Prior to the pandemic, it seemed worth it and needed. The pandemic taught them that could be a one income family in some cases, in other case, they were working two or three jobs and realized they could make it on one. The pandemic helped a lot of people scale back or, as one woman said in the roundtable, "Find some self-respect and realize that a check wasn't worth a job that made me sick every day."
I thought of that when I heard a report on All Things Considered (NPR) that a friend passed along:
A wooden spoon gliding over cast iron. Barely tall enough to see over the stove, Lamar Cornett watched his mother, a cook, make his favorite dish of scrambled eggs.
That first cooking lesson launched a lifelong journey in food. Cornett has spent over 20 years in Kentucky restaurants, doing every job short of being the owner. The work is grueling and tense but rewarding and rowdy, and so fast-paced that the pandemic shutdown was like lightning on a cloudy day.
"It was almost like there was this unplanned, unorganized general strike," Cornett said.
In those rare quiet moments, millions of restaurant workers like Cornett found themselves thinking about the realities of their work. Breaks barely long enough to use the restroom or smoke a cigarette. Meals inhaled on the go. Hostile bosses, crazy schedules and paltry, stagnant pay.
To top it off: rude customers, whose abuses restaurant staff are often forced to tolerate. And lately, testy diners have only gotten more impatient as they emerge from the pandemic shutdowns.
Cornett, off work for a few weeks, realized he received enough money through unemployment benefits to start saving — for the first time. He wondered if the work he loves would ever entail a job that came with health insurance or paid leave.
Cedric and I both kept our jobs and had no period during the pandemic where we weren't clocking 40 hours a week. So we were fortunate there. But we did see expenses drop. Not costs, but expenses. With so many places closed, we got by on much less. Entertainment for the kids meant backyard or in the house. No movies, no fun trips due to the pandemic. It also meant no eating out and some of the places we frequent did not do delivery or did not even stay open.
We ate more and more raw vegetables because instead of whatever we'd normally order pre-pandemic, we'd run by the grocery store and get a vegetable tray if we were short on time. Just a huge vegetable tray that we'd eat with the kids and that would be dinner. We do that still and do it three times a week minimum. It's healthy, it's filling It's also inexpensive. And, yes, I know if we bought all the vegetables and I made the trays myself (or if Cedric did) it would cost even less. But I don't have the time.
Anyway, two small kids and we both work and we are spending far less than before the pandemic. So much so that Cedric has pointed out that if I wanted to reduce my hours or just quit it would be okay. I do love the job and I do love the health benefits (we are all on my company's insurance because it does have the better plan) so I'm not going to but it's great to know it's an option.
And I think a lot of people have had experiences like that.
If they want workers, employers better be willing to improve work -- that means better pay and better working conditions. You'd think a real union would be fighting for that but as we saw with the Volvo workers getting sold out by UAW, that's not the case.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Wednesday, July 21, 2021. The al-Kadhimi failures loom as elections are set for October.
Parliamentary elections are supposed to take place in Iraq this October. Will they? On Arabic social media, there's a growing belief/fear that they might be postponed. If they are held, other questions are raised -- including who will be voting? Thus far you have some activists in The October Revolution stating that they will not participate, you have some Christians stating that they won't participate and you have Shi'ite cleric and professional drama queen Moqtada al-Sadr saying that they won't participate. Meanwhile ASHARQ AL-AWSAT reports:
In the wake of the suicide bombing that targeted Sadr City, east of Baghdad, on the eve of Eid al-Adha, Iraqi public opinion saw such incidents as “political messages,” which could “recur” until the elections are held in October.
Many agree that the upcoming poll is the most complex among all previous rounds since 2003, as difficult scenarios lie in the horizon, regardless of the winner, amid an intricate equation and an unprecedented political race.
But the main forces insist on holding the elections on time, driven by great enthusiasm to achieve a broad legislative presence, especially among the political wings representing the armed Shiite factions. Those see the upcoming elections as an opportunity to increase their influence in the legislative and executive authorities, as well as to end the mandate of their rival, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.
