Saturday, January 28, 2012

5 men, 1 woman

On the first hour of Friday's Diane Rehm Show (NPR), the guests were Ron Elving, Clarence Page and Doyle McManus.  On the second hour,  the guests were Indira Lakshmann, Mark Mardell and Yochi Dreazen.


Now for a topic that really matters, NBC's Whitney!
On the latest episode (aired Wednesday), Whitney needed to stop photography (or just photograph crime scenes) because the business was gone.  So she ended up working for Roxanne as her assistant at the magazine.  I'm not sure how that's going to go.

In terms of the show, I really don't like Kathy Griffin.  Hopefully, her one and only episode just aired.  Hopefully next week, we'll learn she quit the magazine.  The guy playing her boss looks promising though.

In terms of the story?

I really don't like Whitney working for Roxanne.

It just seems like rank's being pulled on friendship.  And when they had an argument and Roxanne showed up at Whitneys's apartment, she told Whitney to be quiet (they were both trying to apologize) that she was her boss.  That sort of make me uncomfortable.

What really makes me uncomfortable is that Roxanne didn't stand up for Whitney.

They get into a fight because Whitney "helped" Roxanne's rival (Kathy Griffin's Boss).  Roxanne does the print version of the magazine.  KGB does the online version.  They're rivals.  Roxanne wants Whitney to spy on KGB.

She does.  Or tries to.  He's at a loss because he was going to do a feature for Valentine's Day using old photos of couples.  He's got nothing.

Whitney looks over them making comments like, "Is that guy kissing her or blowing her up?"

KGB laughs and laughs.

The next day, he's thrilled because he put Whitney's captions and the photos online and they're the biggest hit the magazine's had.

In what world is Whitney not then offered a job other than assistant?

Add in that she's a photographer and you're left to wonder why Roxanne didn't hire her as a photographer for the magazine -- either on staff or freelance?

I just am not keen on the whole thing especially not when Whitney's work is hugely popular and it doesn't result in any real benefit for her.



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


Friday, January 27, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, a Baghdad funeral is targeted with a bombing, the media keeps undercounting the dead in Iraq since December 18th, new conditions of a national confrence in Iraq, and more.
 
 
Today in Baghdad, a funeral procession was attacked by a suicide bomber. Mohammed Tawfeeq and Joe Sterling (CNN) quote Hamit Dardagan, Iraq Body Count, stating, "The situation is worsening.  Sectarian politics in Iraq in Iraq is setting the stage for armed conflict."
 
Throughout the Iraq War, there have been non-stop waves of Operation Happy Talk.  Efforts which have consistently failed leaving the US official who produced the spin looking like an idiot.  Reality will always slap you in the face, when it comes to Iraq.  That is the lesson of every year of the Iraq War and occupation.  As Iraq's former Ambassador to the UN Feisal Istrabadi explained December 13th to Warren Oleny on KCRW's To the Point:

The critical mistake the Obama administration made occurred last year when it threw its entire diplomatic weight behind supporting Nouri al-Maliki notwithstanding these very worrisome signs which were already in place in 2009 and 2010. The administration lobbied hard both internally in Iraq and throughout the region to have Nouri al-Maliki get a second term -- which he has done. Right now, the betting there's some question among Iraq experts whether we'll ever have a set of elections in Iraq worthy of the name. I mean, you can almost get odds, a la Las Vegas, on that among Iraq experts. It's a very worrisome thing. What can they do in the future? Well I suppose it would be helpful, it would be useful, if we stopped hearing this sort of Happy Talk coming from the administration -- whether its Jim Jeffrey in Baghdad, the US Ambassador or whether it's the president himself or other cabinet officers. We're getting a lot of Happy Talk, we're getting a lot of Happy Talk from the Pentagon about how professional the Iraqi Army is when, in fact, the Iraqi Army Chief of Staff himself has said it's going to take another ten years before the Iraqi Army can secure the borders. So it would help, at least, if we would stop hearing this sort of Pollyanna-ish -- if that's a word -- exclamations from the administration about how swimmingly things are going in Iraq and had a little more truth told in public, that would be a very big help to begin with.
 
"We're getting a lot of Happy Talk," Istrabadi noted. And it's not helpful no matter what US official it comes from -- whether its James "Jeffrey in Baghdad, the US Ambassador, or whether it's the president himself or other cabinet officers."  And it was the US Ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, who got slapped upside the face by reality today due to insisting, in an interview Gulf News published yesterday, that the political crisis had nothing to do with the current wave of violence, "These attacks are not a result of the political crisis as they are planned months in advance; they are very carefully put together by Al Qaida." Operation Happy Talk is just one of the many things Barack's administration has continued from the Bush administration. It was laughable during the previous administration, it's just pathetic now. Nine years of continuous lies from the government and Jeffrey is supposed to be the face of the United States in Iraq.

(If you're confused, the attack on today's funeral procession was not "planned months in advance." Nor is most of the violence.)

Adrian Blomfield (Telegraph of London) reports, "A suicide bomber killed at least 32 people on Friday by driving an explosives-laden vehicle into a Shia Muslim funeral procession in Baghdad, heightening fears that Iraq is in the grips of sectarian conflict." KUNA notes, "The car exploded on Markaz street, targeting a funeral of a man who was killed in Al-Yarmouk district on Thursday, a police source said." Kareem Raheem, Patrick Markey and Myra MacDonald (Reuters) quote an unnamed Baghdad security official stating, "The suicide car bomber failed to arrive at the Zaafaraniya police station so he blew himself up close to shops and the market." The Daily Mirror notes, "Half of the victims were policemen guarding the march".  Raheem Salman and Patrick J. McDonnell (Los Angeles Times) add, "Among those killed Friday, witnesses reported, was a woman who sold fish from a cart at the intersection.  Rescuers put the woman's corpse in her cart and took the remains to the hospital, a witness said."


Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Authorities believe Col. Norman Dakhil may have been the target of the bomber. Dahkil and his family were in the procession making their way to the hospital to collect bodies of three relatives, including his brother, when the bomb exploded, police said." Ali A. Nabhan and Munaf Ammar (Wall St. Journal) add, "The suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into the crowd, which included the pallbearers at a funeral for an Iraqi army commander's brother, who was assassinated along with three others on Thursday, according to a Ministry of Interior official." Sebastian Usher (BBC News) was on the NPR hourly news break this morning stating that many details were not clear at this time and that the funeral was for a real estate agent. Al Bawaba notes, "The funeral was held for an Iraqi man, his wife and son who were killed yesterday in the predominantly Sunni Yarmouk district of the capital." Al Rafidayn identifies the realtor as Mohammed al-Maliki (they do not give the names of his wife and son who were also buried after being killed last night "by gunmen." Salam Faraj (AFP) provides this view of the attack, "Helicopters flew overhead as a heavy security presence cordoned off the site of the explosion, while distraught witnesses screamed in anguish, surrounded by the remains of the dead, their clothes and shoes, and chunks of twisted metal. Outside the hospital, groups of men called out names, searching for missing relatives." Bushra Juhi (AP) notes that the death toll has risen to 32 (per hospital officials) and quote grocer Salam Hussein describing "human flesh scattered around and several mutilated bodies in a pool of blood." Lu Hui (Xinhua) reports hospital sources state the toll might rise, "Many of the injured are in serious condition, which could make the death toll higher, said the official. "
 
 
Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) states, "The attack Friday was the deadliest in a month and came as part of a wave of attacks that has left more than 200 people dead since US forces withdrew on Dec. 18, reports Al Jazeera." Doesn't that seem like an undercount?  It is one. All this week that claim's been made.  So let's take a look at it because, on its face, it doesn't seem correct (because it's not).  We're referring to the violence covered by the press and noted in the snapshots. We'll start with December 19th but only reported violence from the 19th (on December 19th, the press was also reporting violence from the night of December 18th, we're leaving that out of the count).  In addition, we're ignoring the Turkish bombing on the border of Iraq that left 5 dead -- that's not in the count.  We're focusing on the dead in Iraq from violence (other than Turkish war plane bombings) and in parenthesis is the number injured, FYI. Also 'credited' for the "more than 200"? The Los Angeles Times today credits AFP for that (false) figure.
 
