘s that will come with a photography book of about forty images behind the scenes during the recording sessions.

About the new album, She Was a Boy:  Most of you probably know Yael and David from their hit song New Soul which you may remember from the Macbook Air ads on television.  The rest of that album is also a brilliant mix of styles, languages and sounds and if you haven’t bought it yet, do so soon.  She Was a Boy is, in my opinion, an evolution in Yael and David’s work.  It is a wonderful journey and I am happy and proud to have been there while it was recorded.  I can tell you that each and every track on the album is an amazing accomplishment in music.  So much time went into perfecting each song, so many people worked with them to make a wonderful fusion of sounds and emotions.

I would like to quickly thank Yael and David for their kindness and friendship and congratulate them on the album, I know how much work you put into it and all I can say is thank you from all of us who will enjoy listening to it!  Thanks to everyone at the record label, Tot au Tard, it has been a pleasure working with all of you on this project and I look forward to more in the future.

Yael Naim and David Donatien’s web site

Yael Naim and David Donatien’s blog

Here are a few of the images that will be in the limited edition book.  We also plan to work on a full, coffee table book together after I tour with them this spring.  I will keep you all posted on that project.


Yael-naim-she-was-a-boy-zoriah_20100630_0334-1
Yael Naim hiding in a tree before a concert in France.



Yael-naim-she-was-a-boy-zoriah_20100519_0332
Yael Naim during a recording session for She Was a Boy in her home outside of Paris

Yael-naim-she-was-a-boy-zoriah_20100410_0237
David Donatien listening to a recently recorded track

Yael-naim-she-was-a-boy-zoriah_20100703_0025
Yael Naim working through a new song on her guitar

Yael-naim-she-was-a-boy-zoriah_20100613_0138
Yael Naim and David Donatien working on the production of a track from She Was a Boy in their studio

Yael-naim-she-was-a-boy-zoriah_20100613_0240
Yael Naim and David Donatien laying out new tracks in their studio

Yael-naim-she-was-a-boy-zoriah_20100604_0288
Yael being punished by David for being a naughty girl

Yael-naim-she-was-a-boy-zoriah_20100410_0030
Yael Naim in the evening light during the recording of She Was a Boy

Yael-naim-she-was-a-boy-zoriah_20100613_0604
This was one of the press pictures we shot in the forest outside of Paris

Yael-naim-she-was-a-boy-zoriah_20091024_0256-1
Yael Naim on the streets of Paris

Yael-naim-she-was-a-boy-zoriah_20090516_0009
Yael Naim in the car on the way to perform in a concert
Yael-naim-she-was-a-boy-zoriah_20100515_0502
A shot of Yael Naim in the window of her apartment in Paris.  This is one of the images we considered for the cover.

US slammed over grim rights record

November 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Thu Nov 4, 2010 1:48AM

The WikiLeaks reports contain numerous official accounts of alleged detainee abuse by US-led troops in Iraq.
US President Barack Obama had failed to fulfill his promise to eradicate torture in Iraq and in interrogations of terror suspects, human rights campaigners say.

Representatives of US and international groups also expressed disappointment at Obama administration over its failure in addressing violations committed by the previous administration.

“Many of us would have been much happier two years ago, we expected very much deeper change. The momentum has been lost,” AFP quoted Gerald Staberock of the International Commission of Jurists as saying on Thursday.

Detention of terror suspects and mounting casualties by US drone attacks in Afghanistan amounted to “a grim picture on accountability,” Staberock said.

The activists say the current and previous US administrations should be accountable to all allegations of torture in Iraq and interrogations of terror suspects around the world.

“Not only is justice not being done, it is also prevented from being done,” he pointed out.

“We are now seeing that this administration is becoming an obstacle to achieving accountability in human rights,” said Jamal Dakwar, a director at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Dakwar criticized US government lawyers for defending officials of Bush administration against civil lawsuits brought by torture victims against them in court.

He said the lawyers make efforts to “extinguish” the lawsuits.

“Until today not a single victim of torture has had their day in a US court. This is very sad,” Dakwar added.

Newly-published Iraq war secrets by WikiLeaks have revealed a large number of brutalities against Iraqi civilians, many recounting tales of abuse by coalition forces.

The field reports contain numerous official accounts of alleged detainee abuse by the multi-national troops in war-torn Iraq.

