Friday, July 24, 2009

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie in Damascus

That's Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, in Syria.

I read a lot of snark today about Angelina's visit. She's a movie star!

I believe many of their Goodwill Ambassadors are.

The first time I saw Audrey Hepburn was some footage after she died. I was a kid, I have no idea how old. I don't think it was the news, I think it was one of those specials on Biography or something similar.

But I had no idea who she was and walked into the room at the last part of the story.

There was Audrey Hepburn with all those children. Helping all those children.

I thought then she was the most beautiful woman I'd seen.

My parents thought I would love to see her in a film then. So they rented Charade and we watched it and I thought she was pretty but she's beautiful when she's helping the children. She has a glow in footage and photos where she's on a Goodwill mission. She looks tired sometimes and too thin but she still looks so beautiful.

I think it's because it meant so much to her.

And I see something similar with Angelina. She looks so much more real and so much more attractive (and she's a beautiful woman in film) when she's doing a Goodwill mission.

Instead of attacking her, I don't know why people can't be happy that she's doing some real good with her life?

She doesn't have to. She's rich. She's got her own children. She's got her own life. So the fact that she goes out there and does something additional seems like something to give her credit for.

And something as important as refugees?

I have a lot of respect for her.


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, July 24, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Nouri makes a public statement the press treats like his little secret, the KRG gears up for the vote, Angelina Jolie visits Iraq, 7 US soldiers wounded on July 12th and that news comes from a regional US paper and not M-NF or a big news outlet, and more.
Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD – A Multi-National Division–Baghdad Soldier died, July 24, of non-combat related injuries in eastern Baghdad. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The names of the service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Website at http://www.defenselink.mil/ . The announcements are made on the Website no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. MND-B will not release any additional details prior to notification of next of kin and official release by the DoD. The incident is currently under investigation." The announcement brings to 4328 the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War.

That number is not a complete count. Trejo Rivas just passed away and he was a veteran of the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War. It was in Iraq that a mortart attack October 12, 2006. As Sig Christenson (San Antonio-Express) explained Tuesday, "Retired Army Reserve Lt. Col. Raymond Trejo Rivas died Wednesday in San Antonio after battling to recover from head injuries suffered nearly three years ago. He was 53." Meanwhile John Hacker (Carthage Press) speaks with Isaac "Jerry" Conway who explains "his grandson, U.S. Army Spec. David Conway II, was injured in the Iraqi city of Sharqat when an improvised explosive device exploded near him while he was leaving a meeting with local officials. Also injured were six other American soldiers and two Iraqi civilians working with the soldiers." Conway says the incident took place July 12th. I'm not doubting Conway, but I am noting M-NF never noted it. They did have time, however, the day after, to issue a release about "Facebook, [and] other social media." Priorities. Yesterday Nouri al-Maliki announced US forces might stay in Iraq past 2011. And who noted it? Margaret Talev's "Iraq's Maliki raises possibility of asking U.S. to stay on" (McClatchy Newspapers) may shock some readers since McClatchy is the only newspaper outlet covering it. It's not because it just emerged or emerged late. The comments are noted in yesterday's snapshot. It's not ignored because it's not newsworthy. Three outlets rushed to print articles yesterday morning on the topic . . . when they claimed all US troops would be out in 2011. (See yesterday's entry.) It's only not news when it doesn't agree with their outlets spin purposes.

