Your Ad Here


The Common Ills


Friday, June 22, 2012
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot

Friday, June 22, 2012. Chaos and violence continue as Iraq is slammed with bombings,  Moqtada's bloc doubts Nouri al-Maliki has a long range plan for Iraq, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta makes some important remarks, the VA's fiduciary system gets some attention, and more.
 
 
March 21st, Iraq War veteran Captain Ian Morrison called the military suicide hotline and
waited for over one hour to speak to someone before killing himself. Steve Vogel (Washington Post) reports his widow Rebecca Morrison joined with other surviving spouses to share their stories of loss at a VA and Defense Dept cofnerence in DC following the record number of military suicides so far this year (in 2012's first 155 days, 154 active-duty service members have taken their own lives. His wife Rebecca Morrison shares his story with Steve Vogel (Washington Post) who also quotes Secretary of the VA Eric Shinseki wondering, "Are we asking the right questions about sucides?" He notes that, in 2009, 'experts' were saying "mental illness was the leading cause of homelessness, and we have since learned that it is, more specifically, substance abuse."   Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke on the issue (link is video).  His remarks on the concluding day of the conference included:
 
 
First of all, this is always critical when it comes to an operation like the Defense Department and to our military forces…leadership responsibility.  We are directing military leaders to take this issue head on.  Like almost every issue in our military, progress on suicide prevention depends on leadership. 
I have made that clear, that this issue is first and foremost a leadership responsibility. 
All those in command and leadership positions – particularly junior officers and NCOs who have day-to-day responsibility for troops – need to be sensitive, need to be aware, need to be open, to signs of stress in the ranks, and they need to be aggressive, aggressive, in encouraging those who serve under them to seek help if needed.  They also must set an example by seeking help themselves if necessary.
As part of their leadership responsibilities, junior officers and NCOs must foster the kind of cohesion and togetherness that is a fundamental part of our military culture and can do so much to improve mental health.  My wife was a nurse, worked on mental health care issues, and she said to me time and time again, this is a human issue, a human problem.  You've got to look in people's eyes, you've got to be sensitive to their emotions, you've got to be sensitive to the challenges that they're facing, you've got to be aware, you've got to have your eyes open, and the more we can see those problems, the more we can do to try to help people in need.  To that end, we have to make clear that we will not tolerate, we will not tolerate actions that belittle, that haze, that ostracize any individual, particularly those who have made the decision to seek professional help. 
Leaders throughout the Department must make it understood that seeking help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength and courage.  We've got to do all we can to remove the stigma that still too often surrounds mental health care issues.  Outreach efforts such as the Real Warriors Campaign, which work to increase awareness and the use of resources such as the Military and Veterans Crisis Lines, are also a very important part of these efforts. 
Secondly, we've got to do everything we can to improve the quality and access to health care.  This is the second pillar of the suicide prevention strategy – improving the quality of behavioral health care, expanding access to that care.
We now have more than 9,000 psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses, counselors working in military hospitals and in military clinics.  That number has increased more than 35 percent over the last three years.  Behavioral health experts are now being embedded into line units, and the Department has worked to place mental health providers in primary care clinics in order to facilitate access. 
Guardsmen and Reservists often do not have ready access to the same support network as the active duty force.  We've got to do what we can to increase initiatives like the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program that's working to address this kind of problem. 
And going forward, I want to make sure that all service members and their family members have the quality mental and behavioral health care that they need, the kind of care that must be delivered by the best health care professionals in the world.  Thanks to the efforts of so many of you in this audience, we are improving our ability to identify and treat mental health care conditions, and we are working to better equip our system to deal with the unique challenges that these conditions can present.  For example, I have been very concerned about reports of problems with the screening process for post-traumatic stress in the military disability evaluation system.  For that reason, I have directed a review of this process across all of the uniformed services.  This review will help ensure that we are delivering on our commitment to provide the best care for our service members.  We've got to do everything we can to make sure that the system itself is working to help soldiers, not to hide this issue, not to make the wrong judgments about this issue, but to face facts and deal with the problems upfront, and make sure that we provide the right diagnosis and that we follow up on that kind of diagnosis.    
Thirdly, we've got to elevate the whole issue of mental fitness.  A third pillar of suicide prevention is better equipping service members with training and coping skills that they need to avoid or bounce back from stress.  
To that end, all of the Services, all of the Services – under the leadership of General Dempsey and his Senior Enlisted Advisor, Sergeant Major Bryan Battaglia – are working to elevate mental fitness to the same level of importance, we've got to elevate mental fitness to the same level of importance that DoD has always placed on physical fitness. 
Separately, a whole of government effort that has been led by the President and Mrs. Obama to combat veterans' unemployment and boost hiring of military spouses is aimed at helping to reduce the financial stress faced by military families and veterans.  
Finally, fourthly, we've got to increase research in suicide prevention.  In partnership across government and with the private sector, the fourth pillar of our approach is to improve our understanding of suicide, to improve our understanding of related mental health care issues through better and more improved scientific research.  I'd like to note the leadership of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius on this issue and thank her for coming to address this conference earlier.
 
 
I think it's an important speech and hopes the press will pay attention to it.  (Click here to read it in full.)  I know Leon and I like Leon so he doesn't get a fair shake here.  This morning we called him out with regards to statements he made and I don't have a problem with that but he made some historic and important remarks (click here for video) last week and we were too busy to note it.   Anyone else would have gotten their deserved attention for those remarks but I always want to be sure that I'm fair with regards to him because I do like him and I've known him for years. And factor in all of that because what he said in the speech today needed to be said.  But no one in leadership has wanted to say it.  If words are followed up by the brass immediately below Panetta, this should be a historic shift regarding suicide and mental health issues in the military.  As with his remarks earlier this year on sexual assault within the military (click here for January 19th snapshot if you missed it), he said was needed and should have been said long before.  But he's the first Secretary of Defense to say these things.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK.
 
 
P.T.S.D. is an anxiety disorder that can occur after a traumatic event. Given that troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq see fallen comrades, experience combat, or survive horrific events, the likelihood of a veteran being diagnosed with P.T.S.D. is high. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, someone with P.T.S.D. is at least twice as likely to commit or attempt suicide, or experience substance abuse. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, are suffering from alcoholism and drug abuse, depression or mood disorders, according to a 2010 report by the Coalition for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans.
The Center for a New American Security discusses the stigma in the service associated with mental health treatment. In a study on the rising suicide rate in the military, the organization found that troops were two to four times more interested in receiving care than reported but were afraid of repercussions from their superiors. That same fear initially kept me from getting treatment. But I finally sought help. My superiors met me with neither resistance nor support. It felt like I lost their respect, that they forgot who I was and what I had done for the Marine Corps during my tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
P.T.S.D. is something that some in the military do not accept or understand. Unlike physical wounds, it is invisible, intangible. I once heard a senior Marine say P.T.S.D. was "fake." In a way this makes sense for a military institution that prides itself on toughness and resilience in the face of adversity. But the time has come to realize that all battlefield wounds must be healed.
 
 
And Senator Patty Murray, who is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee,  has been calling for answers as to how some service members and veterans were diagnosed with PTSD but then were given new diagnoses and suddenly they didn't have PTSD -- except most of them still did.  So who ordered the change and was someone trying to cut out needed treatment to save a few bucks?  As she gets more answer on what recently happened, she's now insisting that the scope be expanded to see who else was effected.  Wednesday her office issued the following:
 
 
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to request details on how the Department of Defense will conduct a major review of mental health diagnoses made since 2001. The review, which Secretary Panetta announced last week at a hearing with Senator Murray, comes after Murray has repeatedly pointed to inconsistencies in the Pentagon's mental health evaluation system. In Washington state, those inconsistencies have led to hundreds of service members having their proper diagnosis of PTSD restored after being accused of lying about their symptoms.
"The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are losing the war against mental and behavioral health conditions," Murray wrote. "As you acknowledged, huge gaps remain in how both the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs approach, diagnose and deal with these cases. A review across each service is a necessary step forward in addressing concerns I have been raising about both the disability evaluation system and the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral health conditions."
In the letter Murray outlines four key issues the Pentagon must consider in proceeding with the review, including one about the timeline for this massive review. Murray also calls on Secretary Panetta to "clearly communicate the scope of the review as well as the impact on individual servicemembers and veterans."
 
The full text of Senator Murray's letter follows:
 
June 20, 2012
The Honorable Leon E. Panetta
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
 
Dear Secretary Panetta:
 
As I stated during the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Department of Defense FY 2013 Budget Request, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are losing the war against mental and behavioral health conditions. The recent events at Madigan Army Medical Center, where hundreds of soldiers have had their proper diagnosis of PTSD restored after being told they were exaggerating their symptoms, lying, and being labeled malingers, demonstrate the weaknesses within the Department of Defense in properly evaluating and diagnosing behavioral health conditions.
As you acknowledged, huge gaps remain in how both the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs approach, diagnose and deal with these cases. I was pleased to see you share my belief that a review of behavioral health evaluations and diagnoses in support of the disability evaluation system needs to be a Department led effort. A review across each service is a necessary step forward in addressing concerns I have been raising about both the disability evaluation system and the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral health conditions. I applaud your commitment to undertake this comprehensive review, however, I have questions about how the Department will proceed.
· Has the Department developed or provided guidance to the services in order to accomplish this review? If so, I would request copies of any guidance that has been developed or issued.
· What is the timeline for execution of this review? When do you expect the other services to begin this review and when do you expect findings and recommendations from each of the services?
· Which senior leaders at the Department and each service will be responsible for conducting this review and the development and implementation of recommendations?
· How will the Army's current review be incorporated into this broader effort?
As the review begins, the Department of Defense must clearly communicate the scope of the review as well as the impact on individual servicemembers and veterans. Appropriate steps must also be taken to ensure the performance of this review does not adversely impact the timeliness of cases currently processing through the disability evaluation system.
Ensuring greater consistency in the evaluation and diagnosis of behavioral health conditions is not the only challenge currently confronting the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES). As highlighted by a recent Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing I held on IDES, the number of men and women enrolled in this system continues to climb, the number of servicemembers cases meeting both of the Departments' timeliness goals is unacceptably low, and the amount of time it takes to provide benefits to a servicemember transitioning through the system has risen each year since inception. Both Departments must take immediate action to reverse these trends.
Following a recent discussion with Deputy Secretary Carter on these issues, I outlined a series of recommendations to improve the disability evaluation system. The letter to Deputy Secretary Carter dated June 6, 2012 outlining these recommendations is enclosed, and I urge you to act quickly to implement these solutions. I appreciate the opportunity, which you offered at the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, to discuss these issues with Secretary Shinseki and you in the near future, and I look forward to hearing your recommendations about how we can improve this system.
I appreciate your attention to this request and I remain committed to working with you to address these very serious issues.
 
Sincerely,
Patty Murray
Chairman
 
 
 
cc: The Honorable Carl Levin
The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Enclosure
###
 
 
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct
 
 
 
That was released on Wednesday and we're staying on Wednesday for a moment.
 
 
Chair Bill Johnson: H.R. 3730, the Veterans Data Breach Timely Notification Act, was introduced by our Subcommittee's Ranking Member, Congressman Donnelly of Indianana. His bill would require the VA to notify Congress and directly affected individuals, within 10 business days or less, of a data breach that compromises sensitive personal information. This imporved transparency and responsiveness would be a boost to the VA's efforts at improving its information security image. As the system currently works today, the lapse of time between the VA knowing of a data breach and a veteran knowing his or her information has been compromised and may be floating around is entirely too long. In discussions with staff, Assistant Secretary Baker acknowledged that the current duration between the VA learning of a data breach and a veteran being notified that his or her personally identifiable information, or "PII," may have been compromised could be shortened, and this legislation is a good measure toward that end. I am proud to co-sponsor this bill. I urge my colleagues to consider adding their support and look forward to Ranking Member Donnelly's further remarks on it.
 
 
Wednesday the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on proposed legislation. (Yesterday the House Veterans Affairsl Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity and a section of it was covered in yesterday's snapshot.)  That was one of four important bills that were addressed.  Another important one was H.R.5948.  This is the fiduciary bill.  On February 9th, this same Subcommittee held a hearing on VA's fiduciary system.  We coverd aspects of that in that day's snapshot and I had no idea it was as big an issue as it was.  That snapshot resulted in a ton of e-mail then and since and we still get e-mails asking, "Has anyone mentioned fiduciary again?" I'm hardly the smartest person in the room so I'm not surprised that I had no clue on this one's importance.  But I think it's also true that this isn't necessarily an issue that you're going to have veterans showing up at hearings to talk about because if they have someone overseeing their benefits, there's usually a reason for that.  So this is a veteran's issue but it's one that's more likely to catch attention from veterans' families.  Chair Johnson did raise the issue while questioning the VA's Director of Pension and Fiduciary Service Dave McLenachen and we'll include some of that exchange.   
 
 
 
Chair Bill Johnson: I find it interesting that you used the term working constructively together on the fiduciary program because at our hearing on the VA's fidcuiary program in February, you said you intended to look at the statutes governing the fiduciary program and make recommendations that might improve it. Outside of the testimony that you've given today, four months later we haven't heard anything from you or your Dept. Currently, our bill addresses a number of issues we brought to your attention and yet you're against these. After the issues raised at the February hearing and the recent media coverage of fiduciary issues, I would think that you would have some ideas on how to improve the program. Can you provide for us improvements in the fiduciary program that you've made since our February hearing?
 
 
Dave McLenachen: Well sir, in addition to the -- the policy and procedures that we've issued even since the February hearing, as I mentioned, we've completed our proposed fiduciary recommendations. Now as we were working on those recommendations, we determined that there was different authority that we needed from Congress, we would certainly develop a legislative proposal for that purpose. But I have to say, having worked on those regulations and looking at the authority that we have, we believe we have the authority we need to correct the program. And all of the things that we do support in the bill are things that we have implemented ourselves, like I said, over the last seven months. I believe we are making real progress.
 
 
Chair Bill Johnson: You mentioned that you've completed the regs and that you have the authority to implement the program, but you didn't really answer my question. Can you describe some specific improvements that you've made in the fiduciary program since February?
 
 
Dave McLenachen: Yes, sir. One of the concerns of the Committee was the independence of the fiduciary. We had a policy in place that required a fiduciary to check with VA, as you mentioned the form. Well it wasn't just the form, we had a policy in place that required a fiduciary to check with VA for any expenditure over $1,000. I rescinded that policy. That was since the hearing. In addition to that, there's concern about transparency in the program. We have never provided veterans with copies of audited accounting by VA. I changed that policy. Every -- every fiduciary is instructed to provide a copy an audited true accounting by VA to the beneficiary. Criminal background checks. We have contracts in place to do a criminal background check on every fidicuiary we appoint. There's a number of other developments, sir, that I could go through with you but we are making progress in this program.
 
 
Chair Bill Johnson: That would have been great. We would have liked to have gotten that information before today. But that's good. Based on recent articles about nationwide problems in the fiduciary program, it seems that there's been little improvement other than the things that you mentioned today. Do you have any further response to the media reports of the numerous and horrific stories in those stories?
 
 
Dave McLenachen: Yes, sir. I disagree with the view that the fidcuariy program is plagued with fraud. I am aware of those articles and it is our position that any misuse of VA benefits is unacceptable. That's our position. And we work hard to prevent that type of misuse. That's the reason why we do over 30,000 accounting audits every single year. That's the reason why we do 70,000 or more field examinations every year. So we work hard to prevent misuse and we've been very successful. I testified in February that our misuse rate during Fiscal Year 2011 was less than one-half of one-percent. Looking at the articles, sir, I think, in reality, the articles are about a broader problem and that is general abuse of veterans. We looked at the cases that were mentioned. In the state of Texas, 6.5% of our beneficiary population in our program live in Texas. Yet the misuse rate in Texas is only 4.4% compared to all of the cases. So while the articles may have been reporting the broader problem of misuse, I don't think that we've been able to confirm that it points out a specific problem about the fiduciary program. And, that said, that doesn't mean we're going to ease up on misuse of benefits.
 
 
Chair Bill Johnson: The VA opposes the provision that would authorize the VA to limit the appointment of a fiduciary to management of VA funds. The VA contends that the purpose of this provision is unclear and probably unnecessary because the VA appoints fiduciaries only for the limited purpose of receiving VA benefits on behalf of a beneficiary. However, I have VA e-mails that direct a VA representative to take control of non-VA funds. Why the difference between your actions and your comments on the legislation?
 
Dave McLenachen: Mr. Chairman, I'd be interested to see -- to see the information that you have about that. Congress has authorized us to appoint fiduciaries for the purpose of VA benefit funds under management. That's what we have authority to do. Now there may be some disconnect about the accounting process. When we do an accounting, we need to see all income and expenses in accounts and sometimes in those accounts there is other income such as, for example, Social Security benefits.
 
 
Chair Bill Johnson: So you would find it inappropriate for a VA representative to take control of non-VA funds?
 
 
Dave McLenachen: Yes, sir. Without knowing more about the facts of the case, I would say, yes, I would.
 
 
Chair Bill Johnson: We will provide you with that information.
 
 
Dave McLenachen: Thank you.
 
Chair Bill Johnson: You discuss the provision concerning appeals and the removal of fiduciaries as limiting a beneficiary's ability to have his or her competency restored. Can you describe how a veteran currently has his or her competency restored and subsequently can get out of the fiduciary program?
 
 
Dave McLenachen: Yes, thanks for that question because this is an area that I've really been interested in addressing and we are doing that in our regulations, just to let you know, that's one thing that we are addressing. Currently, if an individual has been rated as being unable to manage their VA benefits. They can be taken out of the program by having a medical evidence such as a doctor's opinion that they can in fact, based on their disability or regardless of their disability, manage their own VA funds. In addition to that, there might -- if there was a legal process -- uh -- where a court held that a person was incompetent to manage their own affairs and a court concludes otherwise, that would be evidence considered.
 
 
 
Iraq has again been slammed with bombings today.  AP reports there were 2 roadside bombings, one after the other.   Kareem Raheem (Reusters) quotes police officer Mudhaffar Khalaf stating, 'Fruit and vegetables have been scattered everywhere.  Some children were wounded.  We have started to eacuate the injured people."  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) quotes shoe store owner Mohammed Hussein al-Jizani stating he heard one blast, "Three minutes later there was a second explosion as people and policemen were rushing to the site of the first bomb.  The evil insurgents chose the best time to attack, because the market is usually busy on Fridays with young people gathering to sell and buy birds."  The Voice of Russia counts 14 dead and over one-hundred injured.  But that's just Baghdad.  If you visit the Iraqi press, you'll find Alsumaria is reporting a roadside bombing near Samarra Hospital which left three people injured, a Samarra suicide car bombing targeting a bus of pilgrims claimed the life of 1 of them and left nine more injured as well as one Iraqi soldier and two police officers, and the Sunni Endwoment in Samarra was also targeted with a bombing resulting in serious structural damage and injured civilians (plural -- so at least two, no actual number is given for the wounded) who were passing by.


