Thursday, December 6, 2012

3 women, 2 men

Today on NPR's Tell Me More, the guests were Thomas Joiner, Gretchen Livingston, Maria Gomez, David Pargman and Cheryl West.

I'm really tired of Cheryl West.  This is about the fourth NPR interview I've heard with her about this play she wrote about Pullman porters.  She is so racist and so embarrassed by Pullman porters.  They are a part of our history and they were an advance.  It was a prestige position when it first opened up and she never grasps that despite the fact that her relatives were part of this.

So I don't have time for her or her nonsense but damned if this isn't the 4th time she's been allowed to spew on NPR.  Meanwhile most playwrights never get even one interview.


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


Thursday, December 6, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits Iraq, AP is so busy misreporting that they miss out on the visit, the standoff remains, the US and Iraq just signed a new agreement, an Iraqi official used the signing opportunity to publicly call out what Iraq has alleged are Israeli spying devices that have been hidden on the F-16s that Iraq has purchased, in a tale of two press releases we find the US State Dept can get a title correct while the US Defense Dept doesn't have a clue, and more.
The press is supposed to want to report. If they can be accused -- collectively -- of a bias its having a desire for conflict because conflict makes news. So explain Qassim Abdul-Zahra's AP story this morning which has only been teased out to a longer story by this afternoon despite it grossly misunderstanding what was stated by Nouri al-Maliki about the country's most recent crisis which Nouri sparked when he sent forces into the disputed regions of northern Iraq. Let's deal first with what actually happened today. All Iraq News notes Nouri held a news conference with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today and Nouri declared that there were proposals (plural) to resolve the current standoff between Baghdad and Erbil. Alsumaria reports Nouri said there were two proposals for ending the military standoff in disputed areas between Nouri's Tigris Operation Command and the Kurdish Peshmerga. One proposal is locals are in charge of security while another proposal is a joint patrol by Nouri's Tigris forces and the Peshmerga. The key on the second proposal would be whether or not the Peshmerga remains under Kurdish control.
Also today All Iraq News reports Iraqi President Jalal Talabani gave a speech about how this crisis is threatening the security and the peace. Al Mada adds that Talabani declared that threatening language -- a reference to Nouri's speech on Saturday -- has no place in this discussion. And as Thursday ended in Iraq, Alsumaria reported that Talabani met with Ahmed Chalabi who gave his support to Talabani and his efforts to peacefully resolve the crisis. All Iraq News notes that Talabani also met with US Ambassador to Iraq Robert S. Beecroft today and they agreed on the need for a peaceful solution to this ongoing dispute.
That's all really basic. Yet this morning, AP wanted to report that Nouri stated an agreement had been reached on how to resolve the crisis. That's not what's reported by Arabic outlets. They report Nouri held a press conferences and talked about proposal(s). They continued to insist an agreement had been reached as the day went along. No agreement's been reached. Jalal Talabani wouldn't have given the speech he did today or met with Chalabi to discuss the crisis if it was resolved.
Let's drop back to the November 26th snapshot:
In a development everyone is trumpeting, representatives from the KRG and the central Iraqi government met in Baghdad today. KUNA notes, "Iraq's federal government and provincial government of Iraq's Kurdistan region reached an agreement in principle stipulating return of all military foces to their previous locations." In principal? And that's the more upbeat version. Isabel Coles and Alison Williams (Reuters) lead with, "Iraqi military leaders agreed on Monday with commanders from the Kurdistan region to defuse tension and discuss pulling their troops back from an area over which they both claim jurisdiction." That's not quite the same thing and when you include a quote from Iraq's "commander in chief of the Iraqi armed forces" (that would be Nouri) that states the two sides will "discuss a mechanism to return the forces which were deployed after the crisis to their previous positions." So they're going to discuss that. And even less has been accomplished according to Almanar, "Top federal and Kurdish security officials agreed in Baghdad on Monday to 'activate' coordinating committees between their forces and work to calm the situation in northern Iraq, a statement said." Almanar also notes that those attending the meeting including US Lt Gen Robert Caslen.
As we noted the next morning, that story fell apart. AP was one of the outlets that got that story grossly wrong. You'd think they'd have learned and you think the fact that the press feeds on conflict would mean that the same reporters wouldn't repeatedly fall for the same "Everything solved! Nothing here to see!" This morning, we pointed out that if an agreement had been reached, KRG President Massoud Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani would probably be making announcements. That didn't strike AP as strange? That the person who initiated the conflict would be the one to announce it was over?
And if that doesn't seem plausible how about the fact that there's nothing on the KRG website about an agreement being reached? There is this article in Arabic (probably there in Kurdish as well but I can't read Kurdish). It's about today's meeting of Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and his Cabinet and among the topics discussed was the conflict and the Tigris Operation Command and how the General Command of the Peshmerga states that they are prepared to defend and protect if violence breaks out. Barzani noted that he was speaking with all Kurdish leaders including KRG President Massoud Barzani.
Seems to me if a deal was reached, KRG President Massoud Barzani would know and I don't see why he'd keep it from the Prime Minister (who is also his nephew). Again, it's just not plausible. Last time when AP and others pulled this nonsense, I didn't name them, I just said outlets. Well I'm sorry this is the second time you're claiming events happened when they didn't, the second time that your 'solution' story tells the world "Look away, nothing to see here." It's a bit hard to excuse it. It goes against what Iraqi outlets are reporting happened, it goes against what's plausible and it goes against the nature of journalism.
On the standoff, let's note two views of what's unfolding. First, David Romano (Rudaw) offers this take:


From my perch in the West, far outside the halls of power in Baghdad or Erbil, it's hard for me to know how serious the threat of outright conflict between the Kurds and Maliki has become. As a political scientist, however, I know of too many historical cases where such tensions led to wars that none of the parties intended or really wanted. In other cases, some of those who chose or desired war expected a quick victory, only to become mired in terrible, grinding and long lasting fighting. The region remembers when Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1967 famously took provocative action after action, from threats and blockades against Israeli shipping to demanding the withdrawal of United Nations observer forces from the Sinai. Finally the Israelis attacked, and somehow took him by surprise and then proceeded to defeat the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria in 6 days. Several years later, Saddam Hussein thought to launch a similar surprise attack on Iran, after its new religious leaders began inciting Iraqi shiites to revolt. Expecting quick victory similar to Israel's lightning war of 1967, he instead condemned Iraq and Iraq to eight years of war, poverty and over a million war dead. The point is that when you overturn the cart, or even threaten to turn it over, no one really knows where its contents will fall.
If serious armed conflict between Maliki and the Kurds does erupt, intentionally or not, the media war of interpretation will undoubtedly rage as well. How such conflict gets framed will likely play a crucial war in determining the winner, in fact. If Mr. Maliki manages to cast the issue as a war between Kurds and Arabs (or "an ethnic war," as he recently referred to a possible conflict), the advantage will go to him. Given how seriously Arabs outnumber Kurds in Iraq, the medium and long-term consequences of such a framing of the conflict would prove extremely disadvantageous to Kurdistan. Mr. Maliki and his "State of Law" Party will tell Iraqis that Barzani is trying to expand Kurdistan's borders at Arab expense. Under such circumstances, it would be hard even for Arabs who oppose Maliki not to rally to his cause of protecting Arabs against Kurdish maximalism. As long as leaders in Kurdistan insist that Article 140 be implemented and the disputed territories be given a chance to join Kurdistan, it will prove extremely difficult to oppose Maliki's framing of the issue as one of "Arab vs. Kurd."

And for another view, Qassim Khidhir Hamad (Niqash) speaks with the Islamic Supreme Council's Bashir Adel Gli

 
NIQASH: Despite all this though, it seems that both sides are sending more military into the disputed areas every day. People here in Iraqi Kurdistan are frightened, they think that war is inevitable.
 
 
Bashir Adel Gli: I have no fear. There won't be a war.
 
 
NIQASH: And what makes you so sure of that?
 
 
Bashir Adel Gli: Because al-Maliki has a lot of opponents in Baghdad – such as the Islamic Virtue Party [the Fadhila party], the Islamic Supreme Council, the Sadrists [Editor's note: the latter three are all Shiite-Muslim dominated] and the Iraqiya party. All of his opponents simply won't let this happen. And the Kurdish won't allow the Kurdish military [the peshmerga] to attack the Iraqi army either.
 
 
NIQASH: So what do you think will happen in Iraqi politics in 2013?
 
 
Bashir Adel Gli: I can't really predict that. But I do think it will be the end of al-Maliki. I think if al-Maliki tries to run for the third term, he will find that those opposed to him will multiply.

On a related note, Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports that the National Alliance (Shi'ite political body headed by Ibrahim al-Jafaari) declared that they believe Nouri is attempting to isolate them politically. Dar Addustour notes the talks going on between KRG President Massoud Barzani, Moqtada al-Sadr (cleric and leader of the Sadr movement) and Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi over the current crisis and the belief that Nouri has escalated this.

From yesterday's snapshot, more problems for Nouri:
A few weeks ago, Nouri attempted to end the food-rations card system and his spokesperson announced, November 6th, that it was over. It wasn't over because it's too popular. The Iraqi people wouldn't stand for it nor would the politicians (except for those in Nouri's State of Law). So Nouri had to back down. Moqtada al-Sadr was one of the leaders on that issue.
But he and Moqtada tangled weeks before that as well. It happened when Nouri said there was no oil surplus money that could become dividends for the Iraqi people and Moqtada al-Sadr expressed doubt and disapproval. All Iraq News explained in October that Moqtada and his poltical bloc have not let the matter die or just resorted to words, they're actively working with the Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi and the Minister of Planning Ali Shukri to find oil money that can go to the Iraqi people with plans to set aside 25% of future revenues for that. Moqtada and his bloc continued working on the issue and had the people's support. In November, All Iraq News reported that a delegation from the Sadr bloc met with Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi to discuss this issue and find out what the progess was on it and to announce that they will continue to stay focused on this and ensure that the country and its children benefit from the oil.
While Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc was fighting for the people and doing so in the open, Nouri was doing something else. Alsumaria reports that MP Bahaa al-Araji of the Sadr bloc held a press conference today outside Parliament to reveal that Nouri al-Maliki filed a lawsuit to dismiss the budget item on sharing the oil suprlus with the citizens from the year's budget. The court -- no surprise, it's not a real court -- ruled in Nouri's favor. Only now, after the ruling, do they find out what Nouri was doing behind everyone's back.
Today Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that the Sadr bloc stated the surplus amount was $20 billion and that the lawsuit Nouri brought will prevent the Iraqi pepole from receiving 25% of the surplus. All Iraq News notes that Sadr-bloc MP Iqbal al-Ghurabi declared today that denying the Iraqi people their portion of the surplus was part of a war Nouri is waging on the Iraqi people.
How nice for the White House -- which kept Nouri on as prime minister even after the Iraqi people voted otherwise -- that just as Iraq gets a high profile visitor who commands international attention, UN Secretaty-General Ban Ki-moon, the English language outlet that most Americans will see Iraq news from is saying the conflict is over.
The Voice of Russia noted the Secretary-General went to Baghdad today from Kuwait. They were one of many news outlets around the world noting the visit. Why was the Secretary-General in Kuwait? To talk about Iraq and Chapter VII.
Thursday his Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler delivered a report on Iraq to the Security Council (see Thursday and Friday's snapshot).


