Saturday, May 19, 2012

I'm getting damn tired of the B-s in the Water Cooler Set

Katharine McPhee is very talented and very attractive.  I have covered Smash over and over and not attacked Megan Hilty.  I have never even used the woman's name in my posts and stuck to the character.

But after seeing the Bs in the Water Cooler Set yet again gang up on a woman and think it's cute and funny when it's just bitchy and embarrassing, let me put the problems with Megan Hilty into a language that Rachel Syme, Hillary Busis and all the rest can understand.

Megan Hilty is fat.

She is on TV playing a would-be actress.  She's fat.

I'm sorry that shocks or upsets you but she's fat. She's Delta Burke fat.  It's 2012 and she's fat.

'Marilyn Monroe was big!'

She didn't look fat.  Also true, it was the fifties and early sixties and everyone was heavier then (everyone on screen).

2) She has no sex appeal. She is a cold fish that never comes across or manages to connect.

3) She is a wind-up doll.  She does every song so adequately.  She'll never show brilliance because she'll never be bad.  She is merely adequate and that's why she's a little nothing in real life too.  At her age, she should have achieved something.  Her biggest credit is being the failed actress on a TV show.

31 is too old to be trying to establish yourself as an actress.

4) She cannot do the big screen.

On the small screen, she's frequently frightening.  That face.  That awful horse face.  When she grins, she looks like a horse.  Put a bit in her mouth before she starts braying.

So does that help?  That's the way you write about Katharine McPhee every damn week.  You trash her and you treat her like crap and you've done that every damn week.

Did it hurt to read those things about Megan Hilty?

Well good.  Maybe before you start ripping apart McPhee, whose career has really just started, she's not in her thirties like Hilty, you might want to dial it down.

McPhee is pretty, McPhee is sexy and McPhee can sing.  Sometimes she's bad.  But sometimes she is amazing.  Hilty will never reach that high because she is run-of-the-mill adequate.

Smash really is Funny Girl.

People didn't believe in Barbra.  But when it was time to make the decision, they went with the talent.  She didn't look like Fanny Brice, she wasn't the obvious choice.  But she had a quality that made you want to save her.

Marilyn had that quality too.

So does McPhee.

Megan Hilty?

She's a linebacker.

I can do this again and maybe I need to?

(I don't give a damn about Hilty before you e-mail.  She could have called the trashing of McPhee out.  She refused to and she's been laughing about the trashing.  So I don't really care about the hurt feelings of a 30-something woman who's been hateful to her younger co-worker.)

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, May 18, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack tells the world things aren't good in Iraq (you think?), the political crisis continues, Moqtada either did or didn't receive a letter from the National Alliance regarding a no confidence vote on Nouri, Spokane gears up for their annual Armed Forces Torch Light Parade (that's tomorrow), the White House remains silent on burn pits, a wife whose husband died in Iraq is shocked by news about the man thought to have killed her husband, and more.
In Spokane, Washington, the Lilac Festival is taking place.  As usual, the third Saturday of the month (tomorrow) will be the Festival's Armed Forces Torch Light Parade. The festival has taken place since 1938 when the chair of the Associated Garden Clubs and the Spokane Floral Association, Ethyl Goodsell, organized the first event.  This Saturday's parade will start at 7:45 p.m. by the INB Performing Arts Center and will feature "high school bands, community floats, equestrian groups and individuals, and military with groups of veterans, and active military marching."  Iraq War veteran Danielle Nienajadlo's mother will be there and Lindsay Wediman will be carrying a picture of her daughter Danielle. 
John Stucke (Spokesman-Review) reports that, after graduating high school, Danielle enlisted in the army and served 13 years.  A year after she left the military, in 2009, Danielle was battling "an aggressive form of leukemia."  Like so many others who worked in and around the burn pits (open areas where every discarded item from standard trash to human waste to medication, etc. was burned to dispose of it), Danielle saw her record good health vanish.  While stationed at Balad, she coughed up blood, suffered sores and bruises over her body, experienced severe weight loss and had headaches.  Attempts to address the situation resulted in her symptoms being dismissed and ignored: "Danielle was finally sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia.  She became one among hundreds of soldiers brought home from the war to battle cancers and other diseases.  Many -- though not all -- blame the burn pits for their illnesses, and class-action litigation is pending in federal court."
In March 2010, Beth Hawkins (Mother Jones) reported on Sgt Danielle Nienajdlo's passing and observed:
The government's reluctance to acknowledge the potential hazard has frustrated veterans' advocates, who remember how long it took for the Pentagon to recognize Gulf War Syndrome in the 1990s, and to acknowledge the health problems caused by aerial spraying during the Vietnam War. "We don't want another Agent Orange," says John L. Wilson, DAV's assistant national legislative director. "Silence does not do any good."
If the pits are harming troops and Iraqis, there's no telling how many. Many cancers won't reveal themselves for a decade or more, and many respiratory symptoms tend to be misdiagnosed as asthma. Like Nienajadlo, Air Force Reserve Lt. Colonel Michelle Franco, 48, had a clean bill of health when she shipped out to Balad three years ago. The 18-foot walls surrounding her quarters kept out mortar fire, but not the smoke: "You could smell it; you could taste it." As a nurse, Franco suspected the "plume crud" was hazardous. She knew that in addition to amputated limbs from her medical facility, the base's waste included hundreds of thousands of water bottles every week -- and she knew burning plastic releases cancer-causing dioxins. After just five months at the base, Franco sustained permanent lung damage. She's lucky, she says, that she kept asking questions when harried doctors handed her an inhaler. She expects her diagnosis -- untreatable reactive airway dysfunction syndrome -- to ultimately push her into retirement.
Last Friday, Iraq War veteran Spc Dominick J. Liguori died.  Bob Kalinowski (Times-Tribune) reports he died of sarcoidosis, "Family members say Spc. Liguori developed the disease from exposure to open-air burn pits while serving in Iraq, and the ailment slowly scarred and destroyed his lungs."  Denise Hook says of her 31-year-old nephew, "They did scans of his lungs.  You could see on the scans that most of his lungs were destroyed.  You'll see a lot more in the future.  You really will."  She also states, "Since he was little, he wore camouflage for Halloween every year.  He painted his wagon camouflage.  He painted his little trucks camouflage.  He hid in the trees with camouflage.  All he ever dreamt about was being in the military.  That was his lifelong dream.  I think if God could have made him better, he would have rejoined."