Violence has been on the rise in Iraq for some time and this month has been particularly violent.
Haider Najm (Niqash) explained yesterday:


The past week has been a deadly one for Iraqis. A wave of coordinated attacks around the country targeted Shiite Muslim pilgrims and others observing a week of holy days. The results, according to Iraqi Body Count, an organization that analyses reports of deadly incidents in Iraq from around the world and from Iraq, saw 92 killed on the deadliest day, Wednesday June 16, and a further 121 killed over the following week. Many hundreds more were wounded with around 300 injured on Wednesday.
This was one of the deadliest weeks in Iraq following the withdrawal of US troops late last year and Iraqi Body Count estimates that 315 civilians had been killed up in Iraq up until June 19.


Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) adds, "Also, in a separate incident, gunmen opened fire at a police checkpoint near an outdoor market in a southwest Baghdad neighborhood leaving three police officers dead, police said."  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 23 dead in today's violence and 170 injured and among the dead: a girl, 4 years-old, who had been kidnapped but was found beheaded in Ishaqi.  Kidnappings appear to be on the rise in Iraq although it just may be that the reporting on them has increased.  As noted on Tuesday: " Into the continued violence of Iraq  where  Alsumaria reports that the son of a local council member was kidnapped in Ramadi today and that security forces quickly secured the area and began searching for clues.  While kidnappings have not been uncommon throughout the Iraq War, today's may end up getting attention due to the fact that is it one of two kidnappings. Al Rafidayn reports two young girls were kidnapped yesterday in Tikrit and that one is the daughter of a a member of Tikrit's security council."
 
In Iraq, the political crisis continues and Nouri al-Maliki and his sycophants insist he's incredibly popular.  Alusmaria reports Moqtada al-Sadr's response:  Saddam Hussein used to claim 100% of Iraqis stood behind him.  Meanwhile Al Sabaah reports the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Ammar al-Hakim, is stating that he's putting together a meeting between Nouri and Moqtada.  Not stated is that all this work doesn't endear him to the elders of ISCI who, like Ammar's late father, do not care for Nouri al-Maliki.  Ammar might want to consider that when you only got your position because your father died, when you never earned it yourself, you might want to be careful about cozying up to your father's enemies because if the elders feel you're not honoring your father, they will work to remove you. 

Iraqiya's Hadi al-Dalemi is dismissive of al-Hakim's efforts,  Raman Brusk (AK News) reports,  noting that his alleged 'ideas' were proposed by Iraqiya earlier but were blown off.  He states further that "the time for this step [dialog] is over and the political blocs are now trying to take the step of interrogating [the PM] . . . which is more serious and through which the differences can be settled."   As Lara Jakes (AP) reported yesterday, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi declared Nouri would be summoned before the Parliament shortly to answer questions and they are prepared to move towards a vote as to whether confidence remains in Nouri's ability to lead.  This is how Moqtada's explained it, Alsumaria notes.


Raman Brusk (AK News) reports that Nouri is attempting to derail the effort:


Yesterday Maliki called for the urgent session to discuss the violation and authorities of the executive and legislative bodies and the areas of overlap between the authorities of the two bodies.
The demand to convene an urgent session is only an effort "to gain more time and affect the efforts for withdrawing confidence from government" said Muayyad Tayyeb who leads the Kurdistan Blocs Coalition.
 
Dia al-Asadi is the parlimentary head of Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc and he tells UPI that, "Our main concern is that Maliki doesn't have a plan to administer the country.  And if he ahs, then we want to know about it.  If he hasn't, then there's a big problem because we are living in a country that needs comprehensive, fast and integrated development."
 
 
 
 

Posted at 08:13 pm by thecommonills
 

The political crisis and Jalal's 'emergency' surgery

The political crisis and Jalal's 'emergency' surgery

In Iraq, the political crisis continues and Nouri al-Maliki and his sycophants insist he's incredibly popular.  Alusmaria reports Moqtada al-Sadr's response:  Saddam Hussein used to claim 100% of Iraqis stood behind him.  Meanwhile Al Sabaah reports the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Ammar al-Hakim, is stating that he's putting together a meeting between Nouri and Moqtada.  Not stated is that all this work doesn't endear him to the elders of ISCI who, like Ammar's late father, do not care for Nouri al-Maliki.  Ammar might want to consider that when you only got your position because your father died, when you never earned it yourself, you might want to be careful about cozying up to your father's enemies because if the elders feel you're not honoring your father, they will work to remove you. 

Iraqiya's Hadi al-Dalemi is dismissive of al-Hakim's efforts,  Raman Brusk (AK News) reports,  noting that his alleged 'ideas' were proposed by Iraqiya earlier but were blown off.  He states further that "the time for this step [dialog] is over and the political blocs are now trying to take the step of interrogating [the PM] . . . which is more serious and through which the differences can be settled."   As Lara Jakes (AP) reported yesterday, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi declared Nouri would be summoned before the Parliament shortly to answer questions and they are prepared to move towards a vote as to whether confidence remains in Nouri's ability to lead.  This is how Moqtada's explained it, Alsumaria notes.

What is unclear now is the Erbil Agreement.  That's what the blocs have been calling for: Nouri to return to it.  In April and May, it was regularly noted that Nouri could stop the process (the move towards a no-confidence vote) at any point by returning to the contract that everyone signed off on.  But that's not discussed today.  Doesn't mean it's not still possible.  But would it still be possible after questions from Parliament and when Parliament was moving towards taking a vote?  I kind of doubt it.  My guess is temperatures would be running way too high by that point.

Raman Brusk (AK News) reports that Nouri is attempting to derail the effort:


Yesterday Maliki called for the urgent session to discuss the violation and authorities of the executive and legislative bodies and the areas of overlap between the authorities of the two bodies.
The demand to convene an urgent session is only an effort "to gain more time and affect the efforts for withdrawing confidence from government" said Muayyad Tayyeb who leads the Kurdistan Blocs Coalition.

In other news, we have mocked Iraq's fugitive President Jalal Talabani.  I have made fun of him.  And Mr. Fatty has health issues.  (For those who think that "grossly obsese" means fifty or so pounds overweight, look at this photo where you would need two and half Massoud Barazani's to match the width of one Jalal.) Yesterday, we went over the long process of the shrinking Jalal and how he betrayed Moqtada, Ayad Allawi (Iraqiya head) and KRG President Massoud Barzani with his refusal to foward the no-confidence petition to al-Nujaifi.  We noted how, as the three went around him, Jalal felt the pressure and quickly fled from Iraq despite the Kurdistan Alliance making it clear that he should not leave the country during the political crisis.  We pointed out:



The waters were simmering and looked likely to boil.   Al Rafidayn noted so many were upset with Jalal that he's had to prepare a public letter for the PUK to distribute to its members.  But the big drama would wait for Saturday.  With less than 24 hours before a meet-up of Iraqiya's Allawi, KRG President Barzani and Moqtada al-Sadr, news emerged via Alsumaria that Jalal had resorted to a strongly worded letter  to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi and KRG President Massoud Barazni in which he belittled Moqtada al-Sadr and in which he insisted he'd rather resign than change his opinion and forward the petition with 176 signatures to Parliament.  A strongly worded letter left him so weakened that he had to immediately flee Iraq and head to Germany.
From his hospital sick bed, Jalal's issued near daily thoughts and affirmations via the press.  Yesterday, he resorted to a spokesperson.  Dar Addustour reports that the spokesperson declared Jalal had surgery but would not disclose what type of surgery or even a general reason for the surgery.  There was time, however, to float a rumor that, as soon as he returned to Iraq, Jalal planned to announce his resignation as president.
If that was meant to lead to cries of "Heavens no!," poor Jalal, no one appears to care.

Well is my face red as we learn today that Jalal had to leave to deal with the 'pressing' medical issue of knee surgery.

Knee surgery.

He couldn't stay in the country, as basically ordered, because he had to have knee surgery.

He fled and took the opportunity to have elective surgery (that could have waited) in the hopes that his health problems of the past (he won't follow the doctor's diet and his arteries always clogged as a result) would built sympathy.  Now the world learns his 'emergency procedure' was knee surgery.

Maybe when he returns to Iraq, he'll carry a note from his Mommy?  "Please excuse Jalal from his duties . . . "


The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.


 

Posted at 06:42 am by thecommonills
 

Iraq slammed with violence (aka US reporters look beyond Baghdad)

Iraq slammed with violence (aka US reporters look beyond Baghdad)

Iraq has again been slammed with bombings today.  AP reports there were 2 roadside bombings, one after the other.   Kareem Raheem (Reusters) quotes police officer Mudhaffar Khalaf stating, 'Fruit and vegetables have been scattered everywhere.  Some children were wounded.  We have started to eacuate the injured people."  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) quotes shoe store owner Mohammed Hussein al-Jizani stating he heard one blast, "Three minutes later there was a second explosion as people and policemen were rushing to the site of the first bomb.  The evil insurgents chose the best time to attack, because the market is usually busy on Fridays with young people gathering to sell and buy birds."  The Voice of Russia counts 14 dead and over one-hundred injured.  But that's just Baghdad.  If you visit the Iraqi press, you'll find Alsumaria is reporting a roadside bombing near Samarra Hospital which left three people injured, a Samarra suicide car bombing targeting a bus of pilgrims claimed the life of 1 of them and left nine more injured as well as one Iraqi soldier and two police officers, and the Sunni Endwoment in Samarra was also targeted with a bombing resulting in serious structural damage and injured civilians (plural -- so at least two, no actual number is given for the wounded) who were passing by.


Violence has been on the rise in Iraq for some time and this month has been particularly violent.
Haider Najm (Niqash) explained yesterday:


The past week has been a deadly one for Iraqis. A wave of coordinated attacks around the country targeted Shiite Muslim pilgrims and others observing a week of holy days. The results, according to Iraqi Body Count, an organization that analyses reports of deadly incidents in Iraq from around the world and from Iraq, saw 92 killed on the deadliest day, Wednesday June 16, and a further 121 killed over the following week. Many hundreds more were wounded with around 300 injured on Wednesday.
This was one of the deadliest weeks in Iraq following the withdrawal of US troops late last year and Iraqi Body Count estimates that 315 civilians had been killed up in Iraq up until June 19.


Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) adds, "Also, in a separate incident, gunmen opened fire at a police checkpoint near an outdoor market in a southwest Baghdad neighborhood leaving three police officers dead, police said."

In other news, Phil Stewart (Reuters) has a disturbing article which suggests US officials need to speak clearly.   Ali Mussa Daqduq's reportedly responsible for the deaths of 5 US soldiers among other things (the five are Capt Brian S. Freeman, 1st Lt Jacob N. Fritz, Spc Jonahan B. Chism, Pfc Johnathon M. Millican and Pfc Shawn P. Falter).  He was cleared in a Baghdad 'court.'  This is a long story with several elements but for right now let's focus on the fact that Barack turned him over to the Iraqis which was a huge mistake.  But that's what happened.  Leon Panetta, US Secretary of Defense, is quoted by Stewart stating that they have "a committment" from Iraq that Daqduq will not be released.  Until what?  That's not specified.  And to be really clear, if Panetta doesn't mean until they deport him to the US, there's no excuse for holding Daqduq.  He's apparently cleared the appeals process.  Should he walk?  Yeah.  The US, specifically the White House, screwed up.  If what passes for a 'legal' 'justice' 'system' in Iraq cleared him, then he needs to be out of jail unless he's being held to be deported to the US.  There is no other reason to keep him and the US, as a country, cannot condemn Iraq or any other country for holding prisoners secretly or without cause if they're now working with the Iraqi quthorities to hold Daqduq for no reason -- when the Iraqi court cleared him, all reasons for holding him (except deportation) flew out the window.  That doesn't mean you have to like that.  It doesn't mean you have to dance in the streets.  It mean Barack was stupid enough to leave it up to Nouri when he should have brought the man to the US or tried him in Iraq in a US military court.  Having failed there, you can't then detain someone forever.  Doesn't matter if you think they're guilty, they were cleared, the need to walk.  If Panetta's speaking about anything other than deportation -- holding until he is deported to the US -- there's no justification for it and the US Secretary of Defense should not be engaged in those kind of conversations with a foreign government -- on the orders of the White House or not -- because they go against the principles ensrhined in the US Constitution.  (The one Leon's repeatedly taken oaths to uphold throughout his many years of government service.)


The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan, the Pacifica Evening News, Jane Fonda, On The Wilder Side, Antiwar.com, CSPAN, the Guardian and Susan's On The Edge -- updated last night and this morning:
THIS JUST IN! THE AGREEMENT!
1 hour ago 
 
 
And Cedric's "Uniting! At last!" which isn't showing up yet this morning.  And we'll close with this from the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative:




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contacts: Peter Sabonis, National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, peter@nesri.org, (212) 253-1710 x.315
Becky Dennison, Los Angeles Community Action Network, beckyd@cangress.org, (312) 863-1643
UN QUESTIONS U.S. ON POLICE HARASSMENT OF LOS ANGELES HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST
In conjunction with this week’s annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, five UN Special Rapporteurs have released a letter questioning the Los Angeles Police Department’s repeated arrests of a human rights activist participating in peaceful protest activities. These arrests subject activist Steve Richardson to intimidation and degrading treatment and appear to violate international human rights protections of freedom of speech and assembly. The UN expressed “regret” at the U.S. non-response to date, re-issued its request, and asked the U.S. to ensure an environment that assures fundamental freedoms.
The February 23 letter, released this week and addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, gives the United States 60 days to answer Los Angeles Community Action Network’s (LA-CAN) and National Economic and Social Rights Initiative’s (NESRI) claims that the Los Angeles Police Department has repeatedly arrested Richardson to degrade and quiet him.
Factual allegations, cited in the LA-CAN/NESRI complaint and by the UN Rapporteurs, include the following arrests of Richardson:
  • A March 2008 forceful arrest while Richardson peacefully participated in a LA-CAN program monitoring the LAPD’s treatment of homeless persons on Skid Row;
  • A May 2010 arrest in the L.A. City Council chambers while Richardson and others chanted opposition to a legislative scheme to raise the rents of low-income tenants;
  • An August 2011 arrest while Richardson was drinking coffee outside of a University of Southern California building where he was attending class.
In each of the arrests cited above, the police department first brought felony charges against Richardson that were either dismissed by judges or District Attorneys but could have resulted in a life sentence. City Attorneys have brought up to 11 charges on one incident, resulting in jail time and a two-year probation sentence in one instance. The probation status now puts Richardson at higher risk for re-incarceration due to reduced rights for those on probation and parole, yet he bravely continues to speak out actively against human rights violations in his community.
Deborah Burton, a member of LA-CAN and longtime colleague of Mr. Richardson (commonly known as General Dogon), was encouraged by the letter and said, “This country has a long history of individuals like Dogon who worked for change. We must not forget that the human rights struggles of the past are linked with the struggles of today. We are pleased that the human rights abuses by LAPD and the City Attorney against Dogon have reached international attention and we expect our government to meet its obligation to resolve this situation.”
The UN letter to the U.S.was signed by Frank LaRue and Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteurs on the protection of free expression and freedom of peaceful assembly, who are testifying before the Rights Council this week. Kiai expressed regret on the lack of U.S. response to date. Additional authors include Raquel Rolnik, Margaret Sekaggya, and Juan E. Mendez, Special Rapporteurs on the right to adequate housing, situation of human rights defenders, and on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, respectively.
National Economic and Social Rights Initiative works in partnership with communities to build a broad movement for economic & social rights, including health, housing, education and work with dignity. Los Angeles Community Action Network helps people dealing with poverty create & discover opportunities, while serving as a vehicle to ensure they have voice, power & opinion in the decisions that are directly affecting them.
###

You have received this email from the
National Economic & Social Rights Initiative
90 John Street,
Suite 308
New York, NY 10038
United States


The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.


 

Posted at 06:04 am by thecommonills
 

Thursday, June 21, 2012
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, June 21, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Jalal supposedly swearing he'll resign (and Iraqis yawn in response), the political crisis continues, an Iraqi is detained by French police, another Iraqi is refused by the European Union, in the US the Congress hears about Guard and Reserve members being fired from their civilian jobs, non-feminist Anne-Marie Slaughter takes a break from declaring war on foreign countries to declare war on feminism, and much more.
 
Alsumaria reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani states Nouri al-Maliki -- prime minister of Iraq and chief thug of the operation -- is sewing sedition in several ways and that his supporters are pushing a false rumor: That a Barzani, in exchange for Nouri's consent on an oil deal [the ExxonMobil deal], Barzani will bury his complaints and grievances over Nouri's pattern of rule.  Barzani calls the rumor a lie.
 
Many feel Nouri's charges against Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi are a lie as well.  To review, let's fall back to drop back to the April 30th snapshot:


The political crisis was already well in effect when December 2011 rolled around.  The press rarely gets that fact correct.  When December 2011 rolls around you see Iraqiya announce a  boycott of the council and the Parliament, that's in the December 16th snapshot and again in a December 17th entry .  Tareq al-Hashemi is a member of Iraqiya but he's not in the news at that point.  Later, we'll learn that Nouri -- just returned from DC where he met with Barack Obama -- has ordered tanks to surround the homes of high ranking members of Iraqiya.  December 18th is when al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq are pulled from a Baghdad flight to the KRG but then allowed to reboard the plane. December 19th is when the arrest warrant is issued for Tareq al-Hashemi by Nouri al-Maliki who claims the vice president is a 'terrorist.' .
And al-Hashemi has been in Turkey while a Baghdad court, controlled by Nouri, pretends to be offering an impartial trial.  This despite the Baghdad judges declared him guilty in February at their press conference and while one judge was stating that he had been threatened by al-Hashemi, before the trial even started, they declared al-Hashemi guilty.  That press conference demonstrated that al-Hashemi was correct, he would not get a fiar trial in the Baghdad courts (he had asked that the trial be moved to the KRG or to Kirkuk).  In May, the trial began.  His attorneys have walked out at least once in protest of the judges' behavior.  The judges have also refused to allow Vice President al-Hashemi to call President Jalal Talabani to the stand as a character witness. 
 