 
December 19th,  2 were reported dead (5).  December 20th, 0 were reported dead (0).  December 21st,  3 were reported dead (4).  December 22nd, 75 were reported dead (213).  December 23rd,  0 were reported dead (0).  December 24th, 5 were reported dead (5).  December 25th, 3 were reported dead (12).  December 26th, 8 were reported dead (37).  December 27th, 2 were reported dead (1).  December 28th, 2 were reported dead (15).  December 29th, 0 were reported dead (0).  December 30th, 0 were reported dead (0).  December 31st, 0 were reported dead (0).  January 1st, 9 were reported dead (21).  January 2nd, 0 were reported dead (3). January 3rd, 3 were reported dead (13).  January 4th, 9 were reported dead (17).  January 5th, 75 were reported dead (80).  January 6th, 3 were reported dead (20).  January 7th, 7 were reported dead (25).  January 8th, 3 were reported dead (20).  January 9th,  20 were reported dead (59).  January 10th, 12 were reported dead (3).  January 11th, 6 were reported dead (14).  January 12th, 6 were reported dead (25).  January 13th, 6 were reported dead (32).  January 14th, 53 were reported dead (157).  January 15th, 21 were reported dead (0).  January 16th, 0 were reported dead (0). January 17th, 10 were reported dead (5).  January 18th, 6 were reported dead (5).  January 19th, 4 were reported dead (8).  January 20th, 6 were reported dead (5).  January 21st, 7 were reported dead (1).  January 22nd, 7 were reported dead (6).  January 23rd, 2 were reported dead (5).  January 24th, 20 were reported dead (86).  January 25th, 1 was reported dead (1).  January 26th, 14 were reported dead (8).
 
So what did we get?  Check my math (always).  391 is the number killed from December 19th through yesterday's reporting cycle.   Now add in today's death totals and you get over 400.  Yes, 400 is "more than 200," in fact, it's twice 200.  And calling over 400 dead "more than 200 dead" is leaving a false impression with your reader.  Please note, those aren't all the deaths, those are just the deaths that we noted from press reports (meaning I may have missed some deaths) and, in addition, all violent deaths do not get reported on in Iraq.  And calling over 400 deaths only "more than 200" is cutting the truth in half.
 
Violence didn't end with the bomb attack on the funeral.  Barbara Surk (AP) reports, "Minutes after the explosion, gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint in Zafaraniyah, killing two police officers, according to police officials."   In addition, Reuters notes 1 electrician was shot dead in Mosul and 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 civil servant in Mosul.
 
Prensa Latina explains, "The current escalation of violence is associated with political frictions between the government, led by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.  Al-Maliki issue[d] a warrant for the arrest of al-Hashemi, who is under protection of Iraqi Kurdistan, for alleged terrorist acts in 2009, and also . . . . [is attempting] to make the Parliament withdraw its vote of confidence on Sunni Deputy Prime Minster Saleh Al-Mutlaq."  Middle East Online adds, "The United States and United Nations have urged calm and called for dialogue but oft-mooted talks involving Iraq's political leaders have yet to take place."
The only hope for resolving the political crisis was said to be the national conference that President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for since the end of December. Last week, things appeared promising for a national conference at least being held. One planning meet-up had taken place and another was scheduled for Sunday January 22nd; however, last Sunday's meet-up (which was hoped to be the final planning session) was postponed due to Talabani having to fly to Germany for spinal surgery. Since then, Nouri and his State of Law have insisted that if anything take place, it not be called a "national conference" and that participants be limited to Nouri, Talabani, al-Nujaifi and the leader of blocs in Parliament. Al Rafidayn reports that Moqtada al-Sadr has declared he will not participate and that he can't be forced to. Whether this means no one from his bloc will participate or not isn't clear. Dar Addustour also covers al-Sadr's statements which he issued online in reply to a question from one of his followers. Al Mada quotes Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh talking down the national conference and stating that it will be a failure if it raises the issue of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. (Nouri wants him tried for treason; he wants Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq stripped of his post. al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq are members of Iraqiya which bested State of Law in the March 2010 elections.) The report also notes that State of Law's push to replace Saleh al-Mutlaq with former Speaker of Parliament Mahmoud al-Mashhadani does not have the full support of the National Alliance (a Shi'ite coalition made up of many actors including the Sadr bloc and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq).

The political crisis has many roots but at the heart is the failure to follow the agreement that ended the eight month political stalemate which followed the March 2010 elections. Nouri refused to allow anyone else to be prime minister. During this time, Iraqiya should have been allowed to build a coalition but Nouri blocked it. During this time, Moqtada al-Sadr and others were vocal that they didn't want Nouri to be prime minister. But he had the backing of the White House so the will of the Iraqi voters and the Constitution didn't matter. To get the country moving forward, all political blocs except State of Law made major concessions in the US brokered Erbil Agreement of November 2010. It allowed Nouri to continue as prime minister. It was supposed to mean a number of other things but after Nouri was named prime minister-designate, he trashed the agreement and refused to honor it.

Some online sycophants of Nouri al-Maliki, worshipers of authoritarianism, insist that the agreement must be trashed, that it's "unconstitutional." The aspect that's against the Constitution, the only aspect, is the section that made Nouri prime minister. Not surprisingly, the self-styled 'analysts' never object to that or suggest that section was unconstitutional. Yet they expect to be taken seriously as analysts and honest brokers. Only in your all male circle jerk, boyz, only there.

Al Mada notes that a spokesperson for KRG Prime Minister Barham Salih that the Erbil Agreement must be part of the national conference and that it must be followed. The Kurdish blocs have been calling for that for months.

In other news of announcements, Al Mada notes that the Badr Brigade (Shi'ite militia) has declared that there are still people who need to be targeted in Iraq, foreigners and embassies, and has called on the Promised Day Brigade, the League of Righteous and the Hezbollah Brigades not to lay down their arms but to stand with the Badr Brigade agasint the foreign countries with embassies in Iraq. The Turkish Embassy in Baghdad was attacked last week. The United States has the largest embassy in Baghdad (it's a compound) as well as consulates throughout Iraq. Kuwait is specifically mentioned in the article. In addition, many other countries -- including France, England, Australia and Russia -- have embassies in Iraq and many foreign dignitaries visit.

In another sign of risks, Alsumaria reports that a US helicopter was forced to make "an emergency landing this morning" and that "another US helicopter landed and evacuated it.

On diplomacy, the White House received a visitor this week according to Al Mada but there's no release on it from the White House. Al Mada reports that Iraq's new envoy to the US, Ambassador Jaber Habib Jaber, spoke with Barack and that Barack was full of praise for Nouri and "convinced" that Iraq would resolve the political crisis.
 
While Barack downplays the crisis, at least someone in the administration makes statements that appear to recognize this is a serious issue and a serious moment for Iraq.  Yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a departmental townhall (link is transcript and video -- and, in the left hand corner of the video, the speech is signed for those with hearing issues).
 
QUESTION: Good morning, Madam Secretary. My name is Behar Gidani, and the last time I stood before you I was an intern, and now I'm a program analyst, so it's quite an honor to be here before you again today. (Applause.)
 
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good, good.
 
QUESTION: My question is regarding foreign policy, if I may. As a Kurdish American, much of my interest focuses on the current state of Iraqi political affairs. Given what's going on or what's happened since the American troop withdrawal, with Hashimi fleeing to the Kurdistan region, I was wondering what the role of U.S. diplomacy is right now with that situation, and what you hope you will see in the future to ensure Iraqi security and democracy and stability continue.
 