While the government collectively shrugs its shoulders, Iraq War veteran Leroy Torres and his wife Rosie Torres have continued to battle on behalf of veterans exposed to burn pits -- which includes Leroy Torres -- and they have contiuned to educate the nation on the issue. The Torres have a website entitled BURNPITS 360. They are also on Facebook.  Last month, she was interviewed by Rachel Cole (KRIS -- link is text and video):

His wife, Rosie, has been battling for years with Congress to get legislation passed that will recognize a connection with toxic exposure for soldiers and their poor health conditions. "To sum it up, at 39-years-old, he's lost both his careers that he's worked very hard for because of his health. Toxic exposure is something that it slowly takes over one organ at a time." Rosie said.
According to Rosie, her husband is in stable but she says others aren't so lucky. "There's several soldiers awaiting lung transplants and others on full liters of oxygen constantly." She said.
At RT for Decision Makers in Respiratory Care, Kalie VonFeldt, MS, PA-C; Maura Robinson, BS; and Cecile Rose, MD, MPH explore these issues and they note, "Reports of increased acute respiratory illnesses in deployed troops began surfacing in 2004.3 Subsequent epidemiologic studies showed that deployers have higher rates of newly reported respiratory symptoms than nondeployers (14% versus 10%), although rates of physician-diagnosed asthma and chronic bronchitis were not increased.4 More recent studies suggest that obstructive airways diseases, including asthma and constrictive bronchiolitis, are occurring in excess in returning troops.1,5 The magnitude and spectrum of respiratory illnesses from deployment are difficult to judge. Lack of predeployment spirometry and challenges with diagnosis limit accurate estimates of disease incidence and prevalence."

Currently, US House Rep Todd Akin is proposing a burn pit registry in the House.  If US Barack Obama wants to earn veterans votes or to stop his empty grand standing and actually have an accomplishment to his name, he could throw some public support being Akin's bill.   Yesterday, Barack did sign into law legislation Akin sponsored . . . to name three US Post Offices in Missouri after 3 native sons who died serving in Iraq: Spc Peter J. Navarro, Lance Corporal Matthew P. Pathenos and Lance Cpl Drew W. Weaver.  Though an honor, it also really doesn't cost the government much more than the cost of plaque.  Maybe that's why the president could get on board with that but has provided no leadership for or advocay of a burn pit registry?
Wednesday the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health held a hearing.  Subcommittee Chair Ann Marie Buerkle noted the hearing was entitled "Optimizing Care for Veterans With Prosthetics."  The Subcommittee heard from four panels.  The first one was featured Gulf War Veteran John Register and Vietnam Veteran Jim Mayer.  Disabled American Veterans' Joy Ilem, American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association's Michael Oros, Paralyzed Veterans of America's Alethea Predeoux and Southeast Wounded Warrior Project's Jonathan Pruden made up the second panel (we covered the second panel in Wednesday's snapshot).  The third panel was the VA's Office of Inspector General's Linda Halliday accompanied by Nicholas Dahl, Kent Wrathall and Dr. John D. Daigh Jr. and Dr. Robert Yang.  The fourth panel was the VHA's Dr. Lucille Beck accompanied by Dr. Joe Webster, Dr. Joe Miller and Norbert Doyle.  Yesterday we covered some of Chair Ann Marie Buerkle's questions during the fourth panel. Today, we're going to note Ranking Member Mike Michaud questioning the same panel. 
Before we do though, we're going to note some of the remarks Iraq War veteran Jonathan Pruden made on the second panel.
Jonathan Pruden:  Under the change, only a contracting officer could procure a prosthetic item costing more than $3,000.  This policy would effect essential items including most limbs like mine and wheel chairs.  It would require the use of a system designed for bulk procurement purchases that involves manually processing over three hundred -- that's 300 -- individual steps to develop a purchase order.  This system may be great for buying cinder blocks and light bulbs but it is certainly not appropriate for providing timely and appropriate medical care.  Equally troubling, this change offers no promise of improving service to the warrior.  Instead, it would mean greater delays. The change could realize modest savings but at what cost?  A warrior needing a new leg or wheel chair should not have to wait longer than is absolutely necessary.  I know warriors who have stayed home from our events, stay home from school, from work, can't play ball with their kids or live in chronic pain while they wait for a new prosthesis.   I know first hand what it's like to not be able to put my son into the crib while I'm waiting for a new prosthetic, to live in chronic pain and to have my daughter ask my wife once again, "Why can't Daddy come and walk with us?"   With VA moving ahead on changing procurement practices, wounded warriors need this Committee's help.  A prosthetic limb is not a mass produced widget. Prosthetics are specialized, medical equipment that should be prescribed by a clinician and promptly delivered to the veteran.  We urge this Committee to direct VA to stop implementation of this change in prosthetic procurement.
That sets us up for the problem.  VA is proposing a change which will add steps to attempting to get prosthetics and which veterans groups fear (I agree with them) will lead to veterans not getting what their doctors are prescribing but instead some cheap knock-off that doesn't do what they need and that's why their doctor didn't prescribe it in the first place.   Will this fear come true?  That's a yes-or-a-no answer.  But as we saw in the hearing during the fourth panel, a lot of words flow out of the mouths of VA employees appearing before the Subcommittee but "yes" and "no" are not among them.
Ranking Member Mike Michaud:  I just want to follow up, Mr. Doyle, on your comment that you made where you mentioned that contracting officers do not change what the clinician prescribes but actually, in testimony that we heard earlier, from PVA, that is not the case -- because that is not the case. Their testimony states that contracting officers when they do receive the orders the request for the devices is modified and even denied in cases because of the cost. So that is a huge concern. There seems to be a disconnect between what you are hearing versus what the VSOs are hearing  The cost is a factor, it's not the veteran's health care. So do you want to comment on that and --
Norbert Doyle: Yes, yes, sir.  Thank you.  First of all contracting officers -- all contracting officers do have a mandate under Federal Acquistion regulations to ensure that there's a price reasonable aspect to the cost we're providing.  So I don't know if that is a concern or not.  I can't really speak to, uh, what may have happened before but I have put out to the contracting community that under 8123 that if a contract -- that if the contracting officer recieves a physicians consult for a specific product we'll do due dil -- due deligence to ensure that we pair a fair and reasonable price for that product but we're going to get that product for that individual.  So I -- So I don't know if it's a -- a concern that -- again I'll take full blame for not bringing the veterans service organizations into the loop, into this discussion, and we can fix that but I don't know if that's part of the issue there -- if that's why that concern was being raised.
Ranking Member Mike Michaud: Well its very clear from the VSOs, some of their statements, that it's not uncommon for  clinicians to prescribe something and it's being modified by contracting officers.  And primarily because of cost.  And that's a big concern that I would have.  My other question is, Mr. Oros talked about older veterans at his practice complaining that there appears to be a new administrative hurdle to prevent their continuing to receiving care at Scheck and Siress. The VA has assured veterans that they may choose their own prosthetist and yet veterans who wish to use community-based providers report wide-spread administrative hurdles and other pressures to choose in house VA care.  How would you explain the perception among the veterans and the community based providers because there seems to be a disconnect here as well as far as what you have told us versus  what's actually happening out there.
Dr. Lucille Beck:  Uhm, uhm, yes, sir.  I'll start and, uhm, uh, we do have contracts with 600 providers -- uhm, approximately 600 providers.  Uhm, we do offer choice to the -- to our veterans.  Uhm, and, uhm, when our  -- In our amputee clinic, when we initiate the process for the multi-disciplinary care that we provide, uhm, we have our physicians and our clinicians and our prosthetists there.  We also have contract -- our vendors, our contracted community partners, our contracted prosthetic vendors from the community are there as well.  The veterans do have that choice. That's part of our policy.  And, uhm, and, uhm -- We -- As we become aware of we-we will reaffirm that policy with the field based on what we have heard from our veterans today.  And, uhm, and we are improving the processes.  I think the Inspector General report pointed out that we -- There's some contract administration initiatives that we need to undertake including streamlining the way that we do our quote reviews so that they happen in a more timely fashion and, uhm, that they really clarify the prescriptive elements for fabrication of the leg and we are doing that -- or fabrication of the limb and we are doing that.  Uhm, the second thing that we are doing is, uhm, we are, uh, making sure that our contracting officers and their technical representatives who have as part of their, uh, responsibility to review those quotes and certify that they are doing that regularly and in a timely fashion, there's guidance that's being prepared even now, uhm, with, uh, to get -- to get -- to reinstruct the field and educate them on that.  And the third thing that we are doing is that we are taking a contracted -- what we call contracted template where we are developing policy and guidance that can actually go into our contracts so that it is clearly specified for the contract provider and the VA exactly what the requirements are and the timelines.  So, uhm, we've taken the report that we've had from the Inspector General about the need to improve contract adminstration and support our veterans seriously and we are making those corrections, uhm, and have been doing that over the last several months.
Ranking Member Mike Michaud:  And do you feel that with the new changes you're providing, which goes back to my original question, that the clinicians will have final say in what a veteran receives versus a contracting officer who has to look at contracts and saving costs -- which I believe that we have to do.  But the bottom line for me is to make sure that the veterans get the adequate prosthetics that they need.  And if it costs a little bit more then they should be able to get it if it fits them more appropriately.  And the concern that I have is that, yes, you have to look at cutting costs but not at the cost of providing what our veterans need and I do have a concern with contracting officers injecting, uh, more costs versus the clinician looking at the veterans' needs.  
Dr. Lucille Beck:  Uhm, yes, sir, I have a concern with that too.  I'm a clinician myself, working in another area, who provides rehab technologies to veterans.  And it is critically important that what the clinician requests and that of course is done in collaboration and in partnership with the veteran -- these are the choices and decisions about technologies that our veterans make with out clinicians.  And, uhm, we are absolutely -- Uhm, rehabiliation is not effective unless we are able to, uh, provide the-the products and services that our veterans need.  And, uhm, our role in prosthetics and in rehabilitation is to assure that any, uhm, uh-uh, that any, uh, contracts, uh -- And the way we procure items  uhm, enhances and-and, uh, not only enhances but provides high quality individualized care.  Uhm, we have done that successfully, uhm, for a long time.  And, uh, we believe that we are able to do that, uhm, as we move forward.  And as Mr. Doyle has cited, the, uhm -- We can certainly, uhm,  work within the framework of contracting requirements and the added authority that Congress gave us many years ago for 8123 is, I think, the other piece of-of sole source procurement that we can do when we need to provide and are providing highly individualized products and services.
Ranking Member Mike Michaud:  Thank you.  Thank you, Madam Chair.
The above dance was only topped by the moves Doyle proved when Chair Ann Marie Buerkle asked him more questions in the second round.  Specifically, when the Chair asked, "In the panel with Mr. Pruden -- Captain Pruden, I should say -- he talked about this new system that you're going to go to, the Electronic Contract Management System -- and talked to us about the fact that it requires 300 steps to get the request in.  Can you comment on that?"
Guess who couldn't comment?  Did you think it was Lucille?  Yeah, it was Dr. Beck.  Why was she present?  She had nothing to say, no answers to questions but after Doyle misdirected for two to three minutes every time he opened his mouth, Dr. Beck would jump in at the end to start offering slogans she must have read on hand outs in the VA's waiting room. 
She couldn't comment.  But Norbert Doyle did want to comment on the Electronic Contract Management System.  He began insisting that it "new" and that he knows the process is "labroious" and has many steps but 300?  "That's a new one on me." 
How many steps is he familiar with?
He never said.
What sounded like a highly frustrated Chair Ann Marie Buerkle replied that they weren't talking about "lightbulbs," they were talking about something "intimate," something that "becomes a part of the veteran's body."  And if she was frustrated then (she sounded it -- many of us observing the hearing had frustrated looks on our faces as well during the fourth panel's testimony), she most likely only grew more frustrated by the flat affect with which the VA witnesses greeted her comments.
Meanwhile if you're think Iraq falling off the US media radar means it's safe and rainbows flow from Nouri al-Maliki's armpits and carmel and butterscotch out of his ass, think again.  The White House issued the following today:
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 18, 2012

