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February 2009

 Muammar Gaddafi

Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2003

Feb 1  Iceland is trying to recover from its economic crisis. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, 67, a Social Democrat, becomes Prime Minister in a coalition with the Left-Green Movement. She has been rising politically across decades and is the first openly gay head of government in modern times.

Feb 2  At their summit in Ethiopia, African heads of state elect Muammar Gaddafi of Libya as leader of the Africa Union. Gaddafi favors a single military for Africa, a single currency and a single passport. A single military force would threaten the power of various military men.

Feb 2  Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal visits Iran, President Ahmadinejad and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He thanks Iran for support in the "holy war" against Israel and describes Iran as his movement's "partner in victory." A crowd greets him with cheers.

Feb 3  The war against Israel continues as another rocket from Gaza slams into Israel, this one landing in the city of Ashkelon. No one is injured. Israel's air force has been retaliating against these attacks.

Feb 3  Results from Iraq's orderly and peaceful elections for government positions in the provinces are coming in. Hundreds of different political parties have candidates, including Sunnis who did not vote in 2005. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party is reported to be doing well, winning support it is said because it represents national unity, order and security.

Feb 4  Speaking at the African Union summit, Muammar Gaddafi describes his country, Libya, as the best model for Africa rather than a multi-party democracy, which he describes as leading to bloodshed. Africans respect Gaddafi for his years as a leader in the forefront of issues and for Libya's generosity in aid. They have mixed feelings about his becoming leader of the African Union. Gaddafi has been opposed to al Qaeda from before 9/11.

Feb 5  In the US, Gallop polling describes 60 percent of Republicans as having a favorable view of conservative guru radio-talker Rush Limbaugh and 23 percent having an unfavorable view.

Feb 6  In Senegal, those having invested and borrowed for rice farming are under threat of losing everything because of the lack of stability in the rice market. Rice had not been farmed in Senegal until the rice shortages and the leap up in prices last May. Before that a rice farmer would have been unable to compete with imported rice. The price of rice is declining to a point that rice farmers cannot survive the competition of imported rice, and the government is not offering the new rice farmers stability in the form of trade protectionism.

 Muammar Gaddafi

Kentucky's Senator Mitch McConnell

Feb 6  More rockets are fired into Israel from Gaza. Israel's air force retalitates, bombing tunnels in southern Gaza.

Feb 7  In Madagascar, police fire on unarmed anti-government demonstrators, killing at least twenty-three.

Feb 8  The US Senate is designing a bill to stimulate the economy. Most Democrats accept the Keynesian position that stimulus takes place by government spending replacing the spending that the private sector is not providing. Republicans dislike Keynesian economics and think of stimulus more as tax cuts. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican leader, says "We know for sure that the big spending programs of the New Deal did not work." What got the US out of the Great Depression, he adds, "was the beginning of World War II." This was the beginning of the biggest US government spending program ever.

Feb 10  Fires in Victoria province, Australia, continue to burn. More than 900 homes have been incinerated and more than 170 have died. Arson is suspected, but climate change is believed to have played a role. Fires in Australia, as in California, have increased in intensity and frequency and are expected to increase more in the decades ahead.

Feb 11 Italy has been divided over a young woman, Eluana Englaro, in a vegetative condition since 1992. Her father received court permission to have her feeding tube removed. The woman died yesterday. Conservatives and the Vatican are outraged. In the Senate were shouts of "murder." The Vatican is professing love for the woman and protests that everyone has a right to life, especially the helpless. Some others question whether the condition she was in, for seventeen years, can be called life. The Senate is still working on a law to prevent reoccurrence of someone else having the right to remove "live supporting" mechanisms from a family member.

Feb 11  In the US Congress, Republicans are complaining about the stimulus just passed. The representative from Texas, John Carter, speaks of the government spending during Roosevelt's New Deal as a failure. Nobody is arguing in support of spending by citing Germany's recovery from the Depression. One third of Germany's income had as its source government payments and investments – almost three times the percentage being spent by the US government. As in Sweden, the government debt that was created was quickly offset by the recovery in revenues that came with the rise in the economy.

Feb 11  In Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai is sworn in as Prime Minister by President Robert Mugabe. According to the state newspaper, Herald Reporter, part of the pledge was "not to reveal matters discussed in Cabinet and those committed to their secrecy."

Feb 12  In Pakistan, authorities admit that some people in the country were involved in the Mumbai attacks back in late November. India welcomes the announcement.

Feb 15  The New York Times reports that Italy's national debt is greater than 100 percent of its GDP. The NYT article describes the national debt of the United States as having been around 40 percent of GDP at the end of 2008 and expected to rise to 60 percent by 2010. This is the Public National Debt rather than the Gross National Debt.

