By Alan W. Dowd

Good News from  Iraq
Although the media don’t care to report it, the good news keeps rolling in from Iraq. According to the Pentagon’s latest report on the situation in Iraq:

  • Overall levels of violence have fallen 50 percent since spring 2008.
  • Civilian deaths have declined to a level 77 percent lower than the same period in 2007.
  • 73 percent of Iraqis call the security situation in their neighborhood calm (up from 2007).
  • 75 percent of Iraqis say they feel safe in their neighborhood.
  • 91 percent of Iraqis say the security situation in their neighborhood is the same or better than the previous six months.
  • There are 98,000+ Sons of Iraq now contributing to stabilizing the country.
  • Once all the numbers are tallied, the Iraqi economy is expected to have grown 8 percent in 2008.
  • Oil production is up 400,000 barrels per day.
  • There has been a 12-percent increase in electrical power generation.
  • Inflation is down from 32 percent to 12.4 percent.
  • The United States has reduced its presence from 20 to 15 brigade combat teams.

Find out more at www.defenselink.mil/home/features/Iraq_Reports/.

The Military’s Mortgage Crisis
Home foreclosures are hitting military families harder than civilians. According to research conducted by University of California-Irvine professor Danielle Babb, “We are seeing about four times the rate of foreclosure around military bases.”

As Military.com reports, Babb’s research indicates that many of the “surge areas” of foreclosures are clustered around military bases such as Fort Jackson, S.C., Quantico, Va., Norfolk Naval Base, Va., Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Cherry Point, N.C. Foreclosures have doubled, tripled and even quadrupled in these areas.

When the Dow Goes Down
Although it marked the largest point-drop in history, last autumn’s one-day Dow freefall of 7 percent, which saw the market lose a staggering $1.2 trillion in value, doesn't even make the top 10 of bad days on Wall Street. In fact, as CNN recently reported, the Dow weathered losses of 24.39 percent in 1914 (the worst day in Dow history), 22.6 percent on Black Monday in 1987 (the second-worst day), and 8.04 percent a week after Black Monday.

Good Old Days?
How are we, as a nation, doing when it comes to economic progress? That’s the question W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas explored in a recent edition of the American Enterprise Institute’s magazine, The American. Their answer is eye-opening.

  • In 1919, the average American worked 9.5 hours to purchase a basket of groceries and 7.4 hours to purchase 10 gallons of gasoline. In 2007, the average American worked just 1.7 hours to purchase the same amount of groceries and 1.8 hours for the same amount of gasoline.
  • The “average work week has fallen from 39.8 hours in 1950 to 36.9 hours in 1973 to 33.8 hours today.”
  • Life expectancy has jumped from 67.2 years in 1950 to 70.6 in 1973 to 78 in 2007.
  • Years spent in retirement have risen from 0 in 1950 to 6.6 in 1973 to 15.5 in 2007.
  • Percent of waking hours spent working has plummeted from 45 percent in 1950 to 35 percent in 1973 to 28 percent in 2007.

NATO Takes on Piracy
In yet another sign of its growing global responsibilities, NATO has deployed a flotilla of warships to the waters surrounding the Horn of Africa to deter and combat piracy. The United States, Germany, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Britain are contributing to the seven-ship taskforce, in response to a UN request for help in protecting deliveries of food aid. The Associated Press reports that some 30 ships were hijacked and more than 70 attacked in the area in 2008.

“The threat of piracy is real and growing in many parts of the world today,” said NATO commander General John Craddock, “and this response is a good illustration of NATO’s ability to adapt quickly to new security challenges.”

America’s Military Makeup
A recent Heritage Foundation study challenges the common misconception that the U.S. military is disproportionately drawn from minority groups, economically disadvantaged communities and undereducated cohorts.