Message -- Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to the Stabilization of Iraq

Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, within 90 days prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. In accordance with this provision, I have sent the enclosed notice to the Federal Register for publication continuing the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq. This notice states that the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, as modified in scope and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13438 of July 17, 2007, is to continue in effect beyond May 22, 2012.
Obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Accordingly, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency with respect to this threat and maintain in force the measures taken to deal with that national emergency.
Recognizing positive developments in Iraq, my Administration will continue to evaluate Iraq's progress in resolving outstanding debts and claims arising from actions of the previous regime, so that I may determine whether to further continue the prohibitions contained in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, as amended by Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004, on any attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or other judicial process with respect to the Development Fund for Iraq, the accounts, assets, and property held by the Central Bank of Iraq, and Iraqi petroleum-related products, which are in addition to the sovereign immunity accorded Iraq under otherwise applicable law.
Alexander Abad-Santos (The Atlantic) offers, "Today Obama ordered the renewal of this executive order, which is just a tad bit disconcerting considering we are (were?) supposed to be finished in Iraq."  Indeed.
And the order comes just as explosions go off in the capitol of Iraq. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports Baghdad was slammed with three bombings today leaving at least 5 people dead and another thirty-one injured.  The Voice of Russia adds, "According to the Iraqi law enforcement agencies, three bombs went off in a busy marketplace, in a Shiite quarter of the city."  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) notes that the bombs all went off close to the same time.  Dar Addustour counts 5 dead and forty-seven injured.  Iraq Body Count notes that 5 people died in Baghdad violence yesterday ("Baghdad: 4 by IED, 1 by AED") and that 111 have died violent deaths so far this month.  Iraq Body Count counted 290 violent deaths in Iraq for the month of April.
Like the violence, the political crisis continues.  US news outlets haven't even bothered to delve into the deadline Moqtada al-Sadr gave Nouri al-Maliki last week, let alone cover all that's happened since.  A few days back, we noted a photo of Nouri and Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's Ammar al-Hakim in a public display of affection together, they were practically rubbing noses.  Al Mada reports al-Hakim gave a speech declaring that failure to resolve the political crisis will lead Iraq into a dark abyss.  Could things get darker?  Alsumaria reports that State of Law is invoking Saddam Hussein, likening him to Iraqiya.  Mp Mohammed Chihod insists that Allawi is an exile (as is Nouri, as are most the US allowed into leadership) and that he doesn't care about anything but authority, that he leaves the country to this day (as do most Iraqis in Parliament) and he leaves to plot with Iraq's enemies.

