Friday, October 31, 2008

U.S. Stocks Advance After JPMorgan Takes Steps to Ease Crisis

Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stocks rose, capping the biggest weekly gain since 1974, after JPMorgan Chase & Co. took steps to end the housing crisis, bank lending rates declined and earnings from companies outside the financial industry expanded four times faster than the previous quarter.

JPMorgan added 9.7 percent after saying it will modify terms on $110 billion of mortgages and delay foreclosures. Morgan Stanley climbed 8.6 percent after the cost of borrowing dollars for three months fell. Wynn Resorts Ltd., the biggest U.S. casino company, soared 30 percent after increased gambling in Macau boosted profit.

``It's nice to see more of a treat than a trick on the last day of October,'' said James Dunigan, who helps oversee $66 billion as managing executive of investments at PNC Wealth Management in Philadelphia. ``The sooner we can get to a place where housing has bottomed and put some fence around the mortgage problem, the sooner we'll be heading in the right direction.''

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index advanced 1.5 percent to 968.75, rallying on consecutive days for the first time in five weeks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 1.6 percent to 9,325.01. The MSCI World Index of 23 developed markets rose 0.6 percent.

The S&P 500's 10 percent increase this week wasn't enough to overcome losses from earlier this month caused by evidence of a worsening global slowdown and credit freeze. The U.S. stock benchmark index slid 17 percent in October, the most for a month since 1987.

$9.5 Trillion Lost

Eight out of 10 industries in the S&P 500 climbed today. Financial stocks led the advance after losing 49 percent this year. The group gained 12 percent this week, the most since JPMorgan bought Bear Stearns Cos. in March.

This month's sell-off erased more than $9.5 trillion from the value of stocks worldwide, almost one-third of the total value erased this year, as credit-related losses and writedowns by financial firms approached $700 billion. The S&P 500 has slumped 34 percent in 2008.

All but one of the 68 markets tracked by MSCI Inc. declined in October, with 37 losing at least 20 percent. Bulgaria, Peru and Argentina did the worst, plunging more than 36 percent. Pakistan gained less than 0.1 percent.

Before today, U.S. stocks failed to rise on consecutive days for five weeks, the longest period since 2001, as the most volatile trading since the 1930s sapped investor confidence.

Cash Infusion

JPMorgan, the largest U.S. bank by market value, gained 9.7 percent to $41.25. The lender, which two weeks ago accepted a $25 billion cash infusion from the government, said it will examine home loans and may agree to reduce interest rates or principal amounts. It will also open 24 centers to provide counseling in areas with high delinquency rates.

``We're actually getting to the meat and bones of the bailout package. Hopefully that will get the wheels of credit turning again,'' said Robert Stimpson, a money manager at Oak Associates Ltd. in Akron, Ohio, which oversees $900 million.

A measure of borrowing costs between banks dropped, capping the first monthly decline since May, after central banks provided cash and cut interest rates to unlock the supply of credit. The London interbank offered rate, or Libor, for three month loans in dollars slid 0.16 point to 3.03 percent, the 15th consecutive drop, according to the British Bankers' Association.

Morgan Stanley rose 8.6 percent to $17.47. American Express Co., the largest U.S. credit-card company by purchases, increased 5.5 percent to $27.50. Financial companies in the S&P 500 added 5.5 percent as a group.


The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said it's ``hopeful'' that one or more credit-default swap clearinghouses will begin guaranteeing trades in November or December as it pushes dealers to reduce market risks.

Express Scripts Inc., the third-largest manager of pharmacy benefits, added 5.3 percent to $60.61 after boosting its 2008 forecast to a range of $3.07 to $3.10 a share.

Medco Health Solutions Inc., the biggest U.S. manager of drug plans, rose 3.3 percent to $37.95, completing the steepest weekly advance since July.

Wynn Resorts, whose shares jumped 65 percent this week, climbed 30 percent to $60.40. Third-quarter profit rose 14 percent as more gambling in Macau made up for declines in Las Vegas, the company said. Revenue gained 18 percent to $769.2 million, beating the average estimate from analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

S&P 500 companies, excluding financial institutions, reported a 13 percent increase in third-quarter profit, according to Bloomberg data. The more than 400 companies in the group grew earnings by 4 percent the previous quarter.

Burt's Bees

Clorox Co. rose 2.7 percent to $60.81. The maker of Glad trash bags and its namesake bleach reported profit and sales that rose more than analysts estimated, helped by purchases of Burt's Bees lotions and Green Works biodegradable cleaning products.

Monster Worldwide Inc. climbed for a fourth day, adding 11 percent to $14.24. The operator of the world's biggest online job-search Web site said third-quarter profit increased 28 percent as the company cut costs and squeezed more revenue from the slumping employment market.

General Motors Corp. dropped 4.6 percent to $5.79, the most in the Dow average. The nation's largest automaker told its U.S. dealers that the company was only halfway to its October goal for sales to consumers, with just one day left in the month.

American Electric Power Co., the biggest U.S. producer of electricity from coal, slid 1.7 percent to $32.63. Progress Energy Inc., the owner of utilities in three states in the U.S. Southeast, fell 3.7 percent to $39.37. Both companies said third- quarter profit fell as mild weather cut power demand for cooling.

Utility stocks in the S&P 500 slumped 1.6 percent, the most among 10 industries.

"ZOGBY SATURDAY: Republican John McCain has pulled back within the margin of error... The three-day average holds steady, but McCain outpolled Obama 48% to 47% in Friday, one day, polling. He is beginning to cut into Obama's lead among independents, is now leading among blue collar voters, has strengthened his lead among investors and among men, and is walloping Obama among NASCAR voters. Joe the Plumber may get his license after all..."

Minnesota Obama Supporters Plant Red Star On Their Flag

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

Can we call them socialists now?
Or, is that still considered a racist term?
The election is not even over and the Obama supporters in Minnesota already have a red star on their flag for Dear Leader:"
Gateway Pundit

And don't forget our old favorite

Just goes to show, truth is sometime stranger then fiction

Confessions of an astroturfer for Obama

Ok, I want to clear my conscious a little. Hopefully you could make a blog post to help some fellow clinton supporters out. I work for a campaign and can’t wait for this week to be over. I was doing it for a job. I was not a fan of any candidate but over time grew to love HRC. The internal campaign idea is to twist, distort, humiliate and finally dispirit you. We pay people and organize people to go to all the online sites and “play the part of a clinton or mccain supporter who just switched our support for obama” We do this to stifle your motivation and to destroy your confidence. We did this the whole primary and it worked. Sprinkle in mass vote confusion and it becomes bewildering. Most people lose patience and just give up on their support of a candidate and decide to just block out tv, news, websites, etc. This surprisingly has had a huge suppressing movement and vote turnout issues. Next, we infiltrate all the blogs and all the youtube videos and overwhelm the voting, the comments, etc. All to continue this appearance of overwhelming world support. People makes posts to the effect that the world has “gone mad” Thats the intention. To make you feel stressed and crazy and feel like the world is ending. We have also had quite a hand in skewing many many polls, some we couldn’t control as much as we would have liked. But many we have spoiled over. Just enough to make real clear politics look scarey to a mccain supporter. Its worked, alough the goal was to appear 13-15 points ahead. see, the results have been working. People tend to support a winner, go with the flow, become “sheeple” The polls are roughly 3-5 points in favor of Barack. Thats due to our inflation of the polls and pulling in the sheeple. Our donors, are the same people who finance the MSM. Their interests are tied, Barack then tends to come across as teflon. Nothing sticks. And trust, there were meetings with Fox news. The goal was to blunt them as much as possible. Watch Bill Oreilly he has become much more diplomatic and “fair and balanced” and soft. Its because he wants to retain the #1 spot on cable news and to do that he has to have access to the Obama campaign and we worked hard at stringing him a long and keeping him soft for an interview swap. It worked and now he is anticipating more access. So he is playing it still soft. This is why nothing sticks. The operation is massive, the goal is to paint a picture that is that of a winner, regardless of the results. There is no true inauguration draft or true grant park construction going on. There will be a party, but we are boasting beyond the truth to make it seem like the election is wrapped up. Our goal is to continue to make you lose your moral. We worked hard at persuasion and paying off and timing and playing the right political numbers to get key republican endorsements to make it seem even more like it was over and the world was coming to an end for you all. There is a huge staff of people working around the clock, watching every site, blogs, etc. We flood these sites. We have had a goal to overwhelm. The truth is here. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I am saying this because I know HRC was better for the country, and now realize this. I was too late by the time I connected to her. To me Barack was just a cool young dude that seemed like a star. I didn’t know him or his policies, but now I understand more than I care to and I realize his interests are more for him, and the DNC and all working like puppets with dean. I always thought a president wanted the better good for the country. The end result I see is everyone dependent on the government, this means more and more people voting for the DNC. This means the future is forever altered. I don’t see this as america, so I am now supporting John Mccain. Sarah Palin is a huge threat, and our campaign has feared her like you can’t imagine. If it seems unfair how she has been treated, well its because she has had a team working round the clock to make her look like a fool. this is a big conspiracy and I am so shocked that its not realized. We released a little blurb the other day that the Obama campaign was already working on reelection and now putting our efforts towards 2012. This was to make it seem like it was above us to continue caring about 2008. Trust me, its a lie. David is very smart, but its a sticky ugly not very truthful kind of intelligence. Its not over yet, but I think the machine is working. And its a hill to climb. I will be quitting my post on nov 5th and my vote will be for John Mccain. Fortunately, my position has been a marketing position and I don’t feel I had any part of anything I would feel guilty for. But I look forward to getting out of this as the negativity and environment upsets me. I wish you all well, and goodluck. PS my name is not really sarah. but I am a female and I understand your plight.