One such document dating back to September 2005 depicts the forces brutally kicking and stoning a farmer over allegations that he was planting an improvised explosive device.

The secret documents published by the whistleblower website over the weekend are a part of the nearly 400,000 classified reports about the US-led invasion of Iraq dating from January 2004 to the end of 2009.

The documents have shed light on a spate of crimes and offences committed in Iraq over the past few years, including rape, assassinations and murders.

The site has also exposed documents on the similar US-led war in Afghanistan and is expected to disclose additional related details.

DB/MGH

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Iraq court sentences Hussein deputy Tariq Aziz to death

October 28, 2010 Leave a comment

THE KREMLIN, MOSCOW. Meeting with Iraqi Deputy...

THE KREMLIN, MOSCOW. Meeting with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.

Oct 26, 2010
By Jane Arraf | McClatchy Newspapers

BAGHDAD — Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein’s deputy who was the international face of the regime, was sentenced to death Tuesday by an Iraqi court.

Iraq’s high tribunal, set up to try officials from the former regime, sentenced the former deputy prime minister to hang for what it termed crimes against humanity.

The charges related to murder and torture of members of Islamic parties opposed to Hussein’s leadership. The sentence carries an automatic appeal.

Aziz, the only Christian at senior levels of the regime – where he also served as foreign minister – has been in prison since he gave himself up in 2003. He was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison for involvement in sentencing to death merchants convicted of black-market currency trading in 1992. He was also sentenced to another seven years for a campaign against Iraqi Kurds.

The current trial has been going on since December 2009. Four other defendants were also sentenced to death by the presiding judge, Mahmoud Saleh al-Hassan, who ran unsuccessfully for parliament as part of the State of Law coalition of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. One of the main targets of Saddam Hussein’s campaign against Islamic parties was Maliki’s Dawa Party.

International experts have criticized the proceedings, saying former regime officials should be tried in an international court, free of potential political influence.

Aziz is elderly and in ill health. His family and lawyer have argued that he should be released for humanitarian reasons.

The former foreign minister testified that he had a political position and had not had a role in any of the decisions of Hussein’s regime. But he was sentenced to death anyway. As Hassan literally shouted out the sentence, at one point asking Aziz if he understood, the former foreign minister looked ashen.

The court also sentenced Hussein’s former personal secretary, Abed Hmood and former Interior Minister Saadoon Shaker to death on the same charges.

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IRAQ: No work forces refugees into risky return

October 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Refugees

Image by Todd Huffman : Refugees

27 Oct 2010 12:39:24 GMT
Source: IRIN
Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author’s alone.

MADRID, 27 October 2010 (IRIN) – It takes courage – or desperation – for an Iraqi refugee to return home, given the levels of violence in the country. But unable to support their families abroad, some are taking that decision.
The risks are substantial: According to a survey [ http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4cc51ce41e.html ] by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 61 percent of Iraqi asylum-seekers who have returned home have regretted it, citing the astonishing levels of insecurity.

Umm Hassan (not her real name) fled to Amman, Jordan with her children to escape the war, but unable to support her family, returned home last year. She was back in Amman nine months later . “The situation was unbearable in Baghdad. It was so dangerous, there were explosions, and we had no source of income there either. We stayed at various relatives’ houses while I had no way to provide for my children. In the end we decided to come back to Jordan again, though we knew things would be hard,” she told IRIN in a telephone interview.

UNHCR estimates there are 1.78 million Iraqi refugees – the second-largest refugee group in the world – and has registered 207,639. The overwhelming majority have sought refuge in neighbouring Syria and Jordan, [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportID=90663 ] with a significant proportion in Lebanon and Egypt.

The problem is “Iraqis do not have the right to work in host countries, and those who do are immersed in the informal economy,” said Asma Al-Haidari, a Jordan-based human rights activist. Of the four main countries of asylum, only Egypt has signed the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which guarantees the right to work for legally recognized refugees.

In Syria and Jordan, Iraqis are considered “guests”.Only documented refugees are entitled to a small financial package from UNHCR – most are not registered. With restrictions on the right to work and savings exhausted, Iraqis are pushed into poverty and trying to make ends meet in the informal economy.