 On the issue of Allawi being in and out of the country, State of Law picked a bad time to make that argument -- the same day Lara Jakes (AP) reports members of Parliament "hightailed it out of town" as they leave on their six-week vacation in "free armored cars" (free for them, $50 million price tag for the people of Iraq) that outraged the Iraqi people and that the Parliament swore they'd be looking into -- how did it happen, they were just so confused and swearing they understood the public's outrage over it all.  Again, Jakes is reporting they headed out in those cars they never paid for themselves and that they swore they would be doing away with. Jakes also points out that while "raw sewage runs through the streets in many neighborhoods, polluting tap water," the MPs not only receive a salary (and those armored cars) but they've given themselves a $90,000 per diem to cover living expenses. 

 At any rate, State of Law's character smear on Allawi is quite lengthy, almost as lengthy as the political crisis itself.

March 7, 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections.  Iraqiya, led by Ayad Allawi, came in first, State of Law, led by Nouri, came in second.  Nouri did not want to give up the post of prime minister and, with support from the White House and Tehran, Nouri dug his heels in creating eight months of gridlock, Political Stalemate I.  This only ended in November 2010 when the US brokered a deal known as the Erbil Agreement.  At a big meet-up in Erbil, the various political blocs signed off on the agreement.  Nouri got his second term as prime minister in exchange for concessions to other political blocs.  But once he became prime minister, Nouri refused to honor the agreement.  By the summer of 2011, the Kurds were publicly demanding that Nouri return to the Erbil Agreement and Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr joined in the call.  More recently, April 28th, another meet up took place in Erbil.  Participants included KRG President Massoud Barzani, President of Iraq Jalal Talabani, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, Ayad Allawi and Moqtada al-Sadr.  The demands coming out of that meet-up were a return to the Erbil Agreement and the implementation of 18-point plan by Moqtada.

All eyes are on Moqtada today.  Al Mada reports that Iraqiya states they are waiting for word from Moqtada regarding the withdrawal of confidence vote on Nouri.  Moqtada is thought to be either still waiting on a communication from the National Alliance (a grouping of Shi'ite political blocs including ISCI, Moqtada's bloc, Nouri's State of Law and others) or else contemplating which step to take now?  Alsumaria reports Moqtada is stating today that he received no response from the National Alliance yesterday and that there will be a meeting soon on outstanding issues.  These statements were made online in the Q&A he regularly does with his follwers. Al Mada notes that there are conflicting reports on whether or not the National Alliance sent Moqtada a communication with MP Ali al-Tamimi stating that Moqtada was sent a letter which was a formal response.  al-Tamimi states he does not know the contents of the letter; however, he states that Moqtada is expected to respond to the National Alliance no later than tomorrow.

According to Kitabat, a meetings already taking place, one that lasted several hours today and that involved Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and senior members of Parliament and US Ambasador to Iraq James Jeffrey.  Among the topics reportedly discussed were the Erbil Agreement and the fact that Nouri must not be permitted to run for a third term as prime minister. 

That's internally.  Externally?  As noted yesterday, Nouri and his Baghdad-based government have engaged in another war of words with the Turkish government.  Turkey is one of Iraq's biggest trading partners.  Today Hurriyet Daily News reports:

Turkey and the regional government of northern Iraq have taken additional steps to deepen economic and energy ties at a moment when both parties' relations with Baghdad are strained.

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government of northern Iraq received a high-level reception in Ankara yesterday as he met with President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

Jonathon Burch (Reuters) sees the Turkish government making "tricky adjustments by cutting old alliances and forming new ones, jettisoning its 'zero problems with the neighbors' policy. That shift, coupled with a more aggressive diplomacy personified by an increasingly combative Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan -- has thrust Turkey into a regional strategic game pitting Gulf Arab states and Ankara against Iran."

One 'accomplishment' Nouri can claim is he's succeeded in building a wall between Baghdad and Anakara while allowing Turkey and northern Iraq to strengthen their ties to one another.  In related news, Hevidar Ahmed (Rudaw) reports:
Tensions between Erbil and Baghdad have been high since Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani's Newroz speech, in which he accused Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Maliki of leading the country towards dictatorship. Some people have interpreted the situation as a personal war between Maliki and Barzani, who is also the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
Days after Barzani's speech, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani appeared in an exclusive interview with Al-Jazeera and defended the Iraqi prime minister, saying, "Maliki is not a dictator and he is not the only one responsible for the problems of Iraq; I am responsible as well."
Farid Asasard, a leading official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), says disagreements arose between the PUK and KDP, but soon disappeared.
"There were significant disparities between the views of PUK and KDP, but recently they have become much closer because, in the current situation, unity is important," he says.
We'll cover what Reuters is calling Nouri's "charm offensive" next week (Monday).  Right now, we'll note the shocked reaction of a widow whose husband died serving in Iraq and who can't believe that the man said to be responsible for the death of her husband and at least four other US soldiers will apparently walk away free.  Dropping back to earlier violence,  Christine Show (Daily Mail) reports, "The wife of a U.S. Army captain who was killed while deployed in Iraq is stunned that the person named responsible for his death will be freed.  Charlotte Freeman of Temecula, California expressed her dismay when she learned on Wednesday night that Ali Mussa Daqduq was cleared of all charges in the 2007 attack that killed Brian Freeman, 31, and four other U.S. soldiers."

On May 7th, Suadad-al Salhy, Patrick Markey and Andrew Heavens (Reuters) reported that Iraq's 'justice' system has cleared Ali Mussa Daqdug of all charges related to the "2007 kidnapping attack that killed five U.S. troops."  This was actually the second time that those said to be responsible for the five deaths.  Ali Mussa Daqduq is alleged to have been working with the League of Righteous (once known as "the Special Groups network") and the US had the leader and high ranking members in a US prison in Iraq.  Had.  Though right now there are many complaints regarding the decision to set Ali Mussa Daqdug free (he remains behind bars currently while the decision is appealed), the White House ordered the release of the leader of the League of Righteous, his brother and other high ranking LoR members.  That's in the summer of 2009.  Barack Obama is president.

Why did they do it?  The White House set them free in order to help England with their outstanding issues.  The White House made the call that 5 British citizens were more important than 5 US ones and they entered into negotiations with the League of Righteous.  All but one of the five Brits were already dead.   One of the dead wouldn't be released until a few months ago.  The League of Righteous would announce Barack went back on his promises to them so they weren't releasing all five.  After the bulk of US troops left Iraq in December 2011, the League of Righteous finally released the fifth corpse.