Marxist 'mentor' sold drugs with Obama

HONOLULU, Hawaii – The late Marxist activist Frank Marshall Davis, frequently accompanied by young Barack Obama and his grandfather Stanley Armour Dunham, sold marijuana and cocaine from a "Chicago style" hot dog cart Davis operated near his home on Kuhio Avenue in Waikiki in the early 1970s, WND has established.
A credible source, a well-known resident of Honolulu who spoke at length with WND on condition he not be named, disclosed that Davis was the source of drugs consumed by Obama. Davis was also the author of an autobiographical novel boasting of "swinging" and sex with minors, a copy of which WND obtained from Andrew Walden, a resident of Hilo on the island of Hawaii and publisher of the Hawaii Free Press.

Obama, in his autobiographical book "Dreams from My Father," discloses that he used both marijuana and cocaine as a high school student living with his grandparents in their Honolulu apartment.

The source said that on more than a dozen occasions he purchased "8-balls" consisting of approximately 3.6 grams of cocaine from Davis at the hot dog stand when Obama was present.

"Obama was a young kid, about 14 or 15 years old," the source told WND. "I was told his name was Barry, and there was no doubt Barry knew Davis was selling marijuana and cocaine as well as hot dogs from the stand."

"Barry was also there with an older white gentleman I'm told was Stanley," the source said. "I thought Stanley was Barry's father."

WND has established that Stanley was Stanley Armour Dunham, Obama's grandfather.

"I bought cocaine from Davis at the hot dog stand," the source said. "The first purchase I made was in 1975. In total, I bought 14 purchases of cocaine from Davis. I bought what Davis called an '8-ball' that consisted of about 3.6 grams of cocaine. An '8-ball' cost $300."

As was established in "The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality," Obama lived with his mother and his Indonesian Muslim stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, in Jakarta from 1967 to 1970, when Obama was approximately 6 to 10 years old.

Obama's mother sent him back to Hawaii alone in 1970 to live with his grandparents while she and Obama's sister, Maya, remained in Indonesia to continue living with Soetoro.

Ann Dunham subsequently divorced Soetoro and returned to Hawaii to continue pursuing a master's degree in anthropology from the University of Hawaii.

For a period of three years, Obama lived in what he described as "a small apartment a block away from Punahou," his high school.

Obama's mother returned with Maya to Indonesia to complete her anthropology field work in Indonesia.

Obama reports in his autobiography that he refused to go back to Indonesia to attend the international school there, preferring instead to remain in Hawaii and live with his grandparents in their apartment.

Obama reported that his grandfather at this time had a number of black male friends who "were mostly poker and bridge partners," describing them as "neatly dressed men with hoarse voices and clothes that smelled of cigars, the kind of men for whom everything has its place and who figure they've seen enough not to waste a lot of time talking about it."

Obama then reports that an exception was "a poet named Frank who lived in a dilapidated house in a run-down section of Waikiki."

The WND source confirmed this description matched Frank Marshall Davis's residence on Kuhio Avenue in Waikiki.

In "Unfit for Publication," the 40-page rebuttal the Obama campaign submitted to "The Obama Nation," the Obama campaign admitted for the first time, on page 9, that Frank Marshall Davis was the man Obama had identified in his autobiography as "Frank."

"Unfit for Publication" says under the heading "Reality" that Obama's memoir characterized Davis as a figure from his youth who "fell short" and whose view of race was "incurable," attempting to rebut the charge in "The Obama Nation" that Davis was a mentor to Obama during Obama's teenage years at Punahou.

In "Dreams from My Father," Obama admits his grandfather drank alcohol with Davis, "sharing whiskey with Gramps out of an emptied jelly jar."

Obama also admits in the autobiography that his grandfather took him "downtown to one of his favorite bars, in Honolulu's red-light district."

Both Walden and the WND source on Davis' drug-selling both affirmed that the bar involved was one of several then located in the largely black red-light district on Smith Street, at that time located near Honolulu's Chinatown.

Obama also admits drinking whiskey with Davis, describing in his autobiography that he drove to Waikiki to visit Davis and drink whiskey with him out of plastic cups. On that evening Obama had become upset learning that a black panhandler had approached his grandmother and scared her at a bus stop while she was waiting to go to work.

In the incident, Obama reports "reaching for the bottle, this time pouring my own," while listening to Davis explain that Obama's grandmother was "right to be scared."

Davis told Obama, "She understands that black people have a reason to hate."

In response, Obama said, "The earth shook under my feet, ready to crack open at any moment. I stopped, trying to steady myself, and knew for the first time that I was utterly alone."

Obama also admitted in his autobiography that in his first two years in college at Occidental he was involved with drugs: "I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those years. Pot had helped and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it."

Obama has never disclosed his source for purchasing drugs.

The Telegraph of London reported in August that Davis and Stanley Dunham smoked marijuana together and that Obama was first introduced to Davis by Dunham in 1970, when Obama returned from Indonesia.

Hard core

The Telegraph also documented that Davis was the author of "the hard-core pornographic autobiography published in San Diego

in 1968 by Greenleaf Classics under the pseudonym Bob Green."

WND received independent confirmation that Davis was the author of "Sex Rebel: Black (Memoirs of a Gash Gourmet), from an established academic expert on Davis, who wished to remain anonymous.

In a forward to "Sex Rebel," Davis openly discussed that he lived the life of a sexual swinger, writing: "I admit, however, that my sex syndrome may be more complex than that of many swingers and swappers."

He continued to disclose, "Under certain circumstances I am bi-sexual." After enumerating various unusual and scatological sexual techniques he liked, Davis added: "I'm also a voyeur and exhibitionist. Occasionally I am mildly interested in sado-masochism."

Writing as Green, Davis admitted in the foreword that he "often wished" he had two male sex organs to double his sexual pleasure: "As you see, I partake of many of the variations that our Puritans label 'perversions' – a term which to me carries moral judgment and therefore has no place in my erotic vocabulary."

According to Walden, a typical passage beginning on page 274 of "Sex Rebel" describes Davis in November 1958 stalking Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. Davis, writing as Greene, "soon encounters two tourists – a Seattle couple he calls 'Dot' and 'Lloyd.'"

"Lloyd brags to the complete stranger [Davis] about Dot's figure," Walden explained. "After a few minutes of small talk to establish their mutual interest in 'swinging' … Davis then devotes almost all of Chapter 27 to a graphic and detailed description of their three-way sexual encounters over the next few days."

Although "Sex Rebels" is openly discussed as autobiography, Walden notes Davis/Greene frequently changes names and identities, even though Davis/Greene confirms that "all incidents I have described here have been taken from actual experiences."

Madelyn and Stanley Dunham came to Hawaii from Seattle, but there is no way in what is admittedly a fictional book to establish that "Dot" and "Lloyd" from Seattle were the Dunhams.

"Sex Rebels" also describes sexual encounters the fictional Greene and his wife had with underage children of both sexes, again without any possibility of reliably identifying the children who may have been involved.

Soviet activity

On Dec. 5, 1956, Davis appeared in executive session before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee investigating "the scope of Soviet activity in the United States," one of the McCarthy-era committees seeking to expose communists considered to be a security threat.

Invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, Davis refused to answer a direct question asking if he was then a communist. A year earlier, in 1955, a Commission on Subversive Activities organized by the government of the Territory of Hawaii identified Davis as a member of the Communist Party USA. The committee singled out for criticism several articles Davis published in the "Communist Honolulu Record" that were critical of the commission.

The commission also found objectionable a 1951 story Davis published, entitled "Hawaii's Plain People Fight White Supremacy," in the November 1951 issue of a New York City communist tabloid.

The two African-American writers Obama mentions to give "Frank" some context both had communist connections as well. Langston Hughes and Richard Wright were the two African-American writers most identified with the Communist Party USA in the 1930s.

Hughes, a prolific writer who was best known for his 1921 poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," told the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1953 that he had been a communist sympathizer.

Hughes further testified there was a period of his life when he believed in the Soviet Union's form of government and that books he authored were written to follow the communist line. Wright, best known for his 1940 novel "Native Son," was the Harlem editor of the communist newspaper Daily Worker in 1937.

John Edgar Tidwell, a professor of English at the University of Kansas who produced an anthology of Davis' poems also confirms Davis joined the Communist Party. Tidwell argued Davis' radical poetry and newspaper articles "put him on a collision course" with the House Un-American Activities Committee and the FBI.

In his autobiography, "Livin' the Blues," Davis himself tells of being pursued by the U.S. government, saying it did not bother him.

Openly, he wrote, "I knew I would be described as a Communist, but frankly I had reached the stage where I didn't give a damn. Too many people I respected as Freedom Fighters were listed as Red for me to fear name calling."

Davis wrote, "The genuine Communists I knew as well as others so labeled had one principle in common: to use any and every means to abolish racism." Davis said he wrote to give "the widest possible publicity to the many instances of racism and the dissatisfaction of Afro-American with the status quo."


I don't know how much of this we can believe, for one thing in the 70s an 8-ball here in Miami would not be worth more than about $50, not the $300 mentioned in the story. WND is after all a rag.

And second, I would not hold drug use against a candidate, unless the story was that he was using now.