To recap, when you can pimp the lie that all US troops will be out of Iraq in 2011 (and, apparently, pimp yourself as a psychic who can tell the future), you run with it and call it news. When Nouri al-Maliki publicly, in front of a crowd, declares not-so-fast, you duck your head and pretend it didn't happen. Anne Gearan covers al-Maliki's remarks for AP.
Though most of the broadcast media ignores the Iraq War (and much of the print media), there are many news items related to and coming out of Iraq. It's Friday, so smart news consumers knew there was a good chance The Diane Rehm Show would cover the Iraq War -- the only program to do so regularly. Diane's on vacation. Steve Roberts filled in for her today. The panelists for the second (international news) hour were: The Financial Times' Daniel Dombey, Washington Post's David Hoffman and CNN's Elise Labott.
Steve Roberts: Let's talk about a neighboring country, Iraq, and, David Hoffman, Prime Minister Maliki in Washington this week. Interestingly, not only in talks with President Obama but also talking a lot about the economy of Iraq -- an issue we don't hear a lot about, but trying to drum up interest among American investors and entrepreneurs. Give us your take on his visit.
David Hoffman: Well I actually thought the most interesting thing was the president pledged to help get rid of these UN sanctions. You know, Iraq still has to pay billions of dollars to Kuwait in reparations. If they get some of that money back, that will help them and, you know, I think when Mal-Maliki goes home from Washington, it's going to look grimmer on the ground there. There's a big election coming in Kurdistan, it's very important. The parties that have led Kurdistan are being challenged by an upstart party. I think Kurdistan is the real new frontline, the real flashpoint, in potential sectarian tensions in Iraq so Maliki's country's not all together yet.
Steve Roberts: Uh, well you mentioned, there are several issue here including, in his conversation with President Obama, the whole issue of the deadline of withdrawal of American troops. What did we learn?
David Hoffman: Well, I think, you know, we're committed to the deadline but what's going to happen is the deadline is going to be tested and it was just tested this morning. There's going be firefights and there are going to be military conflicts involving all these rules and deadlines and those things, you know, they're very, very sensitive and volatile.
Steve Roberts: Uh, talk Daniel, about this sense of national unity. David raises this issue of Kurdistan. Over weeks now, there's been increasing assertions of independence on the part of Kurdistan leaders, there's a huge fight over the status of Kirkuk, an oil-rich area. Is Iraq holding together? Is-is there a real threat to its national unity hear.
Daniel Dombey: I think both are true. Iraqi is holding-holding together to the moment but the Kirkuk is-is the biggest unsolved problem of-of Iraq -- not least because of the oil revenue but also because of Kurds who have come in and Turkmens who were there before. But I think just to look at Maliki's visit, I think that you need to bear two things in mind. This is a cold relationship rather like the relationship with [Hamid] Karzai and if you looked at some of President Obama's comments where he talked about wanting an Iraq where everyone could thrive -- Shia, Sunni and Kurds -- it didn't take a genius, it didn't take a Sherlock Holmes, to see that the US worries that Maliki could be a bit more of a narrow sectarian than it would like. There's that tension there. There's also a little bit of tension about how much freedom of maneuver the US military has following the June the 30th pull-out. And I wonder Iraq's economic situation is hard. There biggest thing is oil. They had a big auction to-to sell out rights to eight big oil fields uh in, near Basra. Only one of those went through that seems to be renegotiated -- it still -- the British are kind of less keen than they were. They're not getting the investors they need at a time that the oil price is going down. They need oil and money to grease the wheels to make Iraq a more coherent place.
Elise Labot: Part of the issue has been that there hasn't been enough national reconciliation in the country and the issue is part of the reason for the surge was not just -- in 2007 -- was not just to improve security but it was to give the political space for more reconciliation and that never happened. And the kind of grand constitutional bargain and the concessions that were necessary to make that were never completed. So what President Obama was saying to Maliki: "You need to do this, you need to not only include Sunnis into the political process but you need to, uhm, settle some of these issues with the Kurds." And Maliki said to him: "We need your help on doing this. We understand that there will be a military disengagement but it can't be a political disengagement because Iraq has a lot more challenges that not only are of sectarian nature but go to the whole future of the country. Is the power going to be in the central government? Is it going to be in the provinces? Who's going to be in control over the oil and the natural resources? I mean, these are major issues that the Iraqis are going to have to resolve and they are looking for the United States in many ways to help mediate these.
Steve Roberts: Well there were stories this week about this pact or protocol that was apparently signed with Sunnis in Turkey, what was that all about?
David Hoffman: It's not really clear. But there were two meetings between Americans and representatives of the Sunni insurgency that were held in Turkey. It's really -- the third meeting is the mystery. Why didn't it happen? It was scheduled. The Americans didn't come. There's some signs of some disenchantment maybe, that this wasn't really a very good channel or it wasn't working. But I do think it's at least an indicator that reconciliation's got to be the goal.
During listener feedback, a panelist completely blew it. He had no idea what he was speaking of.
Steve Roberts: Let me read some e-mails from some of our listeners. This is Randall in Cincinatti: "With the death toll rising in Afghanistan, I want to know where the anti-war groups that were protesting during the Bush administration -- the anti-war movement was seen and heard daily during the few years but they seem to have disappeared in mainstream media since Obama was elected. Could it be these were just anti-Bush groups posing as anti-war groups?" What do you think?
David Hoffman: Well I think, also, you know Obama did endorse deadlines, troops have pulled back, violence has gone down in Iraq, that may play a big part.
When we noted the Iraq portion of The Diane Rehm Show on Fridays, there are things said by panelists I disagree with. If it's not called out by another guest, the issue is, can the person's remarks be seen? Could someone look at the facts and conclude as the panelist did? If it's an opinion, it can go in. But if someone is just factually wrong, we need to call it out. So we will. David didn't know what the hell he was talking about. Obama endorsed deadlines? You mean the June 30th 'pull-out'? You mean the draw down? You mean the supposed 2011 departure? If that's what you mean, you mean Obama "endrosed" Bush's "deadlines" because those 'deadlines' are Bush's. Those are from the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement which replaced the UN mandate (that Bush didn't want to renew) and which required a full-on push from the US government to pass through Parliament (with a huge number of Iraqi MPs skipping the vote) on Thanksgivng day in 2008. What was being asked was a fair question. More than fair.