President Hugo of Venezuela

President Hugo

Feb 15  In Swat valley, Pakistan, the Taliban is in control of at least 80 percent of the state, according to a report described in Wikipedia. An armistice is declared and the guns are silent. Talks are taking place between the Taliban and the federal government.

Feb 15  People in Venezuela approve a constitutional amendment that gives Hugo Chavez the right to run for re-election as many times as he wants – which, of course, does not mean that he cannot be voted out of office. Chavez has been president since 1999.

Feb 16  George Soros writes of numbers that indicate a problem with the crash of 2008 that is bigger than the crash of 1929 (in an article published on the Huffington Post on February 12). In 1929 the total amount of money lent, credit extended and other transactions extending financing "total credit outstanding" – was 160 percent of GDP. By 1932 this total rose to 260 percent of GDP because of both accumulated debt and a decline in GDP. With the crash of 2008, total credit outstanding was at 365 percent of GDP. Soros writes of the need for a "radical and comprehensive policy package" that includes "a thorough overhaul of the mortgage system" and "a recapitalization of the banking system."

Feb 16  It is officially confirmed that two nuclear submarines, one British and the other French, have collided underwater in the Atlantic, each on patrol trying to keep its position unknown. Each of the 16 nuclear weapons on each sub has six times the explosive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Some complain about the danger of these weapons dropping to the ocean floor and deteriorating. Some wonder about the national defense necessity of these expensive everyday patrols.

Feb 19  Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, is refusing a visa to Israeli tennis player Shahar Pe'er. She was scheduled to play this coming weekend in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships. Dubai forbids Israeli passport holders from setting foot on its soil. The Women's Tennis Association has expressed its displeasure.

Feb 19  In the eastern Caribbean, in Guadeloupe (an overseas region of France), workers have been on strike since January 20 over rising prices. They want a monthly increase of $251 in minimum wage. There has been urban warfare, looting, the burning of cars and vandalizing government property. Guadeloupe is said to be 69 percent black or mulatto, 14 percent South Asian and 11 percent white. People have been blaming wealthy white families for their dire economic condition and blaming whites in general. Tourists have fled, further damaging the island's economy. France's neighboring Martinique has joined the protests.

President Obama

President Obama

Feb 22  Republicans continue to say that the Democrats' stimulus plan is not going to work. They speak ill of Roosevelt's recovery program, and they ignore models of successful Keynesian government spending and recoveries in the 1930s.

Feb 23  The Dow Jones Industrial stock average (DJIA) drops to its lowest point in many years. After more than a couple of weeks of talk in the US about how prolonged the recession will be the message appears to have finally sunk in.

Feb 24  President Obama addresses the nation and a joint session of Congress for the first time. He speaks of government action that stimulates putting people to work rebuilding the country, of his administration determined to see a return of the lending that is vital to economic recovery. He speaks of accountability and of coming responsible regulation, of stimulating educational opportunity and the need of health care reform as a part of economic recovery. He speaks of bold actions by government across more than a century that didn't supplant private enterprise but catalyzed it.

Feb 24  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal gives the Republican Party's rebuttal to Obama's speech. He gives his life story and says that Americans can do anything and that the way to go in meeting the crisis the nation faces is letting them do so without benefit of an increase in government spending and government organizing actions. He then boasts about all that his government in Louisiana did to help his state through its crisis. Action by his state government, good; action by the federal government, bad – although his state has received a disproportionate amount of federal aid compared for example to liberal New York. Conservative columnist David Brooks shakes his head and calls the speech insane and bad for the Republican Party.

Feb 25  Factcheck.org points out five inaccuracies in President Obama's speech yesterday. He said that the US imports more oil today than ever before. Factcheck claims that imports peaked in 2005. Another inaccuracy: that the automobile was invented in the United States.

Feb 25 The BBC describes a report that farming families in developing countries are suffering from having to pay higher prices. According to the report, many families are spending 80 percent of their entire household budget on basic food items. Families are cutting out meals, taking their children out of school and some are giving up farming.

Feb 26  At a conference in Egypt, Fatah and Hamas agree to form a unity government, to release rival detainees, to stop attacking each other in the media, and to hold elections. Their work to these ends is to be done by the end of March.

Feb 26  In Bangladesh, border guardsmen have maneuvered for personal betterment in an old fashioned and politically naive way: seeking a raise in pay they have rebelled and shot their officers. The bodies of nine officers have been recovered. The two-day rebellion ended today, the rebel soldiers surrendering their weapons.

Feb 27  In Bangladesh, the bodies of 58 more military officers are discovered. Arrests of 200 suspected mutineers have been made. The amnesty originally promised the mutineers if they layed down their weapons has been withdrawn.

Feb 27  A Gallup poll claims that President Obama's approval rating jumped from 59 percent before his speech three days ago to 67 percent. Gallup describes 54 percent of Americans as "comfortable with the level of spending contained in the economic stimulus package."

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