I don't think drug use would disqualify anyone from office, and I do believe we should empty the jails of any and all none violent drug cases, leaving more than ample room for the Wall Street Banksters. They should be in jail.

Iraqi forces arrest 220 suspects in Al Qaeda raid

Iraqi forces hunting Al Qaeda members arrested 220 people in a raid in western Anbar province, a former insurgent stronghold, the province's police chief and the US military said.

Police backed by the Iraqi army stormed houses in the village of Owesat, in southern Anbar where they believe the Sunni Islamist insurgents were hiding, on Thursday morning (local time), Anbar police chief Major General Tareq Yusuf said.

"Those gunmen were controlling this area and they thought it would be safe for them there. We took the initiative and executed a bold raid," he said.

The area is in a zone along the Euphrates river by the border between Anbar and Babil provinces, dubbed the "triangle of death" by US forces in the years after the 2003 invasion for its stubborn insurgency, although it is now quieter.

Mr Yusuf said a few of the militants resisted. No one was killed but two policemen were wounded during the offensive. Mr Yusuf did not think all of those arrested belonged to Al Qaeda.

"An investigation is under way to sift the good guys from the bad guys," he said.

The US Marines handed Anbar back to Iraqi security control last month, two years after the desert region was considered lost to insurgents and al Qaeda militants. They put Iraqis in control of neighbouring Babil this month.

But security officials say remnants of the Sunni Islamist group and other insurgents still roam the region, occasionally planting bombs and attacking security forces.


Militants blow up Baghdad's drinking water pipeline

Militants have blown up a section of a Baghdad water pipeline, shutting off drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people, the US military said.

The explosion on Thursday (local time) tore an 45 centimetre hole in a pipeline carrying drinking water to Baghdad's Adhamiyah, Rusafa and Karrada districts, a US military said, adding that it expected the pipeline would be fixed by the end of Friday.

Infrastructure such as power lines, oil refineries and water pipes are a common target for militants in Iraq, although such attacks have fallen sharply as violence has dropped to four year lows.

These are the wolves Obama would throw the Iraqis too.

US deaths in Iraq plunge to wartime low in October

BAGHDAD (AP) - U.S. deaths in Iraq fell in October to their lowest monthly level of the war, matching the record low of 13 fatalities suffered in July. Iraqi deaths fell to their lowest monthly levels of the year. Eight of the 13 Americans died in combat, most of them in northern Iraq where al-Qaida and other Sunni insurgent groups remain active. The U.S. military suffered 25 deaths in September and 23 in August.
In Afghanistan, meanwhile, 15 U.S. military deaths were reported for October. The monthly toll in that combat theater had been in the 20s since June, when 28 Americans were killed - the worst one-month total since that war began in late 2001.

The sharp drop in American fatalities in Iraq reflects the overall security improvements across the country following the Sunni revolt against al-Qaida and the rout suffered by Shiite extremists in fighting last spring in Basra and Baghdad.

But the decline also points to a shift in tactics by extremist groups, which U.S. commanders say are now focusing their attacks on Iraqi soldiers and police that are doing much of the fighting.

Iraqi government figures showed at least 364 Iraqis killed in October - including police, soldiers, civilians and militants.

Despite the sharp decline, the Iraqi death toll serves as a reminder that this remains a dangerous, unstable country despite the security gains, which U.S. military commanders repeatedly warn are fragile and reversible.

U.S. commanders are also worried that security could worsen if the Iraqi parliament refuses to approve a new security agreement by the end of December, when the U.N. Security Council mandate under which the coalition operates in Iraq expires.

Without a new agreement or a new U.N. mandate, U.S. military operations would have to stop. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government is pressing for changes in the draft agreement before submitting it to parliament.

Much of that concern focuses on Mosul, Iraq's third largest city about 225 miles northwest of Baghdad. U.S. and Iraqi troops launched a new operation Oct. 15 to clear al-Qaida and other insurgent groups from the city.

Violence occurs almost daily in Mosul, although the U.S. military says attacks there are down by almost half since May.

Attacks and threats against Christians in Mosul prompted about 13,000 of them to flee the city in early October.

On Friday, a local official, Jawdat Ismaeel, said Christians were trickling back after police and soldiers increased patrols and checkpoints in Christian neighborhoods. He said that 35 Christian families, about 210 people, returned in the past week and that the exodus from the city had largely stopped.

The Iraqi government has offered each Christian family that returns 1 million Iraqi dinars - about $865 - although officials say the response so far has been lukewarm.

Also Friday, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh announced that Iraq and Iran have agreed to exchange bodies of soldiers killed during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. He said the exchange - 200 Iraqi bodies for 41 Iranian - would take place Nov. 15 at a border post that he did not identify.

Hundreds of thousands of soldiers from both sides were killed or went missing during the war.

The International Committee of the Red Cross announced Oct. 16 that the two countries agreed on how to gather and share information about the missing and hand over any remains uncovered.


And still Obama rejects the surge and the surge strategy?

I'm not sure what it would take, for Obama. Had Iraq come out the other side as Switzerland, he would probably find some complaint. It just goes to show that his opposition is all just politics, with not a thought towards US security, or US interest abroad.

I don't trust Obama, because I do not believe he would trust me.

Obama has testy moment with the media

CHICAGO (AP) - Democrat Barack Obama got annoyed with the media Friday as he tried to walk down a Chicago street with his 7-year-old daughter, Sasha, who was dressed up in a shiny costume for Halloween.
A pool of national photographers, reporters and a video crew traveling with Obama quickly covered the spontaneous moment.

"All right guys, that's enough," said Obama, wearing a casual outfit and sunglasses in the early evening.

He and his daughter were walking right toward the media on a public street.

"You got a shot," he told the photographers. "Leave us alone. Come on, guys."

He told the media to get back on the bus, referring to the vehicle where the traveling press pool often waits for him.

Obama then crossed the street with Sasha. At least one video cameraman who was not part of Obama's traveling press corps followed him for a while. Obama grew visibly irritated.

He and his daughter then began jogging, and even running, to get away from the media.

They ended up out of sight at a friend's house, where they were headed all along.

In a final dash for the presidency, Obama stopped into Chicago specifically to spend some time on Halloween with his family, including his other daughter, Malia, who is 10.


That's right get back on the fucking bus and go find some plumber to hassle.

I am "the one", "the messiah". Who the hell do you think you are asking me questions outside the bus.

Human Intelligence for Human Security

"This summer I got caught in the crossfire during a two-hour gunfight in Abeche, Chad, that killed at least one person. It never was clear who was shooting at whom, or why. The Chadian army said rebels had invaded Abeche. The Chadian government said the battle was actually just celebratory fire. One element of the E.U. peacekeeping force corroborated the army’s rebels claim; another element said the fighting was just a huge friendly-fire incident between Chadian army units. To this day, I have no idea what really went down that apocalyptic night. Said one French officer, “It’s very hard to get good information here.”
So when I spoke with Army Major Shannon Beebe (pdf!), the top intel analyst for Africa, I wanted to know how the Pentagon aims to handle intelligence operations as it rolls out a new “human security” strategy for Africa. Said Beebe:"
War is Boring

Iraqis for McCain

"Perhaps no other country in the world sees itself as directly affected by Tuesday’s outcome as much as Iraq.

If any case could be made that non-Americans should be allowed to vote for either Obama or McCain, then Iraqis would get the first go. So it is reassuring that most Iraqis seem to be supporting McCain, according to this AFP report.

Clearly, Iraqis are not that swayed by the Arab/Muslim/internationalist meme that “Obama is one of us.” Talk of Obama’s historic presidency as America’s first black president is not for them, although I was heartened to hear that a group of African-Iraqis in Basra were emboldened enough by the Obama phenomenon to form an anti-racism political advocacy group (…yes, the Middle East is rife with blatant and socially-acceptable racism against black people).

History can be made on someone else’s time, not when there’s a crises afoot; Iraqis need to be vigilant and practical in their choice, and that explains their support for McCain. Who will be a better president for them? Who will help them defeat the terrorists, curb Iran and stabilize the region?"
Talisman Gate

Pack, Pack, and Pack, Then Re-Pack, Dump It All Out And Start Again...

"So we are almost gone now. Out of Fort Bragg for a good long time. We are heading to Afghanistan in a few and we have to pack up all our shit to get out of here.

Now we are going to be gone for a long time. Figure about a year. Now in order to make it through a year you are going to need a lot of stuff. Am I right? Now we are only being allowed to take 2 bags that weigh 70 pounds or less. 140 pounds of stuff to last us an entire year. Oh Joy. You should see this place, people are throwing away all kinds of good stuff. If there was an eBay seller around they would make a fortune off of the shit we are throwing away."
Embrace the Suck

Sunshine in rainy days ..

"...In my previous post, I talked about what happened to the Christians in Mosul, the most peaceful and honest caste, the situation didn't get better, but many had to come back, they couldn't stay in the tends anymore, my friends started to attend school again, it was great to have them back, when they came to school their friends ran and hugged them just like they didn't see them for ages.. I still feel so worried about everyone I know especially the Christians, I wake up thinking about them, have lunch wondering if they have enough food, sleep thinking if they have blankets or beds to sleep on ..
My friend contacted our friend's father who is a very respectful and educated man he said he just want to come back even if it is dangerous, his kids must go to school, and they can't tolerate sleeping in a small tent while they own a lovely house .. I felt shudder , and upset to know my friend in going through such hard circumstances.. also I feel powerless because we (the Muslims) couldn't protect them, we can't even protect ourselves, it is not in our hand, and the government didn't take any serious reaction .."
Days of My Life

Iraq war vet says removal from festival violated rights

An Iraq war veteran who now opposes the conflict said his First Amendment rights were violated when he was removed from last weekend's Bellmore Street Festival, where he had set up a last-minute display.