And the honest answer, which Randall wasn't given, was that a large number of the 'anti-war' groups were nothing but anti-Bush groups -- and, more importantly, anti-Bush groups who existed to put Democrats into office. They weren't about ending the Iraq War. Look at MoveOn, for example. These were not real peace groups -- which is why they preferred the title "anti-war." These were not groups concerned with ending the illegal war. Their answer, over and over, check those stupid MoveOn e-mails from that time period, were: Stop the Iraq War by voting Democrats into office! That was all they had to offer. That and a few pathetic 'candle light vigils.' Randall asked a fair question and he didn't get a fair answer.
Randall would have been better served if the panelists had said nothing except, "Read Peter Feaver (Foreign Policy). He raises that issue:
That got me wondering: would those folks (say the mainstream Bob Woodward or Tom Ricks, let alone other people in the nuttier fringes of the Bush-bashing chorus) who established a cottage industry lambasting Bush Administration rhetoric as "happy talk" rise up and start calling a foul on President Obama? President Bush regularly caveated his statements of progress with reminders that there were "tough days ahead" and, if memory serves, Rumsfeld was the guy who coined "long, hard slog." In their coverage of Bush, sometimes the reporters would include mention of the caveats and qualify their lede accordingly; sometimes the reporters would include mention of the caveats and yet stick to a "happy talk" lede; and sometimes the reporters would simply omit any mention of the caveats, perhaps the better to advance the "happy talk" lede. Regardless of how many times President Bush presented carefully caveated assessments, the Bush-bashers could always rest their indictment on one or two off-the-cuff uncaveated remarks.
They could have also steered Randall to independent journalist John Pilger who holds both administrations accountable and was on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday delivering a speech media and empire and covering for Obama, "The Rise of Barack Obama and the Silencing of Much of the Left." For the record, Elise Labott stuck to Afghanistan and stuck to her opinion based on facts. (This isn't the Afghanistan snapshot so we're not excerpting.) Daniel Dombey stuck to Afghanistan. (And was grossly wrong -- protests continue in England against the Afghanistan War including last week and it's damn stupid to use the pre-Iraq War global protest, if that's what Dombey wants to argue, as a measure. That was the largest global protest. And it was against the impending Iraq War -- not the Afghanistan War.) Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker (Foreign Policy In Focus) explain, "Parliament members are afraid to attend meetings. Iraq's nascent economy is deteriorating. Hundreds of armed militias are ready to fight for their own interests. This is Iraq today." They also address the SOFA:
The current deterioration in Iraq has made advisors and pundits (many of whom supported the initial invasion) fearful of pulling out U.S. troops. The misleading terms of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) means U.S. troops are more involved than expected. The terms of the SOFA called for withdrawal of troops from the cities, for example, but the city limit lines were drawn within previous borders of the cities, allowing troops to be positioned in what was once considered part of the city.
David was completely wrong. It's a shame that a peace activist wasn't able to call in.
Well, it's shame that a peace activist with a brain wasn't able to call in and know what she was talking about.
Steve Roberts: And Ann in Washington, DC, welcome, you're on The Diane Rehm Show. Ann?

