Thursday, December 06, 2012

The November 29th walkout

Starting with a repost from Workers World:

Fast food workers fight back: We can’t survive on $7.25

By on December 5, 2012 » Add the first comment.
Wendy’s strike in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Nov. 29.
Photo: Instagram/andalalucha
Revolutionary thinkers wrote centuries ago that sometimes decades can go by and nothing of note happens in the class struggle. Then, they observed, a decade of developments can occur in just a blink of an eye.
That is exactly what happened in the U.S. as over 200 fast food workers went out on strike in New York City on Nov. 29. What made it even more significant is that these walkouts followed hundreds of “Black Friday” Walmart actions nationwide, along with major work stoppages at Los Angeles Airport and California ports.
It was, indeed, an extraordinary week of class struggle in the U.S.
The Nov. 29 walkout and union drive in NYC took place in industries that were considered next to impossible to organize. But megacorporation McDonald’s, as well as Taco Bell and Wendy’s, were some of the fast food chains that experienced walkouts, which can only be described as unprecedented and historic.
In fact the New York Times wrote that it was the “biggest effort to unionize fast-food workers ever undertaken in the United States.” (Nov. 29)
The effort was organized by a coalition of community organizations with union support, including NY Communities for Change, Service Employees UNITE NY as well as The Black Institute.
Hundreds of workers and their supporters gathered at Times Square at 6 a.m. Nov. 29 to demand better wages and conditions. The Fast Food Forward website, one of the coalition members, posted the main chant of the workers: “We can’t survive on $7.25!”
The website describes conditions behind the campaign: “… people who work hard should be able to afford basic necessities like groceries, rent, childcare and transportation. While fast food corporations reap the benefits of record profits, workers are barely getting by — many are forced to be on public assistance despite having a job.”
Low wages, coupled with irregularly assigned hours, keep working conditions miserable. Fast food workers are justifiably fighting to get wages up to $15 an hour.
Community support by labor, Occupy Wall Street and progressive activists played a key role in the campaign. In fact, when Wendy’s tried to fire one of the strikers in a Brooklyn restaurant, a community delegation showed up right away. Supporters included New York Councilmember Jumaane Williams, who urged customers to either leave the restaurant or not come in at all in support of the striker. The tactic worked; the worker was rehired on the spot as some of the customers left the restaurant in solidarity.
This shows the strength of people power.
The New York Times, in a Nov. 20 article titled “Skills don’t pay the bills,” published an illuminating graphic with a picture of two employers, one represented by a manufacturing building and the other a McDonalds.
Lines went around the corner of workers applying for jobs, not at the manufacturing factory but at the food factory. The article stated, “Nearly six million factory jobs … have disappeared since 2000. And while many of these jobs were lost to competition with low-wage countries, even more vanished because of computer-driven machinery that can do the work of 10 or, in some cases, 100 workers.”
The article went on to say, “Hundreds of thousands of U.S. factories are starving for skilled workers.” It referred to a study claiming that nearly 80 percent of manufacturers have jobs they can’t fill. The National Association of Manufacturers estimates there are “roughly 600,000 jobs available for whoever has the right set of advanced skills.”
Why are these jobs hard to fill? The CEO of GenMet, a Milwaukee metal-fabricating manufacturer, explained it best. He said he would hire as many skilled workers as showed up at his door. Last year, he received 1,051 applications and found only 25 people who were qualified. He hired all of them, but supposedly soon had to fire 15. Part of his “pickiness,” he says, comes from avoiding workers with experience in a “union-type job.”
Indeed the starting pay is only $10 an hour. Those with an associate degree can make $15, which can rise to $18 after several years of good performance. Yet, the Times writes, a new shift manager at a McDonald’s can earn around $14 an hour.
It must be pointed out that while they “can” earn $14 an hour, the workers who walked out on Nov. 29 show that most don’t.
The National Employment Law Project reports that nearly 60 percent of the jobs added since the recession have been these types of low-wage jobs, particularly in retail sales and food preparation. Conditions at these corporations are shameless, especially when you consider their profits.
McDonald’s net income in the third quarter was a whopping $1.46 billion! Total sales at McDonald’s were a staggering $7.15 billion in one year. (NY Times, Oct. 19)
Walmart slipped to number two in this year’s Fortune 500 after holding on to number one for two years in a row. Their profits declined to an astounding $15.7 billion!
No wonder Walmart and McDonald’s workers are walking out. The profits the workers have made for these corporations is astounding, yet the workers still have to apply for food stamps. If ever there was a case to expose the contradictions of capitalism, this is THE one.
Tipping point or temporary upsurge?
This upsurge in the class struggle is taking few by surprise.
That the specter of union organizing is haunting megaconglomerates like McDonald’s and Walmart was inevitable. The capitalist system’s drive to move industry toward more high technology with miserable low pay for the workers; its voracious drive for ever more profits; the fact that war no longer provides the economic panacea it used to; technology and automation are creating downward pressure on wages; and an expanding worldwide work force far outnumbers the shrinking pool of jobs — all these factors have created the conditions that led to these walkouts.
Capitalism, at a dead end, with fewer and fewer world markets in which to sell commodities, is providing no way out for the working class.
In fact, this dying animal is increasing its attacks tenfold.
It was inevitable that the work force that created the wealth for the capitalist 1% would sooner or later rise up against these conditions. The specter of organizing, of fighting back against the megacorporations that compose the capitalist system is in its infancy, but it is getting brighter. It remains to be seen where this will go.
This specter also brilliantly illuminates that the conditions of exploitation between the bosses and the workers are irreconcilable. Sooner or later, somewhere the class struggle will burst asunder.
This is a time to seize the moment. Class-conscious fighters and progressives of all types should be on the front lines to express their unconditional solidarity with low-wage workers and help them win. A union victory at Walmart or McDonald’s would be a huge tipping point for the class struggle.
Then the next step would be to abolish the capitalist system altogether. Only that will assure a real victory for the workers and the oppressed here and around the world.

Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

That's the best article I've read on the strikes.  I've been very disappointed with the coverage of the strikers from our so-called 'independent' media.  This is the only coverage I've seen that offers what took place, ties it into the historical struggle and also provides strikers who look like people you know as opposed to cartoons (some of which might scare you).  When I see that kind of bad coverage in corporate media, I'm not surprised.  But when it makes it into 'independent' media as well?

That's frightening.  So I hope you enjoy the Workers World report as much as I did.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, December 5, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue,  the standoff between Baghdad and Erbil continues, Nouri wants his face adorning checkpoints,  news emerges of a lawsuit Nouri filed to slap down the Iraqi people, Iraq's First Lady calls for honoring diversity, the US Congress discusses Iraqi refugees, and more.
Chair Patrick Meehan:  From 2004 - 2007, the insurgency in Iraq produced substantial civilian displacement and emigration from the country.  In response to the growing humanitarian crisis, Congress passed legislation which gave Iraqis who helped the US government or military the opportunity to receive special refugee status and resettlement in the United States.  While the motivation behind creating these special immigrant categories were well intentioned, the fact remains that in May 2011, two Iraqi nationals who were given refugee status and resettled in the US were arrested and accused by the FBI of plotting to send weapons and money to al Qaeda in Iraq.  One of the men arrested had openly discussed his prior experience as an insurgent in Iraq and the IED attacks he participated against US troops.  The fingerprints of the other Iraqi refugee who was charged were traced by the FBI to a component of an unexploded IED that was recovered by US forces in northern Iraq.  In the wake of these arrests, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and others have publicly acknowledged that security screenings have been expanded to the more than 58,000 Iraqi refugees who had already been settled in the United States.
US House Rep Patrick Meehan was speaking at the House Homeland Security Subccomittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence yesterday as they explored the topic of refugees.
The Iraq War created the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1949.  Millions were displaced within Iraq (internal refugees) and millions were forced to leave the country (external refugee).  There's a mistaken impression that the United States government did something wonderful.  They didn't.  The high water mark for Iraqi refugees being admitted into the US was in the year Bully Boy Bush and Barack share.  Under President Barack Obama, the number has gone down each year.  Fiscal Year 2009 (October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009) saw 18,838 Iraqis admitted to the US.  That number dropped to 9,388 in FY2011.  The 2012 Fiscal Year ended two months ago but the government has yet to release figures for the full year.  Through the end of March 2012, the number of Iraqis admitted to the US stood at 2,501. And the number 12,000 was used by Homeland Security officials for FY2012 during yesterday's hearing.   In the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama won a lot of support for promises on Iraqi refugees -- promises that were not kept.
Some may look at the case of the two Iraqis Chair Meehan was referring to -- Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanand Shareef Hammadi -- and think the low numbers count as good news.  That's a judgment call.  If that's what you feel, you're entitled to feel that way.  I don't feel that way.  
As for the two men making it through the system with one being an obvious mistake -- security concerns should have resulted in his being kicked out of the program.   The fact that he wasn't goes to information sharing and not to the program itself.   As Ranking Member Janice Han pointed out, "In 2005, Alwan's finger print was found on a roadside bomb in Iraq.  This information was in a Department of Defense data base that was not checked during his background investigation when he applied to the refugees admissions program.  This illustrates that  we still have failed to close the remaining information sharing gaps that continue to persist since the September 11th terrorist attacks." So the issue in one of the cases was a failure to utilize information the government already had access to. 
Two people isn't enough to alarm me.  That's me.  For others, that number may be way too high.  Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, it is a serious issue and we'll go into what was said about it during the hearing. 
Appearing before the Subcommittee were the State Dept's Director of the Refugee Admissions Office Lawrence Bartlett, Homeland Security's Chief in the Refugee Affairs Division Barbara Strack and Homeland Security's Deputy Undersecretary for Analysis Dawn Scalici.   The hearing covered many aspects.  I sat through it for the issue of Iraqi refugees and that's what we'll focus on.
From Barbara Strack and Dawn Scalici's prepared (written) statement:
USCIS officers conduct refugee status interviews for applicants from more than 60 countries each year, though the vast majority of these applicants are currently Iraqi, Bhutanese and Burmese nationals.  Refugee processing operations in the Middle East are primarily focused on Iraqi nationals with interviews taking place in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt as well as in-country processing of Iraqi nationals in Baghdad.  Operations in Damascus, Syria, previously a large refugee processing site, have been suspended since March 2011.  In FY2012, over 12,000 Iraqi refugees were admitted to the United States, and since 2007, over 71,000 Iraqi nationals have been resettled, many of whom have ties to the United States through work or family.
Strack testified that the Iraqi program was modified as it went along, fine-tuned, and that it is now the standard for all refugees (age 14 to 65, Scalici explained) attempting to enter the US regardless of their nationality -- this is the standard across the board whether you're attempting to become a refugee from Eastern Europe or from Iraq. And prior to that?
Dawn Scalici:  [. . .] what we have done as an interagency process is to go back and do retroactive checks on those individuals that were earlier admitted to the United States and any relevant information that comes to light is then shared with releveant intelligence community or law enforcement agencies as appropriate.  One other thing I think I would mention as well, not only do we have analysts who are looking at all the relevant intelligence and data at the time that an applicant originally puts forward their application, we review it again before that applicant actually enters the United States in case any derogatory information has arisen in the intervening time. So we do believe, again, this interagency process drawing on more intelligence and data than we ever did before as well as the recurring and retroactive checks has greatly enhanced our ability to identify individuals of concern.
Now we're going to an exchange on the same topic.
Ranking Member Janice Hahn: How did we miss that initial information? And could you speak to what are we doing? I hear vague comments about information sharing but we know that is key as we move forward that was one of the one lessons we learned from 9-11. So what, without divulging any classified information, how did we miss that information the first time around and what can you tell us that will give us some confidence that we really are able to look at all the data available out there to make responsible decisions as we move forward in this refugee program?
Dawn Scalici: Well for those two individuals of concern that we've been talking about, at the time that they made their original application to enter the refugee program in the United States both their biographic and biometric information that we had available on them at the time and that were used in the screening processes came in clean. So we did not have any derogatory information on those two individuals that we used as part of the screening effort when they entered the United States. And the finger print clearance came through as well from DoD, FBI as well as DHS --
Ranking Member Janice Hahn:  Even though their finger prints were found to have been on a roadside bomb?
Dawn Scalici:  That's what we have learned in the aftermath. I would have to refer to DoD and FBI for any specific information on that but again all the biographic and biometric information as well as the biometric checks that were performed at the time did come back clean. But since that time, as I think we've noted, we've actually enhanced the program and the security checks. We now draw upon a greater wealth of intelligence and data holdings on individuals seeking application to the refugee program which greatly enhances our ability to identify derogatory compared to earlier.
Janice Hahn: Anyone else want to comment on that? [The other two witnesses didn't.] So other than the recent Iraqi refugee case, have there been --
We're cutting Hahn there because our focus is Iraq and she goes on to expand.  We're not including the witness responses because they had no other cases.
But before someone e-mails to tell me there may be another terrorist case . . .  Yes, there was a bombing of a Social Securtiy building last Friday in Casa Grande, Arizona.  The suspect is a man the media has identified as Iraqi-American (Abdullatif Aldosary).  When did he come to the US?  Reports differ with some saying before 2008 and some saying 1998.  If he were found guilty -- and currently he has the presumption of innocence -- and he entered the US before Fiscal Year 2007 (so before September 30, 2006), he predates the screening system that was being discussed.  If he were found guilty and he was admitted to the US after October 1, 2006, he would have been admitted under the system that was being discussed. That doesn't mean that, if guilty, he necessarily had any indicators that should have been caught in the screening. 
Though lumped together, there are actually two groups of Iraqis who can work through the current system. There are the refugees who are threatened and there are also the Iraqis who worked with US forces or US-approved missions. 
Chair Chair Patrick Meehan:  Ms. Strack, Ms. Scalici,  could you, identify if you will -- we're talking about those who are eligible for consideration.  There has been the identification of an emphasis on those who have participated in assisting United States efforts -- either in the military, intelligence, otherwise non-governmental organizations -- who then put themselves into some peril.  What is the distinction between those who are humanitarain versus those who have performed to the benefit of our interests and are therefore being given some consideration because of the exposure that may result from that service?
Barbara Strack: It's a -- The programs work in several ways to address both humanitarian concerns and those who worked side-by-side, employed directly by the US or with US affiliated organizations, NGOs or media organizations.  The SIV program that we've talked about is often conflated with the refugee program but it's actually distinct so --
Chair Patrick Meehan: Could you explain that for me please?  What an SIV stands for --
Barbara Strack:  I'm sorry --
Chair Patrick Meehan: -- because we've seen this before and I want to see how that's different from the other program?
Barbara Strack:  Yes, sir.  It stands for Special Immigrant Visa program.   And so unlike the refugee program, the fundamental focus of the refugee program is on whether someone has been persecuted, have they been persecuted in the past or do they have a well founded fear of persecution in the future based on a protected category: Race, religion, nationality,  political opinion or membership in a particular social group.  The SIV program traditionally is -- Special Immigrant Visa -- is really based on service with the United States.  And this is something Mr. Bartlett is a little bit more of an expert on.  But Congress legislated familiar a program -- Special Immigrant Visas -- to say that those who've worked for the United States government in -- there are actually three sub-categories within the Special Immigrant Visa program.  Initially, it was small: If you were a translator with the military.  But it expanded beyond that to include embassy employees.   And really, for them, it's the fact that their service with the United States that makes them eligible.  And when they come to the United States, its' -- both our agencies -- it is handled through a different bueractric stream,  They don't come as a refugee.  They come as a lawful, permanent resident.  So when they arrive, they get a green card based on their service.  Now there are some individuals who may be eligble to apply for both programs, they may have worked with the US embassy or the US military so they're eligible to apply for an SIV but they may very well be able to articulate a refugee claim because -- because of that service -- they have also faced persecution.  So we work -- we work on the refugee side of the program.  But individuals may choose which of those two avenues is better for them, which they think operates more quickly depending on whether they're in Iraq or somewhere else --
Chair Patrick Meehan: Well that's an interesting question.  Do they operate on a parallel track or is there some preference given to somebody who has served as an interpreter for our troops that are, you know, out in the midst of the mountains in Afghanistan?  Do they get a preference or is there not any difference?
Barbara Strack:  I can tell you that they do operate on a parallel track so an individual -- an individual who is eligible -- has the opportunity to file for an SIV and, again, that would be filed with the State Department.  And, in the refugee program, having worked with the United States or a US affiliated organization is one of the criteria that can help you get access to the program but it is not the sole criteria.
It was an informative hearing.  And while the State Dept has yet to release a complete figure for FY2012, again, the number used in the hearing was 12,000 and "over 12,000."
That is not in keeping with the promises made in the 2008 campaign.  The International Rescue Committee notes on their Iraq page, "A small number of vulnerable Iraqi refugees are being granted refuge in the United States."  And, as Refugees International observes, "the country continues to face large scale displacement and pressing humanitarian needs.  Millions of Iraqis have fled their homes -- either for safer locations within Iraq or to other countreis in the region -- and are living in increasingly desperate circumstances."  The Iraqi Refugee Assistand Program highlights the Ibrahims with a video of the mother and two of her sons and one of her daughters. 
Ekhlas Zaky:  My name is Ekhlas Zaky.  I'm from Mosul. I was born in '72. Married with five kids.
Mustafa:  Mustafa.  I'm from Mosul.
Ekhlas Zaky:  You're in second year.
Mustafa:  I'm in second year.
Tuhama:  My name is Tuhama.  From Mosul.  Second year.
Ekhlas Zaky: Ibrahim doesn't speak.  Our main reason for leaving Iraq was the children.  I'm sure the war is to blame for my children's illness. The doctors talked about the chemicals that had been dropped on Iraq. They said that they affect the kidneys and the heart. So the chemicals affected Tuhama's kidneys.  It's a rare disease. Provision of medical treatment was unreliable.   Most often Tuhama's fits would happen at night.  Getting her to hospital was very difficult. The closest hospital was surrounded by military forces.  So my husband and I had to risk our lives to get her there. Otherwise she would have died in front of our eyes.  Ibrahim is unable to speak.  And he can't see out of one eye.  One day he was with me at the market.  A truck drove in, loaded with melons.  It drove past and then exploded.  Of course Ibrahim is just a child.  The explosion terrified him. He kept screaming and crying. Afterwards, he wouldn't talk so I took him to see the sheiks. They said that the shock had caused him not to speak. Many doctors advised us to seek medical treatment abroad.  There, medicine is more advanced and equipment is more modern.  The doctors said the children would benefit.  Even if they found good reason to deny me and my husband resettlement what about the fate of the children? 
Refugees are people in need.  As Barbara Strack pointed out in yesterday's hearing, "Bad actors will try to take advantage of any admission program to the United States -- whether its visa programs or refugee programs."  Part of the job Strack and others do is determining who meets the criteria and who doesn't.  In many ways, the criteria is a failure.  One example: Iraq's LGBT community is at risk because they have been repeatedly targeted throughout the war.  The Ministry of the Interior targeted them this year alone with 'teach-ins' at schools where they demonized and, yes, justified killing LGBTs.  But Iraq's LGBT community does readily make one of the five categories for refugee status.  They are a targeted group.  Another example of the criteria?  In Iraq, "nationality" -- one of the five at risk categories the US government recognizes -- really isn't an issue.  Religious sect? Yeah.  Nationality, not really.  (Palestinian Iraqis would be one notable exception but the international community has been more than happy to leave them in refugee camps on the outskirts of Iraq for years now.)  At Iraqi Refugee Stories, you can learn about the many reasons Iraqis seek asylum.  And, as Catholic Relief Services notes, making it out of Iraq doesn't mean problems all vanish since "a majority of Iraqi refugees cannot legally work and lack access to basic health, social services and education.  As a result many Iraqi refugees are destitute.  They have depleted all of their savings after several years in exile.  Many suffer from debilitating illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney problems and cancer with limited or not access to health care."
Approximately 3.3 million Iraqis, including 750,000 children, were "exterminated" by economic sanctions and/or illegal wars conducted by the U.S. and Great Britain between 1990 and 2012, an eminent international legal authority says.
The slaughter fits the classic definition of Genocide Convention Article II of, "Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part," says Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, Champaign, and who in 1991 filed a class-action complaint with the UN against President George H.W. Bush.
Boyle explained the basics at The International Conference on War-affected Children at Kuala Lampur in Malaysia last month (click here for the speech in full),  "The United States and the United Kingdom obstinately insisted that the genocidal economic sanctions imposed against Iraq remain in place until after the conclusion of the internationally illegal Gulf War II of aggression perpetrated by the Bush Junior administration and the Tony Blair government against Iraq in March of 2003. Then, on 22 May 2003 the United States and the United Kingdom procured U.N. Security Council Resolution 1483 lifting these genocidal economic sanctions; yet not with a view to easing the over decade-long suffering of the Iraqi people and children. But rather so as to better facilitate the U.S./U.K. unsupervised looting and plundering of the Iraqi economy and oil fields in violation of the international laws of war as well as to the grave detriment of the Iraqi people and their children."
In Iraq, it's difficult to keep track of the many crises plaguing the country.  The latest one revolves around the disputed areas.  Having refused to obey the Constitution he took an oath to uphold, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki  has refused to implement Article 140 which addresses how to resolve the disputes (census and referendum).  Having refused to follow the Constitution for six years, Nouri decided this was the year to send his forces (Tigris Operation Command) into the disputed areas.  The Kurds sees this as Nouri's attempt to take over the regions.  The Peshmerga (elite Kurdish forces) and Nouri's forces are now in a standoff.  Observers and Iraqi politicians fear the outbreak of war if tensions are not eased quickly.  By the way, the Tigris forces?  The unit heads were not approved by Parliament in violation of the Constitution. 
Critics say Maliki is concentrating power in his office (the office of the prime minister) and his advisers are running "a government inside a government", bypassing ministers and parliament. In his role as commander in chief, he appoints generals as heads of military units without the approval of parliament. The officers, critics say, are all loyal to him. He has created at least one intelligence service, dominated by his clan and party members, and taken two military units - the anti-terrorism unit and the Baghdad brigade - under his direct command. At the same time he has inflated the size of the ministry of national security that is run by one of his allies.

Does that not describe everything?
Thing is though, the Guardian ran Ghait Abdul-Ahad's article April 29, 2009.
Yeah, Nouri's completely predictable and completely out of control.  And this has been obvious for years now to anyone paying attention.

Last week, the Baghdad generals and the Peshmerga leaders met and came up with a 14-point agreement that would ease the situation but Nouri rejected the agreement and tensions have only increased.  The Kurdish Globe today carries an Al-Monitor article on the crisis:

The president of the Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, has said that the formation of the Tigris Operations Command (TOC) is illegal, unconstitutional and provocative. In an interview with Azzaman to be published in the paper?s Iraqi, Arab and international editions, Barzani said that the policy of gradual takeover and establishing facts on the ground in disputed areas is rejected. He said that the best options for the Kurds and for all Iraqis is to reach an agreement, to return to the constitution and to solve the differences through dialogue.
Barzani stressed that Baghdad does not belong to one person, one party or one group. He said that the Kurds are willing to assume all results and consequences, but that they cannot accept a new dictatorship. 

Alsumaria reports that a delegation from the Kurdish Regional Government, headed by former Preisdent Barham Salih, has arrived in Baghdad and been met with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  al-Nujaifi has just returned from the KRG.  Alsumaria notes that he met with KRG Presidnet Massoud Barzani yesterday to discuss the continued tensions and what has become an armed standoff between Nouri's forces and the Peshmerga.  All Iraq News notes that al-Nuajifi is hoping to meet with Nouri.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani arrived in Baghdad yesterday.  Al Mada notes that he held meetings to address the crisis including one with Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq leader Ammar al-Hakim.  On the topic of Talabani, a news flash scrawling across the screen of Alsumaria's live feed this morning notes that Nouri's office is denying rumors that Nouri is cutting the salaries for the guards protecting Talabani.

New Europe reports that the European Union's Foreign Affairs Committee is calling for a stronger European Union presence in Iraq.  The Iraq Times adds that British and US officials are working to de-escalate the situation.  Others calling for calm?  Al-Monitor provides a translation of an Al-Hayat article which includes:
The supreme authority Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on the central government to "be patient and stay away from bloody conflicts." For his part, Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr mentioned previous fatwas issued by senior authorities that prohibited fighting the Kurds.
[. . .]
In a statement yesterday [Dec. 4], Sistani called on Maliki to "be patient and refrain from pushing Iraqis into any bloody conflict, which would only harm the people."
Furthermore, Ayatollah Hussein Ismail al-Sadr said in a statement yesterday that the authorities are "committed to the fatwa of Ayatollah Mohsen al-Hakim and his uncle the martyr Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr prohibiting fighting the Kurds. The fatwa was issued during the 1960s." He emphasized his commitment to "put in place efforts to bridge the gap between the two parties and adopt dialogue under the governorship of the constitution, the principles of brotherhood and the long record of struggle that weighed down the oppressed.

All Iraq News notes that Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani declared today his thanks to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the other religious clerics for the supervision they have provided throughout the current crisis.

 The concerns come as a new wrinkle emerges.  Nouri is a paranoid tyrant and that was known well before the end of his first term in 2010.  But some 'reporters' have repeatedly felt the need to say that Nouri's not that bad because, goodness, Saddam Hussein has statues and pictures of himself posted throughout Iraq and Nouri's done nothing like that.  Take a loook at the photo to this Iraq Times report -- see the standing photo of Nouri?  The article explains that Nouri issued orders Sunday that his image must be displayed at all checkpoints.

Meanwhile Chief Justice Medhat al-Mahmoud is considered a Ba'athist by many Iraqis.  It's not even 'whispered' anymore.  And possibly he's in the bag for Nouri for that reason?  Regardless, Nouri does control the Baghdad judiciary and the Iraq Times reports that al-Mahmoud has issued an order to all the judges under him that they will not execute an arrest warrant for Nouri.  Strange isn't it, Nouri claims that arrest warrants have to be executed.  Remember his claim publicly that he didn't want to execute the one on Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, that he was forced to do so?  But when its an arrest warrant for Nouri, it gets buried.  The judiciary jumps for Nouri.  A few weeks ago, Nouri attempted to end the food-rations card system and his spokesperson announced, November 6th, that it was over.  It wasn't over because it's too popular.  The Iraqi people wouldn't stand for it nor would the politicians (except for those in Nouri's State of Law).  So Nouri had to back down.  Moqtada al-Sadr was one of the leaders on that issue.  
But he and Moqtada tangled weeks before that as well.  It happened when Nouri said there was no oil surplus money that could become dividends for the Iraqi people and Moqtada al-Sadr expressed doubt and disapproval.  All Iraq News explained in October that Moqtada and his poltical bloc have not let the matter die or just resorted to words, they're actively working with the Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi and the Minister of Planning Ali Shukri to find oil money that can go to the Iraqi people with plans to set aside 25% of future revenues for that.  Moqtada and his bloc continued working on the issue and had the people's support.  In November,  All Iraq News reported that a delegation from the Sadr bloc met  with Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi to discuss this issue and find out what the progess was on it and to announce that  they will continue to stay focused on this and ensure that the country and its children benefit from the oil.
While Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc was fighting for the people and doing so in the open, Nouri was doing something else.  Alsumaria reports that MP Bahaa al-Araji of the Sadr bloc held a press conference today outside Parliament to reveal that Nouri al-Maliki filed a lawsuit to dismiss the budget item on sharing the oil suprlus with the citizens from the year's budget.   The court -- no surprise, it's not a real court -- ruled in Nouri's favor.  Only now, after the ruling, do they find out what Nouri was doing behind everyone's back.
Violence never gets buried, it's always right there on the surface with Iraqis unable to escape it and Nouri unable/unwilling to provide security.   Alsumaria reports 1 soldier was shot dead in Kirkuk today by unknown assailants in a passing car.  All Iraq News notes a Baquba car bomb and a second bomb went off together claiming 2 lives and leaving ten people injured. In addition, All Iraq News reports that Zia Ahmed Shehab, the brother of the Governor of Salahuddin Province, was kidnapped today in Tikrit.
In other news,  Hero Ibrahim Ahmed has grabbed some headlines.  Among other things, she is over the charity Kurdistan Save the Children.  Like many notable Iraqis, her family has a long history of involvement in Iraqi politics and in being persecuted.  Novelist Ibrahim Ahmad was her father.  He was also a judge and one of the first chairs of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (the first after it changed its name).  Moving up the political chain in Iraq has always meant creating enemies.  He would end up in Abu Ghraib prison for two years.  He would go on to become an editor of a newspaper and, more importantly to the political situation, the voice of the KDP following it's split into two parties -- the other, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, would be headed by Mustafa Barzani.    Today the PUK is headed by Massoud Barzani who is also the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government.  He is the son of the late Mustafa Barzani.  Mustafa's grandson is KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. 

And if those links and connections alone make Hero Ibrahim Ahmed's story one of the basic histories of Iraq, let's note that she's also the First Lady of Iraq, she's married to President Jalal Talabani.  She's also begun a new project aimed at celebrating the rich diversity in Iraq.   Al Mada reports that she initated yesterday Kirkuk for Social Awareness, a program to ensure that diversity and nationality is protected in Kirkuk.  One aspect of the program, she explained to government officials in Kirkuk yesterday, is the creation of a song that will bring in all the languages spoken by the people of Iraq and recognize the diversity.  She stressed that this would include the Mandaeans whose language, UNESCO has warned, is in danger of vanishing.   The Mandaeans numbered a little over 50,000 in Iraq prior to the start of the war in 2003.  Some estimates now put their number as low as 5,000.   Many fled to Jordan and Syria during the ethnic cleansing years of roughly 2006 through 2008.  They have a special issue regarding immigration in that it is a water-based religion (for baptisms) and they prefer natural bodies of water for their ceremonies.   In 2009, David Grant (AP) reported on a community in Detroit.
In the US,  the House Veterans Affairs Committee which released the following:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, issued the following statement on the appointment of Rep. Michael Michaud as the Ranking Member of the Committee:
"I heartily congratulate Mike on becoming the Ranking Member of the Committee.  Mike has been an invaluable member and colleague, serving in a variety of positions over the past 10 years, including most recently as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health. 
"Mike has been a vocal advocate for America's veterans and their families, and has been instrumental in the passage of several pieces of major legislation to uphold benefits earned through service to our nation.  Mike has also been a leader, ensuring the Department of Veterans Affairs provides the best healthcare available.  I look forward to working with Mike to address the major issues facing our veterans today, and ensuring the bipartisanship of the Committee continues in the 113th Congress."
The 113th Full Committee is expected to be announced in the next two weeks.
Last week, the  ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of four service members in an attempt to remedy the inequality in the current military system:
The Defense Department's longstanding policy barring women from thousands of ground combat positions was challenged today in a federal lawsuit by four servicewomen and the Service Women's Action Network.
The plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Northern California and the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.
The four servicemembers have all done tours in Iraq or Afghanistan -- some deploying multiple times --where they served in combat or led female troops who went on missions with combat infantrymen. Their careers and opportunities have been limited by a policy that does not grant them the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts. The combat exclusion policy also makes it harder for them to do their jobs.
Women have been killed on the battlefield, and many more have been wounded in the course of their service. Take plaintiff Army Staff Sergeant Jennifer Hunt, who was awarded the Purple Heart, was wounded after serving in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. While women have an equal opportunity of being hurt or killed, the policy limits their ability to receive equal, integrated training and to advance in the ranks. Because their combat experience often is unofficial or outside of their official career field, it doesn't count in the same way for promotions resulting in a "brass ceiling" that keeps our military leadership overwhelmingly male.
The Constitution forbids the government from imposing a blanket ban on women's participation, especially where the rule is outdated and doesn't accurately capture how war is being waged today. Now, after a decade of armed service abroad, our servicewomen are demanding the opportunity to compete for official assignment to the combat jobs they've been doing for years.
On women, Sunday "How NPR Silences Women (Ann, Ava and C.I.)" went up at Third.  As we observed:
We documented how only 18% of Terry Gross' 2010 guests on Fresh Air were women. Next,  we documented how over 66% of Diane Rehm's guests in were men.  We then went on to document that only 30% of Talk of the Nation's guests were women.
People are always 'puzzled' how this happens.  NPR friends insist it's an accident.
An accident can have a multitude of outcomes.
If these are accidents how come the outcomes is always the same: Men booked more often than women on NPR?
That's not accidental, that sound likes engineering.
Ann tracks this gender imbalance at her site all the time and, Sunday, we explained how it happens -- it happens when Tell Me More airs a segment entitled "Women Fire Back At Working Dads" where there are two male guests and only one woman (and the woman's actually a listener comment left on the NPR answering line).  It happens when Don Gonyea decides he's going to 'explore' a female US Senator and decides that it's perfectly natural to go to 3 men and no women, and to pretend like it's perfectly natural to air two of those men insulting her but not backing up the insults.  That's the mind-set that repeatedly allows NPR programming to feature more female guests than male guests over and over every day of the year.
And the reason I'm working that in is because Women's Media Center has an article we need to note, Rachel Larris' "A Closer Look: Who's Writing Nine Newspapers' Presidential Election Coverage."  That went up in August.  I only learned of it Monday night when I was speaking with a WMC friend who mentioned the Third piece and said that they were doing stuff like that at WMC and I said, "Let me know when it goes up and I'll link to it."  It went up at the end of August.  As I explained, I avoid WMC for about six months every four years and there's fault because -- my opinion -- they fall to their knees swooning over the Democratic Party.  (If you're late to the party, I am a Democrat.  I don't tell anyone else how to vote.  If you're voting you're an adult and you should be able to figure it out yourself.  I did not vote in the presidential race this year -- no candidate running earned my vote.)   Life is too short, I don't need to be upset by that so I completely avoid the website during that time period.  It's happened two presidential election cycles so when 2012 rolled around -- and when 2016 rolls around -- I won't be visiting that site.  Now maybe that will change and I hope it does.  Women are a varied group, even women on the left.  And we've been told what to do for so long that telling us who to vote for these days is not 'sweetened' by the fact that the attempted marching order is coming from a woman.  We'll note the WMC article at Third on Sunday.  It's an important article and it's the kind we need.  NPR wouldn't be able to get away with bringing so few women on were it not for the fact that they know feminists will see them as a 'friend' and refuse to call them out.  Equality isn't something that we should wait on.  Women have been told to wait for centuries.  Good for WMC for tracking the gender imbalance.  Good for Rachel Larris for writing such a strong article.  Hopefully, you caught it in real time.  If you missed it, please make a point to check it out.