CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O RELEASED A BUDGET THAT WAS CHARACTERISTIC OF SO MUCH OF WHAT HE DOES: OVERCONFIDENT TO THE POINT OF NAIVE AND IMMEDIATELY CRITICIZED FROM THE LEFT HE'S SUPPOSED TO BE FIGHTING FOR.
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
Al Rafidayn reports young Iraqis demonstrated in Baghad today as parrt of the "Young February 14" calling for the government to deliver basic services, address unemployment, stamp out corruption and for the Sabir al-Issawi, Secretary of Baghdad, to resign. Al Rafidayn notes that the Iraqis used Facebook to organize. Baghdad has seen demonstrations for weeks now including Friday and -- in the al Sadr section -- Saturday. (Friday also saw demonstrations in Basra, Nasiriyah, Mosul and Wasit.) Thaier al-Sudani (Reuters) has a photograph of some of the women participating in the protest who carried signs which read "We need electricity power, not ministers' promises" and "Do not erect a tower, just fix the sewage." Al Mada notes that there were many demands including that the government should leave and hand over public buildings which could be turned into schools or clinics. Turn them over? Munther Mahmoud points out these buildings were taken by over by political parties and their members who were seeking to take advantage of the 2003 chaos at the start of the war. BBC has a Valentine's Day photo essay whose first photo is of protesters in Baghdad today. Xiong Tong (Xinhua) quotes a protester stating, "The high salaries of the parliamentarians and the three presidencies (Presidency office, PM office and parliament presidency office) are not acceptable, while most of us are living on two dollars a day." Azzaman notes that the plan for today's protest in Baghdad is for the protest to continue each day through February 25th and notes that a protest is taking place in Ramadi as well. Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports that, in Najaf, the leader of the al-Sadr's bloc there has called for demonstrations against the lack of basic services and also against the continued occupation of Iraq by the United States. The leader read a statement from Moqtada al-Sadr in which he noted that these protests would be the voice of "the oppressed against the oppressor."
Yesterday saw protests as well. Al Mada noted that there were reports that Abdul Muni Muhammad (also billed as Mohammed Abdul Munir in some press reports) set himself on fire in Mosul today due to the continued unemployment and that reports note he is a porter with four children who "resides in a house with four other families." Citing police sources, Germany's DPA reports the man was 31-years-old and notes, "Thousands of Iraqis have been protesting this month, demanding better living standards, improved services and less corruption." Citing hospital sources, AFP reports he died at the hospital. Azzaman notes that the family of the man has been promised "a monthly stipend." Iraqhurr.org notes the United Nations places unemployment in Mosul at 17%.
Dar Addustour reports that "hundreds" protested in Ramadi Sunday against rampant unemployment and a lack of basic services and protesters are vowing that they will continue demonstrating. Ahmed al-Hiti (Iraqhurr.org) reports that they also called for the province's governor and council chair person to be removed. Worker Ali Jassim declared he and others cannot feed their families with what they are paid and he started a sit-in.
If you've forgotten, last weekend, Iraqi officials couldn't stop pledging their fidelity to the rations system and insisting they would increase the amount and that they understood the pain the Iraqi people were living under. That was then. David Ali (Al Mada) reports a new proposal from the Ministry of Education: Cut the ration cards of those families who have a child drop out of school or college. In other words, cut the ration cards on the most extreme poor because that's who's been forced to drop out, the children of families (if they're lucky not be orphans) who are not making it and who have to take to the streets and beg for the families unless they're among the very few who find a job. Alsumaria reports that MP Bahaa Al Aaraji (of the Sadr bloc) has called out the national government and stated that is unable to serve the people of Iraq.
Dropping back to Friday's snapshot:
Sunday, Iraq's representatives in Parliament are supposed to vote on the vice president. In the past, the country has had two vice presidents. Three has been expected to be the number this year and all men. However, Al Rafidayn reports that there may be four vice presidents and that the fourth expected to be a VP is a woman with the Turkmen bloc, Faihaa Zine El Abidine. Supposedly, on Monday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani asked parliament to allow for four vps and that was to provide a post for "the women of Iraq." The Turkmen bloc issued a statement noting that women in Iraq are maginalized in the current government and that they did not receive any posts from Nouri to his cabinet ("the center of political decision-making"). How very telling that the country might have their first female vice president when Nouri -- his Cabinet still not full -- can't find slots for women. His Cabinet is so bad that even the head of the Ministry of Women is a man.
Sunday came and went and they still don't have those vice presidents. Even after today.Al Mada reports that the Parliament decided to postpone the vote. The issues they are puzzled over include the number. The last 'government' had two Iraqi vice presidents. The three that were expected to be voted on were Adel Abdel Mahdi (currently the Shi'ite VP), Tareq al-Hashemi (currently the Sunni VP) and newbie Khudair Khuzaie.
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