Ann: Oh, yes. Uhm . . .
Steve Roberts: You're on the air, please go ahead.
Ann: Thank you. I'm a member and have worked for the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition which is anti-war colation for the last seven years. It isn't a question of who is in the White House. I personally support President Obama except when it comes to Afghanistan and whatever support he still gives to Israeli initiatives, um. I think you will be seeing more anti-war, um, protests as time goes on because the money we're spending in Iraq and the money we give to Israel could be better spent at home for jobs and health care and education.
What a load of garbage. "I personally support President Obama"? If you support him on Iraq -- which you are saying you do -- then you support 2008 George W. Bush on Iraq because Barack -- pay attention -- isn't doing what he supposedly promised while campaigning, he's instead embraced and is following Bush's Iraq timetable and SOFA. The same SOFA, you grasp this, stupid idiot, that Barack was calling out while campaigning for the nomination and then the presidency. Yeah, Barack called it out, said it was wrong, said it shouldn't go through and he wouldn't let it. But what's he doing? He's doing just what Bush did. But you "personally support" him. If that's typical A.N.S.W.E.R. membership, the peace movement's in a lot more trouble than any of us realize. We're going to move right into an excerpt from from Debra Sweet's "A Proposal for Actions Against (Obama's) War and Torture" (World Can't Wait) because the peace movement is in disarray:

We've put out a proposal for actions in early October, including Monday October 5 in Washington DC for actions at the White House & Congress, and a national day of resisting the recruiters in high schools Tuesday, October 6.

After networking and consulting with other organizations and leaders, the World Can't Wait Steering Committee will meet on August 1 to finalize fall plans. We want your input. Please take the survey
here by July 31. Or write me about the questions below...or what is on your mind.

1. Do you feel the controversy over the Obama administration not prosecuting anyone involved in torture has changed the political climate in this country? If so, how so? If not, why not?

2. What do you think of Obama's expansion of the war in Afghanistan? Why? Do others you know agree or disagree? How much has that war been successfully re-branded as the "good war"?
3. In the past few months has your opinion of Obama changed? Favorably or unfavorably? Why? How about people you know?
4. After reading the October 5/6th proposal what do you think is possible for these days of resistance? What do you think is necessary? What is your vision of protest for those days?

