Hot Docs: Poll Shows Rising Job Fears, Weak Afghan Weapons Tracking

Today's selection of timely reports.

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Job Worries Rise to the Top: Forget about housing and failing financial institutions. As far as the public is concerned, it's all about jobs. In the latest poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, the number of Americans citing jobs or unemployment as the nation's top economic problem has rocketed to the top of the list and now stands at 42 percent, far outranking the financial crisis at 18 percent and housing at 8 percent. Jobs polled at 10 percent in October and 13 percent in July. The poll of 1,303 adults conducted Feb. 4-8 also finds that 30 percent say the country is in a depression, up from 20 percent in December. While 40 percent say they expect economic conditions to be better in a year, that number has dropped by 6 points since October. On the flip side, those expecting conditions to worsen have gone from 46 percent in October to 56 percent now.

Afghan Weapons Tracking Weak: Afghan security forces "cannot fully safeguard and account" for thousands of weapons provided to them by the United States and other countries. A Government Accountability Office study, "Afghanistan Security: Lack of Systematic Tracking Raises Significant Accountability Concerns About Weapons Provided to Afghan National Security Forces," estimates that complete records were not kept for 87,000 of the 242,000 weapons the United States shipped to Afghanistan, nor were reliable records kept for some 135,000 weapons that came from 21 other countries. U.S. officials did not conduct a full inventory of weapons in central depots until June of last year, and the report cites security lapses such as incidents of sleeping and missing Afghan guards, alleged weapons sales to anticoalition forces, and desertions during which Afghan forces left with their weapons and vehicles.

Even the Intelligence Community Is Worried About the Economy: The world economic situation is sending shudders not just through average households but also at the highest levels of the intelligence community. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, in delivering the annual threat assessment of the U.S. intelligence community, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the "primary near-term security concern of the United States is the global economic crisis and its geopolitical implications." Telling the senators that some fear the recession could deepen and "reach the level of the Great Depression," Blair invoked the specter of economic turmoil, instability, and violent extremism that wracked Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. "Roughly a quarter of the countries in the world have already experienced low-level instability such as government changes because of the current slowdown," he said. The report also focused on world trouble spots, cyber and organized crime, and WMD proliferation.