  • “Members of the all-volunteer military are significantly more likely to come from high-income neighborhoods than from low-income neighborhoods. Only 11 percent of enlisted recruits in 2007 came from the poorest one-fifth (quintile) of neighborhoods, while 25 percent came from the wealthiest quintile.”
  • “Enlisted recruits in 2006 and 2007 came primarily from middle-class and upper-middle-class backgrounds…low-income families are underrepresented in the military, and high-income families are overrepresented.”
  • “American soldiers are more educated than their peers. A little more than 1 percent of enlisted personnel lack a high school degree, compared to 21 percent of men 18-24 years old.”
  • “Contrary to conventional wisdom, minorities are not overrepresented in military service. Enlisted troops are somewhat more likely to be white or black than their non-military peers. Whites are proportionately represented in the officer corps, and blacks are overrepresented, but their rate of overrepresentation has declined each year from 2004 to 2007.” In fact, the study finds that 62 percent of the total U.S. male population aged 18-24 is white, 20 percent is Hispanic and 12 percent is black. Within the military, 65 percent of the total recruits in 2007 were white, 12.9 percent Hispanic and 12.8 percent black.

Read more at www.heritage.org/Research/NationalSecurity/upload/CDA_08-05.pdf.

Trading with the Enemy?
Even as the US and Iran rattle the sabers of war, US exports to this charter member of the “axis of evil” have grown tenfold in the last seven years, according to an AP report.

Among the goods flowing into Iran from the US are cosmetics, golf carts, snowmobiles, furs, bras, perfume, musical instruments and lots of cigarettes. A small number of rifles and rifle parts were even shipped in 2004. All told, the US sent $546 million in goods to Iran from 2001 through the end of 2007.

However, that number is a bit deceptive, since many of the goods are considered humanitarian: $68 million in corn, $43 million in soybeans, $27 million in medical equipment, $18 million in vitamins, $12 million in vegetable seeds.

War Powers Act RIP?
Concluding that “the respective war powers of the President and Congress remain unsettled after more than two centuries of constitutional history,” a blue-ribbon panel of former high-level government officials recommends that the controversial War Powers Act of 1973 be repealed and replaced with a new law “ensuring that Congress has an opportunity to consult meaningfully with the president about significant armed conflicts.”

Specifically, the National War Powers Commission, which was co-chaired by James Baker and Warren Christopher, calls on Congress to craft legislation that:

  • Defines and clarifies “significant armed conflict,”
  • Creates a Congressional Consultation Committee comprised of the House and Senate leadership and leaders from key defense and foreign affairs committees,
  • Requires consultation before Congress declares or authorizes war or the country engages in combat operations lasting, or expected to last, more than one week, and
  • Requires ongoing presidential consultation “for the duration of any significant armed conflict.”

Find out more at http://millercenter.org/policy/commissions/warpowers.

Ice Age
If disparate weather events—a heavy hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico, drought-triggered forest fires in North America, record high temperatures in Europe—convinced you that global warming was real, then prepare for Mother Nature to change your mind. Scientists around the world are now sounding the alarm over global cooling—and citing a range of recent events to make their case, as The National Post of Canada reports:

The US National Climate Center reports that average January temperatures in the US were 0.3 degrees cooler than the 21st-century average.

  • China weathered its harshest, coldest winter in a hundred years.
  • Toronto reported record snow falls this past winter; in April, Vancouver had its latest snow in history.  
  • The Arctic Sea’s ice is thicker than it was in 2007.
  • According to The National Post, some scientists believe this cooling trend is attributable to solar activity that is beyond man’s control. The sun goes through periods of high and low activity, which affects temperatures on earth. In fact, one period of solar inactivity in the mid-1800s triggered what is now known as “the Little Ice Age.”

    By Any Other Name
    The BBC has added up all the ways Western news organizations spell Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi’s last name. The final tally: an eyebrow-raising 21 different spellings:

    Gaddafi (probably the most common, according to the BBC)

    As a contributing editor to The American Legion Magazine, Dowd writes columns and news briefs on national security, foreign affairs and U.S. politics each month for the magazine's "Rapid Fire" section.