El Espiritu. What am I writing about? The new community newsletter that started the first Sunday of the month (December 3rd). Maria, Miguel and Francisco are the ones in producing it. My Spanish is poor but I can follow it and I know those with stronger Spanish skills are really enjoying it. This is the fourth newsletter for the community. With two under their belt, Francisco, Miguel and Maria felt comfortable discussing it.
The UK Computer Gurus do a technical newsletter. Polly does Polly's Brew (which also comes out on Sundays) and Gina and Krista do the gina & krista round-robin. Francisco said they appreciated all the help they received on their newsletter.
How did it come about? Since March of 2005, Maria, Franciso and Miguel have been among the committee members attempting to find a Spanish language periodical for The Common Ills to link to and have had very little luck because it needs to serve the community and it's very difficult to find one publication that's not going to offend someone. So with month after month of ideas shot down, they finally decided the best thing to do was to create their own newsletter.
One thing they do is translate the Iraq snapshot into Spanish. Miguel's grandmother was already doing that for some of her friends and then e-mailing it to them so this is her area with Francisco as primary backup designate. If you use the e-mail address for El Espiritu, you can get a daily version of the snapshot in Spanish.
Miguel, Maria and Francisco do an editorial each week together. Ava's aunt is doing a column, Ava and C.I. are doing a weekly TV review (this was supposed to be a bi-weekly), Diana is writing about immigration issues in her area of Texas and interviewing members about their areas (this Sunday, the focus is on Michigan), Domingo is doing "an absurdist take on history," C.I. is doing a weekly column, Isaiah is doing a weekly comic, and, each week, Franciso, Miguel and Maria each write about what they think was the biggest news story of the week and why.
The biggest surprise is how much work it is. Francisco said they "plan or hope to do more once we get it down." When that happens, Miguel says, Ava and C.I. will drop back down to a biweekly contribution: "But, we really needed it and Ava said they could probably handle this for six weeks. " Maria said, "We have new appreciation for the writing sessions each week for The Third Estate Sunday Review." She also said she spoke with Dona who gave her a two-word suggestion, "Short features." They're going to try to do that both for the mix and to be able to provide more content.
"We're not going to stop," Francisco told me, "but I don't think we realized how much work it was going to be. But Gina pointed out that their round-robin wasn't what it is today when they started it. Diana and her family have a photo essay of the May rally coming up the week after next and that's when we're hoping things will pick up."
Maria echoed that and noted that Kat's already started contirbuting art for next week's newsletter and that will help as well. Their logo will get tweaked next week and Miguel says he's happiest about that. He also noted that C.I. suggested that they start running more contributions from members. That's already allowed them "to sweat Sunday's edition a lot less."
One thing the three of them have decided is to schedule time for writing together so they can do the editorial and some short features together. So they're planning group calls for that. If they sound down, note that I spoke with all of them on Monday. Working with The Third Estate Sunday Review each weekend, I know how tired I can get. I spoke with Miguel today and he's charged and ready for this weekend.
Gina and Krista both shared with them and with me that they have had many Thursdays ("and still do," Krista added) where they think, "We're not going to have anything!" I can echo that feeling for The Third Estate Sunday Review. Jim will say, time and again, "At least we'll have Ava and C.I.'s TV review." What will happen, and Polly agreed with this in an e-mail, is that once they have a few more newsletters behind them, they'll have things they know work and things they know won't work. When that happens, they'll emphasize what they enjoy and try for other pieces but each weekend, readers will know, "Oh ___'s going to be in there."
The reaction has been very positive and Maria admits that surprised them but says Jess told her that there were things he really didn't care for at the time but when he sees them now (he was speaking of pieces at The Third Estate Sunday Review) he can enjoy them. Francisco says they're going to adopt Kat's motto of "It is what it is" and remember what Ty said which is at the end of the month, there will be things you look back and and think worked and there will be things that didn't but before you have time to worry it to death, you're already facing the next month.
Filling in for Kat, C.I. wrote about the plans for El Espiritu and Maria, Miguel and Francisco have said the biggest lesson in the last two weeks was that you adapt. I think they're doing a wonderful job and intend to get them to share again in January.
"Army Targets Truthout for Subpoenas in Watada Case" (Jason Leopold, Truthout):
In a case that cuts right to the heart of the First Amendment, a US Army prosecutor has indicated he intends to subpoena Truthout Executive Director Marc Ash, a Truthout reporter, and two of the nonprofit news organization's regular contributors, to authenticate news reports they produced and edited earlier this year that quoted an Army officer criticizing President Bush and the White House's rationale for the Iraq War.