Tareq al-Hashemi remains Vice President.  That should mean the trial shouldn't even be taking place.  His term would need to have expired or he would need to resign or he would need to be voted out of office to stand trial.  As Vice President of Iraq, Tareq al-Hashemi is now in Saudi Arabi where, Alsumaria reports, he is conveying condolences over Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz's death.  That's a trip that Nouri couldn't make successfully.  Tariq al-Hashemi is Sunni Arab.  Nouri's not and Nouri's constant verbal attacks on Saudi Arabia -- as well as Saudi Arabia's snub of his Arab League Summit in March -- go to the fact that they don't trust him.  For good reason.  Last Friday,  Alsumaria reported he was publicly accusing Saudi Arabi and Qatar of trying to destroy Iraq and Syria.  President Jalal Talabani probably could have handled the trip and the diplomacy aspect but he's fled Iraq for Germany.
 
Commenting on al-Hashemi's trial, Press TV gloms on Alia Nsayef of White Iraqiya -- a splinter group that broke off from the larger Iraqiya and has carried water for Nouri repeatedly since doing so.  Nsayef insists to Press TV that the trial is fair.  We'll be kind and assume the next section contains an editing error which leads to confusion and appears to indicate Iraqiya's Hamed al-Mutlaq was vouching for the court.  He was doing no such thing.   Mohamad Ali Harissi (AFP) quotes al-Mutlaq stating, "All evidence during the past months indicate that the judiciary was not successful in many things, and the effect on it of politicisation is clear.  We need a separation of powers and to define responsibilities and stop the interference in the work of the judiciary, which is not up to the standard of the Iraqis, though Iraqis were one of the first people to adopt laws."
 
 
A large number of Iraqis took to Baghdad's Firdous Square this week to protest Nouri.  Dar Addustour (check out the photo of the turnout, this was a huge turnout) reports Moqtada al-Sadr supporters showed up demanding that the media be free, that people speak freely and that no one muzzle the voice of democracy.  Kitabat notes that Nouri's effort to shut down satellite chanel Baghdadi resulted in the large turnout and that the crowd chanted Moqtada's name.  Dar Addustour reports that Nouri attempted to limit -- if not halt -- the protests by butting off raods to the square, stationing security guards throughout and more.  Nouri dismissed the protest and their objections to him while insisting that his critics can say anything about him but he's gagged/prevented from speaking about them.  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had no comment because he's fled to Germany.
 
He don't show much these days
It gets so f**king cold
I loved his secret places
But I can't go anymore
"You change like sugar cane"
Says my northern lad
I guess you go too far
When pianos try to be guitars
I feel the west in you
And I feel it falling apart too
-- "Northern Lad," written by Tori Amos, first appears on her From The Choirgirl Hotel
 
It hasn't been a good time for Northern Lad Jalal.  For awhile there, he could hang with Moqtada, Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi and KRG President Massoud Barzani.  Then he refused to follow the Constitution and forward a petition to Parliament.  Jalal decided he had a 'right' to verify signatures and verify meant something other than: Did you sign this?  "I signed it two weeks ago but I've changed my mind" meant Jalal struck your name and he then turned around and insisted that the petition didn't have enough signatures.  He was gripping any excuse he could as quickly became obvious.  And now he finds himself alone hence the trip to Germany.
 

Kitabat reported last week on Talabani's June 9th declaration that he wouldn't forward the signatures for a no-confidence vote, thereby ending that process for the Parliament to vote Nouri al-Maliki out as prime minister.  Of Jalal's change of heart, Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) noted, "Talabani has close ties to Iran, which has been using its leverage in Iraq to keep al-Maliki in place. Divisions among the prime minister's opponents may also be undercutting the no confidence push."  Dar Addustour also focused on the messages that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been sending Jalal Talabani.  And it wasn't just Iran putting the pressure on Jalal.  By mid-week,  Dar Addustor was reporting that eye witnesses claim Jalal was visited by a convoy of US officials (ten vehicles) who explained to him what he was going to do.  (Both the US White House and the Iranian government backed Nouri al-Maliki in 2010.)  While Jalal danced for his masters, Alsumaria reported Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi stated that he refused US Vice President Joe Biden's request that he meet with Nouri al-Maliki.  He states that Tony Blinken (Biden's National Security Advisor) made the request on Biden's behalf and urged that the opposition to Nouri back down.  Kitabat noted that the US publicly insists it is not biased towards either side of the debate but that it worked repeatedly to undercut the opposition and to save Nouri from a no-confidence vote.
 
 
His former allied pals didn't just roll over the way Jalal so often does.  Instead, Alsumaria reported they met-up in Erbil on June 10th and discussed how to mobilize Parliament to take on the issue of the power grab and Nouri's monopoly of power.  Moqtada al-Sadr would insist after the meeting that the process continues.  Later in the week,  Al Rafidayn reported that Massoud Barzani also declared that efforts continue to replace Nouri and to "repel the dictatorship" as the Iraqi people want to happen.
And then Alsumaria reported Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi explained that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was the one reassuring everyone April 28th that a withdrawal of confidence could be done and Nouri al-Maliki easily replaced.  Allawi states that Talabani stated no Constitutional mechanism was required, Talabani merely had to withdraw confidence.  The next day Alsumaria reported that the Kurdistan Alliance has declared they do not support the Iraqi president traveling out of the country (he had planned a trip to the US for health issues caused by his gross obesity) and that the Kurdistan Alliance was calling on him to respect the no-confidence petition which has 176 signatures (and which they expect to gather more signatures -- the figure they give is 190).  Alliance MP Mahma Khalil  repeated that in April in Erbil (that would be the April 28th meet-up), Jalal stated he could replace Nouri with a no-confidence vote that would leave the rest of the elements of government in place.  Yes, the exact charge that Allawi had made the day before.  The next day it was time for Jalal to talk to Alsumaria and he insisted that Ayad Allawi was wrong (he avoided calling out or mentioning Mahma Khalil who'd made the same charges).
 
The waters were simmering and looked likely to boil.   Al Rafidayn noted so many were upset with Jalal that he's had to prepare a public letter for the PUK to distribute to its members.  But the big drama would wait for Saturday.  With less than 24 hours before a meet-up of Iraqiya's Allawi, KRG President Barzani and Moqtada al-Sadr, news emerged via Alsumaria that Jalal had resorted to a strongly worded letter  to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi and KRG President Massoud Barazni in which he belittled Moqtada al-Sadr and in which he insisted he'd rather resign than change his opinion and forward the petition with 176 signatures to Parliament.  A strongly worded letter left him so weakened that he had to immediately flee Iraq and head to Germany.
 
From his hospital sick bed, Jalal's issued near daily thoughts and affirmations via the press.  Yesterday, he resorted to a spokesperson.  Dar Addustour reports that the spokesperson declared Jalal had surgery but would not disclose what type of surgery or even a general reason for the surgery.  There was time, however, to float a rumor that, as soon as he returned to Iraq, Jalal planned to announce his resignation as president.
 
If that was meant to lead to cries of "Heavens no!," poor Jalal, no one appears to care.
 
 
Today, AP reports that Speaker al-Nujaifi has declared Nouri must face the Parliament for questions. Alsumaria adds that Ayad Allawi declared today that there are committees forming for the questioning of Nouri before Parliament.  Fang Yang (Xinhua) reports on it and manages to do what the US press repeatedly refuses to do: Explain what the political crisis stems from: Nouri's failure to honor the Erbil Agreement.  Yang:
 
They also accused the prime minister of evading his commitments to implementing the terms of a power-sharing deal that he signed with rival political parties.
The deal, also known as the Arbil agreement, was signed in November 2010 in Kurdistan in northern Iraq. It paved the way for Maliki's fragile partnership government after Iraq's political rivals ended their differences that lasted eight months following the parliamentary elections in March 2010.
 
 
Alsumaria reports that the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler met today with al-Sistani.  What did Kobler speak to al-Sistani about?  The political crisis, the lack of basic public services, the stalled oil and gas law.  In another article, Alsumaria notes Kobler last visited al-Sistani November 21st of last year.  Meanwhile Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Brian Murphy (AP) report, "Tehran is calling in favors among its allied factions in Iraq and exerting its significant religious and commercial influence to try to block Mr. al-Maliki's opponents from getting a no-confidence motion."
One neighbor that Nouri gets along with currently is the government of Iran.  Yesterday, Reporters Without Borders noted the disappearance of a journalist:
 

Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about Mouloud Anfand, the editor of the magazine Kurd-Israel, who has been missing for the past 11 days in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region. According to his family and various media sources, he set off from Erbil on 9 June with aim of going to Sulaymaniyah and has not been seen since.

"We fear the worst and we urge the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government's authorities to do everything possible to find Mouloud Anfand," Reporters Without Borders said. "And we therefore call for an immediate investigation into this journalist's disappearance."

Armand, who is of Iranian origin, has been living in Iraqi Kurdistan for several years. Kurd-Israel is published by the Kurd-Israel Association, which promotes better relations between Israelis and Kurds and encourages Kurdish Jews who emigrated to Israel to return to Kurdistan.

 
 
Israel Nation News notes Israel Army Radio is reporting "he was abducted by Iranian intelligence."  Alsumaria notes Mouloud Armand's colleagues believe Iranian intelligence has abducted him.
 
It's doubtful the government out of Tehran would kidnap Iraqi Colonel Sadiq Mohammad Kazim, Nouri's military officer who oversaw the 2009 and 2011 assaults on Camp Ashraf.  But not everyone's as enamored of him as Nouri and Tehran.  AP reports the European Union refused to admit him this week when he was sent as part of a delgation.  Camp Ashraf contained approximately 3500 Iranian dissidents whose presence in Iraq dates back to the 1980s.  They were welcomed into the country back then.  Since Nouri was installed by the US as prime minister in 2006, there's been a non-stop effort to evict the residents from the country.  Currently the UN has relocated approximately 2,000 to Camp Liberty.  The remaining members have thus far refused to move because they want the US to conduct a search of Camp Ashraf while they're present.  Since the State Dept has -- for some idiotic reason -- made the status of the MEK (terrorist or not terrorist) dependent upon how this transfer goes and on whether they find weapons after Camp Ashraf is empty, it's not an unreasonable request.  They've been attacked by Nouri's forces.  They've been targeted.  They have good cause to fear and, if it's just paranoia on their part, no harm is done by the US doing a search prior to the departure of the last residents.  (Their fear is that, after they're gone, Nouri's goons will plant things in the camp and when the US State Dept finally gets off its ass -- remember a US federal court ordered the State Dept to review the classification two years ago -- all these things will have been planted in and around the camp.) 
 
Camp Liberty?  Nouri's put Sadeq Kazem in charge of it.  And now he gets to be in the news.  AFP reports that the French police hauled him in for questioning today as a result of a complaint filed by a resident of Camp Ashraf who states he or she was tortured and that he or she was tortured on the orders of Sadeq Kazem.  Alsumaria reports Nouri's spokesperson insists that Kazem will be released shortly and that the real abuse is the French and their detaining Kazem.  That's good, Nouri, start attacking the European states now.  You've got no friends among the Arab states and now it's time to clear the deck of Europe as well?
 
 
Today in the US, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing, chaired by US House Rep Marlin Stutzman, on proposed bills.  One of the bills discussed was the H.R. 3860 is the Help Veterans Return to Work Act.  US House Rep John Garamendi is the bill's sponsor and it has 21 co-sponsors. 
 
The second panel was composed of VFW's Ryan Gallucci, American Legion's Steve Gonzalez, Reserve Officers Association MG Andrew Davis and attorney John S. Odom.  Gonzalez spoke of the Legion supporting H.R. 3860 with one exception: they'd allow the undue hardship protections to apply only to small businesses.  Davis conveyed that the Reserve Officers Association supports the bill and feels that undue hardship isn't an issue because it "only applies to a small minority of reemployment claims.  This mainly applies to those service members who have disabilites that were incurred or aggravated during uniformed service, and after reasonable efforts by the employer to accoomodate the disability, is not qualified due to such disability to be employed in the position of employment."   Gallucci noted the VFW opposes the bill and fears it may result in less veterans and service members being hired by big companies.   Odom had no comments on it (his practice helps service members and veterans who have problems with banks and other lending institutions and his remarks focused on bills that covered those institutions).  Gallucci was asked to speak further to H.R. 3860 and we're going to note that part.
 
 
Chair Marlin Stutzman:  I've got two questions and the first one is for Mr. Gallucci.  You go into detail on the potential impact of H.R. 3860.  What would it have -- What kind of impact would it have on service members's abilities to be employed by large employers?
 
Ryan Gallucci: Absolutely, I'm glad you asked that question, Chairman.  The concern that we have really has to do with the veterans ability to get through the door.  When we look at the unemployment statistics for veterans -- even in the age group 18 to 24 -- it's our belief that we are not even talking about veterans who are asking for re-employment.  These are veterans who are looking for first-time employment. And what we saw in the report from the Center for a New American Security was that one of the top concerns for potential employers considering hiring a reserve-component service member or a veteran was the perpetual threat of a military obligation.  Now one of our big concerns beyond this -- beyond reserve-component service members is that within the civilian-military disconnect, there's a general misunderstanding of the difference between a reserve-component service member and a veteran.  Myself, I have been asked on job interviews when discussing my military service whether or not I would have to go back?  I left the military in 2007.  That is absolutely not a concern that I would be recalled to active duty.  So our concern is that when we're talking about these daunting unemployment figures for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans that we run the risk of making them even more unattractive to large employers if we do away with the due process through which an employer could demonstrate that there may have been a hardship, there may have been a reduction in force and it may be necessary to let a certain employee go.  Now what we do support is stronger enforcement of  USSERRA [Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994] policy.  This is where we see the major gap -- when state attorney generals are only prosecuting 8% of the USSERRA complaints that come through their offices, when we hear from Dept of Labor that they're running up against major defenses from the legal defenses of these major corporations, that's not necessarily because of the undue hardship clause.    That'll continue. They'll continue to fight for why they don't need to live up to their USSERRA obligations.  But we're concerned with this on the front-end would impact veterans in their ability to land a job to begin with.
 
 
We may come back to this hearing or grab a Wednesday hearing (also on proposed bills) in tomorrow's snapshot.  I'm not taking a position on the bill.  We're including that because I was surprised there was such a sharp break between the VFW and the other service organizations on the bill and because Galluci talked about how common the issue of the returning finding out that there jobs are not there.  This is a serious problem and it is illegal to fire someone who is called up for duty because they were called up.  We've noted this and we've noted how common it is and how little the press reports on it.  Probably because Guard and Reserve members don't take out ads in newspapers or on television but big corporations do.  That's certainly an easy explanation for the lack of coverage.  As Gallucci notes, it's a fairly widespread problem and you don't get that from the press. 
 
 
Iraq War Hawk Anne-Marie Slaughter joined the Barack Obama administration and left two years later.  She's written a stupid article at The Atlantic -- one that only a non-feminist would write.  She thinks she can present the personal as political.  The personal as political works on universal experiences.  We weren't all plotting war, Anne-Marie, cheering on the deaths of Iraqis and, later, Libyans.
 
Slaughter had problems with her teenage son.  She makes that part of the article.  How sad for her teenage son.  But maybe if Mommy hadn't been a blood thirsty War Hawk, he wouldn't have been a troubled child.  Sorry, Anne-Marie, but a feminist wouldn't have written that article.  A feminist would have known better.
 
Feminism lied and betrayed Slaughter because you can't have it all!!!!
 
Okay, even the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution don't promise that you can have it all.  I'm confused as to which 'feminist' Slaughter heard say, "You can have it all!"  I've never said that and I've never heard any other feminist say that.  I remember a bad commercial from the 70s for Enjoli perfume with a song that promised that while a woman shook her ass for the camera.  Is Slaughter so stupid she thought Enjoli was the voice of feminism?  It was a corporate product voiced by Madison Avenue.  Grow the hell up.
 
Second-wave feminism was about the politics of homework, it was about very real issues.  I'm not remembering the Ms. magazine cover story proclaiming, "Gals, it's all been solved! Now we get to have it all!"  Because that cover doesn't exist.  Gloria Steinem, Flo Kennedy, Maxine Hong Kingston, Robin Morgan, Madonna Thunder HawkBernice Johnson Reagon, Gloria AnzalduaJo Freeman, Dolores Huerta, May ChenMartha P. Cotera, Lorelei DeCora,  Toni Cade Bambara, and assorted other second-wavers never said, "You can have it all!" They didn't make that promise in word and they didn't make that promise in action.  Feminism wouldn't be an ongoing struggle for equality if we could have it all currently.  And I believe it was Marlo Thomas who rightly pointed out in those early second-wave days that she needed a wife.  The point she was making at that time was that with all she had to do, she could sure use someone to do all the things that married women were expected to do for their husbands at that time.  Marlo's entire point refutes Anne-Marie's lie that feminism promised her she could have it all.  I've never read a more stupid article.
 
And I'm going to go there.  Having outed your son as troubled child two years ago, I hope to hell that's not still true because I had to groan when I read this sentence, "I have not exactly left the ranks of full-time career woman; I teach a full course load; write regular print and online columns on foreign policy; give 40 to 50 speeches a year; appear regularly on TV and radio; and am working on a new academic book."  Again, Anne-Marie, I hope to hell that your child is still not troubled because clearly your plate is full.
 
Feminists, please note, don't go around writing things like "full-time career woman."  I've never once -- and I've known her for years -- heard Gloria Steinem identify herself as "a career woman."  That's the sort of phrase that's used in bad backlash TV programs (read Susan Faludi's still wonderful and still pertinent Backlash: The Undeclared War On American Women as well her equally brilliant but less well received by 'critics'  The Terror Dream.  The same is true of "high potential women" -- an  phrase that's meant to imply "professionals" (professional murderers?) like Anne-Marie but's really just another elitist phrase by a Queen Bee who wants to be bitchy and pretend she's so much better than the average woman.  (Of course she wants to pretend that, a Queen Bee doesn't value womanhood, that's why she wants to be told she 'thinks like a man' and other exception-to-the-rule phrases.)
 
 
Anne-Marie Slaughter wanted to have a 'buzz' article to gear up for a bad book and the best way to do that is to blame feminism.  The media loves to distort feminism and they love the writers that do that work for them.
 
I don't care that she offers some potential solutions, I don't give a damn.  First off, there's no 'solution' she's proposed that a feminst hasn't made before -- even though she's unable to credit them.  She can write a piece slamming feminism, please note, but she can't give credit to the women who've long been proposing what she's just stumbled upon.   I am so tired of these women who beat up on feminism to make a name for themselves.  I'm not talking about critical thinking, I'm not saying feminism if off-limits.  We especially need to be critiquing the second-wave now (for various reasons including what was achieved, what worked and also to allow those who were a part of the second-wave to have a chance to respond).  And I certainly don't believe that you can only critique in polite tones with qualifiers and sweetness. 
 
