Friday, January 16, 2015

Best supporting actress

As far as I'm concerned, the Oscar race to watch is the one for Best Supporting Actress.

There are five outstanding nominees and any of the five would be worthy.

Meryl Streep's probably the initial favorite but her previous noms and wins will probably work against her.

Patricia Arquette and Laura Dern would normally cancel one another out -- they have the same constituency.

But that's equally true of Emma Stone and Kiera Knightley.

So who wins?

I have no idea but all five gave excellent performances and this is going to be a tough category to call.

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

Friday, January 16, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack's 'plan' continues to receive criticism, the Defense Dept notes it's not a plan intended to solve anything, various groups remain targeted in Iraq, and much more.

The outgoing US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas today.on Thursday.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel:  Every day is different, every year is different, every day defines something.  Yesterday is gone, we can't do anything about yesterday.  We can't do a hell of a lot about today, actually.  We can do something about tomorrow.
And how we define tomorrow, how we define our institutions, how do we define everything that we know is right and we believe in, and how do we prepare our institutions and the next class and the next class and the next group of sergeants majors, those who will have responsibilities that will come after you, how you prepare them, that also is part of responsibility.  And that also feeds into judgment, because that, ultimately, is one of the greatest responsibilities of leadership is preparing an institution for the future.
We have been trying to do that the last couple of years in Washington, since I have been secretary of defense, not only in the technological edge of assuring that our technical capabilities do not erode as we have had to deal with severe budget issues over the last couple of years, which you all have been part of and had to maneuver and engage and navigate, and you've done it incredibly well, but also other demands and factors and defining dynamics in a world that is now partly intimidated by the -- by the immediacy of everything.  The immediacy of judgments.  The immediacy of we want an answer now.
And there's where judgment especially comes into play.  I have believed, and as I worked my way along the last 48 years in different jobs, that especially today, but I think it's probably been true through history, that sometimes there are not immediate answers to problems.
We Americans contest that, we fight that:  Well, of course there's an answer to the problem.  We'll fix it.  Let's go to war.  Let's commit troops.  Or let's present a policy to address that problem.  There's an answer to it.
Many times, we find that the problem, the challenge, the issue, can only be solved through an evolving process of solutions, ultimately getting to the high ground of resolution.
That's -- that's the kind of world we're living in.
Look at the Middle East today.  The Middle East is captive to being now in the grips of historical differences, tribal, religious, ethnic.  That's not the only challenge and that's not the only force that's driving Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in these -- these ideologies that have nothing to do with religion --that are brutal, murderous, irresponsible.
That's not religion.  But yet, the divisions and the lines of those divisions as to how they started and how they perpetuate, much rooted in religious or ethnic differences.
There's not one answer to that.  I think there are evolving solutions, which we are helping play a role in that, but we can't fix that.  The United States of America can't fix that problem.  No country outside that region can fix that problem.  It will be the people themselves who will ultimately have to come to some resolution through a process of evolving solutions to fix it.
The world will be presented more and more with those kinds of issues, where responsible leadership will always end up having to rely on responsible judgment, and how do we deal with these problems?
Jon Harper (Stars and Stripes) notes, "Hagel’s remarks came at a time when America is again deploying troops to Iraq to try to defeat insurgents. The U.S. military has also been injected into Syria’s civil war, waging an air campaign and planning to train moderate Syrian rebels to take on the Islamic State terrorist group and other radical factions. Still, the Iraqi government and some in Congress are calling for the Obama administration to step up American military involvement in the conflict against the militants."
In Wednesday's snapshot, we covered some of the Iraqi government's critiques of and opposition to the US' military involvement in Iraq.  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) has written another important report, this one focusing on the distance growing between the governments of Iraq and the United States:
The US has been leading an international alliance against the extremist Islamic State group in Iraq. But locals say the US is not doing enough. Politicians in Baghdad recently led a call to scrap the strategic agreement the two countries have had since 2008. Could this be a symptom of Iran's ever-growing influence in Iraq? 

Four months have passed since the US began to work with an international alliance to confront the threat of the extremist group, the Islamic State, in Iraq. Yet for many locals, there don’t seem to be any obvious results.