Captain Dan Kuecker, the Fort Lewis, Washington-based Army prosecutor, has stated his intent to compel Ash, Truthout reporter Sari Gelzer, and contributors Dahr Jamail and Sarah Olson to testify at the court-martial of First Lieutenant Ehren Watada. Kuecker is actively seeking the journalists' testimony so he can prove that Watada engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer, directly related to disparaging statements the Army claims Watada made about the legality of the Iraq War during interviews with Truthout and his hometown newspaper, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, in June.
At a hearing earlier this year, a military court determined there was sufficient evidence to charge Watada with intentionally missing his deployment, contemptuous speech toward officials, and conduct unbecoming an officer, and proceed with a general court-martial. In September, those charges were amended to include an additional count of conduct unbecoming an officer. The contempt charges were dropped in November. Watada faces a maximum six-year prison sentence if he is convicted. The trial is expected to begin in February.
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, who for years has been arguing in favor of a shield law to protect journalists from testifying against their sources, said what's distressing about the Watada case is that the government is trying to use a reporter to build its case.
"The last thing a reporter wants to be identified as is an investigative arm of the government." Dalglish said.
In his aggressive attempt to haul members of Truthout's editorial staff into court, Kuecker bypassed corresponding with the organization's attorney and sent Ash a series of emails - one of which was sent late Sunday evening, December 10 - insisting that Ash provide him with information about the reporters so Kuecker can prepare his case against Watada.
"This information is required as a part of an ongoing criminal investigation and prosecution," Kuecker wrote in that December 10 email to Ash. "Please respond as soon as possible."
Ash said he repeatedly referred Kuecker to Truthout attorney Bill Simpich. Ash said in an interview that he is determined to resist any attempt by the US Army to compel him to testify against Watada or to provide the Army with any physical evidence it may seek.
Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts. He'll talk about the above highlight. I'm wiped out from a very long day and from pulling together from the notes I made when I was speaking to everyone.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, December 13, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, Tuesdays bombings repeat today (on a smaller scale which is the pattern), Saudi Arabia whispers to Dick Cheney, the US military wants more, the Iraqi military has their own laundry list, and is Emily Greene a liar, a fool, a tool, a stooge or an enabler as she rushes to deny abuses of Iraqi women?
Starting with reality, on yesterday's KPFA's Flashpoints Dahr Jamail summarized conditions in Iraq:
What we do have is a situation that's well beyond the control of the US military . . . The two hottest spots we can talk about are Baghdad and Al-Anbar Province. One thing that people tend to overlook is that Al-Anbar Province is one third of the geographic area of the entire country, so that just right off form starters, we can say is completely out of control of the US military. Marines are being killed there every day. Dozens are wounded every single day and we're not getting this information. And it's very interesting. If you look at the news, we see this kind of unquestioning reporting going on where another US soldier killed or marine killed in A-Anbar but what it doesn't say is that it's typically in one of two cities, that's either Falluja or Ramadi almost every single time. So it really indicates how high the level of violence is there. Recently, 3,000 more marines were called off of ships in the Gulf and sent into Ramadi specifically, which, ironically, just yesterday the first female marine [officer][Megan M. McClung] was killed in that area as well. So we have a situation where, as you [Nora Barrows-Friedman] described in the highlights, where, really hundreds are dying every single day, it's not "scores," it's not "tens," it's not "dozens." It's hundreds of Iraqis are dying every single day. On average, it's well over a hundred a day just in Baghdad alone. And then if you look what's happening in places like Ramadi and Falluja which are under a consistent -- somewhere between 'low burn' and 'high burn' seige by the US military -- we have snipers killing many people in each city every single day, US snipers. We still have medical workers being harrassed. We still have all of the things you and I have talked about from almost the very beginning, Nora, back in January 2004, but on a much, much broader level, not just in one city, and not just even in one province, but really across all of Iraq -- even now bleeding into the Kurdish controlled north."
Staying with reality, we'll move to today's violence.
CBS and AP note a Baghdad bombing "near a crowded bus stop" that left at least 11 dead and at least 27 more wounded. Ammar Karim (The Australian) describes the scene: "Bodies of the victims lay scattered around the street amid pools of blood and the burning wreckage of at least two cars and a row of market stalls set up by a nearby bus stations." AP quotes eyes witness Abu Haider al-Kaabi: "A Volkswagen car exploded right near the bust stop, hitting a group of people, including women and children who were waiting to take a bus to a fruit and vegetatble market".