But Anne-Marie's not offering a critique -- harsh, kind or otherwise.  What she's done is attacked feminism and done so in a way that will have many readers who don't know any better (because the media always distorts feminism) nodding along.  There's no factual basis to her claim.  Feminism didn't -- and hasn't -- promised any one -- woman, man or child -- that they could have it all.  Feminism is an ongoing struggle for equality.
 
 
Is Anne-Marie brain dead or did she just forget 2008?  I will never forget 2008 which reminds us of just how right the late second-wave feminist Ellen Willis was about the sexism in so many of our 'brothers' on the left.  Hillary was attacked in the press and by left males (and some females) for the way she looked, for the way she laughed, for her age, for her marriage (remember when both Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Edwards attacked Hillary's marriage -- weren't those 'uplifiting' moments for us all).  She was called the most disgusting things.  The Progressive linked to a piece at The Weekly Standard -- a piece Matthew Rothschild enjoyed -- about the whole 'call her a c-word' group.  It took her being called a "bitch" on CNN  for FAIR to finally note the sexism of 2008 in their weekly radio show CounterSpin.  Ava and I covered this May 25, 2008 -- refer to that if you're late to the party on the one and only time the weekly half-hour media criticism show could find an example of sexism in campaign 2008.
 
 
Throughout the primaries, Hillary survived one sexist attack after another.  The media watchdog's weekly radio program CounterSpin ignored and ignored it.  It took all the complaints about their silence and Hillary being called a "bitch" by a commentator on CNN for FAIR to finally give us a brief second on their radio program where they noted sexism.  Again, what world has Anne-Marie been living in?
 
There are women -- including feminists -- who will try to put a sweet spin on it and emphasize Anne-Marie's suggestions.  I'm not playing that game.  You cannot take to the public square and outright lie about feminism and get away with it.  And "career woman," again, not a phrase feminists use.  Just as you'll never hear Jo Freeman call Bill Gates a "career man."  Anne-Marie writes like Queen Bee, squawks like a Queen Bee, I think she's a Queen Bee.  And, no, Queen Bee's are not feminists.  They are all about being the one of the few -- if not the sole -- woman in the room. 
 
Anne-Marie had jobs inside the home and outside the home.  She can thank feminism for that.  And feminism certainly is about choices.  And a feminist can choose to work solely inside the home or solely outside the home or to do both.  A feminist can raise a child or raise 50 kids or none at all.  A feminist can marry once or marry many men and many women or never marry at all.  These are choices that exist because feminism exists for and fought for the right of a woman to have self-deterimination in her own life.  Feminism gives women the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to leave a marriage (due to abuse or just because you're not happy) and so much more. 
 
Anne-Marie, the struggle for equality never ended because we're still not there.  I've been in a ton of marches for pro-choice, for equal pay for equal work, for what have you.  Never once did we march carrying a banner which read, "SUCCESS AT LAST!  STOP DEMANDING EQUALITY!  WE HAVE ACHIEVED IT!" 
 
 
the cook, he told me
children not exactly well
behaved.
I said, well, you can't have it all
and really, who cares
when the magic plum wine
is dancing on the paper walls?
-- "Japanese Restaurant," written by Laura Nyro, first appears on her Laura: Live at the Bottom Line
 
Laura Nyro passed away in the 90s.  She put that song out in 1989.  Laura grasped that "you can't have it all" but that was news to Anne-Marie today? 
 
Feminism didn't mislead Anne-Marie.
 
Anne-Marie lied to herself.  Her problem has nothing to do with feminism.  It doesn't even have to do with work, actually.  She's one of those people that's going to try to ride life like a wild stallion, break it in and it's going to do just what she says.
 
That's not life, that's a control freak's wet dream.  Life is messy, life is hard, life is fun, life is glorious.  It changes like the weather.  It is chaos, it is calm. You learn to take life for what it offers as opposed to trying to push it up a hill and you can be a lot happier.  Anne-Marie's biggest problem is her plan in her head didn't match what she now sees before her eyes.  That is life, get used to it.  She's such a patriarch, thinking she's going to dominate the wild nature of life, dominate nature itself.  What a sad, sad, wanna-be-man of a woman.
 
And remember, Anne-Marie, confessional writing is when you write about yourself.  And you can include many adults in your narrative.  But confessional writing really isn't tagging your now 16-year-old son as a troubled child with behavioral problems.  That's really not feminism either.  I don't know what it is.  Maybe an attempt to make yourself look noble?  It just makes you look like your so desperate for attention that you'll take the problems of a child and make them public for your own financial gain.  Again, that's not feminism.
 
 

Posted at 06:33 pm by thecommonills
 

The ongoing, Nouri-created political crisis

The ongoing, Nouri-created political crisis

Alsumaria reports Nouri has another poll -- it's funny how the Iraqi outlets can always identify Nouri's polls as his but others -- NPR's Quil Lawrence for example -- struggle with that reality.  There's no margin of error listed for the poll . . . apparently because Little Saddam makes no error.  (Without a published margin of error, a poll isn't scientific.)   Asked if they believed a national conference could solve the political crisis, Nouri gave 7% of respondents or 'respondents' an "I don't know," 23% a "yes" and 70% a "no."  Not only does the poll fail to offer a margin of error, it's results reflect Nouri's own resistance to a national conference which, I'm so very sure, must be a coincidence. 

Iraq is in the midst of an ongoing political crisis that can easily be explained: Nouri broke a contract.  That contract is the Erbil Agreement and if the US press had done it's job everyone reading right now would be nodding their heads and saying, "Oh, right."

But though breathless in their November 2010 coverage of the Erbil Agreement, they now either can't recall it or else can't recall the name.

In March 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections.  Despite using the Justice and Accountability Commission* to disqualify political rivals and force them out of the race, Nouri's claims and 'polls' that showed his State of Iraq winning by a huge margin did not come true.  Not only was there no huge win, there was no win for State of Law at all.  The newly formed Iraqiya, headed by Ayad Allawi, won.  The US press loves to add "by only two seats!"  No, they didn't win by seats.  Seats in the Parliament were what was awarded.  They won by votes.  And vote totals do not allow the whores of Nouri to make it look as close so instead they note "only two seats!" As though that makes Iraqiya's win illegitimate?  Reality, you only need to win by one vote.


The results meant no first shot at forming a cabinet for Nouri who so desperately wanted a second term.  So he threw the entire process into gridlock and was able to do so with the backing and support of the US White House.  The US press was really something to see.  As Iraq set the record with eight months of gridlock, they excused it, laughed at it, minimized it.  A stark contrast to their hadn wringing and hysterics in November 2000 following the US election whiere they insisted a 'clear winner' must be known immediately and that Al Gore should do the 'noble' thing and call Bully Boy Bush the winner.  For those who've forgotten or were too young to remember, Gore v. Bush went before the Supreme Court and, even with that, did not last months.  A US president isn't sworn in utnil the last third of January.  But throughout November, it was hysteria and alarm from the US press. 

Maybe they wee confessing to not believing that the US had a strong democracy?  Iraq's process -- which doesn't begin to resemble a democracy -- is far more fragile.  But there were no calls for Nouri to step aside.  The press echoed the Obama administration line because there's no real independence in the press.  His sychophants did not serve him well because Baack owns Iraq forever more as a result of his refusal to support the election results, to support the Iraqi people, to support a stab at democracy, to support the Iraqi Constitution.

Nouri was already known to run secret prisons and torture.  It's amazing how he repeatedly has gotten away with, "That prisson is closed!  It's been closed for months!"  The man's been repeatedly found to run secret torture cells and his response is, "They're closed now!"?  Oh, okay.  As long as they're closed now. 


Yet the White House backed him.  They lied to other political blocs and that's why the US image is growing worse in Iraq.  Not only did they back Nouri in his gridlock, they worked overtime to force the other blocs to give second place Nouri the results he'd have if State of Law had come in first: a second term as prime minister. 

They lectured the blocs (other than State of Law) about putting Iraq first.  The same pressure wasn't placed on Nouri who had caused the political stalemate.  Nouri and the White House counted on the fact that Nouri could throw a tantrum longer than the blocs could tolerate his tantrum.  They were right.

So the US government brokered the Erbil Agreement.  It would give Nouri a second term as prime minister in exchange for various concessions on Nouri's part.  The US government assured the political blocs this was a binding agreement.  People signed off on it  -- including Nouri.

That was November 2010.  Nouri used it to get a second term and then trashed the contract.  He refused to honor his promises.  That was obvious by all but the intentionally dense US press by December 2010. 

It's six months away from two years that the current political stalemate has existed.  In the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr began publicly demanding Nouri honor the contract.  He responded by targeting Sunnis and Iraqiya.  By December 21, 2011, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi began calling for a national conference to address the political crisis.  Even the terminally weak Iraq President Jalal Talabani joined the call.

Nour isnisted no way.  Nouri and State of Law attacked the notion.  By February, they had a new argument: The Arab League Summit is March 29th!  They can't hold a national conference before that!

The weekend before the summit, Jalal tried to pretend he had some power.  He announced that the national conference would be held April 5th.  Nouri -- worried about his image as the world press arrived in Iraq -- quickly echoed that so as to appear that all was smooth and fine.  The world press went home and April 4th it was suddenly announced there would be no national conference.

Nouri has worked to kill the conference repeatedly.  The US press hasn't been interested in that either.  During this long drawn out stalemate, another secret prison scandal emerged.  Nouri again claimed, "That prison was closed!" No, it wasn't.  Even had it been, that wouldn't have excused its existence or the torture that took place in it.

Which is probably why the whole issue is avoided, right?

Mental midget Fred Kaplan put on his tin foil hat yesterday to smear those who question Little Saddam as wanting to benefit from the oil.  No, it didn't make much sense.  Over the years, Fred Kaplan rarely has made sense.  But that's how immature the US press has become -- and how cowed: They don't have the strength to stand up for the will of the people or that votes be honored.

Nouri's already in campaign mode.  He's finally going to spend almost a billion -- almost -- on power generators. (AGI: "The US service company Weatherford International was awarded a $ 843 bln contract for the building of six production centers in the Eni Zubair deposit in Iraq.") Of course, they will primarily serve the oil fields in southern Iraq.  Iraq brings in billions in oil revenues each year but all these years later -- and Nouri first became prime minister in 2006 -- they still lack potable water and reliable electricity.

And this was the issue that brought Iraqis into the streets in 2011.  But the press wasn't interested in that.  The New York Times, you may remember, attacked the protesters in a sotry filed on the same day that Nouri attacked the protesters -- arrested them, abducted them, tortured them.  The press is a little too eager to identify with Nouri.   As Nouri's attacks continued, the protesters discvoered just how little the 'world's eyes' would be on them.  While the press worked overtime to energize the proceedings in Egypt, they ignored what was taking place in Iraq.  Few even bothered to report (CNN did report it) when Nouri's forces began preventing the press from covering the protests in downtown Baghdad.

AP reports that al-Nujaifi has declared Nouri must face the Parliament for questions. Alsumaria adds that Ayad Allawi declared today that there are committees forming for the questioning of Nouri before Parliament. 

Yesterday's snapshot covered the Tuesday House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  The Committee issued this news release Tuesday:




WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held an oversight hearing entitled “Reclaiming the Process: Examining the VBA Claims Transformation Plan as a Means to Effectively Serve Our Veterans.” At the hearing, the Committee learned that VA has yet to completely implement a comprehensive transformation plan to provide veterans with a paperless disability claims process that relies on accuracy the first time a claim is submitted.
“Various initiatives have great potential, but despite repeated promises, the backlog continues to grow,” stated Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “In addition, the rate of accuracy and processing time has remained stagnant. Since 2009, Secretary Shinseki has promised to ‘break the back of the backlog.’ Instead, three years later, the backlog has grown by half a million claims.”
The hearing focused on VBA’s transformation plan, which centers on the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), a program that is supposed to digitize disability claims and make the process more timely and accurate. Yet, only a handful of Regional Offices are using VBMS to help process claims with full roll out scheduled later this year. VA has consistently referred to VBMS as the cornerstone of its transformation process.
VA’s main partner to digitize veterans’ claims is the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Their contract with VA expires next week and NARA officials cited the need for an estimated 4,000 additional employees to address the current backlog.
VA announced earlier today that the backlog increase due to the processing of retroactive Agent Orange claims has been largely addressed, and that should free up claims processors around the country. As of today, however, VA’s backlog stands at 839,028 claims, of which more than 55% have been pending more than 125 days.
In addition, the Committee continued to question VA on its justification of exorbitant bonuses to well-paid senior executives who oversee the worsening claims process, especially in light of today’s tough economy and tight fiscal climate.
“Secretary Shinseki estimates that more than 1 million veterans from Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom are expected to enter VA. What will happen to the backlog then? Will veterans be stuck in the system indefinitely? It is time for VA to uphold its responsibility, to our veterans and to the American people, to break this cycle of unproductively and deliver the benefits that VA was created to provide,” said Bilirakis.“Every one of these claims represents a veteran and their family patiently waiting, not just a stack of paper on a bureaucrat’s desk. Technology should and must be used as there is a lot of innovation in the marketplace today to address many of these issues. But technology alone is not the silver bullet, and it is clear to me it will take continued oversight and pressure from Congress and veterans before VA turns a corner.”




I'm in a hearing right now and opening statements are about to be over so I need to be taking notes.  We'll try to cover Tareq al-Hashemi among other issues in today's snapshot.






The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

Posted at 07:23 am by thecommonills
 

The Bush Burn Out and Burn Pits

The Bush Burn Out and Burn Pits

The idiot David Frum feels Brett McGurk has been wronged. For some strange reason, he's tossing those statements from The Daily Beast instead of a prison cell.  Conrad Black's momentary fancy became America's permanent nightmare and  he didn't just cheer on the illegal war, actively repeated lies to attempt to sway public opinion.  Bully Boy Bush's former speech writer -- how bad is Frum?  Bush fired him -- supports Frum.  He doesn't give a damn about the Iraqi people.  But he never gave a damn about them.  He pretended to in order to call for illegal war.  The idiot Frum wants to liken McGurk and Gina Chon to Averell Harriman and Pamela Married For Money Too Many Times and destroyed too many families.  (Sorry, I don't play the Democratic party line on that piece of trash and never have.  The one time in her life Ann Coulter was right may have been when she insulted Pamela.)  The reason that McGurk and Chon's releationship was unethical was because a reporter doesn't sleep with her source.  She also doesn't keep that information from her editor.  She also doesn't allow her source to vet her copy.  All three are wrong.  They become doubly wrong when the source is also a government official.  Then you're not just letting your source vet your copy, you are, in effect, letting the government vet your copy.  Those are complex issues, far too complex for Frum.


So of course he can't even consider how a host country would look upon McGurk.  As we noted of Kaplan's ravings yesterday:


Kappy writes a column about Brett McGurk's nomination while never once considering the Iraqi people.  Iraqiya is mentioned (in a bad paragraph).  Iraqiya is popular, they are not the Iraqi people.  The Iraqi people are approximately 30 million and Foolish Fred wants you to know how wonderful his man crush Brett would have been in the job.  No, he wouldn't have been good in the job.  The clerics, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (al-Sistani is the only true calming influence in the country, if he requests that the temperature of rhetoric be lowered, it gets lowered), could not be comfortable with McGurk.  He came to Iraq a married man.  He had an affair in Iraq.  On top of that, he left his wife.  He divorced her.  Gina Chon would have been his "_____" if she'd accompanied him to Iraq.  What's the big debate in Iraq today?  Raheem Salman (Reuters) reports, "An Iraqi government decree banning soldiers and police from wearing beards on duty has revived a debate over religious practices in a country where sectarian divisions between Shi'ite and Sunni still fester close to the surface."  What McGurk and Chon did -- both married when they began their affair in Iraq -- goes against fundamentalist teachings and also insults the host country since he violated his vows while he was in Iraq.  Iraqi women would not have been able to access the Embassy because of fear of what would be said about them (and the fear that words could lead to 'honor' killings -- where women have supposedly disgraced and brought dishonor to their relatives so the women must be put to death by their relatives).  We've got over half the population right there.

Frum leaves all of that out.  And while idiots like Kaplan and Frum don't grasp the way McGurk is seen in the Arab world, others did.  And while idiots like Kaplan and Frum don't grasp the power of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Iraq, others do.  Alsumaria reports this morning that the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler met today with al-Sistani.  And what did he say after?  That the UN was very concerned about the ongoing political crisis.  And who did Kobler take that concern to?  The Grand Ayatollah.  An American, non-Muslim, who came to Iraq as a married man and slept with a woman who was already married?  Chon and McGurk can have all the weddings in the world they want, the Grand Ayatollah would not have received McGurk.  McGurk's actions, in the Arab world, were an insult to marriage, to the host country and to vows.  He would have no standing.  When the White House finally grasped that (last Sunday night), McGurk was offered the chance of announcing his own withdrawal.

What did Kobler speak to al-Sistani about?  The political crisis, the lack of basic public services, the stalled oil and gas law.  He wasn't there seeking religious counsel, he was there courting (and paying respects to) the person who's probably the most powerful in Iraq.  In another article, Alsumaria notes Kobler last visited al-Sistani November 21st of last year. 