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I'm delighted that you've gone from intern to full-fledged employee in such a short period of time, and we're delighted, and that's exactly the kind of movement of young people into our ranks that I'm thrilled to see.
Look, there is no doubt -- all one has to do is follow the media -- that there's a lot of political contention in Iraq right now. The United States, led by our very able, experienced Ambassador Jim Jeffrey -- I don't know if the man has slept more than an hour or two, because he is constantly, along with his able team, reaching out, meeting with, cajoling, pushing the players, starting with Prime Minister Maliki, not to blow this opportunity. Let me just be very clear: This is an opportunity for the Iraqi people of all areas of Iraq, of all religious affiliation, of all backgrounds -- this is an opportunity to have a unified Iraq, and the only way to do that is by compromising.
And one of the challenges in new democracies is that compromise is not in the vocabulary, especially in countries where people were oppressed, brutalized over many years. They believe that democracy gives them the opportunity to exercise power and, even though it's not the specific individual -- Saddam Hussein is gone -- he oppressed the Shia, he terribly abused the Kurds, including chemical attacks -- he's gone, but people's minds are not yet fully open to the potential for what this new opportunity can mean to them. And unfortunately, there's a lot of line-drawing going on and boundary-imposing between different political factions.
So we are certainly conveying in as strong a message as we can that these political difficulties and disagreements have to be peacefully resolved for the good of all Iraqis, and that everyone has a chance to grow the pie bigger, to have more freedom, more economic prosperity by working together.
And it's not easy. It's unfortunately one of the challenges we face everywhere in the world right now. With the great movement toward democracy, which we welcome and applaud, it has upended a lot of the historical experiences that people have held onto, and there is a need to get moving beyond that. But it will take time. The United States will be firmly in the role of advising and mentoring and playing the go-between in every way that we possibly can. But at the end of the day, Iraq is now a democracy, but they need to act like one, and that requires compromise.
And so I'm hoping that there will be a recognition of that, and such a tremendous potential to be realized. Iraq can be such a rich country -- it's already showing that with the oil revenues starting to flow again -- but problems have to be resolved. They cannot be ignored or mandated by authoritarianism; they have to be worked through the political process. (Applause.)
 
 
Now let's turn to the issue of women and former Minister of Women's Affairs Nawal al-Samarraie who publicly stood out and decired the discrimination within the government during Nouri al-Maliki's first term as prime minister.  February 6, 2009, she was in the news when she resigned because her ministry was not properly funded (a meager monthly budget of $7,500 a month was slashed to $1,400) and she states, "I reached to the point that I will never be able to help the women." That was very embarrassing for Nouri. So naturally the New York Times worked overtime to ignore it. (See Third Estate Sunday Review's "NYT goes tabloid.") NPR's Corey Flintoff covered it for Morning Edition (link has text and audio).

Nouri didn't care for Nawal al-Samarraie or the needed attention she raised. Which was reflected in his second term when he tried to erase women completely. From the December 22, 2010 snapshot:


Turning to Iraq, Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) note, "A special gathering of the nation's parliament endorsed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a second term in office, with lawmakers then voting one by one for 31 of the eventual 42 ministers who will be in his cabinet." AFP notes that all but one is a man, Bushra Hussein Saleh being the sole woman in the Cabinet. And they quote Kurdish MP Ala Talabani stating, "We congratulate the government, whose birth required eight months, but at the same time we are very depressed when we see the number of women chosen to head the ministries. Today, democracy was decapitated by sexism. The absence of women is a mark of disdain and is contrary to several articles of the constitution. I suggest to Mr Maliki to even choose a man for the ministry of women's rights, as you do not have confidence in women." Ala Talabani is the niece of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Imran Ali (Womens Views On News) reminds, "The new constitution stipulates that a quarter of the members of parliament be women and prohibits gender discrimination." Apparently concern about representation doesn't apply to the Cabinet (and, no, Nouri's attempts at offering excuses for the huge gender imbalance do not fly).

42 posts to fill and Nouri couldn't think of a single woman? And wouldn't have if Iraqi women hadn't gotten vocal on the issue. (And note that Nouri increased the Cabinet from 31 in his first term to 42.)  December 22nd, AFP reported on women's status in Iraq and  how it has fallen from a high for the region to a nightmare (my term) today.  Excerpt:
 
Safia al-Souhail, an MP who ran in March 2010 elections on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law slate but has since defected and is now an independent, said US forces made some progress, but did not do enough in the immediate aftermath of the invasion.
"They were always giving excuses that our society would not accept it," she said. "Our society is still wondering why the Americans did not support women leaders who were recognised by the Iraqi people."
She lamented that Maliki had completed a recent official visit to Washington without a single woman in his delegation, describing it as a "shame on Iraq". Indeed, only one woman sits in Maliki's national unity cabinet, Ibtihal al-Zaidi, the minister of state for women's affairs.
 
We bring that up because Nouri did finally find a woman and named her to be Minister of the State for Women's Affairs. The woman is Dr. Ibtihal al-Zaidi. And Al Mada reports the lovely doesn't believe in equality stating equality "harms women" but she's happy to offer government dictates on what women should be wearing. No, she's not a minister. She's many things including words we won't use here but she's not friend to women and that's why Nouri picked her. A real woman fighting for other women? Nouri can't handle that. A simpering idiot who states that women should only act after their husband's consent? That gender traitor gets a ministry. She's currently at work devising a uniform for Iraqi women.

We noted American gender traitors in a snapshot this week and Trina's "Diane," Rebecca's "continuing c.i., i grab goodman," Elaine's "Grab bag" and Ann's "2 women, 4 men" followed up on that.  We were noting silences of American women who should have been speaking out for Iraqis especially now that a new Human Rights Watch report had found that Iraq was turning into a police state.  Along with that major finding (which we noted earlier this week), the report, [PDF format warning] World Report: 2012 also noted realities for Iraqi women today:
 
 
Iraq adjudicates family law and personal status matters pursuant to a 1959 Personal Status Code.  The law discriminates against women by ranting men privileged status in matters of divorce and inheritance.  The law futher discriminates against women by permitting Iraqi men to have as many as four polygamous marriages.
On October 6 Iraq's parliament passed legislation to lift Iraq's reservation to article 9 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Atricle 9 grants women equal rights with men to acquire, change, or retain their nationality and pass on their nationality to their children.
Violence against women and girls continued to be a serious problem across Iraq. Women's rights activists said they remained at risk of attack from extremists, who also targeted female politicians, civil servants, and journalists.  "Honor" crimes and domestic abuse remained a threat to women and girls, who were also vulnerable to trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced prostitution due to insecurity, displacement, financial hardship, social disintegration, and the dissolution of rule of law and state authority.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is practiced mainly in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq and several official and non-governmental studies estimate that the prevalence of FGM among girls and women in Kurdistan is at least 40 percent.  On June 21 Kurdistan's parliament passed the Family Violence Bill, which includes several provisions criminalizing the practice, as well as forced and child marriages, and verbal, physical and psychological abuse of girls and women.
 
