Saturday, November 14, 2009

Barbra on The Doctors this Monday

Rebecca is a huge Barbra Streisand fan and asked me if I would highlight something on Barbra she missed.

Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand Places a Special Call to The Doctors on Nov. 16
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What's Up Docs?

Barbra Streisand Places a Special Call to The Doctors to Discuss Heart Health for Women, November 16

On Monday, November 16, Barbra Streisand calls The Doctors to discuss her passionate crusade to support heart health awareness for women, a cause which led her to create and endow the Barbra Streisand Women’s Cardio Vascular Research and Education Program at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

Barbra tells The Doctors, "I've always been an advocate of equal rights for women, so why should women's health research be done on men? Physiologically, we're different. I made a movie about it called 'Yentl.' It's just silly. I was shocked when I heard that medical research for women was being done on men. How do you treat a woman for such a life threatening ailment based on treatments, diagnostics and technology based on men?"

Heart Disease runs in Barbra's family: "My family on my mother's side all seems to have had heart disease."

Appearing on the panel alongside The Doctors, during the conversation, is Dr. C. Noel Bairey Merz, the Director of Women's Health at Cedars Sinai, who reiterated "Heart Disease is the number one women's health care threat."

See what time The Doctors airs on Monday, November 16, in your area by checking your local listings.

To obtain photos of The Doctors, please visit

Can't get enough Barbra Streisand? Visit the official pages: Site

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So if you're a Barbra fan, remember that's this Monday.

Thank you to C.I. for the kind words in today's snapshot but they were totally unneeded.

I mentioned Nouri's attacks on the press once, C.I.'s covered it over and over. Just this week? Tuesday, Wednesday, twice on Thursday and twice on Friday.

My minor little note here on Wednesday was nothing to rave over. I do appreciate the kind words but let's keep it in perspective. C.I.'s the one who busts her ass on this issue and every other Iraq one.

I'm the one who's dragging my own ass tonight. We went to the Regent in Arlington to see Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet in concert. I was going to skip it because I knew Rebecca wanted to go and, with her young daughter, I knew she'd feel like she had to stay. But C.I. said she'd stay instead. We argued a bit but C.I. said the whole point of ending each week on the road in Boston was to be around Rebecca's daughter so it made sense for her to watch her.

She also told me it would be a wonderful concert (she's seen them in concert twice this year) and it was a wonderful concert. I like the latest album (Under The Covers Vol. II) but I really was just going to the conert because it was what we were all doing. I really ended up having a great time. If they come to your area, you really need to see them. They're doing the covers like they do on the new album and they're really rocking. Even more so than on the album.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, November 13, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, a war cheerleader need to profit from the war gets even messier, McClatchy becomes the first US outlet to speak out in support of the Guardian and press freedom, more lawsuits are filed against KBR and more.
This afternoon,
Jenan Hussein and Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) report a satire by Warid Badr Salim in al Mada has led over 150 members of Parliament sign on to suing the newspaper. The reporters note, "The chilling atmosphere for the news media was underscored this week when an Iraqi court fined the London-based Guardian newspaper nearly $87,000, finding that it had defamed Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. An article in the paper in April quoted unnamed Iraqi intelligence officials describing what they said was Maliki's increasingly authoritarian rule. [. . .] Free expression is one of the few benefits that Iraqi count from the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Basic services such as electricity and sewage are still in disrepair, and sectarian violence, while much reduced, is still a daily occurence. The backlash against journalists and curbs on book, cartoons and plays, often for religious reasons, raise questions about what kind of society the United States will leave behind when American troops withdraw from Iraq at the end of 2011." The article in question is Ghaith Abdul-Ahad's "Six years after Saddam Hussein, Nouri al-Maliki tightens his grip on Iraq" (April 30, 2009). Tuesday the court or 'court' rendered their or 'their' verdict.

Elaine observed Wednesday, "The above topic should have been the front page of every daily paper this morning. Instead everyone turned their heads, averted their eyes and, in doing so, endorsed the assault on the press. If Nouri al-Maliki saw that the entire world would jeer him over these nonsense law suits, you better believe he'd think twice about doing it again. As it is, he's been allowed to attack the press. Let me add: Yet again." And let me add, because I've been waiting to see if this would be the case, that's All Things Media Big and Small. ALL. Get the picture? Thursday the Guardian editorialized, "But the case against the Guardian in Iraq is notable alarming. Despite repeated hearings over several months, the paper was not asked to present written evidence or provide statements from the editor or the reporter invovled. Compensation was apparently awarded for damage to the Iraqi prime minister, even though he was not a party to the legal action. The Iraqi people were promised freedom after the fall of Saddam. They deserve a free press and fair courts, robust enough to stand up to government."
Exactly. And yet where has the media been on this story?

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly.
I'm crying.
-- "I Am The Walrus" (recorded by the
Beatles, written by John Lennon, credited to Lennon & McCartney)

Thursday we noted that the Guardian is out there pretty much all alone. No outlet has stepped forward to stand with them. That's disgraceful. And when Nouri's other cases (both pending ones and ones yet to be filed) against news outlets come forward, some of these same outlets are going to want others to stand up for them and stand with them. Why should anyone bother? When none of them can stand up for the press right now, why should anyone later stand up for the cowards?

Thursday night, it turned out I might have been a bit harsh. That's when Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, took a brave stand and stated:

This rulling has to send a shiver up the spin of anyone who hopes for a genuinely democratic Iraq. What the court calls libel is, in most countries, called journalism. Indeed, if a respected journalist like Ghaith Abdul-Ahad can be punished for reporting on concerns about a trend toward authoritarian government, the verdict would seem to lend credence to those very concerns.

What a brave editorial statement from Bill Keller and thank goodness he was not afraid to put that in print in his paper because . . .

Oh, wait.

That didn't appear in the New York Times.

Bill Keller was quoted in
Julian Borger's article for the Guardian that posted Thursday ngiht and appeared in Friday's paper. You know what, Bill, I think Guardian readers have some idea about the case. It's readers of the New York Times that might be helped by hearing your comments. But the New York Times has been so very busy on so many other things. Certainly, they're some panty sniffing they're prepared to splash on the front page any day now and pass it off as journalism, right?

There's not a damn thing wrong with Bill Keller's statements. And I'll applaud them . . . when they appear in the New York Times. Instead, it's as though Nouri attacked Guardian at school and Billy stood by and didn't nothing but later that day Billy ran over to Guardian's house and said, "Oh man, that was so wrong. I'm so mad. Man, I could just kick Nouri's ass." Brave statements become less brave when they're not made where it matters.

What the press tried to ignore, groups we spoke to about Iraq after the Tuesday verdict got. They got it instantly. They got that it was about press freedom. They got that it was about Iraq. They understood that a messages were being sent globally. They grasped that one message was that Nouri could get away with what ever he wanted and that he would be emboldened as a result. They also grasped that a message was sent to the Iraqi people to let them know that they were once again on their own and that the world press would look the other way as they did so often under Saddam. Those pulling a blank on what I'm referring to can jog their memories by reading
Eason's now infamous NYT column where he whined for forgiveness for CNN's efforts at covering for Saddam in order to have continued access to Iraq.
This is not a minor issue but outside of the
Committee to Protect Journalists, Chris Floyd and one or two others, find anyone commenting on it outside of the Guardian. Imagine what it must be like to be the average Iraqi right now. Following the start of the illegal war, you might have had some internet access and some access to satellite TV and you could see the press get lively (too lively for Paul Bremer who launched an attack on Falluja largely because he didn't like a cartoon -- no, it wasn't of his butt, the newspaper wasn't a broadsheet). And now you've seen the US install exile puppet Nouri al-Maliki. And you've seen him crack down on the internet and satellite channels. You've seen him run Al Jazeera out of the country. Now you're seeing him go after a Western outlet (the Guardian) and trash the work of Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. And you look around to see that world press you hear so much of. That brave, strong, independent, call out the tyranny where ever it is press. And you see silence. From the East to the West, you see silence.

And slowly it sinks in that today's thug is going to get away with the same things the previous one did because your life isn't very important on the world stage. And let's get real damn honest, that's why Iraqis suffered in silence all those years. They suffered in silence because they were less important -- to the world press -- than their leader. They suffered because the press wanted to curry favor with Saddam. And now the same world press is sending the message -- with few exceptions (count McClatchy now as one exception) -- that they will cover for Nouri because freedoms and the people of Iraq are unimportant.
That is the message being sent and you better believe that is the message being received.
Amy Goodman couldn't give us that today or yesterday or the day before. In fact, Goody missed Iraq a lot this week but
Ava and I will tackle that at Third on Sunday. Mad Maddy Rothschild likes to pretend he gives a damn about the free press (in 2008, he liked to pretend he was a Democrat, this year he finally outed himself publicly as a Socialist so maybe in 2010 he'll reveal that he really doesn't give a damn about the press?). But for all of his bluster, Mad Maddy didn't have time to defend the Guardian. And then there's The Nation. Did John Nichols losing his daily paper mean that he lost interest in the press? Apparently because he's tossing more sop out about Sarah Palin. But then John Nichols HATES women. Is there any woman he hasn't attacked this decade? This is the man, please remember, who attacked Barbra Streisand, BARBRA STREISAND, for the Iraq War. That was Barbra's fault. Now not in the mind of any sane person, but as you read his attack on Barbra, you knew you weren't dealing with a sane person. (The basic 'logic' of his argument was that Barbra donated her money -- HER money -- as she saw fit to Democratic politicians and not as John Nichols felt she should donate HER money. Therefore, Barbra was responsible for the Iraq War.) At some point, Panhandle Media's going to have to have to start offering group therapy for all these misogynists but in the meantime, we all suffer because they can't address what really matters. Another swipe at Palin or advocating a free press? Nichols goes with another slam at Palin.

The topic wasn't discussed on the second hour of NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show today, but guest host Susan Page and panelists Karen DeYoung (Washington Post), Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) and David E. Sanger (New York Times) did discuss other Iraq issues.

Susan Page: Roy Gutman, I know that you were reporting from Iraq last month. This week we hear that Iraq's Parliament finally has approved a law for its election in January. There had been a kind of stalemate before that.

Roy Gutman: Well there had been and it was a very damaging stalemate. If they hadn't approved the law by this point then you begin to have to predict the country going downhill rather quickly. Uhm, had they approved it a month ago, you could have said Iraq is almost heading towards a normalcy despite all of the violence. This kind of muddled middle that took a long time to decide actually is nevertheless huge progress. This election, uh, is in a way is going to create a new Parliament. There will be what they call open lists -- every parliamentarian or every person running for a seat uh will be named before the elections so it's possible for people to find out who they are and rather they have dual citizenship. You know I heard while I was there that as many as 70% of the Iraqi -- of the current Iraqi Parliament has dual citizenship. Many of them Iranian-Iraqi dual citizenship. So that-that part will end and it looks like -- they have an independent election commission, they run elections that I think, in comparison with Afghanistan, certainly in comparison with Iran, are going to look good, very clean. It's possible that this election could make a real big difference.

Susan Page: Karen, this week we found out that top executives at Blackwater, the private military company, okayed bribes for Iraqi officials. Why were they going to bribe them?

Karen DeYoung: This was in connection to the late 2007 attacks in Baghdad for which I believe five Blackwater employees who were working for the State Department have been charged. 17 Iraqis were killed. At a time when it was not clear which way the Iraq government was going to go in terms of prosecuting them, preventing them from leaving the country. This was reportedly Blackwater's attempt to influence those decisions and also the decision whether Blackwater whose-whose income is derived from -- has been derived from -- huge contracts in Iraq would be continued to allow -- be allowed to work there.

Susan Page: Alright. Yes, Roy?

Roy Gutman: One of the -- one of the most incredible things about the American war in Iraq is that we relied on outside contractors to the extent that we did. I heard the figure while I was there of -- from American military -- that there was as many as 170,000 contractors, maybe even more than that, to 140,000 troops. I think that -- obviously it drove up the cost -- but it was the idea of outsourcing the war obviously to people like Blackwater to do all the functions that would normally be carried out by the military. It's a hell of a way to run a war. It's -- maybe it's the modern way of war but I think that the Bush administration in a way into thinking that it was only 140,000, only 160,000, in fact the numbers were far, far higher.

Karen DeYoung: I-I think that's true and the bulk of the contractors certainly work for the Defense Department. [Clears throat.] Excuse me. The bulk of the controversy has been over-over personal security contractors working for the State Department and that's what -- that's what Blackwater was doing. This is a problem as policy becomes a sort of civil-military hybrid where we're trying to do reconstruction in a war zone, we're trying to boost the civilian components of our efforts in places like-like Iraq and in Afghanistan. And now the question is always: Who is going to protect these people? Is this the proper role for the military, is this something that we want soldiers to do? The State Department doesn't want soldiers to do it and so you're going to have this problem increasingly going on.

Susan Page: Do private military contractors continue to play as big a role during the Obama administration as they did during the Bush administration, David?

David E. Sanger: Well certainly as the war has moved to Afghanistan and as our attention is focused to Afghanistan -- we still have more troops in Iraq today than we have in Afghanistan -- something you could lose sight of --
Karen DeYoung: Twice as many.

David E. Sanger: -- picking up -- picking up the newspaper. Yeah. That may not be true six months from now but it certainly is true now. Uh, I don't believe that there are as many contractors at work in the Afghan theater. But it's a very different kind of situation. The exception to this, again, is the personal security forces including around the embassies.

Roy Gutman: But you know when you enter the American Embassy in Baghdad, you get first questioned by Peruvians who are contractors. I-I think the traditional role of the marines as being the guard for embassies is actually a good one. And I think the idea of contracting that out, however necessary it was during the war because there simply weren't enough troops of any force to do it -- is a real question. I don't see -- and the State Department didn't master having these private contractors. They-they lost control of them again and again and again. There not able to manage them, frankly. And, uh, the whole embassy. You go to this embassy, it's an immense thing really. It was built kind of for a pro-counsel's role. And you have to ask: 'Why did we do this in the middle of the war?'

Susan Page: Roy, Roy, I don't understand. So this security at the US Embassy in Baghdad is Peruvian?

Roy Gutman: The first line.

Karen DeYoung: The outer parameter.

Roy Gutman: The outer parameter.

Susan Page: And who's employing the Peruvians to provide the security?

Roy Gutman: Uh, I don't know. Maybe it's Triple Canopy. I forget the name of the contractor.

Susan Page: But it's a contractor working for the US government?

Roy Gutman: Oh yeah.
Susan Page: Huh. Alright. That surprises me.

Roy Gutman: In fact,
going into -- into what is now the International Zone, the former Green Zone, you get queried by Ugandans, Uruguayans, Peruvians are there. It's-it's like a small United Nations. Most of them being ill paid. And go to any of the bases, the American bases, the first lines and the second lines of-of checkpoints are all run by non-Americans.

Afghanistan is not our focus ("Iraq snapshot") but since it was mentioned above, we'll note that the Democratic Policy Committee (Democratic members of the Senate and Senator Byron Dorgan chairs the committee) has released a new report on Afghanistan "
Our Best Chance for Success in Afghanistan: Getting the Strategy Right First."

James Bone (Times of London) reports on the problems for an adivsor to the KRG: "A prominent former United Nations official was forced to defend himself yesterday against accusations that he used his influence in Iraq to enrich himself. Peter Galbraith, 58, a former US ambassador who recently quit as deputy head of the UN mission in Kabul, struck a potentially lucrative oil deal in Iraqi Kurdistan which could reportedly earn him $100 million (£60 million). He helped the Kurds to negotiate provisions in the 2005 Iraqi Constitution that gave them control over new oil finds on their territory." Peter Galbraith is denying any wrong doing. He repeated his denials in Melissa Block's interview which aired on yesterday's All Things Considered:

Melissa Block: Ambassador Galbraith, you've been on our program many times before, you've published many op-eds, you've written books. Why not disclose your business ties before this? Put this out in the open if it is so-so benign as you say. Peter Galbraith: It's obviously quite common for people to be in government, to be in private business. And it is the nature of private business that the precise arrangements are often confidential. And, indeed, some of my arrangements were subject to confidentiality agreements. But I did disclose that I was in business and that I had corporate clients in Iraq. So I think that people did know that I had these interests.

Melissa Block: Ambassador Galbraith, do you see how this business connection, your connection with the oil company, would fuel the anger that US interests in Iraq are purely about oil and about profit? Peter Galbraith: I -- uh, well I can understand that there will be politicians that will want to use that as part of their debate with the Kurds but, uh, frankly, I was a private citizen at the time, I had no role in the US -- with the US government. The US government did not, in any way, facilitate any of my visits to Iraq. Uh, so, I was like many other former government officials who have become private citizens and who, uh, in -- generally the practice do not disclose what clients they may have in their business activities.

While he was happy to share his notions of discosure to Melissa Block yesterday, others attempted to address his lack of disclosure. Noting that he's written columns on the Kurdistan issues for the New York Times since 2004 (when his relationship with DNO began), an "
Editor's Note" in today's paper (published online yesterday) concludes:Like other writers for the Op-Ed page, Mr. Galbraith signed a contract that obligated him to disclose his financial interests in the subjects of his articles. Had editors been aware of Mr. Galbraith's financial stake, the Op-Ed page would have insisted on disclosure or not published his articles.

The New York Times is stating Peter Galbraith didn't disclose to them and that, had they known about the deal, they would have either not published his columns on Iraq or required that he disclose those interests -- those financial interests. Please note that Melissa Block conducted a lengthy interview with him (over four minutes) and those are only excerpts above. Peter Galbraith continues to maintain he has done nothing illegal, wrong or unethical.
Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) weighs in:

The New York Times is shocked -- shocked! --
to find personal enrichment of American elites at the heart of the rape and gutting of Iraq. Who could possibly have ever foreseen such a scenario as the Times revealed on Thursday, describing how "influential American adviser" Peter Galbraith helped "ram through" highly controversial provisions in the constitution that the occupying force and its collaborators imposed -- provisions that could put more than $100 million in Galbraith's pocket.Of course, Galbraith's war-profiteering machinations are hardly unique; the roll call of "advisers" and officials and other insiders feasting on Iraqi corpseflesh is longer than the Mississippi, and considerably more muddy. Just this week, the Financial Times noted that another gaggle of occupation geese, "including Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Baghdad, and Jay Garner," the first appointed satrap of the conquered land, are now cashing in on their blood-soaked connections in Iraq.
Chris Garofolo (Brattleboro Reformer) notes that Galbraith was speaking at an event at the Brattleboro Centre Congregational Church last night when the issue was raised and he said of the New York Times article (by James Glanz and Walter Gibbs ), "I actually find the article quite, well, it is full of innuendo. If you read the facts [with the implications and innuendo], I find [it] offensive. [. . .] The article argues, or suggests, that somehow I had a conflict, hmm, it doesn't say it, but there's innuendo there. That there's a conflict of interest because I advised the Kurds on the constitution at the same time I had business interests, including a contract with a Norewegian oil company DNO, in which I assisted them to make investments in the oil industry." Garofolo also notes that Peter Gailbraith supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

From greed to the violence it led to . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing (no one wounded or killed apparently)


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 13-year-old Iraqi Christian male shot dead in Mosul. AFP notes the shooting but says the male was 16-years-old and was Rami Katchik who "had been hosing down the entrance to his family home when the shooting occurred." Iran's Press TV drops back to yesterday to note "a man working for a weaving factory in Mosul" shot dead yesterday."


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse (20-year-old man) discovered in Mosul.

Turning to the United States,
Jake Armstrong (Pasadena Weekly) notes "lawsuits in 32 states have been filed against Halliburton, KBR and other military contractors over so-called 'burn pits' the companies allegedly used in Iraq to burn everything from human body parts to tires, the Associated Press reported Tuesday." Ed Treleven (Wisconsin State Journal) reports Iraq War veteran Michael Foth and Afghanistan War veteran Brett Mazzara have filed against KBR: "The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Madison, brings to 34 the number of similar lawsuits pending across the United States, said Susan Burke, a Washington, D.C., lawyer representing the soldiers, including Mazzara and Foth. A first wave of lawsuits filed earlier this year have been merged for pretrial proceedings in Greenbelt, MD., she said." Lisa Guerriero (MetroWest Daily News) reports on Iraq War veteran Jeffery Cox (we've noted his lawsuit against KBR already this week). O fthe KBR burn pit he was exposed to, Cox notes, "This is not your little leaf fire. This is 10 acres or greater." On the health issues relating from exposure to the burn pits, Cox observes, "It's widespread. A lot of people have some type pulmonary issue. It's the Agent Orange of the Iraq war." Meanwhile the Houston Chronicle offers the editorial "Invisible wounds: Returning soldiers with mental health problems are ill-served by their country" which includes this: "It's also ironic that the same legislators who sign off on billions to wage wars -- conservatively estimated at almost $700 billion to date for Iraq and Afghanistan -- are often loath to invest even modest sums for the care of the soldiers wounded in those wars."

Meanwhile, KBR and others can profit off the war but telling the truth? Apparently not allowed in the United States. Valerie Plame is a former CIA agent. Former not by choice. She was outed by the Bully Boy Bush administration in an attempt to get back at and attack her husband, former diplomat Joe Wilson. The CIA sent Wilson on a fact-finding mission to Niger ahead of the Iraq War to determine whether or not Saddam Hussein was seeking or had sought yellow cake uranium (which would allow him to make deadly, nuclear bombs). Wilson's investigation determined no attempt had been made. Despite that, the administration (including Bully Boy Bush) began publicly making statements to the contrary. Wilson originally corrected the issue with some members of the press. When he came out publicly in the New York Times with "
What I Didn't Find In Africa" (July 6, 2003), the administration began working to attack him and using adminstration friends in the press. These friends would include Matt Cooper who keeps trying to crawl out from under his rock despite the fact that he's never, NEVER, gotten honest about his part in this or his covering for so many in the administration and for Karl Rove. Robert Novak (now dead) was the one who finally outed her. (As John R. MacArthur has noted, there's nothing wrong with outing CIA agents -- with the press doing it. It is, however, a different story for the government to out you. Valerie Plame worked for the United States government as an undercover agent and her cover was blown by the Executive Branch of the federal government. That is wrong, that is a problem.) David Kravets (Wired) reports that here efforts to go public with details (non national security details) such as the time of her employment are being withheld (despite them already being part of the Congressional record) and other petty measures are taking place. Why? A judge decided but never forget that a judge decided (wrongly, my opinion) only due to the fact that the Barack Obama administration decided to fight Plame on this. Yes, Barack is yet again proving to be Bush III. So two administrations have now disgraced themselves in the manner in which they've treated Valerie Plame.

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins broadcasting on many PBS stations tonight (check local listings) and this week's showWhat exactly is going on with the economy? Stocks are up and big bonuses are back, but while they're throwing parties on Wall Street, there's pain on Main Street. One out of every six workers is unemployed or underemployed, according to government statistics - the highest figure since the Great Depression.This week NOW gets answers and insight from Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, who's been heading up the congressional panel overseeing how the bailout money is being spent. NOW Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa talks with Warren about how we got to this point, and where we go from here.What will it take to put both bankers and American businesses on the same road to recovery?Washington Week also begins airing tonight (and throughout the weekend) on many PBS stations. Joining Gwen around the table this week are Peter Baker (New York Times), Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), John Dickerson (CBS News and Slate) and Ton Gjelten (NPR). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Bernadine Healy, Melinda Henneberger, Star Parker and Patricia Sosa to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The Deadliest WeaponByron Pitts and 60 Minutes cameras spend two days on the road with a bomb-hunting unit in Afghanistan as they encounter one deadly bomb after another. | Watch Video
B. RexLesley Stahl meets the inspiration for the lead character in the classic film "Jurassic Park" and reports on how famed dinosaur hunter Jack Horner is shaking up the paleontology world. | Watch Video
Resurrecting EdenIn Southern Iraq, where many biblical scholars place the Garden of Eden, Scott Pelley finds a water world where the "Marsh Arabs" are making a comeback after Saddam nearly destroyed the "cradle of civilization." | Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

mcclatchy newspapers
jenan husseinwarren p. strobel
the guardianjulian borgermark tran
the diane rehms showsusan pagenpr
roy gutman
karen deyoungthe washington post
the new york times
david e. sanger
all things consideredmelissa blockthe new york times
the houston chroniclethe pasadena weeklyjake armstronged trelevenlisa guerriero
sahar issa
60 minutescbs newspbsto the contrarybonnie erbewashington week

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The attack on the freedom of the press

"Reporting from Iraq: Freedom at risk" (Guardian):

This week a Iraqi court ordered the Guardian to pay 100m dinar (£52,000) for supposedly defaming the country's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. The ruling should outrage anyone who cares about free speech and fair reporting. Journalists in Iraq find their task difficult and dangerous enough without the government adding its own challenge by suing reporters through the country's court system. The article that caused offence would not have raised an eyebrow in an established democracy. But either Mr al-Maliki himself, or someone who believed he was acting in his interest, took exception to a piece of reporting by the Guardian's correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, which described fears inside Iraq that the prime minister was ruling in an increasingly autocratic manner.

The irony, of course, is that by suing, the Iraqi National Intelligence Service has simply added to the impression this is the case. The article, published in April, was not, as the INIS claimed, "forged". It accurately reported a range of views, including those of three intelligence officers about the nature of the prime minister's rule. Other people, also reported in the piece, suggested that the Iraqi people want a strong leader, after years of chaos. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is an Iraqi reporter who knows his country and has repeatedly won awards for his coverage – in 2008 he was named foreign reporter of the year at the British Press Awards.

As C.I. notes in the snapshot today (editorial runs in Thursday's Guardian), you either flood the zone or accept that you're assisting in an assault on free speech.

Where was the media?

I don't mean the Guardian. They covered the story yesterday. But who has covered it since? Corey Flintoff apparently did a report broadcast by at least one NPR (the DC one -- a friend at NPR told C.I. about the report but the report isn't online and it was aired as a news headline and not on one of NPR's programs). Who else?

The above topic should have been the front page of every daily paper this morning. Instead everyone turned their heads, averted their eyes and, in doing so, endorsed the assault on the press.

If Nouri al-Maliki saw that the entire world would jeer him over these nonsense law suits, you better believe he'd think twice about doing it again.

As it is, he's been allowed to attack the press.

Let me add: Yet again.

Let me also point out that from day one, only one person has warned you about Nouri's attacks on the press: C.I.

C.I. has been there since the summer of 2006 when Nouri first began attacking the press (he was named to his prime minister post in April of 2006, for those trying to construct a timeline). C.I. didn't then drop the issue, she's consistently and repeatedly called that thug out for attacking the press.

Why can't the media do the same?

C.I. does it because she grew up in a news media family and she knows how important it is that assaults on freedom of the press be called out and be called immediately before they do even more damage.

You would assume that others would grasp that as well but apparently that's not to be the case. So instead of helping press freedom, instead of backing up and supporting the Guardian, the press intends to pretend like nothing happened and, besides, whatever it was, it's the Guardian's problem and no one else's. This is a very sad for the press.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, November 11, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, thug Nouri's attack on the press finds unlikely allies (the press), issues effecting veterans get significant play for at least one news cycle, and more.
Today is Veterans Day in the United States. Yesterday the US Senate held a hearing on homeless veterans. The hearing was held by the Housing, Transportation and Community Development Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. Senator Robert Menendez chaired the subcommittee hearing which heard from the VA on the first panel and from the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Steve Berg, Coalition for Homeless Veterans' Melanie Lilliston, GI Go Fund's Jack Fanous, Iraq War veteran Lila Guy and Vietnam veteran William Wise. We'll note the personal remarks on homelessness from the hearing.
Lila Guy: As you've already said, I spent a year in Iraq, from 2005 to 2006 and during that time I was in Kirkuk, Iraq. But I had four children at home and a husband. But when I came back home, about a month after we got home, they informed us that we would be redeploying in less than a year, you know, after we had come back and my husband was not happy. He was not in the military but he decided that, you know, it was just not something that he wanted to do and so he just left. And so at the time I had three children. Me and the children were at Fort Campbell and we were doing field training and things like that. I didn't have anybody to watch the kids for me or whatever while I went to the field for thirty days. And I had to ask my mom to come and stay with me for -- so I could do two weeks of training. And after all of that, I just could not, I couldn't do it anymore. It was I was having issues just trying to readjust to being back home and taking care of kids and all of that kind of stuff. So I ended up getting out of the military on a hardship discharge. So when I got out, I had nothing because it was such an abrupt discharge. I didn't have anything, no where to go. And I drove home. All I had was my car and my kids So I drove home to my parents' house and I stayed there for awhile. And I ended up having another baby and my father said, "You know, you can't, we don't have enough room so you going to have to find something." But at that time I had still not found a job. I had four kids now in one room in a two bedroom house with my parents. And so I sent an e-mail to Congressman [Joe] Sestak and he asked and I informed him of my situation. I was in school, I was a full time student but I just didn't have the money. I had no place to go and I asked him could he help me and they sent me to the VA and they just started a pilot program for the HUD-VASH [Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing] -- I mean not a pilot, but it had just started and I was like one of nine of the people to be the first on the program. And it took about a year before I actually got into a house and during that time it was -- it was really stressful because I'm watching as you know all of the people who are in charge -- it was only person. They finally brought in another person and by the time he came, they had about 150 applicants and they were supposed to be having meetings with us coming to our house and all of that kind of stuff but they couldn't do it because they didn't have enough people so -- But anyway I got a house through the HUD VASH program. It's a four bedroom house and it's a beautiful -- it's a nice house just to transition but I thank the HUD VASH program for being there for me when I needed them because I really didn't have any other -- any other choice or whatever. With the HUD VASH program, I really believe in it because I'm -- my situation could have been a lot worse and I see a lot of people that are when we go to the meetings a lot of other people that are in the HUD VASH program that are literally, you know, living on the street and who have mental illness. As I was listening to his [Jack Fanous] statement and it was true to me because I see so many -- not just veterans but soldiers as soon as they come back with so many mental issues and like he said the transition is hard. And they teach you to go and train and fight and do all those things but they don't teach you how to live a normal life when you come back. You know, they don't teach you how to take care of your kids or pay all your bills or whatever. A lot of that stuff is all clumped into together. But once you're out in the real world those things are not there for you. There's nobody to say, "Well this is what you need to do, this is next step" or whatever. A lot of those people are lost. There are a lot of veteran programs but most veterans don't know what things -- what options are out there for them. So it just so happened that I was able to reach out to somebody that could help me but a lot of those people don't know, they don't have those resources. So I just thank, I thank the HUD-VASH program for -- for all that they done for me because it's given me an opportunity to move on with my life. I'm still a full time student and I'm doing the vocational rehabilitation program. And so all of those programs are all different but every time you have to reach out to somebody, you're reaching out here, you're reaching out there, it's frustrating. And a lot of those people don't have the patience to deal with those kind of things so if there was some way that those things could be pushed together -- not necessarily pushed together but given them the opportunity to be able to say, "Well these are the options that you have. These are the things that are out there for you." It would help a lot of these soldiers out a lot because they don't have anybody as their liaison to say, "Look you can do this, that and the other." So I just thank you for allowing me to be here. Thank you.
[. . .]
William Wise: I'm pretty much here to endorse the long term residential programs like the one I'm in in Winslow. Having been in short term programs, in and out of psych wards and programs and then thrown back out in the private sector the long term residential program has provided me with the time to really address -- asses and address the issues of a veteran and to use our military skill, our military training experience and training and turn that into a skill set to learn how to transition out. It's a very good program. And I think the time -- the time that you're there is so important. Short term is not going to work, the 120 day program, at least not for me. Had I know about the VA program earlier, it had probably been like 4th down and 99 before I even tried to call the 1-800 number, you know what I'm saying. I come from a generation where it's nothing but a scratch, I can handle it. And so it was a long time coming before I got to the point where I sought someone to get a new play to run and I still probably would have run my own play. I don't know what else to say about that except I really, really enjoyed that program. It saved my life. I've created a balance where I can see something instead of trying to assimilate, I can take my own self and go on and that's all I have, thank you.
Chair Robert Menendez: Mr. Wise what program were you talking about.
William Wise: Veterans Haven. Veterans Haven in Winslow. It's a two-year vocational and residential -- I mean vocational and transitional arrangement. You know, two years and after completion, with a certain income, you can go to get housing assistance as long as you stay in the state of New Jersey. I leave in March and that's where I plan to stay, in Jersey.
Lisa Chen (ABC News) reports that a third of the homeless population currently is made up of veterans: "Assistant Secretary of Housing Mercedes Marquez says that since February, HUD has funded over 136 programs that specifically target programs, and a partner program between HUD and the VA started in FY08, called the HUD-VASH [Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program] is funded at $75 million annually and serves over 20,000 homeless vets, including many who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan." Susan Campbell (Hartford Courant) also covers the issue noting the estimated 131,000 homeless veterans around the country with approximately 5,000 in Connecticut alone and that the strain those assisting veterans already is expected to increase as more veterans are created by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"They gave me a gun" he said
"They gave me a mission
For the power and the glory --
Propaganda -- piss on 'em
There's a war zone inside me --
I can feel things exploding --
I can't even hear the f**king music playing
For the beat of -- the beat of black wings."
[. . .]
"They want you -- they need you --
They train you to kill --
To be a pin on some map --
Some vicarious thrill --
The old hate the young
That's the whole heartless thing
The old pick the wars
We die in 'em
To the beat of -- the beat of black wings"
-- "The Beat of Black Wings," words and music by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm.
As is too often the case, turnout for the hearing yesterday was sparse; however, I'm referring to senators. The visitor section was actually fairly well packed. We'll note the following exchanges from the second panel.
Chair Robert Menendez: Mr. Berg, you said about the VA needs to take leadership at a local level. Can you expound on -- what exactly do you mean by that, 'they need to take leadership at the local level'?
Steve Berg: I think that there's two things -- two things I mean by that. One is within a community, in every community in this country, there's people working on the issue of homelessness. There's HUD funded programs, there's HHS programs, there's VA programs. A lot of the times those programs don't necessarily work together around veterans, around the simple things if you're really going to be serious about reducing and ending veterans homelessness in the community, you have to find the veterans who are homeless, find the veterans who are about to be homeless, make sure that somebody is doing that and then find the housing resources that are going to be available and the other kinds of resources that are going to be available, going to be needed for those veterans. So it's a matter of reaching out to different people in the community, to leaders in the community, to federally funded programs, to private programs, bringing them together around this task of in this community we're going to identify veterans who are homeless and we're going to get them into housing until and chip away at the number until we reduce the number to zero.
[. . .]
Chair Robert Menendez: Mr. Fanous, you talked about fragmentation, so if you had a magic wand and could make what you think is the best coordinated effort to take place, what would it be?
Jack Fanous: Well, honestly, Senator, I believe that the most important thing would be to have all the stakeholders who are providing care for veterans, they should be localized and put into one location. When a veteran has to travel from the VA in one part of the state and has to go to the Social Security administration in another part of the state and then he has to go to Social Security -- to Salvation Army or the GI Go Fund and he has to drive all over the state, many times they don't have enough money to put gas in their car. It just gets that simple that the facilities all have to be together in one centralized location which is something that we are hoping to work on the city of Newark which is to create a mall of services, just a one-stop, a legitimate one-stop mall of services where one office would be Social Security administration and one office would be the VA and one office would be various non-profits that can support veterans. If a veteran can just walk into one spot which is kind of what the VA's War Related Illness Injury Center has at the VA where they try to handle all medical issues at one point. If you can try to handle all issues completely -- veterans issues -- from the Department of Labor, every single one of those departments, is the best chance you're going to have to help the veterans. Otherwise, it's going to stay fragmented because if a veteran goes to the VA and he talks to one person, he might not know that he has to go to the Social Security administration, he might not be getting the right information. Which is what happens every day, I see it every single day in my office.
And do you ever see a female veteran? It's really appalling for an organization to send a speaker who repeatedly refers to veterans as "he." Even more so when you grasp that Fanous is the executive director. In the real world, Susan Kaplan (WOMENSENEWS) reports, "Despite growing numbers of homeless female veterans, Jackie K's House is one of only two transitional housing programs for female veterans in the country, says Jack Downing, director of Soldier On, the nonprofit group that founded Jackie K's House in 2005. Meanwhile, the number of women enlisted in the U.S. military and reserves today continue to grow." And it is really appalling how little Congress does to show that they care about the issue. They can show they care about it by inviting people who can speak to the issue. They rarely bother and it is insulting (and a female veteran stopped me after the hearing yesterday to ask that I include that it was insulting in the snapshot -- sorry to her that it's a day after the hearing) when not only are the voices of those working on female veterans issues shut out of the conversation, but the men who are invited repeatedly use language that portray "veterans" as a term only for men. Vietnam Veterans of America's Marsha Four is one of the few women who has been invited by Congress this year to testify on a panel about veterans issues -- that's veterans issues in general. There are people, such as US House Rep John Hall, who have chaired female veterans hearings and they deserve praise for that; however, why is that every time the hearing is on veterans in general, women veterans are either treated as an after thought or just ignored?
Appearing before the House Veterans Committee on June 3rd, Four explained, "There certainly is a question of course on the actual number of homeless veterans -- it's been fluctuating dramatically in the last few years. When it was reported at 250,000 level, two percent were considered females. This was roughly about 5,000. Today, even if we use the very low number VA is supplying us with -- 131,000 -- the number, the percentage, of women in that population has risen up to four to five percent, and in some areas, it's larger. So that even a conservative method of determining this has left the number as high as [6,550]. And the VA actually is reporting that they are seeing that this is as high as eleven percent for the new homeless women veterans. This is a very vulnerable population, high incidents of past sexual trauma, rape and domestic violence. They have been used, abused and raped. They trust no one. Some of these women have sold themselves for money, been sold for sex as children, they have given away their own children. And they are encased in this total humiliation and guilt the rest of their lives." The number of homeless veterans is expected to rise as more and more deployed begin returning home. That's for men and women. And equally true is that the number of women veterans who are homeless is expected to rise. When women veterans go homeless, more often that also means that children go homeless. That is less often the case for male veterans (less often -- it still does happen but less so).
For the record, it's not just a matter of putting a woman in a chair. It needs to be a woman qualified to speak on the issues and with few exceptions, Congress repeatedly invites women who know nothing about other female veterans and have nothing to offer. For example, if you're a parent, if you're a single parent and the primary parent for your children, if you're qualified to speak on women's issues you wouldn't waste time saying that it's just like when you're a man. Especially if you were a woman with children who was homeless. You're helping no one with your constant refrain of "What he said" or idiotic statements about leaving the military and "now I'm a female again." Really? The army issued you something in the place of a vagina? They removed it? I can be rude. I can be really rude. I'm biting my tongue.
But let's high road it and say that, yes, sometimes a member of Congress does ask the right questions (for instance, Senator Menendez did yesterday) but there is no one present who can answer the questions and that still falls back on the Congress. That's the reality. And let's put the blame where it also goes: with ourselves. If you're a woman and you're actually invited to testify before Congress, grasp that you are taking part in a very rare moment. Women are rarely invited to testify before Congress, even at this late date. So if you're invited, try having some self-respect. Even if you have to fake it.
Don't take no tidal wave
Don't take no mass grave
Don't take no smokin' gun
To show how the west was won
But when the curtain falls, I pray for peace
Try to remember peace
In the crowded streets
In the big hotels
In the mosques and the doors of the old museum
I take a holly vow
To never kill again
Try to remember peace
-- "Living With War" written by Neil Young, from his album of the same name
Veterans Day was covered on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show today. The first hour featured VA Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth, Washington Post's David Finkel (The Good Soldiers) and Peter van Agtmael (Second Tour Hope I Don't Die). For the second hour, Page is joined by Stars and Stripes Leo Shane, Jericho Project's Tori Lyon, Survivor Corps' Scott Quilty, Yellow Ribbon America's Brad White and Sun Valley Adaptive Sports' Tom Iselin. The Diane Rehm Show archives its broadcasts and you can stream at no charge. Susan Page was today's guest host (Diane's on an NPR cruise with listener supporters).
Susan Page: And you know, I know there are a lot challenges in meeting the needs of veterans. I wonder if the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, are there challenges for the VA different in some way for these wars than for previous ones?
Tammy Duckworth: Well, yes, there are some key differences. Number one, they are being redeployed multiple times whereas in previous wars they were generally only deployed for their one year as was the case in Vietnam for example. Now there were many Vietnam vets who volunteered for additional deployments but it's actually a matter of course for Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans to have two, three and even four deployments under their belts. We also have for the first time a large percentage of female veterans who are facing combat and we're finding some really interesting results out of that. For example, 50% -- I'm sorry, 45% of all of our female veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have actually come to the VA to get medical care.
Susan Page: Interesting. And I know that it was almost precisely five years ago today that the helicopter you were in, serving in Iraq, was shot down. You lost your legs in that accident. I wonder thinking about that very personal experience, when it came to the programs that were available, what mattered to you the most? What made the biggest difference for you?
Tammy Duckworth: Well the biggest difference for me was being cared for at a facility where there were other veterans and then also just the amount of amazing rehabiliative care that I received at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] and at VA. And the transition from Walter Reed, which is DoD [Defense Dept] to VA had to be as smoothly as possible because I was still in recovery and it's so critical for our warriors when they're in that -- their early stages of recovery -- of reintegration and recovery -- to get full support.
Susan Page: And what didn't work so well, did you think, in your own experience?
Tammy Duckworth: Well what didn't work so well -- this is one of the first things I brought up to [VA] Secretary [Eric] Shinseki when he interviewed me -- was the fact that we did not have a seamless transition of our military records from DoD to VA. When I left Walter Reed with my full medical records and I went to my VA hospital for the first time, I had to strip down to prove that I was an amputee. Even though he could see that I was an amputee and he had the medical records from the surgeon who amputated my legs. And we're immediately fixing that. Back in May of this year, [Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates and Secretary Shinseki agreed to a program where we're going to develop virtual, lifetime, electronic records. So that from the day you raise your hand to enlist in the army to the day that you're laid to rest in one of our national shrines, your records follow you. And this will be a momnumental change in how VA and DoD hand off and care for our veterans.
Susan Page: One of the things that I think has alarmed many Americans is the-the suicide rate among returning veterans which seems very high and I wonder why do you think that is so?
Tammy Duckworth: I'm sorry. Could you say that again? You cut off for just a minute. I'm calling from a cell phone.
Susan Page: Why do you -- you know we've been, we've read a lot about the rate of suicides among returning veterans and it seems such a -- such a tragedy. Why do you think there is this high suicide rate?
Tammy Duckworth: Well there's a couple of things going on and this goes back to what I said earlier about our veterans going on multiple deployments -- two, three, four rotations -- whereas in previous wars they did not go for as long. You also have veterans coming home and surviving far more greivous injuries such as myself who would never have survived [in earlier wars]. And also I think that we're just more vigilant now. In previous wars, a lot of veterans suffered for a very long time without a diagnosis and without people realizing they were suffering and I think we're just doing a better job of diagnosing people. In fact, in 2008, VA diagnosed over 442,000 patients with PTSD. This is something that certainly wasn't done after Vietnam when we called it "combat fatigue" and after WWII and Korea when we called it "shell shock." So I think we're more vigilant, we're finding more of them but also that they're facing multiple, repeated exposure to combat condition.
Susan Page: And do you think that the VA does a good job now screening for PTSD or do you still think there's a ways to go?
Tammy Duckworth: I think that we still have improvements to make It's not just VA, it has to be a VA - DoD partnership. I think we're better than we were five years ago when I first went over to Iraq.
A friend with the program (Diane's show) tells me Corey Flintoff had a report on the 'judicial' decision in Iraq yesterday. It's a real shame NPR doesn't have it up so that people can actually hear it. From yesterday's snapshot: "Today in a huge blow to freedom of the press and a boost to thug Nouri al-Maliki, a Baghdad court declared the thug a winner. Martin Chulov and Julian Borger (Guardian) report: 'An Iraqi court has ordered the Guardian to pay Nouri al-Maliki damages of 100m dinar (£52,000) after supporting a complaint by the Iraqi prime minister's intelligence service that he had been defamed by a Guardian story in April describing him as increasingly autocratic. The ruling ignored testimony by three expert witnesses from the Iraqi journalists' union summoned by the court, who all said that the article was neither defamatory nor insulting and argued that no damages were warranted'." Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) explains, "What exactly did the Guardian do to merit this judgment -- which, perhaps not incidentally, directs them to put more than $100,000 in Nouri al-Maliki's pocket? Something which, admittedly, is quite shocking in our day: reporting." Floyd also notes, "After a number of expert witnesses demolished the case on legal grounds, a new five-member panel of government toadies weighed in to argue that 'Iraqi publishing law did not allow foreigners to publish articles critical of the prime minister or president, or to interfere in Iraqi national affairs'." This afternoon the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement:

The Committee to Protect Journalists denounces a Baghdad court's ruling that the London-based Guardian newspaper defamed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, left, in an April 2009 article depicting increasing authoritarianism in his government. CPJ calls on an appeals court to overturn the decision.

On Tuesday, the court fined the Guardian 100 million Iraqi dinars (US$86,000) in connection with the article, which quoted unnamed members of the intelligence service as saying that al-Maliki was conducting affairs of state in a more autocratic fashion.

Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger described the verdict as "a dismaying development," Agence France-Presse reported. "Prime Minister Maliki is trying to construct a new, free Iraq . Freedom means little without free speech -- and means even less if a head of state tries to use the law of libel to punish criticism or dissent," he said. The newspaper said that it will appeal the verdict.

"We are very disappointed to see the politicization of the Iraqi judiciary in this way," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem . "That the courts would devote their time to this type of irresponsible suit is outrageous considering that scores of journalist murders remain unpunished. It is vital that this decision be reversed in the appeals process."

Of the 140 journalists killed in Iraq since 2003, at least 89 were targeted for murder, CPJ research shows. Iraqi authorities have not brought a single perpetrator to justice in any of those killings.

"This heavy-handed decision sends a chilling message to all journalists who have risked their lives to report from Iraq , and it resonates particularly now in the run-up to the general election scheduled for January," said Abdel Dayem. "The article accused the prime minister's government of being increasingly autocratic. This court case proved the point."

As the security situation has improved, many journalists have told CPJ that government harassment, physical assaults, and frivolous legal proceedings have replaced insurgent attacks as the greatest professional risk they face. Al-Maliki has appeared to lead the legal assault against Iraqi journalists: At least two other defamation complaints have been filed by his representatives in connection with articles critical of the prime minister, CPJ research shows. Those complaints were dropped after they came under heavy criticism.
In June, CPJ and the Iraq-based press freedom group Journalistic Freedoms Observatory sent a letter to al-Maliki expressing concerns about increasing official harassment. In the first six months of the year, the two organizations documented more than 70 cases of harassment and assault against journalists in Iraq .
That's their statement -- in full because it's such an important issue and it is shocking and saddening how many are avoiding this issue. Thomas E. Ricks can whine every damn day about Iran and the press but this man who was supposedly going to be covering Iraq -- don't they say anything when they're selling their wares -- can't He has plenty of time to fondle Spencer Ackerman's balls (or maybe he's just checking for pubic lice) and, of course, to call out Iran, to play 'I love Barack but . . .' and 'I love Barack still' but he has no time to do what should be a journalist's job: Defend freedom of the press.
Oh but he called out Iran! Big whopping deal. As brave stands go, that's right up there with coming out against child labor. Everyone knows the only way to have taken on Nouri and that laughable 'court' verdict would have been for as many outlets as possible to have flooded the zone. Instead pretty much everyone played meek and dumb. Yeah, that'll advance freedom of speech. It's as though J-schools have morphed into sleep away camps -- which, come to think of it, would explain the majority of the product the press puts out these days. No wonder so many papers are closing.
Prior to Sunday when the Parliament finally passed an election law, a number of Iraqis were publicly stating their disinterest in the elections. Warren P. Strobel and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) report that feeling remains for some and they quote school teacher Bayda Hussein explaining, "We still have a bad security situation and bad services. I am afraid that the situation would be even worse after the coming elections. Those who come to power care only about filling their pockets with money and (then) leave the country." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports that Ad Melkert, the UN's special representative to Iraq, held a press conference today in which he noted that the 'plan' is to hold elections with "less than 10 weeks available to organize these elections." Arraf reports: "Mr Melkert said officials were considering holding the poll on Jan. 18 to ensure it took place before the start of 40 days of mourning observed by Shiite Muslims to commemorate the killing of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad. Advance voting for Iraqi security forces, who will be out in full force on election day, is expected to be held on Jan. 15."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Kirkuk sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and left two more people injured. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing which injured a police officer and, dropping back to yesterday, a Kirkuk sticky bombing which wounded two people.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Kurdish service member shot dead last night in Erbil. Reuters notes Iraqi police in Samarra killed 1 'suspect' and arrested seven.
Turning to the topic of Blackwater. Mark Mazzetti and James Risen (New York Times) interview four former Blackwater execs who state that, in December 2007, approximately one-million dollars was used to bribe officials in Iraq in order to get them to look the other way in the face of Blackwater's continued assaults. Yesterday's snapshot noted an article by Donna Goodison (Boston Herald) and she's written another one on the topic (of the two Massachusetts veterans who are suing KBR: Jeffrey Cox and James Garland). In her new report, she quotes Cox stating, "The pits are at least 10 acres in some places -- as big as the Boston Common, if not larger. You would get this deep smoke that would come downwind to the area that I was living at, and I would breathe this in on a nightly basis." Chris Cassidy (Salem News) reports on the law suit and quotes Cox stating, "I was downwind from the burning. You'd sit in there and breathe that in all day. . . . The smoke was so thick some days that it went right into where I was sleeping. It was like a heavy fog of smoke." Andrew Wolfson (Louisville Courier-Journal) reports that Iraq War veterans Sean Alexander Stough and Charles Hick are among those suing with Stough being exposed while at Camp Bucca (now has "asthma, sleep apnea, neurological and pulmonary problems") and Hicks at Balad (now suffers from "pulmonary problems, headaches and diabetes"). Jeanie Powell (WAFF) reports Jeanie Powell (WAFF) reports
on L. Russell Kieth who testified last week about his exposure and how he feels that his development of Parkinson's Disease:

He said he worked no more than half a mile from the open burning in Balad. Keith claimed smoke, sometimes black, green, or yellow, would cover the base on a regular basis.
"As soon as they started burning the green stuff, all of our clinic patients started going up," he said. "It increased 30 to 40 percent, just in my guess."
WAFF 48 News asked him to explain the symptoms patients came in with.
"It was everything from respiratory to sinus to outright coughing blood and stuff," he said.

L. Russell Keith testified (most recently) on Friday when KBR's burn pits were the subject, see Friday's snapshot, of a Democratic Policy Committee hearing chaired by Senator Byron Dorgan. Video is posted at the Democratic Policy Committee website.
The heartbeat went out of our house
The rhythm went out of our romance
But in life that happens and you just
Have to remember to breathe
And it then will return, if you just remember to breathe
After all I've been through, I'll wait it on through
If I can just remember to breathe
It will be coming around once more, you will see
-- "Coming Around Again," written by Carly Simon, from her latest album Never Been Gone
Tonight Carly appears on NBC's Latenight with Jimmy Fallon. She's scheduled to perform and sometimes in this world, music is the only thing you can count on. Latenight with Jimmy Fallon begins airing after The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien (which follows the local nightly news).