Your input is needed! Please complete
this survey by July 31 to feed into our discussions on August 1. To make all this possible, send along a donation, or become a sustainer 4RealChange.
Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker (Foreign Policy In Focus) explain, "Parliament members are afraid to attend meetings. Iraq's nascent economy is deteriorating. Hundreds of armed militias are ready to fight for their own interests. This is Iraq today." Joe Piasecki (Pasadena Weekly) points out that Tuesday was "day 2,313 of the war in Iraq". While A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Ann isn't at all worried about the Iraq War, Angelina Jolie declared yesterday, "There are still three million people displaced, innocent families," she added. "We have still many young men and women from our country who are fighting every day, there are men and women from all countries who have lost their lives, and this is a time to try to make some positive change." Angelina is the UNHCR's Goodwill Ambassador and made her third trip to Iraq yesterday. The above statement by her appears in CNN's coverage. The San Francisco Chronicle quotes her stating, "There are some changes. There are returns of displaced people, not a big number, but there is progress. This is a moment where things seem to be improving on the ground, but Iraqis need a lot of support and help to rebuild their lives."
As Angelina noted, the returnees are "not a big number." The displaced is composed of targeted populations. A large number of Iraq's external refugees are Iraqi Christians. Deutsche Welle reports Baghdad's "Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman told Deutsche Welle that his country is slipping into a state of anarchy, and that the government has no control of the violence within its borders. In Germany he has spoken out against attacks on seven churches in Iraq, which killed four people and injured some 30 others." AINA reports Congressional Religous Minorities co-chairs, US House Reps Anna Eshoo and Frank Wolf have written the following letter to Nouri al-Maliki on the continued attacks on Iraq's Christian community:
It was with great sadness that we read recent accounts of targeted church bombings in Iraq. Reuters reported on July 12 that, "Bombs exploded outside five Christian churches in Baghdad on Sunday, in apparently coordinated attacks that killed four people and wounded more than 30." The New York Times reported that the bombings "appeared to be one of the largest single coordinated assaults against churches and Christians in Baghdad."
As co-chairs of the Congressional Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, we have long been concerned about the plight ofIraq's ethno-religious communities including the ancient Chaldo-Assyrian Christian community. We have written numerous letters to our own government urging that there be a comprehensive policy to address the unique needs of these vulnerable minorities. U.S. Ambassador Chris Hill has indicated that the security ofthe Christian community is one of his paramount concerns, and we hope his attitude signals a willingness to develop a programmatic approach to dealing with this matter. When the new deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs assumes this post at the end ofthe month, we will meet to discuss solutions to the problems faced by ethno-religious minorities in Iraq.
Our ongoing commitment to alleviating this situation is shared by many of our colleagues in the United States Congress. Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives approved $20 million in funding dedicated toward religious minorities in Iraq. This funding is intended to support a range of programs such as security, economic development, health care enhancement and democratization programs primarily in the Nineveh Plain region. Bipartisan congressional support for these minority faith communities remains strong.
We understand that it is your desire to see Iraqi refugees return to the land of their birth. We share this hope. But news analysis following the bombings indicates that Christians who were contemplating returning will understandably reconsider given the fear gripping their community in the wake of the attacks.
As the U.S. presence in Iraq draws down, the burden for protecting these ancient faith communities rests increasingly with Iraqi forces. Increased security at Christian places of worship and an investigation into who is behind these most recent attacks will send a powerful signal that your government is committed to preserving and protecting Iraq's ethno-religious minorities.
For those late the July 12 bombings, The Catholic Leader recaps and quotes Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni stating: "We cry: Why? Why? What is our fault? That we are Christians?" In June 2006, shortly after Nouri al-Maliki was installed by the US as prime minister, the Green Zone was almost breached and it was a frightening time for al-Maliki and American leadership. In the frenzy following that, al-Maliki was advocating (as were some lower in the US military brass) that trenches be dug around Baghdad, that the answer for Baghdad was "moats." Those late to the party can see Edward Wong's "Iraqis Plan to Ring Baghdad With Trenches" (New York Times, September 16, 2006). We bring that up for a reason. The waterless moats are back as a proposal. International Christian Concern advises that they have "learned that Iraqi Security forces are building trenches to protect Christians from further attacks following recent church bombings that killed four people and wounded several others. Iraqi officials are stepping up protective measures for Christians in the largely Christian towns of Tilkaif and Hamdaniya, in the northern province of Nineveh. The trenches come in the wake of a spate of bomb attacks against seven Iraqi churches on July 11 and 12 in the cities of Baghdad and Mosul." They quote Project Director of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project Michael Youash stating, "These trenches will require people to enter towns through 4 or 5 secure checkpoints making it far more difficult to smuggle in weapons and bombs. The construction of the trenches is a sad but necessary reminder of just how desperate the situation of the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac Christians is becoming." UPI quotes Abdul Raheem al-Shimari (the province's security head) stating that "the trenches are roughtly 1.5 feet deep and are intended to prevent potential car bombers from getting through without the necessary security checks." Hazem al-Aisawi (Azzaman) adds, "It is not clear when the moat will be completed and who will be financing the dig." IRIN notes, "According to some reports, it is estimated that as many as half the Christian population has left Iraq since 2003."