The Islamic State, or IS, group still has control of over around 70 percent of the province of Anbar as well as other cities, like Tikrit and Baiji in Salahaddin province as well as parts of Diyala and Kirkuk.

As a result of what appears to be something of a stalemate, some Iraqi politicians have started to question an essential agreement between Iraq and the US, known as the Strategic Framework Agreement for a Relationship of Friendship and Cooperation between the United States and the Republic of Iraq. It’s known as the SFA for short.

As the US Embassy in Iraq’s website describes the agreement, which was signed in November 2008, it, “guides our overall political, economic, cultural, and security ties with Iraq”. 

Section 3 of the SFA describes the close cooperation between the two signatories on defence and security in Iraq. Yet slowly but surely Iraqis are starting to question: Why can’t a superpower like the US defeat the IS group? 

And last week Iraqi MPs began to push for answers, with some even suggesting a cancellation of the SFA. Among them was Alia Nassif, an MP for the ruling State of Law party, a Shiite Muslim-majority party headed by both the current and former Prime Ministers of Iraq. “Iraq does not benefit from the security agreement with the US,” a statement from Nassif’s office said. “On the contrary the agreement has become a heavy burden on us because the US has not fulfilled one of its stated obligations – strengthening and supporting the democratic system in Iraq. The IS group threatens the whole existence of the Iraqi state.”
As the critiques and slams grow louder, it creates the space for Nouri to return.  And there are those on Arabic social media who don't see the critiques of Haider al-Abadi as 'spontaneous' but as part of an arrangement the current prime minister has with previous prime minister Nouri al-Maliki that will allow him to return to power.
Some argue this supposed plan is the reason Haider's refused to demand Nouri vacate the prime minister residence.  Haider became prime minister in August, yet all these months later he still does not live in the home of the prime minister, all these months later Nouri continues to reside there and refuses to leave.
The month Haider became prime minister is the same month US President Barack Obama began ordering war planes to bomb Iraq.  Like Haider, Barack's accomplished very little.
At the Pentagon on Thursday, an Air Force press briefing was held with the Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Mark A. Welsh III taking questions.  We'll note this exchange.

Q: Do you think that there's just too much emphasis at the moment on the air part of the equation, that everyone thinks you're going -- from the air, you can defeat ISIS, you can defeat Al Qaeda in Yemen, when defeat may not be what is possible from the air?

GEN. WELSH: No, I don't think, speaking specifically to ISIS, that the -- that the DOD approach is not to defeat ISIS from the air. The intent is to inhibit ISIS, to attrite ISIS, to slow ISIS down, to give a ground force time to be trained because the ground force will be required.
You -- you don't dictate end states from the air. You can't control territory. You can't influence people. You can't maintain lines of control after you've established them. That will take a ground force -- in this case, a coalition ground force that's being trained now to try and make that effort, and we'll support it from the air.
You don't dictate end states from the air.
. . . the DOD approach is not to defeat ISIS fromt he air.
Over a billion dollars has been spent on Barack's 'plan' since August and it's accomplished nothing of merit and even the Defense Dept is no longer propping it up.
The 'plan' was for these air bombings to continue and, in February, for the Iraqi military to attempt to retake Mosul.
Now it's thought that this would be too soon, that the Iraqi military is not ready yet.  When will it be ready?
Haider al-Abadi started this week making comments about how, in three years, the Iraqi military might be ready.  
So these bombings will just continue and the billions will just keep adding up?
There is no plan so it should come as no surprise that the White House also failed to come up with a backup plan.
Two incidents of violence garnered Twitter attention on Thursday.

  • | fighters stoning an Iraqi women in Nineveh Province accused of adultery.
    And on the topic of violence, the Iraqi government announced 16 Sunni corpses were discovered in a mass grave in Kobachi. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) rushes to blame the Islamic State by quoting a mayor of a nearby city.  AP presents no qualifiers or questions. Saif Hameed, Ned Parker and Gareth Jones (Reuters) note the mayor's claim but also note the area was liberated in November and "Shi'ite militias have also been accused of atrocities when retaking land from Islamic State, which swept across northern Iraq last summer as the Iraqi army collapsed."