 
The rights of women have been destroyed in Iraq.  It may take generations for them to return to the legal rights that they had prior to the US invasion of Iraq.  That story probably won't be told by too many US outlets but you can always count on the nonsense.  Case in point, Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) conducts  an interview with Adnan al-Asadi whom Nouri has put in charge of the Minster of Interior. Not noted in the article -- so probably not raised in the interview -- al-Asadi has no powers. He was not presented as a nominee to the Parliament, he was not voted into office by the Parliament. Legally, he heads no ministry and Nouri can strip him of the post (with no input from Parliament). He serves at the whim of Nouri, the puppet has a puppet. Somewhere in an article on violence, Schmidt and the New York Times should have had the guts to note that the security ministries still have no heads -- Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense and Ministry of National Security. But, as we've already noted this week, the paper of US-government record has always sucked up to and covered for Nouri. Al Mada reports that Iraq's Integrity Commission has released a list of the most corrupt ministries in Iraq. At number four: Electricity. At number three: Trade. At number one: Defense. And at number two? Interior. No, Schmidt didn't cover that in his report either. How does one interview the 'acting minister' of the ministry just ranked the second most corrupt in Iraq by the independent governmental Integrity Commission and 'forget' to inform readers of the ranking? One manages that feat only when filing for the New York Times.
 
 
Let's go legal.  Wednesday's snapshot included:
 
Today in Iraq, many look to the US today as a result of yesterday's sentencing. Stan Wilson and Michael Martinez (CNN) reports Staff Sgt Frank G. Wuterich, who entered a guilty plea, will not serve any time for his part in the Haditha killings which claimed 24 lives November 19, 2005. Raheem Salman and Patrick J. McDonnell (Los Angeles Times) quote a teacher in Haditha, Rafid Abdul Majeed, stating, "The Americans killed children who were hiding inside cupboards or under beds. Was this Marine charged with dereliction of duty because he didn't kill more? Is Iraqi blood so cheap?" Fadhel al-Badrani (Reuters) quotes Ali Badr stating, "This sentence gives us the proof, the solid proof that the Americans don't respect human rights." AFP reports, "The Baghdad government vowed on Wednesday to take legal action after an American marine was spared jail by a US military court over the massacre of 24 unarmed civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha in 2005." James Joyner offers his opinion of the verdict at The Atlantic while Gulf News' editorial board concludes, "Prosecutors have just committed a final indignity against the victims of Haditha." Salman and McDonnell observe, "Overall reaction in Iraq to Wuterich's plea appeared somewhat muted Tuesday, reflecting, Iraqis say, an already deeply rooted skepticism about the U.S. justice system. Iraqis are also distracted by a political crisis that some fear could result in renewed sectarian warfare: At least 10 people were killed Tuesday in bombings in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, a Shiite Muslim stronghold."
Do you see an opinion in there from me? No, you do not.  We didn't follow that case here.  What prevents us here from following an Iraq legal case?  Not me knowing anyone on the legal teams of either side but if I act as a sounding board (only to listen to an idea later not pursued) for a friend who's on that case.  I did that.  I did not comment here for that reason.  That has always been the policy here.  I have covered cases here where I knew someone on the prosecution or the defense -- and they never got any slack from me -- but if I've only agreed to allow someone to bounce something off me, I don't comment on the case.  I have no comment on the above -- so those who keep e-mailing bothered by my comment better figure out what comment I made because I made no comment on that case here.  (Haditha was addressed here when the story broke.  That's before the just decided case.  In terms of the legal arguments, the plea bargain, etc., I have made no comment.)
 
We're not done with that case.  Aswat al-Iraq notes that Iraqi Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is calling for the case to be reviewed.  There's nothing to review now.  When statements in the pargraph from Wednesay were being made (and more were made than what I included in the paragraph), I understood the emotions involved.  But I really didn't think someone would try to pursue something that couldn't be pursued. 
 
The plea bargain was signed off on by both sides.  The judge has implemented it and done the sentencing.  A ruling has been made.  He can't be retried and, unless there's proof that the plea bargain was violated in some way, there's nothing to re-open.  What's more bothersome to me is that there's talk in Iraqi media -- that I would have thought would have died down by now -- of the soldier being transferred to Iraq for another hearing.  That will not happen.  Anyone pursuing that is wasting their time.  The US does not allow double jeopardy.  The soldier has been tried and punishment has been handed out.  (Iraq also doesn't allow double jeopardy, per their Constitution, FYI.)  The US government would never transfer the soldier over to Iraq for a trial.  Just as they refused to transfer soldiers over to face charges in Italy for actions in Iraq, they will not allow it to happen.  Even more so with this soldier, because he's already been tried and, in the eyes of the legal system, been punished.  The only avenue left -- and this is not a comment on the case which is now closed -- is civil court.  In the US, charges could be filed, civil charges not criminal, requesting payment for damages  -- and it would have to be in the US because the soldier will not go to Iraq (I wouldn't if I were him either) and it would be very difficult for an Iraqi court to get the US to agree to a lien on what would be a trial in absentia.  Family members could sue for damages in a US civilian court.  They'd no doubt use his confession as evidence.  That's better than just a guilty verdict, he confessed and he made a statement of remorse that's now in the court record.  There is no criminal avenue that can be pursued now.  The only legal option currently would be for family members to file charges in a civilian court, file for damages as a result of the loss of the loved ones.  That would be the only option left and it could go either way before a jury.  But this nonsense of wasting everyone's time on this topic as you insist that criminal charges will come about or his punishment will be changed, that's not happening and you're wasting everyone's time with your fantasy.
 
 
Lastly, and still on legal, Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) -- topics explored include an update on Mumia Abu-Jamal.
 
 
 
Michael Ratner: Heidi, we all heard the good news over the last few weeks that Mumia was taken off death row and is no longer facing the death penalty.  I know there are other issues you want to talk about with Mumia and I know you just had a visit with Mumia.  So why don't you tell us what's going on with Mumia, where is he, how was your visit?
 
Heidi Boghosian: Mumia was transferred from the facility SCI Greene where he'd been on death row for 17 years -- 17 of the past 30 years --  in that facility and he was transferred to SCI Mahanoy which is in Frackville, Pennsylvania.
 
Michael Ratner: SCI means?
 
Heidi Boghosian: State Correctional Institution.  It's about two and a half hours from New York so it makes it a lot easier to visit him than in the other location.
 
Michael Ratner: Is that where you visited him? In his new location?
 
Heidi Boghosian: I've been to his new location three times.
 
Michael Ratner:  Wow.
 
Heidi Boghosian: Yes. And it's actually a medium security facility.  The problem is that Mumia's held in what's called Restrictive Custody in the Administrative Housing Unit there.  So he was literally taken off death row and moved into solitary confinement where he is shackled and handcuffed whenever he leaves his cell, his number of weekly visits has been reduced to one and that's just for one hour -- that doesn't include legal visits which can last for several hours.
 
Michael Ratner: Let me ask, and I want you to go on, when you visit him, he comes into the room or where ever you visit him in shackles?
 
Heidi Boghosian:  Yes.  And it's noteworthy that years ago at SCI Greene, he also was in shackles until [Bishop] Desmond Tutu visited him a few years ago and complained that this was inhumane treatment because essentially he's behind thick plexi-glass in a small 4 by 6 roughly foot holding unit and there are little perforated holes on the side so you can hear each other.  But, so now he's back in the shackles. His phone call privileges have been --
 
Michael Ratner: Wait a second.  You talk to him through a wall?
 
Heidi Boghosian: Yes, you're sitting on one side of a thick plexi-glass partition. So you're in the same room but it's divided in half by plexi-glass.  So, anyway, his phone call privileges have been reduced.  He can only have, I think it's ten stamps and envelopes a week.  And, as a writer, you can well imagine that Mumia writes probably at least ten letters a day so this is a dramatic change. He doesn't have his radio or TV. 
 
Michael Ratner:  Books?
 