If you're late to the story, refer to the June 9, 2009 snapshot:

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."

Having made the decision to release those five in 2009, the Obama administration had no qualms about handing Ali Musa Daqduq over to the Iraqi legal system despite the fact that it was considered a good guess that he'd walk. December 16, 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.

Kitabat reported  in May that Nouri caved to pressure from Tehran and that's why he was released.   It was also noted that a number of US Senators were asking the White House not to turn Daqduq over to Iraq but to move him to Guantanamo or another facility.

Today Mike Jaccarino (Fox News -- link is text and video) quotes Charlotte Freeman stating, "It was like a pit (opening) inside of me. I briefly read it and couldn't read on.  I couldn't go there.  It wasn't like he was dying again.  It was more shock that these people get away with what they do.  There's no justice. It's amazing and shocking to me that someone who did what he did could go free."

Shocking seems to be the theme the current White House was decorated in. US House Rep Walter Jones is asking why the White House negotiated a treaty with Afghanistan without the input of Congress?  And if that question sounds familiar, it's one that Barack Obama asked throughout his 2008 campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.  How dare Bully Boy Bush ram through a treaty with Iraq -- one that their Parliament had to sign off on -- while violating the US Constitution's mandate that treaties need Senate approval.  We're referring to the Status Of Forces Agreement with Iraq.

Bush was wrong. And the Senate Foreign  Relations Committee was united on that in 2008 -- that's Democrats and Republicans.  Before Barack grabbed the issue, then-Senator Russ Feingold had been among the prominent leaders on it.  But Barack played glory hog and took the issue as his own.  He then continued the cry throughout his 2008 general election campaign.  The day after the election he vanished the issue from his campaign site.  That's the sort of 'change' that has characterized his presidential term:  He campaigned on one set of goals and standards and then he 'changed' once he was elected.  That's Barack's only change you can believe in.  As Martha and Shirely observed four years ago in "2008 in books (Martha & Shirley):"

It really is amazing how little Iraq mattered to the alleged left after they had used the 2002 vote to tar and feather Hillary Clinton. They stayed silent as Barack immediately began backing off his 'pledge' in June. They stay silent today as Barack and Joe Biden -- two who grandstanded against the so-called SOFA throughout 2008 -- did nothing to halt the White House from ramming that treaty through or, in fact, even publicly offered a word of objection after the election.

Pete Kasperwoicz (The Hill) reports that Jones has introduced a bill:

In 2007, the Clinton-Obama bill read, "Congress is a co-equal branch of government and as such the extension of long-term United States security commitments to Iraq that obligates or requires the appropriation of United States funds requires the full participation and consent of Congress."

Jones's bill, like the Clinton-Obama bill, requires that within 60 days of passage, the State Department submit a report to Congress that justifies the administration's decision to conclude the agreement without consulting Congress. It would require the administration to include a legal analysis on this decision.
And we hear silence on the bill as we turn to the right -- which apparently has no problem with a violation of the Constitution -- and as we turn to the left -- which is too busy attempting to figure out if a passionate Barack kisses soft with a hint of pressure or full on tongue down the throat?  These are the 'issues' that occupy them today.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Well the finale of Smash was Monday night.  I had thought there were two more episodes left.  (Wrong.)   SO that's it until next year.  Not next fall, next year.  NBC doesn't have Smash on their fall schedule.  The show won't be back with new episodes until January.  

Can you wait?

Sadly, most will reply "yes."

Smash really knew how to kill the enthusiasm.  That was chiefly through Tom and Ivy.  

Tom is a plot device -- and an ugly one -- not a real character.  The actor is one-note and we're back to the days of the NYPD receptionist with this lousy portrayal.  Equally true, the whole point of putting him with Sam appears to be so that no one has to see a gay romance.

Sam, remember, doesn't want to have sex.  He wants to take it slow.  

I'm betting he's mainly afraid contraceptives don't work 100% of the time and doesn't want to get Tom pregnant.  

That was saracasm.  There's no reason for the character's motivation.  This 'morality' is pretty interesting when you consider all the flirting Sam took part in when he knew Tom was with the Republican boyfriend.  Equally true, though they never really note it, the reality is that Boston was over two weeks and Tom and Sam have been a couple for well over two months.  I'm really not sure why two adults -- both presumably non-virgins -- would be in a relationship and not sleep together.

Can you figure that one out?  I truly cannot because it makes no sense at all.  I keep waiting for Sam to pull out the Bible and quote from some newly discovered chapter that allows gay sex but only between married gay males.  

If you think I'm being especially harsh, I've called this out from the beginning.  I've repeatedly decried the stereotyping of Tom.  This should have been a character that moved the portrayal of gay men forward on TV.  Certainly, the people off the screen care about that.  But somehow, all that made it to the screen was the worst stereotype anyone could imagine.

Ivy?  A whiny is not a shimmy.  Why is it that whenever Ivy smiles widely, she resembles a braying horse?

So what happened?

Rebecca (not shown) is out of the musical.  Derek thinks it should be Karen in the role.

That shouldn't even be a question mark.

Karen, like Barbra Streisand, is the choice because she makes the show.  Ivy is just Anne Bancroft or one of the other also-rans.

Ivy can't stand it so she tells Karen she slept with Dev.  Karen is furious but Ivy's plan doesn't end up working.  

Karen and Derek got closer.

I would love to see her let Eileen have it next season.

I like Eileen but does she have to be stupid to advance the plot?

She wanted to fight with Derek over the choice of Karen.  Karen heard.  

Eileen is the producer.  Derek was right to tell her this was a creative decision and he was making it.

I couldn't believe Eileen would have these conversations out in the open.  

Julia didn't believe in Karen either.  Julia and Tom want Ivy.

Does no one remember what happened when Ivy was on the Broadway stage last?

Julia should be focusing on her own life: She's pregnant.

Yes, I did what you just did -- asked myself if was the actor she had the affair with (Michael)?

The other big news?  Karen was the success everyone knew she would be.

The really big surprise?

Ellis is the one who put peanuts in Rebecca's smoothie.  That he did it doesn't surprise me.  That he would throw it in Eileen's face does.  This was another of his 'I'm the only one who's producing!"

Eileen fired him.