Martin Kobler: In addition to the hydrocarbons legislation, we are continuing to provide technical advice and assistance on the establishment of the Federation Council, the reform of the judicial system, and the adoption of laws on minority communities and political parties. At the regional level, Iraq continues its re-emergence onto the international stage. Earlier this year, Iraq demonstrated renewed commitment to meeting its remaining obligations under Chapter VII of the Charter and to improving its bilateral relations with Kuwait. Progress will, however, depend upon the restoration of confidence between both sides. Over the past few months, I stepped up my engagement with Iraq and Kuwait to see how the United Nations could best facilitate the resolution of outstanding issuse in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council. And, in this context, I recently held high-level meetings in Iraq and Kuwait in which I was encouraged by the strong commitment that both Prime Minister al-Maliki and the Amir of Kuwait expressed by normalizing relations between their two countries. I very much hope that they will now be able to move quickly. They can count on the UN in this regard. I am happy to report to the Council today that I spoke to Foreign Minister [Hoshyard] Zaebari this morning. He informed me that, first, his government had nominated the names for the technical team of the border maintenance project today and, second, the government would start immediately to update the list of farmers entitled to compensation. A meeting with the farmers will take place as soon as possible. I welcome those steps and call on the Government of Iraq to initiate work on the border mainenance project without further delay. I also appeal to the government of Iraq to continue to demonstrate the goodwill necessary to fulfil Iraq's other outstanding obligations, in particular with regard to missing persons and property. The commitment of Iraq to fulfil those obliations will be conducive to the normalization of relations between the two countries. And I equally call on the government of Kuwait to continue to act in a spirit of flexibility and reciprocity, as reflected earlier this year by the important reciprocal visits of the Amir in Baghdad and the Prime Minister in Kuwait. On a different note, I remain fully committed to continue to work with both governments to resolve bilateral issues, at their request. I am hopeful that the agreement between Kuwait and Iraq for the cancelation of pending lawsuits against Iraqi Airways and on navigational rights in the Khor Abdullah waterway will facilitate improved relations between the two neighbors.