The Chamber of Commerce of the Bellmores, which organized the annual festival, denies the removal constituted a free-speech violation, contending it was justified because he was there without permission.

Kristofer Goldsmith, 23, of Bellmore, who served with the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2005, initially had applied for, and received, a spot to represent the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. The festival, originally scheduled for September, was postponed and, when it was rescheduled, Chamber of Commerce staff told him they no longer had enough space to accommodate his table.

Goldsmith attended Sunday's fair and shared space with a local Democratic club before moving to a vacant table nearby, where he placed voter guides and photos of soldiers killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
About two hours later, he said, Chamber of Commerce staff insisted he leave. Goldsmith said he believes his anti-war sentiments were the cause.

Goldsmith has testified before Congress and spoken at local colleges about his war views. "I'm absolutely disgusted that anyone would try and say that I didn't earn my First Amendment rights," he said. "I've never walked into such trouble with setting up a table and getting my views across."

Joni Caputo, festival coordinator and Chamber of Commerce executive director, said Goldsmith was not the only festival exhibitor removed from the original lineup when the date was rescheduled. The removals were a result of last-minute space constraints, she said. She could not provide the number of exhibitors affected.

She said if Goldsmith had asked her for a spot at an empty table, instead of setting up without approval, he wouldn't have been asked to leave. "Nobody is allowed to come into the festival without permission," she said. "Nobody is allowed to share space."

Caputo said Goldsmith was invited to next year's fair. "Did we have anything against Kris or his organization?" she said. "Absolutely not."

The Nassau Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union is investigating the situation, said executive director Tara Keenan-Thomson. "We're researching what the legalities are," she said, "and we intend to inquire about the selection process of different groups for the event."


How stupid, you only give them a bigger stage when you try to violate their rights.

The IVAW should also know that they are welcome here to voice their positions, or post any material they might feel appropriate. Anyone interested in learning more about the group, IVAW should follow the links on the side bar.

Sailors go solo on stress-heavy Army, USMC tours

PENSACOLA NAVAL AIR STATION, Fla. (AP) — Chief Warrant Officer Bob Turner spent most of the last year at an Army base in Afghanistan, far from his fellow sailors and the sea. The 28-year veteran was one of thousands of sailors attached by themselves to Army and Marine units, groups that trained together stateside — without them.

These solo sailors and their families lack the usual support groups for deployed personnel, and the costs of that can be considerable.

The stress for "individual augmentees," as they're called, can be greater than shipboard assignments because sailors deploy alone for six months to a year and are doing entirely different jobs than they've had throughout their careers, said Cmdr. Tracy Skipton, a psychiatrist at Pensacola Naval Hospital. Turner, for instance, was providing electronics support for a special operations team working outside the base.

"It was a whole new life for me," Turner said.

It wasn't easy working his way into the unit, either. Even though Turner wore an Army uniform and worked closely with soldiers, it took him months to feel that he was part of the team.

"You definitely know you are an IA because you see a group of Army come in together and they've trained in the states together and made plans to get ready for this," he said.

To stretch the military's taxed resources, thousands of sailors with electronics, communications, medical or other skills have been sent one by one to Iraq and Afghanistan in the last several years. They assist Army and Marine units in a program the Navy says is part of a new era of warfare and cooperation among military branches.

Navy leaders acknowledge, however, that the families of individual augmentees face different stresses, including not having support groups that come when large units deploy.

"Units that come and go together have their colleagues to talk to about the experience when they get back. They can watch out for each other and if they have problems talk to each other," Skipton said. "When groups deploy as a unit, the families work together (back home) as a support group and help each other."

The Navy offers counseling before and after augmentees deploy, and support programs for families. Attendance at those groups has been sparse, Skipton said. Getting the word out is tough because families are scattered and augmentees have deployed from several Pensacola-area Navy installations in various jobs, Skipton said.

"You cannot get a big group together all at once to give a presentation," he said

Turner's wife, Rosina, wept recalling the explosions she heard in the background when he called home.

"You can go online every day and see that that their base is being shelled and that bothers you," she said.

Turner wouldn't talk about the specifics or dangers of his work because of security concerns, but said it was among his most rewarding and important.

"I've never been that close to the tip of the spear," he said.

Returning to their old jobs in their units also can be a struggle for augmentees. Capt. Maryalice Morrow, commanding officer for Pensacola Naval Hospital, said sailors returning to the hospital find it tough because they have so much freedom with medical decisions while deployed as corpsmen in combat zones.

"Their roles are very different over there because they are the only (medical person) there and they do everything they can to save lives," she said.

They also can feel isolated when they return to their routine duties, said David Dean, a psychologist who works with returning sailors.

"You might be working with people who haven't been overseas in combat yet, so you think they might not relate to or understand what you've been through," he said.

Chief Petty Officer Brian Brown, who returned from a year in Iraq this month, joked that the Navy has become "The NARMY."

"Pretty much everybody, when they join the Navy, they think of ships and being at sea," said Brown, who was promoted while serving overseas and voluntarily extended his Iraq tour six months. "Not many people really consider being in a war zone on the ground and supporting troops there."


I know there is a joke in that title somewhere

Marine motorcycle deaths top their Iraq combat fatalities

QUANTICO, Virginia (CNN) -- Motorcycle accidents have killed more Marines in the past 12 months than enemy fire in Iraq, a rate that's so alarming, it has prompted top brass to call a meeting to address the issue, officials say.

Twenty-five Marines have died in motorcycle crashes since November -- all but one of them involving sport bikes that can reach speeds of well over 100 mph, according to Marine officials. In that same period, 20 Marines have been killed in action in Iraq.

The 25 deaths are the highest motorcycle death toll ever for the Marine Corps.

Gen. James Amos, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, told CNN that commanders are trying to drill down on what "we need to do to help our Marines survive on these sport bikes."

"The Marines are very serious about it," he said.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Art Tucker knows all too well about the dangers of sport bikes. An owner of a Kawasaki Ninja, Tucker has had two crashes, and the second one nearly killed him.

"I sustained a broken collar bone; I tore the shoulder out of the socket; I tore three ligaments in the shoulder, the rotator cuff; I broke three vertebrae," said Tucker, a drill instructor for new officers.

"The worst was a head injury I received: a bruised brain. And it caused hemorrhaging, and from that I had partial paralysis of the left leg, full paralysis of the left foot and toes, and that was for approximately six months."

Amos said he and other top Marine officials will spend half the day Monday "focusing on nothing but motorcycle issues." The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Conway, and other senior leadership will attend the meeting at the Quantico, Virginia, Marine base, he said.

About 18,000 of the nearly 200,000 Marines are believed to own motorcycles, Amos said.

The Marines have taken some measures. The Marine Corps has had a long-standing policy for all Marines who ride motorcycles to take a mandatory basic riding course. More recently, it added a second training course specifically designed to train Marines who ride sport bikes.

Any Marine caught riding, even on leave, without going through the training courses faces Marine Corps punishment, officials say.

On a recent day at the Quantico training track, Marines whizzed by on their bikes.

"I think the basic rider course has been great," said Cpl. Austin Oakley. "Here, they put you in situations you want to be wary of out in that open road."

Oakley said he recently returned to the United States from Japan, and he immediately jumped at the chance to buy a sport bike. He said it's not uncommon for Marines to have motorcycle clubs within their units.

"We'll go out on rides together. Fridays for lunchtime, we'll all meet up and go to lunch," Oakley said. "When I get on my motorcycle, it's me and the motorcycle. I don't need to go fast. I don't need to do anything like that. It's just being free."

The rise in motorcycle deaths isn't confined to Marines. The Navy says it's had 33 deaths on motorcycles over the past 12 months, a 65 percent jump from the previous time period. And authorities say motorcycle deaths have been a problem in the civilian world, too.

Military officials say they're not sure why the deaths are on the rise. They initially believed that the accidents might involve mostly young Marines and sailors about 18 or 19 years old. But Navy statistics show that five of the victims were 25, the most prevalent of any age involved in the crashes. And two 40-year-old sailors were killed in motorcycle crashes.

Amos said the Marines have seen a similar trend.

But he says the new training seems to be working: Of the 300 young men and women who have gone through the sport-bike course, only three have had accidents.

The safety course instructors said some Marines who go through the training decide the sport bike is not for them.

But even some Marines who've survived past crashes still want to ride again, even after they get the new training.

"I enjoy it," said Tucker. "I can actually get on my motorcycle and ride, and it's just like if I were to do bowling or rock climbing or scuba diving. It's something for me. It relaxes me."


We need to recall the troops motorcycles, or outlaw all bikes, or outlaw Marines riding bikes...

Editorial: Troubling signs in Iraq

The Iraq war has dropped way down the charts as a major issue driving U.S. voters, but the fact is, serious trouble is brewing there in ways that neither John McCain, Barack Obama nor President Bush had predicted.
Because Iraq's government wants to renegotiate the terms of America's presence, U.S. military operations face the prospect of a sudden lockdown when the United Nations troop-deployment mandate expires Dec. 31. In a worst-case scenario, U.S. troops could be forced into an ill-planned, hasty withdrawal.