Heidi Boghosian:  I think he only has four books.  At first, he had none, then they allowed him four.  The National Lawyers Guild along with the Human Rights Research Fund, which is co-chaired by Kathleen Cleaver and Natsu Taylor Saito, sent a letter to the Department of Corrections on January 11th calling for him to be moved into General Population as he was supposed to have been when he left SCI Greene.  And we cited, as listeners probably know, that for over a century the US Supreme Court has recognized the psychological damage that results from being held in solitary.  There was a case in 1890, In re Medley, Also the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America, a few years ago, found that the increasing use of punitive segregation is not only counter-productive but it often results in violence in the facilities and also contributes to post-release recidivism and Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rappoorteur on Torture just a few weeks ago called for a ban on solitary confinement longer than 16 days, reiterating that it amounts to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. As a result, the people's movement has really been calling the facility. We are disheartened to note that there were rumors Mumia was going to be moved into general population as of last Thursday and that has -- of this airing -- not happened.
 
Michael Ratner: Tell me, Heidi, he's not been moved yet and what can people do?
 
Heidi Boghosian: People can call.  We'll put a link to the website that has all this information but they can basically [. . .]
 
And we'll stop there because yesterday saw an update.  From Free Mumia:
 
 
As of 1/27/12, Mumia Abu-Jamal has officially been transferred to General Prison Population after being held in Administrative Custody ("The Hole" or Solitary Confinement) at SCI Mahanoy, Frackville, PA for seven weeks.  This is the first time Mumia has been in General Population since his arrest in 1981.
This comes within hours of the of delivery of over 5,500 signed petitions to Department of Corrections headquarters in Camp Hill, PA and a compliant filed with the support of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez.
PLEASE NOTE that while this is a victory in transferring Mumia out of the torturous Restricted Housing Unit (RHU), we call upon the closure of ALL RHU's!  Furthermore, we call upon the IMMEDIATE RELEASE of Mumia Abu-Jamal and are not disillusioned by this transfer.  Free Mumia!

Write to Mumia to send him some love!
MAILING ADDRESS FOR MUMIA ABU-JAMAL:
Mumia Abu-Jamal
#AM8335

SCI Mahanoy
301 Morea Road
Frackville, PA 17932
 
 
 
 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

3 men, 1 woman

Today on The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), the first hour guests were Bennett Greenspan, Kimberly Leighton and Deborah Riley.  The second hour guests was Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Anyone who gives Brzezinski a forum and doesn't probe him on the US creating the Taliban is an idiot.  That includes Diane.

Normally, I write about a TV show tonight.  Not tonight.  I had a church thing and so did Betty (who also writes about the show) so she, Marcia and I decided we'd write about the show tomorrow night.  (Only Marcia watched it Wednesday night.  I'm streaming it as soon as this goes up.)

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


Thursday January 26, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, police are among the targeted in Iraq, in the US victims of the burn pits continue to suffer, fact checks fail on PBS, and more.
 
 
The Pentagon's US death toll for the Iraq War stands at 4487. That number doesn't include Staff Sgt Danielle Nienajadlo.  Her service in Iraq included Balad Air Base.  As Beth Hawkins (Mother Jones) reported two years ago, Danielle Nienajadlo quickly began suffering "headaches that kept her awake; unexplained bruises all over her body; an open sore on her back that wouldn't heal; vomiting and weight loss.  In July 2008, after three miserable months, Nienajadlo checked into the base emergency room with a 104-degree fever."  In a letter to Traveling Soldier in 2010, Danille's mother Lindsay Wiedman shared,  "The Army still did not consider Danielle a Iraq casualty! And she was! Her very bosses that she went to while being very sick didn't believe her that she was sick.  She suffered.  SFC Addy was whom she went to and he said she was just trying to get out of Iraq!  That was not who my daughter was.  She valued her Army career, her family, me, her sister and would never not complete a hard days work.  She could work Addy!  Danielle died on the 20th.  She would have completed her chemo the 21st.  They were trying to get her to the stage of stem cell transplant.  I miss her and am grieving! I blame Addy and Balad, Iraq.  And I believe she should should have been considered a casualty! She deserved a big medal and the honors worth so more!  I pray with time that Addy and her other bosses realize they helped kill my daughter."  Along with her mother, BURNPITS 360 31-year-old Danielle's survivors include "3 sons Isaiah and Ian Jones and Titan Sanchez and her husband Jamie Nienajadlo."  They note that on their Our Fallen Heroes page which also notes Ssg Steven Ochs -- dead at 32, Major Kevin E. Wilkins -- dead at 2, survived by wife Jill Wilkins and three children, Sgt Billy McKenna -- survived by wife Dine McKenna and their two daughters, and Jessica Sweet.  Jeff Glor (CBS Evening News -- link is text and video) reported in June 2010, "Christopher Sweet blames his wife's leukemia on the burn pits she was exposed to in Afghanistan.  Diagnosed in September 2008, Jessica Sweet died five months later."  Sadly, it's very unlikely that those five will be the last.
 
Former-Senator Byron Dorgan explained November 6, 2009 when he chaired a Democratic Policy Committee hearing on burn pits, "Today we're going to have a discussion and have a hearing on how, as early as 2002, US military installations in Iraq and Afghanistan began relying on open-air burn pits -- disposing of waste materials in a very dangerous manner. And those burn pits included materials such as hazardous waste, medical waste, virtually all of the waste without segregation of the waste, put in burn pits. We'll hear how there were dire health warnings by Air Force officials about the dangers of burn pit smoke, the toxicity of that smoke, the danger for human health.  We'll hear how the Department of Defense regulations in place said that burn pits should be used only in short-term emergency situations -- regulations that have now been codified. And we will hear how, despite all the warnings and all the regulations, the Army and the contractor in charge of this waste disposal, Kellogg Brown & Root, made frequent and unnecessary use of these burn pits and exposed thousands of US troops to toxic smoke."   In addition, Disabled American Veterans notes:
 
In a 2006 memorandum to the Pentagon, Air Force Lt. Col. Darrin Curtis, who was in charge of assessing environmental health hazards at Balad Air Base in Iraq, raised serious concerns about toxic exposures from burn pits.
The letter, which was signed by Lt. Col. James R. Elliott, the Air Force's chief medical officer at Balad, confirmed the environmental dangers that open air burn pits posed to the soldiers and airmen who lived on one of the largest U.S. installations in Iraq.
Iraq War veteran Captain Leroy Torres is one of many Americans who knows the destruction and damage burn pits cause. He and his wife Rosie Torres have worked very hard to get the word out. In an attempt to explain the realities of life post-burn pit and to spur government action, Rosie Torres shares the following:

The barriers faced by those affected by toxic exposure stem from the various components that define the word Toxic Exposures and Burn Pits. It's those same barriers that for thousands of reservists and their families have left them financially, emotionally, and mentally broken. Our story is far too familiar for those that have been affected, so here is our story. I am the wife of Captain Leroy Torres, prior to his deployment I was working full time for the Department Of Veteran Affairs and he served a dual role in his community as both a full time State Trooper for the State of Texas and a U.S. Army Reservist. Our salaries combined placed us comfortably in the bracket of about $90,000 a year, but all that changed the day he stepped foot onto the airbase in Balad, Iraq. Camp Anaconda, the FOB with the largest Burn Pit in existence, the place where all of our dreams and hopes turned into toxic chemicals. The same chemicals that followed us home and have haunted us for the past 3 years.

For thousands of reservists the story goes like this, the soldier returns from war and immediately the effects of toxic exposure surface like the invisible wounds that they are. The soldier begins seeking treatment at various healthcare facilities only to discover that neither DOD nor VA is acknowledging toxic exposure from particulate matter or burn pits. The only option left if you happen to be blessed with the luxury of private insurance is to seek specialized healthcare in the private sector. Desperately seeking answers to the question of why this once active and healthy soldier can no longer function at the capacity that he/she once did. Why the once healthy father/mother, husband, wife, daughter, son can no longer breathe, why the diagnosis of cancer, why the white matter and the lesions in the brain, the fertility issues, the fatigue, the parasitic infections, the list goes on and on. The family spends their life savings traveling to access specialized healthcare from the physicians they call their heroes. The only healthcare providers brave enough to stand behind the truth of how toxic chemicals affect the body.