Pro-Iranian Shiite leaders are discussing various propositions to deal with Kadhimi, whom they blame for obstructing the project of the Popular Mobilization Forces.
The Iraqi premier is aware that his role is limited on “holding the elections” on the agreed date, but he adopts a political approach that prevents the armed factions from taking over the state and its institutions.
Mustafa al-Kadhimi is the current failed prime minister of Iraq. He was installed May 7, 2020. He's accomplished nothing. In a few days, he will visit the US to meet with President Joe Biden and the US government is attempting to market him as needed for a second term -- as the recent WASHINGTON POST column by CIA mouthpiece David Ignatius made clear. To do so, they have to pretend that things are much better in Iraq than they actually are.
Iraq remains a failed state.
Iraq remains a corrupt state.
The citizens are not served by their government. Elements of government forces (the militias) even carry out deadly attacks and assassinations on citizens and do so with impunity -- never being held accountable -- despite the fact that many assassinations are caught on video camera and despite the fact that following at least two assassinations, the assassin left the scene in a taxi.
These and many other issues that are not being addressed will impact not only results in any election but also the turnout for any election.
Iraq’s Ministry of Health and Environment warned on Tuesday that hospitals around the Middle Eastern nation are incapable of meeting the needs of sustained high numbers of new coronavirus patients.
Director-General of the Ministry’s Public Health Department Riyad Abdul Amir said in a statement that "hospitals are almost losing control from absorbing the high number of COVID-19 patients," expressing his hope that the government would reinstate strict precautionary measures to stem the tide of the highly contagious disease.
"The coming days," he added, "will be dangerous to the health of the population."
Earlier that day, health officials said they recorded 8,922 new infections and 59 deaths over the previous 24 hours. This brings the total figures since the first case was confirmed in Iraq to 1,510,517 including 17,951 deaths.
"There is an escalating increase, and the positive percentage has now reached 24 percent, which we have only seen in this wave," continued Abdul Amir, noting that "firm measures must be taken to cut the chain of infection between people and curb the spread of the virus."
Turkey's TRT also reports on the crisis in Iraq.
The whole world is facing the ongoing pandemic but, in Iraq, it's made worse by a corrupt and failing government. This month saw the second fire in a hospital treating Covid 19 patients. In April, the first fire took place leaving approximately 100 people dead. This month a similar fire claimed a similar number of lives. In both cases -- true throughout Iraq -- the hospital was not equipped with a fire sprinkler system or even a basic: a fire alarm. In both hospitals -- true throughout Iraq -- employees were known to smoke inside the hospital -- near oxygen.
Oversight and regulation should have meant that neither fire happened. If they had happened, oversight and regulation would have meant that the death toll was much lower.
Both fires happened under Mustafa's watch.
He's a failure.
And his method of dealing with these injustices? Blame everyone else. Order arrests and firings that accomplish nothing and play surprised when the next fire takes place. ARAB WEEKLY reports:
Several hospital administrators in a southern Iraqi province have abandoned their posts, local authorities said Saturday, after arrest warrants were issued for senior staff following a deadly hospital fire in the city of Nasiriyah.
Saad al-Majid, health director of the southern governorate of Dhi Qar, said that management teams of five hospitals had quit as “they’re unwilling to assume responsibility” over any possible repeat of the tragedy.
At least 60 people were killed in the blaze late Monday at a temporary facility for Covid-19 patients at Nasiriyah’s Al-Hussein Hospital in Dhi Qar fuelled by oxygen canisters exploding.
It was the second such tragedy in Iraq in three months.
In April, a fire at a Covid hospital in Baghdad — also sparked by exploding oxygen cylinders — killed 82 people, prompting the country’s health minister to resign.
Local journalist Adnan Toame said the resignations among senior hospital staff at a time of public outrage were “embarrassing”.
“They are shirking their responsibilities when they should instead be redoubling efforts to face up to this crisis,” he said.
“This is a clear sign of the collapse of the health system in the governorate,” chimed in Nasiriyah activist and journalist Adnan Dhafar.