CNN notes two car bombs that exploded in the capital's New Baghdad district resulting in at least five deaths and an additional 10 people wounded. Xinhua puts the count of car bombs in Iraq today at seven (seven total for the entire country) and counts 29 dead from them which includes an attack on an Iraqi army base in Kirkuk that left ten Iraqi soldiers dead. Sameer N. Yacoub and Qais al-Bahsir (AP) report that another bombing, in Baquba, resulted in no physical deaths or injuries but it "destroyed a small Shiite shrine" while, in Musayyib, three roadside bombs exploded resulting in one death and one wounded. Kirk Semple (New York Times) reports a mortar attack in Baladiat that killed one and left six more wounded. Reuters notes a roadside bomb in Jurf al-Sakar left one person dead and three wounded.
Sameer N. Yacoub and Qais al-Bashir (AP) report a home invasion in al-Hesna resulted in assailants shooting dead nine members of a family. Reuters notes the family members killed were "four men, two women and three children" and that, near Balad, an attack on an Iraqi check point resulted in the wounding of four Iraqi soldiers.
Thomas Wagner (AP) reports that seven corpses ("tortured") were discovered in Mosul. Reuters notes that a corpse was discovered in Kirkuk, two corpses were discovered in Mahmudiya, and four corpses were discovered near Falluja.
As the chaos and violence continues day after day, both Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) and John F. Burns (New York Times) report a new 'plan' to cut down on the violence: provide jobs! As Kurdish legislator Mahmoud Othman tells Raghavan, "It's a bit late, as usual. They should have done this three years ago. In this country, they have spent so much on security without results. If they had spent one-tenth of that on creating jobs, more projects and fighting unemployment, things would have been better now."
The stop-gap measure (it's not a plan and it's not implemented) comes as Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reports that both the US marines and army are advocating that Congress provide them with "permanent increases in personnel" and while, as Michael R. Gordon and Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) point out, 'readiness' is just around the corner for Iraqi armies according to the country's national security advisor.
Did someone say, not quiet, not right? AFP reports this 'readiness' isn't just conditional upon future predictions, it also includes a list of wants: "more arms for the Iraqi army, more powers and training in order to be capable of handling security missions all over the country." Those are the words of the puppet Nouri al-Maliki and appear to indicate that when ousted by the US, he may not even grasp it, so removed from reality is he already.
The puppet reflects his master -- Bully Boy -- and shares company with a lazy press that can't stop jaw boning about toothless, idiotic 'reports.' Noting the 'snowjobs' weren't reality on yesterday's KPFA's Flashpoints, Dahr Jamail declared, "The reality is this a permanent occupation. They don't give a damn about the Iraqi people. They're not going to leave They're just trying to get the oil set up. And they're going to stay there until that happens and until it's all extracted."
But all the defocusing on 'listening tours' and 'reports' and other nonsense allows the Bully Boy to give the impression that he's 'active' and 'involved' -- so involved that, possibly, next year he can come up with a 'plan.' Danny Schechter (News Dissector) notes: "I can't wait for the Decider to Decide and for President Bush to announce his new revised version of his unrevised war plan. We will will have to wait a bit longer, perhaps to next year. And no matter that OVER SEVENTY PERCENT of the American people disagree with the current policy, he is not to be hurried with the media still taking him at his word as a rational decision maker. He is stuck. That's for sure. And anyone expecting new leadership in the White House might want to consider buying a bridge I am selling to Brooklyn."
While Bully Boy stalls the (willing) press, Saudi Arabia's not so patient. This morning, Helene Cooper (New York Times) reported that last month (after Thanksgiving), Dick Cheney was told by King Abdullah that if US forces withdraw from Iraq, the Saudi government will back the Sunnis. Cooper's story comes out just as Robin Wright (Washington Post) reports on the fast exist of the Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Turki al-Faisal, who "flew out of Washington yesterday after informing Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and his staff that he would be leaving the post after only 15 months on the job, according to U.S. officials and foreign envoys. There has been no formal announcements from the kingdom."
Returning to yesterday's KPFA's Flashpoints, Nora Barrows-Friedman and Dahr Jamail discussed the issue of women's rights in Iraq and noted the steady decline since the beginning of the illegal invasion. Prior to that, there were no "dress restrictions on women, they didn't have to cover up or wear a hijab," they could attend school, college, they held doctorates, they held postions in the government ministries. That's all changed. Dahr noted (and pay attention to this for later in the entry) "One of the first things that the US appointed Iraqi governing councile was to pass laws that would have done away with the laws that protect" the rights of women in Iraq. Though that was stopped it did "set the tone of what was going to happen in this inccreasingly fundamentalist" society where "There are no women's rights. Nothing is protected. It's a very fundamentalist government."
Nora Barrows-Friedman: I remember during the invasion and war against Afghanistan. Laura Bush was touting that country as a horrible place for women's rights and she herself was going to personally liberate the women. And now, after the invasion the Taliban has come back ten, a hundred-fold, it is worse for women in Afghanistan. Would you say the same is happening for women in Iraq?
Dahr agreed and noted "one of the consistent things we can see" using Afghanistan and Iraq as an example is that "if you're a woman you might want to seriously consider leaving because it's only a mtter of time before your rights are basically in the waste basket and horrible things are going to start happening to you."
Also addressed were the fact that the daily kidnappings in Baghdad (conservative estimate is thirty per day) target women more and more due to the fact that Bully Boy's 'liberation' has left them with no rights and little safeguards.
Today, the United Nations' IRIN attempts to report on the realities for female prisoners in Iraq. Standing in the way is one Emily Greene, described as "a spokeswoman for the US military in Iraq" who is a liar, a fool, a tool or an enabler? While Green offers denials/lies, Faten Abdul Rhaman Mahmoud, one of the few women in the puppet government with any power (she heads the Ministry of Women's Affairs), attempts to address the situation. There's something very vile about the US government, whose actions have destroyed the rights of women, using a woman as window dressing to hide behind and there's something even more disgusting about a woman who allows herself to be used in a such a manner. Greene lies/misinforms/disinforms that there's no information of any women held prisoner "in Iraqi prisons. The ones that had been held for investigation by them had all been released months ago and no torture has occurred, she said."
Emily Greene meet Um Ahmed who spoke with IPS about her imprisonment that did not take place "months ago" and that involved US forces who "told me they would rape me if I didn't tell them where my husband was, but I really didn't know." When her husband surrendered to the US military, the 'fun' just kept coming. Um Ahmed told Dahr Jamial and Ali al-Fadhily: "They told him they would rape me right in front of him if he did not confess he was a terrorist. They forced me to watch them beat him hard until he told them what they wanted to hear."
IRIN quotes Faten Abdul Rahman Mahmoud: "We don't know the exact number of remale prisoners but there are many being held in different prisons -- even though the [other ministries in the] government and US forces deny it. They are afraid of a counterattack from the country's conservative society." And though they may fear an attack, as noted by Dahr Jamail in his conversation with Nora Barrows-Friedman, the 'new' government set up post-illegal invasion has not given a damn about women's rights. IRIN also notes that Sarah Abdel Yassin of the Organization for Women's Freedom (OWF) whose own research backs up Faten Abdul Rahman Mahmoud's findings and she states, "The Ministry of Interior, [Ministry of] Defence and US forces are denying that there are female prisoners in Iraq but we have enough proof that they are there and that they suffer daily humiliation." An example is Samira Abdallah who was hooded for the entire four moths she was held, released in November only to find that her husband was now dead ("killed by the Iraqi army") as was her oldest daughter ("raped by a soldier" and then the daughter, 16-year-old Hania, killed herself) so it's now just her and her seven-year-old son.
When the Emily Greene's are presented with this 'choice' positions, the smart thing would be to turn them down. It should be perfectly obvious that Willie Caldwell gets all the 'prime' assignments and that they're being used as mere window dressing. By participating in the con, women like that not only enable the destruction of the rights of others, they make it all the less likely that a Faten Abdul Rahman Mahmoud will come along to speak out against abuses to women. But that's the point of using US women in window dressing roles, isn't it?
In war resister news, Jane Cutter (PSL) reports on Saturday's actions in Seattle (despite "rain and wind") which including distributing brochures featuring war resisters such as Ehren Watada and Kyle Snyder and collecting "postcards to be hand delivered to pro-war Democratic senator Maria Cantwell." Meanwhile Lydia Lum (Diverse Education) explores past the 300 Japanese-Americans who refused to serve in WWII due to their families being (illegally) interned. Lum notes that 120,000 Japanese-Americans were held in internment camps, explores the "no-no boys" and ends in the present noting UCLA's Dr. Lane "Hirabayshi says the current case of U.S. Army Lt. Ehren K. Watada, who is of Japanese and Chinese descent, is the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq, callin the war illegal and immoral. He faces court-martial and a possible prison term."
kyle snyderkpfaflashpointsnora barrows friedman
the kpfa evening news
the new york timessabrina tavernise
john f. burns
michael r. gordonthe washington postsudarsan raghavan
ann scott tysondavid e. sanger