The family exhausts all of their finances to gain answers, the soldier can no longer work due to multiple diagnosis and symptoms immediately forcing the once successful career person to give up their life-long dreams. The reservists files an LOD which can take up to two years, the veteran files a claim with the VA which will never grant a rating compensation because there is no category for toxic exposures. All of this forces the family into an abyss of darkness, mental stress, financial stress, and denial of acceptance to their new way of life. The once productive, healthy, and functioning military family is suddenly falling apart at the seams. The gap between VA and DOD for the reservist component of the military service members wounded must be bridged by identifying the needs of those affected immediately. Too many people are losing their homes, their life savings, and their hope, hope in a system that once promised to care for them once they returned.

As I watch my husband deteriorate before my eyes, I wonder what happened to that Captain that stood tall and strong, the father that ran 2 miles twice a week with his boys, the state police officer that served on the tactical squad, and the husband that could run circles around me but instead he is now a patient of doctors from every specialty, pulmonary, neurology, Gastroenterology, Infectious disease.

As I walked into the waiting room of the State Department of Human Services to ask for public assistance I thought to myself how can this be possible. What happened to the Captain's wife, to the once full time VA employee, why have we lost our medical tricare insurance for our children, why are we asking for help? My husband holds a masters degree and we are both educated professionals, what happened to our lives? The toxic exposures from the burn pits from war happened to our lives and to thousands of others coming home. It's only a matter of time.

The Torres family advocates for a national registry for the victims of burn pits and are active with BurnPits 360 (Rosie Torres is the executive director):
BurnPits360 is serving as a pathway of advocacy to assist veterans, their families, and civilian contractors who have been negatively affected by toxic burn pits. Contractors were assigned the task of properly disposing of any and all trash on military installations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations in the Middle East. Unfortunately, instead of using incinerators, the contractors disposed of the waste through toxic burn pits and now thousands of veterans have been put at serious risk.
BurnPits360 is inviting anyone that has been affected from exposure to toxic burn pits and environmental hazards to sign up on the registry. We are conducting a voluntary cohort anonymous study with Dr. Szema at Stony Brook University. The study simply requires self-reporting your information on the online registry, providing a proof of military service (DD-214), a signed legal consent form, and additional questionnaires. This study will help to provide vital information to doctors and researchers that will help properly diagnose and treat the vast array of medical complications arising from these exposures. It will provide the Department Of Defense and the Department Of Veteran Affairs with data that will allow them to develop a healthcare model for specialized healthcare specific to toxic exposures and environmental hazards.
The importance of this registry is to serve as a model for all military personnel, civilian contractors, and their families to self-report injuries and deaths from toxic exposure from burn pits and other environmental hazards. It will also assist in proving causation and the correlation between the exposure and the illness, as well as determine all areas of possible exposure. It will provide the VA with the data needed to develop legislative language for the development of a compensation and pension category specific to toxic exposures.
Most importantly, this study is completely anonymous. None of your personal information will be shared at any time. (In such cases where information would ever need to be made public, it would not be done so without the members written consent, whereas the veteran, contractor, and/or their family have the option to decline to participate at that time.)
Should you be interested in participating in the study, please contact Burn Pits 360 via email [burnpitadvocates@burnpits360.org] or by telephone [361-816-4015].
 
 
Daniel Meyer is a disabled veteran and activist alerting the country to the dangers of burn pits.  Julie M. McKinnon (Toledo Blade) noted that Meyer attended the Statue of the Union speech Tuesay at the invitation of US House Rep Shelley Berkley who told the newspaper, "As a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Meyer proudly served our nation in time of war, and we salute his valor and recognize the bravery and sacrifice of all the men and women in America's armed forces, our veterans, and their families." Along with his work with BurnPit 360, he also makes a huge impact by sharing his story and raising issues and awareness at his website Daniel Meyer Blog.com.  Despite the bravery he shows and the bravery of others, those suffering from burn pits repeatedly have to reinvent the wheel and re-educate the public and the Congress about the burn pits effects that they now live with, explain the need for a federal registry, explain the need for the VA to recognize and educate.  The first Burn Pits Symposium takes place this month and we'll note that at the end of the snapshot.
 
On the issue of the State of the Union, different people will have different opinions.  There is no universal take.  At Third, Ava and I offer a feminist take on the media -- "a" feminist take, not "the" feminist take.  It's a difference Time magazine and Nate Rawlings need to grasp.  Interviewing Democrat Paul Reickhoff -- who has worked so often and so hard to turn out votes for Democrats -- does not provide "How the Vets Scored It" -- it provides how one did.  It is less than honest and highly insulting to allow Reickhoff to speak for all veterans.  Reickhoff is someone we have called out here repeatedly for well over six years and done so most recently when he decided he was the person, him, to speak about what it was like to be a female veteran -- him, he was the voice for female veterans.  Adam Kokesh is an Iraq War veteran.  I doubt very seriously his take on the speech was the same as Paul Reickhoff.  Adam Kokesh is with Veterans for Ron Paul.
 
Adam Kokesh: Today we filed a permit application with DC MPD -- Metro Police Dept -- and on Sunday the Veterans for Ron Paul organizing committee met, walked the route and everything is on track for the Ron Paul Is The Choice Of The Troops (Veterans and Active Duty March On The White House) on Presidents Day, February 20th. For all of you who shared my video announcement from New Hampshire, thank you so much for helping to get that video to over 50,000 views in two weeks and to help us get to over 750 RSVPs on the Facebook events page already.  Thanks to everybody who's stepped up on the organizing team and to the two people who already donated to the case.  So the details are still pending final approval but here's what you need to know.  On Presidents Day, February 20th, we will rally at the Washington Monument at noon and, at 1400 hours, 2:00 pm, we will form up on 15th street, facing north towards Constitution Avenue and step off as soon as we have verified the proof of service of everyone in the formation.  There will also be a truck, thanks to Jim Kiisner, to follow the formation for any veterans who might be disabled or not capable of marching with us.  We will march to the White House do an about face to turn to a folded flag to hold the salute for as many seconds as troops have died since Obama became president and march back to the monument. So who's going to speak at the rally?
 
 
They're having a contest in which the top 18 video makers will be allowed to speak at the rally.  We'll try to note that next week.  There's just not room. I planned to spend several days on the Human Rights Watch report but only had time and space for it Monday and (hopefully) tomorrow. I will note that Feburary 1st, Adam's birthday, he's asking that you "make a contibution to the cause"  here to cover the costs of the march and they hope there's enough money to also cover the transportation costs of veterans who might not otherwise be able to be present. We're still on the State of the Union.  As Betty noted, last night on The NewsHour, there was a fact check on the Iraq portion of Barack's speech.  Betty wrote, "I am a member of The Common Ills community.  We have a number of military members and a number of members whose loved ones are in the military.  This does include US troops who remain in Iraq.  So to hear Glenn Kessler LIE in a fact check that all US troops had left Iraq was shocking." Here for video, transcript and audio of The NewsHour (PBS) segment. This is the section Betty (rightly) calls out (and Betty gives Gwen credit for bringing up the contractor aspect at least).
 
Glenn Kessler: Well, I mean, he's correct that, obviously, U.S. troops have left Iraq. The question is, you know, what have they left?  And you can look at the way the American troops departed. There was an effort originally the administration made in order to extend the security agreement. And then they were either unwilling or unable to extend that agreement. And that's why the troops left. He is able to say he fulfilled a campaign promise. But, at the moment, Iraq is in a very unstable situation.
 
Gwen Ifill: Well, and if American contractors are still on the ground, aren't there Americans still on the ground?
 
Glenn Kessler: Yes, there are Americans there, too.  There's a huge State Department presence as well, and being protected by those contractors. So it's troops, but, you know, combat troops -- but there are certainly a lot of Americans there.
 