Moving on to the topic of burn pits and dropping back to the June 13th snapshot for an overview:

Senator Mark Udall:  Sitting in the audience today is Master Sergeant Jessey Baca a member of the New Mexico Air National Guard and his wife Maria.  [to them] Just give everybody a waive here, you two.  Master Sgt. Baca was stationed in Balad, Iraq and exposed to burn pits. His journey to be here today was not easy.  He has battled cancer, chronic bronchitis, chemical induced asthma, brain lesions, TBI, PTSD and numerous other ailments. Maria has traveled that difficult road with him.   They know first hand the suffering caused by burn pits and they need to know the answers.  It is because of them and so many others like them that we are here today.  Last year, I introduced S. 1798, the Open Burn Pits Registry Act with Senator Corker.  Representative Todd Akin introduced it in the House.  It is not a partisan issue.  We have each met with veterans and active duty members of the military and they have told us how important it is that we act now.  In both Afghanistan and Iraq, open air burn pits were widely used at forward operating bases.  Disposing of trash and other debris was a major challenge.  Commanders had to find a way to dispose of waste while concentrating on the important mission at hand.  The solution that was chosen, however, had serious risks.  Pits of waste were set on fire -- sometimes using jet fuel for ignition.  Some burn pits were small but others covered multiple acres of land. Often times, these burn pits would turn the sky black.  At Joint Base Balad Iraq, over 10 acres of land were used for burning toxic debris.  At the height of its operations, Balad hosted approximately 25,000 military, civilian and coalition provision authority personnel.  These personnel would be exposed to a toxic soup of chemicals released into the atmosphere.  According to air quality measurements, the air at Balad had multiple particulates harmful to humans: Plastics and Styrofoams, metals, chemicals from paints and solvents, petroleum and lubricants, jet fuel and unexploded ordnance, medical and other dangerous wastes.  The air samples at Joint Base Balad turned up some nasty stuff. Particulate matter, chemicals that form from the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas garbage or other organic substances, volatile organic compounds such as acetone and benzene  -- benzene, as you all know, is known to cause leukemia --  and dioxins which are associated with Agent Orange.  According to the American Lung Association, emissions from burning waste contain fine particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. All of this was in the air and being inhaled into the lungs of service members.  Our veterans have slowly begun to raise the alarm as they learn why -- after returning home -- they are short of breath or experiencing headaches and other symptoms and, in some cases, developing cancer.  Or to put it more simply, by Maria Baca, when she describes her husband's symptoms, "When he breathes, he can breathe in, but he can't breathe out.  That's the problem that he's having.  It feels like a cactus coming out of his chest.  He feels  these splinters and he can't get rid of them."  The Dept of Army has also confirmed the dangers posed by burn pits.  In a memo from April 15, 2011, Environmental Science Engineering Officer, G. Michael Pratt, wrote an air quality summary on Baghram Airfield.  And I would respectfully ask that the full memo be included in the record.  Referring to the burn pits near Baghram Airfield,  he said there was potential that "long-term exposure at these level may experience the risk for developing chronic health conditions such as reduced lung function or exacerbated chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, atherosclerosis  and other cardio pulmonary diseases.  Many of our service members are coming home with these symptoms.  I believe, like you do, Madam Chair, that we are forever in debt for their service, so we must ask the question, "How did these burn pits impact the health of our returning heroes?"  This bill is a step towards finding the answers we owe them.  The legislation will establish and maintain and Open Burn Pit Registry for those individuals who may have been exposed during their military service.  It would include information in this registry that the Secretary of the VA determines is applicable to possible health effects of this exposure. develop a public information campaign to inform individuals about the registry and periodically notify members of the registry of significant developments associated with burn pits exposure.  It is supported by numerous groups including BurnPits 360, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Association of US Navy,  Retired Enlisted Association, the Uniformed Services Disabled Retirees and the National Military Family Association.  Madam Chair and Ranking Member Burr, thank you for your attention to this important issue.  I look forward to working with both of you and members of your distinguished Committee on this important legislation.  Thank you and a pleasure once again to be with you today. 


That was Senator Mark Udall, as the Senate Veterans Committee hearing last week, explaining the basics on burn pits and what a Burn Pit Registry is needed.  Justice is also needed. Several Oregon National Guard soldiers who served in Iraq and were exposed to the cancer causing hexavalent chromium are attempting to get justice in a court of law.   Mike Francis (Oregonian) reports:

Lawyers for a set of Oregon Guard soldiers and for defense contractor KBR Inc. grilled three expert witnesses Wednesday about the effects and risks of exposure to hexavalent chromium one the first of two days of hearings in federal court in Portland.
The Iraqi water treatment plant at Qarmat Ali "would be a Superfund site in the United States" because of contamination by sodium dichromate, the carcinogenic compound containing hexavalent chromium, said Herman Gibb, testifying on behalf of the soldiers. Gibb, who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency for 29 years and now runs a consultancy in Virginia, performed a widely recognized study on the hazards of hexavalent chromium exposure at a sodium dichromate factory in Baltimore.



The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan, World Can't Wait, the Los Angeles Times, CSPAN and the Pacifica Evening News -- updated last night and this morning:



Lastly, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Commitee and she continues to demand answers regarding the changing of service members and veterans diagnoses and the false accusations hurled at the service members and veterans when they attempted to get the medical treatments they needed.  Her office issued this yesterday:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Wednesday, June 20, 2012 (202) 224-2834
Chairman Murray Requests Details of Military Review of Mental Health Diagnoses Since 2001
As historic review begins, Murray calls on Secretary Panetta, Pentagon to “clearly communicate the scope of the review as well as the impact on individual servicemembers and veterans”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to request details on how the Department of Defense will conduct a major review of mental health diagnoses made since 2001. The review, which Secretary Panetta announced last week at a hearing with Senator Murray, comes after Murray has repeatedly pointed to inconsistencies in the Pentagon’s mental health evaluation system. In Washington state, those inconsistencies have led to hundreds of service members having their proper diagnosis of PTSD restored after being accused of lying about their symptoms.
“The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are losing the war against mental and behavioral health conditions,” Murray wrote. “As you acknowledged, huge gaps remain in how both the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs approach, diagnose and deal with these cases. A review across each service is a necessary step forward in addressing concerns I have been raising about both the disability evaluation system and the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral health conditions.”
In the letter Murray outlines four key issues the Pentagon must consider in proceeding with the review, including one about the timeline for this massive review. Murray also calls on Secretary Panetta to “clearly communicate the scope of the review as well as the impact on individual servicemembers and veterans.”
The full text of Senator Murray’s letter follows:
June 20, 2012
The Honorable Leon E. Panetta
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Dear Secretary Panetta:
As I stated during the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Department of Defense FY 2013 Budget Request, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are losing the war against mental and behavioral health conditions. The recent events at Madigan Army Medical Center, where hundreds of soldiers have had their proper diagnosis of PTSD restored after being told they were exaggerating their symptoms, lying, and being labeled malingers, demonstrate the weaknesses within the Department of Defense in properly evaluating and diagnosing behavioral health conditions.
As you acknowledged, huge gaps remain in how both the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs approach, diagnose and deal with these cases. I was pleased to see you share my belief that a review of behavioral health evaluations and diagnoses in support of the disability evaluation system needs to be a Department led effort. A review across each service is a necessary step forward in addressing concerns I have been raising about both the disability evaluation system and the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral health conditions. I applaud your commitment to undertake this comprehensive review, however, I have questions about how the Department will proceed.
· Has the Department developed or provided guidance to the services in order to accomplish this review? If so, I would request copies of any guidance that has been developed or issued.
· What is the timeline for execution of this review? When do you expect the other services to begin this review and when do you expect findings and recommendations from each of the services?
· Which senior leaders at the Department and each service will be responsible for conducting this review and the development and implementation of recommendations?
· How will the Army’s current review be incorporated into this broader effort?
As the review begins, the Department of Defense must clearly communicate the scope of the review as well as the impact on individual servicemembers and veterans. Appropriate steps must also be taken to ensure the performance of this review does not adversely impact the timeliness of cases currently processing through the disability evaluation system.
Ensuring greater consistency in the evaluation and diagnosis of behavioral health conditions is not the only challenge currently confronting the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES). As highlighted by a recent Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing I held on IDES, the number of men and women enrolled in this system continues to climb, the number of servicemembers cases meeting both of the Departments’ timeliness goals is unacceptably low, and the amount of time it takes to provide benefits to a servicemember transitioning through the system has risen each year since inception. Both Departments must take immediate action to reverse these trends.
Following a recent discussion with Deputy Secretary Carter on these issues, I outlined a series of recommendations to improve the disability evaluation system. The letter to Deputy Secretary Carter dated June 6, 2012 outlining these recommendations is enclosed, and I urge you to act quickly to implement these solutions. I appreciate the opportunity, which you offered at the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, to discuss these issues with Secretary Shinseki and you in the near future, and I look forward to hearing your recommendations about how we can improve this system.
I appreciate your attention to this request and I remain committed to working with you to address these very serious issues.



Sincerely,
Patty Murray
Chairman

cc: The Honorable Carl Levin
The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Enclosure
###
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct


The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.


 

Posted at 06:57 am by thecommonills
 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, June 20, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri wants Barack to kill an ExxonMobil deal, Nouri wants TOTAL to stay away from the KRG, Moqtada al-Sadr states the US is still controlling Iraq, US House Rep Bob Filner calls out the VA on its lack of progress, an American family tries to get the body of their loved one back from Iraq, and more.
 
 
House Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Bob Filner: Now, by the way, Mr. [US House Rep Timothy] Walz -- now, Mr. Walz, she [VA Under Secretary Allison Hickey] doesn't need your defense here for her past accomplishments. And I don't need a lecture from you of her past.  We're talking about what she's going to do for the VA now. I'll stipulate any accomplishments that she's had. I respect her service.  But if she can't do this job, I don't care what she has done in the past.  Okay? So don't lecture me about how I don't have respect for someone's past.  She's talking about the future -- the present and the future.  And she didn't give one answer or one recognition that there was any problem -- in all her testimony, in every answer.  This Chairman [Marlin Stutzman] asked her a number of things. She talked for three-and-a-half minutes and didn't give the answer and still doesn't know the answer.  So let's talk about what she's doing right here and right now.  And I said if one of your veterans -- And she didn't answer your question, your very good questions, Mr. Walz, about the time period of what's going on in Minneapolis?  She just said, 'Oh, from time to time we have surges.'  You asked are we heading toward a lowest common denominator and she never answered that.  So don't -- I mean be a little more critical of the kind of answers we're getting.  We don't have a plan. This whole hearing was about a plan.  If I were her, I would have given out the plan.  But we still don't have one.  Again, Ms. Hickey, if I were you, leadership comes from the top. The top is saying, "There is no problem."  You ask any veteran in my district, in Mr. Walz' district, in Mr. [Mike] Michaud's district, in Mr. Stutzman's district: Is there a problem?  Every one will say, "Yes."  Now you can say, 'They don't understand fully.  Their perception is wrong, we've had a surge of this.  We did this.  We had the Vietnam era.'  I don't care what -- you have not either acknowledged the problem or say how we're going to get out of it.  You gave us an assurance of a date.  And Mr. Walz asked --  I know it's not a very bright question -- 'Are you committed? Is it going to happen?'  What is she going to say?  "No"?  We've had these questions, we've had these committments for years and years and years and years.  And Mr. Walz asked you another softball question: 'Has anything been tried as this big before?  We have tried every single thing that you have as your initiatives -- has been tried.   Every one of them at some point.  In fact, we've had far more comprehensive plans than your forty initiatives lumped together.  Nothing has worked.  It's gotten worse.  And you refuse to admit it.  You refuse to acknowledge it.  And you don't give us a plan to fix it.  What am I to think? 'Well, she was an Air Force General that did great things.'  If it doesn't happen by 2015, are you going to say I resign or what's going to happen if you're at the top?  And it's always two or three years out.  It's never, "I'm going to do this tomorrow."  You've been working on this.  Your predecessor's been working on this.  I don't have any assurance.  You can't even correct a date on the computer for a year-and-a-half and you call it a "glitch."  What confidence do I have that you can do anything if it took a year-and-a-half to fix a "glitch?"  The simplest thing.  Put a date in.  You could have done it by hand in a few months.  It took you a year-and-a-half.  You still haven't done it.  I'm sure we'll get a memo from you -- I just bet, you want to make a bet right now -- that you'll ask for another extension.  I just bet.  When's that going to be done?  Why should we have any confidence in 2015 that a system of a million backlog is going to be fixed when we can't even get a "glitch" fixed in a year-and-a-half?  What gives me the confidence?  That you were an Air Force General?  Sorry, it doesn't work. Give me some confidence.  What has worked so far?  Everything has been a problem.
 
Yesterday US House Rep Gus Bilirakis and other Republicans chaired a VBA hearing.  Chair Jeff Miller wasn't present for the hearing.  "Well here we are again," observed Ranking Member Bob Filner, "I think one of the first meetings I went to twenty years ago as a member of the Veterans Committee was on the backlog. We've hired what?  In the last few years, maybe 10,000, 15,000 employees."
 
 I spent last night on the phone to friends in federal, state and municipal government because Bilirakis brought up an issue that I didn't feel comfortable speaking to without some research.  Bilirakis noted the claims progress, or rather the lack of progess.
 
 
Acting Chair Gus Bilirakis: VBMS I know that I and my fellow Committee members and our Ranking Member have many questions to ask as to when this system will be ready for national roll out rolled out and how issues relating to the scanning of paper documents will be handled in the future.  As a matter of fact, VA's contract with the US National Archives and Records Administration, the agency currently handling VA's scanning needs, expires on June 26th, just one week from today.   I'll ask what goes after, what's going to happen on June 27th?
 
 
Backlog needs to be farmed out.  I'm not surprised or troubled by that.  I'm bothered by backlog being created as I type this sentence.  Paper taken in today should not become part of a backlog.  The first person touching that paper in the VA should be immediately scanning it into the system.  (Then it would be put in a box for archiving, as was explained last night, according to whatever retention program they're operating under.)  The paper needs to be addressed immediately.  And how do you address it?
 
You don't hire one or two people in the office to scan documents and carry the documents to them.  That's how you begin creating the backlog.  The first person to handle the paper, is the one who scans it.  Every one that comes after is referring to the digital copy in the system after that.  And everyone responsible for accepting paperwork or opening mail has a light scanner (inexpensive) attached to their computer and they immediately scan what they receive.
 
That's the only way you're going to end the paper backlog. There is no excuse for creating new backlog.   Again, I'm not disputing the farming out of the existing backlog.  There's no way VA employees can catch up with that and also do their current job tasks.  But new backlog should not be created.  You touch a claims application, you scan it in and then it goes to a pile to be boxed up for archives.  The original is not sent somewhere else in the office to be scanned or placed with stacks of others to be farmed out for scanning.
 
How much of a problem is the claims request?  Do they get lost?  I was told by three people with the VA that "missing" happens more than "lost" with "lost" meaning -- in their usuage -- it's not showing back up and "missing" meaning a week or two of fumbling around for the paper.  (How often are original paper documents "missing?"  "From time to time" and "it happens" were the responses, no one with the VA wanted to give a percentage or an estimate.) 
 
Many governments are already moving towards that.  In your local areas, getting an application to put up a fence means turning it and paying for the permit and more and more local governments are scanning that document in right there when payment is being taken.  They're doing that to prevent the loss that can take place when the original document is routed to one or more different people before it's entered into the system.  This is not a "C.I. brainstorm."  This is what is happening in government offices around the country and what the VA should immediately begin doing.  There is no need to create new backlog and even without a numbered estimate of how many claims application are lost each year, one is too many.    The longterm goal is for VA to move away from paper altogether.  They're not their yet and they're really not prepared for that at present which is the point US House Rep Phil Roe made -- he is also medical Dr. Phil Roe -- when he discusses his own practice's transition to paperless.  Disabled American Veterans Jeffrey Hall also raised the issue of the paper backlog, the future paperless goal and more.  Hall, VFW's Gerald Manar, The American Legion's Richard Dumancas and Paralyzed Veterans of America's Sherman Gillums made up the first panel.  The National Archives Records Administration's William Bosanko was the second panel.  The third panel was the IG.  Fourth panel was the VA's Allison Hickey, Alan Bozeman and Roger Baker.
 
 
Jeffrey Hall: Mr. Chairman, even before VBMS was first conceived, it was clear that in order to have a paperless claims process there must be a comprehensive system in place to digitze paper documents.  Yet VBA has failed to finalize a long-term scanning solution, in part because it has not yet definitively answered fundamental questions about when and which legacy documents will be scanned into VBMS.  Although VBA has committed to moving forward with a paparelss system for new claims, it has dragged its feet for more than two years in determining under what conditions existing paper claims files would be converted to digital files.  Because a majority of claims processed each year are for reopened or appealed claims and because files can remain active for decades, until all legacy claims are converted to digital data files, VBA could be forced to continue paper processing for decades.  We have been told that VBA's current plans are to convert claims files that have new rating-related actions, but not those with minor actions such as dependency or address changes.  However, the uncertainty over the past couple of years about how much scanning would be required, and at what cost, is at least partly responsible for VBA's reliance on NARA and its current rush to find a new scanning vendor.  While there are very difficult technical questions to be answered, and significant financial considerations involved in transitioning to all-digital processing, particular involving legacy paper files, we believe VBA would be best served by taking the most aggressive approach feasible in order to shorten the length of time this transition takes.  While the conversion from paper processing to VBMS will require substanital upfront investment, it will pay dividends for VBA and veterans in the future.  We would urge VBA to provide -- and Congress to review -- a clear plan for eliminating legacy paper files, one that includes realistic timeliness and resource requirements.
 
As noted before, there were several acting chairs for the hearing.  It was a disturbing hearing as we heard the same things that we've heard over and over.  But there were some new revelations as well.  However, that might have been even more disturbing.  Excerpt.
 
 
Acting Chair Marlin Stutzman: I'd like to do a second round because I'd like to talk about the scanning issue.  Why did it take this Committee calling a hearing for the VA to meet with NARA [National Archives and Records Administration] to discuss next week's scanning contract expiration?  I mean this is, I think, the frustration that's felt around here.  It's these sorts of things that we find out about and why isn't there some sort of pro-active movement before this?  Can you -- can you give us an explanation of why the contract is set to expire next week?  There isn't a contract.  Is there some other plan that the VBA is planning on implementing? Is it going to be done in-house? I mean, I know for us, Congressional offices, we have folks that we could use to scan things in.  I'm sure that you're system is a little bit more complicated.  We're spending ten million dollars a year, if I remember the number correctly.  It seems like we could do it cheaper and it seems like we could get it done.  Is there a plan to address that?
 
Allison Hickey:  Congressman -- I mean Chairman Stutzman, yes, there is.  I will defer the first part of it to my Assistant Secretary for Information Technology, Roger Baker. 
 
Roger Baker:  Thank you. I just want to talk to the NARA piece.  NARA's been our partner on this for two years so let me start with will we have an agreement with them by the end of this week to continue them for the next year? I believe the answer to that is "yes."  I know that's in process.  I checked with my staff while we were listening to this going on.  Got absolute assurances that there is really nothing in the way of that completing by the end of this week.  So it's a little bit different than a normal government contractor relationship.  Because it's a government-to-government relationship, it's much easier to do.  We've used NARA primarily from a development standpoint. 
 
That's more than enough from him.  I'm really tired of witnesses who eat time to avoid answering questions.  Stutzman would go on to ask about the cost.  "I really don't know," Baker told him.  The cost is a per-page scanned fee.  Well then you should know it.  And it's probably not a good idea to tell Congress and taxpayers that the deal will be closed by the end of the week but you don't know how much the VA will be paying for the scanning.  See, most people would assume that you find out the cost before you start closing on a contract.  Rushing to complete a deal when you don't know the cost doesn't look like you're being scrupulous with the taxpayer money. 
 