That was pretty much the whole broadcast.  
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, May 16, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri wants his 'accomplishments' acknowledged (if only there was one to point to), State of Law insists a conspiracy is a foot!, a US House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hears that a change VA wants to make will actually hurt disabled veterans, and more.
"Our nation's commitment to restoring the capabilities of disabled veterans struggling with devasting combat wounds resulting in the loss of limb began with the Civil War," declared US House Rep Ann Marie Buerkle this morning shortly after she brought the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health to order.  "Restoring these veterans to wholeness was a core impetus behind the creation of the Department of Veteran Affairs and then, now, it continues to play a vital role in the Department's mission."
Buerkle is the Chair of the Subcommittee and this morning's hearing was entitled "Optimizing Care for Veterans With Prosthetics."  Chair Burerkle also noted, "Following WWII, 1945, veterans disatisfied with the quality of VA prosthetic care stormed the Capitol in protest. "  How is the care today?  To answer that question, the Subcommittee heard from four panels.  Gulf War Veteran John Register and Vietnam Veteran Jim Mayer.  Disabled American Veterans' Joy Ilem, American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association's Michael Oros, Paralyzed Veterans of America's Alethea Predeoux and Southeast Wounded Warrior Project's Jonathan Pruden.  The third panel was the VA's Office of Inspector General's Linda Halliday accompanied by Nicholas Dahl, Kent Wrathall and Dr. John D. Daigh Jr. and Dr. Robert Yang.  The fourth panel was the VHA's Dr. Lucille Beck accompanied by Dr. Joe Webster, Dr. Joe Miller and Norbert Doyle.  Some of the issues were outlined in the Ranking Member's opening remarks.
Ranking Member Mike Michaud: I've said it on this Committee before, but what seems to be the case, there is little accountability in management and, once again, procurement procedures and policies were not in place or not followed in managing nearly $2 billion worth of prosthetics and sensor aids.  The VA, in the last year's budget submission, claims $355 million in savings in the Fiscal Year 2012 and 2013 due to aquistions improvements.  But if the VA can't follow its own policies and procedures, how much faith can we have in the claim of acquisition savings?  I hope the VA can help us understand today what accountability we should expect and to make certain that the VA does not continue to overpay for prosthetics in the future, that taxpayers and veterans receive the best value for their devices, and for management to ensure that the prosthetics and sensor aids services is fully meeting veterans needs. Finally, it has come to my attention that VA has proposed changes in the procurement of prosthetics and that there is a high degree of concern among some of our witnesses today as to the effectiveness of these changes. I look forward to hearing from the VA on these changes as well.
A proposed change that's bothering some veterans?  What proposal is Ranking Member Michaud speaking of?  On the second panel, Jonathan Pruden explained the proposal (and here we're using his opening written remarks which differ some what from what he delivered):
Under current practice, VA physicians and prosthetists are able to see a veteran, make a determination regarding the most appropriate type of prosthetic equipment for a veteran, and relay that information to a Prosthetics Service purchasing officer to complete a purchase-order to obtain the needed item.   Those purchasing officers exclusively handle prosthetics' purchases, and are specialists in ordering medical equipment specified by health care providers.  A major change that the Veterans Health Administration intends to institute on July 30th, would require that any prosthetic item whose cost exceeds $3000 -- to include such essential items as limbs, wheelchairs and limb-repair components – must be procured by a contracting officer.  This is not simply a matter of substituting a generalist for a specialist.  Under the proposed change, these contracting officers would use a labor-intensive system (the Electronic Contract Management System (eCMS)) designed to achieve cost savings.  That system, designed for high-dollar bulk-procurement purchases that benefit from using the Government's purchasing power, requires over 300 individual steps to manually process a purchasing order.  While well-suited for buying widgets, the system was neither designed for nor well-suited to procuring highly specific, individualized medical equipment. Ill-suited to prosthetics, this new process would also require increased coordination between clinicians and off-site contracting officers who would be responsible for purchasing everything from light bulbs to now highly specific prosthetic legs.
This is not a small change.  Moreover, it not only increases the margin for error but also the potential for prolonged, delaying "back-and-forth," with the likelihood of clinicians having to justify why a more expensive wheelchair is clinically necessary when a seemingly-similar less- costly model exists.  We see no prospect that this planned change in prosthetics procurement holds any promise for improving service to the warrior.  Instead, it almost certainly threatens greater delay in VA's ability to provide severely wounded warriors needed prosthetic devices.
This would be "the wrong path" Iraq War veteran Jonathan Pruden stated.  He was injured in a July 1, 2003 Baghdad bombing resulting in multiple surgeries including the amputation of his right leg.  This next excerpt is from his oral testimony.
Jonathan Pruden:  Under the change, only a contracting officer could procure a prosthetic item costing more than $3,000.  This policy would effect essential items including most limbs like mine and wheel chairs.  It would require the use of a system designed for bulk procurement purchases that involves manually processing over three hundred -- that's 300 -- individual steps to develop a purchase order.  This system may be great for buying cinder blocks and light bulbs but it is certainly not appropriate for providing timely and appropriate medical care.  Equally troubling, this change offers no promise of improving service to the warrior.  Instead, it would mean greater delays. The change could realize modest savings but at what cost?  A warrior needing a new leg or wheel chair should not have to wait longer than is absolutely necessary.  I know warriors who have stayed home from our events, stay home from school, from work, can't play ball with their kids or live in chronic pain while they wait for a new prosthesis.   I know first hand what it's like to not be able to put my son into the crib while I'm waiting for a new prosthetic, to live in chronic pain and to have my daughter ask my wife once again, "Why can't Daddy come and walk with us?"   With VA moving ahead on changing procurement practices, wounded warriors need this Committee's help.  A prosthetic limb is not a mass produced widget. Prosthetics are specialized, medical equipment that should be prescribed by a clinician and promptly delivered to the veteran.  We urge this Committee to direct VA to stop implementation of this change in prosthetic procurement.
We'll note this exchange from the second panel.
Chair Ann Marie Buerkle: Mr. Pruden, in you testimony, you talked about how VA prosthetic research has lagged in recent years.  Now Mr. Oros talked about outcomes but I think you're talking more generally in terms of the research.  What impact -- and I shouldn't speak for you.  I should let you say what research you were referring to.  And then, if you could, after you tell us that piece, what impact has that had on veterans and the service that they need?