That was part of the reason for his visit. AFP also notes, "The visit also comes at a time of high tensions between Iraq's federal government and the autonomous Kurdistan region, during which military reinforcements have been sent to disputed areas in the country's north." Nouri's remarks -- the ones the Iraqi outlets got correct but AP got 'creative' on, those remarks -- were made at the joint press conference that Nouri held with Ban Ki-moon. Here's what the UN Secretary-General said at that press conference:
Assalamo Alaykom, Good afternoon,
I am pleased to be back in Baghdad for the fourth time, and second time this year. My last visit was in March when Iraq hosted the Summit meeting of the League of Arab States. That Summit showed Iraq's steady progress toward regaining its rightful place in the region, the Arab world and the broader international community. I congratulate such leadership and achievement.
Today, I had productive meetings with President Talabani, Prime Minister Al-Maliki and and I am going to have a separate meeting with Foreign Minister Zebari, and also I will be meeting the Speaker of the Council of Representatives. I will also have the honour of addressing the Heads of Political blocs and elected members of the Council of Representatives.
We have discussed a wide range of issues, particularly relations between Iraq and Kuwait. We also addressed relations between the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government. And we reviewed the situation in Syria – which we are all deeply concerned about.
Iraq-Kuwait relations have improved much since March. I believe that a historic opportunity is at hand to fully normalize relations between the two States.
It is time for both countries to put the past behind and usher in a new era of cooperation. I strongly support the efforts of Prime Minister al-Maliki to fulfil without further delay Iraq's outstanding Chapter VII obligations – especially the maintenance of the boundary and the compensation of the farmers.
I have come here from Kuwait. I had good meetings with both Prime Minister al-Maliki and the Emir of Kuwait. I appealed to their statesmanship and asked that they redouble their efforts. This will greatly benefit the people of both countries in the long-term.
In my meetings with the Iraqi leadership, we also discussed the political situation here. The ongoing impasse between political blocs is a disservice to the people of Iraq, who look to their leaders to deliver a better future.
I also expressed hope that divergences over disputed territories in Northern Iraq can be resolved. There is no alternative to peaceful coexistence within a united federal Iraq. The United Nations Assistance Mission (UNAMI) stands ready to help reach this goal.
We discussed the situation in Syria and its impact on Iraq. I am particularly concerned about the humanitarian situation. I thank the Government of Iraq for its generosity and hospitality towards Syrian refugees. I urge the Government to continue to keep the borders open to enable Syrian refugees and Iraqi returnees to seek safety in Iraq.
UNAMI, led by my Special Representative, Martin Kobler, will remain steadfast in supporting the people and Government of Iraq in securing peace, stability and prosperity. I can assure you that the United Nations will stand by the people and Government of Iraq in promoting further stability and peace and sustainable development under the leadership of Prime Minister Al-Maliki. It has been a great pleasure for me to work with you and I will continue to work with the Iraqi Government and people.
For AP to be right, Ban Ki-moon would have to be congratulating both sides on resolving the dispute. He would not have stated, "I also expressed hope that divergences over disputed territories in Northern Iraq can be resolved." Ban Ki-moon was at the press conference and didn't even notice what Nouri was saying? It's not plausible. AP got the story wrong. We called it out this morning, I was on the phone with a friend at AP early this afternoon, they should have killed the story then. Instead they've passed on myth and lies.
Why? You need to ask them.
Ask them also why they ignored Rose Gottemoeller's press conference in Baghdad. She's with the US State Dept. Alsumaria reports that she held a joint-press conference with the acting Minister of Defense and she noted that the US is watching what is developing and is calling for a peaceful solution which avoids military escalation.
And while AP was lying, it was missing not just the reality of that crisis, it was ignoring important things that were actually said. The UN News Centre notes:
While Mr. Ban also used his address before the political blocs to praise Iraq for making "important progress" in strengthening its state institutions, he said women in the country were "still marginalized."
The UN chief noted that quotas made it possible for women to make up one quarter of Iraq's Council of Representatives, the country's main elected body, before pointing out there was minimal female representation in other key posts.