And it's not good to call something a plan when, as Acting Chair Stutzman noted, it's a presentation (slide show) of variables, not a plan.  Excerpt.
 
Ranking Member Bob Filner:  When you were asked: "Do you have a plan?," you said, "Yes, we supplied it to the Committee."  This is not a plan.  This is not a strategic plan.  I will ask you again, do you have a strategic plan?  And why don't you just have it with you and give it to us?  That's the title of this hearing [Reclaiming the Process: Examing the VBA Claims Transformation Plan as a Means to Effectively Serve our Veterans].  Do you have a plan to give to us this minute?
 
Allison Hickey: I do have a plan, Congressman Filner.
 
Ranking Member Bob Filner: You what?
 
Allison Hickey: I do have a plan.  I do not have it in this book, in these materials.  I'm happy to provide it for the Committee.
 
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Why are you providing it with us, a plan of execution?  You're going to provide it to us?  Why don't you have it here?  You have 18 people here working  for you.  Give us the plan.  That's all we're asking for.  You said you did it.  [Shaking head] We have some slides.  We don't have a strategic plan of how you're going to execute this so-called transformation which sounds more like a fossil-formation.  So where is the plan?
 
Allison Hickey:  Congressman Filner, I have the plan.  It's in Word document.
 
Ranking Member Bob Filner:  A secret one or what?
 
Allison Hickey: No, it is not a secret document.  In fact, I have shared it with Veterans Service Organizations, with our labor partners, with --
 
Ranking Member Bob Filner: I just said none of us have seen it.  Why don't you have it with you?
 
Allison Hickey: I will be happy to bring it to you, sir.
 
 
 
The paper backlog  and the some-day-transition-to-paperless are issues and are problems.  There are other problems. The worst backlog problems is veterans waiting and waiting for their claims to go through the process.  And, as Ranking Member Bob Filner noted, this isn't weeks or months, this is years.  He estimated that there were 100,000 Agent Orange claims -- from Vietnam era veterans -- waiting, over thirty years, he noted.
 
He noted that the IRS used to have a huge backlog and you waited and waited forever and ever for a refund check if you had one coming.  What changed that?  Why can you now file and get money within three weeks if you have a refund coming?  Because it's "subject to audit."
 
Ranking Memer Bob Filner argued that's what should be taking place with the VA today, "Grant the claim, subject to audit. Send out a check."
 
Ranking Member Bob Filner:  What have we done in the last few years? Doubled the backlogs. Raised the rate of inaccuracy, according to the recent report, up to 25%.  This is disgraceful.  This is an insult to our veterans. And you guys just recycle old programs, put new names on them, and here we are again.  Do you know what the definition -- one definition of insanity is?  Try the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.  I mean somebody has to take responsibility for this.  We just keep announcing new names, new pilot programs, on and on.  We're up to 1.2 million by one count on backlog. If it wasn't tragic, it would be ridiculous.
 
Acting Chair Bilirakis raised another issue that needs further attention.  So we'll ignore it here.  Seriously, it'll be carried over to Third on Sunday because it's one of the issues -- the first one -- that we discussed with Dona in "Congress and Veterans."  It has to do with education and I see Bilirakis' concerns (which are solid concerns) as related to Senator Richard Burr's concerns that we discussed with Dona for the piece last Sunday so it makes more sense to pick it up this coming Sunday at Third.  There's something we're carrying over for tomorrow already as it is.  I'll be one day behind on hearings all week, I bet but I didn't know a damn thing about storage of records or moving towards digitized or anything and I needed all the wonderful people who walked me through the process last night (thank you to all) so I could understand the hearing I'd sat through.  There's a press release on the hearing that we'll include in a morning entry tomorrow there's not room for it today.
 
 
Violence continues in Iraq.  Alsumaria reports a Falluja roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left three people -- including a 3-year-old child -- injured.  It's been a bad week for children with the bombing today and the targeting of children in kidnappings this week.   Al Rafidayn reports a Kirkuk car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left nine injured.  BBC News reports Judge Aziz Abdul Qadir was the target of the bombing and that he and two of his bodyguards are among the injured.  AFP counts 141 people killed in Iraq so far this month.  In addition, the Herald of Scotland notes that a clash yesterday between the PKK and Turkish military left sixteen soldiers injured.  The Oman Tribune reports that 20 PKK were killed in the altercation.  Jennifer Parker (Foreign Policy) notes, "Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul have both condemned the violence and denounced the PKK militants as terrorists. Selahattin Demirtas, the head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, has also criticized the hostilities, adding, 'The PKK should stop all kinds of armed activity. The government should also halt (military) operations. Let them give a political solution a chance'."   Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk."  BBC reports the Turkish military has announced it struck PKK targets today.  AP notes KRG President Massoud Barzani called for peace today, stating, "The time for war and weapons has passed."  On the subject of violence, RBC Radio notes:
 
A UN investigator has called on the Obama administration to justify its policy of assassinating rather than capturing Al-Qaeda or Taleban suspects, increasingly with the use of unmanned drone aircraft that also take civilian lives. Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, urged Washington to clarify the basis under international law of the policy, in a report issued overnight to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The 47-member Geneva forum is to hold a debate later on Tuesday.
The US military has conducted drone attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, in addition to conventional raids and air strikes, according to Heyns, a South African jurist serving in the independent post. "Disclosure of these killings is critical to ensure accountability, justice and reparation for victims or their families," he said in a 28-page report. "The (US) government should clarify the procedures in place to ensure that any targeted killing complies with international humanitarian law and human rights and indicate the measures or strategies applied to prevent casualties, as well as the measures in place to provide prompt, thorough, effective and independent public investigation of alleged violations."
 
On today's bombings, Reuters notes that Diyala Province electrical towers and lines were bombed by unknown assailants. This comes a day after Nouri finally decided to spend a little of the billions Iraq brings in on oil each year to provide some electricity.  Nayla Razzouk and Khalid al-Ansary (Bloomberg News) report that Iraq has agreed to pay Weatherford International $843 million to put in six new power plants "at the Zubair oil fields in the south of the country."
 

Alsumaria reports on their exclusive interview with Moqtada al-Sadr.  Moqtada states the US still occupies Iraq and that the so-called withdrawal was purely symbolic.  He states that Iraqis seek an Iraq free of US interference and one free of the US Embassy.  He declares that the US Embassy is merely a cover to keep foreign foces (contractors, Marines and some soldiers) in Iraq under the guise of protecting the Embassy staff.
 
Along with those guarding the embassy, consulate and staff, there are all the US service members who were moved to Kuwait.
 
Maqsood Hussain (News Tribe) reports, "The United States has now nearly 15,000 troops in three bases across Kuwait -- triple the average number of American forces in the Middle Easter country before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 [. . .],"  Jennifer Rizzo (CNN) opens with, "The United States has approximately 15,000 troops in Kuwait, according to a Senate report released Tuesday,, the first time the number has been disclosed,"  RT goes with, "Despite the troop withdrawal from Iraq, the American military presence in the area is set to expand," Evann Gastaldo (Newswer) launches a Platonic dialogue, "The US has no combat force in Iraq and a wary eye on Iran: What's a nervous country to do? Maintain a force in neighboring Kuwait, apparently."  They're referring to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released [PDF format warning] "The Gulf Security Architecture: Partnership With The Gulf Co-Operation Council" which you can find more on in yesterday's snapshot. 15,000.  And the report recommends that a little over 13,000 stay in Kuwait for several years to come.  Aren't you glad Barack brought ALL the troops home?  (No, he didn't.)
 
Iraq and Kuwait were in the news today for other reasons as well.  The UN News Centre reports:
 
 
The Security Council today urged the Governments of Iraq and Kuwait to step up their engagement with the United Nations envoy helping the two countries resolve issues pending from Iraq's 1990 invasion, including finding Kuwaiti or third-country nationals.
"The members of the Security Council welcomed the continued cooperation of the Governments of Iraq and Kuwait, and their high-level commitments to full implementation of all Iraqi obligations to Kuwait under the relevant resolutions," the Council said in a statement issued to the press following a closed-door meeting.
The Council was briefed by Ambassador Gennady Tarasov, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's High-Level Coordinator for the issue of missing Kuwait and third-country nationals and property, on Mr. Ban's latest report on the issue.
 
 
Wednesday, the big story in the Iraqi press was Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's letter to US President Barack Obama asking/requesting/demanding (depends upon the account) that Barack kill ExxonMobil's deal with the KRG.  Kitabat uses "warned" of the October 18th contracts between the parties and quotes a spokesperson for Nouri, Ali al-Moussawi, stating that these contracts could start wars and could rip the country apart.

Really?

If that's the case, maybe Nouri should show some leadership and back the hell off his non-stop complaining about the contract?  Don't hold your breath for that to happen.  Dar Addustour reports Nouri is prepared to go to the extreme -- they're citing al-Moussawi on that and what the "extreme scores" would be is not specified.

But what the statements make clear is that it's not the ExxonMobil contract that's causing problems.  It's Nouri's reactions to the contracts.

Al Rafidayn reports that, thus far, there's no response from Barack but National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor acknowledged that the letter from Nouri was received.  Reuters reports today, "Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan expects more oil majors to follow Exxon Mobil Corporation in the next few months in striking deals in the region, where oil shipments will resume, its natural resources minister said, despite a dispute with Baghdad." April Yee (The National) observes, "A hydrocarbon law remains a mirage in Baghdad and the reality is dawning that Iraq's plans to become one of the world's top-five oil producers are jeopardised by the legal deadlock."  Reuters also notes that Nouri's government had a message for France's TOTAL today, "Iraq gave a veiled warning to France's Total on Wednesday not to make deals with the autonomous Kurdish region without the approval of central government in Baghdad."  His tantrums come as oil has dropped over 20% per barrel in the last two months with the current pdb being $82.

 An Iraq War veteran returned to Iraq as a DynaCorp week and was dead a week later.  Now his family fights to have his body returned to the US.  Steve Shaw of Oklahoma's News 9 (link is text and video) reports:



Angela Copeland: They came in and they told me that they had found Michael deceased in his living quarters.


 Steve Shaw:  Michael Copeland's widow Angela is distraught -- not only because of Michael's sudden death but because our State Dept told Copeland's family Iraqi leaders say Copeland died of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome -- or SARS -- an extemely rare disease, and our State Dept bought it.  Iraq says it can't release the body.  Michael Copeland's fathe says he talked to his son by phone just 12 hours before his death,  nobody's died from SARS since 2003, and he says that his son showed no signs of the disease.


Mike Copeland:  Everyone that I've spoke with is always sorry for our loss but they say there's nothing they can do. I find that very difficult to believe.  That my government?  There's nothing they can do to bring my son home fom Iraq?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's SARS page notes:


Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus, called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003. The illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before the SARS global outbreak of 2003 was contained. Since 2004, there have not been any known cases of SARS reported anywhere in the world. The content in this Web site was developed for the 2003 SARS epidemic. But, some guidelines are still being used. Any new SARS updates will be posted on this Web site.


No new updates have been posted to the CDC's page.

"Not only are we having to deal with the loss," Angela Copeland tells NewsOn6, "but we're having to deal with the battle to get him back home."  Michael Copeland died June 9th.  She tells Victoria Maranan (KXII -- link is video),  "There is absolutely no excuse in this world that you could give me that could convince me why he should not be home."  Jerry Wofford (Tulsa World) reports on the case and quotes Oklahoma State Rep. Dustin Roberts stating, "Michael David Copeland was a man who served our nation as a Marine and our state as a National Guardsman, and his family deserves better than this."  Zach Maxwell (Durant Democrat) reports this evening, "The family of Michael Copeland is still waiting for answers more than 10 days after the former Marine and National Guardsman passed away in Iraq."

 
 
In the US, Fred Kaplan of Slate magazine is an idiot.  (No link for obvious reasons and Rebecca's correct that I would love to use this as the excuse to end this site on the Fourth, next month).   We last dealt with Baby Dumb F**k when he attacked Brian De Palma.   He's so supremely stupid that people wonder about Brooke but I always say that like the fat-man-skinny-wife couples on TV in the late 90s and during the '00s, Fred and Brooke are the-stupid-fool-brilliant-wife combo.
 
Kappy writes a column about Brett McGurk's nomination while never once considering the Iraqi people.  Iraqiya is mentioned (in a bad paragraph).  Iraqiya is popular, they are not the Iraqi people.  The Iraqi people are approximately 30 million and Foolish Fred wants you to know how wonderful his man crush Brett would have been in the job.  No, he wouldn't have been good in the job.  The clerics, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (al-Sistani is the only true calming influence in the country, if he requests that the temperature of rhetoric be lowered, it gets lowered), could not be comfortable with McGurk.  He came to Iraq a married man.  He had an affair in Iraq.  On top of that, he left his wife.  He divorced her.  Gina Chon would have been his "_____" if she'd accompanied him to Iraq.  What's the big debate in Iraq today?  Raheem Salman (Reuters) reports, "An Iraqi government decree banning soldiers and police from wearing beards on duty has revived a debate over religious practices in a country where sectarian divisions between Shi'ite and Sunni still fester close to the surface."  What McGurk and Chon did -- both married when they began their affair in Iraq -- goes against fundamentalist teachings and also insults the host country since he violated his vows while he was in Iraq.  Iraqi women would not have been able to access the Embassy because of fear of what would be said about them (and the fear that words could lead to 'honor' killings -- where women have supposedly disgraced and brought dishonor to their relatives so the women must be put to death by their relatives).  We've got over half the population right there.
 
And Idiot Fred doesn't stop to think about Iraqi women or even include in his bad article. 
 
Look, we get it.  Fred, you stood next to Brett at the stalls and you were impressed.  Fine.  Keep it to yourself, use it for your fantasies but the rest of us aren't interested.
 
Fred insists Brett McGurk was right for the job because he knows people.  The American face in Iraq does not need to be someone who is the object of ridicule.  I'm sorry that Fred's so unintelligent that he never learned Arabic.  It should be required for him when you think of how badly he wanted the Iraq War.  But if he could read Arabic and he wasn't so lazy, he would have seen what we noted many times here, this was a big story in the Iraqi press -- the affair.  They didn't care about the other stuff, they cared about the affair.  It was considered shocking -- even among Iraqi publications which regularly report on Madonna.  Because they did not consider that to be appropriate behavior for what would be the highest ranking US official who would be living in their country.  The host country should not be an after thought.
 
McGurk had no qualifications to speak of, was too young, without managerial experience and lied (or else is stupid) to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  It's cute that Fred -- like so many of his lazy ass peers -- didn't show for that hearing, didn't report on it, but thinks he can now play 'expert' and insist McGurk was qualified.  Only an idiot claims that Nouri is providing Sahwa with jobs.  We covered it.  We were there.  Fred should have been on it but that would have been work and lazy asses don't do work even when they're paid for it.
 
Fred's 'knowledge' of Iraqiya is based upon what one person told him -- and they got it wrong.  But, hey, Fred's real point is to smear people.  If you support Allawi and you're American, you're doing that because you must be "still involved in political or business ventures that would be served by a degree of Kurdish autonomy that is favored more by Allawi than by Maliki."  Poor Fred, as stupid as he is ugly.    He goes on to declare that Nouri was "the country's elected prime minister."  Not in 2006, not in 2010.  In 2006, the US stopped Parliament's first choice.  And Parliament, not the country, elects the Prime Minister, Fred.  The Bush White House wanted him in that position.  That's why he got it.  In 2010, the Barack White House wanted him in the position.
 
As Fred goes on and on, you keep waiting for that moment where he notes the real reporting of Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) or the worker of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in exposing the hidden jails and ongoing torture Nouri's responsible for.  But Fred never does because liars can't tell the truth.  Fred's a nutty conspiracy theorist.  Probably the nuttiest one around as his latest column demonstrates.  Next time he writes a column like this, he might need to do some self-disclosures -- at least if he's still pretending to be a journalist.  Brett McGurk demonstrated over and over that he didn't know what he was talking about (most infamously when his testimony contradicted that of earlier testimony by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the public remarks of National Intelligence Director James Clapper). Brett McGurk was supremely uninformed which makes him the perfect match for Fred Kaplan.
 
 
 

Posted at 05:05 pm by thecommonills
 

World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day

Today is World Refugee Day.


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Special Envoy Angelina Jolie: Every minute, 8 people around the world are forced to flee their homes due to war and persecution.  No one chooses to be a refugee. Today, 43 million people worldwide have been displaced. We remember them.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared today, "Refugees leave because they have no choice.  We must choose to help."  Nicholas A. Heras (Fair Observer) zooms in on one group of refugees in "Going Nowhere Fast: Iraqi Refugees:"
The daily existential struggle of millions of Iraqi refugees has become lost in the coverage of the unexpected, tumultuous, and geo-politically spell-binding Arab uprisings. Although the coalition's mission in Iraq is declared officially over, and the Iraqi government is encouraging their return, millions of Iraqi refugees remain unconvinced that life in their homeland is improving.
Since the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power in 2003, an estimated 4 million Iraqis of all sectarian identities and social classes have fled the country for other nations in the region, especially Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. Sporadic violence, poverty, lack of infrastructure, and a pervasive state of instability prompted their exodus from Iraq. The displacement of Iraqi refugees is considered by many experts to be the largest movement of people in the Middle East region since 1948, when Palestinians left what is today Israel for the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and neighboring nations.


This week, the UN released UNHCR Global Trends 2011 which contains details such as 46% of refugees are under the age of 18, that three areas of concern are the displaced of Columbia, of the Democratic Republic of Congo and of Iraq, and that the Middle East and North Africa have a larger number of refugees than the Americas and and Asia and Pacific combined.  (Africa has the largest number of refugees with 2.1 million to the Middle East and North Africa's 1.9 million.) Through the end of last year, Iraq could claim 1,428,3000 refugees.  Only Afghanistan topped that figure (Afghanistan had 2.6 million).  Of the report, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared today, "These numbers represent far more than statistics; they are individuals and families whose lives have been upended, whose communities have been destroyed, and whose future remains uncertain."