It is clear that Iraq's Kurdistn Regional Government is holding provincial and presidential elections. Early voting began Thursday. Voting ends tomorrow. BBC News presents the viewpoints of five voters: Mateen Dooski, Alan Ali, Savina Dawood, Hassan Jalal and Ako Omer. Savina Rafaeel Dawood explains she's Assyrian, not Kurdish and states she's voting for "the 'Mesopotamia' list which will give me my rights." Hassan Jalal doesn't think the KRG will ever be able to increase their region due to resistance from the central government in Baghdad. Alan Ali is skeptical of the "Change" party ("we don't know where their change would take us") and states, "On Kirkuk - I think it should be part of Kurdistan. I'm not just being selfish because I am Kurdish and want the oil money - Kirkuk is connected to the region. Most of the people there are Kurdish, despite the Arabs brought in by previous governments. And Kirkuk is just one of many cities like this." And Mateen Dooski, who explains he's voting for incumbent President Massud Barzani, declares, "The biggest task facing the KRG is the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution (a referendum on whether Kurdish areas of Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah ad Din and Ninawa provinces should become part of Iraqi Kurdistan). This would bring the 60% of purely Kurdish areas not run by the KRG: Kirkuk, Mosul, Diyala, under its control." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports on the elections with an emphasis on the "Change" party, "Though Change's leaders deny any conscious similarity to President Obama's campaign, it is evident in the slate's movement's official campaign slogan, 'Yes, We Can Change It.'" Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the "Change" Party and also notes these basics, "The Kurdish parliament has 111 seats, 80 of which are held by the alliance of the KDP and the PUK. Eleven seats are reserved for minorities, such as Christians and Turkomen." Salman Ansari Javid (Tehran Times) observes that the political parties "Change, the KDP, and the PUK have the same goals for Kirkuk". Kirkuk is the oil rich disputed region which is claimed by both the KRG and the central government in Baghdad. Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports that the Turkmen in Kirkuk Province are threatening to boycott a census currently scheduled for October. That'll teach 'em, seems to be the concept. The census, which was Constitutionally mandated to have been conducted in 2007, will survey the contested region. Turkmen are claiming Kurds are beefing up their population with transplants. They are. They have been doing it for years. If you don't like it, you probably should have demanded a census long ago. The shipping in of Kurds? That was a concern in 2006. It's too late to whine about something long on reported on. In 2005, some groups (largely Sunni) felt they would be shut out of the electoral process. A decision was made to boycott the elections. Some stood by that decision after the elections, some felt it was a mistake. In the January 31st elections this year, the real story was that the ones who had boycotted last time turned out in large numbers (while the drop off came from the Shi'ites who had participated in 2005). Now an election (or all elections) you might or might not want to boycott. You can certainly say, "Don't blame me, I didn't vote." But this isn't an election. This is a census. And if you feel you are already going to be under-represented because of an influx of Kurds, then your decision not to participate in the census makes little sense. Unless you're attempting to stop the census, which may be the point.
In other news, the US has continued talks with Iraqi leaders living in exile. Nada Bakri (Washington Post) reports on continued negotiations the US is having with former Ba'athists and other groups currently excluded from political life in Iraq. Bakri reports "two meetings this spring" held in Turkey and that the State Dept's P.J. Crowley would only say that they met to address "a wide range of Iraqi contacts with the purpose of promoting reconciliation and national unity." Sam Dagher (New York Times) adds that the central government in Baghdad states it is "demanding explanations" on the meeting and declares the meetings (known for weeks before they took place and covered in Arab media though the New York Times seems unaware of that fact) were "an interference in Iraq's internal political affairs". Dagher notes an Aljazeera interview aired on July 15th where Ali al-Juboouri (Political Council of the Iraqi Resistance) "revealed that his council, which represents Sunni insurgent groups, met in March with representatives of the American government in Istanbul. He said a protocol was signed then to govern future negotiations between the two sides. He said that a second meeting took place in May" but ended over differences including that the US agree to compensation and a public apology for the illegal war.
Maliki's out of the country and Iraq has no violence? No, it's just Friday, when reports trickle out slowly. Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) does note a Baghdad car bombing which injured six people. Meanwhile Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports on the drought effecting Iraq as the Tigris and Euphrates run dry, "Tensions intensified earlier in the month when Turkey announced that it would resume work on its controversial plan to build a hydroelectric dam on the Tigris in its southeast." Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli explores the issue in "Water Crisis in Iraq: The Growing Danger of Desertification" (Middle East Media Research Institute).