U.S. commanders also fear that a new round of potentially fierce ethnic fighting is brewing. These factors underscore the need for Mr. Bush and his successor – Democrat or Republican – to speak with one voice about the importance of keeping Iraq stable and united, with U.S. troops staying on the job. Not even Mr. Obama, who supports a 16-month withdrawal timetable, has advocated anything less.

In October, both nations were close to a deal on the status-of-forces accord that gives legal cover for U.S. troops in Iraq. But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government recently decided to reopen negotiations.

Both countries are heading toward an arrangement similar to the Plan B this newspaper advocated 14 months ago as a longer-term solution: rebasing U.S. troops away from Iraqi urban centers, reducing their numbers, focusing their mission on halting outside insurgents and training Iraqis to take over their own security. It's a plan we think either U.S. presidential candidate could embrace.

Without a basing agreement, Iraq could face disastrous consequences. Already, Kurdish troops and commanders are openly defying orders from Baghdad as they vie against Iraqi Arab troops for control of the northern city of Mosul. Iraq's army faces a dangerous ethnic split.

"It's the perfect storm against the old festering background," U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Raymond Thomas told The New York Times.

This is hardly the orderly transition U.S. leaders had sought. Iraqis owe it to themselves, and the U.S. troops who sacrificed for them, to make stability the top priority and stop dickering over the basing accord.

Dallas News

Until Obama asked the Iraqis to delay signing the agreement, leaving the troops in the lurch, and possibly liable for war crimes. Thanks Obama.

When McCain wins next Tuesday I am sure the Iraqis will see things through different eyes.

Melamine already in global food chain: experts

BEIJING (AP) - First it was baby milk formula. Then, dairy-based products from yogurt to chocolate.

Now chicken eggs have been contaminated with melamine, and an admission by state-run media that the industrial chemical is regularly added to animal feed in China fueled fears Friday that the problem could be more widespread, affecting fish, meat and who knows what else.

Peter Dingle, a toxicity expert at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, said, however, that aside from the tainted baby formula that killed at least four Chinese infants and left 54,000 children hospitalized just over a month ago, it is unlikely humans will get sick from melamine.

The amount of the chemical in a few servings of bacon, for instance, would simply be too low, he said.

But Dingle and others said China should have cracked down sooner on feed companies that have boosted their earnings by fortifying their products with the chemical, which is normally used in the manufacture of plastic and fertilizers.

Rich in nitrogen, melamine gives low-quality food and feed artificially high protein readings.

"Traders can make a lot of profit by doing it," said Jason Yan, the U.S. Grains Council's technical director in Beijing.

Extremely high levels of melamine - as found in the Chinese baby formula - can cause kidney stones, and in extreme cases can bring on life-threatening kidney failure.

But while scientists say it's not dangerous to ingest small amounts, they cannot be definitive because there have been no tests on melamine's effects in humans. Until the contaminated baby formula became public in September, there was never any reason to.

That leaves consumers worldwide, particularly parents, worried about food products from China, and even those made elsewhere with ingredients imported from Chinese companies.

Among those not taking any chances is Pranee Suankaew, a homemaker in Bangkok, Thailand.

"Let's go, let's go," the 37-year-old mother said as she tugged her 4-year-old away from the candy aisle where he eagerly eyed a bag of M&Ms. "We're getting you fruit and a lollipop. There's no milk in that."

She said she usually gives in to avoid tantrums. "But this time, I told him, no, no, no."

Experts say melamine sometimes accidentally leaches into the food supply in low levels, from things like plastic dinnerware. It can also seep in from some pesticides and fertilizers.

But in China it's become clear that the chemical is deliberately added.

The baby formula set off a global recall of foods made with Chinese dairy products and sparked raids in supermarkets across Asia. Twelve truckloads of candy, yogurt and other dairy-based goods were burned in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, just this week.

In light of Thursday reports by state media on the widespread use of the chemical in animal feed, health experts say the government clearly knew melamine was being added for more than a year, since contaminated dog food made it to markets in North America, but didn't crack down on producers as promised.

With the scandal escalating, Chinese leaders are now desperate to clean up the country's image, making dozens of arrests in recent weeks and firing local and even high-level officials for negligence.

John Chapple, a Singapore-based adviser to Sinoanalytica, a food analysis laboratory in the Chinese city of Qingdao, said the decision to allow state media to report on the years of melamine use seems to show the government is ready to be more active in dealing with food safety.

"However, one is not going to change a hierarchical government system overnight," he added. "It is usually going to be slow to start to react to a crisis, but quick to finally nail it."

Though China has vowed to boost inspections for melamine contamination, it will be difficult to monitor the countless small, illegally operating manufacturers found across the country, other experts said.

"It could take five or even 10 years" before some companies stop adding the chemical to food products, said Yan, of the U.S. Grains Council.


Bailout could turn tables on Russia's oligarchs

MOSCOW (AP) - They amassed some of the world's biggest fortunes in the wild privatizations of Russia's post-Soviet chaos and the oil boom that followed. Now some of Russia's richest men are facing the choice of losing some of their empires or pleading at the Kremlin's doors for a bailout.

Mikhail Fridman, one of the original oligarchs of the 1990s, was the first to come forward. His Alfa Bank said Friday it was seeking $400 million in government loans to stave off foreign creditors.

The cash would allow the bank to avoid handing over its 44 percent stake in the major Russian mobile phone company VimpelCom, which it pledged to a group of foreign banks led by Deutsche Bank as collateral for a $2 billion loan.

But to get the money, Fridman and the other oligarchs lining up for government loans are expected to have to hand over to the state as collateral the stakes in their companies that they used to secure the foreign loans.

And they may find the Kremlin attaching other strings as well.

Such moves could clear the way for the Kremlin to reclaim some of the prize assets it lost in the 1990s and further tighten its hold on Russia's economy - or simply tighten its embrace of the business moguls.

It would be a reverse of the controversial privatization deals that gave the oligarchs their start. In the deals, known as "loans for shares," the oligarchs took major stakes in state-owned oil and metals companies as collateral for loans to the government. The loans were never paid back.

In recent years, many of the wealthy businessmen borrowed heavily abroad, often using their firms' stock as collateral. When Russian stocks plunged over the past few weeks, their creditors began demanding that they put up more collateral or risk losing their shares.

To prevent the shares from falling into foreign hands, the government offered a total of $50 billion through state-owned bank VEB to help refinance the foreign debts. VEB, which said it has received applications for double that amount, announced Wednesday that it had approved the first loans, totaling nearly $10 billion.

Alfa Bank's Fridman, who is also a co-owner of the British-Russian oil company TNK-BP, is considered among the best positioned and financially secure of Russia's oligarchs, and thus at little risk in seeking government help.

However, James Fenkner, director of Red Star Asset Management, noted that if the problems continue and Alfa is unable to pay back the loan, "the collateral has nowhere to go but back to the state."

Peter Halloran, CEO of the hedge fund Pharos Fund, said he was unable to predict the outcome of the government bailout deals, but he expressed confidence the oligarchs would rather start pumping oil with their own hands than lose their assets. "It will be the No. 1 priority for them to avoid losing their stakes," he said.

No recipients have been identified, but among those bidding for state financing is metals magnate Oleg Deripaska. His aluminum company, Rusal, is reported to have been given a $4.5 billion loan.

Russia's Audit Chamber said Friday it would check how Rusal uses the VEB loan. VEB, however, still could not confirm whether Rusal had secured one.

Russian officials have denied any plans to take over private assets. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that "the expansion of the government's presence in the economy is a forced measure that is of a temporary nature."

Ronald Nash, chief strategist at Renaissance Capital, said he was taking the government's statements at face value.

"I don't think what the government wants from companies that go to VEB is more than for these companies to continue to grow and help the Russian economy grow," Nash said.

Russian companies have been forced to borrow abroad because of an absence of sufficient savings at home, he said, and "what the government is doing now is a very positive reaction."

"They are re-liquifying the domestic economy, whether that's depositing money directly with state banks, or whether that's making it that much easier for domestic banks to borrow against their assets, or whether it's pumping money into VEB to roll over the outstanding foreign debt of the Russian companies," Nash said.

But in the process, the government may get the power to decide whom to save - and on what terms. Fenkner said this could radically change Russia's corporate landscape.

"The state will end up owning big chunks of Russian industries" if commodity prices - a key source of Russian oligarchs' wealth - do not go up again, Fenkner said.

Dependence on state funds is not likely to make the oligarchs any more complaisant, he said. Their loyalty was secured long ago with the jailing of Yukos oil chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky.


US soldiers in Iraq focus on war in voting

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) - Car bombs rather than Obama, making it home rather than McCain dominate the talk among many U.S. soldiers in Iraq's deadliest city during the final countdown to America's presidential election.

Dangers, distance from home and the dawn-to-dark effort in an alien environment push U.S. politics into a corner for many soldiers - especially in combat outposts where television and the Internet are not readily available.

"Regardless of who wins the election, we are going to be here 15 months. And our mission is not going to be fundamentally affected, at least in the short term," said Capt. Justin Davis Harper after returning from a patrol into the northern city of Mosul's most violent zone.

Harper, of Sherman, Texas, said "a small minority are excited about elections" in his 130-member "Killer Troop" of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. But most have not voted although they have had the opportunity to do so.

The U.S. military has traditionally tilted toward the Republican Party, and analysts said they do not expect this election to be different. But they also said Barack Obama's appeal to youth, African-Americans and Hispanics - all groups over-represented in the military - could cut into support for John McCain.