The European Union's High Representative Catherine Ashton and Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom released this joint-statement today:


"Today, on the World Refugee Day, our thoughts are, more than ever, with the millions of women, children and men, around the world who are forced to flee their home countries because of war, conflict, or persecution. This is still a reality in today's world.
Protecting the persecuted, the weak and the vulnerable is our obligation. All EU Member States have acceded to the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees and are committed to its implementation. In a world where people continue to fear for their lives just because of their race, religion, or political beliefs, Europe has to remain true to its principles by showing solidarity towards refugees. We are proud that so many Europeans share the conviction that the EU must offer protection and asylum to all those who need it.
The EU is stepping up efforts to put in place common rules on asylum which guarantee high standards of protection and is aiming to complete the strengthening of the Common European Asylum System by the end of this year. This objective is within reach, with the final stages of the negotiations now underway. Work is also progressing on enhancing solidarity between EU Member States.
The UNHCR's 2011 Ministerial Conference underlined the importance of eliminating the phenomenon of statelessness. We welcome the pledges made during this Conference, and underline the EU's determination to step up its efforts to address statelessness worldwide.
In 2011, just over 300,000 asylum applications were lodged in Europe, more than the year before but well below the peak of 425,000 in 2001. This represents about 34 % of the total worldwide. However, contrary to widespread belief, it is not Europe but other countries – often the poorest – that host the world's largest refugee populations. Last year, South Africa alone received close to 107 000 applications – one tenth of all asylum applications worldwide. In terms of the individuals recognised as refugees, approximately four fifths are hosted in developing countries.
Therefore, refugee resettlement should form an integral part of the EU common asylum policy. Resettlement is not only a life-saving measure but an important humanitarian gesture of solidarity on the part of the EU towards countries hosting large numbers of refugees.
We welcome the European Parliament's and the Council's decision to establish a common EU resettlement programme for 2013. The programme will include specific EU resettlement priorities, identifying the nationalities of refugees and the countries from which resettlement should take place as a priority and for whom EU funding is available. In 2013 that list will include refugees from Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Burma and Eritrea.
We are gravely concerned about the plight of refugees fleeing the violence in Syria. The EU, in close co-operation with its partners, is providing significant humanitarian and other assistance to these refugees, and will throw its weight behind all efforts to ensure the protection of the victims of this conflict."

The US State Dept elects to Tweet (it's less characters so less time required):



June 20 is World Day. Join Assistant Secretary Anne Richard for a Q&A. Send her your questions using .

In the Iraqi press, World Refugee Day isn't causing a ripple.  But, in fairness, they usually note events like this the day after (reporting on what an Iraqi official said on the occasion, that sort of thing).  What's the big story in the Iraqi press today?

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's letter to US President Barack Obama asking/requesting/demanding (depends upon the account) that Barack kill ExxonMobil's deal with the KRG.  Kitabat uses "warned" of the October 18th contracts between the parties and quotes a spokesperson for Nouri, Ali al-Moussawi, stating that these contracts could start wars and could rip the country apart.

Really?

If that's the case, maybe Nouri should show some leadership and back the hell off his non-stop complaining about the contract?  Don't hold your breath for that to happen.  Dar Addustour reports Nouri is prepared to go to the extreme -- they're citing al-Moussawi on that and what the "extreme scores" would be is not specified.

But what the statements make clear is that it's not the ExxonMobil contract that's causing problems.  It's Nouri's reactions to the contracts.

Al Rafidayn reports that, thus far, there's no response from Barack but National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor acknowledged that the letter from Nouri was received.  Reuters reports today, "Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan expects more oil majors to follow Exxon Mobil Corporation in the next few months in striking deals in the region, where oil shipments will resume, its natural resources minister said, despite a dispute with Baghdad." April Yee (The National) observes, "A hydrocarbon law remains a mirage in Baghdad and the reality is dawning that Iraq's plans to become one of the world's top-five oil producers are jeopardised by the legal deadlock."

Alsumaria reports on their exclusive interview with Moqtada al-Sadr.  Moqtada states the US still occupies Iraq and that the so-called withdrawal was purely symbolic.  He states that Iraqis seek an Iraq free of US interference and one free of the US Embassy.  He declares that the US Embassy is merely a cover to keep foreign foces (contractors, Marines and some soldiers) in Iraq under the guise of protecting the Embassy staff.

Alsumaria reports a Falluja roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left three people -- including a 3-year-old child -- injured. Al Rafidayn reports a Kirkuk car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left nine injured.  BBC News reports Judge Aziz Abdul Qadir was the target of the bombing and that he and two of his bodyguards are among the injured.  In addition, the Herald of Scotland notes that a clash yesterday between the PKK and Turkish military left sixteen soldiers injured.  The Oman Tribune reports that 20 PKK were killed in the altercation.


Lastly, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  She continues fighting for veterans and her latest bill would put veterans on an equal footing with the non-military when it comes to reproductive issues.
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Contact: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
 
Chairman Murray Introduces Bill to Provide Veterans with Genital and Reproductive Wounds with Access to In Vitro Fertilization through the VA
 
As veterans continue to return home with catastrophic IED injuries, Murray bill reverses VA ban on critical fertility treatment; will help veterans and their spouses have children.
 
If forced to turn to the private sector, veterans and their spouses often have to pay tens of thousands in out-of-pocket costs to access IVF services
 
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, introduced legislation that will end the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ban on providing In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) services.   Murray's bill, the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2012, also will begin child care programs at Vet Centers for women seeking counseling, and improving outreach to women veterans.
Army data shows that between 2003 and 2011 over 600 servicemembers have suffered reproductive and urinary tract trauma.  The reliance on foot patrols in Afghanistan and the prevalence of improvised explosive devices has left servicemembers far more susceptible to these injuries.
 
"Reproductive injuries are some of the most impactful and serious wonds of these wars," Senator Murray said today upon introduction of the bill.  "VA has an obligation to care for the combat wounded.  For those with such catastrophic injuries, that includes access to the fertility care they needed.  Veterans and their spouses are specifically barred from accessing In Vitro Fertilization services at the VA and often times have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in the private sector to get the advanced reproductive treatments they need to start a family.  These veterans deserve far more."
 
Veterans who have severe reproductive and urinary tract injuries and spinal cord injuries (SCI) often need highly specialized treatments and procedures like IVF to conceive.  However, under current law, IVF is expressly excluded from fertility services that are provided by the VA to veterans or their spouses.  This is a significant barrier for veterans with SCI and genital and uringary tract injuries and as a result they have to seek care outside of the VA.  The Department of Defense currently provides access to IVF services under the Tricare program and coverage for IVF and other fertility treatments at no charge to severely combat wounded servicemembers.  Senator Murray's bill would provide veterans with the same access. 
 
###
 
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct
 



The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.


 

Posted at 07:24 am by thecommonills
 

No, they didn't all come home and a family fights to get their fallen returned from Iraq

No, they didn't all come home and a family fights to get their fallen returned from Iraq

Maqsood Hussain (News Tribe) reports, "The United States has now nearly 15,000 troops in three bases across Kuwait -- triple the average number of American forces in the Middle Easter country before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 [. . .]"  Jennifer Rizzo (CNN) opens with, "The United States has approximately 15,000 troops in Kuwait, according to a Senate report released Tuesday,, the first time the number has been disclosed."  They're referring to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released [PDF format warning] "The Gulf Security Architecture: Partnership With The Gulf Co-Operation Council" which you can find more on in yesterday's snapshot. 15,000.  And the report recommends that a little over 13,000 stay in Kuwait for several years to come.  Aren't you glad Barack brought ALL the troops home?  (No, he didn't.)



Say a little prayer till they all get home
Say a little prayer till they all get home
I knew when we woke up
You would be leaving
You knew when you left me
It might be too long
That kiss on your shoulder
It's me looking over
Close to your heart
So you're never alone
Say a little prayer till they all get home
Say a little prayer till they all get home
-- "Till They All Get Home," written by Melanie (Safka) and first appears on Melanie's Crazy Love


 An Iraq War veteran returned to Iraq as a DynaCorp week and was dead a week later.  Now his family fights to have his body returned to the US.  Steve Shaw of Oklahoma's News 9 (link is text and video) reports:



Angela Copeland: They came in and they told me that they had found Michael deceased in his living quarters.


 Steve Shaw:  Michael Copeland's widow Angela is distraught -- not only because of Michael's sudden death but because our State Dept told Copeland's family Iraqi leaders say Copeland died of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome -- or SARS -- an extemely rare disease, and our State Dept bought it.  Iraq says it can't release the body.  Michael Copeland's fathe says he talked to his son by phone just 12 hours before his death,  nobody's died from SARS since 2003, and he says that his son showed no signs of the disease.


Mike Copeland:  Everyone that I've spoke with is always sorry for our loss but they say there's nothing they can do. I find that very difficult to believe.  That my government?  There's nothing they can do to bring my son home fom Iraq?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's SARS page notes:


Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus, called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003. The illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before the SARS global outbreak of 2003 was contained. Since 2004, there have not been any known cases of SARS reported anywhere in the world. The content in this Web site was developed for the 2003 SARS epidemic. But, some guidelines are still being used. Any new SARS updates will be posted on this Web site.


No new updates have been posted to the CDC's page.

"Not only are we having to deal with the loss," Angela Copeland tells NewsOn6, "but we're having to deal with the battle to get him back home."  Michael Copeland died June 9th.  She tells Victoria Maranan (KXII -- link is video),  "There is absolutely no excuse in this world that you could give me that could convince me why he should not be home."  Jerry Wofford (Tulsa World) reports on the case and quotes Oklahoma State Rep. Dustin Roberts stating, "Michael David Copeland was a man who served our nation as a Marine and our state as a National Guardsman, and his family deserves better than this."








In other news, Olivia Koester (Journal Times) notes the efforts of Fie Chief William Bouma to organize a "Back From Iraq" march in Racine, Wisconsin's upcoming Fourth of July parade. Yvette C. Hammett (Tampa Tribune) reports on Iraq War veteran Mark Goujon's efforts to ceate an Iraq Veterans Memorial in Tampa, Florida's Veterans Memorial Park.


The following community sites -- plus FPIF, The Diane Rehm Show, Cindy Sheehan and Antiwar.com -- updated last night and this morning:


Joan e-mailed to ask if we'd note that Melanie has a special series of upcoming shows. From October 19th through 28th at Blackfriars Theatre in Rochester, New York, Melanie and the Recordman will be performed, the story of Melanie and her late husband Peter Schekeryk (he passed away in 2010, they were together for decades, starting in the sixties).  That's ten performances only and among those working on the show with Melanie is her son Beau Jarred Schekeryk.  Melanie is the original Queen of the Rock Festivals, having performed at so many (including Woodstock).  "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" made her a name all over the world and her other hits include "What Have They Done To My Song, Ma?," "Peace Will Come (According to Plan), "Bitter Bad," "The Nickel Song," "Ring The Living Bell," her cover of "Ruby Tuesday," "Beautiful People" and her numbe one hit "Brand New Key." 

Ever Since You Never Heard Of Me
She's continues writing and recording and her most recent album was 2010's Ever Since You Never Heard of Me  which Kat praised highly here and also picked it as one of the year's top ten releases. Two tracks from the latest album have videos up at YouTube:  "Motherhood of Love" and "Smile."


Lastly, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  She continues fighting for veterans and her latest bill would put veterans on an equal footing with the non-military when it comes to reproductive issues.
 
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Contact: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
 
Chairman Murray Introduces Bill to Provide Veterans with Genital and Reproductive Wounds with Access to In Vitro Fertilization through the VA
 
As veterans continue to return home with catastrophic IED injuries, Murray bill reverses VA ban on critical fertility treatment; will help veterans and their spouses have children.
 
If forced to turn to the private sector, veterans and their spouses often have to pay tens of thousands in out-of-pocket costs to access IVF services
 
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, introduced legislation that will end the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ban on providing In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) services.   Murray's bill, the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2012, also will begin child care programs at Vet Centers for women seeking counseling, and improving outreach to women veterans.
 
Army data shows that between 2003 and 2011 over 600 servicemembers have suffered reproductive and urinary tract trauma.  The reliance on foot patrols in Afghanistan and the prevalence of improvised explosive devices has left servicemembers far more susceptible to these injuries.
 
"Reproductive injuries are some of the most impactful and serious wonds of these wars," Senator Murray said today upon introduction of the bill.  "VA has an obligation to care for the combat wounded.  For those with such catastrophic injuries, that includes access to the fertility care they needed.  Veterans and their spouses are specifically barred from accessing In Vitro Fertilization services at the VA and often times have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in the private sector to get the advanced reproductive treatments they need to start a family.  These veterans deserve far more."
 
Veterans who have severe reproductive and urinary tract injuries and spinal cord injuries (SCI) often need highly specialized treatments and procedures like IVF to conceive.  However, under current law, IVF is expressly excluded from fertility services that are provided by the VA to veterans or their spouses.  This is a significant barrier for veterans with SCI and genital and uringary tract injuries and as a result they have to seek care outside of the VA.  The Department of Defense currently provides access to IVF services under the Tricare program and coverage for IVF and other fertility treatments at no charge to severely combat wounded servicemembers.  Senator Murray's bill would provide veterans with the same access.
 
###
 
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct


The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.


 

Posted at 05:55 am by thecommonills
 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot

June 19, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee issues a report about keeping US troops in the region, the State Dept wants to talk human trafficking and anything except McGurk, tomorrow is World Refugee Day, Nouri wants Barack to tell ExxonMobil what to do, US Senator Patty Murray continues fighting for the rights of veterans, and more.
 
 
Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released [PDF format warning] "The Gulf Security Architecture: Partnership With The Gulf Co-Operation Council." On page v., Senator John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, notes, "Home to more than half of the world's oil reserves and over a third of its natural gas, the stability of the Persian Gulf is critical to the global economy."  Chair John Kerry has stated of the report, "The Gulf Region is strategically important to the United States economically, politically, and for security reasons.  This is a period of historic, but turbulent change in the Middle East. We need to be clear-eyed about what these interests are and how best to promote them.  This report provides a thoughtful set of recommendations designed to do exactly that."
 
 
The report may well map out that for many.  That's not what stood out to me. The takeaway for me is US troops remain in the region, right next to Iraq in Kuwait and the Committee's recommendation is that they remain present.  (For those who don't want to read the report in full or operating systems are not PDF friendly, click here for the Committee's one page explanation of the report.)
 
A series of challenges are listed early on and we'll note the fourth one.
 
 
Challenge 4: The United States must carefully shape its military presence so as not to creat a popular backlash, while retaining the capability to protect the free flow or critical natural resources and to provide a counterbalance to Iraq.
 
 
If that was a challenge there were hopes the US would meet, it's too late at present. As Arianna Huffington noted last week at The Huffington Post:
 
 
With the war there officially "ended" and most of our troops back home, Iraq isn't getting much ink these days. But the story is far from over. Indeed, according to Wadah Khanfar, former director general of Al Jazeera, Iraq is still the most important story in the Middle East -- with a far greater impact on the region's future than Syria. "Nobody's paying attention to Iraq anymore," he told me during dinner in London over the weekend, "but it's becoming a client state of Iran, with a giant amount of oil between them." This state of affairs is, of course, primarily our doing.
And yet, as our soldiers have left, so has our attention. "The war in Iraq will soon belong to history," proclaimed President Obama at Fort Bragg as he marked the occasion of bringing the last troops home. But while the military chapter of that disastrous undertaking might belong to history, its consequences belong very much to the present. A present in which the very same voices that rose to push us into war with Iraq are again rising to push us into war with Iran -- but without ever noting that it was their misadventure in Iraq that gave Iran a new and powerful ally.
 
 
If the goal/challenge was to keep Iran and Iraq from growing closer, you don't, as the current White House did, back Nouri al-Maliki for a second term. You note instead that his political slate came in second and demand he step aside so that Iraqiya can have a crack at forming a governmnet. Instead, the US chose to spit on the political process, the Iraqi Constitution, democracy and the will of the Iraqis who voted by backing second place Nouri for a second term as prime minister.
 
 
Now let's move to another challenge.
 
 
Challenge 7: Relations between the Gulf monarchies and Iraq remain cool. There has been a tendency of some Arab states to remain disengaged from Iraq, largely over its relations with Iran. Unfortunately, this tendency has had the effect of pushing Iraq closer to Iran.
Recommendation: The United States should promote the gradual political reintegration of Iraq into the Arab fold.
 
 
Again, the problem is Nouri. He can't stop accusing Arab states. Just last week, he was again insisting Saudi Arabia and Qatar were out to get him. He's paranoid and he's not trust worthy. How the US government ever thought Nouri al-Maliki would bring Iraq closer to the Arab states is a head scratcher. Someone really needs to answer to that question: The White House ensured that second place Nouri remained prime minister; how was this supposed to improve relations between Iraq and the Arab states?
 
 
Further into the report, we get the point AP' was emphasizing this morning. AP: "The United States is planning a significant military presence of 13,500 troops in Kuwait to give it the flexibility to respond to sudden conflicts in the region as Iraq adjusts to the withdrawal of American combat forces and the world nervously eyes Iran, according to a congressional report." Page nine of the report:
 
 
A residual American military presence in the Gulf and increased burden-sharing with GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] states are fundamental components of such a framework. However, the United States must also carefully shape its military footprint to protect the free-flow of critical natural resources and promote regional stability while not creating a popular backlash.
 
 
Page 12:
 
 
Kuwait is especially keen to maintain a significant U.S. military presence. In fact, the Kuwaiti public perception of the United States is more positive than any other Gulf country, dating back to the U.S.-led liberation of Kuwait in 1991. Kuwait paid over $16 billion to compensate coalition efforts for costs incurred during Desert Shield and Desert Storm and $350 million for Operation Southern Watch. In 2004, the Bush Administration designated Kuwait a major non-NATO ally.
* U.S. Military Presence: A U.S.-Kuwaiti defense agreement signed in 1991 and extended in 2001 provides a framework that guards the legal rights of American troops and promotes military cooperation. When U.S. troops departed Iraq at the end of 2011, Kuwait welcomed a more enduring American footprint. Currently, there are approximately 15,000 U.S. forces in Kuwait, but the number is likely to decrease to 13,500. Kuwaiti bases such as Camp Arifjan, Ali Al Salem Air Field, and Camp Buehring offer the United States major staging hubs, training rages, and logistical support for regional operations. U.S. forces also operate Patriot missile batteries in Kuwait, which are vital to theater missile defense.
 
 
On page 20, the report notes, "Amid relatively high sectarian tensions in the Middle East -- a consequence of violence in Iraq and, more recently, in Syria, and growing concerns about Iran -- the United States should encourage its partners, including in the Gulf region, to pursue nonsectarian policies." Again, that begs the question of why, in 2010, the White House backed Nouri al-Maliki for a second term? He's not about reconciliation, he's about demonization as we've seen repeatedly in the last months starting in the fall of 2011 when mass arrests began targeting Sunnis accused of being terrorists. They weren't terrorists. They were college professors, they were the elderly. Most importantly, they were Iraqis. At what point does Nouri cease trying to divide the fragile country and start uniting it?
 
