War on Iraq  
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In Iraq, Combating Oil Corruption, Staving Off Fears of a Kurdish-Arab War

A round-up of the most important news out of Iraq.

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Iraqonomics

Iraqi lawmakers will resume work on approving the oil producing country’s 2009 budget, despite failing once more last Thursday to select a new parliament speaker, Waleed Ibrahim and Aseel Kami report for Reuters.

Umm Qasr, Iraq’s only deepwater port, is bustling with activity. A large proportion of the country’s imports pass through its docks but, as a critical artery for the nation, it offers a glimpse into the state of Iraq’s faltering economy after years of sanctions and war. While imports flow in, there are no goods going in the opposite direction; many of its outdated cranes do not work; and it is far behind the rest of the world in terms of the size of vessels it can accommodate, Andrew England reports for the Financial Times.

Security & Society

The trial of the Iraqi television journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush was adjourned after 90 minutes on Thursday until March 12. But the brief appearance of the journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi, who has been incarcerated since he threw the shoes during a news conference in Baghdad on Dec. 14, was enough to trigger applause and shouting both in the courtroom and in the hallways outside, Campbell Robertson reports for The New York Times. The law under which Mr. Zaidi has been charged applies to offenses against a foreign leader on a formal visit; if the visit is found to be informal, a largely technical point, it will cast the matter onto less certain legal ground.

McClatchy Newspapers’ Trenton Daniel reports of the trial when Iraqi journalist Muntathar al Zaidi took the stand Thursday, he said that he hadn’t planned to hurl his shoes at President George W. Bush, but the sight of the smirking leader at a Baghdad news conference got the best of him. “He had an icy smile with no blood or spirit,” said Zaidi, who was enclosed in a wooden pen. “At that moment, I only saw Bush, and the whole world turned black. I was feeling the blood of innocent people moving under his feet.”

Four prisoners who were being held at the American prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have been sent back to their home country, Iraq, where they are being interrogated, Marc Santora reports for The New York Times. “The government is reviewing their files to see if there are any charges against them,” said Wijdan Mikhail Salim, the minister of human rights. If they are not found guilty of any crimes, she said, they will be released.

Alive in Bagdad: Hospitals Improve Slowly

In this episode of Alive in Baghdad, we talk to several Iraqis: doctors, patients and hospital administrators, each of whom offers us a unique, yet notably hopeful, perspective on Iraq’s health care system.

Iraq’s wars and crises over recent years and decades have left over one and a half million children as orphans, disabled or with special needs, Hussein al-Shummari reports for Niqash. Today, in the ‘new’ Iraq, these children are struggling to find a path to a better future as medical facilities and government assistance remain woefully inadequate.

Commanders of the former army have set several conditions for the government to meet before considering reconciliation. Azzaman reports on top of their demands come the cancellation of a notorious law called debaathification and ridding the current armed forces of sectarian affiliations.

“We only want a normal life,” says Um Qasim, sitting in a bombed out building in Baghdad. She and others around have been saying that for years, Dahr Jamail reports for Inter Press Service. Um Qasim lives with 13 family members in a brick shanty on the edge of a former military intelligence building in the Mansoor district of Baghdad. Five of her children are girls. Homelessness is not easy for anyone, but it is particularly challenging for women and girls.