 
You can also read Kessler's fact-check or 'fact'-check at the Washington Post.  Betty's message to Kessler:
 
On behalf of community members who are in Iraq still or have family members in the military still serving in Iraq, I say, "F**k you, Glenn Kessler."  And I don't make a point to curse at my site.  But it needs to be said and said loudly until the press stops disrespecting those military members who remain in Iraq.
 
I support Betty and her statements 100%, without reservation.  In addition, I will add that if you are fact checking, know your damn facts.  Barack did not promise, if elected, troops would leave at the end of 2011.  All troops didn't leave but even if you're too stupid or too much of a liar to grasp this fact, you should get that his promise was a brigade a month, first thing he'd do upon being sworn in.  He did not keep his promise.  Samantha Power lied to American voters but did let British audiences know in March 2008 that Barack had no intention of keeping that campaign 'promise' and she was right and Glenn Kessler is wrong, he is damn wrong and it is offensive, as Betty noted, to members of this community who either are still serving in Iraq or have a loved one still serving in Iraq.  Meanwhile Mike selected Rabbi Michael Lerner as "genius of the week" for being the only voice of truth about the State of the Union speech at POLITICO's Arena yesterday.  Rabbi Lerner:
 
What populism, what message? As usual there were a series of proposals with no common theme. We were told that the model for America was the military - why can't we be like they are, perfect in every way? We were told by the man who was elected from discontent over the war in Iraq that the war was completely worthwhile. Give me a break. This man has neither moral compass nor the political sense to state clearly and unequivocally that government is needed to stop the excesses of the rich and the corporations.
 
Ian Wilder (On The Wilder Side) reminds that not only is their disagreement over Barack's claims but some of the disagreement comes from politicians willing to speak out, " Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate, called today for a Green New Deal to counter the 'trickle down economic agenda' laid out by President Obama in his State of the Union address. Stein plans to release her alternative at 8:30pm Eastern Time in a 'People's State of the Union: A Green New Deal for America' that will be given via her campaign website'."  The video is posted there and we'll note this from it:
 
"The President has subverted the progressive ideals of the New Deal. He's imposing his vision of a 'grand bargain' that represents the effective philosophical merger of the Democratic and Republican parties. "
"The President presented a rosy picture of the current state of the economy by tossing out a few anecdotes and cherry-picked statistics. He seemed almost oblivious to recent news that 48% of Americans are living in poverty or near poverty, the greatest number in 50 years of record keeping. If he thinks things are going so well, maybe that's why he sees no reason to change course."
 
Matt Reichel (Dissident Voice) has a very strong piece rebuking Barack's claims in that speech but we only have room for one sentence from it, "It's all the same Hope and Change Pony Show."  On the reality, Barack wouldn't touch, this week's. Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey, (airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network), featured an interview with journalist Chris Hedges about the dangerous National Defense Authorization Act.
 
Chris Hedges: Yeah, the way the law is written is, when you read it really closely, really terrifying because it's the whim of the security and surveillance state whoever they want to go after they can pretty much do so under this piece of legislation and then, of course, the way they do it is to use the military to carry out extraordinary rendition on American city streets.  And I think to listen to the Obama White House, you know Obama assured in his signing statement that he would not use this legislation to target American citizens?  Well [US Senator] Dianne Feinstein proposed inserting into this legislation a clear statement that American citizens would be exempted from it and this was rejected by both the Democractic Party and the Obama White House. They had an opportunity to do it and they didn't.  And we know from leaks out of [US Senator] Carl Levin's office that the difficulty that the Obama White House had with the bill was not over the denial of due process but the fact that the executive branch wanted to abrogate for itself the right to decide who, what American citizens would be subject to arrest and detention without access to a lawyer or courts by the military and who would be given exemptions.  It was a debate about the prerogatives of the executive branch, it was never a debate about due process or the rule of law.
 
Glen Ford: Now if we don't have due process, do we have the rule of law?
 
Chris Hedges: Well if you don't have due process, you don't have the rule of law.
 
Glen Ford: Are you optimistic?
 
Chris Hedges: I don't have a lot of faith in the Supreme Court.  We saw the case of Jose Padilla.  They used to call him the sort-of missing hijacker.  He was a US citizen held for three and a half years in a military brig without access to a lawyer or due process. It was challenged, went up to the Supreme Court and, before the Supreme Court took up the case, he was transferred to a civilian court and the Supreme Court said they wouldn't rule on it because it was moot.  I mean, they sort of passed it.  But given the composition of this particular Supreme Court, I wouldn't say I'm optomistic but I still say we have to try.
 
Glen Ford: Apologists for Obama say, 'Well this law is nothing new.  President Bush claimed the right to detain anyone based on his own criteria and without charges.  And that this is nothing new.  But it is something new when you codify it into law with the benediction of the Congress.
 
Chris Hedges: They're right only in this sense: Under the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act, they already were doing a lot of this stuff -- including, of course, targeting American citizens for assassinations.  Barack Obama serving as judge, jury and executioner for Anwar al-Awlaki, the cleric who was murdered in Yemen.  But I think that most legal scholars saw that as a fairly radical interpretation of that piece of legislation.  This [NDAA] essentially legalizes, overturns 200 years -- over 200 years -- of law to permit the armed forces or the military to carry out domestic policing. And I think the other important point about this legislation is that the 2001 act was tied to groups who were directly related to al Qaeda.  This now permits this kind of war against a multiplicity of groups, many of which didn't even exist when 9-11 happened -- groups in Yemen, groups in Somolia. It's a way of sort of cementing into place the permanent war psychosis. And remember that these people can be picked up by the military, held without charges, without trial, without access to an attorney, in the language of the bill, until the end of hostilities.  Well, you know, when is that?  This is an endless war. The 2001 act was bad enough but, you know, at this point to pass a piece of legislation like this which goes into effect in March is catastrophic assault against what's left of civil liberties and our anaemic democracy.
 
Glen Ford: If this bill had moved through Congress when Bush was president, would you have expected a hailstorm of protest?
 
Chris Hedges: The Democratic Party is very good at expressing moral outrage against George Bush or Republicans but doing absolutely nothing to counter those activities.  So yeah, you would have had the Democratic Party and the liberal establishment speaking out against it and expressing deep disgust and distaste for these measures yet at the same time I think what these people do and what they say is very different.   
 
And if you doubt it, note this about 2005 -- when Democrats were the minority in the House of Representatives, were the minority in the Senate and didn't control the White House but were desperate to change that by getting one house of Congress in the 2006 mid-terms.
 
Cindy Sheehan:  [. . .] that's what happened to the anti-war movement I was a part of without me even knowing it.  And the Democrats told me to my face, "Cindy, if you help us take back the House, we'll help you end the war." You know, Nancy Pelosi told me that, Barack Obama told me that, Hillary Clinton told me that, John Kerry, all of the leading Democrats said it right to my face, "If you help us take back the House" -- and this was in 2005 when I had -- I had the Democratic base which is actually anti-war at their heart but you know they'll go against their hearts every single time when it comes to voting.  They said, "You help us take back the House, we'll help you end the war."  Well look what happened.  You know they used the energy of the anti-war movement and the Camp Casey movement to get back in power and they totally betrayed the movement.
 
She was speaking on Peter Santilli's The Overthrow Show, and she termed the State of the Union another campaign speech and one with meaningless promises.
 