“It is purely as a result of their desperation that some Iraqis are voluntarily returning to Iraq,” said Al-Haidari.”Some progress has been made with guaranteeing Iraqi refugees basic services such as access to primary education and health care in Syria and Jordan,” said Hana Al-Bayaty, coordinator of the Cairo-based Iraqi International Initiative on Refugees. Education

But there are no guarantees on access to free secondary and higher education in host countries, whose educational systems are already under strain. That can act as a further inducement for people to choose to return, particularly for middle class families that have traditionally valued education. “My elder daughter is a lawyer, and my son has just graduated from a professional academy whose fees have put us all in debt. Neither of them can work, and I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Umm Hassan, a widow. “We have difficulties meeting our most basic needs. But we have nowhere to go.”UNHCR has counted 19,530 individuals and 4,200 families who have chosen to return to Iraq between January and September this year.
[ http://www.iauiraq.org/documents/1132/return%20update%20iraq%20sep%202010.pdf ] The Refugee Agency currently discourages returnees to Iraq, and in particular Baghdad, due to the insecurity, but the majority are heading to the city. [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportID=90616 ]Economic opportunities for returnees are also limited.

In the UNHCR survey, 87 percent said they were currently unable to cover their families’ needs, while 11 percent cited poor economic conditions and unemployment as reasons for not returning to their former homes and neighbourhoods.Most returnees to the Baghdad districts of Karkh and Resafa have not gone back to their original homes, but rather are staying with relatives, friends or in rented accommodation, mainly as a result of ongoing fears of persecution.

According to Al-Bayaty, a sizeable number of returnees are living in squats in old public buildings. “Many refugees’ homes are occupied, either by organized militias or individual families. Returning refugees therefore generally become internally displaced persons.”
Iraq already has 1.5 million displaced persons, including 500,000 in settlements or camp-like conditions.sa/oa/cb© IRIN. All rights reserved. More humanitarian news and analysis: http://www.IRINnews.org

IRIN news

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Somalia tops the most corrupt list

October 27, 2010 Leave a comment

News
Iraq and Afghanistan among most corrupt nations in the world and United States slips down from top twenty least corrupt.
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2010 03:06 GMT
A report has placed Afghanistan as the second most corrupt nation in the world [GALLO/GETTY]

Somalia is the most corrupt country in the world, followed by Afghanistan, Myanmar and Iraq, an international watchdog has said.

In its annual report released on Tuesday, Transparency International found Somalia to be most corrupt country, topping a list of the 178 countries surveyed.

MOST CORRUPT COUNTRIES
1. Somalia (1.1)
2. Myanmar & Afghanistan (1.4)
4. Iraq (1.5)
5. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan & Sudan (1.6)
8. Chad (1.7)
9. Burundi (1.8)
10. Equatorial Guinea (1.9)

Source: Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2010.

The international watchdog found almost 75 per cent of the countries to be in the index score below five, on a scale from 10 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupt).

These findings indicate a serious  worldwide corruption problem and highlight the need to make more efforts to towards strong governance structures across the globe.

‘Worrying situation’

Edda Mueller, the head of Transparency International’s German section, said that the overall international situation was “very worrying”.

“There are clear indications that the more unstable a country is, the higher the level of corruption.”

And at the other end of the scale, Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore shared the top slot as the least corrupt nations.

They were followed by Finland, Sweden, Canada and the Netherlands.

LEAST CORRUPT COUNTRIES
1. Denmark, New Zealand & Singapore (9.3)
4. Finland & Sweden (9.2)
6. Canada (8.9)
7. Netherlands (8.8)
8. Australia & Switzerland (8.7)
10. Norway (8.6)

Source: Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2010.

The study also identified the countries that have successfully fought corruption and have shown an improvement in the rankings.

These include Bhutan, Chile, Ecuador, Gambia, Haiti, Jamaica, Kuwait and Macedonia.

Chile and Uruguay were rated the least-corrupt countries in Latin America, while the best ranking in the Middle East was given to Qatar.

Mueller said that the performance of these countries should serve as hope and inspiration for countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

The report found that some countries that were hit hard by the the global economic crisis became more corrupt during the last year. Greece and Italy feature in this category together with the United States, which has dropped its position from 19th to 22nd in the last year.

Transparency International has identified corruption as a major hindrance in fighting major problems like the financial crisis and climate change.

It has advocated stricter implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the only global initiative that provides a framework for putting and end to corruption.

Transparency International’s corruption index is based on 13 different surveys of business people and governance experts conducted between January 2009 and September 2010.

 

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