"Most soldiers talk about what they are going to get out of the election - our pay raises, who will want to send us home or not," said Cpl. Sean Morton, a 25-year-old reconnaissance scout from Boston.

The voting process for troops overseas has been criticized as overly bureaucratic, antiquated and flawed.

Soldiers must request by mail an absentee ballot from the local election district where they last lived. Then they are sent a paper ballot to fill out and mail back. Some soldiers said they never got ballots.

But voting assistance officers stress they made every effort to help and encourage the 146,000 soldiers in Iraq to vote.

"Be Smart. Do your part. Vote!" reads a poster in the Mosul unit's main room.

"It's cool to be able to vote out here and not miss out on what others at home are doing," said Morton, adding that he sent in his request for an absentee ballot six months ago but only received it last week.

The number of absentee military ballots applied for that ultimately get counted is consistently low. In the last federal election, only about 30 percent of overseas military ballots were tallied, according to data from the federal Election Assistance Commission and the Pew Center on the States.

At meal times in the vast dining hall at Mosul's Camp Marez, some soldiers set their trays near a large-TV screen invariably tuned to Fox News, which is widely regarded as espousing conservative viewpoints. But in line with the historic separation of military and civilian government, the troops have been told to keep their political opinions close to their chests.

"The general policy for anything to do with voting is to not expose any of our military members to interviews or filming during the election season. As service members, it is not appropriate to give any indication on how we feel concerning the presidential election," said Lt. Cmdr. David Russell, a military spokesman in Baghdad.

Some officers say they did not send in absentee ballots to underline their political neutrality.

"You can find every shade of opinion among the troops, right across the board," said Maj. John Oliver, an operations officer in the cavalry regiment. Oliver, from Fontana, Calif., did not vote.

How soldiers in Iraq or anywhere else vote will not be accurately known since government agencies do not make such data public.

"My guess is that the military will continue to vote Republican but less so in that direction because this time there are conflicting impulses at work," said Richard H. Kohn at the University of North Carolina.

McCain, a former Navy pilot and Vietnam War POW, is attractive to service members and "adept at its language," Kohn said. "But at the same time, I detect a disappointment and even anger at the way Bush has managed, ranging from treatment of the wounded to gross errors in waging the war in Iraq."

Peter D. Feaver, a political scientist at Duke University, said Obama has appeal among the youth, African-Americans and Hispanics, which could boost his votes from the military where those groups are disproportionately represented.

In Mosul, some officers seemed less focused on the U.S. vote than the upcoming Iraqi provincial elections, which they hope will calm violence in this city 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Others hoped Iraqis will be inspired by seeing democracy in action in the United States.

In January "we'll have a new government after a long political process and we will not have shed one ounce of blood," said Lt. Col. Brian R. Bisacre, of Wakefield, Mass., who commands the 728th Military Police Battalion. "I think the Iraqi people will watch that and want to emulate that process."


US says 39 Iranian-funded 'criminals' arrested in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AFP) — The US military said on Friday it had arrested 39 Iranian-sponsored "criminals" in Iraq this month and had seized some 500,000 dollars meant to fund militancy in the war-wracked country.

"This month alone, coalition forces apprehended 39 Iranian-sponsored criminals and seized nearly 500,000 US dollars in funding, supporting terrorism in Iraq," the military said in a statement.

"Iraqi and coalition forces are working together to prevent Iranian lethal aid from endangering Iraqi people."

It said one of those arrested was a key member of the Iranian-sponsored Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq criminal network, who was captured on Friday in Baghdad.

The detainee is an alleged financier responsible for funding militant operations against Iraqi and US forces, the statement added.

The military regularly accuses Iranian-linked groups of arming, funding and training Iraqi militants to fight US forces in the country.

Tehran denies the charges.


The good news is that Iran is now broke and is not likely to be able to continue financing terror in Iraq or Lebanon. We should see a great reduction in their activity going forward. Of course if Obama is elected that might not make a difference, as Obama might withdraw regardless of the facts on the ground.

If we can wait them out long enough, the money for bribing Iraqi officials is most likely also gone with the wind.

Melamine scare worries Asia's trick-or-treaters

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Trick or treat? But no melamine, please.

As the busiest night for kids descended on some Asian households Friday, many parents were spooked by a real threat lurking inside candy, especially those made in China - the industrial chemical melamine.

"Of course, it's always better to look and be careful and make sure that nothing slips by," said Felix Barrientos, who took his masqueraded child to the front lawns of Manila's posh Magallanes gated community, where residents set up stalls with candy bowls.

"We more or less know which ones are on the banned list. It has been widely disseminated," he said.

Similar stories were heard in other parts of Asia, where Halloween parties are mostly reserved for American expatriates and other foreigners but have of late caught on with wealthier Asians.

In Bangkok, Thailand, Chompoonuch Kitsomsub, a mother of four, said she is not buying any candy from China. She took her kids trick-or-treating in an expatriate neighborhood where they "serve safe candy."

Her daughter, 5-year-old Yayee Kitsomsub, dressed as Batgirl, said, "We know we need to be careful because bad people put bad things in the candy."

Milk powder contaminated with melamine has been blamed for the deaths of four infants and for sickening about 54,000 others in mainland China.

Melamine is used in the manufacturing of plastics, fertilizer, paint and adhesives, and has been added to dairy products to make them appear more nutritious. Health experts say ingesting a small amount poses no danger, but in larger doses, the chemical can cause kidney stones and lead to kidney failure.

Magallanes and many other wealthy communities in Manila have adopted U.S.-style Halloween traditions, but giving away candy and dressing in spooky costumes is still a novelty for the rest of the Philippines, where half of the population wallows in poverty.

Outside the high walls, smooth roads and freshly cut grass, there are no carved pumpkins and corn stalks and most people are preparing for Saturday's All Saints Day, one of the most important days in the Roman Catholic calendar when Philippine families head to cemeteries to pay respects to the dead.

But for those with money to spread around, the fear of melamine is this Halloween's biggest scare.

"I'll go through their candies and check and make sure that everything is OK," said Rachel Traupe, an American expat with a daughter dressed like Princess Fiona from "Shrek."

Other parents expressed similar worries, saying they would screen candy and weed out those made in China.

Agile Zamora, a mother dressed in black with a witch hat, said she was careful where she bought her supply of sweets.

"I worry about melamine, but we bought this in a good store," she said while handing over packed cookies to a crowd of ghosts, witches, a Spider-Man and lots of small bloodied faces.

Philippine health officials have banned all Chinese-made milk products until they are tested, but only about half a dozen Chinese dairy products have been found to be contaminated with melamine.

Brazilian Lucy Beauchamp was buying sweets at a Bangkok supermarket for kids trick-or-treating in her apartment building.

"I'm trying to find things that don't have any milk - that's the key," she said. "Nobody is really going for the chocolate. This time, Halloween is going to be lots of jellies."

But Beauchamp said it was difficult to determine if a product originated in China, complaining that labels in Asia often had so many languages that the writing was too small to read, and in some cases were covered with Thai-language labels that she couldn't understand.

She pointed to a bin of small chocolates wrapped in bright foil and covered with white, Thai-language stickers. "This one here is probably 100 percent Chinese, and I won't touch it!"


Sophisticated attack leaves 77 dead in India

GAUHATI, India (AP) - The level of sophistication in the bombings that killed at least 77 people in northeastern India indicates that local militants had help from other terrorist groups in carrying out the attacks, officials said Friday.

The scale and planning behind Thursday's 13 coordinated blasts in Assam state surprised authorities, who struggled to determine who was behind the attacks - among the worst ever in a region plagued by separatism and ethnic violence.

The death toll in the explosions rose to 77 on Friday after more than a dozen people died from their injuries overnight, said Subhas Das, the state's home commissioner. More than 300 people were wounded.

Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, the Assam state inspector general of police, said the state's largest separatist group, the United Liberation Front of Asom, or ULFA, was the main target of the investigation, but added that the sophistication of the blasts suggested the rebel group was "assisted by a force who has adequate expertise in such attacks." He did not elaborate.

Anjan Borehaur, an ULFA spokesman, denied his group had any role in the blasts.

"We are not behind these blasts in any way and it is the work of the Indian occupation forces," he said in an Assamese language e-mail sent to reporters.

ULFA is one of the largest and most feared of several dozen militant groups active in the region, having launched dozens of attacks since it took up arms in 1979.

Most of the groups want independent homelands in India's northeast, an isolated region wedged between Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Myanmar with only a thin corridor connecting it to the rest of India.

ULFA says Assam and the rest of the northeast - whose inhabitants are ethnically closer to Burma and China - were never traditionally part of India and that the federal government has been exploiting the area's natural resources while doing little for the indigenous people.

The region has also seen repeated violence between indigenous tribes and migrants to the area from other parts of India. Last year, militants massacred about 70 migrant workers from northern India, and in October more than 50 people were killed in violence between members of the Bodo tribe and migrants, most of whom were Muslims.

But the separatist group has never carried out an attack of this size and complexity, which closely resembled bombings that have rocked other Indian cities this year. Those attacks were blamed on well-financed and well-armed Islamic militant groups.

Officials have refused to identify any suspected groups. However, Indian media reports quoted unidentified senior police officers as saying they were looking at possible links to the Harkat-e-Jehad-e Islami militant group, based in nearby Bangladesh.

India has frequently accused the group of involvement in attacks but offered little proof.