 
Iraq was again plagued with bombings today. Peter Cave (Australia's ABC) reports a Mussayib home bombing targeting police officers and "brothers Ahmed and Jihad Zuwaiyin" and "killing everyone inside including six children aged under 10" as well as both police officers and their wives. Al Rafidayn notes that four of the children were under ten and two boys who were approximately ten-years-old. DPA adds, "The police officer said the blast was caused by several roadside-type bombs placed near the house's outer walls, which destroyed it. Four people were wounded and six nearby houses were also damaged." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes, "The violence has raised concerns among citizens about the ability of Iraqi security forces to ensure order, particularly after the United States withdrew troops at the end of 2011." In addition to the bombing of the two families, Sinan Salaheddin and Yahya Barzanji (AP) note, "Also Thursday, a motorcycle bomb missed a passing police patrol in the northern city of Kirkuk, but killed two civilians and wounded five others, the city's police commander Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir said." In addition, Reuters notes a the "son of a Sunni tribal leader" was shot dead in Mosul, a Kirkuk sticky bombing last night claimed 1 life and left another person injured and a Kirkuk drive-by shooting last night left 2 police officers dead.

Dan Morse and Asaad Majeed (Washington Post) explain, "The attacks come amid a political crisis that has virtually paralyzed the government in the last six weeks." Nouri kicked off the political crisis by refusing to honor the November 2010 Erbil Agreement he signed off on (the agreement which allowed him to become prime minister despite his State of Law coming in second in the March 2010 elections). He intensified the conflict in October 2011 when he began ordering the arrest of hundreds of Sunnis -- insisting that they were attempting to launch a coup and were terrorists. As reported by the Iraqi media earlier this month, most have been released and the rest are expected to be -- there was no coup attempt. Then came December and Nouri's return from DC, emboldened by his face-to-face with supporter Barack Obama. Nouri immediately demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post and that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested for terrorism. Both al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi are Sunnis and members of Iraqiya. Last week saw several prominent Sunnis and Iraqiya members arrested in various provinces.

Since last month, President Jalal Talabani (Kurd) and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi (Iraqiya) have been calling for a national conference. This month there was a meet-up of various political players to firm up the details for the national conference and a final meet-up was supposed to have taken place last Sunday; however, over the weekend, Talabani had to travel to Germany for spinal surgery and the meet-up is now on hold. This week, Nouri and State of Law began demanding that if any national conference takes place, it can't be called a national conference. As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) notes that demand as well as the demand that it not be open to all political leaders but just the the three presidencies (Talabani, Nouri and al-Nujaifi) and the leaders of blocs in parliament and Sheikh notes that the demands, if implemented, will be like a bullet to the body and kill the hopes of any success of resolving the crisis. Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq leader Ammar al-Hakim is in Turkey currently (meeting with officials) and AP quotes him stating, "I want to invite Iraqiya to return to parliament and take its place in parliament. We say that we will examine their just demands and do whatever is necessary." 
 
Today Gulf News interviews US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey about the political crisis. Excerpt.
 
 
GN: Former general David Petraeus and General Ray Odierno met up with Al Iraqiya leaders as the political crisis started in the country after the US army's withdrawal. What can you tell us about the meetings?
 
JJ: General Petraeus is the head of the Central Intelligence Agency and General Ray Odierno is the US army's Chief of Staff and as part of their normal contacts in the region they visit here and they visit any other country in the region. I wouldn't read anything special into that.
 
GN: The Obama administration is proceeding with the sale to Iraq of almost $11 billion in weapons and training. Do you think that any assistance to Iraq's security forces ought to be conditional on the government's commitment to resolve its disagreements?
 
JJ: First of all, when we provide weapons we provide them with guarantees that they will be used for their proper purposes. The weapons given to the Iraqis are not for internal security, they are to be used to defend their borders and to eventually defend their air space and this is something any sovereign country needs and Iraq currently does not have. So this is something which is important for Iraq as a state and it has nothing to do with political conflicts.
 
GN: Thousands of Iraqi and American lives were sacrificed in ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussain. A slide back to dictatorship, when much of the region is striving for democracy, would render their sacrifices meaningless. What are your thoughts in this regard?
 
JJ: We believe that Iraq remains the most democratic country in the Middle East. Obviously it faces very severe problems now and it is in the middle of a very difficult political controversy and we hope that it will be able to get out of it. We continue to support a united federalist, and democratic Iraq.
 
 
As noted earlier, the first ever Burn Pit Symposium takes place next month.
 
 
 
1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deplyoment to Iraq & Afghanistan
February 13, 2012

sponsored by
Office of Continuing Medical Education
School of Medicine
Stony Brook University

Location
Health Sciences Center, Level 3, Lecture Hall 5
Anthony M. Szema, M.D., Program Chair
Stony Brook
University
Medical Center


This program is made possible by support from the
Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.


2 WAYS TO REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE

* Register with your credit card online at:
http://www.stonybrookmedicalcenter.org/education/cme.cfm

* Download the registration form from:
fax form to (631) 638-1211

For Information Email:
cmeoffice@stonybrook.edu


1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deployment to Iraq & Afghanistan
Monday, February 13, 2012
Health Sciences Center
Level 3, Lecture Hall 5

Program Objective: Upon completion, participants should be able to recognize new-onset of lung disease after deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

8:00 - 9:00 a.m. Registration & Continental Breakfast (Honored Guest, Congressman
Tim Bishop

9:00 - 9:30 Peter Sullivan, J.D., Father of Marine from The Sergeant Thomas Joseph
Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.

9:40 - 10:10 Overview of Exposures in Iraq, Anthony Szema, M.D., (Assistant
Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Stony Brook University)

10:10 - 10:40 Constrictive Bronchiolitis among Soldiers after Deployment, Matt
King, M.D. (Assistant Professor of Medicine, Meharry Medical College,
Nashville, TN)

10:40 - 11:10 BREAK

11:10 - 11:40 Denver Working Group Recommendations and Spirometry Study in
Iraq/Afghanistan, Richard Meehan, M.D., (Chief of Rheumatology and
Professor of Medicine, National Jewish Health, Denver, CO)

11:40 a.m. - Microbiological Analyses of Dust from Iraq and Afghanistan, Captain Mark

12:10 p.m. Lyles, D.M.D., Ph. D., (Vice Admiral Joel T. Boone Endowed Chair of
Health and Security Studies, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI)

12:10 - 12:20 Health Care Resource Utilization among Deployed Veterans at the White
River Junction VA, James Geiling, M.D., (Professor and Chief of Medicine,
Dartmouth Medical School, VA White River Junction, VT)

12:20 - 1:20 LUNCH AND EXHIBITS
Graduate students Millicent Schmidt and Andrea Harrington (Stony Brook
University) present Posters from Lung Studies Analyzed for Spatial
Resolution of Metals at Brookhaven National Laboratory's National
Synchrotron Light Source

1:20 - 1:40 Epidemiologic Survey Instrument on Exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan,
Joseph Abraham, Sc.D., Ph.D., (U.S. Army Public Health Command,
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD)

1:40 - 2:10 Overview of the Issue Raised during Roundtable on Pulmonary Issues
and Deployment, Coleen Baird, M.D., M.P.H., (Program Manager
Environmental Medicine, U.S. Army Public Health Command)

2:10 - 2: 40 Reactive Oxygen Species from Iraqi Dust, Martin Schoonen, Ph.D.
(Director Sustainability Studies and Professor of Geochemistry, Stony
Brook University)

2:40 - 2:50 BREAK

2:50 - 3:15 Dust Wind Tunnel Studies, Terrence Sobecki, Ph.D. (Chief Environmental
Studies Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research
and Engineering Laboratory, Manchester, NH)

3:15 - 3:45 Toxicologically Relevant Characteristics of Desert Dust and Other
Atmospheric Particulate Matter, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Ph.D. (Research
Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

3:44 - 4:15 In-situ Mineralogy of the Lung and Lymph Nodes, Gregory Meeker, M.S.
(Research Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)


Continuing Medical Education Credits

The school of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook, is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
The School of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brooke designates this live activity for a maximum of 6 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)TM. Physicians should only claim the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.
 
 
 

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