The pandemic is a crisis. It was before Mustafa became prime minister. But his actions are making it far worse.
A hotel fire claimed the life of a young girl on Sunday. Of the fire, Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) observes, "Citizens blame corruption, negligence and mismanagement in various sectors of government for the disasters."
After awhile, it all links together in the public's head. Mustafa may or may not be at the point where every failure is attached to him in voters minds but it's something he should be worrying about right now. And to listen to him, following the three fires noted above, rage about corruption is embarrassing. Does he really think he's got some sort of an out? He is the head of the government. In the minds of the Iraqi people, he's either failing to address corruption or he's part of the corruption.
We haven't noted a recent arrest here. And that's due to the fact that it needs to be put in context. They can and do that on Arabic social media. Away from that? In the so-called press? Not really.
July of last year saw the assassination of analyst -- not activist -- and government adviser Hisham al-Hashemi. Last week, an arrest was made. Finally. And some western outlets rushed to hail this as a big Mustafa victory. 'Victory' is more like it for those who don't give a damn about the Iraqi people. He was a friend to the government. But all the activists assassinated with their killers going unpunished? Mustafa won't work to see justice done in those cases. The fact that Mustafa took to Twitter to boast of the arrest didn't win him any accolades. Somehow the western press misses all of that? It's a good time to miss it, right? Miss any real criticism of Mustafa as the US government prepares to sell a second term for Mustafa.
We'll note this from ALJAZEERA:
Iraqi state TV broadcast brief clips of an apparent confession of one suspect, 36-year-old police lieutenant Ahmed al-Kenani. Wearing a brown jumpsuit, al-Kenani confessed to shooting al-Hashemi dead using a pistol.
According to reported surveillance footage of the attack shown on state TV, al-Kenani carried out the killing with three others, riding on two motorcycles
Is the confession real? Post 2003 invasion Iraq has a very well known record of beating confessions out of people, of torture and abuse inflicted to force a confession -- even a false confession. Since 2003, Iraq has had no functioning judiciary. If they did, the confessions would not be airing to begin with. But, remember, this is the same corrupt judiciary that held a press conference to declare a man guilty before he'd ever appeared in court. It gets worse. One of the judges declaring the man guilty of charges the court would supposedly be evaluating? One of those judges announced at the same press conference that the accused had tried to kill him.
That passes for a fair judiciary, that passes for acceptable behavior.
We called that crap out. It's a shame no one else did. Let's drop back to the February 16, 2012 snapshot:
So, for any who needed it, there's your spoon feeding. Find someone else to burp you.
Maybe Joe Biden can? He was Vice President when all that went down. He did nothing to help Iraq. "B-b-but Joe was vice president! Just vice president!" Pick up your toys and go home. It is clearly past your bedtime.
Barack Obama put Joe Biden in charge of Iraq. He couldn't put Hillary in charge. She had called Nouri al-Maliki a "thug" and worse in an open Senate hearing in April 2008. Though she was Secretary of State, because of the animosity between her and Nouri over her remarks, she could not be over the Iraq portfolio. Barack made Joe the point-person on Iraq.
How did Joe help Iraq's vice president Tareq al-Hashemi?
Not at all. He never did a damn thing.
Now, since we're talking about elections, let's remember that even if elections are held in October, the votes don't actually matter. Joe's the President of the United States now.
Remember what he did as Vice President?
In March 2010, Iraq held elections. They voted out thug Nouri al-Maliki. Nouri refused to leave office. For over eight months, he refused to leave -- this is the political stalemate. Early on, the US spoke of democratic principles and the need to honor the results. Under pressure from Susan Rice and Samantha Power, Joe wobbled and quickly became part of the Nouri camp.
Joe and his underlings (Brett McGurk, we're looking at you) pushed through a legal contract -- The Erbil Agreement -- which overturned the results and gave Nouri a second term.
Joe did that as Vice President. Now he's president. Do we really think that the votes will be honored?