A local television station, News Live, said it received a text message from a previously unknown group claiming responsibility.

The group, calling itself the Islamic Security Force (Indian Mujahadeen), also warned of future attacks, News Live said.

The name echoes that of the Indian Mujahadeen, a group unknown until May when it said it was behind bombings in the western city of Jaipur which killed 61 people. It also claimed responsibility for blasts in the western state of Gujarat in July which killed at least 45 and blasts in New Delhi in September that killed 21.

A senior police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was in progress, said police were unaware of the group and were trying to track down the phone from which the message was sent.

Federal investigators and forensic experts sifted through the rubble of the blasts Friday for clues.

Mahanta said a preliminary investigation indicated the militants had used PE-3, a complex plastic explosive.

On Friday, police fired rubber bullets to disperse angry mobs who took to the streets of the state capital, Gauhati, stoning and attacking vehicles and buildings, said C.K. Bhuyan, a local magistrate. He said no one was injured by the rubber bullets.

Similar incidents took place Thursday.

A curfew was imposed in parts of the city on Friday, Bhuyan said.

The bombs were planted in cars and rickshaws, and the largest explosion occurred near the office of Assam's top government official, leaving bodies and charred, mangled cars and motorcycles strewn across the road.


Russia insists its nuclear arsenal is secure

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia insisted Friday its nuclear arsenal is secure, angrily rejecting U.S. allegations that tens of thousands of aging Soviet weapons may not be fully accounted for.
The Foreign Ministry described U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' remarks on uncertainties about the old Soviet arsenal as being groundless "insinuations."

The ministry stressed that all nuclear weapons in Russia have been under reliable protection since the 1991 Soviet collapse - despite the nation's economic turmoil.

"Despite all the difficulties our country faced in the beginning of the 1990s, standards of security and physical protection of Russian nuclear arsenals remained high," the ministry said in a statement. "There have been no 'leaks' of nuclear weapons."

The angry statement reflected a growing chill in Russia-U.S. ties badly strained over U.S. missile defense plans, Russia's war in Georgia in August and other issues.

Gates spoke earlier this week at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, expressing worries that some Russian nuclear weapons from the old Soviet arsenal may not be fully accounted for.

"I have fairly high confidence that no strategic or modern tactical nuclear weapons have leaked" beyond Russian borders, Gates said. "What worries me are the tens of thousands of old nuclear mines, nuclear artillery shells and so on, because the reality is the Russians themselves probably don't have any idea how many of those they have or, potentially, where they are."





The Obama campaign has decided to heave out three newspapers from its plane for the final days of its blitz across battleground states -- and all three endorsed Sen. John McCain for president!

The NY POST, WASHINGTON TIMES and DALLAS MORNING NEWS have all been told to move out by Sunday to make room for network bigwigs -- and possibly for the inclusion of reporters from two black magazines, ESSENCE and JET, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

Despite pleas from top editors of the three newspapers that have covered the campaign for months at extraordinary cost, the Obama campaign says their reporters -- and possibly others -- will have to vacate their coveted seats so more power players can document the final days of Sen. Barack Obama's historic campaign to become the first black American president.


Some told the DRUDGE REPORT that the reporters are being ousted to bring on documentary film-makers to record the final days; others expect to see on board more sympathetic members of the media, including the NY TIMES' Maureen Dowd, who once complained that she was barred from McCain's Straight Talk Express airplane.

After a week of quiet but desperate behind-the-scenes negotiations, the reporters of the three papers heard last night that they were definitely off for the final swing. They are already planning how to cover the final days by flying commercial or driving from event to event.


No dissent allowed

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Iran feels economic pain as oil prices fall

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Three weeks ago, a hard-line cleric close to Iran's president gloated publicly that the world financial crisis was God's punishment on the United States. The laughter, however, was short-lived.

Iran plunged this week into a bitter storm of political recrimination, largely directed at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as officials and ordinary Iranians realized with shock that the Islamic republic faces a severe economic crisis of its own.

The reason: As oil prices plunge because of the global slowdown, Iran is caught in a classic crunch. Ahmadinejad's government failed to save enough of the billions in oil windfall it earned during the good years to now cushion the bad.

The same crunch afflicts Venezuela and to a lesser extent, Russia, as all three struggle with falling oil prices.

But in Iran, the economic crisis has quickly turned political. Economic woes are the key issue as Ahmadinejad - already deeply unpopular and suffering from exhaustion, he said this week - seeks re-election next summer in a tough vote. And they are shaping up as his weakness.

Critics say he has recklessly squandered Iran's oil windfall on costly, subsidized imports, from fruit and other goods to the gasoline the country must buy overseas because of a refinery shortage, while failing to take any needed reforms.

"The Iranian people got a golden opportunity in history. But it was buried under this government's wrong policies," said Mohsen Safaei Farahani, a former lawmaker and reformist economist.

Among the dire statistics made public this week: The government may have as little as $9 billion left in its hard-currency reserve, the rainy day fund set aside to bolster the currency, import goods or pay off debt, according to one official, an ally of the president, who gave that figure to newspapers.

Other officials immediately disputed that, saying Iran still had closer to $20 billion or $25 billion in the fund.

But the relatively low figures shocked the country, leading one state agency to send an investigative report to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and parliament Monday, accusing Ahmadinejad's government of financial violations. Among the accusations: His government unlawfully withdrew money from the fund.

Even if Ahmadinejad is not re-elected in June, it is unclear how much Iran's foreign policy would change. Khamenei, a hard-liner, has the final say in all state matters and strongly supports Iran's nuclear program and dislike for the United States.

But the combative tactics of Iran's current policy could alter, especially if a more tempered reformist is elected.

There is little question Iran should be swimming in money, according to an Associated Press review of Iran's economic statistics: The country has at least tripled its oil earnings in the last few years as prices spiked.

Precise government numbers are hard to come by. But Iranian economists contacted by the AP estimated the government earned more than $200 billion from oil exports in the last three years, during Ahmadinejad's tenure, or an average of $66 billion a year.

That compares with just $173 billion earned in the previous eight years, or an average of $21 billion a year.

OPEC put the value of Tehran's exports at $64.9 billion last year, up 22 percent from two years earlier and more than three times as high as 2001, when production was only modestly lower. But those figures were before prices soared to an all-time high above $145 a barrel earlier this year. Benchmark prices have since tumbled, with light, sweet crude for December delivery at $65.96 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

With that kind of cash inflow, Iran could easily have built a $100 billion hard-currency reserve, said another economist, Mohammad Bagher Nowbakht.

Oil is by far Iran's most important product - the world's fourth-largest oil exporter, the country depends on oil revenue for a whopping 80 percent of its government budget, the same economists estimated.

For Ahmadinejad, the hard currency dispute was just the tip of the bad economic news.

Tehran's stock index also plunged about 12 percent in a week, its lowest close in years. Soaring prices continue to hurt ordinary people, with inflation estimated at 27 percent or more.

Iranian economists warn publicly of a budget deficit next year if oil sells at below $60 per barrel. The International Monetary Fund is more dire, estimating Iran would need prices at $90 per barrel to stay in the black.

Ahmadinejad, under severe political pressure, named five top officials Monday to study the global financial crisis' impact even as critics called it too little, too late.

Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, still a powerful figure, late last week publicly cautioned Ahmadinejad and the cleric who had gloated about America's crisis, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, to end their populist slogans and become more serious.

"The consequences of this crisis hit everybody," Rafsanjani said. "The first wave of the crisis are the low oil prices that have reached us. This is a big loss."

The president was already under attack from both reformers and conservatives, who brought him to power but now complain he spends too much time on fiery anti-U.S. rhetoric rather than managing the country.

Middle-class Iranians, who have seen their standard of living fall, often speak scornfully of his economic naivete. In July, he predicted oil prices would never fall below $100 per barrel.

Ahmadinejad said earlier this week that he suffers from exhaustion.

Yet he appears unbowed. In a speech Wednesday, he called the world financial crisis a U.S. creation, although he stopped short of outright calling it God's punishment.

"They say it is a global crisis. No, this crisis is your creation," he said of the United States, addressing a group in western Iran in a speech carried on state TV. "You plundered moneys and are in debt. Now you want to take money from the pocket of other nations again."

The crisis, he said, "is the result of your behavior, the result of you distancing from divine rulings, the result of trampling morality, the result of aggression and lying. The only solution is a return to morality."

Iran's economy was in some trouble before Ahmadinejad took office, but many economists blame him for making it worse.

They say Iran can only recover by ending expensive fuel subsidies and luring more foreign investment to develop oil and gas fields and build refineries.

But Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005 on a populist agenda promising to bring oil revenues to every family, eradicate poverty and tackle unemployment. In office, he handed lucrative contracts to cronies including former members of the hard-line Republican Guards, and tried to develop fields on Iran's own.

His efforts to inject liquidity into the economy to create jobs, something economists say they repeatedly warned against, led to higher inflation.

One independent economist, Mousa Ghaninejad, said Ahmadinejad encouraged spending oil revenues to subsidize imports. Iran imported more than $56 billion in goods last year, a 50 percent increase from three years ago.

The government did impose some limited fuel rationing - a wildly unpopular measure. But fuel subsidies are still high and drain the country of hard currency.

Iran also spends large amounts on its nuclear program and sends money to groups such as the militant Hezbollah in Lebanon, including an estimated $1.2 billion to Hezbollah in 2006.

With money tight, it's unclear what will give.