"Iraqi women are bright and talented," he said. "They should be empowered to engage in building the future of this great country."
There was much more of importance that the Secretary-General spoke of and we'll note some more of it tomorrow, hopefully, however a UN friend made a point to call me and say the Secretary-General spoke of women (I called out Kobler's report to the Security Council last week for ignoring women -- see the snapshots from last week). So we will include the above, I will not that he spoke about women and I will say that what the Secretary-General said on that topic was needed and helpful. And what would have been even more helpful? If, instead of making stuff up, AP could have reported on those remarks.
Turning to violence, All Iraq News reports 1 corpse was discovered in a village to the south of Mosul, a Jurf Naddaf attack left 5 police officers dead and last night a Mosul car bombing left one police officer injured. Alsumaria adds that 1 military officer was injured in a Falluja shooting, a bombing on a road between Baghdad and Anbar Province left two Iraqi soldiers injured, a Falluja bombing left three Iraqi soldiers wounded, a Mosul attack left 1 Iman wounded, a Mosul armed attack claimed the life of 1 shop owner, 1 person was killed in an attack on a Mosul clinic and a Kirkuk roadside bombing left one soldier injured.
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made news today with regards to Iraq. The Defense Dept issued the following:
Under the auspices of the Strategic Framework Agreement, the Governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq reaffirmed their commitment to an enduring strategic partnership during the second meeting of the Defense and Security Joint Coordination Committee on December 5-6, 2012 in Baghdad.
The meetings held at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense were co-chaired by Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun Al-Dlimi, the U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller, and the Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller.
Defense and Security Cooperation is one of the cooperation areas that were agreed upon in the Strategic Framework Agreement signed in 2008 between the United States Government and the Government of the Republic of Iraq in order to strengthen cooperation in areas of mutual interest for the two countries.
The United States and Iraq discussed efforts to continue strengthening their security cooperation, enhance Iraq's defense capabilities, modernize Iraq's military forces, and facilitate both countries' contributions to regional security. The two delegations explored U.S.-Iraq training opportunities and Iraq's participation in regional exercises.
The United States and Iraq also discussed the strong and growing foreign military sales program, a symbol of the long-term security partnership envisioned by both countries. The United States stated its support for Iraq's efforts to meet its defense and security needs.
Both delegations reviewed regional security issues. They exchanged views on the conflict in Syria and its effects on regional stability, with both sides urging an end to the violence and support for a political transition that would represent the will of the Syrian people. The two sides agreed to continue consulting closely on regional security matters.
The capstone event was the exchange of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Defense Minister Saadoun Al-Dlimi and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. This agreement represents the enduring strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq, and provides mechanisms for increased defense cooperation in areas including defense planning, counterterrorism cooperation, and combined exercises.
Finally, the United States and the Republic of Iraq committed to convene a third recurring Defense and Security Cooperation Joint Coordination Committee meeting in Washington, D.C., during 2013 to continue discussions on the enduring security and military cooperation between the two countries.
View the Memorandum of Understanding at: http://www.defense.gov/releases/US-IraqMOUDefenseCooperation.pdf
Saadoun al-Dulaimi is not Minister of Defense. I don't know why the US government can't be accurate, I expect more from the Pentagon. Iraq has no Minister of Defense. This position was supposed to have been filled back in 2010. However, Nouri never nominated anyone for that post. al-Dlimi is a deputy defense minister and he is called "acting Defense Minister" by Nouri. But he is not the Minister of Defense -- that's a position that Parliament confirms you for and he's never gone before Parliament for confirmation. It's sad when the Pentagon is either willing to lie or just that ignorant. But they get the name wrong as well: It's Saadoun al-Dulaimi -- not "Saadoun al-Dlimi" as the press release reads. Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."
There's no excuse for the DoD either lying or getting this wrong. If you think this is something minor, ask yourself why State could get it right when Defense couldn't? That's right, the State Dept has a press release on the meet-up as well:

Under the auspices of the Strategic Framework Agreement, the Governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq reaffirmed their commitment to an enduring strategic partnership during the second meeting of the Defense and Security Joint Coordination Committee on December 5-6, 2012 in Baghdad.
The meetings held at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense were co-chaired by Iraqi Acting Minister of Defense Saadoun Al-Dlimi, the U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller, and the Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller.
Defense and Security Coordination is one of the areas that were agreed upon in the Strategic Framework Agreement signed in 2008 between the United States Government and the Government of the Republic of Iraq in order to strengthen cooperation in areas of mutual interest for the two countries.
The United States and Iraq discussed efforts to continue strengthening their security cooperation, enhance Iraq's defense capabilities, modernize Iraq's military forces, and facilitate both countries' contributions to regional security. The two delegations explored U.S.-Iraq training opportunities and Iraq's participation in regional exercises.
The United States and Iraq also discussed the strong and growing foreign military sales program, a symbol of the long-term security partnership envisioned by both countries. The United States reaffirmed its support for Iraq's efforts to meet its defense and security needs.
Both delegations reviewed regional security issues. They exchanged views on the conflict in Syria and its effects on regional stability, with both sides urging an end to the violence and support for a political transition that would represent the will of the Syrian people. The two sides agreed to continue consulting closely on regional security matters.
The capstone event was the exchange of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Defense Minister Saadoun Al-Dlimi and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. This agreement represents the enduring strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq, and provides mechanisms for increased defense cooperation in areas including defense planning, counterterrorism cooperation, and combined exercises.
Finally, the United States and the Republic of Iraq committed to convene a third recurring Defense and Security Joint Coordination Committee meeting in Washington, D.C. during 2013 to continue discussions on the enduring security and military cooperation between the two countries.
"Acting Minister of Defense." State got it right. Why couldn't the Defense Dept?
Currently, you can't view the Memorandum of Understanding mentioned in the DOD announcement. The link in the press release above returns an error message. Since Panetta's been working on a number of issues and since Brett McGurk has been saying the easiest way to send some US troops back into Iraq (not all left) was with a Memo of Understanding, it's a shame we're not able to read the document at present. Alsumaria reports that Saadoun al-Dulaimi and US Deputy Defense Secretary Jim Miller held a joint-press conference in Baghdad with al-Dulaimi stressing that the delivery schedule on the F-16s was too slow and had too much red tape but the US had agreed to change that. He also used the opportunity to publicy repeat the charges that Iraq found the first delivery of F-16s contained Israeli spy equipment inside the cockpits of the planes -- these were devices to spy on whomever was in the plane -- these were not devices the pilot would use to spy. From the November 1st snapshot:
Yesterday's snapshot: noted that the current US Ambassador to Iraq Robert S. Beecroft had blown his credibility (claiming there were no US troops remaining in Iraq to the Iraqi press and, as All Iraq News pointed out, also claiming that there was no desire for US troops to be sent back into Iraq) and that this wasn't a good time for that to happen:
All Iraq News reports Iraqis state they have found Israeli recording devices on the
F-16s the US has supplied so far. The Iraqi Air Force leadership has sent a letter objecting to the device to Lockheed Martin, manufacturers of the F-16s. Fars News Agency adds, "Iraq's air force has found out Israeli company RADA has planted information recording systems in its F-16 fighters recently purchased from the American Lockheed Martin Company."
Dar Addustour reports today that the Iraqi Air Force first sought comment from the US government and when they received no answer from the US government, about what they see as spying devices, they asked Lockheed Martin. I have no idea of whether they're spying devices or not. But at some point, someone in leadership in Iraq is going to realize that if there is one set of spying devices, there may be two or more. Someone will shortly grasp that the set discovered may have been intended to be discovered in order to conceal more important devices. That's sleight of hand -- look here, not over there. Again, this wasn't a time where the US face to Iraq should have thrown away credibility by lying that all US troops were out of Iraq and that the US government wasn't attempting to work on a new agreement with Iraq governing US troops.
If Miller had a public comment on that during the news conference, Alsumaria doesn't note it.
Leon Panetta had public comments aplenty when the Secretary of Defense joined VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to discuss the new transition assistance program. Former US House Rep Bob Filner (the newly elected Mayor of San Diego) has long used his time on the House Veterans Affairs Committee (where he alternated being Ranking Member with being Committee Chair) to point out that the service member gets training on going into the military but, when it's time for a discharge, they're frequently rushed on out. Panetta and Shinseki held a press conference to note that they were working on the Transition Assistance Program.
Secretary Leon Panetta: The Vow to Hire Heroes Act mandated that all service members participate in the TAP program in order to prepare them for life after the military. We've got a large number of -- of individuals in the military, you know, as we transition over these next few years in terms of our force structure, we're going to have a lot of people going into this system.
Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, championed The Vow to Hire Heroes Act. Panetta also noted, "We also know that we're dealing with the problem of suicide in the military and among our veterans. It's a terrible, terrible challenge that we are dealing with. And we have got to do everything we can, between DOD and VA, to ensure that our systems are equipped to give our people the help they need in order to deal with these unique circumstances that we're confronting." And Senator Murray is calling for more mental health resources as well as for DoD and VA to come up with a joint-suicide prevention plan.
As Secretary Erik Shinseki noted, they were also there to discuss the new documentation methods for veterans, the IEHR [Integrated Electronic Health Record]. This was the focus of a Congressional hearing earlier this week.
US House Rep Mike Michaud: On July 18th, the Subcommittee held a hearing on military sexual trauma in which we explored how veterans who suffered from MST related PTSD have only one in three chances of having their claims approved. You talked about the challenges of these veterans in your testimony today. Can you elaborate further on your testimony on how and why VA regulations should be relaxed to improve these outcomes?
Richard Dumancas: Uh, yes, sir. What we've experienced is at the RO [Regional Office] level is raters are still confused on the regulations, the policy that's set in place and we don't know if it's a lack of training or guidance. They're just so confused on the actual policy so they're basically just denying it and letting the Board of Veteran Appeals handle it. So it comes up here to DC, we get remanded because -- It's frustrating. It's very frustrating. So that's -- I hope that answers a little bit for you.
That's from Wednesday afternoon's House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. US House Rep Jon Runyan is the Chair of the Subcommittee, US House Rep Jerry McNerney is Ranking Member. The Subcomittee heard from two panels. The first panel was The American Legion's Richad Dumancas, the National Organization of Veterans Advocates' Michael Viterna and Disabled American Veterans' Jeffrey Hall. The second panel was the VA's James Neighbors, the National Archives and Record Administration's Scott Levins and VBA's Alan Bozeman.
Both the Chair and the Ranking Members spoke of reports about lost , mishandled and inaccurate records. At the start, Chair Runyan explained, "I called today's oversight hearing to discuss an important yet often overlooked apsect of the veterans' benefits process -- access to various service department records. Such records are often necessary and vital for a veteran to prove their claim. As Chairman of DAMA, I am troubled by information regarding the handling of records that has come to my attention. [. . .] Often, a single record or notation can be the difference in whether a veterans' disability claim is granted or denied. This is why we must work together to ensure that no records are lost, overlooked or otherwise unable to be associated with an individual disability claim."   We'll note this key exchange that may explain one reason things get lost in the system.
Chair Jon Runyan: What is the rationale for handling service members' records differently -- the personnel record differently from the health and dental? Common sense would say if you kept it all one, it wouldn't be fragmented.
James Neighbors: I understand sir. I do know the rationale that I understand is that different organizations within the military services are developing the records. Beyond that point, I believe also how they've grown up through time -- as far as where the records were developed, as far as paper based, now moving into an electronic base is another piece that has possibly kept them apart. How we're obviously going into the future will be aligning and moving those things together. I do understand, uhm, your rationale and your understanding of why that makes common sense. It does. Pulling things together and ensuring that does make great sense. I do
know that when we outprocess these patients -- excuse me, these service members -- when the outprocessing center person, they look and ensure that all of those records are put into one binder. So in other words medical, dental and personnel records -- the popular DD214 as it's known -- all go into one binder as it's shipped off to them and the various copies going to the various locations. As we're moving forward in the electronic age, we're going to be moving into a kind of similar arrangement with the two that we just talked of the IHR and the paper. Does that answer your question, sir?
Chair Jon Runyan: Yeah, I think getting there is the key to it.
James Neighbors: Yes, sir. I understand.
Chair Jon Runyan: And also what challenges have the DoD really encountered in implementing the integrated health record -- electronic health record?
James Neighbors: I can tell you, sir, that I have viewed what we call the initial operating capability timeline and that timeline is being met right now. I know that the initial design review has just been met. In fact, just earlier -- the 27th through 29th of November. It is -- It is a large undertaking, there is no doubt. I mean, it is billions of dollars. I would say from my perspective and from the DoD's perspective, it is an endeavor like we've probably not done on the business side before other than what we have done within the DoD itself. We have actually brought DoD together, I think. And while we are working very closely with VA and partners in getting there -- I don't want to say it is necessarily challenging but it is pulling cultures together that are obviously between our two organizations.
That's a small sample of the hearing. I've edited out a ton. We may revisit the hearing in tomorrow's snapshot if there's time and room. We will finish up Martin Kobler's UN Security Council presentation. We've covered everything but the last few paragraphs of his report -- those paragraphs focused on Camp Ashraf.

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