While David Ignatius and other press whores try to sell a second term for Mustafa, events on the ground argue for change. The Norwegian Refugee Council issued the following:
The effects of COVID-19, the worsening economy, the ongoing drought and the recent camp closures have compounded an existing humanitarian crisis, resulting in Mosul remaining a shell-shocked city with destroyed infrastructure and limited income generating opportunities
“We will rebuild our city with our own hands”
Four years since the Islamic State group was driven out of Mosul by Iraqi forces and an international coalition, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis continue to languish in poverty and displacement.
Wednesday 21 July marks the fourth year since the city was returned to government control. Thousands of families in Mosul remain traumatised, living in damaged housing and struggling with joblessness. While the international community has provided significant investment in Mosul, reconstruction efforts need to be stepped up to further support the people of Mosul to be able to fully recover and rebuild their lives.
In recent weeks, Norwegian Refugee Council and Oxfam have spoken to some of the people in Mosul. In their own words, they tell us how they are rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of the devastation and destruction.
I’m the person who is providing income for my family. My husband is jobless. He has been looking non-stop but has had no luck.
“Before ISIS, our social norms in Mosul would not allow me to go out. When we were liberated, I broke that norm. I went out and started working. The experience that I went through made me stronger and want to go and earn my own income.
During ISIS we used to eat whatever we could get. My son wanted to help us so he started selling sandwiches. ISIS took him and lashed him. He was just a child trying to help his family. Now my son is afraid to go out; he has been traumatised. My daughter wants to become a police officer. I encourage her to always pursue her dreams. Just because she is a female doesn’t mean that she can’t be anything she wants in the future.
The hair salon was all I wanted. I work hard in here. People love my work. Now I’m planning to get a tattoo machine and learn how to provide tattoos. Four years since ISIS left, my children are still scared to be outside, and they are still not able to continue their education.
Previously, my husband was not okay with me having my own job but after ISIS, everything changed. I gained more independence as now society finally realizes that women can also be responsible for bringing in income to support their kids and family”
We need to rebuild what has been destroyed
“I’m 21 years old and live in Hamam Alil. Our family lost the coffee shop that my father used to own. We were forced to sell it. After ISIS we could not keep the coffee shop because the land owner wanted to sell the land.
Now we have a new shop for hardware and tools. I usually take care of the shop and my brother takes over whenever I need to go to school. This shop is our main income as my father cannot work anymore. He is 60 years old. I don’t mind studying at night after I close the shop as there is no other option for me to earn income and take care of my family.
With the pandemic and the recent dollar raise it has been hard to secure an income, especially now that all materials like motors and power units are more expensive. This shop has helped us a lot.
Monthly, we get 150,000 IQD (about $100), but it’s not enough to pay rent and buy food and other essential needs for my family. I go to school and then directly to this shop. I barely get five minutes rest or a lunch break.
The biggest challenge is all of this destruction. Most people left Hamam Alil to Mosul city so there are not many services anymore. I’m still sad about the coffee shop as it belonged to my father since the 80s.
I hope that people can come back and start a new life. It is hard but we have to move on with our lives. We need to rebuild what has been destroyed and if the government is not doing anything, we will rebuild our city with our own hands.
Now I sell whatever I have to provide basic needs for my children. I barely can buy them new clothes.
“I used to live in Hamam Alil. I wanted my children to go to a good school so I couldn’t stay there. There is no future for my kids there. My family all came to Mosul. Here I stay in an unfinished house owned by my relative.
When ISIS took over Hamam Alil, I feared for my children and left my home. I went to a camp and stayed there for about two to three years. In the beginning, it was okay as we used to receive aid every day but then it got less and less over time.
My husband married another woman and left me and my kids in the camp. I left the camp because the aid stopped. My children needed to continue their education as there was no school in the camp.
I’m still trying to provide my children with the best I can. I do not have an income, but I will manage. I survived ISIS and stayed in a camp. The experience made me depend on myself only.
There are fewer job opportunities than before. I hope there will be a permanent solution for this situation. I do not want just to be given cash. I need a job and a house so I can take care of my children."
My wife and I will never stop believing there will be a better day coming. My children need to learn resilience and positivity from us.