If Iran does see a budget deficit next year, it would need to either trim spending, print more bank notes, or borrow money. The country is thought to have $28.6 billion in foreign debt already.

That makes many Iranians nervous, especially about the state of hard-currency reserves. Mohammad Nahavandian, the head of Iran's chamber of commerce, predicts dire times. The government's plans, he said, "will run into trouble."


Maybe someone was taking profits and betting on oil futures markets. No wonder he's sick.

Found in a rundown Boston estate: Barack Obama’s aunt Zeituni Onyango

Barack Obama has lived one version of the American Dream that has taken him to the steps of the White House. But a few miles from where the Democratic presidential candidate studied at Harvard, his Kenyan aunt and uncle, immigrants living in modest circumstances in Boston, have a contrasting American story.

Zeituni Onyango, the aunt so affectionately described in Mr Obama’s best-selling memoir Dreams from My Father, lives in a disabled-access flat on a rundown public housing estate in South Boston.

A second relative believed to be the long-lost “Uncle Omar” described in the book was beaten by armed robbers with a “sawed-off rifle” while working in a corner shop in the Dorchester area of the city. He was later evicted from his one-bedroom flat for failing to pay $2,324.20 (£1,488) arrears, according to the Boston Housing Court.

The US press has repeatedly rehearsed Mr Obama’s extraordinary odyssey, but the other side of the family’s American experience has only been revealed in parts. Just across town from where Mr Obama made history as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, some of his closest blood relatives have confronted the harshness of immigrant life in America.

In his book Mr Obama writes that “Uncle Omar” had gone missing after moving to Boston in the 1960s – a quarter-century before Mr Obama first visited his family in Kenya. Aunt Zeituni is now also living in Boston, and recently made a $260 campaign contribution to her nephew's presidential bid from a work address in the city.

Speaking outside her home in Flaherty Way, South Boston, on Tuesday, Ms Onyango, 56, confirmed she was the “Auntie Zeituni” in Mr Obama’s memoir. She declined to answer most other questions about her relationship with the presidential contender until after the November 4 election. “I can’t talk about it, I just pray for him, that’s all,” she said, adding: “After the 4th, I can talk to anyone.”

A photograph of Ms Onyango was later shown to George Hussein Onyango, Barack Obama’s half-brother in Nairobi, who confirmed that it was their aunt. George Onyango, 26, the youngest child of Barack Obama Sr, said that he had spent weekends with his Aunt Zeituni when he was growing up, and instantly recognised her.

George Onyango said that his aunt had left for the US about eight years ago but sent him e-mails. “She left to find work and I suppose she thought her life would be better there,” he said. “She was kind and caring.”

In his memoir Mr Obama describes the joy of meeting his father’s family during his first visit to Kenya in 1988. Aunt Zeituni, then a computer programmer at Kenya Breweries in Nairobi, is portrayed as a feisty woman who proclaims herself “the champion dancer”. Uncle Omar, by contrast, remains a mysterious figure who left for America and never came back. At one point in the book a half-sister tells Mr Obama that people “like our Uncle Omar, in Boston” move to the West.

“They promise to return after completing school. They say they’ll send for the family once they get settled. At first they write once a week. Then it’s just a month. Then they stop writing completely. No one sees them again.”

Aunt Zeituni and Uncle Omar are the children of Mr Obama’s grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama, by his third wife – the woman Mr Obama calls “Granny” because she raised his father. Mr Obama’s father, Barack Sr, was Onyango Obama’s son by his second wife, Akumu. That makes Zeituni and Omar a half-sister and half-brother of Mr Obama’s father, or Mr Obama’s half-aunt and half-uncle.

While Mr Obama was on his voyage of personal discovery in Africa, his aunt and uncle were engaged in their own journey in his homeland.

The Times could not determine their immigration status and an official at Boston City Hall said that Ms Onyango was a resident of Flaherty Way but not registered to vote on the electoral roll. However, that Ms Onyango made a contribution to the Obama campaign would indicate that she is a US citizen. Records at the Boston City Hall confirmed Zeituni Onyango’s birthdate as May 29, 1952.

It is not clear when Ms Onyango first came to the US. She said: “I have been coming to America ever since 1975. I always come and go.”

She is a frail woman who walks with the aid of a metal stick. Neighbours said that she lived alone in a ground-floor flat normally set aside for people facing physical hardship.

An Associated Press story about poor people buying lottery tickets at cheque-cashing shops, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 25, 2003, quotes a Zeituni Onyango whom it describes as out of work and without much money. “It's like when I feel luck might fall I do that, like manna might come from Heaven. That’s when I buy it,” she told AP.

A staff member at the Boston Housing Authority office, 50 yards from her house, said Ms Onynango had been a volunteer resident health advocate between December 2007 and August this year. She worked six hours a week for a small stipend. Records show she used the housing authority’s address to make her campaign contribution.

Ms Onyango is also listed on the internet as a volunteer with Experience Corps, a programme in which adults over 55 mentor children in their communities. The “former computer systems co-ordinator” tells the group’s online newsletter: “I felt that I should help the children in my community. I love people and enjoy interacting with them . . . Also, I was idle, and this was a chance to get involved.”

A public record search lists an “O. Onyango Obama”, born on June 3, 1944, at 24 Colgate Road whose name matches that of the “Uncle Omar” in Dreams from My Father.

Nelson Ochieng, a cousin of Mr Obama who lives in the Kenyan city of Kisumu, near the family village of Kogelo, said that Omar had changed his first name after moving to the US. “Before he went to America we all knew him as Omar, but he dropped that bit, changing it to Obama Onyango, because he said he preferred his African name,” he said. Gail Greenberger, the landlady who bought the four-storey brick block of flats at a foreclosure sale in 1994, knew her tenant, however, by the name Obama Onyango. “We used to call him ‘Oh-bummer!’. That is how I pronounced Obama in 2000,” she said.

Ms Greenberger said she inherited him with the building but was forced to evict him in 2000 for nonpayment of his rent of about $500 a month. “I remember him being decent but I think he lost his job. When they lose their job, they just stop paying rent. He did not even go to court. He bolted from the apartment,” she said. Records of Boston Housing Court show a “summary process” was executed against Mr Onyango on February 23, 2000, for unpaid rent of $2,324.70.

Mr Onyango was a business partner in a “convenience store” called the Wells Market at 1760 Dorchester Avenue, now a Hispanic bodega, or grocery. Records list him as the treasurer of the corporation, which was set up without his name in 1992 and involuntarily wound up in 2007 after failing to file annual reports since 1997.

In 1994 Obama Onyango was attacked in an armed robbery at the Wells Market, the Boston Herald reported. According to a police report, two masked black males entered the store around 9.30pm on June 7, 1994, and “did assault and beat the victim, and did rob victim of an undetermined amount of US currency. Suspects were believed to be armed with a ‘sawed-off’ rifle, and did flee the area on foot .”

Asked why the man believed to be “Uncle Omar” went by the name Obama Onyango, Zeituni Onyango said that Obama was his true name. “That is the name his father gave him,” she said. Dershaye Geresu, the Ethiopian-born president of Wells Market Inc, confirmed that Mr Onyango was a “cousin” of Mr Obama.

Lennard Tenende, whose wife Lucy was secretary to the shop, said: “I don’t know where he is. It seems as if he is getting a lot of inquiries, a lot of people trying to find him and find out about his relationship with Obama and he just doesn’t want to be found.” Mr Ochieng said that he believed Mr Onyango ran a chain of stores.

The Obama campaign was repeatedly approached for comment yesterday but had not responded at the time of going to press. It is not clear whether Mr Obama has been in touch with his African relatives living in the US, or even whether he is aware that they are on US soil.

In the preface to the 2004 reissue, he writes: “Most of the characters in this book remain a part of my life, albeit in varying degrees – a function of work, children, geography, and turns of fate.”

“What is family?” he reflects. “Is it just a genetic chain, parents and offspring, people like me?” Twenty years after he first met Aunt Zeituni, and first heard of the elusive Uncle Omar, the man likely to be the next president will have the opportunity for another family reunion, rather closer to home.


How Barack Obama tells of his first meeting with his aunt

‘‘Barack!” I turned to see Auma [his Kenyan cousin] jumping up and down behind another guard who wasn’t letting her pass into the luggage area. I excused myself and rushed over to her, as we laughed and hugged as silly as the first time we’d met. A tall, brown-skinned woman was smiling beside us, and Auma turned and said: “Barack, this is our Auntie Zeituni. Our father’s sister.”

“Welcome home,” Zeituni said kissing me on both cheeks . . .

We went to drop Zeituni off at Kenya Breweries, a large, drab complex where she worked as a computer programmer. Stepping out of the car, she leaned over again to kiss me on the cheek, then wagged her finger at Auma. “You take good care of Barry now,” she said. “Make sure he doesn’t get lost again.”

Once we were back on the highway, I asked Auma what Zeituni had meant about my getting lost. Auma shrugged.

“It’s a common expression,” she said. “Usually it means that the person hasn’t seen you in a while. ‘You’ve been lost,’ they’ll say. Or, ‘Don’t get lost’. Sometimes it has a more serious meaning. Let’s say a husband or son moves to the city, or to the West, like our Uncle Omar in Boston. They promise to return after completing school. They say they’ll send for the family once they get settled. At first they write once a week. Then it’s just once a month. Then they stop writing completely. No one sees them again. They’ve been lost, you see. Even if people know where they are.”


Talk about a racial crime