Turning to the US, July 12th, Topeka, Kansas was in the news as a veteran had a standoff with police at the Colmery-O'Neil VA Medical Center. India's Thaindian reported, "An unknown gunman stormed a Topeka, Kansas hospital on Sunday afternoon, officials told BNO News." Taylor Atkins and Ann Marie Bush (The Topeka Capital-Journal) explained:

Jim Gleisberg, public affairs officer for the medical center, said no one was injured when a veteran, whose name and hometown won't be released, walked into the emergency room with a handgun at 12:10 p.m. and asked to talk to a VA police officer.
"The veteran showed the officer he had a gun and threatened his own life," Gleisberg said. "The police officer acted very professionally. He got the veteran to leave the emergency room area, and other staff members on duty called the Topeka police."

KTKA quoted the VA's Jim Gleisberg stating the man is an Iraq War and Afghanistan War veteran and, "Veterans are being stressed. The soldiers over there now that are in the conflict that are coming back with issues just because they've been deployed either once or twice at 12 or 15 months at a time it's a very stressful situation and so they are going to have issues." Michigan's WHMI reports "a suicidal veteran" -- Iraq War veteran -- holed up at the Homoetown Trailr Park and "held Howell Police at bay for more than nine hours". Jon Gunnells (Daily Press & Argus) reports that the "veteran is undergoing psychiatric treatment" and quotes police chief George Bassar stating, "He made statemens about suicide to his mother who calle dthe sister to check on him. He threatened his sister and she fled te home . . . He has some pretty good battle injuires and post traumatic stress syndrome. This apparently was something bubbling up." Steve Pardo (Detroit News) states the veteran is thirty-four-years-old and that after hours of attempted negotiations, "around 3:30 a.m., police threw tear gas into the house and the man was taken without further incident. He remains in St. Joseph Mercy Livingston hospital."

TV notes. This week on NOW on PBS:

The Obama Administration recently released its proposal for financial regulatory reform, but before change comes to Wall Street, a reform plan has to get through Congress with its teeth intact.
This week, David Brancaccio sits with Zanny Minton Beddoes, economics editor for The Economist magazine, to review the proposal and its ramifications for America. Beddoes encourages streamlining the regulatory system, leaving fewer but more efficient overseers. But where powerful interests are at stake, nothing is a sure bet.
"There is some good stuff in [the reform plan]. But it's a relatively modest rearranging of the financial supervisory structure ... I think it's more interior design than a whole new foundation."

On Bill Moyers Journal, health care is addressed with CJR's Trudy Lieberman (who has a strong article in the current CJR) and by Marcia Angell. My goodness, Bill found two women. Mark the calendars! As noted in Third's "Editorial: Taking sexism seriously," "In the first six months of this year Washington Week had 33 female guests and twice that number (66) of male guests while Bill Moyers featured 43 men and only 13 women." And, for the record, I'm only noting that segment. In another Bill floats his attacks on free speech. Free speech is something you support or you don't. Believing in it doesn't mean you can't decry statements, that you can't call them out, that you can't say they're offensive or that they crossed a line. But it does mean that you support free speech and grasp the difference between words and action and grasp that the Constitution supports free speech for an important reason.


Now did we just note Washington Week? Usually four guests a week sit down with Gwen but as of the last week of June, she'd spent the year with 66 men and only 33 women on her program? How does it happen? By weeks like this one where she sits down with three men and one woman: New York Times' Peter Baker, Washington Post's Michael Fletcher, National Journal's Marilyn Werber Serafini and Wall St. Journal's David Wessel. Now how do you book that show and not notice that you have three men and only one woman? You know it. You know it and you do it on purpose. You don't accidentally end up with twice as many men as women. PBS' Editorial Standards & Policies states: "The goal of diversity also requires continuing efforts to assure that PBS content fully reflects the pluralism of our society, including, for example, appropriate representation of women and minorities. The diversity of public television producers and funders helps to assure that content distributed by PBS is not dominated by any single point of view." Repeating, "Appropriate representation of women and minorities." Why have a policy if PBS doesn't ensure that their programs follow it? There's no excuse for Bill or Gwen to get away with the crap that they continue to get away with. They are in direct violation of PBS' own Standards & Policies and they need to get their shows in order and PBS needs to provide the supervision to ensure that they do.

Bonnie Erbe sits down with Eleanor Holmes Norton, Melinda Henneberger, Kathleen Parker and Tara Setmayer on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, all four PBS shows begin airing tonight on many PBS stations. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

  • Coming Up On 60 Minutes

Gun Rush
Americans are snapping up guns and ammunition at an increasingly higher rate despite the economic downturn. But as Lesley Stahl reports, the economic downturn, as well as the election of Barack Obama, may be the reason for the run on guns. |
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Poisoned
The African lion, already down as much as 85 percent in numbers from just 20 years ago, is now in danger of becoming extinct because people are poisoning them with a cheap American pesticide to protect their cattle herds. Bob Simon reports. |
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Steve Wynn
The casino mogul most responsible for taking Las Vegas to new heights of gaming and glitter talks to Charlie Rose about his spectacular success and the eye disease that's slowly robbing him of his ability to see the fruits of his labor. |
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60 Minutes Sunday, July 26, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
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