 
Page 29:
 
 
Relations between Gulf monarchies and Iraq remain cool. There has been a tendency of some Arab states to remain disengaged from Iraq, largely over its relations with Iran. Unfortunately, this tendency has had the effect of pushing Iraq closer to Iran.
 
 
That's partly true but it's also true that what is seen as Nouri's targeting of Sunnis is not well received in Sunni-Arab countries. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Again, this begs the questions why, when Iraqiya won the March 2010 elections, did the White House decide to back second place Nouri for a second term as prime minister?
 
 
That is the question that will haunt the Barack Obama administration throughout history.
 
Someone might want to start preparing some version of an answer.
 
 
Just as the report refuses to seriously note how Sunni-dominant countries see the current events in Iraq, it also wants to pretend the Arab League Summit meant something. First off, this is flat-out wrong: "In April, the annual Arab League summit was held in Iraq for the first time since . . ."
 
 
The Arab League Summit was March 29th. March 29th, grab a calendar if this confusing to you, is not in the month of April. Your first clue there is probably the "March" in "March 29th." From the March 29, 2012 snapshot:
 
 
The Arab League Summit was held today in Baghdad. It didn't change a thing because Nouri never learned how to charm. So instead of starting with it, let's start with the ongoing political crisis in Iraq. [. . .] Also telling was the turnout for today's Arab League Summit. Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) report, "Sunni Muslim rulers largely shunned an Arab League summit hosted by Shiite-led Iraq on Thursday, illustrating how powerfully the sectarian split and the rivalry with Iran define Middle Eastern politics in the era of the Arab Spring." It was not all that, to put it mildly. A friend who covered the summit deemed it, "Not so much a who's who as a who's that?" Who attended? Among others, the Oman Observer reports Talabani "received the credentials of Shaikh Mussalam bin Bakheet bin Zaidan al Bar'ami, Sultanate's Ambassador to Jordan, as the Sultanate's non-resident ambassador to Iraq" yesterday. Today Al Sabaah reports Awn Shawkat al-Khasawneh, prime minister of Jordan arrived, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah. [. . .] Who were the notable no-shows? Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) report that the no-shows included rulers from "Saudi Arabia, Qatar and most other Gulf countries, as well as Morocco and Jordan -- all of them headed by Sunni monarchs who deeply distrust the close ties between Baghdad's Shiite-dominated government and their top regional rival, Iran."
The Belfast Telegraph notes, "The only ruler from the Gulf to attend was the Emir of Kuwait, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah."
 
 
We could continue but I believe the point's been made. It was a one day summit. You can drop back to March 28th, the day before, for when various countries' foreign ministers met in Baghdad but that wasn't the Arab League Summit nor was that "April." The Senate Foreign Relations Committee sees the summit as a success. March 30th, the morning after, we graded it. It didn't look then and has looked since like a success. Here's some of the criteria we used to judge the summit on March 30th:
 
 
The Arab League Summit took place in Baghdad yesterday. Al Mada reports 15 ministers attended. There are 22 countries in the Arab League. Patrick Martin (Globe & Mail) observes, "That 12 of the 22 Arab League leaders did not show up and sent lower-level envoys instead did not go unnoticed [. . .]" Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) put the number of Arab League leaders who attended at 10 and they pointed out that Qatar, Saudi Arabi, Morocco and Jordan were among those who sent lower-level officials to the summit. Patrick Martin explains that Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani (Prime Minister of Qatar) declared on television that Qatar's "low level of representation" was meant to send "a 'message' to Iraq's majority Shiites to stop what he called the marginalization of its minority Sunnis." Al Mada noted yesterday morning that the Iraqi public and Parliament would be judging the summit a success or not based upon whether the leaders turned out for the summit. On that scale, it wasn't a success. In other words, attendence needs improvement and absences hinder progress.
In addition to snubs and rebukes,
Liz Sly, Aziz Alwan and Asaad Majeed (Washington Post) also note, "The blast at the Iranian Embassy undermined the government's boasts that it had managed to pull off the summit without incident, although it would have gone unheard in the conference room deep inside the vast palace. Zebari and Elaraby both seemed surprised when asked about it by a journalist." Not a success.
Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) points out, "It spent almost $1 billion on preparations that included unprecedented security measures -- jamming cellphone networks and mobilizing 100,000 security-force members -- and rolling out a catered menu for dignitaries that featured a dessert of 24-carat-gold-laced dates." Not a success.
 
 
And that's just some of the criteria.
 
 
Where the report succeeds (possibly without intending to) is by making clear that the alleged withdrawal and returning home of the troops never happened. Basically, 15,000 US troops were marched out of Saks to Fendi. They didn't return home. Yes, they left Saks, they even crossed a few streets, all the way through West 53rd, but they're still on Fifth Avenue. Remember, the press and the White House sold it as "withdrawal." The Pentagon used the term "drawdown."
emphasized this morning.
 
Another US government report was released today.  The State Dept issued their "Trafficking in Persons Report 2012." [Link goes to an overview page -- from the overview page, anything you click will be PDF format.]  Of Iraq, the report notes:

Iraq is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.  Iraqi women and girls are sujbected to conditions of trafficking within the country and in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Iran, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia for forced prostitution and sexual exploitation within households.  Anecdotal reporting suggests that trafficking in forced prostitution and bonded labor are increasing in Iraq, partially owing to pervasive corruption and an overall increase in criminal activity. 
Women are lured into forced prostitution through false promises of work.  An international organization reports an increase in forced prostitution in the city of Tikrit; women between the ages of 15 to 22 years from Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Syria are sold to traffickers in Tikrit for the equivalent of $1,000 - 5,000 and then replaced or sold again every two or three months.  Women are also subjected to involuntary servitude through forced marriages, often as payment of a debt, and women who flee such marriages are often vulnerable to further forced labor or sexual servitude.  One NGO reports that recruiters rape women and girls on film and blackmail them into prostitution or recruit them in prisons by posting bail and then forcing them into prostitution via debt bondage.  Some women and children are pressured into prostitution by family members to escape desperate economic circumstances, to pay debts, or to resolve disputes between families.  NGOs report that these women are often prostituted in private residendences, brothels, restaurants, and places of entertainment.  Some women and girls are trafficked within Iraq for the purpose of sexual exploitation through the use of temproary marriages (muta'a), by which the family of the girl receives money in the form of a dowry in exchange for permission to marry the girl for a limited period of time. Some Iraqi parents have reportedly collaborated with traffickers to leave children at the Iraqi side of the border with Syria with the expectation that traffickers will arrange forced documents for them to enter Syria and find employment in a nightclub.  An Iraqi official revealed networks of women have been involved in the trafficking and sale of male and female children for the purposes of sexual exploitation. 
 
  
We'll come back to the report in a moment.
 
At the State Dept today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted how happy she was to see the room so full and had the team that worked on the report stand for deserved applause.  She also thanked Jada Pinkett-Smith and Will Smith for being present and Jada for her interest and focus on this issue.  But another reason Hillary might have been happy is that this took the focus off the failed nomination of Brett McGurk to be US Ambassador to Iraq.  If she thought she needed a new report to distract the compliant press, she missed the State Dept press briefing.  News of the withdrawal of the nomination broke yesterday late in the afternoon, well after Monday's press briefing.  So today would have been the first time that the press covering the State Dept had a chance to ask about that.  They had no interest in the issue.  They had no interest in Iraq even -- despite the Senate Foreign Relations Committee releasing a report on Iraq and the region today.
 
If you were attending, you might have thought to ask Victoria Nuland for some comment on the matter, for some indication of when a new nominee would be named, for whether or not the administration learned anything from McGurk's failed nomination.
 
You might.
 
But the paid members of the press wouldn't and didn't.  And that's among the reasons the press has such a lousy image.
 
But don't look to the Beggar Class of Panhandle Media to uphold standards.  Here's Amy Goodman today finally finding the McGurk story:
 
President Barack Obama's pick for ambassador to Iraq has withdrawn his nomination following Republican opposition and claims of inappropriate contact with a journalist.  Brett McGurk had come under fire from Senate Republicans over revelations of a racy e-mail exchange with a Wall Street Journal reporter while he served in Iraq in 2008.  McGurk and the reporter, Gina Chon, later married.  Chon resigned from the Wall St. Journal last week.
 
Not a word about sleeping with a source, not a word about allowing her lover to vet her copy.  Her lover a Bush official.  Not a word about Chon's violation of the Dow Jones ethical policies.   Amy Goodman may have been one of the pigs writing for Larry Flynt's trashy skin magazine, but she never looked more whorish than she did today.  As we noted Sunday at Third in "Editorial: Destroying their own credibility:"
 

It was 2008 and Amy Goodman was on the road hawking another clip-job she'd written with her brother, one that called on people to "challenge the corporate media" (Standing Up To The Madness, page 219).  She was on the road hawking her wares and promoting the documentary Independent Media In A Time Of War. 

 NEWS CLIP: I'm back with two of our military analysts who've been with us this morning who are helping us understand this war. 

 AMY GOODMAN: We now have people like Wesley Clarke, General Wesley Clarke on the payroll of CNN who is questioning their embedded reporter on the front line. He is questioning the reporter and the reporter is saying "Yes sir, No Sir". 

NEWS CLIP: This is a very special moment in time for the men and families and for this country. It is often fascinating for me. General Clarke and I have spent a good amount of time together today and over the week. 

AMY GOODMAN: This is journalism in America today. They have redefined general news and we have got to challenge that.


Amy Goodman was calling out reporters saying "yes, sir" and "no, sir."

Yet for two weeks she hasn't called out the pillow talk between Gina Chon and Brett McGurk.

Two weeks ago, the story emerged of their affair.  Gina Chon's been rightly fired from The Wall Street Journal.

If the scandal had come out in 2008, Amy Goodman and everyone would have been screaming their heads off.  But the Bush official that Gina Chon was f**king?  He's Barack Obama's new nominee to be US Ambassador to Iraq.

So they don't say a word.
 
 
 
Please grasp what you witnessed today from Amy Goodman.  In 2008, the Queen of Panhandle Media was ticked off that retired general Wesley Clarke was addressed by a reporter with "yes, sir" and "no, sir."  But four years later, when there's a reporter sleeping with a Bush official while she's covering the Bush policies in Iraq and while she's letting her lover see her copy and vet it before she turns it in, when that happens, Amy Goodman doesn't say, "Boo!"  Because she's a coward and completely unethical.  Maybe she's planning to fundraise in 2013, as she did in 2009, by auctioning off Barack Obama inauguration ball tickets?  Don't say Goody Trash doesn't have her own vested interests as she forever pretends to be Last Journalist Standing while ensuring that there's a huge gulf between the actual news and the propaganda she supplies.
 
 
For reality, you can refer to  Nancy Cordes (CBS News) text report and click here for Cordes' video report.
 
Back to the State Dept's report:
 
The large population of internally displaced persons and refugees moving within Iraq and across its borders are particularly at risk of being trafficked.  Women from Iran, China, and the Philippines reportedly may be trafficked to or through Iraq for commercial sexual exploitation.  Some Iraqi refugees in Syria reportedly have contracted their daughters to work as maids in Syrian households, where they may have been subsequently raped, forced into prostitution, or subjected to forced labor.  In other instances, Iraqi refugees' children remained in Syria while their parents left the country in search of improved economic circumstances, leaving the children vulnerable to trafficking.
 
 
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Special Envoy Angelina Jolie: Every minute, 8 people around the world are forced to flee their homes due to war and persecution.  No one chooses to be a refugee. Today, 43 million people worldwide have been displaced. We remember them.
 
 
* 42.5 million forcibly displaced people of which
* 5 - 7% people living with disabilities, one third of them children
* 15.2 million were refugees, of which:
* 46% were children under the age of 18
* 48% were women and girls
* 895,000 asylum-seekers
* 26.4 million IDPs
* 12 million stateless persons
* 3.7 million returnees
 
Yesterday,  the UN released UNHCR Global Trends 2011 which contains details such as 46% of refugees are under the age of 18, that three areas of concern are the displaced of Columbia, of the Democratic Republic of Congo and of Iraq, and that the Middle East and North Africa have a larger number of refugees than the Americas and and Asia and Pacific combined.  (Africa has the largest number of refugees with 2.1 million to the Middle East and North Africa's 1.9 million.) Through the end of last year, Iraq could claim 1,428,3000 refugees.  Only Afghanistan topped that figure (Afghanistan had 2.6 million).
 
Today AFP reports that some Syrians have been seeking asylum in Iraq due to the unrest in Syria and they note that those coming into Iraq have "to be smuggled across the border."  Into the continued violence of Iraq  where  Alsumaria reports that the son of a local council member was kidnapped in Ramadi today and that security forces quickly secured the area and began searching for clues.  While kidnappings have not been uncommon throughout the Iraq War, today's may end up getting attention due to the fact that is it one of two kidnappings. Al Rafidayn reports two young girls were kidnapped yesterday in Tikrit and that one is the daughter of a a member of Tikrit's security council.   One refugee, Abu Samir, tells AFP, "The Kurdistan region welcomed us and we are grateful.  Because I am Kurdish, I preferred the Kurdistan region and I am comfortable here."
 
Let's stay with the Kurds.  Iraq sits atop a huge wealth of oil.  But the most recent bidding on the oil & gas wares was a bomb. Jen Alic (OilPrice.com) summed it up days after it ended,  "Iraq's latest energy auction was a flop, and while major international companies balked at everything from unattractive contract terms to security concerns, the failure of the auction highlights how the struggle for power between north and south is shaping the future of energy in the region and beyond. "
 
We're on the topic of oil because ExxonMobil is back in the news.  Last January, Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reported, "The political crisis engulfing Iraq's power-sharing government threatens to further delay a landmark draft of its long-delayed oil law -- five years after the first version was submitted to parliament. [. . .]  The first hydrocarbon draft law was agreed by Iraq's diverse politcal blocs in 2007, but its approval has been held back by infighting among Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish political groups, worrying investors seeking more guarantees for the industry."  A month later, Kadhim Ajrash and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) were reporting:

Iraq's proposed energy law, intended to spur foreign investment in the world's fifth-largest holder of oil deposits, will be delayed for the rest of this year due to political divisions, the prime minister's top adviser said.
The draft law, held up since 2005, may resolve a dispute about oil revenue and sovereignty between the central government and the country's semi-autonomous Kurds that has blocked an agreement with Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Thamir Ghadhban said in an interview in Baghdad. Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq angered the government by signing a separate contract with Exxon, which operates one of the nation's largest oil fields.

Nouri's failure -- in two terms now -- to get oil legislation passed is telling of what extreme failure he is.  How stupid is he? Or how crafty?
 
Ahmed Rasheed and Peg Mackey (Reuters) report Nouri's sent a letter to Barack insisting he (Barack) put an end to the ExxonMobil contract.
 
Again, how stupid is Nouri?  Or how crafty?
 
The US isn't Iraq.  ExxonMobil is a private company, not a state-owned one.  A US president might, at best, make a request.  At best.  But Barack has no power over ExxonMobil.  Is Nouri that stupid?
 
Or he is being crafty?  Barack sticks his nose into this and the already outraged business community sees Barack as even more anti-business.  Not an image to cultivate as you're trying to be re-elected.  Maybe he's crafty.  It's not as though Nouri's reaching out to the White House currently.
 
Back on June 6th, we included:  "Al Mada notes State of Law continues to insist that the White House won't allow Nouri to be removed from his post and that US Vice President Joe Biden will be visiting soon."  But that was then.  Today, Iran's  Fars News Agency reported:

"Nuri al-Maliki did not allowed US Vice-President Joe Biden to visit Iraq," an informed source in the Iraqi prime minister's information bureau told FNA in Baghdad on Tuesday.

Noting that Biden was scheduled to visit Baghdad in coming days to meet with Iraqi officials to discuss the recent differences and the political standoff between different parties and factions in the country, he added that Maliki informed Biden via the US embassy in Baghdad that Iraq is not ready to host him.

The source said the Iraqi embassy in the US has also conveyed a similar message from Maliki to the White House and State Department's officials.

Earlier reports by a website affiliated to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq said that the cancellation of Biden's visit by Maliki was ordered after it was revealed that the US vice-president is due to visit Erbil and meet President of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani. 
 
 
Suddenly Joe wasn't wanted.  After blocking Biden's visit to the country, Nouri now wants to ask a favor of the White House?
 
In the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  She continues fighting for veterans and her latest bill would put veterans on an equal footing with the non-military when it comes to reproductive issues.
 
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Contact: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
 
Chairman Murray Introduces Bill to Provide Veterans with Genital and Reproductive Wounds with Access to In Vitro Fertilization through the VA
 
As veterans continue to return home with catastrophic IED injuries, Murray bill reverses VA ban on critical fertility treatment; will help veterans and their spouses have children.
 
If forced to turn to the private sector, veterans and their spouses often have to pay tens of thousands in out-of-pocket costs to access IVF services
 
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, introduced legislation that will end the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ban on providing In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) services.   Murray's bill, the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2012, also will begin child care programs at Vet Centers for women seeking counseling, and improving outreach to women veterans.
 
Army data shows that between 2003 and 2011 over 600 servicemembers have suffered reproductive and urinary tract trauma.  The reliance on foot patrols in Afghanistan and the prevalence of improvised explosive devices has left servicemembers far more susceptible to these injuries.
 
"Reproductive injuries are some of the most impactful and serious wonds of these wars," Senator Murray said today upon introduction of the bill.  "VA has an obligation to care for the combat wounded.  For those with such catastrophic injuries, that includes access to the fertility care they needed.  Veterans and their spouses are specifically barred from accessing In Vitro Fertilization services at the VA and often times have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in the private sector to get the advanced reproductive treatments they need to start a family.  These veterans deserve far more."
 
Veterans who have severe reproductive and urinary tract injuries and spinal cord injuries (SCI) often need highly specialized treatments and procedures like IVF to conceive.  However, under current law, IVF is expressly excluded from fertility services that are provided by the VA to veterans or their spouses.  This is a significant barrier for veterans with SCI and genital and uringary tract injuries and as a result they have to seek care outside of the VA.  The Department of Defense currently provides access to IVF services under the Tricare program and coverage for IVF and other fertility treatments at no charge to severely combat wounded servicemembers.  Senator Murray's bill would provide veterans with the same access.
 
###
 

Matt McAlvanah

Communications Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

202-224-2834 - press office

202--224-0228 - direct

matt_mcalvanah@murray.senate.gov

News Releases | Economic Resource Center | E-Mail Updates

 
 
cbs news
nancy cordes

Posted at 06:02 pm by thecommonills
 


Next Page




<< June 2012 >>
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
 01 02
03 04 05 06 07 08 09
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30


If you want to be updated on this weblog Enter your email here:




rss feed