Jonathan Pruden:  VA has-has stepped up in a number of capacties in the past few years.  But, as Mr. Mayer pointed out earlier, DoD has taken the lead on the development of the DEKA Arm [a project DoD and the VA work on together] and all of these advanced techonology things.  In years past, VA has been -- One of its key roles and one of the reasons it exists is to provide specialized medical equipment for our combat wounded, for our veterans.  And VA really needs to have the capacity and the focus on research for durable medical equipment when DoD and Global War on Terror Dollars go away.  And this also ties into the discusssions about the centers of excellence at Walter Reed, Brooke Army Medical Center and so forth.  When these dollars go away, those DoD facilities will certainly scale back their capacity both for rehabilitation and for research.  And what we're calling for is for VA through the amputee system of care and enhancements and research to be prepared to meet the needs as DoD scales back.
Chair Ann Marie Buerkle: Thank you.  Miss Predeoux, I'm extremely concerned with regards to your comments about the filing system being outdated and the backlog that it creates.  Could you comment on that for us?
Alethea Predeoux:  Yes, in my written statement with the filing system, it refers to medical records in one VA medical center.  And if, for instance, one veteran was to relocate -- For example, our director of benefits relocated to this area from San Diego and it took quite a bit of time for the medical records to be delivered from San Diego to DC simply because there's not one central system in which all the medical centers are able to locate and actually view  the medical records of a veteran.  And as the panel before us testified, it's not just a wait time, it's a matter of being able to be comfortable and actually to be mobil.
Noting that Wounded Warrior was favoring a freeze on VA's proposed change, Ranking Member Michaud asked Oros, "Do you think we should ask the VA to freeze the reorganization? Bringing everthing in house?"   Oros responded, "Absolutely. Absolutely." US House Rep Gus Bilirakis wanted to know about the real life effects if VA went through with their change in procurement?
Jonathan Pruden:  Under the current system, there are safeguards in place to ensure that VA is being fiscally responsible. And it can take a month, two months.  Some of this is predicated on the clinical needs of the patient and the availablility of the product in their area  which is appropriate.  Our real concern is that -- is that with the new system, it would be supposition but it may take months and months longer to get purchase orders for needed equipment. And the veterans should not have to wait and the clinician's hands should not be tied.  If they feel that a device is appropriate and going to provide the best care for a warrior, they should be able to prescribe that device.  I have had the opportunity to speak with over a dozen VA clinicians and prosthetists who are currently serving in several former chiefs of prosthetics.  And every single one of them said that they share our concerns about the ability to remain timely and potential delays in veterans receiving needed prosthetic devices under this new system.  Dr. Bechel and she'll say that, 'One of the things that we're going to consider is if a device is generally available and interchangeable.  Then it will fall under the federal acquisition regulations.'  Who is determining what is generally available and interchangeable? It's going to be somebody in acquisitions , not a physician, not a clinician who has the patient's best interest at heart.  And that -- that's our real concern.
That's one of the main points from the hearing.  Time permitting, we may cover some other issues or go deeper into this one in another snapshot.
From the House to the Senate, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and the Committee issued the following today:
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Contact: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
Senator Murray's Statement on Sweeping Army-Wide Review of Behavioral Health Evaluations and Diagnoses
Investigations Will Review Mental Health Diagnoses Since 2001
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, released the following statement after the Army announced that they will begin a comprehensive, Army-wide review of soldier behavioral health diagnoses and evaluations since 2001.  This major announcement comes after Senator Murray spurred an investigation into inconsistencies in diagnoses at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in her home state of Washington.  The Army has since returned PTSD diagnoses to over 100 servicemembers that sought treatment there.  Murray has repeatedly pushed Army leadership to investigate whether problems similar to those at Madigan were being seen at Army bases across the country.
For more information on the Army's announcement visit:
"The Army clearly realizes they have a nationwide, systematic problem on their hands. I credit them with taking action, but it will be essential that this vast and truly historic review is done the right way.  That means continued engagement from Army leadership at the highest levels, prompt attention to the problems of servicemembers identified during the review, and not only the identification of problems but quick action to implement and enforce solutions.
"This comprehensive review is born out of a review I helped initiate in my home state that has already returned PTSD diagnoses to over 100 servicemembers since the beginning of this year.  That review has been successful because the Army identified and reached out to affected servicemembers and veterans, conducted reevaluations using the appropriate tools and best practices, and was made a priority by top military leaders.  This nationwide review must be given the same attention from leadership in order to succeed.
"But the bottom line is that the Army needs to fix the inconsistencies we have seen in diagnosing the invisible wounds of war.  Out of this review, the Army needs to provide a uniform mental health policy so that service members are given the care they need.
"This is an issue that affects every aspect of the lives of those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Without proper mental health treatment we will continue [to] see see servicemembers struggle to readust to family life, contine to self-medicate, and in far too many cases, take their own lives.
"Servicemembers, veterans, and their families should never have to wade through an unending bureaucratic process to get proper access to care. The Army has an extrordinary opportunity to go back, correct the mistakes of the past, and ensure that they are not repeated."
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct
Yesterday the Presidency of the Republic of Iraq's website deleted the image of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.  Alsumaria reports that the deletion is being blamed on a "technical issue" and that they are in the process of rolling out a new website design.  Though some worried this might mean that al-Hashemi had been stripped of his post, others no doubt found it shocking that the Presidency still has a web domain.  The Ministy of Higher Education & Scientific Research has lost its domain as has the Ministry of Trade. and the Ministry of Displacement and Migration and the Ministry of Culture and . . .
Due to Nouri al-Maliki's targeting of Tareq al-Hashemi, some were worried about the disappearnace.  At this point, the President's office is insisting it was merely a "technical issue."  Nouri targeted al-Hashemi at the same time he did Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.  He wanted al-Mutlaq stripped of his post for the 'crime' of telling CNN that Nouri was becoming a dictator.  Nouri always feels the need to punish truth tellers. 
For an overview of the political crisis, we'll note this from Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi's [PDF format warning] "The State Of Iraq"  (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) reviewed events and noted:

Within days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocractic country governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by institutional arrangements.  Large-scale violence immediately flared up again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
But there is more to the crisis than an escalation of violence.  The tenuous political agreement among parties and factions reached at the end of 2010 has collapsed.  The government of national unity has stopped functioning, and provinces that want to become regions with autonomous power comparable to Kurdistan's are putting increasing pressure on the central government.  Unless a new political agreement is reached soon, Iraq may plunge into civil war or split apart.
Alsumaria reports that an Iraqiya offshoot, White Iraqiya, is stating al-Mutalq will be at a Council of Ministers meeting next week.  Ali Hussein (Al Mada) offers a column on the drama of Nouri and Saleh and notes that, throughout, there was always the pretense of shedding tears over how this was preventing the people's business. Iraqiya made clear that they are fine with the various names tossed around as possible replacements for NouriAlsumaria reports that Nouri's political slate, State of Law, is insisting that there's a conspiracy to replace Nouri and that KRG President Massoud Barzani is behind the conspiracy.  In addition, Nouri says that his achievements should not be overlooked.  Presumably, Nouri doesn't mean for people to look at the potable water issue.  Though Nouri's been prime minister since 2006, potable water is still an aspiration in Iraq.  The cholera season will soon, once again, be upon Iraq.  Al Mada reports that only 15% of Nineveh Province are serviced by networks of potable water. 
Not a ringing endorsement.  May 7th, the Iraqi government  acknowledged that it can't protect the people, Al Rafidayn reported that Nouri's agreed to allow every Iraqi household to keep one gun provided they register it with the nearest police department.  Dar Addustour added that Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh has explained the one gun can be either a rifle or a pistol.  Al Sabaah noted that the Ministry of the Interior will issue guidelines on how the new procedure will be implemented.  Kitabat explained that the current policy had been for the Iraqi forces to confiscate any weapon they found during a house raid.  May 10th, the pushback began.  Alsumaria reported that State of Law MP Shirwan Waeli is questioning the wisdom of the decision and stating State of Law shouldn't be giving legitimacy to arming people and that, futhermore, it suggests that the government is unable to protect Iraqis so it is now the direct responsibility of the citizens to protect themselves.  Supporters argue that the move was an attempt to limit guns and that the one-gun rule will greatly reduce the number of firearms in each home. Alsumaria noted that objections to Nouri's one-gun policy are also coming from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Kurdistan Alliance.  Ala Talabani, spokesperson for the Kurdistan Alliance, spoke publicly today about the issue and declared that they fear making each household register their one gun with the nearest police station in their areas will provide temptation for corruption.  Talabani also states that they fear the rule could lead to an increase in so-called 'honor' killings as well as an increase in domestic violence.  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports:
But a source inside the Ministry of Interior said the authorities actually felt this was an acknowledgement of the reality in Iraq, an idea that would allow them to better control security inside the country. By getting locals to register their firearms, the government would get a better idea of what kinds of weapons were in the country and how many there were.
Up until recently, the right to own a firearm in Iraq was reserved for members of the security forces and those in certain other professions. However, in reality, it would be fair to say that most Iraqi households own at least one gun, whether permitted or not.
UPI notes, "A prison that Iraq's government said it closed a year ago is still open and being used for torture and unlawful detentions, a human rights group said Tuesday."  Al Mada notes Human Rights Watch published their report yesterday  and that the secret prisons are in the Green Zone, one of which is Camp Honor which the government insists was closed. Mohammed Tawfeeq and CNN quote Human Rights Watch's Joe Stork stating  "It's a matter of grave concern that Iraqis in so many walks of life, officials included, are afraid for their own well-being and fear great harm if they discuss allegations of serious human rights abuses."   Al Arabiya adds, "The rights group called for Baghdad to start an independent investigation into allegations of torture and mistreatment, as well as other issues, at Camp Honor and other jails."  Ahram Online explains:
The HRW report cited testimonies and acknowledgments by former prisoners, lawyers, parliamentarians, family members, government and security officials. Based on the interviews, HRW concluded that the Iraqi government carries out mass arrests, illegally detaining hundreds of citizens, dozens of them transferred to Camp Honor.
Two particular waves of mass arrests were mentioned in HRW's account. The first occurred in October and November 2011 when officials and officers were targeted. Those were allegedly Baath Party and Saddam Hussein loyalists and were ordered detained directly through Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's military office.
The "Baathist arrests" were supposedly to round up plotters against Iraq's regime. Testimonies said those released were forced to sign pledges against public criticism of the government as well as false confessions. Threats of torture (or further torture), family member raping and prolonging imprisonment preceded the signings.
The second wave of arrests was prior to the March 2012 Arab summit in Baghdad. This wave was preemptive, an effort to secure the summit not hosted in Baghdad for decades because of insecurity, claimed now to be secure by Iraq's government.
Alsumaria reports a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured one police officer and the burned corpse of 1 young man was discovered in Kirkuk  "handcuffed and blindfolded."   Xinhua notes that a Jalawla roadside bombing left four police officers injured, a garage continer bombing in Jalawla left a young boy injured, a Baghdad construction cite bombing left three construction workers wounded.  In addition, KUNA adds, "Up to three Iraqis were killed and 11 others suffered injuries violent incidents close to the nothern cities of Kukuk and Mosul on Tuesday."  Noting 96 deaths from violence in Iraq so far this month, Iraq Body Count notes 10 dead yesterday: "Mosul: 2 by gunfire.  Shirqat: 2 by gunfire, 1 body.  Al-Zaeraiah: 2 Sahwa members by fungire.  Taza: 2 bodies found in grave.  Mosul: 1 by mortars."
Meanwhile some of the targeted in Iraq do get out of alive.  Suheil Damouny (SBS' World News Australia, link is text and video) reports that a group of Iraqi Palestinians have made it to Sydney where they have family, "They say they have suffered great human rights violations in Iraq, especially since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003." 
Suheil Damouny:  Almost as soon as the government fell in 2003, Iraqis wanted Palestinians out -- anywhere, except Iraq.  Human rights groups are still cataloguing the intense harassment, kidnappings and even murders.  Shia landlords wanted to reclaim properties Saddam's government had forced them to rent to Palestinians virtually for free.
Shhadi Ameen Badwan:  They would come to our homes and draw a noose on the door, saying that they will hang us if we do not leave. We were targeted as Palestinians.  They would say that the buildings we live in are theirs.  They say that Iraqi families are living on the streets while we are living in buildings.  They say they do not want us there at all and we have to leave.
Suheil Damouny: Subhi and his wife left Iraq with their daughter in 2007.  They left behind a son.  His fate?  Still unknown, another kidnapped in Iraq in 2006 presumed dead.
Rihaneh Ibrahim Khalil Badwan:  They too my son.  They took him from the shop and he was never seen again!  Until now I have not seen him.  The Mehdi Army took him.   We were humiliated.  How many times have we been displaced! From Palestine we were kicked out.  They do not want us in Iraq.  We went to Syria and look what happened there.
Suheil Damouny:  They made their way into Syria using forged Iraqi documents.  In Damascus, left with nothing, they turned themselves in. They were then sent back to the border where they remained in barren refugee camps for five years.  It was as far as they could go.  No country would let them in.
Subhi Ameen Badwan:  For Palestinians, this card, our passports, wouldn't even allow us to travel for 20 metres.  They would fight us simply based on this Iraqi card. Once someone is idnetified as a Palestinian we would be kidnapped, then they would demand ransom money. 
Suheil Damouny: Amnesty International's Graham Thom visited the camp.  The conditions were appalling.
Graham Thom:  There were scorpians, there were snake bites.  And, again, these camps were on the sides of busy highways and so we had small children who were being run over and killed by trucks in the middle of the desert.
Lastly, Peter Van Buren works for the US State Dept.  He wrote We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.  He's a whistle blower.  And the administration has gone after him like crazy.  A friend asked that we note Kim Zetter's "ACLU Warns State Dept. Against Firing Worker Who Criticized Government" (Wired):

The American Civil Liberties Union has come to the defense of a former State Department employee who looks likely to be fired for blogging and writing critically about the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
The ACLU says doing so would violate the constitutional rights of veteran State Department employee Peter Van Buren, according to a letter the group sent the government on Tuesday.
The letter further accuses the government of unlawful retaliation against Van Buren for publishing critical comments about U.S. foreign policy on his personal blog last year.
"The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that public employees retain their First Amendment rights even when speaking about issues directly related to their employment, as long as they are speaking as private citizens," and as long as they're writing about matters of public concern, the ACLU wrote in its letter (.pdf). "There can be no dispute that the subject matter of Mr. Van Buren's book, blog posts, and news articles -- the reconstruction effort in Iraq -- is a matter of immense public concern."