    Iraqi Spring MC notes 1 corpse was discovered in Basra (blindfolded with shots to the head),  a border police captain was killed in Muqdadiyah, an Aden roadside bombing left six people injured or dead, the Iraqi military's bombing of the residential neighborhood's in Falluja left 2 civilians dead and thirteen more (including three children) injured, and the corpse of the brother of an Iraqi journalist who was kidnapped was discovered outside Samarra.  Alsumaria reports a Heer home bombing left 3 women dead.  National Iraqi News Agency notes 1 corpse was discovered dumped in the streets of Baghdad.

    Al Jazeera adds:

    Sources told Al Jazeera that at least 16 Peshmerga soldiers were killed on Thursday trying to repel an ISIL attack on the Mosul Dam in Nineveh province.
    The dam, located on the Tigris river, provides electricity to northwestern province of Anbar, which is under ISIL's control.
    In another attack, seven fighters from militias fighting against ISIL in Diyala Province were killed in the town of al- Mansuriya.

    In news of other attacks, Paul McLeary (Defense News) reports, "The 300 US soldiers and Marines at al Asad air base in Iraq's Anbar province continue to see mortar fire directed at their positions, with six more mortar rounds landing on the sprawling complex last week."  As those US troops remain under attack, National Iraqi News Agency notes Anthony H. Cordesman is predicting that the number of US troops in Iraq by the end of 2015 will be around 9,000 to 15,000.

    Meanwhile Margaret Griffis ( counts 134 violent deaths across Iraq on Thursday with twenty-three more people injured.

    In other news, Column Lynch (Foreign Policy) reports the White House's ambassador-at-large for War Crimes is stepping down and notes:

    The administration has largely pressed the case for accountability for crimes selectively, passionately promoting the international prosecution of political rivals, from the late Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while seeking to protect American military personnel and allies like Israel from international scrutiny for their own alleged crimes, according to rights advocates. The Obama Administration has made it clear it has no intention of formally joining the International Criminal Court, arguing that a push for Senate ratification of the treaty establishing the Hague-based court would be destined for defeat.
    The administration’s standing on such issues has also been tainted by its refusal to punish CIA operatives involved in the torture of detainees or to close down the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, a source of widespread outrage around the world. 
    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following on Thursday:
    New York, N.Y. (January 15, 2015) – American Sniper, the biopic of Iraq war veteran U.S. Navy Seal Chris Kyle, earned six Oscar nominations this morning, including nods for Best Picture and Best Actor for Bradley Cooper. The film, based on Kyle’s New York Times best-selling biography of the same name, offers a gripping portrayal of the Iraq War, the struggles of post-traumatic stress and the impact of war on military families.
    “IAVA congratulates the American Sniper team on this historic achievement. American Sniper is a new war film classic and maybe the greatest modern war film of our time. Its power is in its focused simplicity that accurately portrays the heroism, horror and tragedy that is the Iraq War,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff, who attended the New York City premiere in December. “About 2.8 million men and women have served in the post-9/11 wars, yet there is still a clear military-civilian divide in this country. But director Clint Eastwood – an Army veteran himself who used the G.I. bill to go to college – got it right. We hope all Americans will see the film, join in the conversation, and learn more about veterans’ issues at”
    American Sniper was nominated for an Oscar in the following categories:
    • Best Picture
    • Best Actor
    • Best Sound Editing
    • Best Adapted Screen Play
    • Best Film Editing
    • Best Sound Mixing
    Over the past few weeks, IAVA has partnered with the film to bring more than 40 pre-released screenings to its members nationwide. IAVA met with Bradley Cooper and sent members and staff to the film’s premiere in Washington, D.C.
    The film depicts extremely violent war imagery. Veterans in need of community are encouraged to explore IAVA’s member-based programs or call the Veteran Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 to be connected with qualified responders.
    The 87th annual Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles. The film opens in theaters nationwide tomorrow.
    Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.
    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has nearly 300,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.

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