"I remember clearly the day when the military operations started to retake Mosul. It was 4:30 p.m.
Before ISIS I used to work as a construction worker earning 25,000IQD, (about $17), every day. My children used to go to school and life was more stable than today.
When ISIS took over, I stayed at home most of the time. We hosted 15 families for a month. We ran out of most of our supplies. There were days that we had to eat dried bread with water. Sometimes I did not eat for two to three days and only drank water.
During the military operation to retake Mosul, my children used to play in the living room near the door that led to the outside. One of the neighbour’s children was chatting to my daughter on the front door. Then suddenly a rocket fell literally on the front of the door. My neighbour’s child died from the explosion. Now, all of my kids have permanent injuries. One is completely paralysed.
I gathered myself and went to the hospital. It was too late for my daughter to survive and my oldest son couldn’t get proper treatment. Eventually an NGO helped to take the shrapnel out of his spine, but it was too late to recover his ability to move.
When I came back to my house after about 8 months; it was burned and destroyed. I lived with my neighbour for a few months until I was able to repair the damage.
Since then, I resumed my work as a construction worker, but the daily wages are lower and when the pandemic hit most of the construction work stopped. Now I am lucky if I work two days a week. What I’m earning monthly is enough for only one meal per day and one month’s rent.
I need to resume my life even if there has been so much change in the past years. I am proud that I keep going forward. I lost my daughter and my children have marks that will always remind them of what happened. I always tell them that these bruises will only make you stronger. One day they will be responsible for their own communities and family and I want them to be ready."
- Names changed to protect identity
NRC and Oxfam have been supporting families in Mosul with cash assistance, grants to start businesses, repairs to schools and teacher training, access to water, support to gain civil documentation and more.
On the topic of organizations, a friend with Amnesty asked me to note this:
USA must drop charges against Julian Assange
Authorities in the USA must drop the espionage and all other charges against Julian Assange that relate to his publishing activities as part of his work with Wikileaks. The US government’s unrelenting pursuit of Julian Assange for having published disclosed documents that included possible war crimes committed by the US military is nothing short of a full-scale assault on the right to freedom of expression.
Julian Assange is currently being held at Belmarsh, a high security prison in the UK, on the basis of a US extradition request on charges that stem directly from the publication of disclosed documents as part of his work with Wikileaks. Amnesty International strongly opposes any possibility of Julian Assange being extradited or sent in any other manner to the USA. There, he faces a real risk of serious human rights violations including possible detention conditions that would amount to torture and other ill-treatment (such as prolonged solitary confinement). The fact that he was the target of a negative public campaign by US officials at the highest levels undermines his right to be presumed innocent and puts him at risk of an unfair trial.
Julian Assange’s publication of disclosed documents as part of his work with Wikileaks should not be punishable as this activity mirrors conduct that investigative journalists undertake regularly in their professional capacity. Prosecuting Julian Assange on these charges could have a chilling effect on the right to freedom of expression, leading journalists to self-censor from fear of prosecution.
Sign the petition now and protect the right to freedom of expression.
Urge the US authorities to drop the charges against Julian Assange that stem solely from his publishing activities with Wikileaks.
Clicking on the link takes you to the petition.
And let's note this from the Green Party of Michigan.
Winding down, Ava and my "TV: Outside factors" went up yesterday evening. Jim posted it. Ava and I write in longhand, then we type it up. Then it goes up? Rarely. In fact, for over a year now, we've waited until we knew it was going to go up -- Jim telling us they were about to publish -- to go back and in our links. We wrote that on Sunday at Jim's request because of two guests we had over for lunch -- connected to MANIFEST. Jim asked for it, so we wrote about it. (And lost a thread -- we were going to include the continuing nature of storylines. We'll pick that up another time.) We had told him it was time sensitive and he saw some headline yesterday -- I don't know where -- and realized it really needed to be up (on Sunday, it needed to be up). I found out about it after it went up. (Yes, take it up with Jim if you're one of those who gets upset when the entire content of a week is just one piece by Ava and me.)
The following sites updated: