Saturday, May 12, 2012

Barbie's beach house? No, not Barbie

I really didn't have anything to write last night.  Sorry.  I should.  There's so much going wrong in the world.  But I just wasn't into it.

I really wasn't still.  But I was having coffee in Trina's Kitchen and she was going through her e-mails.  She said it was strange because one kept coming in, one topic.  She said about 12 people had written about the same topic and she didn't have an answer for them.  I actually do.

So she suggested I grab it. 

The question is about a Barbie house.  Specifically, people write Trina about a Barbie beach house from the early 70s.  It was on stilts and one level. 

Trina doesn't remember it and she had four girls.  Not all in the 70s.  But she haunted garage sales for Barbie stuff in the 80s and 90s and feels she is familiar with most or many toys from the Barbie line.

The problem she's having is that it's not a Barbie toy.

I know it because I was in a mature relationship and trying to act mature.  Meaning he had a son from a past marriage and I was really trying to be adult and substitute Mom like. 

He played with GI Joe -- 12 inch dolls known as "action figures." And Big Jim which I think was about ten inches and he had Kung-Fu grip as well as bulging biceps that increased when you made him flex.  And Action Jackson who was 8 inches tall.

He had all the accessory toys for those.

One day the Action Jackson Jungle Gym broke.

This is what people are describing.  It is not a Barbie toy.

The front legs of the stilts broke so the whole thing tilted forward.  His father tried to fix it with super glue.  It didn't work.

But I 'saved the day.'  Though they no longer 'made' the Action Jackson Jungle Gym, they still sold it.  It was now Dyna-Mite's beach house.  The only difference was you got a Dyna-mite doll (8 inch figure, blond) and she also had an inflatable pool and beach ball.

It was the same exact beach house.  They also used it for Planet of the Apes, I think.

So I bought it and was trying to get it out of the box quickly before the boy got home.  How come?

Boys did not like to have their dolls called "dolls."  "Action figures," they would insist.  As I said, when it became Dyna-Mite's beach house, it came with an inflatable pool and beach ball and, most important, one Dyna-Mite doll.  I wanted to get the box open (and in the trash) and the Dyna-Mite out of it before he saw it.

But he saw it and was fine with it.  Even kept Dyna-Mite to play the victim.  (I'm not joking.  He had Action Jackson rescue her -- they were the same size.  I didn't recommend that but it wasn't my playtime, it was his.)

So that's what people are describing.  If you've never seen it, here's the video.

That's the commercial for Dyna-Mite's beach house.  I found it by searching YouTube commercials for beach house on stilts toy.  It's wrongly labeled as "Barbie's Beach House" by whomever uploaded the commercial to YouTube.  Anyone who knows Barbie should be able to tell that's not her.  In addition, the commercial has sound and they clearly say "Dyna-Mite."  But I'm guessing the person who uploaded didn't know Dyna-Mite.  It's one of those dolls that didn't stay around for long. 

This commercial?

It's for Action Jackson's home.  Watch it and you'll see it's the same beach house.  Again, it started as Action Jackson's.  One more commercial.

That's the Planet of the Apes tree house.  All were made by Mego.  As I remember the order, it was Action Jackson, then Dyna-Mite and then Planet of the Apes.   But it was always the same playset, just different names.  All had the rope ladder.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, May 11, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Republicans want to know why a man who allegedlly killed 5 US service members has had his charges dismissed by an Iraqi court, the political crisis continues with all kinds of whispers about who might replace Nouri al-Maliki, the US State Dept gets 'creative' in court, the numbers don't lie and the White House has done nothing to help Iraqi refugees (that's ones who helped American forces and all others as well), Martin Kobler attempts to mislead therby shaming himself and the United Nations, violence has claimed nearly 1400 lives in Iraq since the start of the year, and more.
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "An Iraqi court has cleared a Lebanese militant once held by U.S. forces in the deaths of five U.S. soldiers, saying there wasn't enough evidence against him, an official with Iraq's judicial council told CNN."  His case is being appealed.  He was in US custody as were others said to be responsible for the 5 deaths.  But the White House began making deals for their release in 2009.  From June 9, 2009:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

At the end of 2011,  Liz Sly and Peter Finn (Washington Post) reported on the US handing Ali Musa Daqduq over to the Iraqis:

He was transferred to Iraqi custody after the Obama administration "sought and received assurances that he will be tried for his crimes," according to Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council in Washington.

This week, Jack Healy and Charlie Savage (New York Times) reported, "Although military officials said he confessed freely and that his interrogation had not included any harsh techniques, his statements to American military interrogators would probably be deemed inadmissible in Iraqi court.  But the Obama administration had hoped that he would instead face charges of illegally entering Iraq, a crime that could result in a 10-year prison sentence." Law professor Robert Chesney offered Tuesday, "But recall that the charge was expected to be no more than a claim that Daqduq had been in the country illegally.  In that case, it is very hard to see how in the world there was not sufficient evidence to support the prosecution.  Unless of course he was not in the country illegally after all.  If the latter turns out to be the case, then it raises a serious question about the due diligence performed at the time of Daqduq's transfer to Iraqi custody, and helps me better appreciate why McKeon's NDAA bill includes what I've called the Daqduq rule."  The Wall St. Journal editorial board noted yesterday that the illegal entry and other charges were tossed out by the Iraqi court.  The Republican Senators serving on the US Senate Judiciary Committee registered their objection yesterday:
May 10, 2012

Via Electronic Transmission

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.                    The Honorable Leon Panetta
Attorney General                                             Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Justice                              Department of Defense
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.                      Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20530                                 Washington, D.C. 20301

Dear Attorney General Holder and Secretary Panetta:

According to a report in the New York Times on May 7, 2012, an Iraqi court has ordered the release of Ali Musa Daqduq.  Daqduq is a senior Hezbollah field commander who allegedly orchestrated a kidnapping that resulted in the deaths of five U. S. soldiers in Karbala, Iraq in 2007.  He also has close ties with Iran's Qods Force, including training its fighters in the use of improvised explosive devices (IED) and other insurgent tactics employed against U.S. troops.  Daqduq had been in U.S. military custody until the United States turned him over to Iraqi authorities upon exiting Iraq in December 2011.

According to another report in the New York Times earlier this year, Daqduq has been charged with war crimes, including murder, terrorism, and espionage, before a U.S. military commission.  However, those charges were not made public until the New York Times obtained a copy of the charging document.   In fact, it appears that the Administration knew it was going to pursue charges against Daqduq, waited until he was released to Iraq, and then filed the charges, but failed to keep Congress apprised of its plans.
We have expressed a keen interest in Daqduq and in the Administration's plans for him.  In May 2011, Attorney General Holder appeared before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary (Committee) and was specifically asked about prosecution plans for Daqduq.  We followed up with a letter to Attorney General Holder on May 16, 2011, again expressing concerns about, and interest in, how the Administration was going to prosecute Daqduq.  On July 29, 2011, another letter was sent to Secretary Panetta, seeking information about issues relating to Daqduq held by the Department of Defense.  Finally, on August 8, 2011, the Department of Justice responded through a letter from Ronald Weich that indicated the "ultimate disposition of this matter is under consideration by an interagency process that includes . . . the Department of Justice."

Subsequently, Administration officials briefed Congress about Daqduq's imminent release into Iraqi custody.  Yet, they never mentioned that the Administration was considering charges, which were filed approximately two weeks later.  Eight pages of charges, surely involving classified materials or evidence, would require more than two weeks to review, organize, and approve.  This appears to indicate that either the Administration was purposefully withholding information from Congress or it had not done the due diligence required to file charges in a serious case against a dangerous terrorist.  Furthermore, in the future, when the Administration claims that it is aggressively pursuing Daqduq, it will sound disingenuous since we know that he was only charged after he was released to another country.  If the Administration was serious in pursuing Daqduq, officials had many years when they could have brought charges against him, yet the Administration waited until he was not available to prosecute.

Now an Iraqi court has cleared Daqduq of any criminal charges under Iraqi law and, as we and many other observers had feared, may be set free without being held to account for his crimes against the United States and its soldiers.  As it appears Daqduq is on the verge of escaping justice, we again ask for information about the Administration's plans for dealing with this situation.

Accordingly, provide the following information:

•    A copy of the military commission charging document filed against Daqduq;
•    A list of who was involved in this decision and who was the final decision-maker;
•    An explanation of when, if at all, the families of his U.S. victims were consulted about his prosecution;
•    An explanation of whether Daqduq has been notified of the U.S. charges against him;
•    A description of which components in the Administration have been, currently are, or expect to be involved in the Daqduq matter;
•    A description of efforts to have Daqduq transferred into U.S. custody after he was charged, including whether any formal extradition request was made to the Iraqi government;
•    A description of any conditions (such as transfer to a civilian court) required by the Iraqi government for extraditing Daqduq and the U.S. response to those conditions;
•    An explanation of where Daqduq is expected to be held, if he were transferred into U.S. custody;
•    A description of charges against Daqduq from any other country of which the Administration is aware;
•    A description of whether and how the Administration assisted in Daqduq's prosecution by the Iraqi government;
•    An explanation of why briefers from the Administration failed to indicate that criminal charges were prepared but not presented to a military commission prior to turning Daqduq over to the Iraqi government.
•    An assessment of why the Iraqi prosecution of Daqduq failed, including any problems with the Iraqi court's willingness or capability to consider valid evidence provided by the United States, such as forensic evidence and statements made while in U.S. custody;
•    A description of options the Administration is considering for next steps in the handling of Daqduq's case; and,
•    A description of Administration discussions with the Iraqi government about next steps in the handling of Daqduq's case.

Given the serious consequences that could result from Daqduq's release from Iraqi custody and the important issues raised regarding future decisions to turn over detainees to foreign governments, we appreciate your response no later than May 25, 2012.

Chuck Grassley
Orrin G. Hatch
Jon Kyl
Jeff Sessions
Lindsey Graham
John Cornyn
Micheal S. Lee
Tom Coburn
Now to the US Embassy in Baghdad. 

Darrell Mueller
My good friend and Interpreter for 12 months has been waiting over 13 months for the "administrative processing" to run it's course after his interview in March of 2011 and I have been told by homeland security that this "processing" has be...See More

Noor AlHassani dears who working at U.S. Embassy Baghdad pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeee answer above question from @darrell mueller beacuse there are many people same case
It's 8 days since Mueller left the comment and you'll quickly notice that the Embassy hasn't rushed to add a response.  Near the end of last month, Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) quoted US Vice President Joe Biden's national security Adviser Antony Blinken stating of Iraqis who had helped the US, "We owe these people.  We have a debt to these people. They put their lives on the line for the United States."  But Rubin pointed out, "Consider this: In 2008, Congress mandated 25,000 special immigrant visas (known as SIVs) for Iraqis who helped us over a period of five years; fewer than 4,500 have been issued. According to State Department figures, 719 were granted in fiscal 2011 and 569 during the first six months of fiscal 2012. No breakthrough yet."  And the situation is much worse when you look at all Iraqi refugees being admitted to the US. 
These figures cover Fiscal Years.  October 1st 2008 was the start of Fiscal Year 2009.  So that year includes four months when Barack Obama is not president (October, November, December and the bulk of January).  Fiscal Year 2009 saw the US admit a total of 18,838 Iraqis.  Fiscal Year 2010 (October 2009 through September 2010) saw the US drop that number slightly to 18,016.  Fiscal Year 2011 saw an even more dramatic drop with only 9,388 Iraqi refugees admitted to the US.  So far in Fiscal Year 2012, the US has admitted only 2,501 Iraqi refugees (that figure is through March 31, 2012). While the number of Iraqis admitted has dramtically decreased, the number of Iraqis being referred to the US Refugee Admissions Program has not seen a corresponding dramatic decrease.  (2009 was the year with the highest number of Iraqis applying for admission with 49,276; 2010 saw 46,472 and 2011 saw 39,878.)
The political crisis has become as consistent as the violence and both are now a part of daily life.  Alsumaria reports that Moqtada al-Sadr declared yesterday that the Parliament should be dissolved and early elections held to address the crisis and that Nouri was asserting himself as a dictator.  Earlier (May 6th), MP Hassan Sinead of Nouri's State of Law had also declared the Parliament should be dissolved and new elections held.  Al Mada adds that Iraqiya's Adnan al-Janabi has also declared that early elections should be held. 

Meanwhile Alsumaria reprorts Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met with the leader of the National Alliance, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, today and issued a statement saying that they identified problems and discussed appropriate solutions that could strenghten all parties and exclude any of the participants.   The article notes that Iraq has seen the crisis grow from a split between State of Law on one side and Iraqiya, the Kurds and Moqtada's bloc on the other and now involves all the players.  Ibrahim al-Jaafari was discussed as a potential replacement for Nouri at the April 28th Erbil meet-up attended by Talabani, Moqtada, Ayad Allawi, KRG President Massoud Barzani and Speaker of Parlaiment Osama al-Nujaifi. Dar Addustour notes that an unnamed member of the National Alliance is denying that they are supporting Adel Abdul-Mahdi to be the next prime minister -- or that he or Baqir al-Jibrazubayda have the backing of Turkey or the US.  Adel Abdul-Mahdi has long wanted to be prime minister and came close many times. He is a member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.  He was one of Iraq's two vice presidents during Nouri al-Maliki's first term -- Tareq al-Hashemi was the other.  He and al-Hashemi were named vice presidents for a second term in November 2010.  Later a third vice president was named.  Iraq dropped back down to two vice presidents after the national protests and Nouri's promise to meet the demands and to address corruption in 100 days.  When Nouri failed to do so, Adel Abudl-Mahdi announced he was resigning and cited the government's inability to address the needs of the people or the corruption.

Since December 21st, Talabani and al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national conference to resolve the political crisis.  Alsmuria reports the two men met today and discussed the latest developments in the political crisis "the country has witnessed for a long time."  Nouri al-Maliki stalled on the national conference in January and February, throwing one road block up after another such as who would attend, who wouldn't, what it would be called, etc.  In March, Nouri began stating that it couldn't be held that month because of the Arab League Summit at the end of March.  Talabani declared that the national conference would be held April 5th and then Nouri began echoing that; however, April 4th it was announced that the conference was being called off.

Marwan Kabalan (Gulf News) offers this take on the political crisis:

Al Maliki may have strong political ambitions of his own, but his actions clearly align with Iran's strategic interest in consolidating Shiite control in Iraq. With Iran emerging as the most influential foreign power in Iraqi politics, Sunni Arab countries, particularly in the Gulf, fear that Iran might just be about to reshape the political map of the region in its favour. This will force them to do whatever it takes to prevent this probability. Al Maliki's sectarian policies along with the increasing polarisation between the two banks of the Gulf -- Arab and Persian -- Iraq might very well slide back to a full-fledged civil war that would be incomparable with the 2006-2007conflict.

Al Mada quotes Kuristan Alliance MP Shawn Mohammed Taha stating that those who disagree with Nouri will quickly discover that there are charges against them and that Nouri intends to take out political rivals by having them arrested.  Alsumaria reports on rumors swirling around Baghdad that the National Dialogue Front will be splitting from Iraqiya and joining Nouri's State of Law.  Saleh al-Mutlaq is the leader of the National Dialogue Front.  Yes, he is the Deputy Prime Minister (one of three) that Nouri's been trying to strip of his post after al-Mutlaq told CNN that Nouri was becoming a dictator. 
Saturday the US State Dept issued the following statement :
Today, the fifth convoy of approximately 400 Camp Ashraf residents safely arrived at Camp Hurriya.  The United States welcomes the continued cooperation of the Government of Iraq and the residents of Camp Ashraf with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq to complete the relocation process, as set forth in the December 25, 2011 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the United Nations and the Government of Iraq.  The United States appreciates the extensive resources expended by the Government of Iraq to provide for the residents' safe relocation, and calls for continued adherence to the commitments in the MOU, especially those which provide for the safety, security, and humanitarian treatment of the residents. 
With over half of the initial resident population now relocated to Camp Hurriya, the United States will be able to increase its focus on the safe relocation of the residents from Camp Hurriya out of Iraq.  We join the call of the United Nations to member states to assist in the permanent relocation of eligible residents from Iraq. 
To do its part, the United States has informed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other governments that we are willing to consider referrals of some individuals from the UNHCR.  These referrals will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, consistent with applicable U.S. law.  We urge our friends and partners in the international community to step forward and help achieve a humanitarian resolution.
Camp Ashraf is a place where Iranian dissidents set up shop -- with the Iraqi government's permission -- long before the 2003 US-invasion.  When the US invaded, they gave protected persons status to the residents.  But that's meant nothing since Barack Obama was sworn in as US president because Nouri's forces have twice launched major attacks on Camp Ashraf.  Residents who would like to leave Iraq have had to deal with the fact that the US government has classified them as terrorists.  That classification makes it very difficult for countries to admit Camp Ashraf residents.  The status is one that a US federal court has ordered the State Dept to review . . . two years ago.  Ken Maginnis sits in the United Kingdom's House of Lords and, at Huffington Post UK, he reports today:
This week, at a federal court hearing about the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, we witnessed the State Department turn Justice on its head. Despite the public testimony of their own military commanders it was prepared to employ a brazen and blatant lie in order to keep the MEK listed as a foreign terror group (FTO).
Throughout the hearing at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Robert Loeb, the lawyer who represented Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, referred to the dissidents' home at Camp Ashraf as a "paramilitary base". He went further by saying the U.S. government has no way of knowing that the MEK is not a terror group since its members have never allowed a thorough inspection of the 15-square-mile Camp Ashraf. "They say that they have turned over a new leaf, but that has never been verified by the US military," Mr Loeb said.
This claim is so far from the truth that it undermines the very concept of Justice. That because, sitting in the very courtroom were at least two US military chiefs who had done exactly that - inspected Camp Ashraf, searched it with a fine tooth comb, and concluded that its people were not terrorists.
Brig. Gen. David Phillips and Col. Wesley Martin, who took charge of Ashraf after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, could only look at each other in disbelief.
Does the US government ever get charged with perjury these days?  CNN adds:
Viet Dinh, a former Justice Department lawyer representing the MEK, said the group no longer poses a military threat because the U.S. Army peacefully disarmed the group after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The U.S. government treated MEK members as protected people under international law until the U.S. turned over responsibility to the Iraqi government.
Dinh told the court the State Department's delay in making a decision is a violation of MEK's due process rights, and liberties granted under the U.S. Constitution.
"The secretary has recognized (MEK's) renunciation of violence and is legally bound to delist the organization," Dinh wrote in a filing in February." She cannot pocket veto (MEK's) application for revocation of its terrorist status."
The MEK enjoys the support of prominent high-ranking officials from past Democratic and Republican administrations who speak out against the group's continued presence on the terror list.
And Democratic and Republican members of Congress also speak out against the continued classification of Camp Ashraf residents as terrorists -- this includes the entire Senate Armed Service Committee.  Ashish Kumar Sen (Washington Times) maintains, "Mrs. Clinton will decide on removing the MEK from the list no later than 60 days after Camp Ashraf has been vacated, and data gathered from the relocation has been studied to verify the group's claims that it is not a terror group, Mr. Loeb said."  However, that's not accurate.  The sixty days is a projection, it's not a promise and Loeb stated in court that information may result from a search of the then-empty Camp Ashraf that could delay any decision by Hillary on the issue beyond the 60 days.  How far beyond the sixty days?  Loeb didn't have specific numbers.  This is among the reasons Dinh made the argument that the residents want a decision even if it's a decision against them because they can appeal that.  The limbo status that they've been in for two years now is something very different.   Today the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy in Iraq Martin Kobler declared, "The main challenge will be to find resettlement countries -- third countries where those people who are then recognized as refugees can re-locate."
Kobler also attempted to spin the violence today insisting 600 people died this year.  Pay a little closer attention and you realize he's just talking about Baghdad.  Since the UN's supposedly concerned with all of Iraq, Kobler's little stunt is pretty offensive.  Iraq Body Count not only notes 55 dead so far this month, they noted 290 dead for the month of April, 295 for the month of March,  278 for the month of February and 458 for the month of January.  That's 1376 reported deaths from violence in Iraq since the start of the year.  That's twice as many as "600."  Again, Kobler was being deliberately misleading.  When the United Nations whores what people remember are the rapes by UN peace keepers (many, many times, but try these two who raped a 14-year-old boy in Haiti), the times the UN did nothing while countries were attacked (Iraq for starters -- and then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan declared the Iraq War illegal) and so much more.  Kobler didn't just make himself into a cheap whore with that little stunt, he reminded everyone of just how flawed -- some would say criminal -- the United Nations can be.  A far more realistic picture on the continued violence came not from Kobler but from a business decision.  Jamal al-Badrani (Reuters) reports, "Mobile phone operator Asiacell has closed its offices in the Iraqi city of Mosul, an al Qaeda stronghold, after attacks and threats by militants, security officials and employees said this week."
Now no more smiling mid-crestfall
No more managing unmanageables
No more holding still in the hailstorm
Now enter your watchwoman
-- "Guardian," written by Alanis Morissette, from her Havoc and Bright Lights due out August 28th; "Guardian" is available for download this Tuesday and she'll be performing it Tuesday night on ABC's Dancing With The Stars.

I had hoped to include some of US House Rep Timothy Waltz's questions from Tuesday's hearing.  We may do that in a snapshot early next week.  But veterans and family members of veterans in this community asked if we could include all of the points (from this morning) regarding the issue of the Veterans Administration's huge backlog.  Mattihias Gafni (Contra Costa Times via Stars and Stripes) reports:

Veterans wait nearly a year on average for their disability claims to get processed at the Oakland, Calif., regional center, according to a highly critical federal report released Thursday, leading one congressman to call the facility a bureaucratic "black hole."The Oakland office, which processes benefits claims for veterans from Bakersfield, Calif., north to the Oregon border, had almost 32,500 claims pending an average of 269 days - 89 days longer than the national target time - when the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general visited in December. As of April, the wait for veterans had increased to 320 average days pending.

This is not the wait time issue that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on April 25th or that the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on this week.  The issue here is the VA claims processing and the VA's offered tons and tons of excuses over the last years.  They've told Congress it had to do with equipment issues (computers and computer programs -- "IT" problems, that was an especially popular excuse in 2009) and staffing.  In the last years, they've repeatedly insisted that hiring more people wouldn't actually help them because new hires would require training and that would create further delays.  For that argument to be valid, the only ones who can train new claims processors are those people who are claims processors.  Apparently supervisors don't know how to do the job that those they supervise do.

In addition to the claim, the VA's also had to note that production has become an issue.  They have more claims processors than they did in 2005 but the larger number of personnel has coincided with a decrease in the number of claims processed.  So while personnel has increased, productivity has decreased.   And before you think this is because of new veterans being created by today's wars, that's not the case.  Some of these claims have lingered and lingered.  For one example, let's drop back to a February 28th House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing:

Ranking Member Bob Filner: We got several hundred thousand claims for Agent Orange in our backlog. How long have they been fighting it? Thirty, forty years. People get sicker fighting the bureaucracy than they did with the Agent Orange. So you know what we ought to do -- aside from greatly expanding eligibility to boots on the ground, to the blue waters, to the blue skies and Thailand and Cambodia and Laos and Guam? We ought to honor those Agent Orange claims today. You know, let's give people the peace that they deserve. Let's give you finally some closure here. And, you know, they're telling us, "It costs too much." I don't know if it's a billion dollars or two billion dollars. I don't care what it is frankly. You don't think we owe it to you? We owe it to you. 

Among the Congress members calling out the backlog for years now are US House Rep Bob Filner, Senator Patty Murray (Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee), Senator Richard Burr (Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee), Daniel Akaka (former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee) and US House Rep Phil Roe.  They have consistently attempted to make sense of this problem and why it is just not dealt with year after year.  We're dropping back to a February 15th House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing when VA Secretary Eric Shinseki offered testimony.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: And I just want to ask a couple -- focus on a couple areas that I've been involved with over the years. One is the claims backlog.  In your budget presentation ou title it "Eliminate The Claims Backlog." But I don't see any real estimate or projection or anything of when you think you're going to do that but I still think that -- in the short run, at least -- to get this turned around your notion of -- I think you used the word "brute force" a few years ago, if I recall that.

Secretary Eric Shinseki: It was probably a poor choice of words.

Ranking Member Bob Filner: No, it's okay. It was good. Gives me something to shoot at, you know? I don't think it's going to work.  I just think all this stuff you have is good stuff but it's too big and, as you point out, there's all kind of factors making it bigger.  I still think you have to take some, I'll say, radical step in the short run -- whether it's to grant all the Agent Orange claims that have been submitted or have been there for X number of years or, as I've suggested at other times, all claims that have the medical information in it and have been submitted with the help of a Veterans Service Officer you accept subject to audit. That is, unless you take some real radical step to eliminate a million of them or 500,000 of them, you're never going to get there. It's going to always be there.  You don't want that as your legacy -- I don't think.  So -- Nor do we.  I think you're going to have to take some really strong steps in terms of accepting stuff that's been in the pipeline a long time, again, that has adequate -- by whatever definition -- documentation and help from professional support. Plus this incredible situation of Agent Orange where, as you know, not only have those claims increaded but we're talking about -- as you well know -- your comrades for thirty or more years that have been wrestling with this.  Let's give the Vietnam vets some peace. Let's give them a real welcome home. Let's grant those Agent Orange claims.  Let's get those -- whatever it is, 100,000 or 200,000  of our backlog -- just get them off the books.  I don't know if you want to comment on that but I still think you're never going to get there with -- All this is good stuff.  We've talked about it on many occasions.  But it's not going to fundamentally -- or at least in the short run change it around so you can get to a base  level of zero or whatever you want to be and move forward from there.

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Mr. Filner, I'll call on Secretary Hickey for the final details but we've pretty much worked through the Agent Orange -- the increase in Agent Orange claims. I think we're well down on the numbers. I'll rely on her statistic here.

And, of course, despite that claim, the numbers weren't down and that's why, weeks later (as we noted in the first Congressional excerpt), US House Rep Filner would be bringing up the issue of claims processing regarding Agent Orange again.

Here's something to consider: What if service members were as slow to process orders from command as the VA is to process the claims of veterans?

On the issue of wait time and mental health care, the editorial board of  Florida's concludes, "The VA must do a better job than it has been doing in dealing with the very real mental health needs of those who have given so much to this country."  That's true of the wait time and it's also true of the claims processing.
Lastly, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (Senator Patty Murray is the Chair, Senator Richard Burr is the Ranking Member) announces that a hearing scheduled for May 16th has been re-scheduled for May 23rd.
Committee on Veterans' Affairs
United States Senate
112th Congress, Second Session
Hearing Schedule
Update: May 11, 2012
*Wednesday, May 23, 2012 10am Senate Dirksen Office Building Room 562
Hearing: Seamless Transition: Review of the Integrated Disability Evaluation System
*NOTE: This hearing has been rescheduled from its originally announced date of May 16, 2012.
Matthew T. Lawrence
Chief Clerk / System Administrator
Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

My good haircut

"It's Vidal Sassoon."  Mia Farrow says that in Rosemary's Baby.  I think that was the first time I heard the name.  Via Wikipedia, here he is cutting Mia's hair.

File:Mia Farrow bob cut.jpg

Today Mia Farrow mainly Tweeted about him (not even naming him, Mia?) to make sure everyone knew she cut off her hair herself.  (While starring on the nighttime soap opera Peyton Place and dating Frank Sinatra, Mia shocked the country by cutting her long, long locks off to a very short cut.  She said she did it to avoid vanity -- believable -- but it was also because Frank had a birthday party and the invites were very exclusive.)  Here's her Twitter.

I met him once when he trimmed my hair during filming Rosemary's Baby.I had been cutting it myself for years

No mention of the man's name.  Vidal Sassoon has died at the age of 84.  There are two other Tweets where Mia's explaining she cut her hair herself when she was doing Peyton Place.

In the 70s, when I was dating a British big wig (political) I had a hair emergency while being jet-lagged and the woman at the hotel was kind enough to call and get me an appointment at his salon.  I actually got the great to work on my hair himself.  It was due to a misunderstanding.  He'd wrongly assumed, because of the woman who got me in, that I was Prince Charles' latest.  I explained I was dating political, not royalty.  We laughed about it.  He was a nice person.

Who gave me an incredible cut.  I was just amazed.  He didn't wash it but he did blow dry it a bit after he finished cutting.  It looked amazing.  He was a genius with hair.  It flowed, it did everything right.  It wasn't the blow drying -- though that gave it a nice sheen (with whatever product he put on it).  For weeks after, I could just wash and toss and it looked amazing.

So that's my Vidal Sassoon story.

I'm sorry he's passed away.   The Los Angeles Times notes, "Sassoon was married four times. He married his current wife, Ronnie, in 1992. An earlier version of this post said they met seven years ago."  He is also survived by four children.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, May 9, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue,  Sahwa walks off the job in Diyala Province, Shinseki and the VA try to distract Congress in the US, Cindy Sheehan meets with the Taxman and Taxwoman, and more.
Starting with the US Congress.
US House Rep Johnson: I'm going to start off with a bit of a difficult questions. You know, year after year, in annual budget submissions, in annual performance reports, quarterly reports, Congressional testimony and in countless press releases and statements, the VA has consistently touted the 14 day standard as the number one measure of mental health care access. In a five month investigation; however, the IG found that measure to have no real value and to be essentially meaningless. Mr. Secretary, how is it possible that that's not bubbling up to your level? How is it possible that you don't know that? And who is responsible for misleading Congress and the public on this metric? And how will they be held accountable?
Secretary Eric Shinseki: Uh, Congressman, I, uh, I-I don't think,uh, anyone has, uh, misled Congress here. Doctor Petzel described three methods of, uh, identifying in the scheduling arena. Capacity, desire date, create date. We have -- They have in the mental health areana been using desire date now since 2007 and my understanding this uh goes back to when we had a previous discussion like this. Uhm, I'm not sure how the, uh, results were achieved but it just seems to me that desire date and create date in the report, uh, are brought together in a way, it's hard for me to determine, whether there was a pure assessment of whether desire date was being executed properly, whether staff were properly trained and following the instructions, that would allow us to focus on corrective actions. Right now, part of my discussion with Dr. Petzel is that we're going to sit down with the IG and make sure we come up with a clear standard here so that when we audit in the future, there isn't this confusion about which date we're uh using and we get a cleaner outcome, understanding. I'm not able to address the specifics here but I would assure the Congressman there's no misleading of Congress.
US House Rep Bill Johnson: I can certainly agree that there is no intention to do so but I think we all agree here that the objective is to make sure those veterans that request mental health counseling get it as soon as absolutely possible.
That's from yesterday's US House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  US House Rep Bill Johnson was questioning VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.  And it may have wrongly seemed like Shinseki answered Johnson's question.  He did not.
Johnson asked about the figures that were given.  Shinseki attempted to dispute the report from the Office of the Inspector General. He also attempts to push off his Department's problems onto the IG.  There are these different ways of measuring, Shinseki insists.
And we're supposed to say, "Goodness, that is confusing.  That mean old IG!"  But that nonsense is not from the IG.  That is the VA's nonsense.  The VA is the one that wants to bring in "desired date" and other obscuring nonsense.  The IG noted that in the cover letter -- for get the report itself -- back in April: "VHA does not have reliable and accurate method of deteriming whether they are providing patients timely access to mental health care servies.  VHA did not provide first-time patients with timely mental health evaluations and existing patients often waited more than 14 days past their desired date of care for their treatment.  As a result, performance measures used to report patient's access to mental health care do not depict the true picture of a patient's waiting time to see mental health provider."  And if Shinseki wants to object to that finding, it's a little too damn late.  As the next sentence notes, "The Under Secretary for Health conccured with the OIG's findings [. . .]"
Congress did not invent the 14% number.  The VA did.  And while Shinseki attempts to distract and pin the blame on the IG, someone whould have asked him what Johnson was originally getting at: How did the VA get this figure they promoted?
It was a false figure.  They promoted it over and over.  Please note, Shinseki rushed to assure that no one with the VA had intentionally tried to mislead Congress.  He didn't say a damn thing about their attempts to mislead the public.  But then, misleading Congress can result in sanctions.  Lying to the public is a just standard politics.
Playing with the numbers and trying to hide behind terms is not leadership.  US House Rep Cliff Stearns, while questioning the reps for the Office of the Inspector General, probably put it best, "Well, I think the bottom line is, you've said it takes 50 days to provide this roughly 200,000 veterans with their full evaluation.  That's what you're saying and that's not good and that should be changed. And I think that's -- no matter what we're talking about, a capacity desire or a create date -- the bottom line is that veterans, almost 200,000, are not getting serviced.  And the Veterans Administration can use whatever terminology and definitions they want, but by golly, these guys -- these guys and gals aren't getting taken care of.  And that's why we're here today."
Minutes before US House Rep Johnson went to his line of questioning, Shinseki was declaring, "My guess here is we're doing good work, we're just not able to document it."
Is that your guess?  Are you paid to guess or are you paid to suprevise?
The metrics have never been in place and that's not just my opinion, that's the opinon of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee based on their own public statements in one hearing after another.  Shinseki was appointed by Barack Obama to supervise the VA.  Supervision is not a guess.  Shinseki's gotten a pass from the press from early on.  When the fall of 2009 rolled around and veterans were without GI Bill checks, when they couldn't afford housing, when this situation continued through Christmas -- as many veterans stated to the press and to Congress, their kids had to do without Christmas because they still hadn't gotten their checks for the semester they'd just completed, they'd had to borrow money to pay for that. When all of that came out, something came out with it.
Eric Shinseki admitted that, shortly after being confirmed to his post by the Senate, he was informed that there would be problems with the checks that fall.  That the system wasn't ready for it.  He knew that and Congress repeatedly asked him if there were any problems, repeatedly asked if help was needed and he said no and no and no over and over.  Then when the problem emerged, VA tried to play dumb for months.
Secretary Eric Shinseki: I'm looking at the certificates of eligibility uh being processed on 1 May and enrollments 6 July, checks having to flow through August. A very compressed timeframe. And in order to do that, we essentially began as I arrived in January, uh, putting together the plan -- reviewing the plan that was there and trying to validate it. I'll be frank, when I arrived, uh, there were a number of people telling me this was simply not executable. It wasn't going to happen. Three August was going to be here before we could have everything in place. Uh, to the credit of the folks in uh VA, I, uh, I consulted an outside consultant, brought in an independent view, same kind of assessment. 'Unless you do some big things here, this is not possible.' To the credit of the folks, the good folks in VBA, they took it on and they went at it hard. We hired 530 people to do this and had to train them. We had a manual system that was computer assisted. Not very helpful but that's what they inherited. And we realized in about May that the 530 were probably a little short so we went and hired 230 more people. So in excess of 700 people were trained to use the tools that were coming together even as certificates were being executed. Uhm, we were short on the assumption of how many people it would take.
Let's remember too what the VA did in real time: Blamed veterans.  They did the form wrong or it was the schools!  It was everybody but the VA.  No.  As Shinseki finally admitted in an open hearing -- with the press taking a pass on it -- he knew when he started the job.  He heard it from VA employees, he went to an outside consultant who told him the same thing.  Never did he inform Congress of that before the press started reporting what was happening. 
That's not leadership. 
And over and over, this is the pattern with Shinseki who is supposed to be supervising the VA.  The Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal pre-dates Shinseki.  But there will be many scandals after Shinseki's out of office that result from the lack of supervision right now.
Yesterday morning, as he called the hearing to order, Chair Jeff Miller noted why they were meeting.
Chair Jeff Miller: I think most of the Committee knows that two weeks ago the VA Inspector General released a report reviewing veterans access to mental health care -- something that we're all very interested in, as are all veterans and Americans across this country.  And I've got to say that the findings in the report are really more than troubling.  That's probably an understatement to just call them troubling.  And one of the most disturbing things that the IG discovered is that more than half of the veterans who seek mental health care through the VA wait an average of 50 days --  50 days --  to receive a full mental health evaluation.  So let me be real clear from the outset, a veteran who comes to the VA for help should never, never under any circumstance have to wait almost two months to receive the evaluation they have asked for and begin the treatment they need.  I don't believe anybody in this room thinks there is any excuse for that type of delay.
If the topic seems familiar, it was the same for the April 25th Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  If you missed those hearings, you can refer to  "Fire everyone at the VA,"    "Scott Brown: It's clearly not working (Ava),"   "VA paid out nearly $200 million in bonuses last year (Wally)" and that week's Wednesday's snapshot. and Friday snapshot.   The hearing was made up of three panels.  The first panel was Shinseki and the VA's Robert Petzel, Mary Schohn, Antonette Zeiss, Annie Spiczak and, from the Office of Inspector General, John Daigh and Linda Halliday.  The second panel was noted in yesterday's snapshot, in Kat's "Congress Member Gone Wild" and in "Congress is supposed to provide oversight."  The witnesses were Dr. Nicole Sawyer,Group Health Cooperative's Diana Birkett Rakow, Dr. James Schuster and Health Net Federal Services' Thomas Carrato.  The third panel was the Disabled American Veterans' Joy Ilem,  Paralyzed Veterans of America's Alethea Predeoux and Wounded Warrior Project's Ralph Ibson.
From the first panel, we'll note this exchange.
Chair Jeff Miller: You talked about the press release April 19th.  You've acknowledged also that there's about a 15 -- I think it's 1500 mental health staff vacancies.  It could be more or less.  And you're staffing, your testimony today talks about maybe hiring more than 1900.  So what I'd like -- an answer is, I know you're going to try to fill the 1500 vacancy that exists.  You're going to add additional 1900-plus staff.  And the question is: Is that correct?  Then a couple of other things.  How quickly do you think VA can hire the additional staff?  Where are you going to put the additional staff?  And how will you be able to measure the impact they will have on improving care? 
Mr. Chairman, let me just make an opening statement here and then I'm going to call on Ms. Annie Spiczak who does the recruiting and retention personnel work for us because you're asking to see what tools we have and what our expectation here is?  We think that we'll get most of that done in the next six months but some of these specialities are difficult to recruit and  I would, be honest with you, I'm not sure I can pin a date when all of them will be in.  But the vast majority of the work will be done in the next six months.  Some of this may carry over into the second quarter of FY13.  Let me call on Ms. Spiczak to talk about the process here.
Annie Spiczak: Thank you, Secretary.  Uh, sir, I would say that we have a four-fold strategy to recruit and hire the mental health professionalsthat we need in VHA. Uh, the first part of that strategy is to have a very robust marketing and advertising campaign to do that outreach to mental health providers and providers by the use of USA Jobs, using social media, getting all of those vacancy announcements posted to specialty sites and job boards. The second part of that is using our national recruiters. We have 21 dedicated health care recruiters and they are very involved with the VISNs and the medical center directors to recruit those hard to fill positions -- especially our psychiatrists and our psychologists.  Thirdly, we're going to recruit from our active pipeline of trainees and residents.  VHA has a very robust training program and they are an integral part to filling that pipeline of our workforce.  And, fourthly, we're going to ensure that we have complete involvement and support of VA leadership.
Chair Jeff Miller: I guess --
Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Mr. Chairman, I'm going to call on Dr. Petzel to just add some concluding thoughts here.  But I would also point out the, uh, national recruitment program, the 21 high quality recruiters that Ms. Spiczak referred to, all are veterans.  18 of them have extensive experience in recruiting.  And for any new individual who joins the team,  they go through a training program and oversight, mentoring by some of the old timers, so this is a pretty robust crew that we're talking about.  Dr. Petzel?
Dr. Robert Petzel:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to add briefly, the VA trains -- has 1,000 psychiatric residency positions.  We have over 730 internship positions for clinical psychologists, just to mention a couple of the positions.  We're the largest trainer of mental health professionals in the country.  And this group of trainees is the primary place that we're going to be recruiting those individuals to fill those 1900 jobs. And the last thing I'd like to add is that  the most difficult to recruit group is the psychiatrists. Particularly in more remote and rural areas.  And we have recently sent a memo to the Secretary which I believe he has signed or is about to sign to change the pay table for psychiatrists and to make available other incentives so that we can compete more equitably with the private sector and DoD in terms of recruiting  psychiatrists.
Chair Jeff Miller:  Ms. Spiczak, how long does it take for VA to fill a vacancy like the 1500 that are open now for mental health professionals.  What's the average time that those positions have remained vacant?
Annie Spiczak:  Sir, it takes anywhere from four to six but for some of our hard to fill positions, it can take up to a year to fill those positions.
Chair Jeff Miller: Have you ever been even close to 100% staffed at the full level with the 1500 that you currently have?
Annie Spiczak:  Sir, we'll always have a turnover rate, a vacancy rate that we're always trying to close that gap but you have my commitment that we're going to work very hard to close that.
Chair Jeff Miller:  At what level is the vacancy rate?  Is it more at the upper level, the lower tier, I hate to say 'lower tier,' but, obviously, the psychiatrist level downward?  Which is the higher rate?  Is it the psychiatrist or is it the person in the --
Annie Spiczak: No, sir. Our turnover rate in FY 2011 for mental health professionals was 7.23%.  And the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the health care industry shows a 28% turnover rate.
Chair Jeff Miller: Then I guess the last question that I'd like to ask in this round is how are we going to pay for the extra 1900 mental health care professionals?
Secretary Eric Shinseki:  For that question, I'm going to call on Dr. Petzel.
Dr. Robert Petzel:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Mr. Chairman, we, uh, have estimated that, uh, cost in Fiscal Year 12 will be relatively small because it's going to take some time to get these people on board and we will use money that we have available in 12.  We expect that this will not exceed 29 million and may be a bit less than 29 million dollars. In fiscal year 13, we're going to separately identify the funding for this initiative as part of each one of the VISNs allocations and then the VISNs will receive a hiring target based on their allocation and we're going to keep very close track of that hiring target.  Ms. Spiczak can give more detail about how we're going to do that, but we're basically going to be daily looking at how they're meeting that hiring target.   We've identified -- We will identify each one of these positions  electronically on USA Jobs by special number so that we can track all of the 1900 new people as well as all of the vacancies that exist right now.
Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Mr. Chairman, just a data point. Psychiatrists are the toughest to recruit and I think under this new model we say it's about 57 that we're going to go after in this group of 1900. Of 57, 37 have already been recruited.  7 are already serving. 30 are being on-boarded and so we're beginning to hone in on this most difficult recruiting challenge and working it down.  So there's some evidence that we can recruit to what we need here.
That's about as much garbage I can take in one excerpt.  Where to begin?  Annie Spiczak asserts, "Our turnover rate in FY 2011 for mental health professionals was 7.23%. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the health care industry shows a 28% turnover rate."  No, they don't.  During the long, long break in the hearing for votes, I called the Bureau of Labor Statistics to check that.  28%?  It was 21.9% in 2006, the highest its been in the last ten years.  In 2010, the turnover rate was 15.8% and in 2011, the turnover rate was 15.5%.  In addition, I was told Spiczak's number for the VA was "questionable" and was asked if I thought they were counting "positions" because if they were doing it that way, all those empty positions would artificially reduce the turnover rate.  I asked for an example on that.  If there are 800 positions and only 100 are filled, are you dealing with the turnover rate of that 100 staff or are you using positions and acting as though you have 800 positions?  If you're going by positions -- and including empty positions -- you can artificially reduce the turnover rate.  If that doesn't make sense, blame me and not the Buereau of Labor Statistics which was very helpful.  (Until yesterday's hearing, I hadn't even registered on the term "turnover rate."  The BLS was very helpful in explaining that but if there's a mistake in this paragraph, it's on me and on my misunderstanding the BLS.  And though I did get a name from a mutual friend and call and speak to that person, I was also told that the BLS works very hard to assist everyone with answers and that they do so via the phone and via e-mail.)
I would like to note the third panel as well as the line of questioning US House Rep Timothy Walz pursued.  Time and space permitting, we'll do so in snapshots later this week.
Iraq today is in the midst of a political crisis caused by Nouri al-Maliki's power grabs.  'Not so fast,'  insists neocon Michael Rubin who writes at Commentary that Nouri's not doing a power-grab or becoming a dictator, he's just "consolidating power."  Yeah, well to become a truly powerful despot, you usually need to start by consolidating power -- which is another way of saying "power grab." He wants you to know that Nouri's "between a rock and a hard place."  And that his targeting of Tareq al-Hashemi?  Well "INTERPOL certainly believed the evidence against Hashemi as, frankly, do even many of Hashemi's supporters."  First, congrats, you spelled INTERPOL correctly which does put you far ahead of the Associated Press.  However, don't be forming conclusions about what INTERPOL 'believes.'  Not only was the Red Notice issued as a part of an arrangement with the US White House, but they chose not to issue an arrest warrant.  They issued a non-binding Red Notice.
Rubin is a War Hawk responsible for the illegal war.  Having made such a huge mistake, you'd think he tried to avoid further ones.  As noted many times yesterday, I've been speaking to two friends at INTERPOL about the Red Notice.  One e-mailed suggesting we link to this.  What is that?  It's a Red Notice from March for the arrest of four suspects.  I didn't get the point until I read over it.  As he noted in his e-mail, "The wording, no one wants to pay attention to it."  Compare the wording of it with the one on Tareq al-Hashemi.
As my friend explained when I was able to call him today, a Red Notice, the language is pretty much the same.  It's a standard issue release that only the names and the alleged crimes change.  Except with al-Hashemi.  His release contains: "A Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant."  That's reality. But that's not something that's usually included in the Red Notices.  INTERPOL made a point to include it in al-Hashemi's.
Citing security sources, Alsumaria reports that Diyala Province saw an attack on a home that left the home owner and his son dead and that the home invasion was followed by a bombing aimed at the police and citizens who rushed to assist -- 3 civilians were killed and six more injured in hte bombing. They also report a Baghdad car bombing late yesterday claimed 3 lives (including Amir Muhammad Abd Mutlaq) and left six people injured.  Covering these events, Xinhua notes the home invasion was of a police officer's home (the officer wasn't at home) and they count 7 dead and sixteen injured in the violence Alsumaria noted.  Alsumaria also informs that a police officer was shot dead Tuesday in Tal Afar.

Yesterday's snapshot included:  "In other news, Kitabat reports thousands poured into the streets of Erbil today as people demonstrated against the magazine Al-Hamsa which some are convinced is anti-Islam.  Demonstrators threw bottles of water and stones and attempted to climb the barriers around the compound.  52-year-old demonstrator Said Ahmed Ali stated that the government was allowing insults to Islam and the Koran.  The editor of the magazine was arrested." Al Rafidayn reports the demonstrators attacked social clubs, liquor stores and a hotel among other establishments.  They smashed the windows of the hotel.  How that 'helped' Islam is not clear in the report nor is how it made the protesters come off as 'holy.' The paper reports they then charged the Kurdistan Parliament and security forces used tear  gas.  Dar Addustour reports that the protesters set fire to liquor stores and when they charged the Kurdistan Parliament, they were hurling stones.

 Yesterday's snapshot also noted, "Al Sumaria reports a Sahwa leader in Diyala Province, Sami al-Khazraji, has revealed his monthly salary has been cut and that was on the orders of Nouri and his Minstry of Reconciliation.  Other Sahwa have been cut by 20% in the province and there are said to be over 7,000 Sahwa in the province with most in Baquba." Today Alsumaria reports that over 30 Sahwa in Diayal Province walked off their posts yesterday to protest the cuts.
Peace activist Cindy Sheehan has become a tax resister, refusing to fund the war machine.  Today she met with the IRS and notes:
I had Round X (X representing an unknown quantity) with the IRS/US Attorney today at the US Attorney's office in Sacramento.

The meeting was to try and discover my alleged assets so the IRS could collect approximately 105 grand in taxes that it says I owe for 2005 and 2006. I am not so naive to think that the IRS, using a number of resources or any of the secretive alphabet agencies, doesn't know every single thing about me. However, I refuse to participate in my persecution and furthermore, I should be constitutionally protected from such a thing. 
That's the opening, read the whole thing.  And for more information on war tax resistance, she refers people to the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee.  And finally, Debra Sweet's receiving a deserved honor so congratulations to her.  She worked very hard to fight Bush's wars and she works very hard to this day to fight Barack's wars:

For immediate release
May 7, 2012
Contact: Lina Thorne 718 825 9119

Debra Sweet, World Can't Wait Director, will receive the 2012 American Humanist Association's (AHA) Humanist Heroine Award. The award will be presented at the AHA national conference on June 9 in New Orleans and is a joint presentation of the AHA and its Feminist Caucus. Since 1982, this award is given annually to women who promote and advance the ideals of human rights and gender justice using a non-theological approach. Past awardees have included Judy Norsigian, Robin Morgan, Julia Sweeney and Amy Goodman.

Debra Sweet helped establish and continues to lead World Can't Wait in its mission to "stop the crimes of our government," including unjust military occupations, covert drone wars, torture and indefinite detention as well as reversing the fascist direction of U.S. society.  She has worked with abortion providers for thirty years, organizing community support and helping them withstand anti-abortion violence.  Since the age of 19, when she confronted Richard Nixon during a face-to-face meeting and told him to stop the war in Vietnam, Debra has been a leader in the opposition to U.S. wars and military occupations.

Sweet will be leading World Can't Wait's efforts in protesting  NATO's meeting in Chicago, May 20-21, where  the U.S. and its military allies will discuss the continuation of US/NATO presence in Afghanistan until 2024.

Annie Laurie Geller, Co-President, Freedom from Religion Foundation, nominated Debra for this award. "Debra Sweet, more than any person I know, embodies heroism: for women, for peace, for the progression of humanity," she says. "She inspired me, her classmates, the city of Madison, Wisconsin and the entire nation when, as a student, she met President Richard Nixon. Her courage to openly express the views of most Americans toward Nixon and the war was an electrifying moment that touched many and opened our eyes to personal activism. She has gone on to dedicate her life to peace and progressive causes, including feminist issues." 

On Friday, May 4, Sweet was convicted with 19 others of disorderly conduct for a 2011 protest against the NYPD's "stop and frisk" policy.  "700,000 people were stopped, questioned and frisked by the NYPD last year, the great majority of them Black and Latino, in violation of their constitutional rights and their humanity," said Sweet. Fellow defendants in the non-violent civil resistance were Dr. Cornel West of Princeton University; Vietnam war resister and revolutionary leader Carl Dix; clergy, students and residents of the Harlem community who had been victimized by the policy.  Dr. West called Sweet "a long-distance freedom fighter whom I deeply respect and love."

FOR MORE INFORMATION about The American Humanist Association, contact: Brian Magee, (202) 238-9088 extension 105, Mobile: (202) 681-2425.   FOR MORE INFORMATION about Freedom from Religion Foundation, contact: Annie Laurie Gaylor (608) 256-8900.